THE St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) is calling on the government to show transparency in the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) project for the south of the island, since it appears that there are changes to the agreement.
The SLP’s call comes from what its hierarchy claimed was a promise by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet to further update citizens on the new terms and conditions of the new agreement.
“He (the Prime Minister) promised they would be transparent on DSH. We have been anticipating, waiting on the Prime Minister to come out to provide information to the public on what are the new terms and conditions that will oversee the DSH project,” said Dr. Ernest Hilaire, the SLP spokesperson on investment.
Prime Minister Allen Chastanet had indeed promised transparency in the DSH deal, stating in the early stages of the signing of the agreement that the deal was still being fine-tuned, adjusted and not cast in stone.
All of this was said not too long after a tsunami of protest erupted when a document purporting to be the DSH agreement signed between the Prime Minister and DSH Chairman, Teo Ah Khing, made it into the public domain.
Government has yet to acknowledge the online document as the real agreement. Critics have taken government to task on a number of conditions contained in the document, some saying that some terms were detrimental to the country and should be removed from the agreement.
Government, in fact, listened to some of the concerns expressed by its opponents, such as redesigning the agreement to remove the Mankote Swamp in Vieux Fort, which at one time was part of the vast acreage of land given to DSH for its development and a major point of political and environmental discontent among St. Lucians, even the St. Lucia National Trust.
Since then, there has been no announcement from the government that a new agreement has been inked. In fact, this reporter understands that the agreement that was signed in July 2016 is still in negotiations.
The only part of the DSH deal to have been wrapped up with respect to terms and conditions is the horse racing track in Beausejour, Vieux Fort.
A presentation last week by Teo Ah Khing gave a completion date for the horse track facility and pictorial views of the transformation of the Il Pirata site in Vieux Fort.
This, however, seems to have increased the concerns of the SLP regarding openness on the DSH project as promised by Prime Minister Chastanet.
“What we saw a couple days ago was not a presentation of the new DSH agreement,” Dr. Hilaire said, referring to last week’s presentation by Ah Khing and Chastanet. “What we saw were pictures and drawings. That cannot be substituted in any way for a serious dialogue with the people of St. Lucia on what is involved in the DSH agreement, or the new agreement.”
He added: “You promised to be transparent (speaking of the Prime Minister), you promised to bring all the information to the people of St. Lucia. Coming and presenting pictorials and glittery drawings is not a substitute for a serious engagement with the people of St. Lucia and the people of the south, in particular.”
The drawings shown are what are intended for the Il Pirata site still under design and for which funding is still being sourced.
Meanwhile, Opposition Political Leader, Philip J. Pierre, said his party will be dealing with the DSH matter in its weekly press conference on Thursday. He said he wrote to the Prime Minister for a discussion on DSH and the projects earmarked for the south.
“He (Prime Minister) did not respond. That’s the arrogance and contempt the Prime Minister has for the people in this country. I wrote the Prime Minister in a civil letter, with no accusations, with no innuendo. I wrote to him saying, ‘Mr. Prime Minister, the people of the country, in particular the 37,000 people in the Labour Party, want to discuss the DSH issue with you,’” Pierre said.