Communications Bill Adds New Privacy Protection for Bahamians

ALLYSON-MAYNARD-GIBSON1STATEMENT FROM THE HONOURABLE ALLYSON MAYNARD GIBSON
ATTORNEY-GENERAL AND MINISTER OF LEGAL AFFAIRS

February 21, 2017

Interception of Communications Bill 2017

The Interception of Communications Bill has two main purposes: the first is to ensure that the police have a critical crime-fighting tool in their arsenal, by modernizing the law that allows the police to intercept the planning and execution of serious crimes, including drug and gun trafficking, cybercrimes and other criminal activities; and the second is to add a new privacy protection for Bahamian citizens, so that from now on, independent judicial review would be required before a citizen’s communications could be monitored or intercepted.

In my consultations with various individuals and organizations in civil society, it has been my experience that the more people learn about the legislation, the more they support it. That is because all Bahamians who are concerned about crime and security want to ensure that our police have a legal path to intercepting the communications of criminals. They also understand that the Listening Devices Act, first passed 45 years ago, long before electronic and digital communications became commonplace, did not keep pace with modern technology.

In addition, contrary to many of the concerns that have been raised, the legislation adds, rather than removes, protection for private citizens. It does so by adding new protective steps – a judge in the Supreme Court must grant the police permission to intercept any citizen’s communications, if the judge finds that reasonable suspicion is justified and the Supreme Court sets a time limit for the duration of the interception. Any extension beyond that time limit must be granted by the Supreme Court. And the Supreme Court can also give instructions as to how and when those records should be destroyed when the threat is removed. These new protective steps safeguard citizen privacy in a way that meets concerns raised in a recent Privy Council case on the Listening Devices Act, which specifically recommended that consideration be given to providing greater protections to Bahamian citizens.

Unfortunately, in this political season, most of the public discussion about the legislation has become completely partisan. Overheated and irresponsible accusations or alternative facts do nothing to further public education or engagement. In too many instances, the debate has been neither measured nor informed.

Because we are concerned that the public has been misled very substantially about the content of this legislation, we have decided to add a period of public consultation, which will be led by the Office of the Attorney-General. During this period, we will work with civil society to ensure that Bahamians will have an opportunity to learn about and review the legislation, have their questions answered and their concerns addressed.

Supreme Court Denies Legal Challenge to Boundaries Commission Report

Bradley-RobertsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
21 FEBRUARY 2017

RE: Supreme Court denies legal challenge to Boundaries Commission Report

Bradley B. Roberts
National Chairman
Progressive Liberal Party

The Bahamas Supreme Court ruled today that the 2017 Constituency Boundaries Commission Report which passed in the Lower House on Wednesday, 15th February 2017 meets all legal requirements, and in doing so, denied the petitioners’ challenge.

The work of the boundaries commission, a joint and bipartisan political effort, is intense and at times contentious in nature. In recent times, governments led by both major political organizations have been more transparent and responsible in this exercise which is essential to the electoral process.

Despite the inevitable disputes, the effort features close consultation between parliamentarians of opposing parties, taking into careful consideration the constitutional guidelines of voter registration in relation to population size and the fair distribution of voters.

The Progressive Liberal Party was disappointed that mischief makers attempted to extend their political activism beyond the legal remit and objectives of the Boundaries Commission in an attempt to frustrate this necessary constitutional requirement.

Nonetheless, the Progressive Liberal Party has always been and will continue to be respectful of the rule of law as it is the great and ultimate equalizer regardless of however frivolous and vexatious the intent in testing our supreme law.

It is our hope that this will be the posture of all concerned.

Griffin: The Answer is to Keep Moving Forward

IMG_0349_editedREMARKS BY THE HON. MELANIE S. GRIFFIN, M.P.
MINISTER OF SOCIAL SERVICES & COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR THE YAMACRAW CONSTITUENCY
JOINT OPEN AIR BRANCH MEETING
THELMA GIBSON PRIMARY SCHOOL, COMMONWEALTH BOULEVARD, ELIZABETH ESTATES
NASSAU, BAHAMAS
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 13TH, 2017
7:30 P.M.

Party Leader;
Deputy Leader;
Cabinet Colleagues;
Parliamentary Colleagues;
Party Officers;
Branch Chairmen;
Branch Officers;
Residents of the great Constituencies of Yamacraw & Elizabeth and from all over New Providence;
The next Member of Parliament for the Elizabeth Constituency, Mr. Alex Storr & Mrs. Storr;

Good evening!

Jeremiah 29:11 (New King James Version) says:

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

We have come together tonight at a crossroads in our national development; at a time when the country is finally moving forward. We have worked so hard, all of us, my Bahamian brothers and sisters, to get to this moment. We have known long days and dark nights. We have had a lot of obstacles in our path. Yet we ARE turning the corner, we are seeing light. More Bahamians are finding the work they need to sustain their families. More of our young people are finding the opportunities they need to be their best selves. But the changes haven’t happened quickly enough – there are too many homes and too many communities where things are still too hard.

But the answer is not to turn back! The answer is to keep moving forward, to work even harder, to bring change to every home!

