By Melanius Alphonse: Not long after the general elections, it become clear, at least from my realism, what would become of an Allen Chastanet-led administration – the hidden consequences of change.
Recently, the state of affairs has come full circle, with similarities between the Dolphin Park, citizenship by investment (CIP), the “Pearl of the Caribbean” project by Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH), which reverts to re-enslavement, the conversion from landlords to tenants and absolute rule in our country by “nefarious merchants”.
In the face of these, the county is open to geopolitical persuasion and economic espionage, walking a tightrope between diplomatic relations with Taiwan and China’s economic diplomacy, dazzling a gullible administration.
The consequences of this calculation enhance China’s growing geopolitical influence, quite visible in the Caribbean.
In recognition of the need to modernize and create a competitive environment for economic growth (jobs and revenue), emphasis has to take into consideration the needs of the people.
Additionally, to confront poverty and inequality, land use policy, agriculture and housing limitations, the food import bill and trade imbalance require sound policy and common sense. Without acting unilaterally and bullish, and eventually reducing national development and foreign policy in a format similar to 140 character tweets.
Addressing the unveiling of the DSH Project phase two, which includes mixed-used properties and building a causeway connecting the Maria Islands to the mainland (a desecration by most accounts), Prime Minister Chastanet did two things remarkably well.
He called for Saint Lucians to be “bold and courageous” in the face of new opportunities and introduced Jack Lam, a partner of DSH, oblivious to clause 28: No partnership ~ “Nothing in this agreement is intended to or shall be construed as establishing or implying a partnership of any kind between the parties.”
Likewise, he put the world on notice, publicizing Lam’s future business deals and whereabouts – a casino operator and gambling mogul, who reportedly left the Philippines last November 29, days before President Rodrigo Duterte ordered his arrest for bribery and economic sabotage.
Lam’s presence on Saint Lucia can be viewed more than a meet and greet opportunity, to bring “assets” to the table that Saint Lucia lacks: register business and trademarks for various merchandise licensing. What’s next, if not already!
Is Lam, Saint Lucia’s newest citizen under the CIP, armed with a Caribbean Community (CARICOM) passport?
According to associates, it seems there’s one common denominator for Caribbean citizenship by investment programmes prefaced on low cost and accessibility – “Come as a tourist. Leave as a citizen” – albeit there are programmes that are “generally well-run” and “do not pose a security threat”.
On the other hand, minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation, Guy Joseph, acknowledged the realization that “the current administration is taking a risk, in relation to DSH. It was not a careless risk. It is a calculated risk because anything can happen that will not cause a project to go through.”
“The reality is that in this world of competition, countries must be willing to make bold moves and take bold initiatives if you are going to differentiate yourself from the rest of the competitors.”
“Teo Ah Khing, has a reputation for success in all the projects that he has undertaken. If one tenth of what I am seeing is going to materialise, then Saint Lucia will be a better place,” according to Joseph.
That said, Khing presented “preliminary artist’s impressions” touting “the potential benefits in the reclamation of land near Maria Islands in the south”.
“We are going to do three things in relation to the islands. We are going to continue to preserve, enhance; do detailed research on all the existing wild life and marine life on this island.
“You notice there are two islands, the Maria Islands. They are completely preserved with isolation and preservation.”
My initial thoughts of Khing comments, an architect and possibly a foreign agent, were: Do I need him to tell me what’s there, already protected in a natural reserve, bearing in mind, “The Escrow Account (7.1): “The Master Developer shall open a new bank account in its own name with a duly licensed international banking institution outside of Saint Lucia, and shall designate such bank account as the Escrow Account. The monies received for investment in the Project from CIP participants shall be deposited into this account and used in accordance with clause 7.2.”
“7.2 The Master Developer shall use the monies in the Escrow Account to satisfy any Project related fees, costs and/or liabilities, including (without limitation): [too lengthy to list],” tooting his own horn with the physical and capital assets of the ingenious people of Saint Lucia. Good Lord!
The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) has issued directives to ensure that no causeway is built to the Maria Islands Nature Reserve. Essentially, SLNT finds the proposal disturbing: “The disturbing news is that in addition to destroying the ecological, environmental, historical, archaeological and social assets enshrined in Pointe Sable, the DSH plan includes a proposal to connect Maria Major and Maria Minor and building a causeway to the mainland.”
Sir Julian Hunte’s advice is spot on: “If you want to build a causeway, link Taiwan to China!”
From my perspective Saint Lucians should be “bold and courageous” to pay for a one way ticket out of the country for the calibre of foreign investors involved with the dolphin park, and DSH in its current form. And their local interests granted access to custody suits.
Here’s why in simple terms!
• Nothing about the proposed Dolphin Park and DSH represents our common national interests and transformation for a sustainable future, except condemnation and further economic sanction;
• Nothing about DSH in its current form, shareholdings, return on national investment, etc, inclusive of conflict of interest and ethics concerns and “99 years for the consideration of US$1 per acre”, amounts to wealth generation for the ingenious people and the wider population beyond the trickle of crumbs from the plutocratic, autocratic table;
• Nothing about the proposed Dolphin Park and DSH has the semblance of compatibility to Saint Lucia’s national development and foreign policy objective.
But wait, the amazing similarities between the two smells of “nefarious merchants” propagating a corrupt agenda, alternate facts culture and social change towards the edge of our destruction.
Without restraint, this so-called US$2.6 billion development is a “calculated risk” with a very high probability of burying Saint Lucia in debt (budget 2015/16 EC1.4 billion) for generations.
However, in the consequences of change, the working class and poor are supposed to be dazzled with more smoke and mirrors, erupt in applause at enrichment schemes that dance the night way building the friends and family dynasty.
So far, partisanship, religion or creed is not having an identity crisis in the fight for our freedoms or patrimony and natural reserve.
However, last week, the Special Service Unit (SSU) of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) was deployed to the construction site of Desert Star Holding (DSH), fully armed and equipped.
Ideally, they should be put to better use rounding up white collar criminals, helping to solve countless unsolved murders and protecting our porous borders, mindful of alleged extra-judicial killings by the RSLPF, predicaments under the Leahy law and new external funding cuts, capable of further undermining national security.
Surely, Saint Lucia is worth fighting for — “I am Saint Lucia” — lest the use of the affirmation in celebration of 38 years of independence becomes feckless words and squandered opportunities, in the face of impending re-colonization.