By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday called Baha Mar’s recent bankruptcy filing a “national disaster”, and blasted Prime Minister Perry Christie for “willingly being the purveyor of untruths” on the status of the project.
Dr Minnis suggested that Mr Christie has continuously misled the public about the financial state of affairs surrounding the $3.5bn Cable Beach mega-resort, as well as the status of the impasse at the resort due to a dispute between Baha Mar and its general contractor, China Construction America (CCA). Last night, Mr Christie refuted those claims in a statement.
Dr Minnis said Mr Christie should “come clean with the Bahamian people” and “state factually and succinctly the exact circumstances governing developments” at Baha Mar. He added that the Christie administration was caught “flatfooted and in the dark” when the news broke.
He said the government appears to be “clueless as to their next move” on the matter.
On Monday, Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian announced that Baha Mar filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware Court in the United States “in order to complete construction and successfully open.”
The shock announcement came less than two weeks after Mr Christie said he received “encouraging” news about a possible impending resolution to the Baha Mar deadlock. Prior to that, Mr Christie continuously expressed optimism over a near conclusion to the dispute, which has led Baha Mar to delay its opening three times.
At a press conference at the Free National Movement headquarters yesterday, however, Dr Minnis said it was “abundantly clear” that “none of Mr Christie’s announcements of resolution and good news were based on believable facts.”
“Over the past two months, the prime minister has repeatedly told the Bahamian people that he was on his way to or from a meeting with representatives of the developer, the construction company and the banker,” he said. “He has been ‘fervently’ hopeful for a resolution to the problems affecting the development or excitedly waiting for confirmation of ‘good news’.
“We in the FNM renew our call for the government and very particularly for the prime minister to come clean with the Bahamian people and to state factually and succinctly the exact circumstances governing developments at this major development.”
This year, Mr Christie has been accused of sending mixed messages on Baha Mar and not working hard enough to ensure the property opens as soon as possible.
On June 17, he said he planned to meet with Mr Izmirlian to discuss “good” news, upon the latter’s return from China for talks with the resort’s financier, China Export-Import Bank.
During his budget communication on May 27, Mr Christie said Baha Mar’s developer was nearing the end of talks with China Construction on the completion of the project and the announcement of the resort’s opening date.
On May 11, he expressed optimism after mediating a meeting with Baha Mar, China Construction America and the Chinese ambassador to the Bahamas. He said he “articulated a position” that would result in a “shared position” between the three parties which would give “priority” to the “interests of Bahamian people,” the resort and China Construction.
In Monday’s statement to the media, Mr Izmirlian said Baha Mar would continue for a period to operate and fund payroll. However, if a consensual resolution is not made in the next few weeks, he said Baha Mar will “have to make some extremely difficult decisions that would include workforce reduction.”
That same day more than 2,000 Baha Mar workers were told to stay at home until further notice as the mega-resort pledged to pay salaries and benefits for the next three weeks until it begins court hearings on its bankruptcy claim.
On this issue, Dr Minnis said: “We are especially concerned for the 2,000 plus employees of the resort whose continued employment is in jeopardy. And we are concerned for all the Bahamian contractors engaged by the developers who have no idea when Baha Mar will be in a position to make good on monies owed to them for work completed and continuing up to a few days ago.”