The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Lionel ‘Max’ Hurst, says recent photographs showing the destruction of mangroves on Guiana Island are misleading.
On Thursday at the post-Cabinet briefing, Hurst described the persons who took the photos as elitists.
“They are elites, people who have boats, operating drones take and manipulate the photographs so you can come to a [different] conclusion than you would get on the ground,” he said, later adding, “This is an attempt to mislead the Antigua and Barbuda public by presenting to [the media] photos.”
Hurst said the photographs were images of road building by the contractors on the island.
“They are building roads in the YIDA project, which is a must, and also turning some of the wetlands into lands that can be useful,” he said.
Hurst argued that the YIDA developers have greater interest in the environment as they have invested money in the project.
“It is mere hubris for anyone who has not invested to think that they have a greater interest in the environmental impact than someone who has spent over $120 million. No hotel or project in Antigua and Barbuda that welcomes guests will do anything that harms the environment which brings in the visitors,” he said.
Environmentalists and other concerned citizens have been increasingly outspoken after images were disseminated to the media on Monday.
When questioned if YIDA International would be willing to allow some persons to visit the site to alleviate their concerns, Hurst said they will never be satisfied.
“They are not going to be reassured. They have been opposed to development on the island since the Dato Tan Kay Hok days in the 1990s. There is nothing we can do to persuade them to support the YIDA project,” he said, adding that the Cabinet was more concerned with informing the public about the benefits of the project.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister personally visited the Guiana Island site before the Cabinet meeting, afterwards assuring ministers that the damage caused was minimal.