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2005-03-31 16:10:12

Guana Cay Residents Finalize Law Suit

'We hope that the court is going to strike [the agreement with the developers] down in the next few weeks,' attorney Fred Smith said. 'If it doesn't, we would continue to appeal.'

Residents still opposing the controversial Passerine development planned for Guana Cay intend to follow through on their promise to sue the government in an attempt to stop the project, their attorney Fred Smith said on Wednesday.

Mr. Smith said he intends to file the relevant documents in the Supreme Court early next week opposing the development.

The residents want the court to declare the agreement "void, illegal and of no effect" on several grounds.

"The thrust of the case is that The Bahamas government and this foreign development company have used the Bahamians in Guana Cay as experimental guinea pigs. In fact, the developers' EIA says that this is an experiment, it is a case study for small island development," Mr. Smith said, insisting that the government acted "secretly" in its dealings with the foreign investors.

"Our challenge is going to say that Bahamians are not here to be used as experiments by the Cabinet Office or by foreign development companies."

He said another thrust of the challenge is that there has been a "complete failure to consult."

It's a point that has caused heated debate in recent weeks, with government officials continuously denying that this was the case. In fact, Prime Minister Perry Christie lashed out at South Abaco MP Robert Sweeting for continuing to spread what he indicated was incorrect information.

But Mr. Smith said on Wednesday, "I don't make these accusations against [Minister of Financial Services and Investments] Allyson Maynard-Gibson and the prime minister lightly. They entered into a secret deal to use Guana Cayans as experimental Bahamians."

However, that is a fact that the prime minister has vehemently denied.

"I was not interested at all in imposing upon people a development that we had to fight over," he said recently.

The residents claim that they will keep up their objections to the $400 million development plan for as long as they have to.

"We hope that the court is going to strike [the agreement with the developers] down in the next few weeks," Mr. Smith said. "If it doesn't, we would continue to appeal."

He reiterated that the residents opposing the project intend to tie it up in litigation, meaning that they would mount legal challenges to every permit the developers apply for.

"The people of the Guana Cay would mount legal challenges, political challenges, and media challenges," Mr. Smith vowed, "to make sure that their rights are respected. They're not going away."

Candia Dames, The Bahama Journal

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