Friday 19 July, 2019

Paulwell labels Port Royal redevelopment project ‘too secretive’

Phillip Paulwell

Phillip Paulwell

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) for East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell, has accused the Government of going about the redevelopment of the historic town of Port Royal in secrecy.

Paulwell has questioned why persons who have for decades been at the forefront of the proposed redevelopment of the town, have supposedly been left out of the initiatives that are currently under way to bring cruise shipping and other activities to the once ‘wickedest city on earth’.

The longstanding MP raised the questions on Tuesday as he made his contribution to the 2019-2020 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives. He said the situation was of “grave concern” to him and his constituents.

He noted that over the years there have been many proposals aimed at capitalising on the potential of Port Royal. The MP said that given its historical, ecological and environmental importance, as well as other social and economic factors, successive governments have moved very carefully with implementing plans to exploit the value of the overall community as a national asset.

“It was recognised that the residents of the community must be an integral part of any development,” Paulwell argued.

He said he was not opposed to the present development.

“We welcome the initiative by the Port Authority of Jamaica to develop Port Royal as a tourist resort, (but) we urge the authorities to proceed in a consultative manner,” Paulwell said.

He said he was “very concerned that much (information) is swirling about the project, and things are happening which might prove to be premature and another waste of effort and money.”

And he wants to know if there is any space for persons who have made the redevelopment of Port Royal their lifelong goal.

“What about those early pioneers in the Port Royal Development Company led by Robert ‘Bobby’ Stephens, who have done so much work in the developmental aspect of this project… at great cost to themselves and the Government?” Paulwell asked.

“Why is this project being developed in such secrecy?” he continued.

Stephens has, for over 25 years, touted the redevelopment of Port Royal as a major tourism site.

Paulwell has other concerns specific to his constituents. He told the House that over the years, the people of the former pirates’ haunt have had to contend with inadequate housing, water and sewage problems, among other challenges.

He said greater effort must be made to involve the people’s representatives and broad-based stakeholder interests, including residents, youth and the local business community.

“Now that the cruise shipping and other tourism potential are being realised, we must not leave the people behind,” Paulwell cautioned.

The Port Authority is in the process of installing a US$7.5 million (J$1 billion) floating cruise ship pier that should allow the first cruise ships to dock in Port Royal in early 2020. In total, the Port Authority is to spend some $5.5 billion on the Port Royal redevelopment project, and the amount could increase over time as aspects of the work unfold.

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