GREEN CASTLE — The majority of South Eleuthera residents who attended a town hall meeting last night expressed overwhelming support for Disney Cruise Line’s proposed development for Lighthouse Point, not long after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis told the gathering the government will make a decision on the controversial project next week.
Scores of people attended the town hall meeting at Green Castle Primary School, many wearing multicolored shirts emblazoned with pro-Disney slogans such as “Disney Loves Eleuthera” and “Disney respects me”.
“I know South Eleuthera has been suffering for a very long time,” the prime minister said. “I think it is time that your pain and suffering come to an end.”
Minnis was drowned out by thunderous applause from the crowd.
“Decisions must be made,” he continued.
“You had confidence in me and my government. You had great confidence in voting for us and making [me] your prime minister.”
Minnis told the crowd that he is their “employee” and “you are my employer”.
“I am your servant,” he said. “I come to report here tonight as an employee to hear how my employers feel, so that I can take it back to my colleagues and make a definitive decision by next week.”
The crowd once again cheered Minnis on.
“I want you to express your concern,” he said.
“There are two projects on the table. I would have heard arguments back and forth, but one particular argument I heard was that there would be destruction of the land.
“But I want to show you a picture of what was approved for you in 2008, so the argument of the destruction of the land would hold no water.
“In 2008, a project was approved for South Eleuthera which allowed dredging and multiple canal networks within that same property; dredging of the salt pond into the ocean; creation of marinas for mega yachts and yachts; division of your land.
“This is what was approved for that property, that some may argue that the land would be destroyed. This project, which was approved, would have caused more destruction than what is being looked at today.”
One of the prime minister’s assistants then took two large placards he brought with him, ripped off the covering and revealed the blueprints for the project Minnis referenced. The prime minster did not reveal the developer’s name.
Minnis also reminded the residents that the government does not own the Lighthouse Point property.
“It is private property, one private investor selling to another,” he said. “The government’s responsibility is to ensure that its people get the maximum benefit of whatever outcome happens.”
Following his remarks, Minnis opened the floor to questions and statements from the crowd.
About a dozen residents formed a queue.
Bernadette Sweeting, an Eleuthera native clad in a Disney shirt, said she supports the project.
She noted that her relatives in New Providence wish to return to Eleuthera and posited that Disney’s development would make that a reality.
Sweeting said the One Eleuthera group and other opposition forces, “have not lived our struggle”.
The crowd cheered her on.
Charles Strachan, another resident, who was also clad in an orange Disney shirt, praised the project and the developers.
“We just need your approval, Mr. Prime Minister,” he shouted to loud cheers.
Another man took the microphone. He refused to give his name. He was not clad in a Disney shirt, but also said he supports the project.
“The problem is that we have been in the wilderness so long that progress is looking us in the face and we don’t recognize it,” he said.
Again, the crowd cheered him on.
Another man said, “I’m against the project.”
Someone in the crowd shouted: “Against?”
At that, the group of attendees erupted into a thunderous chorus of boos.
The moderator attempted to quell the tension but gave up a short time later.
Father Bradley Miller suffered a similar fate.
“When I got the information, I was told that there was a town hall meeting and that you were coming to speak to us specifically about the economic situation in Central and South Eleuthera,” he said.
“When I arrived, I was very disappointed because I didn’t realize I was coming to a Disney rally.”
One man in the crowd, wearing a green Disney shirt, shouted, “Where’s the rally?” Others booed the clergyman.
Miller asked, “Are we are trying to empower our people to have a stake in our economy?”
The crowd grew testier and angrier, with someone shouting, “Take the mic from him.”
And on it went.
Eventually, the questions and statement period ended and Rev. Philip McPhee was called up to offer a prayer.
But McPhee instead spoke of his support for Disney.
The crowd was asked to vote.
The moderator asked the residents to raise their hands if they supported Disney’s proposal.
Nearly every hand in the school shot in the air.
The moderator asked for a show of hands for those who did not support it. A few hands went up and applause rang out.
Minnis then rose to his feet and thanked the crowd.
He noted that the Cabinet will meet with members of the One Eleuthera Foundation – which has a counter proposal for Lighthouse Point – on Friday.
The Cabinet will make a decision next Tuesday.
As the crowd left the school, a small Junkanoo rush out ensued, with many again wearing Disney shirts.
One lady said, “When I hear Disney, I think family.”