A committee has been set up to seek answers to concerns by Tobagonians on the proposed Sandals Tobago resort, dealing specifically with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed with Sandals Resorts International (SRI).
Attorney Deborah Moore-Miggins, confirming that a committee has been set up, said:
We’ve been meeting in a group to arrange the best time when that call should be made to the Prime Minister. We are doing that along with calling several other people to even edify us some more. So, when the new year turns, we should have a firm plan of action ready.
The committee’s main focus would be to get an audience with Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to explain the clauses in the MOU, articulated at a forum on December 13 at the Scarborough Library.
“…to give us his (Dr Rowley) side of the story and to answer some of our concerns on the other hand,” Moore-Miggins said.
Moore-Miggins has previously made a call for PM Rowley to respond to concerns about the MOU and the Sandals resort, as articulated by participants at the forum at the Scarborough library. She said then there said that there should not be a squandering of “the kinds of energies and the kind of concerns that are bubbling up inside of all of us.
“As an attorney, my way of doing this would be to demand that Dr Rowley come here and face our questions and our concerns and our challenges on the several points that we’ve raised. And we deal with it as people deal with situations like this…”
The December 13 forum was led by chartered surveyor and activist Afra Raymond. Raymond, in February 27 this year, requested the MOU through the Freedom of Information Act. He was not provided with the information and he took the State to court. On November 28, one day before his case was to be heard in court, he was given the MOU.
In an analysis at the session at the Scarborough library, Raymond had posed the question of responsibility, asking who approved the terms and conditions of the MOU, as well as questioning the timing of making the document public, noting that both Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Communications Minister Stuart Young had repeatedly said the details could not be divulged because of a confidentiality clause.
He suggested one possible explanation was because a final agreement was being drafted for signing for the project to proceed and called on Government to say whether this was so or whether negotiations were still possible. He recalled Communications Minister Stuart Young giving a deadline of mid-December and saying Government had hired an international firm of lawyers, White and Case, at a post cabinet media briefing (in November) at the Magdalena Grand Gold and Beach Resort in Lowlands.
He also addressed several other issues, maintaining that the document was “deeply detrimental and not in the public interest,” and that TT would not be getting back the money (estimated $3B) invested in the project.
At the forum, Attorney Dawn Palackdharry Singh, who also heads the Tobago Law Association, said she was appalled at majority of the MOU’s contents, particularly the section that says Government will procure the necessary laws, regulations or orders to give effect to this agreement, and any subsequent agreements, in effect setting aside the role of Parliament.
Environmentalists also weighed in at the forum, calling for due care and attention to be paid to the consequences of long term environmental destruction at Buccoo.
Attempts to contact Dr Rowley for a response to the request from Tobagonians for discussions on Sandals were unsuccessful.