By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
MORE than 600 Bahamians have been hired at Baha Mar, according to Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis as he rebuffed recent statements over the resort’s progress as negativity motivated by the election season and self-interest.
He also took aim at Free National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis’ leadership challenges.
“Every day seems to bring another set of misguided statements about Baha Mar,” Mr Davis said in a statement released last night.
“It’s political season, and Bahamians have learned to discount the negative voices as having their own self-interested agenda. The problem for all the critics is that reality has a way of catching up - even in this era of fake news, reality matters.”
Mr Davis added: “And what’s real is that 650 Bahamians have already been hired at Baha Mar. What’s real is that Baha Mar is opening in April. What’s real is that CTFE has increased its commitment on preopening expenses from $200m to $250m of which $65m has already been spent. “What’s real is that Baha Mar is finally in safe hands, with a world-class operator that has succeeded with high-end properties in the Caribbean and across the globe.”
The government reiterated its claim this week that 1,500 Bahamians are being recruited, which would appear to leave two-thirds of the complement to be hired and trained in the six weeks before the scheduled April 21 opening. Baha Mar’s casino, casino hotel, convention centre and golf course are slated to open next month.
While he did not identify any other “negative voices”, Mr Davis’ comments come after a letter to the editor by former Court of Appeal President Dame Joan Sawyer was published in The Nassau Guardian.
In her letter, Dame Joan criticises the court’s decision to seal the Baha Mar deal, and the winding up process.
She also questioned the integrity of the independence of the judiciary as it related to the sealed deal, pointing to statements made by Prime Minister Perry Christie.
Dame Joan’s letter said: “It was also reported that the right honourable prime minister has said that he has instructed the attorney general to make public the contents of the judgment of the court in the Baha Mar case.
“There are two issues which arise from that. Firstly, if the attorney general, as attorney general, can say when a judgment by a justice of the Supreme Court is to be made public, that raises the very thorny question as to whether the attorney general is controlling the courts.”
It continued: “Secondly, it raises the question as to whether the right honourable prime minister, through the agency of the attorney general is controlling the courts. Neither of those possibilities would be consistent with the constitutional requirement for the courts to be ‘independent and impartial.’”
Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson declined comment yesterday.
The Christie administration has maintained that it did not ask the Supreme Court to seal the Baha Mar deal, but that it was a “commercial decision” made by the lawyers representing the Export-Import Bank of China (CEXIM).
Former developer Sarkis Izmirlian also recently broke several months of silence by criticising the “uncertainty” surrounding the multi-billion dollar resort’s opening, which was further exacerbated last week by Rosewood revealing its 200-room property will only open in Spring 2018.
Mr Izmirlian and his BMD Holdings vehicle said Rosewood’s disclosure, which came in an official company release, was “a huge walk back” from the “rose-coloured statements” made by Baha Mar’s new owner regarding the property’s opening.
The government, in a lengthy rebuttal to Mr Izmirlian’s assertions, claimed its actions had effectively saved the beleaguered resort.
Last night, a source close to the project told The Tribune: “There is only one sad reality. Baha Mar is not completed. Baha Mar is not opened. And Baha Mar does not have an owner who can admit to having a firm deal that has actually closed to secure that ownership. What is also sad is the way the Government of the Bahamas is referring to the former developer of the project who they encouraged in the first place to make the largest single investment in the Bahamas.”
In a statement on Sunday, Dr Minnis called reports on the push back of the grand opening of the Rosewood hotel brand the first in a series of issues that will plague the resort ahead of its proposed soft opening next month.
Dr Minnis said every new detail that “drips out” to the public concerning the $3.5bn resort sheds even more light on the “tenuous, secret deal” made between the Christie administration and Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (CTFE) - one he claimed leaves more questions than answers.
Yesterday, Mr Davis continued: “What’s also real is that if Hubert Minnis had been in charge, Baha Mar would still be in bankruptcy proceedings in the US, the property would be shuttered, Bahamians would not be employed, and Bahamian contractors would still be waiting in line to be paid for work already completed.
“Can you imagine Minnis, who struggles to understand matters in Parliament, who can’t get to the end of a sentence unless he’s scripted, standing up for Bahamians in a complex negotiation like Baha Mar?”
Mr Davis added: “Fellow FNMs have called Hubert Minnis ‘deceitful,’ ‘disgraceful’ and ‘incompetent,’ and it’s not hard to see why. But the worst thing about him isn’t that he’s senseless, it’s that he thinks Bahamians are too.”
Dame Joan Sawyer’s letter in full, page 10