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THE HON. GORDON “BUTCH” STEWART O.J. 1941-2021: LEGENDARY JAMAICAN ENTREPRENEUR REDEFINED ‘ALL-INCLUSIVE’ AND CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD WENT ON VACATION

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Hon. Gordon Butch Stewart, dubbed 'VACATION KING'

~Master Marketer Made Sandals a Household Name, Brought Opportunity to the Caribbean~

January 5, 2021 – PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS – Legendary Jamaican entrepreneur Gordon “Butch” Stewart, one of the hospitality industry’s most vibrant personalities and founder of Sandals Resorts International, the world’s leading all-inclusive resort company, has died at the age of 79.  An unstoppable force, who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations, Stewart single-handedly built the world’s most awarded vacation brand from one resort in Jamaica to over two dozen distinct resorts and villas throughout the Caribbean.

A son of Jamaica, Butch Stewart was born in Kingston on July 6, 1941 and grew up along the island country’s North Coast, a tropical paradise that now boasts several of his Luxury Included® Sandals and Beaches Resorts and where his love of the sea, dominoes and free enterprise were sown.  Certain from the start that he wanted to run his own company, at the tender age of 12, Stewart first stepped into the hospitality industry selling fresh-caught fish to local hotels.  His success got him ‘hooked’ and his enthusiasm for entrepreneurship never waned.

After completing his secondary education abroad, Stewart returned home to Jamaica where he demonstrated his innate talent as master salesman at the renowned Dutch-owned Curaçao Trading Company, quickly rising to the position of sales manager but itching to start his own company.  In 1968, Stewart took his chance.  With no collateral but recognizing the comfort that would make air conditioning an essential service, Stewart convinced American manufacturer Fedders Corporation to allow him to represent their brand in Jamaica.  With that, Stewart’s foundational business – Appliance Traders Limited (ATL), was born and he was on his way.

At ATL, Stewart developed a simple business philosophy he articulated many times: “Find out what people want, give it to them and in doing so – exceed their expectations.”  This would become the standard for every Stewart enterprise and practiced by every employee of the many companies Stewart would go on to found, including and perhaps most importantly, Sandals Resorts International.

Stewart Founds Sandals Resorts

In 1981, with a gift for recognizing opportunity, Stewart found one in Bay Roc: a rundown hotel on a magnificent beach in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Seven months and $4 million in renovations later, Sandals Montego Bay would open as the flagship of what is today the most popular award-winning, all-inclusiveresort chain in the world. 

While Stewart never laid claim to inventing the all-inclusive concept, he is recognized worldwide for his tireless effort to elevate the experience, delivering to his guests an unsurpassed level of luxury, and to share his certainty that a Caribbean company could successfully compete with any organization in the world.  He accomplished both. 

“I had heard of the concept, yet at the time, the services and rooms were very basic. Contrary to that, I envisioned we could bring forward a luxury resort to offer customers so much more. So, we perfected it. Only the most comfortable king size four poster beds, fine manicured gardens, cozy hammocks and the kind of warm, refined service the Caribbean has become known for. Just as important was to be located on the absolute best beach, because that’s what everyone dreams of.” 

Where other so-called “all-inclusives” offered meals and rooms at a set rate, Sandals Resorts’ prices covered gourmet dining options, premium brand drinks, gratuities, airport transfers, taxes and all land and watersport activities.  The competitors’ meals were buffet-style, so Stewart created on-property specialty restaurants with high culinary standards and white-glove service.  Sandals Resorts also was the first Caribbean hotel company to offer whirlpools and satellite television service, the first with swim-up pool bars and the first to guarantee that every room is fitted with a king-size bed and a hair dryer.  More recent innovations have included a signature spa concept – Red Lane® Spa, signature luxury suites designed for privacy and ultimate pampering, complimentary WiFi, and signature partnerships with iconic organizations such as Microsoft Xbox® Play Lounge, Sesame Workshop, PADI, Mondavi® Wines, Greg Norman Signature Golf courses and the London-based Guild of Professional English Butlers. And in 2017, Stewart introduced the Caribbean’s first over-the-water accommodations, which were quickly expanded to include Over-the-Water bars and Over-the-Water wedding chapels.

