Tuesday, March 13, 2018
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BRANDING Oban Energies’ executives a “cornucopia of crooks,” Englerston MP Glenys Hanna Martin questioned whether the Minnis administration “misled” Parliament when a Heads of Agreement was tabled for the $5.5bn project proposed for Grand Bahama.
Insisting yesterday the document tabled at Parliament earlier this month is not the same document signed at the Office of the Prime Minister on February 19, the MP demanded to know if there were any Bahamians associated with Oban, adding this question among others needed to be answered to understand how such a “strange and peculiar” deal is continuing despite push back.
She also questioned whether Oban had the money to fund this project.
The MP further sought to draw a connection between the removal of the BEST Commission from the portfolio of Environment Minister Romauld Ferreira to the purview of Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis and connect it to the proposed oil refinery and storage for Grand Bahama.
She said the clauses in the Heads of Agreement do not in her opinion honour Bahamian provisions for the protection of the environment and the failure to do so should be laid at the feet of the prime minister.
This along with public uncertainty on the scope of the project, issues relating to Crown land and the proposed use of the seabed has compounded this matter, Mrs Hanna Martin said.
Her remarks came as Mr Ferreira was yesterday reportedly unable to give answers when he was pressed by reporters on the impact the project was expected to have on the environment.
“Where y’all find these people Mr Speaker?” the MP asked yesterday during her contribution to the mid-year budget debate.
“We have learned that the foreign investors touted to invest in our Bahama land are of dubious character. Y’all bring investors of dubious character here.
“To think of the investor as someone whose role has been shifting before our eyes and has more lately, when I wrote this last night, he was more lately described as an ambassador, but today he is being called a non-executive chairman so we got a ping pong of whoever this man is.
“We know he has a conviction of fraud. He has been barred by the SEC from engaging in a multiplicity of activities, but we bring him here to invest in our country.
“The ambassador was seen on our national TV seated next to our prime minister purporting to execute a $5bn Heads of Agreement. If this wasn’t real we’d be laughing our heads off right now. While singing someone else’ s name not his own. This lil man who can’t do anything in America was in their presence…yet he was signing the name of the president of the company Mr Dhunna who was in the papers with some contorted explanation.
“He’s telling us after the fact now that he authorised Mr Krieger to sign and that he signed too because he couldn’t be here. But if you signed too why was the agreement in here dated the 19th of February, but you say he couldn’t be here that day but your agreement is dated that day and it ain’t witnessed by nobody and the man you send here who can’t do certain things in America signed your name, Mr Speaker?”
She continued to question whether the House was misled.
“The document laid in this House said to be the Heads of Agreement is not the same document we witnessed being executed in the formal ceremony where our prime minister was and the Cabinet and touted the Heads of Agreement.
“The document laid in this House was apparently signed by someone else. I can’t read the signature, but it is alleged to be Mr Dhunna, but who knows. Who knows who signed? I don’t know who signed Mr Speaker, but if the government said Mr Dhunna signed I got to accept that, Mr Speaker. But that within it self creates questions because I am asking Mr Speaker has this House been misled?”
The Englerston MP said the Heads of Agreement did nothing to protect the environment and placed the country in an inferior position.
“We note the BEST Commission was removed, no announcement to the Bahamian people, and placed in the Office of the Prime Minister therefore it is at his feet the member for Killarney, the prime minister, that we lay squarely the grotesque and unprecedented departure of standard provisions over the decade for the protection of our environment.
“It is stunning to see that under this deal the developer may abandon the project if it does not wish to take steps that are commercially reasonable. So even if it’s commercially reasonable they don’t have to do it.
“Under this agreement the penalties for damage to the environment caused by failure to remediate infractions are capped at $3.5m. Remarkably the agreement gives the developer immunity and/or exemption from any future laws or regulations any future approvals or legal requirements, which is applied including any changes in the condition applicable to the issuance of any approval. So what does this do Mr Speaker?
“This is exempting Oban from complying with for example new environmental laws that change the current construct. This is unheard of, Mr Speaker.”
She also said: “They are going to take the agreement that we gave them and go out and raise some money. They don’t have the money. They are going to use our agreement to go out there and raise money.”
Oban Energies President Satpal Dhunna has said Peter Krieger signed the Heads of Agreement with the Bahamas government during a “ceremonial” event at the Office of the Prime Minister three weeks ago because he, Mr Dhunna, could not make it.
In a March 7 letter addressed to the Office of the Prime Minister, Mr Dhunna said he signed “the original counterparts” of the Heads of Agreement “for and on behalf of Oban Energies” in Nassau prior to his return to London.
“As I was unable to return for the ceremonial signing scheduled for February 19, 2018, Peter Krieger, non-executive chairman, attended under the consent of Oban Energies, including but not limited to its members, the ceremonial signing for and on behalf of Oban Energies LLC,” Mr Dhunna’s letter notes.
“Oban Energies. . . hereby considers itself bound by the Heads of Agreement and is fully committed to progressing the project in accordance therewith.”