BRADLEY Roberts yesterday accused the Free National Movement of “carpet bagging” over the controversial Rubis underground fuel leak and using Bahamians’ “pain and suffering” for political gain.
Mr Roberts, chairman of the governing PLP, argued that the FNM must be held accountable for reports of “environmental incidents” at the service station in question, which he said dates back to 1996 when the FNM was in power. He also called a public hearing on this matter.
“As the current government continues to work with the affected residents and Rubis to bring a fair and just resolution to this matter, the hapless and opportunistic carpet bagging and self-interested FNM has crawled from under a rock and behind the tall grass to see how they can best use the pain and suffering of Bahamians to secure a selfish and narrow political advantage. This is reprehensible, heartless and callous,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“I am advised there is no file in the Ministry of the Environment as proof of the steps taken by the FNM government to protect the interest of the Bahamian people while in government and (FNM Leader Dr Hubert) Minnis must speak to this if he is to appear to have a modicum of credibility as a leader.
He added: “I call for a public hearing on this matter with powers to send for people and papers as far back as 1996, at or around 2010 and again in 2012 to put the series of events in proper context so the Bahamian people can fully appreciate the timelines, the extent of the challenges at this site and for all to see exactly what the root causes were that brought us to this point.”
Mr Roberts also expressed empathy for the families “adversely impacted” by the leak, adding “all must be done by all stakeholders involved to ensure that the families affected are dealt with in a just and fair manner”.
He also thanked the government, the BEST Commission and the Department of Environmental Health for “their decisive actions, leadership and general superintendence over the past 24 months in protecting the health and wellbeing of the residents and workers in the general area of the incident.”
According to the BEST Commission, the Rubis fuel release was observed in late December 2012 by former operator Fiorente Management, and reported to Rubis on January 19, 2013.
The leak prompted nearby Cable Bahamas to relocate its main offices and file a lawsuit against the fuel provider. For years, area residents have been agitating for information on the consequences of the leak and have criticised government health officials for not launching health screenings for those affected.
A little over a week ago, the government released an independent report prepared by Black and Veach International, who found that area residents were possibly exposed to harmful chemicals.
However, the report was completed in February 2014 and the government has been accused of suppressing the document. The report found that high levels of benzene, a cancer causing compound in gasoline, was found in a test well in one Marathon home and also in air samples taken by a contractor for Cable Bahamas.