Opposition Senator Caswell Franklyn has accused the Mia Mottley administration of intervening in the sale of property on Bay Street to facilitate the Hyatt Centric Hotel development.
Government has acquired land in Bay Street owned by Tiny Tots Ltd, and sought to vest it in the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc.
Speaking in the Senate this morning during debate on a resolution for Crown Lands (Vesting and Disposal) Act, Bay Street, St Michael, Franklyn told the Upper House he had difficulty with this particular acquisition, as the transaction being conducted was “not a public purpose”.
“This is essentially a private sector project that the Government is facilitating using its might to take land away from a Barbadian, who if that person were negotiating with the Hyatt, the Hyatt might be forced to pay out a hell of a lot more money,” Franklyn charged.
He contended that Government’s intervention is to the detriment of the people of Barbados for the benefit of the proposed hotel, and added that before taking office the current administration was opposed to the project.
“I remember this was a project conceptualised during the last administration and it was blocked, stymied by persons operating from the Barbados Labour Party who had to make sure that it didn’t come off so that the last administration would be starved of investment,” he said.
He charged that Government is “misbehaving” and it should “stop using its force to take advantage of people who cannot help themselves”.
“It is amazing Sir, this same project got some lashes from the last opposition, now in Government. I remember the last administration was so gung-ho they gave them tax concessions…
He maintained that the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. is not a public entity, and demanded that the Government stop treating Barbadians “like we are silly little people”.
“We need more people standing up to the excesses of this administration. You are doing what you like because you have 29 seats and you feel that you are invincible. I want it stopped. You should operate within the law and decency,” he said.
Meanwhile Senator Lindell Nurse told the Senate that while he did not oppose the project, he too had some questions regarding the Hyatt project. He inquired whether the controversial project was going ahead and whether the issues raised previously by the Government had been resolved.
Government Senator Dr Crystal Haynes defended the Government’s position, saying there were several issues to be resolved in the proposed project.
“A number of concerns that we raised included the fact that an environmental impact assessment had not been done; the hotel is proposed to be developed in a UNESCO World Heritage Site and that a heritage impact study was not done; no study had been done to assess whether the capability of the Bridgetown Sewage Plant would have been able to manage the new proposed 15-storey facility,” she said.
According to her a number of changes have been made since the Barbados Labour Party took office last year.
“It’s not a case where anybody has become bedfellows but we are making sure that the steps are being taken to ensure that any proposed development is being done in a way that will not be to the detriment of the marine environment, that will not be to the detriment of the surrounding communities or to the people of Barbados,” Haynes stated.
Meanwhile Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Jerome Walcott sought to give assurances that Government does not plan to transfer the property to the developers, or to lease it.
According to him, the plan is to give “Barbadians of straw and those who have wealth an opportunity to invest”.
He also pointed to plans by the Government to embark on additional tourism development projects, including the development of the Carlisle Bay area from Needham’s Point to the Careenage.
“Indeed developers have expressed an interest in that already and Government is looking at plans for the construction of a hotel in Bridgetown, seven storeys, at the building overlooking the Carlisle car park. I believe drawings are already in place and the developers are ready.The land is owned by Jamaicans. I believe that Jamaicans own a considerable percentage of Fortress Holdings within Barbados for some years now,” Walcott said.
The resolution was passed.