A screenshot of the online petition. To date there are more than 500 signatures.

By: Precious Mills

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts (Sunday 23rd December 2018)-According to the over 500 individuals who have participated in an online petition, permission is not granted for the government to construct a new Basseterre High School (BHS)  in the vicinity of the Basseterre Aquifer located in the East Basseterre area.

This media house has discovered that there is currently lobbying action is being run via change.org-by a mover called ‘Concerned Citizen’ seeking to get a total of 1000  internet signatures in a public attempt to address the ongoing controversial issue.

A link inviting others to partake has been circulating via social media, particularly WhatsApp.

Dr. Geoffrey Hanley, the Opposition St.Kitts-Nevis Labour Party (SKNLP) representative for Constituency One (East Basseterre) was contacted about the petition, and he applauded the startup of such a petition which he, too, has signed.

“I am grateful that we have concerned citizens who would have seen it fit to express their discomfort with the school being built on the aquifer in terms starting a campaign in the form of a petition ensuring that they get as many signatures as possible so as to further drive home the point that we know for fact-because previous studies would have been conducted with over 50 plus per cent of the persons who spoke out of it not happening.”

He added: “So I’m happy that these individuals would have seen the importance of preserving the aquifer in trying to sensitise other persons as well as to the importance of us making sure that we take warning and we reserve that area as an untouched area.”

Dr. Hanley is of the view that the petition can be effective “because we are in a social society in terms of the social media society I think it would reach quite a number of persons hence a large number can be generated of persons participating.”

He is of the view that individuals who are busy at this time of the year concerning Christmas and Carnival activities will eventually find the time to “ensure that they voice their concerns in relation to it.”

The government side during a parliamentary sitting of last week’s Budget Address session, highlighted its intention to carry out the plan to build the new BHS and also bashed the SKNLP Opposition for criticising the site chosen.

Dr. Hanley in commenting on the government’s unchanged position on the matter despite concerns raised, said: “Well, I think it would be an ignorant move if we try to continue or even attempt in terms of constructing the school on the aquifer because you would have read before, several reports would have already been produced indicating the importance  of us ensuring that nothing contaminates our water so if we are now going to try to support the Prime Minister  and… the Minister of Education in trying to start (building) the school we know that we are going to have challenges because there are persons who are totally against it because they believe and know that water is life and there shouldn’t be any need for us to risk contamination or experiment at this time.”

Asked if the BHS-aquifer issue is discussed with fellow constituents during his community interaction, the fresh Opposition candidate replied: “Yes, yes! and I and can say it is coming from people who I didn’t expect it to come from including persons who support the government. They are telling you point blank ‘ No school should be built in that area’  and some have even voiced to me that whenever we’re ready  to do demonstrations or whatever, they are going to be a part of it because it’s not about politics and that is something that I’ve been saying all along; we have to separate the politics. Yes, I understand that they campaigned about building a brand new school; I am in support of a brand new school but I don’t think the school should be built on the aquifer and I will not allow the school to be built on the aquifer.”

In further commenting on his personal commitment to address the matter, Dr. Hanley talked about doing all that is necessary through legal actions including the court system because he is “passionate and serious about the cause.”

When asked if he supports the school being built at the old grounds in Victoria Road and East Park Range area, he had this say: “Yes because I am one who from day one was of the view that nothing is wrong with the grounds; let us look to see how we can address it because all of the reports NIOSH and the other reports would have indicated that nothing major was wrong with Basseterre High School. Whatever was the problem could have been fixed and we are saying, let us go back to the drawing board and use that site in reference to ensuring that the  school is being built right there at the old site because the space is adequate; even to construct the modern school that they (the government) are talking about building because I agree if you’re going to build a new school, it must be a modern school.”

Photo: A screenshot of the online petition. To date there are more than 500 signatures.