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Letters to the Editor on the Tucker's Point SDO

Predictable and pathetic

March 11, 2011

Dear Sir,

I enjoyed your article on Dale Butler's reasons for voting for the SDO. He is willing to vote to destroy a piece of Bermuda for etenity, because he wants to be a candidate in the next election? How understandable,how predictable – how pathetic.

DUNCAN MORAN

Paget

SDO's potential precedent

March 27, 2011

Dear Sir,

The heated controversy surrounding the SDO for Tucker's Point shows how the welfare of the two spheres of the economy and the natural environment overlap from time to time (the same as with the Southlands brouhaha). The Government has a duty of care towards and responsibility for both the economy and the environment – a duty that should in principle be valued in equal or at least complementary measure – on behalf of the welfare of the people of Bermuda. The question, however, is whether the Government has a mandate to support a private enterprise by direct intervention in its affairs, ostensibly for the universal benefit of the economy (and notwithstanding whatever impact it might have on the natural environment).

Does the Government's intervention in the affairs of a resort such as Tucker's Point override considerations of at least as great concern to the people of Bermuda, namely the natural environment of Bermuda? This SDO for Tucker's Point is a, potentially at least, awkward and possibly even dangerous precedent for the intervention of Government in such private matters that, coincidentally, overlap other public interests (in this case the environment). The other question is why the Government has not seen fit in its visionary wisdom to give as much or greater protection to the natural environment of Bermuda. Its long term economic and social value far exceeds the financial problems of a single enterprise such as the Tucker's Point resort.

Environmentalists have been right to protest against the concession of the SDO for Tucker's Point, if only to highlight the increasing awareness amongst the people of Bermuda about the drip-by-drip corrosion of a natural resource, namely the environment of Bermuda, which is by its nature priceless by comparison with the transient even if fatal financial problems of a single business. But they are also right in strictly environmental terms, because of the potentially irreversible damages and insult of any development that compromises Bermuda's natural and indigenous resources.

Problems arise when government intervenes in such matters, because of the conflicting and competing interests of public versus private interests. There is no reason why the Bermuda Government should tinker with the affairs of a private business just because the people responsible for that business can't otherwise fix its problems. If that were the case the Government might interfere in any failing business. The Government is responsible for things which it has a public duty of care to protect and support, such as the natural environment of Bermuda, not for failing private businesses. Where it does intervene to help failing private businesses, there need to be compelling reasons and clear criteria for justifying such interference.

If the intention of the Government in giving an SDO to Tucker's Point is to give a boost to tourism, which it has regularly stated is the case, then one might reasonably assume that it should have some kind of strategy or plan to promote all aspects of Bermuda tourism. But if there has been some comprehensive strategic plan for the development of Bermuda tourism in the past 20 years or so, someone's been keeping pretty quiet about it. And if Tucker's Point's problems are not because of bad management (and I don't know whether or not this is the case), it might reasonably be inferred that Government's negligence in promoting Bermuda tourism enough in recent years has contributed to Tucker's Point's financial difficulties. (And by “Government” I mean Government as a national public entity, not this or any other party political administration in particular.) Either way there is a compelling argument for the Bermuda Government to help Tucker's Point in some way other than an SDO that does not compete with and impact or compromise the quality of Bermuda's natural environment. It certainly should not be singling it out for special consideration, however, at least until there are much clearer and more explicit criteria by which any failing business might equally be assisted by government intervention.

That said, the most effective way the Government of Bermuda could help Tucker's Point and other resorts and tourism-related amenities in Bermuda would be by dedicating more investment, energy, creativity and attention to the development of the Bermuda tourist industry at large as a critical lifeline of the economic vitality of Bermuda. Government really needs to be promoting the overall general health and wellbeing of its corporate body rather than attaching saline drips to some of its ailing members.

