Exuma, Bahamas — “That development would not have been approved,” Christie said. “Permission would not have been given for dredging.”
The former prime minister’s comments came during an interview with talk show host Dwight Hart on 98.3 The Breeze radio station in Exuma.
Several weeks ago the government approved the request of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV to dredge a yacht basin to accommodate 150-foot vessels at Bell Island.
The Bahamas National Trust (BNT), which has stewardship of the park approved the dredging.
Christie said that even though 40 percent of the islands in the park are privately owned, there are some things the government should not allow landowners to do in environmentally sensitive areas.
“It’s a real concern,” he remarked. “We have an obligation to recognize moving forward that there are some parts of The Bahamas that ought to be protected forever and forever and forever.
“The FNM (Free National Movement) is to be commended for its insight into expanding the parks, but at the same time it therefore ought to remember that it was motivated to expand these areas for the protection of Bahamians 100 years from today. That they would be able to see and sense and share in what this generation and previous generations were able to share. And therefore the logical conclusion to draw from that is islands like Bell Island should be prohibited from developing in a certain way.”
Christie said the government should have gotten a consensus from Bahamians, particularly Exuma residents, before approving the dredging, which many fear will harm the park.
The approval of the dredging has led to sharp criticism of the government, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, Minister of the Environment Dr. Earl Deveaux and the BNT.
Dr. Deveaux was sharply criticized for accepting flights on the Aga Khan’s luxury helicopter prior to approving the development.
The prime minister later admitted that he and his grandchildren rode on the Aga Khan’s helicopter when he went to Bell Island to have lunch with the King of Spain.
“I’m not going to get too involved in this issue of whether Hubert Ingraham should have taken his (grandchildren) to see the Aga Khan,” he said. “That’s a judgment a prime minister makes on the degree of importance that he attaches to some major investor who could come and impact the country. I don’t know that if I were in that position… if I would have done the same thing.”
It has also been reported that the BNT received a million dollar donation from the Aga Khan prior to the approval.
Christie said he thought the entire situation “looked bad.”
“I can see the difficulties in the imagery because in governance in our country politicians and those in government must be seen to be doing the right thing,” he said. “And when you have an investor who comes in and he gives the national trust a million dollar donation and then you get approval on something like that, the imagery is bad. And it raises too many questions.”
Deveaux has denied any wrongdoing.
At a town meeting held in Black Point, Exuma last week, residents expressed mixed views about the development, but many said they felt a double standard was being applied regarding foreigners and locals.
“Bahamians have been prohibited from fishing in this area,” he said. “If they therefore see foreigners being able to fish and not be punished; if they are able to see that a decision could be made for somebody who is incredibly wealthy and believe that may have led to the decision, that’s not good for the governance of our country.”
Christie added: “We would not have made that decision and we would be the first to admit that we are being constantly educated as a party in that regard.”
Dredging in the park has not yet begun. It has been delayed pending the approval of an environmental management plan.
By JUAN McCARTNEY (thenassauguardian)