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]
Matthew Thomas Pharmaceuticals
Russells Shoping Centre
3 October 2016
Tel 456 2133
Email: [email protected]
Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves
Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines
Re: The Sale Of Crown Lands At Mt. Wynne-Peters Hope To Canadian Investors
It is with much reluctance that I write to you on the above-named topic, given your general attitude towards the Vincentian populace who dare to give a view contrary to yours. History has shown time and time again nations at war invariably realize their folly in causing unwarranted destruction to life and property and usually call for a truce. We in a small population of 100 000, should not be less intelligent.
As a political activist and social commentator for almost thirty years, it pains me to see how determined you are to sell our patrimony, ironically to the descendants of the slave masters, and thereby rolling back the hard-won socio-political gains struggled for. In July 2013, I published an article: Let Mt Wynne Peters Hope Be Our Disney World. In that article, I suggested among other things that:
We move Carnival from Victoria Park to Mt Wynne. Carnival is a very noisy activity and the level of noise emanating from Victoria Park and on the streets of Kingstown is unbearable:
- For the patients and Health Workers at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
- For the residents of Kingstown and its suburbs.
- For the business sector in Kingstown.
- The traffic congestion in Kingstown even outside of the two days of revelry is a matter of serious concern for the Traffic Police, motorists and pedestrians alike.
- Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope with a total area of 121.80 acres is much bigger than Kingstown.
- A track can be developed around the periphery of the total land area to accommodate the street revelers and their mass and music without having to come on the Leeward Highway.
- An auditorium suitably designed to accommodate all aspects of carnival.
- A permanent tent for mass bands.
- Because of the permanent auditorium, the various components: calypso, steel pan, dancers, etc can at anytime showcase their various talents, making a dollar without having to wait for the once a year “Big Occasion”.
- The Carnival auditorium can also be used for other big shows such as jazz, blues, reggae and Gospel Fest.
Mt. Wynne-Peters Hope seems almost ideal for a Vincy Disney Land. It is a picturesque valley with some rugged mountain ranges washed with the most gorgeous waters of the Caribbean Sea. For the greater part of the year, the landscape is a lush green. The many over-hanging cliffs/hills/mountains can easily be demolished creating several acres of reclaimed lands, Lagoons and promenades. The area known as Cocoa situated between Mt. Wynne and Peters Hope, the portion that is now sold to the Canadians is ideally suited for the creation of a mega cruise ship berth. If carefully planned, Mt. Wynne Peters Hope can become the mecca of sports/recreation in the Eastern Caribbean, Barbados and Trinidad included.
Football/Track And Field Stadium
SVG may arguably be the only CARICOM State without a football/track and field stadium. Besides Mt. Wynne/ Peters Hope, there is nowhere on the island where such a facility can be put. We miss it and we are out for good.
Besides the sporting facilities, the area is ideally suited for a convention centre, a museum and hall of fame.
I do agree that SVG is a small island state and that our development options are not many. It is precisely why, on occasions like these, we need to put our collective wisdoms together for the benefit of the country and avoid the notion that one man knows it all. Development of the type envisaged by you is a thing of the past. Foreign investments of the model you go for, those mega resorts encompassing our beaches, excluding the natives, relegating us into second class citizens, certainly are of no benefit to us. Their negative impact abounds not only in SVG but throughout the region. The following examples will strengthen my argument.
- Jessica Faieta, UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Development Programme (UNDP),Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean in a recent commentary published in Caribbean News Now, 14/09/2016, under the caption : The Caribbean Rethinking Progress In The Sustainable Development Era, said:
“Nothing that reduces the rights of people and communities or threatens the environment can be considered progress… The first challenge is that despite the very high indebtedness and the fiscal constraints affecting the region, governments should be able to implement combined policies and interventions that foster inclusive growth; one that leaves no one behind. This also entails preventing setbacks and safeguarding hard won social, economic gains by boosting reliance, particularly among the most vulnerable groups to improve the lives of Caribbean women, men and children.
“In addition many forms of exclusion transcend income and are associated with unequal treatment, discrimination, violence or stigmatisation based on ethnicity, race or nationality, all of these factors affect people’s life opportunities, the possibility of social and economic mobility and access to services.
