A suggestion by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves that businesswoman Ann Joshua — who his government is evicting from the Cobblestone Inn building in Kingstown — was never involved in a competitive bid for tenancy, is not true.
Joshua on Thursday confirmed to iWitness News the authenticity of a document circulating on the internet showing that she was in fact involved in a bid for the building, which she has been occupying for more than three decades.
The document appears to be a scanned copy of a May 9, 1986 letter that then prime minister James Mitchell sent to P.C. Hughes, chair of National Hotel Ltd. in Kingstown.
In the letter, Mitchell thanks Hughes for his letter of May 7 “outlining the bids on lease of Cobblestone Inn and your further comment in discussion of the subject”.
Mitchell tells Hughes that there does not appear to be a substantial difference between the two leading bids.
“The Da Silva/Grant offer seems to be conditional on a survey and there are no such conditions on the Charles/Joshua offer,” the then prime minister said.
The “Charles” is an apparent reference to Vincentian businessman Basil Charles, of Basil’s Bar, which is located on the ground floor of the building.
In the letter, Mitchell said that Charles is known to have valuable experience in restaurant management and Joshua is experienced with Cobblestone.
“Government is satisfied that the Charles/Joshua bid is appropriate and that they would provide what is needed at this point in time.
“I therefore approve the lease to Charles/Joshua on the terms indicated…” Mitchell wrote.
The document contradicts suggestions that Gonsalves has repeatedly made this week as be appeared on radio stations trying to explain and defend the decision of his Government to evict Joshua, his first cousin, giving her just two and a half months to leave the building.
And while Gonsalves has repeatedly accused Joshua of politicising the eviction, she again made very few comments when iWitness News contacted her on Thursday, the second time in just over a week.
She confirmed the authenticity of the Mitchell letter being circulated on the internet and noted that Gonsalves was the one making all the comments on the eviction while she is yet to say anything substantive.
“Long ago, it was just word of mouth, but today, there is technology,” she said in reference to the letter on the internet.
Joshua, however, denied Gonsalves’ allegation that she had put the eviction notice in the public sphere.
A copy of the letter began circulating on the internet last week, and iWitness News published it after verifying its authenticity with Joshua.
She, however, denied giving the letter to anyone, saying that someone saw it and took a photo of it.
Joshua told iWitness News that she is not granting any interviews about the development at this time, saying that it is “just too much”.
She noted that she has been running the hotel for over 30 years.
“And one day you wake up and get this letter not from the board [of National Properties Ltd.] but from a bailiff saying you have two and a half months to lave. It rocks your world,” she told iWitness News.
“Maybe some day I will talk about it, but not now,” said Joshua, who told iWitness News she has been receiving an “outpouring of love” since the development.
On July 7, 2016, a lawyer for National Properties Ltd., the state-owned company in which Cobblestone Inn and Basil’s Bar are located, wrote to Joshua telling her that she had until Sept. 30, 2016 to leave the building.
The letter gave no reason for the eviction, and iWitness News was reliably informed that Basil’s Bar received no such letter.
Joshua has told iWitness News that she was current with her EC$24,000 monthly rent.
Gonsalves said on radio on Sunday that his Government has decided “in the interest of transparency and for proper development of that property and other Government properties that we should have an open tendering process, but first you have to bring this relationship legally to an end and a public tendering process will commence and Ann herself can apply too and bid for the property, like any other Vincentian.”
But a source close to Joshua, speaking on condition of anonymity, told iWitness News that a National Properties official had told Joshua that she had treated the Gonsalves-led Unity Labour Party administration “with contempt”.
In his comments on radio, Gonsalves has mentioned that Joshua is a supporter of the opposition New Democratic Party.