By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie yesterday said the warnings issued to Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian by two of his Cabinet ministers is not the position of the government.
He said that while the recent comments by Foreign Affairs and Immigration Minister Fred Mitchell and Labour Minister Shane Gibson about the developer were not sanctioned by him, he accepted their remarks. He also said he was not forewarned that the ministers were going to say what they did.
He also responded to Mr Izmirlian’s recent statement that he was in a fight with the government, telling reporters that the developer did not understand the true meaning of his own words.
“The ministers were reflecting their feelings,” Mr Christie said. “Most of the ministers who spoke said they were doing it because they were offended that there was disrespect to the Office of the Prime Minister. So my point is I accept that that’s what they said, I accept that that’s why they said it.
“But it was peculiar to them, and the government of the Bahamas is spoken for and on behalf of by myself in this particular matter and that’s the position I’m taking.”
Speaking to the status of negotiations over the stalled project, Mr Christie said he recently wrote to Mr Izmirlian advising the developer to meet with China Construction America and China Export Import Bank to settle the matter because “windows of opportunity” were closing.
“I wrote a letter to Mr Izmirlian indicating that it was very, very important, because windows of opportunity closing, that he meets with the contractor and the bank to settle the matters because the matters are between Baha Mar, the EXIM bank, and the construction company.”
On Tuesday, in a memo sent to Baha Mar employees, Mr Izmirlian said in his 13 years working on the Baha Mar project, he “never imagined” he would be “fighting” with the government over the $3.5b Cable Beach property.
Yesterday, Mr Christie said: “No, there was never an intention to be in a fight. I only got involved because he (Mr Izmirlian) invited me to help. I stayed involved because he kept on asking me to help, and I never intended it to be a fight, it never should be a fight and I’m surprised to see that he said he didn’t expect to be in a fight with the government.
“I don’t think he understands what a fight with the government is. When you fight with the government, that’s a real fight. There’s no such thing as a fight with the government.”
The developer has been embroiled in a war of words between the government, and its general contractor China Construction America (CCA), since the resort filed for bankruptcy on June 29.
Foreign Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has repeatedly chastised Mr Izmirlian over the bankruptcy filing and what he termed as numerous “attacks” on Mr Christie’s handling of the matter.
Earlier this week, Mr Mitchell warned the developer that his permanent residency status could be revoked. He also suggested that Mr Izmirlian consider living elsewhere if he cannot conform to the expected conduct of “economic guests.”
He also hit out at Mr Izmirlian during a speech at the United Nations last week.
On Wednesday, Labour Minister Shane Gibson defended Mr Mitchell’s public warnings to the developer, and further suggested that the government should now begin performing “psychological evaluations” on all foreign developers seeking to do business in this country.
“Some ministers have made remarks,” Mr Christie told reporters at the ground-breaking ceremony for The Pointe, a new development borne out of CCA’s acquisition of the British Colonial Hilton and the adjacent 6.1 acre property.
He said: “They made remarks and I’ve noted the remarks. They were not remarks that they spoke to me about, to say I’m going to say this and do that, and they made remarks and those remarks reflected how they felt.
“But from the point of view that all of the remarks they made were personal and peculiar to the minister,” Mr Christie said, “it does not reflect the view of the government.”
“The government’s view would be reflected by me in the correspondence I write and the position I take on behalf of the government, and I think each minister said so.”
Last month in response to a scathing press release from the resort, Mr Christie openly questioned the mental health of the Baha Mar CEO.
The government’s statement read: “It is particularly regrettable, that at a time when rationality and cool heads are required to deal with the current crisis at Baha Mar, the company’s leadership appears to be going to pieces under the mounting pressure.”
It continued: “The prime minister said that today’s statement from Baha Mar has given him grave concern for the state of Mr Izmirlian’s mind.”