Government still set on reclaiming Baliceaux
Attendees at the 11th International Garifuna Conference take in a cultural performance by students of the Kingstown Anglican School.
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March 15, 2024
Government still set on reclaiming Baliceaux

Plans by the government to settle the matter of reclaiming the privately owned island of Baliceaux appear to have missed the intended March 14 timeline, but the work is still underway for the purchase or acquisition of the privately owned island.

Speaking at the 11th International Garifuna Conference on Tuesday March, 12, 2024, Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, provided an update on the steps taken to reclaim the uninhabited island which is considered a sacred place by the Garifuna people.

It was here that close to 3,000 Garifuna people were taken after the 1795 revolt against the British colonizers which resulted in the death of the country’s lone  national hero Chief Joseph Chatoyer. The majority perished on the uninhabited island and the survivors were exiled to Roatan off the coast of Honduras.

The 320-acre island is valued at US$30 million and Minister Gonsalves told those in attendance at the conference that the “astronomical amounts” listed for sale of the island appear to be “completely divorced of any scientific method of valuation”.

“… an astounding 253,125 EC per acre for undeveloped land with no roads, no electricity, no water, no jetty and very little beach front. By contrast, north in the Bahamas, an island called Whale Cay…. that is twice as large as Baliceaux, has a mile long beach, private villa, electricity and 4,000 foot airstrip listed for $3 million less.”

He disclosed that repeated attempts to obtain developmental plans from the current owners have been futile, adding that government attempts to protect the island are “being assailed by increasingly aggressive attempts to sell the island”.

While the island is being advertised for sale, Minister Gonsalves pointed to the provision of the requirement of an alien landholding license for any foreigner who wishes to purchase land in SVG.

“We have stated that no alien landholding license will be given to any foreign purchaser who did not take into account the cultural and historical importance of the island. We also made it clear that government policy will inform our Planning Department in the types of authorized developments that could take place on Baliceaux.”

Minister Gonsalves, reading from a letter written by Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves to the Chief Surveyor and dated January 2,2024 detailed instructions which were given for relevant valuation to be done “soonest”.

The Finance Minister revealed that valuers only recently visited Baliceaux and the valuation was yet to be fully completed.

“He [Chief Surveyor] also told me that he had required the purported legal representatives of the owners to seek their own independent valuation to form a scientific basis for any attempted negotiations as to the potential purchase.

The PM’s letter said the government considers the matter of reclaiming Baliceaux “one of urgency”.

Speaking on a radio programme back in January 2024, PM Gonsalves said part of the process for reclaiming Baliceaux was an interrogation of the title for the island.

Minister Gonsalves told the conference attendees, which included Garifuna people in the Diaspora, that the Attorney General has advised that the title for Baliceaux is “convoluted” and also possibly incomplete.

“They are still unravelling the various bequeathments and claims on the lands by descendants of prior title owners.” Garifuna descendants have called for the government to take possession the island on which the bones of their ancestors still lie.