Categorized | Local, News

Losing Montserrat Part III

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

By Shirley Osborne

If we have decided that Little Bay will be the site of the new capital of the people of Montserrat, why are we making it into a tourist resort complex?

And conversely, if all it really will be is a recreation and relaxation venue for tourists, why then, do we, in our development, promotions and funds-seeking material, keep referring to Little Bay as the new Capital Town?

To a real town, especially a capital town, non-resident people pay visits – ideally, many and frequently, for economic and social reasons.

A real town attracts travellers, yes – business people, students, tourists, fun-seekers and guests of all kinds, who have to be accommodated and served, so provision must be made for this. There must be food and lodging and things to be bought and sold, and venues for these activities to take place, i.e. restaurants, hotels, businesses, bars and shops.

In a real town, people also reside.

A real town has residents – inhabitants – who wake up right there, in the town, every morning and go to sleep right there, in the town, every night. In a real town, people live; they are born, grow up, work, go to school and the post office and the supermarket and church and the police station, build houses and businesses, make children, plant a couple of pigeon peas trees, a breadfruit and maybe a lime tree or two in their yard, raise their children, die, bury their dead, and all these kinds of things – in the town itself.

MDC's proposed town square

MDC’s proposed town square

A real town is a hometown. A human settlement like Carr’s Bay, for example, one of Montserrat’s oldest where, for centuries, fishermen have built, launched and worked boats from the beach. People are buried there. People still live and work there.

And, yes, of course things change. People change their world, so Carr’s Bay’s changing is neither anomalous nor necessarily undesirable, but it ought best be an organic change engendered by the needs, desires, ambitions and decisions of the community. It cannot be successful as a super-imposed artificiality that ignores people’s history and traditions as well as their aspirations and potential.

The vision, says one Little Bay prospectus, is to “have the new town be both residential and commercial” – the luxury villas around the Royal Montserrat Yacht Club that will be purchased by international visitors and the “attractive bay-front shop/residence façade” – while the property ownership opportunities offered the diaspora are in Davy Hill and Lookout.

Perusing the material available on Little Bay, those made public by the authorities and those produced by journalists various, it is impossible to not notice the rarity of words like Montserratians, residents or inhabitants, and the word local fares not much better, while visitor, tourist, international, and permutations thereof are repeated therein with nothing short of wild abandon.

“The ambitious plans for Little Bay include a breakwater, yacht marina, hotel and condo complex and a safe harbour. Away from the shore, the plan is to create several ‘clusters’ – one focused on culture, one on heritage, one on business.” (Whitley, David. March 28th, 2013. How a Volcano-ravaged Island is Building itself a New Capital City, Grumpy Traveller)

“Montserrat in 2020: A view of the island’s future” does seem intended to be more than merely another prospectus on Little Bay, yet, nowhere in its pages is there any mention made of how healthy, educated, creatively expressed or technologically advanced MONTSERRATIANS will be; of where, how and whether Montserrat’s citizens will live, find food and build businesses and families.

The lack of interest in the development of the Montserratian PEOPLE is astounding. It would be unbelievable were it not so evident. Is it any wonder that more and more Montserratians are getting the feeling that the new Montserrat will not be theirs? That they will be outsiders in their own land? Thinking Montserratians wonder why it is that development efforts pay so little attention to the development of the people of Montserrat, why it seems that in this whole matter, the people are a mere afterthought? A footnote?

It is recorded that, in 1951, William H. Bramble, exhorted the Montserratian people to, “Listen to me, you landless people, you people, the industrial machinery of this country, arise, …” My guess is that his vision was much wider than the Wade Plantation.

Upon the death of Robert W. Griffith, an organisation called The Caribbean American Research Foundation posted a tribute to him which included the rhetorical question, “Who else could carve into our consciousness the notion that land, as the undergirding of family security, is a treasured commodity …?”

Is it any wonder, then, that more and more Montserratians are confused that the new Capital Town is going to be a tourist resort and not, first and foremost, a place for the inhabitants and citizens of Montserrat to live in and work out of, and truly own, that visitors would want to come explore and enjoy, just because of its uniqueness, its Montserratianness?

