Honourable Edward Seaga, Former Leader of Jamaica Labour Party and Former Member of Parliament representing Tivoli (where he served as the longest serving MP)
BECAUSE OF the public interest aroused recently concerning the community-development model in Tivoli Gardens, I am referencing here the appropriate section of my autobiography, Edward Seaga: My Life and Leadership (Chapter 9, pp 152-156).
The political constituency which I represented, Western Kingston, had the largest slum in Jamaica. About 1,500 persons resided there on 40 acres of land. It was called Back O’Wall.
On the occasion that Norman Manley visited Back O’Wall as premier, just after a vexatious clash in 1961 between residents and the police in the Coronation Market next to Back O’Wall, Hartley Neita, of the Government Public Relations Office, who accompanied him, best described the area in a published article: ‘A slum is a smell’:
“We walked from early morning until mid-afternoon through some four acres of squalor. Saw shacks, the walls of which were made of pieces of rotten wood and cardboard, crocus bags and covered with rusty sheets of zinc. The families slept on pieces of cardboard covered with scraps of cloth … .There were no roads, just beaten tracks winding around each hut. Sometimes we stepped into swards of mud and the faeces of pigs and goats.
“… There was no grass or trees for shade or fruit. Every now and then we came upon a shrivelled gungo-peas plan … . There was no piped water. They had a tapped water main along Spanish Town Road and carried water inside the community where they had constructed a makeshift shower … . One man had built a latrine and he charged residents one penny to use it. The alternative was at the edge of the community, sandy soil where men and women scraped a shallow hole and squatted over it to drop their night food … . The smell from the combination of the rotting wood, mud, sour water and faeces and scraps of cooked food waste was a nauseous, stomach-turning smell.”
But it was more than a slum. It was also the most notorious criminal den of the country. Even the police were afraid to enter its environs.
Could not continue
There was absolutely no way this situation could be allowed to continue. For more than one reason, to create proper housing and to dispense the criminal elements, it had to be demolished for the development of proper accommodation.
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