NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Having announced his resignation on Sunday afternoon, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis yesterday thanked Brent Symonette for his service to the country over the years.
Symonette tendered his resignation as Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration, effective July 1, 2019.
No explanation was given for his sudden departure.
The prime minister expressed in a statement released last night that while Symonette will no longer serve in Cabinet, his constituents in St. Anne’s will continue to have an MP who cares about them.
“I wish Mr. Symonette all the best in his future endeavors,” the prime minister said.
“I have appointed the Hon. Elsworth Johnson to replace Mr. Symonette as the Minister of Financial Services, Trade and Industry and Immigration.
“Mr. Johnson is a former president of the Bahamas Bar Association and former Minister of State in the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Legal Affairs.
“I have confidence that Mr. Johnson will serve the country well in his new capacity,” the prime minister’s statement concluded.
Meanwhile, this is not the first time that Symonette has tendered a resignation while holding a prominent position.
Back in 2001, the late Bradley Roberts, former Bain and Grants Town member of parliament levelled conflict of interest charges against the former Hubert Ingraham-led administration when he told parliamentarians that Symonette, who was serving at the time as chairman of the Airport Authority, had shares in Bahamas Hot Mix – a company that was awarded a paving contract at the airport.
Former prime minister Hubert Ingraham, through the Minister of Transport, later asked Mr. Symonette to resign as chairman of the Airport Authority for apparent conflict of interest in awarding a contract to a paving company in which he had an interest.
Six days after the matter was brought to his attention, Symonette resigned, according to published reports.
Symonette has since divested himself of his Bahamas Hot Mix shares, which have been transferred into a trust for his children.
However, earlier this month, after a $20 million contract was awarded to Bahamas Hot Mix by the Nassau Airport Development Company to carry out rehabilitation work on the runway and taxiway at Lynden Pindling International Airport, Symonette had to remind the public once again that his children’s trust are the shareholders in Bahamas Hot Mix.
Opposition leader Philip Brave Davis as well as Englerston MP Glenys Hanna-Martin questioned the issuance of the $20 million contract, but Symonette stressed in a recent interview with Eyewitness News that, “It’s my children or my children’s trust who are shareholders, not me and my individual name.”
Last October, conflict of interest claims were also leveled against Symonette when the government announced plans to move the General Post Office from East Hill Street to the Town Center Mall.
The Government had entered into a five-year leasehold agreement with the landlord of the Town Center Mall at a concessionary rate of $12 per square foot. It was a move that prime minister Dr. Hubert Minnis endorsed last October as parliamentarians debated a resolution to move the general post office to the Town Center Mall.
At the time, the prime minister said despite the public outcry and criticism that the proposed move is a glaring conflict of interest, it is not against the law as Symonette had declared his shares.
“The Constitution under the rules allow for a member of parliament to hold a contract with the government,” Dr. Minnis said at the time. “We are only being transparent so that the entire Bahamian populous can see why we made such a selection. constitutionally it is legal.”
Also addressing the House of Assembly when the conflict of interest claims arose, Symonette told parliamentarians that he has 81 shares in the Town Center Mall. His wife, he said, has one share. Dion Dean, Laura Smith and Randy Smith has one share and BHRSC Holdings Limited has 9,610 shares out of 10,000.