A vision for Bay Street
One will find in many nations those persons who would go against the grain, who will not follow the multitude and those who will be the voices crying out in the wilderness.
History has borne testimony to many great and iconic figures who fit the profile of such personalities. And for every one of those made famous by their actions to bring about a better society by swimming against the proverbial tide, there are probably many more who did the same but their actions never came into the spotlight.
In our modern era, we wonder where those voices are. Have they been silenced or is there nothing in our society that needs to be challenged?
Common to all those types of personalities is the antagonism they receive as a result of daring to be different and not accepting the status quo. Speaking out in such a climate will automatically bring abuse and damnation.
Is it possible that as a people we no longer care? Is the result of raising voices of opposition on issues that the majority of people feel contented to accept, taking its toll on such personalities?
No nation can truly prosper if there are not adequate checks and balances. Injustice can easily replace justice without effective scrutiny. Discrimination can replace fairness if unfair actions are not addressed. And corruption can replace fidelity without proper accountability.
If as a nation we hold ourselves up to the highest standards, then every citizen should have a right and know their responsibility to participate in that process of holding our leaders, decision-makers, all others and even ourselves accountable for every action undertaken.
I fear we live in a time that no longer are we witnessing those voices in the wilderness, those who go against the grain, those who dare speak against the multitude. I fear we live in a time that we are so caught up in our own private lives that it doesn’t matter what happens around us.
A quote attributed to the famous author Aldous Huxley and found by some not to be his words but more a paraphrasing of what he said in one of his speeches in the 1960s sums up my fears: “The perfect dictatorship would have the appearance of democracy, a prison without walls in which the prisoners would not dream of escape. A system of slavery where, through consumption and entertainment, slaves would love their servitude.”
As citizens of this country, we must be concerned. We must hold our Government accountable and we must be able to voice our concerns without fear of intimidation or repercussion.
I say all of the above to lend support to a position taken by David Comissiong on the Hyatt Hotel project. I recognize that his is a lone voice on the project and the reaction to him by many has been swift and derogatory to put it mildly.
Even the editorial of a leading media house challenged his opposition in a manner that totally dismissed Mr. Comissiong’s arguments and dared to make the claim that he would not get much support. Not getting much support I am sure will not intimidate David, as he is known to fight battles with little or no support. It is such voices crying in the wilderness that we cannot willy-nilly dismiss.
Without hesitation, those who rebutted David’s protest have said that it is all about the economics; Barbados needs the investment. Such is the lament every time there is an attempt to introduce something into Barbados that on the surface looks good but below the surface, leaves much to be desired. Casino gambling is but one example of such.
Our founding fathers and earlier leaders had that knack for ensuring our island got the best and what was in the long term beneficial for Barbados. The uncompromising position that Barbados’ beaches will remain public and never be privatized is a policy we must all be proud of. It is ingrained in our psyche and reinforced by Gabby’s lyrics “da beach is mine, I cud bathe anytime”.
I strongly feel that windows to the sea must have similar status. One of the important beauties of this island is the wonderful, turquoise waters and the white sandy beaches that surround us. The rising and setting of the sun are splendours that many pay thousands of dollars to capture by their naked eye. How can we block that view and allow only a privileged few to enjoy it?
I was driving along Bay Street a few days ago at the time of sunset and witnessed the setting of the sun; the beauty painted on that natural canvas. Are we going to block that view from ourselves? Don’t we think about these things when we make such decisions? Look at the west coast in the area of Sandy Lane, huge buildings on prime locations where once windows to the sea offered an unhindered view of the natural beauty of the Caribbean Sea!
I am of the opinion also that luxurious hotels built on prime beach fronts psychologically bar persons from using the beach and swimming in the sea in that vicinity. It is human nature to avoid places if the perception is you are not welcome or feel out of place.
For many years, I have envisioned a Bay Street running from the Esplanade right away to Bridgetown as an open window to Carlisle Bay. And I know many will dismiss this idea as being in dreamland and not financially sensible. But I also envisioned that in addition to the entire stretch being an open window, a parallel road to Bay Street can be made for the full distance and allow for movement of people walking, riding, jogging, roller-blading, or whatever they fancy.
In addition, there can be kiosks, car parks and play parks intermittently placed along the stretch to attract persons, locals and tourists alike. It can be financially viable from the kiosks and other amenities and services offered to the public. And if hotels want to be in the area, utilize across the road. Rooms will face the open area to the sea and still have full view of the beauty of Carlisle Bay. A beauty similar to what one gets from the balcony of the Prime Minister’s Office.
And make crossing over the street to the beach attractive like the cobble stone portion of the road in Sandy Lane.
Such a project will ultimately drive more traffic back into Bridgetown. More so than a hotel, Barbadians and visitors alike will be attracted to the stretch for all that it is has to offer and the beauty of Carlisle Bay.
Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace, Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: email@example.com)