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(Check Against Delivery)

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press.
Good morning to my Parliamentary team and Party Officials

I thank you for coming and as I am accustomed to doing, I will make a brief opening statement then I will take your questions.

We in Her Majesty’s Official Opposition continue to remain deeply concerned about the capricious actions and behavior of the Prime Minister and his Government. The behavior is not one that I would expect from a stable government and, increasingly, this type of behavior makes the point that the Government is directionless and unfocused and, indeed, is playing games with the well-being of the people of The Bahamas.

This is not the time for game playing or headline grabbing. I believe that governance is a serious business and that we should bring all seriousness and focus to the process in the interest of the Bahamian people who we serve.

Permit me, if you would, to take you back to several key events of the last two weeks. Two weeks ago, on the 14th February, I presented a Notion to the Honourable House of Assembly in which I asked the Hon House to condemn his behavior as Speaker of the House and because of the egregious nature of his conduct and the moral texture of his attacks on members of the Opposition and of a private citizen, I sought the resignation of the Speaker, the Hon Halston Moultrie.

The Speaker subsequently apologized for his behavior but this, in itself, does not remove the obligation for him to resign and to step down so as to restore the dignity of this honourable and ancient chair, the symbol of parliamentary authority.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

The hurtful and derogatory words and scandalous innuendoes will remain a part of the records of the House. We have an ancient Assembly going back to 1729 and it is a shame that in 2018, in this modern and enlightened era we of this generation would allow these words to be a part of the historical record of the House.

Yes! The Speaker has apologised but the Government has been silent. We all are familiar with the phrase – silence gives consent. In short, although the words would have been spoken by the Speaker, ever single member of the Government bench stands condemn and are in fact complicit.
All of which brings me to the matter of OBAN! It must be concluded that the Government has lost credibility over this particular issue.

But, here is the connection between my Motion in the House and the OBAN matter.

On the same day as my Motion was being raised in the House, as if to divert attention from this most serious issue, the Prime Minister stood in the House and communicated that the Government would be signing a HOA with OBAN for the construction of a $5bn (USD) oil refinery in Grand Bahama. This was a diversionary tactic to take the heat of the ongoing issue in the House. It was all “smoke and mirrors”. It was intended to change the narrative.

This is among the most confusing and negligent HOA ever entered into by any Government. This Agreement is reckless, shrouded with incompetence, in fraud and dishonesty with a cast of characters straight out of book of fiction. The Prime Minister has not helped his cause by tabling the HOA in the House of Assembly, last Thursday, an Agreement that had a different signature from the one that had been signed in his office with the media present.
The Prime Minister represented on 19 February that the document being signed by the Secretary to the Cabinet with Peter Krieger was in fact the Heads of Agreement between The Bahamas and Oban.

He did not say this was a ceremonial, for the cameras event.

The press has indicated that the man signing the document Peter Krieger did not sign his own name but that of Sanpat Dhunna, the President. Mr. Krieger had previously been identified to the public as the President.

The Prime Minister and his Cabinet members were witnesses to the signing. None of them disclosed that this was not the real signing but only ceremonial.

The Prime Minister on Thursday 1 March tabled what he said was the Heads of Agreement between the parties.

The House and the country expected to find the signature of Mr. Krieger on the document.

They did not find that signature but instead that of Mr. Dhunna.

The press has said that Mr. Krieger signed Mr. Dhunna’s signature or name.

The Prime Minister did not disclose to the House that there was a ceremonial signing and therefore possibly two different documents.

The impression was that there was one document and that was the one he produced to the House,

So questions have to be asked:

Will the Prime Minister say whether there are two documents or one?

Is the document signed by Mr. Krieger with Mr. Dhunna’s name the document that was tabled by the Prime Minister in the House?

Is the document tabled in the House then a true, valid agreement?

Whatever the answers to these searching questions, in my view this represents a fundamental dishonesty and government by sleight of hand. The country is entitled to implicitly rely on the word of a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has an ethical responsibility to tell the truth. He has a legal responsibility not to mislead the House.