Parliament St., Plymouth

Parliament St., Plymouth

Fortunately, from what I gather, some one person has finally entered the development hierarchy who a) knows the definition of the word “town” and b) recognises that Montserratians have to be able to carry out “resident” kinds of activities in this New Capital Town on a daily and nightly basis, otherwise it cannot be said to be a town at all.

Perhaps, too, then, the fascination with “single-theme styling” will now get done away with. One is hopeful! Which part of Montserrat is “single-themed”? Who in Montserrat wants to be?

Some years ago, a little bit of a hubbub was generated when one Governor had, it is said, dared suggest that Montserratians ought to dispense with the brightly-hued houses that some of us like and restrict themselves to neutrals like white. My impression was that people were irritated at the notion that they should be like everybody else. In spite of what we often see and hear, Montserratians don’t really like the idea of having the same things as everybody else.

Which is why one cannot help but wonder who might have been the genius who agreed that to super-impose an artificiality that includes the importation of white sands for the beach at Little Bay is a vision worth pursuing? And who, pray don’t tell, was the visionary who thought it up in the first place?

Why are we trying to make Montserrat look like Martinique or St. Barth’s or South Carolina? Gustavia, the capital of St. Barth, (below) is built around a natural harbour. It cannot be replicated at Little Bay.

How on earth is Montserrat ever to have a Panorama steel band festival “to rival the famous Trinidad festival”?  And bands from each community across the island?! Below is a picture of just one part of one steel band in Trinidad. And, anyway, in support of this, what’s the situation with the music programme in the schools of Montserrat?

Does one wonder, then, that some people, no matter how hard they try, are unable to see this whole development thing as anything other than a scam? A misrepresentation? At best, a mis-leading?

It must be clear to even the dullest of the very dull, that if Montserrat is to develop, it must be that the capacities, capabilities and potential of all Montserratians are engaged. Development cannot be said to be such if it advances only a very few and leaves the many behind as merely a workforce of servers and entertainers, having “hot jobs” like chef, landscape “architect” and bartender!!

Montserrat needs all of its people – every last one of us. Ignoring the needs and dismissing the desires and expressions of those who live on the island is unhelpful and destructive. Paying lip service to “the diaspora” but actually doing nothing of note to attract the engagement of Montserratians from abroad will not produce progress.

That “the diaspora” is being invited to invest their hard-earned monies but that there is no corresponding action to quell rubbish like “absent Montserratians … who think they know how and what we should do to rebuild and progress our country“ and no energy being applied to enlightening the obfuscation surrounding domicile and the vote, is beyond ironic. It is shortsighted and/or foolish, and definitely obstructive.

Can we expect a port like this?

Can we expect a port like this?

Montserratians now live in a conjured-up world of “true” Montserratians and “those in the diaspora”. We divide ourselves between those “who stayed” and those “who left”. There are those who can vote and those who must not be allowed to. Just as our history is now split into “before” the volcano and “after”, so it is that our people are now divided along the lines of those who came “before” and those who came “after” – to England and to Montserrat! None of this is good. This can portend nothing but greater loss for Montserrat.

The facts of the matter are that the overwhelming majority of the productive capability, the intellectual excellence, the technical and technological ability, the creative intelligence and the financial capacity of Montserrat resides outside of Montserrat; the infusion of new blood, new traditions and customs, new ways of cooking, living and being in relationship – Haitian, Dominican, Jamaican, English, whatever – is good and healthy for the survival and development of Montserrat; the maintenance and continuation of what little Montserratian is left to us after all the loss we have suffered is paramount and sacrosanct; the excitement, the fun, the future, the development and progress lie in the intelligent blending and the principled synchronisation of all of this.

It is a debilitating and precarious condition that we Montserratians now inhabit. If Montserrat is to achieve any progress it will need to purposefully, and with urgency, act to reduce the conflict, pull these parts and factions together and strengthen itself. And this must be executed in conjunction with infrastructural development, but not merely so.

The development of the people of Montserrat must be acknowledged as the prerequisite to all and any ideas of desirable or sustainable development and must be dealt with, with urgency, as such.

Otherwise, we continue to lose.