By steadfastly adhering to the “we can do it better” principle of pleasing his guests, Stewart fostered a company free to imagine and free to consistently raise the bar.  This ethos earned him the title of “King of All-Inclusives,” changing the face of the all-inclusive format and establishing Sandals Resorts as the most successful brand in the category – boasting year-round occupancy levels of more than 85 percent, an unequaled returning guest factor of 40 percent and demand that has led to unprecedented expansion including the creation of additional concepts such as Beaches Resorts, now the industry standard for excellence in family beach vacations. 

Butch Stewart loved Sandals.  At the time of his passing, he was hard at work on plans for the recently announced expansions to the Dutch island of Curaçao and St. Vincent.  

Stewart As Statesman

Stewart’s leadership helped resurrect Jamaica’s travel industry and earned him the respect of his peers and the admiration of his countrymen.  He was elected President of the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica in 1989 and was inducted into its “Hall of Fame” in 1995. He served as a Director of the Jamaica Tourist Board for a decade and as President of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association in the mid-80s, ably balancing government and private sector priorities, reconciling the concerns of large and small Jamaican hotels, and raising public understanding of the tourism industry. In 1994, Stewart led a group of investors to take leadership of Air Jamaica, the Caribbean’s largest regionally based carrier.  It was a daunting task – planes were dirty, service was indifferent and on-time schedules were rarely met, causing market share to plummet along with revenues.               

When Stewart stepped in, he insisted on a passenger-friendly approach: on-time service, reduced waiting lines, increased training for all personnel, and signature free champagne on flights to accompany an emphasis on better food.  He also opened new routes in the Caribbean, brought on new Airbus jets and established a Montego Bay hub for flights coming from and returning to the United States. Just as with ATL and Sandals Resorts, Stewart’s formula proved successful and in late 2004, Stewart gave the airline back to the government with an increase in revenue of over US$250 million.

It was not the first time Stewart would come to the aid of his country.  In 1992, he galvanized the admiration of Jamaicans  with the “Butch Stewart Initiative,” pumping US$1 million a week into the official foreign exchange market at below prevailing rates to help halt the slide of the Jamaican dollar.  Dr Henry Lowe, at the time president and CEO of Blue Cross, wrote to Stewart saying: “I write to offer sincere congratulations to you for the tremendous initiative which has done so much, not only for the strengthening of our currency, but more so, for the new feeling of hope and positive outlook which is now being experienced by all of us as Jamaicans.”

Less well-known may be the extent of Stewart’s considerable philanthropy, where for more than 40 years he has helped improve and shape the lives of Caribbean people.  His work, formalized with the creation in 2009 of The Sandals Foundation, offers support ranging from the building of schools and paying of teachers to bringing healthcare to the doorsteps of those who cannot afford it. This in addition to his tireless support of a wide range of environmental initiatives. Beyond the work of the Foundation, Stewart has given millions to charitable causes such as celebrating the bravery of veterans and first responders and helping those in the wake of devastating hurricanes.

In 2012, Stewart founded the Sandals Corporate University, aimed at providing professional development for employees through reputable education and training programs. With access to more than 230 courses and external partnerships with 13 top-ranking local and international universities, every staff member can apply, broaden their knowledge, and advance their career.

Stewart’s successes in business and in life have earned him more than 50 well-deserved local, regional, and international accolades and awards including Jamaica’s highest national distinctions: The Order of Jamaica (O.J.), and Commander of the Order of Distinction (C.D.).  In 2017, Stewart was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual Caribbean Hotel & Resort Investment Summit (CHRIS), hosted by the Burba Hotel Network, marking his significant contribution to the hospitality industry.  “The success of Sandals has helped to power the growth of the tourism industry and economies not only in Jamaica but throughout the Caribbean,” said BHN president Jim Burba.  “The word ‘icon’ certainly applies to Butch Stewart.”

It delighted Stewart whenever he was dining anywhere in the world and an excited staff member would share with him, “Thank you.  I got my start at Sandals.”

Father & Son

Butch Stewart, The Man

With his easy pace, infectious warmth and trademark striped shirt, Stewart exuded an approachability that belied the complexity of his character.  While he was an acute businessperson, who at the time of his death was responsible for a Jamaican-based empire that includes two dozen diverse companies collectively representing Jamaica’s largest private sector group, the country’s biggest foreign exchange earner and its largest non-government employer, he was an extremely private man whose deepest devotion was to his family.

His greatest test came in 1989 when his beloved 24-year-old son Jonathan was killed in a car accident in Miami.  Stewart recalled the incident in a 2008 interview, “For two months after he died, I was absolutely useless, and after that I was sort of running on remote control. Things were a blur. It’s every parent’s nightmare.  After a year or so, I started to see things in vivid detail. You have to get busy, be close with your family. It did a lot in terms of me getting closer. There’s a lot more satisfaction.”

