Open Letter to the Government of Saint Lucia and the Nation
November 22nd 2019, Saint Lucia
In relation to the Change.org Petition by Cas en Bas to Pointe Hardy Advocates, “Maintain local rights and promote sustainable development! Save our Coast!” at time of sending, supported by 2,213 signatories.
We urge the Government of Saint Lucia to revisit the practice of long-leasing the Queen’s Chain, especially on emphyteutic terms, in ways that cause exclusion of the local population, and urge the reservation of the north-east coast as a national park for continued use of Saint Lucians and all who visit Saint Lucia.
We believe there is a duty of care owed to the citizens of Saint Lucia in this regard as the Queen’s Chain has, throughout history, been reserved by the Crown ‘in the public interest’. We believe that the public interest translates to differing specifics over time, and that today, in the public interest, there is a pressing need to preserve public access and usage rights to the Queen’s Chain.
We believe that continued new leases to developers, especially of prime areas of the Queen’s Chain, is creating an untenable situation that undermines the public interests of Saint Lucia. We also contend that when emphyteutic leases are given, these go against the inalienable rights enshrined in our Queen’s Chain Laws.
We argue that when the balance between what effectively amounts to exclusivity granted to resorts, versus functional access and usage rights of nationals, is overwhelmingly in favour of the former, this undermines the social construct of the nation. It increases the social divide, causing nationals to feel locked out of their own land, dispossessed. This redounds to an increasingly distressed populace and, as a course of action, is not in the best interests of the nation and needs, therefore, to be reconsidered at policy level.
Situations such as exist at Anse des Pitons – Sugar Beach Resort, Labrellotte Bay – East Winds Resort, Cuti Cove -Windjammer Landings and Anse Becune – Royalton Resort, and others, where access by the public is deliberately made difficult and restrictive, whether by physical means or in ways that cause emotional/mental/perceived discomfort, are deeply damaging to society and to the development of a stable tourism industry.
Restrictions encompass various practices such as hotels crowding beaches with their facilities, including (but not limited to) bars, restaurants, water sports, chairs and umbrellas; the prevalence of security guards attempting (illegally) to tell locals they cannot use areas in front of hotel properties; cordoned-off areas of the sea and/or placement of water-furniture and games facilities in the sea, rendering the prime areas effectively out-of-bounds to locals; advertisement of “Private”, “Exclusive” or “Adult Only” beaches in promotional materials, deliberately giving the impression that locals are kept out implying locals ‘are not good enough’, no longer have the right to places they have enjoyed over many generations, and that they matter less than a visitor.
There is, simply put, insufficient quality, accessible recreational space guaranteed to serve the rights and needs of local users. We draw attention to the benefits, the “public good”, of providing quality spaces where the nation can access opportunities to benefit from exercise and healthy socialising. Ensuring that ample recreational spaces exist is well recognised to lead to a more productive society, decreased crime and violence, and reduced health care burden. The converse also applies.
All along our coasts, archaeologists have found significant historical remains from pre-Columbian times, and though many broken or individual artifacts may appear insignificant to the lay-person,archaeologists explain that, from these small pieces, excavated methodically, the true story of the islands’ ancestors can be pieced together, including rare insights into the process of creolisation that underpins Saint Lucia and the Caribbean’s cultures, and how these cultures interacted within and between islands.
The American Historical Association asks: “People live in the present. They plan for and worry about the future. History, however, is the study of the past. Given all the demands that press in from living in the present and anticipating what is yet to come, why bother with what has been?” One answer “The past causes the present, and so the future. Any time we try to know why something happened—whether a shift in political party dominance in the American Congress, a major change in the teenage suicide rate, or a war in the Balkans or the Middle East—we have to look for factors that took shape earlier.” and “History also helps provide identity, and this is unquestionably one of the reasons all modern nations encourage its teaching in some form.”
In the context of the only nations of the world almost entirely made up of dispossessed peoples, all the scenes and chapters of the incomplete story are vital. Where development consumes land, we must adopt the practice of requiring a professional archaeological study – and, in all cases, the preservation and proud celebration of our full history must be prioritised.
Resilience and sustainability
World governments have recognised Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss as fundamental threats to the very foundations our modern world is built on. As a SIDS (Small Island Developing State), Saint Lucia is particularly vulnerable and must urgently move to protect and conserve our limited resources. It does not matter whether a space has a particularly rare plant or animal, it matters that it is natural and full of healthy interacting ecosystems. We have allowed profligate use of agri-chemicals and against all experts’ advice, allowed clear-cutting without sufficient protection for our dwindling natural resources. We urge government to adopt best practices of sustainable development for the nation’s security
Cas en Bas to Pointe Hardy and Cabot Saint Lucia
Beside the wider national concerns that must be addressed at policy levels, we specifically address the urgent matter of the immediate planned development known as Cabot Saint Lucia (Block/Parcel1658B/ 99) and the leased, or intended to be leased, Queen’s Chain that abuts this property.
We contend that it is counter-productive, and goes against local development needs, to cause substantial obstruction and possible cessation of thriving local micro-enterprises by allowing foreign investment to take over the Queen’s Chain where these businesses are physically located, or where they rely on coastal access to conduct their business. A thriving micro-enterprise sector is well recognised as a foundation for genuine sustainable development and resilience of a small island developing state. We cannot ignore the genuine needs of our local businesses – they must be part of pre-decision consultation as important stakeholders, and their needs met, not endangered.
The north east coast of Saint Lucia is one of the few pristine environments where no agricultural or commercial activities take place (with the exception of the Cotton Bay development which deliberately destroyed a nationally protected mangrove). Biodiversity loss has been internationally recognised as an equal threat, alongside climate change, to the very foundations upon which the modern world is built.
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,”
We urge the Government of Saint Lucia not to lease the Queen’s chain that abuts the property now slated for development by Cabot Saint Lucia, because this area has consistently been substantially used by the public with unfettered access, for recreational, subsistence and small-scale commercial activities for well over 30 years and that, for all the reasons stated herein, it is unreasonable for the public not to be able to continue such access. It remains the only ‘natural park’ in the north of the island, which is already overwhelmingly burdened by tourism interests occupying coastal and recreational areas.
We ask that the Government of Saint Lucia will, although late in the process, now hold an open town hall meeting in the Gros Islet area to begin consultations on how to ensure the best interests of the long-established local users, and their descendants, will best be served.
We urge the Government of Saint Lucia to act proactively to protect the wider interests of the Nation, ensuring we plan for genuine resilience by
*protecting our biodiversity and our coast in the face of increasingly unpredictable climate change and devastating biodiversity loss worldwide
*prioritising providing for our nation’s mental and physical well-being
*ensuring government’s actions demonstrate our society’s cohesiveness and self-worth are highly valued
*protecting our island’s historical heritage and providing means for celebration of our historical patrimony
*guaranteeing that mechanisms are integrated into the mandatory development evaluation processes, that ensure local users, present and potential, can genuinely participate in decision-making.
*Where Queen’s Chain use is concerned, always first considering local needs and uses and ensuring -in every case- that allocations and permissions do not disadvantage local uses and needs.