Several Vincentian politicians have shown an all too rare form of bipartisanship as they shared their views about what should be done regarding the volcano ravaged Red Zone communities they all vie to represent.
“We have to take into account the potential challenges posed by the frequency of natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but the north western and eastern coast is home to some 20, 000 people. We must systematically consider greater mitigation measures to reduce damage to infrastructure, loss of lives and livelihood.
“Our people have shown remarkable resilience in the face of natural disasters. Reconstruction provides an opportunity to build back better and create a stronger, more resilient rural economy that is more able to cope with such crises. We will get through this period together,” Carlos James replied when Asbert News Network reached out for his opinion.
The former area MP and current constituency caretaker for the New Democratic Party (NDP), Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews’ view is: “this is early time yet to ask that very important question.” But he too agrees that “NL has been home to thousands of people for many, many years.
“To relocate now will be problematic and also very costly. I have no clue who will bear the burden to relocate. I believe that monthly analyses should be done to determine to rebuild or relocate.
“Personally I will not want to be relocated. However if the evidence is compelling after months of careful analyses then we may have a better picture about the future. I myself have recently spent a lot to invest in my community of Petit Bordel to expand my retail business. Construction was on going when the volcano erupted. I would love for a period of normalcy to return to NL and that our people can go back to their way of living.
“Chatting with some people from NL; they will not go back if they get the chance to start over elsewhere. However the vast majority just want to go home.”
Loop News Caribbean reported New Democratic Party’s caretaker for the North Windward constituency Sen. Shevern John-Lewis as saying, the assertive volcano “is something we all have to live with. There must be dialogue with the Physical Planning department with respect to building codes.
“Also it is important that other areas be identified for new housing schemes. The OTR [Over The River] community is mainly Garifuna lands and the indigenous people living there are proud and resilient. So it is important to keep the little culture and identity that we have as an OTR people and that can only be if we are still in the area.”
According to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, La Soufriere “is the only recorded Stratovolcano in the Eastern Caribbean… [and it is] described as a Geoheritage site. The word geoheritage is defined as the heritage of features of a geological nature. The mixed nomination will include a cultural heritage aspect in the form of the Lasham Sugar Factory Ruins, and natural features such as the West Petit Bordel Bay, and the mountain range which spans the East of Georgetown on the Windward side of the island.”
“The archaeological sites within the La Soufrière area contain very early and very late prehistoric pottery, petroglyphs, boulders with cup-holes and the ruins of a colonial sugar plantation and processing factory. All bear a unique and exceptional testimony to the cultural tradition of the early occupants of St. Vincent. For example, the Lasham Sugar Plantation lies within four miles of the crater of La Soufrière.”
It is little wonder that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves is adamant that he will set about the business of the rehabilitation of the affected areas post haste.
He said via national radio during one of his weekday updates, “there are persons who are saying … that you should declare north of the Dry River a disaster area and don’t have anything up there. Let people just go inside there and maybe they could grow crops and raise animals. And let everybody live below and to do the same thing at Chateaubelair and Fitz Hughes and Richmond – declare them – some even say Petit Bordel.
“You know that just doesn’t make any sense; for several reasons. But one big one… as far as the ULP [Unity Labour Party] is concerned north of the Dry River that is the soul of this nation. The Garifuna and the Kalinago and all that they represent. Similarly places like Rose Bank and Petit Bordel and Fitz Hughes and Chateaubelair with Garifuna people….
“In 1979 … a lot of people came down and some went back and that is what will happen. And we will address that migration pattern with all the consequences for health and education and so on and so forth.
“But don’t ask me to say that we must not go back and rebuild North Windward – particularly over the Rabacca River which is where the bulk of the damage would have taken place and Chateaubelair, Fitz Hughes [and] Richmond.
“Don’t ask me not to rebuild that because they will be rebuilt. And so long as God gives me strength and I am where I am, I would make every effort so to do.”
Unfortunately the current constituency representative for North Windward, Deputy PM Montgomery Daniel, could not be reached. His ministerial portfolio also makes him accountable to the National Assembly for the Ministry of Transport, Works, Lands and Physical Planning; a key player in both the renovation and relocation processes.