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Terry Bynoe begins new chapter in activism – Page 3

Terry Bynoe begins new chapter in activism – Page 3

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For the average person, being beaten, arrested and banned from certain areas in one’s homeland while fighting to protect the rights of fellow citizens is enough to make them throw in the towel.

But 16 years and several grey hairs later, Terry Bynoe is willing to go through it all again for a cause he believes in.{{more}}

Bynoe has recently been making headlines; at the forefront of protest seeking access by land to L’Ance Guyac beach and against the enforcement of a no-anchoring zone off the west coast of the island which limits access to the beach for visiting ‘yachties’.

But this is not the first time that he has come up against the powers that be.

Speaking with SEARCHLIGHT last Wednesday, Bynoe said that he believes that it is God who continues to give him the strength to stand up on behalf of the people of Canouan so that their rights are not trampled.

“I am not placing myself next to Nelson Mandela, but I have always been a person who rise up when I see wrong being done to people. I watch it… and water would fall from my eyes because I know it is wrong…

“It’s something from God saying you have to look out for people because I am not the person to give people what I wouldn’t want for myself. So this is what kinda drives me – when I see wrong and injustice.”

In August 2000, tensions came to a head between the developers at Canouan Resorts (CRD) Ltd and locals, who objected to the company seemingly being given leeway on not adhering to a 12-point agreement signed by Bynoe, CRD Ltd and then Prime Minister James Mitchell.

Also at the forefront of the protest action then, Bynoe had found himself in a physical altercation with security personnel on CRD Ltd property – which resulted in him being charged with unlawful entry and assault.

The 48-year-old explained that the altercation occurred after a wall was built that blocked road access to Godhal Beach after the agreement was signed.

“In 1999, it started with Godahl Beach and we hammered out an agreement on the 15th August, 2000, with Sir James, Burns Bonadie, Dr Gonsalves – as the Opposition Leader and our lawyer… We went back to make sure we could have got up there (Godahl Beach) the next day after celebrating we victory, and found that a wall was built in the road in the middle. We were denied access after that agreement was made!”

Bynoe’s court charges resulted in him being slapped with an injunction that prohibited him from accessing lands owned by CRD Ltd.

Explaining that his court case kept being postponed, Bynoe added: “The injunction is still there after 16 years. I’ve never seen a lifetime injunction anywhere, but it’s still there. I have not done or created any problems. I was waiting on the court to make a ruling on that matter, and they never did.”

Bynoe said that the matter was passed on to another lawyer, following the death of Victor Cuffy, who had been part of the legal team representing him at the time (which included Dr Ralph Gonsalves and Cecil ‘Blazer’ Williams).

However, after inquiring about the injunction, the new lawyer promised to look into it, but never got back to him.

“I didn’t put an injunction against me, and I don’t think I should spend any money to remove it. However, I feel if it continues, I will just show up at the compound and try to access [it] driving on the public road, and maybe the police will have me arrested and they will take me to court and we will see what the judge has to say… That might be a free way to have it removed.”

He also said that since the initial protest action, he has let the matter lie and not caused any problems for the company; but he felt compelled to speak out again a few weeks ago, after the buoys were placed at L’Ance Guyac, and the restricted zone enforced.

“I called all the authorities that I know – I called from captain to cook – and no-one ever dealt with the matter. I spoke with the Prime Minister, I spoke with everybody… and all they saying is ‘they will deal with it’.”

Bynoe said that in particular, he is disappointed with Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves’ reaction to the current situation, as he (Gonsalves) was fighting in his corner against CRD Ltd when Gonsalves was Opposition Leader back in 2000.

“It makes me feel bad because we didn’t bring in Dr Gonsalves (in 2000) because of politics. We bring him in because he was the Opposition Leader; he’s a good lawyer, and if he looking to become Prime Minister he the best person to deal with it,” recalled Bynoe.

“We notice now that Dr Gonsalves can come and go into the resort, and we can’t go!”

Bynoe insisted that the way in which the matter of the restricted zone at L’Ance Guyac beach is being dealt with leaves a lot to be desired because the Government and relevant authorities did not inform nor consult with residents beforehand about enforcing a no-anchor zone.

However, speaking at a press conference on Monday, January 8, the Prime Minister stated the contrary.

Gonsalves said following the irate response by some sections of the public in Canouan to the installation of the buoys at L’Ance Guyac beach, he received a call about the matter and assured the individual that he would find out about it and speak to the relevant officials.

