By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
ENVIRONMENTAL group Save the Bays yesterday questioned why a notice was published in a local daily last week indicating a new 21-day consultation process over land applications by billionaire fashion mogul Peter Nygard despite a Supreme Court order barring the Christie administration from engaging in such a process.
Several weeks ago, Supreme Court Justice Rhonda Bains imposed an injunction prohibiting the government from making decisions on Mr Nygard’s applications for building permits and Crown land.
Despite this, in a notice published in The Nassau Guardian last week Tuesday, the government appeared to have effectively renewed its consultation process on Mr Nygard’s applications. The notice, signed by Director of Physical Planning Michael Major, said the government would give interested people and organisations 21 days to respond as it reviews a building permit application by Mr Nygard and a report related to leasing Crown land to him.
In view of this, Save the Bays (STB) lawyer Fred Smith yesterday questioned why the government appears adamant about moving Mr Nygard’s plans forward while allegedly failing to address the Crown land applications of thousands of Bahamians.
“I represent the new NGO, Crown Land for Bahamians (CLB),” he said. “I am absolutely bewildered as to why our Bahamian government should be so hot to try to give Peter Nygard $35 million worth of Crown land when there are 35,000 applications for Crown land from Bahamians that have not gotten a formal response. And if I am wrong with that figure, then I challenge my Prime Minister to say how many applications have not received a response. Our Prime Minister is the trustee of Crown land for the benefit of Bahamians, not the trustee of Crown land for the benefit of foreign developers like Peter Nygard.
“I am shocked that despite the injunction by Justice Bain in the recent judicial review that Save the Bays launched, stopping the government from considering and consulting on Nygard’s applications, the government has published its new notice in the Guardian sparking a new consultation process giving the public 21 days to make contributions as to whether Nygard should have his applications granted.” In Mr Smith’s opinion he found the action “indecent, obscene and perverse.”
“What this means,” he said, “is that Mr Nygard comes first and Bahamians come last. Bahamians do not matter in this country. Foreigners have an advantage.”
This is the third time this year that the government has announced that people would have 21 days to participate in the consultation process on Mr Nygard’s applications.
After the first consultation period expired, the government granted a further 21-day extension because of flaws in the process that included its failure to produce all relevant documents for people who might have wished to contribute to the debate.
Although Mr Smith believes the new consultation process cannot continue, he said yesterday that the same problem of not having all necessary information persists.
“We attended the Ministry of Works (yesterday) to view documents under the new public notice and we were told there were no documents to view. I would like to know what game my government is playing with the Bahamian public in so far as Peter Nygard is concerned. Why is Peter Nygard getting such special treatment from my government?”
In addition to reviewing a building permit application of Mr Nygard, the government’s notice said: “The department is also reviewing a report titled “Nygard Cay Coastal Process and Coastal Service. . .and commissioned by the government of the Bahamas. The report is to guide the decision making process in respect to an application to lease certain areas of the seabed adjacent to Simms Point (Nygard Cay) presently being considered. . .”
The government recently filed a summons seeking to lift the Supreme Court’s injunction on its ability to make decisions on Mr Nygard’s applications.
However, a hearing on the matter yesterday was adjourned to October with the injunction remaining in place at least until then.