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Fri 15th Mar 2019

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Foreigners land grabbing in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Launching the 2019 Lenten Appeal, Trócaire, CEO Caoimhe de Barra, warned that the corporate race for natural resources has put millions of people around the world at risk of exploitation and abuse. The organisation is calling for a legally binding United Nations treaty to protect people in the developing world from human rights violations.

Since 2000, over 49 million hectares of communal or smallholder land - approximately six times the size of Ireland - has been acquired for commercial use by transnational entities. This is the land that poor people have relied on to feed their families for generations.

Examples of land grabbing by foreigners can be seen throughout SVG. When Mustique was allegedly bought by super-rich, white foreigners decades ago, there were indigenous Vincentians living and farming on Mustique. These people were displaced and their human rights trampled upon.

These super-rich, white foreigners are out of place. They do not have a deed of ownership of Mustique and are illegally occupying Mustique.

They have trampled on the rights of Vincentian fishermen too. It is now illegal for our fishermen to fish in the sea around Mustique. Since when did land rights entitle you to sea ownership too? They operate like a state within a state.

Territorial sea, as defined by the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, is a belt of coastal waters extending at most 12 nautical miles from the baseline (usually the mean low-water mark) of a coastal state. The territorial sea is regarded as the sovereign territory of the state. But, Mustique is not an independent state, so why do they have ownership of the sea around Mustique?

These land grabbing parasites must be deported from SVG. Fiji deports foreigners over land grabbing issues. Fiji's deputy Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has said changes to their land sale laws were created in response to concern about what he calls a land grab by foreigners.

Lenten Appeal highlights the fact that the world’s poorest people are not being protected from foreign land grabbers. This is a reality in SVG too.

The world’s poorest people need access to land and natural resources to lift themselves out of poverty, but too often their rights are ignored or trampled upon.

There is a village within Mustique known as Lovell Village where members of the indigenous Vincentian population live. These indigenous people cannot rent their house to tourists to make a dollar. This is an example of foreigners stopping poor Vincentians using their own resources to lift themselves out of poverty. Our people’s rights are ignored and trampled upon.

On Thursday 7th March 2019, The European Parliament and Council reached a provisional agreement requiring European investors such as banks, pension funds and insurers, to carry out due diligence. This means investors will need to disclose the steps they have taken to address the adverse impact of their investment decisions on people and planet.

A similar law is needed in SVG and be allowed to operate retrospectively. We need to look at the adverse impact of foreigners taking over Mustique and the effect on the indigenous people who were already there. What about their human rights?

European Union investors can no longer be blind to the human rights abuses carried out by the companies they invest in. We can no longer be blind to the human rights abuses carried out by foreigners in SVG.

"Land grabbing has had a profoundly debilitating effect on rural communities," said Ben Hardman, a Myanmar legal director at Earth Rights International. "Even now, laws are widely ignored and when they are enforced it is to benefit powerful elites."

According to Retired British Royal Airforce Engineer Warrant Officer Ivan O’Neal BSc (hons), MSc, MBA, Leader of SVG Green Party, the super-rich, white foreigners in Mustique provide no net benefit to our country and to our people. It is highly counterproductive to sustainable development in SVG. Our children have been sent home from schools which are dilapidated, yet the super-rich, white foreigners in Mustique have tax and customs duty exemptions worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

We must break this apartheid regime. The Mustique enclave is a deep insult to our country and people under the highly corrupt Mustique Act No 48 of 2002. The Mustique Act No 48 of 2002 must be abolished. We must deport the land grabbing foreigners.

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