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Letter: Was the flood tragedy at Buccament caused by greed or simply by ignorance and stupidity?
Published on December 30, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

The original content has been removed following complaints from the “In House Solicitor” of Harlequin Hotels & Resorts (UK) Limited, the owners of Buccament Bay Resort, that claimed “inaccuracies” in the original letter led them “to conclude that it was defamatory in nature.”

full story has since been published on this topic. The author of the original letter has also submitted an amended version as follows:

Dear Sir:

Buccament Bay Resort complained about what I previously wrote. So I have herewith revised the original letter. I hope to repeat some of the rest when they tell me exactly what they find to be untrue. If there is any fact in their claims, at that time I will unreservedly apologise, but I believe what I wrote to be true.

Most of the farm land leading to Buccament beach is a known ancient flood plain and also contained areas that were known as swamp land. Flooding of this area has been happening since the very beginning of the valley, which acts like a great funnel draining into the bay itself.

The locals most certainly knew that, and the planners and government surveyors should have known that.

The lower area had the richest soil of the whole island, silt carried there from present day and over millions of years. The farmers that farmed the area were used to occasional seasonal flooding; their crops grown in the ultra fertile soil were the best produce money could buy. It’s my honest belief that the farmers were driven from their lands by the government. Some of the farmers had purchased the land and some held it by lease from the government. But that didn't matter, the prime minister sought to regain the land and to sell it to resort developers. The farmers initially refused to give up such wonderful agricultural land, knowing full well they would never find anything like it anywhere else on the island. Prime Minister Gonsalves took to shaming them into parting with their land by telling them they were standing in the way of progress of the island; by progress he meant destroying their farming practices and replacing them with a tourist product. It was becoming obvious that agriculture was becoming less and less important to the ULP government; they considered tourism their crowning glory as an administration.

If the resort owners had local searches done, perhaps they were not given correct information, they perhaps should therefore look to their local solicitor and the government for recompense. I am told, but am unaware of the validity of such information, that such searches were not undertaken.

If we go back to an article by way of information gathered and written by Kenton Chance and published by Caribbean Net News:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent: The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is in the process of serving eviction notices on local farmers who are in breach of a lease agreement in a community west of the capital, Kingstown, and who have delayed the commencement of a multi-million dollar tourism project.

Nine of the twelve farmers who will be affected by the construction of a modern hotel and ancillary facilities at Buccament Bay are in breach of their 1992 lease agreement.

While four of the farmers have paid for their lands, one has breached the covenant by constructing a dwelling house and Prime Minister Dr Gonsalves said legally the leases can be brought to an end “just like that.”

“There is no question about it in the law,” said Gonsalves, who practiced law for 20 years. Gonsalves had on May 8 written the farmers soliciting their cooperation.

In the May 8 communiqué, Gonsalves had said government would pay for all crops including those belonging to the delinquent farmers. Additionally, payments would also be made for any structures, including any dwelling house and lands of similar value provided.

Existing lease monies would be transferred to new lands, there will be a relocation allowance and special considerations for any specific circumstance, Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves had also said, if the farmers did not cooperate, government would act under the law and would not be obliged to do anything more than the law requires.

“I am urging the farmers to take very sensibly that letter what I wrote to them,” Gonsalves said on Tuesday, adding that persons were encouraging farmers not to move. “Well, that is a joke,” Gonsalves said.

He said the delinquent farmers do not have “a legal leg to stand on,” adding, “Those who have paid outright have their special arrangements which have to be made.”

Dr Gonsalves said the delay would delay the project, the first phase of which is scheduled to be completed by next March in time for the Cricket World Cup.

“There are some people who are obviously advising them (to) drag it out, drag it out, drag it out so that the developers will throw up their hands in the air. But that area is earmarked by this government for tourism development,” Gonsalves said.

He added: “I have acted reasonably in every single respect so that nobody can accuse me of arrogance or unreasonableness in this matter. But, I have a mandate to carry out and it will be carried out.”

Government has earmarked the area in Buccament for the construction of a modern hotel and ancillary facilities, which require some 26 acres of land.

It is my belief after reading this article that the farmers were given no alternative but to sell their lands or interests to the government. It was sell or have the land taken from them.

Buccament Village has been subject in the past to very serious sea surge, mainly when the wind reverses as hurricanes or big storms pass.

Layou, the town just along the coast, has a history of being battered by the sea. The Layou sea front sea wall was completed in 2006. The defence was built there because the town was inundated by sea water every time a major storm went by. Government planners and engineers spent years studying this coastline, I am sure they are fully aware of the sea surge threat in the area of Buccament, because it has happened before.

My concern is that development has taken place in areas along the river which is prone to flooding. They have built many new houses and a very nice restaurant by the main road at Buccament. There is also the new resort.