“I spoke to the Permanent Secretary who is responsible for Grenadines Affairs, and I spoke to Commander Robin…. Apparently this gentleman wanted me to hand down an edict right away.

“I’m not a king. I have to function through laws… and through public officials — that’s why we make the laws! I can’t run Government in a disorderly manner.”

After government officials were alerted that buoys had been installed at the beach, an order was given for them to be removed and Director of Maritime Affairs Commander David Robin held a town hall style meeting with Canouan residents, in which he discussed plans to regulate the use of the seascape in the area.

On February 2, Robin, acting in exercise of powers conferred by Section 149 of the Shipping Act, Cap 363 of the Revised Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines, issued a notice to mariners establishing no-anchoring, swim and no-kite surfing zones around the island.

Gonsalves further said that some individuals may have been dissatisfied with his response, and this was used to “agitate” the matter further.

“I am just asking the people of Canouan [to] look at this in a balanced and sensible manner.”

Bynoe also said that with boat-only access to certain beaches, locals will get fed up of the inconvenience and cease going to said beaches – which is unfair to residents.

“There should be easy access!”

Bynoe, who has been employed by the Government for the past 20 years as an airport technician and currently works at the Inland Revenue Office (Canouan), said that his concerns where CRD Ltd is concerned go beyond the company being granted 1,200 acres of land towards developing its project at what he considers to be a low cost.

He also voiced concerns about the company not providing what he describes as “fair and regular” employment for locals; and made allegations about improper waste disposal.

SEARCHLIGHT reached out to CCA, who on Thursday said the allegations about the waste disposal are false.

“Enough is enough… this has to stop!” lamented Bynoe.

“We really thought things were going to pan out better. Look at it… Here you have a project as the resort… They try to run it theyself, it ain’t work. They bring Raffles, a management company, it ain’t work. They bring Rosewood… it ain’t work. Saladino bring in a partner, like Desmond Dermot, they had fallouts, it ain’t work… They now bring in Andrea Pignataro; where the problem is really? It’s not me!”

He added: “We can’t sit back and watch all this in-house fighting with them. Every time they fight, they shut down and we have to wait. This is not a joke; this is people’s lives we talking about… The buck will stop right here now. It has to be fixed.”

How can this issue be resolved?

Although many have accused him of having political ambitions, Bynoe insisted that this is “far from the truth”, and he only wants what is best for Canouan residents – that they be treated fairly and with respect.

“I almost 49 years old. If I ain’t try to become a politician 16 years ago… why would I do it now?”

He added: “I would like to see the investors exist – make back their money. I would like to see arrangement made with access to those beaches if we want to use them.”

Giving a glimpse of his romantic side, Bynoe asserted that he, along with other locals, should be able to use the beach whenever they pleased, and not only on Sundays – as they have been resigned to, because access isn’t easy.

“If I want to pick up my wife and take her with a bottle of red wine to the beach, lie down on a towel and look up in the sky and tell she that I love her again, I should be able to!”

He also added: “I would like to see local people at work. The company was supposed to build a training school for Canouan people because they were never exposed to such a project… people were not trained… These are the things we looking at.”

Bynoe said that despite what may come his way, he will continue to speak out against situations that negatively affect locals – even if it means that he will face repercussions like being banned from travelling on SVG Air.

As a result of the public stance he had taken against CRD Ltd, Bynoe was declared ‘persona non grata’ by the airline’s director of operations Paul Gravel back in January 2001 because of his (Gravel) loyalty to then main investor Antonio Saladino.

In addition to speaking personally with Gravel about the ban, Bynoe’s legal representative at the time, Dr Gonsalves, had spoken with the owner of the airline, explaining that to enforce the ban would put the company at risk of losing its license.

“I have travelled on SVG Air many times after… [the ban] never really took place,” he noted.

A father of six children, Bynoe said that he is determined to leave behind a legacy that not only his children can benefit from, but also the children of Canouan.

“I have a seven-year-old daughter, I don’t know if she will migrate to a foreign land or if she will stay here,” he explained.

“When she start facing these kind of problems if she decides to stay here, she will say ‘Daddy, what did you do?’ I don’t want my child in my old age, in my sunset years walking with a stick to kick it out my hand so I could fall because I did wrong…”

Bynoe said that with the development of Canouan’s resort industry, the Government only sees the monetary value, but doesn’t focus on the ways in which it negatively affects the “small man on the ground”.

“Nobody is speaking for us, and nobody is asking.”

And as long as that continues, Bynoe promises to be there standing up for those who deserve better.

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