No longer is it the case that the island of Grand Turk, the nation’s capital, is the center of TCI’s universe as it was during the days of my youth. The center of TCI’s universe has now shifted to the island of Providenciales while Grand Turk seems to be, literally, on a slippery slope, sliding uncontrollably to a state of irrelevance.
As I see it, Grand Turk will be the titular capital of the Turks and Caicos Islands, perhaps for the foreseeable future, but for all practical purposes, Provo is the de facto capital of the country.
I have come to understand that there are many issues dividing our little country, but one issue that is historically discriminatory and is hardly discussed publicly, is that of the Turks Islands (Grand Turk and Salt Cay) versus the Caicos Islands (Provo, South, North and Middle Caicos).
I further understand that the division stems from a long history of maltreatment by the folks in Grand Turk of the folks who came to Grand Turk from the Caicos Islands to do business, live, visit and, perhaps, most importantly, to attend the one High School which, for a very long time, served the entire country.
If my understanding is remotely correct, it is most unfortunate and if this past feeling of discrimination is the true reason for the rift, then it is my hope that we can put our collective heads together to have frank, honest discussions to find, and reconciliation before the chasm further widens.
So, I do not want to “look mournfully to the past,” and I do not want to overlook the pain and suffering that our fellow TCIers from the Caicos Islands might have experienced.
This is an issue which deserves much more time for exploration and careful maneuvering with persons much more qualified than me. I bring this to our attention simply because I have heard it stated that, in part, the deplorable physical condition of Grand Turk might be attributable to “payback” for these past misdeeds, given that the majority of the House of Assembly and the political leadership of both political Parties hail from the Caicos Islands.
Whether the capital of the country is moved from Grand Turk to Providenciales or not, is not the focus of this article. I want to focus on Grand Turk – the island of my birth and upbringing and the island I know best – because, from where I stand, I see a steady decline of Grand Turk and I fear that the island may become irrelevant in more ways than one.
As are most of the islands of the country, GT is beautiful and is littered with beautiful, modern homes, especially in Palm Grove (commonly known as Salt Cay Town), East Back Salina, Breezy Brae, the Ridge and North GT, including the North Creek area.
Grand Turk also has Carnival’s Cruise Port which is responsible for a large chunk of the revenue of the country, and clearly, the economic life blood of Grand Turk. And it is my understanding that Carnival has contributed significantly to the infrastructural development of the island.
Yet the dilapidated, deplorable state of affairs in the physical appearance of GT betrays any serious commitment to improving its physical appearance.
The fact of the matter is that, unlike the majority of the tourists who visit Provo and the “All-Inclusives,” never to see or experience the local scene, those who come to GT take tours to our local sites, enjoy our public beaches and walk our streets. Unfortunately, much of what they see in GT is not pretty!!
The 4-5 thousand residents of Grand Turk — unlike the thousands of visitors who frequent our streets, almost a daily occurrence during the high peak season — have to endure the “depression” every day, but both the residents and the visitors must wonder how it is that in the midst of this little, beautiful oasis of an island called Grand Turk, there is so much blight, disrepair, dilapidation and, the apparent lack of interest by elected Governments to deal effectively with the situation.
Let me go on to explain in more detail. I do not know what the Law requires relative to upkeep of property, but I do believe that the Government has the authority, or should have the authority, to make laws which will determine how and when fines are to be imposed for failure to properly maintain properties.
So, if the Government is unwilling or unable to keep the island clean, then it seems to me that it is the Government’s responsibility to ensure that the property owners keep their properties clean.
Come along and let’s take a stroll along Duke Street, beginning at FLOW (the old Cable and Wireless), going North. You can’t help but wonder why it is that this street, the “main drag,” so to speak, where our visitors meander to enjoy the ocean view and make their souvenir purchases, is in such disrepair and why so many dilapidated buildings dot the landscape.
