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Dozens of Saint Lucians gathered outside of Parliament on Tuesday to express their dissatisfaction with the government’s move to sign a multi-million dollar deal with Deserts Starts Holding Company Limited (DSH).
Most of the protesters were residents of Vieux Fort and surrounding communities.
The disgruntled men and women were all dressed in t-shirts bearing the slogan “Save our sandy beach.”
One protester, Bertrand Fevrier, said that the DHS project would negatively affect many individuals in the South of the island.
Fevrier said that people are upset all over and they have a right to be, because the project will not benefit Saint Lucians in any significant way.
He pledged to continue protesting with his colleagues and plans to march the streets of Castries.
Father Kevin Murray of Vieux Fort called it a travesty and said the peoples voices must be heard, because he too believes that the project will affect many lives in the South.
“This project is there to destruct, I will not use the word develop. It is there to destruct Sandy beach, to take away homes from poor people in Bruceville, to take away playing fields from people in the ghetto, and this is a travesty against your own people.”
He said the contract specifies that there will be no cattle rearing within a three miles radius of the hotel, and this therefore means that peoples livelihoods will be affected.
“This is not political, this is about preservation. It is not about party, but about principle and about people here who live, work and breath in the Vieux Fort area. Their rights and dignity have to be upheld.”
Other protesters were shouting as every Member of Parliament passed, saying that the project is “not good for Saint Lucia” and “we will not allow government to give away our land for $1 per acre.”
Supporters of both the United Workers Party (UWP) and the opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) were also present and were seen having constant verbal confrontations over the issue.
Police later arrived to calm the crowd and moments later, House Speaker Leonne Theodore-John also left Parliament Chambers to intervene.
Special reserved officers were also called in to disperse the crowds.
The protesters argued that the government moved too quickly to approve the project and has given the company enormous advantage over locals.
Some fear that this could set precedence for other investors to come here to set up shop, go into real estate, buy all the available pieces of land and house for sale, which can cause prices to rise, and thus putting the poor locals out on the streets in the long term.
The government continues to defend the project, stating that it will create opportunities for people in the South.