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Provision of houses for the indigent remains a priority – Minister McKenzie

The provision of houses for the indigent remains a priority for the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry, says Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie.

Speaking at a ceremony to welcome the new Minister of State, Hon. Homer Davis, at the Ministry on September 22, Mr. McKenzie said that work is far advanced on a number of projects for the indigent.

“We are expecting the soup kitchen at Church Street (Kingston) to be up and running by the end of this month (September). They have just concluded the procurement for the equipment and we are looking forward to that.

There are two indigent houses and a drop-in facility that is to be opened later this month in St. Thomas,” the Minister said.

The Secretary of the Board of Supervision within the Ministry announced the addition of a soup kitchen on Church Street in July, to sustain the feeding programme the Government started earlier this year for the vulnerable population.

Mr. McKenzie had also announced the Government’s plans to build 100 houses across the island for the indigent, with 12 projected to be completed before the end of the 2020/2021 financial year. These will be concentrated within St. Andrew.

“I will be breaking ground in West Central St. Andrew in short order, where we are going to commence building out about 12 indigent houses and then I will move into the South West St. Andrew constituency to do a similar project, but in a reduced number. So, we will be concentrating in St. Andrew in this new set of indigent houses that we are going to be providing,” the Minister said.

He highlighted the improvement of infrastructure at infirmaries, the construction of drop-in facilities and work done to improve the conditions of the poor and destitute as the “signature achievement of the Ministry” in the last four years.

The Minister noted that although the Ministry has undergone a name change, it still retains the overall responsibility for community development, and its affiliate agency, the Social Development Commission (SDC), will play a critical role in the Ministry’s new focus on rural development.

New State Minister in Local Government commits to mandate

New Minister of State in the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Homer Davis, has pledged his commitment to aid the Ministry in achieving its mandate through his assigned areas of responsibility.

“I can say to the senior members of staff that we will move local government to its rightful place. We need for Local Government to be the premier ministry of government. My commitment is to go the extra mile to make sure that we achieve the mandate of this Government, so we will be joining all efforts to make sure that Local Government delivers on its mandate,” Mr. Davis told senior management members at the Ministry, during an introductory meeting on Tuesday (September 22).

The Ministry has undergone a name change from Community Development to Rural Development and now has responsibility for two additional services.

“The responsibilities of the Ministry has grown because we have added that for rural development, which includes water and rural electrification. These are two important components of service delivery of any administration and we hope to build on what started in those agencies,” Portfolio Minister, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said at the meeting.

“There are going to be areas across the country where the National Water Commission will not be able to provide potable water. This becomes the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government, and the new State Minister has come in with vast knowledge and experience and we will be putting that to use in the assignments that he has been given,” the Minister added.

The Minister of State, who previously served as a three-time Councillor and immediate past Mayor of Montego Bay, has been assigned the areas of parochial roads; social, minor and rural water; street lights; and the municipal police.

Mr. McKenzie expressed his confidence in the newly appointed State Minister to carry out his responsibilities as both agree that they are looking forward to working together.

“He did well in his tenure as Mayor of Montego Bay. There are significant changes that have been made under his leadership and I am sure than in the areas of responsibilities that he has been assigned, he will do well. I know he has the potential to do well and I am looking forward for us to make Local Government greater than what we have been doing since 2016,” the Minister said.

Kingston Hookah Lounge ordered closed for breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Orders

Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, has ordered the closure of 420 Hookah Lounge Jamaica at Manor Park Plaza in Kingston for breaches of Orders promulgated under the Disaster Risk Management Act (DRMA) in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Two employees from the establishment were arrested and charged by police on Sunday for breaches of the curfew order.

“The establishment has been ordered closed for 14 days for breaches. During this period, the operators will be required to obtain the necessary permits, including certification from the Jamaica Fire Brigade, to support their operations,” the Minister explained.

