PRESS RELEASE – MEMBERS and non-members of the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) turned out in large numbers for an Emergency Membership Meeting at the Pigeon Island National Landmark on Saturday, April 29. The meeting was convened following news that the Government has proposed the zeroing of its EC$700,000 subvention in the 2017/2018 budget allocation.
Members were irate at government’s decision to cut the subvention, noting that, “We must not absolve them (Government) of their responsibility to conserve our heritage. The Trust needs the tools to manage the very sites that were vested in them (the Trust) for everyone’s benefit.”
While some members were resolute that we should not compromise and insist for the reinstatement of the subvention, others were adamant that this presents an opportunity to raise the funds on our own because, “We care about our heritage, so we will do whatever it takes to raise the funds.”
The two major items on the agenda were the proposed dolphin park at Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL) and the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ project in Vieux Fort. There are numerous reasons for the Trust’s opposition to the dolphinarium, for example, a hole approximately 25m/82ft. deep will have to be excavated from the hillside at PINL. Even if terraced, the hole would be approximately 20m deep. An estimated 56,887 cubic metres (2,008,945 cubic feet) of soil and rock would have to be removed, and as a result the structural integrity of Fort Rodney, the ridge that connects the two peaks and the Jambe de Bois Restaurant, could be compromised.
Therefore, the members were advised that the SLNT has communicated to the Development Control Authority (DCA) that, as per our members’ directive, we shall not support the construction of a dolphinarium on PINL. Read more here: http://slunatrust.org/assets/content/documents/SLNT_Dolphin_Stance_Brochure_FINAL.pdf.
Regarding the DSH project, members were told that the SLNT has written to the developer in an effort to discuss the proposal. However, the Prime Minister informed SLNT’s Chairperson, Dr.Vasantha Chase, that he advised the developer not to meet with us. The Trust remains concerned about the proposed causeway since it is uncertain how such a structure would function if it does not connect two land masses. Other concerns raised by the Chair were the impact a development of such magnitude would have on the coastal areas in the south, and the possibility of the mangroves being re-introduced into the plans once the garbage dump is removed.
Government’s decision to redirect funds from the Republic of China on Taiwan for Phase 2 of the Walcott Place project was also discussed. This was met with disappointment considering that the project celebrates the life of the late twin brothers, Sir Derek and Roderick Walcott, and their contribution to the arts in Saint Lucia and internationally. Phase 2 of the project includes more interpretation space, workshops (art studios), restaurant and gift shop and would have attracted an estimated 200 visitors per open day. The project in its entirety was expected to be a catalyst to stimulate the rebirth of the Chaussee Road-Grass Street area through the creation of economic opportunities associated with Walcott Place.
Another important outcome of the meeting was a resolution which called for the Director, BishnuTulsie, to postpone his decision to retire and to continue to manage the affairs of the Trust during this very important period. This resolution received unanimous support from all present. Members were encouraged to play their part in a 5000-membership drive campaign geared at raising awareness about the conservation work of the organization and increasing its membership base.
Member after member took the opportunity to encourage each other to continue to defend the island’s heritage, to remove partisan politics from the discussions, and to keep focused on the real issues of governance, meaningfully engaging the citizenry in the decision-making process and placing sufficient value on heritage conservation. One member said this is a policy issue that must be fixed or else we run the risk of experiencing similar problems years from now.
The meeting took a moment to acknowledge Sir John Compton, who as Premier of Saint Lucia at the time, led the formation of the SLNT. Coincidentally, the meeting was convened on what would have been Sir John’s 92nd birthday. Sir John was praised for his vision and for working closely with Sir Julian Hunte, who served as the Trust’s first Chairman. Special acknowledgement was also made of Robert Devaux, the first Director of the Trust, who was instrumental in the creation of the Pigeon Island National Landmark and the Maria Islands Nature Reserve.