THE multi-billion dollar project earmarked for Vieux Fort, which was signed in July of last year by the Government of St. Lucia and Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH) is still on course despite growing opposition to it in that part of the country.
Almost 1000 persons are said to have signed a petition, claiming that the terms and conditions as contained in the project’s Framework Agreement are outrageous, frightening and an insult to their collective intelligence, vision and aspirations.
Invest St. Lucia, facilitators of the project, Tuesday said the project, called the Pearl of the Caribbean, is still on but still in its planning stages and that the government is in the process of developing with DSH, the master plan for the area.
Opposition to the project had been building for some weeks now. Just last week hundreds of residents mostly from the island’s south met at the Vieux Fort Primary School to get an explanation of some of the salient points of the agreement signed between the Government of St. Lucia and DSH. It was at that town hall gathering that the petition emerged with persons lamenting, among other things, the haste to amend the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP) Legislation by government to meet the demands of the Master Developer, describing the haste as “disturbing”.
“We, the residents of Vieux-Fort, other citizens of Saint Lucia and all who care about Saint Lucia, whose names and signatures appear below, appeal to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet and other members of his Cabinet to stop all work on this project immediately and to engage the residents of Vieux-Fort and all affected parties in discussions, negotiations and engagements with a view to producing a better deal for St. Lucia with regards to the development of lands in the Vieux-Fort Area,” the petition stated in part.
The petitioners say that “better deal” that must be built upon the wise use of the country’s scarce productive and investment lands, the preservation of their patrimony, the conservation and protection of their sensitive coastal environmental resources, the maintenance of traditional livelihoods and recreational areas, the economic engagement and inclusion of the residents of Vieux Fort and other nationals of Saint Lucia and the incorporation of the broader issues of essential developmental needs of present and future generations of Saint Lucia.
Invest St. Lucia is saying there is nothing to hide where the project’ deal is concerned. Pinkley Francis, the chairman said that the offices of Invest St. Lucia in Castries and Vieux Fort are open for individuals to walk in and engage the staff on any aspect of the project.
“I am available to answer any question anyone may have. The Office of the Prime Minister is also open to address concerns. People should not feel left out. They need to go out on their own, find out what is going on, not just follow the hearsay. It’s important to know on your own what is going on. It is your country, it is your project, its’ for all of us. No one is saying the project is perfect. What we would like to do is engage everybody because at the end of the day it is going to benefit every one of us, not the politicians. The politicians are there temporarily the people are there forever,” Francis said.
The first phase of the project, the horse race track will commence shortly according to Francis adding that this is currently being pursued. The track will be located on approximately 300 acres of land at Beausejour. The plans have already been submitted to the Development Control Authority and have been approved in principle pending an Environmental Impact Assessment, noted Francis.
He further explained that the developer had undertaken to construct the track out of his own funds and said that there will be consultations with persons who will be affected.
“The government is also open to discussing with concerned groups and the public other phases of the project which are still in the planning stages. The consultations will be held in an organized way which will first involve the persons who will be directly impacted by phase one of the project, following which the government will hold discussions with other interested parties. Information and queries about the project will also be facilitated online,” Francis intoned.
Invest St. Lucia is presently in consultation with an individual with respect to lands in Beausejour, discussing how this person’s interest is being affected and how it can be appeased or addressed.