Attorney General Carl Bethel.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
ATTORNEY General Carl Bethel, leader of government business in the Senate, said Bahamians will no longer sit by and watch others become wealthy from the resources of the Bahamas, but instead will also benefit.
He made the remarks during a brief Senate meeting Friday.
The Senate held the first reading of five Bills, including a Bill for an Act to Provide for the Protection and Sustainable Use of Biological Resources and Traditional Knowledge.
If passed it will allow Bahamians to reap the benefits from the successful exploitation of the country's flora and fauna.
Recently Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) engaged in a drilling exercise in Bahamian waters in search of oil.
Bahamians, including some government members, were up in arms about the way the deal locked Bahamians out of benefiting if oil were found.
Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, with Minister of Immigration and Investment, Elsworth Johnson, said the deal was concrete and there was nothing the FNM Administration could do about it. BPC, after drilling for a few weeks, said no commercially viable oil was found.
Just before the Bill was read for the first time, Senator Bethel said: "This Bill will for the first time in our history provide a means to fully regulate the exploitation of genetic and biological information being from the flora and fauna of the Bahamian eco-system throughout our country which has been utilized in the past by a bunch of cosmetic companies to make billions of dollars with not a cent coming to the Bahamian people.
“So this Bill, when we get to it, is for the benefit of every Bahamian. Every Bahamian will benefit from the wealth. These things are all written and controlled by the vested interest. You must only use it for this reason or for that reason. The devil is a liar! So I inserted in there that you can only use it for biological research or sustainability. People who have traditional knowledge need to be directly compensated.”
His comments were met with heckling from Senators opposite leading him to further explain the benefits.
“If you tell a man ‘strong bark’ gives you good energy and he goes and finds a biological thing and takes that and makes ‘Viagra’ or something like that and then boom makes billions, that community, in this case, The Bahamas should be directly compensated the same way the people who exploited the product,” he said.
“If they can keep it as their profit, we can keep the traditional knowledge as our profit. We have added some other things in there as well like payments to the Sovereign Wealth Fund for the benefit of every Bahamian. If the companies can make a profit, I don’t see why the Bahamian people cannot make a profit.”
Following this, Senator Fred Mitchell paid tribute to Bahamian-American actor, Sir Sydney Poitier who will celebrate his 94th birthday on Saturday.
The Senate adjourned to 10am Monday.