Dredging in The Exuma Land and Sea Park

Last week I appeared on the radio show, Hard Copy, hosted by Steve McKinney on Gems 105.9 FM radio at 5:00 p.m. The show was all about the recent permission given by the Government to conduct dredging at Bell Island and, in particular, the Exuma Land and Sea Park which was established by law as a preserve in 1958.

The discussion was lively and interesting. One caller suggested that the purchaser of Bell Island, who was recently given permission by government to dredge a large area of the reserve and who is descended from the Middle East, should be requested to ask the Egyptian Government the following simple question: “What would their answer be if a Bahamian investor promised to make a multi-billion dollar investment in a five star hotel, with all the amenities, theme park, etc. that would create mega employment and foreign investment in the heart of Egypt?”

I am sure they would love the idea. But there would be just one catch, the location of the resort. In order to make the investment, the Egyptian Government would have to allow the investor to demolish one of the Egyptian pyramids to make space for building. The Egyptian Government would ask if the Bahamian investor had taken leave of his senses, and  the Aga Khan would be asked politely … or not so politely … to leave.

But that’s Egypt where they have pride in their history, their environment and themselves. I believe the Bahamian people do also; however, I don’t think our leaders do.

Later in the show there was another caller, Mr. Brensil Rolle, advisor to the Prime Minister, Parliamentary Secretary, and Member of Parliament. He seemed to be all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to defend his government’s position on the granting of permission to dredge in the Exuma Land and Sea Park. I thought he had called to prove us wrong. What he did, however, in my opinion was to demonstrate that he was arrogant, stupid and rude.

He reminded me of years gone by when well trained “hecklers” refused to let anyone speak. Every time I tried to get a word in edge-wise his mouth would start running like a Gatling gun, twice as fast as his brain. I recognized the tactic so I said nothing.

Most of what Mr. Rolle said was that he was born in Exuma and that the area had been dredged many times before and that there were examples of this everywhere and he couldn’t see why we were objecting now.

Mr. Rolle said that pictures that Mr. McKinney had taken recently were “old.” If they were “old,” as Mr. Rolle claims, what happened to the rock and fill that had been mined “long ago.” The Prime Minister said the rock and fill would be “adequately disposed of.” Maybe Mr. Rolle, or the Prime Minister, would care to tell us what “adequately disposed of” really means? Does it happen to mean, “sold on the international market?” If so, by whom? Has this been a part of the “strip mining” operation reported to be going on in The Bahamas? Just asking.

Recognizing his tactic, I backed off and let Mr. McKinney handle, what appeared to be, a raving idiot. Mr. McKinney rightly told him that we were discussing the recent approval for land to be dredged in a reserved area, and that what had happened in the past had nothing to do with the discussion.

And Mr. McKinney was correct. Just because people have fished in the park, does it mean that they should not be arrested if found fishing there illegally? According to Mr. Rolle’s logic, anyone should be able to fish in the park and not worry because, after all, people have fished there illegally before.

Should the bank robber not be arrested for robbing a bank? After all, banks have been robbed before.

Mr. Rolle’s logic was incredible. And he’s one of the Prime Minister’s advisors?

Now back to the discussion. It is said that a man has to be given reasonable access to his property. This is correct. In fact, I don’t think you’re able to sell a property unless you can guarantee reasonable access to it. But reasonable access means just what it says, reasonable. It does not mean that, having bought an island which is surrounded on at least two sides by shallow water and is in a Land and Sea Park, the purchaser is able to buy the Queen Mary and expect  to use “reasonable access” as a reason to dredge in one of our most important marine reserves.

Bell Island, as I understand it, is on the edge of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park with deep water on one side. But this is on the ocean side, they say. Well isn’t this an ocean going yacht he proposes to bring here?

But, of course there’s the famous helicopter. Or is it too busy flying our leaders around?

The Prime Minister says that the Aga Khan is a nice man. I am sure he is. The Prime Minister says that his grandchildren play with the Aga Khan’s children.

Great. So what’s that got to do with the price of tea in China? Am I hearing some kind of complex coming with such a statement?

The Prime Minister says that he has taken the advice of “advisors” and agrees with their advice regarding Bell Island. Maybe the public would like to know the names of these “advisors.” After all, a man is often judged by the company he keeps … and so are his decisions.

The Prime Minister says that the objection to dredging in the Exuma Land and Sea Park is just “noise.” Maybe.

Maybe the riot in Bain town was just “noise” too?

Maybe the town that has recently gone crazy with killings everywhere, is just “noise” too?

Maybe the cries of twelve year olds being raped by pedophiles are just “noise” too?

Maybe the recent “Tea Party” in the U.S. was just “noise” too.

We’ll see. I have faith in the Bahamian people.

By Pierre V.L. Dupuch