PRESS RELEASE:-Members of Press, persons following on social media, fellow Saint Lucians, good morning.
I want to start by once again thanking everyone for the tremendous show of support at our protest on Wednesday 17th May, 2017. The turnout is testimony to the rising national resentment at the direction in which this new Government is taking Saint Lucia. The UWP Government was elected on a platform of reducing taxes, eliminating borrowing, presenting a balanced budget, on creating new jobs, on reducing crime, and on creating fairness. In short, it was a platform that promised to build a better Saint Lucia.
The reality is that we have so far not seen the building of a better Saint Lucia but instead the building of a bitter and more divided Saint Lucia.
Most telling has been the vicious treatment of anyone who dares to voice opposition to or raise any concerns with the actions of the Government. It started with abusing the media when questions were asked during the visit of Prince William, it continued with the treatment of the NICE workers, and members of the National Trust, and most recently the reaction by government ministers to the statement by the Catholic Church on the DSH project that eventually caused an apology by His Grace the Archbishop.
It is worrying thought the way the government treats any person who expresses opposition to its policies, this is not the way a government must treat its people.
The turnout was a demonstration of how quickly people have lost trust in the UWP Government and are ready to publicly display their outrage at the vindictiveness and arrogance of the government particularly at perceived supporters of the Saint Lucia Labour Party.
It is also clear that there is no consistency, accountability or transparency in the way the Government deals with the people. There are many examples (DSH, CIP, and Dolphin Park) on how the Prime Minister and the Government say one thing today and another thing tomorrow. Hon. Hilaire will deal with DSH in greater detail but I need to repeat a few things.
The Saint Labour Party has said from the start, and continues to say, that we are not against investment and jobs. We started the negotiations on DSH and tried our best to get a deal that was fair and reasonable for the developer and for the people of Saint Lucia. What was signed by the Prime Minister is a bad deal. It is grossly unfair and reckless. We called for a renegotiation of the DSH deal and repeat that this is necessary. If the Government is in fact renegotiating with the developer then they must let the people know the details of what has been agreed.
Instead, the Government constantly changes its story on DSH. It abuses anyone that criticizes the contradictory statements that they announce. No one knows what to believe when the Government speaks on DSH. There is no trustworthiness. The explanations from the Government are causing more confusion than clarity.
The huge turnout at the protest was further evidence that Saint Lucians do not agree with the Government handling of the DSH project.
After the success of the protest march the question everyone is asking is what happens next? The Saint Lucia Labour Party believes that this is a national issue which has far reaching implications for every Saint Lucian today and in the future. There has to be more transparency on this matter. Saint Lucians must make informed decisions on such a significant project. Therefore, we will intensify our efforts to get transparency and accountability.
Firstly, we call on Government to create the atmosphere where there can eventually be national consensus on such a huge project. This must entail frank and open dialogue with all relevant interest groups in the country- political parties, National Trust, affected residents, farmers and others whose livelihood will be affected particularly those living in the south of the country
Secondly, the Saint Lucia Labour Party will be engaging all civil society partners to continue to voice our concerns and suggestions on how the project can in a sustainable way, cater to the concerns of the people. We will also seek to engage the government in a direct way.
Thirdly, we will continue our public town hall and community meetings to educate the people on the consequences of the DSH project.
Fourthly, we will prepare for further protest action if the Government continues to ignore and brush aside the concerns of the people of Saint Lucia. Accordingly, we will be discussing with the Police various options for peaceful protest action in the event that it is needed.
We are going to continue to demand that the Government comes clean on DSH and involve the people in deciding what is acceptable in the DSH project. Why? Because this is not a single hotel project but a major project involving over 900 acres of mainly public lands, which will affect a national reserve and force the relocation of hundreds of citizens. It involves offering thousands of Saint Lucian passports for sale which will affect the identity and sovereignty of our people. This is a national issue with huge repercussions for generations yet to come.
I now call upon our spokesman on Investment, Hon. Ernest Hilaire, to address some specific issues.