Trust Re­mains Con­cerned About Makoté Man­grove, Maria Is­lands, and other eco­log­i­cal as­sets

The Star (St. Lucia) - - CLASSIFIED -

Ac­cord­ing to the Saint Lu­cia Na­tional Trust, a press re­lease is­sued on Fri­day, June 30 has caused con­fu­sion on a num­ber of fronts.

“There seems to be the feel­ing among some per­sons that the Trust has said that it "sup­ports” DSH,” a new press state­ment from the Trust said this week. “This is in­deed a very wrong in­ter­pre­ta­tion.”

In this week's state­ment, the Trust went on to ex­plain its per­spec­tive: “What the press re­lease says is that the Trust is not op­posed to de­vel­op­ment as long as such de­vel­op­ment will con­trib­ute to the longterm so­cio-eco­nomic ben­e­fit of cit­i­zens, and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity of the na­tion. In ad­di­tion, the re­lease states that the ‘Trust con­sid­ers the much-de­bated de­tails of the re­lated frame­work agree­ment be­tween the de­vel­oper and the Gov­ern­ment to be out­side of its sphere of com­pe­tence'.”

The cor­re­spon­dence stated that the Trust had “not in­volved it­self in the de­bate on the mer­its or oth­er­wise of the project fi­nanc­ing ar­range­ments through the Cit­i­zens (sic) by In­vest­ment Pro­gramme".

Nev­er­the­less, the Trust re­mains con­cerned about the fate of the Makoté Man­grove, an im­por­tant RAMSAR site; the Maria Is­lands and their re­lated ecosys­tems and en­demic species; the eco­log­i­cal and en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sets in Pointe du Sable as well as the po­ten­tial im­pacts of the pro­posed de­vel­op­ment on the liveli­hoods and recre­ational pur­suits of per­sons de­pen­dent on th­ese as­sets.

“This then opens the door for dis­cus­sions on how de­vel­op­ment can oc­cur in a man­ner that re­spects all of the is­sues that touch and con­cern the man­date of the Trust,” the re­lease went on. “To be clear, the Trust is not back­ing down from the prin­ci­pled po­si­tions that it has adopted over the last few months. For ex­am­ple, for rea­sons that have al­ready been ex­pressed, the Trust re­mains fun­da­men­tally op­posed to the con­struc­tion of a dol­phi­nar­ium at the Na­tional Land­mark. A de­tailed, writ­ten po­si­tion on this is­sue has been com­mu­ni­cated to the Gov­ern­ment.”

From the stand­point of mem­bers, a fun­da­men­tal point to be made is that the Trust is not a po­lit­i­cal en­tity.

“Once the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­comes po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated, it loses all its cred­i­bil­ity. The Trust has gone to great lengths to re­main po­lit­i­cally neu­tral and must re­main an in­de­pen­dent en­tity and not an agent of any po­lit­i­cal party.”

More pre­cisely: “There must be a work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Trust and the Gov­ern­ment of the day. Both par­ties are mu­tu­ally sup­port­ing stake­hold­ers. They should not, eter­nally, speak past each other like two ships pass­ing in the night. Re­gard­ing our sub­ven­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter has in­di­cated a will­ing­ness to con­sider fi­nan­cial sup­port to the Trust con­tin­gent upon the sub­mis­sion of a busi­ness plan that pro­vides a ba­sis for the uti­liza­tion of the fi­nanc­ing re­quested. We have noted that some have taken um­brage at our de­ci­sion to sub­mit the req­ui­site doc­u­men­ta­tion. How­ever, it is cus­tom­ary for the Trust to pro­vide the Gov­ern­ment of the day with its an­nual Work Plan, which out­lines all our projects and pro­grammes.”

The Trust made men­tion again in this week's cor­re­spon­dence of a meet­ing that was re­quested with the prime min­is­ter to present its work plan in July 2016. Al­though the meet­ing did not take place, rep­re­sen­ta­tives con­firm hav­ing sub­mit­ted their 2017/18 bud­get through the usual chan­nels.

“The point has also been made in re­la­tion to the DSH project that more en­gage­ment is re­quired to iron out some of the is­sues that fall within the Trust's man­date,” the re­lease con­tin­ued. “For those per­sons who would wish for the Trust sim­ply to take an ac­tivist ap­proach to re­solv­ing dif­fer­ences of views, they must re­alise that this is not the ap­proach the or­gan­i­sa­tion takes when deal­ing with con­tro­ver­sial is­sues. The ap­proach of the Trust is not, and should never be po­lit­i­cal. The Chair­per­son and the Coun­cil must en­sure that the Trust is not used as a po­lit­i­cal plat­form or as a plat­form for per­sonal ac­tivism.”

In clos­ing, the Trust has un­der­scored the im­por­tance of com­ing to an un­der­stand­ing with gov­ern­ment re­gard­ing how they can work to­gether.

“This does not mean that the Trust has to com­pro­mise on its ad­vo­cacy in re­la­tion to any prin­ci­pled po­si­tion that it has but there must be a work­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween the Trust and the Gov­ern­ment,” the state­ment read. “How­ever, the cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment does not cul­ti­vate such a re­la­tion­ship. This state of af­fairs has im­pacted on the work of the Trust, its mem­bers, staff and coun­cil and can­not be al­lowed to con­tinue.”

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