The Port of Spain High Court today (Thursday 25th July 2013) cleared the way for the resumption of construction of the $143 million Milshirv office complex for the THA Division of Agriculture, Marine Affairs, Marketing and the Environment.
Attorney General Anand Ramlogan had filed civil proceedings against the Tobago House of Assembly almost a year ago requesting a judicial review of its decision to enter into a BOLT (Build, Own, Lease, Transfer) arrangement with Milshirv Properties Limited to build the complex on 12 acres of land at the junction of the Claude Noel Highway and Shirvan Road in Lowlands south-western Tobago. Since then work came to a standstill on the project.
Milshirv and First Citizens Bank Limited were joined as parties in the proceedings. However, at the court hearing at the Hall of Justice, Justice Ronnie Boodoosingh in a consent order stated that Milshirv and FCB be removed as parties to the proceedings.
During the hearing Alvin Fitzpatrick SC representing the Attorney General submitted a letter from Finance Minister Larry Howai to THA Chief Secretary Orville London dated last Friday which stated that the BOLT arrangement for the project, without his consent had been challenged and the THA had contended that it did not require the Minister’s consent to enter into such an arrangement, including the finance component.
Howai said in his letter that it was evident therefore the question as to whether the THA can enter into such arrangement including the financing component, without the consent of the Minister of Finance was an important issue which required the guidance of the Court.
He added that he has been informed by the Attorney General that it is proposed that the proceedings be converted from a judicial matter to one of interpretation for the Court to determine the true extent of the THA’s powers under the THA Act. Howai stated that in the meantime however, in view of the possibility that the rights of innocent third parties, in particular Milshirv Properties Limited and FCB Limited, may be adversely affected by the Court proceedings as presently constituted and in the interest of good public administration he had decided to approve under section 51(b) of the THA Act and all enabling powers, the construction of the office complex as well as the lease and mortgage of the same to the THA and FCB pursuant to the BOLT arrangements entered between the THA and Milshirv; and to approve under the Act expenditure for the payment of lease rents to Milshirv under the proposed office lease between the THA and Milshirv.
Justice Boodoosingh also ordered that the application for judicial review be converted into an application for an interpretation of the true extent of the Assembly’s powers under the THA Act.
Alvin Fitzpatrick SC represented the Attorney General; John Jeremy SC represented the THA, while Milshirv was represented by Fiad Hosein SC and Milshirv by Douglas Mendes SC.
There was jubilation and desk thumping when London made the announcement of the Court’s ruling during debated on the Tobago Comprehensive Development Plan 2013-2017 at the plenary sitting of the House of Assembly.