Grand Bahama Press Conference Media Query Response
THE PRIME MINISTER: I had a very good chat with Sir Jack Hayward and I am of the view that Sir Jack is going to be cooperative with the Government. The Government will be cooperative with him and the Port Authority. They have some plans that they will announce in due course themselves that we will be supportive of.
As Minister Zhivargo Laing had indicated before, we are willing to do specific investment promotions for Grand Bahama, and we made a half million dollars available from the government and asked the business community and the Port in Grand Bahama to match us and we would take Freeport on the road. Freeport has great facilities for attracting investments.
Question: Status of Royal Oasis Resort/Harcourt Development Group?
THE PRIME MINISTER: Harcourt is in the same position that GINN was in West Grand Bahama and that is the recession has affected them and their ability to raise money from banks and their ability to fund any development. There is no answer to be given as to when they will get money or when they will find a buyer – that is one of the consequences of this great recession that took place. Some people in my country seem to think that such a thing does not exist; but it exists all over the world and Harcourt was a very big and successful company in Ireland who is now unable to fund that kind of development.
Question: Response to those who claim the FNM government has turned its back on Grand Bahama?
THE PRIME MINISTER: Well I thought a good example of turning a back on Grand Bahama was the plans we had for the new Accident and Emergency and theatres that sat down for five years and nothing happened with them – that is a good example of who turns their back on whom. [Look at] the school that we built, the opening of the new administrative complex, the work we did in East Grand Bahama, and the list goes on and on. One of the things about my opponents is that they are very boldfaced people. They don’t concern themselves with the facts. They will tell you an outright lie and they will repeat it over and over and they will have some people who believe them. Because how they could fix their mouth to talk about who looks after Grand Bahama and who doesn’t is beyond my comprehension, but I have to learn how to comprehend it and respond to it.
Question: Are you satisfied with the status of the Our Lucaya property?
THE PRIME MINISTER: When I was here on Sunday I was elated when the manager told me he had 75% occupancy. I had never heard that, I’ve been hearing about the 20s and the 30s. I think that a genuine effort is being made to attract more business to the place and I continue to express my appreciation to Hutchison Whampoa to whom we are very grateful for continuing to put money into a place that has been a total loss from their point of view. It is my hope that my people in Grand Bahama and all people in Grand Bahama would be appreciative of what they are dong because others may have closed it but they are keeping it open and operating. We obviously have some views as to how they ought to manage it differently than they have been doing, but it is not our place – we do not own it, it is their money. We talk to them from time to time, seek to cajole them,
make suggestions, sometimes they take our suggestions, but it is their money.
Question: Response to those who question why Port Authority intervention has not happened a long time ago.
THE PRIME MINISTER: You have no idea how many times I have met with Sir Jack. I have met with Sir Jack on many occasions. I am delighted that Sir Jack has now come to the conclusion that we can have a chat as we used to in the past that is uninfluenced by any other considerations. See, for instance, Sir Jack was told a lie. He put it in the newspaper and said we had refused Hannes Babak’s work permit without telling him anything – that is a total lie.
Branville McCartney who leads this party called the DNA, was the Minister of Immigration, I dispatched him to Freeport to have a meeting with Hannes Babak to tell him that we no longer regarded him as someone who should be in charge of the Port Authority and that we would not give him a work permit when his permit expired. He had his notice. Hannes Babak wasn’t satisfied with that. He got Sir Albert Miller to call me so
that he and Albert Miller could come to Nassau to see me. They both came. He wanted to know whether Mr. McCartney spoke for the Government or for himself. I assured him that MCartney came to Grand Bahama to see you upon my instruction and he delivered the message I sent, that is, that you are not the person we are going to support to be in charge of the Port. Sir Jack never knew any of that – Sir Jack was told something
We found Hannes Babak to be unacceptable; we came to that conclusion for good, valid, sound reasons and recent events have reaffirmed and reconfirmed to us that he is not a suitable person to be in charge of the Port.
Question: So it is not an issue of a foreign versus Bahamian chairman?
THE PRIME MINISTER: Sir Jack can appoint whomever he wants so long as it is a fit person – we are only concerned with who is fit from the point of view of getting permission from the Government. We cannot determine who you want to appoint as your chairman, we are delighted to support whatever you want to do with your chairmanship so long as the individual is somebody that we regard as being fit to have a work permit in The Bahamas. You have got to bare in mind that Mr. Hannes Babak came to The Bahamas on the basis that he was a monied person who did not need to work. He got permanent residence and was able to work at his own business – not to go and work for somebody else; that is a work permit holder. He can run his own business as much as he likes.