By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader yesterday demanded that Renward Wells and his new party chief disclose the “full circumstances” surrounding the $650 million Letter of Intent (LOI) controversy, arguing that it had set back both renewable energy and a resolution to the landfill’s ongoing fires.
Branville McCartney told Tribune Business that the Bamboo Town MP’s ‘party switch’ provided the perfect opportunity for him to reveal all, as he disclosed that Stellar Energy, the company on whose behalf the LOI was signed, had been “directed” not to employ his law firm.
Mr McCartney said Stellar’s executives told him they had been warned not to use Halsbury Chambers “if they want to do business” with the Government, and were instead directed to a law firm connected with the governing Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).
The DNA leader, whose law firms still acts as the registered office for one of Stellar’s companies, meanwhile said it would be “very curious” if Opposition leader, Dr Hubert Minnis, did not now also know the answers to the LOI controversy.
This was especially given the “aggressive” stance previously adopted by Dr Minnis, both in the House of Assembly and publicly, in demanding answers to the Stellar LOI affair - answers that have not been forthcoming from Mr Wells or the Christie administration.
Suggesting that he would not admit someone with such a background to the DNA without receiving satisfactory answers, Mr McCartney told Tribune Business: “Pressure ought to be brought to bear on the Leader of the Opposition as well as Mr Wells to let the people know what happened.
“I will call, and I think the country ought to call, now for full disclosure as to what transpired as regards the LOI.
“I would have thought Dr Minnis would know all the facts surrounding that, as in taking on Mr Wells it would not be reasonable to think he would not have discussed with him the issue of the LOI.”
The DNA leader added that it would be surprising if Dr Minnis had admitted Mr Wells to the FNM without getting the necessary explanation and assurances.
This was because the Opposition leader had previously been “aggressive” and “calling for his head” in demanding answers from Mr Wells and the Government over the affair.
Despite previous promises by both Mr Wells and Prime Minister Perry Christie, neither has divulged the circumstances and facts surrounding the former’s signing of a purported Letter of Intent between the Government and Stellar Energy - an action that ultimately led to his dismissal as Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works, following a delay of several months.
Mr Wells subsequently described the LOI as a ‘storm in a tea cup’, as it was non-binding and committed the Government to spending not a single cent.
He argued that the document was intended to allow Stellar Energy to conduct technical and engineering studies of the waste streams going into the New Providence landfill, so it could better develop its proposal for a $650 million waste-to-energy plant at the site.
Yet despite the seemingly innocent explanation, Mr Wells has so far failed to disclose the full background to his signing of the LOI.
He admitted in the House of Assembly on Wednesday that he had taken full responsibility for his actions, as he had not received “written authority” to sign the document.
That, though, could be taken to mean that he had been told orally - or thought he had been told - to go ahead with the LOI signing.
“These are political games that are being played, all to the detriment of the Bahamian people,” Mr McCartney charged to Tribune Business.
“We have not got anywhere in terms of that dump [landfill] being converted to energy, and the health hazards surrounding those fires. Nowhere have we moved forward in that regard.”
He added: “Wells was removed from his post, but we never got any answer on the LOI. That’s extremely important.
“The Prime Minister indicated he would give us the details of what transpired. He never did that. Mr Wells indicated he would give answers and explain the situation; he never did.
“I see nothing has moved in terms of Stellar and the dump since the debacle. The dump is still burning.”
Mr McCartney is incorrect in one respect, as Renew Bahamas has been given a five-year contract to manage the New Providence landfill. Rather than waste-to-energy, that company has embarked on a materials recycling facility in a bid to reduce the volume of waste going into it.
However, the DNA leader suggested that Mr Wells had been caught up as “a pawn” in a “battle” or “rift” between the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister over which was the better option - Stellar or Renew Bahamas - to fix the New Providence landfill’s problems.
“There seems to have been a rift between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business.
“What transpired, and why would an intelligent man like Mr Wells sign something like that without authority? He worked for the Ministry of Works prior to entering Parliament, so he would know he didn’t have the authority to sign a $650 million LOI.
“Based on what he said yesterday, the question is: Who told him to sign it? Why did he sign it, and what’s the big secret? It would seem very suspect, the circumstances surrounding the signing of the LOI,” the DNA leader added.
“Mr Wells got caught right in the middle, and was used as a pawn.”
Stellar executives previously revealed to Tribune Business that they had been negotiating with the Office of the Prime Minister and the National Energy Task Force over their project, the latter of which was headed by Mr Wells. But there was no mention of Mr Davis or the Ministry of Works.
Mr McCartney, though, moved yesterday to dispel suggestions that his law firm acted for Stellar Energy. While it acts as the registered office for one of the latter’s companies, the DNA leader said its executives told him they were directed by government to use another law firm.
“Stellar Energy was directed that if they want to do business, they need to go to another law firm,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business.
“That law firm was a PLP-connected law firm. That is the bottom line. I know the guys from Stellar myself. They said to me: ‘Bran, sorry. We’ve been directed otherwise’. That’s typical PLP style.”