No one can be more excited than I at the opening of this Model Community Policing and Services Facility and New Edna Manley Health Centre. It heralds the opening of a new and exciting chapter in the history of Grants Pen.
Further, it represents a prime example of what is possible when there is a pooling of efforts on the part of Government, Private Sector and Civil Society on one hand and a genuine recognition on the part of our friends overseas that they are most welcome partners in the developmental process. What we see here today is an embodiment of a process of engagement and dialogue. It is the culmination of sustained collective effort an honest commitment to seeing things through.
My Administration has been steadfast in fostering an atmosphere of dialogue on critical issues. There are those who only want to talk and criticize rather than seek solutions. When years ago, AMCHAM sought to make a constructive contribution, through professional research on the problems of crime and violence, I accepted their offer without hesitation.
The Report of the Police Executive Research Forum stated that “A review of the current situation reveals that police fear of violence from residents and citizen fear and mistrust of police, have created a cycle of violence that, left unchanged, precludes any effective implementation of a proactive crime prevention techniques.”
The government pledged to be a leader in the drive towards the restoration of that trust. The American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM), at the request of the U.S. State Department made an original commitment to the funding and construction of a “model police station”, to embody the development of “community policing”, at an estimated cost of approx. US$500,000. However, based on requests of citizens of Grants Pen, which came to light during extensive consultations over an extensive period of time, it became apparent that additional services and activities for the citizens, would be required to generate the constant interaction and relationships necessary to restore trust between the citizens and the police. This is expected to foster the exchange of information and collaboration necessary to solve and reduce crime.
I wish to place on record the nation’s commendation that from groundbreaking to completion this facility was ready in just about thirteen months. That is no mean feat in circumstances where we are all working to rebuild trust and understanding. Of the eighty or so workers who were employed on the construction site, about seventy-five came from surrounding communities…all working in peace and harmony towards one common good. Let that be an example to other communities a lot more is possible when we pull together instead of pull apart. This reminds me of the old African proverb ‘When the elephants fight, the grass dies’…. So much energy is expended in an atmosphere of distrust, divisiveness and discord. When it comes to the question of development for our communities; when it comes to the question of health, especially for those most vulnerable; when it comes to education for all, let us be of one understanding.let us be of singular commitment and accord. The need for mutual trust, the need for respectful engagement, and the need for singularity of purpose is not a prescription for only the actors in the political sphere.
These must be guiding words for other stakeholders in Civil Society and our partners in the Private Sector. Listening to recent pronouncements one is bound to urge caution in how we attack and abuse each other. Institutions and persons with constitutional authority are put there to hold the fabric of our society together. Unwarranted or unsubstantiated attacks on such persons or institutions only serve to diminish their standing in society, pushing us closer to a precipice which is dark, foreboding and abysmal.
Let us do what was done here in Grants Pen. If we perceive that there is a problem let us examine it and get all the facts. Let us engage respectfully in dialogue and let us work towards a solution. This facility with eleven thousand square feet of space for the Police, thirteen thousand square feet for the Health Centre and about ten thousand square feet for other services, including a Post Office, is currently valued at over J$200 million.
Sincere appreciation must go to those who did their part, those who played in the game instead of watching from the stands. All contributions were very valuable, from the large cash infusions to discounts on goods and services and voluntary services. The Government seeks to encourage this sort of effort. The success of this model so far can only mean that there are tremendous developmental benefits to be derived if the model can be replicated in other communities.
At the Cabinet Retreat, we gave approval for some more model developments like this. It is important that we urge all stakeholders, those who will manage the facility and those who will use the facility to take very good care of what is at #35 Grants Pen Road. The maintenance of its appearance and value will be a symbol of the effort which went into the construction and the sense of corporate responsibility which under-girds projects of this nature. As we move to open this Model Community Policing and Services Facility and the New Edna Manley Health Centre let this occasion be a symbol of what is possible.