The Layou River Hotel Project is a failure of governing and governments
The latest developments in the Layou River saga and the back and forth between the Opposition leader, Mr. Lennox Linton and one the litigants have been disheartening and distracting. But one of the bright spots in this melee is the highly successful radioton hosted by Q95 FM radio personality Mr. Matt Peltier on behalf of the former journalist and now Opposition leader. The effort raised over $100,000 which is more than the total which is required for initial phase of the court fines that were imposed by the London based Privy Council to the litigant in the failed Layou River Hotel Project.
The Layou River Project started in the 1990s during the Dame Charles DFP government. It continued during the James UWP government and ended in dismal failure with this current Labour party administration. The plan was to build a 5- star resort style hotel which would attract high end clients along the banks of the Layou River not too far from the capital city. The project would provide much needed revenue to government and provide stable employment for Dominicans.
Unfortunately the promising enterprise was not realized and millions of dollars disappeared. Mr. Linton ran a very successful exposé of the failed enterprise. Consequently he was sued by one of the players on the project. He won the case in the Regional courts but lost on appeal in London with a very different panel of Judges.
Why and how did this major public enterprise fail? This embarrassment was created due to the fact that the various administrations created and adopted a complicated and lack of oversight system where the project and the players were not adequately supervised, monitored and vetted. Governments and its leader(s) were either unable and/or unwilling to fix things for various reasons- 'pick yours'.
This was a diffusion of responsibility of governance and a massive failure of the various governments at all levels. From a rational (not political) point of view, the governments broke the people's trust.
But how long was the Layou River hotel debacle in the making? It is clear that this demise is more than a failure of governments; it's a failure of a specific governing philosophy of our administrations. What were the written outcomes and deliverables of the project? Did the various governments have a role in the decision making or more appropriately, did they know where, who and how much of the big money were flowing as a result of the project? The bottom line and main agenda by the project's players seemed to have been making sure that they got paid the big bucks.
Mr. Linton's harsh punishment for informing and educating the country of this grave injustice at Layou is grossly unfair. He faced much difficulty after investigating and reporting on this fiasco but held and (still holds) the firm belief that investigative journalism is one of the cornerstones of any functioning democracy. His Layou River Hotel exposé was a brilliant, courageous and patriotic assignment and a testament to his deep commitment to our country. He did it without thinking of the very high personal and financial costs. His brutal treatment by the current government, its agents, and the legions of opportunistic talk-radio disciples, newspaper columnists and bloggers is disingenuous. These actions and behavioral patterns demonstrate a concerted effort to stifle free speech and public expression in Dominica.
But the failure of the Layou Hotel project is probably more than the lack of trust on the people of Dominica. Is it also about incompetence, myopia, intimidation and ineptness? If so we desperately need a new sense of order in the conduction of our affairs. When or did this current government which has been in power since 2000 ever know that the project was in deep trouble? And if it knew, could it have intervened to stop the hemorrhaging to salvage the project? Did the powerful and influential unelected project's bosses oppose any of the previous and current governments' intervention by whatever means they deemed necessary? (Again pick yours).
It might be fair to say that each of the governments since 1990 should share some of the blame for this public–policy failed experiment. It is debatable as to the degree of blame each government should share. It is only fair to say that the foreign and non-native project's players probably arrogantly viewed themselves as wiser and superior to the checks and balances of our young democracy. By befriending various governments and their advisors and causing chaos and confusion in the political landscape and in the courts, these unelected 'viceroys' achieved their goals. Unfortunately, their goals were filling their deep pockets and not necessary building a high end hotel. That is why the Layou River Hotel project did not happen. But history has recorded Mr. Linton's gallant efforts and this colossal failure.