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Minnis: Does PM back Andros plan?

Dr Hubert Minnis

Dr Hubert Minnis

By NICO SCAVELLA

Tribune Staff Reporter

nscavella@tribunemedia.net

FREE National Movement Leader Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday renewed his call for Prime Minister Perry Christie to reveal whether he supports the proposed $2.1bn agri-fisheries venture with Chinese investors, as he said Mr Christie’s “stony silence” suggests the government may very well “go forward with this theft of our birthright”.

Dr Minnis, in a statement, said Mr Christie’s relative silence on the matter, a little over two weeks since its revelation, is “outrageous” and “disturbing”. He said Bahamians deserve to know whether the proposal “is worth the risk for a quick dollar that everyday Bahamians will never see”.

Even more “outrageous”, Dr Minnis said, is Mr Christie’s “refusal to stop these negotiations,” which the Killarney MP said has the potential to see Bahamian’s “precious heritage recklessly given away to the PLP’s foreign pay masters and business partners”.

And, referring to concerns raised over the proposal’s incompatibility with this country’s current commercial fisheries legislation by University of The Bahamas professors, Dr Minnis accused the Christie administration of “ignoring” the cries of concerned Bahamians that the proposal could be devastating for the fishing industry.

The proposal reportedly projects a $2.1bn injection into the local economy over ten years through an equal partnership between Bahamians and the People’s Republic of China. The proposal also reportedly included the option to lease 10,000 acres of Crown land in Andros.

Agriculture and Fisheries Minister V Alfred Gray has admitted that he gave Bahamas Ambassador to China Paul “Andy” Gomez the go-ahead to have discussions on the proposal, but has stressed that the matter is not before the government for consideration.

He has said the ideas put forth in the proposal came from Mr Gomez and not Chinese investors.

Amid the controversy, Mr Christie has said that he is not “easy” when it comes to Crown land approvals, and that any major development that takes place on Andros would not be because the government “imported foreign labour,” but the result of Bahamian labour.

Mr Christie has also said that while his administration continues to be accused by critics on the matter, he would soon release every proposal that was submitted to the government in relation to Andros, dating back to the very first administration.

Yesterday, however, Dr Minnis said it is “time” for Mr Christie to “finally address this ill-advised, ill-conceived and shady deal directly”.

Dr Minnis said: “The people want to know: what did the prime minister know; and when did he know it. The people want to know whether he knew about it before it was leaked to the media and supported it, or did he find out about Minister Gray’s proposed deal the same way that we all did – through the media?

“His stony silence to all manner of questions on this is starting to indicate a disturbing answer, an answer that does not bode well for Bahamians. He cannot allow his minister and his government to go forward with this theft of our birthright. He must join us and the people and put an end to it now.”

On Monday, this newspaper reported how Lisa Benjamin and Dr Adelle Thomas, assistant professors and co-founders of the Climate Change Initiative at the University of The Bahamas, said that “significant gaps” exist in The Bahamas’ commercial legislative policies, so much so that it “is hard to imagine” that the “scale of commercial fishing and processing enterprises anticipated by the proposal would abide by the limits currently set out in legislation”.

The professors said without regulations on matters such as catch or vessel sizes, or the capacity to enforce any of those restrictions, the Bahamas could join the “long list of failed fisheries sectors” in the Caribbean “well within a ten-year period”.

“Of course the government has not thought about this,” Dr Minnis said, referring to the article by The Tribune. “They haven’t even confirmed if the outgoing prime minister was aware of these harmful negotiations, let alone stop them.”

He added: “The people want - and deserve - to know if the outgoing prime minister and his PLP government think their deal is worth the risk for a quick dollar that everyday Bahamians will never see. We do not believe that this ill-conceived proposal is right for The Bahamas, especially with the sensitive state of our fisheries.

“Even though respectable environmental groups are opposed to their (proposal) - the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation, the Bahamas National Trust, and the Bahamas Commercial Fishers Alliance, among others - the PLP has ignored all of them. “When will this government start to listen and end their abuser secret proposal that will do irreversible harm to our country?”

Comments

Honestman 7 years, 8 months ago

Of course Christie approves of the plan - only an idiot would think otherwise. This is an ideal get rich scheme for Christie and his China PLP elite.

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