The relocation of the Grand Anse jetty is turning into a hot political issue with general elections on the horizon between candidates of the two major political parties – Health Minister Nicholas Steele for the ruling New National Party (NNP) and ex-Senator Raymond Roberts of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Roberts has condemned the move by the Keith Mitchell-led NNP government to relocate the jetty from its present location and to proceed with a development project nearby.
The jetty, which is situated close to the Coconut Beach Restaurant along the beach, has become an eyesore and poses a danger to those who use it.
Tourism Minister, Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen has said that the Jetty, which was erected approximately 20 years ago with input from the Grenada Ports Authority (GPA), is in a deplorable state and not only needed fixing but would also be relocated based on a proposal for a development project in the area, which she is confident would benefit the tourism industry.
Speaking at the weekly Congress press conference on Monday, Roberts expressed concern that ordinary people are being displaced and inconvenienced with the jetty in order “to suit the whims and fancies of foreign investors”.
He said that the issue of the relocation of the jetty has become one of grave concern for the Water Taxi Association (WTA).
THE NEW TODAY understands that a new Jetty with funding from government is nearing completion in an area of the beach directly in front of the Vendor’s Market in Grand Anse, which is meeting strong objection from water taxi operators.
Roberts recalled the removal of vendors from the Camerhogne Park area by the NNP regime and to relocate them to the Vendor’s Market in Grand Anse.
He said he is “convinced that the government is prepared to take all the ordinary people (chair operators, et cetera) and heap all of them in front the vendor’s market.”
“There are approximately 40 chair operators, with over 1000 chairs on the beach…we got to be careful (because) we need a Grenada for everybody,” said the NDC Candidate for South.
Roberts stated that while the current NNP administration is “very high-profile in welcoming investors of extreme high-profile” it is equally important that locals also enjoy “the beauty of their country too”.
He said while the country welcomes foreign investors “we cannot continue to operate on that basis, moving things to suit the whims and fancies of a couple selected people”.
According to Roberts, “what we (government) do, has to be in the best interest of all and sundry”.
He said: “Here are ordinary people who operate as water taxi operators and chair operators, who are not looking for employment, (but) create their own livelihood and they are paying taxes…so we have to value them”.
The NDC candidate questioned whether the move by the authorities to relocate the jetty is being done in order to suit the fancies of the nearby Silver Sands developer and that of Minister Steele, who owns the property directly in front of the current jetty.
There are unconfirmed reports that plans are afoot to construct a restaurant on Steele’s property.
Roberts noted that the Jetty, which was built to the tune of $200, 000, has already been moved about three times in the past.
“You (authorities) first had it one place, you moved it to another place and then you go back to the original place and now you (want to go back (move it) to another place…”, he said.
“So, $250, 000 (is) rooted up and I assume that it would cost a similar amount to put it elsewhere,” remarked the aggrieved NDC Candidate who pointed out that the relocation of the jetty is being done without consultation.
He recalled that the Ports Authority had recommended that the jetty be erected at its current location and moving it was essentially “wasting taxpayer’s money.”
Water Taxi Association President, Oscar Bartholomew has already expressed fears that relocation of the jetty will reduce the use of the facility by water taxis moving cruise ship passengers and could negatively impact on their economic and financial livelihood.
The water taxi operators wrote to the Tourism Minister to inform her that based on expert advice the current location of the jetty is the most appropriate one.
The letter also referred to the calmness of the water all year round at the existing location that ensures safety particularly because the tides there are generally friendlier in comparison to other areas of the beach.
The water taxi operators also told Minister Modeste-Curwen that monies spent to construct the new jetty would “undoubtedly result in a waste of scarce resources which our country cannot afford.”
There has been no word from Minister Steele on the jetty issue that is turning out to be rather contentious with general elections just around the corner.