Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has warned that a Barbados Labour Party (BLP) sponsored political agenda could be at play in terms of the ongoing legal challenge by attorney-at-law and social activist David Comissiong that has served to frustrate his Government’s attempts to get construction of the multi-million dollar Hyatt Centric Resort off the ground.
“As I have said over and over again, politics are being sprayed around in Barbados, and the closer we get to the election the more it will continue,” he said in direct reference to Comissiong’s ongoing challenge, adding that “it seems to me that one of the ways in which those who seek to break my will, and get me to reverse the decision [on Hyatt], is to have recourse with the court and to say, ‘we do not think we can go forward because it is not in the public interest.’”
Breaking his recent silence on the controversial matter, Stuart further suggested that “it may be just coincidental that the Leader of the Opposition [Mia Mottley] and Comissiong are first cousins”.
However, he said he remained confident that his Government would be given the nod to proceed with the US$100 million development.
“I have an implicit faith in the triumph of truth over lies, right over wrong, and of good over bad,” he told participants in a town hall meeting held in New York last week when asked about the ongoing delay to the proposed 237-room, 15-storey luxury resort on Bay Street, due to a legal intervention made by Comissiong, explaining that “sometimes, it may take a little time to get to the finish line . . . [and] you have to let people spray all their malice, in the political environment”.
However, making a biblical reference, he said: “I go with St Paul. ‘Whatsoever things that are true, whatsoever things that are honourable . . . if there be any virtue’ . . . I can’t get contaminated by all those things that are happening out there.”
With Comissiong currently contesting the development on national and environmental grounds, Stuart further defended his support of the controversial project, pointing out that in 2006, the previous BLP-led administration had given permission to an investment company to build a ten-storey hotel on the same Bay Street site.
“And the permission which was given from the Prime Minister’s Office made it clear that there should be no compromise on the height of the hotel,” Stuart pointed out, adding that even though “that project was cheated of fulfilment because the company could not get the investors together, it had been approved by the Chief Town Planner.
“There were no objections in 2006, but all of a sudden you began to get objections coming from all over the place,” he told those attending the New York meeting.
Last December, High Court judge Madame Justice Dr Sonia Richards threw out an application by the Prime Minister, who had asked the court to rule that Comissiong had no legal ground on which to challenge his decision.
That decision cleared the way for Comissiong to legally take forward his objection to the decision by the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Minister responsible for Town Planning, to approve construction of the controversial $200 million luxury hotel.
However, Stuart’s attorney Hal Gollop, QC, immediately served notice of his intention to appeal the judge’s ruling ,which came as a major blow to Government’s efforts to immediately shore up the country’s dwindling foreign reserves, which based on the last Central Bank Quarterly report stood at about 6.6 weeks of import cover cover, well below the required 12-week benchmark.
During last week’s town hall, Stuart acknowledged that one of the commitments of the proposed Sustainable Recovery Plan was to get the foreign reserves back to that benchmark.
However, he said “for a good part of Barbados’ economic history between 1977 and 1985, I think we did not have 12 weeks of foreign reserves cover.
“Ultimately, reserves are what they say and are called upon, when all other systems fail. The President of the Bankers Association was reported in the media last week as saying that the foreign exchange market, as distinct from the foreign reserves, was working very smoothly and that people were getting the money they need to complete their transactions, and there were no challenges in the foreign exchange market.
“You only become concerned about the reserves if something goes wrong in the foreign exchange market. And I think, the issue of printing money by the bank, is now behind us,” he added.