After years of political wrangling, including having its construction stopped and its’ original plan redesigned by the current administration, the Soufriere Town Square is now opened.
Now both parties are claiming kudos for what is now a main feature on the Soufriere landscape. (See SLP statement on the project on page four).
It has been quite a busy past few weeks in the southwest town as the government pushed to re-energize this touristic part of the island, however whether the changes and upgrades in the town’s infrastructure means improvements in it and the island’s tourist fortunes are left to be seen.
Soufriere, a few months ago opened its own beach park on Hummingbird Beach, then early last week the town operationalized the Bus Terminal and Market at the Old Trafford Site. The town also recently expanded the pools at the Sulphur Springs Park and a site has been earmarked for a new hospital to serve the community. Several road projects have been announced for the community.
“I know that you the people of Soufriere are proud of this facility that we delivered to you,” noted Herod Stanislaus, the parliamentary representative for the area.
He thanked the people of Soufriere for their patience and understanding over the time it took to complete the town square. Government had been criticized for the amount of time it took to complete the project. Shortly after the general elections of June 2016, Stanislaus and Prime Minister Allen Chastanet led a tour to Soufriere and abruptly stopped the project.
“This Square project started before my coming into office between February and March 2016 with a grant from our dear friends the Government and People of the Republic of China-Taiwan,” said Stanislaus.
“With just over a month after being elected as your parliamentary representative and with Soufriere a priority constituency, upon my invitation the Honourable Prime Minister took a constituency tour of Soufriere. We paid a visit to this Square to have a firsthand look at the project. What we saw was muddled construction added with subcontractors’ complaints of not receiving and additional payment beyond mobilization. And it was there, at this moment that the Prime Minister and myself decided to put the works on hold. We never stopped the construction of the Square,” Stanislaus added.
According to the area’s representative the Government of the United Workers Party, on knowing that a particular project impacts the economic, social, cultural and historical interest of the people would never stop such a project but rather continue it.
“But we have the right as a government to re-assess, review and redesign if we need too in the interest of the people. And this is exactly what we did in 2016,” Stanislaus said.
He listed several faults with the previous design including the blocking of the view of the church.
Stanislaus, who is also the Minister responsible for planning, explained that it was important that the space be a truly public space with the central point being the Freedom Monument by artist Ricky George and the fountain.
“My people of Soufriere, I am satisfied that the long delay has paid off. We have a quality product today. We have an international facility. This facility is not owned by any one person. It is not owned by any government. It is not owned by any political party. It is not owned by any one district representative. It is owned and it belongs to you the People of Soufriere/ Fond St Jacques. And so, I call on you tonight to appreciate this facility and treat it with respect,” was Stanislaus challenging appeal to residents of Soufriere.
The Minister thanked the Taiwanese, Prime Minister Chastanet, the architects, consultants and all involved in the project especially the town’s mayor and town council.
“The journey of progress, the journey of development, the journey of transformation, the journey for a new Soufriere continues,” he told residents.
“The square’s completion, the completion of the first phase of the Old Trafford site for the farmers market and the bus terminal, the Hummingbird Beach Park completion, the upgrading of the Fond St Jacques playing field, the clearing of the road at Edmunds Forest and the number of other interventions which we have undertaken for the past three years is nothing for us to relax and feel that we have achieved it all. This is a fraction of what we need to do. Soufriere is full of potential and the possibilities for you the people are limitless,” he added.
The Minister noted that a craft market will be constructed at Old Trafford site, the Soufriere mini stadium upgrade is upcoming as well as a cricket stadium and an upgrading of the New Development Road, Esperance Road and more.
The Minister ended by dubbing Soufriere the “Eden of the Caribbean” and said one day he hoped to see Soufriere as the Capital of Saint Lucia.