By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) spokesman yesterday said its former president's views did not necessarily represent those of members, pledging a "conciliatory approach" towards the Government.
Drumeco Archer, speaking to Tribune Business in the wake of Leonard Sands' resignation, said the Association would refrain from attacking the Government and instead deal with any issues impacting the construction industry "behind closed doors" through "amicable" negotiations.
This represents a marked change from the approach taken by Mr Sands, who was extremely vocal publicly on matters such as the delayed implementation of legislation to regulate the industry and the level of Bahamian contractor/worker participation at The Pointe project in downtown Nassau.
Mr Sands, who on Monday blamed "sinister and unprecedented" political pressure for forcing him to resign for the BCA and industry's greater good, previously said the failure to appoint a board had delayed the Construction Contractors Act's enforcement.
Drumeco Archer, though, contradicted this yesterday, saying there were unspecified "infrastructural things that must take place" for the Act to be enforced. He added that the BCA, and wider construction industry, were "bigger than any one individual", and said the BCA would work to ensure Mr Sands' departure did not become a "polarising" matter.
The BCA has already moved to fill the vacancy by naming William Pratt, of HMF (Heavy Marine Foundation), as interim president in the wake of the controversy caused by the alleged manner of Mr Sands' resignation.
"The issue of the relationship between the Government and the BCA, I don't know why that's an issue. We have a good relationship with the Government," Drumeco Archer responded, when asked by Tribune Business whether this had been impacted.
"There's been a mutual understanding reached between the Board and Leonard Sands with respect to his resignation. Our position is we will continue to serve the best interests of members and preserve the standing of construction in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
"The point we're making is that this certainly doesn't impact what our primary focus is, and that's to serve the best interests of each and every contractor in The Bahamas. In so doing, we have to be mindful of the interests of consumers and all other stakeholders. The Government falls into that dynamic."
Mr Sands yesterday argued he had no choice but to obey the "ultimatum" given to resign by 12pm on Sunday, after the BCA was warned it faced "dire repercussions", and exclusion from efforts to improve and regulate the industry, if he remained in his post.
Describing this alleged interference with an independent industry association as "exceptional", Mr Sands said the threats, and demands for his resignation, came from Omar Archer, the controversial and outspoken political activist, who has recently been appointed as Contractors Registrar by the Government.
While he added that "I cannot particularly point to the Minister" as being behind the pressure, he found it hard to avoid this suspicion given that Omar Archer ultimately reported to Desmond Bannister, minister of works.
Mr Bannister yesterday told Tribune Business he was "dumbfounded" by Mr Sands's allegations, adding that "the FNM does not operate that way; I do not operate that way". Omar Archer, too, denied Mr Sands's claims of government/political interference, saying he had no influence over the BCA's internal workings. "That's news to me," he said of the resignation.
Drumeco Archer, newly-appoints as its communications head, yesterday said the BCA was moving to ensure that Mr Sands' resignation, and the controversy surrounding it, would not interfere with or undermine its relationship with the Government.
"What we don't want is to make this a polarising or politically-related matter from this," he told Tribune Business. "I believe the relationship is well intact, and we are doing a fantastic job for the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
"We wish to go on record as saying the views of Leonard Sands are not all the views of the BCA. There are some pertinent things we want to be clear on. We're not attacking the Bahamas government. We're taking a conciliatory approach. Any issues will be raised behind closed doors, and negotiations done quite amicably."
This is the polar opposite of Mr Sands' approach to advocacy, which aroused the ire of Mr Bannister in February this year after the former BCA president blamed the Government's failure appoint the Board that will oversee the Construction Contractors Act for the delayed implementation.
"I detest how certain people, every time they want something, go running to the media instead of communicating," Mr Bannister told Tribune Business then. "There should be some trust in communication.
"When I hear from the media before I actually receive correspondence, and it continues to happen, there cannot be trust in communication. I haven't received the letter. When I do get it, it will get an appropriate response as it always does."
Mr Bannister said the BCA, rather than the Government, was to blame for the delayed implementation and enforcement of the Construction Contractors Act. "The Ministry has been trying to get the Contractors Association to recommend members to the Board that they have to recommend for months now," he added in February.
"They have to come from different disciplines within the profession. They did initially send us one [list], which was restricted to a particular discipline. That must have been four to five months ago and we have not got a response from them yet.
"This is one of the sad things about communicating in the media. Mr Sands can communicate with me. There is no difficulty doing that. I get amazed when people conduct themselves in this manner."
Drumeco Archer yesterday said he "cannot speak" to Mr Sands' claims of political pressure, saying he was unaware of any being applied to the BCA or its Board.
He described the former president's claims against Omar Archer as "most unfortunate", and added: "We're not prepared to get into that battle. We represent a greater interest as far as we are concerned. We are more concerned about protecting the interests and integrity of an organisation that impacts upon many people.
"We want it to be made very clear that in no way are we intending to cause that polarisation. On the contrary, we want to strengthen the relationship with members of the construction industry, fellow associations as well as the Government.
"We don't know why Mr Sands resigned, but when you consider the enormity of the construction industry, this industry is larger than any one individual. We have to remain focused on what the task is at hand. It's business as usual. The BCA council is quite strong and competent, so I don't expect any interruption in service to our members."
Drumeco Archer said the BCA had "always been very intimately involved" with the Contractors Construction Act and would continue to be, having been a key advisor to the Government during its drafting.
Arguing that the Act's delayed implementation was not being held up by the Board's appointment, he added: "There's some infrastructural things that must take place. There's been an extensive vetting exercise taking place, recommendations have been made, and we believe there will be pronouncements made in short order as to who and what the make-up of the Board will look like.
"The delay can't be attributed to the relationship between Leonard Sands and the Ministry. There's been extensive work done behind the scenes, the Government is working diligently to get its house in order, and we will assist in that effort."
Drumeco Archer said the BCA was due to release a statement on Mr Sands' resignation and the way forward by 5pm yesterday. However, none was received by press time last night.