Agony over naming North-South highway worsens

Thursday, June 07, 2018

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When we, along with many other right-thinking Jamaicans, suggested that the North-South Highway not be named after former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, it was not because of 'bad mind', as Gender, Culture and Sport Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange claimed.

We were able to see a little farther than Ms Grange, more specifically, that the proposal to so name the highway would be problematic, divisive and could not gain the consensus that was befitting of the stature of someone like Mr Seaga.

As we feared, the matter has now become more confusing and decidedly more divisive, with the St Catherine Parish Council on Monday passing a resolution calling for the naming of a section of the north-south roadway in honour of former Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

The councillors want the North-South leg of the highway from Mandela Highway in St Catherine to the border with St Ann named for Mrs Simpson Miller, leaving, it would seem, the narrow stretch from the border to Mammee Bay for Mr Seaga.

Their rationale is that Mrs Simpson Miller, “Jamaica's first female prime minister was instrumental in negotiating the construction and funding of the highway with Chinese President Xi Jinping when she visited China in 2013”.

“…The Most Hon Portia Simpson Miller is the most deserving individual to have the highway named after her because of all that she has done to ensure its construction. She was determined that people, including farmers, must have good roads on which to travel,” argued Spanish Town Mayor Norman Scott.

“On top of all, Mrs Simpson Miller is a woman of the soil; she was born and raised in the parish, not far from the highway itself.” Mr Scott promised that immediate steps would be taken to carry out the wishes of the municipal corporation to have that portion of the highway identified as the “Portia Simpson Miller Highway” in keeping with the passage of the resolution.

That rationale is now to be contrasted with that of Prime Minister Andrew Holness's when he proposed the highway be named after Mr Seaga: “It is with good reason why it was selected. He was responsible for the development of downtown Kingston.

He was also integral (to), initiated the development and expansion of Ocho Rios as a tourism destination.

The North-South Highway creates that link and so it is only fitting…” We repeat our March 27, 2018 assertion that: “We might not have named that highway after Mr Seaga because it was never going to be rocket science that the Opposition People's National Party (PNP) would feel it had some entitlement, real or imagined, to that honour.”

In addition, “We in this space find it somewhat distasteful to have a raging debate, much of it nasty, about whether a leader who has served with distinction should be honoured in the way Mr Seaga is proposed to be, especially since he is still alive and with us,” To that, we will now have to add Mrs Simpson Miller.

Who has the right to rename the highway? How do we resolve this conundrum? Perhaps we might now have to establish a body akin to the Chancery of the Orders of the Societies of Honour to undertake this potentially explosive issue.

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