The tourism economy of Bermuda should in any case never have lapsed in value as to become apparently so dependent on the rescue and preservation of a single resort. That sector of the economy has always depended to a large degree on the preservation, conservation and enhancement, and public duty of care for the unique natural environment of Bermuda. This is what BEST and other people in Bermuda continue, rightly, to fight for. If the Bermuda Government believes that it has a responsibility to intervene in the problems facing Tucker's Point (or any other failing business in Bermuda of equal stature), for the good of the economy, it must also demonstrate convincingly to the people of Bermuda that, in doing so, it will not compromise the far greater value of the welfare of the environment. It must commit equally to preserve and protect that precious resource which is the birthright of every single Bermudian for whom the Government of Bermuda has the ultimate public duty of care.

GRAHAM FAIELLA

London, UK

Start listening to others

March 19, 2011

Dear Sir,

What an absolutely sick joke. The PLP were told by many of their own members that the Tucker's Point SDO was wrong. Real financial experts told them they were wrong. Environments told them they were wrong. And most of those Bermudians who cared told them they were wrong. The only ones who wanted this were HSBC, Tucker's Point and property developers. The PLP forced the SDO though the House and only “listened” at the last minute because they knew that they faced certain defeat in the Senate.

Had Paula Cox and her colleagues listened to the UBP in 2007 our national debt would be a quarter of what it is now and the millions of dollars now being spent in interest and payments to the sinking fund could have been used for the thousands of Bermudians who are suffering because of the PLP's thoughtless and irresponsible spending.

Stop knee jerk legislation and listen to all parties first.

FOR A BETTER BERMUDA

Pembroke

Paving paradise

March 16, 2011

This was sent to members of the Senate and copied to The Royal Gazette.

Dear Senator,

I will keep this letter brief as I feel certain that each of you will have received many similar letters asking that the overwhelming public outcry objecting to the Tucker's Point SDO be considered when debating later this week.

Senators, no one would argue the desirability of a revived tourist industry, and indeed I was very pleased when the Tucker's Point organisation fulfilled its promise to construct a hotel. I further recognise that the land whose development is being considered is not public land but, Senators, it is “ours” in the sense that every Bermudian and visitor derives pleasure from merely driving past and seeing these last few areas of green acreage (foreign species not withstanding).

More tangible is the benefit this “forest” provides by way of its filtering properties; no news to any of us, all very basic knowledge acquired in middle school yet seemingly being given a very low value by all in a position of power, whether economic or political.

Senators, are we not creating the ultimate example here of paving paradise to put up a parking lot? Surely those wealthy people who have already invested in properties in the area, made available to them by way of earlier concessions to conservation, will not be happy about the further fragmentation and desecration of Bermuda's last remaining open space.

Senators please vote NO on the granting of this SDO. Please at the very least provide all Bermudians with the time to better understand how this action will benefit the average Bermudian when considered within the context of a formula that includes more than just dollars.

ARTHUR J DESILVA

Devonshire

Ethiopian lesson on trees

March 21, 2011

Dear Sir,

May I draw the attention of your readers to a speech made by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I on the occasion of Arbour Day in Ethiopia some years ago?

No doubt today they will appreciate the relevance of his admonition for our generation.

“This is the third occasion on which We celebrate Arbour Day. As We have stated on previous occasions, the main objective of the development programme which We have adopted for the welfare of Our people is to preserve and augment the wealth derived from our land, and, agriculture being the basis of our economy, to increase the yield of our soil through maximum utilisation. The forest resources of our Empire constitute one of the most important elements of the wealth of Our land.

“When our forests are properly conserved, they protect the fertile soil of Ethiopia [Bermuda] from erosion; they render the landscape green and beautiful. But when forests are neglected and gradually destroyed, the wealth of our land is progressively reduced and the country slowly becomes bare and barren.

“Wood-cutting is an important source of income for our rural population. But the needlessness of their tree-cutting and their thoughtless misuse of our timber stands demonstrate clearly that they do not understand the great and far-reaching importance of preserving our forests.

