VROMI Minister Egbert Doran (left), representing National Alliance, and Party for Progress Member of Parliament Raeyhon Peterson.
~ In July 15, 2020, meeting ~
By Jacqueline Hooftman
PHILIPSBURG--”I am a politician just like you. I can use this now to discredit you 100%. And it will work.”
Two years ago, Minister of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Development, and Infrastructure VROMI Egbert Doran threatened – as heard on audio recordings, a copy of which is in the possession of The Daily Herald – to make the public believe that Member of Parliament (MP) Raeyhon Peterson as former head of Domain Affairs had been playing both sides in the Alegria case. Doran followed up on these threats on Tuesday, July 19.
In the 1½-hour-long recording of a meeting in his office on July 15, 2020, Doran can be heard saying to Peterson, his Party for Progress (PFP) colleague Melissa Gumbs and former PFP member Charlon Pompier that he knows the information he intended to use against Peterson has no legal weight. But it will work, he said. “At the end of the day it was written on paper. Just like this is written, this is … . We understand it. We know, and I can. … I know that this don’t carry no weight, but this is what counts in our society.”
Last week Thursday, Peterson was served by a bailiff. A large yellow envelope from the VROMI Ministry was delivered to his home address. The envelope contained a letter from Doran, stating: “I am hereby seeking clarification on what exactly your role was in the Alegria water rights matter. Specifically, why Alegria would indicate that you were ‘instrumental’ to discussions pertaining to the price of the long lease for water rights.” Doran asked Peterson “to indicate what promises Alegria made to you.”
Peterson’s first thought was to call his lawyers for advice, as he initially thought that Doran had brought the case to the Prosecutor’s Office. However, when he studied the contents of the envelope carefully, he discovered that it contained two familiar looking documents in addition to Doran’s letter. One was a transcript – “the minutes” – of a meeting Peterson had as Head of Domain Affairs with the Alegria team on March 20, 2019, and the other was a letter dated June 22, 2020, from Alegria’s ultimate beneficial owner Ray Sidhom.
It is this letter from Sidhom to which Doran refers when asking for clarification about Peterson’s role.
Sidhom wrote to Doran in reference to the same “minutes” of the March 20, 2019 meeting: “Notable from those minutes is that Mr. Raeyhon Peterson (now a Member of Parliament asking you questions) was instrumental in the discussions, including agreeing to the pricing of the long lease of the water rights. In fact, all matters related to the issuance of the water parcel were prepared by him and he promised on many occasions to get the matter resolved. He never did.”
“The Minutes” were not signed for agreement by Peterson, who said these were drawn up by Michael Schoon, managing director of Alegria Resort. They were also never signed for agreement by then-Minister of VROMI Miklos Giterson.
On March 16, 2020, Alegria Resort filed an injunction case to obtain the desired water parcel in Burgeaux Bay. Alegria submitted the “minutes” to the court, as well as the letter from Sidhom to Doran. The court ruled that these documents did not carry any legal weight and therefore did not consider them when rendering its judgment. On April 19, 2021, the judge considered all the claims made by Alegria to be without merit and rejected its request to have the decision to deny the water rights annulled.
In the broadcast of The Breakfast Lounge with Lady Grace last Tuesday, Doran revealed his belief that Party for Progress, represented in Parliament by Peterson and Melissa Gumbs – (Charlon Pompier, Head of the Permit Department at VROMI, was expelled by the PFP on May 18, 2022) – has ulterior motives with the motion of no confidence that Gumbs announced will be tabled by PFP against Doran.
It is not the damning Ombudsman’s report on the tendering and award of five-year garbage contracts that is the reason for the motion of no confidence, but Alegria, according to Doran: “This motion is a consorted effort to get rid of this Minister of VROMI for a number of reasons, one of the main reasons being the situation with Alegria.”
Doran said he is being targeted. For clarification, Lady Grace asked: “Targeted by PFP, that is what you are saying?” Doran: “Yes. Because of, more so, the issue with the situation of Alegria.”
Doran then gave Lady Grace a letter, saying: “That is your copy, you can keep it.” He then announced that he was going to read the top part of the letter out loud, and that he was then going to ask Lady Grace to read the last part of the letter, which was highlighted.
“This is a letter dated June 22, 2020. Honorable Minister Egbert Doran, on behalf of Alegria Real Estate NV, and its related person, I write to you as follows,” Doran began, as he cited Sidhom’s two-year-old letter. “Since your inauguration, it has been reported in the media that questions have (again) been raised in relation to the Morgan Resort, which is being developed by Alegria.
“It seems that certain Members of Parliament [MP Raeyhon Peterson and MP Melissa Gumbs – Ed.] are asking questions in relation to a parcel of land situated at the bottom of Burgeaux Bay of ca.13,525m2, to be granted to Alegria in long lease (the ‘water parcel’). I am happy to provide you with the factual history and so enable you to answer these questions.”
Doran said he wanted to stop reading there: “Imagine a third party, I have a Secretary General, I have staff, but a third party wants to inform me of the history of how we reached here and what the issues are.” He then continued to read the letter that was already declared to bear no legal weight in March 2020 in the injunction case that Alegria filed and lost. Doran asked Lady Grace to read the last part of this letter out loud.