“Closing material gaps; is not enough to eradicate these forms of exclusions. A level playing field for citizenship requires implementing protection policies, affirmative action, empowering citizens and recognising individual and collective rights.
“Now more than ever the world needs to rethink the methods for ranking development… that go beyond per-capita income, economic growth rates and GDP… Economic growth is inclusive, empowers people and leaves no one behind.”
- A communiqué from the 46th meeting of the OECS Authority, held in Dominica, January 16, 2008, states:
“in looking at the future, Director General, Dr. Len Ishmael expressed concern about the potentially negative impact of the current boom in property development in some OECS member states, pointing in particular to the escalating land prices resulting from the rapid and widespread resort developments which are quickly removing any realistic chances of the average OECS citizen breaking into the land owning class. The trend by resorts to reduce beach access to locals and develop gated communities… Dr. Ishmael suggested some alternative approach including a moratorium on the construction of resorts directly on the beaches.”
- The following is an excerpt from the Caribbean News Now, 20/09/2016, under the caption: St. Kitts-Nevis Government Urged To Address Moribund Christopher Harbour Project:
“BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – A former National Security and Tourism Minister in the Denzil Douglas administration, Dwyer Astaphan, said that they were misled into granting extraordinary concessions to the developers of the Christopher Harbour project and urged the current government to work out an exit plan in the best interest of the people. Astaphan said: ‘The government of the day (of which I was a member) bought collectively, wistfully and gullibly into the vision and we gave the developers a package of concessions and powers tantamount to creating a separate principality under their rule on this island’s Southeastern Peninsular, a principality bigger in area than the Vatican or Monaco… It is a significant portion of the country’, Astaphan noted, describing the agreement as ‘disgraceful and a sell- out’.”
“In 2005, the Douglas government announced a deal with Auberge Firesky to construct a 250-room luxury Whisper Head Resort, plus a spa, several restaurants, a championship golf course and 750 luxury residences.
“‘We were told that they’d bring in US $ 600M to build a marina, a golf course, three hotels… as well as restaurants, commercial facilities and 2 000 residences,’ Astaphan said. According to Astaphan, a significant chunk of the financing came from the St. Kitts and Nevis Sugar Industry fund (SIDF). Astaphan noted that of the planned 24 berthing positions only 11 slips were constructed. There is no golf course and no more than 25 houses have been built in ten years. Despite the Christopher Harbour developers boasting over $ 100M in land sales, Astaphan reiterated that the funding for the marina came from the SIDF, describing it as taking from the poor to give to the rich and still only constructing less than half of the planned capacity. ‘What happened to the SIDF money’? ‘Rat eat it?’ ‘Whoever set up the arrangement should be sanctioned forever.’ Astaphan said.”
- Emile Gumbs, former Chief Minister of Anguilla said:
“The fronting by our people for foreign business, coupled with the impression that all of Anguilla is for sale, does not bode well for our future. If the trend is not arrested we may soon become an endangered species in our own home.”
- Karl John, Vincentian Development Planner, in his book Land Reform In Small Island States, wrote:
“Analysts who are more sensitive to the problems of developing countries have generally insisted that the mere increase in output, productivity or per-capita income, cannot be accepted as constituting development. Real development, they contend, can only occur if social and economic inequalities become less pronounced. It would be strange to call the result development if even per-capita income has doubled.”
- Sir Hilary Beckles in a lecture delivered at the Cave Hill Campus in April 2016 said:
“The Barbados society in its current structure is not sustainable. The economic white supremacy system is subversive to democracy. There is in Barbados a division of labour which says that the black community occupy and control the politics and the white elite control the economy. All of us as citizens of Barbados have to examine this model and transform it… It can only be done if the economic democracy is revitalised and insisted upon because in my judgement, the young people of this land deserve a more democratic society. They have paid their price for democracy and freedom.”
- Cecil “Blazer” Williams, Chairman of the Public Service and the Police Service Commissions, wrote in The News of 15/04/2016;
“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 means 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. Gonsalves, you are quite familiar with the above expressed sentiments. As the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament in December of 1999 in showing your disapproval with the bogus Canouan Resorts Development Lease Ratification Act Of 1990, you 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 in South Africa in the days of Apartheid under Botha and Voster.”
