CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 20, CMC — Prime Minister Allen Chastanet says he is ‘absolutely confused’ about reports that the main opposition St. Lucia Party (SLP) is planning street protests over the multi-billion dollar Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH) project to be situated in Vieux Fort, south of here..
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet
He told reporters that he is confused as to what the opposition is protesting about and expressed the view that other people are in the same position.
“I have no idea,” Chastanet said Monday during his weekly news conference.Last July, the authorities here announced that the US$2.6 billion project will occupy a 700-acre site and will include a marina, a racecourse, a resort and shopping mall complex, casino, Free Trade Zone, extensive entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as architecturally designed villas and apartments.
“Overall, the Pearl of the Caribbean Development is designed to be a well-balanced project with open space making up over 50 per cent of the overall development. It is designed to be a sustainable and self-contained development and is expected to generate between 500 to 800 jobs in construction during its initial phase of implementation,” according to the statement by Invest St. Lucia
The Hong Kong-based Desert Star Holdings (DSH).project has attracted both supporters and detractors with former prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony warning in January that there will never be peace in Vieux Fort and St. Lucia if the deal is not renegotiated and the project redesigned.
The SLP said that the government has shown “it is insensitive to the cries of the people of the country and appears determined to ram down the throats of our citizens without any meaningful consultation, major projects that can significantly transform the lives of the people.
“From leasing prime lands at EC$1.00 (One EC dollar =US$0.37 cents) per acre to the destructions of our eco system at Maria Islands, the Prime Minister continues to show scant regard for the welfare of St. Lucians.”
The party said that even while Chastanet was assuring St. Lucians that only a Framework Agreement existed and that negotiations were ongoing, the developer was already clearing lands though no DCA approval had been given and no Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken.
Referring to the SLP’s calls for the DSH agreement to be renegotiated, Prime Minister Chastanet said he wanted to know what specific aspect of the deal the opposition wanted renegotiated.
“We have indicated that the lease side of the project has been restricted to the horse racing track and the other thing that was to be leased was space inside of the mangrove to build a museum,” he said, explaining that there is agreement that all the other land that is being discussed would be sold at between US$60,000 to US$90,000 an acre.
Chastanet said that this represents substantially more money than the previous government had with its two previous deals in the same area.
“I don’t remember once the Labour Party coming to the country while in government and saying days before the election ‘you might win and we would like you to be part of this conversation’, “ Chastanet said, noting that in one case it was three days before the elections that the then government entered into and signed a contract with no ‘out’ clause.
“So I am confused when they say they want to participate in this process because to go by their protocol that they have established, even the dialogue that we have had would not be there.”
But Chastanet made it clear that he was not in agreement with what the SLP has done in the past and would not prescribe their modus operandi moving forward.
He said all the parcels of land that have been identified have been identified for development by both political parties over the last 20 years.