Member of Parliament for North Windward, Montgomery Daniel, wants Britain to contribute the EC$18.5 million that it would take to complete the Joseph Chatoyer National Park and operate it for five years.
The park, which was originally the Rabacca National Park, was renamed on Wednesday — Emancipation Day — in honour of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ National Hero.
Daniel said that a consultancy done after the park was established in 2007, concluded that it would cost EC$13.5 million to complete.
“But prime minister, I want to seek leave of asking that you ask the British government to fund the establishment of this national park, together with a five-year operations cost of some EC$18.5 million,” Daniel told the event at Rabacca.
“I do so, prime minister, understanding that as part of the reparatory justice for the Garifuna people, that this country seeks from the British those sums of monies for this development.
“I recall the massacre, the inhuman treatment meted out to the indigenous people of this country and I think it is just right and proper for the British government to finance this project.
Chatoyer, who died March 14, 1795, was a Garifuna chief who led a revolt against the British colonial government of St. Vincent in 1795. He is now considered a national hero of SVG, Belize and Costa Rica.
Daniel said: “I believe this is a worthwhile cause for such compensation will make the wrong right. I made that plea and I made that call,” Daniel said.
Daniel, a descendant of the Garifuna people, a mixture of black and indigenous Vincentians (“Caribs”), said he was happy the park was being named in honour of Chatoyer – the first place in the country to bear its national hero’s name.
“There are those who boast of a Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. Tell me: what is royal about a police force? I also ask the question, that there are some who embrace a “Her Majesty’s Prison’. What is so majestic about the prison that houses inmates?
“I believe it is high time that we shake the shackles off of our mind and create an environment of our own and to move to a greater height, embracing what is noble and what is just to the future of the existence of our own Caribbean civilisation.”
He said Wednesday was “another great day for Vincentians.
“Today adds another page to our historic archives for what we will reveal today, a native, a son of the soil, is being honoured for his great contribution.”
He noted that in March 2002, the Unity Labour Party government of Prime Minster Ralph Gonsalves officially recognised the great role that was played by Chatoyer and declared March 14 National Heroes’ day and Chatoyer as the nation’s first national hero.
Daniel said that, in 2007, when the Rabacca Bridge was opened to the public, the prime minister announced that the area would be designated a national park.
“And so, today, we are here to honour that commitment that he made in 2007.”
He said that since the prime minister’s announcement, work on the national park has been on-going.
The minister said that a consultancy was completed in 2009 and had various components.
He said that the site of the rally would be left open for national activities such as the one held there on Wednesday.
Above the road, where BRAGSA now occupies, will house a replica of the Botanical Gardens in Kingstown.
“Dominant plants here would be [sea] grapes and fat pork and Rabacca is well known for its grapes and its fat pork (a coastal species fruiting plant). And so, all of the grapes and fat pork would also be dominant in that part. “But there will also be other plants, other flora and fauna that will be cultivated to ensure that the park is one that is admirable and sustainable,” Daniel said.
Daniel said the park will also have footpaths, with a statue of Chatoyer “and other distinguished individuals who … have made their contribution over time”.
The minister said a playground for children will be set up in that area.
“So that when you come to the national park, you can come to be entertained and also you can bet your bottom dollar that your children will be taken care of.”
He, however, said that BRAGSA would have to be relocated from the north-western side of the area “to make sure that we have what is required for the national park, for the botanical gardens that will be placed there.”
BRAGSA, a state agency responsible for construction, road maintenance, etc., would also be responsible for ensuring that the river is cleared, periodically, of excess debris.
On the north-eastern side of the park, there are a number of squatters in the area called Drip.
“All those who are squatting on that side would have to be removed. That area is designated as one that will replicate what is at Owia, where you can go, as locals, you can do your goat cook, you can have your fireside, you can roast your breadfruit…”
Three shops will also be placed in that area.
Just westward of a shop that is in the area has been identified for extended parking and a playing field.
Daniel said he met recently with the families and individuals to let them know what would be the transformation there.
He said that, soon, through the Ministry of Housing, Informal Human Settlement, Physical Planning, legal instructions would be issued for the removal of the squatters in the area.
The minister said that when the consultancy was done in 2009, the data showed that nine structures and three families were in the area.
“But despite my own plea and several pleas, and despite several notices from the physical planning department, a number of individuals … have gone in and squatted, hoping that if lands are given, that they would get lands. Well, I want to say to you that I can only do my best in a plea at the Cabinet level. If the cabinet so approves, so be it. I want to say to you, the Cabinet decision is final.
“So, as we come to this historic occasion and to declare this park Paramount Chief Joseph Chatoyer National Park, I am honoured and delighted as the representative of this constituency to be part of this historic transformative process.”
Daniel was optimistic about the future of the park.
He said that he passed in the area Tuesday night, and saw the area is already “beginning to look very scenic, and the ambiance seems to be real gratifying.
“I know that Rabacca over the years … has attracted many Vincentians and tourists as well to come here. But I believe with the national park, we will have more and more people coming here.
“So, today, I am happy. I believe the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is happy. They are happy for this historic moment. They are happy for the further honouring of our first national hero, Joseph Chatoyer in declaring this park, Joseph Chatoyer Park.
“And to those of us who are descendants of the indigenous people of this country, I say thanks to the government and people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for this noble cause. Today we are proud. Long live the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines! Long live the indigenous people of this blessed land, Hairouna. Long live all of us!” the minister said.