The Canouan Lease is indeed a bogus one. The Lessor has given the Lessee 1,200 acres of the 1,800 acre island to white foreigners. The Lease among other things states:
- That persons may be authorised to enter the premises upon such terms and conditions as may be agreed upon between the Lessor and the Lessee. Para 7(h)
- That the Lessee shall peacefully and quietly hold and enjoy the premises… without any interruption by the Lessor or any person(s) claiming by, through or under the Lessor. Para 8(b)
Therefore when the lessee’s white security guard can decide the transfer of a superintendant of police from Canouan to Georgetown, within two days, under your watch, it speaks volumes.
Though versed in Caribbean and third world history, you seem not to understand that we are a society born out of slavery. A report of West India Royal Commission (Moyne Report) published in 1945 exposed the horrendous living conditions in the British Caribbean Colonies, as reported thus:
“The uprisings were not seen as unprovoked violence, as they had so often been framed in the past, but as a justified opposition to a pathetic existence. Members of the Commission asserted that the resistance that disrupted the Caribbean was not a spontaneous uprising with lofty cause but rather a demand from the laboring class for better and less restrictive lives… The Moyne report revealed that for the labouring population, mere subsistence was increasingly problematic. The conditions were the result of institutional barriers that sought to maintain the Colonial Power struggle.”
Your very often combative demeanor gives one the impression that you wish to revisit the Colonial Power Struggle. If this is not so, how then can you explain the following:
- When Friends Of Tobago Cays objected in no uncertain terms to your offer to lease the Tobago Cays Marine Park to Rob Barrett and the Palm Island Resort Ltd. (PIRL), you were most vitriolic when in the media, you published: “Only the perverse or those inclined to political tactics rooted in partisanship, malice or terrorism will contend to the contrary… PIRL withdrew its management proposal because some of its critics employed tactics of terrorism directly or manufactured a bogus context in which the evil of terrorism raised its dastardly head… Some of these sick people went as far as threatening the Chairman of PIRL… Yet those critics, awash with pettiness and vain glory, who proclaim victory are plainly delusionary… Terrorism and silly people do not shake us politically or otherwise… Those who have been uttering falsehoods, spewing malice and hatred, employing terrorist tactics or providing comfort for terrorists, cannot reasonably be expected to be involved.”
- The following excerpts from the Searchlight tell the tales of powerless black people’s mental enslavement at the hands of the whites:
(i). Buccamma Farmers Singing The Blues (Hawkins Nanton, staff writer, 17/02/2006)
“Some of the farmers own the lands while others lease and have vowed to die before they give up their land. Minister of lands, Francis told the farmers that he understands their passion for the land but pointed out to them that the Government felt it necessary to change from farming in the picturesque valley, since tourism is the country’s main income earner.
“’If the land is good for our survival, it is good for us to die for. I feel like I can get a bullet right now,’ said a farmer.”
(ii). Give The Farmers A Fair Chance (Editorial, 24/02/2006)
“Last week, officials of the Government met with farmers who own or lease land in the Buccament area to inform them that the land was being sold for hotel development and they would have to give up their holdings… The reaction by the farmers was swift and emotional. Some threatened violence, others said they were willing to die for their land. Their pain is nothing new… The farmers see their livelihood being taken away from them.”
- At a meeting held in Buccament by Friends Of Tobago Cays to protest the injustice meted out to the farmers, on Sunday, 27th August 2006, guest speaker, Ordan Graham warned that if Government does not rethink its draconian policies, “blood will run in this country”. Graham was later arrested and charged with sedition. Graham eventually left the country and is living in exile in the US.
I need not remind you that the Buccamma project turned out to be a Ponzi Scheme and its proprietor Dave Ames left this country as a fugitive and according to you, defrauding the Treasury of over EC$7M.
With the experience of Buccamma, is it not inconceivable that Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope less than two miles away, you are prepared to saddle the country with another possible Ponzi scheme.
