Ah, Southlands. The issue of Southlands has I think been an important factor in my relationship with Dr. Brown. I was (I think) the person responsible for making the original Southlands plan public knowledge. I came across it completely by accident and was shocked at the audacity of the plan. This occurred just before I started this blog, and my comments on the issue were instead over on the now defunct Limey In Bermuda blog. This also led to some nice Central Committee discussions.
I was upset with the destruction of a green site, especially one as unique as Southlands, although I was willing to entertain a more small-scale cottage colony style resort. When the idea for the land swap was put forward, while I have some personal ideas for how better to use Morgan’s Point, I was enthusiastic for the potential it opened up for the Southlands area. My vision of it was a partial clearing of the quarry gardens (I quite like the ‘wild’ look so I didn’t want a full clearing), and the creation of both a high quality Convention Centre and a Slavery Museum (see http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/) set amongst parkland.
I was particularly upset about the PLP, as Government, facilitating any deals with Jumeiriah, something that I thought was contrary to the ideals of the Progressive Labour Party. You see, Jumeiriah is owned by the Al Maktoum ruling dynasty of Dubai. They run Dubai as a de facto dictatorship, exploit thousands of workers from the Indian subcontinent, refuse to allow organised labour unions and have been accused of enforcing racial segregation akin to apartheid. For a political party based (originally and nominally) in combating racism and exploitation of workers, I found the notion of working with such a company hypocritical at best.
So, yeah, I raised these issues both publicly and internally within Central Committee meetings. Suffice to say I don’t think I was Mr. Popular within those meetings, with Dr. Brown being very much in support of the Southlands deal. He was also very enthusiastic about the decision to instead build at Morgan’s Point, talking about how this gave Bermuda the opportunity to build something to rival Atlantis in the Bahamas. He was especially happy about the Southlands team, citing how they were quality people and that this would see Bermudians themselves taking a pro-active role in rebuilding tourism, developing a flagship massive resort at Morgan’s Point. These sentiments were echoed in the media at the time, and the unprecedented granting of the SDO and land-swap deals demonstrated how supportive he was at the time.
Which brings us to the current situation. We now see Dr. Brown criticising the Morgan’s Point plan as being ‘too much concrete’ (not necessarily a bad criticism in itself, less concrete is usually a good thing), and complaining that Southlands plans for Morgan’s Point were that of a massive resort. Dr. Brown doesn’t want a massive resort there, we now learn, rather, he would like a small scale 40-room type hotel there. Quite an about face, no? If Southlands were instructed to put forward a proposal for Morgan’s Point to be Bermuda’s answer to Bahamian Atlantis, to be a massive resort style development, and if these instructions came from Dr. Brown then, then why is he complaining now that Southland’s came up with just such a proposal? It just comes across as if Dr. Brown is changing the goalposts halfway through the game. Comparisons with the BCC fiasco, where BCC found the goalposts changed continously to the point they could not continue, and then the new company (with connections to Dr. Brown and the PLP) were given much relaxed restrictions, are almost inevitable here. And, mind you, the BCC fiasco is still unsatisfactorily explained and continues to be a blight on the PLP’s record.
Additionally, Dr. Brown seems to have gone from being one of the biggest supporters of the Southland’s group to one of their biggest haters. From extolling the virtues of the Southland’s team as competent businessmen who knew what they were doing he has gone to belittling them as incompetent and inexperienced. Its hard to understand how such an about face has come to be. And its harder still for PLP members, should they use their memory banks, to accomodate the double think involved here. If one adopts the current argument of them (Southlands) being incompetent and inexperienced now, then automatically they invalidate the previous argument of them (Southlands) being competent and something to be supported. It’s really not clear how to reconcile the two positions.
There are also apparent charges of Dr. Brown interfering in the private business, insisting that Southland’s replace their own developer with one which Dr. Brown prefers. I understand that Dr. Brown is pushing for a Mr. Patrick Ellis to be the developer. Should this be true it would be rather surprising, as Mr. Ellis is implicated in a good deal of the corruption charges and shady practices that brought down the Turks & Caicos Government of Mr. Misick – who Dr. Brown has been implicated as having a close relationship with oddly enough. Now, from what I understand, Dr. Brown is pushing Mr. Ellis because he has been involved in resort development in the Caribbean (the shady deals in TCI) and is associated with a ‘brand name’. The brand name is ‘Aman’ or Amanyara. The developer that Southland’s themselves has selected is instead associated with the apparently no-name brand of Ritz-Carlton. Yeah, because if you say Ritz-Carlton to me I don’t think of hotels, nope. Amanyara, sure! Note the sarcasm? Who’s ever heard of Amanyara? At least I’ld heard of Jumeiriah or Ritz-Carlton. Or Raffles, Sandals or Hilton. But Aman? And besides that, why is Dr. Brown even getting involved in selecting the developer in the first place? Don’t get me wrong, Amanyara in TCI is a decent looking resort. I’m not opposed to such a development or something similar. To me that isn’t the issue. The issue is that Southland’s were told one thing, worked according to those instructions, and now are being told another thing. It doesn’t set a good precedent and it just doesn’t make much sense.
I can also understand the sense of frustration that the Southlands developers must be feeling. They seem to have complied with the original instructions given to them by Government when they agreed to the land-swap deal. They appear to have all their ducks in a row. They were promised the land at Morgan’s Point and without assurances of the land there I can understand they will have difficulty getting a solid support from big developers like Ritz-Carlton. I personally thought they had secured the land, but now it seems this was not the case (which just adds to my confusion).
Maybe there are perfectly reasonable explanations for this fiasco. I don’t know. What I do know is that it doesn’t look good, and someone’s got some explaining to do…