At this crossroads our choice is very clear – do we continue to build on our successes and move our beloved country forward with a strong, experienced leader and a united team that knows the way? Or do we go backwards, and throw away the advancements of the last five years with a weak, divided FNM?

If the FNM Parliamentary Caucus did not have confidence in its leadership, how can the Bahamian people be expected to trust them? If you cannot lead and get your own house in order, how can you lead an entire country, given the complexity of challenges facing our country? Why would you place your future and that of your children in the hands of that crew?

So, the choice is clear! There is a lot of noise out there – because they can’t present themselves as a united, strong party, they are choosing to muddy the waters with attack after attack, one wild allegation after another. But at the end of the day, they are who they are: unfit to lead, smiling for their photos but fighting as soon as the cameras go away.

Our party is different – we work together, and we focus on you, not on fighting each other.

Let’s look at the facts, because facts do matter:
When we came to office in 2012, your PLP Government met a country on the brink of social and economic collapse; our economy was in shambles with no new investment in sight. The poorly managed road works was not only over budget by $100 million, but shut down scores of businesses, putting many Bahamians out of work. The infamous and harmful STOP, REVIEW AND CANCEL policy stalled the economy and hurt many families and businesses.

The FNM had abandoned important and empowering programs on national training, poverty reduction and national health insurance, setting our country back years. Our police force and public school system were underfunded; our judiciary was overwhelmed with huge caseload backlogs, and in their last five years in government they refused to continue the work left in place to provide national health insurance for everyone.

So first we had to get the house in order. We have built a strong foundation for change and progress by making the tough decisions necessary to stabilize and grow our economy. Doing that has allowed us to take important steps forward to improve national security, reduce poverty and provide better healthcare for all through NHI. Now you know, and I know, the work is not done. We have a lot of work to do. But finally, brothers and sisters, finally finally we are on the right path forward!

I ENCOURAGE ALL OF YOU TO SELECT YOUR PRIMARY HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IN PREPARATION FOR NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE!

Let us continue on this forward path of progress!

Consider education – a priority for us, always. We have doubled our investment in scholarships, made the largest-ever investment in technology in our public schools, and established the University of The Bahamas. These are major changes, major success stories – just ask the children who are going to college, the first in their families. But of course, there is more to do – let’s build on what we’ve started, by expanding scholarships, expanding training opportunities for our teachers, improving our curricula and the resources in our schools.

Nearly 3000 young people have received training at the National Training Agency – we want to reach more, and to continue to assist with job placement. We want to help young people find not just jobs but careers, where they are making the most of their talents and not just feeding their families but giving their best selves.

BAMSI has been extraordinary – where there was nothing, now, thanks to the vision of the Prime Minister, there is now a school, and training, and a network of relationships and entrepreneurial opportunities. BAMSI is not just for farmers and marine scientists – it’s for all of us – it means for the first time in our history, we are tackling food security, and at the same time, strengthening our economy, building our agribusiness sector, and creating Bahamian agribusiness professionals, scientists and entrepreneurs. This is a success story that needs to continue, and we must not allow it to be stopped in its tracks.

The RISE programme is well on its way and the prepaid card is in place throughout the country, with the final island scheduled to receive the card by the end of March. We’ve worked so hard, to bring not just convenience and flexibility but dignity to those who participate. Improving social services needs to continue. Can you imagine social services going back to where it was – the devil is indeed a liar!

Brothers and sisters, did you know that The Bahamas has negotiated to gain control of our airspace? That Bahamian-owned and operated airlines will no longer have to pay to fly in our own airspace! Another big deal – another marker in history, thanks to the Prime Minister and to my colleague Minister Hanna-Martin. This is something the FNM said could never be done. They lacked vision, they lacked courage! But we didn’t.

Brothers and sisters, we are on the right path. We are tackling some of our most difficult and complex challenges: the foundation for a more secure nation has been laid with the recruitment of hundreds of new police, correctional, immigration and defence force officers. Our investment in a new fleet, new bases, and new technology for the Royal Bahamas Defense Force provides better protection of our borders and marine resources.

While we have come a long way in less than five years, there is an enormous amount of work still to do. Too many people are hurting, and while people are hurting, we will never rest.

Fellow Bahamians, hear my voice – our work continues!

We will continue to make our communities stronger, and safer. We need to break the cycle of generational poverty, and provide greater access to healthcare. Every citizen across this family of islands must be touched by real opportunities of empowerment, ensuring that no Bahamian is left behind.

As we forge ahead together Bahamas, now is not the time for uncertainty and in-fighting and weak leadership; now is the time for strength, for an agenda for change, unity and vision.

We must and will move forward with our trusted leader – the change agent – the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie at the helm and his ever ready dynamic team with all hands on deck. Big changes are not easy and they take time. We have had our share of challenges, but one thing is always true: the PLP is on the side of the people – that has never changed. In all our battles, we are fighting for you.

The PLP came out of the belly of the people and their cry for social justice and equality. You know our heart. We are ordinary people, just like you, trying to continue the work started by our founding fathers “to wipe every tear from every eye.”

Yamacraw! Elizabeth! Bahamas! Believe you me, we know the struggle is real; we are affected by it as well. We must continue to move our country forward, together, as Bahamians.

