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Local businessman stages protest at opening of reparations conference

Local businessman stages protest at opening of reparations conference

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With the eyes of the people of the nation and the region focused on the reparations conference being held here, local businessman Leon ‘Bigger Biggs’ Samuel has embarked upon a strategy in an attempt to regain his livelihood.{{more}}

Samuel staged a one- man protest on Sunday at Victoria Park, during the opening ceremony of the three-day regional reparations conference, which ends here today.

He said he decided to mount a picket at the event because Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has not honoured his promises to him.

According to Samuel, in December 2012, the Prime Minister promised that he would look into reinstating his right to operate a mine at Rabacca.

“That was in December 2012, now this is September 2013; I and the Prime Minister had several meetings, and his technical persons, for me to get back my licence, and up to the present, I have been calling the prime minister every week, for the last seven to eight months, and up till now, this thing cannot be resolved,” Samuel told SEARCHLIGHT.

Samuel’s permit to mine aggregate in the Rabacca area on the north east coast of St Vincent was revoked in 2011, after state officials cited, among other things, that the businessman had breached the terms of the agreement.

According to the chief engineer Brent Bailey, Samuel’s mining operations were destabilizing an embankment in the area, which potentially had detrimental effects on the river downstream.

The impasse escalated last year when Bailey ordered that the gate to Samuel’s property be knocked down, as it was blocking a public access road.

The Prime Minister, in 2012, indicated that the withdrawal of Samuel’s permit was not political and said that he wished that everything could be put in order so that Samuel could get his permit back.

“… it would help with jobs, but you can’t just help with the jobs and the construction industry and mash up Rabacca and create a challenge for the very project up there, the bridge itself …,” the Prime Minister said.

Gonsalves suggested that Samuel could take the matter up in the court to seek redress for any grievance; however, the businessman said that he knew the Prime Minister was able to resolve the matter out of court.

The man said that he would now be staging protests.

“I personally reach to a point now, where I do not trust the prime minister’s words and hence why I am here,” he said.

“This is just the beginning; anywhere that there’s an audience, where people can see me and hear me and see my grief that I am going through, I am willing to be there,” Samuel continued.

“Even as a one man army, I am willing to let people hear and see the level of punishment, the level of abuse, the level of spite that is meted out to me, an honest and decent citizen of this country,” Samuel said.

He reiterated the point that all he wants is to be able to operate his business and do his part to contribute to the development of the country, Samuel said.(DD)

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