Davis: Minnis Should Get Out Of Oban Deal
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
OFFICIAL Opposition Leader Philip “Brave” Davis said yesterday there are sufficient incidents of “misrepresentation” concerning the proposed Oban Energies oil refinery for Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to “extract” himself from the situation, adding given the current “cloudiness” of the project the Progressive Liberal Party could not support it.
Noting immeasurable reputation damage to The Bahamas as a result of the deal, Mr Davis said constituents were embarrassed by the government’s actions, which, he said, has eroded much of the public’s confidence in the Minnis administration.
This created doubts that this administration could govern honestly, openly and in the best interests of the people, he said.
The PLP leader further questioned who the “mystery man or woman” was who brought the project to the prime minister’s attention.
It was recently revealed Peter Krieger, Oban’s non-executive chairman, did not sign his own name at the heads of agreement signing at the Office of the Prime Minister on February 19, but that of Satpal Dhunna, the company’s president. Government officials have since said the event was “ceremonial” but that was not disclosed at the time.
Mr Davis also wanted to know whether the Cabinet ministers present at the signing were aware the event was only ceremonial.
Following the morning sitting of the House yesterday, the prime minister had no response to questions from The Tribune, except to say he would address the matter when he closed out the mid-year budget debate. He was specifically asked how the government planned to move forward with the project in view of the Bahamas National Trust declaring it does not see any scenario where it could support the construction of the oil refinery and storage facility.
“Under the current cloud of suspicious circumstances, the PLP could not support this agreement. There could be little doubt that there could be no rational explanation for the conduct of the government on this issue,” the Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP said during his contribution to the mid-year budget.
“Cogent evidence is that the whole deal is fraught with flaws and if you are had, Mr Prime Minister, or if you were taken, Mr Prime Minister, there is sufficient instances of misrepresentations for you to extract yourself from this debacle.
“Otherwise I have the question to ask, who is the mystery man or mystery woman to bring this project to your attention to cause you to act in such shoddy a manner? Are they from Freeport or Nassau?”
He continued: “Let me tell you why. They cause you, this mystery person or whoever, cause you on the 19th February to represent that the document they signed by the secretary of the Cabinet and Peter Krieger was in fact the heads of agreement. You didn’t say then that this was a ceremonial event for the cameras.
“Now the press has indicated that the man signing the document, Peter Krieger, did not sign his own name but he signed that of Satpal Dhunna, the president. What’s interesting, there’s a letter written by this Satpal Dhunna, (saying) ‘I authorised him to sign my name and you could do that.’ I could authorise you to sign my name and that’s perfectly okay. But you know, when I look at the signature on the letter and the signature on the document that was laid, that raises further questions.
“There are enough instances for you to extricate yourself from this. You and your Cabinet were witnesses to the signing. None of you disclosed that this was not the real signing, but only ceremonial; I wonder if the persons who were witnesses who were Cabinet ministers knew they were participating in a ceremonial signing event. On the 1st March you tabled a document which is called the heads of agreement. When we saw it we all expected to see Krieger’s signature. We saw Dhunna’s signature instead.
“But when you look at that signature and the signature on the letter, it raises questions again. And it was never disclosed that the signing was a ceremony. That’s what causes the problem. When people raise matters and everyone starts running for cover. This concept of ceremonial signing came up. All that was an afterthought so questions have to be asked.”
Mr Davis asked whether there was more than one document and whether the document signed by Mr Krieger with Mr Dhunna’s name, was the document tabled in the House.
He also said: “Was the document tabled in the House then a true and valid agreement? Whatever the answers to these searching questions, it is very difficult to have a rational explanation for all these instances of misrepresentations.
“And that’s why I said if, Mr Prime Minister, you’ve been had or taken it’s important for you to extricate yourself from these matters. At the end of the day the country should be able to rely on the word of the prime minister. The prime minister has an ethical responsibility always to tell the truth. In fact, you have a legal responsibility not to deceive them.”
Dr Minnis has previously said he plans to “enumerate a lot of things” regarding Oban Energies when he speaks again in Parliament, and government sources this week told The Tribune that the prime minister was fully aware of the public backlash in response to the deal.
Since controversy surrounding the project reared its head last month, Mr Dhunna has responded to critics twice – first by way of a paid advertisement, and second by way of the release of his letter to the Office of the Prime Minister explaining his absence at the ceremonial signing.
On Monday, the Bahamas National Trust said it was “greatly concerned” about the location of the proposed facility in Grand Bahama, saying it cannot “envisage any scenario” where it could support the controversial project.
The organisation also suggested it has been kept in the dark about the deal, while noting the high risk oil refineries pose of air, aquatic and soil pollution.