By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
PRIME Minister Perry Christie last night said the government will not take any sides in the ongoing dispute between Baha Mar and its Chinese financiers, as the Official Opposition reacted with “shock” over the mega-resort’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing in the United States yesterday.
Mr Christie pledged, in a statement, that the government will continue to help mediate talks between all parties involved and ensure that the interests of Bahamian workers are given priority.
He added that Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson is currently reviewing Baha Mar’s bankruptcy filing and is in discussions with the government’s US and UK attorneys on the implications of the decision.
“I note the statement that has been given today by Mr Sarkis Izmirlian that he and the Baha Mar group remain committed to the pursuit of an early and definitive settlement of their outstanding differences with the lender and general contractor to the Baha Mar resort,” Mr Christie said.
“The government continues to be available to all the parties to assist in the mediation and resolution of their differences. In doing so, however, the government will not be taking anyone’s side. Instead, the government will at all times continue to optimise its value as a mediator between the parties so as to ensure that the interests of Bahamian workers and indeed the interests of the nation as a whole are accorded primacy at all times.
“The government has taken note of certain legal initiatives that have been taken by Baha Mar in the courts of the United States to secure creditor protection. The Attorney General is presently reviewing these initiatives and their implications in conjunction with the government’s US and UK attorneys. Until this review has been completed, it would obviously not be appropriate to make any further comment on this aspect of the matter.”
Mr Christie said the government remains hopeful that the resort will open soon and fulfill its “promise as an important new dimension” in the tourism product.
Yesterday, Free National Movement (FNM) Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said the bankruptcy filing has caused “disquiet” and “alarm.”
“The Free National Movement deeply regrets that matters have come to such a pass and is particularly concerned about the well-being and job security of the thousands of Bahamians presently employed by Baha Mar and the plight faced by the many thousands more Bahamians who have looked to Baha Mar as their means of escape from the harsh circumstances of chronic and high unemployment levels, most particularly thousands of young Bahamians,” Dr Minnis said.
He added that the party will hold a press conference today about its concerns.
This year, Mr Christie has been accused of sending mixed messages on Baha Mar and not working hard enough to ensure the property opens as soon as possible.
The news of the bankruptcy came after weeks of suggestions from Mr Christie that a resolution was pending to the dispute between Baha Mar and general contractor China Construction America.
Two weeks ago Mr Christie said he had received “encouraging” news about the Baha Mar deadlock.
At the time, on June 17, he said he planned to meet with Baha Mar CEO Sarkis Izmirlian to discuss the good news, upon the latter’s return from China for talks with the resort’s financier, China Export-Import Bank.
“It’s happening, good news is happening right now,” Mr Christie told reporters. “I’m going to make a call right now to see whether he (Izmirlian) has landed.”
On May 11, he expressed optimism after mediating a meeting with Baha Mar, China Construction America and the Chinese ambassador to the Bahamas.
“I articulated a position that I think and that I hope will result shortly in a shared position on the part of all of us, which will give priority to the interests of the Bahamian people in addition to, of court, the interests and reputation of the Izmirlian family and the China Construction company,” he said at the time.
On Sunday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell, said a Baha Mar deal was “on the table”.
The bankruptcy appeared to have caught the government by surprise, with several Cabinet ministers telling The Tribune that they were not pre-warned and only heard about the matter when the news broke yesterday.
Baha Mar’s opening has been delayed three times. The property was originally expected to open in December 2014.