A forged signature on a ‘ceremonial’ heads of agreement (HOA) is not the way Satpal Dhunna wanted to be introduced to the Bahamian public as the Oban Energies president said the official signing – inked days before – marked a significant milestone in a process that began two years ago under the former Christie Administration.
“I don’t want to disguise the issue,” Dhunna said, in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News.
“No person can explain the situation when they were not present at the meeting,” Dhunna said candidly.
“I was not there.”
Dhunna spoke about the situation telling Eyewitness News that, he wanted to be “open and transparent.”
According to Dhunna he did not know that a ceremonial signing was taking place or why.
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis admitted in parliament two weeks ago that there were significant “missteps” in the deal. He said that it should have been implied that the former non- executive chairman of Oban, Peter Krieger was signing on behalf of Dhunna and that the agreement was only ceremonial.
Although Dhunna signed the official HOA on February 10, Dr. Minnis said government made the “effective” date of the HOA February 19 to conform with the public signing.
Dhunna provided Eyewitness News with a similar account of what took place during the signing but was asked directly if he gave Krieger permission or authorization to sign his name at the ceremony that was televised live nationally.
“The facts of the matter are that a document was formally agreed by all stakeholders, by all representatives and officials and was approved by their respective legal counsels. I signed that document and submitted it to government. I knew a ceremonial event was happening but, the keyword is ceremonial event.”
Dhunna said in his view, this simply meant that government would inform the media and general public of what took place and what the government committed to, and then answer questions.
Dhunna insisted that he could not speak for what transpired at the ceremonial signing.
“Let’s be very clear here. There was an event that took place that I was not present at,” he reiterated.
“I cannot speak to it in any sort of logical or detailed response because I was not there. I will confirm that the document we signed, notwithstanding that one event, which has caused four to five weeks of controversial media news, was part of a process that started two years ago. Up until that point, we had invested some $10 million.”
In Parliament, the prime minister also revealed that Krieger had resigned from the company effective March 1. Dhunna stressed that he (Krieger) was not forced out but, it was always understood that he would not play a significant role in the company’s operations.
“He was not forced to resign at all,” he said. “The intention of the company was always the same. Upon signing he was never going to be part of the company from an operational or management point of view.”
Dhunna, like Dr. Minnis, admitted that missteps were made in the process. While the nation’s leader has since ordered a full and comprehensive review of the process, Dhunna stated that his company remains committed to the deal.
“I think we have to be frank and honest … My interpretation of the mis-steps is the signing of the HOA … I’m not shying away from that but, it should not discount what we are trying to achieve and what has happened since or what has happened before,” he said.
Not wanting to dance around the issue, Dhunna said, he understands why Bahamians have been skeptical, given all that has emerged.
“The esthetics of this project are incorrect,” he said.
“They are not ideal and it does not give the people of The Bahamas confidence in the company nor the government … and this is something we are looking to correct. I apologize for the missteps, but they were not intentional.”