On Bigger Biggs and Buccament Bay

The Buccament Bay Resort on St Vincent’s southwestern coast is named for the village where it is located.

NB: While this article is written by a journalist, it is not news! It is simply my opinion.

On Saturday Aug. 19, I began exhibiting symptoms of the flu, so I decided to go to the beach to swim — which often helps to alleviate the discomfort.

As usual, I went to Buccament Bay.

And, as I stood on the end of the beach closer to Layou — away from the resort end, where I was accustomed to swim — I began to consider in greater detail how the beach had changed since I was a kid and learnt to swim and fish there.

Buccament Bay, now famed for its Buccament Bay Resort, has always been and will always be a special place for me. Like I said, I learnt to swim there, long before half of the beach was covered in white sand — seemingly in keeping with the tourists’ stereotypical view of the Caribbean and resorts. I learnt to fish at Buccament Bay, practising first on the small, red “kitties” with their large mouth that so gobbled down my baited hooks that I only needed to pull the hooked fish out of the water. On May 1, 2000, I met on Buccament Bay a young lady, to whom I later got engaged, also at Buccament Bay.

In the summer of 2010, as the Buccament Bay Resort was opening to guests, I attempted to cross the bridge resort owners constructed over the Buccament Bay River. I wanted to move from the village side of the beach to the resort side. I did this knowing that all beaches in SVG, by law, are public. However, security personnel told me that while the beach was public and that I was free to swim there if I liked, the bridge was private and I was not allowed to cross it. I walked away with more than a little resentment, after noting to the security officer that while persons are accustomed to wade across the river from one side of Buccament Bay to the other, the rocks that resort owners had put at the river bank on the resort side of the beach was a hindrance to such activities.

I was pleased in August to find the river shallow enough and flowing slowly enough to allow me to wade across. Further, stepping out of the river onto the rock on the resort end of the beach did not pose much of a challenge. I walked across the beach and saw persons with Vincentian accents and those with foreign twangs — the foreigners seemingly guests of the resort — bathing — not necessarily together — along the beach.

The security personnel from the resort I passed along the beach did not pay me any mind, or if they did, were so subtle in doing so that I did not notice. As I stood on the rock on the resort side of the beach, I saw what appeared to be Vincentians swimming on the end of the beach (“Rillan/Pembroke Bay”), where I was accustomed to swim since childhood.

Further out at sea, fishermen were tending to nets of live fish “tied” until they are ready to be sold. Along the rocks of the headland between Buccament Bay and the Byahauts (towards Kingstown) youngsters where jumping from the trees and swinging from ropes into the sea near “Kitty Hole” — activities which I observed with vicarious pleasure as I reminisced about my own teenage days, engaging in those same activities.

As I stood on the rocks, I remembered also a piece that I wrote for a newspaper in 2006, when farmers where concerned about being uprooted to plant a resort on some of the nation’s flattest agricultural lands, in a country where the topography severely limits mechanisation in agriculture. In the newspaper article, I also observed that it was unimaginable to see fishermen hauling their seines onto a beach where tourists are sunbathing. I am not sure if fisherfolks do haul their nets onto the beach on the resort end of Buccament Bay when they “throw” their seines or how the man-made changes to the river (and beach) have affected fisherfolk’s ability to cat tri-tri, a local delicacy.

“Development” comes at a price, as the people of Buccament Bay and its environs are slowly realising. Sometimes, the economic benefits that projects such as Buccament Bay Resort bring, or are expected to bring, is often at the expense of disruption of traditional ways of live or severe inconveniences to locals at the expense of tourist who pay top dollar for a comfortable stay at resorts such as Buccament Bay Resort. We have heard villagers complain about flooding of their houses, supposedly because of the resort’s altering of the river to protect their assets without making similar provisions on the village side.

