Published On: Tue, Aug 13th, 2019

Mullet Bay parliamentary inquiry-proposal to parliament

MP Rolando Brison submits proposal

PHILIPSBURG – United St. Maarten Party (USp) Member of Parliament Rolando Brison submitted his proposal for a parliamentary inquiry into the status of the Mullet Bay property to parliament today, Tuesday, August 13, 2019.

If parliament approves it, Brison will head a committee that will spend 32 weeks researching the issue. The process will end with debates in relevant parliamentary permanent committees and in a plenary session of parliament. The estimated cost of the inquiry is 519,200 guilders (a bit over $290,000).

Brison’s proposal is a thoroughly researched paper of seventeen pages that describes its objective, the history of Mullet Bay and the bottlenecks that hamper local businesses. The main objective is to decide whether existing laws have to be amended, or if new legislation has to be introduced, to solve the ownership conflicts that have kept the property in limbo since Hurricane Luis destroyed the Mullet Bay Resort in 1995. Furthermore, the inquiry aims to find sustainable and environmentally-friendly ways for development, to calculate the estimated economic losses caused by 22+ years of inactivity and to establish the economic benefits of development.

MP Brison also brings up the option of expropriating Mullet Bay from its current owner, Sun Resorts Ltd., a company controlled by Hushang Ansary. This appears from questions the committee wants to see answered: “Look at existing laws and situations where expropriation may be deemed necessary.”

The main objective however, as appears from the subtitle of the proposal, is to give Mullet Bay back to the people. In this context, the committee will examine whether the owner is prepared to sell Mullet Bay voluntarily. As a side issue, the proposal questions whether a golf course is sustainable for St. Maarten from an environmental perspective, given the amount of land it requires and the water that is needed to irrigate the greens.

The inquiry will consist of four phases: research, verification and hearing, reporting and conclusions and actions.

The parliamentary inquiry committee will consist of seven members under chairman Rolando Brison as the initiator; one member of the presidium, and members of all factions in parliament complete the committee.

The cost of the inquiry, budgeted in the proposal at 519,200 guilders ($290,000) will not be covered from the regular costs of parliament. Brison says that it will also not be part of the 2019 or the 2020 budget, but that it will be reflected in the country’s annual financial statements.

Brison modeled his inquiry proposal after two similar inquiries that took place in the recent past in the Netherlands: the 2011-2012 inquiry into the Dutch financial system and the 2013-2015 Fyra-inquiry.

Brison wants to get clarity about the ownership of Mullet Bay, pointing to the volatile relationship between the current owner, the government and citizens. “There is a need for the parliament and the government to intervene in every possible way to protect one of its most precious coastal and inland waterways.”

Brison’s research established that Mullet Bay was transferred for the first time on November 16, 1957, for 10,000 guilders ($5,587), though the proposal does not say who the owner was at the time. In 1969, plans surfaced for the construction of a 600-room resort on the property. The resort was completed on July 1, 1971, and ownership of Mullet Bay was transferred to Ansary’s Sun Resorts Ltd. Between 1979 and 1988 St. Maarten’s economy boomed with annual growth of 12 percent. During the seventies the resort expanded to around 820 rooms. Mullet Bay Resort drove the economic growth: by 1990 the resort represented 37 percent of what was then a room inventory of 3,500. At the peak of its history, the resort employed 1,800 people.

Hurricane Luis hit St. Maarten on September 5, 1995. It destroyed the resort and wiped out the employment of hundreds of staff. By 1997, just 80 out of 1,800 staff remained on Sun Resorts’ payroll.

One hotly contested issue is the Certificate of Admeasurement Sun Resorts claims to possess. This document allegedly makes the company the owner of not only the 667,500 square meter landmass, but also of Mullet Bay Pond, the beach and part of the adjacent ocean. Based on the law, beaches, the ocean and inland waterways are the property of the state and cannot be sold – unless such a sale is regulated in a national ordinance.

Sun Resort’s claim on the beach and the water has caused headaches to local entrepreneurs who obtained government-permits to do business on Mullet Bay Beach; they were harassed by Sun Resort security personnel, in an attempt to chase them away.

However, in July 2018, the Court in First Instance ruled in favor of David and Leopold York who have exploited Deleo’s Beach Bar on Mullet Bay since 1997, where they were harassed on a regular basis by Sun Resorts. The court ruled that the York’s have the right to be on that beach and that Sun Resorts has failed to prove ownership.

Hushang Ansary, the 93-year old Iranian-American businessman who controls Sun Resorts (and thereby Mullet Bay) through his company Parman International B.V., got in trouble with the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten over financial shenanigans with his insurance company Ennia.

The insurer used Mullet Bay as collateral and valued it in its books for 771 million guilders ((just under $431 million), but according to Cushman & Wakefield – one of the largest and most renowned appraisers in the world that was hired by the Central Bank for an independent appraisal – the value is only 89 million guilders ($49.7 million). In June 2018, the prosecutor’s office put a “conservative lien” on thirteen companies owned by Ansary and Parman; Sun Resorts is one of these companies.

While MP Brison is aware of these developments, he notes in his proposal that the Central Bank and the public prosecutor’s office are “a-political entities that do not answer directly to the people of St. Maarten.” Citing the anticipated extremely lengthy processes these institutions have to go through, the proposal notes: “Sint Maarten cannot wait for another 23 years.”

MP Brison said in a brief message that he expects his initiative to get parliament’s approval. “I have lobbied support from many colleagues and I have some verbal commitments,” he stated.

This past weekend President of Parliament MP Sarah Wescot-Williams was unable to say when the proposal will be handled because she had not received it yet.


Related articles, videos & documents:
MP Rolando Brison submits proposal for Parliamentary inquiry into Mullet Bay
Mullet Bay Parliamentary Inquiry proposal – full document
Video recording of MP Rolando Brison on Mullet Bay