Ramjattan says Marriott investor reps called him over opposition to project

Member of Parliament for the Alliance for Change (AFC) Khemraj Ramjattan has disclosed that persons representing the investor in the Marriott Hotel project called him on Friday inquiring of him whether there is a parliamentary motion against the project and why it was that Marriott International itself was not among the investors.

Ramjattan, Leader of the AFC, said that he told the persons who called him from overseas

Khemraj Ramjattan
Khemraj Ramjattan

that the combined opposition had carried a motion that he himself piloted stopping the project from going ahead.

Ramjattan, through a parliamentary motion late last year, sought to halt any further funding for the project by National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) and Atlantic Hotels Inc (AHI) that had not received the authorisation or approval of the National Assembly. He said in the motion that “an illegal course” is being taken by NICIL and its directors and officers, which is being aided and abetted by the government.

He also questioned why it was that Brassington chose to only now release documents such as the feasibility study when members of the opposition and other stakeholders have been calling for it all along.

“They asked me whether the original Marriott people – Marriott International – was investing in the project and when I said no, they asked why I thought this might be so,” he said.

“Brassington is not giving the people the entire history,” said Ramjattan; “I had to tell them of the litigation in the High Court over the land on which the hotel is being built.”

He criticised the fact that the investor who Brassington said is investing US$8 million is being called the “majority shareholder” when the government is putting over US$15 million into the project.

“Brassington is giving the investors a sense of comfort. There is pending litigation in the High Court on AHI/NICIL with regard to the land [on which the hotel stands] which APNU Member of Parliament Desmond Trotman had initiated,” said Ramjattan.

“Brassington is not telling the investors this. His [press conference] on Thursday was nothing more than a PR exercise to comfort the people out there,” said Ramjattan.

He went on to say, “They haven’t gotten the US$8 million yet. It is just a commitment. People are only expressing interest. NICIL and AHI are hoping for financial closure in December but they want the money now.”

Head of NICIL and of Atlantic Hotel Inc (AHI) Winston Brassington at a press conference on Thursday made a number of disclosures regarding the investment but remained reticent about the identity of the investor. He revealed that government has signed an agreement with the unnamed investor for US$8 million following the completion of due diligence assessments by Republic Bank Trinidad and Marriott International. He said that there will be financial closure by year-end and after this is achieved the identity of the investors will be revealed.

On June 29, 2013, A Partnership for National Unity (APNU) Member of Parliament Desmond Trotman moved to the court to block government’s planned transfer of land at Kingston on which the hotel stands, arguing that the public trust has been abused.

Trotman in his notice of opposition to the passing of the conveyance 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 NICIL of the land known as Block Alpha at Battery Road, Kingston.

NICIL, Trotman had said, had 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 that NICIL then agreed to pass a conveyance of Block Alpha by way of a lease for 99 years to Atlantic Hotels Inc.

Trotman added that the 6.886 acres are being leased at $299,955 dollars per annum.

In a comment to this newspaper in June, Marriott International’s Public Relations Director for the Caribbean and Latin America Laura Botelho said that the Guyana project was announced in June 2011 as part of a larger announcement by Marriott Hotels and Resorts.

“Marriott International is a hotel-management company with a business model that overwhelmingly focuses on managing and franchising hotels, rather than owning or constructing them,” she said. “The company works with local owners that understand the local laws, real estate and construction in their respective countries and territories. Marriott International does however provide guidelines and advisory services to the hotel owners for design and construction so that the hotels are built according to our world-class brand standards,” she said.

“Once the hotel in Guyana is built, Marriott International plans to hire over 200 local Guyanese employees and train them to work in our hotel. This is the standard when Marriott International operates hotels internationally,” she said.

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