Our Readers' Opinions
November 25, 2022
Descendants of slaves decry confiscation of Union Island lands

EDITOR: When Union Island was surveyed around the year 1910, the colonial authorities at the time ensured that the peasants were apportioned a small plot in the village for housing, and a large plot in the countryside for farming. The intention was that these slave descendants were given the opportunity to live and to make a living.

The Anglican and Catholic churches took the lead in teaching the ways of the colonizers although many islanders maintained some aspects of their African ancestry.

Union Island is perhaps the only island in the multi-island country that was completely surveyed with all the lands privately owned, leaving only the mountain ridges and mangrove swamps as public reserves for wildlife preservation.

Some of the best lands were designated as cemeteries, with Oliver William Span setting aside a private plot for family members that is now the Span Gardenfield Park.

Undoubtedly great respect is given to the dead and the cemeteries are well maintained and can serve as a reservoir of much historical knowledge. The United Friendly Society was established to ensure honourable burial of the dead.

Agriculture was the mainstay of the island, supplying the residents with food. The excess was exported to supplement the income.

For this reason, there was a resident Agricultural Officer supported by Land rangers. They encouraged proper management of the watershed, waterways, the crops, and animals. There was a role for fishing. Shipbuilding, and Seamanship were encouraged by the colonizers.

Cotton was the main crop on the plantation and a cotton ginnery separated the cottonseed from the cotton. The cottonseed was used to make oil for cooking.

The variety of crops grown ensured food security for the islanders. Peas, peanuts, fish and livestock for protein, and corn, cassava, and potatoes for carbohydrates.

Ochro, bakra ochro, and bagi provided minerals. Salt was harvested from the salt pond and some used to preserve fish and meat for the hard times and for those out sailing on the seas.

The survival of the people was always tied to the lands and this traditional bond must be maintained. While new livelihoods may attract us, the bond of the people to the land should not be broken. Consequently, the acquisition by the authorities of 100 acres at Chatam Bay should bear this in mind. Additionally, the recent attempt to forcefully acquire lands belonging to the family of the late Mary Hutchinson, Bert Davis, Grenadines Development Company Ltd, and Apollo Knights for hotel development is not justifiable.

Many of the residents are of the opinion that rapid hotel development is not in our economic nor cultural interest. We favour small family type developments like what was proposed by Sir James Mitchell. We see the role of the authorities as facilitating those kinds of developments which the landowners have plans for and are well able to undertake.

While we may support land acquisition for road building, schools, playing fields, cemeteries, community centres, parks, hospitals, and any other traditional public purpose, we cannot support this “land confiscation.” Furthermore, we think that it is an unconscionable, unreasonable, unconstitutional, and wicked act.

Consequently we humbly request that the order to acquire these private lands be rescinded.

Anthony G. Stewart, PhD