purchase: CM responds to Criticism
acquisition of the Prospect Reef Resort has raised criticism both from
politicians and members of the BVI community. Nevertheless, at last week's
sitting of the Legislative Council, Chief Minister Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith
responded to the criticism with clear and detailed answers. He pointed out that
a good amount of misinformation circulating throughout the community sparked the
"We do not
respond to threats. We do not respond to intimidation. We will not be bullied
into compromising the interests of the citizens and residents of this Territory.
Period", Dr. Smith said.
Smith opined that the decision to purchase Prospect Reef and transform it into a
world-class Hospitality Training Centre was not a small idea: "it is a
significant project based on a large vision for the future of our tourism
industry and the role of our people in that industry, and like many big ideas,
it has drawn its share of critics".
acquisition of the resort, there have been quite a number of concerns for the
employee's of the resort. According to Dr. Smith since 31 March, all of the
employees have been paid their full severance and vacation pay. Dr. Smith
pointed out that a combined team of the Departments of Labour, Immigration, the
Social Security Board, the Management Company and his Office met with the
employees to establish a workable solution to their severance pay and vacation
pay entitlements (more about this on page 4).
The BVI Leader
responded to the rumors that were being circulated about the timeshare issue by
saying that "a great deal of attention and misinformation has focused on the
issue of the timeshare holders. Among these comments was the unfounded charge
that in purchasing Prospect Reef the Government of the British Virgin Islands
was illegally expropriating property. Government’s position is clear on this
matter. The issues at hand are not a problem between the Government and the
timeshare holders; rather the issues raised are a matter between the timeshare
holders and the person or persons with whom they had entered into timeshare
Government of the BVI purchased Prospect Reef Resort. It did not purchase every
agreement ever entered into by the previous owners or operators of the facility.
What the previous owners or operators did, remains their responsibility to
address. This is the essence of ‘vacant possession.’ "
Dr. Smith said
that government has carefully ensured that a thorough research was conducted
before entering a purchase agreement. "Paramount in this was the importance of
ensuring the integrity of the transactions". The Chief Minister emphasized that
particular attention and emphasis was placed on ensuring that "no liability" was
attached to the purchase.
explained that Government is well within its rights to purchase Prospect Reef
without incurring any liability from the previous ownership. "Let me make this
perfectly clear, this Government will stand up for the legal rights of the
people of the British Virgin Islands in all circumstances".
A letter dated
23 February, purportedly written on behalf of the members of the Prospect Reef
Resort Vacation Club, was sent to the Chief Minister on 11 March. That letter
essentially presented proposals for Government’s intervention to resolve the
Club members concerns, and threatened certain actions if they were unable to
reach what they termed a “very fair settlement”. The Vacation Club acknowledged
that their investment contracts were negotiated and concluded with a person
other than the Government.
On 31 March
the Chief Minister responded to the Vacation Club letter, and in that letter the
Chief Minister pointed out that the Government had simply engaged in a
legitimate transaction and that there is no legal nexus between the Club and the
Government and therefore the Government did not and could not accept the Club’s
claim that the Government, by entering into a valid purchase agreement, had
expropriated the Club’s property.
Dr. Smith said
that in the spirit of good faith, the Club was advised that the Government would
do what it can to settle the matter in a friendly fashion.
that the Club was advised to submit for Government’s study any documents
pertaining to the interests of the Club and other persons concerned.
Government is still waiting for that document. This, the Chief Minister
stressed, is a voluntary effort and must not be construed as an acknowledgement
of any responsibility or liability on the part of the Government.
Minister stated that all outstanding debts owed to Government, and statutory
bodies must be paid. In addition, assets of sufficient value must be turned over
by the former operator to the government to make up for any expense incurred by
the Government because of its intervention.
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