By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie must demand “face to face” talks with the president of China and “pressure” that country to find a resolution to the ongoing Baha Mar impasse as The Bahamas is set to face “critical” times because the resort remains closed, Tall Pines MP Leslie Miller said yesterday.
During a passionate interview, Mr Miller was also adamant that the Christie administration should push for Chinese officials to remove the fate of the $3.5bn development from the hands of its court appointed receivers.
A move like this, Mr Miller told The Tribune, would “put the Chinese on the spot” sending a clear message to them that “the game is over” and the resort open.
He said the government should even consider going as far as to “threaten” the Chinese that if no resolve is found, the Bahamas government would place a stop on further work at The Pointe, which is a China Construction America (CCA) Bahamas led project. CCA was also the general contractor for Baha Mar.
When reminded that a Bahamian delegation had already visited China twice to negotiate about the resort without success, Mr Miller suggested that the Chinese did not take those talks seriously.
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson led a delegation comprised of several key government officials to Beijing twice last July.
“The fact that the prime minister supports the idea that Mr [Sarkis] Izmirlian deserves a chance to continue the project and in light of what was said by the receiver [Raymond] Winder, it is now imperative that the prime minister and a few colleagues make a visit to China and see the president and get this matter resolved,” Mr Miller said yesterday.
“The resort is almost complete [and] tough decisions need to be made immediately in order to enable the project to restart, [to] enable the project to become open [and] to enable those 4,000 jobs to be realised by Bahamians from all walks of life.
He added: “Those people only deal with the top echelon in the country that is the prime minister or the deputy prime minister. They [the Bahamian delegation] did not see the president of China. They saw the people from the Export Import Bank [of China].
“You now must go to the top. There is no reason to deal with the underlings who are in no position to make those final determinations as for us to move forward. Therefore it’s now, in my opinion, in the hands of the Chinese government.
“You must sit face to face around a table and say ‘listen man it must be done on behalf of the Bahamian people.’ In fact I would dare say I would sort of indicate that you know as things stand now we don’t see no reason why we should allow you to finish the project with the British Colonial Hilton Hotel without finishing Baha Mar at the same time. We need the same preference you putting on British Colonial. That same resolve should go into completing Baha Mar.”
Mr Miller also raised concerns over the property falling into disrepair as it has been sitting unused, but largely complete. He said this also has implications for Bahamian businesses.
“This also affects negatively the retail sector and wholesale sector too because all those merchants, especially the wholesale food places, and all the people who provide services were looking forward to this. They probably went a borrowed money towards this.
“The project needs to be resurrected and I think it needs to be pulled out of the hands of the receivers. That can only be done by the president.”
Baha Mar announced that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on June 29 in a US court. However the cases for the resort’s Bahamian properties were thrown out.
Last October, the Supreme Court placed the resort into receivership at the request of the EXIM Bank.
A formal sale process for the $3.5 billion project began last month, when Baha Mar’s court appointed receivers hired a Canadian real estate firm to market the project to potential buyers.
The resort was initially slated to open December 2014, but faced a series of delays, which it blamed on CCA.