Below is a statement from the Vieux-Fort Concerned Citizens Coalition for Change (VF4Cs)
Since assuming office in June 2016 the current administration is yet to conceptualize and/or implement any original/unique project idea to enhance development in Vieux-Fort and the wider south of the island. There is the DSH proposal which preceded the June 2016 elections. It had been rejected by the then administration and disapproved over and over by Invest Saint Lucia and the CIP Unit as being not viable, financially sound or in the best interest of St. Lucia. But it was hastily signed into an agreement by PM Chastanet in July 2016, handing over all of the prime development lands (over 1300 acres) in the Vieux-Fort District, containing invaluable biological and physical assets, to a cunning Malaysian architect posing as an investor. This agreement is, to the people of Vieux-Fort, a miscarriage of historical, economic, social and environmental justice of enormous proportions.
Recently Invest Saint Lucia (ISL) announced that Pointe Sable is no longer part of DSH. But so many questions remain to be answered such as What factors led to this decision? How fundamentally different is the master plan being conceptualized from the DSH proposal? Is there a genuine consultation process taking place involving the people of Vieux-Fort? Is this new plan, costing ISL US$300,000, being formulated simply to accommodate already identified preferred investors? Will this new Pointe Sable Plan entail the destruction of the Beanefield 4- lane concrete highway and the recreational spaces developed by the Vieux-Fort community over the years? Will the public be denied or have restricted access to their beach while the foreigners bask there in protected privacy and undisturbed bliss? Is Phase 3 of DSH still on to further deny Vieux-Fortians access to a public beach?
Furthermore, if Point Sable is no longer part of the DSH Project, VF4Cs calls upon the government to produce for public information the revised agreement it has with Teo Ah Khing. Such disclosure must be done in a straight, open and transparent manner without the usual contradictory, confusing and controversial statements.
By June 2016, The Hewanorra International Airport Redevelopment Project would have commenced under a World Bank approved PPP arrangement that would not cost the country anything and generate millions for the island’s treasury. OJO Labs was introduced in 2017 but it is nothing more than a rebranded call station to which state’s resources are siphoned off to support private enterprise under the administration’s Family, Friends & Foreigners policy. Part of the treasury receipts under the PPP arrangement could have been used to redevelop and revitalize the town and district of Vieux-Fort. The OJO Labs financing stream could have been used instead to empower residents through skills training, educational advancement, entrepreneurial pursuits and building/improvement of social infrastructure.
The administration has repeatedly ignored the pressing health needs and concerns of Vieux-Fortians. It has arrogantly refused to complete St. Jude Hospital against all the prevailing compelling justification and appeals to do so by professional engineers, reputable organizations and individuals far removed from the vicious interplay of party politics. As a result, a well-planned outlay of 25 functional buildings now stands abandoned and deliberately being allowed to waste away and be vandalized. This incomplete facility cost over $100 million, but needed just a few more millions to be fully completed and operational. Such callous behaviour by the present administration equates to political wickedness and insensitivity to human suffering.
Meanwhile, conditions at the George Odlum Stadium where SJH is temporarily housed continue to deteriorate exposing, patients, staff and visitors to many hazards within a dysfunctional medical setting. The exposed metal roof structure is corroding and slowly collapsing, and buckets and umbrellas have to be used inside the stadium to collect or redirect penetrating rain water. Insect and rodent infestations have multiplied simply because of the close distance of the stadium to the landfill site. The three ambulances are not always functional and often the Fire Service ambulance has to come to the rescue. Beds are in short supply. The CEO, nursing director and some members of the SJH Management Board have reportedly all resigned in frustration. SJH is a total mess while the pressing and urgent health needs, concerns and anxieties of the residents of Vieux-Fort and the wider south keep on multiplying.
There are many other disturbing actions/decisions of the current administration that point to a deliberate policy of punishing Vieux-Fortians and depriving them of some basic needs. It put on hold the implementation of the Vieux-Fort Water Improvement Project thus prolonging the frustrations residents endure with water shortages, low pressure in their pipes or water of poor quality after moderate to heavy rainfall.
The PM abruptly stopped the construction of the Vieux-Fort Administrative Complex and had to pay the contractor some $15 million dollars for foundation works carried out on the site. The Complex was intended to provide ample office space to facilitate the smooth and efficient delivery of government services in the south of the island. The millions that would be saved from government’s office space rental budget could have been ploughed back into Vieux-Fort to support development in other areas.
Operations at the Fish Marketing Corporation in Vieux-Fort have been discontinued. Fishermen now have to toil for long hours along the road side to sell their fish. Did the government brush aside the concern from the fishermen’s representatives that with the loss of a ready market the fishermen would have to struggle doubly hard and long to provide for their families in a decent and honourable manner?
The DSH Deal is being implemented at a huge financial cost to St. Lucia: about 1300 acres of prime development lands in Vieux-Fort have been leased to Teo Ah Khing for 99 years at US $1 per acre; US S12 million have been spent to date on Teo Ah Khing’s horse racing track; EC $13 million spent for construction of by-pass and permanent roads to accommodate him; undisclosed $millions for purchase of lands to relocate Beausejour Agricultural Station, the meat processing plant and other structures. WASCO’s and LUCILEC’s invoices for payment of works done are yet to be submitted.
The point is Mr. Prime Minister your development focus for Vieux-Fort enables foreigners, family and friends to enrich themselves from the government’s largesse and through “donation” of all available prime lands in Vieux-Fort to fulfill campaign payback. But there is no plan or vision on your part to bring sustained economic and social development benefits to the people of Vieux-Fort.
You seem to have a personal vendetta with Kenny Anthony and obsessed with taking it out on Vieux-Fortians. VF4Cs totally and vehemently rejects any suggestion of the continuation of the politics of underdevelopment, exclusion, punishment, deprivation or disrespect in Vieux-Fort or the rest of St. Lucia. Remember Mr. PM, this is 2019 and as St. Lucians WE’RE ALL IN.