As a citizen of Grenada, I am concerned about a trend currently taking shape in our country. Our island has a long and rich history of preserving our heritage and wildlife, but our government is beginning to abandon this principle.
Plans to overtake Camerhogne Park, for the development of the Riviera Hotel came as a shock to those of us in the community who value protecting sacred public spaces, indigenous and historic sites from urban takeover.
More than 4,500 Grenadians recently came together to petition this attack on one of our most precious sites that we – especially our youth use so often, and I was proud to be a part of this effort.
Now, we learn that the government plans to take The Rex Grenadian resort through the Land Acquisition Act. Minister of Health, Nicholas Steele, announced the government’s plans to take over The Rex under the claim that the hotel is “not serving the public at its best.”
I recall Mr. Steele saying something in his usual arrogant style which when researched left much to be desired of him. That has convinced me that he is rightfully placed with this political grouping – a perception held by so many which up to recently I used to refute.
This sort of vague statement (the hotel is not serving the public at its best) is worrying to those of us who have fought to protect Camerhogne Park from a similar government seizure.
There appears to be no line that this government is not willing to cross with regards to the appropriation of private and public lands alike, which could set a dangerous precedent for other businesses and public entities in Grenada and the Caribbean.
Much like our beloved park, rumours are circulating that the government’s actions against Rex could be motivated by pressure from a new foreign investor. It seems that this NNP government is less concerned about the public and more interested in making deals (that carry more questions than answers) with corporations that don’t share our values.
The question must be raised, though, what benefit would our island see from a new operator of the Rex Property and Resort? The Grenadian employs almost an entirely local staff, it has long and established relationships with local suppliers like CK’s Super Value and the Grenada Breweries (just to name two of the very long list), and the resort is one of the few hotels that encourages local people to host and attend large events like their famous New Year’s Eve Party, a Grenadian tradition.
This hotel was one of the first built by a foreign investor – shortly after the Issa Nicholas group took over the old Holiday Inn/Grenada Beach Hotel and established the Ramada Renaissance Resorts.
Taking this hotel and giving it to another hotel operator will send a message to the international investment community that their investment in Grenada is not safe and in the case of future ones will not be safe.
Much like Camerhogne Park, the Rex’s property embodies the “virgin” character of our Island, with open spaces and rural landscapes that attract tourists to Grenada over other overdeveloped Caribbean Islands.
For more than 20 years, the Rex Hotel has stood by the Grenadian people. The Rex was among the first early foreign investment in hotels to come to our Island in 1992 during a time of great hardship and has since become an established entity in our cultural history and tourism industry.
The government’s actions against Camerhogne Park and the Rex Grenadian are not independent; they are indicative of a broader aggression where the veil of “public good” is used to take away land and shut down respectable businesses in order to make way for new projects.
We must consider that these actions create a dangerous precedent that could jeopardise other businesses and community grounds on the Island.
There is room on our Island for improvement and development, but we must not sacrifice our culture of decency and integrity – let alone our heritage for the sake of greed.
We should respect institutions that have made significant investments not only into their own facilities, but in our most important resource – our very own local people as well.
Save Camerhogne Park, save the Rex Grenadian.
I will forever remain an advocate against anything that is not in the interest of Grenada.
Leave our assets alone!