Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy should stop “shooting off his mouth” on the Hyatt Hotel issue, social activist David Comissiong is warning.
In a damning letter to the media Monday afternoon, Comissiong advised Sealy to “keep his mouth shut” on the application by developers Mark Maloney and James Edgehill to construct the $100 million Hyatt Centric Resort on Browne’s Beach, The City.
It was a stinging response to Sealy, who has said it was only a matter of time before permission was granted for work to begin on the 15-story property in Carlisle Bay.
“Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy would be well advised to keep his mouth shut on the issue of the application by Visions Development Inc [Mr Mark Maloney’s company] to construct a 15-storey Hyatt hotel on Browne’s Beach,” Comissiong wrote.
“It is . . . highly irregular and improper for Mr Sealy, a senior minister in Mr Stuart’s administration, to be shooting off his mouth and speaking out of turn by publicly declaring that Mr Maloney’s company will be given permission to construct the hotel in question.”
The minister had told Barbados TODAY at the international tourism trade show World Travel Market in London, England last month the permit was being processed and “we look forward to that permit being issued and work being started”.
More recently, he was quoted in the media here at the weekend as saying the controversy surrounding the project would be resolved and Government would eventually grant the permit, although he could not say when.
Sealy was also quoted as saying there was a “thorough exercise of granting planning permission” to applications of this kind and “the planning process needs to be done”.
Comissiong made reference to the planning process in his letter, insisting that it was Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as the person responsible for Town and Country Planning, who had the responsibility of dealing with the application.
He also said the Town & Country Planning Act made it clear that there must be “an objective and impartial processing procedure that must take into account the provisions of the country’s Physical Development Plan and other material considerations”.
The social activist and attorney-at-law repeated his previously stated position that there must be an environmental impact assessment exercise, which must include a public meeting with residents of the area.
Only after the application goes through this process can the Prime Minister “make a reasoned and informed decision”, Comissiong stated, adding that by assuring that the application would be approved, the minister was indicating that the process would not be conducted in an independent and impartial manner.
“If the procedure that is being applied to the processing of the application is an independent and impartial one, and if this procedure is still on-going, then how could Mr Sealy be in a position to assert that Maloney’s company will get the permission?
“Mr Sealy’s public pronouncements are only serving to cast doubt on the independence, objectiveness and impartiality of the manner in which the processing of this application by Mr Maloney’s company is being conducted,” he wrote.
Comissiong has threatened to take legal action to stop construction of the hotel if is not subjected to a comprehensive environmental impact assessment.
He, along with the Barbados National Trust, is contending that the hotel will have negative implications for the environmental well-being of the City of Bridgetown and its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Comissiong today left little doubt that he would carry out his threat of court action if he were dissatisfied with the handling of the application process and its outcome.
“If at some point in the future this matter becomes the subject of a Judicial Review application in the Supreme Court of Barbados, Mr Sealy could rest assured that his out-of-turn public pronouncements and the doubt that they cast on the impartiality and legitimacy of the process applied to Maloney’s application, will feature prominently,” he warned.