Forget Derek Walcott! SLP government targets Lebourne!

Forget Walcott! Forget Trust! SLP Gov't target Lebourne!

Forget Walcott! Forget Trust! SLP Gov’t target Lebourne!

On Wednesday January 23, 2012 as Saint Lucians quietly observed the birthdays of the island’s two Nobel Laureates, Derek Walcott and the late Sir Arthur Lewis, the focus was more pointed towards two luminary giant— the island’s celebrated Pitons. But not for celebratory reasons mind you.  Wednesday, after remaining mute on the Freedom Bay hotel project in Soufriere at the base of Petit Piton, which has been a source of controversy and ensuing debates, the Government of Saint Lucia finally broken its silence.
Since the announcement of the re-signing of the project between government and the developers, there has been much reaction from non other than Saint Lucia’s Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott as well as several articles in the STAR. The comments on our website about this new development have also been overwhelming from Saint Lucians at home and overseas, the majority of who are opposed it. The development is within the Piton Management Area (PMA)’ a world heritage site awarded by UNESCO at the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee in China on June 30, 2004. The PMA is one of fifteen world heritage sites found in the Caribbean and among 851 worldwide.
A statement coming from the current Press Secretary to the Prime Minister on Wednesday indicated that the Government of Saint Lucia had noted the public discussion surrounding the announcement of the proposed commencement of the Freedom Bay Development in the area around the former Malgretoute Home in Soufriere, sometime in the second quarter of 2013.
From there the press release made no further mention of the public concerns or Walcott’s comments when he described the activity at the foot of Petit Piton as “whorring.” There were also no comments on some of the questions raised in the STAR about the development. Instead, the release went straight for former Press Secretary to Former Prime Minister Stephenson King.
“The Government has noted, in particular, the comments made by the former Press Secretary to Prime Minister Stephenson King, Darnley Lebourne, soliciting the support of the National Trust and the public at large, to mount an opposition campaign against the project,” read the statement.
“This project has had a very long gestation.  It was first announced in 2006.  The former SLP administration entered into an agreement with the developers but when it lost the General Elections of 2006, the UWP administration promptly repudiated the agreement and entered into a new agreement with the developers. The UWP Government went further and proceeded to acquire lands owned by private persons in the vicinity of the Malgretoute Home, on behalf of the developers who, in turn, paid the private owners through the Government of Saint Lucia,” the Government press statement stated. “It is therefore astounding that Darnley Lebourne would now emerge from the shadows and play on the fears of Saint Lucians when he was at the nerve center of a government that actively promoted the development. Indeed, the UWP administration tried hard to commence this project     prior to the General Elections of November 28, 2011.”
On Friday the STAR spoke with Darnley Lebourne about his reaction. Lebourne who has been a natural heritage and cultural proponent here for years says nothing is further from the truth about him playing on the fears of public. The former press secretary who in the 80’s formed the “Friends of the Pitons” group had this to say to the STAR; “it is sad that the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Dr Anthony would seek to politicize such a sensitive matter and something which all Saint Lucians should be genuinely concerned and passionate about. Firstly, the PMA is something which is sacred to us as a people. Then, historically we need to go back and look at what has taken place there in terms of developments like Jalousie which persons like Derek Walcott and even Dr Anthony were at the time opposed to and spoke out against.”
According to Darnley Lebourne the Pitons and the PMA should be jealously guarded and nothing should be done to jeopardize its status as a world heritage site. “Let’s face it, what we are seeing now are developers who are not nearly as interested in protecting the site but more interested in prostituting it for their own gain by now advertising that their properties are within a world heritage site,” Lebourne lamented. However since 2009 he said the status of world heritage site by UNESCO has been under threat.
The road to the inscription of world heritage status in 2004 was a long and tedious one he recalls, having been part of the process through the Saint Lucia National Trust.
“It took us ten years preparing and putting together dossiers to present our case,” he explained. “But at the time the IUC, the international union for conservation was not in agreement with the Pitons receiving world heritage status due to developments which were taking place even then and they made that known to UNESCO. However through some skillful diplomacy by a woman named Vera La Coy we were able to sway UNESCO,” he went on to reveal. And on February 14, 2005 when the official ceremony took place in Saint Lucia to name the PMA a world heritage site Darnley Lebourne received the commemorative plaque on behalf of the Saint Lucia National Trust from Dr Kenny Anthony who was Prime Minister at the time.
But those Valentines Days love affair between Lebourne and Anthony are over, clearly over political shades. The real debate and discussions on the PMA and legislation which needs to be put in place to protect it continues to be brushed aside, regrettably. Instead, the Government continues to feed the media a report which makes recommendations within the PMA about where building is permissible or not.         Still, environmental activists here tell us that this is simply not enough and more needs to be done to protect the PMA.
Speaking as a Saint Lucian and someone who is passionate about the PMA Lebourne says that successive Governments have not done much to protect the integrity of the Pitons and the PMA.
“Our politicians sing and dance the praises of the Pitons when it is convenient, but none fully understand or are committed to the implications of the world heritage site and status,” an enthusiastic Lebourne told the STAR. According to him in 2010 Richard Frederick was able to sway voters in Brazil against delisting the PMA as a world heritage site and in 2012 Sustainable Development Minister Jimmy Fletcher was able to do the same.
“However the real fears are that we could get delisted if we continue to allow the kind of development that is taking place within the PMA to continue,” Lebourne says. “We have correspondence from UNESCO that the site is under threat due to the ongoing developments there and no Government has seen it fit to pass legislation according to the recommendations from UNESCO to place a moratorium on further development within the PMA. Successive Governments have done nothing to put in place proper legislation to protect the PMA.”

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