By Troy Prince
I write this article to challenge the propaganda that is being perpetuated about the works and achievements of the Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Carlos James.
In a Nov. 4 article in Searchlight newspaper, a ‘Political Observer’ commended Mr. James for a number of projects that were completed in North Leeward. According to the observer, “Mr. James was able to get the Cumberland Playing field completed. The Chateaubelair Wharf, the Long Line Road, bridges at Fitz Hughes and Chateaubelair, the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital, renovating of several clinics in the constituency, and increase in the number of school buses.”
While I acknowledge the completion of these projects and their importance to the people of North Leeward, I am debunking the idea that Mr. James is deserving of the praises showered on him in this article. My reasons for this include the following:
- A number of these projects were ideas that were shared by then Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Roland “Patel” Matthews. These ideas were brought to life by the ULP government and as a result ,Mr. James is credited for them becoming a reality.
- A number of these projects were left neglected by the ULP for years. The people of North Leeward were greatly inconvenienced in a number of ways for years as a result of such neglect. Lives were even loss in North Leeward in Coulls Hill because of such neglect.
- A number of these projects were already in the pipeline even before Mr. James came on the scene. It is because of the gross negligence of the ULP why Mr. James happened to be in the “right place at the right time” to ride on the completion of these projects for electioneering.
- Apart from the hospital, how many more of the projects speaks to sustainable development. They only provided employment for a number of weeks/months. There aren’t many North Leeward residents working for five to seven days a week on any of these projects or as a result of the completion of these projects.
- Finally, all of these projects are basic duties and responsibilities of any government. The government owe it to us to provide proper health care, infrastructure and economic development.
In essence, Mr. James needs to come down off his high horse and stop riding on the ideas of others. He needs to come up with his own novel ideas for and get projects in North Leeward that are above bare minimum and sustainable.
Firstly, Mr. James, thanks to you and your negligent ULP government, if one is to go to i iWitness News website and search for “Coulls Hill”, the end results will only lead to sadness. You are going to be sad when you read the following headlines; “After 5 years, 4 deaths, govt repairs Coulls Hill road”, “Peto driver escapes Coulls Hill ‘death trap’”, “Damaged road that claimed 4 lives in Coulls Hill to get temporary fix”. These are just a few of the many sad headlines that North Leeward had to endure because of the neglect we have been experiencing. Such neglect was always being talked about by then Member of Parliament for North Leeward, Patel Matthews. Matthews posted on his Facebook page on April 9, 2014 the following: “Since the December 2013 floods, the retaining walls at Coulls Hill, en route to Troumaca, have been severely compromised. While there might be intention to reroute this road sometime in the future will the government please do some repairs to these walls as they pose a very serious threat to motorist and pedestrians alike. A vehicle has overturned in the said area and one life has been lost. Is the government waiting for another accident to happen before something is done?”
Again, thanks to Mr. James and the ULP, the government did wait until more lives were lost before doing any repairs on the retaining wall at Coulls Hill. Other reminders of the neglect the people of North Leeward have been experiencing since 2001 include the following:
The Cumberland Playing Field took your government 15 years to be completed. The Chateaubelair wharf took your government just over 10 years before it was returned to the community. The main bridge at Sharpes Chateaubelair that connects Chateaubelair with Fitz Hughes took your government just over 10 years to complete. Both the Chateaubelair wharf and the Sharpes bridge were not even safely completed in time for the evacuation of the people of North Leeward during the April 2021 volcanic eruptions. The Chateaubelair Fisheries Complex continues to rot to its core. This is over 20 years of neglect in the heart of the town of Chateaubelair. The Spring Village community continues to be robbed of a proper police station. For over 15 years, the police officers in Spring Village are still in a rented house. Mr. James, can you imagine how many police stations that your government may have been able to build with all the tax payers’ monies that are being paid for rent?
