The Senate Minority Leader and opposition United Progressive Party (UPP) candidate for St. John’s Rural West in the 2018 general elections, Richard Lewis, says residents of that constituency have been cheated by the authorities’ decision to relocate the St. John’s Magistrates’ Court to the brand new Knuckle Block sports and community complex in Gray’s Farm.
The Knuckle Block facility, a gift from the Government of China, was built as a multi-purpose center and a basketball court for the community.
“The government knew long ago that there was a problem with the court. It needed repairs and so they could have looked around for a facility to house the court temporarily. I cannot understand why they allowed it to reach the point where the community will now be deprived of a sporting facility they had so looked forward to utilizing,” Lewis said.
He further expressed his concerns for the community by stating that utilizing the facility for a purpose other than its original intended use raises several issues, one being that the already bad traffic congestion is also sure to considerably worsen as a result.
“The facility in Gray’s Farm is not ready to house the court. It is only now being fenced and there is a lot more work to be done. It is to be fitted to house offices and courtrooms. Electricity is still a big problem and Public Works officials are now considering the ‘deck’ area of the roof for housing holding cells.”
The senator’s advice was for the government to look for another location to house the Magistrates’ Court, adding that the idea of moving it to the complex was not a good one.
The authorities said the relocation is meant to be temporary in order to undertake badly-needed repairs and renovations to the current court building located at the corner of High and Temple streets in the capital.
Lewis said the situation with Knuckle Block was reminiscent of the Five Islands Secondary School, also built by and a gift from the Chinese, but which the Gaston Browne administration had decided to repurpose as the main block of its plan to establish a campus of the University of the West Indies here.
On his Facebook page Lewis also let his feelings on the matter be known.
“Just like that, the St. John’s Magistrates Court has been closed without due notice, and will be moving to the recently-built Community Centre at Knuckle Block in Gray’s Farm. In investigating this new development, I was told the
Court will remain closed until its move to the new location.
“This decision seems to have been made with such haste that not even the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works got notice. There is a mad rush now to get the facility ready after the closure of the Court. Clearly this was not a well thought out move, and it appears to be a sudden rush by some Government officials to fix a problem that has long existed with the Magistrates Court.
“The notice of this move has caused outrage in the public domain . . . Many will be inconvenienced, and more so the residents of our community. To date, we have not been consulted about this move. No one knows about any plans to mitigate the expected traffic congestion in the narrow roadways surrounding the area, nor how the facility will be shared with the community.
“For example, would there be adequate access to the basketball court?
“Once again, the communities of Rural West have been cheated out of a facility which was conceived for their use and development . . . Is it that this ALP Administration is again showing that anything good that is meant for us is too good for us? ‘
By the way, where is the Parliamentary Representative Hon. Londel Benjamin in all this? Does his silence say he approves of this debasing treatment of the communities of Rural West?