Press Release:- While we respect all opinions, we have the most basic of expectations that they will be based on facts, enquiry and the knowledge of the opinion-giver.
This is why we find it difficult to understand the opinion of the head of a national conservation organization, that a historic building should be demolished because it houses vagrants and criminals.
This is particularly curious when one considers that the building was owned by the Government and was located within a compound occupied by the police who should have the training to deal with vagrants and criminals.
The further justification mooted was that the building contained garbage and was a health threat to the police.
This is a particularly disturbing admission by Ms. Lee that the Government of Saint Lucia lacks the capacity to deal with garbage or address health threats within a building that it owns.
One would expect an opinion delivered on national television to have been informed by substance, research and informed analysis.
We have heard the assertion that the prison represented a dark place for former inmates and should be demolished for this reason. Really! Are those memories no longer part of our reality? Are the wounds now healed? Are the horrors erased from our memories and history, now that the building is demolished?
Ms. Lee and many others have made much of Lord Farrington’s view back in 1958, that the conditions in which the inmates were kept justifies blowing it up, but was this the only solution the Colonial masters could come up with? Certainly not!
They could have done many other things, but this is exactly what those who perpetuated such travesties will want us to do – to blow up and forget – so we never learn.
On the other hand, genuine leaders and statesmen, interested in charting a people-centred and sustainable development path for their countries will want these preserved, to remind us of our past and learn from those lessons as we chart our future.
In her ill-informed opinion Ms. Lee fantasizes that the Trust wanted the building to turn it into a tourist attraction. What nonsense! Allow us to clarify once again, by quoting from our letter of March 4, 2019 to the Honourable Attorney General on the plans we were presented with for review and comment:
“We understand that some demolition is planned and request that this be clearly identified on demolition plans to be made available for review. ln principle, our position is that demolition of structural elements dating back to the 19th century ideally should not occur, but if necessary, it should be minimised. Plans to salvage all stones and bricks from any structure to be demolished should be devised at the design stage. Salvaged material should preferably be reused on site, or at another appropriate location.
The ground floor (and gallows) should be retained for use as interpretation space”.
The above clearly shows the Trust’s willingness to compromise on the proposed demolition and only sought to have, at a minimum, elements of the original structure retained in some fashion for interpretation purposes.
We never wanted the building, nor did we oppose the redevelopment of the site to provide the police with its new headquarters, as Ms. Lee lamented.
On the contrary, we supported this idea whenever we had the opportunity to do so. We are at a loss to understand why it is so difficult for some to understand that all we wanted was to have the original prison, or parts of it, retained for posterity so that both us and future generations can, inter alia, experience the transition of our justice system over time.
Ms. Lee then drifted onto the former Ministry of Agriculture Building, which was vested in the Trust in 1998, to be used as the organisation’s head office (NOT A MUSEUM, as stated in the ill-informed opinion).
She also demonstrated her lack of understanding of heritage value by describing it as a Victorian building when anyone who remembers it will recall that it was a fairly modern concrete structure.
Prior to the property being vested in the Trust it was gutted by fire. It was home to vagrants, a place for criminal activities, full of garbage and a health and safety hazard.
If we apply her justification to demolish the Royal Gaol to this building, then logic suggests that Ms. Lee should readily agree with its demolition.
But this is not how the Trust operates! In contemplating the conversion of the building into its headquarters, the Trust followed due process: we conducted a structural assessment which revealed that the foundation was compromised and could not be rehabilitated.
The demolition was ordered based on the recommendations of the structural engineer’s report.
And finally, we find Ms. Lee’s frequent references to ‘griping’ and ‘hysteria’ in describing our actions on this matter both amusing for their Trumpian overtones and a disturbing demonstration of a lack of understanding by the head of an important national conservation organization of what it means to advocate for one’s principles.