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Government, hoteliers still divided over Negril breakwaters

Published:Monday | June 15, 2015 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

The road to consensus on breakwaters as a solution to long-term beach erosion in Negril appears to have got more rocky in recent weeks, with local hoteliers filing a complaint with the Office of the Public Defender (OPD).

Their action follows a Cabinet directive at the end of April for Jamaica's Adaptation Fund (AF) project, of which the breakwaters form one component, to proceed.

"The news keeps on reiterating that it is going through, that Cabinet approved it. The National Environment and Planning Agency keeps announcing that it is going through. We are very upset that we are not having dialogue," said Sophie Grizzle Roumel, of Charela Inn, on their decision to file the complaint.

Public debate on climate change

She was speaking with The Gleaner during the public debate on climate change put on by the French Embassy in Kingston last week.

Mary Veira, who has served as a quasi-spokesperson for at least some hotel interests in the matter, said they wish the OPD to "investigate the whole process of the contract" for the project called 'Enhancing the Resilience of the Agricultural Sector and Coastal Areas to Protect Livelihoods and Improve Food Security'.

"Hopefully," she added, "I presume they are going to be the link between the parties that are for and the parties that are against [so] that we can come to some mutual understanding and agreement and move forward."

Softer engineering solutions

Negril hotel interests have for months now opposed the breakwaters in favour of softer engineering solutions that they insist are better for their multimillion-dollar tourism product.

Meanwhile, the filing of the complaint with the OPD has effectively shelved plans for a meeting between stakeholders and the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) serving as the designated national implementing entity for the project.

These are plans that were already challenged by the inability to settle on a site and time.

"We were very open to having dialogue, but are very disappointed that they would not come to Negril to meet with us; disappointed, too, that they wanted to keep it to a very small number of people in the community, as if it is this very small sector that is against it when that is not the case," noted Veira.

The PIOJ is itself now seeking to have the matter mediated, in line with Cabinet instructions.

"We tried for the meeting. We were not able to arrive at a mutually convenient date, and the residents, as they would have told you, submitted a report to the public defender. They having reported to them (the OPD), the suggestion is that there is, in fact, a dispute between themselves and us, and also the Cabinet issued the decision to try to facilitate mediation," explained Claire Bernard, acting director general of the PIOJ.

"The coincidence of those two things led us to the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) to see whether they are interested in mediating the process," she added.