CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Mar 15, CMC – The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) says it has embarked upon a series of public and town hall meetings to galvanise support for its planned mass demonstrations against the multi-billion-dollar “Pearl of the Caribbean” project in the southern town of Vieux-Fort.
“The St. Lucia Labour Party reiterates its opposition to the DSH project in its current form and is even more outraged at the proposed Phase 2 of the project which will include the Maria Islands. The party believes that if allowed to proceed, the projects will bring untold hardships on the people of the south in particular, as well as our fragile eco-system,” the SLP said in a statement.
It said as a result it is embarking upon on a series of town hall and public meetings “island wide to bring the issue to the people,” and it “intends to thereafter take to the streets in mass demonstrations”.
Last week, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet urged St. Lucians to be “bold and courageous” in the face of new opportunities which can only help the island develop.
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.
“If this agreement is not renegotiated, if this agreement is not redesigned, if all the offensive provisions in that agreement are not removed then I say to you tonight, there will never ever be peace in this community and in this country,” Anthony said.
But Prime Minister Chastanet told the conference which included the project developer Teo Ah Khing and his delegation, that he would be appointing a taskforce specifically for this project with various departments “to ensure that we do the necessary work but at the same time that we are ready to implement this project as soon as all the work has been completed.
“St. Lucia it is time for us take control of our own destiny. Let us stop living in mediocrity. Let us develop our assets for all the citizens in the south and for St. Lucia. The time for change is now.”
The DHS official pledged “to continue to preserve, enhance; do detailed research on all the existing wild life and marine life on this island.
“Secondly, we are going to allow local tourists to be able to experience the very rare natural features right out there in the ocean and allow it to be a tourism attraction added onto the already interesting attractions in the island St. Lucia.
“Thirdly, with the creation of this 150 to 200 acres of new land certain portions will be returned to the people of St. Lucia. This is not just about the public parks or ocean parks that the visitors are going to enjoy; this is to allow us to put ourselves on the world map for the international research of wild life,” he added.
But in its statement, 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.
It said that even the cries of the St. Lucia National Trust (SLNT) have fallen on deaf ears.
The SLNT has called on the government to re-think its plans for the multi-billion dollar project saying it has “been trying feverishly to obtain official project documents from the relevant authorities but to no avail.
“This proposed plan threatens Maria Islands, a Nature Reserve, which is the home of the world’s rarest snake, the St. Lucia Racer as well as the St. Lucia whiptail and many other unique flora and fauna,” the SLNT said, adding that “the disturbing news is that in addition to destroying the ecological, environmental, historical, archaeological and social assets enshrined in Pointe Sable, the DSH plan includes a proposal to connect Maria Major and Maria Minor and building a causeway to the main land,” it added.
The SLP said it wanted to assure nationals that “it will not stand idly by whilst the government literally gives away our land.
“This is not a partisan issue but instead one which will negatively impact the vast majority of St. Lucians. We call on all right-thinking St. Lucians to stand up for their country and to stand up for their children’s future.
“For our part, the St. Lucia Labour Party will do all within its lawful means to ensure these projects do not proceed in the manner the Prime Minister has described,” the party added.