By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Minnis administration is solely concerned with providing the best for the Bahamian people, according to Press Secretary Anthony Newbold, who yesterday defended the government against criticism for its decision to back Disney's proposal for Lighthouse Point.
Responding to questions over how the government arrived at its decision to support Disney over a Bahamian-led rival's proposal and the criticism that has followed, Mr Newbold insisted the Minnis administration is willing to take whatever hits are needed to do whatever is best, long-term, for the country.
"The government is concerned about providing for the people of The Bahamas and the people of The Bahamas are the ones who are going to have to decide whether this Cabinet remains the government after the next election," Mr Newbold said when asked if the government was concerned with what its recent policy decisions could mean for a re-election bid.
"Push back for Grand Lucayan; how could you do that? Are you guys crazy? Yea, but the people in Grand Bahama who have to eat don't think that government is crazy," he said, referring to the government's recent purchase of the beleaguered hotel. "The people in South Eleuthera who have to eat, they don't think the government is crazy at all.
"And so, sometimes you take a hit and you take a hit because that is what you need to do for the people of The Bahamas."
Addressing the Lighthouse Point Partners' bid that lost out to Disney, Mr Newbold added: "…. Suggestions (from them said) 'we are going to build this thing out three to five years'.
"Well, what do the people of South Eleuthera do for the next five years? And so, sometimes you take a hit."
Mr Newbold continued: "The government, Prime Minister Minnis, his thing is, I am going to take care of these people. This case now with South Eleuthera. Earlier, it was the people in Grand Bahama. And wherever that needs to happen, it will happen in the best way possible.
"Are these decisions always perfect decisions or can the situations be perfect? No, they cannot. You have to work through them.
"That is what governments are elected to do, make those tough decisions that may seem crazy to some people today, but six months down the road, you know, they don't seem so crazy after all," he said.
The commentary provides a glimpse into the line of thought the Minnis administration grappled with throughout its review and deliberation proposes.
The government has, since its decision last Friday, made it a point to indicate that its choice was made in accordance with the wishes and desire of the people of Central and South Eleuthera.
Moreover, the government, specifically the Cabinet, has made the point that it could not influence the sale of the property and could only consider proposals that included sale agreements to acquire the privately own segments of Lighthouse Point.
Moving to clarify that point yesterday, Mr Newbold noted: "No one has explained yet, how someone can make, in fact, insist on making a proposal for land that they do not own."
When asked moments later if the jab was directed at the One Eleuthera Foundation and its supporters, Mr Newbold added: "They put a proposal forward. They don't own the land."
The National Economic Council last Friday approved Disney's proposal to develop a cruise port at Lighthouse Point.
The decision came despite calls from the LPP to delay the decision for 60 days to provide the group an equal opportunity to present its proposal for the property to the public.
In the lead up to the decision, Dr Minnis said that his government would not consider the environmental arguments that were levied on the project, due in large part to the fact that a more damaging project - one that never materialised - was approved for the area in 2008 under the FNM government of Hubert Ingraham. Dr Minnis was minister of health in that administration.
Attempting to clarify and walk back portions of the declaration yesterday, Mr Newbold said Dr Minnis was only "offering context" in that moment.
"The prime minister never said that he opposed that project, which some people have intimated. (He) never said that," Mr Newbold told reporters at his weekly press briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
"He was simply providing context. This is what was proposed ten years ago, this is what Disney is proposing; look at the two," he added.
Mr Newbold continued: "And now, the prime minister won't say anything about whether he opposed it or not because we can go to Section 3, Article 17 of the manual for Cabinet and Ministerial Procedure and Behaviour to understand why he won't talk about that."
"And quite simply, what happens in Cabinet, as they say about Vegas, stays in Cabinet. With respect to positions that members of Cabinet may take and the reason (the stance) is observed is that all the members of Cabinet must feel unrestrained, not constrained to hold back on any position they may advance for fear that position will get into the public domain and anything results from that kind of information getting in the public domain."
"So, the bottom line is the prime minister didn't say he opposed the project. He was providing context," Mr Newbold contended.