Early days of building business for Caribbean tourism

Stewart was able to return to his relentless pace, and the consensus among those who knew him best is that he did it by leading by example. “If you are going to lead, you have to participate,” Stewart was fond of saying.  He believed that if everyone in the organization recognized that the man in charge was working as hard as they were, they’d have an infinite amount of respect and motivation. “It’s about instilling a spirit of teamwork, defining a purpose and then rolling up your sleeves to get the job done better than anybody else,” Stewart said.

The company Butch Stewart built remains wholly owned by the Stewart family, who, in honor of Mr. Stewart’s long-term succession plans, has named Adam Stewart Chairman of Sandals Resorts International, extending his formidable leadership of the brands he has shepherded since he was appointed CEO in 2007.

Butch (Hon Gordon Stewart) and Branson (Sir Richard Branson) travel titans

Speaking on behalf of his family, Adam Stewart said, “our father was a singular personality; an unstoppable force who delighted in defying the odds by exceeding expectations and whose passion for his family was matched only by the people and possibility of the Caribbean, for whom he was a fierce champion.  Nothing, except maybe a great fishing day, could come before family to my dad.  And while the world understood him to be a phenomenal businessman – which he was, his first and most important devotion was always to us.  We will miss him terribly forever.”

Adam Stewart named Chairman of Sandals Resorts International

Gordon “Butch” Stewart is survived by his wife, Cheryl, children Brian, Bobby, Adam, Jaime, Sabrina, Gordon, and Kelly; grandchildren Aston, Sloane, Camden, Penelope-Sky, Isla, Finley, Max, Ben, Zak, Sophie, Annie and Emma; and great grandchildren Jackson, Riley, Emmy and Willow.

A private funeral service will be held. Those wishing to share memories, condolences or personal stories may do so at AllThatsGood@sandals.com

Magnetic Media is a Telly Award winning multi-media company specializing in creating compelling and socially uplifting TV and Radio broadcast programming as a means for advertising and public relations exposure for its clients.

Bahamas News

PM Davis’ Remarks at Wreath Laying Ceremony – Majority Rule Day 2022

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Happy Majority Rule Day to all and thank you for coming

I thank the organizers of this wreath laying ceremony because this auspicious occasion is a symbolic reminder of the significant role the Progressive Liberal Party and the Father of the Nation played in bringing about one of the most consequential and transformational events in our history, eclipsed only by the abolition of slavery in 1834.

With the addition of National Independence on 10th July 1973, these three epic events changed the course of Bahamian history forever and etched in the annals of history the Bahamian national identity and the depth of our indomitable spirit.

We must never grow weary of telling our story lest we lose our identity and heritage as a people.

Further — and more nationally — as a free, modern, democratic and independent state, history must record that Majority Rule Day is also an occasion where all Bahamians come together to reflect on and celebrate the enduring principles of democracy.  Today then, I stand with my Bahamian brothers and sisters from all walks of life in memorializing this day as a seminal moment in the ever-evolving Bahamian story.

MAJORITY RULE IS A MAJOR TRIUMPH FOR DEMOCRACY AND FREEDOM, HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES THAT WE HOLD NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS.  THESE PRINCIPLES ARE ALSO THE CHIEF PHILOSOPHICAL CORNER STONES AND PILLARS ON WHICH THIS COUNTRY WAS BUILT AND WILL SUSTAIN US FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

We must never allow our detractors to minimize, trivialize or relegate this great day and event to the scrap heap of historical irrelevance. To do so is to dishonour the vision, memory and legacy of those great courageous souls on whose shoulders we stand.

We cannot and must not conveniently disinherit our glorious legacy because our truth is inconvenient to some.

A cause rooted in social justice, freedom fighters courageously stood in the vanguard of change – unyielding in their demand that all were created equal — with God-given rights to human dignity without regard to race, gender, colour or creed. This stand of conscience galvanized a nation, a generation of Bahamians, and in the process significantly reshaped the character and national identity of The Bahamas forever.

I pay tribute to the many unsung heroes and heroines whose endearing and enduring legacies of selflessness and shared sacrifices remain the gold standard of our national culture in both public life and in the way we conduct our personal affairs with one another.

