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Storm over airport name

St Mary residents believe outstanding J’can better choice than Ian Fleming

BY ALESIA EDWARDS Sunday Observer staff reporter alesiae@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 23, 2011    

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BOSCOBEL, St Mary — The public first became aware that St Mary residents were dissatisfied with the name given to the country's third international airport when one local government official in the parish said so two weeks ago.

Mayor of Port Maria Richard Creary stunned Government officials and other dignitaries attending the official opening of the Ian Fleming International Airport on January 12, when he told them that some St Mary residents felt slighted over the naming of the facility.

Since then, the disquiet over the name has grown and people in the parish, particularly those living in Boscobel where the airport is located, are not enthused that it has been named in honour of famed British writer and journalist Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond series.

"People are extremely upset over the name, we don't like it and we want it to be renamed, it's a great disrespect and injustice to the people of St Mary and Jamaica," one resident who asked not to be named told the Sunday Observer. "I don't think there is one person in the community or in Jamaica who agrees with Ian Fleming's name being on the airport, it is just not right, it's a shame and it's an indictment on the Government."

A few days after the airport was officially opened by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, workers turned up to find the sign at the entrance defaced with black paint. Residents believe it was a protest against the name.

"People are upset, that's why someone defaced the sign, and I believe people will continue to protest against the name until the honourable thing, which is to rename [it] after a great Jamaican, is done," said a resident who identified himself only as James.

"Our local people should be able to identify with the airport, we already have James Bond Beach and there is Golden Eye associated with Fleming, so why have another facility in the area named after him? They might soon name the parish after him," James fumed.

Prime Minister Golding had revealed during the opening ceremony that the decision to name the airport in honour of Fleming was strategic.

"Ian Fleming made a contribution to Jamaica and gave Jamaica an image much larger than it would otherwise have had, because this was where the adrenaline flowed; where the creativity emerged that enabled him to write 13 James Bond novels," Golding said.

"We also considered that the market to which we are appealing is a market to which the name Ian Fleming would have some resonance," he added.

Golding's point was supported by Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett who pointed out that the airport will boost the appeal and competitiveness of the island in the lucrative high-end tourism market.

"The opening of this facility, just outside the island's resort town of Ocho Rios, is significant for us as a destination, as we seek to diversify our product and tap into the luxury market," Bartlett told guests at the opening ceremony.

He pointed to the airport's close proximity to more than 5,000 hotel, guest house and villa rooms in St Ann, and another 692 in St Mary and said, "I am hopeful that the increased access to the island that this enhanced facility will provide to the owners and users of private jets will spur them to even develop their own exclusive high-end villas in this area so they can simply fly in and vacation at their leisure in privacy".

However, the authorities' explanation brings little comfort to the residents who argued that Jamaica has enough renowned people who have contributed positively to the development of the country and for whom the airport could have been named.

Contacted by the Sunday Observer for a comment, member of parliament for Western St Mary Robert Montague, who also has responsibility for local government, was mum on the issue.

"I have absolutely no comment on the matter... my mother always tell me that if you don't have anything good to say, don't say anything," said Montague.

Councillor Fitzroy Wilson (PNP, Boscobel Division) is one of the residents unhappy with the choice of name. "I think it's a great injustice to name the airport after Ian Fleming," said Wilson. "I think Jamaica has not benefited from Ian Fleming, but Ian Fleming has benefited from Jamaica. There are a lot of Jamaicans who the airport could have been named in honour of."

He questioned why Bob Marley, Usain Bolt or other successful Jamaicans who are well recognised internationally were not considered.

"The late Horace Clarke has done so much for St Mary and Jamaica, he has contributed positively to the development of the country; they could have named the airport after him," Wilson added.

The residents are also upset because they said there was no consultation with the people, not even about safety issues or precautionary measures they should take if an aircraft should crash in the community.

"We are taxpayers in this country, it's our money that constructed the airport so we should have been included. We were treated with scant regard, we should have been consulted to know what to do, it's disrespectful," Maureen Smith told the Sunday Observer.

Added Coreen Radcliffe, "I'm not up for it, it should have been named after someone from the parish or another Jamaican. I don't think justice has been done. A lot of people don't have any knowledge of Ian Fleming and I'm upset about it."

Radcliffe said she became acquainted with Fleming through his books, but argued that many young people have no idea who he was.

Meanwhile, Wilson said residents are also upset because they only learnt when the facility was officially opened that the international airport would not accommodate commercial flights.

"The residents feel cheated, because now they are being told that only the rich and famous will be accommodated at the airport," he said. "A lot of people, when they heard about the airport at Boscobel, thought that the long trips to Montego Bay and Kingston would soon be a thing of the past."

Last Thursday, the airport welcomed its first international flight since its official opening when a private plane carrying Canadian businessmen Micheal Budman and Don Green, founders of Canadian apparel company Roots, touched down at the airport.

In May last year, Margaritaville's Jimmy Buffett also landed his private jet at the facility.

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