“There are other entities under our microscope and the same treatment will be meted out to them. We have further learnt that there are nightclubs operating under the guise of restaurants and lounges where the prescribed guidelines are being flouted. The names of these entities have been forwarded to the Jamaica Constabulary Force for further investigations.”

The public is being reminded that no approvals have been granted for the reopening of nightclubs. Community bars, taverns, sports bars, lounges, and restaurants can operate within the outlined Covid-19 protocols.

Minister McKenzie has also announced the creation of a new enforcement team to ensure that all entities for which the Ministry is responsible, adhere to the provisions of the DRMA Orders. The team has started work in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

“The Government has issued a series of Orders since March, when COVID-19 was first detected in Jamaica. We have witnessed varying levels of compliance with these Orders by entities as well as by the general public, and the police have been working to enforce them, while our Agencies such as the Social Development Commission (SDC) have been instrumental in developing protocols and measuring compliance.”

The Ministry’s special enforcement team will comprise personnel from the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, SDC and the Kingston and St. Andrew Municipal Corporation.

“This new initiative will not replace the police. It is intended to complement the efforts of the Constabulary, which is already heavily involved in this new COVID-19 dimension of policing, as well as performing its normal duties,” the Local Government and Rural Development Minister said.

“The Government is determined to do everything possible to manage the pandemic in a way that ensures that the new normal has a space for everyone to thrive. This is exactly why we need full compliance with all protocols, so that public health and economic recovery can co-exist, to the benefit of our citizens.”

Closure of 36 beaches and rivers takes effect today

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Honourable Desmond McKenzie is reminding the public that 36 beaches and rivers are officially closed as of today, Friday August 14. No activities can take place at these venues and no access to them will be allowed until further notice.

“We are serious about preserving public health, and that is why these 17 beaches and 19 rivers, which reflected glaring and continuous breaches of the COVID-19 protocols must be closed at this time. We will be monitoring these locations to make sure that they are closed until permission is given for re-opening. In the meantime, I am calling on those who will go to other beaches and rivers this weekend and thereafter, to stick to the protocols. We want to see increased use of masks, more sanitizing and social distancing. We don’t want the venues to be overcrowded. People can have a great time without creating an increased risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19.”

 

BEACHES AND RIVERS NOW CLOSED

Parish Beaches Rivers
Kingston and St.Andrew (6) Bob Marley  Beach Cane River Falls
Penfield River
Grove River
Cane River (Dallas)
Hope River
  1 5
St.Catherine (2) Hellshire    Beach Caymanas River/Natures Paradise River
  1 1
Clarendon (3) Farquhar Beach Salt River
Cockpit River
1 2
Manchester (4) Alligator Pond Beach Alligator Pond River
Noisy River (Oxford  River)
Gutts River
  1 3
St.Elizabeth (1) Great Bay Beach
1  0
Westmoreland    (3) Bluefields Beach Sweet River
Norman Manley Beach  Roaring River
2 2
Trelawny (4) Burwood Beach
Jacobs Taylor
Half Moon Bay
Victoria/Charlott Beach
4
St. Ann (4) Ocho Rios Bay Beach/Turtle Beach Little Dunns  River
Fantasy Beach
Cardiff Hall Beach /Flavours Beach
3 1
Portland (3) Winnifred Beach
Frenchman’s Cove
Boston
3  
St. Mary (2) Spanish Bridge River
  Blue Hole River -Cascade
   0 2
St.Thomas (3) Yallahs River
Reggae Falls
Roaring River
  3
Total 36 17 Beaches 19 Rivers

 

Brown’s Town Market to Benefit From J$15 Million Infrastructure Boost

After more than twenty years without effective maintenance or infrastructural improvements, change is coming for the users of the Browns Town Market in St. Ann. Following a tour of the facility yesterday, Minister of Local Government and Community Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie announced the allocation of J$15 million for works to be done.

