The Opposition People’s Party for Democracy and Development on Saturday condemned what it calls the “imprudent” manner in which Government, led by Attorney General Dale Marshall, acquired the Merchandani property in Bay Street, leaving scores of workers on the breadline just weeks before the start of the yuletide season.
Spokesperson for the party Rev Paul Leacock told members of the media during a press conference at the West Wing, Parliament, that the Party was not defending businesswoman Asha Mrs Ram Merchandani whose property was compulsory acquired by Government earlier this year to make way for the construction of a Hyatt hotel.
He also made it clear that the party was not questioning the rulings of the court, but was seriously concerned about the heavy handed execution of the ruling, which he said was insensitive, inconsiderate and inappropriate on several fronts, and must not go unnoticed.
As he urged Government to be more circumspect in its management of the public’s affairs, Leacock said the party is also calling on members of the public to be vigilant because “today fuh me but tomorrow may be fuh you”.
Leacock questioned why Government rushed headlong with the police to padlock the building, which housed the Liquidation Centre business, just mere weeks before Independence Day and the Christmas season when many businesses do their best commerce all year.
He said on behalf of the people living in a democratic Barbados, the opposition wanted to know what would be lost if government had waited until the New Year to make the move, if workers would be compensated, and why Mrs Ram was not allowed to sell her property to the interested party directly.
Leacock also raised questions as it relates to why government was disinheriting its own citizen to benefit a foreign entity, and what was the process used to identify Hyatt as a company to benefit from the acquisition as opposed to any other.
“Is it true that the principals of the Liquidation property themselves had applied for permission to pursue similar development even if it was on a smaller scale? Why the haste to lock down the property while the price negotiation is still going on? Is government offering fair market value for the property?” Leacock asked.
“Law by nature is unyielding and can appear harsh but governance, that is, the exercise of the rule of law is to be humane not a display of hubris towards its citizens. Additionally, Government is accountable to its citizenry not the other way around. Hence, we have legitimate right to hold the authorities accountable for actions that are insensitive and inconsiderate as is evident in this case,” he added.
The spokesman, who said his party was duty bound to oppose inappropriate actions especially when there seemed to be an emerging pattern of heavy handedness, stated that one of the first acts of the Mia Mottley-led administration was its default on its Bonds owned by thousands of ordinary Barbadians, corporations, and churches who were severely disadvantaged.
He said government unilaterally readjusted the terms and conditions of the contract, denying consideration, and noted that many patriotic Barbadians who invested in those financial instruments to save the country were told they would have to wait upwards of 15 years to receive their return, and to add insult to injury, the promised interest was to be reduced by 50 per cent or less.
“Many have and will die before seeing their reduced returns because of Government’s abuse of its fiscal power. Such heavy handedness must not go uncensored in a democracy of justice and equity.
“We are reminded in the scripture that power belongs to God, and Government to whom that power is lent is to be a servant of God for us for good. It is to be a terror to evil; it is not be a terror itself to those under its jurisdiction.
“To good power we must be subject and not resistant paying tribute where it is due. Given the overwhelming mandate this Government has been graciously given, it must itself be gracious not abusive, for to whom much is given, much is required,” he said.
Leacock stressed that power of compulsory acquisition of private property was one of the most drastic powers the state can exercise. Therefore, he said Government must ensure that when such power was exercised it was unquestionably for good national purpose.
“Justice must be seen by the citizens to be done. Power must never appear to the citizens to be abusive by the state,” he said. (AH)