The problem is all these new buildings were once more built in an area which is an ancient flood plain. The prime minister says it has never flooded before in the memory of man, but on investigation that just is not true.

A lot of this development took place again without any extra protective engineering for the river in case of flooding.

In the case of the resort they did put in a river wall, but it’s my personal belief that it helped divert most of the water to Buccament village. There have been a number of previous complaints since the wall was erected by people living in the village of houses being flooded which had never flooded before.

Prime Minister Gonsalves has said that nothing like this has ever happened at Buccament in the living memory of man. Well, yesterday I interviewed several very old men in the valley, they told me that they remember this happening before, but long before there was much development, when it was all farm land. They even told me of a big club house halfway between the main road and the casino, the club was then destroyed and completely washed away during those floods.

It is my opinion that planners should never have passed planning permission for anything in the valley from top to bottom. Much of what has been built in the past was built without any permission or planning control. Why? Because it was not enforced. But in later years planners gave permission, had building controls, perhaps only on the strength that there were other buildings in the vicinity, albeit built without permission or control.

Now through this series of ULP government blunders there has been serious loss of life in and around the village and further up valley. Secondly, but not as important, loss of property. Cars, trucks, plant, machinery, houses, shops, restaurant, bars, all lost all gone or damaged some beyond repair.

I am waiting with fingers crossed for the next flood or even a sea surge, just praying for life to be spared. When people try and control and cheat nature, the outcome sometimes can be tragic.

I enquire where Julian Francis is now; he is the self proclaimed friend of Buccament Resort. Remember he said if anyone has a problem with the resort to come and see him, so go and see him and ask how the government negligence was allowed to affect and cause the loss of life in the area, ask him if the government will compensate the people. Also make sure you tell him that party politics should not come into play, like what has happened in the past, where ULP supporters are helped and NDP supporters get zilch.

As usual, I will be accused of bringing doom and gloom, but I have written about this before, on I-Witness and elsewhere I predicted such happenings. Yes, I predicted this happening, and I am a layman with some limited practical experience, but oozing with common sense, something our politicians all lack. Because I knew as day follows night this was a tragedy waiting to happen. The culprits are the government, the planners, engineers and so called technical experts. This ULP government has turned out to be the biggest disaster that SVG has ever experienced, led by know all, know nothing people. People who should not be allowed to make such decisions again.  

Peter Binose
Self Appointed Keeper of the Whistle, and blowing hard

Reads: 14743

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Liz Burrows:

It's a shame that it has been led to believe all guests were evacuated we arrived on the 27th with no knowledge of the events of the floods and of the tragedy of the member of staff who lost her life. Management were more than keen for us to stay even though the villas were not fit to be slept in. The resort was a mess although the staff worked so hard to put it right. I feel so sorry for the local people who rely on the resort for work and income as in the interests of guests health no further guest should have been allowed on the resort until it has been cleaned professionally (not with hosepipes) and disinfected. We demanded to be evacuated by ITC classics the operator as we feel the resort is a health risk. The flood waters went through the majority of the resort carrying mud and water probably sewage through most of the site. Anyone walking around barefoot would surely be a risk to disease.

Lenford O'Garro:

Wonderful piece Peter! Hope you had a good Christmas considering all that happened in SVG. Well, let’s hope the New Year will be prosperous for all! Continue to expose these “Wicked Politrickians”!

As I have said before, commonsense isn’t so common anymore among these Cats! They did say, “agriculture is dead and a thing of the past!” It was all about moving forward with tourism and service industry. This was just another strategic ploy to make the people dependent on them by taking away their lands and their independence.

Moreover, the lack of follow-ups and oversight looks a lot like the insurance mess with British American Insurance Company (BAICO) and its sister company, Colonial Life Insurance Company (CLICO). Not to mention Nano and Millennium Banks! Added to the fold is SVG Building and Loan Association under government supervision since 2009 but according to the PM, EC$1 Millions plus was removed from his 90 plus years old mother’s account by family members in October of 2012. However, a few months later the poor man was told he could not remove his meager savings.

Good Governance ULP style!

Peter Binose:

Thank you Lenford, I went to London for Christmas and was staying for the new year, but came to Saint Vincent as soon as I heard by a telephone call of the tragedy.

I was going to return in February as I had some business to take care of in London and the Midlands. I also have a very nice house in central London and have been useing it much less than I should.

I will try and get back to London when I can, there is to much going on and I know I am needed more here than ever before.

The people are unaware that there is always a contingency fund, which is always replenished as it is used, and should be topped up periodicaly.

There is no fund, it has been spent in the past, never replensihed and never added to. All our money has been spent on the international airport, along with millions borrowed, millions beged.

Isn't that just criminal Lenford? A deriliction of duty, a failure by the office of the prime minister to properly provide for the people of SVG.


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