Access to Pink Sands Resort in Canouan was blocked for about two hours Sunday as residents of the island protested the decision by a security official to deny community activist Terry Bynoe road access to Godahl Beach.
Residents of the Southern Grenadine island were on their way to another of their beach picnic which are being held to demonstrate their rights to access all beaches on the island and to insist that road access be provided to the beaches, since they are public.
Bynoe has been a leading figure in that struggle, which began over 16 years ago.
The current episode erupted this year, after resort owners placed buoys in the sea at L’anse Guya, demarcating the area, which the government later ordered them to remove, but declared a no-anchoring and no kite surfing zone there.
Bynoe told iWitness News that the security at Pink Sands told them to park their vehicles in the parking lot on Sunday as a bus had been arranged to transport the islanders to Godahl Beach.
He said that they complied and loaded their food and ice boxes onto the bus, and boarded.
Bynoe told iWitness News that he was the last person to board the bus, which was being driven by
David Washington, the head of security.
“When we are ready to roll, he (Washington) say, ‘You can’t go.’ That is me. ‘He say, ‘I am not taking you; you can’t go. There is an injunction against you,” Bynoe said.
“I say, ‘Well the injunction is for me not to go into your property. But if you are using the public road to take me to the public beach, I don’t see where that come in.”
Careenage Resort had secured an injunction against Bynoe entering their property 16 years ago, amid protest over road access to the island’s beaches.
Bynoe said he disembarked the bus and when he did, the other persons said that if he can’t go, they would not go either.
“So everybody get off and everybody say just block the gate. So we block the gate with vehicles: my vehicle, trucks and then other vehicles went around to take other gate and blocked it as well. It was blocked or about two hours,” Bynoe told iWitness News.
Bynoe said he spoke on the phone to lawyer Grant Connell who said he would act on his behalf to try to get the injunction lifted.
“On reflection, I called the guys at the back and asked them to remove it (blockade) and they can go in and enter by bus and I would get there by boat and join them. And you know, just so that they that they could enjoy themselves, because they were all there already,” Bynoe said.
He told iWitness News that he finds it strange that the injunction had never come up for hearing in 16 years and he thought that it was no longer in effect.
“The Careenage had applied or the injunction when Victor Cuffy and the High Court Judge and the lawyer for the resort flew down to get a first-hand look at the roads we are arguing about,” Bynoe told iWitness News.
The injunction was granted until the court decided whether the route was public or not, Bynoe said.
“The court has never called and I have never heard a word about that matter for 16 years,” he said.
Bynoe said he also found Washington’s response on Sunday strange since the security official was at the first picnic that islanders had in January.
“In fact, he came, he ate the chicken wings with us. He said, ‘These chicken wings are nice. I have to give you guys some money and come and picnic again’,” Bynoe said, adding that he assisted Washington to his car after the event.
Bynoe said islanders enjoyed the picnic, adding that it was the first time that some of them had gone to that Godahl Beach.
“The picnic was great. We had all the children who have never been on that beach for many years — well they have never been there since they born; elder persons who ain’t been there probably in 16 years and before that — because we were fighting for access for many years.
“It was nice, people had a wonderful time, the kids had a great time. We eat, we had we drinks, we clean up the beach, like we usually do, and we left,” Bynoe told iWitness News.
He said that the picnics are intended to send a message to the Government to resolve the situation ahead of the peak tourist season.
“What we don’t want, my friend, is that if you continue to pressure us and not giving us access to this beach, we don’t want a situation where the hotel at Pink Sands might be full with people, tourists on the beach and we using a boat to go on the beach while guests are there in the peak season,” Bynoe told iWitness News.
“We don’t want that. We want the access to be provided, established, so we would use it when we know the place is empty and the guests already come and spend their money, and everybody have a win-win situation,” he said.
“We don’t want the government believe we [won’t] go back. Because the people are so angry, they are saying when that hotel is full they would go. We would use boats and join them (resort guests) on the beach. We don’t want that.
“Please, we are asking the government to come and see us, come with the investors, come and meet us and discuss this matter so that we can have a solution to it,” Bynoe said.
The struggle for road access to beaches in Canouan continues 16 years after Gonsalves, then as Opposition Leader, acted as lawyer for islanders in reaching a deal between the then New Democratic Party government, developers and residents.
Among other things, the Agreement of Aug. 15, 2000 noted that, “Access to the beaches within the island area is a right of citizens of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in recognition of the fact that all beaches are public.”
Point number 3 of the Agreement said, “Access to all beaches shall be provided.”
Gonsalves was voted into office on March 28, 2001.
(Watch below an earlier report on the beach protests)