By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
HITTING out at the FNM for the “dirty” way it practices politics, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he will not allow anyone to “besmirched (his) integrity” as he defended himself against allegations surrounding reported links between the PLP and the Bahamas Petroleum Company.
Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday, Mr Christie was responding to the FNM’s call for “full disclosure” on any relationships between senior PLPs and the oil industry.
It was in a statement released last week that party chairman Darron Cash claimed there were worries the government was simply delivering a “favour to a financial backer” with planned exploratory drilling.
“I’m not going to let nobody come in here – nobody, in here or out there – and besmirched my integrity,” Mr Christie declared.
“I don’t own a share in a company in the Bahamas... (and) never made an investment. Something I shouldn’t even be proud of – but there’s no basis for conflict with companies with me. I thank God that from time to time I’m able to give advice which I’m paid for when I’m in opposition. But I gave up my career for public life.”
Mr Christie noted the similar censure levelled at Deputy Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis – who last weekend denied “further affiliation” with BPC — and also recalled prior allegations made against him.
The “politics of the other side” had used “innuendo after innuendo” in their critiques of Mr Davis, the prime minister said.
“This particular member of Parliament became one of the distinguished practitioners at the criminal bar and he was besmirched for that,” Mr Christie said.
“I remember going to him and saying: Listen my friend, drop those cases, you’re good at civil law, these fellows are going to be unrelenting on you – give up your practice and do civil work.
“You got big cases before the Privy Council go ahead and do those things. But he was no different to the lawyers I juniored. Eugene Dupuch, Kendal Isaacs, Paul Adderley. I juniored in cases involving people before the courts in the same way.”
The prime minister continued: ”This firm that he (Mr Davis) was in, that I was in, that Hubert Ingraham was in. We had about nine clients, started in 1976 – on oil, it became the pre-eminent firm on oil in the country.
“When I was prime minister, one or two of these matters came up last time. No one suggested that I was compromised – client after client after client on oil.”
Mr Christie said he could show how some Opposition members sat in a Cabinet where a company reportedly “associated with (an FNM) minister” made more than $100 million.
“And what they do? I have no doubt that the person concerned would have said, ‘Listen it’s coming up for contract’ and walked out the room and said, ‘I’ll come back in.’
“You’re talking about a poor fellow like me and trying to talk some nonsense about what I get? I made it a point where people like Phil Ruffin – who is my friend, who is a billionaire – I never asked him for a penny during the election because I knew the implications.
“But you know what you do, you find people on this side and you make their life hell because of some dirty way you have to how you practice politics. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
In a statement released last night, Mr Cash explained that a request for disclosure is not a “veiled suggestion that corruption exists.” Mr Cash says he thinks Mr Christie believes “he is above disclosure.”
He was responding to statements from Mr Davis and Senator Jerome Gomez regarding their past connection with Bahamas Petroleum.
“Both of them have announced that they no longer have formal ties with BPC,” he said. “Those public statements are a good start but they are not good enough. These public officials must disclose more and they must do so within a matter of days not weeks.”
Mr Cash said: “As one would expect, both men have accused the FNM of having negative motives behind its call for full disclosure. Deputy Prime Minister Davis accused the FNM of seeking to ‘taint’ his character and integrity.
“Senator Gomez is reported to have said that the request was made because the FNM and/or its Chairman were suggesting that those persons had been involved in unscrupulous or corrupt activities... Their suggestions could not be further from the truth.”
The type of disclosure the FNM is demanding, Mr Cash said, is commonplace for all public traded companies listed on the Bahamas International Securities Exchange.
“As it relates to the oil drilling debate, our aim is to give the PLP an early warning and constructive advice about what must happen in order for them to ensure an open and honest debate,” he said.