By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
FREE National Movement Shadow Minister of Labour Loretta Butler-Turner castigated the Christie administration yesterday over the decision to seal the court documents relating to the new deal to open the shuttered $3.5bn Baha Mar resort, branding this as “deceptive” and “reprehensible” on all levels.
This, she said, only serves the selfish interests of Prime Minister Perry Christie and his government.
Also weighing in on the matter yesterday, FNM Leader Dr Hubert Minnis said the Official Opposition is “shocked and dismayed” the government sanctioned the decision to seal the documents, adding only dictatorial and corrupt governments carry out the work of the country in the “dark of night.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Butler-Turner also questioned the timing of the government’s Baha Mar announcement, insisting that it was a ploy to distract Bahamians from Moody’s Investor Service downgrading this country’s credit rating one notch to Baa3 from Baa2.
In an interview with The Tribune, the Long Island MP insisted that Bahamians were intelligent enough to recognise a “duplicitous and delusional” prime minister who was intent on playing “dinosaur games”.
Mrs Butler-Turner went on to warn that these games will not work in an information age where people are not interested in sealed documents and “secretive” dealings.
And while the government celebrates the “successful negotiations” the MP said she will not be impressed until she sees Bahamians physically working, in receipt of the money they are owed and with contracts in hand to move forward.
The reaction from the FNM came after it was revealed that the court documents related to the deal between the Export-Import Bank of China and the government regarding Baha Mar to remobilise construction at the West Bay Street Property have been sealed.
“What I found interesting to say the least is that for 20 months now we’ve been having this song and dance and you know the prime minister was heralding the names of big hoteliers such as (Sir Sol) Kerzner and Joe Lewis (as potential buyers) and others and none of that has come to fruition,” Mrs Butler-Turner said.
“Now he is once again unilaterally making an announcement, a good news pronouncement in the absence of the EXIM Bank or China Construction America being present.
“But what he has done this time was brought in a bunch of vulnerable, in my words, contractors, tenants and others to make believe that something was happening but none of them is empowered to do anything until such time that this project actually gets rolling.”
She added: “I think Christie is an absolutely delusional and duplicitous man. This is his MO (modus operandi). Every time there is some big announcement with regards to anything it is shrouded in secrecy, which clearly demonstrates to me that Christie has nothing to reveal.
“Tell Christie all those dinosaur games take them back to the cave. They don’t work anymore. This is the information age and people are not interested in anything sealed that is supposed to be in the public domain. This does not serve anybody’s interest except the selfish interests of Perry Christie and his government.”
Lack of trust
For his part, Dr Minnis said Mr Christie could not expect Bahamians to trust him when he is allowing pertinent information to be hidden from the public eye.
He said: “The prime minister calls on Bahamians to ‘trust him’ on securing the best deal yet (but) what has he done to earn that trust? Hiding the details of his secret deal, by sealing it through the courts does not earn trust. Time after time they have failed us. So Bahamians demand to know what did these secret meetings cost the Bahamian people?”
“As is typical from the PLP playbook, the prime minister said that the government would make details of the deal available soon. How will he do this if the documents are sealed by the courts? We’ve been down this road over and over throughout the entire Baha Mar debacle.
“It was the FNM that stood up for the Bahamian contractors, demanding they get paid over $100 million they are owed. It was the FNM that brought attention to the workers that were promised good jobs only to be laid off.
“It was the FNM that called on the PLP to account for the government supplying Baha Mar with power despite they were not paying their bills and owing over $26 million while many families and seniors struggled in the sweltering heat with power outages. The Bahamian people know that the FNM will stand vigilant to make sure this government is held accountable and follows through on helping Bahamians.”
On Monday night, during a nationally televised address, Mr Christie said an agreement had been reached between the government and the EXIM Bank of China.
Under the terms of the agreement, Bahamian contractors still owed money will receive a significant portion, if not all, of their claims, while thousands of former Baha Mar employees will receive outstanding amounts due to them, he said.
“This agreement represents a signal achievement for the Bahamas and a milestone in the troubled history of Baha Mar,” Mr Christie said from the Cabinet room, flanked by members of his government and others.
“For some 20 months, I have been continuously focused, day and night, on efforts to find a solution for the completion of the Baha Mar project. Throughout this period, the government has had three key objectives: firstly to ensure that construction at Baha Mar would be resumed as quickly as possible.
“Secondly, to make every effort to ensure that the casino and casino hotel, the convention centre and its hotel, and the golf course would open before the end of the 2016-2017 winter season and thirdly to ensure that payment of claims to Bahamian creditors and contractors, who previously had little or no prospect of recovering anything from Baha Mar.
“We have achieved all of these objectives,” Mr Christie stressed.
He said that under the heads of terms signed between the government and the EXIM Bank, “remobilisation at Baha Mar will commence immediately.”
The opening of the 2,000 plus room resort was scheduled for December 2014, but was delayed to March 2015 and again to May 2015.
Baha Mar’s developer Sarkis Izmirlian filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States on June 29, 2015; however the Supreme Court rejected the resort’s application for the matter to be recognised here.
The property was placed into receivership last October.