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Sunday, 20 November 2011

Hon. Haydn Hughes response to Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool's Press Statement

Fellow Anguillians, I am here to address you in response to the press statement made by the Honourable Member for District one, Mr. Othlyn Vanterpool. His press statement was issued on national radio on Monday 14th November 2011 and it related to the Cap Juluca issue.

I will not comment on the overtures of the United Front to, “assist the Government” while at the same time, holding a public meeting across from the Chief Minister’s residence to abuse, ridicule and malign the Chief Minister, his wife and family. I thought it important that I respond to Mr. Vanterpool’s assertion that I was given authority to renegotiate all the MOAs of the Anguilla United Front Government. I need to place on record, at no time did Executive Council nor the Chief Minister grant me any authority to negotiate the MOAs. Neither did I take it upon myself to negotiate any MOAs.

Mr. Vanterpool stated and I quote, “the Cap Juluca MOU was negotiated by Haydn and Jerome and a new MOU was signed on August 13th, 2010.”

Fellow Anguillians, that MOU which Mr. Vanterpool spoke of, was negotiated by a number of persons from Government including the Trade and Investment Committee which includes the local Attorney General Chambers. The persons who sat in the initial negotiations of the Cap Juluca MOU on August 5th 2010 in the Conference Room in the Ministry of Home affairs were, Mr. Adam Aron, Ms. Sheila Davis, Ms. Carol Webster, Ms. Collette Warner, Ms. Violet Gumbs and Mr. Cardigan Connor.

On Government’s side were Permanent Secretary EDICT Dr. Aidan Harrigan who is also the Chairman of the Trade & Investment Committee, Ms. Kathleen Rogers PS Finance, all the Ministers of Government, Hon. Jerome Roberts and I.

The negotiations with Mr. Aron and the Government of Anguilla were void of controversy and on the 13th of August, a new MOU was signed by the Chief Minister, witnessed by Minister of Social Development, Hon. Edison Baird. Asked about the new MOU His Excellency, Governor Harrison said and I quote, “I was happy. I am delighted that there was an agreement because I think it is a good one for the people of Anguilla and the Government; it is a good agreement for the employees of Cap Juluca, as well as being a good agreement for the Cap Juluca management otherwise they wouldn’t have signed it. It was a long and difficult process and I think the conclusion was a very satisfactory one from all sides.” The record would prove that if Hon. Jerome Roberts and I were to be the lone negotiators on this MOU, the comments of HE the Governor would have been much different.

I am not here to appropriate blame on anyone or any Government but to give clarity to the situation-not only as the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Tourism but also as someone who spent the better part of my life to date working in the hospitality industry of which, eleven years was spent as a Julucan, some, as a member of the Executive Committee.

The situation that has gripped Cap Juluca is one that finds its roots many years ago in 1980/81 when the Government of Anguilla granted lease to the Maundays Bay land to Mr. Dion Friedland to develop said land. Mr. Friedland in turn, sold the lease to Mr. Hickox for US$1 million. For reasons known to many, both men ended up in court over the same. A public auction held in the United States in 1997 saw the property change hands as Mr. Friedland won the rights to the property through the same. Mr. Hickox then sought a judgment in the courts for moneys owed due to his investment in Cap Juluca.

During that time, Cap Juluca and its staff suffered as the hotel’s infrastructure continued to deteriorate even though occupancies and accolades continue to pour in on our flagship.

In 2007, Hon. Hubert Hughes, as a member of the Opposition tabled a motion to the House on Tuesday, August 22nd. The motion read: 
“WHEREAS the Cap Juluca Hotel is Anguilla’s prime tourism property; AND WHEREAS several hundred Anguillians are employed in this hotel; AND WHEREAS the hotel has been the subject of serious litigation between two American citizens for several years; AND WHEREAS the hotel is in serious need of repair; BE IT RESOLVED that the Government of Anguilla urgently explore all legal measures to have the property acquisitioned in order to facilitate a meaningful ownership of this hotel project.” Mr. Banks, who was Minister of Finance at the time responded by saying, “We had used not only the advice of the Attorney General, but also sought the advice of an independent law firm or lawyer to do an opinion on the process going forward. Those opinions were then up for consideration in Executive Council and within Government’s Cabinet to really fine-tune that way forward. Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Member for Road South did his duty in presenting this motion to the House of Assembly. It gives a clear indication…that on both sides of this Honourable House there are persons who are concerned about the future of Cap Juluca and are willing to explore all options to ensure that takes place.”
That said it is clear that all were concerned about Cap Juluca’s survival then as is now. It means therefore that the blame that is meted out on the Hon. Jerome Roberts and me by the Hon. Othlyn Vanterpool is purely political and an attempt to mislead. He is clearly using our pride and joy, Cap Juluca as a political football to advance his political goals. This is no time for that fellow Anguillans. Chief Minister Hughes and indeed, the Government of Anguilla has given its support to Mr. Tacon, the liquidator charged with sorting out this impasse their fullest support to ensure that when Cap Juluca emerges, it will be stronger and better than before with an owner who truly deserves it.

