AS IF the Baha Mar situation is not bad enough, the two persons who should be kept as far away as possible from any “negotiations” to get the $3.5 billion Cable Beach resort opened by the winter season, have now stuck their noses in where they should not be tolerated.
PLP chairman Bradley Roberts, better known among his colleagues as “Big, Bad Brad”, has demanded an apology from Baha Mar’s vice president of human resources and organisational development, for writing a letter to the resort’s 2,500 plus staff, informing them that “the government is refusing to pay the salaries owed to Baha Mar’s non-Bahamian employees due this Thursday.
“We are shocked and extremely upset by this action,” wrote Baha Mar’s vice president, “and we have urgently appealed to the Government to reverse its damaging and short-sighted decision.”
Why should the vice president apologise to Mr Roberts for informing employees of the truth of what is happening. If this is not the truth, then the fault is with government. Obviously the politicians were in such haste to block the protection Mr Sarkis Izmirlian was making for his staff – both foreign and local – that not one of them thought through the consequences of their hasty decisions.
Even the press was confused when the announcement was first made that government would pay staff salaries to prevent them from becoming “pawns” in the resort’s dispute. On making the announcement last month that it would foot the estimated $7.5 million salary bill to cover nearly 2,400 employees – whether it knew it or not – government had undertaken to pay for all of the staff. The $7.5 million would have included Bahamians and foreigners.
According to The Tribune reporter who covered Attorney General Allyson Maynard Gibson’s press conference “she (Mrs Maynard Gibson) said the Hotel Corporation of the Bahamas stands ready to pay the full salaries of Baha Mar’s employees, however it is unclear if the government will also pay the salaries for the resort’s foreign workers.” Apparently, Mrs Maynard Gibson avoided the question. It was this avoidance that has caused the confusion.
It is understood that Baha Mar executives, when informed by government that it would pay employees’ salaries so that they would not become “pawns” in a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy case in Delaware for which Mr Izmirlian had applied for their protection, also believed that this included all employees, both Bahamian and foreign.
As if the situation is not bad enough, Mr Roberts has called on “all Bahamians, especially Bahamian employees of Baha Mar, to reject all divisive vitriol invective, stand with your government and throw their full and unreserved support behind the successful completion and opening of Baha Mar through constructive engagement.”
It is true that everyone wants Baha Mar to open as quickly as possible, but Mr Roberts is wasting his time to call on Baha Mar’s Bahamian employees to turn against their employer.
They are too close to the situation, know the full truth and are dismayed by how government has jeopardised their future. In fact the staff have now become pawns.
The recent developments have confirmed the suspicions that we have had from the very beginning. This government wants Mr Izmirlian removed.
He is too straightforward and outspoken for their liking.
This is the only way that they think that they can silence him. But, whichever way it turns out, we are confident that he will be the one to write the final chapter — and it won’t be what the politicians will want to hear.
And now for the Attorney General. On Friday a statement was released on her behalf in which she said that Baha Mar’s statement released earlier was “entirely misleading.” She then proceeded to make a statement that was even more misleading. In fact it was a downright untruth.
In an attempt to explain how government “has sought to create a fair playing field for the development” she outlines three objectives. The second objective, she said, was “by paying the wages and salaries of Bahamian employees that Baha Mar FAILED TO PAY.” It is true that government paid the wages and salaries of Bahamian employees (not on time in the first week), but it is not true that “Baha Mar failed to pay.” The truth is that Baha Mar was prevented by government from paying its staff. If government can twist the truth in this manner, what else is it playing with in an attempt to insult the intelligence of the Bahamian people?
Government members are miffed because Mr Izmirlian was astute enough not to tell Prime Minister Christie of his plans to file for bankruptcy protection under chapter 11 of Delaware’s bankruptcy court. However, he had made it quite clear to Mr Christie that the resort was bankrupt, that he was having difficulty with the contractor, and work had stopped. Unless something was done urgently, the resort would not open. Mr Christie should not have been surprised at Mr Izmirlian’s next move.
As lawyer Fred Smith, QC, remarked Mr Izmirlian did what “any other businessman would have done.” Under chapter 11, he not only safeguarded his family’s $850-$900 million investment, but ensured that he could continue to pay his staff — all of his staff, both Bahamian and foreign —reorganise, complete the hotel and open it so that he could earn enough to pay his creditors.
Mr Smith found it “regrettable” that Mr Christie considered Mr Izmirlian’s filing for protection — a protection not offered in the courts of the Bahamas — a personal betrayal.
“He (Mr Izmirlian), as a businessman, is doing no more or no less than any other businessman would do in protecting his commercial interests. His interests are not political,” said Mr Smith. The Prime Minister is treating the entire problem through the eyes of a politician, not a practical businessman.
And, said Mr Smith, Mr Izmirlian could not have given advance notice to the Government of his Chapter 11 intentions for fear the move would have leaked to the Chinese or other creditors, and they would have moved to either block this or foreclose on their security.
One must always remember — especially here in the Bahamas — that a secret is only a secret as long as it never escapes your lips. We commend Mr Izmirlian for his sagacity.
Government cried infringement of sovereignty, ignoring the fact that our court was not being overlooked.
Rather, it was being asked by the Delaware court to facilitate the recognition of Delaware’s decisions in the Bahamas.
The second person who should be kept as far away from these deliberations as possible is Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell, who is also the minister for Immigration.
Apparently, Mr Mitchell believes that Sarkis Izmirlian, whose family has been here for the past 40 years, and who himself is not only a permanent resident, but has made this his home for the past 15 years, should be expelled from the Bahamas.
This has opened a whole new problem for the Prime Minister, which we shall deal with later — if the foreign press does not beat us to it.