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PM Dickon Mitchell moving to ban sale of Crown Lands around Grand Anse beach

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell – is determined to take action on the Radisson issue

In a most defining statement, Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell has announced that his one-year old National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration will pass legislation in Parliament to ban the sale of Crown Lands on the world famous Grand Anse beach.

The 45-year old Grenadian leader outlined his government’s position on the issue against the backdrop of the longstanding issue between the owner of the Radisson Grand Beach Resort Issa Nicholas and International Grand prix racer Lewis Hamilton for control of the property occupying a section of the Grand Anse beach.

The 2003-08 New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Keith Mitchell had sold the government land on the beach occupied by Nicholas to Hamilton in exchange for using his name in helping to promote Grenada as a tourist destination among other promotional things.

The deal called for the Hamilton Group to negotiate the sale of the hotel from the Trinidad business tycoon in order to take possession and to develop the hotel property into a world class facility.

Hamilton reportedly paid 10% of the EC$43 million as part of an agreement to pay the rest of the money by a specific time frame in order to take over the entire property.

The funds were allegedly placed in the Escrow account of a lawyer and when the rest of the money was not paid Nicholas moved to collect the non-refundable deposit.

There are reports that the grand prix racer wanted to renegotiate the sale price on the grounds that the property was over-valued.

The Keith Mitchell-led NNP government also surrendered the rental fee from Nicholas to the Hamilton outfit.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell who addressed the issue in an interview on the NDC HeartBeat programme with host Terry Forrester pledged to do something about this unfortunate situation which he blamed on the previous government.

“…That’s a topic that I think we expect to make some public pronouncements on in the not-too-distant future,” he said.

According to the Prime Minister, it is the clear intention of Congress to adopt a policy that will outlaw the sale of Crown lands on Grand Anse beach.

“…We intend to pass legislation and we hope we can get bi-partisan support on this that says that all lands on Grand Anse beach which are not already freehold should remain leasehold. I am saying lands that are owned by the government and people of Grenada,” he said.

The Prime Minister was firm that such a policy was needed to “ensure that in going forward we give upcoming generations of Grenadians the opportunity to enjoy Grand Anse beach, the opportunity to enjoy the patrimony that we enjoy now by having access to the beach.”

“We think it is critical also to ensure that when we lease those lands to persons that they perform, that if they don’t perform the lease itself will spell out the consequences of non-performance so that the government and people will get another developer, another investor, another businessman who then will perform without having to go through, without having to reacquire or natoinalise these assets,” he told the programme.

“I think it is very important for people to understand that the beach is our legacy, we have to preserve it for the next generation of Grenadians and we should discourage ….. the outright sale of freehold land on Grand Anse beach,” he said.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell went on to say: “This is an issue that we feel very strongly about and we think it is important that Grenadians understand that we support their right to ensure that certain aspects of Grenada are preserved for all eternity for Grenadians.”

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“I am saying that there are certain areas that are so iconic, so instrumental in our history, our identity as a people that we should as a state look to retain control over these areas for eternity rather than just simple sell them off into private hands,” he added.

The Prime Minister noted that past governments would not sell the land on Grand Anse beach but engage only in a lease arrangement with a developer “to encourage people to spend their money on the development of the properties.”

This policy, he said, would allow the government “to receive rent payment and then for us to monitor the performance of the persons with the covenant.”

“If they don’t perform then obviously it becomes easy to terminate the lease and it gives you the advantage to release the property to someone else who would actually do (the development),” he remarked.

Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell described as a “regrettable situation” the turn of events between Nicholas and the Hamilton group on the Grand Anse beach following the decision of the Keith Mitchell-led NNP regime to sell the freehold lands on Grand Anse beach.

“It is said that because in some instances they sold land in circumstances in which the person they sold it to cannot in fact develop the property because they simply in fact do not have actual possession of the property,” he told the programme.

He pointed out that it was unfortunate that the then government chose this course of action when it was known that “you had a tenant (Nicholas) with a 99-year lease.”

“Our government who was collecting the rent chose to transfer the freehold to a third party who collects the rent and that Third party does not have possession of the site so there is no way they could develop the site because the lessee has a 99-year lease.”

“That’s the kind of thing that blows my mind as to how reckless in some regards the former administration has been in terms of treating with (and) ensuring that you enter into sensible commercial arrangements with people to ensure that they do what they say they’re going to do, monitor their performance.”

The Prime Minister dropped hints that the Congress government might have to spend millions of dollars in order to “avoid a situation in which you then have to buy back stuff that you should never have sold in the first instance.”

“…That’s part of what we are facing as a government – to buy back things that should never have been sold in the first place so that we can get to a point where we can protect the people of Grenada, to protect the investors themselves because what you don’t want is a situation where you allow if you have an investor who is doing his bit, who is developing and then you have other guys who are not developing and they can get away with murder simple because the contractual arrangement is not fair or made in the best interest of the people.”

Former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas who headed the Congress government in the 2008-13 period had attempted to regain control of the beachfront land occupied by Radisson but faced stiff opposition from a group within the Cabinet that was loyal to his then Foreign Minister Peter David.

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