By Dr. Kingsley Simmons
The previous article, “The illegal, audacious, arrogant action of British man in Bequia”has rightly attracted quite a few comments. This follow-up article is a response to some of those comments which I categorised broadly as Ownership, Affordability and Racism.
For decades, the people of Bequia have welcomed and lived harmoniously with people from every corner of the earth, and I am sure the property owner in Ansela Coite was offered the same welcome as those before him. So, to those who assume otherwise, no one is questioning his right to own property in Ansela Coite, and no one is questioning his right to name his half-acreproperty as he likes. But as is Spring, Hamilton, Paget Farm, Port Elizabeth and others, Ansela Coite is a designated area of Bequia, as is evident on the official map of the island. No one dares rename Paget Farm or any of the other areas mentioned above simply because he/she resides there. So, the unanswered question is why the resident of Ansela Coite thinks he has the right to rename the area, knowing full well that he doesnotown it. And It is difficult for anyone to accept that he wasn’t aware of the illegality of his action.
As one reader rightly indicated, land in Ansela Coite is being sold to locals at US$5 or EC$13.40 per square foot. The minimum size of land the government sells there is half an acre. There are 21,780 square feet in a half-acre of land. Applying simple arithmetic, any Vincentian wishing to live in Ansela Coite will need to cough up EC$291,852 plus various government taxes and lawyers’ fees, which must take the cost well over EC$300,000 just for the land. This is a daunting sum of money for most Vincentians whose average income is EC$22,000, according to the Prime Minister (See iWitness News 5thApril 2019). Such a pricing policy undoubtedly deters locals from living in Ansela Coite. Therefore, intentional or not, Ansela Coite is set to become yet anotherenclave in Bequia to be populated exclusively by ex-pats. Wake up folks!
By any definition I am not a racist, and anyone who knows me can testify to that. That said, I am not surprised about the charge of racism in some quarters because the race card is frequently used to stifle discussions on issues which make one or another racial group uncomfortable. And often, it’s counter-productive. Therefore, the people of Bequia must not fall for it and stay silent on matters they feel strongly about. As Jomo Thomas suggested in his recent article, It’s Crunch Time Vincentians, they must instead speak out. They must speak out because their opinions matter and, therefore, must be voiced publicly. To serve their purpose, some may regard this as an incitement to hatred, but don’t be fooled. It is not! In fact, externalising your concerns may be the most effective way of curtailing a build-up of that explosive mix of anger, frustration and resentment, an outcome which is bad for community relations. So, whether it’s the issue relating to Adams’ Bay, the antics of the anti-whaling lobby in Paget Farm or the illegal renaming of Ansela Coite, it is in everyone’s interest that the voices of the people of Bequia are heard without fear of them being labelled racists. Otherwise changes will never come and the relentless drip, drip, erosion of the way of life in Bequia will continue unabated.
In short, Bequians must notacquiesce to threats on their livelihood, their way of life, their right to air their concerns, their freedoms and cultural norms, and equally as important, community cohesion. And if faced with such threats, remaining silent should never be an option.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.