NASSAU –– Members of Parliament yesterday voted overwhelmingly against the appointment of a select committee to investigate all facts surrounding a Rubis gasoline spill that happened more than two years ago.
Fort Charlotte MP Dr Andre Rollins moved for the appointment of that committee.
Rollins and Bamboo Town MP Renward Wells were the only two PLP MPs present who supported it.
All other PLP MPs in the chamber voted against the measure.
Free National Movement MPs who were present voted in support of the committee being established.
The government has come under heavy fire for withholding a report into the gasoline spill at the Rubis gas station on Robinson Road.
The report by consultants Black & Veatch was completed in February, 2014, but was only made public on April 17 after area residents expressed outrage at a recent town meeting that the report had not been released.
The report pointed to possible risks to public health as a result of the spill.
As he moved for the select committee, Rollins questioned: “What motivation did this government have that they would want to keep this information secret?”
He said if the formation of a select committee was denied, it would make the government appear “callous, reckless and deceitful”.
“Mr Speaker, if we collectively decided against the formation of a select committee to investigate the Rubis [gas] spill we would be fuelling speculation as to why.
“We would fuel speculation as to whether or not the government is seeking to hide the facts from the Bahamian people.”
Rollins said a level of “cynicism and distrust” existed in the public domain “surrounding what many have come to believe is an attempt to suppress the freedom of information”.
“The government cannot hide behind the argument that the details of the Rubis [gas] spill are a matter of national security and must therefore remain secret or confidential at the level of cabinet privilege,” he said.
“Mr Speaker, this is not a matter that can be considered a cabinet privilege.
“This is a matter that each and every Bahamian, in particular those living and working in the constituency of Marathon in the area of that gas station, have as much, if not more of a right to know than those who sit around the cabinet table.”
Rollins said as a member of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) he and his colleagues campaigned with the slogan Bahamians First ahead of the last general election.
He said it was not enough to say things that sounded nice to “mollify or appease” the public, but the right thing must be done.
“The prime minister of course, Mr Speaker, not too long ago, stood before the United Nations and proclaimed that The Bahamas was one of the nations –– be it a small island developing state –– that would ardently support calls for the protection of the environment,” Rollins said.
“Mr Speaker, we cannot say one thing to the international arena, we cannot say one thing when we are before world leaders and do the exact opposite when they are no longer around, as though they have no ability to deduce for themselves whether what they are told in these international gatherings amounts to nothing more than mere talk.
“Mr Speaker, if it is important enough for us to profess our commitment to promoting protections for our environment, certainly it is important for us to demonstrate a commitment based on the actions of those responsible for the governance of this country.”
Rollins also expressed concern that Rubis announced it was in constant communication with the government over the spill, but Marathon MP Jerome Fitzgerald claimed the company refused to meet with him.
“Something just does not add up, Mr Speaker,” he said.
“Either Rubis is not being [forthcoming] . . . in telling the Bahamian people that it has been in constant contact with the government, or the member for Marathon has not been entirely forthcoming about just how involved he has been in this particular matter.
“The third option is they [Rubis] do not consider him important enough to speak to a matter as important as this that directly impacts the lives of the people he is responsible for representing in the honourable place.”
Rollins said he refused to believe Fitzgerald, a senior minister of cabinet, would be dismissed by a foreign company which would want to remain in good stead with the government.
He said if the government allowed a foreign company to enter The Bahamas and “sit on the Bahamian people and basically say to hell with you”, then “we deserve not to be taken seriously as a government”.