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I am here for you! - MP tells residents of Willowfield they have not been abandoned

Published:Friday | November 9, 2018 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
Residents of Willowfield in St Thomas spending time in the town square.

Eastern St Thomas Member of Parliament Dr Fenton Ferguson has refuted claims of neglect by residents of Willowfield in his constituency.

Several residents of the sugar cane-dependent community recently told The Sunday Gleaner that they have been abandoned and in need of potable water, better roads and jobs.

But Ferguson said he has been working to have some of their issues addressed and has also funded a number of infrastructural development in the community.

According to Ferguson, the community is an informal settlement and so a lot of effort is being placed in getting them regularised.

"I have had meetings with the land department, not just now, over time, and we are making some progress in terms of trying to regularise lands for the citizens of Willowfield, and they should be aware that there is some work being done, the evidence of which I can produce," said Ferguson.

The veteran MP said because the community is not regularised, some residents have had issues getting potable water, but there are central locations where they can go to access the commodity.

He said he built a basic school in the community in the 1990s during his first stint as the elected representative, and he also refurbished a community centre.

Ferguson added that he has also fixed the main road which serves Willowfield and surrounding communities on at least two occasions. The last time was about two years ago.

One of the issues that especially bothered the residents was the fact that some of the street lights were not functioning.

Having lodged numerous complaints, they decided to place a bulb in the light post in the square, which they turn off manually in the mornings and at nights.

"Since the article, I have sent persons to go and look and they have reported to me that apparently someone knocked out the bulb, and so it might be a replacement issue, relative to JPS (Jamaica Public Service)," he said.

He said he has also identified two or three more street lights in the community which are not working.

The lack of jobs was a significant issue for the residents as well, and Ferguson said he agreed with them in that regard.

"The situation is terrible not just for St Thomas, but for agriculture-based constituencies," declared Ferguson.

"It is difficult. When you have a parish where agriculture was your mainstay," he added.

Both the banana and the sugar cane industry have declined significantly in St Thomas in recent years, and there are also issues with coffee and cocoa production.