In any other developed system of Parliamentary democracy this would be grounds to move a vote of no confidence and censure in the Prime Minister and the Government fro materially misleading the country and the House.

The Prime Minister sought to absolve himself of the responsibility of the decision in this matter by saying its’s the PLP’s fault. This is not about the PLP. The PLP did ot sign the Heads of Agreement . The Prime Minister did. So he must say why he did it. He cannot be seen to say that he knew that the man was involved in nefarious activities and he went ahead any way. He then has adopted the wrong doing.

We now have the spectre of a HOA signed by two different individuals as representative of the investment group. Which one are we to put our faith in? More to the point, why have a Mr. Peter Krieger signed in the presence of everyone and the next week lay on the Table of the House an Agreement with a different signature.

We are advised that the B.E.S.T. Commission, the government’s official policy advisor on the environment and its protection, preservation and sustainability was kept out of the loop on this project. Why is that? B.E.S.T. is reportedly unaware of the location of the proposed project, therefore, was unable to offer any policy advice to the government on this matter. I am sure the Prime Minister has an explanation for his decision to exclude the B.E.S.T. Commission in this environmentally sensitive project.

The critical EIA, the results of which should determine whether a project should be preceded with is not a game changer according to the HOA, Senator Darville has recently expressed grave concerns about the sustainability of the project in that it could destroy very important fresh water lens that supply potable water to much of Grand Bahama. The area in question is the property adjacent to Stat Oil. Even if the EIA confirms this, the project still goes ahead as the government and the developer will “work around” any adverse finding. This is inexplicable.

The government must not only be seen to be protectors of the public interests, but must seem and appear to be advancing the public interest. In the interest of accountability, transparency, honesty and open government as the Prime Minister consistently promised in both local and international forums, he must come clean and clear the air on all of these questionable matters.

These observations and queries beg the questions of what was the consultative process with the Attorney General and his Office? Were they aware of these maneuvers? Are they satisfied as to its legality? The government has much to answer for on this debacle.

Let me go on record as saying that we in the Progressive Liberal Party would like to see any legitimate and sustainable project proceed for the good and benefit of Bahamians everywhere. What is at issue is the Government’s conduct!

What is at issue is the Government’s competence! The Government’s credibility has been lost!

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, we take grave exception to the fact that the Prime Minister would venture abroad to make statements about The Bahamas and the former government being a corrupt. He has on more than one occasion inferred or stated publicly that investors had routinely been asked for monies for projects to be approved.

The Prime Minister has yet to provide proof to support his statement. This is a distraction from the many issues facing the Minnis Government which they are unable to tackle.

The question Minnis has to answer is whose administration these investors were talking about? The record clearly shows that unprecedented foreign direct investments took place under the watch of the PLP and not the FNM. Every major investment and economically impactful investment throughout the Bahamas over the last fifteen years has been under the watch of the Progressive Liberal Party.

Definitely, these investments were not turned off by a PLP administration, so what about the FNM administration.

For example in seeking agreement for the establishment the Arawak Port Development, Brent Symonette was the chair of the group of waterfront property owners negotiating with the Government. Were his and the group’s actions ever castigated as corrupt?

Then there was the BTC Agreement which saw the sale of BTC to a private group – were there any accusation of corruption?

Was the Letter of Intent (LOI) signed by someone who sits in the current Cabinet corrupt?

Was the Lease Agreement between Dr. Hubert Minnis, then Minister of Health for the lease of a building to the Ministry of Health corrupt?

When the Prime Minister talks about “hand held out” by Governments when investors come to do business in The Bahamas which Governments is he talking about? The record shows otherwise.

At the same time, it cannot be lost on the public that in almost one year in Government, the Minnis Government cannot conclude the negotiations for Our Lucaya in Freeport, a matter which the PLP Government left virtually concluded.

At the same time, it cannot be lost on the public that in almost one year in Government, the Minnis Government cannot conclude the negotiations for Our Lucaya in Freeport, a matter which the PLP Government left virtually concluded.