National Trust Reaffirms Commitment To Sustainable Development

Image of Maria Islands Photo: St. Lucia National Trust

PRESS RELEASE – THE Saint Lucia National Trust, therein after called The Trust, was established in 1975 under the Saint Lucia National Trust Act. The mandate of the Saint Lucia National Trust is to protect the natural and cultural assets of Saint Lucia for the benefit of present and future generations. Since its establishment, the Trust has been active in the areas of conservation, resource management, education and advocacy, to the extent that it is seen by many as the main and, sometimes, sole civil society watchdog.

Throughout its existence since 1975, the Saint Lucia National Trust has and will continue to operate, advise and comment on a non-political and impartial basis. In addition, the Trust has always endeavoured to obtain as much factual information as possible before commenting publicly on issues that are relevant to its mandate and mission.

It is also important to note that the Saint Lucia National Trust embraces the idea of sustainable development and is, therefore, particularly concerned about sustainably managing the natural and cultural assets that have been vested in it and for the national public good. In this context, the Trust is prepared to work, with any administration, for the socio-economic development and environmental sustainability of the country.

Recent developments played out in the public domain have conveyed the tension between the current administration and the Saint Lucia National Trust. Three issues, in particular, have been largely responsible for this. These are:
1. The proposed dolphinarium at Pigeon Island;
2. The proposed Desert Star Holdings (DSH) development; and
3. The suspension of the annual Government subvention to the Trust.

These issues have generated a significant amount of public debate and a number of statements have been made by representatives of the Government, by the Trust, and its members, Council and Staff. Many of the statements issued by either side have, unfortunately, only served to heighten the public discourse. Furthermore, some of the public statements attributed to the Trust have been made by individual members speaking in their personal capacity and have not necessarily reflected the official position of the Trust, or been endorsed by its Council.

For its part, the Saint Lucia National Trust would like to indicate that it wishes to work with the Government of Saint Lucia. With regard to the DSH Project, the Trust has no fundamental objection to any development in the South, or in any part of Saint Lucia, that will contribute to the long-term socio-economic benefit of citizens, and environmental sustainability of the nation.

Further, with respect to the particular initiative, the Trust considers the much-debated details of the related framework agreement between the developer and the Government to be outside of its sphere of competence. Nevertheless, the Trust remains concerned about the fate of the Mankoté Mangrove, an important RAMSAR site; the Maria Islands and its related ecosystems and endemic species; and the ecological and environmental assets in Pointe du Sable, as well as the potential impacts of the proposed development on the livelihoods of persons dependent on these assets.

In meetings with the Trust, and via the media, the Prime Minister has given assurances that due process, including planning requirements and environmental and social assessments and safeguards, will be observed in the implementation of the DSH Project and that the Saint Lucia National Trust will be afforded the opportunity to participate in the review process and to articulate its concerns, as appropriate. At this time, the Trust is prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s assurances and to support due process as long as they remain in place and as long as the Trust remains involved in the process.

The dolphinarium proposed for Pigeon Island has been the subject of much debate. The Trust, in the coming days, will formally communicate, in writing, to the Prime Minister, its position on the proposed development as well as the basis for this position.

On the matter of the government subvention, the Prime Minister has indicated a willingness to provide financial support to the Trust contingent upon the submission of a business plan that provides a basis for the utilization of the financing requested. The Trust is prepared to accept this offer and will submit the required documentation at the earliest juncture.

While individual members of the Saint Lucia National Trust are certainly entitled to exercise their rights to free speech, all future statements on the aforementioned matters should only be considered official statements of the Trust when duly authorized by the Chairperson of the Council of the Trust.

The Saint Lucia National Trust wishes to assure the citizens of Saint Lucia that it will always endeavour to fulfill its mandate and to maintain its core values. In so doing, the Trust will continue to remain vigilant in ensuring that Saint Lucia’s natural and cultural assets will not be compromised and will not hesitate to communicate its concerns, through the appropriate channels, where such a risk may arise.

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