THE RT. HON. P.J. PATTERSON, Q.C., M.P.
HANDING OVER CEREMONY
RIVERTON MEADOWS HOUSING DEVELOPMENT
AUGUST 7, 2001
At the launch of this project five years ago, I planted a tree.
I challenged the community then to preserve and protect it.
The tree has grown to maturity and your community has grown in status. It has become a marvel in physical planning and infrastructure development.
This afternoon's ceremony represents the completion of 245 lot in phase one of a monumental land development undertaking. It involves the comprehensive planning and delivery of over 2,173 lots.
But more profoundly, it means we have come full circle in finally correcting a historical wrong - the bulldozing, uprooting and forced relocation of Jamaican citizens form West Kingston to the inhospitable surroundings of Riverton City thirty-five (35) years ago.
In fact, during that period, many of us felt a sense of personal shame in driving past Riverton City. Some even pretended that it did not exist. Today, we all feel a sense of collective satisfaction at what has happened here.
Today's ceremony represents another milestone in our efforts to provide decent shelter solutions in partnership with first time landowners involving their financial participation and community leadership.
Indeed, we have begun the completion phase of Operation PRIDE.
Infrastructure work is at an advanced stage at Whitehouse, Retirement Phase 2, Mount Edgecombe, Mamee Bay South, Shaw Park. Belle Air, Pleasant Heights (Rockfort), Melbrook Heights and St. Benedicts (Habour View East).
I can also report with pride, that infrastructure work is completed at Clover (Mandeville), Fisher Road (Mandeville), Melrose Mews (Mandeville), Mandella Terrace (Kingston), Callaloo Mews Phase I (Kingston), Wentworth (St. Mary), Dunavale (Trelawny), Heritage/Bethel Town (Westmoreland) Fonthill (St. Elizabeth/Westmoreland) and Luana (St. Elizabeth).
The process of delivering Titles to beneficiaries island-wide is well underway, but is being intensified.
Those who once doubted our purpose and sowed skepticism and mischief on this revolutionary land reform initiative, should never again question our motive. Let no one doubt our commitment and resolve to change the lives of our people from landlessness to the sunshine of hope, as we provide full and secure tenure.
Riverton Meadows must be seen in the context of the larger Human Settlement Policy, which seeks to end the need for squatting and land capturing.
The transfer of land from Government to the people is not only socially correct and uplifting, but it precipitates the formation of a real economic base for the beneficiaries without which, optimum national development is impossible.
The problems associated with squatting or informal settlements are age-old, but we have not sought to sidestep the issue, condemning the residents to a future of squalid decadence and hopelessness. We have instead developed a unique, non-traditional approach to combat illicit 'squatting', to tackle infrastructural decay and environmental degradation.
We are also finding solutions to the demands of community economic stability.
We have just completed the celebration of our hard-won Independence from Colonial rule and the emancipation of our forebears from the shackles of slavery.
And so it is opportune that I should speak to you this evening, not only about the special mission of Operation PRIDE, but also to mention some of the wider challenges of national development, which we must overcome, in order to protect the gains we have won as a people.
As a prime servant of the people, I have no other choice but to lead in galvanizing our collective energies as we put an end to poverty and inspire the nation with a sense of purpose and hope.
It is true, the challenges are awesome, but who said nation building is easy?
From the outset of the programme, we saw the difficulties and the obstacles in our way of reducing squatting and rekindling proper social values in our many depressed communities.
We do not have the luxury of time.
Bureaucratic lethargy would have to be replaced by action-oriented efficiency and imaginative driving-force.
We will not allow the children of Riverton Meadows, Callaloo Mews or children anywhere in this land to grow up in an unending cycle of squatting and informality.
The answer must be a resounding no. If my Government can assist even one (1) more self-employed person, one more farmer, civil servant or teacher to receive tenure from our combined efforts as we break the cycle of landlessness.
It is the interest of the people first and the interest of the people last - nothing else.
Although Operation PRIDE is mainly concerned with the provision of planned residential lots, the construction of housing units at Riverton Meadows was done on the basis of a deliberate policy to signal to Jamaica and the world that we will not leave any of our citizens behind.
Riverton Meadows was targeted as a model by which it could be shown that despite the squalid condition and hopelessness of our situation, through proper planning, real community leadership and government acting as a facilitator, we can rise above seeming insurmountable obstacles.
Those of us who can remember what Riverton City was like before Riverton Meadows was conceived and developed, will remember the desolation of the surroundings, the lack of trees, flowers or plants.
We can remember also, the lack of open space and privacy in a sea of rusty zinc-fenced enclosures with many families sharing inadequate public facilities.
Today we are witnessing the dawn of a new community of tremendous possibilities. Hopelessness is giving way to social upliftment.
The construction of the houses provides a demonstration effect of our combined resolve.
I am particularly heartened that the project is being developed in a holistic manner involving, social amenities, income generating activities, educational and recreational facilities and proper physical infrastructure.
I cannot conclude without addressing a matter of national urgency - the imperative of lasting peace and stability in our inner city communities.
We recognise the linkages, which exist between properly planned, well-managed, economically viable communities and a reduction in crime and violence.
The strategy employed must therefore, be multi-dimensional.
It must include the primary elements of integrated area planning - a social infrastructure which fosters a proper work ethic based on a stable family unit, adequate physical infrastructure and an economic infrastructure that attracts and retains capital investments to provide continuous employment.
But we must first begin by eliminating the vast backlog of environmental decay and squalor besetting the human condition in these areas.
That is why Riverton Meadows, Callaloo Mews, Oak Glades and Carnival Court at Spanish Town Road and North Street are being developed along a corridor, as part of deliberate design aimed at transforming our inner city communities.
But the physical transformation cannot stand-alone; our social and economic planners must work together to achieve meaningful changes. This approach will be replicated elsewhere until our work is done and criminals are isolated everywhere.
It is in this context that the Government has been proactive in establishing Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Lift Up Jamaica, Relocation 2000, Social Economic and Support Programme (SESP), The Urban Renewal Programme and the Nice and Clean Project.
There is a major role in all this for the Church, the Private Sector, NGO's and all well thinking Jamaicans. Let us commit ourselves to this broad-based national alliance for peace and prosperity.
I therefore, want to urge you to protect your hard won gains. Nothing worthwhile is free. Everyone has a direct responsibility to pay for his or her housing solution. If you encounter financial problems go in to the NHDC office and work out a new plan, but do not shirk from your obligations. If you do so, you will be denying your children of their birthright and reducing the value of your property and the social integrity of your community.
There will be restrictive covenants that you must uphold. These will ensure the maintenance of proper environmental standards. We cannot return to the awful conditions that existed before.
I congratulate your Provident Society for its leadership despite the obvious hardships and I salute you, the beneficiaries, for your patience, commitment and patriotism. There is much that you can teach the more fortunate among us.
Finally, you have made the first step.
You have achieved a most important asset towards self-upliftment - land and shelter, a basis on which you can create an economic foundation for your family and your children's children.
It gives me distinct pleasure to be able to participate in this Hand-over Ceremony for Phase I of Riverton Meadows Operation PRIDE.
I pledge to you that your Government will continue to work with you, to stand by you in providing all the technical assistance necessary for sustained development so that we can truly rejoice from the highest mountain top that we are all kings and queens in our land - Jamaica land we love.