IT always seemed likely that the plans for oil exploration might end up in court.
A long-lingering concern over the dangers of oil drilling for the Bahamian environment has become a groundswell of opposition as the date of the exploration drew near.
And now, with vessels setting sail for The Bahamas to begin the process, up has stepped Fred Smith QC, bane of many a government official with his many successful challenges.
Mr Smith is warning he may seek an injunction blocking Bahamas Petroleum Company’s activities until a judicial review is considered.
In a flurry of letters, he has warned the Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and government agencies of his plan to go to the Supreme Court. With his track record, few would take Mr Smith’s challenges lightly.
Mr Smith is also questioning the process by which approvals have been granted – noting that the environmental impact assessment is being updated due to interruptions caused by COVID-19 and the change of drill ship. Such changes, he says, must be granted by the minister, Romauld Ferreira, and Mr Smith is asking whether this has happened. He says if not then a new assessment would have to be submitted, and a new application would have to come from BPC. In the meantime, the drills would not turn.
Whatever you think of oil drilling, this is a considerable spanner in the works.
It’s not a one-man show. Mr Smith is representing a group called Our Islands, Our Future, as well as Waterkeeper Bahamas and a number of other citizens, business and environmentalists.
The goal of course is to protect our environment. Oil may be known as black gold, but our environment is our true gold here in The Bahamas, making us the envy of the world with our clear seas and our beautiful beaches.
That must be safeguarded, more than anything else. Is there opportunity in oil to make money? Of course. But we must not be like the story of the greedy farmer, whose goose laid a golden egg every day. He wanted more, though, and cut open his goose thinking there would be more eggs inside. Instead, he lost everything. No more goose. No more golden eggs. Let us make sure in our eagerness to reach for more, we do not lose everything. Put in every safeguard. Dot every i, check every t. Make sure every assessment has been done thoroughly. One spill, and our own goose could be cooked.
House Speaker Halson Moultrie appears to like the spotlight. Whether it’s his ultimatum about handing in his keys, chiding the rebel seven MPs in the last Parliament for their “insane” and “spiteful” actions, saying that parliamentary democracy is “untenable” and Parliament had been “allowed to degenerate into an executive aristocracy”… we could go on.
We have had cause in this column before to call him to task – after he was embroiled in controversies such as ordering a reporter to hand over a phone, criticising the media, suggesting China should develop the south-east Bahamas, reviewing the penal code to see if something could be done regarding obscene language in videos on social media, and claiming that “spiritually” a man could not rape his wife.
So it is perhaps not a surprise to find he is railing again about how the world is treating him so terribly badly – and in particular Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who he suggested is acting like a “demigod”. He harked back to those rebel seven MPs in his explanation for Dr Minnis’ actions, saying “he has a certain history where he experienced uprising in his party against him” but “while I understand it, I don’t think it should be condoned”.
The trigger for his criticism this time seems once again to be the surroundings in which he works. He wants a renovation to take place, and grumbles about how it seems if he recommends something the Cabinet is going to deny it.
It certainly seems as if Mr Moultrie is better at winning headlines than winning friends. Either way, we suspect we’re sure to hear him speaking out again.