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Opposition Leader says hotelier being victimized

Opposition Leader says hotelier being victimized

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Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace has called the impending eviction of local hotelier Ann Joshua from the Cobblestone Inn one of the “nastiest acts” ever commited by a Government ever in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

Eustace made his comments yesterday, while speaking on the New Times programme on Nice Radio.

“But there is a certain viciousness; we see the bad mind and the clear victimization practised by this regime against people who do not support them.”{{more}}

The Opposition Leader, who made it clear that he was angry about the matter, said that Joshua, a local Vincentian, has been operating the business for over 30 years, and does not deserve such treatment.

“And now with no explanation given, Ann Joshua is being evicted. She doesn’t owe the Government. I understand her rent is paid up, except July; her VAT is paid up, and her NIS contributions are paid for…her staff and the PAYE deductions for her staff are paid. In other words, she really don’t owe anything to the Government in relation to the operations of the hotel,” an enraged Eustace told listeners of the radio show.

He noted that this is not the first time that he has witnessed what he considers the political victimization of business owners here in SVG.

“You not satisfied with what you did to Bigger Biggs (Leon Samuel); you not satisfied with what you did to Marcus DeFreitas; you are not satisfied with all those persons, 642 persons in the first five months of the administration who you dismissed…you not satisfied yet. You want to destroy Ann Joshua now! Why you want to destroy her?

“Ann’s only sin is that she is seen as being not a supporter of the ULP!” he declared.

Eustace also stated that the time period given for the premises to be vacated is just not enough time.

“Somebody operating for 30 years and you give them two and a half months’ notice? What is it that you are trying to do? Destroy another business person in this country? What are you really trying to do,” he asked.

Additionally Eustace said that many workers would now be put on the bread line.

“You are sending home people from their jobs at a time when unemployment is so high in this country, when the economic growth is so low. That’s what you are doing? Is that what you want to do, push this country further down the drain, after 15 years in office?”

Moreover, the Opposition Leader noted that apart from hurting Joshua and her family, the eviction could also have severe implications on the economy.

“What does this do for the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines; what does this do for the private sector development of St Vincent and the Grenadines? What does it do for our failing tourism industry in SVG, what does it do for the same airport that you can’t open…?”

Last Tuesday, a ‘Notice to Quit’ was served on Joshua, who operates The Cobblestone Inn, giving her until September 30 to hand over the Government owned property to NPL.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, calling in to a radio programme on Sunday to discuss the matter, himself agreed that two and a half months may not be sufficient notice and suggested that Joshua make a request to owners of the property, the National Properties Ltd (NPL) to push the date back to the end of December.

He disclosed that the Government had decided that in the interest of transparency and proper development of that property and other government property, there should be an open tendering process, but first, the relationship with Joshua must be ended legally.

While Joshua declined the opportunity to comment on the issue when SEARCHLIGHT contacted her last week, she did indicate that she would be consulting with lawyers on the issue. (CM)

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