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Hotel chain pulls out of La Sagesse hotel project

Demonstrators turned out in their numbers at the La Sagesse Beach on Sunday

The investor came forward and said to me that because of the noises being made by those persons in the St. David’s area on this major project, one of the hotel chains that were involved said they don’t want any part of that anymore. So, they had to move to get another hotel chain involved….

Concerns surrounding the preservation of the natural habitat in the vicinity of the Six Senses Luxury Resort Development site in La Sagesse, St. David, have led to one of the hotel chains backing out of its partnership with the primary developer, Range Developments.

Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell pointed an accusing finger at the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) for contributing to the decision of the party which he did not name that pulled out of the multi-million dollar hotel project.

Dr. Mitchell questioned the motive behind the NDC-led environmental protest on Sunday in the vicinity of what is referred to as a ‘salt pond’ at La Segesse, deemed to be under threat due to the construction of the resort.

According to the Prime Minister, this is a project that will create hundreds of jobs and much-needed economic activity in the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The investor came forward and said to me that because of the noises being made by those persons in the St. David’s area on this major project, one of the hotel chains that were involved said they don’t want any part of that anymore. So, they had to move to get another hotel chain involved. In other words, the purpose of these demonstrations is meant to stop the project, to prevent Grenadians from eating a bread, Mr. Speaker (and) that’s the point I want to make,” Dr. Mitchell told the Lower House.

“It (the demonstration) was selfish, backward, and politically stupid in my view because you must not be seen as hurting people, particularly, at this time,” he said.

The Prime Minister went on to say: “The tourism industry is in trouble now, (so) you’re not going to see major tourism activity for maybe another several months or maybe a year (and) the major area for jobs and economic activity (at this time) is construction.”

In the face of concerns expressed by some residents in the area about the project, Dr. Mitchell said that the project developers “are doing everything possible to protect every aspect of environmental concerns the country would have”.

“In this period, no investor would want to come and invest their money in this time, with all the sensitive environmental issues, and do anything that would cause environmental concerns and affect the environment,” he added.

Extensive clearing and cutting of mangroves and other vegetation on the headland and around the ‘salt pond,’ which is listed as a Natural Landmark and Area of Cultural and Historical Interest, was approved for the developers by the Physical Planning Unit within the Ministry of Finance to build the 100-room, Six Senses Resort.

According to the Range Developments website, the “Six Senses La Sagesse is accepting investments from foreign nationals seeking a second passport and all of the benefits afforded by Grenadian citizenship, including access to the United States E-2 visa.

In August 2020, BirdsCaribbean, which is the largest regional organisation dedicated to the conservation of wild birds and their habitats in the insular Caribbean including, Bermuda, the Bahamas and all islands within the Caribbean basin, expressed deep concern over three areas of critical bird habitats and ecosystems being damaged from development projects at Mt. Hartman, La Sagesse, and Levera in Grenada.

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The group called for the immediate cessation of destructive activities, pending the completion of proper Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) and approvals, mitigation plans, and full and transparent consultations with stakeholders.

In an August 28, 2020 article on the BirdsCaribbean website, entitled “BirdsCaribbean Expresses Deep Concern Over Three Damaging Developments in Grenada,” BirdsCaribbean’s Executive Director Lisa Sorenson noted that Grenada is considered a leader for environmental conservation having recently embraced the concept of the “Blue Economy.”

The article states that, “In 2013, Grenada went beyond its Caribbean neighbours’ commitments, pledging to protect 25% of its near-shore marine and coastal environment by 2020 under the Caribbean Challenge Initiative signed in May 2020.

Prime Minister Mitchell did not make reference to these commitments in slamming NDC for what he said was its constant opposition to development projects brought by the NNP administration over the years.

“Every time this NNP government starts any project to bring development to the country, hundreds of jobs, economic activity, a certain political organisation opposed to the NNP has always come out with demonstrations against the project,” he said.

“Through (out) all my years Mr. Speaker in this Parliament, every time there is a project, some armchair environmentalists emerge, and when the project is implemented they disappear,” he added.

Last week Friday, the Prime Minister criticised Congress in an interview held with two hand-picked local journalists, stating that while he has “always advocated for two viable political parties in Grenada, the NDC is making itself not being seen as a serious opposition in terms of its behaviour and attitude.”

He accused Congress of always never taking “a nationalistic position on issues that were valuable to the country.”

“…I don’t know of one national issue that this government has initiated in all its years being in office – not just in this period, in which the NDC has come out and applauded the government. Not one single issue, everyone they opposed and everyone turned out later to prove to be the correct decision and therefore we have benefited and they have lost,” he said.

PM Mitchell expressed the view that “when you give the government credit for something that it does right (then) when the government makes a mistake and you criticise it would be more effective.

“…I don’t think that the NDC understands this,” he remarked.

In defending his party’s position, the Interim Leader of Congress, Adrian “Persuader” Thomas, who led Sunday’s demonstration at the La Sagesse Salt Pond told THE NEW TODAY on Monday that despite PM Mitchell’s opinion, “as a party, we (the NDC) are doing what we have to do.”

He said: “You cannot ignore the fact that as a political party we (NDC) control 40% of the electorate in Grenada. I think Dr. Mitchell wants to give our party a stigma and a definition and I am not going to get caught up in those things.”

Thomas, who met with the Managing Director of Range Development, Kamal Shehada on Sunday to discuss the environmental concerns, maintains that while “the NDC welcomes a project of such magnitude” in the parish of St. David, “it should not be done at the expense of the environment.”

The NDC acting political leader was due to hold another meeting with Shehada on Wednesday to further discuss the project.