JIS News

Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister with responsibility for Local Government Reform, Robert Montague, has appealed to members of the Jamaican Diaspora, to contribute to the Indigent Housing Fund, which, he says, needs J$50 million to provide care for Jamaica’s indigent.
Speaking at a recent Town Hall Meeting in Toronto, Canada, Mr. Montague said the indigent are the responsibility of the state. He explained that there are two categories, those who have no home of their own, and reside at an infirmary, and those who live in their own homes, who would receive assistance from the Fund, to effect repairs to their homes, where required.
The Minister said some of the houses are in a state of abject disrepair, and are practically crumbling around the occupants.
He advised that a Canadian money transfer company, Rapid Remittance, owned by Jamaican-born Arnold Rowe, has agreed to remit funds, free of cost, to the Local Government Department. The Minister said, however, that if persons prefer to personally effect repairs to the houses on the owners’ behalf, rather than send the money to the Local Government Department, this would also be welcomed. He pointed out that a list of all the persons in need of assistance, and their requirements, has been prepared.
Noting that some homes required more extensive work than others, Mr. Montague stressed that: “It’s not important who repairs the house; (however) it’s important that it is repaired.”
Mr. Montague said the Jamaican Diaspora is important to Jamaica, pointing out that remittances are now the number two foreign exchange earner for the country. He praised members of the Diaspora for being the “best sales team”, that Jamaica has overseas. He was, however, mindful that there are persons, who have nothing good to say about the country.
“Talk good about Jamaica,” he implored, “and parents, tell your children about the goodness of Jamaica, because many parents don’t seem to pass on the good things. Remember we are a unique people, and we must appreciate who we are and be proud of who we are.
Tell your children and grandchildren that Jamaica has given the world a new form of music – Reggae; a great man who influenced the world – Marcus Garvey; had electricity before New York; that Jamaicans helped to build Canada when the Maroons came in the 1700s; and the song of the century was written in St. Mary and sung by Bob Marley. We have a spirit that says “I will not die’, that will lift us out of anything, that will take us to the last mile,” the State Minister asserted.
Addressing other matters, Mr. Montague told the gathering that the programmes undertaken by the administration, since it assumed office last September, were aimed at benefitting all Jamaicans. He noted efforts to stamp out corruption, at all level of the society, as one such initiative, citing the police force as one of the institutions where this was evident.
On the issue of crime, the Minister advised that “our crime situation is not something we are proud of; and so measures are being taken to curtail it.”
“But it has to be a collaborative effort between the police, Government, citizens, the People’s National Party, and the Jamaica Labour Party. We have to come together and work together,” he implored.
In acknowledging that there is a problem with domestic violence, Mr. Montague said that a number of strategies are being implemented. These, he pointed out, include: “increasing the time we hold offenders, which has caused some controversy; more police officers on the streets to make the force more visible; the ‘two strikes and you’re in’ approach; bail arrangements being reviewed; and increased social interventions.”
Turning to his portfolio, the former Mayor of Port Maria said Local Government should be entrenched in the Constitution, adding that measures, such as training of councillors; preparation of a councillor’s handbook, and strengthening the Parish Development Committees, were being pursued to this end.
“We are trying to empower communities, so that real power is with citizens and not with politicians,” Mr. Montague asserted.