Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette responds to Fred Smith's allegations over lawsuit

RESPONDING to allegations made in an affidavit by prominent attorney Fred Smith that FNM officials told him to drop a controversial lawsuit or lose his political dreams, Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette said he does not recall Mr Smith's version of the events.

As reported by The Tribune earlier this week, Mr Smith, QC, a senior partner with Callender's and Co in Grand Bahama filed an affidavit on December, 7 which alleges that the FNM's Candidates Committee told him he would not receive their endorsement for the Pine Ridge constituency in the 2007 general election -- unless he dropped lawsuit against a foreign developer.

At the time, Mr Smith represented the litigants against the Baker's Bay resort development in Guana Cay, Abaco.

Said Mr Symonette when contacted by The Tribune for a reaction to the allegations: "If Mr Smith has made those allegations in an affidavit form -- I don't think the party, the FNM party, is a member of the action in court and so we don't have a forum to deal with it. And if that's what he wishes to put in his affidavit -- (it's) a democratic country he can put it there.

"It's not my recollection of what happened but that's obviously his recollection."

Mr Smith represented the Save Guana Cay Reef Association in a four-year-long legal battle against the $500 million Baker's Bay development. The case was recently rejected by the Privy Council.

The lawyer alleges that money outweighed democracy in the selection of the FNM candidate for the Pine Ridge seat in 2007 -- claiming that the committee was worried that his part in the Guana Cay case would offend the FNM's "powerful financial backers."

Ultimately, another Grand Bahama attorney -- Kwasi Thompson -- was officially nominated for the constituency and was elected as MP for the area.

The affidavit was filed in connection with the argument over who should pay the legal costs in the unsuccessful appeal to the Privy Council launched by Mr Smith on behalf of the SGCRA seeking to have the initial ruling that gave the development the go-ahead in the face of the SGCRA's concerns overturned.

In the affidavit, Mr Smith stated: "My political aspirations and the wishes of the voters in the Pine Ridge Constituency Association were dashed as a result of this case.

"I was elected by the members of the (Pine Ridge Constituency) Association, prior to the last general election in 2007, to be the FNM candidate for the Pine Ridge Constituency. The next stage was for the FNM party candidates' committee to nominate me as the FNM party candidate for the election.

"Despite overwhelming local support I was told at one of the meetings with the committee members that unless I dropped the Guana Cay case, or unless I persuaded my clients to drop the case, I would not be chosen by the committee as the candidate for the next general election."

December 16, 2009