By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A TOP Bimini local government official blasted the Bimini Blue Coalition yesterday for what he says are their attempts to prevent unprecedented economic benefits from coming to Bimini.
Lloyd Edgecombe,the Chief Councillor of Bimini’s local government council, was responding to a letter published in The Tribune on Wednesday from BBC’s attorney, Fred Smith.
Mr Edgcombe’s criticism comes as Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC) seeks to stop dredging activities already underway on the island as part of Resorts World Bimini’s (RWB) controversial construction of a cruise ship terminal, 1,000-foot pier and man-made island on the grounds that the development may devastate the marine ecosystem of that island.
“How could these people speak for the people of Bimini?” Mr Edgecombe asked. “A lot of offensive things about Bimini people have been coming from this Bimini Blue Coalition group. They are basically calling the people of Bimini stupid. These outsiders are coming here and want to make an uproar.”
Asked about concerns that the government has not been transparent with processes related to the project, Mr Edgecombe said: “I guess the government is doing their job as best as it could. Biminites don’t want to turn this into a political football. This is not an FNM and PLP issue. We don’t want this to be a national issue. I speak to the senior people in Bimini, the Christian people in Bimini and the young people in Bimini and we believe God is in control.”
While Mr Edgecombe insisted that Biminites approve of developments on the island, his view contradicts those of numerous Bimini residents who expressed disillusionment about the benefits of development during interviews with The Tribune earlier this month.
Mr Edgecombe admitted that neither the government nor Resorts World Bimini (RWB) has done a good enough job informing Biminites about what is happening on their island.
“In some cases, you get concerned because of all the negative that is coming out. There hasn’t been enough publication from the government and the resort and that’s one of the problems – people are not informed.”
Adding that more could be done to secure the support of more Biminites, he said: “You’re not going to have everybody in support. People interested in working and serious about working will be given opportunities. But the point is if I go and try to lead a protest against the development the young people will run me out because I’m taking money out of their mouth.”
Asked about the concern that economic benefits from developments on the island are not trickling throughout the wider community, he said: “I don’t know if they expect money to trickle down in the road. You gotta make a business plan and know how you gonna tap into developments happening around you.
“Bimini is no longer a fishing town. Bimini used to be a fishing village. Six months of the year, business was booming, business was good. But this is the 21st century. There’s going to be some environmental destruction, but it is going to be kept at a minimum. These young people don’t want to go to no boat and fish. Bimini is not a fishing village anymore; we’ve moved beyond that. I’m not an expert on environment, but I know Bimini people are going to benefit tremendously.”
Although Mr Edgecombe once protested against developments on his island out of fear that they would destroy the environment, he said he is confident there won’t be much environmental degradation from RWB’s project.
“In the beginning, ten years ago, I led the biggest protest ever held during the destruction of the mangroves,” he said. “Yes, I had a problem with that. This fight is not about me. It’s about my children and my grandchildren. Kids are going away to school and they’re not coming back to their families. We realise there are concerns about the environment. There will be degradation, but I’m convinced it will be kept at a minimum because I have spoken to all the experts from both sides of the divide.”
Mr Edgecombe also criticised divers and foreigners who have been critical of RWB’s project.
“How many jobs have they provided?” he asked. “Their concerns are not the concerns of the people of Bimini. They want to come here where we walking around barefoot. When they come here on their vacation, they want to look at the people around making noise. They’re millionaires. Let Fred (Smith) release the names of the people a part of the Bimini Blue Coalition. The people of Bimini don’t even know who the hell these people are.”
Mr Edgecombe also knocked suggestions that he supports developments on Bimini because RWB has given him benefits.
“I’m not on their payroll,” he said. “I’m an independent business person. I don’t do free trips. I don’t take gifts. I speak from my heart. I simply know what I want for my island.”
He added: “When Fred Smith get the next big job, he’ll move on to that; in 30 days when the dredging is stopped, you won’t hear from these people again.”
The opponents of RWB’s controversial cruise ship terminal project took their case to the Privy Council in London on Wednesday, with a hearing into the matter expected to continue today.
The Coalition’s move comes after the Bahamas Court of Appeal rejected their injunction application on Monday as the environmental group argued that dredging is taking place without the developers providing copies to them of proper approvals and permits in accordance with a Court undertaking they made.