Elizabeth, we bring to you a son of the East. A man with a strong PLP foundation who has walked these streets for many years working with me to address the challenges you faced over the years whether it was in Yamacraw, in the Elizabeth Bye-election or working along with the community association to positively impact the lives of residents in the east. His reach and that of his philanthropic family extends well beyond the east. We give you, in Alex Storr, a man who is not afraid of hard work, whether it is taking on the role of Vice-Chairman of the Party or carrying the Party’s banner in Long Island in the last election, Alex does not shirk from his responsibility and his service to country is well-known. Elizabeth, I can assure you, when you give us Alex in the next election, we will have the most formidable working team the East New Providence has ever known. You can rest assured, you will indeed “Be Sure with Storr!”

“Yamacraw, Oh My Yamacraw!” I have walked your streets, sat with you in your homes, seen your children grow into adults, shared in your good times and comforted you in time of sorrow and natural disasters. We have had some good times and we have had some rough times, but through it all together we have made Yamacraw a community of which we can be proud. Yamacraw we need to stay on course, we have no reason to turn back. So don’t forget, “Stay with Mel, when we ring the Bell!”

It is now my distinct pleasure to present our keynote speaker for tonight’s joint meeting. He is an agent of change, who is progressive in his vision and charismatic and transformational in his leadership, undergirded with compassion so you know he cares deeply for his people. He is a nation builder. I present to you a loving father, a doting grandfather and a devoted husband and above all a man who has exhibited the utmost of integrity in public life.

Ladies and gentlemen stand with me and welcome the next Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry Gladstone Christie!

Roberts: D’Aguilar Credibility Problems Continue

IMG_0286FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
STATEMENT BY BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
CHAIRMAN, PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
IN RESPONSE TO MEDIA COMMENTS ATTRIBUTED TO DIONISIO D’AGUILAR

13TH FEBRUARY 2017

With so many important issues facing this country, I am loathe to respond to media comments attributed to FNM candidate Dionisio D’Aguilar. While I regard his comments as unfortunate and at odds with reality and the facts, I make a few observations at the invitation of the press and for the record.

The record PLP’s record of empowering Bahamians from all walks of life is legendary. Our major beneficiaries of our policy of Bahamianization and our economic policy are our white brothers and sisters who comprise much of the merchant class. That is a fact.

A member of that merchant class is Dionisio D’Aguilar, a local business leader who has benefitted much from that protectionist policy and the overall prudent management of the Bahamian economy by the PLP administration – an administration he seems obsessed with demonizing and slandering – but facts are stubborn.

As he runs to the media and seeks to convince Bahamians that the PLP is evil and bad for The Bahamas, D’Aguilar continues to earn profits hand over fist from his wash houses, this supermarkets and his fast food franchises; his business empire is in full expansion mode. In fact, notwithstanding his empty vitriolic invective, his supreme confidence in the Christie led government to manage this economy is tangible and evident by the expansion of his business empire.

D’AGUILAR CUSSES THE PLP GOVERNMENT ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK.

His continued attacks on the PLP government present him with a dilemma and credibility problem because he is challenged to explain his expanded wealth in the face of what he calls an evil and incompetent government. He must also explain how and why he relishes in demonizing these same black Bahamian customers and employees who continue to facilitate the expansion of his wealth, hand over fist.

To poor complaining multimillionaire D’Aguilar – some unsolicited advice. Firstly, Bahamians would not sympathize with a crybaby spoiled brat millionaire with a gold spoon in his mouth. Secondly, instead of complaining, D’Aguilar needs to be about campaigning and winning the hearts and minds of those he seeks to represent. Thirdly, he should apologize to voters for reportedly saying that he will never enter politics because Bahamians beg too much.

D’Aguilar’s credibility problems continue.

Minnis’ Silence on Pintard is Deafening

Bradley RobertsPress Statement
By
Bradley B. Roberts
February 7th 2017

Hubert Minnis’ Silence on Pintard is Deafening

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The now ratified FNM candidate for MARCO City Michael Pintard was forced to resign from his Senate seat and also as Chairman of the Free National Movement at the behest of their leader Dr. Hubert Minnis when he was caught on tape negotiating a murder plot scam and scandal with known criminals.

Recently Pintard has reemerged in the media claiming that his involvement in the alleged murder plot will not have any “significant impact” on his election bid. However I beg to differ. This amounts to conveniently sweeping this scandal under the proverbial carpet.

The reasons behind Pintard’s resignation still exist today as it did back then and no amount of fluff or deflection from FNM leader Dr. Hubert Minnis or Michael Pintard himself can change that; both men bury their heads in the proverbial sand to their own peril and that of the FNM. Minnis remains suspiciously silent on the resignation and ratification of this embattled individual. Without explanation to his party or the public at large Dr. Minnis has brought trouble into his camps once again and now seeks to have the good people of MARCO City caught up in the fiasco.

For a man who proposes anti-corruption legislation if he becomes Prime Minister, Dr. Minnis is a joke, is duplicitous and cannot be trusted.

There must be more involved to warrant such a move by the FNM leader. At whose directive is Dr. Hubert Minnis making such reckless decisions? Is Save The Bays lobbying on behalf of Michal Pintard as a bid to have him planted back into the political landscape of The Bahamas? And if so, what quid pro quo arrangement was made between Minnis and Save the Bays?

