|The author, Mr. O. Dave Allen, is a freelance writer and community development advocate as well as a political commentator.|
Today, Montego Bay and indeed the parish of St. James face a crisis of leadership. And like Six Characters in Search of an Author (by Luigi Pirandello), explains that they are unfinished characters in search of an author to finish their story. St. James also has some unfinished business and is in search of an author to finish its story.
Leadership is not a beauty contest that some millennials who worship at the altar of Narcissus the ‘god of youth and beauty’, would have us believe. We need leaders who can unite and rally a people around a common purpose, with vision, character and true grit. Which leads me to the current crop of political leaders in the parish:
The Hon. Dr. Horace Chang the Member of Parliament North West St. James Constituency remains a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery Inside an Enigma. For how else can one explain the ironic twist of fate that Horace Chang, who inherited the North West St. James constituency in 2002 with a homicide rate of 66 murders per year which has now reached a runaway rate of 370 per year and could only be controlled by the declaration of a Public State of Emergency, was elevated to the position of Minister of National Security?
The Hon. Horace Chang understands well and has mastered the art of the Prince. Like Machiavelli he views humans as “ungrateful, fickle, false” and as such, he embraced the position that "It is better to be feared than loved. If the subjects fear the ruler, that fear will act as a stronger guarantee of support. In masterful stroke in the recently reshuffled Andrew Holness Cabinet, the strategic, diligent, meticulous J.L.P. General Secretary Horace Chang, ruthlessly vanquished Holness’ detractors and anointed himself Minister of National Security, thus, confirming that he is the most powerful leader in the Jamaica Labour Party. At the same time the leader Holness, watched in silence while his nemesis, a beaten and battered Christopher Tufton gasping for breath without a sympathetic tear, without one act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour.
Horace Chang remains a powerful player nationally, but, he is not the voice of Montego Bay. He is no father Coombs, no Herbert Eldemire nor Howard Cooke who symbolized rebellious St. James and the Republic of Montego Bay.
Member of Parliament Derrick Kellier has done well, given the number of times he was re-elected by the people of Southern St. James now the seven star general is in the departure lounge. However, of interest, Montego Bay has never looked with favour for leadership coming from the hills.
The Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte seems transient, a bit ambivalent, like jack in the green, we do not know if she is coming or going.
She remains a stranger in paradise who seems to enjoy the trappings of Parliament and intrigue of the executive rather than a representative of the people.
The Central St. James Member of Parliament Heroy Clarke is a work in progress, not yet sufficiently routinized for the big league.
As a far as Ed Bartlett, the PR guru is concerned he is so preoccupied with his portfolio responsibility the Ministry of Tourism - He is gone again to some distant shore, while the serious tasks of developing the constituency and building of City of Montego Bay are left to the capable lieutenants Winston Dear, Robert Russell, Geoffrey Dyer for the distribution of spoils and scarce benefits.
Notwithstanding the unacceptable levels of crime, violence and social dislocation, sections of Montego Bay continue to grow and develop exponentially. Some would like us to believe that this phenomenon is liken to a progeny without ancestry. It is not so. This growth trajectory was carefully outlined in people centred Greater Montego Bay Redevelopment Plan 2014 as a road map for sustainable development, supported by the progressive policies of the Patterson administration and backed concretely by the redirection the national capital expenditure from the Kingston Metropolitan Area to Western Jamaica. Though those deliberate policies all the primary infrastructure that foster development which we benefit from today were addressed. Potable water, electricity, the disposal of raw sewage and road development.
There was the Upgrade of Great River Water Supply System and that of the Martha Brae to 10 million gallons daily, the upgrade Jamaica Public Service output by 120 megawatt; there was the construction of the Northern Coastal Highway and its sub project Montego Bay Drainage &. Flood Control, the dualization of Alice Eldemire Road, the dualization Reading to Fairfield road, also Howard Cooke Boulevard along with the dualization of Airport to Rose Hall main roads that gave impetus to the development of the so called “elegant corridor”.
There were also secondary infrastructure development, that includes, the Montego Bay Convention Centre, the Montego Bay Civic Centre, investment in the Montego Bay Freeport to accommodate the growing Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), the upgrade the Donald Sangster International Airport, as well as a deliberate policy of attracting foreign direct investment.
On the social side there was the construction of 16 high Schools in the region with 6 in St. James, the Catherine Hall Stadium, Relocation 2000 to address inner city urban blight, the Cornwall Courts Housing scheme and the formalization of informal communities. Critical to the expansion of Montego Bay was change of land use in 1999, an outline plan approval of the Montego Bay South 20-year Development. I do not wish to be an embalmer of the past, I’m only making the point that we did not get here by chance but through leadership from within and without. Leadership with foresight and determination to lay a solid foundation on which this generation must build upon or betray.
For despite the phenomenal growth and development of Montego Bay there is the boiling pot of discontent, of conflict and of contradictions that will require leadership. For, if not cider it will be bramble.
Once the trees went forth to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, “reign over us!” But the olive tree said to them, “shall I leave my fatness with which God and men are honoured, and go to wave over the trees?”
Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the fig tree said to them, ‘Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit, and go to wave over the trees?’
Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come, reign over us!’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’
Finally all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come, reign over us!’ The bramble said to the trees, ‘If in truth you are anointing me as king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, may fire come out from the bramble and consume the cedars of Lebanon.’ Judges 9:7-15
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