(CMR) After a heated debate in Parliament on Thursday evening, a motion for consideration to be given for work to begin immediately on the East-West Arterial extension from Hurst Road in Newlands to Lookout Gardens in Bodden Town was passed unanimously. The members voted for work to begin without an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA), a move that Premier Wayne Panton did not fully support.
The passing of the motion does not mean work will begin immediately; however, consideration will be given for this to happen.
Several members of the PACT Administration supported the motion along with members of the opposition, saying they are “fed up” with the situation, blaming the Environment Conservation Council for the delay.
Minister of Planning and Infrastructure Jay Ebanks said the road had been mentioned in three Strategic Policy statements now, but the work is yet to be done.
“Don't put it in the SPS if you don't plan to deliver,” he said, adding that he was in full support of the motion.
The Minister said those who live in Eastern districts deserve shorter commute time and that data from the NRA indicated there was no need for an EIA for that section of the roadway.
“We have to be the government that makes the hard decisions, the government of the people…if we fail to pass this motion and act, we are saying the Eastern district people are not as important,” Mr. Ebanks stated.
Minister of Tourism Kenneth Bryan also supported the motion, stating that “this topic sadly can be the demise of this administration.”
He said while the extension of the roadway cannot fix the problem by itself, it is the first step to solving the problem. Noting that constituents are putting their representatives under pressure to have the road completed, he stated:
“They don't understand or care about the National Conservation Council; they want to be home with their children…if we were to put this to referendum tomorrow morning, I can promise you that the people would say, ‘I don't care what the National Conservation Council would say, the road needs to get started tomorrow morning.'”
Mr. Bryan encouraged members of the public to let their voices be heard on the matter.
“I encourage each and every one of you to call every radio station you have, every representative you have, and tell the Government you want the road done now. And you know the National Conservation Council members, tell them you want the road done now. And if this Government does not understand that after you voice your opinion, you know what you got to do,” he added.
He further stated if the MPs were willing to accept the motion, they must also be willing to accept changes to the National Conservation Law to give the Government power to direct immediate actions.
“We are playing too much political football with the people's lives,” he added, questioning why the EIA cannot be done in phases.
Meantime, Premier Wayne Panton said while he supports the road extension, the environmental aspect is also important.
Noting this this has been a long-term issue, Premier Panton said, ” We have failed to plan and have failed to address the issues that are now affecting the people in this country. I don't blame any of my colleagues for being upset. What does bother me is that they think I am not equally committed to addressing the interest of the people in this country. They might love this country as much as I do, but they don't love it more than I do. They may love our people as much as I do, but no more.”
“We have to support the needs of our people. Of course, we have to be responsible as well; we have to make sure that we are not doing something which is going to provide either irreversible impact on the quality of their life, the value of their property, their ability to utilize it, or ones that are going to cost a lot of money to rectify,” the Premier added.