PUBLIC FORUM IN GRENADA – DOCUMENTARY “JAMAICA FOR SALE” EXAMINED
“Sensitization that is timely and necessary”. This is how Hon. Nazim Burke described the showing of the film Jamaica for Sale while participating in a public forum that was organized by Citizens in Defence of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage (CDGLH). He was one of four panelists who shared perspectives on the film.
Other panelists were:
· Rev. Osbert James, Presbyterian Minister
· Mr. Craig Keller, Project Manager. Levera Resort Development
· Dr. Esther Figuerora, film producer/director
Jamaica for Sale is an internationally acclaimed documentary which chronicles the development of the tourism sector in Jamaica and the negative impact that the unsustainable development of the sector is having on the environment and on the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Jamaicans.
The film producer/director, Dr Esther Figuerora, was in Grenada as the guest of Citizens for the Defence of Grenada’s Lands and Heritage.
Partnering with the organization, People in Action, CDGLH hosted two showings of the documentary – a special showing to which Ministers of Government were invited and a public forum at the Grenada Trade Centre Annex . A wide cross section of persons, an estimated 150, were in attendance at the public forum.
The public forum featured the documentary followed by the panel discussion which was moderated by Mr. Claude Douglas, a sociologists and lecturer at the St. George’s University. Comments and questions from the audience followed.
Describing the showing of Jamaica for Sale as sensitization that was timely and necessary, Hon. Minister Burke noted that the documentary was a compelling critique of tourism and development, an analysis of what can happen when tourism goes wrong.
He spoke of challenges that governments, particularly in the small island developing states, face in finding resources to provide various services to their constituents, and the competing interests and tensions between development and environment. He believed that government had to strike an appropriate balance and find the right mix.
He agreed that Grenada must practice tourism that is sustainable and made reference to the “community tourism model ” advocated by the National Geographic.
Rev. Osbert James shared the biblical perspective of humankind being “stewards of the earth”. He observed that the “commons”, which belongs to all the people, was now being “commoditised”, and the people, to whom it belonged, were deprived of its use, while their needs were now secondary to the demands of investors. Governments were no longer speaking for the people but instead were interested in wooing investors.
He warned that the documentary showed that we were actually destroying our environment – what the tourists actually wanted when they visited our countries.
Declaring his company’s commitment to sustainable development and to integrating the community in its development, Mr. Craig Keller was of the opinion that the documentary focused on good “bad examples”.
He also identified a land use policy as critical to guiding Grenada’s tourism development.
Noting that she came from Jamaica which had developed the worst type of tourism and exported it to the rest of the region, Dr. Esther Figueroa described the documentary as her “apology on behalf of Jamaica.” She implored Grenada not to follow in the footsteps of Jamaica, repeating its mistakes, but rather to learn from history and the contemporary. She reminded the audience that “God’s earth was not ours to destroy”. We should, she counseled, act smartly, willfully and with compassion. There were other ways to do things.
When asked about the role of tertiary institutions in assisting the monitoring process and thus the protection of the natural resources, Dr. Figueroa gave a scathing response, noting than in our region, professionals and academics studied our natural resources and profited from it but stood by silently as they witnessed its abuse and destruction by “agents of development”.
Unhappily, but not unexpectedly, the students of these professors, who were the one providing the free lobour for the studies, then followed in their professors’ footsteps.
A number of recommendations also emerged from the discussion which followed with the audience. Among these were:
· Plan development (country should determine what it wanted to develop and where) and then identify partners to facilitate.
· Review, update and implement the National Development Plan.
· Establish mechanisms for monitoring the conduct of Environmental Impact Assessments.
· Empower communities, through information, to become the stewards of their environment.
· Establish mechanisms to ensure that “developments” consider local knowledge and integrate local interests.
· Introduce local government in order to empower local communities to act.
· Introduce the requirement to advertise all applications for development – (Grenada is one of the very few exceptions in the region where advertisement of the application is not a requirement.)
Frustration was expressed that, in Grenada, it was all about “talk” that was never followed by any action. It was stressed that small but deliberation interventions could go a long way in regulating physical development and the management of our natural resources in Grenada.
Dr. Figueroa presented the Hon. Nazim Burke with a copy of the Jamaica for Sale documentary for viewing by Prime Minister Thomas who was unable to attend either of the two showings because he was out of the country.