Despite a recent announcement by the state tourism promotion agency that the US$100 million Hyatt Centric Resort slated for Bay Street will open in 2020, social activist David Comissiong has said he is not withdrawing the lawsuit, likely putting him at odds with the new administration.
Since winning the first round of his legal fight, Comissiong, newly appointed by Government as Ambassador to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), insisted today he has no intention of withdrawing his legal challenge to the building permission granted in February last year by then Prime Minister and Minister for Town Planning Freundel Stuart.
Comissiong’s claim is that the hotel owners have not, to this day, conducted an environmental impact assessment (EIA) or held townhall meetings as required by law for a major high-rise project such as the Hyatt, which is set to go up within the UNESCO-designated historic capital.
Comissiong told Barbados TODAY he has no reason to withdraw his application for judicial review of the former prime minister’s decision which is currently before the Court of Appeal.
“That permission which was granted back in, I think it was February 2017, remains in place. This company has always had the power to commence building the hotel. However, it is my considered opinion that the permission is invalid because the application for the permission was not correctly processed in that there was no environmental impact assessment done,” the attorney-at-law argued.
“Therefore, I filed a case challenging the permission and that case still exists . . . it is pending. And therefore, if they go ahead and they commence construction and the court ultimately determines that the permission was not correctly given . . . the application was not correctly processed and the court determines that the permission is to be quashed or canceled, then it would mean that whatever resources they spend in commencing the construction, would have been wasted,” he added.
Asked if he was willing to take the matter as far as this country’s final appeal court – the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) – the prominent pan-Africanist said he was not even thinking of such a move because he is certain the Appeals Court here will rule against the permission that was granted.
“I am convinced that the ultimate decision of the court will be to find that a project of that nature required the staging of an environmental impact assessment, required the holding of townhall meetings where the people of Barbados could have been properly informed about the project, where the people of Barbados could have raised queries and stated objections if they so desired. And in the absence of that kind of process, I am convinced that a court will find that the permission cannot stand,” he added.
The social activist-cum-diplomat stressed that since nothing has changed with respect to the basis for his objections to construction of the resort, he sees no reason to give up the legal battle.
“Up to today, it is still the situation that no environmental impact assessment has been done . . . So that situation remains the same. So there is no basis for David Comissiong discontinuing that legal challenge,” he contended.
Ambassador Comissiong recalled that after he first filed his case in the High Court, Stuart countered by challenging his right to question his decision to grant building permission to the Hyatt backers.
The court in return ruled for the activist, leading to the prime ministerial appeal, now pending before the appellate justices. In effect, Stuart’s challenge remains the Government’s, despite the change of administration following the general election.
As she addressed the Astor B Watts lunchtime lecture series last week, Democratic Labour Party (DLP) President Verla De Peiza referred to the latest announcement that the Hyatt Centric Resort was going ahead under this Government.
Directing her comments to Ambassador Comissiong she wanted to know what he had to say now that the project was apparently going ahead in the absence of any announcement of an EIA.