Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, left, and social commentator, Jomo Thomas. (iWN file photo)

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves says a recent article about monies owed to former workers at the defunct Buccament Bay Resort had both the facts and the law wrong.

Gonsalves did not identify the article or the writer in his recent comments on radio.

However, his comment suggested that he was referring to a column by social commentator and former Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jomo Thomas.

Thomas, who is also a journalist and lawyer, in his July 31 “Plain Talk” column, asked whether Minister of Finance, Camillo Gonsalves, misstated the law when he said neither Sandals Resort International — which has acquired the resort property — nor the government owes the workers who were employed at Buccament Resort.

“The law as outlined in the Protection of Employment Act and the National Insurance Service Act contradicts what a smiling Camillo Gonsalves told [the] nation last week,” Thomas wrote.

The Gonsalves government has acquired the resort, which has been closed since December 2016 amidst its financial problems and is selling it to Sandals Resort International.

“The article had both the facts and the law wrong,” said the prime minister, who is also a lawyer.

Gonsalves said that the property  company for Harlequin, which owned the resort, is a different company than the management company.

“If it was the property company which owned the government taxes, we would have claimed against the property company,” Gonsalves said in his weekly appearance on NBC Radio.

“If it was the property company which had employed the people, the workers would have gone at the time of liquidation to see if they can get money in their property coming down because government taxes would take top priority in the liquidation and then you would he the works pay or severance but they are two separate legal entities,” he said during the programme last Wednesday.

The prime minister said there were other errors in the article “but the basic facts were wrong and the law which was allowed was also wrong in the circumstances.

“But yet, because it is a supposedly responsible person who wrote it, everybody following — well not everybody. Some people are commenting, ‘Yeah, yeah yeah. This thing has to be dealt with. Money must be paid by either the government or sandals.’

“Government didn’t employ anybody. Sandals didn’t take over a company.  Sandals is buying a property which had been already part of the property, the Harlequin part, because, as I have outlined, there are several property owners which form the footprint of what Sandals buying but that substantial part which belong to that Harlequin property company, that had gone through the court with Brian Glasgow as the trustee in bankruptcy.

“People must just stop going by mere headline nuh. You hear something. I mean it’s careless,” Gonsalves said.

12 replies on “Column about payment of former resort workers got law wrong — PM”

  1. Mr Gonsalves if something is law and legal it could still be wrong.Remember slavery was legal? There’s a lot of wrongs that are being meted out to Vincentians under the guise of being the” law of the country “. We as a people have to wake up and stop people like you Mr Gonsalves from hiding under these “laws” while hood winking poor Vincentians. That’s the first thing an oppressor would resort to: :’ ” it’sthe law of the land” or “we are a country of laws”.Apartheid was once legal in South Africa. Vincentians please wise up.

  2. HUMAN RIGHTS ADVOCATE HURTING says:

    Ralph Gonsalves, we the people of St. Vincent and the Grenadines need you to step down! You are in power for almost 20 years and you have nothing to show for it! our people are in bondage because of you! You used your position for personal gains and refused to look out for the masses! You allowed Daves Ames to leave our island without paying his due taxes and now poor people are suffering! you look out only for your friends! you are fighting for Maduro to stay in power for your selfish gains but our people are suffering! It is time for you to step down! You have used your high position to further oppress the people of St.Vincent and the Grenadines rather than looking out for the welfare of the people! NOVUS ORDO SECLORUM!

  3. Is this Lawyers at play while Vincentians suffer? And here is a thing, even if JOMO is misinterpreting the law, does not our Government have a “moral duty” to protect its citizens from those who would otherwise wish to use the law in order to “use and abuse”, and eventually exploit its citizens?

    Our Prime minister is a Lawyer therefore, should he not have known of the potential dangers workers faced with the split in Harlequin’s company structure, and thus, protect the “Vincentian workers” from its obvious dangers?

