White Hill residents see no hope after two years of frustration
Two years after a large chunk of the main road into White Hill, St Andrew collapsed under the weight of waters from heavy rains, residents say it has been anguish, frustration, pain and pure hell since.
Bemoaning the absence of regular public transportation and the reluctance of emergency personnel to travel to the area, they complain that their treatment is nothing short of a mockery and Government is “making a fool” of them.
With today being the second anniversary of the collapse of the western section of the White Hill main road, Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and other members of her Barbados Labour Party (BLP) skipped Parliament this morning to travel to the rural district in a show of solidarity with the affected community.
Sharing their plight with the BLP officials and the media, the cries of the White Hill residents seemed louder and more painful than ever.
They painted a horrifying picture of a community where their children are unable to attend school regularly, ignored by public transportation and emergency personnel and exploited by taxi drivers.
“Suppose you go to town and you need a taxi, the taxi driver, from the time they hear White Hill it is pure exploitation,” community spokeswoman Carlitha Andrews said.
Andrews explained that it was difficult for residents to enjoy the simple things in life, stressing that everyone in the community had long reached the end of their tether.
“There are tradesmen in the area who cannot get any work . . . . So we up in here are suffering. The children up in here cannot see an ice cream van or bread van; nothing up in here. It is like we are abandoned and nobody seems to care.
“If you have to go from here to the [Queen Elizabeth] Hospital it is $100 . . . When you call [for] an ambulance, ‘oh it is White Hill’, and they tell you they don’t [have any], and they have ambulance in there. God forbid you have a fire up in here. Whoever it is got to burn because nobody is coming up in here,” Andrews said.
Movelle Brathwaite, who cares for her 79-year-old brother, described the situation as “living in a dungeon or something”.
“We need help,” Brathwaite pleaded. “We either need road or we need to move out.”
Following the catastrophe in 2014, the Freundel Stuart administration had announced a programme to relocate some of the over 300 residents to nearby St Thomas.
However, in August 2015 Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman said the relocation programme had hit a snag due to a lack of funds.
“Unfortunately, funding ran out and the relocation programme has been temporarily halted,” Kellman told Barbados TODAY at the time.
Nonetheless, in May of this year Kellman gave the assurance that the authorities were still working on housing solutions for the residents, although he said Government was facing economic constraints.
However, Member of Parliament for the area George Payne is not convinced that the administration cares about White Hill, complaining today that Kellman had yet to visit the area.
Like many of the residents, Payne attributed the perceived neglect to the fact that it is a BLP stronghold.
“What we are seeing in White Hill is part of the Democratic Labour Party plan . . . part of their policy to victimize areas that have not voted for the Democratic Labour Party . . . . This is a national travesty,” the Opposition parliamentarian charged.
His political leader, for her part, called on Government to stop wasting money on housing projects such as the Grotto complex and to make While Hill a priority.
“You cannot build a building at Grotto for $28 million, having closed up for the last 25 months, pay security for guarding an empty set of building and people here can’t get gabions . . . or whatever type of engineering works done to at least stabilize them,” Mottley said.
“And we want to know what happened to the funds they received the US$1.5 million on December 8, 2014. Almost two years ago they made a big deal about receiving funds for White Hill,” she added.
In addition, the Opposition Leader contended, the Catastrophe Fund was set up to help the residents, while the Mottley-led crew complained that while the rest of the island would be celebrating its 50th anniversary of Independence, residents of the rural district had nothing to celebrate.
It was a sentiment captured in Andrews’ final appeal to the authorities.
“The first thing I would like to begin with, I would like the road to be put back in place,” she pleaded. “Anything else could go after . . . we can’t take this [anymore]. Enough is enough.”