Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)

Making the Grenadine island of Balliceaux a sacred site is something that St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has to “discuss and think about carefully”, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says.

He made the observation on Monday as he addressed the opening ceremony of the 5th International Garifuna Conference in Kingstown.

The conference was held under the theme, “The Island of Balliceaux: Sacred Lands or Economic Opportunity?”

In the late 18th century, some 5,000 Garifuna –indigenous Vincentians – were taken to Balliceaux — a 320-acre island east of Bequia – after the death in battle on Dorsetshire Hill of their leader, Joseph Chatoyer, who was declared SVG’s first national hero on March 14, 2002.

Gonsalves said that from 1899, the Linleys have owned Balliceaux and Battowia — a 151-acre island.

The asking price for both islands was US$27 million, Gonsalves said, adding that when he asked how much Balliceaux alone cost, the owners said between US$20 million and US$22 million.

He said that Battowia is a beautiful bird sanctuary.

“You can’t go and build anything on that. It is a fantastic site for rare birds.”

The prime minister said that, in 2008, someone paid a deposit on Balliceaux and Battowia but the sale did not go through because of the global economic meltdown.

“And about a year ago, it looked as if some people were interested…” he said, adding that it was around that time that he got a letter from the Garifuna Heritage Foundation saying that their preference is for the Balliceaux to remain as a sacred site.

He made it clear that his government will not give development permission for Battowia.

“You need a lot of money and you will have to put some infrastructure yourself,” Gonsalves said.

“The question what we have to discuss is whether somebody wants to do an appropriate development there and whether if a development comes — appropriate development — that it is possible to have, at the same time, a suitable remembrance. How many acres out of these 320? I don’t know. That is something that we have to talk about,” Gonsalves said.

“And there is a lot of history. It is not that you are selling yourself. But there is a lot of history where we can educate people and we can see how — because all over this country, there is a lot of history about Garifuna. Plenty, plenty spots, when you study the history. Of course, for African peoples too, during slavery and after slavery. And other ethnic groups, because let us not forget that we are a veritable symphony…” Gonsalves said.

3 replies on “PM comments on calls to make Balliceaux a sacred site”

  1. The Garifuna should on something substantial instead like forcing the current government to fulfill the treaty it inherited from the British signed in 1773 which gave the Garifuna nearly the entire Winward side of the mainland?

    To the best of my knowledge, this treaty is still in effect since it was not replaced by any other agreement.

    Dozens of similar treaties made with the indigenous people continue to be upheld by the courts in countries like America and Canada.

    THe Garifuna should at least begin negotiations to restore their treaty rights to land they occupied for generations instead of bothering over a useless island where they spent a few short months.

  2. Totally agree that negotiations is needed to restore the treaty rights but that ‘useless land where they spent a few short months’ is just as monumental. Those short months were of pain, death and sorrow. It’s an important part of our legacy, our endurance and determination to strive and survive. That’s why it is important for that site to be kept as a historical heritage.

  3. Agustus Carr says:

    If you visit the 7th Heaven Website you would see the Government has Balliceaux and a few other Islands up for sale. Honour the treaty and return Balliceaux to the Garifunas that’s the least you can do to a people who have suffered partial anialation under the British. This is none negotiable.

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