“The uses of trees are many and varied. Groves of trees protect our fields and plantations from being desiccated by the desert winds that blow from neighbouring regions. During the summer months, they provide moisture and shade. If trees are not presently planted to replace those being cut down from time to time, our constant efforts to conserve and develop the wealth of our country for the welfare of present and future generations will be rendered ineffective and futile. We are greatly grieved to observe the many thousands of gashas of rich forest land being destroyed every year by reckless timber-cutting, thoughtless forest burning, unregulated forest grazing, and other misuses of our forest wealth, due to popular ignorance and desire for temporary advantage on the part of our people.

It is a matter of great concern for us that the forest wealth, which God in His mercy has bestowed upon our country is thus being continually reduced and wasted. Hence it becomes the duty and obligation of every single Ethiopian [Bermudian] to become aware of the tremendous industrial and agricultural advantages to be derived from Our forest resources, and to practise tree-planting, in order that Our hills and planes which have been stripped of their wooded cover may once again be clothed in their green mantle. ...

“It is Our wish and Our desire that each and every citizen of Our country follow the example We set on this Arbour Day in planting this tree, and himself plant as many trees as he can, for his own benefit as well as for the benefit of future generations.”

RASTAFARI

Westminster system not good

March 10, 2011

Dear Sir,

If ever there was needed yet further proof that we need to change our system of government, then Dale Butler, MP has just presented it. Here is a man who has, over the years, demonstrated a greater degree of integrity than most, if not all, of his colleagues, and yet, according to your story, he feels forced to ignore both his conscience and the wishes of many of his constituents in the matter of the Tucker's Point SDO. His fear that his party will not adopt him as a candidate in the next election if he does not toe the party line has effectively prevented him from doing what he feels is best for Bermuda. In other words, the interests of the party come before the welfare of the nation. This situation comes about through our blind adherence to the Westminster system of government which decrees that there must be a ruling party and an opposition party, thus determining that there will always be division that the parties will try to exploit in order to maintain their power or to gain power. That is the main goal of any political party under this system – to retain or gain power. The needs of the country and the electorate are secondary to that in that they are attended to after the power is retained or gained.

Bermuda is not unique in this. The vitriolic and destructive campaigning seen during elections in the UK and, under a slightly different system, the USA show that it can be just as bad in other jurisdictions. Bermuda and her people are special. Why can we not adopt a system where we vote for the candidates who we feel will best run the country for us regardless of their political affiliations, operating like a board of directors? No constituencies, no government and opposition, just the twelve, fourteen, sixteen or however many we decide who win the most votes island-wide to form the government for a set term. If they have a tied vote in their deliberations, let a referendum decide the matter. Of course it would need a whole lot of detailed planning to come up with such a system, but I would suggest that the party which can present a sensible proposal along these lines as the main part of their platform might do quite well in an election. They would certainly have my vote and that of many others to whom I have spoken.

Many questions remain

March 28, 2011

Dear Sir,

I think unless we regroup, March 25 will go down as a sad day in Bermuda's history. With the Senate's approval – after debates that at times sounded like bullying – precious natural and cultural heritage has been taken away from the people once again this time by the People's Party seemingly to bail out a business that got itself into trouble (we have not been told whether by economic downturn, mismanagement, creative accounting, or else). The haste and persuasion with which this SDO was hustled through the legislature only suggests that there is more than meets the eye. Yet something irreplaceable and in desperately short supply – the Island's remaining open land – has been gambled away, and the people are the losers.

There must be a better, less devastating solution… Many questions remain:

1. Why and how did a company that has already been given extraordinary privileges, i.e., two SDOs to develop and sell some of Bermuda's prime real estate – purportedly in the interest of the Island's tourism – get itself into so much debt? Shouldn't the people of Bermuda (and I mean the people of Bermuda, not just a Minister), before granting yet another unprecedented privilege, have been given full disclosure of audited financial statements?

2. If it is indeed in the national interest to keep a tourism business afloat, at an irretrievable cost to the community, then why pick this one and not the many others that were allowed to sink without so much sympathy?

3. The highest protective zoning for the land in question was reaffirmed only a few years ago. How can we place trust in a Government that reverses itself so soon, so totally, and for such shortsighted reasons?

