This statement is issued against a background that I served the people of Exuma as a representative in the House of Assembly for three decades. One could not help but be proud of the fact that one of our greatest natural treasures, the Exuma Land and Sea Park, was an integral part of the constituency.
I was born and raised in Exuma. Mine is a lifetime of love and respect for Exuma and Exumians. Clearly His Highness, the Aga Khan, establishing residency in The Bahamas, is welcome; he could be good for our country. That said, the people of Exuma honored me by electing me six times. I have a continuing responsibility to speak out on matters of import to them and their heritage.
I know, love and believe in the people of Exuma – ours is a relationship that continues unabated. A simple rule of business is to know what you are buying. It is for this reason the wise purchasers of property in The Bahamas consult with real estate professionals. Through this simple process an interested party could explain his or her desire or ambition and get expert advice in return of what is possible.
Before purchasing property an investor, Bahamian or foreign, could be advised on what is possible with property before a purchase is made. If this process was accessed His Highness may have been guided to another possibility and the Park not threatened as it presently is. Even after the purchase, it is possible that members of the government might have taken the opportunity to advise His Highness about what would have been permitted to happen on the cay while they were his guests on Bell Island during the latter part of last year.
When the Aga Khan offered the National Trust a gift of One Million dollars, the leaders of the Trust might have correctly given guidance that they had a sacred responsibility to protect the national treasure that the park is. The leaders of the National Trust are not permitted to betray this trust in return for a gift of any kind.
The debate over the foolish actions by Earl Deveaux, the Minister of the Environment, and his inane statements attempting to justify his improper activities, is of very little importance relative to the protection of the Land and Sea Park. There is a serious disconnect with reality on Mr. Deveaux’part and he is wrong but that is a matter for him, the Prime Minister and the electorate to deal with. Of far greater concern is the potential for damage in what should be the pristine waters and cays of the Park.
The National Trust issued a statement on the 16th September 2010, which seems to be too much about justifying a gift of one million dollars last year from the owner of Bell Island, instead of protecting the natural elements of the Park. The National Trust seems to put a great deal of credence in an Environmental Impact Assessment completed by Turrell, Hall & of Naples, Florida, in March 2010. This company is headed by Todd Turrell, the same man who wanted to sell millions of yards of sand from The Bahamas to reseed the beaches of Florida. Further, the statement that the application from the owner of the cay to”excavate an inland yacht basin,”seems to suggest that there is already a “yacht basin” in place and possibly enlarging same. That is not so. A pond is on the island and this must be what they are referring to.
Of far, far greater importance than the debate over Mr. Deveaux, the Trust and the government’s actions, is: has there been any decision to permit dredging in the national treasure that is the Exuma Land and Sea Park? The answer must be that there will be no dredging permitted in the sea and no destructive disturbance to the flora and fauna on the land. The Trust refers to the rape of Halls Pond Cay carried out by Mr. Victor Kozeny when he scarified the cay to build roads and left it over the years to attempt recovery without help. We are one in our condemnation of this act and I call on the government to pursue Mr. Kozeny to secure the funds necessary to restore the cay.
In the entire Exuma Land and Sea Park there are only six privately owned cays. All by foreigners. The other islands and cays are part of The Bahamas’ Crown Land Bank.
Finally, we must all do what is best for Exuma and The Bahamas. We should embrace His Highness, the Aga Khan, but we should all be honest with him and other potential investors in what is possible in our treasured areas. We must protect the Exuma Land and Sea Park and all our other natural park sites. God has provided us with a beautiful country and He requires all of us to do our best to protect the land and marine environments for today and for the future.
By George A. Smith