Court of Appeal reserves ruling in Government/Rex Resorts saga

The Court of Appeal of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court has reserved judgment in the Government of Grenada/Rex Grenadian appeal against an interim conservatory order granted by Justice of Appeal Michael Baptiste, preventing the Keith Mitchell Government from acquiring the 30-acre Rex Grenadian property, until the court hears the substantive appeal application filed by the owners of the resort.

According to the conservatory order, Rex Resorts, is “permitted to continue to remain in possession of and continue to operate the hotel known as the Grenadian by Rex Resorts, which the applicant (Rex Resorts) built and owns, until the hearing and determination of the applicant’s appeal against the decision of High Court Judge Madam Justice Wyante Adrien-Roberts delivered on December 20, 2016.”

The application filed by the resort seeks to dismiss a compulsory order granted by Justice Adrien-Roberts, which gives the government the right to acquire the property through the Land Acquisition legislation.

The ruling New National Party (NNP) government, through its lawyers made an application to the Court of Appeal for the interim conservatory order to be set aside and removed.

The Government of Grenada/Rex issue was one of 25 cases down for consideration by the Court of Appeal, which sat in the country last week.

The matter was heard last week Monday at High Court No. 5 on The Carenage in St. George’s before Justices of Appeal Mario Michel, Gertel Thom and Louise Blenham.

In presenting the government’s position on the issue to the Court of Appeal, Lead Attorney for the government Thomas Astaphan QC, who was brought in from Anguilla, argued that the conservatory order preventing the government from acquiring the Rex property is unlawful and should be dismissed because the December 2016 ruling handed down by Madam Justice Adrien-Roberts clearly gave way for the complete acquisition of the property.

He contended that when the Judge squashed the first declaration of acquisition, there was nothing preventing the government from entering a new acquisition process, which commenced on December 23, 2016, with the publications of the declaration made as necessary in local newspapers and the government gazette in accordance with the law.

Additionally, the court was informed that the management of the resort did not file its appeal until 17 days after the new acquisition process began.

The saga between Government and management of the 212 room hotel came about as a result of a decision by the Mitchell-led administration to acquire the land and property “for a public purpose,” under the Land Acquisition Act.

The matter commenced in early 2016 with a series of court hearings, which ended last December with government apparently receiving the go-ahead to acquire the 30 acre property.

However, Justice Adrien Roberts had squashed the first declaration of acquisition on legal grounds and the government was forced to commence a new acquisition process.

The Government was in the process of complying with the Land Acquisition Act and the judgment, when the management of Rex Resorts appealed the compulsory order on a number of grounds including that of violating its constitutional rights in accordance with Section 16 of the Grenada Constitution.

In an interview with THE NEW TODAY after the hearing Solicitor General Dwight Horsford, who assisted Attorney Astaphan with the case expressed the view that “a nuclear event happened on December 20, that is, the complete acquisition of the property, an event behind which he said the court cannot undo…”.

“You cannot preserve that which was extinguished. When an acquisition takes place it belongs exclusively to the state. So there is nothing to preserve in your (Rex Grenadian) interest other than your right to get compensation for it,” Horsford said in a statement clearly directed at Rex.

He pointed out that according to the Land Acquisition Act, “once the
State acquires the lease hold interest, it reverts exclusive possession to the state. So the state has an exclusive right to the possession of the property.”

Having heard from both sides, the Court of Appeal reserved its decision providing sufficient time for consideration to be given to the bulk of submissions that were presented to the court.

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