Nevis National Trust stalemate: Governor General and conservationists concerned

By:Pauline Ngunjiri

<Charlestown,Nevis, February 11th, 2016.Hastening the legislation required to establish the Nevis National Trust was one of the issues highlighted on Tuesday during question and answer time after the Governor General, the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, Sir Tapley Seaton had given a key address during this year’s History and Heritage Month’s annual lecture session held at the St. Paul’s Anglican church hall in Charlestown.

History and Heritage Month is a combined initiative of St. Christopher National Trust(formerly the St. Kitts Heritage Society) and the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society with other significant contributors including the Ministry of Tourism in Nevis. The initiative was launched in 2006.

Sir Seaton spoke on the theme, “Strengthening our Commitment to Preserving our Heritage; our Arts, Archives and marine environment. The lecture, hosted by the West Indies Open Campus in collaboration with Nevis Historical and Conservation Society(NHCS)

A cross-section of members of NHCS) voiced their concerns about the stalemate surrounding Nevis National Trust after the Governor General, Sir Seaton Tapley spoke of the delay in the legislation required to establish the Nevis National Trust.

The Chair of the Lecture session, Ms Isabel Byron when she introduced the Governor General described him as a champion of historical and environmental preservation in the Federation. He is a past Vice President of the St. Kitts National Trust.

He was also a former President of the St. Kitts Heritage Society (which preceded the National Trust.) The GG recalled he had addressed a NHCS AGM in 2012 where he had spoken about the importance of national trusts and had at the time cited the significant role the National Trust in St. Lucia had played in preservation and conservation particularly on Pigeon Island due to its NGO status.

St. Lucia National Trust was able to obtain World Bank funding for its projects and to undertake some major projects, the GG said. “We hope that our trust can evolve to that stage. Funding can be accessed. We need to set up committees designed to access funding to put in place programs and plans.”

He told his audience on Tuesday, “The Nevis Island Assembly enacted an ordinance to establish the Nevis Historical and Conservation Trust, in its them legislative form the enactment would have deprived the trust of a Non-Governmental status which is essential to all of the trusts, local, regional or international. Discussions are required to ensure that any proposed trust, would have a non-governmental status to take this very necessary upward move.”

Members of NHCS notified the GG that they had done all that was required by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA)’s legal department and they could not understand the cause of the stalemate. The GG offered to call the legal adviser to hasten the process but at this juncture, an NIA minister in the audience told the GG that the matter would be forwarded to NIA cabinet as quickly as possible. The GG thanked the minister for relieving him of the burden to call NIA.

He explained the complication surrounding the envisaged Nevis trust “ “It is the question of the composition of the board. It needed to be a non-governmental organisation. When the legislation was enacted, it was proposed that the minister should make all the nominations. This would not be an NGO that would be recognized internationally.”

He said to avoid control by the government; five members should be drawn from the private sector and civil society while four should be drawn from relevant government sectors. The government, he said, cannot have the majority members in the board. “That needs to be remedies in terms of the Nevis National Trust. It has been in the books but it has not been brought into operation. It needs to move forward. The lobbying efforts will have to be revived to persuade them to put in place the legislative amendment to be able to provide for the trust to move forward and have its full scope as an international instrument and be recognized by regional and international entities and be able to access whatever funding is available.”

Currently the GG said, sources of income for the NHCS include endowments, admission fee, museum shops’ income, grants, fund raising events, and a small subvention by NIA, “Volunteers help all these efforts and the society is able to administer two museums, the Hamilton Museum and the Museum of Nevis history. I put all that on record because sometimes we take these contributions for granted and we need to recognize them and the role they are playing. They are part of the commitment in the appreciation of heritage.”

“The Nevis Historical and Conservation Society must be commended for its pioneering work and its continuing promotion of its innovative programs that are indeed very progressive. The society was fortunate to have had the support of many non-nationals, who have come to regard Nevis as home. They have contributed meaningfully to the society’s development. “


Other achievements in Nevis he referred to was the fact that the public is allowed to have access to environmental studies. “You have been fortunate in Nevis. You are able to see environmental assessments. They are placed at the public library and persons are asked to comment on them. I think this is not a practice being reflected in St. Kitts.”

Some persons in the audience told the GG that at times the placing of environment studies for public scrutiny was a formality as input by the public was not always factored in. In some cases a person noted, the government has already made decisions before environmental studies are disseminated. The GG suggested that dialogue be facilitated to ensure that public input into environmental studies was put into consideration.

Other issues that the GG spoke about included listing of historic buildings and the need to give incentives for the restoration of buildings. “It calls for a preservation commission. It has not been functional and we need to revisit it. If we need to amend it in terms of the Nevis situation, it needs to now reflect. There is need for an entity that could undertake the listing of these buildings.” He spoke about the National Conservation and Environment Protection Act and said St. Kitts and Nevis was the first country in the region to put in place this kind of Act. “It was recognized by the University of West Indies as the first of its kind to embrace and encompass areas of heritage and conservation; we feel we made a tremendous step.

He regretted the delay in the enactment of National Conservation and Environment Management Act. “Regrettably, that has not got off the ground despite several seminars and workshops. It is supposed to result in legislation. “The department of environment is going to be urged to look into this matter and bring about some changes especially marine environment. Enough is not being done.” The GG also spoke about the need to hasten the development of a cultural policy, “We want to develop a cultural policy because they are all seen under the wide umbrella of culture. A draft exists prepared some years ago with the help of a Jamaica drafter.” He said he was aware of the current efforts to put the policy in place.

He commended efforts made in the development of the Nevis Performing Arts Centre (Nepac):“You have had advancement here in Nevis in terms of Nepac and being able to have somewhere where one can exhibit. Should there be a cultural centre or a performing arts centre”? There is a need for the home of the arts and that is one of the elements we need to promote. We can celebrate our music, dance and folklore.” He said there was an upward move in the development of poetry. He spoke passionately about the deplorable conditions under which government records have been stored. Concerned persons in the audience echoed his concerns.

The GG said there were important documents such as slave registers. “There are not many islands that can show their slave registers. We need to ensure that they are preserved under the best conditions possible so that they can go on to posterity,” He spoke of the importance of building a new archives building with all the necessary provisions, “archives need to be strengthened if we have to show future generations what exactly history was like and how they can move forward and be able to take all the necessary progressive steps.” A cross section of persons in the audience alerted the GG that some court records and registers were in deplorable conditions, they also pointed out that some churches could not trace records. “I share your sentiments. I want to lend my support and to see how without being intrusive and to see how my office in a sense can organize these things.

I have a passion for conservation and preservation. I will try my best. A suitable place could be found to store court records. A disastrous fire in 1982 destroyed some records. I share the concern and the worry.” Sir Seaton called on relevant sectors to respect the international conventions: , “We must recognize the serious responsibilities they carry in terms of reporting mechanism. You can then have international protection. We need to strengthen our commitment.”

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