Derek Walcott museum closes amid row over Caribbean tourist developments

St Lucia National Trust says government money cut forced closure of museum, housed in reconstruction of Nobel-winning poets former home

A museum on the site of the boyhood home of the poet and playwright Derek Walcott has shut amid a fund shortfall that has been linked to disputes over controversial tourist developings on St Lucia.

The Nobel laureate, who died in March, attended a rite last year to mark the opening of the museum, housed in a reconstruction of his former home in the Caribbean islands capital, Castries.

But the St Lucia National Trust has since shuttered the Walcott House, quoting budget cuts.

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

It fears that a proposed causeway connecting a nature reserve to the mainland would harm 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 schemed dolphinarium at the Pigeon Island national park in the north of the island.

In April, the St Lucian government announced the removal of the trusts 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.

Derek
The Derek Walcott museum. Photograph: St Lucia National Trust

The Walcott House was closed because of funding constraints, told Bishnu Tulsie, the trusts director, who called it a instead painful decision With the cut in our subvention we are finding it difficult to keep the home open.

The islands main opposition party, the leftwing Labour party, issued a statement describing the governments decision as vicious, vindictive and reek of victimisation.

The prime minister, Allen Chastanet, of the conservative United Workers party, has denied that the award was terminated in retaliation for the trusts posture 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 producing enough revenue to cover all the costs that we have. We have to prioritise where we are going to expend our money.

The trust has ambitious plans to expand the museum site into a major tourist attraction and arts centre, but these have been put on hold.

According to the trust, significant grants from the Taiwanese government to help fund future phases of the$ 6m project have not yet been passed on by the St Lucian government.

St Lucia is one of a small number of countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan rather than its neighbour and rival China. A spokesperson for Chastanet did not respond to requests for comment.

Walcott was born on the island and died there on 17 March, aged 87.

He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1992 and was visiting prof of verse at the University of Essex from 2010 -2 013. His twin brother, Roderick, a notable playwright and director, died in 2000.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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