St Lucia PM cuts funding for National Trust

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CASTRIES, St Lucia — In what is widely regarded locally as punishment for its opposition to a proposed dolphin park and its outspoken criticism of environmentally damaging components of a controversial multi-billion dollar development in Saint Lucia, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has removed government funding for the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) in the budget estimates currently being debated in parliament.
The SLNT, joined by conservationists across the globe, expressed opposition to the Chinese-sponsored so-called Pearl of the Caribbean project that poses a serious threat to the country’s ecological, cultural and archaeological heritage.
In particular, a proposal to build a causeway linking the Maria Islands Nature Reserve, one of only two wildlife reserves on Saint Lucia, to the mainland, would have calamitous consequences for the offshore wildlife haven, which is officially a protected area.
The reserve is the last refuge of an extraordinary community of native species that have been wiped out on the mainland by a combination of habitat loss (in part due to ill-advised development), persecution and invasive alien species.
Now Chastanet has personally removed the entire Office of the Prime Minister’s contribution of $700,000 towards the work of the SLNT from this year’s budget.
The opposition Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has strongly condemned the action by Chastanet in withdrawing the annual subvention to the SLNT, for the first time since the Trust was formed in 1975 by the government of the former Prime Minister, Sir John Compton some 42 years ago.
SLP political leader, Philip J. Pierre, described the move by the Chastanet regime as pettiness and bullying, and “vicious, vindictive and reeking of victimization.”
According to the SLP leader, “It is clear that the move by Mr Chastanet as minister for finance, is in retaliation to the Saint Lucia National Trust’s principled position on the Dolphin Park at Pigeon Island National Landmark, and the DSH Project and its environmental impacts.”
The SLP said it will restore the SLNT subvention upon its return to government.
Meanwhile, this and several other politically tone-deaf, autocratic actions by Chastanet have reportedly resulted in some serious dissent within the ruling United Workers Party (UWP) Cabinet.

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