    And another thing! Do we know who our real oppressors are, whether within or without? Which family here holds ruling Power over us and who is that European man who tells us that he also works obyah? But that he here tells us that he works it for de lard like PAPA DOC would have told us too!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNcipLHJ0po however will de living Lord have anything to do with such dastardly works? Of course not! It is of the devil! Therefore who was Ralph Gonsalves working for?

  4. Much of what the Government is saying about payment of workers at the buccament Bay resort, has some merits. (1) sandals is purchasing the property from the government, who said they owned it. therefore do not have to assume any liability and have no obligation to former workers. (2) The Government said they owned the property and therefore have the rights to sell to whom-ever . That is true, except that the Government is the custodian of the public purse and the welfare of the people. therefore, when negotiating a deal of such magnitude, where the people livelihood is at stake. the government should be prudent in taking its own people, workers and their wages in to consideration.

  5. In any case you the government can lookout for yourself but what about the people
    didn’t these same people keep you in power all these years and your going to ask
    them shortly to keep you in power for another term Vincy people like they have
    SHORT TERM MEMORY find a way to pay the people all or sum of the money owed.

  6. Nathan Jolly Green says:

    It may be that Jomo was right but did not explain himself properly, or like the comrade just does not understand the law regarding associated companies.

    In law closely related companies who have the same directors and trade at a site where people are unable to clearly see which company is responsible, then both companies are responsible.

    A company is associated with another company at a particular time if, at that time or at any other time within the preceding 12 months:

    One company has control of the other, or
    Both companies are under the control of the same person or group of persons.
    So, two companies are associated when the same person or group of persons can control both, either personally, or via their interests in other corporate shareholders.

    Control is determined according to any of the following tests:

    % share ownership
    Voting power
    Any rights
    Entitlement to assets on winding up (loan creditors).
    It is quite possible, using different tests for different persons to be in control of the same company. This can produce some unexpected results for taxes.

    The rules for determining whether companies are associated..

    In deciding whether two or more companies are associated control is determined by considering :

    The direct rights of an individual – these are the rights of ownership personal to the individual, and
    The indirect rights of an indivudal – these are rights of the individual’s associates attributed to him according to the rules.

    1. So Nathan Jolly Green can you sentiments be summarized to say: in this case, you must pierce the corporate veil to see which company is responsible to the workers. Since the government (meaning the Gonsalves Family and cronies bought the property with knowledge that the workers had a legal claim are you saying that the government has an obligation to pay the workers?)

      This controversy would be quite funny if human suffering was not involved. Now where are the corporate lawyers in SVG? Why are they silent? While Jomo likely has the legal/moral high road. Both Jomo and the PM appear not to be very versed/experienced in interpreting and applying the corporate laws involved in the issues of this case. However, one thing stands out: The government’s non-handling of the workers claim is despicable. On the other hand, it is likely that Sandals has no liability for compensating the workers. Sandals is a bona fide purchaser for value–a third party who had nothing to do with Harlequin. Consequently, I would err on the side of the workers for a claim against the government for part of the proceeds the government will receive from the sale to Sandals.

      To do otherwise would be a grave injustice to the workers.

  7. Nathan Jolly Green says:

    Often related companies are used as an attempt to fool creditors about which one is responsible. Using such statements as “Its them not us” “Its him not me” “You are suing the wrong company”. That’s why there are very specific rules and laws regarding associated companies. Where a fudge of ownership or responsibility are used then both companies should be regarded as one.

  8. Boss we tired of u!,,do something positive for our hard working vincentions,,too much chat and no representation,, it’s like u have this colonial mentality to promote modern day slavery,,DO something man!

  9. Seems like the Government is buying the resort and the additional lands at a much higher price overall than it is selling back to Sandals. Seems on the face like it is a give away to me. On the other hand Mr. Ralph is saying that the workers who are still owed wages and severance by Harlequin (the former resort) are not covered by the local labor laws to recoup their wages because of some technicality in Harlequin business structure. The workers provide their labor directly to Harlequin resort and should be compensated under the present deal and in light of the existing labor laws. […]

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