The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].  

THE LEASE: This lease is made on the 31st day of October 1990 between JAMES FITZ-ALLEN MITCHEL Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, acting for and on behalf of the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Lessor) and Canouan Resorts Development Ltd a wholly owned subsidiary of Gesfid S.A (Lessee)

This Lease is a 99-year agreement for 1200 acres of the 1800 acres Canouan Island.

Among other things, the Lease states:

  1. APPENDIX A: All that piece portion or parcel of the island of Canouan… comprising the entire Northern section of the Island bounded on the Northern Eastern and Western sides by the sea.

This designation is a clear violation of the Three Chains Act of 1926 as amended by ACT #3 of 1978, an ACT for settling the title to land on the seashore in St. Vincent and commonly called the Three Chains. This ACT among other things states:

  1. Whereas when the lands of the Island of Saint Vincent were originally granted, the Commissioners appointed by His Majesty King George the Third for the sale and disposal of the same, reserved around the coast of the said Island a strip or belt of land of Three Chains in breadth running inwards from high water mark (hereinafter called “the Three Chains”).
  2. Her Majesty, Her heirs and Successors, may from time to time erect forts or batteries and also buildings of a public nature for the use of St. Vincent and the Grenadines on any part or parts of the said Three Chains not previously occupied by buildings without paying compensation therefore.
  3. The public shall continue to have and enjoy all rights of way through the said Three Chains as now and heretofore used or enjoyed.

For the Lessor to afford the Lessee the right to boundary with the sea, the Lessor has hereby:

  1. Abdicated the rights of the State and in essence has given the Lessee the Twelve mile zone limit or whatever limit is allowed by International standards.
  2. Similarly the Three Chains Act does not apply to the Lessee.

Chapter 7(h) of the Lease agreement states: “That persons may be authorized to enter the premises upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon between the Lessor and the Lessee.”

Chapter 8: COVENANTS OF THE LESSOR: That the Lessor hereby covenants with the Lessee as follows:

8 (c )(i) To relocate the fishermen and their boats from where they are now camped to a location outside the Premises which is suitable both for their accommodation and the safe hauling of their boats; and

8 (c)(ii) To compensate at the Lessee’s expense the owners of farm animals which are presently within the Premises for those animals.

The fact that the Lessee in the covenant had to compensate the farmers and fishermen in the area so leased, says that the area was not fallow but that the residents of Canouan had by tradition used the land and the beach as a means of their livelihood.

8 (c )(q) To waive and hereby waives any right the Lessor may have to compulsorily acquire the Premises or any interest in the Premises.

That the Lessor has waived its right to Compulsory acquisition is a clear indication of subverting Sec. 6(1) of the Constitution.

It is important to note that the Lessee is a group of foreign white European Investors, whose repute we cannot often verify. Think of Allan Stanford, Thierry Nanno, William Wise among others who have encountered problems with the law because of their real or alleged ponzi schemes, with which they lured our legislators. The natives are mainly blacks. It is inconceivable that a Cabinet of elected Representatives could be so insensitive to pass a Law supporting a lease agreement, which, in many instances, subverts the existing laws and the Constitution for 99 years. Though not as rabid as slavery was, the mental scars are so engraved that the Vincentian black man is beginning to accept the thought that he cannot be in the leadership role. He sees himself as subservient to the white man, accepting only the menial jobs offered him. After the many struggles of William Wilberforce and others to bring an end to slavery, after the many protests by Martin Luther King Jr. and many other Civil Rights Leaders to get the white man to accept that the black man is a human being also, after the short but very successful era of the Black Power Movement in helping to emancipate the black man from mental slavery, how can we as a Vincentian people accept the Canouan Lease agreement and the utter rubbish that is legitimised as up-market tourism in Canouan? In an era where we have lived to realize Martin Luther King Junior’s dream that a totally black woman, Michelle Obama, can occupy the seat of First Lady in the White House in the onetime racially tensed America, we should really be ashamed that we have created and are creating a Synthetic Slave society in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Canouan in particular. Some may disagree, but the moiety is the same. We complain of the excessively high crime and murder rate among our youth. The youth are rebelling, because we have created measures that make them feel as though they are the scum of the society. They feel frustrated and hopeless, and we create very little opportunities to make them feel otherwise.

