Today is the official opening of the Portmore leg of Highway 2000 signifying the beginning of one of the worst kinds of oppression and extortion brought to the Jamaican people by the Government – yet again with the imposition of a toll charge of J$60 one way for cars, J$100 for SUVs and $230 for all other vehicles.
For those who may not know, the government, in its road expansion exercise has taken away the main route for Portmore residents, one of the the largest residential community in Jamaica, and created a toll road, hence forcing the residents to pay to enter and exit the community in which they live. In their minds, the alternate route, the Mandela Highway is a suitable alternative, despite the repair and expansion which would need to be made on this road to make it a “suitable alternative”. The Mandela is traversed by persons coming from Spanish Town and some Portmore residents resulting in a major traffic job during peak hours. So, in order for persons to reach to work early or on time, it requires leaving home about 6 a.m. or before to achieve this.
Although the government has sought to appease the residents by offering frequent travel discounts with the use of the Toll Tag, it is still an atrocity tantamount to almost slavery by asking persons to fork out anywhere from J$30,000 upwards per year to use the toll. With Memorandum of Understandings with wage freezes, public sector workers taking industrial action because of a wage dispute, how do they expect poor people to survive? It is absolute cruelty and equates to extortion perpetrated by the dons in our society.
When will the Jamaican people realize that we must take a stand? For years, we have just taken what is dished out to us with no retaliation. The Portmore residents (of which I am a part) have proposed a boycott of the toll road for the next 2 months and will be having a vigil service this evening. Although it may not achieve the desired result of a lower toll charge, they should be applauded for the stance they have taken from the beginning until now.
So many ills in our society right now and I wonder if it will ever get better. There is no faith in the government, in the security system, in the justice system (although this has improved somewhat), in the church (don’t get me started on the Deacon story), the education system. Where is the hope? We have to find it back somehow. Someway. Somewhere.