Of all the many unsoiled individuals who wish to run on the FNM ticket, what is so valuable or special about Pintard to the political success of the FNM? He is a compromised candidate with questionable judgment and corrupt tendencies and the people of Marco City should not be burdened with this redundant albatross. Under these kinds of deals, the rule of thumb is always to “FOLLOW THE MONEY” and therein usually lies lurking the spectra and dark cloud of corruption.

Clearly Dr. Minnis is puppet with no moral compass who is not in control of his party. The Bahamian people cannot take the risk of having a person of this ilk, judgment and temperament in control of their government and country.
END

PLP Congratulates Government on Landmark Airspace Agreement

Bradley RobertsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
12th January 2017

STATEMENT
BY
BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
CHAIRMAN

PLP CONGRATULATES GOVERNMENT ON LANDMARK AIRSPACE AGREEMENT

The Progressive Liberal Party congratulates the Christie administration on the successful negotiation of a landmark and historic airspace management agreement announced on Wednesday, 11 January 2017.

It is fitting that such an agreement would be concluded so near to Majority Rule celebrations as the implications of this agreement with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) strike at the very foundational principle of self-determination, sovereignty and the identity of the national identity of the Bahamian people. These are principles the PLP holds near and dear and have fought tirelessly for as we continue to build a more perfect commonwealth.

Under the agreement, our National Flag Carrier, Bahamasair, and scores of Bahamian registered private air charters and carriers would be exempt from fly over fees when taking off from and landing at airports in The Bahamas. The economic impact of this is enormous as operating costs would be reduced and airline operators would be well positioned to pass on cost savings to passengers in the form of lower airfares.

The ten year transition period allows the government of the Bahamas to literally create a new industry as it puts the requisite infrastructure and human resources and management systems in place to support the seamless transition to Bahamian management control of Bahamian airspace. This agreement is part and parcel of the government’s overarching mandate and policy commitment to build and empower our people as we move this country forward together.

I hasten to point out that the Free National Movement scoffed at the idea of Bahamians controlling and managing its own airspace. They said there was little to no economic benefit in it and it was not worth their time while in office so the good work of Minister Glenys Hanna-Martin and her team was shelved under the FNM’s harmful and shortsighted STOP, REVIEW AND CANCEL policy. What a shame. It is written that where there is no vision the people perish.

Special thanks go out to Prime Minister Christie for his focused leadership and vision; his tenacious Minister the Hon. Glenys Hanna-Martin and the public officials who worked tirelessly to see this deal through to the end.

The Bahamian people are the ultimate beneficiaries of this agreement together we build capacity, empower ourselves and move this country forward.

END

Minnis Still Channeling Prime Minister Christie

Bradley-RobertsFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
29th December 2016

Press Statement
Bradley B Roberts
National Chairman
Progressive Liberal Party

4.5 years later, Dr. Minnis still channeling Prime Minister Christie

As a member of the cultural community with aspirations for leading this country, Dr. Minnis’ latest comments on culture do not represent the change he claims to represent, a new vision, or a fresh perspective on national policy. Dr. Minnis usually reacts to Prime Minister Christie, followed by a flip flop, and ends up with him channeling Mr. Christie.

It is clear that Dr. Minnis has no vision for culture or tourism because his initial knee jerk reaction to the debut of Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival was to cancel this cultural tourism event should he become Prime Minister. Years later he flip-flopped in classic Minnis fashion, claiming to privatize the event. Well, with a significant reduction in public subvention, it was already clear that the Prime Minister’s mandate to the Bahamas Festival Commission was to gradually privatize the event so at best Minnis is haplessly channeling Prime Minister Christie and the PLP government.

Minnis also promised to increase funding to Junkanoo but the record is clear that funding in support of Junkanoo, as is the case with regattas, is at an all-time high under the Christie administration so again, Minnis is merely reacting to and channeling Mr. Christie.

PRIME MINISTER CHRISTIE CLEARLY ARTICULATES HIS VISION FOR THE BAHAMAS AND DOES NOT NEED MINNIS AS AN ECHO.

When Dr. Minnis recently built up the courage to speak to the media about the FNM’s plans for national energy sector reform, he talked about renewable energy. The only problem is, the National Energy Policy was released several years ago on the eve of the United Nation’s General Assembly on Climate Change. Further, the PLP government has tabled legislation to amend the Electricity Act, allowing for the grid tie-in of self- generated power from solar energy. Additionally, the island challenge project being led by the Carbon War Room is in the advanced stages of implementation with pilot projects scheduled for a number of Family Islands.

With literally months to go before a general election, Dr. Minnis continues to struggle in finding his leadership footing in articulating policies that support this new direction he keeps talking about. Repeating what the PLP government has done or is doing falls woefully short of the mark as Minnis’ capacity consistently fails to match his unbridled ambition.

In a parting shot, Dr. Minnis’ chairman should be ashamed of himself for attacking the work of civil servants in the Department of Statistics. Having left the Bahamian economy in a wheel chair in May of 2012, Mr. Collie should be happy for Bahamians who secured gainful employment with the more than 31,700 jobs added to the economy since May 2012. While the PLP is happy for those thousands who secured employment, we know that there is much more work to be done on behalf of the Bahamian people.

