There is a rising tide of confusion at Invaders’ Bay, so it is time to bring some understanding to this situation. The previous column delved into the Appeal Court rulings and the State’s application to appeal to the Privy Council. There is a lot more to be derived from those important rulings, but this week I am restating the case as to why this is a large-scale development of major importance.
In March 2012, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, the then Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development, confirmed that the 70-acres of undeveloped land at Invaders’ Bay was worth $1.28Bn. This would be the largest single development in our capital city in living memory, the only questions being ‘On whose terms?‘ and ‘For whose benefit?‘
In 2012, the PP Cabinet decided to lease two parcels of land at Invaders’ Bay –
Dachin: 10.2 acres for a Commercial/Residential complex, a boutique hotel, a cultural focus area and three (3) main event entertainment areas comprising a Museum, Bowling Alley and Movie Theatres. View video presentation here.
Invader’s Bay Marina Group: Commercial Development on 13 acres for Hotel, Commercial Office Complex, Cruise Ship Complex; Gas Station; Residential Development and Light Industrial Development; a Marina.
On 28 October 2016, the Appeal Court delivered its majority ruling upholding the decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on 14 July 2014 to order publication, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), of the legal opinions on which the Ministry had been relying. The JCC had won its case at both the High Court and the Appeal Court, so I called for immediate publication of the requested information. The JCC made no such call, neither did any of my erstwhile colleagues.
At an Appeal Court hearing on 21 November 2016, the State obtained leave, with the JCC’s consent, to appeal this matter at the Privy Council. Whilst in Opposition, the PNM made repeated complaints against the secretive conduct of the Invaders’ Bay development by the Peoples Partnership. Now in Government, the PNM has elevated secrecy in public affairs to a new prominence.
Since Dr James Armstrong was appointed JCC President in December 2015, that organisation has been silent on the Invaders’ Bay matter. This had previously been of high importance as a major development in our capital city, which was proceeding illegally and improperly. The JCC now seems to have reversed its earlier position of pressing for publication of those vital, suppressed documents. Continue reading “Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay”→
REPUBLIC OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
IN THE COURT OF APPEAL Civil Appeal No. P-200 of 2014
THE MINISTER OF PLANNING AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
THE JOINT CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY
Today the Appeal Court delivered its majority ruling upholding the decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on 14th July 2014 to order publication of the legal opinions on which the Ministry had been relying.
This case began in 2013, when the JCC sought a judicial review of the refusal of the Ministry of Planning & Sustainable Development to publish legal opinions which the Ministry claimed supported its Request for Proposals (RFP) process in the proposed development of Invaders’ Bay. The JCC contended that the RFP process was being conducted in breach of the Central Tenders Board Act, but the Ministry claimed to have legal advice that its actions conformed to the CTB Act. It was that advice which the Ministry refused to publish.
Today’s Appeal Court ruling was a significant one in that it gave greater weight to the mandatory ‘Public Interest Test’ under the Freedom of Information Act, as against the Ministry’s reasons for its refusal on the grounds of legal professional privilege. The previous practice allowed the State to have discretion as to whether legal advice can be released. Had that practice been upheld at the Appeal we would have been facing a future in which any questionable project or policy could be concealed behind the screen of legal professional privilege. This ruling therefore significantly fortifies the Public Interest.
I now expect swift publication of the formal instructions and legal opinions on which the Ministry was relying in this highly-questionable matter. What is more, substantial sums of Public Money were spent in efforts to conceal these details and I am therefore taking the opportunity to ask for the details of those payments of legal fees to now be published – How much Public Money was spent on legal fees and to exactly whom did those monies go?
Another important aspect of this matter is that the Ministry’s official reason for its refusal to publish was changed during the litigation to legal professional privilege, but in this ruling the Court did not condone that change.
Afra Raymond is interviewed by Rennnie Bishop on 107.7FM on Sunday 17, April 2016 to discuss Invader’s Bay; the end of the Las Alturas Enquiry; the Panama Papers and the needs for implementation of the best practice procedures to our public administration.