Chris Mortimer

Who Has The Horse In The OBAN Race?

Photo Credit: The Nassau Guardian

As the week comes to a close, the Bahamian people must be suffering from flashbacks to 2012 of the first year in governance of the PLP and the failed Gambling Referendum. At that time, the Prime Minister assured that there was “NO HORSE IN THE RACE” from his administration, but in the end, scores of Bahamians believed otherwise.

In similar fashion, The Oban revelations have caught the Minnis Administration in a web of inaccuracies, half truths, misstatements and fraud. The most unsettling part is that the revelations are still coming.

Here is what we do know:-

1. This administration has endorsed a project replete with unsavory characters.

2. The Heads of Agreement has purportedly been signed on THREE DIFFERENT OCCASIONS.

3. OBAN HAS NO HISTORY in the oil refining business.

4. Nearly 700 acres of Crown Land has been “GIVEN AWAY” –AGAIN

5. OBAN WILL NOT PAY TAXES which other businesses MUST pay.

6. The Government does not have a completed Environmental report on the impact to this project to the Bahamas (which affects the people and our tourism industry) and has signed an agreement where the Government has relinquished its rights to terminate this Heads of Agreement even on the outcome of negative environmental grounds.

Once again, scores of Bahamians throughout the length and breadth of the Bahamas are asking themselves the same question they did in 2012. Does someone in this administration have a horse in the race?

The DNA calls for the IMMEDIATE review and if necessary CANCELLATION of this Oban fiasco. We call for a PAUSE of all activity until we can ascertain the identity of the parties to the deal and we also demand a review of the most insane parts of a deal which offers NO PROTECTION for the delicate environment.

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader

Government must terminate Fraudulent Heads of Agreement

For weeks now, the Oban Energies melodrama has played out in the media. Each week, new revelations have been unearthed tearing away at the credibility of both the company and more importantly, this inept Minnis administration, which failed on multiple fronts to maintain the confidence of the Bahamian people in this and future foreign direct investments. Rather than attempting to adequately address the lingering concerns of environmentalists and the wider population, the Prime Minister and his cabinet have often become defensive with members of the press and others who have dared to suggest that the deal in question is not in the best Interest of the people of the Bahamas.

Not only does the Heads Of Agreement relinquish millions of dollars in concessions, but in addition to being signed without the completion of necessary environmental assessments, the contract also strips the government of its right to terminate the contract in the event the assessments deem the project a hazard to the environment.

Today’s headlines seem to further cement feelings of mistrust in this government and Oban’s Principle figures. Back on February 19th government officials including Prime Minister Hubert Minnis, made a spectacle of the signing of the Oban Energies Heads of Agreement, (HOA) broadcasting the press conference live and touting the new era of prosperity which the project would usher in for Grand Bahama Island. What was not immediately apparent however was the blatant and egregious fraud perpetrated by the company’s Non-Executive Chairman Peter Krieger who did not sign his name to the Heads of Agreement but rather that of the company’s President Satpal Dhunna who was notably absent from those proceedings. 
Much like the fish that the PM received from Toogie and Bobo, something stinks! The decision by Krieger to sign another individual’s name to the official HOA is a direct violation of fraud laws; in fact, countless Bahamians have been brought up on similar charges and have been forced to face the brunt of the law. These laws however, should also apply to ALL potential investors looking to do business within our borders. Krieger’s action not only render the HOA NULL AND VOID but further raises questions about the government’s knowledge of his deliberate intent to deceive Bahamians. Further, the Bahamian people must question what type of due diligence the government uses when entering in agreements that commits the Bahamas and its people to irreversible contracts.

In the face of this very disturbing evidence, the PM is now attempting to cast the signing as merely a ceremonial event with no real legal import. His comments are laced with hypocrisy, and nothing more than an attempt by less than transparent men to conceal their blatant skullduggery. The actions of both parties in this matter, leaves much to be desired and raises serious questions.

Firstly, why would the government knowingly enter into an agreement with a company whose project funding was heavily dependent on its procurement of the signed government contract? Secondly, how does the government justify the clause surrounding potential environmental degradation?

