Christie backtracks on oil statment
PLP leader contradicts earlier admission on issue
By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter
Nassau, The Bahamas
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Perry Christie last night backtracked from a statement he made a week ago confirming that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) was benefiting from advice he was providing as a consultant for Davis & Co. law firm.
Christie said in a statement he no longer works as a consultant for the firm. He said the professional relationship was severed “well before” the issue became a controversy.
However, the press release contradicted statements Christie made during a recent telephone interview with The Nassau Guardian that was recorded with his consent.
In that interview, Christie indicated he was still providing advice for BPC, which is seeking approval from the Bahamas government to drill for oil in Bahamian waters.
Last Thursday, Christie said he is a consultant for Davis & Co. and gives legal advice for BPC. He made no mention of the relationship being over — in fact refering to the advice he is ‘now’ giving.
“It’s not a conflict because the advice I’m giving now has nothing to do with any decisions I [will] make as prime minister,” he said.
Davis & Co., the law firm owned by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Deputy Leader Philip Davis, is one of two Bahamian firms that represent the oil company.
“Once we became in Opposition, part of the professional services I render is by way of a legal consultancy to Davis & Co,” the PLP leader said last week.
“As a part of the legal consultancy, I consult on work the firm deems I am qualified by the office I’ve had, by the knowledge I have in terms of government and by my own grasp of the legal principles involved in issues to do with governance. So that is my consultancy and that embraces whether [it’s] matters of tourism or in this case, Bahamas Petroleum.”
The revelation that Christie is providing advice for BPC was made by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham last week, after Ingraham was asked by The Nassau Guardian about the issue of oil drilling.
Christie confirmed he was providing advice through Davis & Co. after he was contacted by The Guardian and questioned on the matter.
During that interview, Christie expanded on the advice he gives to the oil company through Davis & Co.
“If there is an issue they need advice on, if they need someone to speak to the issue of environmental impacts, the issue of whether or not in my judgment a matter is worthy for the government to approve, whether or not an application is ready, whether or not they should employ, who should go on the board of directors, whatever views they ask of the firm in the event that the firm regards it as necessary they would consult me on it — those are the services I provide,” Christie said.
Last night, he said his working relationship with Davis & Co. and BPC is over.
“Well before this current controversy, which is motivated solely by Ingraham’s last-minute attempts to derail his impending loss, my consulting arrangement with Davis & Co., which represented BPC among many other clients, had expired. Thus, I am not currently advising BPC in any manner,” said the statement.
Christie’s admission last week has been the subject of several attacks from Ingraham and the Free National Movement.
On Wednesday night, Ingraham labeled Christie an oil lobbyist and said the PLP leader’s ability to lead the country is now compromised because of his relationship with BPC.
Yesterday, members of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) demonstrated outside the Office of the Leader of the Opposition on Parliament Street and demanded his resignation over the matter.
Last night, Christie said the criticism was politically motivated and added that his ethics are above reproach.
“They are losing, we are winning, and they are inventing new charges and distractions,” he said.
Christie added that when permits for oil exploration were granted by his administration he ensured that stringent environmental restrictions were imposed.
He said the Ingraham administration did not adhere to the same strict policies when it granted oil exploration licenses.
“The current prime minister had a different approach, issuing oil exploration permits with no serious environmental conditions whatsoever,” Christie said.
Christie also said if the PLP wins the next election oil drilling would only be considered once there is a full regulatory system to ensure that stringent safety and environmental protection systems are in place and after there is a national consensus on the issue.
Christie said his party would put the issue to a national referendum if necessary.
Apr 27, 2012