Vaz: I'm ready to change lives

Staff reporter

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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JAMAICA Labour Party (JLP) candidate in the Portland Eastern by-election Ann-Marie Vaz says she is ready to change the lives of constituents if elected on April 4.

Vaz, in a telephone interview with the Jamaica Observer last Wednesday, said she has been working in the constituency well before the seat became vacant due to the death of People's National Party (PNP) Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Lynvale Bloomfield in February.

“I'm hearing this call for a plan. The fact of the matter is that I don't really have plans. I am executing my plans. What I should say is I have worked the entire division of Port Antonio. I've seen what is needed, which is road, water, jobs, [and] employment. I never had time to sit down and write a full-blown plan because I just had action items. The first bridge I walked across I didn't sit down and plan to fix it. Within one week the bridge was fixed,” said Vaz.

She told the Sunday Observer that she has also had a road rehabilitated in the constituency which has been bad for decades.

“When I walked on it I was skipping through puddles. The residents said for over 20 years nothing has been done to that road. So what I did? I got six truckloads of marl, and the people are telling me that taxis can now go down to drop off the people,” she said.

She added that she had a two-year plan for the constituency but said some matters were more pressing than others and so got immediate attention.

“I didn't sit down and actually put a document together because the urgency of the things I saw on my walk. I [wouldn't] have had enough time then to put something in writing,” the JLP candidate, who is the wife of Portland Western MP Daryl Vaz, said.

She stated, however, that she will be presenting a manifesto shortly which will reflect the position of the residents in Portland Eastern.

In the meantime, she told the Sunday Observer that she will be focusing on employment in the seat some have said is underdeveloped and which the Opposition PNP has held for 30 years.

“My focus is jobs; you know why? The bulk of people between ages 18 to 35 have no jobs. The youth have no jobs. They are leaving East Portland, and I cannot afford that. Until tourism picks up, which will be the main provider of jobs; until the farming picks up, which would provide jobs, what I'm doing right now, as we speak, is meeting with youths, 30, 40 of them. They want me to meet with them,” Vaz stated.

She also said she is currently grouping the constituency's youth so that no one will be left behind. Vaz said the groups will be registered so that the youth can access social services “to get funds to carry out their plans”.

Added to that, Vaz said the groups will have access to Heart Trust/NTA which will provide skills training.

“The Government has also understood the need for jobs, and that's why you have a Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. So the Government is also fuelling the jobs because they understand the critical need for jobs. Plus, I'm going to go to various companies for them to provide internship, because it's only between public/private partnerships that a place like East Portland is going to be able to provide jobs for our people.

“We are going to be embarking on and exploring and developing alternative energy source. I'm looking at the seaweed that is washing up now; people are talking about the many different things this can do. I'm looking into health tourism. Portland is a serene paradise. It's one of the last unblemished places in Jamaica. I'm looking into eco-tourism, hiking. We could go on and on because of the potential here. You stay from the seaside and look straight up into the Blue Mountain. The bike trail and the hiking trail is an income generator; we can look to expanding that,” said Vaz.

She mentioned that in listening to constituents she has been told that there is a need for telecommunications facilities. As a result, the candidate said she will be introducing children there to coding.

She also said that she will be looking to open a recycling plant at Carder Park because the environment is a major concern to the constituents.

Vaz said, too, that another concern is getting potable water to residents.

“The crisis of the water is even more critical than the roads because water is life. The farmers need water. Portland is the greenest parish with the most rainfall, yet we don't have water in the pipes,” she stated.

She said she has had to have water tanks installed in several communities and has had to be donating water tanks. She has also had to source water trucks to fill these tanks, she said.

She noted that the tanks installed were in the pipeline months before a by-election became necessary.

Water aside, Vaz said she will be leasing lands for young people interested in farming to assist with their development.

“I look on farming and link it with tourism, because my farmers as they are now they carry their produce into Kingston. If tourism picks up, which I anticipate it will, we'll have a synergy between tourism. As it stands now, the critical thing for my farmers now is the roads, fertiliser [and] feed. We're also looking at idle lands in East Portland to lease to farmers, young people too who are interested in farming; and, yes, there are young people who are interested in farming and would love a piece of land to begin,” said Vaz.

She will run against the PNP's Damion Crawford.

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