After months of preaching the need for honesty and transparency and an end to corruption, PM Minnis has seemingly helped perpetuate a massive Fraud to gain political brownie points. The DNA Calls on the government to say definitively whether they had knowledge of Krieger’s intent and further call on the government to TERMINATE ALL ITS DEALINGS WITH OBAN ENERGIES!

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader

Feed a Nation, Free a Nation

A nation’s ability to feed its citizens is by far one of the most important markers of true development. At a time when our regional counterparts have managed to position and market themselves as exporters of produce, fruit and vegetables, the Bahamas has remained nothing more than a consumer. Sadly, here at home, successive governments have paid only lip service to the idea of agricultural development. Now, it appears that this visionless Minnis administration is hell bent on continuing the trend. Like other Bahamians, we in the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) were shocked to hear the PM gush about the possibility of having products grown in Haiti on his plate.

His comments immediately struck a nerve particularly with local farmers who have been agitating for government support and raises serious questions about the government’s commitment to the development of the country’s agricultural sector. After spending millions of dollars in taxpayer funds to establish and maintain BAMSI it appears that the government is prepared to cut the program off at the knees. Were farmers even consulted before the PM made his grand pronouncement? Did he even consider the implications of his decisions or his public commentary? And what of the health and safety implications? Clearly local farmers were the furthest thing from the Prime Minister’s mind during his trip to Haiti and once again Bahamians are made a second-rate option.

Since the announcement the government has, as it is prone to do, is now attempting to backtrack from its position. In comments to the media, the agriculture minister attempted to paint the move as nothing more than an effort by the government to cut out the US “middle-man”. His words however only further betray the government’s lack of vision. Rather than use this as an opportunity to empower Bahamian farmers and invigorate the sector, this government has yet again chosen a ‘foreign is better’ approach to governance. While the DNA is not opposed to improving trade relationships with our regional counterparts, Bahamian interests must always be at the fore.

The DNA has long believed that entrepreneurs in the agribusiness sector should be given the kind of modern support that will help them meet their targets, and more importantly feed our nation. As part of our vision 2017 and Beyond, the DNA proposed several plans geared at truly exploring agriculture as an economic driver for the Bahamas and create new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for Bahamians wishing to take advantage of it. Among those initiatives are plans to make farming equipment used in the production of cash crops with a considerable market for direct production exempt from duties. The DNA also proposed the introduction of a local farmer’s directory to track seasonal times for planting and harvesting as well as improved legislation that protects our resources while allowing for the local regional and international export of our own produce to various other markets.

In a 21st century Bahamas we can no longer sit idly by while the rest of the world profits. Our leaders must abandon the foreign is better mentality and instead work to create environments where we as a people can flourish and feed ourselves in both the literal and figurative sense.

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader

Political Games vs. Hurting Bahamians

I, like the rest of the country was disgusted by the display of our country’s elected officials in the halls of Parliament on Wednesday. The hallowed halls of democracy became nothing more than a sandbox fight between two petulant, childish “political gangs”. In addition to an all-out assault on our democratic process we, as a people witnessed the day that our duly elected officials abandoned their duties in favor of participation in a petty political soap opera, to which the world had a front row seat. But we’ve seen this before in the last PLP administration. More evidence which confirms what the DNA said in the run up to the last election. They are two sides of the same coin.

It was indeed disheartening to see that at this important time in our country’s development, the fragile egos of the men and women elected to carry out the business of the people have superseded the mandate given to them by the electorate. At this most critical point in our country’s development; at a time where the issues facing our country have never been more dire, Parliamentarians spent hours of “The People’s Time” engaged in petty unproductive political games instead of effecting policy to uplift hurting Bahamians. We have yet to hear about concrete plans to handle the things that matter:-

i. High Unemployment
ii Stagnant Economy
iii Disappearing Banking Sector
iv Inadequate Educational System
v. The Burning Dump

The list continues. We, however, got our fill of the sickening banter from those persons entrusted with the title of Honorable. In a competition between Political Games and Hurting Bahamians, it seems hurting Bahamians lose out.

