Press Release:- STATEMENT BY HON. ERNEST HILAIRE AT THE SAINT LUCIA LABOUR PARTY PRESS CONFERENCE AUGUST 28 2018
Members of the Media,
Last Friday Hon. Dominic Fedee sought to respond to my statement on the Range Fiasco which included a call for Government to provide explanation on the settlement of the dispute between Range and the Government of Saint Lucia.
Hon. Fedee sought to describe me as a false prophet and asked me to tell the nation the truth as it pertains to the business of the day.
The deceit of this Government and its lack of respect and regard for the people of St. Lucia is unsurpassed in the history of our country. This Government is rooted in a belief that the people are stupid and can be treated with disdain. From the treatment of the National Trust, to ‘not responding to barking dogs’, to the ‘let the jackasses bray’ all tell of a Government that has contempt for the people. The response by Hon. Fedee is laden with deliberate untruths and vicious spin of facts to confuse and deceive the people. So Hon. Fedee here is the truth, together with documents to prove.
But first let us repeat what Hon. Fedee said. He said, and some of which I quote from his direct words,
- “Dr Ernest Hilaire said that the government was paying $20 M as an amicable settlement of the range development. That is absolutely false and untrue.”
- “Instead what the government did was to engage Range Development in an amicable settlement with a view to getting back the 40 acres of land which were prematurely sold by the previous administration. Range has agreed to return the land to the Government and People of Saint Lucia for $6.7m.”
- “Range development sold in the region of $14-20 M US in CIP sales.”
- “We have decided that Range is entitled to a commission of 10% on a $54 million dollar maximum possible sales in CIP which would entitled them to somewhere in the region of about $5.4M EC”
- There are also claims made for expenses but he does not say how much.
- He claims there is a net gain for the Government of $21.6m.
Here is my response Hon. Fedee.
- It is an absolute lie to suggest that there was never a dispute between Range and the Government of Saint Lucia. We don’t have to go far to prove that this is a lie. The Prime Minister speaking in the Parliament of Saint Lucia foolishly admitted that there were problems with the Range Project and accepted responsibility for the delay. He also promised that all issues would be resolved by July 1. The Prime Minister when questioned by the media as to whether there was a dispute and whether the project has stopped announced that he was already speaking to other developers to replace Range. So if the Prime Minster, your boss, admitted there was a dispute, who do we believe? You or him? Or neither. Is it a case of Meme bete meme pwel.
- The Minister says there was no dispute, what the Government was trying to do was get back the land which was sold by the SLP four days before the elections. I won’t say much on this except to share with you a document issued by the Government Land Registry yesterday, August 27, 2018. It shows that the land was sold on September 11, 2017! So, Hon. Minister, was elections on September 15, 2017? Minister as the children say, Liar Liar Pants on fire! The Land Registry document shows that the land was sold by the UWP in September 2017.
- The Minister then claims that Range sold in the region of US$14-20m. A difference of US$6m or EC$15.6m. That’s a huge “Range” (pun intended). So which is it? Imagine a farmer going to a supermarket to sell grapefruits and is asked how many grapefruits did he sell and he says between 200 and 300. Minister how much money was earned? It is very easy to find out how much money was collected. It is either 14m or 20m! Just check the bank account. But there is a reason why you don’t want to find out. But you paying commission on $54m, so why not just say they brought in EC$54m. Why give a lower figure at all? Is that what is officially recorded? And is it that Range is saying NO, we brought in more? Tell us Minister.
This becomes more intriguing. How do we know how much money was earned by the CIP. Since the PM has never presented to Parliament as required by Section 33 of the CIP Act, we can only rely on the Estimates. Pg. 7 of the Estimates for 2018/2019 says that for 2016/2017, EC$5.9m was earned, it also says that for 2017/2018, EC$21.4m was earned. That gives a total of EC$27.3m from all sources. The Range dispute started in the last financial year. How comes the Estimates says a total of EC$27.3m from all sources but the Minister announces that Range alone brought in US$20m which is EC$53.4m. Is someone lying to us in the Estimates? What is the true earnings from the CIP? Why is the Government is refusing to come to Parliament with a statement of how much was earned and what was it used for? So Hon. Minister is the Estimates lying or are you lying? Where the money Gone?
- Then the Minister says that the Government decided that Range was entitled to a commission of 10% of $54 meaning EC$5.4m belongs to Range. I need to ask the Minister how Range can be entitled to a Commission and by whose authority. The Rules of the CIP are very clear. I want to share a memo from the CIP Unit on who is entitled to Commissions. As you can see, it is very clearly stated that only Marketing Agents who don’t have contracts in place and promoters or Authorised Agents who submitted successful applications. It does not mention hotel developers or investors. So tell me Hon. Minister who decided that a hotel developer or investor can be paid a commission? Are you telling the truth?
- The Hon. Minister says that Range had claims for expenses. But wait, was it not the Minister who said there was no dispute for which there was an amicable settlement, that instead it was Government that engaged Range for a settlement to get back the land which was sold. Then why is Range claiming for expenses. Hon. Minister don’t these claims only arise when there is a dispute? If the Government got back EC$21.6m then it means Government paid Range EC$33.1m!!! But add this, EC$6.7m for the land and EC$5.4m for commissions then it means the Government paid Range about EC$20m in expenses. What for Hon. Minister? Maybe you can tell the nation the truth. Tell us what the expenses were. The people want to know. I dare you to tell the nation what monies did Range pay out that they now claim they want back.
- Finally, the Minister says that Saint Lucia made a gain of $21.6m. Listen to this. If you have a glass of juice, it is yours. Then someone drinks a quarter of it and leaves behind three-quarters, would you argue that you have gain three-quarter glass of juice or would you be upset that you have lost a quarter? The Hon. Minister wants us to be happy that we have only EC$21.6m left, which he sees as a net gain for us. He does not want Saint Lucians to be unhappy that we have lost EC$33m of our CIP money. This was money brought to Saint Lucia from the sale of our citizenships and through no fault of the people we have lost EC$33m! It is our money which we are asked to pay out. No heads will roll, no Minister will pay the price yet I am the false prophet?
Hon. Minister think about it. A developer comes in with part funding just having built a Park Hyatt in St. Kitts and completing a Kempinsky Hotel in Dominica, both high end hotels and wanting to build a hotel in Saint Lucia. If this project was handled properly right now about 300 young men and women would be employed in constructing the hotel. In two years, an ultra-modern Ritz-Carlton would be opening its doors in the South. But due to the incompetence of the Government we have lost this investment opportunity and instead according to figures given by the Minister we are paying out EC$33m. I think, and Saint Lucians think, that someone should resign over this. And given you are the one taking responsibility for it, you should do the honourable thing and resign as the Minister. The people of Saint Lucia must not be made to pay for your incompetence, you are clearly out of your league.
I thank you.