Sir Hilary Beckles, UWI VICE CHANCELLOR, in April, 2016, delivering a lecture in Barbados on the topic: SLAVERY AND THE 1816 REBELLION said: “The Barbados society in its current structure is not sustainable…This Economic White Supremacy System is subversive to democracy. There is in Barbados, a division of labour which says that the black community will occupy and control the politics and the white elite will control the economy… All of us as citizens of Barbados have to examine this model and transform it. It has to be transformed in order to fulfil the visions of our ancestors in General Bussa’s time, General Green and Clement Payne… It can only be done if the economic democracy is revitalized and insisted upon because, in my judgment, the young people of this land deserve a more democratic society. They have paid their price in history for democracy and freedom.”

Cecil Blazer Williams, lawyer, political activist, newspaper columnist and chairman of both the Public Service and Police Commissions here in SVG, writing in THE NEWS of 15th April, 2016 on the topic: OF BEACHES, DEVELOPMENT AND SELF-RESPECT wrote: “I have spent many years of my life writing about the need to protect our beaches from being alienated from our people as we try to find ways and means to develop our country… Developers are given all that they want… Giving them what they want may mean cutting off tracks or walks which give access to beaches where their white guests may be hanging out. The implication is that black people make white people uncomfortable and as such attempts must be made openly or subtly to keep them away. By implication, we are admitting that the very developers and their guests are racists! …Development must not be seen as those who have the money being able to buy their way into heaven, kicking out the angels in the process.”

Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, then Leader of the Opposition said: “The people of Canouan have to put up with the indignity of having their ancestral and historic rights being taken away from them. They cannot go to the beach. The natives of Canouan need passes as if they were in South Africa in the days of Apartheid under Botha and Voster.” (THE VINCENTIAN, 23/12/1999) Today, after 15 years of his prime ministerial leadership, you go to any of the three resorts. If you are white, you walk, accompanied, drive or be driven; no question asked. If you are black, you first have to declare your purpose, or you are turned back. If permission is given, you are escorted.

Terry Bynoe, a social activist and native of Canouan, has had an injunction brought against him by the “developers”. For sixteen years and continuing, he will be trespassing if he goes on any portion of that 1,200-acre plot of land. He cannot use what used to be an existing public road. He cannot go to any of the beaches. One is amazed that a court of black officers/officials can grant such an injunction against a black brother whose ancestors came on the same slave ship as theirs, captained by the ancestors of the White Foreigners who they are protecting and who in the process are manufacturing a “synthetic slavery” society.

Toussaint L’Ouverture, William Wilberforce, Martin Luther King Junior, Stokeley Carmichael, Marcus Garvey, Uriah Buzz Buttler, Eric Williams, Cuffy, Walter Rodney, Bussa, Joseph Chatoyer, George Mc. Intosh and Ebenezer Joshua among others would end up in the “Madhouse” if they were to return to witness this type of BEND-BACKWARD accommodation being afforded to the White man to re-enslave their offsprings.

The debate continues: Balancing the Interests of Foreign Investors against the National Interest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Matthew Thomas (20/05/2016)

The views expressed herein are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the opinions or editorial position of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].

9 replies on “Canouan lease act is an insult to civil rights activists”

  1. Matthew, I have to commend on the writing of this article. I had to take some breaks in between reading it because the tears won’t stop streaming from my eyes. The abolition of slavery was something I started learning in primary school and continued on in secondary school. Every I read something or view a documentary or a movie related to the slave trade/slavery, it hurts my heart sometimes even angry. The nonsense that is going on in SVG right now is very vexing to me right now. It would appear that slavery in SVG have been modernized. What has happened to the black brothers and sisters and he people that stand for rights, freedom and justice in our little chain of islands? Have they lost their tongue and will to fight? Terry Bynoe and all others of SVG should be all over that 1200 acres to make a statement. James Mitchell and by extension Ralph Gonsalves are wicked people. Milton Cato was too. They all came up with these 99year leases without considering the livelihood of the natives of SVG. We elect governments to work for the good of the country but instead they are working for the good of their pockets bringing in all these foreign enslavers, collecting millions of dollars under the table to get rich quick, breaking the laws of SVG to make sure these foreigners are comfortable/happy and it’s to hell with the natives. The natives on the other hand seem to sit back and be comfortable with positions as gardeners an kitchen mechanics doing all the dirty and hard work for menial wages while the foreigners sit in their beach chairs sipping whiskey and eating lavishly and sending the profits back to their country of origin. The only profit SVG gets is the menial yearly lease payment because in the deal with the devil, they don’t pay taxes and everything they bring in is concession-free. I real vex!!
    I am now appealing to the government of the day, “do the right thing by the people of SVG, end the modern-day slavery you are infesting, take back the land in Canouan and give the people of SVG their freedom and livelihood back.” The beach is part of our livelihood.

    1. C. ben-David says:

      I wonder what wonderful former livelihood in Canouan you are talking about?

