Residents of North Leeward (NL), and in particular, the parents, children and general population of Fitzhughes and Chateaubelair will be staging a “No Quarry !” demonstration on Tuesday, November 22, 2022 to voice their dissatisfaction for the disrespect shown by the present ULP government in the way they are handling the Quarry Project.
The main concerns being the lack of consultations with the residents of NL prior to the project, as well as the lack of an environmental and social impact assessment studies by independent consultants. Despite the lack of these pre-requisites, and objections by National Conservation Trust, the NLHPF, NDP and Private investors among others, preparatory work has begun, and productive agricultural lands have already been destroyed to make way for the project.
A second public awareness meeting spearheaded by the NLHPF was held at Tay Tay Block on Saturday, November 19, where several speakers voiced their dissatisfaction with government’s handling of the quarry project which is providing several concessions including “ 220.127.116.11 Duty free concessions on all capital and operational inputs required exclusively for the establishment and operation of the quarry” , according to Agreement No: 889/2021 signed by this government and Rayneau Construction.
Quoting directly from the agreement*, the first speaker, Fitz Bramble, Parliamentary representative for East Kingstown pointed out that 100% waivers were granted for VAT, Customs duties and Customs Service Charge on all equipment and spares for the project, a waiver of export taxes and levies, and a 100% exemption from corporate income tax and withholding tax for fifteen (15) years. He noted that these waivers and concessions are not granted to local persons operating in SVG, and pointed out that this was bad governance and bad policy, which gives a free hand to foreign investors while neglecting local entrepreneurs. *Both Lease and Agreement documents are available from CIPO.
The next speaker to address the very attentive audience was Daniel Cummings, who in his fiery contribution mentioned that it is bad politics he was confronting. He said that politics is good and necessary to run the affairs of a country, but when bad policies like the NL quarry project come on stream, and in the absence of the required environmental and social studies, they cannot bulldoze their way and expect sensible people to accept that.
Also making a contribution about the health hazards the quarry project will pose, Harvey Farrell, popular Health Educator pointed out that silica dust which will be produced in large quantities, once inhaled cannot be broken down by our natural immune system and will cause irreparable damage to healthy lungs and will create additional problems for persons already suffering with asthma, and with a school less than half mile away, it will definitely be a serious health hazard.
Throwing in support for the closing down of the quarry project was community activist and Qualified teacher Troy Prince, who encouraged parents to join the protest march and rally on behalf of their children and health of the community. Agricultural scientist Clive Bishop, noted that the lands wrongfully leased to Rayneau are actually ancestral lands of the indigenous people of this country and had the government held discussions prior to granting concessions for a quarry, this protest action would not have been necessary. According to the checklist of Potential social and environmental risks which appears on both Lease and Contract with the government, # 7 Asks the question “Have local communities or individuals, given the opportunity, raised human rights concerns regarding the project during the stakeholder engagement process? The answer was “No”.
Also making brief remarks was Donald De Riggs who is a Director of a medical ganja farm whose company was NEVER informed about the quarry despite having the MP for NL present during the launching ceremony of that business venture. The company has already invested substantially to fence the property, build proper accommodation and toilet facilities, already installed security cameras as well as paying registration fees, only to watch the beginning of the degradation of the environment, less than 100 feet away from the farm. Workers on that farm from NL had to be laid off, due to this unwelcome development. De Riggs also called on parents to bring their children on the protest march on Tuesday, November 22.
The keynote speaker was Primary school Principal Adonis Charles, who despite being a former ULP supporter said that he was acting on a principled position, due the gross disrespect shown to the farmers and residents of ‘Chateau’ and Fitzhughes. He took the opportunity to explain several contentious aspects of the Agreement and Lease, showing that if allowed to proceed, NL residents will be the losers socially, economically, environmentally and from a health standpoint.
Following his address which was well received, community activist ‘Tari’ Codougan performed his new song ‘Stop d quarry, or the quarry will mek u sorry’ after which a slide presentation was held to show the current destruction of the environment as they prepare for quarry operations, which if operational, will begin at 7AM and close at 9:30PM, Monday to Friday, Sat 7:00AM to 6:00PM and Sun 9:00AM to 5:00PM. So from Sunday to Sunday it will be noise and dust EVERYDAY, plus periodic blasting with dynamite.