Months after the former David Granger Government issued a Notice of Compulsory Acquisition for the former Ocean View Hotel and went ahead to refurbish the building into a COVD – 19 hospital, the owner is now saying that they never entered into negotiations with the former APNU+AFC Government and is treating the notice as unconstitutional and ineffective in law.
According to a lawyer’s letter written to the Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony, the owner and sole shareholder of the Ocean View Hotel, Wilfred Rambarran is demanding that the new Government pay all arrears of rent due within 14 days of the date of the letter, failing which he will terminate the existing tenancy and take steps to recover possession of the property.
Rambarran has written the new government through his Attorney R. Satram, four days after President Dr Irfaan Ali was sworn in and one day after the new Cabinet was appointed. The letter is dated August 6th, 2020.
Rambarran said he will continue to regard the purported notice of acquisition as having no effect.
“You are respectfully reminded that Article 142 of the Constitution safeguards our client’s right to possession of his property,” the letter noted.
Rambarran explained that in early April he was approached by representatives of the Ministry of Health to lease the property for the purpose of establishing a facility to create the capacity to treat and otherwise deal with COVID-19 patients
A tenancy agreement was reportedly reached with the Ministry of Health for one year at a monthly rental of $13 million.
That agreement, he said, was submitted to the Ministry of the Presidency but it was never executed and no rent whatsoever was paid for use of the hotel.
The then APNU+AFC Government later issued a Notice of Compulsory Acquisition of the hotel but never engaged the owner in negotiations for the purchase of the hotel.
Rambarran believes the notice is unconstitutional and ineffectual in law since compensation has not been assessed or paid.
“The hotel remains the property of the company which continues to be entitled to the use and enjoyment as guaranteed by Article 142 of the Constitution,” the lawyer’s letter stated.
The owner claims that the hotel, excluding its contents, was assessed by the Chief Evaluation Officer in October 2018 at $2.7 billion or US$13.1 million.
The owner said at the time of the acquisition he received offers exceeding US$15 million.
The former APNU+AFC Government has kept its negotiations with the owner of the hotel a secret and no details were released to the media as to the cost but the former Health Minister Volda Lawrence had noted that all documentation and information were lodged at the office of the Attorney General.
Some $1B was spent on construction. The facility, named the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, was officially commissioned by former President David Granger on July 30 – two days before the results of the election were declared and Dr Irfaan Ali was sworn in as President.
The facility is not functioning and there is no equipment or staff at this time.
At the commissioning ceremony, Granger had said that the owner of the building was heavily indebted to the bank and the Government does not have a final cost at this time.
“This used to be a hotel and the person who built the hotel was heavily indebted to the banks and my understanding is that it’s in receivership. So in financial terms, we don’t have a final, a bottom line but the Minister of Public Health and the Minister of Finance are quite aware of the level of expenditure and cabinet is convinced that the expenditure is justified given the health situation,” Granger said.