COUVA South MP Ramona Ramdial, who is Opposition’s spokesman on Tobago, was yesterday accused of knowing nothing of the island in a heated debate with Sport Minister Shamfa Cudjoe, who is the Tobago West MP. It all began when the House of Representatives debated the Planning and Facilitation of Development Bill, which Ramdial complained allowed a person to appeal against a tree-preservation order.
“Why is it the world is looking to reduce climate change and mitigate against emissions, yet we are now looking to give people the right to appeal against a tree conservation order? I’m not in support of this clause.”
Ramdial asked how the bill would affect a state project like the proposed Sandals Hotel at Buccoo in Tobago.
“Let’s just say an environmental group is lobbying for the protection of the environment and doesn’t want to see acres or hectares of wetland removed for the construction. The Buccoo Estate is a Ramsar site, by the way. It is protected. You have this big hotel coming in, 900 rooms.”
While Tobago activists want to know how many acres of mangrove will be cut and how that will affect the environment, Ramdial lamented the bill made it easier for such projects to happen without regard to environmentalists. “It now gives us another avenue to make it happen quickly.” She feared the bill would also undermine protected lands at Aripo in Trinidad, mentioning the Manzanilla Highway. She lamented, “There’s no recourse for environmental groups.”
Cudjoe claimed Ramdial did not know what she was talking about by saying Sandals would be built on an environmentally sensitive area, but was liberating Tobago.
“And it makes me wonder, does the member even know where is the proposed site for Sandals? They continue to spread these half-truths about building on the mangrove and building on No Man’s Land. Does she even know where No Man’s Land is? And what and where is Buccoo Estate?”
Cudjoe said Buccoo Estate is in her constituency. “It is a huge piece of land. It is not a mangrove. “So I want members opposite, especially Couva North, to do the research and educate themselves.” She said Tobagonians won’t let the Opposition derail Sandals. “What is your alternative plan for Tobago’s economic development? Nothing! They have proposed nothing.”