Baha Mar Sold

PM ChristieCOMMUNICATION BY
THE RT. HON. PERRY G. CHRISTIE, M.P.
PRIME MINISTER & MINISTER OF FINANCE
ON THE ACQUISITION OF THE BAHA MAR RESORT
BY CTF BM HOLDINGS LTD.
(A SUBSIDIARY OF CHOW TAI FOOK ENTERPRISES LTD)
MONDAY, 12TH DECEMBER, 2016

Mr. Speaker,

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the Baha Mar Resort is being sold to a world-class hotel owner, property developer, and business conglomerate, CTF BM Holdings Ltd. (a subsidiary of the Hong Kong conglomerate – Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd.).

The executed Sale and Purchase Agreement represents a significant achievement for The Bahamas, and a milestone in the troubled history of the Baha Mar Resort.

I take this opportunity to unfold, in a chronological order, the steps my Government has taken to reach this successful outcome; beginning with the Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing, the negotiations, the Court interventions, the Bidding process, and culminating with an overview of the Purchaser, CTF, and its vision for the Baha Mar Resort. To put this agreement in context and to appreciate its immense importance to the people of The Bahamas and our national economy, it is helpful to consider the scope and review the recent history of the Baha Mar Project.

BACKGROUND & NEGOTIATIONS

Mr. Speaker,

Baha Mar is an enormous development and once complete, will be among the largest destination resorts in the Caribbean, employing thousands of Bahamians. The Project is comprised of four new hotels in addition to the existing Melia hotel, boasting more than 3,000 guest rooms, a new 95,000 square foot casino, a new 200,000 square foot convention centre, 60,000 square feet of retail space, a new 18-hole [Jack Nicklaus] golf course, a racquet club.

The Resort was first scheduled to open in December 2014, then postponed to March 2015. Both dates were missed, and although construction was more than 95% complete, disputes with the Developer, Mr. Sarkis Izmirlian led China Construction America to stop work, and the Export-Import Bank of China to halt lending.

Mr. Speaker,

On 29 June 2015, the Baha Mar group of companies suddenly and unexpectedly filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in Delaware, without the knowledge of the Government and people of The Bahamas.

Subsequently, the Baha Mar group of Companies applied to the Supreme Court of The Bahamas to have the Bahamian courts recognize the Chapter 11 proceedings and give effect to them in The Bahamas; an application that the Government opposed. This application was heard on 20th July, 2015 by the Honourable Ian Winder who, on the 22nd July, 2015 in an oral ruling refused to grant recognition to the Chapter 11 proceedings and later dismissed the summons.

Mr. Speaker,

We were advised by our US and UK lawyers that the Chapter 11 proceedings in Delaware offered no realistic prospect for a successful reorganization of Baha Mar. Those proceedings did however place Baha Mar, a Bahamian resort, owned by Bahamian Companies and indebted to thousands of Bahamian creditors subject to the supervision of the Court in Delaware. To soften the impact of Baha Mar’s insolvency on its Bahamian employees, the Government, for the first few weeks following the bankruptcy filing applied amounts owed to Baha Mar to meet its unpaid payroll obligations.

Baha Mar’s insolvency led to lay-offs of more than 2,000 employees, cancellation of hundreds of advance room reservations, enormous revenue losses, and downgrading of the sovereign debt of The Bahamas.

Day and night, assisted by a dedicated team inclusive of our US and UK lawyers, I drove the effort to find a solution to this disquieting situation. We engaged in marathon negotiations with all relevant parties on the terms of a global settlement; and assiduously moved negotiations forward. In addition to countless hours of conference calls, by invitation the Bahamian Government participants travelled to Beijing three times, and the Bank and CCA officers travelled to Nassau twice, all in an effort to resolve all issues between Mr. Izmirlian, The Export-Import Bank of China, and China Construction America – but to no avail. Throughout the negotiations, we have first and foremost been mindful of the impact that this stalled development has had on our people and our country.

Mr. Speaker,

Following failed negotiations, on 16th July, 2015, the Honourable Attorney General filed a petition for the winding-up of the Baha Mar group of Companies and applied for the appointment of Joint Provisional Liquidators. The Supreme Court agreed that there was no justification for subordinating Bahamian insolvency proceedings to be under the jurisdiction of the court of Delaware or for compelling thousands of Bahamian creditors to participate in such bankruptcy proceedings.

In October 2015, the Export-Import Bank of China, as secured creditor, exercised its right under the Debenture, and appointed Joint Receiver Managers to take control of Baha Mar’s properties.

REMOBILISATION NEGOTIATIONS

Mr. Speaker,

At that time that the Chapter 11 was filed, tens of millions of dollars were owed to the Bahamian creditors. The Government’s Bahamian, UK and U.S. expert advisors warned that as a result of Baha Mar’s Chapter 11 filings and the evidence filed therein, Bahamian creditors had little or no prospect of being paid any sums owed to them.

