A Letter to the Editor

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Dear Editor,

Tribune Business section, 24th December 2009, reported on a meeting held (Tuesday 22nd) by an estimated thirty (30) Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd Business Licensees with Sir Jack Hayward, Hannes Babak, Ian Rolle and Ginger Moxey. I don’t have a clue as to which one or more of those in attendance, would have been Tribune Business’ inside source, reporting the aspects of the meeting to which they referred, but I would like to assure that, while I’ll confirm my attendance, it wasn’t  I making the disclosure. On the other hand I would fully understand if it were deliberately planned from the beginning-all along-that Tribune business be told, given the cat and mouse game being played by Hubert Ingraham and his FNM government, with respect to important matters pertaining to the Grand Bahama Port Authority.

For those of you who may say that this meeting, with the thirty or so licensees in attendance, was only a reaction to the rancor, made very obvious through the print media recently, between the Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd; Sir Jack Hayward and Mr. Hannes Babak, I say not so, and I offer as proof the fact that invitations were sent out to other licensees, weeks before, to attend similar briefing sessions and long before the exposure of this recent media boxing match between Sir Jack and Hubert Ingraham.

Speculation ran rampant, during the session, as to why the Government of Hubert Alexander Ingraham would want to take the posture that it obviously has taken, in dealing with Sir Jack and Hannes Babak. Not a single licensee present voiced any kind of support for Ingraham’s public preemption of any decision the Bahamas Immigration Board might have taken, independently, on the granting or not granting of a renewal of Hannes’ work permit, i.e. if Babak, in fact, intended to request one. What Ingraham did, by declaring well in advance of the submission of an application by Babak for renewal, was to pre-empt all the rules, regulations and protocols required to be observed by the Bahamas Immigration Board in the process of granting or not granting of work permits. What he (Ingraham) did, in effect, was to prejudice any case Babak may have wished to make for the renewal of his permit to work, in the capacity as Chairman of the Port group ltd, and I believe that a court of law in this jurisdiction would award him damages, if he were to sue the FNM government, on those grounds.

Civilized Societies don’t conduct their business in this fashion-Dictators do.

When asked, Sir Jack could not account for why he thought Ingraham was so belligerent, as (according to him) the government was kept well informed, at all times, of the progress of the status (as achievements were made) with respect to the sale of his shares in IDC (Cayman) Ltd. What has always been made abundantly clear to Hubert Ingraham and his government, and which they cannot truthfully deny, is the fact that one of Sir Jack’s very firm pre-qualifying conditions in selling his shares, is that any offer, of any kind, coming from The Hutchison Whampoa Group, would not be accepted by or acceptable to him. He has made it crystal clear that he will never, ever sell to them.

The group was very concerned about (and rightfully so) the cordialness of the relationship between Sir Jack/The Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd/Mr. Hannes Babak and The Bahamas Government. Their concern centered on the fact that without a good working relationship between those named, we can expect very little advancement in terms of Freeport moving forward economically anytime soon and, by extension, Grand Bahama. Sir Jack told of how he wrote Ingraham, several letters (about four or five), over a period, and has not had the courtesy of a response to any of them. Sir Jack continued and told us that when Ingraham was in Freeport, recently, he kind of expected that Ingraham would have wanted to meet with him for discussion on matters of mutual interest and concern, and to be updated on any progress or lack thereof, but Ingraham came and left without even a telephone call between them.

Before the meeting was adjourned, one of the businessmen asked for an update on the proposed new cruise ship terminal being planned for the Williams/Russell town area. Sir Jack related, to a stunned group, that the Port Authority knew nothing of the plans that the government claims to be pursuing on the matter. He said that the Port Authority had identified an appropriate area, further up the coast, which they thought was ideal for a cruise port as the water, in the area, was very deep and there would be a lot less dredging necessary to accomplish that goal. However the Port has had no further discussions on the subject since July 2009. Since that time, he said, they have heard rumblings about the government acquiring private property in the Russell town area for the project. The Port, Sir Jack reiterated, fully supports the concept of a new cruise port initiative and would support any considered appropriate location for the same, however he made it abundantly clear that his group has not been included in any recent governmental discussions on the matter and that’s where the matter sits, said Sir Jack.

Speculation is rife on the streets of Freeport as to why Ingraham appears to have animosity for Mr. Babak. Whatever it is, (people are suggesting), it seems to have very little or nothing to do with the business of the State, but rather that it could very well be a very personal matter, between them. One of the reasons being advanced involves the dismissal, recently, of a young woman from the employ of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, who is an FNM supporter. This young lady, it is being said, was employed by Mr. Edward St. George, at the behest of an FNM cabinet minister, prior to St.George’s untimely death. Mr. Babak is being accused, now, as the one who dismissed her and the FNM cabinet don’t like it one bit; hence the “Mexican standoff.” Further speculation has it that this young lady provided aid and comfort to a number of FNM cabinet ministers, after hours, and her daytime job at the Port Authority saved them a bundle. I really would hate to believe that all this nonsense is “much to do about nothing.” I cannot believe that a structured government would be conducting its business in this fashion. This, if true, is such dastardly behavior.

Whatever is the truth; my advice? Get your act together, Ingraham.

Forrester J Carroll J.P
Freeport, Grand Bahama
30th December 2009.