Editorial: Nothing to say

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Did you happen to read the story entitled ‘Illegal Billboards’ in The Daily OBSERVER recently? It was a story about the alleged abuse of process during the elections season as it relates to the erection of billboards across the country by the political parties. Apparently, they are being erected without the necessary approval from the Development Control Authority (DCA). 
The situation is a vexing one for many, and we have received more than a few complaints on the matter. In one case on Friar’s Hill Road, a billboard is said to be posing a big problem for the ongoing work being done there. In that case, there is no signage attached to the billboard so its owner is unknown. That mystery aside, the APUA workers who are being inconvenienced by the mystery billboard say that they do not have the authority to remove the billboard from its location. You are beginning to see why this has been described as vexing.
As the DCA is the authority responsible for approving all billboards on the island, we did the obvious thing and approached them to ascertain the owner of the billboard and to get some commentary as to the erection of billboards in general. As in all other elections, lots are going up, and we want to get a better understanding of the process so that we can report our findings to you, our loyal readers.
The response, however, from DCA officials has been extremely disappointing. They are refusing to speak with us on the matter. They will not entertain our questions, made on behalf of the people, as to whether the political parties have been given permission to erect billboards in various locations. It leads us to ask, “why all the secrecy?”
Earlier this month, the DCA issued a public statement asserting its authority and advising everyone that it was the only organisation with the power to grant permission for the erection of billboards. In that press release, the Authority did not state whether it had approved the election billboards, so it was only natural for us to ask, considering the complaints coming into our newsroom. It all seemed so simple, and we expected some routine answers without any drama. Instead, we were basically ignored. When we contacted the chief town and country planner, Mr. Frederick Southwell, he informed us that he had nothing to say about the matter.
Huh?!? Nothing to say on the matter? Why? How does a person with a job title such as ‘chief town and country planner,’ working at a government-owned statutory body, deny such a simple request for information such as this. We were so shocked that we had to wonder if it was personal.
We then turned to Dean Jonas, a member of the DCA board, but he pleaded ignorance and said that he was not in the loop as to some of the developments at the Authority. He referred our reporter to, you guessed it, Chief Town and Country Planner Frederick Southwell. Old people would say that is a case of ‘sending the fool a bit further.’ Or, in this case, to catch our tail.
This brings us to the salient points that need to be made here. First, if these billboards are being erected by political parties, under the instructions of politicians, without proper approvals, what message does that send to the public? Are we simply reinforcing the ‘do as you like’ mindset that is pervasive in our country? People will automatically defend their selfish attitudes by comparing themselves to the “leaders” of our nation. “If they can do it, then so can I,” will become the mantra.
That is, of course, if the political parties and politicians are in violation of the DCA process; which we cannot say with any certainty because we are unable to get that basic bit of information from the DCA. How crazy is that? People working for the taxpayers, refusing to deal with a taxpayer.
With the election in the air, people will probably dismiss our observations as nothing more than a rant about minutia, but these small things add up. There is a saying that espouses this bit of wisdom: “take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.” While we disagree that these are small things, if we take care of them, the big issues will begin to diminish or evaporate altogether. That would be a great day to greet.

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