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Dredging Stopped By Privy Council

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

THE Privy Council in London granted Bimini Blue Coalition’s injunction request yesterday, bringing dredging activities in Bimini to a halt and reversing a decision by the Bahamas Court of Appeal on Monday.

The news comes more than a week after dredging began in Bimini and after months of controversy over the propriety of Resorts World Bimini’s construction of a cruise ship terminal, 1000-pier foot and man-made island in North Bimini.

“Resorts World Bimini has temporarily ceased its dredging operation in accordance with the Privy Council injunction,” Michelle Malcolm, Public Relations officer for Resorts World Bimini, said in a statement to The Tribune yesterday. “We have all permits in hand and will provide the necessary documentation to lift the injunction expeditiously so that we can continue to provide Biminites with jobs, complete the construction of the cruise pier and open the full destination resort that Biminites and tourists alike are looking forward to.”

To restart dredging activities, the developer must now persuade the Bahamas’ Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court that a permit under the Conservation of the Physical Landscape of the Bahamas Act was obtained under proper conditions and consideration from the Director of Physical Planning (DPP) at the Ministry of Environment and Housing.

The Privy Council reached its decision by questioning the validity of a permit the developer produced yesterday that was signed by the DPP on Thursday.

The developer produced the permit despite the government’s legal team’s argument before the Bahamas’ Court of Appeal last week Friday that the permit was unnecessary because the Act does not account for dredging activities, an argument that was supported by two of the three Court of Appeal Justices who rejected the Coalition’s injunction request on Monday.

The Privy Council, however, determined that the Act does speak to dredging activities and that a letter of approval from Prime Minister Perry Christie obtained by the developer did not constitute the necessary permit by law for dredging activities to commence.

The Privy Council questioned whether the permit the developer produced yesterday was obtained in accordance with conditions stipulated in the Act.

Such conditions include that the Director of Physical Planning give permit applications serious consideration and considers objections to a granting of the Act from residents.

The Privy Council’s ruling comes as a judicial review of the RWB project is stayed at the Supreme Court pending the outcome of an appeal challenging a ruling on security for costs.

The Coalition contends that the project will destroy Bimini’s important marine ecosystem.

Coalition attorney Fred Smith praised the Privy Council’s decision yesterday, calling it “seminal” and adding that it vindicates his group’s belief that the Resorts World Bimini project has been shrouded in secrecy by the government and that it has been sanctioned without giving residents a chance to be properly consulted.

“As a lawyer I am thrilled that the rule of law still prevails in the Bahamas and my clients, the Bimini Blue Coalition, are ecstatic that they are finally being given an opportunity to be heard, at least in the courts,” he said. “What this signals to the government and the developers is that people in the Family Islands still have rights and that you should not ride roughshod over their rights. This was a theme echoed in the Wilson City power plant case, in the Guana Cay case and many others. The failure of central government to respect local rights, to preserve a culture, a society, a way of life is a continuing problem that this ruling speaks to.”

“Before you do anything, consult with the stakeholders. This is embedded statutorily in the Subdivision Act, requiring public hearings in advance notice so those affected would have the opportunity to discuss their views.”

“This case is seminal not just for Bimini but for the Bahamas,” he said, adding: “It speaks to the fact that while a case is going on before the court for judicial review, don’t make up things as you go along. Discovery should be made at the start of all judicial review proceedings. This business of hiding permits and producing them as if you’re torturing people has to end. This is not good governance.”

“During the judicial review,” he said, “authorities repeatedly said cooperate with the courts and put all cards on the table so the courts can make quick decisions about matters of public interest. It doesn’t further the government to be secretive, to be obstructive, to hide permits.”

To restart dredging activities in Bimini, Mr Smith said the developer must: “Convince the Court that all the conditions in the permit has been satisfied; that a new EIA has been conducted, for instance.”

He said: “This underscores what I have been saying; these foreign developers could never get away either in Malaysia or Florida with what they could get away with here. They would have to go through city, county, all kinds of protocols.”

Requests for comment from government officials were not acknowledged yesterday.

Comments

BiminiRick 4 years, 4 months ago

"Government officials" didn't have time to comment yesterday. They were too busy conjuring up some fictitious permits and assessments created instantaneously without regard to protocols and laws. Tell me how they could more than TRIPLE the amount of dredging to be conducted without obtaining a completely new EIA? And "our" government just signs off on these things without consultation with ANYONE. P.C. say its okay, must be okay. Hey, how are those "anchor projects" doing in West End and Mayaguana? These anchors gonna sink the Bahamas.

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sheeprunner12 4 years, 4 months ago

Anchor projects????????????? The only real successful Family Islands with this approach may be Abaco and San Salvador,,,,,,,,,,,,,, the rest have had major challenges in the past two decades

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wearedone 4 years, 4 months ago

Well it looks like they do have some power, and thankfully so. Why would anyone want this to go on in Bimini? This government is the biggest joke. Full of idiots.

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BiminiRick 4 years, 4 months ago

"Full of idiots." ?? You are being WAAAAAY too kind!

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wearedone 4 years, 4 months ago

No need to get your panties in a bunch. They are destroying the only thing going for the Bahamas at this time, it's beautiful waters and everything that lives in it. That Florida fisherman probably knows more about the Bahamas than most people that live here.

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i_land_boy 4 years, 4 months ago

GeneralCrazy - you talk about the slave masters in London, when in actual fact its the black slave masters in our government you should be worried about, they are the ones who want to take everything from the little man and live luxurious lives off of the blood and sweat of those less fortunate. You seem pretty ignorant to these things. and just ignorant in general. You should change your name to General Ignorance, its a much better fit. also there is no need to swear here, it just makes you look even dumber.

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i_land_boy 4 years, 4 months ago

so i guess you support the systematic destruction of the main attractions that almost all tourists come here to see, and i don't mean gambling. you can call all the racists cards you want, but in the end when the foreign developers ruin this country and leave us with a barren wasteland for our children to deal with, you will then realize the error of your statements. and talk all you want about the different political parties, i dont support any of them. i voted for the lesser of three evils last election but only because there wasnt a 4th choice. i support family island development, but i believe that these things should be reserved for bahamians to develop through crown land and honest grants from the government. development should be sustainable, and sized properly for the islands they are put on. the bimini development is just too big. and will ruin an amazing island with tons of marine biodiversity. The Bahamas should be for the Bahamians, not foreign developers. we have so much here to use to our advantage, but until our government gets over the idea that only foreigners can help us with their money, we will be stuck in this reality for a long time.

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crabman 4 years, 4 months ago

How is my mp going to make his Mercedes car payment now, let alone buy the sweetheart a new house, OUCh he goin be break

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gbgal 4 years, 4 months ago

When Disney was filming in GB, they made a big mess on the beautiful beach, ruined the reef, abandoned a rusty hulk and walked away. The property owners complained to government reps but no one cared. Remember? I feel for the Bimini residents. Don't let it happen!

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