November 22, 2013
Chatham Bay – our patrimony restored

Fri Nov 22, 2013

The Prime Minister and Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines must be congratulated for securing a tremendous victory for our nation.{{more}}

Last Thursday, news came from the Privy Council that a very valuable piece of our patrimony, 100 acres of prime beachfront land at Chatham Bay, Union Island, had been successfully reclaimed after an eight-year battle in the courts of law.

The fact that Chatham Bay is located on Union Island, the most distant from the mainland, of the permanently inhabited Grenadine islands, contributes to the fact that this victory may be rather abstract to the majority of Vincentians, who probably had never even heard about Chatham Bay before this.

In 1987, the previous owner of the land, an American, sold the land, a little over 100 acres, to two Chatham Bay companies for EC$477,000! The Chatham Bay companies had obtained an Alien’s Landholding Licence from the government of the day to facilitate the purchase. Even for land sold over 25 years ago, a price of EC$477,000 for such prime real estate is a giveaway. That however is water under the bridge, but whatever transpired back then has now worked to our benefit, as the EC$477,000 plus interest at 5 percent from January 25, 2006, for a total of $661,400.42, all that we now have to pay to reclaim the land.

100 acres of land is 4.5 per cent the total land area of Union Island. St Vincent and the Grenadines is a tiny country, just 150 square miles or 96,000 acres altogether. Every square inch of land is valuable. We must guard this aspect of our patrimony and make sure that when decisions are made about how to put our assets to work for us, the long term good of all Vincentians is paramount.

Our recent history has taught us harsh lessons about the need to exercise tremendous caution when engaging with foreign investors. The Colonial Homes project, the Ottley Hall Marina and Shipyard and the Union Island Marina are three of the more prominent examples, for which we paid significantly. While we welcome investors, now that we have Chatham Bay back in our hands, we certainly should not let it slip out of our grasp without the most careful due diligence and consideration of all relevant factors.

Additionally, in this case, that we stood up to the mighty United States and exhibited the will power to see this struggle through to the end, for the good of the country, is indeed commendable. With this victory, the asset base of our country has been increased significantly!

This is indeed a proud and happy time for our country. Congratulations to the Prime Minister, the legal teams and all who worked to bring us to this glorious day.