In addition, in January 2020, Mr. James you said that you know that there are outstanding farm roads to be completed. Also, you told residents of North Leeward that there are already monies for road works, including from the Kuwaiti Fund. Some of these roads that you mentioned were the Rose Hall farm roads and Hermitage (Spring Village). Mr. James, you stressed, “These roads are important for farmers to travel to and bring their produce out. They are very important to our economy.” Mr. James, I agree that these roads are important to farmers and the economy. And for this reason, I wish to remind you that these roads are still in a dilapidated state unto this day. Farmers in these mountains are experiencing greater challenges to and from farmlands in these mountains because of the neglect from the government. Finally, I must bring to your attention Mr. James that not only the farmers in Hermitage are facing difficulties in travelling to and from work. Have you forgotten about the essential service providers that have plants in the Hermitage Mountain? Mr. James VINLEC and CWSA use this road on a daily basis to ensure that North Leeward homes and businesses stay powered and fed the basic need of water. Do you at all have any concern/s about the welfare and the well-being of your constituents? If you do, then you would realise that with all the inconveniences that we have been experiencing from the negligence of your government that you do not have the time to show off and gloat over the completion of projects.
Secondly, while we are grateful in North Leeward for the efforts in repairing damaged infrastructure and improved health care, the ULP continue to dish out to North Leeward the smallest possible quantity or the least fulfilling condition that is required, acceptable, or suitable for their purposes. As a town, Chateaubelair has lost its township status. Before the ULP, in 2001, residents were able to enjoying banking services at a fully functional branch of the then National Commercial Bank, now known as Bank of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Compare that to now in 2022 where residents of Chateaubelair have to journey to Kingstown to enjoy simple banking services. One cannot even collect remittances at money transfer business like WesternUnion and MoneyGram in Chateaubelair. Mr. James, do you think about the costs of travelling to Kingstown from North Leeward? Let me sensitise you on the cost. It is now EC$8 to EC$10 from North Leeward to Kingstown and vice versa. If one chooses to eat a nutritious lunch while running errands in Kingstown, this may be at a minimum cost of EC$20. Once accumulated, on average, to travel from North Leeward to Kingstown then back to North Leeward costs an individual EC$40 to EC$50. Imagine how much more North Leeward residents may be able to save if these financial services were still on offer in the area. Isn’t this an indication that the town has gone backwards? Gone are the days when the Chateaubelair wharf and beaches were busy every week with fishing activities. Fishermen like Boy Blue, Telbert, Bunyan and Conjo, just to name a few, used to enjoy large catches of skipjacks, bonito, cavalli and other types of fish. These fishermen were able to make a comfortable living in North Leeward for their families. They used to live an enviable lifestyle. Compare this with the lack of fishing activities happening now at the newly constructed Chateaubelair wharf, and tell me if we haven’t gone backwards in North Leeward.
Additionally, before the ULP took office in 2001, agriculture in North Leeward was thriving. Farmers were able to make a decent living from the lands. The banana industry was prospering and incomes were being secured. The ULP, within 14 years, killed the banana industry. Farmers were left without a suitable alternative to banana, and as a result surrendered farming for other means of making a dollar. In farming, the agriculture programme at the secondary schools in North Leeward is now being looked at as just another subject area. Instead of a much more extensive agricultural school programme that can act as a road map for students to take up jobs in agriculture after school, the ULP continues to neglect and leave agriculture at bare minimum.
Lastly, to compound the neglect in agriculture, 58.8 acres of prime agricultural lands is now being destroyed at Richmond to harvest stones. This destruction, Mr. James, continues in your constituency without the prerequisite studies and societal discourse. What poor representation!
Now, praises have been given to Mr. James for the works that were done on the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital. I find this to be very dishonest and unconscionable. For those of you who may not know this, this hospital project was not a ULP project. It was not a project that was unique to SVG. Instead, the Smart Hospitals project is one of the Pan American Health Organization’s largest partnership initiatives, together with the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, which leads the country’s work to tackle global challenges including poverty and disease. The project was piloted in 2012 in SVG and St. Kitts and Nevis. The project was also carried out in countries like Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana and many more Caribbean countries.