“This is very popular Market. Over 700 vendors operate here, and that gives a clear idea of the customer volume that passes through in order to create a profitable and sustainable living for them. The conditions are unacceptable and so works are going to be quickly done to create a properly functional Market. The Technical Team will finalize the design and related aspects for the improvement works, and $7 million will be made available immediately for the most urgent repairs. The remaining funds will facilitate other infrastructure needs once the normal approval procedures are completed.”

Mayor of St. Ann’s Bay, Sydney Stewart, who also participated in the tour, said a preliminary estimate for works was done by the St. Ann Municipal Corporation. “We visited the Market last week and our technical team developed a costing on that basis. We are elated at the speed of the Minister’s response. He has charged us to ensure that all procedures are adhered to and we will ensure that everything that is done will not only serve the people of Brown’s Town and its environs, but will also stand up to scrutiny.”

Minister of Local Government Calls Meeting with Entertainment Industry Players

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie has called an emergency meeting of stakeholders in the entertainment sector for tomorrow, Wednesday August 5 at the Ministry, to discuss glaring and sustained breaches of the agreed conditions and protocols governing events and other gatherings.

This disregard for the rules is happening at and through numerous events being held all over the country. Our surveys show that over 700 events have been staged without any permission being sought. In other instances where approvals for events were given, the agreed conditions were blatantly breached. The Jamaica Constabulary Force is being stretched in responding to these breaches, and it is completely unfair to our policemen and women who are simultaneously dealing with everything from traffic violations to violent crime.

“I am also very concerned about the continued misuse of our beaches and rivers. The surveys have revealed that they are being overcrowded, in clear breach of the social distancing protocols. Little Dunn’s River, Spanish River and Little Ochi are just a few of the venues at which the overcrowding is occurring. Additionally, parties and other events are being held at various beaches and rivers, in clear violation of the stipulations that govern their reopening. Parties and tournaments are banned at beaches and rivers.

“The Government is very concerned about the public health implications and effects of the unconscionable behaviour that is being seen island-wide. I wish to make it clear that this Administration will not allow the gains made in the management of COVID-19 to be destroyed by people who have absolutely no regard for anyone’s interest but theirs.

“Accordingly, the Agenda for tomorrow’s meeting will involve a review of this completely unacceptable situation, and a decision about the way forward. The Government has been steadily working to restore economic and social life, but not at any price. Therefore, there is no guarantee that the relaxations granted to this point will remain. Actions have consequences, and I want to make it clear that we are determined to use the policy and legal tools available to ensure behaviour change in this time of public health emergency.”

Public Markets Closed For Emancipation Weekend

Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Honourable Desmond McKenzie, has announced the closure of all public markets for this Emancipation weekend.
All markets operated by Municipal Corporations will be closed to the public from midnight Saturday, August 1, 2020 and reopen for business at 6:00am on Monday, August 3, 2020.
“This measure is in keeping with the Government’s Covid 19 protocols as well as the Parochial Market Laws which speaks to public markets and their closure on public holidays. I am therefore imploring our vendors and shoppers to adhere to the guidelines for their own safety and the welfare of others.”
Jamaica observes August 1 each year as Emancipation Day, which is a public holiday.
The Ministry has developed several protocols, which have been brought into force through the Disaster Risk Management Order, to ensure maximum public safety as Jamaica continues to battle the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Under the Order, markets and vending in public arcades and public transportation centres are permitted to operate between the hours of 6:00am to 7:00pm from Mondays to Saturdays. On Sundays, all markets must remain closed and no vending is permitted in public arcades and public transportation centres.
“I also want to use this opportunity to remind us that the daily curfew, which begins at 11:00pm until 5:00am the following day, will remain in place until September 30. Remember to observe social distancing, wear your masks and sanitize.”

Trelawny gets Drop-In Centre

FALMOUTH, Trelawny: The Ministry of Local Government and Community Development expanded its Municipal Social Assistance Programme (MSAP) with the opening of a Drop-In Centre to serve the homeless population in Falmouth, Trelawny.

