Calls made for Marriott lease to be investigated

Persons from various sections of society have voiced their concern over government’s intention to lease land to the Marriott Hotel developer at below market value.

According to documentation seen by this newspaper, government intends to lease 6.886 acres of prime land to the Marriott developers for a sum of $299,955 per annum.

“From all appearances it is well below market value and it needs to be investigated,” said Leader of the Opposition David Granger.

“It is a travesty that a lease of such a low figure for so long [could be entered into]. But it is not something that we have discussed among the membership,” said Granger, when contacted by telephone yesterday.

APNU MP Desmond Trotman on Friday moved to the court to block government’s planned transfer of land at Kingston on which the Marriott is being constructed, arguing that the public trust has been abused.

For comparison, the government leased land to the Queens Atlantic Investment Inc (QAII) for some $50 million per annum. However, this was with an option to buy after some years
Speaking to the issue, veteran trade unionist Lincoln Lewis said it was good that Members of Parlia-ment are speaking out on the issue.

“I am encouraged to see Members of Parliament taking a position to protect national assets. I am encouraged that Trotman is taking a strident position on protecting Guyana’s assets.

However, MPs must not confine themselves to Marriott only but also [speak out] on the Amaila Falls hydro project and the Cheddi Jagan International Airport expansion,” he said when contacted yesterday.

“I hope that Trotman’s actions in the court will force both government and opposition MPs to be more open and to consult with their constituents,” he said.

“These are national projects and what surprises me is how [government is behaving] in dealing with national assets,” said Lewis.

“We had recommitted to working together so as not to have a recurrence….we had discussed whether the Marriott was an appropriate investment and how it has impacted on the nation’s work force,” he said.

He said that the government at that meeting accepted the Trades Union Congress’s (TUC) argument that there must be no entering into agreements with companies that give jobs to foreigners and not to Guyanese. “Our main focus was about this scenario not happening in the future,” he said.

Documentation revealed that the proposed lease fee is $299,955 per annum over 99 years, bringing the total value of the lease to US$148,000 for a proposed five-star hotel and casino.

Trotman’s notice of opposition stated that on April 12, 2013 President Donald Ramotar, acting on behalf of the state and on the advice of Cabinet, made absolute grant No 7888 to National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) of the land known as Block Alpha at Battery Road, Kingston.

NICIL, according to Trotman, has since applied to the Registrar of Deeds to convey the land to it and this was advertised in the Official Gazette of June 15, 2013.

Further, he said, NICIL then agreed to pass a conveyance of Block Alpha by way of a lease for 99 years to Atlantic Hotels Inc as advertised in the Official Gazette of June 15, 2013. He added that the 6.886 acres are being leased at $299,955 dollars per annum.

Trotman in his notice of opposition argued that the President and his Cabinet has been misusing and abusing the public trust reposed in them by the wrongful disposing of the public property.

He said the intended lease by NICIL to AHI would result in an infringement of the fundamental right of citizens to equality before the law and equal protection as guaranteed by articles 149, 149D and 142 of the Constitution and the rule of law.

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