Businessman defends investments accused of destroying assets
Gila BENMAYOR ISTANBUL / HürriyetFettah Tamince, owner of the Rixos hotels chain, has objected to the mounting annoyance against the destruction of natural and cultural assets for business purposes, claiming the destruction of nature would hurt him the most, as “he is the one invested in tourism most.”
“The perception of ‘they plunder Turkey while growing it’ is wrong. This casts a shadow on Turkey’s gains,” the owner of the fast-growing construction company Sembol İnşaat and Rixos hotels, said in an interview with daily Hürriyet.
“If you talk about destruction of nature, I would be the one damaged the most. I am one of the people that has invested in tourism most,” he said.
The businessman, who controlled pro-government media group Star for four years before selling it to Azeri energy giant Socar last year, is one of the most controversial business figures because of his company’s investments, mostly in preserved areas in Turkey.
Tamince’s hotel investments plans in Phaselis, an ancient town in the southern tourism province of Antalya, as well as a project to transform the historical Golden Horn (Haliç) shipyards in Istanbul into a port and entertainment complex have put his company under scrutiny.
Responding to some of his criticisms against his plans to construct a hotel complex in a preserved green and historical space, Tamince claimed his hotel would be 1.7 kilometers away from the ancient town.
“Phaselis is one of the most important cultural assets in Turkey. I learnt how to swim there. Our project is in a region known as Phaselis but it has nothing to do with the ancient town,” he said.
He said the area was opened for construction in 2004 and that the firm joined the project in 2009. He claimed the government expanded the protected area by 17 square kilometers in 2010.
“We don’t have permission to cut trees and construct buildings over two stories. We faced accusations like ‘Phaselis was presented to Tamince’ for nothing,” he said.
Tamince also pledged to protect Istanbul’s silhouette while designing the Haliç port project, which has been the target of harsh criticism as well.
Last July, the Sembol-Ekopark İnşaat-Fine Otelcilik joint venture – all companies Rixos Hotels chain has shares in – won the privatization tender for the shipyards in Istanbul’s Golden Horn on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model for $1.35 billion, plus taxes.
“We don’t have the luxury to use an area with 8,500 years of history like it’s our own. I’m responsible for making something that fits the texture of the city,” he said, noting they were in talks with architectural offices over the project.
The businessman also said the only way to protect values was to establish a board of judges that would be authorized to approve projects.
‘NOBODY SHOULD FIGHT THE STATE’
Fettah Tamince, who was known to have a close relationship with Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in the past, said nobody should “meddle in the state’s business.”“The state has a structure and an order. You can’t fight the state. Who does this? How does he do it? I don’t want to hold a group or a person responsible. However, it may be said ‘you were saying something different in the past, but you are saying something else now.’ People can be mistaken. A person who used to be perfect yesterday might not be perfect today. I’m saying this generally,” he said.