SVG wins battle for land at Chatham Bay, Union Island
November 19, 2013
SVG wins battle for land at Chatham Bay, Union Island

The government of St Vincent and the Grenadines has recorded what Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has deemed “an extraordinary victory”, resulting in the restoration of just about 100 acres of land at Chatham Bay, Union Island to the State.{{more}}

The victory came at the end of court battles spanning nearly seven years, between the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Chatham Bay Club Limited and Chatham Bay Development Corporation, who purchased the beachfront land on the Grenadine island.

Last Thursday, the Privy Council approved the application by the companies to withdraw the appeal they had lodged before that court, against decisions handed down in favour of the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines by the local High Court and East Caribbean Court of Appeal.

The Privy Council then ordered that the land at Chatham Bay be turned over to the State, and that the companies be reimbursed the EC$477,000 spent to purchase the land, plus interest of five per cent from January 2006 to November 2013, amounting to EC $184,400.

“Today for me is a joyous day. I am deeply honoured, very pleased…. This is a case which involves the reclamation of our patrimony,” Gonsalves said at a press conference to announce the victory yesterday, at Cabinet Room.

“When I got this I thanked almighty God.”

Outlining the timeline of the matter, the Prime Minister disclosed that Chatham Bay Club Limited and Chatham Bay Development Corporation purchased the property for EC$477,000 from American Michael Leslie Paul Badham in November 1987.

“These two companies applied for an Alien Landholding licence, and that licence was issued under the Aliens Landholding Regulation Act on the 6th of March 1987, under license number 1800 of 1987.

“Two important conditions… were that they would build two restaurants and they would build accommodations for 55 persons, and they were to do so within three years, and they had to spend no less than $15 million (East Caribbean).”

Gonsalves said that from all appearances, the companies were having difficulty securing investors for the development of the area, and a plan to develop a cruise ship facility there was turned down by then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell.

Gonsalves said that in December 2005, he was made aware of a possible breach in the Aliens Landholding License law, by an old man he described as an “ordinary citizen, “ and with the assistance of young attorneys Camillo Gonsalves, Ronnie Marks and Rochelle Forde and an unnamed senior lawyer, he set the wheels of justice in motion, in an effort to secure forfeiture on the land.

Then, on January 25, 2006, led by the Attorney General, the government filed a high court action against the Chatham Bay Companies, which was heard in April that year, with judgement going in favour of the government later that month.

This decision was appealed in August 2007, and in January 2010, with legal work by Ruth-Ann Richards, Grahame Bollers and Anthony Astaphan, the appeal was rejected and the judgment of the High Court was confirmed.

Final leave to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal was granted in July 2010, with the final order given by the Privy Council last week.

Gonsalves told the media that the government will pay the money as early as the end of this week, in order to avoid additional daily interest.

He said that the decision shows that his Government has the resilience and resolution to defend the country’s heritage, which was done from the beginning of proceeding until its end.

“This is a nationalist victory as many other nationalist ones that this government has secured in the interest of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

when asked if there were any immediate plans for the land, Gonsalves said that he would like to see a resort developed in there, and indicated that persons had already been invited to “have a look.”(JJ)