Leader of the Opposition Philip ‘Brave’ Davis. Photo: Terrel W. Carey/Tribune Staff
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Philip “Brave” Davis criticised the Minnis administration yesterday for its lack of transparency on the Oban Energies project.
The Nassau Guardian reported that Peter Krieger, once the face of the $5.5bn project, did not sign his own name on the heads of agreement for the deal that was inked two weeks ago, but signed the name of Satpal Dhunna, the company’s president.
Officials did not reveal during the press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister that Mr Krieger would be doing this.
Mr Davis, former deputy prime minister, said yesterday that “ceremonial” signings like this one are “unusual”. He called for the government to release the document signed by Mr Krieger.
“Even in cases where it happens, you’d indicate that it is ceremonial so parties can be aware,” the Progressive Liberal Party leader said. “If because of convenience the document is required to be signed in this way before you make it public, you should say it and not let the public believe something that wasn’t the case.
Mr Krieger’s participation at the event marking the heads of agreement’s signing a couple of weeks ago reportedly caught some members of the Minnis administration by surprise, The Tribune was told.
His visibility was owed to a family connection he has to at least one of the project’s beneficial owners, two sources in the Minnis administration have said. He has since been permanently removed from his public role in the project.
Mr Davis also criticised the administration for signing an agreement that prohibits its termination whatever environmental impact assessments conclude.
“It’s ridiculous to believe you could have a project that will be damaging to the health and safety of the environment and to residents and that you would allow it proceed,” he said.
Mr Davis said the clause is “unprecedented”.
In a separate interview with Our News yesterday, Mr Davis said this saga has revealed “troubling traits” about the Minnis administration and placed a “black eye” on the deal.
Former Attorney General Alfred Sears, QC, said yesterday the EIA controversy highlights the need for an Environmental Protection Act, though he noted the Privy Council has ruled in the past that an EIA is not necessary for a development to be sanctioned.
“As the Privy Council indicated and observed in the Save Guana Cay ruling,” Mr Sears said, “The Bahamas urgently needs comprehensive legislation for environmental protection laws that will require an EIA to be obtained prior to the execution of a heads of agreement and that there will be meaningful consultation with communities whose way of life will be significantly impacted by the proposed development and to ensure the protection of ecologically sensitive ecosystems within The Bahamas. This moment of controversy calls for bipartisan collaboration so that any future government of The Bahamas would conduct the affairs of state in a manner that balances the necessity for economic development with the preservation of the environmental heritage resources of the Bahamas for future generations of Bahamians and visitors.”
Mr Sears said Grand Bahama would particularly benefit from an EPA.
“A shift in paradigm is especially urgent and necessary in Grand Bahama, the industrial base of The Bahamas where communities adjacent to industrial industries have been impacted adversely by polluters or pollution from these industries,” he said. “There’s an urgent need in the interest of public health to engage the University of The Bahamas, Pan American Health Organisation and the World Health Organisation to investigate what has been the impact of these industrial industries on the health of those communities, how they should be remediated and safeguards to avoid any repetition to achieve sustainable development.”
Yesterday, Environment Minister Romi Ferreira declined to answer questions relating to his role under the Oban Energies heads of agreement. The agreement empowers the minister responsible for environment to order the discontinuation of any equipment that causes an environmental infraction. However, environment advocate Fred Smith, QC, has said the country lacks laws empowering the minister to enforce such a provision.