Sunday, 12 June 2011

St Helena: "Trouble in Paradise"

One is inclined to take any article, such as that in today's Observer, which portrays St Helena as a paradise, albeit a troubled one, with a largeish pinch of salt. The Observer tries to link concerns about the proposed airport with the recent demonstrations on the island, a connection that I for one have not detected, which is not to say that it does not exist.

The article raises concerns of the outgoing chairman of the St Helena National Trust, Jamie Roberts, who says that the site for the airport "happens to be one of the best sites for wirebirds .. It is a big area for St Helena, and especially important as it is productive agricultural land." Also Martin Drury, former head of the UK National Trust, voices his concern that the proposed airport, tourist hotel and golf course would destroy much of St Helena's "time-capsule character." He prefers a solution modelled on Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel - "tourism without new development" , which is more in keeping with St Helena's character. Whether that would generate the jobs required is open to doubt, although to be fair there must be similar doubts about the current Government proposals.

Certainly one cannot help wondering why at a time of unprecedented belt tightening in the UK this £300 million project appears to be given priority. The Observer seems to be in little doubt as to where the responsibility lies:

Much of the momentum behind the airport plan derives from the long-standing interest in the island shown by billionaire businessman Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative donor and the party's former deputy chairman and treasurer."

Apparently the Observer contacted Lord Ashcroft's office last week, but received no reply.

Coincidentally this week's Independent carries evidence that all is indeed not well in paradise. Grafffiti abusing Governor Gurr, Napoleon, expatriates and the French have appeared on the newly built and not yet opened toilets on Tomb Road.

Happily, as the Independent reports, the overwhelming majority of Saints appear to be shocked by this apparently premeditated vandalism, but even if it is an isolated incident, it is a worrying one which could destroy St Helena's reputation for what the Observer today calls its "friendly people."

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