By TANEKA THOMPSON
Tribune News Editor
FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis has pledged that his party will “engage and execute a real sale” of the Baha Mar resort “to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians,” should the opposition party win the next general election.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page on Sunday, Dr Minnis also said this buyer would use only Bahamian labour to complete the beleaguered resort, while again promising that his party would make public the details relating to the Baha Mar deal and any other government dealings with Chinese investors.
This position was welcomed by a source with intimate knowledge of the property.
The source, who did not want to be named, called Dr Minnis’ pledge a “game changer for the property” that if followed through with, would likely start a “bidding war where the Chinese would no doubt be out”.
The insider added that Baha Mar developer Sarkis Izmirlian would “be able to beat any bidder”.
For his part, Dr Minnis said despite pronouncements from the Christie administration, the $3.5bn resort is not open and it is uncertain when this will occur.
“The reality my dear friends is that the resort, sadly remains unsold, despite the many, many pronouncements by our delusional prime minister to the contrary,” Dr Minnis said.
“Yet, the government, in the lead up to the general election continues in its charade. This week it was revealed that the new ‘alleged purchaser’ of the resort had only hired 650 of their promised 1,500 Bahamian employees, with little over a month to go before its ‘soft opening’ on April 21. We remind the public that there has been no marketing of this resort or room inventory being brought online for this ‘soft opening,’ which only confirms the true political motives behind this opening date, just weeks ahead of what will be our general election.
“The PLP should be ashamed of themselves; but they have no shame. This is a government that proclaimed they believed in Bahamians, but operates in secret, and counter to the best interests of this country,” Dr Minnis said.
“That is why your Free National Movement makes the following pledge to you: when your Free National Movement comes to office, we will make public all deals by this government with the Chinese with respect to this and any other secret deal this administration may have entered into.
“Your Free National Movement government will engage and execute a real sale of Baha Mar to a qualified and respectable purchaser who believes in Bahamians; a purchaser who will utilise only Bahamian labour to complete the resort, and will put Bahamians back to work with real jobs as quickly as possible.
“All applicable taxes must be paid to the Treasury on this sale, including any VAT, stamp tax, casino license fees, etc. In keeping with our mandate of accountability and transparency, your Free National Movement government will also make public all negotiations in this regard and have them tabled in Parliament.
“Due to the national interest of this asset, the Bahamian people deserve no less from their government. They deserve a government that works on their behalf and not an administration that is more focused on their own self-interest. The Bahamian people deserve a government that works for them,” Dr Minnis said.
On Friday, Dr Minnis also agreed with Dame Joan Sawyer, who last week suggested that there were no legal grounds to seal the new deal to open the resort .
Dame Joan, the former president of the Court of Appeal, said there is much confusion over how the judgment of a publicly heard civil case could be sealed.
Dr Minnis said this was why the sealing of the documents was “all the more outrageous.”
“The embattled prime minister and his attorney general of all people should know, our Constitution requires that civil proceedings must be public, except in matters of defence, public safety or public order,” Dr Minnis said in a press statement. “So their efforts to shield their secret Baha Mar deal with their Chinese allies from the public is all the more outrageous. It’s no wonder that the Bahamian people have lost all trust and confidence in this government.
“Even the former president of the Court of Appeal is questioning Prime Minister Christie and the attorney general’s control over the courts. Elected officials are meant to uphold the law, not twist it to fit their own political and personal agendas.
“Yet with all their twisted and contorted efforts to hide the details of their secret Baha Mar deal from the Bahamian people we are witnessing the great length to which career politicians will go as they desperately try to hold onto power,” the Killarney MP said.
A source close to the property believes the court documents relating to the sale have been sealed to “hide” a drop in the resort’s sale price.
Prime Minister Perry Christie announced the official sale of Baha Mar to CTF BM Holdings, a subsidiary of CTFE last December, at the time stating the resort was set for a phased opening beginning in April 2017, and a full completion by this fall. It has since been revealed that the sale has not been finalised and that the opening date for the Rosewood hotel brand, owned by the Baha Mar buyer, has seemingly been delayed to Spring 2018.
Last December, Mr Christie did not disclose the sale price of Baha Mar, adding that details of the deal are still sealed by the Supreme Court at the request of the Export-Import Bank of China.
The government has since announced plans to table the sealed Baha Mar documents ahead of the April soft opening.