Former MP speaks on new Sandals resort

Former Gros Islet MP,  Emma Hippolyte, has welcomed the announcement that Sandals International will be building a fourth resort in the constituency she  represented.

Hippolyte told the Times it was not the first time such an announcement was being made.

She recalled that when the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) was in government, Sandals had made that announcement.

The former Gros Islet MP noted that at the time, the SLP administration presented certain conditions.

“I am hoping that this time around they will keep their word and make the construction a reality,” Hippolyte asserted.

The former Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs said as a people, Saint Lucians need to be concerned about monopolization in the tourism industry.

However, she explained that such a situation can be turned around.

Hippolyte said she believes it is time for Sandals Chairman and Founder, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, to show that he is a Caribbean person working with the government of Saint Lucia in doing a few things.

The former Gros Islet  MP expressed the view that Sandals can become a better social partner with the government.

“When the government agreed for the construction of these properties – not the new one only, there were certain commitments that Sandals was supposed to have met and they have not,” Hippolyte said.

She said she was hoping that the current United Workers Party (UWP) administration would hold Sandals to its commitments.

The former Minister explained that those commitments  should include proper access to the beach and the construction and maintenance of a public park near the Gros Islet town.

Hippolyte told the Times there was an issue for Sandals to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment of the project.

“We also requested then that during construction they minimize damage to the ecosystem and one of the conditions was for them to employ an engineer who would be reporting to the government of Saint Lucia. We wanted to ensure that steps were taken to prevent further damage to the ecosystem,” she said.

The former MP disclosed that the government was concerned about damage to the coral reef.

“If you speak to the fishers they would tell you that there is significant damage to the coral reef at present,” Emma Hippolyte explained.

She said that at the time she was MP, one of her concerns was the absence of dialogue with Gros Islet fishers.

Hippolyte said she recalled raising the issue of compensation for Gros Islet fishers and proposed the purchase of two modern fishing boats to be owned by the Gros Islet Fishers’ Cooperative, with Sandals providing training for young fishers.

“If you look at it now all of our fishers are older persons – for the industry to grow we need younger fishers,” she observed.

She said part of the revenue raised by the two fishing boats could go towards a retirement fund for older fishers and their families.

Hippolyte also spoke of the need to improve the Gros Islet jetty to allow yachts and boats to enter the Gros Islet Waterfront.

She said there was need to  construct moorings in the Gros Islet bay to allow vessels to come in and pay for using the area.

“At the moment we have hundreds of yachts and they are not paying – that is a loss of revenue to the people of Gros Islet,”  Emma Hippolyte declared.

She called on the government and the current MP for Gros Islet to ensure that the constituency is properly represented in regard to the issues raised.

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