THE Government of St. Lucia says it is willing to meet and discuss with the Catholic Church issues related to the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) proposals to see how the two can work together to solve that and other issues affecting the country.
Government’s willingness to meet and discuss with the Church the social issues impacting on the country was given by Nancy Charles, Administrative Attaché to Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, yesterday on radio talk show, “News Spin”.
The olive branch offering to the Church came shortly after the Church issued a statement on the DSH proposals earmarked for Vieux Fort and other social issues the country is presently experiencing.
His Grace Archbishop Robert Rivas and the clergy of the Archdiocese of Castries quoted Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter entitled Laudato Si – On the Care for Our Common Home”, published in 2015 which reads in part that “public pressure has to be exerted in order to bring about decisive political action. Society, through non-governmental organizations and intermediate groups must put pressure on governments to develop more rigorous regulations, procedures and controls.”
The Archbishop and the Archdiocese said it was incumbent on the Church to take a stand on the possible displacement of persons and livelihood who occupy and operate within and around the proposed DSH investment site and to take a stand on the DSH Framework Agreement that gives the Master Developer “absolute discretion” to “engage and/or terminate” the procurement of labour contracts.
The Church further stated that not only does it applaud and endorse the efforts of the St. Lucia National Trust but it failed to see how the idea of a causeway joining the mainland to Maria Islands Nature Reserve could be productive to the environment and at the same time to the multitude of local persons who enjoy Sandy Beach – which is on the mainland and from where the causeway is to extend outwards to Maria islands, for recreational purposes.
“We are very happy now that the Church has finally found a voice per se and is able to speak out on the issues that are affecting St. Lucia and for sure I know that this government and this administration will be willing to sit down with them and to discuss how we can work together,” Charles said.
According to Charles, the government on its own cannot handle all the problems of the country, hence the need for the Church and other agencies and organizations to join hands to resolve the issues impacting the country. Charles noted that she was not accusing the Church of not having a voice prior to her party taking over the reins of government.
“It is commendable at this time that we can have such a dialogue,” she said.
She dismissed the ongoing tussle between the government and the National Trust, stating that the former was not in a feud with the latter.
“The government respects the work of the National Trust. The government has never at any point in time tried to circumvent the process or the role that the National Trust plays in conservation or in the development of St. Lucia,” Charles said.
She claimed that the hue and cry over government’s zeroing of the National Trust’s $700,000 subvention had been taken out of context.
“The government has indicated clearly that it is looking at our fiscal situation and we have had to review some of the subventions that have been made. The Trust is not the only one that has been cut. A number of other programmes have been visited. The National Trust has a revenue stream by which they could earn an income,” Charles said.
She added that government believed that with all that has been entrusted to the National Trust, it could meet its recurrent expenditures as government was not prepared to do so for them.