Addressing residents of the constituency on Monday 29th October, 2012, at the Half Way Tree community Centre, Grant explained that the discrimination has affected mainly persons living in the very area where the meeting was taking place, Half Way Tree.
Many had often applied for land. They were told – no land available. Mechanics and other small businessmen wanted land and could not get any. This land swap deal with National Bank would now put the cost of land beyond them. Enough is enough. It is time for the people to rally and let their voices be heard and be ready to march and demonstrate, said Grant who is expected to be the PAM candidate for the district in the next general elections of 2015.
Mr. Lindsay Grant broke down the amount of land and cost of land for the residents there. He said that in the Constituency, the land stretched from Godwin Ghaut, up through Conyers, all the way over to Lamberts. An acre of land in the deal was $750,000 per acre. He said that 4,000 square feet was being offered as the average low income house lot. At the most, Government currently offered land at $5.00 per square foot or $20,000. The land being swapped would now cost $68,840 for 4,000 square feet if made available to low income homeowners. This could not be right, protested Mr. Grant.
The focus of the meeting was “the loss of the people’s land” brought about by the decision of the Douglas-led Labour Government, to go to Parliament and pass a bill into law to give as much as 1,200 acres of Crown land as compensation for a whopping EC$900 million owed to the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank. This figure is a little less than 1/3 of the $3 billion National Debt presided over by Denzil Douglas and his Government over the past 17 years, argued the PAM representatives at the meeting.
Some 60 persons heard presentations by the new Political Leader of PAM, Shawn Richards, the former Political Leader and still PAM candidate for the area, Lawyer Lindsay Grant, Deputy Leader, Eugene Hamilton and Senator Vincent Byron. The forum was chaired by PAM Constituency #4 Chairman, Mr. Clive Webster, a farmer in the area.
According to a PAM release on Wednesday, residents in Half Way Tree Village came out in their numbers to participate in what they describe as a very lively Town Hall Meeting organized by the Peoples Action Movement. The meeting started at 7.30 pm and ended at 10.20 pm.
In his presentation, Political Leader Richards recounted many of the failed policies of Labour which have led to the massive debt, which he said now causes so much hardship throughout the country. He also said that the mismanagement by the Labour Government of the nation’s resources through wasteful practices, nepotism and corruption, in projects such as Kittitian Hills, La Vallee, and Beacon Heights, has recently forced the country to borrow money from the IMF and to enter into an arrangement with harsh conditions, which have now led to this land-swap deal with the National Bank.
Now, we are being faced with the prospect of land being sold to foreigners, like those who visited Brimstone Hill recently, to view the lands of Sandy Point that were taken away and given to the Bank, said the PAM leader.
Political Leader Richards, Mr. Grant and MP Hamilton all stated that the people do not have to accept this as a done deal. They told those gathered, that the Act can be repealed and reversed. They urged residents to let their views be heard loud and clear by the Douglas Administration and that residents must be ready to protest and demonstrate vociferously through marches and whatever means.
In his presentation, Parliamentarian Eugene Hamilton told those in attendance that people had fought for their land in different parts of the world, in the Falklands, in Kuwait and recently in Panama, and people in St. Kitts should not accept what Denzil Douglas has done. Douglas must be told that coming to have town-hall meetings after the fact was too late! He said that it was advertised that Douglas would be having a Town Hall Meeting the following night and urged the people to come and let Dr. Douglas know how angry they were for not consulting them. “The Act must be repealed” he said.
In brief comments, Senator Byron reminded the residents that the opportunity for Kittitians to own a piece of land was unique and that it came about because of the failure of the former sugar estate owners to produce crops on their land. They approached the Government of the day to take over control of the land, but negotiations over the price broke down and this led to the passage of the Sugar Lands Acquisition Act in 1975. But the Labour Government did not pay for the land. The Act was unconstitutional, said Byron. It was left to PAM to pay for the 22,500 acres of Sugar Lands, and Kittitians, a landless people now got an opportunity to own land like their Nevisian and Anguillian neighbours. Now, we are being faced with the process of giving it all back to others, foreigners, who would determine our economic future, all because of Douglas and his mismanagement, stated Mr. Byron.
Many residents took the opportunity to ask questions and to let their feelings be known. They were passionate about their inability to own land, and the lack of access to same, for themselves and their family. They had waited so long and now it seemed that the chance “to own a piece of the rock” was beyond them if Douglas was to succeed in selling off the land to Arab and other foreigners. They were ready to fight for the land and they wanted the call to come out in their numbers to march, said Byron.
Other issues were also raised. Residents voiced dissatisfaction with the poor state of the electricity service and were angry at the recent increases while at the same time the service was so poor and unreliable. They wanted to know when their children would get a job. There was no work they said. The economy was in a mess.
The lively question and answer session that ensued saw residents calling for action against the Government to get back their land. For too long Kittitians had been landless and they, in Half Way Tree wanted to be landed people and they wanted everyone to know it, said the PAM release. The meeting ended with a call to action.
PAM’s town hall meeting series continues tonight Wednesday 31st October at the Old Boys School, on Victoria Road.