PRESS RELEASE – It is now public knowledge that construction work on the DSH racecourse at Beausejour has resumed, based on a Teo Ah Khing revised plan. This followed certain recent pronouncements by Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, and subsequent to these pronouncements, Teo Ah Khing made yet another presentation on his vision plan for his Pearl of the Caribbean project.
The new plan shows that the town of Vieux Fort will be choked all around by various glossy, artistic renderings of the structures apparently intended for accommodating Asian tourists and the new citizens of Saint Lucia.
The Vieux Fort Concerned Citizens Coalition for Change (VF4Cs) wishes to repeat and make it abundantly clear that from the outset it expressed very serious concerns about the terms of the agreements for the DSH Project, the tangible benefits for local residents and the country at large, the perceived significant negative environmental impacts on the landscape, the undue haste with which the Prime Minister was pushing ahead with his project in the absence of wide public consultation and the contemptuous disregard for sound technical and professional advice from the relevant state agencies, in particular Invest St. Lucia and the CIP Unit.
Obviously, the Prime Minister is bent on having it his way with this DSH project inspite of the many concerns expressed by citizens of this country through letters to parliamentarians, a petition signed by over 3000 people, a public protest march, numerous discussions on radio and TV.
Doubts about the details, financial viability and success of this DSH project have been raised by both Invest St. Lucia and the CIP Unit and they have rejected the proposals for this project about eight times. The Prime Minister himself, unconsciously or otherwise, added his doubts about the project when he told the nation that the racecourse will not be a profitable undertaking. Then followed the shocking revelation that while Teo Ah Khing would spend some money upfront on the racecourse, the people of St. Lucia would refund him every penny from CIP funds! The DCA is yet to give the thumbs-up for this project.
The VF4Cs will continue to say to the Prime Minsiter that this DSH deal is a travesty of economic reasoning and common sense, a brutal rape of the island’s scarce assets and fragile patrimony and a frightening prescription for recolonization, dispossession, dislocation and alienation of the local population.
What else can it be when Teo Ah Khing (the so-called Master Developer) puts in only US$10 million in a US$2.6 billion investment, has the option to lease over 1000 acres of prime investment land at US$1 per acre per for 99 years, ends up owning all the racecourse, touristic and port facilities built from the sale of St. Lucia passports, gets exempted from all existing taxation and any future taxation, provides no guarantees of employment for St. Lucians, and excludes partnership or profit sharing arrangements with any other party, including the people and government of St. Lucia?
To add to St. Lucia’s potential monumental loss in this DSH balance sheet, the Prime Minister has now confirmed that the George Odlum Stadium, the meat processing plant (or Abattoir), the Beausejour Agricultural Farm, present infrastructure, a range of traditional livelihoods and residential, agricultural and business enterprises will have to be sacrificed or relocated for the sake of Teo Ah Khing’s “Pearl of the Caribbean” grand scheme. The total cost of these will run into hundreds of million of dollars.
This DSH project is being handled like an intimate, exclusive tete-a-tete between Prime Minister Chastanet and Teo Ah Khing. There is a great deal more to be divulged about the nature, purpose and financiers of this DSH project and the glittering images pictorials of Teo Ah Khing followed by brief pronouncements of the Prime Minister are clearly not sufficient.
The VF4Cs is once again appealing to the Prime Minister to engage the residents of Vieux Fort and other citizens of St. Lucia in a respectful, serious and continuous dialogue so as to provide essential information for discussion and debate and to highlight the specific benefits of the project to St. Lucia. The Prime Minister cannot simply continue to display contempt for the genuine concerns of citizens. Such behaviour can only be summed up as a cynical affront to the basic principles of democracy.