BY CHRISTOPHER ROLLE
Supporters of the Opposition Free National Movement (FNM) who use Social Media as their main outlet to spread their party’s propaganda can’t contain their exuberance over what they consider to be an extremely damaging blow to the political career of Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald as a result of an “exclusive article” published The Tribune on Thursday, April 20, 2017.
In that article, The Tribune had this to say in its lead paragraph: “EMAILS leaked from a data breach of China Construction America’s (CCA) servers show that from as early as 2013, Jerome Fitzgerald was seeking to secure millions of dollars in brokerage, trucking, and limousine contracts at Baha Mar while he sat in Cabinet as the Minister of Education, Science and Technology…”
Obviously, on the face of it, this startling claim gives the impression that Mr. Fitzgerald, who is the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, is a corrupt politician who sees nothing wrong in using his position as a Government Minister to feather his financial nest.
But ss explosive as the allegation appears to be, there are some tell-tale signs that suggest that it is vitally important to not jump to conclusions with regard to what is being alleged. At the onset, let me say that there is a questionable journalistic ploy that’s used when an article is based on “leaked” information. The writer of the article is not given a “byline” so he or she remains anonymous. It’s absolutely important for those Bahamians who plan to vote in the upcoming election, especially in Mr. Fitzgerald’s constituency of Marathon, to question why The Tribune did not give the author of this damning article a byline. What’s more, they should question the timing of the release of this article on the date that candidates nominated for the upcoming election.
When one considers the fact that Mr. Fitzgerald’s FNM opponent in Marathon is Romauld Ferreira, one of the Save the Bays political mercenaries that are heavily funded by a billionaire resident of Lyford Cay who, according to reports, has been involved in various plots to destabilize PLP government, then the fact that the article in question was anonymously written should at the very least raise eyebrows.
The leader of Save the Bays, which promotes itself as an environmental organization, is Attorney Fred Smith, who is also President of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), whose membership is less than ten, but over the years it has bordered on being treasonous is seeking to destroy the good name of The Bahamas by making unfounded claims about human rights abuses to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States (OAS).
If it is true that Romauld Ferreira’s campaign is receiving a financial windfall from the Lyford Cay billionaire, then it could also be true that The Tribune’s article aimed at damaging Mr. Fitzgerald politically was actually written by one of the billionaire’s highly paid skilled propagandists with the “leaked emails” provided by the former developer of the Baha Mar resort who overplayed his hand by trying to have the development declared bankrupt by a U.S. court and when his devious plan was derailed he lost control of Baha Mar. Obviously, he is now a bitter man and, like the Lyford Cay billionaire, he is strongly supporting at least three FNM candidates in the next election financially.
To his credit, Mr. Fitzgerald faced the controversy generated by the “leaked emails” like someone who really has nothing to hide when he released a statement, in which he provided what in my view was an adequate response to the claims that were made. He unequivocally stated that he has “no contract with Baha Mar or any of its affiliates, nor do I own any shares in Bahamas Cargo & Logistics, which is a company formed by my father many years ago.”
In his statement, Mr. Fitzgerald said he had communicated with Sarkis Izmiralian “on any number of matters over the past 8 years either in person or by email.” Apparently, Mr. Fitzgerald’s father, prior to his illness “had engaged in discussions with Baha Mar to get some work,” Mr. Fitzgerald explained, and after “my father’s illness I wrote to Sarkis to follow up on those discussions and seek his assistance. Nothing came of it and that remains the case today.”
“When Mr. Izmiralian filed for bankruptcy in a US court, the Bahamian government moved quickly and decisively to bring the matter home to protect the interests of Bahamian employees and contractors,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.
Referring to the scheduled opening of Baha Mar on Friday, Mr. Fitzgerald added, “Tomorrow is a big day for our country. The opening of Baha Mar is bringing thousands of jobs for Bahamians, will strengthen our economy, and will raise our nation’s profile internationally. I’m very proud of the role the government played in saving the resort from bankruptcy and getting it the hands of a world-class operator with successful properties across the Caribbean and the world.”
Given this explanation, in my view, the “leaked emails” are in no way a “smoking gun” as far as proving that Mr. Fitzgerald was involved in some form of corruption; rather, if we are going to use a gun analogy, they represent nothing more than a toy water pistol.