Derek Walcott museum closes amid tensions


I had missed this unfortunate news from a few days ago, “Derek Walcott museum closes amid row over Caribbean tourist developments.” The Guardian (21 June 2017) reports that the St. Lucia National Trust explained that government funding cuts forced closure of museum, housed in the reconstructed Nobel Prize-winning poet’s former home. Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has denied that the grant was terminated in retaliation for the trust’s stance against a planned dolphin park and resort project, due to environmental concerns and animal rights.

A museum on the site of the boyhood home of the poet and playwright Derek Walcott has closed amid a funding shortfall that has been linked to disputes over controversial tourist developments on St Lucia. The Nobel laureate, who died in March, attended a ceremony last year to mark the opening of the museum, housed in a reconstruction of his former house in the Caribbean island’s capital, Castries. But the St Lucia National Trust has since shuttered the Walcott House, citing budget cuts.


The trust, along with some residents and environmentalists, has previously expressed concerns over a planned $2.6bn resort scheme masterminded by a Hong Kong-based horse racing magnate that is to be partly funded by the sale of St Lucian citizenship to Asian investors.

It fears that a proposed causeway linking a nature reserve to the mainland would damage the shoreline and threaten endemic rare species. In March, the trust published an essay on its website entitled “A Causeway for Concern”. The trust is also objecting to a planned dolphinarium at the Pigeon Island national park in the north of the island.

In April, the St Lucian government announced the removal of the trust’s annual subsidy, which amounts to about $250,000 – or about 20% of its yearly budget. This cut, the trust says, has forced it to shut the 700 sq ft Walcott House, which has running costs of about $80,000 per year. “The Walcott House was closed because of funding constraints,” said Bishnu Tulsie, the trust’s director, who called it a “rather painful decision … With the cut in our subvention we are finding it difficult to keep the home open.”

The island’s main opposition party, the leftwing Labour party, issued a statement describing the government’s decision as “vicious, vindictive and reeking of victimisation”.

The prime minister, Allen Chastanet, of the conservative United Workers party, has denied that the grant was terminated in retaliation for the trust’s stance on the dolphin park and the resort project, known as Pearl of the Caribbean.

“I am not vexed with the trust,” he told reporters. “Right now, we have a cash problem in the government. We are not generating enough revenue to cover all the costs that we have. We have to prioritise where we are going to spend our money.” [. . .]

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