Portmore could become model for a 'smart parish', committee statesThursday, October 14, 2021
BY ALPHEA SUMNER
In a report now before Parliament, the Portmore parish joint select committee has concluded that although the municipality does not currently have all the facilities of existing parishes, it should be given parish status.
The committee commenced hearings last December and took submissions from a wide range of stakeholder groups and individuals.
The Dr Andrew Wheatley-chaired committee says Portmore could become the model for a “smart parish” in Jamaica. “We took note of the fact that over time, the existing parishes have all undergone various stages of development since their designation as parishes, to bring them to the stage at which they could adequately provide for the needs of their citizens. The majority of our members were of the view that similarly, the proposed parish of Portmore could be developed in a phased and structured manner to adequately provide for the needs of its citizens,” the report said.
The committee — notwithstanding some dissenting voices from within its membership, as well as from some submissions — has recommended that legislation and policies be amended to pave the way for Portmore to become the island's 15th parish.
“Required infrastructure, facilities and services that are currently lacking in the Portmore city municipality should either be implemented, upgraded or expanded to ensure the delivery of the required level of deliverables that was expected of a parish,” the committee recommends.
Meanwhile, in a minority report, Opposition members made their discontent clear.
The addendum was signed by St Catherine Southern Member of Parliament (MP) Fitz Jackson; MP for St Catherine Eastern Denise Daley; and senators Damion Crawford and Floyd Morris.
The members emphasised that they have major concerns and had made their own recommendations regarding many aspects of the proposal. They pointed out that the level and quality of consultation to adjust the current governance arrangement for Portmore was extremely poor and devoid of any real participation.
“This was contributed by the prevailing pandemic and the protocols in place to restrict gatherings and face-to-face interactions. This temporal impediment significantly compromised the imperative inclusiveness for such long-term change,” the MPs said, adding that the proposed separation of Portmore as a parish offers no defined advancement in the governance, infrastructure, social or economic opportunities for Portmore residents.
They insisted that before such a far-reaching move is made, residents of the municipality should decide by referendum whether they want Portmore to become a parish.
Furthermore, the minority report said all the State entities that appeared before the committee had indicated that their respective services to Portmore will not decrease or increase because of the change in designation to a parish.
“This was underscored by the fact that the ongoing demands for the Portmore area are not a function of the designation, and resource generation will not increase beyond existing provisions to all other parishes,” the members said.
Also, they argued that residents are being asked to accept parish designation without a map formally outlining the boundaries for the proposed parish.
“Such an attempt is a blatant affront to the explicit expression of the Portmore residents as contained in the Portmore Municipal Act of 2003 where seven per cent of residents within the existing boundaries are required [to] assent to any proposed changes in the boundaries.”