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Sunday 20 October 2019
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Tobagonians, speak up on Sandals

Committee seeks info, concerns for PM attention

A committee of Tobagonians is seeking answers from Prime Dr Keith Rowley on the proposed Sandals resort for Tobago, but first, the committee wants to get the views and concerns of residents on the island on the matter.

A public forum on January 17 is planned for this purpose, with time and venue still to be announced, but with Buccoo being looked at as the likely meeting place.

Attorney Deborah Moore-Miggins, one of the organisers of the committee, said the aim of this public forum is to get more Tobagonians involved in the discussions before an official call is made to PM Rowley.

“We (the committee) met and had several discussions, but the major decision taken is to have a public meeting… we’re looking at January 17, inviting people to come out and from here we hope to get a consensus going forward,” she said.

The committee was formed following a forum at the Scarborough library on December 13 at which chartered surveyor and activist, Afra Raymond, analysed the clauses of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Government and Sandals Resorts International (SRI) in October 2017.

Moore-Miggins noted at the forum the many concerns articulated by participants and suggested that there be a harnessing of “the kinds of energies and 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…,” she said.

At the forum at the Scarborough library, Raymond had raised several questions and concerns as he analysed the clauses of the MOU, including who was responsible for approving the document, the lack of guarantees on employment for Tobagonians and for procurement of goods and services.

He noted that the entire cost of the resort is to be borne by the Trinidad and Tobago treasury. And he explained the concept of transfer pricing, “which is how multi- national companies trick Government into paying as little taxes as possible in the countries where they make their money.

“With respect to transfer pricing, there are clauses in the agreement that actually allows transfer pricing and our Government signed that and I think it’s wrong.

“Maybe the Prime Minister Dr Rowley, or Minister of Communications Minister (Stuart) Young should explain this one to us… is it that everything is still in discussion, in negotiations or is it that it is now too late, and we’ve gone passed that point.

“If things are still in discussions, we need to return to this agreement and set out a roadmap of how the agreement can be improved, if we are proceeding. This is nonsense… too frightening,” Raymond said.

He noted particularly the clause in the MOU that states that Government would finance the construction of the resort based on Sandal’s specifications of the resort and that in the event that Government fails to complete development of the resort, it shall reimburse Sandals all wasted costs and expenses upon request.

The MOU, he said, was “deeply detrimental and not in the public interest”.

In February 2018, Raymond had 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.

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