The J$19m facility was built on lands at Victoria Street and is a stone’s throw away from the Trelawny Police Headquarters and the Falmouth Public General Hospital.

“The expansion of national facilities that will provide care and comfort to our homeless citizens is an important aspect of the work of this Government,” said Portfolio Minister, Honourable Desmond McKenzie.

“It is one of the features of the human face of this Administration, and a symbol of our commitment to assisting the vulnerable in our society.”

He was speaking at the official hand-over ceremony on Wednesday, July 15, 2020.

Minister McKenzie noted that it is the duty of the Government to protect the vulnerable and the Administration continues to fulfill this responsibility through the rehabilitation of infirmaries and the construction of drop-in centres.

The Trelawny Drop-In Centre is the fifth to be constructed under MSAP’s conceptualization in 2017. Similar facilities have been opened in Ocho Rios, St. Ann; Port Maria, St. Mary; Lucea, Hanover, and Black River in St.  Elizabeth.

Those expected to be commissioned into use next are in Linstead, St. Catherine and St. Thomas.

Drop-In Centres are the first point of contact for homeless persons and offer a range of care including a bath and other hygiene care, food, and medical assessment.

 

“These facilities were constructed so we ca reach as many people as possible and where we can provide them with food, medicine and in some cases, a place to sleep,” the Minister added.

 

“If they are tired and want somewhere to sleep, don’t turn them away. Provide a bed and let them sleep.”

He noted that since the onset of the Novel Coronavirus (Covid 19), the Government has been providing meals to more than 2000 homeless persons with two meals daily at the drop-in centres. This number also include some individuals who are not homeless but visit the facilities to access meals.

Reggae Mill Closed, But Other Businesses at Devon House To Remain Open

Following his announcement of the closure of Devon House effective today, Minister of Local Government and Community Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie has disclosed that only the Reggae Mill, the business tenant at the centre of the violation of COVID-19 protocols, will remain closed.
“In addition to announcing the closure yesterday, I indicated that a meeting would be held today with the management of Devon House. That meeting was held, and the decision has been made that the remaining 25 shops that operate out of Devon House should not be penalized for the offence committed at the Reggae Mill venue. Accordingly, they will remain open, but the Reggae Mill is now closed for breaches of the Disaster Risk Management Order.
“The Reggae Mill will be closed for two weeks. Additionally, no Place of Amusement licence will be granted for four to six weeks. The operations of Devon House will be closely monitored to see to it that the management of the entity takes all necessary steps to ensure that there are no further breaches of the protocols. As I indicated yesterday, the police have been provided with a list of venues operating in breach of the Disaster Risk Management Order, and they are being investigated with a view to prosecution.
“I will continue to appeal to everyone to obey all the COVID-19 protocols. We are in the middle of a pandemic, and the Government is resolute that no violations of the public health protocols will be tolerated. Once again, I must say how encouraged I am by the civic-minded Jamaicans who are reporting the violators, and we will deal with the breaches as they are disclosed to us.”

Local Government Minister saddened at death of Dunstan Whittingham

Minister of Local Government and Community Development Hon. Desmond McKenzie says he is saddened by today’s passing of Lionel “Dunstan” Whittingham, President of the Jamaica Higglers, Vendors and Markets Association.

“Dunstan was a passionate and tireless advocate for the interests of vendors for many years. He made his presence felt well before he rose into public view in the 1990s. I had the opportunity to observe and to interact with him, first as a Councillor in the then Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, and later as Mayor. He was a serious force to be reckoned with, and he commanded the unwavering loyalty and respect of the vendors. While he was quick to challenge what he saw as mistakes by local and central government in dealing with the vendors, he was not defiant of public order. He supported many of the KSAMC’s initiatives to ensure harmony between business activity and good order and was not afraid to chastise conduct that was unruly.

“Dunstan was a man of substance, and he will be missed. I will miss him. I salute him and express condolences to his family, his friends, the members of the Jamaica Higglers, Vendors and Markets Association and to the wider community of vendors across the country.”