Editorial

Messrs Paul Bogle and William Gordon would say thanks from their graves if…

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

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The latest promise to develop Morant Bay, the St Thomas capital, has come from no less than Prime Minister Andrew Holness who has laid out ideas for a new town centre rising from the ashes of the old Goodyear Tyre factory.

To borrow from Mr James Carmichaell's Collection of Proverbs in Scots, “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” The countless promises made to develop St Thomas, dating from at least the immediate aftermath of the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion, or Uprising as some prefer, are stunning in number and scope.

And yet, with all the grand plans and dramatic announcements over the long span of years, mainly from politicians belonging to both the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People's National Party (PNP), St Thomas remains one of our most underserved parishes.

Despite its historic struggle led by Messrs Paul Bogle and William Gordon to uplift the poor, the parish is still mainly remembered for the tragic 1865 events — Mr Bogle's fruitless march from Stony Gut to Spanish Town and the bloody riots starting at the courthouse where Messrs Bogle and Gordon were tried.

The appointment of Messrs Bogle and Gordon in 1969 as national heroes of Jamaica seems to have made very little difference to the attention given to St Thomas, which is more quickly associated with the fading practice of obeah and necromancy than for its beautiful botanical gardens.

Mr Holness, still not yet certain of the legacy he would like to leave behind, has set his sights on St Thomas, Jamaica's ninth largest parish with an estimated population of just under 100,000 people and with agriculture as its economic base. But it is a vision that we commend.

In a recent address at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, the prime minister said his Government would make the 25-acre Goodyear factory property into a modern urban centre, which should act as a magnet for investments in the parish. The project is to be spearheaded by Factories Corporation of Jamaica.

The town centre, he said, would house the St Thomas Municipal Corporation; a town hall and conference centre; a Justice Square area to incorporate services offered by Government; financial institutions; a business process outsourcing company and library, among other things.

Along with the plans for the promised US$384 million South Coast Highway Improvement Project, which will feature a four-lane highway from Harbour View to Bull Bay, and the upgrading of three roads between Bull Bay and Morant Bay, this town centre should give the parish a much-needed shot in the arm.

So far, Mr Holness appears to be serious about constructing a solid tenure with something for Jamaica to remember him by. The planned erection of a new Parliament building is likely to be among such legacy projects. The Morant Bay Town Centre, something which he says he'll replicate across Jamaica, could be another.

If he achieves this, Messrs Paul Bogle and William Gordon would thank him from their graves on behalf of the long-suffering people of St Thomas.

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