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‘What A Tangled Web We Weave’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The Democratic National Alliance’s (DNA) leader says the Bahamian people “cannot let go” the Renward Wells ‘Letter of Intent’ (LOI) because they are “the biggest losers” from the saga.

Branville McCartney again renewed his demands for the Christie administration, plus Mr Wells, to “come clean” over the controversy following Friday’s revelations by Tribune Business.

This newspaper revealed documents which showed that the Government intended to issue an LOI - the same document signed by Mr Wells, and which led to his resignation as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Works - to Stellar Energy over its $600-$650 million waste-to-energy plant proposal.

In particular, a May 26, 2014, letter from Michael Halkitis, minister of state for finance, to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) then-Bahamas country representative, said that “the Government has issued an initial LOI” to Stellar Energy.

That letter was dated some five to six weeks BEFORE Mr Wells signed the fateful July 4, 2014, LOI with Stellar that led to his downfall and eventual resignation, prior to his decision to ‘cross the floor’ and join the Free National Movement (FNM).

Mr Halkitis accused Tribune Business of implying that he had acted improperly in relation to the IDB letter, and “creating the impression of something untoward on my part”, but this newspaper made no such suggestion and did no such thing.

And, while confirming that the documents seen by Tribune Business are genuine, Mr Halkitis failed to answer the main question that they - and this newspaper - raised: Why did the Wells LOI become so controversial, given the Government’s seeming intention to issue such a document to the same company?

Mr Halkitis’s May 26, 2014, letter to Astrid Wynter, the IDB’s then-Bahamas country representative, deals exclusively with Stellar Energy’s proposal for a 70-80 Megawatt (MW) waste-to-energy plant to be located at the New Providence landfill on Tonique Williams Highway.

“The Bahamian government is considering the inclusion of waste-to-energy as a supplementary platform in the overall reform of the energy sector of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas,” Mr Halkitis wrote to Ms Wynter.

“Waste-to-energy has been recognised by the Bahamas government as a fundamental part to achieve the overall goal of the energy reform. To this effect, the Bahamas government has issued to SE [Stellar Energy] Group an initial LOI.”

The LOI was even attached to the letter, for Mr Halkitis tells Ms Wynter to “see attachment A” in reference to the document.

Responding to Tribune Business’s exclusive revelations, Mr McCartney said they raised further questions in relation to the LOI controversy that required urgent answers from both the Christie administration and its former parliamentary secretary.

“What a tangled web we weave,” he told Tribune Business.

“I would like for the Government, inclusive of Renward Wells, to come clean with the Bahamian people. They’ve played the Bahamian people for fools because of their personal agendas and ambitions.”

The DNA leader urged the public to become more proactive in seeking answers from their political leaders, adding in reference to the LOI: “We sat back, and allowed it.

“And, as a result, we have lost as a country in terms of that landfill being remediated by waste-to-energy.”

Mr McCartney said the LOI controversy, and subsequent fall-out, meant that the Bahamas had incurred an ‘opportunity cost’ from the failure of the Stellar Energy project to move forward.

Several observers have previously questioned to Tribune Business the technology that Stellar was proposing to employ; its belief that the New Providence landfill could generate 74 Mega Watts (MW) of energy; the scale of the $600-$650 million project, and whether the company had the necessary financing.

Mr McCartney, though, implied that the LOI saga meant the Bahamas would likely never discover the answers to these questions and ‘what might have been’ in terms of a remediated landfill that spawned no fires or health concerns.

“We are the losers, the Bahamian people are the losers, because that landfill is still there; it has not been remediated,” Mr McCartney told Tribune Business.

“It has caused health concerns, it has caused business concerns. It has impacted the environment, regrettably. We still have a landfill site that has not moved in terms of remediation, and it becoming waste-to-energy. The Bahamian people are really the losers.

“This LOI situation, we cannot let it go with what’s been going on, especially with this dump stuff. We need to get answers from the Government. They’re doing things that cause us as a country to be where we are.”

Mr McCartney reiterated his belief that Mr Wells, and the LOI, had been caught up in a power struggle within the Christie administration over the best solution for the New Providence landfill’s woes.

“I think there may have been a struggle between the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister as to who should get the contract,” the DNA leader told Tribune Business.

“One party wanted Stellar, the other didn’t, and that’s what brought it to the boil. That’s where the debacle came in.”

He continued: “The Prime Minister would have been aware of what was going on, and I put it to him: He was aware of the situation surrounding the LOI, and he failed to tell the Bahamian people the story.

“What a shame. The secrecy of the PLP. All of which is detrimental to the Bahamian people.”

Mr McCartney also had harsh words for the FNM over its seeming failure to pursue answers over the LOI, now that Mr Wells had been appointed Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly.

“The FNM is now as culpable as the PLP in this,” he blasted. “They’re keeping quiet, and using it for political expediency. They are two sides of the same coin. Disgraceful. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

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