ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The group proposing a mega commercial centre said it would not give in, despite a competing company being allowed to build on land earmarked as vital for their project.
Mulberry Center Group (MCP) director Jeri Benjamin also suggested that Minister of Lands Hilson Baptiste spoiled otherwise favourable negotiations with the government.
“Whenever Minister Baptiste came in the middle of it, it was as if the doors of hell were opened up again,” Benjamin said.
The Maryland Amusement Park was given a partition of land in December close to the National Heroes’ Park.
The group has been involved in a public row over the decision in the past week.
MCP said it was unaware of the division when it took place and was still negotiating with the government for 48.22 acres, which included the parcels.
Benjamin said she did not believe Minister of Finance Harold Lovell was behind the allegedly discreet move and said conflict arose with Baptiste when she discovered the amusement park had been given the go ahead.
“He (Minister Baptiste) insisted you change or else and at some point he was insisting you can build down into the heroes’ park,” Benjamin said. “That is when it started getting sticky for us. There were going to be social issues arising for us.”
MCP holds that a redesign is untenable and that building in Heroes’ Park would drive up the costs too far.
“I guess as time goes by we will just figure out the best way to go forward. What we are going to do I don’t know, but I know we have not thrown in the towel,” Benjamin said.
The MCP director also made it clear that the group has no quarrel with the amusement park.
“The issue here is with the government and what it has done in terms of going back on the agreement it has made with MCP. They know that it would stop the MCP project and it could have been anyone,” Benjamin said.
She added that she hopes the company will be able to tell its side of the story for the public to judge.
“We are Antiguans doing this development. There is not any overseas persons coming to take control and we are not hiding behind anything. Our story still has to be told to the public,” Benjamin said.