Gardens Going, Going Gone?
While Dominicans raise their voices in anger, Government denies that the Botanic Gardens is to be a golf course
A closely associated member of the Dominican Labour Party told The Sun that the Prime Minister's denial of plans to build a golf course in the Botanical Gardens is nothing more than a "subterfuge, damage control."
"Similar to how he denied building a 29-million-dollar home and denying multiple deals with the Chinese, which we now see taking effect, the Prime Minister is (being spurious)," our source said.
The individual who claims to have first-hand knowledge questions that if such reports of the Gardens not being sold are false, then why were plans developed four years ago and even submitted for approval?
The tranquil and historic Botanic Gardens of Dominica has recently become a battleground of conflicting narratives, as accusations of plans to convert the beloved green space into a golf course have sparked heated debates and impassioned responses.
The Government of Dominica, in an unsigned undated statement, has categorically denied these allegations. Still, voices from within and outside the political realm continue to question the official statements, igniting concerns about the future of this cherished natural haven.
Economist Arthie Martin has become a central figure in bringing these reports to light. Martin claims that the Botanic Gardens have already been sold to a group from Saudi Arabia, alleging that ownership and responsibility have been transferred clandestinely.
"These people have actually already assumed ownership and responsibility, so don't let them fool you or Dominica into believing that nothing has happened," he alleged. "It has already happened, and this has come to us from officials from the government. This is not a joke."
If such reports are accurate, Martin argues that the potential transformation of the Botanic Gardens would violate Dominica's commitment to being the Nature Island and the country's pledge to international agreements such as the biodiversity convention and commitments related to climate change.
"The Botanic Gardens is one of the last remaining pieces of evidence of Dominica being the Nature Island. It is 40 acres of land," the economist highlighted. "No other capital has so much land dedicated to a botanical garden in the middle of the city. Those are the things that make us who we are, and those are the things they want to destroy."
Activist Daria Eugene, a tour operator and the lead organizer of the action to "save the Botanical Gardens," have expressed their outrage and determination to protect the Gardens from potential transformation.
As such, she has called all Dominicans to join her every Sunday, letting the authorities know they will not sit by and allow this to happen.
"We saw the demise of our parrots, and we did not stand up, and this was their foot in the door to start the process of taking the Gardens away from us, but not anymore," she declared.
In response to these allegations, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit vehemently debunked "ongoing rumours" on a Saturday evening radio programme on Kairi FM, expressing his strong commitment to preserving the Gardens as an integral part of the nation's heritage and identity.
"I want to say very, very clearly to the country that this is a malicious rumour. There's absolutely no truth to this," he said. "There is no way this government, under my leadership, or any other Labour Party leadership, would divorce the country from the Botanic Gardens; this is a part of our patrimony that we should never depart from or detach ourselves from."
According to Skerrit, the Botanic Gardens symbolize Dominica's unique identity as a nature island. He dismissed the unfounded talk of selling it to foreign entities, stressing that no discussions or agreements have occurred.
Skerrit expressed his disappointment in how some individuals respond to these "baseless rumours," urging a return to the nation's enlightened approach to seeking information and dealing with facts rather than relying on unverified gossip.
Plans for Gardens
He elaborated on his administration's vision to revitalize the Botanic Gardens, dating back to 2014 when he engaged individuals with historical knowledge about the Gardens.
He stated that this redevelopment plan's primary objective is to enhance the Gardens' status as a premier tourist destination. Recognizing the need for improvements, Skerrit proposed various enhancements, which include creating water features using water from the Roseau River, improving the cricket field, adding a designated children's playground, and building a bypass to separate vehicle traffic from pedestrian areas.
The proposed redevelopment plan also transforms the Gardens into an entertainment and recreational hub. This includes concepts for an indoor entertainment centre featuring amenities such as a miniature golf course, bowling alley, skating rink, theatre, restaurants, and bars. Additionally, plans for a recording studio were mentioned to support local artists utilizing these facilities.
Despite the brainstormed ideas and concepts, Skerrit clarified that formal agreements or contracts have yet to be signed for the redevelopment of the Botanic Gardens. He assured that any proposals would undergo thorough consultations to involve the public and address personal attachments to the Gardens.
-By Ronda Luke