THE Government and the Catholic Church will meet for the second time next week to map out a way forward regarding several social issues impacting the country and address fears some residents of Vieux Fort have over proposals for the development of a US$2.6 billion project.
This was confirmed by a government official attached to the Prime Minister’s Office yesterday. While the two parties met this week, nothing much could have been worked out due to prior engagements by both, especially the Church.
A statement by the Church on the Desert Star Holdings (DSH) project and other social issues this week was what prompted the meetings.
The Church, since the release of the statement, has been chided by many who claimed that through its statement it was involving itself in the political affairs of the country. The Church has since denied this, with Archbishop Robert Rivas claiming the statement was not political in nature and is not against the government or what the government is doing.
“We wrote a statement about our concerns and the impact of some of the decisions that are being taken in the country at this time and how it is affecting our people, especially our little people,” Rivas said.
But Rivas’ statement seems not to have changed the views of many callers to various talk shows this week who summarized that his statement seeks more to divide St. Lucians rather than unite them on the issues in government, such as the situation between the government and the St. Lucia National Trust (SLNT) and the controversy over the DSH proposals.
Rivas on Thursday noted that the concerns of the people were what the Church was dealing with since their concerns are accurate.
The Church’s statement claimed that Archbishop Rivas, in consultation with the clergy of the Archdiocese of Castries, had reflected on the potential impact of the DSH project and that the statement it released was “an expression of concern regarding aspects of the DSH project and other issues currently prevalent in the country, from a standpoint of social justice.”
According to the Church, there must be a balanced focus on the relationship between investment, people and the environment.
“Within the context of caring for our common home, and assuming our responsibility to be a moral voice on social issues, it is incumbent upon us to take a stand on the following issues of major concern,” the Church noted.
The following issues of major concern, as noted by the Church, are the possible displacement of persons and their livelihoods who occupy and operate within and around the investment site in Vieux Fort, particularly persons whose voice may be lost in the process; lack of priority articulated for local labour inputs; damage and depletion to cultural and natural resources; unsustainable relocation of the landfill in Vieux Fort; the dismantling of the NICE programme by the government; the issue of violent crime and that of health care, particularly in the south of the island.
“We respectfully encourage serious attention to the above issues. A way forward could be to turn political swords into plowshares and partisan spears into pruning hooks thus working to build a better St. Lucian society with long-term goals that are supported by members of the incumbent Government and the Opposition,” stated the Church.