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Off to court

Despite failing to reach an agreement with owner of Liquidation Centre Asha Ms Ram Mirchandani on a suitable price, the compulsory acquisition of the property by Government will continue.

That is the word from Attorney General Dale Marshall, who said it will be left to the Supreme Court to decide what amount will be paid for the sale of the beachfront property.

Marshall made the revelation today as he sought to dispel a notion by Opposition Leader Bishop Joseph Atherley that Mirchandani had opposed the acquisition of the land to facilitate the construction of the 350-room Hyatt Centric Hotel at Bay Street, St Michael.

Attorney General Dale Marshall and Asha ‘Ms Ram’ Mirchandani

Attorney General Dale Marshall and Asha ‘Ms Ram’ Mirchandani

During debate on Section 5 of the Land Acquisition Act Cap. 228 related to the land at Lower Bay Street, St Michael this afternoon, Atherley told Parliament he had been informed that while the owner of the property had given a price in the range of $30 million, Government had countered by offering $12 million.

He called on Government to reveal details of the proposed transaction.

“I have not heard what the Government’s view or what after Government’s findings is a fair market value attached to the property…what I do hear is that Government has attached a value based on land tax assessment to the property despite the fact that the current owners obtained a valuation from a prominent private valuer that is three times the value of that which Government seeks to pay the current owners,” Atherley contended.

“Did the current private owners obtain a valuation suggesting a valuation in the 30s of millions and is Government offering a $12 million purchase price?” he further questioned.

The Opposition Leader charged that the property was beachfront and “of high value” and that the acquisition meant the Liquidation Centre would have to relocate after operating on that spot for almost three decades.

But in his rebuttal, the Attorney General who neither confirmed nor denied the figures put forward by Atherley, maintained that such information was not made public.

He admitted that the two parties had failed to reach an agreement on the price of the land and said the matter would now be placed in the hands of the Supreme Court.

“You cannot agree on the value and you approach the court and ask the court to settle the dispute between the parties and I don’t think the Leader of the Opposition would argue that a court is not a good place to settle disputes between parties,” Marshall said.

“So if you’re going to settle a dispute between major corporations in Barbados…be it small or large, I’m sure the Supreme Court of Judicature is well able to discharge its lawfully-conferred powers to settle the matter of acquisition.”

The Attorney General also argued that the owners of the land had no issues with the acquisition, but were merely seeking a fair deal.

Pending a decision from the court, Marshall said the acquisition would continue, as Barbados badly needed investments such as the Hyatt to help turn around the economy.

“In the meantime, the acquisition will go ahead because the business of rebuilding Barbados stops for no man.

“Let us focus the minds of the Barbadian people on what our real issues are. This is the first acquisition that this administration has done and I’m happy that we’re doing it at the cusp of our first year in office because it is being done as part and parcel of a truly important developmental imperative,” the Attorney General insisted.

“We need to get this country building again, we need to get this country working again. We need hotels on our finest beaches and not carparks. We need investment in our country and more from the private sector than from the Government.”

However, both Atherley and Mirchandani received a tongue-lashing from Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development George Payne.

In what became a heated back and forth at times with the Opposition Leader, resulting in the Speaker of the House Arthur Holder making many interjections, Payne claimed Atherley had made several damning comments.

Additionally, he said the owner had disputed the land tax charges from the Barbados Revenue Authority although it had valued the land considerably lower than what they were now asking Government to pay.

“Sometimes you have to put people in their place and he came in here making several accusations. They were not just accusations against this Cabinet, the accusations were against the Government and the entire people of Barbados,” Payne said.

He revealed that Mirchandani had disputed charges from BRA which had valued the property at $2 and $3 million, but was now asking Government to pay in excess of $30 million for the same land.
randybennett@barbadostoday.bb

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