- Caribbean News Now of 18/02/2015, under the caption: “Former St. Vincent Bank Operator sentenced to 22 years in prison in the US” among other things wrote: A Canadian lawyer, William Wise, 64, who once operated the Millennium Bank in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been sentenced for 22 years… for his part in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded more than 1,200 people out of more than US$ 75M… In 2003, two letters of introduction to the bank were expensively framed and hung in the public client area of the Bank. The letters in addition carried coloured photos of the authors and their grand signatures… One written by Sir Frederick Ballantyne, the Governor General and the other by Gonsalves praising the bank and the SVG Offshore Banking System… Ballantyne’s and Gonsalves’ names were both blatantly used by Millennium to attract investors and there is no known evidence that Ballantyne or Gonsalves ever objected to this commercial display of their names.”
- Roman Catholic Bishop Jason Gordon, in a sermon in Kingstown in September, 2014, said:
“For a long time, we as church have failed to speak with a prophetic voice. We lament the growing disrespect for the human person… the increase in lawlessness, crime and violence in our nation. Social concerns, such as those teachers who are still waiting to be reinstated, the unresolved ‘Bigger Biggs’ situation and a sense of hopelessness and fear amongst our people continue to disturb us… Are we contributing to a society where peace and justice is no longer our daily experience?”
In combative style you published an eight page letter in the Searchlight of 19/09/2014, among other things, addressing the Bishop thus:
“In this Earthly City, it is always required that we get the facts right when “voice” speaks on political and social issues. If the presumptive prophetic voice utters falsehoods on the facts, it becomes a false prophecy… Your recitation of misery in our blessed land is not in the true, as distinct from a contrived tradition of Jeremiah… Indeed your one-sided recitation is not in accord with the Ministry of Jesus Christ himself… A prophetic voice is severely undermined to the extent that it downplays or ignores the substantial and in some cases, extraordinary of God’s people… They are there for all except the politically jaundiced… There is much in our society and polity which requires correction or redemption, but a one-sided litany of woes does not and cannot, represent the truth… Your letter is at variance with the facts… I find it strange that you would ignore Bigger Biggs utter disregard of the environment… in your not-so veiled championing of his cause… I reject, too, your unsubstantiated and erroneous view that there exist, disturbingly, “a sense of hopelessness and fear amongst our people”. Where is your evidence? It is this type of polemical and inchoate observation that one expects from a partisan political source.”
Is it coincidence that within weeks of your tirade, Bishop Gordon who is a Trinidadian left this country for Barbados?
- The controversial Cyber Crime Act, Act No 20 of 2016 was assented to by two Governors General Deputies namely, Susan Dougan, OBE and Victor H Job, simultaneously on 22/08/2016 (The News 30/09/2016) amidst much protest including 22 regional and international organisations who asked you to review the Bill, since according to them, several provisions of the Bill “pose a serious threat to freedom of the press, the free flow of online information and public debate”.
- You continue to send mixed signals to the unfortunate youth. You give the impression that marijuana and medicinal marijuana is the way for the future. You were host to Jamaican artist and one time drug convict Bunny Whaler. You became the self appointed advocate for medicinal marijuana in CARICOM, but when the droves of unemployed youth, misreading your signals took to the hills to cultivate the herb, the RSS were on their backs to the extent that according to the Searchlight of 29/07/2016 under the caption: Ganja Raid: “Fifty-seven huts, 347,170 mature plants, 325 dried marijuana plants and 3,141,000 marijuana seedlings were destroyed during a drug raid in the La Soufriere mountains early this month. The raid, which was part of the jungle training component of the RSS, also saw 510 pounds of compressed marijuana and 50 tarpaulins being destroyed.”
- The Cane Garden community, once the symbol of black affluence, is now the emblem of Syrian, Lebanese, Chinese and Venezuelan supremacy, while the poorer communities like Rose Place have become synonymous with the Ghetto Life of the US, when according to the Searchlight of 05/08/2016: “Last Wednesday, July 27, over 100 police officers from various branches of the local constabulary swooped down on the fishing community of Rose Place where they conducted a six hour search. Doors were ripped from hinges and homes raided… The search warrant did not target one person, but gave the authority to search any house in the area.”