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A Moment with the Registrar of Lands

Shirley Osborne

Shirley Osborne

By Shirley Osborne

If we have decided that Little Bay will be the site of the new capital of the people of Montserrat, why are we making it into a tourist resort complex?

Insert Ads Here

And conversely, if all it really will be is a recreation and relaxation venue for tourists, why then, do we, in our development, promotions and funds-seeking material, keep referring to Little Bay as the new Capital Town?

To a real town, especially a capital town, non-resident people pay visits – ideally, many and frequently, for economic and social reasons.

A real town attracts travellers, yes – business people, students, tourists, fun-seekers and guests of all kinds, who have to be accommodated and served, so provision must be made for this. There must be food and lodging and things to be bought and sold, and venues for these activities to take place, i.e. restaurants, hotels, businesses, bars and shops.

In a real town, people also reside.

A real town has residents – inhabitants – who wake up right there, in the town, every morning and go to sleep right there, in the town, every night. In a real town, people live; they are born, grow up, work, go to school and the post office and the supermarket and church and the police station, build houses and businesses, make children, plant a couple of pigeon peas trees, a breadfruit and maybe a lime tree or two in their yard, raise their children, die, bury their dead, and all these kinds of things – in the town itself.

MDC's proposed town square

MDC’s proposed town square

A real town is a hometown. A human settlement like Carr’s Bay, for example, one of Montserrat’s oldest where, for centuries, fishermen have built, launched and worked boats from the beach. People are buried there. People still live and work there.

And, yes, of course things change. People change their world, so Carr’s Bay’s changing is neither anomalous nor necessarily undesirable, but it ought best be an organic change engendered by the needs, desires, ambitions and decisions of the community. It cannot be successful as a super-imposed artificiality that ignores people’s history and traditions as well as their aspirations and potential.

The vision, says one Little Bay prospectus, is to “have the new town be both residential and commercial” – the luxury villas around the Royal Montserrat Yacht Club that will be purchased by international visitors and the “attractive bay-front shop/residence façade” – while the property ownership opportunities offered the diaspora are in Davy Hill and Lookout.

Perusing the material available on Little Bay, those made public by the authorities and those produced by journalists various, it is impossible to not notice the rarity of words like Montserratians, residents or inhabitants, and the word local fares not much better, while visitor, tourist, international, and permutations thereof are repeated therein with nothing short of wild abandon.

“The ambitious plans for Little Bay include a breakwater, yacht marina, hotel and condo complex and a safe harbour. Away from the shore, the plan is to create several ‘clusters’ – one focused on culture, one on heritage, one on business.” (Whitley, David. March 28th, 2013. How a Volcano-ravaged Island is Building itself a New Capital City, Grumpy Traveller)

“Montserrat in 2020: A view of the island’s future” does seem intended to be more than merely another prospectus on Little Bay, yet, nowhere in its pages is there any mention made of how healthy, educated, creatively expressed or technologically advanced MONTSERRATIANS will be; of where, how and whether Montserrat’s citizens will live, find food and build businesses and families.

The lack of interest in the development of the Montserratian PEOPLE is astounding. It would be unbelievable were it not so evident. Is it any wonder that more and more Montserratians are getting the feeling that the new Montserrat will not be theirs? That they will be outsiders in their own land? Thinking Montserratians wonder why it is that development efforts pay so little attention to the development of the people of Montserrat, why it seems that in this whole matter, the people are a mere afterthought? A footnote?

It is recorded that, in 1951, William H. Bramble, exhorted the Montserratian people to, “Listen to me, you landless people, you people, the industrial machinery of this country, arise, …” My guess is that his vision was much wider than the Wade Plantation.

Upon the death of Robert W. Griffith, an organisation called The Caribbean American Research Foundation posted a tribute to him which included the rhetorical question, “Who else could carve into our consciousness the notion that land, as the undergirding of family security, is a treasured commodity …?”

Is it any wonder, then, that more and more Montserratians are confused that the new Capital Town is going to be a tourist resort and not, first and foremost, a place for the inhabitants and citizens of Montserrat to live in and work out of, and truly own, that visitors would want to come explore and enjoy, just because of its uniqueness, its Montserratianness?