Further, Buccament Bay Resort has not been without its challenges. We have heard of construction workers’ complaints about not being paid on time. And while some in the state mechanism who have called for the resort to be “protected” would have us believe that subcontractors and the manner in which they conduct their affairs are to be blamed for the late payment of wages, one subcontractor recently told a local newspaper, “… I cannot pay an employee before the company pays me…”

That subcontractor happens to be one of two construction workers at the resort shot by unknown assailant(s) on their way back to the resort on Aug. 10. It is, however, not clear whether the attack is linked to their work at the resort.

But as I stood on the rocks at the transformed Buccament Bay in August, I felt that if the Buccament Bay Resort succeeds, it would be to the benefit of our country. Of course, I miss the beach as it was and recollected all the pleasant memories from my childhood, teenage year, and early adulthood but thought them a small sacrifice for the “development” of my country.

A view of the Buccament Bay River.

As I walked back to the village side of Buccament Bay, I thought that it would be good if we can (if we have not already) strike that balance where Vincentians can enjoy their beaches, even as visitors are allowed to enjoy the St. Vincent and the Grenadines that they crave. And as I crossed the resort’s bridge back to the village at Buccament Bay, two members of the resort staff seemed not to notice me as they carried on merrily in their own conversation.

As I crossed the bridge, I stopped to take a photo of the transformed river, and smiled as I remembered why I always though that the Buccament Bay river mouth, devoid of stone and running through relatively flat lands, was one of the best in St. Vincent.

And, as I decided to publish this article on my website, I reflected on the interviews that I had with farmers at Rabacca and Leon “Bigger Biggs” Samuel on Wednesday, Sept. 5.

The government has revoked Samuel’s licence to mine construction aggregate in Rabacca, effectively shutting down a multi-million-dollar Vincentian business that employed between 40 and 60 persons, depending on the level of production.

This image, captured from a YouTube video, shows Samuel, centre, being accosted last year. While the assailant’s hand is touching Samuel’s face, it is not possible to determine, from the video, if he actually hit Samuel.

The government cited breech of terms of the accord and environmental degradation. Farmers are also adamant that Samuel must allow them to drive through his private property to get to their lands. They have wrongly given the public the impression that using Samuel’s property as a thoroughfare is the only access to their lands. I visited the area and saw otherwise. Further, I was present when one of the farmers issued a thinly veiled threat to beat Samuel again — a possible repeat of an incident on Feb. 4, 2011.

But, according to reports, so far, it seems that the only response from Kingstown is to send armed cops to remove the gate from Samuel’s property, turning it, and the millions of dollars of equipment there, into an open sesame.

And as I decided to publish this piece, I thought about two things:

  1. I was glad that I did not publish this when I first wrote it.
  2. And, I couldn’t help but recall that Dave Ames, when Buccament Bay was being criticised for not paying workers, asserted his Vincentian citizenship — a status he got, supposedly because of his investments here. Minister of Works Sen. Julian Francis has said that Buccament Bay should be protected. But Samuel is a born Vincentian — born, bread, cake and mauby — who built up a multi-million dollar business from scratch. I was just wondering, wasn’t his business worth protecting, too?

(PS: My publishing this will displease some. But, since my conscience is not for sale, what do I care?)

Follow Kenton X. Chance on Twitter: @KentonXChance

Below is a video of some of the scenes at Buccament Bay on August 19, 2012.

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2 thoughts on “On Bigger Biggs and Buccament Bay

  1. Very informative about the way life and living have been changed since my youthful days in SVG. Congratulation Kenton, keep up the good work.

  2. Beautiful expose Kenton,well written,subtle and personal.You could not have made a better contrast on the treatment of two business.I suppose we can make several conclusion;We have a greater affinity for foreigners than our local people(Does the color of your skin matter?) ;Tourism is the only sector than is worth protecting and given special treatment;You have to have the right connections to be successful.My take on this is the latter.St Vincent is a small country and there are few opportunities for an enterprising person and even fewer mechanism to bring ideas to fruition.Bigger Biggs filled a demand and made a successful venture.It looks like success in SVG is skewered in one direction.

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