Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Senior Reporter
PRESS Secretary Clint Watson said the Davis administration will not let Royal Caribbean International lease seven acres of Crown Land on Paradise Island for 150 years.
He also said Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis wants to amicably resolve the disagreement between RCI and Toby Smith, a local entrepreneur who says he has a lease for three of the seven acres of Crown Land RCI wants to control.
Mr Smith has told reporters that before the election Mr Davis told him he would cancel any proposed agreement to lease the seven acres of land to RCI.
Mr Watson, however, said the government does not yet have a concrete position on the matter.
During a press conference yesterday, he said: “The previous government, as you would have known, granted two people a lease for the same land, Toby Smith as you mentioned, and, of course, Royal Caribbean. We know you can’t grant two different people the same plot of land.
“Toby Smith... was granted the land first. If you go to court and discuss this, the court will say ‘well, who was granted the land first ought to be the one who holds the land’ so we realise what’s happening even if it went to court.
“We’ve been talking to both parties on this matter. (The) position has always been known by the Prime Minister and that is Bahamians first. That has not changed, it will not change. The agenda of Bahamians always comes first.
“What we’re trying to do though, because of the nature of the situation, is find an amicable agreement for both parties, for all to be satisfied in this and most importantly, not just for both sides, but for the Bahamian people. Bear in mind this is a Prime Minister and an administration that thinks about the Bahamian people in every decision. So, while you’re dealing with parties on both sides, at the end of the day it has to be what benefits the Bahamian people in the long run.
“The Prime Minister says he believes he has the solution and he’s going to discuss that soon with both sides and we await to see their response on that, but he believes he has something that will benefit both sides, but at the end of the day will also benefit the people.”
Mr Smith is behind a $2m investment in the adjacent Paradise Island Lighthouse & Beach Club project. In an ongoing court matter, he alleges he has a valid Crown Land lease for two parcels of land included in RCI’s Crown Land lease. He says his lease is legally binding.
Tribune Business reported this week that the Minnis administration, in an agreement executed on May 25, 2021, effectively gave RCI up to a 150-year lease over the seven acres of land.
Mr Watson said: “Now Royal Caribbean does own land, some 13 acres and then the seven acres that they were seeking to lease from the government. What you ought to also understand is we’re not going to do any ad hoc crazy deals. We would have seen the stories in your paper about these leases that go on for years and so forth. That’s not what’s going to be what the outcome is for the Bahamian people, for this administration.
“There is no wrap up of a deal yet, there’s no concretising of a deal yet for both sides.”