Owner of the Celina Atlantic Resort, Bernard Yhun, has denied that the business changed ownership or that there was any expansion work.
“I don’t know where Stabroek News got it that my place has changed ownership. I am still the owner and I have documents which support that I have leased that place from the very first time to now… There is also no expansion going on at Celina what you can see going on is renovations,” said Yhun during a recent visit to this newspaper’s Robb Street office.
The man complained that reports carried in the Stabroek News, the latest dated Wednesay, January 11, 2012, were not just untrue but seemed a direct personal attack at him.
Questioned about the Chinese male who last month identified himself as Mr Hong and had told Stabroek News staff that his boss had acquired the business, along with the visible presence of scores of Chinese nationals on the property, Yhun said, “The reporter who was there did not understand the Chinese man. That is my family. My father is Chinese and his family is helping me with contracting and labour works to save cost. He cannot speak or understand English much… what he was trying to say was that they should speak to my family,” said a seemingly upset Yhun.
The man who was armed with a sheaf of documents to support what his claims, added, “I going to tell you the truth when I first set up that place I made it with wood …not the best of wood either cause I wasn’t doing so well to invest so much I just had a dream of giving Guyanese a nice place by de sea to chill out you know. Now that family has decided to throw their money behind me I trying to nice up de thing and is a whole heap a problems from this person to that person to the next. Why?! Why?! All I am doing is putting concrete where there was wood and putting more stronger wood where de old set rotten out,” he said.
When asked if a feasibility study was undertaken to determine the effects of the construction on the sea defence Yhun replied in the negative but stated that from his sources concretizing of the structure would add to the sea defence foundation. “As far as I see it the sea defence isn’t threatened I think we are trying to help in sea defence protection if you ask me. I putting concrete in the foundation and not no Harry come lately doing that work is real good contractors. If anyone threatened is me cause is me right there barring the sea from coming inland. If is anything you ain’t see is me de sea first coming and wash way?”
Yhun added that as far as leasing for the property was concerned he has all documents in order. He said the only reason reports were heard that he owed on his lease was because his staff was barred from paying same at the Lands and Surveys Department.
The resort was the subject of controversy last year over lease payments and its subsequent expansion on the site, with several engineers sounding their concern over the impact of the construction works on the sea wall. Yhun had launched a legal battle to stay in business after his lease was cancelled by the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC), which asked him to clear the Kitty Seawall site. Yhun’s lawyer, Manoj Narayan, later said there was nothing preventing the expansion, while noting that the High Court had dismissed applications by the GLSC for Yhun to be removed because of non-payments on the lease and to prevent him from erecting structures on the land.
Last month, a company official at the Kitty seawall location, who identified himself as “Mr Hong,” told Stabroek News that his “boss,” whom he did not name, had acquired the business. At the time, staff was being hired for the work ongoing at the hang-out spot.
While construction works have been ongoing at the facility for some time now, they have been enveloped in controversy. Former Chief Hydraulics Officer and Specialist Engineer for Sea Defences Malcolm Alli had said that the Celina Atlantic Resort building violates the Sea Defence Act and permission for its construction should not have been granted.
Alli had told Stabroek News that he had designed and built the section of the sea defence in 1968, following massive erosion of the foreshore.
He had explained that where the Celina Resort sits, to the north of the seawall next to the Kitty Pump Station, was the grouted boulder slope, below which has built up silt.
The Celina building, he said, is built over this silt, which can disappear overnight by erosion, causing the building’s foundation to collapse and damaging the seawall.
The resort is located in an environmentally sensitive area, which has prompted questions about the danger its recent expansion poses to the mangrove trees in the area.
Some time ago, when Stabroek News had noticed large quantities of construction material being ferried to the location, it had approached an official of the resort on whether expansion works were being done. The official at the time denied this and said only repair work to the decking and other areas were being done.
Entirely new structures are, however, being put up and sources note that these should have been approved by various agencies and the possible repercussions to the environment and the integrity of the sea defence in the area considered.
Engineer Bert Carter had previously opined that no one should be allowed to build any structure beyond the seawall, given the potential threat to sea defences while late engineer Melvyn Sankies said he thought the building was an obstruction. He explained that in the case of any emergency or disaster, full access would be needed in that area.