Doran pointed out: “The settlement that they are talking about is in relation to the then-Secretary General, who went into agreement without my knowing, without my knowledge, without ever informing me, and after the fact tried to ratify what was done. Him and the lawyer did that. Raeyhon Peterson was instrumental in it. Raeyhon Peterson guaranteed these individuals that it would get done and it didn’t get done.”
July 15, 2020
Lady Grace asked Doran when he obtained the Sidhom letter that she was holding, to which Doran replied: “I got this document in the court case now. Last week. Recently. I had other information. Now I am seeing this document I got on July 4th or something like that.”
“God is so amazing, right,” Doran said to the radio host. “A week ago, someone came up to me and asked, ‘What’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with you?’ And it had me thinking, so I went back to the WhatsApp chat because he was always speaking about Alegria and different things.
“I am normally like: ‘Yeah, we pushing, we fighting.” He asked: ‘You sure about that? You sure you’re going to win?’ I say, ‘’Yeah, we pushing man, yeah we getting forth.’ And then, and then he is getting all this information and then when we win the Court of Appeals, I sent him a WhatsApp that’s like ‘Hey, listen, we win.’ I sent him the verdict. And you know, I didn’t really look back because, you know, I send messages and don’t look back.
“He never answered. Never answered. So maybe he got the information from me to relay to whoever you promising it was going to get done, now you’re sitting back, accusing me of trying to do it, accusing of this Ombudsman report. This ain’t about no Ombudsman report, Grace.”
Two years earlier, on July 15, 2020 – three weeks after he received Sidhom’s letter – Doran was sitting in his Government Building office opposite MPs Peterson and Melissa Gumbs and ex-PFP member Charlon Pompier, Head of the Permits department and Acting Head of the Infrastructure Department at VROMI Ministry. Doran had insisted on a meeting in response to the questions that the two MPs had asked in writing.
“Alegria had lost the injunction case, but we had heard through the Land Registry that a certificate for the water parcel was being prepared,” Peterson explained on Thursday in an invited comment. “We knew that if Alegria was to obtain a certificate for the water parcel, they could go to a notary and that the government would then be in the wrong. To prevent that, we asked the minister questions.”
Doran did not like the fact that he was being asked questions by the MPs, Peterson said. “Charlon [Pompier] at the time also questioned our approach. He asked why we had not come to him as department head for information. But why would we as Members of Parliament approach a civil servant? As MPs, we can do our own investigation and ask the minister questions.”
Pompier approached PFP MPs Peterson and Gumbs with the news that Minister Doran (National Alliance) wanted to speak to them in his office in the Government Building on Pond Island, in a private meeting where Pompier would also be present.
“A private meeting with the minister; we did not like the idea, we did not trust it, but decided to go and listen to what the minister had to say,” Peterson said. “We took precautions to protect ourselves, especially considering the lack of trust we had going in.”
Doran referred to Sidhom’s letter and “the minutes” of the March 29, 2019, meeting Peterson as then acting-head of Domain Affairs and Pompier as Head of Permits had with Alegria, letting both MPs read the “minutes.”
“The minutes. That is what paints a different picture too. Because this will now discredit you,” Doran told Peterson, who firmly replied: “No, It would not. Because, as I said, I received these minutes, but again, I don’t think they understand how meetings go. It doesn’t mean anything until there is a signed positive advice on the table.”
Peterson reiterated to Doran that, as acting Head of Domain Affairs, he had been instructed by the Cabinet of the VROMI Minister to sit down with Alegria and gather all the information needed to prepare an advice on the issuing of water rights.
“Of course, if you are instructed by the Cabinet, what was the case then, to have a meeting with Alegria and discuss all of the details,” Peterson said to Doran, indicating that VROMI had not yet issued an advice, as it was still awaiting the advices of the Nature Foundation and consultancy and engineering firm Royal Haskoning DHV, both of which had issued a negative opinion on the matter.
“By the end of the day, the paper trail is what is important,” Peterson said to Doran. “You cannot think that you talk to heads of department and based on that, how the meeting went, how you felt that it went, that you are going to get the issuance.”
Doran agreed with Peterson: “It is dependent on a Minister signing ‘Yes’, or ‘No’. That is a fact! Hands down! But now what I am saying is this, and I am going to be quite frank. I spoke to Charlon [Pompier] about this, like a month, maybe three weeks ago, and I told him: “I said listen: you can be from opposing party or whatever, but the fact is, the good old boys, and those things has continued too long. It needs to stop.”
Doran addressed Peterson directly: “I can go with this right now; I could use this here to discredit you 100%. It will work. Because at the end of the day what works is what is written on paper. I know that this doesn’t carry no weight. But this is what counts in our society.”
Listening to these recordings, Peterson said on Thursday: “I took that as the minister stating that our society doesn’t care about facts, that they only care about gossip and how their politicians treat their positions like a fish market. These are the facts. So, the question the people need go ask themselves is, what is the minister hiding that makes him make such a threat two years ago and then make good on that threat the moment he is about to be held accountable in Parliament?”