By Sloan Smith
Nassau Guardian Staff Reporter
NASSAU, Bahamas — Bahamas opposition Free National Movement (FNM) candidate for MICAL (Mayaguana, Inagua, Crooked Island, Acklins and Long Island) Walt Saunders on Thursday called for the resignation of minister of agriculture and marine resources, Alfred Gray, over his contradictory statements on the $2.1 billion proposed China-Bahamas agriculture and fisheries initiative.
“V. Alfred Gray has yet again proven to be an embarrassment to MICAL,” Saunders said.
“Had he a shred of honour left, he would resign his position in Cabinet immediately, particularly in light of the disgrace he has already covered himself in with regard to the recent island administrator on Mayaguana debacle.
“At the very least, it would give him time to focus on his long neglected constituency before he is removed in the next general election.”
In March last year, police investigated allegations that Gray had interfered in a judicial matter.
Gray was accused of ordering Mayaguana administrator Zephaniah Newbold (acting in his capacity as an island magistrate) to release a convict. But the attorney general determined no one would face criminal charges over the allegations due to “the conflicting nature of the evidence”.
Saunders said Gray’s display in the House of Assembly on Tuesday was particularly shameful as he sought to back-pedal on his claim that The Nassau Guardian’s story on the proposed China-Bahamas agriculture and fisheries initiative was “utterly false”.
The Guardian reported on Tuesday that the government has given Bahamas ambassador to China Paul Andy Gomez the green light to pursue the development of the proposed initiative further.
While Gray called the story utterly false, he later acknowledged that what The Guardian reported about the authorization given to Gomez was in fact correct.
Gray also claimed in the House of Assembly the press had refused to print in full the October 3 letter he wrote to Gomez providing the authorization. The minister suggested that the press was deliberately hiding portions of his letter.
But that was also false. The Guardian printed the letter in full on Wednesday, the same day Gray made the false statement.
Saunders said, “Unfortunately, this is nothing new for those of us in his neglected constituency.
“We in MICAL are well familiar with Mr Gray’s misleading talk, empty promises and hearing his story change over and over again.
“He has long been an embarrassment to us all.
“But not to worry, come the next general election, we will rid MICAL of Mr Gray for good and return our country to sensible, responsible governance.”
The proposal for the joint venture initiative was printed in The Nassau Guardian on Thursday.
The letter printed the day before repeated the primary features of the proposal, including the plan to incorporate 100 companies (to be owned 50-50 by Bahamians and Chinese) and the plan to grant each of those companies 100 acres of leased Andros farmland with an opportunity to access 100 additional acres.
Saunders said the government should not approve the initiative, and should avoid further Chinese investments.
“It is reprehensible that this administration, which came into office on the promise of believing in Bahamians, would be so foolish as to enwrap itself further in the flag of the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
“Has this PLP administration lost all confidence in Bahamians as they continue to give away the country to their new Chinese allies?
“Mr Gray should be well aware that this proposal could destroy the fishing grounds of the country, which [are] the lifeblood of tens of thousands of Bahamians, including the good people of MICAL.
“The Chinese have already overfished their waters; what do you think will happen to our fishing reserves if this proposal becomes reality?
“What can this government possibly be thinking?
“This proposal for Andros, which we know is the nesting ground for our fishing industry, could deplete one of our last remaining national assets.
“Such a proposal by this administration is an affront to the people of The Bahamas and should be rejected in the strongest terms possible.
“The Chinese already control our shipping port in Grand Bahama; they are moving to be the dominant force in our tourism industry with this secret deal on Baha Mar, The Pointe, and the redevelopment of Bay Street, and now they will be taking over our fishing and farming industries.
“How much more of this country can this government sell out to the Chinese?
“Under this PLP administration, The Bahamas has gone from a nation for sale to a nation sold.
“The Bahamian people should resist this and all other involvement of Chinese investment in the country before we are colonized once again.”
Republished with permission of the Nassau Guardian