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PM says Samuel’s matter has nothing to do with politics

PM says Samuel’s matter has nothing to do with politics

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Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has said that the revocation of businessman Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel’s licence to mine aggregate at Rabacca has nothing to do with politics.{{more}}

He made the point at Langley Park yesterday and warned that he would not want to see “fighting and bloodshed in the area”.

Gonsalves further advised that Samuel go to court to seek redress, as the state says the public has right of access to a road through Samuel’s property and Samuel said this is not the case.

He said that his government would review Samuel’s licence if the Planning authorities “were to advise in a certain way, that things are in order”.

The prime minister said Samuel switched support from the New Democratic Party (NDP) to the Unity Labour Party (ULP) in 2001.

The ULP won those elections and Samuel switched back to the NDP for the 2005 vote, the prime minister further stated.

“… I have no problem with that. Because he with me, we win; he ‘gainst me, we win. So that mean he ain’t a factor either with me or against me,” said Gonsalves, whose ULP has been in office since 2001.

Samuel last week said that he is a businessman and not a politician.

But I am for the good of St Vincent and the Grenadines. That is what I put first,” he said.

Gonsalves further said that his Cabinet, in 2008, “when Bigger Biggs was still opposing the ULP”, granted Samuel the mining licence.

“So, it ain’t involve no politics. I wish everything is in order with Bigger Biggs so that the planning authorities could say give him back his licence,” Gonsalves said.

“… it would help with jobs, but yo’ 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 …,” he further said, adding that he had seen all the reports and supported the granting of the licence in 2008.

Samuel told SEARCHLIGHT last week that he has responded to the concerns raised by state authorities when they revoked his licence in February 2011 and was waiting to see if his licence would be reinstated.

But Gonsalves said there were two issues involved: the mining and a row over an access road in the area.

He further defended the operations of the Buildings, Roads, and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) – a state entity – and the Taiwanese firm, Overseas Engineering & Construction Corp., saying their mining operations were not a threat to the environment.

Gonsalves said that the Chief Surveyor and the Chief Engineer believe that there is a right-of-way at Samuel’s property.

“If they were not of that opinion, they would not have asked the police to assist in clearing the gate,” he said – a reference to BRAGSA’s removal of the gate from Samuel’s property last Wednesday.

“I don’t have nothing to do with that,” he said, noting that the Chief Engineer Brent Bailey has a legal right to control those rights-of-way.

He, however, said that he does not know the facts about the right-of-way at Rabacca.

“I am saying that if the Chief Engineer got the assistance of the police to move the gate, it must mean that the Chief Engineer has examined this matter and say there is a right-of-way.

“If Bigger Biggs feels that there is no right-of-way there, he has recourse to the law. Go to the court to stop people using the right-of-way. I hear talk about how before that GESCO (which BRAGSA replaced) used to pay to use the road,” Gonsalves said.

SEARCHLIGHT has secured documents that show that GESCO paid the previous owner of the land for its vehicles to pass through the property.

“… a mistake by GESCO doesn’t bind anybody in relation to the right-of-way,” Gonsalves said.

“… I want to give this appeal to everyone in the areas and also to Mr Samuel: let us have peace there. If you are dealing with a property right, including a right-of-way, the place to have that adjudicated is in the law courts.”

Farmers last week damaged a lock to Samuel’s properly and one told SEARCHLIGHT “… if he (Samuel) bin fuh get some more licks again, he get some more licks again”.

Samuel has published on YouTube a video from February 4, 2011, showing a trucker grabbing him by the T-shirt while farmers look on, after Samuel’s and other vehicles blocked various sections of the access road.

“… As Minister of National Security, of course, I don’t want to see any fighting and bloodshed up there,” Gonsalves said, without specific reference to any of the incidents.

“This is why I am appealing to everybody. Just be calm. And if you have a problem, seek the redress of courts,” he further stated.

“And on the issue of the mining, if the Planning authorities were to advise in a certain way, that things are in order, yes. That matter will be reviewed.”

Gonsalves further said he does not have “one single thing against Bigger Biggs.

“… I like him, because he is a go-getter and we need people like that. So, I am not bad talking him. I am being very balanced on this question. But if anybody believe that they can shake me from some fundamental principles, you can talk as much as you want, yo’ aint going shake me.

“I am doing it in a manner I think is proper and approaching it in a manner I think is reasonable in all the circumstances,” he said. (kentonchance@searchlight.vc)

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