Another War: Camerhogne Park and Collateral Damage

The National Budget is the most authoritative statement of Government’s policy implementation agenda. All Grenadians, prospective investors, bankers, businessmen and the international community are entitled to and do in fact rely on the Budget.

This is true of Grenada as it is true of any other country operating the administrative and political model that we practise.

In late November 2015, the Minister of Finance and Prime Minister of Grenada in his Budget address stated as follows: “The Rivera Hotel is now being designed and will create a further 100 jobs during construction. During this design phase, the investors have agreed to construct a new Camerhogne Park nearby….”

No pre-conditions or intimations of ongoing negotiations were announced, such that the statement was couched in certainty.

The key words in this text are “designed” and “agreed”. In its context, “designed” infers that the land on which the building is to be constructed is definite and known. In other words, one can only undertake a design when the land (all dimensions), which the structure is to occupy is settled. This holds true for any construction site and is really quite basic.

Secondly, the word “agreed” in its context means that at least two competent parties, namely the developer and the owner of the land, i.e. Camerhogne Park, have reached an agreement regarding the use of the land and an undertaking to develop another park, presumably to compensate for the loss of Camerhogne Park to the hotel project.

Relatedly, the phrase, “during this design phase” and what follows disclose a desire to have a new facility in place before construction starts. Clearly and sensibly, this is addressing anticipated public distress and noises at being displaced.

These interpretations cannot be contested by any reasonable person.

Furthermore, they ought not to trigger allegations or charges of incitement of any kind against the author!

Take a look at the language used in the Budget to describe the state of play regarding the “Grenada Resort Complex”. Read the following, “[A]s a first stage, an interpretive centre will be built…. The next phase will likely include (emphasis added) the flagship hotel, casino, residential apartments and villas”.

There are two distinct messages here; the first, regarding the interpretive centre is clear and positive; the second, regarding the hotel and casino, etc. is speculative and unsure. Fair and honest enough, if those are the facts known to the Minister of Finance at the time.

Contrast that now with the certainty of the details given on the Rivera Hotel Project and one should now better understand the difficult position the Minister of Finance has put himself in, by giving two different accounts of the Camerhogne Park issue on as many occasions.

Statements made in recent days by Government Officials of Cabinet rank on the subject of Camerhogne Park, amount to a contradiction, if not an attack, on the 2016 Budget Statement itself (relevant section).

However, what is disturbing to the average citizen of Grenada is whether, in light of that contradiction or attack, credence can continue to be placed on the other pronouncements in that speech, certainly in respect of private sector projects, to say the least!

In a battle, friendly fire can claim lives as well as cause collateral damage! Whatever the position, another bout of instability seems to be at the door; a circumstance which Grenada cannot afford.

The question now is why were absolutely clear statements made when we are now being told that no agreement affecting Camerhogne Park has been reached? So the public is entitled to be confused at the differing messages being sent regarding the one issue and to search for truth.

By the way, the official word is that a casino is planned to be included in the Rivera Project. This means that Grenada may well find itself with at least two casinos. How long from now? We have not been told! There is just so much that we do not know!

Finally, without going into the battleground issues, as are already evident, one must make a distinction between a Heritage Park and an ordinary park solely for recreational purposes.

If Camerhogne Park is established as a Heritage Park, then it cannot be transferable for the simple reason that the heritage value is tied up in the land itself, in this case, due to historical occupation of the place by the indigenous people.

A shifting of cultural heritage landmarks, unless due to acts of nature or incidents of war, demonstrates a regrettable willingness to under-value that heritage. Popular uses of the space cannot displace or transform its heritage status. Neither can mere symbolism (lip service) replace that which goes to the very soul of the Nation.

A serious Department of Culture should assist the Cabinet to understand these distinctions. In fact, no group of seriously patriotic Grenadians will render itself guilty of robbing the people of the noble tribute they have long paid to the indigenous people of this land.

William Joseph

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