Standing with their man
UWP puts its weight behind Opposition Leader Lennox Linton in Layou River Hotel court saga
Dozens of Dominicans from the hamlets, villages and towns joined the leadership of the opposition United Workers Party (UWP) on a tour of the ruins of the failed Layou River Hotel project on Thursday.
After the tour the UWP held a public meeting in Layou village to restate the party's view of the failed 1990's citizenship by investment project promoted by Grace Tung. The reasons for the renewed interest in the controversial Layou River Hotel project are obvious.
Lennox Linton and the UWP leadership planned the tour and Layou public meeting as Linton, the Leader of the Opposition, faced new demands from Kieron Pinard- Byrne, the Layou River project owner's representative and chartered accountant.
Linton and Pinard-Byrne have been embroiled in a protracted legal battle that ended at the British Privy Council in late 2015. Dominica's high court and the Privy Council concluded that Linton was guilty of libel against Pinard-Byrne on the issue of the use or misuse of the finances of the Layou River Hotel project. However, the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) held up Linton's defense of qualified privilege. The Privy Council overturned that judgement.
Therefore, Linton was required to pay Pinard-Byrne about EC$80,000 in damages and legal fees as directed by judge Brian Cottle in the High Court trial; Linton raised more than EC$100,000 through a radio-pledge on Q95 FM.
Later dozens of UWP supporters gathered outside the office of Pinard-Byrne's lawyers to pay the amount; for over three hours they paid in small denominations and coins.
Additionally, last week in a letter from his lawyers, Defreitas & Johnson, Pinard-Byrne demanded payment for costs that he incurred at the Privy Council hearing.
"We refer to the Order on costs made by Judicial Committee of the Privy. Council and dated 29th January, 2016, wherein it was ordered, inter alia, that our client is entitled to costs in the Court of Appeal and Privy Council and "that the Respondent pay the Appellant £20,000 on account of his costs before the Judicial Committee within 21 days of the date of this Order. A copy of the full terms of the Order is attached," the letter stated.
It continued: "We hereby demand payment by you of the full sum of £20,000.00 within the 21 days stipulated by the Court, that is, no later than 22nd February, 2016. You are therefore required to make payment in full of the said sum or its equivalent in Eastern Caribbean dollars, at the prevailing exchange rate applicable on the date of payment, to our Chambers by way of Banker's draft or certified cheque.
"Should you fail to comply with this demand, enforcement proceedings will be instituted against you and/ or any property you may own or have any interest in. This will inevitably result in additional costs to you".
To avoid another inconvenience of UWP supporters gathering to pay the fee in small denominations, Defreitas & Johnson have stipulated that their client, Pinard-Byrne, must be paid "by way of Banker's draft or certified cheque".
Another radio pledge on Q95 FM is scheduled to be held on Monday to raise money to pay the new costs.
At the Layou meeting, Edison James, the former Prime Minister (1995-2000) told the gathering that while he had retired from active politics he refused to stand idle by and say and do nothing about the failed project.
James said Grace Tung along with Kieron Pinard-Byrne came to the Cabinet room in 1995 where they met with the Cabinet of Ministers of the UWP government. He said Tung told his government that if the Cabinet desired she could call off the project.
"We told her no way we want the project which had not started and it was during that time in 1995 that they officially began the project," James said.
He added that many questions remain unanswered about the reasons for the failure of the project since Tung sold Dominica's passports to finance the construction of the hotel.
James called on Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit to have a "full scale inquiry into the project." Answers were needed, he said, since the excuse given for the failure of the Layou Hotel project was "construction fraud". Who then is to be blamed, James asked.
James told the audience that it is clear that Prime Minister Skerrit "knows all what is going on."
He added that Skerrit is annoyed that the international press has latched on to the issue of the citizenship by investment project and journalists are asking questions about the sale of Dominica's diplomatic passports to persons of questionable character.
Other speakers at the function included former Education Minister Ron Green, UWP senators Monelle Williams and Isaac Baptiste and Roseau Central MP Joseph Isaac.
Opposition leader Lennox Linton also addressed the meeting and provided detailed information about the project.
"They want to shut me up…but I will not. They sued me, we are law abiding citizens and even if we did not agree with the decisions of the court we will abide by it, we will pay them by the grace of God," he said.
Linton also reminded his supporters at the meeting that on Monday, February 15, 2016 he will be back in court to answer charges filed by members of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Skerrit over accusations of rape.
The matter may take up two weeks at the civil court in Roseau.