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Opposition wants cost of Salybia retreat

By Clint Chan Tack Thursday, November 15 2007

GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS were unable yesterday to shed any light on the cost of the week-long government retreat at the Salybia Nature Resort and Spa, as the Congress of the People and UNC Alliance raise questions about the expense.

The COP, in a statement yesterday, said the Government should disclose the cost, especially since the resort is owned by the family of former Sports Minister Roger Boynes.

Opposition Leader Basdeo Panday, who is to be sworn in today, said the UNC A plans to raise this issue in Parliament. Panday claimed the UNC held a retreat at the Salybia resort last year but did not reveal how much it cost.

Government officials said they were uncertain what was the cost of the retreat and added that these matters are handled by Sandra Marchack, permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, who is also on the retreat.

Prime Minister Patrick Manning, his Cabinet, candidates and other members of the Government are participating in the retreat.

Checks yesterday revealed the resort does not have any package deals for conferences. Sources said any company or group applying to use the resort need to send their request on an official letterhead and then the particulars would be worked out.

The retreat is due to end tomorrow and the new Cabinet holds its first meeting at Whitehall next Monday at 9 am. Meanwhile, the UNC A was unable to say yesterday whether it plans to hold any orientation session for its new parliamentarians or how much such a session would cost.

UNC A St Augustine MP Vasant Bharath told Newsday the latter issues were on the table for discussion at last evening’s UNC national executive meeting at Rienzi Complex in Couva.

One daily newspaper claimed the UNC A contemplated holding a one-day orientation session at Cara Suites Hotel in Claxton Bay. Checks revealed this hotel offers rates of $2,500 plus VAT to rent its ballroom for conferences and $750 plus VAT per day to rent some of its smaller meeting rooms.

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