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HCA Judicial Review

By DENISE MAYCOCK – Tribune Freeport Reporter – dmaycock@tribunemedia.net

FREEPORT businessman Andrew Davies does not agree with the basis on which Fred Smith QC has obtained a judicial review by the Supreme Court into the legitimacy of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement Review Committee (HCARC), but agrees that the public interest is not served by the withholding of the McKinsey Report.

Mr Davies, of Davies Associates Ltd (DAL), a Bahamian development advisory and project management company, was responding to Mr Smith’s reported comments in The Tribune yesterday.

Mr Smith, a partner at Callenders and Co, and Carey Leonard, senior associate with the firm, were granted leave by the Supreme Court for a judicial review to seek a declaration against the government that the consultation process of the HCARC was “fundamentally flawed.” The attorneys are suggesting that government was in clear violation of the principles of proper and lawful consultation by refusing to make the “vital report” available to the public, or even to the people whom the committee was purporting to consult.

According to Mr Davies, DAL has worked extensively throughout the region and has acquired considerable knowledge of investment strategies and structures. “We disagree with the basis on which Fred Smith QC has obtained a judicial review by the Supreme Court,” he said yesterday in a statement. “We agree that the public interest is not served by the Government of the Bahamas suppressing dissemination of the McKinsey Report into the economic prospects for GBI (Grand Bahama Island).”

Mr Davies said that it implies that the report was critical of the government’s conduct and/or it made recommendations that the government does not feel inclined to follow. But it does not follow that the HCARC’s mandate was invalid as a consequence.

“It makes eminent sense for the government to seek the considered views of interested parties without prejudicing their objective opinion by exposing them to the views of McKinsey,” Mr Davies said. “Only in this way, can the government ascertain whether there is general agreement to whatever the McKinsey report concluded.

“However the HCARC has now completed its work and has reported to government and so the need to avoid such ‘conditioning of opinion’ has passed and it is reasonable for government to commit to publishing both the McKinsey report and transcripts of the submissions to the HCARC. In this way the public interest is served by enabling all interested parties to understand the information on which the government has based whatever proposals emerge from the consultative period. This is what open government is about and the public interest argument directed to publication of the outcome of the HCARC’s deliberations is what Fred Smith QC and his colleague ought to have based their case.”

Mr Smith’s application for an Interlocutory Relief in the form of an injunction to stop any further consultation and decision making process regarding the potential changes to the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the economic and fiscal governance of Freeport, will be heard on September 4 in the Supreme Court. The judicial review trial is set for September 24.