‘Action Ann’ eager to continue working in Portland Eastern

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TIME, this is what the incumbent for Portland Eastern, the Jamaica Labour Party’s Ann-Marie Vaz, says is her biggest challenge ahead of Thursday’s general election.

The first-time Member of Parliament (MP), who defeated the People’s National Party’s Damion Crawford in a by-election following the death of the former MP Dr Lynvale Bloomfield last year, however believes that electors have bought into her vision and understand that she needs more time to deliver.

“I wanted to establish five community centres with playfields, and I only have three [Comfort Castle, Islington and Nonsuch], the others are in the making. I wanted my work to speak for itself, and it is coming together, and I am passionate about it. I wanted to be in a position where I was the clear choice as the nature of the development is that persons are able to help themselves increase wages — no one coming to my office to ask for 25 chickens and two bags of fertilisers, but that they get the start and do the necessary sustaining so they don’t come to ask again, or nobody feel so ashamed to ask for some medication.

“East Portland people are not beggy, beggy; we just want our fair share and opportunity. My biggest challenge going into this election is that I don’t have enough time,” she continued. “I wanted to help more people in need by enriching their lives.”

Vaz, who was elected in April last year, held the post for 16 months before the September 3 General Election was announced. On Thursday, she will be challenged by the People’s National Party’s Purcell Jackson, a bishop.

Though agreeing to an interview with the Jamaica Observer, the newspaper was unable to pin down a time for the meet. However, in a previous interview with the Sunday Observer, Jackson had said that the response to his candidacy has been better than expected.

The Doncaster, East Kingston-born man of the cloth has no fear of what the unfamiliar turf will throw up as he prepares for a fight with Vaz in the Portland Eastern seat, and said then that he is set for whatever comes his way.

“My motto is: With Jackson People Matter. I have been a Christian from age 10 and a pastor for 29 years, so I know people,” the bishop told the Sunday Observer. “All the jobs I ever had before the church was about people. I was into food sales, insurance sales, teaching at a prep school… I love people and want to make their lives better. Coming from a poor background myself, I meet with the common man and show them how to lead that better quality of life.”

In her interview with the Observer last week, Vaz, too, said she wants to improve the lives of constituents as Portland is her home and she wants to see it developed.

“A lot of people believe I came down here in October of 2018 and spent a bag of money. What I did is I spent my time and I spoke to the people, and the people developed a relationship with me. I spent less than $1.2 million to take a garrison constituency from the People’s National Party that they held for 32 years. I did a little bridge that was not even $200,000… at Boundbrook, and I did that bridge because as a child I had to walk three miles up a hill to Bull Savannah to catch a bus to Hampton High School, and I used to walk that route from I was about five years old to basic school.

“What helped me on that journey was two shortcuts, and so when I heard at Boundbrook that that bridge at Railroad was a shortcut, and I witnessed a man on a his bicycle putting down a little girl… walk her across and go back for his bicycle, and I see old people trembling across this bridge… I wanted to ensure that they have a safe place to walk. It was about coming down here and listening to people and that is what is critical in leadership,” she insisted.

Continuing, Vaz said: “I have my vision, and for my vision to become a reality that vision has to become a shared vision, a vision that all of my East Portland family is buying into, because one person is not going to move this constituency from 32 years of inertia, lack and neglect.”

The first-time MP says she has more plans for the constituency.

“I have lobbied for several roads as I have spent a lot of time begging. We have spent a lot in education, which is the vehicle for success, [in] sports, back-to-school, trained hundreds of youths through lobbying with HEART [Trust/NSTA], for tourism, wheelchairs, drains… My aim is to use $8 million from the CDF [constituency development fund] on education, and raise funds for at least the same amount for education, as it is persons who just want an opportunity to excel,” she said.

Vaz shared that it’s not the things she has done as MP that give her the most joy.

“What I found in East Portland was a sense of hopelessness, and my biggest achievement is the sense of joy and hopefulness of the youth. People are feeling hopeful, the majority of my support is the youth. The generation coming up is not about the beautiful speaking, they wanted action, and they are seeing it, and they understand that for the investment, for them to get the jobs to come here, I need some time to put in the infrastructure, because they understand that nobody wants to come and set up shop where there is no water and no road.

“My priority is to ensure that once we have the infrastructure, Portland will sell itself,” she said.

Vaz also highlighted that there are several projects that are to come on stream, including an industrial development, housing development for low-income earners, as well as the installation of ATMs at two locations in the constituency.

“I try to ensure that the quality of life of the people is enriched… My entry into politics, at 54, is because I live here, as I have been a resident for the last 20 years. I live in an area of Fairy Hill, where the people are complaining about using salt water, and I have to use that same salt water. I’ve watched the roads getting worse, the infrastructure going down, the lack of water, and my entry into politics came because I live here and there was nobody willing to step up — that is why I am here,” she insisted.

According to the incumbent, electors have seen the work she has done, and she just wants the polls to be completed so she can continue working in Portland Eastern after election.

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