The evening – scheduled as an opportunity for Cayman Islands government members to update residents on the country’s proposed cruise berthing project – ended up being more of a pro-government political rally combined with an opposition demonstration.
A group of Bodden Town citizens opposed to government’s proposal to establish a waste management facility in Midland Acres stood up at the back of the parking lot outside the local post office where the meeting was being held and displayed signs that read ‘don’t dump on Bodden Town’ and ‘call it whatever you want, it’s a dump and it stinks’.
The protesters – who initially said they were not going to speak – chanted various slogans while members of the United Democratic Party spoke at the podium.
“No dump in Bodden Town, no dump in Bodden Town,” they chanted.
Undaunted, UDP member Ellio Solomon played up to the crowd and riled up a substantial number of the political group’s own supporters who attended the event. Mr. Solomon accused opposition People’s Progressive Movement members of ‘poking holes’ in the good ship Cayman.
“One of the same persons that poked a hole in that boat is out there holding a sign up now,” Mr. Solomon said.
At one point, Bodden Town MLA Dwayne Seymour broke into song about former University College of the Cayman Islands President Hassan Syed while speaking at the podium. Mr. Seymour, who has taken some heat for his support of the Bodden Town landfill proposal, told meeting attendees that they should get all the facts about the proposal prior to protesting.
“There has been massive speculation by onlookers…and people who have jumped to a conclusion that is truly not there,” Mr. Seymour said. “When elephants fight, it is only the grass that suffers.”
At this point, someone from the crowd shouted to Mr. Seymour: “Sit down, you don’t know what you’re talking about!”
Health Minister Mark Scotland, who also represents Bodden Town district, urged meeting attendees not to simply have an “emotional response” to the Midland Acres waste management plan, but to take time and review the proposal. Mr. Scotland said a previous study done on the current George Town landfill indicated it was simply not financially feasible to create a waste-to-energy facility at the George Town site.
“A study that the PPM did for the waste management facility…said they would need to raise fees and taxes on our people by an additional $18 million to $23 million a year to be able to pay for that facility [in George Town],” he said. “To do that, you’d have to raise import duties to over 30 per cent. Can we afford that now, ladies and gentlemen?”
Another attendee yelled from the back of the parking lot, calling Minister Scotland a “sell out”.
Premier McKeeva Bush – speaking for more than an hour at the end of the meeting – said that the proposed waste management facility in Midland Acres would eventually include waste-to-energy and recycling aspects. He said some new legislation would have to be created to implement new methods of waste management. He also said that site visits organised by government to US waste management facilities would be made later this year to educate local residents on what those operations are capable of.
“This matter is so important that we want to make sure that residents of Bodden Town and other concerned citizens can see modern and properly designed waste management facilities,” Mr. Bush said.