Court action taken againstBell Island dredging
A writ filed in the Supreme Court on behalf of an Exuma resident alleges that Minister of the Environment Dr. Earl Deveaux and Director of Physical Planning Michael Major abused their public offices by giving the go ahead to dredge in the Exuma Land and Sea Park in contravention of laws put in place to prevent it.
The court action seeks to prevent the dredging, as well as the excavation at Bell Island.
It names Deveaux as the first respondent and Major as the second.
The writ, filed on behalf of Farmer’s Cay resident Terry Lamond Bain, also names the Bahamas National Trust(Its Board)and Attorney General John Delaney as third and fourth respondents respectively.
Bain is being is represented by attorney Keod Smith in the matter.
The writ contends that both Deveaux and Major circumvented the conventions of the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of The Bahamas Act, 1997(CPPL)and the Bahamas National Trust Act, 1959(BNT), by granting the owner of Bell Island, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV(Aga Khan), the right to dredge in the protected Exuma park.
The writ asserts that:”…By virtue of the history/chronology of this matter, the first and second respondents were guilty of abuse that amounts to the tort of misfeasance in public office, particularly’targeted malice’.”
It is alleged in the writ that on August 13, 2010, more than one month before Deveaux gave the dredging project the seal of approval, the BNT offered its nod in favor of the project.
It also alleges that from that time, up until the time that it was announced that the project was approved, the Bahamian media continued to report that a decision had not yet been made.
This point is salient in that the writ also alleges that according to the BNT Act, all areas of the Exuma Land and Sea Park are statutorily held in”perpetuity as an environmental preserve for the benefit of the Bahamian public-at-large”and that the Constitution of the Bahamas insists that members of the public are”not to be deprived”of information regarding the park.
“… If any part of the Exuma Park, whether physical or in terms of access or use, is removed, destroyed, altered or in any form hampered, the applicant or any member or groups of people of the general public of The Bahamas, are entitled to the payment of damages in terms of compensation as anticipated by Article 27-Constitution of The Bahamas,”the writ states.
“…The issue of the permit dated 21st September, 2010 by the first and/or second respondents purporting to give permission and authorization to Discovery(Aga Khan)to dredge marine areas of Bell Island and the surrounding seabed of the Exuma Park, was unlawful, illegal in that it was done in excess of their powers under the CPPL Act and, therefore, invalid as being ultra vires.”
The writ also states that the Exuma Land and Sea Park is listed as a designated”no take zone”and that according to the BNT Act and CPPL Act, neither Deveaux nor Major has executive power to issue permits to dredge in the park.
“The first, second respondents understood or ought to have known the limitation of their powers as set out under the CPPL Act. They knowingly choose to disregard the same,”the writ states.
Deveaux was accused in some circles of conflict of interest after he was seen taking rides in the Aga Khan’s private helicopter. He reportedly offered his resignation to Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who did not accept it.
He contended during a press conference in October last year that environmental assessments submitted by the Aga Khan met with his ministry’s approval and that the original plans had been tweaked to ensure further mitigation of negative environmental impact.
“We approved the project simply because there was no reason not to approve it,”he said.”The developer met all of the environmental requirements that were required and the developer’s proposal to do the marina was in accordance with their right and consistent with the policy.”
The project is said to include the excavation of 4.32 acres of upland area for a yacht basin; 2.56 acres of marine area for a barge landing; and 1.9 acres of marine area for the outer area of the barge landing.