Has the Minnis administration lost confidence in Oban?

PM Minnis and MP Chester Cooper.

Exumas and Ragged Island MP
PLP Deputy Leader
April 9, 2018

Over the past few days, not one, but two Cabinet ministers have publically stated without prompting that the government has a way out of the Oban Energies heads of agreement it signed with the company in February.

Notwithstanding that these assurances come from the government essentially two months after the heads of agreement was completed and the subsequent deafening public uproar, it is remarkable to see as senior a member of Cabinet as the attorney general tell the public in Parliament that the government can essentially coerce a developer into “packing up” and going “so long, bye-bye.”

This was the tenor of Attorney General Carl Bethel today as he made his contribution to the mid-year budget debate in the Senate.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minster of Finance Peter Turnquest was also quoted as saying in Grand Bahama last week that the government has some sort of exit clause in the Oban heads of agreement.

I hope he is right and his imagination about what is and is not in the Oban heads of agreement is not getting the better of him.

It is clear to see that the government has no such right to exit the Oban heads of agreement based on any environmental impact assessment.

The deputy prime minister’s refusal to accept what appears in the government’s poorly constructed agreement is more than a little troubling.

It is also amazing that the deputy prime minister, the representative for East Grand Bahama, has now found his voice many weeks after the deal was signed and all the revelations of questionable actors and actions involved in and surrounding this deal have come to light.

Where was the deputy prime minister’s voice and certainty about the government’s ability to get out of this deal when the government was grilled during the mid-year budget debate in the House of Assembly about their sheer folly and clumsy handling of this important matter?

The statements by Bethel are very serious.

I cannot recall another time in history when an attorney general has openly opined on how to get out of a deal the administration they are a part of just signed with a foreign investor.

While I do not support the Oban Energies project in its current form it is imperative that the government of The Bahamas be clear as to its intention in having numerous Cabinet ministers speak to getting out of the heads of agreement it just recently signed.

The government must state clearly if it has lost faith in Oban and if it intends not to move forward with this project.

If the Minnis administration plans on ending this badly conceived Oban deal, as would be the right course, it should just say that and do so through the proper legal channels and with much more transparency and due diligence than it lunged headlong into it.

We re-iterate that Oban is a bad deal and the government must act with dispatch in extricating the Bahamian people from it.