Kamla: Gov't fell flat on face with Sandals deal

Gov­ern­ment “fell flat” on its face on its flag­ship San­dals project af­ter the ad­min­is­tra­tion with­held in­for­ma­tion from the pub­lic and dis­missed con­cerns on it, says Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad- Bisses­sar.

“The po­si­tion pre­sent­ed dur­ing (yes­ter­day’s) press con­fer­ence that San­dals with­drew based on neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty is bor­der­ing on ab­surd. It’s yet an­oth­er at­tempt by Gov­ern­ment to de­flect at­ten­tion from their in­com­pe­tence, “Per­sad-Bisses­sar added in a state­ment yes­ter­day.

“Per­haps, fol­low­ing the re­cent lec­ture by the Prime Min­is­ter, San­dals chose to do as he in­struct­ed and ‘Mind their Busi­ness’.”

She spoke short­ly af­ter the Gov­ern­ment me­dia brief­ing where San­dals CEO Geb­hard Rain­er an­nounced San­dals was with­draw­ing from Gov­ern­ment’s planned project for To­ba­go due to neg­a­tive pub­lic­i­ty.

Per­sad-Bisses­sar said the bil­lions that would have been spent on the project should now be in­vest­ed in To­ba­go for job cre­ation, health care, ed­u­ca­tion, crime fight­ing and so­cial ser­vices.

She added: “San­dals’ with­draw­al is no sur­prise. Re­peat­ed­ly, the Row­ley Gov­ern­ment has fall­en flat on its face on its flag­ship projects and so-called game chang­ers. It’s fail­ing in every sec­tor and every project. San­dals’ de­ci­sion high­lights Gov­ern­ment’s in­com­pe­tence to de­liv­er any sig­nif­i­cant project to date— their fourth year in of­fice,”

“Through­out the San­dals saga, the Gov­ern­ment with­held in­for­ma­tion from the pub­lic, re­fused to an­swer the sim­plest ques­tions and failed to gar­ner pub­lic sup­port for the project. They em­barked on a PR cam­paign to vil­i­fy stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists which left many won­der­ing whether Gov­ern­ment was work­ing for San­dals or the peo­ple.”

She said the project was mired in con­tro­ver­sy even be­fore Gov­ern­ment took of­fice.

“As Dr Row­ley im­prop­er­ly held talks with the own­ers of San­dals while he was Op­po­si­tion Leader and struck a deal. San­dals was al­ways one of Row­ley’s whims and nev­er a well thought out de­vel­op­ment project. “

“The Gov­ern­ment clear­ly had no plan re­gard­ing San­dals, hence the in­evitable with­draw­al. Through­out the process, they kept chang­ing their sto­ry. First, San­dals was to con­struct and man­age the ho­tel. Lat­er, we heard Gov­ern­ment would pay—mean­ing tax­pay­ers— for con­struc­tion and San­dals would man­age it.”

She added: “Row­ley conned the pop­u­la­tion in­to be­liev­ing San­dals would ‘change the game’ when the Gov­ern­ment nev­er even signed a con­tract with San­dals. The Gov­ern­ment al­so dis­missed en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns claim­ing San­dals wouldn’t be con­struct­ed on en­vi­ron­men­tal­ly sen­si­tive ar­eas. How­ev­er, San­dals’ EMA ap­pli­ca­tion clear­ly shows the op­po­site to be true.”

The for­mer PM said all Gov­ern­ment’s “game chang­ers”—San­dals, the Drag­on Field project, Petrotrin clo­sure and seabridge, were shroud­ed in se­cre­cy.

“We’re not op­posed to any vi­able project that dri­ves eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment, the tourism sec­tor or the peo­ple, how­ev­er, we couldn’t sup­port the San­dals project giv­en the se­cre­cy, lack of ac­count­abil­i­ty, the mis­in­for­ma­tion, and poor pro­cure­ment process,”.

-by Gail Alexander

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