Nov 26, 2015 News
An ongoing standoff between the Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI) and Celina’s Atlantic Resort (CAR) over current expansion works yesterday saw four workers being arrested.
Charges are now likely against the resort operators for possible damage to the integrity of Kitty seawall, MPI said yesterday.
CAR, which has embarked on a US$5M ($1B) renovation at the hangout spot, is planning to have a modern entertainment facility complete by May next year in time for Guyana’s 50th Independence celebrations.
However, the Ministry says that the construction works are unlawful. Despite several cease work orders, CAR has refused to adhere.
Celina’s has insisted that its leased which was updated in 2011 allowed it to carry out works.
The ministry had been preparing this week to approach the courts for an injunction to stop the works.
A statement from MPI yesterday confirmed that following a formal complaint to the Criminal Investigations Department, four workers were taken into police custody after ranks visited the Kitty seawall site in the afternoon.
“For quite some time now, MPI has been concerned about the ongoing construction due to the risk it poses to sea defence. After MPI sought assistance in the matter (yesterday), the police legal advisor was contacted and informed of the situation. In turn, advice was given that the police may proceed to prosecute CAR under the Sea Defence Act,” the ministry explained.
When police visited the site at around 16:30 hrs, employees were at the time engaged in work. “While three persons were arrested on the spot, one subsequently came in. The employees were three operators and a mechanic. A police official has confirmed that an investigation has been launched into the extensive and detrimental work undertaken by CAR.”
According to the ministry, the employees have all singled out the same person as their employer. “Additionally, the police are hoping that the arrests will send a clear message to both employees and employers at CAR and will act as a deterrent in the future.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, applauded the police’s swift response.
“I must commend the police for doing their job,” Minister Patterson emphasised. “The Ministry takes the protection of the sea defence and the preservation of our protection extremely seriously and we will continue to monitor the situation.”
The workers were expected to be released on station bail last evening.
On Tuesday, Celina’s spokeman, Bobby Vieira, was adamant that the current construction activities were not unlawful, but in conformity with permission granted under its lease which was renewed in 2011.
He said that the US$5M facility will boast a restaurant, bar, mini-golf course and kids’ park next year. A number of guest rooms are also planned.
At least three cease orders were issued this year to Bernard Yhun, whose name appears on the lease that was issued in 2003, under the Bharrat Jagdeo government.
Yhun has reportedly taken on an overseas-based Guyanese as a partner and developer.
Vieira said Tuesday that Celina’s has its permits and licences all paid up.
“We have the lease here which allowed the property to be developed. We have the restaurant and liquor licence paid up-to-date. You can’t have that unless you had permission in the lease that allowed you to build in the first place.”
Vieira said that works being done are not any new buildings.
“What is happening here is that workers are replacing a few windows in a building and raising the level of the area by 12 inches. What is wrong with that? The mangroves are not being destroyed by clearing the vegetation.”
The tussle with Celina’s has reportedly caused some friction between a number of ministries in the Government, with some ministers for the development and others worried about environmental impact.
Vieira noted that Celina’s is paying up to $500,000 monthly for security of the place.
Yhun was ordered to cease all work and remove the equipment and workers from the site.
In 2003, the land was leased for 50 years to Yhun for tourism purposes, for the establishment of a sea view resort. The land, east of the Kitty groyne and north of the seawall, was 1.54 acres, with Yhun asked to pay $1.5M every two years.
The lease was reportedly extended in 2011 to 100 years.
Celina’s lease barred it from undertaking any work without permits from Environmental Protection Agency. The business entity was also specifically barred from disturbing mangroves east of the property without consent of the Board.
Vieira on Tuesday claimed that no mangrove was disturbed, just vegetation.
Yhun was also told that he must move any equipment and materials to and from the area by the way of the sea. He was forbidden to move any construction plant, equipment and materials over the sea defences without the Board’s permission.
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