Amidst the complex and arduous negotiations, my Government and I remained focused on achieving three (3) main objectives:

(i) Firstly, ensuring immediate remobilization and resumption of

construction, based on committed funding sufficient to complete construction and to open all parts of the Project;

(ii) Secondly, the opening of the Casino, Casino Hotel, Convention Centre, Convention Hotel and Golf Course prior to the end of the 2016-2017winter season;

(iii) And thirdly, settlement and/or payment of all valid claims of contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, and employees and other Baha Mar and CCA creditors.

These objectives were embedded in the Heads of Terms date 22 August, 2016 between the Government, the Export-Import Bank of China, Perfect Luck Claims Limited, and Perfect Luck Assets Limited, and remained the overarching priorities of the Government. We are pleased to have achieved all of the overlying objectives through the valiant efforts of my colleagues and members of staff. The casino and casino hotel, the convention centre and the golf course are on track to open before the end of the 2016-2017 winter season.

Entrenched in the Heads of Terms, the Bank committed to fund all remaining construction costs to complete the Project and inject $101.5 million towards payment of employees and unsecured creditors. This sum represents an ex-gratia payment made by Exim Bank to the unsecured creditors to accommodate the request of the Government. Hundreds of former Bahamian employees of Baha Mar have received the outstanding amounts due to them: unpaid salaries, severance pay, accrued vacation pay, and notice payments due to termination. Sums deducted from employees and former employees’ salaries and pension contributions are also being paid. Other Bahamian creditors and contractors have been receiving a significant part, and in some cases, all of the value of their claims.

Mr. Speaker,

A Claims Committee, chaired by His Excellency James Smith have made various announcements and continue to make payments to all valid claims of contractors and subcontractors, suppliers, and employees and other Baha Mar creditors. I am told that arrangements, including payment, have been concluded with almost 90% of the unsecured creditors.

Additionally, the Government of The Bahamas and the Bahamian utility companies, such as Bahamas Power & Light, have received payment from Exim Bank for some of their unsecured outstanding claims against the Baha Mar Companies.

Remobilization is underway and many of the same people and companies who were previously contracted can expect to be or have been re-engaged to complete the Project.

BIDDING PROCESS & BINDING SPA

Mr. Speaker,

The Joint Receiver Managers, with the assistance of Colliers Macaulay Nichols Inc. as their global real estate agent, were charged with pursuing a thorough marketing and sales process designed to identify an optimal purchaser for Baha Mar. We were advised that all of the bids were evaluated and rejected and that as a result Exim Bank subsequently entered into negotiations with other interested parties.

We were subsequently advised by EximBank that after careful consideration, CTF emerged as the best and most qualified buyer.

Mr. Speaker:

Much has been made of the fact that the arrangements remain under Seal in the Supreme Court of The Bahamas. The application to have the documents sealed was made by the Export-Import Bank of China. As I have advised in a previous Communication a request for documents of this nature to remain sealed is not unusual, particularly in transaction of this complexity, scale, and most importantly, international market sensitivity.

The Bahamian Supreme Court approved the sealing of the documents to assist in ensuring that the parties secure the best outcome for the Property.

Mr. Speaker,

A Sale and Purchase Agreement has been executed; however, there still remains outstanding conditions precedent and negotiations between the Bank and CTF for various ancillary agreements. Maintaining all court filed documents under seal enables the Bank and CTF to finalize these sensitive negotiations with the normal business confidences that one would expect.

Mr. Speaker,

I take this opportunity to nullify any suggestions that the Government has provided unusual concessions to conclude this deal. It is not unique to The Bahamas to provide concessions to attract and encourage investment; and it is not unique to this Project, that concessions will be provided on a proportionate basis to the development. Most Countries offer concessions, trade agreements contemplate concessions, and further, our laws provide for concessions to all qualifying investors. The previous Government also granted concessions to investors, including Baha Mar.

Mr. Speaker,

To reiterate what I have already cited, much of the detailed information surrounding this acquisition remains sealed and I am only able to speak within the confines of the Court Order. I can however disclose that the construction concessions provided to CCA by my Government; are identical to those provided by the former administration.

Further, I can state unequivocally that successive Governments of The Bahamas are constrained and bound by the Heads of Agreements provided with respect to the Atlantis Resort.

It is contemplated that CTF will receive the concessions provided to Baha Mar, as applicable. The Government intends to enter into a Heads of Agreement with CTF to outline all obligations, and concessions provided. It is fair to say that the categories of concessions being considered are not different than those offered by the previous Government (the FNM). This Heads of Agreement the main terms of which have been agreed, will shortly be completed, and will not be shrouded in mystery and speculation, as once executed, it will be tabled in this House, to ensure transparency and accountability.

Mr. Speaker,

I seize this opportunity to make all Bahamians aware that my Government is not deaf to the gossip and speculation and downright false allegations that have been concocted surrounding the Baha Mar dispute, its history, and its progress. Amidst such sensitive negotiations, this Government thought it wise not to offer a running commentary on the discussions, and moreover, not to say anything that might put the future of the project in jeopardy. It’s a shame that so many uninformed views were promoted. The last few weeks have involved a herculean effort and everyone involved did what it took to dive across the finish line.

