Address by Dr. The Honourable Kenny D. Anthony On the Occasion of the Official Inscription Ceremony of the Pitons Management Area
A PRIZE WORTH THE WAIT
Dr. The Honorable Kenny D. Anthony
Prime Minister of St. Lucia
On the Occasion of the Official Inscription Ceremony of the Pitons Management Area
February 14, 2005
INTRODUCTION: A SINGULAR PLEASURE
Excellency, Dame Pearlette Louisy, Cabinet Colleagues, Director General of UNESCO, Parliamentary Representative, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, and in particular our esteemed Ambassador to UNESCO, Ambassador Gilbert Chagouary, Specially invited Guests, residents of Soufriere, Members of the Media, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is for me a singular pleasure to welcome you here to share the pride of the government and people of St. Lucia as we witness the official Inscription Ceremony of the Pitons Management Area as a World Heritage Site. The journey to this prestigious designation here today has been a long and at times, a frustrating one, but the prize has been well worth the wait.
THE SOUL AND SPIRIT
The Pitons symbolize the soul and spirit of St. Lucians, our hopes and dreams. And it is easy to see why. The stunning twin peaks of Petit and Gros Piton – the lava plug remnants of a long ago cataclysmic volcanic eruption – dominate the surrounding landscape and are among the most easily recognizable and dramatic landscape features in the Caribbean. Indeed, they are the symbols of pride on the St. Lucian flag. They have stood majestically for centuries. They provide psychological comfort to our people and country. They have stood before us, immortalized as national symbols of our nation, and now the world. Their place in the sentiments of St. Lucians today is very much an echo of the centrality of place which they occupied in the psyche of the first St. Lucians. The Pitons have always been mysterious. The archeological artifacts uncovered in the valley of the Pitons during the process of excavations leading to the construction of the Jalousie Hilton point to the fact that the Pitons was a place of reverence and worship. Indeed, some archeological writings place the Pitons at a central point in the hierarchy of places of worship for the original Amerindians in the archipelago of islands in the Eastern Caribbean. This role is depicted in the strategically positioned petroglyphs and stone placements – all with vantage views of the soaring twin peaks, scattered among the hills rich in the culture, history and natural wealth of St. Lucia which surround us today.
IN TRUST FOR MANKIND
For years, the town of Soufriere has nestled in the shadows of the Pitons. The people of Soufriere have always known that their Pitons, their drive-in volcano, are priceless geological treasures. Now, they must share their treasures with the world. And so, the people of Soufriere, the custodians of the majestic pitons, have a new responsibility to hold the Pitons in trust for mankind.
AN UNPRECEDENTED DEBATE
The story of this day is very much one which speaks to a period in the history of St. Lucia in the very late 1980’s and early 1990’s in which the Pitons and their role in the development of St Lucia, took center stage. It was a period during which St. Lucians were forced to reflect on the value which they were willing to place on the Pitons as national assets and their role in the development of the town of Soufriere and St. Lucia as a whole. The debate was unprecedented, sometimes, acrimonious. It was aptly summed up by one article submitted to local newspapers at that time entitled: “St Lucia, Soufriere & the Pitons: The Price of Development; Is No Price Too High? “ Without the benefit of that debate some 16 years ago, we may not have been gathered here today.
At stake, you will recall, was the “Gros Piton Resort & Aerial Tramway Project” - a proposal by a developer who wished to build on 11 acres on the summit and 77 acres on the slopes of Gros Piton.
The government of the day was fully supportive of the “theatre in the sky” as they claimed the project would “catapult St Lucia into the 21st century” and bring “development” to the Soufriere area. There were however several St. Lucians who felt that the Pitons epitomized a type of natural resource so unique, so special, so bound up in the psyche of the people themselves, so symbolic of their national pride that they defied quantification in economic and monetary terms. That view prevailed and at the end of the day, resulted in the cancellation of that project. Thankfully so. Without the courage and vision of a handful of citizens who raised their voices in comment and protest this designation which we have assembled to witness here today, with such pride, would not have been possible.
THE CONTINUING DILEMMA OF DEVELOPMENT
This example brings into stark relief the continuing dilemma of development within islands such as St. Lucia – the need to transform natural resources into productive inputs for the purposes of social and economic transformation, while at the same time ensuring that the social well being of the country, the preservation of cultural integrity, traditional values, rights of local access, merits of local ownership of key national resources, and the value of community participation in the planning process, are not lost.
The story of the Pitons aptly demonstrates as well the complexities implicit in determining approaches to development. There are times when we must deliberately forego short term benefits for the greater good in the longer term. While St. Lucia lost a project which would have brought jobs and investment to Soufriere in the short term, the place of the Pitons in the spirit of the residents of Soufriere and of St. Lucians in general, would have been irrevocably lost, and as a society we would have lost something priceless. The long term benefits of the approach to development which posits that conservation is in and of itself – a powerful tool of development so vividly reflected in this designation, is of far greater reward to this country as a whole and the people of this town than any single project could have delivered.
A COMMITMENT TO ENVIRONMENTAL INTEGRITY
UNESCO designates properties as World Heritage Sites when they are considered to be of exceptional universal value from a scientific, cultural and visual point of view. The honor being bestowed today is very much reflective of St. Lucia’s stunning beauty and commitment to principles of environmental integrity. The Pitons’ Charter, signed by the Governor-General in January 2003 on behalf of the government and people of St. Lucia confirms the country’s commitment to the protection of the Pitons and surrounding area as key elements of the country’s natural heritage.
This designation therefore stands in real testimony to the values which we in St. Lucia place on our natural assets, and speaks volumes of us, as a people. This is a moment of national pride. Though small in size, St. Lucia stands shoulder to shoulder with a few select countries two others of which, St. Kitts & Nevis with their Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park inscribed in 1999, and Dominica’s Morne Trois Piton inscribed in 1997 – belong to the family of the OECS who have also been recipients of this honour.
Today would however not be complete without taking a moment to recognize the fact that this effort would not have been possible without the enormous efforts by those who first considered it their national duty to ensure the protection of the Pitons from man made development, and those citizens and other in various national, regional and international organizations who worked long and hard to seek and ensure this designation. The Government of St. Lucia salutes those efforts on behalf of all St. Lucians today and in posterity.
It is a fitting tribute that today, on Valentine’s Day, we celebrate the love of a people for their country. And so it is that with much pride we welcome and cherish this day, as St. Lucians, and as citizens of the world.
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