Dispute between Boatyard, jet ski operators could go legal route, FTC
The ongoing dispute between the owner of The Boatyard Beach Club and licensed jet ski operators at Browne’s Beach appears to be headed to the law courts and the Fair Trading Commission (FTC). David Comissiong, who is one of two attorneys now representing the operators, has signaled his intention to go that route, accusing owner of the facility, Sean Defreitas, of mounting a campaign of commercial intimidation.
Last month a sign was posted at The Boatyard, stating that “due to the unruly behaviour and refusal of some of the jet ski and watersports operators to conduct their business in an orderly and professional manner while on this beach, as well as to ensure that your stay with us is as hassle free as possible, we regret to inform our customers that one of the conditions of entry into the Boatyard will be that once you choose to use our facilities and wear the required wristband, you also agree not to do business with these operators while doing so”.
Management added, however, that patrons were free to conduct business with the operators before entering the facility or after leaving.
Comissiong said management’s actions had hurt the pockets of the estimated 15 local operators, cutting into their earnings by as much as 90 per cent in some cases.
“We will be pursuing all aspects of this matter. We will be looking at aspects relating to defamation. We will also be looking at breaches of the Fair Competition Act and we will be looking at a role for the Fair Trading Commission in investigating this situation and intervening in it,” Comissiong told Barbados TODAY.
He is working with attorney Robert Bobby Clarke as well as Member of Parliament Trevor Prescod and black rights activist Mohammed Nasser, all of whom have met with the operators.
“We are very concerned because when you make statements describing people as unruly, disorderly, unprofessional and as posing a danger to the safety of tourists, you are stepping on very, very shaky ground. There is something in Barbados called The Defamation Act where if you slander, libel or defame a person, particularly in relation to their trade or business, you have committed a very serious civil wrong,” Comissiong pointed out.
He added that under the Fair Competition Act, “there are certain actions that a person may not do in attacking and compromising the business or trade prospects of other business people”.
“The legislation indicates that complaints can be made to the Fair Trading Commission, an investigation can take place and penalties can be imposed.”
Comissiong also questioned the continued silence of Government ministers and umbrella groupings on the matter.
“Have we become so neglectful of our social culture in Barbados that an organization like the Chamber of Commerce, for example, has not stepped in and spoken to Mr Defreitas and explained to him why what he’s doing is so wrong? An organization like the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association hasn’t stepped in and spoken to him and explained to him why in a country with the history that Barbados has had of the social exclusion of black people, the oppression of black people that you cannot be behaving in that manner? . . . No Government minister has stepped in and had a word with Mr Defreitas?”
Kevin Joseph, a jet ski operator of 12 years, suggested that the situation had become very tense, and said he has had to find ways of working around it.
“I have to tell the people to walk up the beach, put them on [the jet ski] up the beach and then walk back down to the beach after so it’s just a matter of knowing how to work around the system with him (Defreitas) because nobody ain’t coming and tell him what he’s doing is wrong,” he said in frustration.
“Guys got bills to pay. Insurance is $5,000 a jet ski, a boat goes up to $2,400. It’s [a lot of] money. The insurance [company] wants the full amount of money and when you got to look for $5,000 to pay for insurance and a guy come and stop you from making $10 or $20 a day what next are you supposed to do?”
Defreitas could not be reached for comment.