STUNG by Gordon 'Butch' Stewart's decision not to take his word for it, Contractor General Greg Christie declared Monday he would "vigorously oppose" an application for a judicial review of his powers to investigate the sale of the Sandals Whitehouse hotel.
Stewart's holding company, Gorstew, which bought the previously state-owned resort in Westmoreland, filed an application last Friday to have the Supreme Court determine if the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) has the powers to carry out its proposed investigation into the sale of the hotel last year. Gorstew said it would accept the ruling of the court.
Gorstew believes that the sale brokered by upstanding statesman R Danny Williams is outside the purview of the OCG, and is also concerned that the decision was based on a "spurious news story" about "secret talks" related to the sale published in the now out-of-circulation Sunday Herald newspaper.
But Christie described the application as "to be regretted" and Gorstew's position as "highly questionable, fundamentally misguided and flawed".
"...It is in light of all of the aforementioned circumstances, amongst others, and the very serious public interest considerations that are inherent in this matter, that the OCG will vigorously oppose, in the Supreme Court, the application which has been filed against it by Gorstew Limited," Christie said in a 2,831-word press statement, supported by a 22-page letter to the then prime minister.
Gorstew maintained that the sale was above board, the US$40-million sale price was set independently by international valuators Ernst and Young, and that it had agreed to drop a lawsuit seeking US$28 million against the government-run Urban Development Corporation (UDC) for damages its Sandals brand suffered when the UDC delivered the hotel late and with substantial defects.
Stewart, the Sandals Resorts International chairman had envisioned the Whitehouse hotel as a catalyst for unprecedented development of the unspoilt south coast, with taxicabs and buses zipping back and forth from the airports and leading to an airstrip ferrying tourists to savour its lush vegetation and undulating hills, while creating untold numbers of jobs for its deserving residents.
"It would be an indictment on Jamaica and quite a travesty of natural justice if, after more than a year following the sale, any effort was allowed to try to undermine the sale and sullly the reputation of those involved in the negotiations," Gorstew said in court documents.