I served as Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Production, Cooperatives and Rural Development between December 2011 and June 2016 and became aware of the project dubbed “Pearl of the Caribbean” in 2014. In his capacity as Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony requested that I participate in the discussions on the proposed project along with other ministers of our then government, some months after , to ensure that I was aware of and contributed to discussions on the issues relating to agriculture, farmers , fishers and natural resource users. Very importantly, both the constituencies of Vieux Fort North and Vieux Fort South will be impacted by major changes to infrastructure and so the then PM also invited me to participate as the Parliamentary Representative for Vieux Fort North.
In addition to my direct participation in the discussions, one officer from the then ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Production, Cooperatives and Rural Development attended at least one of the discussions and made oral submissions. The Permanent Secretary of the then ministry which I was responsible for was also briefed on the possible impacts of the proposed project on our sector, Agriculture, Fisheries and the livelihoods in coastal communities.
During the discussions at my first briefing, it was very clear that the investors wanted the newly constructed Meat Processing Facility to be removed or not commissioned, as according to them the slaughtering of animals especially swine was incompatible with the development. In addition the entire Beausejour Farm Station buildings needed to be demolished to accommodate the new development.
It was my view then and I impressed on the developers that the Meat Processing Facility could not be moved or demolished as government had expended a large sum in addition to that donated by the government of Taiwan. Subsequent to my submissions another meeting was held and at that meeting new plans were presented which kept the meat processing facility. Pork and pork preparations however would have to be disallowed.
The issue relating to the Beausejour Farm Station also came to the fore as we had successfully negotiated, through the work of Ambassador Excellency Menissa Rambally and her staff, grant funding from the IBSA group of countries to construct new buildings, build new roads and transform the station. Monies were already being disbursed and utilized from that grant before we lost office.
There were many issues that related to the Mankote′ mangrove that could impact fisheries and sustainable resource use. I raised the issue of the sensitivity of the reef and mangrove systems and queried about Environmental Impact Assessments and related studies. Indeed other agencies were represented in at least one of the many discussions and those issues were also raised.
I was part of a government that worked along the responsible agencies and the investors to secure that investment and I had the good fortune to participate in the discussions. I look forward to the realization of any investment that will bring employment and progress to our people especially the people of the south, Vieux Fort North included. I felt then and still feel now that careful consideration needs to be given to the issues that will have lasting impacts on the mangrove, agriculture and conservation.
I eagerly await disclosure by the Government to the people of Saint Lucia on the important and critical issues that were raised at the negotiations when the Government of the Saint Lucia Labour Party was in office.