4. And if indeed a short-term bailout is deemed in the national interest, why not use a debt guarantee or other appropriate financial instrument, rather than irreversibly committing the country's substance? It's a bit like panic-selling the crown jewels because the car payment is overdue…

5. The heavy-handed give-away of some of Bermuda's most sensitive remaining open space makes a mockery of more than half a century of conservation efforts by Government, NGOs and dedicated individuals. It reduces the existence of a Ministry of the Environment to mere lip service.

6. Sadly, the Senate President's concluding remark that “the land Bermuda is getting [from Tucker's Point] is priceless” (The Royal Gazette, March 26) sums up the tragic misconception that nature is worth something only if wholly owned by Government, and used for a purpose. “It will enhance the tourism product if it's dealt with as soon as possible. I would hate for Bermuda to get this land and in five years nothing is done to it.” It was exactly the protective open space zoning that made it the property of all of us but alas not in perpetuity.

I trust that it is not too late to come up with a better plan. But rather than leave the weeding-out of the worst scenarios to the planning process (which, as we have seen, can be politically overruled at any time), or let Government be the recipient of a Judas gift of land that it may fritter away again at the next opportunity, let us call on all parties concerned – TPC, Government, HSBC, Mid-Ocean Club, plus the Island's environment-minded organisations and people – to try and put together a win-win package that will both help the business of the day, and save the future of Bermuda.

BEEN THERE

St George's

Many questions remain

March 28, 2011

Dear Sir,

I think unless we regroup, March 25 will go down as a sad day in Bermuda's history. With the Senate's approval – after debates that at times sounded like bullying – precious natural and cultural heritage has been taken away from the people once again this time by the People's Party seemingly to bail out a business that got itself into trouble (we have not been told whether by economic downturn, mismanagement, creative accounting, or else). The haste and persuasion with which this SDO was hustled through the legislature only suggests that there is more than meets the eye. Yet something irreplaceable and in desperately short supply – the Island's remaining open land – has been gambled away, and the people are the losers.

There must be a better, less devastating solution… Many questions remain:

1. Why and how did a company that has already been given extraordinary privileges, i.e., two SDOs to develop and sell some of Bermuda's prime real estate – purportedly in the interest of the Island's tourism – get itself into so much debt? Shouldn't the people of Bermuda (and I mean the people of Bermuda, not just a Minister), before granting yet another unprecedented privilege, have been given full disclosure of audited financial statements?

2. If it is indeed in the national interest to keep a tourism business afloat, at an irretrievable cost to the community, then why pick this one and not the many others that were allowed to sink without so much sympathy?

3. The highest protective zoning for the land in question was reaffirmed only a few years ago. How can we place trust in a Government that reverses itself so soon, so totally, and for such shortsighted reasons?

4. And if indeed a short-term bailout is deemed in the national interest, why not use a debt guarantee or other appropriate financial instrument, rather than irreversibly committing the country's substance? It's a bit like panic-selling the crown jewels because the car payment is overdue…

5. The heavy-handed give-away of some of Bermuda's most sensitive remaining open space makes a mockery of more than half a century of conservation efforts by Government, NGOs and dedicated individuals. It reduces the existence of a Ministry of the Environment to mere lip service.

6. Sadly, the Senate President's concluding remark that “the land Bermuda is getting [from Tucker's Point] is priceless” (The Royal Gazette, March 26) sums up the tragic misconception that nature is worth something only if wholly owned by Government, and used for a purpose. “It will enhance the tourism product if it's dealt with as soon as possible. I would hate for Bermuda to get this land and in five years nothing is done to it.” It was exactly the protective open space zoning that made it the property of all of us but alas not in perpetuity.

I trust that it is not too late to come up with a better plan. But rather than leave the weeding-out of the worst scenarios to the planning process (which, as we have seen, can be politically overruled at any time), or let Government be the recipient of a Judas gift of land that it may fritter away again at the next opportunity, let us call on all parties concerned – TPC, Government, HSBC, Mid-Ocean Club, plus the Island's environment-minded organisations and people – to try and put together a win-win package that will both help the business of the day, and save the future of Bermuda.

