CASTRIES, St Lucia, Monday March 20, 2017 – The St Lucian Government appears set on a collision course with the main opposition St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) and other interest groups over a controversial development.
Outrage has been building almost a week after Prime Minister Allen Chastanet signed off on the multi-billion-dollar deal to kick start phase two of the Desert Star Holdings Pearl of the Caribbean project set for Vieux Fort. And the SLP last week began a series of public meetings to mobilize support in preparation for mass demonstrations.
In a strong statement, the party accused the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) of being “insensitive to the cries of the people”, warning that the project will “bring untold hardships on the people of the south in particular, as well as our fragile eco-system.”
The project includes a marina, a racecourse, a resort and shopping mall complex, casino, Free Trade Zone, extensive entertainment and leisure facilities, eco-tourism as well as villas and apartments.
The SLP warned that it would not stand idly by and allow the government to give away land, expressing concern about the future of Sandy Beach, a nature park and the Maria Islands – a protected area.
“From leasing prime lands at $1 per acre to the destructions of our eco system at Maria Islands, the Prime Minister continues to show scant regard for the welfare of St Lucians,” the SLP charged, while calling on “right-thinking St Lucians to stand up for their country and to stand up for their children’s future.”
The deal is also not sitting well with the St Lucia National Trust, which has launched a “Say NO to building a causeway to Maria Islands Nature Reserve” online petition.
It contends that the causeway will devastate and ruin the important site.
“The proposed causeway joining the two islands to mainland St Lucia will devastate the unique ecosystem, precipitate the extinction of the reptiles, and disturb the migrating bird population. If we allow foreign developers to destroy everything that makes our island unique, there will be no reason for visitors to come here,” the petition states.
Prime Minister Chastanet has however hit back at the critics, saying they are not considering the possible benefits to those in need of jobs.
He assured that a full environmental impact assessment studies would be carried and public consultations would be held about the project.
“We intend to allow the public of St Lucia to digest this; to determine what they like and what they don’t like; to get the feedback from the south and the citizens of the south; to make sure that the plans that we have and the scale that we have is compatible with the capacity of St Lucia to be able to grow. Once we are satisfied that we have done those things, we must make the decision to implement,” Chastanet said.