      Do you mean the backbreaking slave-like growing of corn and peas using a hoe and cutlass?

      Do you mean sitting in a small boat all day in the hot sun trying to catch a few fish to feed your hungry family?

      Or do you mean migrating to the mainland in search of manual labour or going to America to cut cane like the slaves of old?

      All you pie-in-the-sky idealists dream of an idyllic past that never existed.

      Take back the 1,200 acres and go hungry is your only idea of progress.

      1. And is taking away the people’s freedom to move around Canouan better than all of the above that you mentioned? Lord have mercy on the people who condone/support wrong…continue to delight in watching their brother bleed.

    2. Luther Bonadie says:

      I can see that you are one of those fools , who thinks that going to the beach will put food on the table.

      Go look at Villa Beach, or Indian Bay, and see what you dumb ass Vincentians does.

      1. Oh, so the natives must no be able to, FREELY, go to the beach when they want and how they want? The beaches are really bad on the mainland, especially at Villa and Ratho Mill. Vincentians can no longer go on the beach and play soft ball cricket and volly ball as once was the practice. The space between land and water has become very minimal and people on the beach can’t even touch the walls that these home owners construct on the beachfront from Indian Bay right across Villa then Mr. Layne put those barbed wire fence almost in the sea by Ratho Mill point, what the hell is going on in SVG as far as the beach is concerned? And you people think that is cool – when there were better and free access to the beaches in SVG people used to put food on their table and also go have a beach cook too; now there are no access to the beaches peop can’t put food on their table – is that progressive or forward thinking? All you people who think so, I am ashamed of all you all.

      2. C. ben-David says:

        often disagree with you but not on this one. A lot of people have talked about “paradise lost” in the Grenadines after the foreign investors, developers, builders, and tourists arrived, implying that there was a “paradise found” before they came. But no local person called or thought that the arid Grenadines were in any way, shape or form a “paradise.” It was their home, of course, and they loved it as most people love their homeland. But life was very hard and a lot of people had to migrate, sometimes to the mainland, sometimes as seafarers, sometimes to work overseas to earn a bread.

        Now they can at last stay home and make a decent living.

        It was the developers, and other foreigners as well as a series of governments eager for tourist revenue and employment for their people who turned these islands into a “paradise found” for both the locales — via employment (in the tourist industry) and investment opportunities (restaurants, small hotels, guest houses, small construction companies, etc.) — and tourists (who are enthralled by the beaches and sea).

        Beach access is just a smokescreen concocted by a few radicals who hardly ever go to the sea but are instead either xenophobic or anti-development.

  2. C. ben-David says:

    Sir, stop pretending to be a lawyer or to have a deep understanding of the law. You are a dispenser — a pill pusher — perhaps even a certified pharmacist, but no specialist in either constitutional or property law.

    You seem to believe that the state is prohibited from selling Crown land to foreigners without retaining all the formal and informal public access rights that preceded the sale. Nonsense.

    You also believe that the Three Chains Act (which originated in England and which was enacted in all British possessions) is inviolable. Again, nonsense. (Surely, you must know that even God’s laws are not inviolable but subject to interpretation and amendment.)

    These issues cannot and should not be solved by the court of public opinion — or by the use of inflammatory 1960s-style racial rhetoric — but in a real court of law which is where you, Mr. Bynoe and his small self-selected band of unrepresentative Canouan residents should make their case based on established legal principles, not because of the skin colour of the developers, the investors, and the resort guests.

  3. Luther Bonadie says:

    My Friend It hurts to say this, but leave it to black people, they will destroy every Fu*****king thing.

  4. C. ben-David says:

    I often disagree with you but not on this one. A lot of people have talked about “paradise lost” in the Grenadines after the foreign investors, developers, builders, and tourists arrived, implying that there was a “paradise found” before they came. But no local person called or thought that the arid Grenadines were in any way, shape or form a “paradise.” It was their home, of course, and they loved it as most people love their homeland. But life was very hard and a lot of people had to migrate, sometimes to the mainland, sometimes as seafarers, sometimes to work overseas to earn a bread.

    Now they can at last stay home and make a decent living.

    It was the developers, and other foreigners as well as a series of governments eager for tourist revenue and employment for their people who turned these islands into a “paradise found” for both the locales — via employment (in the tourist industry) and investment opportunities (restaurants, small hotels, guest houses, small construction companies, etc.) — and tourists (who are enthralled by the beaches and sea).

    Beach access is just a smokescreen concocted by a few radicals who hardly ever go to the sea but are instead either xenophobic or anti-development.

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