OVERVIEW OF CTF, REMOBILISATION & JOBS/ECONOMIC GROWTH

Mr. Speaker,

CTF is a world-class developer with immense experience in global integrated resort development. CTF’s experience in tourism, hospitality, and real estate development spans across the globe, with subsidiaries managing or owning over 60 hotels worldwide. Some of its most iconic properties include the Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel (Los Angeles), The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel (New York), Rosewood London (London), and Grand Hyatt (Hong Kong). The Company also operates three resorts in the Caribbean – Jumby Bay, a Rosewood Resort in Antigua, Rosewood Tucker’s Point in Bermuda, and Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands (reopening in 2017). Baha Mar will soon join its impressive portfolio of development projects.

Mr. Speaker,

CTF and its operating Companies will have to meet the normal due diligence requirements of the Government, including the rigorous investigation and licensing process of the Gaming Board with respect to its casino operations.

Mr. Speaker,

Through its subsidiary Rosewood, CTF has been involved with Baha Mar since 2011 and knows firsthand the enormous potential of the development. The Bahamas and Baha Mar will enjoy great benefits from CTF’s involvement, particularly due to their expansive network and ability to open new markets of opportunity for The Bahamas. CTF has indicated its commitment to good governance, community outreach, and social responsibility in all of its business operations across the globe.

As a part of the remobilization efforts, CTF is already in place at the project and has been assiduously planning for the phased opening and coordinating matters with Perfect Luck, EXIM Bank, the Government, CCA, hotel operators, ad concessionaires. CTF has already engaged and had discussions with hotel brands involved in Baha Mar including the SLS Lux, Grand Hyatt, and its very own Rosewood to re-engage and bring the development to life. Resultantly, guests will be able to select from five distinctively different hotels, each designed to cater to the specific preferences of travelers seeking a truly luxurious, but uniquely Bahamian island vacation.

Mr. Speaker,

Despite the challenges that this development has endured, construction at the property has commenced once again and Baha Mar is now back on a path for phased opening, beginning in April, 2017 and full completion by next fall.

CTF has begun developing and planning for an extensive marketing plan. CTF has indicated its vision for the Resort as a sophisticated blend of luxury choice in lodging, entertainment, gaming, dining and retail – all while remaining uniquely and authentically Bahamian. To further substantiate its commitment, CTF has committed to invest tens of millions of dollars ahead of the phased opening through pre-opening activities, and employment.

Baha Mar is anticipated to generate approximately 315,000 additional air passenger guests annually to The Bahamas. This is a 19% increase over the total arrivals in 2015. The extensive improvement in conditions at the Lynden Pindling International Airport continues to bolster airline confidence and enthusiasm to facilitate growth of aircraft movements.

In the forthcoming months, imminent economic opportunities will be realized in more and more homes throughout The Bahamas. Baha mar will create an estimated 5,500 to 7,000 jobs for Bahamians. Furthermore Mr. speaker, the economic and fiscal affects will not only be felt by those Bahamians employed but will also benefit a plethora of Bahamian businesses both large and small. Baha mar will undoubtedly add to our tourism product, and significantly impact growth and economic prosperity in our Country.

This is a new day for The Bahamas.

Mr. Speaker,

At the invitation of the Principals of Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd., an in-depth familiarization, verification and planning visit was made to the Hong Kong Headquarters of CTF last week by a Government delegation comprising of The Hon. Obediah Wilchcombe – Minister of Tourism & Minister Responsible for Gaming, The Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Q.C. – Attorney General & Minister of Legal Affairs, Sir Baltron Bethel – Senior Policy Advisor, Office of the Prime Minister and senior technical legal gaming and investment officials from the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Prime Minister and the Gaming Board.

Productive and rigorous exchanges took place with the Chairman of CTF and top executives of the Company’s extensive global enterprises who were assembled in Hong Kong to facilitate the successful outcome of the discussions. The Chairman Dr. Henry Cheng and top management expressed their commitment to a long term and cooperative relationship with the Government and people of The Bahamas, and to achieving a similar level of economic success that has made the family business one of the largest, diversified business conglomerates in Hong Kong, with strong emphasis on integrity and international best practices.

In discussing the Company’s extensive businesses and marketing plans, CTF laid emphasis on the creation of a world class product which would embrace top international and local entertainment, local art, culture, utilization of Bahamian products, training and education, encourage local entrepreneurship and establish a high-end shopping mecca. The Company emphasized it will offer cutting edge gaming, meet the highest standards of probity and operations as practiced in The Bahamas and other leading gaming jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker,

CTF confirmed to the Bahamian delegation, its commitment for opening and expanding new markets out of North and South America, Asia and Europe, and to working cooperatively with the Ministry of Tourism, the Nassau Paradise Island Promotion Board, and N.A.D. (the Lynden Pindling International Airport) in supporting additional airlift and an aggressive marketing campaign.

The delegation reported to me that CTF has demonstrated to the delegation their track record as excellent owners and operators of convention centres operating the largest and most successful exhibition and convention centre in Asia, located in Hong Kong. Their meetings and conventions business in which The Bahamas has lost share, will be a central
feature of the new Baha Mar project operated by the Grand Hyatt, internationally recognized as the leader in attracting group business.

