Today’s Editorial for January 16: People power

Like Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie, we must admit we were surprised – perhaps shocked is a better word – at the number of people who went to public meeting on the proposed port redevelopment project on Tuesday evening.

Quite frankly, the turnout of about 150 people was about 125 more than we would have guessed beforehand.

It’s not that we believe the meeting should have been attended by only 25 people, but based on the kind of public apathy we have seen on some other major issues facing the Cayman Islands, we just expected more of the same.

For instance, although there were decent crowds at some of the earlier public meetings about constitutional modernisation last year, we watched attendance dwindle as the meeting schedule progressed, until you could count the attendees on two hands.

We’ve also seen paltry turnouts at public meetings with police, even as crime rates increased.

And when it’s come to issues affecting the environment, it has seemed that only a handful of people – the usual suspects – care enough to say anything.

That fact that 150 people took time out of their busy schedules to attend what turned out to be a very long meeting is remarkable.

It shows that residents of Grand Cayman are very interested and concerned about the port development project, which will create a cruise-berthing pier able to dock four ships and move the cargo operations to its own facility about a half-mile or so north of its current location.

The port redevelopment project would also give control of most normal operations of the cruise passenger terminal – except for Immigration and Customs – to the developer, Atlantic Star Ltd.

Maybe it is the many, many implications of this major project – undoubtedly the largest infrastructure project ever commenced here – that spurred residents to stand up, take note and be heard.

We hope the government, and, in particular, Tourism Minister Charles Clifford, took note, too.

Had only 25 people showed up to the meeting, Mr. Clifford, the Department of Environment, Atlantic Star Ltd. and everyone else probably could have assumed few people really cared. They know better now.

Some of the people at the meeting requested an extension to the public consultation period. Given the number of concerns raise at Tuesday’s meeting, the sheer enormity of the proposed project and its vast implications for this country, we certainly hope Mr. Clifford agrees to that extension.

Time might be of essence to Mr. Clifford in this case, but ultimately, the needs of the people must outweigh any other expediency and there should be no great rush to end consultancy with an interested and concerned public.