MARIGOT–District five representative Paul Whit said Tuesday he is counting on the support of the Gibbs government to address the problems of the Marina Royale car park on the St. James side, to continue improvement work already discussed with the previous Aline Hanson government.
Whit was questioned on why plans discussed two years ago to create proper infrastructure for a secure, clean and more welcoming car park for tourists by removing the vagrants and homeless have seemingly not come to fruition. In 2015 the complaints from district five and the marina restaurants affected by the loss of business because of the carpark situation came to a head, with at one point the Collectivité being given 72 hours to take action. The district and the marina’s restaurants association were both on the same page and committed with their plans to resolve the situation.
Meetings and correspondence flowed between the Collectivité and the district. There were even visits from Director General of Services (DGS) Philippe Millon, other elected officials and the then Vice-President in charge of the districts Rosette Gumbs-Lake. For a time there was optimism that something would finally be done.
But the occasional sighting recently of a homeless man on a mattress in full view of passers-by reinforces the notion that nothing has changed. That said, the former government should still be credited for re-surfacing the car park.
“From our point of view the district never let the situation drop and what we want for the car park is what we have always wanted,” said Whit. “I think the Collectivité has to take responsibility for not following through for whatever reason. We don’t know why, maybe because of other priorities. The district is not an authority, we can only advise the government.
“But we had made progress, we had exchanges with the Collectivité, and marina association agreed to give us an office space. The idea was to employ two people and have a kind of private, controlled parking with a barrier and security guards.”
Whit said work on improvements had started but had to be stopped when some unrelated illegal land filling started. That ended up in a court case between the individual concerned and Samagest, the management company of the marina.
“Now we are hoping to work closely with the Gibbs government to get the work going again. The situation has got worse and it is shameful. We did have control of those persons loitering in the car park. There was mutual respect and understanding. Since then two of those persons have been returned to their families.
“But now others have turned up from other areas. I agree it is a horrible situation for an island depending on tourism. I’m capable of handling some situations but you need the support of government to get things done.”
While it’s not clear why the social departments of the Collectivité cannot do more to move, relocate or house homeless people and drug addicts, Whit maintains it is still a delicate issue as one is dealing with human beings and rights.
“It comes down to the right way of communicating, and not everyone has that skill. It’s not easy but it is possible. I can talk to these people and they understand. But what we need now is a clean slate and the support of the Collectivité to move forward to protect our tourism and livelihoods.”