Nassau, Bahamas — Minister of the Environment Earl Deveaux has once again been named in a conflict of interest case involving the Free National Movement Administration. The company he once led is coming into question as documents have uncovered that Lucayan Tropical Produce was not instituted in accordance with the laws of the Bahamas.
A Minister of the Government has the responsibility to ensure that he or she is setting a good example by carefully following the law and carrying it out. Yet, Mr. Deveaux seems to have used methods to get around the laws and keep the company in operation.
The Bahamas’ first modern hydroponics farm should have been the kind of success that farmers dream of, and whilst Lucayan Tropical is benefiting from sales all around the country and has helped farmers in Andros, its principals did not do proper diligence in ensuring that it was set up correctly in the first place. Established in 2001, the company sought to improve the quality of fresh produce available in the country. But its owners, which reportedly include Minister Earl Deveaux, Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette’s brother and nephew, failed to respect the government’s decision to reject their proposal, and embarked upon their building project anyway. The then Managing Director was none other than our current Minister of the Environment.
Mr. Deveaux was running the business for the group of “Bahamian investors” who made application to the Ministry of Works during governance of the Progressive Liberal Party, to build the hydroponics facility on the property they owned near the Nassau International Airport, now Lynden Pindling International Airport.
According to documents, on October 15, 2003, the company made application to the Building Control Division of the Ministry of Works. The application was forwarded to the Town Planning Division in the same Ministry. Civil Aviation was requested to assess the application. Reports are that pilots and expert aviation officials objected to the application due to the fact that the proposed building would be too near to the runway. Civil Aviation recommended refusal of the application, stating that the greenhouse would be constructed within the airport’s flight path.
Without approval from the building control office, an imported structure from Holland was erected without a building permit, contrary to the laws of the Bahamas. According to officials, the structure faces danger from storms like hurricanes, as it was built to withstand maximum winds of only 110 miles per hour.
The Town Planning Board requested a hearing (meeting) with the company after it was brought to the attention of officials that the structure was being erected. The meeting ended with the application being deferred by the Board and put in a pending position.
Mr. Deveaux reportedly sought to gain electrical access for the building once it was complete, but BEC turned down the application on the basis that the proper permits were not in place. Therefore, the company began its operation using a generator, which was utilized for the first four years of its existence.
On May 2, 2007, Mr. Deveaux and the FNM returned to Office. During the same month, reports are that Nautilus Water moved into the building with Lucayan Tropical, renting a portion of the facility. The company is said to have been able to obtain an Occupancy Permit through this relationship.
Former Minister of Works Bradley B Roberts recalled this unfortunate incident which caused the then Minister of Transport Glenys Hanna Martin and his Ministry Team a great deal of anxiety as Aviation Experts had real serious concerns. Had Earl Deveaux engaged the services of an Architect to submit the application for a building permit all of the calamitous mess would have avoided.
Mr. Deveaux then ascended to Ministerial status in Government once again, paving the way for Tim Hauber and his wife, Bahamian Selima Campbell-Hauber, to take over and run a successful enterprise. Documents indicate that Lucayan Tropical is an investment of more than $70,000. (???) Such an investment deserves to be carried out in proper accordance with the law, in order to ensure the safety of the future of the company and those who work for it.
But this is not the first time that Mr. Deveaux has seemingly ignored important steps in the process for applications and permits, which is a disgrace for any member of the Cabinet. Deveaux allegedly stated that when he paid and received a receipt for submitting the plans for Lucayan Tropical, he thought that it served as the building permit. He has also allowed the Aga Khan IV, billion dollar heir and owner of Bell Island, to begin cutting down hills before his approved application was ever made public. In the case of Louis Bacon, Lyford Cay Billionaire, Mr. Deveaux official Michael Major signed an approval for Bacon too Dredge the harbor after he had already done so. This issue was brought up on the Senate floor, with the leader of Government business admitting that his information showed that due process had not been followed.
As former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Deveaux should have vast knowledge of the field and therefore, would have been a viable candidate to run the greenhouse of Lucayan Tropical. His allegiance to other farmers came into question this year when on June 18, Keith Campbell blasted the Minister in a lengthy letter published by the Nassau Guardian. Campbell called for Mr. Deveaux to take immediate steps to answer pertinent questions posed by small farmers and to move to immediately consult them before actively engaging in negotiations with the World Trade Organization.
Will Minister Deveaux come clean and confirm that he used his office and Minister of Works in 2007 to regularized the mess he created for Lucayan Tropical and to confirm if he is still a shareholder in that Company?