SANDALS Resorts International (SRI) is not being transparent about its proposed Tobago resort.
Chartered surveyor Afra Raymond expressed this view yesterday. Last Thursday, in the San Fernando High Court, Justice Frank Seepersad granted Raymond leave to seek judicial review of government's decision to withhold details about the Sandals deal.
In March, Raymond sought disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, in letters to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the Sandals Tobago resort, but got no reply.
Raymond told Newsday his lawyers have until October 21 to file their papers with the court and the OPM has until October 29 to file its documents. The substantive matter will be heard on November 29.
“All I want is information,” he said.
Raymond disagreed with SRI corporate services director Jeremy Jones’ statement that Sandals has nothing to hide regarding its Tobago resort.He countered that if this was the case, “Why are we in court?”
The MOU between Government and Sandals was signed on October 10, 2017. In his 2018/2019 budget presentation in the House of Representatives on October 1, Finance Minister Colm Imbert identified Sandals Tobago as the fourth of six "game-changers" that will help transform the economy. Imbert said the project “represents a radical stimulus for the tourism sector in Tobago which would now provide a platform for sustainable economic and social development and place Tobago at the centre of a very competitive tourism market.”
In August, at a public forum in Tobago, the Prime Minister said, “Unless the court rules that the Government cannot proceed with Sandals – and the court cannot make such a ruling –the Sandals project will go ahead.”
Dr Rowley also said, “We thought that Tobago can benefit from having in Tobago a project like Sandals because it would have a lot of positive effects on the Tobago economy and on Tobagonians, especially Tobago entrepreneurship and Tobago’s contribution to the economy, bringing Tobago as the last of the developing island in the Eastern Caribbean in tourism.”
Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell described Sandals as an “anchor tenant” for Tobago’s tourism.
At a news conference in Barbados last Thursday, Jones said, “Tobago will end up being one of our largest projects – both – and as a result of having a Sandals and a Beaches (the group's family resort brand) side by side."
He continued, "We’ve never really done that before, but we feel that to benefit economies of scale, being able to bring two operations under one umbrella so close to each other and with our estimation, (this is) an ideal location to do this: the Sandals brand with close to 300 rooms and the Beaches brand about 450-500 rooms. So it’s an entire development complex, about 700 rooms, but two different brands.”