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Commentary: St Lucia government plans to build a dolphin park expose conflict of interest
Published on March 20, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

By Melanius Alphonse

Ever since June 6, 2016, there has been chaos, surprise and disruption, including subverting the constitution, political and economic atrocity, foreign-policy derailment, frail nation security and public health, paralyzing Saint Lucia.

English historian, Lord John Acton (1834-1902), known for his famous remark: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” appropriately describes Prime Minister Chastanet’s mode of governance – narcissistic, arrogant and reckless.

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Melanius Alphonse is a management and development consultant, a long-standing senior correspondent and a contributing columnist to Caribbean News Now. His areas of focus include political, economic and global security developments, and on the latest news and opinion. His philanthropic interests include advocating for community development, social justice, economic freedom and equality. He contributes to special programming on Radio Free Iyanola, RFI 102.1FM and NewsNow Global analysis. He can be reached at melanius@newsnowglobal.com
In this situation, Saint Lucians should mobilise to force the hands of the destructive forces that have hijacked our natural resources, beginning with the “Pearl of the Caribbean” project by Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH), cheap, citizenship by investment (CIP), and now, a dolphin park, or live to regret such negligence in future generations.

The mode is self explanatory, when Prime Minister Chastanet “believes that a proposed dolphin park project here would be worthwhile”.

First, the question is “worthwhile” for whom – hotel tycoons, celebrity businessmen or the friends and family dynasty? Second, according to recent evidence, dolphins in captivity face overwhelming new challenges just to survive. And, third, has there been any thought process to multilateral corporations and foreign governments imposing further economic sanctions on Saint Lucia as a result?

On a weekly basis, the phenomenon of a Chastanet-led administration has become highly toxic. His “economic and political agenda” are morally adrift, with concomitant disregard for the truth. This is currently petrifying to the silent conservative right who supported his candidacy. Déjà vu!

Needless to say, but expect socio-economic instability from lame ducks in the midst of a crisis of character, populated with gross incompetence

At a time of widespread unemployment, income inequality causing overwhelming pain minister for economic development, housing, urban renewal, transport and civil aviation, Guy Joseph’s remarks in parliament, directed at the opposition bench, “You just start to cry,” is embarrassingly commonplace in life in Saint Lucia.

Regrettably, the ever-increasing cries have no effect on the Chastanet-led administration and their deficiency in exhibiting thought processes.

In fact, they find comfort to cut and eliminate ongoing projects and programs, protect national resource and care for families' basic needs: food, housing, healthcare, oblivious that the end result of this takes permanent root in eroding freedoms, respect for the rule of law and human dignity.

The ultimate goal seems to fulfill immoral campaign promises detrimental to the environment and landscape, using a disgraceful manoeuvre to establish a dolphin park at Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL).

Fortunately, there was no wiggle room for the investors, project consultants and the administration’s chief policy strategist presentation at the St Lucia National Trust (SLNT) membership meeting held March 13, 2017.

The presenters’ talking points were proven obscured and quite rightly “vehemently opposed” reckoning that a dolphin park “would desecrate the historic value of the only National Landmark on the island” and “that they will not stand for the captivity of dolphins which are highly intelligent species and that this would affect employment for existing industries.”

In similar vein, the “Pearl of the Caribbean” project by Desert Star Holdings Limited (DSH) aroused animated discussion prompting members to “mandated the SLNT to do everything in its power (i) to prevent the development of the Dolphin Park at the Pigeon Island National Landmark or anywhere else in Saint Lucia; (ii) to prevent the building of the proposed causeway from the mainland to Maria Islands in Vieux Fort and (iii) to explore whether the works that have already been started by the DSH is legal considering that the environmental impact assessment process has not been completed.”

According to the SLNT communication, “the Walcott Place project for which the Trust was advised that funding has been suspended for phase 2 under which an interpretation centre, gift shop, café, workshop and lecture room would have been constructed.”

