Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace is raising questions about the alleged sale of an additional 40 acres of land to developers in Canouan, reportedly for some $60 million.
iWitness News was informed that news of the alleged sale reportedly came late last week during a meeting between business persons on the southern Grenadine island and an agent of an investor.
Reports are that during the meeting, the residents asked about access to beaches, and the investor’s agent told them, that if they want an access road through certain lands, investors should be given back their $60 million.
Government spokesperson, Elson Crick, when asked Monday night if the government had a comment on the issue, said that that is something that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves would have to address.
Gonsalves left St. Vincent on Sunday for meetings with investors in Europe and is scheduled to return on April 26.
But Eustace, speaking on his weekly radio programme on Monday, said that while people know about the investments in Canouan, there is a heightened sense of insecurity regarding the tourism development and the role of the government in that regard.
The economy is virtually dying “and it seems to me that we want to do some more for it to die,” Eustace told listeners, adding that he is hearing a lot of bad news about the private sector, including closures and cutback and wonders where it is going to end.
He said he has also heard about the alleged sale of additional lands in Canouan.
“I was unaware that there was such a sale and certainly unaware of the amount. I would really like to know when it was paid. I think we ought to know, the whole nation ought to know who bought that land, whether in fact they paid US$60 million for it, where in the public accounts of St. Vincent and the Grenadines — where in the government finances it is at the present time. If it is not there, what was it used for and when was it used,” Eustace said.
Eustace said it was critical for the government to release such information, adding that he would like the Ministry of Finance to say where is the money that is supposed to have come in for the sale of assets.
He said the alleged sale of land in Canouan makes it even more difficult for the people of Canouan to have land for their own use, including for housing and business, adding that as he understands it, there is little land left in Canouan to be used by the indigenous population.
“That is not a tenable situation for the long term… I can’t understand the silence of the Gonsalves administration, that illegal administration, on the matter of the US$60 million. What was it used for?”
Eustace said that people, particularly the people of Canouan, need to know. “They really need to know what is happening,” he said.
Speaking on the same programme, Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre, suggested that the Gonsalves administration was inconsistent on the issue of land use in Canouan.
He said that in the lead-up to the 2001 elections, Gonsalves hosted a town hall meeting and held up a law book and spoke about the New Democratic Party administration’s policy on land in Canouan.
“I am surprised today that this situation is going on. Because if you are the one who is advocating that NDP sold too much land and that you would fix it, you would correct it, how come today that all the other land that remains, … that you sold it?” Ollivierre said.