In the face of enormous challenges, Former US President Barack Obama once referred to democracy as a garden that needed to be tended to, or things would “fall apart quickly”. On Wednesday, our country got a peek into just how quickly things could fall apart. Especially when those men and women elected to serve, choose to engage in partisan political games.

The Democratic National Alliance again calls on our nation’s leaders to set aside their own egos, abandon petty politics and get back to the business of tending our country’s democratic garden. The fate of our nation depends on it.

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader

New Year, New Dump Fires and Much More of the Same

Over the weekend, residents in Nassau with the misfortune of living near the New Providence landfill were awoken by the smell of noxious fumes and thick heavy smoke – the result of yet another dump fire. The health and environmental implications of these toxic fires have been well documented and have been linked to any number of illnesses facing Bahamians. While in opposition, the FNM was extremely vocal about the PLP’s poor handling of the dump. At the time, they promised immediate action and vowed to make the plight of area residents a priority of an FNM administration. This unfortunately can now be added to the list of broken promises made by this government, who, like the PLP before, it has FAILED TO ACT and Bahamians who went to the polls on May 10th to vote for change are experiencing what can only be described as a severe case of buyer’s remorse.

Even with a well-known environmentalist in a key leadership role, we seem to have gone from one ineffective minister to another. Indeed, Romauld Ferreira’s performance during these past 8 months in office has been nothing short of DISMAL. After months of dawdling on the implementation of promised changes at that facility, this reactionary government is only now, in the wake of two large weekend blazes, scrambling to answer the questions of irate Bahamians.

Residents living with the severe impact of dump fires are tired of governments which continue to pay only lip service to the country’s environmental concerns. The time has come for our country to move on from an era where politicians use such issues for political mileage.

True remediation of the landfill will require innovative solutions which take advantage of technological advancements consider the major environmental implications much like the ones unveiled as part of the Democratic National Alliance’s Vision 2017. The DNA proposed the transformation of the landfill into an efficient waste-to-energy facility designed to end decades of environmental degradation and address lingering concerns regarding energy production in the capital.

The Democratic National Alliance calls on the government to FINALLY make this issue a priority. Bahamians are no longer prepared to accept much of the same late again style of governance which they experienced under the PLP. They voted for change and deserve for those changes to come to fruition!

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader

Where’s The BAHAMIAN Plan?

In the eight short months since taking the reigns of governance, the Minnis administration has seemingly adopted the same late again, and foreigner dependent style of governance made popular by the Progressive Liberal Party during their last term in office. Despite its many campaign promises the government has failed to put forward any plans designed to meet the needs of the citizenry and have instead focused its efforts on fast tracking legislation which satisfy foreign interests and bend to international pressures.

First, the government set an aggressive 2019 timetable for the Bahamas’ accession to the WTO, which has left little time for local businesses to prepare for impending changes to the business climate. Second, under the guise of encouraging new industry, the government all but declared war on Bahamian businesses in 2017 by fast tracking the problematic Commercial Enterprises Bill, which will allow large foreign interests to compete with Bahamians. However, eighteen days into the New Year, and eight months into its administration, Bahamians continue to wait with bated breath for the Minnis administration’s highly anticipated economic plans to move Bahamians to the front of the economic line.

As a party, the DNA had hoped that by now this government would have revealed plans to bolster Bahamian ownership of our economy, improve employment, and spur economic growth through tangible means such as (1) a flat rate Business License scheme, (2) reduction in mortgage rates by 50%, (3) reduce the cost of power by 50%. Instead we’ve heard more of the same tired rhetoric, much of which continues to depend heavily on foreign investment rather than proactive changes to make the Bahamas for Bahamians.

After five years of a government which ignored the will of the people, Bahamians everywhere believed the FNM when they promised that it would finally be THEIR time, but is this what the people’s time looks like?

Christopher Mortimer
DNA Interim Leader