by G.A.Dwyer Astaphan

I love our country. And I’ve spent a great portion of my life promoting it and singing its praises, both at home and abroad.

In my own little way, I’ve encouraged our people to be proactive, proud and patriotic, and I’m still doing that. As well, I’ve invited people from other lands to visit,  and also to invest here, and I’m still doing that.

I believe that Tourism can be a very good industry, and that like anything else it needs to be properly managed and administered.

Now we’re not only land, sea and air, but we’re also people, history, and culture; and, small and vulnerable as we are, we’re also a sovereign nation.

That’s who we are.

We have a lot to offer to ourselves and our children, and to the world.

But it’s absolutely necessary for everybody to understand that living here, or visiting, or investing in, our country requires respect. We must respect ourselves and we must insist that others respect us.

Sadly, however, the history of our country is a history of disrespect.

Europeans came 400 years ago and wiped out the indigenous people. And they established a system of ruthlessly milking this country of its resources and bleeding its people of their human rights and aspirations, through a vicious gauntlet of indenture, enslavement and colonialism.

Celebrated South African Archbishop and activist Desmond Tutu once declared:

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights”.

The vast majority of people in this country during those times received nothing but crumbs for their own blood, sweat and tears. And there was nothing compassionate about the sugar industry or about the indenture, enslavement or colonialism that came with it.

The people were given just enough to keep them strong enough to labour hard and long.

Sugar was sweet for the owners of the sugar industry, and for Britain, but not for the people of St. Kitts & Nevis.

After it stopped being sweet for the owners, they sold out. And being no longer of any particular use to the British, we were encouraged by them to become an independent nation.

The title of this article is not my own. It’s the title of an article that appeared in the Charleston (South Carolina) Regional Business Journal in July-August, 2009.

The purpose of that article was to promote and stimulate investment in the Christophe Harbour Development here in St. Kitts. And the message from the title is obvious: there’s money to be made St. Kitts, and we can make more than the sugar barons did back in the day. Come get some of that sweetness for yourselves.

Now while that message might be red meat to certain investors, and nothing is wrong with making money without hurting people in the process, it represents to me the continuation of the oppression, marginalization, disrespect and curse of the sugar industry upon the people of  St.Kitts & Nevis

Sweeter than sugar…..for the developers!!

In the article, the claim is made that Christophe Harbour offers guests “six private beaches spread over 13 miles of shoreline”.

Private beaches? In St. Kitts? In the St. Kitts of Robert Bradshaw? In the St.Kitts of you and me?

How could Bradshaw’s God-son countenance that?

How could Denzil Douglas sign a document which states that:

“The laws of the Federation shall apply with respect to the Resort to the extent consistent with the terms of this Agreement, the Key Documents or the development of the Resort as is herein envisioned….(and) in the event of any conflict between the terms of  this Agreement or any Key Documents and any law otherwise applicable to the Joint Venture, the Property, the Resort or the Resort District, the terms of this Agreement and the Key Documents shall apply”?

How could Douglas have signed a document agreeing not only to a perpetual lease of the seabed at Christophe Harbour ( remember, 13 miles of coastline), but doing so at the price of $1.00 (one dollar)? And out to our territorial limits, I’m advised!

So the land is theirs, the beaches are theirs, and the sea is theirs too?

Sweet!!! For them. Bitter for you and me. Same as in the sugar days.

You know, for decades, people were waiting for a St. Kitts leader to ‘free up’ the Southeast Peninsula for them. Not for you and for me, but for them!

And for years, no such leader existed in St. Kitts. Not Robert Bradshaw, not Paul Southwell, not Lee Moore and not Kennedy Simmonds.

Although under those said leaders, the people of St.Kitts tasted the bitterness of the sugar industry, none of them were sell outs. All of them came and found the sugar industry, and all tried to make it better for the people of St.Kitts & Nevis.

Then along came Denzil Douglas who did the correct thing and closed the industry. But instead of ensuring that, in the new economy which he said we were creating, the people of this land would finally get to remove the bitter taste from their mouths, he simply replaced one bitter bush with another.

The Christophe Harbour Development Agreement of June 15th, 2007, is clear evidence of that.

The developers came in with some big talk. But within six years they had fallen well short of their targets, and they started borrowing money locally. Our money.

Sweeter for them, more bitter for us.

And lest you be misled, Christophe Harbour isn’t the only project here that has provided sweetness for developers and bitter bush for us. Check out some of those economic citizenship projects.

We have to ensure that the Tourism industry, like all other industries, and that all of the affairs of this country, are conducted with respect and responsibility, always putting at the top of the list of priorities the wellbeing, present and future, of the people of St. Kitts & Nevis.

No industry must be sweeter for its developers than it is for our people.

And to make it even sweeter for us, more and more of us need to be included in the list of developers and investors.

I trust that our Government gets the point.