As the Unity Labour Party administration sells 31 acres of lands at Mt Wynne-Peters Hope to “Canadian investors” for hotel development, Leader of the Opposition, Arnhim Eustace, has called on Vincentians to recall the challenges at Buccament Bay Resort.
Speaking at a press conference last week, Eustace pointed out that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, whose ULP came to office in March 2001, has been telling the nation, even before he was elected to office, that he has investors lined up to build a hotel at Mt Wynne.
“And every election cycle, he comes up with the same story,” Eustace said at Tuesday’s press briefing.
“The one hotel development on the mainland that has taken place under his watch, has been a disaster,” he said of Buccament Bay Resort, which opened in 2008 but remains incomplete and has been plagued by a myriad of challenges, including an inability to pay its staff regularly.
Eustace said that British-born investor, Dave Ames, who has obtained Vincentian citizenship was bankrupt twice.
He said that Ames was, however, able to convince Gonsalves, and Minister of Works, Sen. Julian Francis, to participate in what has turned into a disaster for Vincentians.
“Just ask any of the people whose lands and livelihoods have been affected by the work they did on the river,” he said of the repeated flooding that has occurred in the village whenever there is excessive rain, as was the case on Wednesday during the passage of Tropical Storm Matthew.
“Just ask any of the numerous people — staff and small contractors –who can’t get paid by Buccament for their work,” Eustace said.
He said that Ames has been under investigation by the United Kingdom financial authorities for years, and he is also now a fugitive from the law in SVG — wanted for the alleged theft and misappropriation of EC$7 million dollars from the state.
“His son is already serving time for a property fraud conviction in the United Kingdom. And Ames himself was allowed to abscond from this country, after a warrant had been issued for his arrest,” Eustace said.
The opposition leader said that the NDP contend that given the situation, as he outlined it, “it is clear that this ULP administration does not understand the meaning of the word development.
“Their approach to business and the private sector in this country is inimical to proper development. Their track record is dismal, it speaks for itself and it is plunging this country into poverty — which is what Ralph Gonsalves then turns around and boasts about — the bigger numbers of people on Poor Relief,’” Eustace said, using the colloquial expression for the EC$225 and EC$250 dollars given monthly by the state to poor or otherwise vulnerable persons.
UPDATE: Following our publication of this article, we received the following statement from Harlequin Hotels and Resorts, owners of Buccament Bay Resort.
“Buccament Bay Resort is a multi-award-winning hotel that employs hundreds of Vincentians and brings thousands of guests to the island each year. Politically motivated attacks of this kind on a private company are unwarranted, improper, and unbecoming of the wonderful island we are proud to represent on the international stage as a tourist destination.
“The article is strewn with defamatory and damaging statements that we have already clarified in the past. We therefore will not honour most of the claims with a response at this time other than to stress that Mr Ames is not a “fugitive” and his lawyers understand there is no warrant for his arrest.
“Mr Ames has been summoned by the SVG Magistrates court with the intention to be charged for offences he vigorously disputes and the hearing has been postponed due to health reasons.”