An ocean of conflict

  • High tide: the Hamilton waterfront remains the prized asset in a municipal tug-o-war

(Photo by Akil Simmons)

    High tide: the Hamilton waterfront remains the prized asset in a municipal tug-o-war (Photo by Akil Simmons)

As the former sportscaster Joe Brown used to say: “My, my, my.” This Mexico Infrastructure Finance and $18 million affair ain’t gone anywhere yet. If anything, it is getting deeper by the day in the courts. With claims for fees and improper advice, it has put all the lawyers — even those unconnected to the case — back in the classroom.

No laughing matter; not trifling, either. These are live bullets put in words and someone is going to pay.

While the focal point may be the case surrounding the $18 million bridging loan, the reality goes deeper.

Now here is where the language has to become simple for the public to understand and where the raw truth is perhaps easier to see than by following paper trails of legalities and legalese, which dig into the specifics and the minutiae of detail of what a sentence was constructed to mean, the several legal interpretations and then the case reference.

Putting it succinctly, it was combinations of competing “angels of greed”. I use the term “angels” because all these persons and groups will claim moral justification for why they did what they did. They each felt they were doing the right thing and were compelled to do it.

The need for a Hamilton waterfront development was the goal; the need for a new business-class hotel was another goal. Each was equally a targeted phenomenon for decades. Competing interest and jockeying were always impediments that blocked its inception.

It wasn’t until the “Dream Team” took the proverbial ladies home to bed that all the proverbial elements — other potential suitors, the church and congregation — came together to stop the formation of any unions.

It would appear that the “Dream Team”, who shall not be named, knew all those competing elements, including those within the government of the day, who wanted the waterfront and had the power to control the process by either taking the property or creating a law obtaining oversight and specific authority over its use.

Therefore, under the veil of a simple bid, which too few took notice of, and still others shrugged their noses at for its seeming lack of professionalism, the nevertheless serious intent and bona fide offering by the Corporation of Hamilton was conceived and gave birth to the waterfront deal.

When it became fully cognisant that the “Dream Team” had truly done it, or were about to do it, that’s when all hell broke loose in every imaginable corner.

Let me lay a few pointers: in today’s world of finance, the models for finance have changed. The kinds of people and institutions with finance have also changed. Any developer’s chance of gaining finance for both the waterfront and the hotel jointly was far more attractive to today’s investor than trying to finance the hotel alone. A bundled package would look better. Therefore, cancelling the waterfront deal made the hotel financing a little more challenging for a developer with relatively lean pockets.

Technically, the first punch aimed at cancelling the waterfront contract was a knockout blow from which this developer and anything related could not recover. The $18 million was like a scramble to get off the floor and back on to his knees. It would have never been an issue were the waterfront deal active financially.

The type of financing and who provided it may have become the next real issue, but that too was controllable through the Bermuda Monetary Authority. So as in most altercations, when the police try to ascertain which party was guilty, the question always comes down to who fired the first blow.

In this whole episode, the violence begins with the government delivering the first blow, which set in motion every event thereafter.

The counterarguments would say: “No, it was the Dream Team who set it in motion with how they went about it.”

However, the facts are that while to some it may have appeared suspicious — others would say mischievous and the more generous might say savvy — the legality was never challenged in a court of law. In fact, the only challenge in the court is cancellation of the contract; the first blow.

You would think that we would have learnt from history because, indeed, there was a way through all of this without the need for a war. As in the similar case in Mecca more than 1,500 years ago when there was the potential of absolute conflict for the honour of which tribe was to place the cornerstone of the Kaaba, a wandering, disinterested man came into the midst of the quarrel and, after recognising each of their interests, he got a sheet and put the stone in the centre of it, then made each hold a corner of the sheet to lift the stone into place. Thereby, everyone had a piece of the honour.

Similarly in our drama, the interest was known. All the interested players were also known. It would have been better to have worked out a mutual package. Instead, we have a series of unresolved litigations.

Today, as if the waterfront saga were not enough, and we may choose to relate to it as our First World War, we are now entering another conflict, but this time over the entire CoH — this can be justifiably called the Second World War.

It would be far easier and far more attractive to investors to partner with a group or groups of interested parties sharing a piece of a common goal than to invest in a squabbling feud.

Can we take the Meccan example, even though, sadly, they too are now in similar vested interest conflict? Yet the example still stands for both communities if they choose to be civil.

There should be no reason why we cannot choose the means to get along, but regrettably, there is.

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Published Apr 1, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Apr 1, 2019 at 7:59 am)

An ocean of conflict

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