The ongoing controversy surrounding Baha Mar is prompting political leaders to renew the call for a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis believes the continued lack of transparency from Prime Minister Perry Christie on the secret multi-billion dollar deal struck with what he called “his Chinese allies,” shows the need for immediate FOI legislation to be enacted in The Bahamas.
The Ingraham administration passed such legislation in early 2012, but it was never enacted.
The Christie government has since promised to bring a tweaked FOI bill to parliament, but has not followed through.
Dr. Minnis is convinced the government is stalling as a means of concealing “sweetheart deals”.
“It’s clear that the prime minister and the PLP have shown a complete disregard for the Bahamian people and their wishes,” Dr. Minnis said.
“Over the weekend, the prime minister revealed that he had not even told his Cabinet the details of the recent sale of Baha Mar to Perfect Luck Holdings Ltd. On Tuesday, the Cabinet held their weekly meeting and so it must be asked, did the prime minister share the details of his secret sale to his Cabinet on Tuesday or is he still withholding the information from them too? Is he afraid of an embarrassing leak from his PLP leadership like the debacle he encountered with his Hurricane Tax proposal,” the FNM leader asked.
The Opposition Leader is not alone in his push to have the legislation passed.
Democratic National Alliance Leader Branville McCartney insists the government is using the damage wrought by Hurricane Matthew as an excuse to hold off on tabling the long awaited and much talked about legislation.
“Many Bahamians will remember the government’s self-imposed two -year deadline by which they hoped to complete the necessary consultations, amendments and tabling of the Bill. Despite the PLP government’s insinuation that Hurricane Matthew in some way threw off the government’s timeline, that two-year deadline expired long before Matthew even formed or became a threat to this country,” said Mr. McCartney.
The DNA leader said his party is by no means surprised by the delays in implementing this legislation.
“In its absence, the government has been able to secret away millions in Value Added Tax Collections with zero accountability on how that money has been used. Similarly in recent days and weeks, government officials have continued to hide the pertinent details surrounding the supposed “sale” of Baha Mar and its assets to Perfect Luck Limited. In fact, even the Christie Cabinet remains in the dark as to who these new Chinese interests are and their intentions for the stalled development or how Bahamians will be impacted,” Mr. McCartney added.
Both leaders say their parties will continue to fight until the legislation is passed.