Letters & Opinion

The Big Soufriere Project: Turning a Square into a Circle!

By Stephen Lester Prescott
Image of Herod Stanislas, Member of Parliament for Soufriere/Fond St. Jacques

LAST month I noted a release by the elected representative of Soufriere-Fond St Jacques, Hon. Herod Stanislaus, announcing the recommencement of the Soufriere Square Project.

The MP, who is also a Cabinet Minister, said: “The Square will be incorporating within the design, the history, culture and narratives of Soufriere. The redesign of the Soufriere Town Square forms part of the wider re-generation and redevelopment of the Soufriere town, with the square acting as a main feature within this wider redevelopment.”

This project, according to my information, was conceptualized sometime in 2013 and community consultations were held thereafter, where the various design options were displayed and feedback obtained from the community residents.

The community was informed that the redevelopment of the Square would create a new and modern outdoor urban space experience, through reconfiguring the existing area with enhanced seating, lighting, and attractive features. The use of the local stone would also be incorporated throughout the park; aesthetic features such as a fountain that would be interactive for children, was also introduced, in keeping with the town’s theme as a coastal centre. The square would also have been provided with two new sculptures for artistic interpretation of the square’s historic Amerindian and European importance and architecture.

The contract for commencement of these works was signed in 2014 and during the construction period approximately thirty five persons were employed in construction and landscaping works related to this project.

When the Government changed in June 2016, the works at the Square were 70% complete. But also note that originally, about $2,653,242 was assigned for undertaking this project, which was generously funded by Taiwan.

Now, do the Maths, readers: 70% was supposed to have been spent of the total of $2,653,242 for everything that was on the ground. However, the works were suspended in July 2016 after the most endowed Prime Minister verbally and publicly gave instructions in presence of technocrats, donors and members of media that all works had to stop because he wasn’t happy with what he saw. Note that he stopped the works because HE “wasn’t happy” with what he saw… (And St Lucians accused Prime Minister Dr Kenny D. Anthony of being arrogant!) I don’t know for you, Dear reader, but this is one of the most offensive displays of arrogance I have ever seen and heard from and by a leader of this country!

The Government then went into total hibernation after that grand announcement and the project languished for months. They subsequently terminated the contract with Inter-Island Architects in October 2016.

The project was indeed one in which a lot of money was wasted away, as foreign taxpayers have expended over a million dollars from commencement, the Government promised recommencement of the Square in 2017, but to no avail.

In December 2017, demolition of the existing paid-for works undertaken through the Inter-Island Architectures contract started in preparation for the new construction, as per the new re-design ideas. My question to you, Dear Reader: Is it ethical that a Government can just throw Donor Countries taxpayers-funded money out the window, with no accountability? Does an elected government do like children playing with toys and proceed to break down works costing the state close to TWO MILLION DOLLARS?

Let’s not even discuss the cost of the legal implications of the breached contracts by this Government, because in that case the question arises: Does anyone know how much the government had to pay to settle all claims from the previous Design-and-Build contract?

According to the Allen Chastanet administration’s arguments, the project was terminated because of a new policy direction of government. The Government claimed that the project had to be redesigned according to the culture and artistic heritage of Soufriere. Notwithstanding, that was already done in the first designs by the Labour administration. Minister for Culture Fortuna Belrose has gone so far as to refer to making Soufriere the Garden of Eden of the Caribbean with the new designs.

Now, Dear Readers, through my inside contacts, I was lucky enough to have seen the new detailed designs, and I was left speechless. Truly, I could not distinguish the difference between the designs offered by Inter-Island Architects and this new Government’s own…nothing stood out.

During the French Revolution, a guillotine was placed in the town’s square to evoke fear into the inhabitants of the time, so I was expecting something like a guillotine and some bronze chained slaves to symbolize the architecture and slavery that the PM and Miss Belrose were so passionate about….but they forget these elements.

But more importantly are the many more questions I have for the Prime Minister, Minister Belrose and Minister Stanislaus after having seen the designs:

QUESTION: When was the consultation with Soufriere residents undertaken?

QUESTION: I note Herod speaks of his vision, but what of the community vision? Will citizens get a chance to review the new designs?

QUESTION: Can the Government explain how the new designs incorporate the culture, tradition, arts of Soufriere?

QUESTION: How different is this government’s design from the initial design by InterIsland?

QUESTION: Has the government awarded new contracts for the re-commencement of works in Soufriere?

QUESTION: The original contract awarding process was televised, with the former PM (Dr Anthony), the then Minister Dalson, the Taiwanese Ambassador and other technocrats signing contracts with Inter-Island Architectures, so where is or was there any transparency in awarding contracts this time around by this UWP Government?

QUESTION: What is the source of financing for this phase of the Square’s continuing development?

As usual, Dear Readers, I tend to want to ask a thousand questions, with the strong hope that someone in the administration will provide the answers, or at least answer just one. And here again, I wait – with you – for the answers, even if it is just one!

1 Comment

  1. Before you started asking these silly and unwarranted questions, did you even took the time to think that the money would have better spent on the deplorable roads in Soufriere and the surrounding areas? Instead, the Kenny Anthony administration undertook the debacle of redesigning the Soufriere Square which serve as nothing but a white elefant.

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