Chief Engineer defends action in Rabacca saga
September 14, 2012
Chief Engineer defends action in Rabacca saga

The chief engineer, Brent Bailey, has defended his action in the saga involving businessman Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel at Rabacca.{{more}}

Bailey last week ordered that the gate be removed from Samuel’s property, saying it was located on and blocking a public road.

Samuel has maintained that he owns the land and on Wednesday, told SEARCHLIGHT that some officers in the Dr Ralph Gonsalves Unity Labour Party government were using their power to “demonise” and to rob him of his land.

But Bailey, in a separate interview Wednesday, told SEARCHLIGHT that he is acting in accordance with the law, which puts all public roads under his jurisdiction.

“I have no personal interest in Mr Samuel’s land,” Bailey said. “My responsibilities are clearly outlined in the laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines,”

“What he has title to, in my view, is outside of where the road is … and based on the information here, he has no title whatsoever to the roads,” Bailey said in reference to a government map that suggests that Samuel is claiming more land than he owns.

The government last year revoked Samuel’s mining permit, citing, among other things, breach of agreement terms.

Bailey said that last year, “when the issue arose” a technical committee of the Physical Planning Board was formed to assess whether Samuel’s operation was in keeping with the terms and conditions of his permit.

Bailey said that the committee found that Samuel’s mining operations were destabilising the embankment of the Lady Jane River and was having detrimental effects downstream to the Lady Jane Bridge.

He said that a “significant amount” of sediment was being deposited at the bridge downstream.

“The direct implication was that BRAGSA had to carry out a serious maintenance activity to ensure that the channel for that bridge was kept open. That was the synopsis of the finding,” Bailey said.

“There were other environmental concerns, the way that he was storing his bitumen, but those were minor.”

He further said Samuel’s approval permitted mining to 12 feet from the original level, after which he was to restore vegetation.

Bailey said this was not done and gave rise to “significant erosion”.

The committee visited around the same time as a dispute developed between Samuel and farmers.

Reports say both parties had blocked different portions of the access road.

But Bailey said the removal of the gate last week could have been averted.

“In my view, the matter could have been simply solved if he had erected his fence on the inside of the road as opposed to the outside.”

Asked about other steps that he would suggest Samuel take in an attempt to have his mining permit reinstated, Bailey said Samuel should move his plant inside the area for which the government says he has legal title.

But Bailey further said that “falsification of information” is grounds for a denial or retraction of the Planning Board’s approval of an operation.

Bailey, who is also a member of the board, pointed out that the government map says Samuel is claiming more land that he owns at Rabacca and added “that is reason for rejection”.

But Bailey also told SEARCHLIGHT that as the legal superintendent of all public infrastructure, his decisions are governed by the law rather than his personal view of an individual or a company.

“My first responsibility is to the safety of the public,” he said, “… that guides me in all my decision making”.

“… And my second concerns are whether or not I am acting in accordance with the laws that govern the office of the Chief Engineer.

“I cannot and will not bring my personal feeling or affiliations or liking for a particular person to bear on what has to be done or what is outlined here. The penalties for such is called misbehaviour in public office. I have no intention of going down that road,” he told SEARCHLIGHT. (