Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
ENGLERSTON MP Glenys Hanna Martin has questioned whether the government is truly committed to transparency as it prepares for new negotiations with Oban Energies next month with a new environmental impact assessment not yet made public.
The former Cabinet minister also raised concern over a $25,000 donation from Oban to a Grand Bahama Junkanoo group suggesting it appeared to be an effort to influence the outcome of the project and shape public perception.
Her rejection of the Minnis administration’s handling of the $5.5bn oil refinery and storage facility proposed for Grand Bahama this time around came after Labour Minister Dion Foulkes told The Tribune on Wednesday the project’s EIA would likely not be made public until a new Heads of Agreement is signed.
The government’s negotiating team and Oban representatives are set to meet on January 7, but in the meantime Mr Foulkes stressed the government was committed to being accountable and transparent throughout the entire process.
However, Mrs Hanna Martin said this process is shaping up to be anything but transparent.
“I think it is a complete about-face of the FNM’s pre-election stance on transparency and all of the associated claims they made in this regard to influence voters,” she told The Tribune yesterday.
“It is yet another cloudy aspect of this whole deal.”
Regarding the donation to the Superstar Rockers Junkanoo group on Saturday, Mrs Hanna Martin also said: “I am very leery and wary of foreign investors who through Heads of Agreements or in anticipation of a Heads of Agreement, as in the case of Oban, dish out trinkets to our people while they gobble up a lion’s share of our patrimony.
“It is a very old trick going deep into our history now becoming more and more transparent. It is both annoying and insulting at the same time.
“Frankly this government is bankrupt of ideas and has nothing on offer. Their best foot forward is putting an oil refinery in one of the most eco-sensitive areas of our country when the enlightened world is advocating for more green energy,” she continued.
“When you consider the scientific research which demonstrates the negative effect this type of activity has on climate change, our peculiar vulnerability in this regard as a small island developing state, the disturbing controversies surrounding this company and its key players, why would this government insist on binding our beautiful geography, our superb geology in this narrow and destructive way with questionable economic impact including and limited job creation?
“While I do not object to corporate sponsorship and I am hopeful we will develop sustainable measures to fuel cultural development in general and Junkanoo in particular, I do have a problem, however, with what appears to be efforts to influence outcomes or shape perceptions by these types of interventions especially at the local level.”
Earlier this week Mr Foulkes confirmed the completion of the EIA and that technical officials were looking at the document. However, he said the review of the document was a very complicated process involving several government agencies that would also have to weigh in on the matter.
“We’re going to be transparent about the whole process,” said Mr Foulkes. “Oban will be accountable at every stage of the way. The prime minister has asked me as the chairman of the committee to keep the public informed every step of the way.
“So there is nothing that’s going to happen unless we have full disclosure. The EIA has already been presented to us, the review of it is a very complicated process, several government agencies, including Town Planning (Committee) and the BEST Commission, certain regulations and laws that have to be complied with.”
When pressed further, Mr Foulkes said: “But that’s all I am prepared to say at this time. Cabinet has to make decisions every step of the way. I don’t want to preempt or presume what Cabinet will say, but the prime minister wants it to be done thoroughly.
The government’s initial agreement with Oban sparked intense criticism, including points of opposition from several environmental organisations that took issue with the lack of an environmental impact assessment, given the project’s risk factors.
The fallout prompted an admission from Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis that there were gross missteps in the government’s process.