IT is sad that the ongoing controversy over the ‘Pearl of the Caribbean’ project as proposed by developer, Desert Star Holdings (DSH) Limited, a Hong Kong-based company, is now divided along political party lines.
This is because the pros and cons of the project are lost in the political maelstrom the government – and, by extension, the United Workers Party (UWP) — and the St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) — created as all are now hell-bent on getting their supporters to either support the project or reject it.
Government’s claim that the project will bring economic deliverance to an economically starving Vieux Fort is being seen as a move to wrest the southern part of the island away from Labour representation in Parliament, which has been Labour strong for years. This seems to be the leading intention of the government.
There also appears to be a lack of genuine concern on the part of the government to sell the project to St. Lucians. The Prime Minister seems to be the only visible major actor in government pushing this project. Granted he may be the only one of the lot who may have detailed information about it, however there is enough material about the project in the public domain for every government minister to trumpet its worth. That is not being seen.
The Labour Party, on the other hand, is all about saying NO to the project. Why? And that is where the party’s elegance at rhetoric comes in. I have never heard the party say it is against the DSH project. If they have, then I stand corrected. However, the party is loud in claiming it is all for development, investment and jobs. Here is a recent quote from the party’s Political Leader, Phillip J. Pierre:
“The Saint Labour Party has said from the start, and continues to say, that we are not against investment and jobs. We started the negotiations on DSH and tried our best to get a deal that was fair and reasonable for the developer and for the people of Saint Lucia. What was signed by the Prime Minister is a bad deal. It is grossly unfair and reckless. We called for a renegotiation of the DSH deal and repeat that this is necessary. If the Government is in fact renegotiating with the developer, then they must let the people know the details of what has been agreed.”
The above quote gives the impression that the party is all for DSH minus the present agreements, meaning the Framework Agreement and the Supplementary Agreement. But is this really so?
What is preventing the Labour Party from saying something like this: “The Saint Lucia Labour Party is not against investment and jobs, and while we recognize that the DSH project is a vehicle that will provide both of those needed items in the country, the present agreements between the developer and government are destructive to the country and as such we reject the project. However, as a party which cares for the people of this country deeply, we will accept the DSH project if the government and the developer will sign an agreement or agreements that will include some of the things we would like to see in agreements of such a nature, and those things are …..”
I am certain that should the Labour Party go in this direction and the government accedes and takes the SLP’s ideas to the negotiating table with DSH and something hatched out to reflect the ideas of the SLP and the government, the controversy over the DSH project would end.
In fact, it would be nice if the SLP would release a document itemizing all that is wrong with the project and all that it would like to see included in a Framework Agreement between the government and DSH.
But no, it makes better sense for the politicians from both parties to handle the matter the way they are handling it and I need not go into details why it makes better sense for them because I am sure a large number of us know why.
Just imagine if DSH goes to another Caribbean island like Antigua, for example, and hatches out an agreement that the opposition, government and civil society groups there all agree with. What a loss this would be for St. Lucia.
The magnitude of the project makes it mandatory of government to take in suggestions from all parties, political or other and work those suggestions into the negotiations with DSH. However, it must be understood by all that negotiations are all about giving and taking. However, there are certain things government must understand that are sacred to the country and its people and should not be included in developments, like the one proposed by DSH. The Pitons, Pigeon Island National Landmark, Maria Islands, the mangroves and the rain forests, etc., are just some of those things.