Hundreds of placard-bearing protesters descended upon the George Town waterfront Saturday to show their disapproval of government’s current plan for a new cruise pier.
The event organised by SaveCayman, which describes itself as a grassroots movement, attracted as many as 500 people, from children to those in their golden years.
“This is not about a dock, this is about the future of our country,” said Janine Martins, one of the young people who organised the event.
“This is about saying we care, that this is important to us. This is not just something we’re given and we’re going to be tossed aside.”
Likening the movement to the March on Washington and other civil struggles elsewhere in the world, she declared passionately “This is our fight. This our time to say we’re not going to just sit down and let you destroy that which is so beautiful and integral for our culture, our history and our moral values.”
Among those addressing the gathering was businessman Bo Miller, who was clad in a red shirt, that like so many others in attendance, declared “Save Our Reefs”.
“That water there. Most of here, most of us in this country we don’t own one share in anything downtown, none of the duty free shops but we own 100 per cent of the stock in that,” he said pointing to the turquoise sea, beneath which lay picturesque coral reefs that make popular dive sites.
“This is our first annual general meeting and we’re going to tell the custodians, our government, that that asset belongs to all of us and it should not be compromised for anyone,” Mr Miller added to rousing applause.
He said their vocal opposition was not against building a port, but doing it in a manner that would have a lasting negative impact on the environment.
“You can build a pier out here without harming the environment and the debate should not be whether we need a pier or not. I think we all agree we could use a pier. The debate is we should not compromise the very thing that attracts our tourists here in the first place,” he said.
Under the proposal on the table, there are provisions to relocate coral and to take steps to limit the impact of dredging, but opponents of government’s plan point to the destruction of coral reefs as sacrificing too much of the environment in favour of development.
“What are we leaving for future generations?” asked Stephanie Espeut in an interview with Cayman Weekly.
“The ecosystem and the reef, in general, is a huge part of our protective system from natural disasters like hurricanes. We can’t continue to destroy our environment,” she said.
Environment Minister Wayne Panton attended the event.
“I believe that this is a true representation of democracy. The people of the country have the right to express their views on issues that are important to them, that are important to the country and to the future of the country. I was happy to see a lot of young people expressing their views [and] letting their views be known,” he told Cayman Weekly.
“I think my presence here is a reflection of my view that I am more than interested in listening to the views of the people. I would say that I think my colleagues do, in general, share that view. They are more than willing to listen.
“My presence here is a reflection, on behalf of my government, of the view that we should be listening and here what the people say and their concerns and try to mitigate those concerns through final plans,” he said.
But as Mr Panton and his Cabinet colleagues ponder their next steps, Janine Martins declares emphatically: “My grandmother’s generation and my mother’s generation brought democracy, brought tourism, brought an influx of financial investment and I will not standby and say that my generation let us destroy everything in one day.”
Of the 300 people at the March 250 of them worked for the owner of the tender company and of course that means 95 percent of them are on work permits.
I overheard the protest organizers talking and said they expected 2,500 people to come out and they were very discouraged with the low turnout. Does anyone know how many Caymanians were out there? I heard less than 75. And many if the Caymanians that did come out either owned the tender company or work for them or friends with them. So their motives are clear and have nothing to do with preserving the environment, rather they are trying to preserve something else green...