Fellow Anguillians, I wish to inform you again that the issues at Cap Juluca are due to ownership and a settlement agreement between one owner and Mr. Hickox. On the 16th of April 2010, a press release issued by Webster Dyrud Mitchell with respect to the Cap Juluca case stated that an appeal was heard on 24th March, 2009 before Her Ladyship, the Hon. Ola Mae Edwards, Justice of Appeal, His Lordship the Hon. Michael Gordon, QC, Justice of Appeal [Ag.] and her Ladyship, the Hon. Mde. Rita Joseph-Olivetti, Justice of Appeal [Ag.] in the presence of Mr. David Phillips, QC, with him Mr. John Benjamin and Mr. David Fisher for the Appellant and Mr. Roald N.A. Henrigues, QC, with him Mr. William Roger, for the Respondent.

In the end, the Judgment ended up being in excess of US$100 million in favour of Mr. Hickox. Mr. Aron then entered into a Settlement agreement with Mr. & Ms. Hickox on 6th October 2010. The agreement stipulated that Mr. Aron would pay Mr. & Ms. Hickox some US$75 million over a period of time beginning on January 31st 2011. The payment was made. However, the payment due on July 31st 2011 was not and under the agreement, Mr. Hickox could ask for a transfer of shares which means, the hotel could revert back to him.

The MOU that was signed on August of 2010 was supposed to put Cap Juluca on stable footing and indeed, in a letter copied to the press from Mr. Aron on October 14th 2010 read, “It is with great relief that I advise the Government of Anguilla that the longstanding litigation between Cap Juluca and Charles Hickox has been formally settled. Mr. and Mrs. Hickox and I signed a settlement document a few minutes ago. This finally gives Cap Juluca the opportunity to move forward with its business plan without the cloud of litigation hanging over its head. This settlement dramatically increases the job security of more than 350 Anguillian Julucans, and also strengthens the job security for all Anguillans. Indeed anyone participating in the Anguillan economy will benefit from a stronger more secure Cap Juluca.

I would not be in a position to provide you this welcome news if the Government of Anguilla had not embraced the new Memorandum of Understanding, which was signed less than 60 days ago as you know. So, this positive outcome is the direct result of actions taken by your Government. For that support, I both congratulate you and thank you for your wisdom and confidence in allowing Cap Juluca to move forward with our ambitious but prudent plans.

Respectfully submitted,
Adam Aron
Chairman and CEO
Cap Juluca Properties Ltd.” 

Needless to say, the stability which this Government had hoped for then and previous Governments before, did not occur and there is little the Government of Anguilla can do legally to bring about a quick fix. The fact that the Chief Minister has given the assurances to Mr. Tacon of cooperation is encouraging and sets the stage for a smooth transition to long term stability for the hotel, its workers and Anguilla at large.

On Tuesday 15th November 2011, Mr. Dion Friedland sent an email to Mr. Victor Banks reminding him that it was he, not Mr. Aron who paid the staff some US$1 million and he admonished him to correct Hon. Vanterpool’s untruth in his press statement that I am now responding to. Mr. Friedland said in his email and I quote, “Dear Victor, please correct your mis-statement below. I gave $1 million (one million dollars) as a gift to the Cap Juluca employees, not Aron.” End of quote. 

In closing, I would like to say that both the Chief Minister and Hon. Jerome Roberts can speak for themselves on this matter. Again, I am merely responding to the Hon. Mr. Vanterpool for his false and misleading statements and urge the politicians on all sides to refrain from using Cap Juluca in their quest for political mileage. The record will show for over 20 years, this dispute has found its way through the courts and several Governments have done all they could to stabilize the hotel to no avail. This in itself proves that this is bigger than Government and the process must be allowed to work itself out now for the greater good.

I am truly confident that Cap Juluca, like Anguilla will rise again. I am confident that the Julucans will be proud, settled and happy when we all come out on the other side in a few weeks. The operative word now is patience. I urge the Julucans to continue giving the legendary service they have been known for and rest assured that all will be well and feel confident that Cap Juluca will be now, and in the future, the Flagship of Anguilla’s hospitality industry.

May God continue to bless Anguilla

By: Haydn Hughes
Haydn Hughes is the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Tourism, and First Nominated Member in the Anguilla House of Assembly.

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