Access by road to L’anse Guyac, a beach a the centre of a long-running struggle for access to Canouan’s beaches, requires trust, head of the Maritime Administration, David Robin, said Monday, as residents of the Southern Grenadine island maintain that they have such a right.
“In the view of David Robin, it cannot be resolved by protest. This is a question which requires trust between the parties,” Robin told a press conference with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in Kingstown.
The press conference came one day after residents of Canouan again took boats to L’anse Guyac for a picnic, as they asserted their right to use the beach and push for land access to it.
Canouan resident and community activist, Terrance “Terry” Bynoe, told iWitness News in Canouan on Sunday that islanders had been staying away from the beach, since the developers used it to dock their tug and barge during construction.
“So we allowed them to use it to do so that they can carry on their construction.”
Bynoe said that residents noted that just before the Christmas, a dining area was constructed close to the beach, purported to allow investor Andrea Pignataro to dine privately with his relatives and friends.
“And then we hear that the beach belongs to him; we are not allowed to come. Some say he spread his sand on it, so it’s his. I don’t know if is so it does wuk, ‘cause, as far as I know, since God created the Earth, he created this bay.”
Bynoe said that residents of Canouan got together and had the picnic to “show him (Pignataro) that we have rights to it (the beach”.
He said that islanders might also attempt to access the beach by road.
“The access was there before. The road was there before the developers came. So we are also looking for access by road.”
Bynoe said that elderly persons would not be able to come by boat and parents of children who cannot swim would not want them to take the chance.
“So, we have to have access to all these areas,” Bynoe told iWitness News.
“We are not asking to rush through the people’s property. If they have a gate or a boom that can make checks, you stop, they ask you where you are going. You tell them where you are off to with your family. They say, ‘Okay, have a nice day; enjoy your swim.’ And we go about like this.”
Robin told Monday’s press conference that access by land is possible, and cited as an example the private island of Mustique, another Grenadine island, that is the playground of the rich and famous.
“It is possible and it happens in Mustique that persons can access the beach through the lands that are leased on Mustique, but that they have the protocols in place where you can call before and there has to be that level of comfort that there will not be a safety or security incident,” Robin said.
“It cannot be done, in the manner, in my view, as is happening now. I made that suggestion.”
Robin, a former Coast Guard commander, said there are examples around the world where efforts at peace-making and peace-building, have failed because there was no real conversation.
“I’ll cite a positive example, although not yet perfected: the case of South Africa. Real conversation happened during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. So that if we want to achieve in Canouan the issue of the access, we have to look at, and perhaps, draw on what we are doing in Mustique, which is right here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and seek to do that.”
Robin, whose agency last week declared a no-anchoring and no-kitesurfing zone at L’anse Guyac beach, noted that it is almost 20 years since there have been the ongoing issues of access to beaches in Canouan.
“To my mind, if we have been working on a matter and we have been adopting a particular approach and it has not worked, I think we need to really take a sit back and have a look at what can work.”
At the media conference, Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance and National Security, appealed to persons to be “mature” about the decisions that his government has taken.
“It is in the interest of the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including in Canouan, for us to have these regulations,”
“I repeat that this is not the first time that we have been having regulations in relation to the seascape. There was a time when nobody paid any attention to these things, but more and more, as we are developing top-of-the-line, first-class, international-quality resorts, we have to do the regulations,” he said.
But at Sunday’s picnic, residents noted that in 1999, Gonsalves, then Leader of the Opposition, came to Canouan and supported residents who were asserting their right to road access to the nation’s beaches.
Debra Foyle-Snagg was among the persons at Sunday’s picnic and told iWitness News:
“I would like to say to my PM: I voted you with pride and dignity. Edwin Snagg, I voted for you … but I know this time, I am not going to let politics be a part of this. This beach belongs to our generation. This is our livelihood, and we would like to have all access to all beaches.”
Foyle-Snagg noted that Pignatoro did not bring the beach with him on his jet.
“He met it here. So all the little children who are around here, we are fighting for them, because if we don’t fix this problem now, it’s still going to be a problem for the young generation.”
She told iWitness News that she has a grandson, and said she will take him on Sunday to Godhal, another beach to which residents do not have access by road.
“I notice there are two houses on the rocks trying to prevent us from crossing. I will walk the road, because the road was there before they came here,” Foyle-Snagg told iWitness News.
“And I will ask the government who I vote for, who I love — PM, you know I love you, I want you to come and meet with the people. Even though the people did not support you in the general elections, I did.”
Foyle-Snagg said she would like Gonsalves to remember that in 1999 he brought Barbadian artiste Gabby to Canouan.
“And you were playing, ‘Jah beach is mine, I could bathe anytime’,” Foyle-Snagg said as she sang lines of the popular song.
“You remember that? And I was there. I clapped you because I thought you would stand up with me. Don’t sell me give them! I have my grandson and I don’t want to be [sold] to the Italians. The beach is all we know; we are accustomed. Whether we use it today, we use it next week. It’s our beach; we use it whenever we want,” Foyle-Snagg said.