By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
NEGOTIATIONS in Beijing are believed to have got off to a rocky start over the weekend with Baha Mar representatives refusing to attend meetings amid claims that general contractor China Construction America was not operating in good faith.
According to a source, the resort has major frustrations with the process which they feel has been one-sided and deeply flawed. The team is understood not to have been present at yesterday afternoon’s negotiations, according to the source, who revealed that the resort was only willing to resume talks if it receives a counter-offer on terms outlined in a revised Memorandum of Understanding put forward by CCA.
The resort is understood to have raised grave concerns about the intent of the four-party negotiations, which appeared to be siding with a general contractor that remained inflexible and disregarding Baha Mar’s efforts to achieve a consensus.
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced on Friday that a government delegation led by Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson would return to China for the resumption of negotiations “aimed at the early completion and opening of the Baha Mar resort”.
This is the second time the delegation will join representatives of Baha Mar, China Construction and China Export Import Bank in Beijing.
Following the earlier visit, Mrs Maynard-Gibson filed a winding-up petition in the Supreme Court after those negotiations reached a stalemate.
Mr Christie explained that talks in Beijing broke down because the resort refused to drop both its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and legal action against CCA in the United Kingdom.
In its response, Baha Mar accused Mr Christie of misleading the country over the details of ongoing discussions in China and further jeopardising the future of the $3.5bn mega resort.
Baha Mar, the government, CCA and China Export-Import Bank will be back in the Supreme Court for a hearing on the winding-up petition on July 31.
In a letter to EXIM Bank president Liu Liange on Thursday, Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian said the petition would create “terrible uncertainties”, further delaying the resort’s opening and damaging the country’s economy.
Mr Izmirlian argues that liquidation of the complex project would negatively impact or cancel its multiple management contracts with major international hotel brands, and multiple leases with retailers and other operators – a move that would make it impossible to operate the resort in the short term even if it were completed.
In his statement on Friday, Mr Christie said: “Assuring the prompt resumption, completion and opening of the development is fundamental to protecting our national interest. The most effective way to preserve the livelihood of Baha Mar’s workers, protect investors and realise the project’s great economic promise for all the Bahamas is to ensure the completion and opening of Baha Mar as soon as possible.”
Noting that most of the parties would be represented in Beijing by persons with executive authority, Mr Christie said that it would be helpful to the negotiating process to have Sarkis Izmirlian present in person as Baha Mar’s chief decision-maker.
Baha Mar is represented in Beijing by Tom Dunlap, its president.
“Should the parties reach an agreement, the parties can get back to the completion and opening of the resort without further litigation or other delay,” the Prime Minister added.
“If no agreement is reached, there will still be the option of a restructuring and relaunch of the project under the authority of a provisional liquidator and the supervision of our Supreme Court, if the court is minded to so order after hearing from all sides.
“The preferred solution, however, would obviously be an amicable out-of-court settlement between all the parties.”
In addition to the Attorney General, the Government’s delegation includes Sir Baltron Bethel, Senior Advisor to the Prime Minister; Commander (retired) Loren Klein, Consultant to the Office of the Attorney General; Shari Moxey, Office of the Attorney General; and Kristel Thompson Bethel, Office of the Prime Minister.