By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party Chairman Fred Mitchell yesterday said it appeared as if the “fix is in” on Lighthouse Point.
Mr Mitchell scrutinised comments made by Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis, who told residents at Wednesday’s town hall meeting in South Eleuthera that environmental arguments will not sway the government’s decision.
Noting his party only wanted a fair process, the former Cabinet minister also pointed to allegations that South Eleuthera MP Hank Johnson is actively lobbying for Disney’s proposed development.
“The information that has come to the PLP is that the MP is actively involved in lobbying on behalf of Disney – that in itself sends up red flags,” Mr Mitchell said.
“More importantly you have the prime minister appearing to fetter his discretion saying he will dismiss environmental concerns in advance. If he is having a hearing on Friday with the other side,” he continued, “how can the government say they are going to have a fair hearing? When he’s already dismissed environmental concerns?”
Mr Mitchell said: “Looks to me that the fix is in and they’ve decided to go in one direction. We only want a fair process and if the project is something the people of Eleuthera want then certainly they should have it, but the process should be fair.”
Environmental groups like the Bahamas National Trust, reEarth and Waterkeepers Bahamas have sought to block Disney’s proposed development and promote efforts to preserve the 700-acre privately-owned peninsula property.
The One Eleuthera Foundation – a non-profit group also advocating for preservation – is set to present its offer for the property today, according to Dr Minnis.
At Wednesday’s town hall, Dr Minnis told residents a more damaging project was approved for the area in 2008 by the then-Hubert Ingraham Cabinet. Dr Minnis served as minister of health in that administration.
“…The argument about the destruction of the land will hold no water,” Dr Minnis said.
Mr Johnson’s wife Shelly Johnson is a member of the Community Support Group (CSG) – a body established this past spring to convey the “unfiltered voices” of local residents in Eleuthera.
CSG, according to its representatives, remained neutral in the Lighthouse Point saga until it was presented with proposals from both the One Eleuthera Foundation and Disney Cruise Lines.
CSG Chairman Denny Rankin said previously: “We had to come together to make it clear where we stood.”
The views of most of those attending Wednesday’s town meeting were overwhelmingly supportive of Disney’s project. Dozens wore T-shirts reading “We Love Disney”, “Disney Loves Eleuthera,” “Eleuthera loves Disney” and “Disney Respects Me” when they greeted Dr Minnis’ delegation at the island’s airport and during the town hall meeting that followed. One of those persons was Mrs Johnson.
Mrs Johnson, a spokesperson for CSG, has previously criticised One Eleuthera for what she described as “false representations of the truth.”
“This is not a political affair,” she told The Tribune this week. “One Eleuthera needs to understand that. This is about changing lives for the residents of Central and South Eleuthera.”
Expressing a clear disdain for One Eleuthera’s action in recent weeks, Mrs Johnson said “They want to give us corn beef and we want the lobster. It isn’t out of our reach. We can see it and touch it.
“Why get mad at us because we want better?” she asked.