The country’s worryingly low foreign exchange reserves could take a further blow from the construction of the US$100 Hyatt Centric Resort on Bay Street, The City – at least in the immediate term, social activist David Comissiong has charged.
In a strong retort to criticism by two Government ministers that his legal challenge to the construction of the 15-storey structure was nothing more than political self aggrandizement which stood in the way of the country’s progress, Comissiong was unapologetic, challenging the ministers to explain “how the process of having Mr Mark Maloney construct a hotel at Bay Street, St Michael would boost Barbados’ reserves of foreign exchange”.
“It would seem to me that Mr Maloney would be likely to use up and further deplete Barbados’ reserves of foreign exchange during the process of constructing his hotel, since most of the construction material that he would be using would be imported into Barbados and would therefore have to be purchased with our scarce foreign exchange,” the unrepentant Comissiong told Barbados TODAY.
“Any possible foreign exchange earnings from such a project would clearly be several years down the road, if and when the hotel gets up and going and is able to attract additional foreign tourists to our island,” he argued.
Minister of Industry Donville Inniss had all but painted Comissiong as an obstructionist who stood in the way of progress.
In recent weeks he has suggested that race was at play in the controversy surrounding the hotel, telling a joint meeting of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) St James Central, St James South, St Michael North and St Michael North East branches in February that unnamed individuals “pop their head up every now and then, particularly when there are projects involving Caucasians, and say that this project must not be done”.
Maloney, one of the developers in the Hyatt project, is white.
Just Wednesday, during the launch of the wireless and electronics store, RadioShack, at Sheraton Mall, Inniss again went at Comissiong, calling his actions “selfish
“There are some individuals who would not miss an opportunity to champion their selfish political cause. I normally don’t bother about these things but when you seek to damage the reputation of the country that my children have to grow up in, my nieces and nephews and my constituents, I cry shame on you,” Inniss said.
Two days earlier Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler had said the legal challenge by Comissiong was nothing more than “purely a political exercise and anybody could see where that is going but we would let the court deal with it”.
Comissiong Thursday described the two ministers as “demagogues”, even as he suggested that those seeking to blame him for holding up the project were misleading the country.
“It is factually incorrect to suggest that I, David Comissiong, have had Maloney’s project put on hold by way of a High Court injunction. Rather, what I have done is to ask a judge of the Supreme Court of Barbados to subject the grant of permission to Maloney’s company to a process of judicial review,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“I also subsequently filed an interlocutory application requesting that the Court grant an interim order, suspending the grant of permission to Maloney’s company until the Court can hear and make a decision on the judicial review application. However, the Supreme Court of Barbados has not yet dealt with this interlocutory application.
“Furthermore, Mr Stuart [Prime Minister Freundel Stuart], the Minister responsible for Town and Country Planning, has indicated that he is opposing the request for an interim order. Thus, as of today’s date, the grant of permission to Maloney’s company still remains in effect, and, to the best of my knowledge, Maloney is continuing to do work on the Bay Street site,” he stressed.
A hearing into Comissiong’s application seeking to prevent work from beginning on the multi-million dollar hotel is expected to begin on April 19.
After Stuart had in February given his approval to the project, which has been three years in the making, Comissiong filed a claim in the Supreme Court challenging the permission granted by the Prime Minister to Maloney’s company to construct this hotel, asking the Court to examine the manner in which the application was handled and whether Stuart’s decision was legal. The hearing on that matter is set to begin on May 9.
The social activist has insisted that an environmental impact assessment ought to have been done before permission was granted for the development of the beachfront property.