Tug of war continues over ownership of LBI estate lounge/sports bar
…official accused of calling female patrons “strippers”
As the saga over the ownership and commercialisation of the La Bonne Intention (LBI) Estate’s Staff Club continues, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) is accusing the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) of breaching a legal document which transfers ownership of the LBI estate to NICIL.
The tug of war between GuySyCo and NICIL, started after the refurbishing of the estate staff club into a luxury lounge/sport bar. The lounge/bar was established even though dismissed sugar workers had to wait one year for their severance payment from GuySuCo.
However, as they GuySuCo and NICIL seek to determine control and ownership of the facility, it’s Public Relations Officer, Audreyanna Thomas, said the transformation of staff facility into a sports bar does not fall in line with its principles and values which resulted in it blocking the opening. She earlier indicated that the Sugar Corporation had intentions of rehabilitating the facility but was told that SPU would undertake that since their staffers would also utilise the facility. She claimed that the company was blindsided by the move to turn the staff facility to a sports bar.
Ever since that turn of events, the SPU and GuySuCo’s relationship continued to deteriorate. According to the manager, Thomas continues to terrorise persons accessing the facility, explaining that about a week ago, she referred to the wives of some of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority employees as strippers because they donned bathing suits while using the pool.
He noted that they are at their wits’ end with the Sugar Corporation but are trying to resolve the issue amicably without going to the courts. He noted that taking legal action against GuySuCo would have to be a last resort. He also indicated that GuySuCo allegedly broke into the Staff Club’s bar and items have gone missing.
According to the December 30, 2017, Vesting Order, “all movable and immovable property owned, used, leased or licensed by GuySuCo or the State save and except Albion Estate, Blairmont Estate and Uitvlugt Estate… stand transferred to and shall be vested in NICIL absolutely, free and clear from all claims and liabilities.”
In essence, according to NICIL, the Vesting Order transfers all ownership of all property except those stated to them. However, GuySuCo is contending that because the LBI Estate is not stated as being transferred to NICIL, it therefore means it remains in their possession.
A senior official at NICIL told Guyana Times, during an interview, that when NICIL moved into the LBI Estate, they held a consultation with GuySuCo and since they were now the new owners, they moved ahead with rehabilitating the Staff Club and have it opened as a business venture. The commercialisation body would have expended over $25 million on the project to which GuySuCo was in full agreement with.
“It (the Vesting Order) has a catch; all clause where it states all other property and it did not state expressly LBI. So in legal terminology, although it did not state LBI, the ‘catch all’ phrase covers that because GuySuCo only has control of Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt estates and that is where the issue arises. The Vesting Order need not fully describe the property because we have a ‘catch all’ clause and it is not necessary in accordance with the law,” the official stated.
“SPU (Special Purposes Unit) moved into the building since last year (2017) and we started to renovate the sports club. The pool was green and the place was termite infested and we went into renovation mode. We were empowered to renovate because we had the ownership and as the renovations were completed, they (GuySuCo) tried to say that they owned the property and they want it back. They waited until we were finished and then said that they wanted their property back,” he added.
The senior manager said prior to the renovation, they commissioned a 10-person committee to manage the club and go forth with plans for its commercialisation. The committee comprised five persons from GuySuCo and five from the SPU. The club renovation was completed, and all was set for launch on September 28, 2018, but one day before the opening day, GuySuCo retaliated by issuing notices that the event was cancelled, a move that NICIL said completely blindsided them.
“On the 28 (September) they stood at the gate and turned away a number of the delegates we invited from the Ministries and managers from Banks DIH and DDL because we had invited them,” the manager noted.
He said the move was a complete embarrassment.
“Vesting Order out of order”
Meanwhile, Thomas told Guyana Times during a telephone interview that the Vesting Order is out of order since the LBI compound serves as the Corporation’s head office, hence the reason it was not listed. She questioned whether the SPU expects GuySuCo to move its head office into the air.
“Assuming the Vesting Order says save and except Blairmont, Albion and Uitvlugt, everything else is vested. Where else is GuySuCo head office supposed to be, in the sky? Are we supposed to be relocated to one of these estates? If the Vesting Order did say that GuySuCo’s LBI is vested then where will the head office… be? Should it be relocated so that a club house be managed in this location? This is a business that earns billions of dollars and has 8000 plus employees,” she said.
“It seems indecent and immoral that the agency that was set up to divest GuySuCo’s assets is now coming and saying that that agency (GuySuCo) does not have a head office location because this agency (SPU) is in charge of it… even if it was by error that the LBI compound was included in the Vesting Order then NICIL must have the decency to unvest it and so that it would appear to be the proper thing to do,” Thomas added.
She sought to remind that the SPU’s role is to divest the four closed estates and not manage staff clubs.