Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is fighting back against social activist David Comissiong’s move to stop the controversial construction of the US$100 million Hyatt Centric hotel on Bay Street.
Comissiong, meantime, has done some counterpunching of his own in response to a member of Stuart’s Cabinet referring to him as “an enemy of the state”.
Stuart, the Minister responsible for Town and Country Planning, has legally challenged Comissiong’s request for a judicial review of the permission granted to local businessman Mark Maloney to build the 15-storey hotel.
“The minister . . . is challenging my application for judicial review on the grounds that I don’t have a financial or legal interest in the matter at issue – that, simply, as a citizen [I do not have] what lawyers call the locus standi [the right] to bring such a claim of judicial review of his actions,” Comissiong told reporters Tuesday morning on the steps of the Supreme Court after Stuart reportedly filed his challenge two weeks ago.
“Your Prime Minister, our Prime Minister, my Prime Minister, is challenging the right of David Comissiong, as a citizen of Barbados, to bring a claim for judicial review in this matter.”
Maloney’s company, Vision Developments Inc, which has been contracted to build the resort, has also filed a legal application requesting that it be made a party to the case.
“They wish to be a defendant to these proceedings. Again, that’s a matter for the court to determine, but my concept of judicial review proceedings is, I am asking the court to review not the actions of Mr Maloney’s company but the action of a public authority known as the Minister responsible for Town and Country Planning,” Comissiong explained.
The matter, which was due for hearing Tuesday before Madame Justice Sonia Richards, was adjourned until July 7 since the assigned judge is currently on vacation.
Construction on the Hyatt Centric hotel ground to a halt in March after Comissiong challenged Government’s decision not to conduct an environmental impact assessment on the multi-million-dollar beachfront development.
He is also asking the High Court to review the manner in which the Minister responsible for Town and Country Planning processed “a particular Town and Country Planning application”.
The attorney had also argued that Stuart had relied on an outdated Physical Development Plan, even though Section 11 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act stipulates that the plan, which is now 14 years old, must be updated every five years. He also took issue with the 15-storey elevation, pointing out that the maximum height allowed for beachfront hotels was five storeys, compared to seven storeys for non-beachfront tourist accommodation.
Comissiong also took the opportunity to hit back at four Government ministers whom he said had verbally attacked him in recent weeks for challenging Stuart’s actions, most notably Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman, who referred to anyone opposing the Hyatt project as “an enemy of the state”.
“If he feels so strongly about those comments, well then make them without the safety of Parliamentary privilege shrouding him,” Comissiong challenged Kellman, even as he sent a strong message to the ministers that “I will not be intimidated”.
The social activist said he had been told to “pack up my bags and leave Barbados for daring to challenge . . . a matter of fundamental public interest”, adding that he had been taking note of the developments with “great concern”.
“It is fundamentally wrong for the political class to believe that they should not be challenged, and that the citizen of the country does not even have the right to ask the Supreme Court to review the actions of a Government minister,” Comissiong charged,
even as he took a swipe at the leaders of the country’s two main political parties as well as media heads for failing to chastise Kellman, although giving kudos to Barbados Workers’ Union General Secretary Toni Moore and several others for speaking out against Kellman’s comments.