The previous article examined the clauses of the Tobago Sandals MoU and I took the position that those provisions were entirely in favour of Sandals, which was investing none of the capital. What is more, the MoU offers unspecified incentives and exemptions to Sandals, as well as a free hand in terms of purchasing and employment. Incredible, but true. This is where we are.
This article will examine the MoU further, starting with the question of just why was it released at this advanced stage after 9 months of claiming that its contents were secret and that disclosure would damage the ongoing negotiations.
It could be that the Cabinet, acting in the public interest and in the face of my litigation, decided to release the MoU as a tangible show of transparency. On the other hand, it could be that the ongoing negotiations have now settled to the point that the release of the MoU was literally immaterial to the desired outcome. That second version seems to me to be the more likely one, given the mid-December date disclosed for signing the real contracts. If that is really the case, we are witness to a sobering moment in terms of the implications of this Public Private Partnership. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU, part two”→
29th November 2018 was the first hearing of my Judicial Review of the refusal of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to provide a copy of the Tobago Sandals Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which I had requested under the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) since 27th February 2018. At that hearing, the OPM agreed to provide the MoU and pay my costs, so my lawsuit was withdrawn.
This Tobago Sandals MoU was signed on 10th October 2017 and should have been disclosed long ago, without any necessity for legal action on my part. The PM and Minister Stuart Young repeatedly told the public that these details could not be published as that would undermine these important negotiations and so on and so forth.
Nine months of delays and obfuscation verging on an abuse of process, but that is just my opinion, as the OPM was advised by eminent Senior Counsel, Deborah Peake.
When the MoU was released at a press conference the evening before, Minister Stuart Young was emphatic that the decision to publish had nothing to do with me or my litigation. One has to wonder at the quality of advice being taken by the Cabinet. Continue reading “Property Matters – Tobago Sandals MoU”→
“Our Season of Reflection in this Information War” is the theme of this episode of the continuing conversations and revelations on the Trinidad and Tobago society. Topics exposed include Open Contract, Tobago Sandals, CLF Bailout, media responsibility, the power of information and data. Video courtesy PixelPlay Media
My 27 February 2018 request for that MoU under the Freedom of Information Act (embedded below) was therefore made against that background of both parties’ declaration that there was no secret. The Office of the Prime Minister responded on 22 March 2018 to refuse my request, citing that the MoU contained a confidentiality clause which prevented its disclosure at this time. I have since written to the OPM to request a reply in conformity with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act – I am still awaiting a reply to that letter.
I have now written to Mr Adam Stewart of Sandals Resorts International to request from him a copy of the MoU. (See below)
This is a proposal of high public importance as it is being advanced as an important part of our country’s diversification strategy, so the correspondence is set out in this article.
From: Afra Raymond
Date: Fri, Jun 15, 2018 at 3:41 PM
Subject: Request for Memorandum of Understanding with Sandals Resorts
To: Adam Stewart
Dear Mr Stewart,
I am writing to request a copy of the signed Memorandum of Understanding between Sandals Resorts International and the Government of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago – it was recently reported that this MoU was signed on 10th October 2017.
There is no doubt that the proposed 750-room Sandals/Beaches Resort for Tobago will be a large-scale, high-impact development, so there an understandable public interest in those proposals. I was therefore greatly encouraged by your emphatic statements that there is no secrecy in relation to the business arrangement or the MoU and that you refuted any secret deals – as reported in the Trinidad & Tobago press on 27th February 2018.
I was therefore astonished that the Office of the Prime Minister replied on 22nd March 2018 to my request for that MoU by citing a confidentiality clause to refuse its disclosure at this time. I wrote to the OPM on 11th April 2018 requesting a clarification and their reply is still awaited. In the interim, I am requesting from you a copy of the MoU in the public interest of transparency in this large-scale development proposal.
For your information, my earlier article on the Sandals MoU was published in the Express Business on 8th March 2018 and can be accessed here. The related correspondence is attached for ease of reference.
The Tobago Sandals mega-project has returned to the headlines with recent interviews of Sandals Resorts’ CEO, Adam Stewart, in Barbados and Stuart Young, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister.
Stewart’s statements were widely reported in the local press (see Addendum 1 below) with an emphasis on the lack of secrecy in the entire arrangement and the fact that discussions were still at a preliminary stage. Minister Young’s CNC3 interview on Wednesday 28 February 2018 (below) was also notable for his insistence that there was no secrecy or any reluctance to engage with the public on this mega-project.
There has been a veritable cascade of events as we went through 2017, each seemingly more gripping than the last, so it is difficult to summarise such a year. Accordingly, these are the more important issues which I covered this year and which are likely to arise again in 2018. Continue reading “2017 in Review”→