I continue to draw, conviction, inspiration and influence from the passion of the Suffragettes, the labour movement, the church and from countless Bahamians who put it all on the line to secure a more perfect Commonwealth.

Speaking of passion, conviction, inspiration and influence, I wish to take a moment to recount the role the late Sir Sidney Poitier played and the contributions he made during our journey to Majority Rule.

As a Bahamian with dual citizenship, Sir Sidney used his celebrity status in the struggle for civil rights —  fighting racism, bigotry and injustice in both the United States and The Bahamas.

Many Bahamians still recall his speaking to the issue at a reception in his honour to the then United Bahamian Party (UBP) government in recognition of his Academy Award for ‘Lilies of the Field.’

A well-known story in PLP circles is his assistance to the Progressive Liberal Party in the run up to the 1967 general elections. There is an iconic photo of Sir Sidney and Sir Lynden at the back of an open limousine celebrating the 1967 victory.

May he rest in peace.

As a beneficiary of their sacrificial work, I thank them all — Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Milo Butler, Sir Randal Fawkes, Sir Clifford Darling, Dame Doris Johnson and Sir Sidney Poitier — for their passion, faith, perseverance and uncompromising commitment to social justice, democracy, freedom and a sense of fair play.

It is indeed an honour and a privilege to stand on their broad proverbial shoulders to continue their invaluable work in building a stronger and more perfect Commonwealth to positively impact the lives of generations yet unborn.

Our cause is indeed national, inclusive and intergenerational in its nature, range and scope.

On behalf of my wife Ann Marie, my cabinet and parliamentary colleagues, my government, the officers and members of the Progressive Liberal Party, I extend best wishes and highest regards to the people of The Bahamas as we celebrate Fifty-Five years of Majority Rule.

May Almighty God continue to bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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Caribbean News

Fulford says TCI’s Judiciary will be Established as a Regional Leader under CJ Agyeman

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The Legal Year 2022 opened on January 4th 2022 in a hybrid fashion, where the Chief Justice, Court of Appeal Judges, Supreme Court Judges, Magistrates and other Official participants hosted the ceremony at the Supreme Court building in person and where Attorneys and other dignitaries attended remotely via zoom link.

The ceremony today marked a welcomed improvement from last year, where covid19 numbers caused the 2021 opening ceremony to be in a strictly virtual fashion for all attendees.

This year’s ceremony saw a cadre of achievements listed by the Chief Justice in her short tenure such as:

  1. New Legal Aid Rules
  2. Establishment of a new Legal Aid Panel
  3. Establishment of a Legal Aid Roster for Civil and Criminal Matters
  4. Implementation of an 18 Month end date for Legal Aid Matters
  5. Establishment of a complaint mechanism for grievances against attorneys
  6. Establishment of Interim Payments
  7. Establishment of Legal Aid for Civil Cases
  8. Waiver of Supreme Court Fees for Civil Cases conducted under legal aid
  9. Establishment of Early Legal Aid from the investigative process.
  10. Establishment of Duty Counsels – where Legal Aid will allow those arrested on suspicion of crimes to have an attorney before charge;
  11. Legal Aid will extend to constitutional rights, habeus corpus, judicial review, domestic violence, contentions probate matters, welfare of Children matters, landlord dispute matters;
  12. Court Connected Mediation Rules
  13. Court to now promote ADR
  14. Establishment of Court mandated Alternative Dispute Resolution
  15. Creation of a Mediation Committee
  16. 42 Mediators are Trained
  17. Creation of a Roster of Mediators -11 are presently on the Roster
  18. Consultation has begun on restorative justice to pay reparation for Offences to promote reconciliation
  19. Establishment of Queens Counsel Selection Panel
  20. Establishment of Alternative Sentencing Guidelines
  21. Establishment of the first ever Bail Ordinance
  22. Establishment of a Sentencing Deadline Committee
  23. Establishment of a Magistrate Rules Committee
  24. Establishment of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee
  25. Establishment of Hybrid Hearings to allow Jury Trials to take place.
  26. Establishment of a Court/Legal Library;
  27. Continuous population of TCILII with judgements
  28. Re-Constitution of the Judicial Education Committee JEI
  29.  JEI three workshops held for Court Staff
  30.  JEI programs to equip Court Clerks with Paralegal training
  31. JEI trained the Bailiffs on Self Defence
  32. JEI armed Bailiffs with body cameras
  33.  Establishment of Registrar of Magistrate Courts
  34. Onboarding of two Judicial Research Assistants
  35.  Establishment of Code of Conduct for the Judiciary
  36. The House of Assembly have voted to provide 3 million dollars toward a state-of-the-art court building for The Judiciary.
  37. Two Buildings have been located and will be retrofitted to be used as Magistrate Courts in South Caicos and North Caicos.