Again, I am saying thanks for the efforts shown towards the improvement of health care services in North Leeward. However, based on evidence and the inability of the hospital to perform certain basic health services, one has to ask, “How smart is the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital?” Kayleigh Shooter (2020) defined a smart hospitals as, “Hospitals which optimise, redesign and/or build new clinical processes, management systems and maybe even infrastructure, all enabled by underlying digitized networking infrastructure of interconnected assets, to provide a valuable service or insight which was not possible or available earlier, to achieve better patient care, experience and operational efficiency.” With such an in-depth analysis of a smart hospital, can the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital fit into this definition? My answer is no. If the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital was smart it would have been able to maximise productivity, provide better patient-satisfaction and flexibility. All of these characteristics are lacking at the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital. This is only so because the government continue to give us the bare minimum.
Our hospital is still playing catch up, because it is still unable to deal with the increased demand for health care in North Leeward and lacks the necessary technology needed for it to perform smoothly. One would have imagined that given the topography and distance of North Leeward from Kingstown, that greater efforts would have been put in place to ensure that lifesaving surgeries can be performed in Chateaubelair. Instead, patients are still being rushed from Chateaubelair to Kingstown to seek medical attention. On one occasion earlier in July 2022, a gunshot victim from Petit Bordel was rushed to the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital only to be told that the hospital does not possess the necessary skills and tools needed to attend to his injury. An attempt was made for the victim to be transported to the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital to seek attention. Such an attempt was halted because there was no gas in the ambulance based in North Leeward. As a result, the victim spent five hours at the Chateaubelair Smart Hospital, waiting for an ambulance from Kingstown. Again, all of this is only possible because the government continues to give us the crumbs from their plates.
In conclusion, in December 2013, Mr. James, you uttered these words: “The time will come when floodlights will be a permanent fixture on playing fields in North Leeward.” Since then, we have witnessed the bare minimum completion of the Golden Grove and Cumberland playing fields. Just in case you cannot see or needs to be reminded, Mr. James, none of these playing fields have floodlights. Is it that the time has not come just yet? If so, then why swim in praises about being instrumental in the completion of these playing fields? We await the day when North Leeward residents will be able to watch their loved ones at play under the lights. Parents continue to be robbed of such a joy, because they have to choose between work and watching their children display their skills in different sporting disciplines. Mr. James, do you even remember all these promises?
In summary, Mr. James, in the words of J.J. Watt, “If you do the bare minimum, expect bare minimum results. You want to be great, work to be great. Nothing just happens”. Mr. James, before your arrival in North Leeward, the people of North Leeward were already suffering. We were already experiencing the negligence of the ULP government that has been in office since 2001. Your presence now on the political scene in North Leeward has not made a difference in the plight of majority of the residence of North Leeward. Instead, you have just been perpetuating the neglect and the idea that bare minimum is more than enough for the people of North Leeward.
Our roads and other infrastructure continue to be unattended to and underutilised. The residents of North Leeward have already realised that the construction and reconstruction of infrastructure in North Leeward are always going to take an eternity. We have already realis. ed that our inconveniences are of no importance to you or your government. We are accustomed to only seeing things done in North Leeward after nature takes its course on us. Mr. James, with the lack of sustainable development and jobs, hunger, begging and prostitution are rife in North Leeward. Our men, women and children are all victims of a society that has been degenerated under the watchful eyes of your ULP government. A government that misuses the word “love”. Again, I must echo that we have already suffered enough neglect in North Leeward from your government, Mr. James. We are grateful for the fulfilling of basic functions of the government in North Leeward. However, we know that we deserve better and will not continue to settle for bare minimum. Get working, Mr. James! North Leeward, I leave you with this quote from Thomas Jefferson: “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interest of the governed, not for the governors.”
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