This reminds me. Noting the passing of Sir Derek Walcott on March 17, 2017, Prime Minister Chastanet said: “There is one thing that Derek truly was – a Caribbean patron. He was always very consistent about being Caribbean, and being original.”

In fact, one viable responsibility should begin with the reinstatement of funding to Phase 2 of the Walcott Place project. This would surely assist in cultivating and ensuring originality and ownership of our culture, heritage and human resources.

Nevertheless, the immoral course of action speaks to the abhorrence will that currently guides the “economic and political agenda.”

If in doubt, here are a few insights of Prime Minister Chastanet: “Pigeon Island is a major asset that is ‘grossly’ underutilized. The decision to have a dolphin park at Pigeon Island is not for the SLNT to decide.”

But, haven’t we enough problems than to be so ignorant of the SLNT’s obligations to PINL comprising 44 acres and the approximate ten acres of accompanying beachfront?

Consider these epic quotes, the language and simple-mindedness in which Prime Minister Chastanet verbalizes:

“I would like to think that we can proceed with the park …. that’s not for The Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) to make that determination. So I think the question as to whether we going to have a park in Saint Lucia, that question was already answered.”

And here’s the caviar. “I know for many years, in fact, when I was in my private life, my father [Michael Chastanet] was part of a group to be able to bring a dolphin park here, and what they couldn’t find was a location.”

“I encourage the developers when they told me the feasibility of doing the park at Anse Jambette would be difficult, to look at Pigeon Island National Landmark (PINL).”

Surely, such mindlessness provides reason to rearrange profound ignorance, ‘Why Dolphins Should not be in Captivity’ in particular, when prime minister Chastanet is prepared to enunciate,” I am disappointed that any investor would come to this country and be treated the way that the investor was treated. Am, but the decision continues.”

In familiar vein he continued, “Whether we have a dolphin park or not is very much in line with our national policy. As you know Saint Lucia is part of the whaling association and we believe in a sustainable use of marine resources, so that is generally the policy that the government has.”

These epic quotes express nothing veiled or misspeaking, but clarify the narrow levels of guiding principle – a catastrophic mistake to national fiscal prudence and good governance.

That said, it would be incumbent to revise what is widely known about captive dolphins, than to embrace what is regressing and dysfunctional.

Saint Lucia is much better without a dolphin park and the continuance of empowering capitalism for the few – while defunding social programs and projects to the benefit of the wider population.

Further, to proceed with a dolphin park equates to a derailment of our own destiny, our culture and environment that are keys to our sustainable future.

Most troubling, the thought of destroying achievements made to restoring Pigeon Island National Landmark to the national patrimony, recognition worldwide points to malice.

From what is allowed, directly or indirectly, or if perchance matters were obscured, Prime Minister Chastanet may have opened the elements conflict of interest.

By now, those that are paying attention have smelled the brazen nepotism, elitism and corruption. It won’t be long before luxury hotels, condominiums, villas, malls and prized real estate reveal their true identity.

Nevertheless, taxpayer funded investment on training that focuses on best practices for effective governance, Principles of Good Governance, Risk Management, Strategic Planning and Accountability and Financial Literacy, between January 23 to 25, 2017, may have had an expired shelf life, if not faced with implementation challenges on the lessons learned.

Simultaneously, the economic model of irregularity has increased adversely, gross overreach, pay to play, political access and influence up for sale, influential families purchasing prestige, and re-distribution of national assets to foreign interests.

The indicators for such modules are the result of being caught up between the vortex of election campaigns, corporate interest – and the notion to run government like a business – which is very separate and distinct from the principles of good governance and government.

Aside from stating the obvious state of affairs based on nepotism, malice, corruption and blatant conflict of interest, it is fitting that ethics training, law compliance and implementation is added to the training agenda.

Equally, it would be fitting if Prime Minister Chastanet applies contemporary competences, personal decency and trust than to expose his right wing invasive practices that seek to identify us and them, with a different set of rules.

Like everything else, there are limits to the antics, fixation or addiction that is exceptionally appalling in Saint Lucia. It is only a matter of time before regime change.
 
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