As the Barbuda People’s Movement (BPM) prepares to challenge in court today, the vote that gave consent to the Paradise Found project, the minister for Barbuda Affairs said the legal action almost put the development in jeopardy.
Arthur Nibbs, who is also chairman of the Barbuda Council, said the controversy has spooked investor Robert DeNiro who is financing the project with his business partner James Packer.
“I must tell you that that did not go down well at all,” Nibbs said.
“Any investor who is going to put in $250 million and hears that you have 175 persons out of a very small population voting against it, and to add more insult to that they are challenging it in court.
“We had a heck of a racket convincing him to stay on. It was difficult. The prime minister and I did all we can.”
Nibbs added that he believes the BPM’s opposition to the project was always intended to intimidate the investors.
“You wouldn’t want to put in a hotel, and next thing people start burning tyres on the beach or start marching. That is a very fragile industry. People coming into that would want to have next to unanimous support,” he said.
On March 2, Barbudans were asked to vote for or against the DeNiro-Packer US $250 million resort project, during a village meeting under the rules of the Land Act.
Two hundred and six people approved the project, while 175 people voted against it. And although the government declared Paradise Found approved, the opposition BPM claimed there were many discrepancies in the voting procedure.
Chairman of the BPM McKenzie Frank will be going to court today to ask permission to challenge the vote. His attorney, Ralph Francis, said they are asking the court to give them permission to file an application for judicial review.
“And in the judicial review, the remedies we are asking for is to quash certain decisions, to stop certain actions as far as this whole project is concerned until the procedure is done properly, until everybody knows what this whole project is about,” Francis said.
Specifically, the BPM contends the procedure of the vote was flawed, as it was not done by secret ballot.
The attorney charges that the people were not allowed to decide whether to vote by a show of hands or by secret ballot, in accordance with the Barbuda Land Act Regulations.
Anthony Astaphan will represent the Barbuda Council.