By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PRIME Minister Perry Christie several times refused questions from reporters on Friday over whether he will fire Education Minister Jerome Fitzgerald or demand his resignation as the Marathon candidate indicated he intended to move on despite his admission on Thursday that he sought contracts worth millions from Baha Mar for his family’s business.
“Today is a celebratory day and I am not speaking today. I am not speaking today. I am not speaking today,” a seemingly frustrated and annoyed Mr Christie responded when questioned by The Tribune on whether Mr Fitzgerald could face any consequences in light of his confirmation that prior to his father’s illness he had engaged in discussions with Baha Mar to get some work.
During a reception to celebrate Baha Mar’s ribbon cutting in commemoration of the opening of its first phase, Mr Christie was five times approached by the press with questions regarding his position on the explosive report published in The Tribune on Thursday with leaked emails, which show Mr Fitzgerald advocated on behalf of Bahamas Cargo & Logistics (BCL), a company he said his father formed years ago.
Instead, he dodged reporters who trailed him as he greeted guests gathered in the convention centre. In one instance, Mr Christie told reporters “don’t even try right now", explaining that he had to get his mind right for a speech at the reception.
After the speech, Mr Christie still did not speak regarding the situation despite mounting criticism over his silence on the matter.
As for Mr Fitzgerald, the Marathon incumbent MP told reporters that he has already issued a press statement in response to the claims, adding “it is what it is”.
Mr Fitzgerald then attempted to deflect attention to Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis’ absence from the Baha Mar opening.
Asked if he would continue on as a candidate, Mr Fitzgerald said: “At the end of the day I have made my statement and I have been nominated and there is nothing much more to say about that.
"So we will continue to move forward with that. I have said what I had to say. I have sent a press release and that’s it. I am not going to say anything more about that. It is what it is," he said.
“But what I want to talk about is really the fact of how significant this day is for all Bahamians (and) for the employees. This is tremendous for our country. As our Prime Minister said it is very unfortunate that a celebration such as this for our country and our economy that Hubert Minnis is not here today to celebrate with the people.
“If this is the people’s time he really should be here and I think it is a shame and he should be ashamed of himself for not being here to support people in great numbers from his side.
“So at the end of the day I think he put his political and selfish motives ahead of that of the people and at the end of the day I think he will have to deal and subject himself to the Bahamian people with regard to that.
“Obviously he is being small minded in not putting the Bahamian people first," he said.
"It's just a great celebration today. A lot of hard work has gone into today and so we are all very excited about what has transpired here today and so at the very least he could have been man enough, mature enough to come here and celebrate with the Bahamian people at the end of the day.”
On Thursday, Mr Fitzgerald released a statement denying he had any contract with Baha Mar or any of its affiliates.
“Nor do I own any shares in Bahamas Cargo & Logistics, which is a company formed by my father many years ago. Sarkis Izmiralian and I have communicated on any number of matters over the past eight years either in person or by email.
“Prior to my father’s illness he had engaged in discussions with Baha Mar to get some work. After my father’s illness I wrote to Sarkis to follow up on those discussions and seek his assistance. Nothing came of it and that remains the case today.”
However, some observers have accused Mr Fitzgerald of a breach of the Manual of Cabinet and Ministry Procedure, which states in Clause 40b, a minister must not “solicit or accept any benefit, advantage or promise of future advantage whether for himself, his immediate family or any business concern or trust with which he is associated from persons who are in, or seek to be in, any contractual or special relationship with the government.”
In one of several leaked emails published by The Tribune, Mr Fitzgerald advocated in 2014 on behalf of BCL, writing to Mr Izmirlian: “I would really wish to now establish a relationship between Baha Mar and Bahamas Cargo and Logistics Limited where all ports of entry can be advised that BCL is to collect the paperwork and clear shipments for Baha Mar. It is my hope that the relationship will continue when the hotel opens and we will again be the broker and trucker for this property as we were for so many years.”
At one point, he expressed personal disappointment that Baha Mar’s officials had not come through for him following his requests.
Among the questions raised by the chain of leaked emails is the nature of the relationship between Mr Fitzgerald and Daniel Liu, China Construction America’s (CCA) vice-president. CCA is Baha Mar’s general contractor.
In one email, Mr Fitzgerald referenced “promises” Mr Liu made to him concerning business.
“Unfortunately, despite all efforts by you and promises to me by Daniel Liu that we would receive the brokerage and trucking work, we have not apart from a one time deal to move 40 containers,” Mr Fitzgerald wrote in January, 2014. “I do not know why, I am disappointed but I have accepted it and moved on.”
In his statement yesterday, however, Mr Fitzgerald did not address his contact with Mr Liu and representatives of CCA.