LegCo passes Prospect
Reef Bill - Opposition fears lawsuits
Legislative Council has passed a Bill giving Government the green light for the
management and development of the recently purchased six million dollars
Prospect Reef Resort. On Tuesday the Legislative Council approved the Bill
entitled, "Prospect Reef Resort Management Act, 2005" after a long debate that
gave some members of the opposition ample opportunity to express sentiments
ranging from caution to plain disagreement. The Bill was passed with eight
parliamentarians in favor, two against, two abstained and one absent.
of the BVI Dr. the Honourable D. Orlando Smith explained that the Government
plans to convert Prospect Reef into a Hospitality Training Centre. Dr. Smith
announced that the new acquisition will be structured and operated as a limited
liability company and the Prospect Reef Bill provides for its incorporation. The
Chief Minister said that Government will be the main shareholder. This bill will
provide for the financing of the hotel, and the exemptions that it will enjoy
such as duties, and taxes. Part four of the bill provides for the legal aspects.
Finance, Hon. Ronnie Skelton said, "without fear of contradiction this is a good
purchase". It is a good purchase because the previous Government was on the way
to building a hospitality training center for 28 million dollars and the
purchase of Prospect Reef is only six million dollars — he said. This program
along with the tourism service standards program will strengthen the BVI's
tourism product, Skelton added.
also mentioned that Government has obligations to the employees of the Resort.
He pointed out that if a private organization was purchasing the Resort,
Government would have ensured through Labour that the employees were taken care
of. Since Government is doing the purchasing they should ensure that the
employees are provided for. Mr. Skelton mentioned that there is an issue that
has nothing to do with the purchase, but it may produce negative vibes for the
Territory. This issue, he disclosed, regards the people who have purchased
timeshare from the previous Prospect Reef owners, but Hon. Skelton said that
Government has no obligations to these people. The Finance Minister concluded by
saying, "we have an obligation to keep this property open, and therefore this
bill has my full support, because it is a good purchase".
Leader of the
Opposition Hon. Ralph T. O'Neal said that he was not going to dispute the Hon.
Skelton's statement that Prospect Reef was a good purchase — "I am sure that the
Finance personnel's made a thorough examination". "It is true that the previous
Government was planning to build a Hospitality Training Centre. I do not
consider workers with severance pay a problem, but Mr. Skelton raised an
important point about the timeshares. I do not profess to know about anything
about timeshares, but I called the Chief Minister around 7:30 this morning and
asked him if he would defer the second reading of this bill so that we can get
more information about it. The Chief Minister promised to consult with the
Attorney General who said that all was well. Madam Speaker I believe that this
Prospect Reef thing will end up in court as long as Americans are involved. The
good name of the Territory is what I am concerned about", Mr. O'Neal told the
read a letter that was sent by the time-shareholders, and he explained that the
time-share holders are planning to take the story to the media with the headline
“Government Swindles Millions from Tourists". Mr. O'Neal said that the Americans
will do what they say, they will use the media and the financial and tourism
sectors will suffer.
politician and former Chief Minister said that he hopes the Government will take
some time to look at the situation and make a decision that will be in the best
interest of the Territory. O'Neal pleaded with the Government to seize the
opportunity while the time-shareholders are still in the mood for negotiations.
has enough difficulties running a country, and getting into private enterprise
is a big danger sign. It is unfair that the Government is considering making a
business that will compete with the same people it is going to empower -- isn't
that conflict? I stand today to implore the Chief Minister, in hopes that he
will agree to wait another two weeks. We cannot say the people don't have a
case! They have a case. We are a country that depends on outsiders, we depend on
tourism, investors and persons from the Caribbean coming here to work. If it is
the Chief Minister's intention to push this bill today, I will have to record a
no vote because I need more time."
of the Third District Hon. Julian Fraser quoted the letter that was sent by the
Vacation Club (the time-shareholders who are threatening Government). The former
Deputy Chief Minister pointed out that a member of the Vacation Club is a
sitting member of the US Senate and there are a number of attorneys in that
club. He told the members of the Legislative Council that "these people are
serious, they are planning to put out a news release and they are calling for a
boycott of the BVI".
Education Hon. Lloyd Black told the House that he found it disappointing that
the Leader of the Opposition and the Hon. Member for the Third District "would
read that letter in Council and I think that the statements made are below the
belt. The time-share owners will be dealt with by the appropriate authority".
Representative Hon. Omar Hodge asked the Chief Minister to stay away from the
Vanterpool representative for the Fourth District said that if he is expected to
consider this bill then he will need all of the facts. "Where are the facts,
that I have to consider this bill today. I think the intention behind this
entire Prospect Reef issue is very good, I would advice the Government to not
take these time-shareholders for granted and to remember that local people also
own time shares". In the end he voted in favour of the Bill.
General Hon. Cherno Jallow informed members of the Legislative Council that the
current operators did not purchase Prospect Reef Resort. He explained that the
objective of the Bill is to provide the legal framework that will foster
accountability. Hon. Jallow said that the company will be expected to provide
annual reports. "The question has been raised about what has been purchased, it
is the property that has been purchased we are not purchasing the liabilities".
Dr. Smith said
that the members were informed of Government's intention to purchase Prospect
Reef and they had all supported the idea, but now that some time-shareholders
are making threats some members are not supporting. "This bill is not about the
purchase of Prospect Reef. We have already purchased Prospect Reef with your
agreement over the years. We are not purchasing the liabilities, we are
purchasing the resort from the Cripps Foundation".
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