By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
FORMER Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe yesterday called for Lighthouse Point to be protected from cruise ship development and "preserved" for the people of The Bahamas.
Describing the 700-acre peninsula located at the southern tip of Eleuthera as "the most beautiful place in The Bahamas," Mr Wilchcombe said the government should take ownership of the property and put it in the hands of Bahamians.
He added he supports the position of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and organisations such as the One Eleuthera Foundation that Lighthouse Point should be designated a protected area.
Hank Johnson, member of parliament for Central and South Eleuthera, told The Tribune he has taken a neutral position on the matter until a decision is made.
Disney Cruise Line is said to be the group behind the potential acquisition and development of the area.
Mr Wilchcombe told The Tribune while the Bahamas has had a "tremendous relationship" with cruise lines over the years - and they have proven to be "good partners" - development of Lighthouse Point "should not be on the table".
"It ought to be allowed to be preserved for the people of The Bahamas and the people of Eleuthera," he said.
"It's one of the most beautiful spots. And I don't think that it ought to be involved in any destination, insofar as an investment of any company, I don't think so."
Mr Wilchcombe added he is aware of the efforts of the BNT and One Eleuthera to turn Lighthouse Point into a protected area and said he supports their efforts. He also said the government should give credence to the people of Eleuthera and its local government.
"The people of Eleuthera should have the final say," Mr Wilchcombe said.
"And the truth is, we have to give meaning to the local government. The local government ought to be defined in the sense that it's the people of a particular island and…what do the people want?"
"If they're opposed to it should not even be a debate. Because it's their island. They continue to enjoy it. And what's been bequeathed to them ought to remain.
"I know there've been debates about ownership and that land in particular over the years. Well, it's time for that land to return to the people.
"I think it's for the government to take ownership of it and put it in the hands of Bahamians."
When asked about the matter, area MP Hank Johnson told The Tribune: "There are two groups that (are) asking permission for the two proposals. And as the member of parliament, I would have to follow the lead of the people."
"So for that reason, for that reason, I have decided not to be a part of it, at this stage, I will be paying close attention as to how these things unfold. And I will follow the lead of the people in my constituency."
Mr Johnson clarified that he was referring to proposals from Disney and from the One Eleuthera Foundation.
"I have taken a neutral position, I will watch the trend of this, and at the end of the day, I'm (mandated) by my people."
When asked if he had concerns about the potential environmental impact of any development, Mr Johnson said he will address that "when the time comes".