Parliament St., Plymouth

Parliament St., Plymouth

Fortunately, from what I gather, some one person has finally entered the development hierarchy who a) knows the definition of the word “town” and b) recognises that Montserratians have to be able to carry out “resident” kinds of activities in this New Capital Town on a daily and nightly basis, otherwise it cannot be said to be a town at all.

Perhaps, too, then, the fascination with “single-theme styling” will now get done away with. One is hopeful! Which part of Montserrat is “single-themed”? Who in Montserrat wants to be?

Some years ago, a little bit of a hubbub was generated when one Governor had, it is said, dared suggest that Montserratians ought to dispense with the brightly-hued houses that some of us like and restrict themselves to neutrals like white. My impression was that people were irritated at the notion that they should be like everybody else. In spite of what we often see and hear, Montserratians don’t really like the idea of having the same things as everybody else.

Which is why one cannot help but wonder who might have been the genius who agreed that to super-impose an artificiality that includes the importation of white sands for the beach at Little Bay is a vision worth pursuing? And who, pray don’t tell, was the visionary who thought it up in the first place?

Why are we trying to make Montserrat look like Martinique or St. Barth’s or South Carolina? Gustavia, the capital of St. Barth, (below) is built around a natural harbour. It cannot be replicated at Little Bay.

How on earth is Montserrat ever to have a Panorama steel band festival “to rival the famous Trinidad festival”?  And bands from each community across the island?! Below is a picture of just one part of one steel band in Trinidad. And, anyway, in support of this, what’s the situation with the music programme in the schools of Montserrat?

Does one wonder, then, that some people, no matter how hard they try, are unable to see this whole development thing as anything other than a scam? A misrepresentation? At best, a mis-leading?

It must be clear to even the dullest of the very dull, that if Montserrat is to develop, it must be that the capacities, capabilities and potential of all Montserratians are engaged. Development cannot be said to be such if it advances only a very few and leaves the many behind as merely a workforce of servers and entertainers, having “hot jobs” like chef, landscape “architect” and bartender!!

Montserrat needs all of its people – every last one of us. Ignoring the needs and dismissing the desires and expressions of those who live on the island is unhelpful and destructive. Paying lip service to “the diaspora” but actually doing nothing of note to attract the engagement of Montserratians from abroad will not produce progress.

That “the diaspora” is being invited to invest their hard-earned monies but that there is no corresponding action to quell rubbish like “absent Montserratians … who think they know how and what we should do to rebuild and progress our country“ and no energy being applied to enlightening the obfuscation surrounding domicile and the vote, is beyond ironic. It is shortsighted and/or foolish, and definitely obstructive.

Can we expect a port like this?

Can we expect a port like this?

Montserratians now live in a conjured-up world of “true” Montserratians and “those in the diaspora”. We divide ourselves between those “who stayed” and those “who left”. There are those who can vote and those who must not be allowed to. Just as our history is now split into “before” the volcano and “after”, so it is that our people are now divided along the lines of those who came “before” and those who came “after” – to England and to Montserrat! None of this is good. This can portend nothing but greater loss for Montserrat.

The facts of the matter are that the overwhelming majority of the productive capability, the intellectual excellence, the technical and technological ability, the creative intelligence and the financial capacity of Montserrat resides outside of Montserrat; the infusion of new blood, new traditions and customs, new ways of cooking, living and being in relationship – Haitian, Dominican, Jamaican, English, whatever – is good and healthy for the survival and development of Montserrat; the maintenance and continuation of what little Montserratian is left to us after all the loss we have suffered is paramount and sacrosanct; the excitement, the fun, the future, the development and progress lie in the intelligent blending and the principled synchronisation of all of this.

It is a debilitating and precarious condition that we Montserratians now inhabit. If Montserrat is to achieve any progress it will need to purposefully, and with urgency, act to reduce the conflict, pull these parts and factions together and strengthen itself. And this must be executed in conjunction with infrastructural development, but not merely so.

The development of the people of Montserrat must be acknowledged as the prerequisite to all and any ideas of desirable or sustainable development and must be dealt with, with urgency, as such.

Otherwise, we continue to lose.