By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie last night said he has set a date to hold mediated discussions this weekend at a mutually agreed location with Baha Mar executives, China State Construction and the China Export-Import Bank.
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In a statement, Mr Christie urged Baha Mar to immediately agree to the invitation.
This came hours after the Supreme Court accepted an adjournment request by Baha Mar’s legal team into a hearing on whether the court will ratify a US bankruptcy court’s approval to allow the resort to access debtor-in-possession financing as part of its shock Chapter 11 filing last week.
This new round of discussions, Mr Christie said, will convene on an urgent basis with a view to developing a way forward that would see construction at the West Bay Street property resume immediately.
Mr Christie said despite the events of the last eight days – which have seen the government, the resort and its general contractor bicker in the press – he has accepted the requests by all parties to mediate negotiations.
“I was dismayed by the decision by Baha Mar to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the United States,” Mr Christie’s statement read, “while other parties as well as the government were engaging in good faith negotiations.
“However, in the spirit of working in the best interest of the Bahamas, I have, and I want all involved to put aside the antics of the past several days and meet with a clean slate and with cool heads. The meetings must result in an intact and formally signed agreement on an action plan for the completion of the project, similar to the agreement discussed prior to Baha Mar filing for Chapter 11. This in my view is not optional.”
Mr Christie said there is no question that the best thing for the country and for the Bahamian people is for Baha Mar to open successfully and swiftly, so that the country can benefit from the economic activity and jobs it will create.
“For this reason, the government supported the adjournment petition brought forth by Baha Mar (on Tuesday) during Supreme Court proceedings, but with one singular condition: that all parties reconvene negotiations on an urgent basis and develop a way forward that would see construction resume immediately.
“It has always been in the best interest of all involved to negotiate a solution outside of the courts, which is what the government has been supporting over the last several weeks. Despite the happenings of the past eight days, I have accepted the request by all parties to mediate continued negotiation sessions,” Mr Christie added.
“I have just been informed that China State Construction as well as China Export-Import Bank have agreed to participate in mediated negotiations. I have set a date of this weekend for this to occur at a location agreeable to all parties. I exhort Baha Mar to agree immediately to the same and I await the developer’s confirmation.”
He reiterated that his administration would continue to be transparent with all Bahamians over the matter. Mr Christie said he would continue to be neutral while standing firmly on the side of the Bahamian people. He said Bahamians deserve swift resolution to this matter.
Earlier yesterday, State Legal Affairs Minister Damian Gomez said he was hopeful that all parties could set aside the bitter public feud to make progress on a settlement.
Should the negotiations yield no results, Mr Gomez said the government, through its attorneys will proceed with additional applications to the court.
“We at least now have an opportunity to negotiate in good faith,” Mr Gomez, who represented the Crown in the Supreme Court hearing, said. “We will entreat all of the parties, to immediately do so. We’re ready, willing and able at any time from this moment on.”
The Supreme Court hearing has been adjourned to July 20, with a status hearing set for July 14.
This week, Baha Mar’s relationship with the government and its general contractor China Construction America (CCA) became more strained.
On Monday, Baha Mar slammed 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 for the last pay period.
The resort also questioned why the Christie administration is not supporting the resort’s developer Sarkis Izmirlian, who it said has been “victimised” by CCA, adding that the government’s actions have “sown doubt” about the project’s future.
The controversy came after the government announced the resort’s staff would be paid on Tuesday.
Hours later, Mr Christie shot back saying he was disappointed in both the intemperate tone and incorrect content of Baha Mar’s press statement. He also questioned Mr Izmirlian’s mental health.
And in a statement released shortly after midnight on Tuesday, CCA blasted Baha Mar saying the resort’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing was a direct result of its failure to secure adequate financing and its mismanagement of the property’s design. This included replacing the chief architect after construction started along with late and incomplete delivery of the design packages and over 1,300 construction change directives, CCA said.
The government agreed to pay Baha Mar salaries last week, after an earlier adjournment of the Supreme Court’s hearing into Baha Mar’s application to ratify access to the debtor-in-possession financing.