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One week has gone by since Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves announced the change of heart by Palm Island Resorts Ltd. on their proposed management of the Tobago Cays Marine Park, and the issue still dominates discussions in some quarters.{{more}}
What though seems to be coming forth most strikingly is the distance that seems to have been created between the proponents of the Rob Barrett Management proposal on the one side and those who have vehemently opposed it.
The Prime Minister himself set the tone, when during the media conference called to announce the change of plans he launched a verbal broadside at those who had opposed the government/Barrett management proposals. Dr. Gonsalves was biting in his choice of adjectives calling those in opposition to this government’s plans “dishonest, vindictive, untruthful and malignant” among other things. He was to state that he would have to hear “from the people” whether those who had opposed Barrett’s involvement in the Tobago Cays should be involved in any management of the park going forward.
We don’t expect that he will get very many responses though as frankly this important issue seems not to be occupying the minds of the broad masses of our people as it’s not a bread and butter issue.
The Friends of the Tobago Cays, the main group in opposition to Barrett’s involvement in the marine park, has understandably seen the hotelier’s withdrawal as a major victory. And, savouring the sweetness of that victory, they called a media conference Tuesday where they further emphasized their total opposition to any involvement of Barrett in the management of the park.
What we do find striking in the positions being adopted is the total lack of compromise being expressed. The Friends of the Tobago Cays, with all their great intentions, cannot seriously expect to dictate to the Government of the day who will be involved in a government project. That notwithstanding
their legitimate questioning of
Robert Barrett’s claims to be “an environmentalist.”
At the same time it just does not ring right for the Prime Minister to begin spewing invective at citizens for simply expressing their opinions of how they see our national patrimony being dealt with.
Dr. Gonsalves is a man who knows and understands protest and people’s right to question the direction this country is taking. It is perhaps lack of this kind of advocacy that gave way to the millstone we now have collectively around our necks in the form of the Ottley Hall Project.
And while we do not think the government’s proposed approach to managing the Tobago Cays Marine Park bears anywhere near the same risks as the Ottley Hall scam, our citizens have a right to share contrary opinions on approaches by government to manage this resource.
A lot of the grandstanding by the parties who have taken centerstage over this issue could well have been avoided. We do need to improve our conflict resolution skills now, not every contrary view signals an enemy lurking behind that view. But when we see a petition being put on the streets to force a government to accept a given position, the normal reaction in our parts is going to be ignorance if not disdain for the people behind the petition, right or wrong though their positions may be.
At the end of the day, and notwithstanding the protests to the contrary; though Prime Minister Gonsalves has been given a way off a sticky wicket by Barrett’s offer to withdraw his management proposal the Prime Minister seems intent on proceeding in close concert with the Palm island hotelier.
There does seem on the part of the Prime Minister a lot of confidence in Barrett’s abilities and whatever else the man brings to the project.
So for those hell bent on opposing Barrett’s involvement in the Tobago Cays, alas it seems too late. What we must however ensure is that we maintain vigilance over the project going forward.
We are at least comforted to hear that Vincentians will be involved in the management of these jewels. We must collectively ensure that they remain a source of enjoyment for our peoples and a source of revenue for the nation.
Our advice to all though is to exercise a bit, of restraint; we all have to live on these rocks, together.

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