Speech by the Prime Minister

Handover of Indigent Homes in Chambers Pen, Hanover

Handover of Indigent Homes in Chambers Pen, Hanover



The Most Honourable Andrew Holness ON, PC, MP

Prime Minister of Jamaica

At the

Handover of Indigent Homes, Chambers Pen, Hanover


January 19, 2024


I don’t recall that I have visited Chambers Pen before,  because I generally have very good  recollection of the places I visited in Jamaica and as I look on the map of Jamaica,  and I start to tick off the various communities and places, I believe I’ve covered close to 60 percent of Jamaica in terms of actually visiting places, districts, and so forth so this is one more place that I have never been to that I have been to. And as your prime minister, it is not only for me to sit at my desk and administer your affairs from Kingston, it is important that I come amongst you, in your community, come to your house even so that I can understand better the challenges that you face locally.  And as I drove on the roads to get here, I know why some persons are upset. I understand.

I was in the market today, and a lady who is a returning resident and several other persons who reside here engaged me in conversation about their lack of water and how inconvenient it is and I listened. I listened very carefully because they were talking with great passion and you know, us Jamaicans, sometimes our passion can get to the point where we think it is anger, but it’s really passion, assertiveness, we want to be heard and we want our views to be respected so I stood, and I listened.  I believe I may have been presumptuous. I put my hand around her and after a while she calmed down.  Yes, it was about expressing how she felt but more important is that she saw that I was interested in what she was saying, that I was listening to what she was saying, that I saw passed her anger and saw her pain and we need more of that in our country.

We know that you have to protest sometime because that’s how you will get attention. It is sad, however, that we have to protest in order to get attention.  And I want to say to the people of Chambers Pen that Minister Desmond Mackenzie and your Member of Parliament, Tameka Davis, they were listening.  They were paying attention to your needs. I am sure that the road, the water, the electricity predated Tameka.  Tameka has only been a Member of Parliament for a few years, so these challenges were before her time.

I don’t know the area well enough. If I venture what I’m about to say, and it is incorrect, you can correct me. Maybe these problems were before Tameka was even born. I wouldn’t say that about Desmond, but we are here now.  And though we didn’t cause the problem, we are responsible.  And what I say to all my ministers and our members of parliament is that they must hear the people’s cry. They must stand up and listen, they must present themselves and they must take responsibility because that is the first step in coming to a solution and I must commend MP Davis. I have seen her at several demonstrations and protests and even with men who look intimidating, and she stands there very calmly, she holds our ground, she listens, and then she comes, and she explains when she has an opportunity to do so.

That’s the beauty of our democracy.  There are many countries where the citizens have no freedom to express their views, but you live in a democracy, and we should cherish it but we must make our democracy work for us. So, Minister McKenzie and his team from the local government ministry and I hear good things about the work of the SDC in the community.

Now, Minister McKenzie has the role of rural development. When we talk about development in the national discourse, sometimes the focus seems to be wholly and solely on urban areas, and we don’t pay enough attention to rural communities.  And rural communities have in my opinion, sometimes a better quality of life. In fact most times, a better quality of life than urban communities; less stress, less violence, less pollution, better food, better community and family relations, better air quality, and  people like that. People like living in the rural environment, but they also want the convenience. They want to turn their pipe and see water. We want to drive and when we reach home, we don’t have to settle for five minutes before.

Yes, you want the convenience and the amenities. You want good schools and access to healthcare, so the government does have in its budget programmes for rural development.  This is one such programme that this rural community is benefiting from.  Now, I didn’t know too much about the programme when I was in the market so I couldn’t get to tell the lady from Cessnock that there is a community like Cessnock, Chambers Pen, that the government is actually doing work there and that Cessnock will be one of the communities that will get attention as well.  So, this project is a demonstration project.  It is giving hope to other rural communities.

Now what did the government do here?  Minister McKenzie ought to take credit along with the member of parliament and the agencies. They did an assessment, first of all, and I’m sure many of you here would have participated in that assessment as to what the needs are and what you said would have come up in a survey, and that survey would have been used to inform policy. So, you would have told us about the school that was falling apart. You would have told us about the need for rural electrification. You would have told us about the road. You would have told us about the water.  And we would have picked up that there are some residents whose living conditions, shelter conditions, are below the standard that we expect as Jamaicans, and we sought to provide in all of these areas.

So, when I was coming up here, the road was really bad and then all of a sudden, I hit some smooth road and I said, “but wait, Desmond, is this carpet you have up here?” Government has spent over 340 million dollars on repairing the roads and I see the work is still ongoing including some supporting infrastructure repairs to the bridge and so forth and putting in water mains.  I see that some rural electrification is taking place.  I haven’t visited the school as yet, but I hear that Minister Mackenzie has said that the school has been repaired. That is the case, and now we are here to hand over two houses to indigent members of the community.  And I believe three more houses are under construction. Now that’s a great.

So, I’m not here today to say that Jamaica doesn’t have problems.  I’m not here to say that there aren’t people who are still struggling to get water, who are upset about their roads, but I think it is equally important that we focus on the things that the government is doing, that there is achievements being made every single day, that your tax money is being spent in ways that are improving the lives of Jamaicans.  It’s not happening with the snap of a finger or the wave of a wand. It will take time, but we are moving as quickly as possible.

So, the news, by nature, likes to focus on the negative. It’s psychological, that’s how we are programmed, and it is focusing on the negative that we overcome them but, in our psychology, as human beings as well, is the need for hope.  We also need to see that things can be transformed because if you only focus on the negative, and you make no progress by focusing on the negative, you will become frustrated.  You will become cynical and then you will lose hope and that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you believe nothing is going to happen, nothing will.  But when you see the examples before you that good things are happening in spite of all the complaints, see here is an example of a community, where the people are happy of the interventions that have taken place to improve the quality of their lives; that one day your community too of Cessnock, will deal with the water there.  And at another event today, I outlined several other projects including Great River, including Rock Spring, and the repair of the Merlene Ottey High School water main; major water projects that will bring water to several thousands in Hanover so good things are happening in your community.

We don’t ignore the negatives.  We listen to them.  We pay attention and we are working to solve them, but we are going to accentuate the positive because for us, the glass is not half empty, the glass is fulling up.

So, Chambers Pen, thank you so much for your wonderful reception. Thank you so much for your patience and your understanding.  I charge all of you here to be ambassadors of hope and peace.

God bless you and thank you.