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