How did party promoter Adrian Scoon get a special licence to hold a boat party on MV Ocean Pelican on Boxing Day?
Minister of Finance Colm Imbert today appeared to break ranks with Cabinet colleagues over the controversial boat party as he revealed that he instructed the Ministry of Finance to blank Scoon’s request for a special licence, on account specifically of concerns about the Covid-19 Public Health Regulations.
On 5 November, Scoon, who is the son of Minister of Trade and Industry Paula Gopee-Scoon, applied for the special licence, which, in theory, would permit his party boat, the Ocean Pelican, to operate as a restaurant.
On 3 December 2021, the Ministry of Finance turned him down.
“Being aware of the current prohibition on party boats, when asked to approve the special licences last month, on 5 November 2021, the Minister queried the permissibility of the request in the context of the current Covid-19 Public Health Regulations,” stated a media release issued today by the Ministry of Finance. “Upon consideration of the Minister’s query, the request to the Minister to approve the licences was withdrawn.
“As a consequence, the Minister of Finance did not approve the licences, which is an express requirement of Section 45(1)(c) of the Liquor Licences Act Chap 84.10.”
Regardless, on 23 December 2021, Scoon managed to secure a special restaurant licence from the Comptroller of Customs and Excise. By then, the party promoter is believed to have already started advertising his Boxing Day boat party titled ‘Seaside Brunch Party’.
A release from Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi yesterday confirmed that Scoon ‘who is very well known to the AG, called many weeks ago to ask a general question about the Public Health Regulations and party boats’.
Subsequently on Boxing Day, Scoon wrote to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh to inform him of his event, which was being held ‘on advice from the Honourable AG Faris Al-Rawi’.
Al-Rawi later denied giving Scoon legal advice and claimed that the promoter apologised for using his name—although the alleged apology was not made public by either party.
Scoon’s event was brought to a halt by the police on the evening of Boxing Day, with roughly 100 persons processed and released while the TTPS awaits further instructions from the Director of Public Prosecutions.
On 28 December, using a Ministry of Health letterhead, Deyalsingh wrote Scoon and informed him that ‘any business, including a restaurant located on a boat, that wishes to operate as a safe zone may do so provided that the legal requirements of Regulation 8 of the Regulations are satisfied’.
Deyalsingh’s letter was promptly relayed to the TTPS and is likely to serve as part of Scoon’s legal defence against possible prosecution.
However, it now appears that the Minister of Finance took a decidedly different view from the Minister of Health, as regards the dangers posed by events such as Scoon’s Boxing Day party.
A social media post from the YUP Life group, organisers of the event, showed unmasked guests—presumably vaccinated—eating finger food from tall tables with no chairs in sight. The suggestion was that the patrons, who spent $450 to attend the ‘brunch party’, spent over six hours standing up around tables.
However, police sources alleged that, when they raided the boat at around 7pm, they found a full-blown fete in progress.
Article 5 of the Covid-19 Public Health Regulations, drafted by Al-Rawi, states ‘where a person causes, without reasonable excuse, any vessel, being operated in the waters of Trinidad and Tobago, to be raft-up with another vessel for recreational purposes, he commits an offence’.
The Regulations further referred to a vessel as ‘any ship, boat, barge, lighter or raft and any other description of craft, whether used in navigation or not, but does not include government vessels’.
And Article 4 states: ‘For the purposes of controlling and preventing the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), it shall be an offence, during the period specified in regulation 19, for any person to–
- (a) be found at or in any river, stream, pond, spring or similar body of water, any public pool or mud volcano or mud pools for recreational purposes;
- (b) operate a party boat, boat tour or nightclub;
- (c) hold public parties or public fetes.’
The Regulations state that ‘a person who contravenes regulation 3, 4, 9(1),10 or 15, commits an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine of $250,000 and to imprisonment for six months’.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Finance revoked Scoon’s special restaurant license and promised him a refund for ‘license duties paid’.
The Ministry has vowed to investigate why a licence was granted to Ocean Pelican in the first place.
“For yet unresolved reasons, despite clear written instructions to the contrary on 3 December 2021, the Customs and Excise Division issued the said licences, without the approval of the Minister,” stated the Ministry of Finance. “These licences have since been deemed by the Customs and Excise Division to be null and void as no directions for the issuance of same were given by the Minister of Finance.
“[…] The irregular and unauthorised issuance of these special licences is now under investigation.”
By the time of publication, there had been no response from Deyalsingh, Al-Rawi or Scoon to Imbert’s condemnation of the boat party.
There were 30 deaths of Covid-19 infected patients on Boxing Day while there have been 711 deaths this month. Since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, Trinidad and Tobago has lost 2,869 persons .