By Sharon Turner
After over a month of refusing to respond to press and public queries about the now infamous Oban project, the Prime Minister spoke about Oban today in Parliament, but did not provide answers to any of the critical matters thereto. In a prepared text of insults to the intelligence of the Bahamian people, the Prime Minister did not speak comprehensively to Oban as he promised, but instead spent most of his time talking about the PLP administration – an administration that did not sign a Heads of Agreement (HOA) with Oban as the FNM administration has done, and an administration which says it chose not to sign a HOA with Oban for two of the very same reasons that have made this project such a teeming controversy for the FNM administration. To force the nation to wait this long only to refuse to speak to the salient matters of this project and instead seek to use the PLP as a smokescreen, is yet another stunning show of contempt for the Bahamian people and the reputation of The Bahamas.
THE FOLLOWING MATTERS REMAIN:
1) Where is the Land Agreement for the Oban project? A Supplemental Heads of Agreement was supposed to have been tabled that covers the details, specific location, boundaries, etc of land covered under this deal. The PM has yet to table this Agreement or even speak to it.
2) Where is the proof of funding for the Oban project? At the February 19 signing, Peter Krieger said that signing had paved the way to secure funding, the proof of which was to have been produced the week of the signing. It is now over one month later and still no evidence of funding has been presented to the Bahamian people. How was a “ceremonial” signing going to secure billions in funding in any event? Has Oban opened a Bahamian bank account as yet as required in the HOA?
3) Who are the owners of Oban Energies?
4) What is the status of the EIA for this project?
5) The Prime Minister claims he was told that Peter Krieger has resigned from Oban. Where is the proof of this? Evidence of this is not reflected in current company filings in Florida.
6) Who are the landowners for property in the vicinity of this project and to what extent do those landowners stand to potentially benefit from land purchases referenced in the Oban HOA? Are landowners in this area Cabinet Ministers and/or persons closely related to members of Cabinet?
THE SIGNING OF THE HOA
1) The Prime Minister claimed that Oban principal Satpal Dhunna signed the HOA on February 10. He claimed that Cabinet Secretary Camille Johnson “subsequently” signed that HOA. Does that mean that Ms Johnson was not present to witness the signing by Mr. Dhunna, even though her signature on that document is to affirm that she was a witness to his signing? If she was not a witness to the signing (as she is supposed to be), then how do we know whether Dhunna signed the HOA at all? This is especially since the Prime Minister claimed the HOA was not ready for signing when Dhunna initially arrived in Nassau to sign it. This is also a question since two supposed but markedly dissimilar signatures by Mr Dhunna are currently in the public domain; one on the tabled HOA, and the other on a recent letter by him released to the media.
2) The Prime Minister says that even though Dhunna signed the HOA on February 10, the government placed the date of February 19 on the document. Was February 10 on the document beforehand and the government changed the date AFTER Dhunna is said to have signed? Anyone familiar with contract law knows that a party ought not simply take it upon itself to make a material change to a legally binding agreement after signatures to the same have already been affixed. And why would the government need to change the effective date on the HOA from the date Dhunna supposedly signed it to the date of a mere “ceremonial” signing? If the February 19 signing was simply a ceremony and the February 10 signing was the real thing, what was the need to make the HOA bear the date of a show? If the date on the tabled HOA was changed, what else was changed?
3) If the February 19 signing was only ceremonial, why didn’t the government say so at the time? The Prime Minister never answered this important question. Why did the “ceremonial” story only show up after everything blew up? Where is the document Peter Krieger signed? And why was a “ceremonial” signing held at all if the Prime Minister claims Dhunna remained in Nassau for days waiting for the HOA to be ready? Why wasn’t the ceremony held with him then, instead of a non-executive days later? Why was the so-called real deal in secret, but the so-called fake deal shown live to the nation and the world?
HOW SMOKESCREENING THE PLP MADE MATTERS EVEN WORSE FOR THE FNM GOVT
1) The government, in an embarrassing display of attempted subterfuge, released a video of former GB Minister Michael Darville and others checking out the site Oban claimed it wanted to build on. THAT IS WHAT THE MINISTER IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE DONE for such a project. The video was sent supposedly to show that the PLP government was dealing with the likes of Peter Krieger. DOES THE PRIME MINISTER FORGET THAT HE SAT WITH, SHOOK HANDS WITH AND PARTICIPATED IN A NATIONALLY TELEVISED SIGNING WITH THIS SAME PETER KRIEGER? Also, is the FNM administration saying it has signed over our land and concessions to Oban, but never visited the proposed Oban site to see what these persons claim they want to do with our land and our environment?
2) In the video, a presumed Oban affiliate is revealing that after talks with Minister Darville and the BEST Commission, the government said that instead of doing a phased environmental study as Oban suggested, it wanted THE FULL EIA before moving forward. THAT WAS ACTUALLY THE RIGHT THING TO DO. Now, how is it that the PLP government wanted the EIA first, but the FNM government went ahead to a whole Heads of Agreement WITHOUT AN EIA? And at least these persons met with BEST under the previous government. The Prime Minister, who now has responsibility for BEST, has yet to tell the nation what determinations BEST has made about this project. How dimwitted can a government be to happily release a video showing its predecessors actually doing its proper due diligence on Oban, while the sitting government has yet to show evidence of its own due diligence on Oban? THE VIDEO ACTUALLY SUPPORTS PREVIOUS CLAIMS BY MICHAEL DARVILLE ABOUT THIS PROJECT.
3) The government mentioned that a proposed HOA was drafted under the PLP by Oban’s former lawyer Obi Pindling. AND? It was never agreed to. So what was the point of mentioning this other than to take the public for fools? And since the government has chosen to make mention of who drafted an HOA that was never agreed to, WHO DRAFTED AND NEGOTIATED THE TERMS OF THIS HOA THAT HAS BEEN AGREED TO, WHICH HAS FORKED OVER OUR LAND, OUR CONCESSIONS AND OUR PRISTINE ENVIRONMENT FOR A PROMISE OF A HANDFUL OF JOBS? And if some jobs ever come, can we imagine working for a company like Oban, given all that has taken place?
By refusing to take full responsibility for this matter, and by demonstrating flagrant and stubborn disregard for our sensibilities and our need to trust our government, the integrity of this project and the process to protect our health and environment, the government has set a tone for its term in office that tells the Bahamian people that it does not care what we know, see, understand, need or ought to be given, and that it will do what it wants in whatever manner it wants, regardless.