- The lawlessness and vulgarity abound. Established protocol and conventions are fast becoming a thing of the past. Classical examples are:
(i) There was a clear violation of sec. 51(4) of the Constitution in appointing cabinet ministers in the streets of Kingstown before being first sworn in Parliament as members of the House, following the December, 9th 2015 general elections.
(ii) The compulsory acquisition of private property, contrary to sec. (6) of the Constitution. Notably that of Marcus De Freitas’ commercial property in Kingstown and people’s lands at Argyle without compensation for thirteen and eleven years, respectively.
(iii) The daily tirade by agents of the ruling ULP on the party-owned STAR-FM Radio, who are paid by the Treasury, traducing the innocent Vincentian citizenry.
The Diamond Is In Your Back Yard
Your kind of perceived foreign investment is akin to the man who went skirting the world for the very diamond that lay in his back yard. Unfortunately when he did realize it, it was far too late. He had already sold it to someone else.
The following is an excerpt from Caribbean News Now, of 21/09/2016, relative to the exploits of a Suriname mining company:
“Suriname’s state owned mining company, Grassalco recently secured a multimillion dollar deal to supply crushed stone for the expansion of the Cheddi Jagan International Airport in Guyana. Grassalco and Zhong Da International Engineering Co. will deliver the material in partnership to China Harbour Engineering Co. in Guyana. The contract is valued at US $7.5M for 300 000 tons of crushed stones to be exported over a twelve month period. The first shipment of about 4 000 tons was expected to take place on Tuesday. Grassalco’s CEO, Akiemboto noted that the deal will pave the way for the mining Co to be the major supplier of crushed stones to the Caribbean region and will play a major role in the economic development in the Caribbean as a supplier of crushed stones. Several months earlier the Co supplied boulders to Barbados for the construction of a sea wall at the Sandals Hotel construction project.”
Your plan to develop 65 acres at the now ET Joshua Airport at Arnos Vale into a city, does not involve any Vincentian entrepreneur, not here or in the diaspora. Your choice of entrepreneur is Trinidadian Derek Chin and his Movie Towne Ciniplex.
Is there no place for the black man? Be it understood that Black Lives Matter. Spare us the unrest! If we keep promoting the white man as the symbol of loftiness, if we keep repatriating the little that we have, our youth will have no alternative but to wear masks and unlicensed fire arms or ultimately become endangered species. We elevate Chatoyer to the status of national hero for defending our patrimony. Let us not trivialise this devotion.
Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope is a priceless, invaluable piece of real estate. Hundreds converge on its beaches on a Sunday and thousands on a public holiday. To offer such a gem for sale to white Canadians at a paltry EC$5.00/square foot is an insult to the intelligence and integrity of the nation and is scandalous. The diamond is there. It consists of billions of dollars worth of stones for generations to come. It only needs to be exploited. Mt. Wynne/Peters Hope is not for sale. It shall not be sold. It will not be sold. It is our patrimony. It is our diamond.
A truce is necessary. I urge you.
cc The Governor General, Sir Frederick Ballantyne; The Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace; the Leader of the Green Party, Ivan Oneal; the Leader of the DRP, Aneisa Baptiste; the Media, National Properties; the SVG Tourism Authority; SVG Hotel Association; the SVG Chamber of Commerce; the SVG Employers Federation; the SVU Teachers Union; the SVG, Public Service Union; Police Welfare Association, the SVG Bar Association; the SVG Medical Association; the SVG Pharmaceutical Association; the SVG Cricket Association; the SVG Football Federation; the National Lottery; the Carnival Development Corporation; National Sports Council; SVG Olympic Committee; SVG Christian Council; SVG Evangelical Association; Jomo Thomas, chairman of the National Reparation Committee; Sir Hilary Beckles, chairman, of the CARICOM Reparation Committee; the General Secretary of the OECS Authority; Secretary General, CARICOM; Invest SVG; SVG Mass Bands Association; SVG Calypsonian Association; Youlou Pan Movement; SVG AMP; SVG Credit Union League; SVG Human Rights Association; Caribbean Export (Barbados); SVG National Trust.
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].