Juliet Holness appeals for serious focus on how houses are builtSunday, October 25, 2020
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
MEMBER of Parliament (MP) for St Andrew East Rural Juliet Holness has made an impassioned plea to her constituents and Jamaicans at large to take serious responsibility for how they settle and where they choose to build houses.
Holness, who was on location in Shooter's Hill yesterday as efforts to recover the body of 15-year-old Sanique Leachman ended, said that over the years many people had settled on land which is not good to build on and because of economic circumstances, they are also unable to erect proper reinforcements to prevent landslides.
“We find that from time to time, we take a chance and many may not have anything happen for many years, but when tragedy hits we understand the difficulty with not having the proper infrastructure around our homes and communities to protect life and property,” she said.
But, Holness said though the current circumstances were heartbreaking, she continues to educate her constituents as other walls in the area have slid and were at risk of slippage.
“A lot of them are stone walls, which depend on compression and weight bearing down. They are not built with the proper foundation, they don't have the right base, they are not built with the proper bottom, so they are weak walls. When you look at the soil type on my left, it is sandy hill [and] on my right, it is marl mixed with clay so it doesn't hold for a lot of the structures persons have come to put up in the area,” she said.
She added: “A lot of the area we're standing in now has been captured land from years gone by. Persons have been approaching to say get title but the Government also has to be very careful in us being a part of a process of facilitating the issuing of titles in spaces we know are not proper for persons to live because they will not be safe.”
The St Andrew East Rural MP also expressed relief that Sanique's body was recovered, following a land slippage at her Shooters Hill home in St Andrew that also claimed her father's life.
“I am saddened that she is dead, but also there is a sense of relief for the family and community in just finding out that she has been found. A lot of persons were worried that she would not be found at all. [So] I know there is a sense of relief for the family and the community that they've been able to locate her,” Holness said. “When I came yesterday, most of the members of the community were digging from early morning and they had done their own assessment of the trajectory of the landslide in terms of where they thought Sanique would have been, and they were correct. They've dug about five feet below where they were yesterday morning and have finally discovered her.”
The MP also promised to give support to the family as they prepare to bury their loved ones.
“I am absolutely sure support will be given to the family. It is customary even when we don't have situations as tragic as this for persons who are in the position of need to request help both from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. They will express that they need help from their MP who will provide assistance to them through the Constituency Development Fund. I've already spoken to Rosemarie (deceased's sister and aunt) and indicated we'll be reaching out to them regarding burial assistance,” Holness said.
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie commended the efforts of the Jamaica Fire Brigade and the community and also urged Jamaicans to be mindful of where and how they build their homes.
He added that the local government ministry, alongside the National Works Agency (NWA), has been doing an assessment of the damage and seeking to offer support to individuals in weak infrastructure.
“A lot of the areas, the housing stock, cannot remain at the same level. It's just not possible because a large portion of where these house are, has been compromised. So the job for us now is to seek temporary shelter for those persons who are in need of shelter and then once we have gotten over that, there has to be a look at the overall state of the area as it relates to the conditions that the residents are living under,” McKenzie said.
“The sadness of the day is the removal of the body of this young innocent child and we grieve with the family at this time. As Mrs Holness said, the Government will provide the necessary assistance in helping to close the chapter [and] although that is not enough, it is one problem the family won't have to worry about,” McKenzie continued.
Further, Stephen Shaw, communications manager at the NWA, said St Andrew suffered the brunt of the impact of the rain, while St Thomas saw significant damage.
Shaw said the NWA was responding as the weather permitted, to ensure its team remained safe in carrying out activities to get people moving again.
Regarding areas that are inaccessible, Shaw said that the road from Papine to Bull Bay remained cut off, so people are unable to access or leave the communities via motor vehicles.
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