Our Readers' Opinions
April 1, 2016
Tunnel vision: the legacy of SVG

by Matthew Thomas

An article on page 6 of The Vincentain newspaper of 24/03/2016, under the caption: “Invest SVG: Bigger and Better Things To Come”, has made me distraught. The offending section is a quotation from Bernadette Ambrose-Black, the executive director of Invest SVG, when she said:

“The focus is on two major projects: The development of 250 acres of land at Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope for which an MOU was signed with Karisma Hotels and Resorts that will see the construction of three Five-Star, all-inclusive gourmet resorts; and the development of a new city at Arnos Vale.”{{more}}

In order for one to understand the nature of my unhappiness, one needs to be reminded of our history. If we don’t, then we need to be reminded of the words of Trinidadian calypsonian and lecturer, Hollis Liverpool, (The Mighty Chalk-Dust) when he said: “They don’t get the message as yet.”

After the insurrection of the 1930’s, the British administration sent out a commission, historically referred to as the Moyne Commission. Their finding revealed that the black people of St Vincent, in spite of their mental release from the estates and slavery, were still physically tied to the estates. They owned no lands, they were not among the mercantile class, nor were they of the educated and professional classes. This was a classical case of “he who owns nothing cares for nothing,” a recipe for insurrection and violence. The Commission recommended that lands be made available to the black people. In response, lands from the 10 -12 whites who had owned all of the arable lands were bought for distribution among the blacks.

As the society evolved, the children of slaves moved away from the estates, both mentally and physically. They became peasant farmers, artisans, clerical workers, public officers and professionals. Some migrated to Trinidad, Curacao and Aruba, the United States, England and Canada and later to the BVI and the USVI. With that exodus, the white land owners were forced to sell virtually all of their estates, either as small holdings or as an entire block. Among the estates to be sold as chunks were the Lauders, Diamond and Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope, during the period 1972-74, all purchased by the Government. Simultaneously North and South Union, Mt William, Spring, Cane Grove, Pembroke and Queensbury were sold in lots. The last of the large estates to be sold was the Orange Hill Estate, a total of three thousand, three hundred acres. This was sold to the Danes.

The sale of the Orange Hill estate was so scandalous that a group of activists comprising Dr Kenneth John, Oscar Allen, Renwick Rose, Caspar London, Cecil Ryan, Victor Cuffy and Matthew Thomas, among others, met on several occasions to vent our disapproval of the sale of this sizeable portion of land to white foreigners and was able to force the Mitchell administration to acquire the estate.

Armed with that kind of history, how can I sit idly and watch black people being renegaded to a state of decadence, reminiscent of neocolonialism as instituted by the State. The following two examples will justify my claim.


Mustique, a 1,400 acre island was sold to Colin Tennant in 1958. In 1960, he gave Princess Margaret a 10-acre plot as a wedding gift. Mustique was originally a sugarcane and cotton plantation. At the time of sale, there was a resident native black population. There was a primary school and other social services. Like anywhere else, Mustique was under the total control of the State. Today, there is nothing that the natives and or the Government can do without the express approval of the privately owned Mustique Company. In practical terms, the natives have been virtually sold to the Mustique Company.


The CANOUAN RESORTS DEVELOPMENT LTD LEASE RATIFICATION ACT #4 OF1990 gives exclusive right to the DEVELOPERS to own 1,200 acres of the 1,800 acre island by way of a 90-year lease. Of the remaining 600 acres, over 60 acres were designated as a reserve. Another 20 odd acres were sold to the DEVELOPERS. The Canouan Airport, part-owned by the DEVELOPERS, is located within the less than 500 acres owned by the natives. The Canouan Beach Hotel, owned by the Government, is leased to the DEVELOPERS. The DEVELOPERS have easement throughout the natives’ side of the island, but the natives have to get the permission of the DEVELOPERS to enter that exclusive 1,200 acre block.

Commenting on the grave injustice that was meted out to the natives of Canouan, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said:

“The people of Canouan have to put up with the indignity of having their ancestral and historic rights being taken away from them. They cannot go to the beach. The natives of Canouan need passes as if they were in South Africa in the days of Apartheid under Botha or Voster. Citizens from other Caribbean territories are being given preference for jobs as housekeepers and maids ahead of Vincentians on the project.”(THE VINCENTIAN 23/12/1999).

Besides the perks, including duty free concessions, it is even more distressing to note that monthly rent to the Government by the DEVELOPERS, as of 2016, is EC $1,220.00, having started with EC $833.33 in 1996 and culminates in 2087 with an expected paltry EC$4,633.26.(ACT NO 4 OF 1990)

That over 250 acres of prime real estate at Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope is to follow a similar pattern to that of Mustique and Canouan is unbelievable. SVG yearns for an entertainment park. Foremost are a football and track and field stadium. Where else besides Mt Wynne can this facility be put? Each day we hear of the disaster that is taking place at the Buccama Resorts, yet at Mt Wynne/Peter’s Hope, less than two miles away, we are repatriating another sizeable portion of our patrimony to white foreigners.


We receive remittances from those in the diaspora, donations from donor agencies and friendly nations, but just like an open tank, the currency flows through one pipe and simultaneously out by another. We are not even sensitive enough to close the outlet for a while; to the contrary, we create too many leaks. Notably, the sale of 51 per cent shares of the National Commercial Bank (NCB) to foreigners, an institution that had a banking monopoly on all Government banking transactions, among them: Customs and Excise, Treasury, Income Tax, VINLEC, CWSA, NIS, Lottery, and Public Officers’ salaries. Three of the major supermarkets, The Massy Stores, are owned by foreigners. The largest wholesale retail stores among them, The GODDARD GROUP, OSV GROUP, FACEY TRADING, FRANK B ARMSTRONG, EAST CARIBBEAN METALS are owned by foreigners. Almost all garment stores in Kingstown are owned by Syrians, Lebanese and Chinese; so are the major restaurants. None of the above enterprises mentioned are creators of foreign exchange. Can we not find ways of stopping this leakage other than selling our patrimony? On any given holiday, hundreds picnic at Mt Wynne and thousands at Carnival time. If we keep repatriating the little that we have, our youth may have no alternative, but to wear masks and carry unlicensed firearms or ultimately become an endangered species.

Kamala Persad-Bissessar, delivering a lecture at Cave Hill’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, said: “Leadership, therefore, is best personified by our ability to consolidate what is, and inspire the desire for what can be.”

To alienate our future generation in the name of tourism and economic development is not even one of least resistance, but it is absolutely of no value.