I am certain that the residents of the island are sick and tired of having to deal with this sad situation every day. On the other hand, the tourists who cruise into Grand Turk and travel along its streets – much unlike the tourists who visit Provo and go directly to their hideouts at the ‘All-Inclusives’ with very little interaction with the local scene, — are those who can be our best sales persons.
And I just wonder how they describe the condition of our island to their friends and relatives who are contemplating a visit to our shores.
The dilapidation and blight on Duke/Front Street is cumulative because of inattention and lack of maintenance over the years regardless of the Government in power. And that is what makes the situation so dire and leads me to believe that Grand Turk may be in danger of becoming irrelevant as an important cog in the political and economic wheel of the TCI.
So, come along with me and see if you share my assessment. FLOW’s headquarters can do with some serious cleaning up, but it is clear that the company is not investing much in its GT operation. Then after we pass First Caribbean Bank (the only financial institution on the island), we come to a block of Government buildings – Treasury, Post Office, the old Commissioner’s Office and the NJS Francis Parliament Building – all closed due to disrepair, decay and lack of maintenance.
As the Fram Oil Filter commercial admonished, “pay me now or pay me later,” and we are paying later and I would assume that the cost for repairing those Government structures and renting spaces elsewhere, is significantly greater than it would have been to properly maintain these structures.
Continuing North we pass the historic St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral and the Rectory of the Anglican denomination and come to the burnt- out space where the historic Victoria Public Library once stood. I have learned that Carnival wanted to rebuild the Library at no cost to the Government.
However, due to Government procurement and tender policies, Carnival was not allowed to carry out its wishes, so the area is simply enclosed by building tarp and there is no timetable for construction of a replacement library. Continuing North, is the greatest blight of all – the remnants of the Harbor House.
For ten years this building has been in a dilapidated state and now it is just simply an eye sore of significant proportions. I am not sure who owns it, but it seems to me that the Government needs to step in and give the owners an ultimatum – repair, sell or demolish the structure or be faced with significant fines, until one or more of these actions is taken by the owners.
We next encounter the relatively new Carnival complex and pass the historic Odd Fellows Lodge building. And just north of the Lodge is the land where the old Selver/Basden homestead once stood. That land needs to be cleaned up. Continuing North we pass the old Eva Todd store and TIMCO until we arrive at the spot on which the old Grant homestead once stood. This area needs a good cleaning and maintaining. Then passing the Coverley home, the older Seventh Day Adventist Church, the Masonic Lodge and the Sunny Side – all historic landmarks – we get to an open space which is in need of cleaning and maintaining.
Coming now to the Museum, we see what proper maintenance can do to old structures. It is unfortunate that persons wanting to visit the National Museum which is beautifully maintained, must go through so much blight in order to enjoy the history and relics of our past.
And, I think, it is time to get serious and do some serious clean up of our important, historic Front Street. Just North of the Museum is the new Goldsmith’s jewelry store, but just North of Goldsmith’s is another Grant property, commonly known as the Mira Mar which is another huge eye sore. And what was said of other such properties applies here.
Adjacent to the Mira Mar is the Missick building housing Barbie’s Restaurant and other stores which face the 4 or 5 small hut-looking stores which cater to the tourists. And just North of this is the Lawrence property and the old Gardiner homestead space, finally arriving at the spot of the old Cow House.
While the Gardiner property is enclosed, the vegetation is too dense and poses a safety issue. The Lawrence property, on the other hand is not enclosed and needs to be cleared of the dense vegetation as well.
This part of my tour of Front Street completed, it is my hope that those who are responsible for keeping TCI “beautiful by nature,” will do right by the people of Grand Turk and make it “clean by choice” as the jingle says. I also hope that the people of Grand Turk will bring the neglect of our little jewel, Grand Turk, to the attention of those who come seeking our vote in the upcoming general election and ensure that we get serious commitment that our island is not overlooked.
A luta continua until the next tour!!