By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Fred Mitchell yesterday declared that there was an “existential” threat to the governance of the country due to the deliberate and improper political interference of a “single investor”.
In what could be perceived as a veiled reference to the public spat between Prime Minister Perry Christie and Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian, Mr Mitchell explained that the country is now faced with the realization that an investor could singlehandedly attempt to destabilize governance if not properly managed.
His comments came as he outlined contentious issues that threatened peace and security in both the country and the region during a speech at a United Nations Security Council meeting in New Zealand.
The Foreign Affairs minister told delegates that matters of environment, fighting crime, and containing illegal immigration were at the very root of Bahamian existence.
“I added unemployment and the economy to the list,” he said.
“On that front, The Bahamas faces now a threat which is existential to good governance, the realization that a single investor can if not properly managed seek to destabilize the governance of a country by its dominance of the economy and by deliberately and improperly interfering in the local politics of the country.”
The stalled $3.5bn Baha Mar project has dominated headlines this month as protracted talks to reach an agreement between developer and contractor China Construction America have failed.
The resort filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in a Delaware court on June 29, a move that reportedly blindsided the government and sparked a firestorm of allegations.
The government, Baha Mar, China Construction America, and China Export Import Bank head to the Supreme Court today for a hearing on its petition to wind up the project––a process the government initiated while opposing the developers’ efforts to have its US Chapter 11 proceedings recognized here.
Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian this week said he felt personally attacked by Perry Christie and the government of the Bahamas, adding that if the Prime Minister applied the same pressure on the China Import Export Bank and China Construction America as they did the resort, “there would already be a deal”.
Mr Izmirlian said that while he thought the Prime Minister was genuine in his effort to act in the best interests of the country, he believes Mr Christie is “getting bad advice” to the detriment of the Bahamian people.
Mr Christie questioned Mr Izmirlian’s mental health earlier this month because of what he interpreted as an “intemperate tone and incorrect content” of a press statement issued by the resort.
Since then, Mr Mitchell has also voiced his displeasure with Mr Izmirlian’s statements about the government and Mr Christie.
During Independence Day celebrations, he suggested 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”.
Earlier in the month, he described the bankruptcy filing as an “act of unfairness on the Bahamian people”, and cautioned that onlookers of the stalled $3.5bn project must not be “hornswoggled” by selfish acts disguised as altruism.
At the UN meeting on the “Peace and Security of Small Island Developing States” (SIDS), Mr Mitchell continued: “Add to that the efforts by various multilateral bodies and some member states to undermine the economies of many Caricom states by imposing mandates on the financial services sectors now an essential part of our economies. These imposed mandates are inimical to fair trade.
“While these multilateral bodies and member states may see their zeal on tax collection as a moral triumph on their part, the resultant destruction which moving the goal posts and changing the rules without consultation causes, is not a moral triumph but a moral negative.
“If the economies of our countries collapse, leading to the departure of the citizens from home, the migration which it will cause can only be destabilising around the world.
“That is a threat to peace and security,” he added.