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Bequians protesting sale of crown lands

Bequians protesting sale of crown lands

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Concerned Bequia residents are worried that their beloved island is being irresponsibly sold out by Government, but Minister of Housing, Informal Human Settlement, Land and Surveys and Physical Planning Julian Francis firmly reiterated that the concerns are unfounded. “I addressed all those concerns in my response in Parliament” said Francis.

According to a press release dated last Wednesday June 7, over 150 concerned residents met at the Bequia Community High School on Tuesday, June 6 to discuss the “burning issue of the sell-out of Crown Lands in Bequia.”{{more}}

SEARCHLIGHT spoke to one of these concerned residents, Pat Mitchell and she expressed dissatisfaction not only with the land scheme, but in the way it was done. “Someone could have come down and spoken to the residents,” Mitchell said, adding that the Concerned Bequians are demanding that Government have a total rethink of the issue.

Cabinet has approved the transfer of several parcels of crown lands totalling approximately 739 acres in Bequia to the International Airport Development Company Limited (IADC). The lands, located at Spring Estate – 45 acres, Crown Point – 55 acres, Park/Industry – 600 acres, St. Hillaire – 16 acres, Friendship 22 acres and 32,564 square feet, will be sold by National Properties Ltd. on behalf of the IADC to fund the purchasing of properties from residents of Argyle to facilitate the construction of the International Airport.

The concerned residents who, according to Mitchell, cross all party political lines, are worried that no lands will be left for local Bequians to purchase. “All the lands are being sold.”

Meanwhile Minister Francis reiterated that there are substantial parcels of lands available to Vincentians in Bequia at the price set for locals. “The last price I think was around three dollars per square foot.”

Minister Francis further told SEARCHLIGHT that he cannot verify the concerned Bequians claim that the approximately 750 acres of land allocated to be sold represents 17% of the island, but is adamant that “Government is not and will never sell out Bequia.”

In the release and further reinforced by Mitchell during an interview with SEARCHLIGHT, there are concerns raised about the availability of lands for future developmental and community projects in Bequia.

To this, Minister Francis again responded categorically that there are lands available for any project that Government wants to undertake in Bequia adding that if lands are not available, Government can purchase lands from any private owner for any such project.

Responding to questions about the allegedly unfair appropriation of Bequia crown lands for sale, to the disadvantage of Bequians, the Minister told SEARCHLIGHT that tourism presents the most attractive investment opportunities and therefore wherever lands are that facilitate such investments, those would be sold.

“When last has an investor asked about operating a factory?” he asked, stating that tourism is the drawing card for investment in St Vincent and the Grenadines. “The time has come for serious marketing of our assets including our lands.” The Minister added that lands at Mt Wynne, Buccament and Peters Hope on the mainland have also been earmarked for tourism development.

Although Francis is urging Bequia residents to adopt a nationalistic way of thinking in this whole process, Mitchell is unapologetic about the approach of the concerned residents. “It is absolutely human nature for someone to be concerned about what is around them.”

At press time, an executive committee was being set up from among persons on a fifteen man steering committee with the mandate to act as quickly as possible “to make it known to the world what is happening in Bequia, and to put pressure on the Government to re-think this catastrophic policy.”

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