By Carlena Knight
The Peace, Love and Happiness (PLH) company has refuted claims by Deputy Chair of the Barbuda Peoples Movement (BPM), Mackenzie Frank, accusing the company of not meeting payment requirements for the 620 acres of land they leased in Barbuda.
According to the leasing documents, one lease covers 420 acres and requires the PLH to pay $175,000 dollars for a plot of land while the second lease is 174 acres for $62,000 for a plot at Palmetto Point.
But Frank is saying that the group has not paid any amount of that agreement to the Barbuda Council.
““I spoke to the secretary of the Council yesterday, and to the chairman of the finance committee, Trevor Walker, and up to now, PLH has not paid any rental money to the Barbuda Council. Thus far, since 2017, the Barbuda Council treasury has not been paid any money. They started to construct a hotel in which they said they paid US$5M into an account at a Global Bank of Commerce. Those monies have not been through the account of the Barbuda Council, because it was supposed to be pre-payment of rent for 80 years. That’s what is written in the agreement. The administration has been trying to get information on that, [but] if that payment entered the bank, then that account should be in the name of the Barbuda Council because the Council is listed as the leaser. We haven’t seen any records of it,” said the BPM official.
But Justin Wilshaw, Project President of PLH Barbuda Ltd., refuted those claims saying payments have been met.
“PLH can confirm that in an MOU signed by the Barbuda Council, it granted the authority for PLH leases on Barbuda to rest with GOAB [Government of Antigua and Barbuda]. The commercial terms of these leases have been met.,” said Wilshaw.
Wilshaw also addressed concerns shared by Frank over the financial circumstances of the Barbudan people. He noted that the company will be hoping to address the problem in the near future.
“The continued focus of PLH has been to engage with the local community and support economic growth through employment and business opportunities. We remain committed in this focus, and in the coming months, will offer additional employment and training opportunities to support the Barbuda community.”
The BPM official also accused the government of not being transparent regarding information on this matter. He further questioned the evaluation of the figures on the land to PLH which he believes should have been more than its said pricing.
“There is something wrong with that. That amount of land should not be going for just over $230,000 per annum. You are talking about building US$6M condominiums and villas and so forth; how is that then a real representative of the value of the land? This is where I believe we have to review those leases to ensure that any monies that we get are at a proper market value.”
He reiterated points made in earlier reports about the environmental risk a project like this would have on the lagoon, which is home to the national bird, the Frigate, and several other species of marine life.
He is suggesting to officials in PLH that they review their development plans and relocate the intended golf course to a different location.
Efforts to reach out to central government officials for a response were futile.