Mr. Speaker,

CTF’s future expansion calls for the creation of new attractions, the replacement of the Crystal Palace Hotel pod with a compelling new facility and to turn their offshore Island into a themed attraction. The developer further confirmed to the delegation that it will roll out a sustained local and international communications and public relations programme, highlighting both their bold new plans for The Bahamas as well as their global business enterprises. They will embrace the synergy to be achieved between their upscale customers in their multiple businesses, and their Bahamian resort project.

Mr. Speaker,

It was further gratifying during the delegation’s meetings with other leading international business investors in Hong Kong who are well known to my Government, to receive complimentary endorsements of CTF as the investor and operator of the mega Baha Mar project.

Mr. Speaker,

This outcome has arrived at under my continuous personal direction, and the efforts of my colleagues and members of staff who have work tirelessly, across time zones and language barriers. We have had the support of a competent team of legal and financial advisors in The Bahamas, Washington, and London. The Export-Import Bank of China has been involved every step of the way and we a grateful for the efforts made by all parties to fulfill the terms of our agreements for the remobilization and sale of the Baha Mar Resort.

Baha Mar is on track to realize its potential as a premier destination resort, a major employer, and an important contributor to the entire Bahamian economy. This outcome is good for The Bahamas, and great for the Bahamian people.

God bless the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

Minnis Recall Further Evidence That Democracy Is Messy

Bradley RobertsSTATEMENT
BY
BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
NATIONAL CHAIRMAN
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY
7TH DECEMBER 2016

MINNIS RECALL IS FURTHER EVIDENCE THAT DEMOCRACY IS MESSY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The recall of Dr. Minnis under Article 82 of the Constitution as Opposition Leader is further evidence that democracy is not a neat phenomenon – in fact democracy has the capacity to be quite messy at times.

This phenomenon called democracy is a numbers game driven purely by confidence and often times the motivation and intent of the players matter little in the way it manifests itself. Clearly Dr. Minnis does not command the confidence of his inner circle of leaders – the FNM parliamentary that he leads. If he cannot command the confidence of his colleagues, it is virtually impossible for him to command the confidence of a nation and in a nutshell that is the fundamental dilemma he finds himself in.

We will watch and see how Dr. Minnis negotiates himself out of this political ambush and by all accounts his latest ‘baptism by fire.’ He is a relative political neophyte who was thrust into a position of great consequence and he must find his way and his political bearings if he is to survive. He is not seen as a strong, charismatic or inspirational leader within his party and generally.

Since power concedes nothing without a demand, the coming days and weeks will be quite interesting for him, the FNM, the composition of the Lower House and the impact of these events on the unforgiving and dynamic political landscape of The Bahamas.

It is worthy of note that the ones who stabbed Caesar to gain power; were forgotten in history. Time has never been kind to the coup makers.

Can Bahamians Trust Dr. Hubert Minnis?

bradley_roberts_t180STATEMENT
BY
BRADLEY B. ROBERTS
NATIONAL CHAIRMAN
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL PARTY

5th DECEMBER 2016

CAN BAHAMIANS TRUST DR. HUBERT MINNIS?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

By all accounts, the honourable member for South Abaco, Edison Key is a straight shooter; he is a no nonsense politician and was one of Dr. Hubert Minnis’ trusted and ardent supporters. When the sharp knives, fiery darts and arrows took aim at Minnis from within the FNM to remove him as leader, Edison Key stood firmly by Minnis’ side, always standing on a point of principle.

Dr. Minnis apparently rewarded Mr. Key’s honour, principled position, political support and unwavering loyalty by backstabbing, disrespecting and undermining Mr. Key to his constituents in his own constituency. This is unseemly behavior for a leader and should be roundly condemned by all and sundry as it can only deepen the divide and cause further harm to the FNM brand. I am personally offended by Minnis’ dishonorable behavior because I know Mr. Key personally and have worked with him for many years in public life.

AT THE VERY LEAST, MINNIS’ INNER CIRCLE SHOULD TRUST HIM AND HIS WORD. IF THERE IS MISTRUST OF HIM AMONG HIS PARLIAMENTARY COLLEAUGUES, THEN WHY SHOULD BAHAMIANS TRUST DR. MINNIS? HE ALREADY HAS A WELL EARNED NATIONAL REPUTATIUON AS A FLIPFLOPPER AND HIS LATEST ACTIONS ONLY SERVE TO ENTRENCH THIS JAUNDICED AND CYNICAL VIEW OF HIM AND HIS LEADERSHIP.

Minnis has no difficulty with selling his soul to the devil for financial and political expediency. He has aligned himself with Sarkis Izmirlian and parachuted several of Sarkis’ handpicked candidates into the leadership of the FNM in exchange for funding. It is clear that his most ardent critic, serial self-dealer Brent Symonette, will be given Saint Annes in return for financial support. Further, it is apparent that Minnis has kicked new generation leader Theo Neilly to the curbs in favour of Richard Lightbourne in North Eleuthera. With each of these moves, Minnis has managed to alienate segments of his party and support base, fracturing his party further and deepening the mistrust and distrust of his leadership and his word.

As critical as Minnis is of Prime Minister Christie and the PLP, he could learn much from the seamless transition of the PLP candidacies in both the Carmichael and Exuma and Ragged Island constituencies.

Again, if Minnis’ colleagues who form the inner circle of his parliamentary caucus do not trust him or his word, then why should Bahamians repose their trust in him?