AN OPEN LETTER TO MR GREGOR NASSIEF, CEO of Gems Holding Company Ltd.
Dear Mr. Nassief
I would like to respond to your recent open letter addressed to me and published in Nature Isle News and Dominica News Online on or about the 29th of October 2020.
While I remain strongly convinced that the historic fabric of Fort Young has been diminished by the new, post-Maria development of the hotel — and this was the substance of my argument on Q95 — in no sense should my remark be taken, nor was it meant, as any form of imputation upon your character or integrity or that of any of your businesses or shareholders.
Furthermore, contrary to your statement about malice, I assure you that I bear no ill will towards Fort Young whatsoever. I wish to encourage you, and your fellow directors and shareholders, to appreciate not only the economic aspect of Fort Young but also its place in the formation of our national identity.
What I was trying to focus on was the public interest in preserving the physical heritage of Dominica. Such preservation is so necessary for the growth of national identity which, I would argue, is challenged, even now, by the CBI program itself. But that, perhaps, is a matter for another discussion.
However, I would maintain that your ongoing building works at Fort Young have not left the historic fabric of the pre-Maria Fort Young in full tact as you claimed in your open letter. You have significantly and unacceptably altered its external appearance by building an outsize concrete tower in the middle of it, completely overshadowing it, and altering its ambiance and character forever. Additionally, the alteration assaults the collective sense of what the Old Fort means for our national consciousness and identity.
For most Dominicans, Fort Young is like no other structure on the island. As the headquarters of the British imperial military might in Dominica, it is the greatest surviving bastion of slavery, the seminal event in the history of our people. Fort Young Hotel, which first opened its doors as a hotel in 1964, has always been one of Dominica’s greatest national historical assets. No other structure is more closely connected with Dominica and its people. So it cannot just be altered in a manner that jars against the national sensibility and identity.
One reason your alteration of Fort Young was surprising and disappointing is the great success you have achieved in turning the unique ambiances of your properties into an international brand by blending the physical structures into their own natural settings. The natural setting for Fort Young is its history and cultural centrality. Its originality and authenticity should therefore have been given greater respect in your renovation works.
One of the issues highlighted in this exchange is the need for greater transparency in the Citizenship by Investment Program (CBI). The public has an undeniable interest in knowing who are the recipients of public assistance under the CBI program and the exact amounts received. In the interest of transparency perhaps you may wish to answer the following questions for the benefit of the public:
- As the CEO of Gems Holding which consists of Secret Bay, Ti Bay, the Residences at Secret Bay, and Fort Young Hotel, have any of these companies received financial assistance or investments, under the Citizenship by Investment Program?
- Are you entirely independent of government financial assistance and concessions, or do you rely solely on your business acumen for the functioning of your businesses?
- What do you consider to be inherently bad about receiving monies under the CBI Program or any other government program, so as to warrant your categorization of my statement as a malicious lie?
- Will you let the public know, how much you and/or any businesses that you are the CEO of, or that you have an interest in, have received under the CBI Program if any?
- Would you also indicate, how many passports were sold by you or any business that you are associated with if any, and how much money was raised, if any?
My statements were not intended to personally attack you but rather to comment on matters of public interest.
I think you will agree that this exchange could serve a useful purpose in that it might help re-ignite a national conversation on how best to preserve and deploy the historical and cultural heritage of our country not just for the benefit of this generation but for all generations to come.
Thank you for your invitation to tour the refurbished Fort Young, but it seems to me that an invitation of this sort might have been more meaningful before, rather than after, the regrettable changes you have made. Nevertheless, this exchange will have served a useful purpose if it results in a recognition by you of the public interest in what happens to Fort Young under your, or any other stewardship.
President of the Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation (WEF)
Member of the Committee of Concerned Lawyers (CCL).