The recently formed Canouan Island Development Council (CIDC) has written to Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves requesting a meeting with him to discuss issues affecting residents of the southern Grenadine island.
Gonsalves, however, said he will ask Director of Grenadines Affairs, Edwin Snagg, and other government officials to meet with the group.
Canouan has been the focus of some attention over the past weeks as residents host weekly picnics on various beaches to demand road access to the island’s beaches, all of which, like all beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, are public.
Gonsalves disclosed on radio on Friday that he had received an email from the Council requesting a meeting “between themselves and others”.
The Prime Minister said he had written back to say that he is requesting Snagg, who is originally from Union Island, and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Godfred Pompey, who is originally from Canouan, to meet with the Council.
Gonsalves said his executive secretary will arrange the meeting.
“So, I just want to tell you,” he told Snagg, who was a host of the programme on which he spoke.
“Road access” is an equivocal term path/trailin the above report:
1. If there never was traditional path/trail/road access to the beach in question, my understanding is that if the developers/owners put a new path/trail/road through the beachfront property they acquired by ownership or lease, they have the exclusive legal right to determine who uses it.
2. If there was traditional access by a non-motorable path or trail and the developers/owners convert this to a motorable road, this does not mean that traditional users of the path can now automatically access the beach on said road using a motor vehicle — but they still have the legal right to access the beach by foot as usual.
3. What I am unclear about is whether the developers can get permission to move the traditional access to the beach, either by path or road, from one area to another, allowing access to locals only via the new path or road as long as this does not represent an undue or unreasonable hardship to the traditional users.
4. As far as I know, sea access can be determined or prevented only by the government on the basis of environmental protection, security, safety and other grounds, not because a new resort wants to control or restrict possible mooring and sea access.
Wherever I have travelled in the Caribbean, there has always been access to major beaches by path for local people and visitors staying elsewhere. This does not mean that where there are four or five hotels in a row, beach access is always possible from any of them — more often than not only a single access point at one end or the other allows beach access for non-guests. Otherwise this would mean that people would freely and chaotically be walking through hotel properly all day (and night) long. The security issues alone would be enormous. (Consider the implications of allowing anyone to walk through your own property to take a shortcut day or night!)
I also understand the no government can make backroom deals with developers — no matter how much money changes hands or how many local jobs are on the line — to subvert the laws and constitution of SVG.
I am no lawyer, but have some background in land tenure issues and a bit of knowledge of our British-derived right-of-way and trespass laws. Hopefully, one of this site’s legal eagles will enlighten us on the particular Cannouan and general SVG beach access issue using plain English language that we amateurs could easily understand.
At the end of the day, this is neither a political issue nor an economic development issue.
Stripped of all the rhetoric we have heard, it is a legal issue based on ancient custom (subsequently enshrined in common law) and an abundance of well known legal decisions.
Either or both parties need to launch one or more law suits to see the issue resolved once and for all.
The developers have deep pockets from which to hire pricey lawyers; the other side would have lots of good legal minds to draw on pro bono publico or on a contingency basis. (If they need money, they should set up a special fund to which I would gladly contribute.)
Yes, a prolonged legal contest would hold up construction and completion of the projects. But endless meetings, angry confrontations, and public wrangling would only have the same result but with little or no hope of a resolution.
Let the courts decide.
That is quite simply an opt out on the part of Gonsalves and is a definite marker that he is not personally supporting the Canouan people he is supporting the developer.
If the developer asked for a meeting he would be there in double quick time that you can be sure of.
I doubt very much he would like to meet with the people because he would hate to be recorded and be asked questions which can be used against him in the future.
There are now two places he will not go, Canada and Canuan.
Though that is not as bad as it used to be there were a number of Caribbean countries he would not go to in the Caribbean when he was younger, and that was not his choice, it was theirs, Barbados was one. I wonder if it’s an alphabetical system he is using?
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