By LYNAIRE MUNNINGS
Tribune Staff Reporter
FREE National Movement Leader Michael Pintard has called on Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis to give a full explanation for his about turn regarding the recent approval of Royal Caribbean International’s $110m beach club project on Paradise Island.
While in opposition, the Davis-Cooper administration was vocal and critical about the proposed project. However, it was recently announced that the revised proposal was approved and developers are expected to break ground “almost immediately”.
Last week, press secretary Clint Watson defended Mr Davis’ change of heart, saying that all previous objections were resolved and that the proposal presented in 2020 was less favourable.
However, Mr Pintard believes Mr Davis and Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper owe the public a “candid” explanation, saying that the press secretary does not hold the power to speak on a “fundamental” matter.
In an interview with this newspaper yesterday, the FNM leader sought answers from the Prime Minister, saying that a “complete and frank” explanation on the sudden change of heart is needed.
“When we were in government another development was also being looked at with respect to RCI, and attempts were being made to get the Bahamian developer and RCI to arrive at an agreement that was mutually beneficial,” he said yesterday.
“And that would allow that limited space to be used both for the benefit of a Bahamian developer, as well as for the benefit of the cruise line. Now, the opposition (Progressive Liberal Party) at that time was extremely critical of the proposal and gave an extensive rationale for why they disagreed with the (then) government entering into an arrangement with the international cruise developer.”
He continued: “And at that time, the now prime minister was extremely vocal about the need for us to empower our Bahamian developer or group of Bahamian developers, and he saw no pathway for an international developer to the exclusion of a Bahamian.
“So, it is, most unfortunate, he has made a complete about turn on this position. One would have expected that at a minimum, the Prime Minister would have been seeking to ensure that no Bahamian developer is disadvantaged.”
Both the cruise line and the government had been embroiled in a long-running battle, including in the Supreme Court, with Bahamian entrepreneur Toby Smith who has asserted he has a binding lease for at least two Crown land acres that Royal Caribbean is seeking to use in its project.
However, on February 16, Chief Justice Sir Ian Winder rejected the entrepreneur’s claim that his lease agreement is valid.
Many are questioning the environmental impact the development may have.
In a recent statement, Save the Bays chairman Joseph Darville, questioned the environmental effects of the project, and said it looks like Paradise Island is becoming “Hog Island” once again, with profits being placed over the interests of the people.
Mr Pintard, however, said he is not surprised in the $110m project’s approval, noting a common trend of the Davis administration to proceed with ground breaking developments prior to the completion of an environmental impact assessment.
He urged governments to aim to complete preliminary work ahead of the commencement of projects, suggesting that the government ensure that there is Bahamian involvement in all phases of the $110m project.
“Again, The Bahamas is open for business,” he told The Tribune yesterday.
“We should be strident in attempting to ensure investments, and investment by Bahamians and others, but we should also be minded completing the technical, make sure all of the technical matters are completed in advance of us indicating that this is a done deal.
“And it appears that, once again, the government has not taken care of a number of the preliminary requirements in order to complete the project,” he added.
Last week, Atlantis’ top executive warned that approval of the project is “premature” and urged Bahamians to call on the government to “put the brakes on”.
Audrey Oswell said there are “too many red flags” and unanswered questions relating to the cruise line’s planned Royal Beach Club destination.
She said these concerns focused largely on its potential environmental and economic impact, adding that Atlantis had raised some 50 questions relating to the former issue when the project was first unveiled for public consultation by the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) but had not received a single answer.
DonAnthony 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Very simple to explain: Minnis and the FNM negotiated a terrible deal, a give away of crown land to foreigners, Davis negotiated a deal to empower Bahamians (1% to national fund and most importantly Bahamian ownership of 49% equity). This should be the template for all FDI projects going forward.
K4C 2 months, 2 weeks ago
ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Flyingfish 2 months, 2 weeks ago
It looks like Brave is a Hypocrite to me unless he can explain why he didn't accept the deal before and what had to change for him to change his position so drastically. He went form the hardest of no's to a teethy grinning yes, to the point that it seems he didn't even care what happened with Mr. Smith nor would he address it.
Porcupine 2 months, 2 weeks ago
This project does nothing to empower Bahamians. Do you think everyone is stupid?
Sickened 2 months, 2 weeks ago
KapunkleUp 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Exactly. The wheels got greased.
mandela 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Dionisio D'Aguilar said it perfectly "we politicians would say anything while in opposition to getting themselves elected. In short, we would lie and deceive our citizens just to be elected.
TalRussell 2 months, 2 weeks ago
A prayer for wisdom that this assembled 'political conduit' --- Charged conveying 17 acres of prime lands and sea waters is of the 'political intelligence' be deciding, --- Whether it will become a true and lasting 'Paradise Island blessing' commitment that works colony's Popoulaces' At-large'. --- Amen and Amen!. --- Yes?
birdiestrachan 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Mr Pintard can not rule doc Minnis , but he tries to rule Mr Davis , poor Pintard he has no status at all
Sickened 2 months, 2 weeks ago
And to the topic at hand... any thoughts or concerns about the about face?
themessenger 2 months, 2 weeks ago
Unfortunately, Birdies face, like Bodies is permanently pressed to Braves buns, tends to give the viewer tunnel vision. But, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder---- Yes?
ThisIsOurs 2 months, 2 weeks ago
now they want Toby to resubmit his application. Madness. They have all the supporting documents. Its not like his application or ID documents expired. The only thing they need to do is issue the letter Minnis refused to issue.
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