Chief Justice Agyeman laid out other initiatives of the Judiciary and other Strategic priorities are as follows for 2022:

  1. The E-Judiciary initiatives will continue, that will provide paperless access to the digital platform.
  2. A dedicated space for ADR, being a center for parties to undertake mediation
  3. Legislation to bring clarity to Judicial officers is underway.
  4. Ethics and Integrity Training for Court Staff.
  5. Extensive electronic infrastructure is being implemented to improve virtual proceedings
  6. Ongoing work addressing gaps in treatment of Mental Health Issues  and Juveniles in criminal justice
  7. A CJSG which is a collaboration of all stakeholders of justice that serves the public and is striving to provide a multi-level approach to provide access to quality criminal justice.
  8. The CJSG will also be publishing a calendar of community initiatives it will undertake to bring its work to the people they exist to serve.

Fulford views Chief Justice Mabel Agyeman in her role as Head of the Judiciary, as a Judge who sets goals and achieves them despite arduous challenges. The way in which the Chief Justice relentlessly pursues the Judiciary’s goals bodes well for the jurisdiction and no doubt her record of achievement in her short tenue will cause the TCI Judiciary to become known as a regional leader.

Fulford noted that the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Judiciary continues to grow from strength to strength because of the Chief Justice’s resourcefulness, perseverance and commitment to modernization and improvement.

Chief Justice Agyeman thanked the DPP personally and his office for assisting in the many Judiciary reforms. Further thanks were given to the Attorney General and the Bar Association through its President who was on hand to give and receive the remarks.  Many thanks were Given to the Governor, Deputy Governor, Premier, Cabinet and Parliament for the support to the Judiciary.

Chief Justice Agyeman specially thanked the Acting Court Administrator Mrs Barbara Jervis, Her Registrar Ms Renee McLean and her Judicial Assistant Ms. Aisha DeFour.

In closing, The Hon. Chief Justice renewed her commitment and that of the entire Judiciary to continue to improve access to quality justice for all in TCI and to be untiring in their efforts to follow through on the plans outlined for 2022, and continue to strive to position the Judiciary to attain the stature of a resilient, and accountable institution.

Fulford indicated, it’s an opportune time to be serving the public in the legal profession.

 

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Oil fund could repair crumbling infrastructure, improve health, education systems

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By Kemol King

Guyana DPI

 

#Guyana, January 15, 2022 – Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, said the public school and healthcare systems, along with the country’s infrastructure network, could benefit from the development that will come from Guyana’s oil money.

He made the comments during a virtual interview with Globespan on Wednesday.

“Our government has been clear that… oil and gas will be used – there are some infrastructural issues.

Look at some of the infrastructure that we were left with. Look at some of the ports and the harbours, the roads, the bridges, look at them. A lot of them are dilapidated. Now, we are starting to build them.

We have health systems; we have educational systems that need help. It’s the poor people that have to go to the hospital. It’s the poor people that go to the public schools…”

He added that investments can also be made into reducing the costs of certain services like electricity, or into building the capacity of law enforcement to fight crime.

The minister said these sectors are where some of the major problems are, and act as bugbears for the country.

Already, the government has started rolling out an extensive infrastructure plan, building and repairing roads and highways across the country. The government has initiated processes for the construction of major infrastructural projects such as the Demerara River Crossing.

Investments are being made into upgrading healthcare facilities into modern sustainable providers for the poorest citizens.

In education, the government has provided 6,000 scholarships for ordinary Guyanese, and there are thousands more to come.

Minister Indar reminded that all the work government has done so far since taking up office in August 2020, have been done without using the oil money.

Some US$607 million sits in the Natural Resource Fund. The government has maintained that it would not spend a cent until a new Natural Resource Fund Act is in place. This was passed by the National Assembly and assented to by His Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali in December.

The Act allows the government to withdraw the total balance of the Fund in the first year. The Ministry of Finance explained that it is important for Guyana to use its resources to fund its development agenda, instead of burdening Guyana with unsustainable debt. Even then, Minister Indar explained that the withdrawal rule moving forward will allow significant sums to be saved and be accrued, given expected ramp-ups in offshore oil production.

 

 

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