KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – With the “road of contention” in Lower Questelles fixed, another row might be in the making between Works Minister Sen. Julian Francis and South Leeward representative, opposition Member of Parliament Nigel Stephenson, over the playing field in Penniston.
Francis last year asked the Commissioner of Police to send cops to tell Stephenson not to pour concrete into potholes in dilapidated roads in Lower Questelles.
Stephenson said in Parliament on Friday that he is pleased with the repairs that the government had since done to the road.
He, however, detailed his displeasure with the state of the playing field in Penniston, more than five years after construction began.
“Mr. Speaker, if the Lord will, in the not too distant future, I am going to meet with the people of Penniston and Vermont and we are going to put plans in place to ensure that the playing field itself is in some form of readiness to ensure that some form of competitive sports can take place there,” he told Parliament.
“We will do that and no commissioner of police, no armed emissary, no message from the commissioner of police from Julian Francis will stop us this time. We are going to do it because it is in the interest of the residents there,” added Stephenson, a cricket coach.
Francis was not in the assembly chamber at the time of Stephenson’s comments but retuned shortly after, when Stephenson was still on the floor, and asked that Stephenson give way.
“I was in the Speaker’s Office and I heard the Honourable Member for South Leeward saying that no commissioner of police and no minister of works could stop him from doing what he want to do in his constituency. So I just want to acknowledged that I heard that. So if this is the message that we are sending to our young people –“ Francis said as opposition MPs chorused, “That is not what he said.”
“That is what he said,” Francis responded. “I am not asking. I know he said that. You can go back to the minutes,” he added.
Stephenson said that residents of Penniston were promised a playing field for the longest while and that many of the sportspersons there are wasting their talent because of the lack of proper facilities.
He said there were two small facilities at Penniston and at Dubois but the part of the Dubois facility was flat and another gently sloping.
Residents appealed to the then New Democratic Party administration — which left office in 2001 after 17 years — for a better playing field but at the time the government could not provided one, according to Stephenson.
The situation was compounded by “housing pressure” in the interior community famed for its agricultural lands.a
“And people had to weight the situation as to whether they wanted a playing field or whether they wanted to build a house,” Stephenson said, adding that many residents opted to build houses the land where sports were played.
“Therefore, there was no sporting facility in the valley,” he said.
The former teacher said that the Unity Labour Party seized the opportunity and successfully campaigned on the issue.
Stephenson, who loss the 2005 election, said that a piece of land was acquired from one of his uncles in 2005 and the ULP told constituents that if they voted for Stephenson he would return the land to his uncle.
“I would never have done that. … Family or not family, that has nothing to do with me. Anything that is going to benefit the people, I am quite pleased with that,” he said during the crosstalk on Friday.
“But the point is Mr. Speaker, that playing field should have been completed a long time ago. When you go to it, you can’t play anything,” he said.
“I was here in June, and I asked he question to the Honourable Member for South Windward. And when he told me that 90 per cent of the work was completed on the playing field, I thought I goofed up. I was scared to death, Mr. Speaker. And, after Parliament, I actually went down to the playing field to see what I actually missed,” Stephenson said.
“I went down there only to find the area that was allocated for the cricket pitch was still a trench filled with water and tadpoles swimming in it. That was the state of affairs there and the playing field was 90 per cent competed,” Stephenson further stated.
He further told Parliament who he placed a dry coconut on the playing field and that he could not see it among the overgrown grass.
“If you go there to play football, you would never be able to see the ball. But 90 per cent of it was completed. And when you look at the estimates for 2012, not a single cent is there for that playing field and the playing field is the same way,” he further said as he announced his plans to meet with residents to discuss the situation.
Meanwhile, Stephenson told Parliament that he is “satisfied” and “pleased” with the road repairs in Lower Questelles.
“That is the road that caused the contention. That is the road that caused the police to come to me to deliver a message from the minister; because that road was in a very, very bad condition …” he said.
Francis told Parliament that the government spent EC$129,000 to fix the road. He congratulated the contractor for the “excellent” concrete works.
“That drain has been there ever since they changed the road to go over there and it is the first time, with three representatives for South Leeward, … that major and the corrective works have been done to that drain. And that’s the reason why I suggested to the member, through the Commissioner of Police, not to go there and throw any concrete in the potholes that were there,” Francis said.