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Diffuse volatile situation at Rabacca

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Fri, Sept 7, 2012

This issue of SEARCHLIGHT carries follow-up stories on what has developed into a very volatile situation involving several parties in the Rabacca area, which we first reported on in February of last year.

The situation involves the Bigger Trucking and Blocks Construction company, which has a sand mining project at Rabacca; farmers in the adjoining Bower area who have been accessing their farms via a road, which the company’s owner, Leon ‘Bigger Bigs’ Samuel says is on his private property and the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

Samuel was granted permission to operate his sand mining project in July 2008 and was doing that up to February 2011, becoming a major employer and one of the larger local construction firms.

From our investigations, the problem seems to have arisen following the general elections of December 2010, with Samuel and most of the farmers using the access road apparently having different political allegiances. In February 2011, some farmers complained that Samuel had placed restrictions on the use of the access road. Government also charged that the sand mining project was creating serious environmental damage in the area.

In response, Samuel asserted his right to determine access through what he insists is his private property and accused the state-owned corporation, BRAGSA, of being the more guilty environmental culprit. However the Ministry of Physical Planning issued an order in that same February 2011, shutting down the operation of the ‘Bigger Bigs’ company in the area, putting some 40 employees out of work.

The issue has been a contentious one since then, and all sides appear to be suffering. On the one hand, Samuel and his employees have lost lawful income; production is being affected, with negative effects on the vital construction industry. On the other hand, because of the restrictions placed on access to their lands, farmers and agricultural production are being affected. Overall, the situation is doing no good to the national economy, particularly in these hard economic times.

The steady deterioration in the situation is also having very dangerous social consequences with the spectre of violence rearing its ugly head. A video posted on You Tube alleges physical attacks on Mr. Samuel by farmers in the area with threats of repetition. Clearly the whole matter is growing out of hand.

The political overtones of the situation make it even more difficult for objectivity to prevail and public response is often coloured by one’s partisan political outlook. But the matter is having effects beyond partisan politics, and whatever one’s political views, the continued deterioration of the situation does no good for any of those involved.

SEARCHLIGHT appeals for good sense to prevail, for restraint on the part of all those concerned. It is the responsibility of the Government to take the initiative to have the matter resolved peaceably and to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned. Farmers need vehicular access to their lands, if they are to play their part in agricultural revival; environmental laws must be respected, as must be lawful authority, but the jobs of those put out of work and the contribution of this enterprise to the economy cannot be ignored. Surely, these are matters of far greater national significance than political affiliation or wounded egos.

An amicable settlement is not beyond the ability of all concerned. Let us treat it with urgency.

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