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2005-05-23 09:15:17

Residents To Demonstrate At Bimini Bay

More trouble for foreign investors as Bahamian protesters intend to imprison work crew and hotel guests.

Irate Bimini residents are set to demonstrate outside the Bimini Bay Resort today, protesting a Heads of Agreement clause that reportedly prohibits residents from accessing the road leading into the property.

The protest is reportedly intended to prevent a predominantly Mexican work crew and hotel guests from exiting the property.

According to the island's chief councilor, Tasha Bullard-Rolle, residents decided to take action following a packed town meeting Friday night, where locals were apprised of some of the details in the agreement signed between the government and the developers.

"We took offence as a community about being denied access into the Bimini Bay project because we were of the opinion that the road (leading to the development) was a public access road because it's the one main street going from north to south in the island," Mrs. Bullard-Rolle said.

"Additionally, it is our understanding that the properties beyond the Bimini Bay project are still that of the crown and we are being denied access to that. We need clarification on that."

She explained that Bimini Bay is on the far northern end of the island and everything else is south of it.

"In order to access anything else in the town they would have to leave their property. Our intention is to just have a peaceful demonstration in the front of their property as they try to exit their property on Monday," she said.

Bimini Bay Resort and Casino will house luxury condominiums and oceanfront homes along with other amenities such as a first-class marina and a specially designed golf course.

The government signed a second Heads of Agreement with developers last year. An earlier Heads of Agreement was signed between the developers and Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham's Free National Movement government.

Mrs. Bullard-Rolle claimed residents still remained ignorant of what was taking place.

"We were not privy to the information in the Head of Agreement, which should have been public knowledge. The ideal situation would have been to have a discussion with the residents prior to signing," she noted.

At the town meeting on Friday, the chief councilor and her team reportedly went through the Heads of Agreement with residents.

She expressed her amazement that the meeting was so well attended, a sign she believes underscores the importance of the issue to Biminites. She noted that there were representatives from the 11 churches on the island.

The meeting was held in two classrooms at the Bimini All Age School and there was reportedly standing room only.

"One of the main concerns of the people of Bimini is that they have now realized that they will be denied, or have prohibited, or limited access into the Bimini Bay project," Mrs. Bullard-Rolle said.

"I would say 99 percent of the residents of Bimini were not aware of what was actually taking place up at the Bimini Bay project. We were not privy to what was decided in the heads of Agreement and [Friday] night we took the opportunity to forward that information onto members of the community."

Announcements of the demonstration were sent to all of the island's churches and to the school, she claimed.

Some of the parents at the meeting have reportedly decided to pull their children out of school to attend the protest.

"Bimini Bay has a makeshift gate and a security guard at their entrance so what we are going to do is prohibit them access coming into the town. We are going to start our protest at their gate," Mrs. Bullard-Rolle said.

"We are hoping to send a statement to central government that when decisions are being made we would appreciate consultation with the residents who will be directly affected."

Tosheena Robinson-Blair, The Bahamas Journal

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