BEEN THERE

St George's

Spreading wisdom like jelly

March 10, 2011.

Dear Sir,

The SDO for Tucker's Point brings to mind one of Sir Winston Churchill's many quotes: “It would be a great reform in politics if wisdom could be made to spread as easily and as rapidly as jelly.”

HFS

Paget

SDO and tactics

March 20, 2011

Dear Sir,

I am a Bermudian drawn into the SDO issue by a sense of needing to do right by those that were made to leave Tucker's Town in the early 1920s. So much is owed to the great sacrifice those people were forced to make and it has been good to see some evidence of a new era of readiness in the community to acknowledge this piece of history that was repressed for so long.

One way we should respond to this history is to require integrity of those privileged enough to be running a business on this land. In the media last week Mr Ed Trippe criticised protesters for being emotional and spreading false information. Meanwhile, most of his position is based solely on this. For example, there is the claim that this SDO doesn't mean very much since they must still satisfy planning regulations. This of course is false as the SDO would remove the zoning protections which now preserve the land's ecological and monetary value for all of Bermuda. Even more importantly, there is the claim that the SDO will definitely be enough to save Tucker's Point although insufficient financial information has been provided to back this up. Further, there are the scare tactics that all the jobs would be lost in a receivership situation when that is highly unlikely. A final glaring example is Mr Trippe's provocative unproven assertion that if his company fails, all of Bermuda tourism will follow.

There is a pattern here and we should keep that in mind for what comes next. Now that the Senate has hit the “pause and reconsider” button, it is likely that Tucker's Point will be deciding both what concessions it can make, and how to frame it so that they look generous. Remember what would be generous would be not to take anything else from the people of Bermuda and to find another solution to their debt problem. Leave us with a top hotel and our precious natural land.

If it were ever to be justifiable for Bermuda to permanently give up so much environmentally, economically, and historically for a private company, it would only be after we had been given all the facts, not after we had been misled. On Friday perhaps the Senators shared some of my sentiments. I only hope their discernment persists if Mr Trippe's tactics continue.

TOBY BUTTERFIELD

Warwick

Be guided by conscience

March 20, 2011

Dear Sir,

Please allow me to comment on the Special Development Order that was recently passed in the House of Assembly.

The Senate then debated the SDO and it appears as if the majority were not in favour. The PLP Senators supported it, whilst the UBP and Independent Senators except for the President of the Senate, said they opposed it.

This issue seems to be in many people's minds. Tourism is very important to the wellbeing of many Bermudians, especially the ones who work at Tucker's Point. It must have been very difficult to make a decision with so much at stake. In this writer's opinion, the UBP and Independent Senators must be given credit for the following:

1. Their steadfast support for the families who had their land removed from them by The Compulsory Acquisitions Act in the 1920s.

2. Their desire to protect the pristine land that many future generations of Bermudians and visitors should continue to enjoy.

3. To allow the competitive tourism market to continue without government interference.

May I reiterate, many thanks to the Senators and when it is discussed again, may your conscience be your guide.

JOHN BROMBY

Somerset

All part of a scheme?

March 26, 2011

Dear Sir,

I found it interesting how quickly the investors in Tucker's Point were able to come back to the table with a revised proposal. Is it possible that this is how it really went down.

A meeting is called by the investors and it is noted and agreed by all, that we are losing our shirts so we had better spend some more money and build something else. Let's prepare a really grand proposal, which in good sense will not be approved because there still are some people in the Island who really care about what is happening to their environment, and will oppose it. Then if it is rejected, we can submit our original intention and surely have that passed. The chance does exist that the original might go through, so we should continue our efforts to change the minds of those sitting on the fence by our usual methods. We have a win-win situation and the silly Island folk will be clueless as to what went down. If the grand plan is passed, we win and when the revision is passed we win. What could be easier. Just remember to make sure the minutes of this meeting by chance fall into the shredder.

BILL NEARON

Pembroke

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Published March 30, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated March 30, 2011 at 10:23 am)

Letters to the Editor on the Tucker's Point SDO

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