STB and GBHRA to seek joint United Nations hearing to respond to the prime minister’s comments at summit on sustainable development
Two local NGOs have accused Prime Minister Perry Christie of preaching environmental stewardship abroad but riding roughshod over the concept at home – and announced their intention to seek a joint hearing before the United Nations to set the record straight.
The groups said Christie’s recent speech at the UN Sustainable Development Summit was completely at odds with the reality in The Bahamas today, thanks in no small part to the actions of his government.
“Save the Bays and the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association were in equals parts pleased and shocked to hear Prime Minister Christie express his support for sustainable development during his speech in New York,” said Fred Smith, QC, a noted attorney who works with both non-profits.
“As Christie told the summit, nothing could be more important to our future than for the government to truly recognize the value of maintaining a people-centered, planet sensitive and inclusive approach to development.”
Smith said STB and the GBHRA wholeheartedly agree with Christie’s comments regarding the critical importance of ensuring a sustainable future for present and future generations; one which does not sacrifice the country’s treasured natural resources at the altar of short-term gain, only to leave citizens wanting and deprived of basic needs in the future – both environmentally and economically speaking.
“The problem is that Christie’s speech smacked of insincerity. While impressing on the UN The Bahamas’ belief in the responsibility of every country ‘to protect the earth, its resources and its people’ his government’s actions tell a radically different story. It is a story of might makes right and a willingness to sell off our most precious assets to the highest bidder,” Smith said.
“Building the stronger and more sustainable Bahamas to which, according to the prime minister, his government is committed means not abandoning the rule of law for the benefit of favored foreign developers, in the process ignoring or even seeking to silence the voices of local people who have concerns about how major developments will destroy precious environmental resources and established community traditions.
“There is nothing sustainable about development which effectively denies those who are most affected the chance to have a say in their future. Yet this is the type of development that Christie’s government has shown it is willing to promote and encourage time and time again.”
“It certainly does not mean government lawyers demanding public interest groups provide hundreds of thousands of dollars up front if they wish to mount a legal challenge over a developer’s plans to irreversibly damage world-renowned reef sites.”
Such action, as has been seen in the case of the Bimini Bay development and several others, in no way fits with Christie’s claim to the UN that his government wishes to ensure “the protection of our oceans and its species”, Smith said.
“Sadly, the incongruity between Christie’s words and his action when it comes to the environment are plain to see for anyone who takes the time to check,” he said.
“His insincerity threatens our credibility as a nation. We should not be surprised if other countries, when called upon by Christie to lend a hand to reduce the climate change that disproportionately threatens our shores, scoff at our ‘do as we say, not as we do’ approach to these matters.
Smith said insincerity when it comes to protecting the environment does not breed confidence among the Bahamian people, nor on the international scene.
“Local activists believe it is time Christie’s actions fit his speech when it comes to sustainability and we intend to raise the matter of this government’s doublespeak in a hearing before the UN, to which the GBHRA is an accredited NGO,” he said.
“We have already begun reaching out to the UN and other international partners, and will appraise the public of our progress in this regard in short order.”