By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FNM Chairman Michael Pintard yesterday criticised Prime Minister Perry Christie for his “unhelpful and unhealthy” war of words with Baha Mar over delayed salary payments to the resort’s employees.
He said that Mr Christie’s actions have now placed the government in “the unfortunate position” of not being able to function as a mediator in the dispute between Baha Mar and its general contractor.
Mr Pintard also said the recent spat with the government and Baha Mar will cause it to “increasingly have difficulty” in “functioning as an honest broker in future discussions” with the resort and various stakeholders.
He was asked to comment on a statement released by Mr Christie on Monday night, in which the nation’s leader questioned the state of mind of Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian. Mr Christie’s statement was released hours after Baha Mar accused the government of creating a “side show,” adding that the delay in salary payments was “disgraceful.”
Yesterday, Mr Pintard said the government has a duty to protect the country’s reputation and its “number one priority” should be collaborating with all stakeholders involved.
“The government should be collaborating with them to ensure that we’re able to jumpstart fruitful negotiations and to quickly move to getting the project back on track,” he said, when contacted for comment. “Clearly, based on the unfortunate exchanges being reported between the government and the developer, the government now has placed itself in the unfortunate position of not being able to function as a mediator. So that’s off the table.
“Secondly, the government is going to increasingly have difficulty in functioning as an honest broker in future discussions, because on the surface it has chosen sides in this conflict that originally was cast as a conflict between the construction company and the developer. As the facts emerge, more than having chosen sides, the government will increasingly be cast as one of the contributing reasons why the project is unable in a timely fashion to get back on track.”
He added: “So while the government is seeking to protect reputation, assets, the livelihood of Bahamians, it should not make incendiary statements, nor should it take irrational or politically motivated actions that would further derail the process, because its unhelpful for Mr Christie to be engaging in ongoing public arguments or unpleasant characterisations of the people he must sit down with and conduct business with on our behalf.”
Mr Pintard also suggested that the spat between the government and Baha Mar is the end result of a strained business relationship between the two parties.
“What I believe has precipitated these unfortunate remarks about Mr Izmirlian, is the fact that he revealed that what the government was saying publicly about expenditure they had made on behalf of the workers, was in fact untrue, that it has not been done in the timeline they had mentioned,” the senator added.
“So this public revelation by the developer is merely a continuation of the public exchange between the government and the developer that should have been done in private. This is only a continuation of that same relationship they seemed to have had prior to the filing of Chapter 11 (bankruptcy). They weren’t communicating in earnest before Chapter 11, and clearly that communication has gotten even worse subsequent to Chapter 11.”
On Monday, Baha Mar blasted the government for “concocting a sideshow for its own purposes” after the Christie administration accused the resort of being slow to provide necessary information, thus delaying salary payments to the resort’s employees.
Baha Mar, in denying the assertion, called the government’s actions “disgraceful,” and blasted the Christie administration for being “unable to deliver on its promise regarding Baha Mar citizens.”
In a statement issued shortly before midnight on Monday, Mr Christie lambasted Baha Mar for these comments. Mr Christie said at a time when rationality and cool heads are required to deal with the matter, Baha Mar’s leadership “appears to be going to pieces under the mounting pressure.”
The statement added that Mr Christie had “grave concern” for the mental state of Mr Izmirlian.
Mr Christie also said he was “at a loss to recall any previous instance of a foreign investor who took it upon himself to publicly excoriate the government of the day in such a shrill and belligerent manner.”
“Be that as it may,” Mr Christie added, “this is no time for Mr Izmirlian to buckle under the pressure and lose his balance…He needs to keep his nerves steady, stop talking nonsense, and join with the government and all other interested parties in reaching a speedy and definitive resolution of the current crisis. That is where my focus is and that is where Mr Izmirlian’s focus should be as well.”
The government said Baha Mar’s workers were paid on Tuesday.
Baha Mar filed for bankruptcy in a US court on June 29.