By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell has blasted Former Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette for suggesting that his comments about Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian were inappropriate and sent the wrong message to foreign investors.
Mr Mitchell said this week that Mr Symonette was "in no position to tell (him) about appropriateness." He cautioned Mr Symonette to "keep his advice to himself", and further said the former immigration minister should "go hide under the rock from whence he came".
On Sunday, Mr Mitchell issued an apparent veiled threat at Mr Izmirlian, saying that if previous ministers of immigration such as Carl Francis, Arthur Hanna or Loftus Roker were faced with Mr Izmirlian in their day, "he would not have lasted the next day within the borders of the Bahamas".
That came after Baha Mar released a scathing statement about the government, accusing the Christie administration of "concocting a sideshow for its own purposes."
On Monday, Mr Symonette told The Tribune Mr Mitchell's conduct was not fitting behaviour for a Cabinet minister. Mr Symonette said he was grateful that "we no longer live under the days when a government can threaten residents with revocation of their status". He said Mr Mitchell's comments did not send a good message to investors.
However, Mr Mitchell said in a statement: "I thank Brent Symonette to keep his advice to himself. The day I take advice from him is the day pigs grow wings. He is in no position to tell me about appropriateness. I implore him once again to go hide under the rock from whence he came."
Last week, Baha Mar released a critical statement about the government, accusing the Christie administration of "concocting a sideshow for its own purposes." The statement came after the Ministry of Finance blamed the resort for being slow to provide pertinent information, which led to the government's delay in paying Baha Mar employees earlier this month. Baha Mar shot back at the assertion and called the delay in workers' salaries "unconscionable and disappointing."
Hours later, Prime Minister Perry Christie said he had "grave concern" for the state of Mr Izmirlian's mind due to the nature of the resort's press release.
During an Independence Day speech in Exuma however, Mr Mitchell hit out at the developer, who has permanent residence in the Bahamas.
He pointed to the stance taken by the late Sir Lynden Pindling towards accusations of political malfeasance leveled by American media, insisting that this set the stage for the country's no-tolerance approach to disrespect.
"You can't come to the Bahamas and talk to our leaders anyway you like," Mr Mitchell said. "You (got to) be crazy.
"In that independence generation, if Carl Francis or Arthur Hanna or Loftus Roker who served as ministers of immigration were faced with the developer in the Bahamas of that day, he would not have lasted the next day within the borders of the Bahamas.
"These are of course different times, kinder gentler days," Mr Mitchell added.
When asked about Mr Mitchell's statements on Monday, Mr Symonette said: "Thank goodness we have progressed from those days. Thank God we no longer under the days when a government can threaten residents with revocation of their status. This does not send a good message to other investors, and we need to be very careful that we're not threatening people with revocation."
He added: "I don't think that is the behaviour of a Cabinet minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs."
Earlier this week, former Immigration Minister Loftus Roker said Mr Izmirlian has blatantly disrespected this country because he has no regard for Mr Christie.
Essentially confirming Mr Mitchell's remarks regarding Mr Izmirlian, Mr Roker said had the Baha Mar CEO acted in contempt of this country and its leadership when he served as minister in the Pindling administration, the resort developer would have been kicked out of the country and banned from returning.
Mr Roker also said that the harsh words Mr Izmirlian has had for the government may be an indication of further "conflict" behind the scenes of the Baha Mar crisis.
The war of words is part of an ongoing saga that unfolded after developers of the $3.5b mega resort filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US on June 29, a move that reportedly blindsided the government. On Thursday night, Mr Christie announced that the government has filed a winding up petition in the Supreme Court to take the fate of the stalled Baha Mar project out of the hands of Mr Izmirlian and put it under the supervision of the Bahamian court system and provisional liquidators.