Saturday, 19 May 2012 02:30
By Alex Holder
Antigua St John's - The issue of guaranteed public access to all beaches in Antigua and Barbuda must be one of topical concern for all residents of the country, and no form of compromise should disenfranchise the people,
Said Minister of Lands Chanlah Codrington, who has taken a somewhat radical position on the subject. Codrington said he is not prepared to give in or compromise on what is clearly setting the stage for violations of the law.
Speaking with Caribarena.com on Friday after a meeting with the prime minister and Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptiste, Codrington said that while he agrees that development is paramount to the progress of the country, it must not be allowed to infringe of the basic rights of the people.
The minister of state disclosed that while the PM and the agriculture minister appear to be on the same page with him when it comes to the people’s rights, they have asked that something of a compromise be conjured Codrington's part so that his approach does not hamper the developmental aspect of the country’s advancement.
He said the meeting discussed aspects of the laws that deal with the subject, and attempted to “strike a balance” between the two so that the residents and the developer could evenly benefit.
Codrington said the two issues (access and development) are very separate ones since the developers must deliver a project in keeping with the laws of the land. These laws make it clear that all beaches must have an access point that is open to the public.
According to the MP, "They are just trying to seek means and ways that they can resolve the adamant position that I am taking... I maintain still that the law says no restriction should be placed on the public beach."
He added, “It was a meeting of the minds, (but) I am adamant that I don’t want anybody blocking our beaches. That is what the law says... that is what the people demands and there is no less expectation.”
The issue of sand mining is also of concern for Codrington, who believes that such a crime could be happening behind the gates of a closed beach.
The minister recalled being denied access to a beach near a hotel on the southeastern end of Antigua. He said he was barred from the beach on the grounds that its “opening hours” had expired.
Codrington believes that a precedent is in the making as far as beaches close to hotels and without addresses, and such a practice could get out of hand, at the expense of the public.
“I cannot be lent on my position. I do not want anything put across the beach," he said. "Nobody should tell me when I can or cannot go to my beach; I should be able to go 24 hours a day. That is my position.”
He said he would continue on his mission to remove all illegally erected gates and fences blocking public access to beaches until they have all been removed and the notion of it becoming a norm is eradicated from the minds of developers.
“There are others that I understand are infringing and I am going to deal with them one by one," the MP said. "They are violating the laws and I will not rescind and I will not give in or compromise."See related stories:
Gate Removal Sparks Controversy