The Queen’s Chain?

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By Dr. James (Jimmy) Fletcher: For over 41 years, governments in Saint Lucia have been leasing the Queen’s Chain to private developers to construct buildings, including hotels, restaurants and private residences. With an area of 238 square miles, there is only so much Queen’s Chain that is available, and because of our rugged topography, some of it is inaccessible (e.g. sheer cliffs).

Over 15 years ago, when I was the Cabinet Secretary, I asked the then Director of Tourism in a Budget Meeting, why does every hotel have to be built on the beach. He could not give me an answer. I am still waiting for someone to answer that question satisfactorily.

A few years after posing that question, I travelled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. I’ve had the good fortune of visiting Rio twice, and both times I stayed in hotels on Copacabana beach. What struck me on both these visits was the fact that both Copacabana beach and neighboring Ipanema beach, which are internationally famous, and which are home to some very expensive hotels, are large open expanses of beach that do not have hotels or other buildings on them. The streets separate the hotels from the beach. Locals and visitors alike have clear access to both beaches. The beaches are so uncluttered and open that they are used to host mega-concerts and sporting events (Live Earth Concert, 11 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups).

The current debate surrounding the lease of the Queen’s Chain in Saint Lucia to Cabot should point us in only one direction, and that is for us to put a permanent ban on the lease of the Queen’s Chain to private developers. Our beaches should be free for everyone to enjoy. Stop the long-talking and the beating around the bush (or the beach) – announce that there will be no more leases of the Queen’s Chain, period! Additionally, all existing leases of the Queen’s Chain should be revisited to ensure there is nothing in those leases that restricts the rights of all citizens of our country to have access to and enjoy these priceless national assets.

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There is another reason why we should put an immediate ban on the lease of the Queen’s Chain. All of the sea level rise models indicate that in a few decades, because of climate change, most of the area that is now the Queen’s Chain will be under seawater. Even at the conservative estimate of a 1 metre sea level rise, most of our current near-shore infrastructure will be threatened with inundation (see the accompanying photo). When you add the impact of storm surges from increasingly severe hurricanes, you get an even better appreciation why we must take a totally different approach to land use and development along our shores. 

So, for me, the only solution that makes sense is an immediate and permanent ban on any further leases of the Queen’s Chain by the government of Saint Lucia to private individuals. This is so important that it should be enshrined in our Constitution so that no administration, regardless of its color or philosophy, can change it. And while we are at it, can we also change the name of this very valuable national asset from the Queen’s Chain to something that has greater meaning and relevance to the people of Saint Lucia? The land in Saint Lucia from the high-water mark is not owned by the Queen of England. It is owned by the sons and daughters of Saint Lucia. Therefore, let us give it a name that reflects this. 

Finally, please, we need to stop tearing down our national institutions and attacking our citizens in the name of petty partisan politics. The National Trust is doing exactly what Sir John Compton, in his wisdom, established it to do. Bishnu Tulsie, a Saint Lucian citizen who has given admirable and exemplary service to our country as an educator, a public officer and a conservationist, is doing exactly what he should be doing to protect OUR patrimony. It is okay for us to have a contrary point of view to the National Trust and Bishnu Tulsie, but surely, we can express that viewpoint without the venom, hatred and xenophobia that have characterized our recent exchanges. We are better than that and we can do better than that.

 

 

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

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