The Bahamian people are quite aware of the feud between Lyford Cay billionaires Louis Bacon and Peter Nygard.
Their dispute has been a public one; often times involving law suits and counter-suits in Bahamian courts. Their quarrel has been full of intrigue; with talks of arson, illegal military sound machines, government cover-ups and even corruption within Bahamian environmental agencies.
However, no matter how heated or public their exchange became, many Bahamians concluded to ignore their rants; dubbing it a private matter between white foreign billionaires who refuse to get along. But that was before the men evoked the spirit of Clifton Cay.
A Little Background
A little over a decade ago, Bahamians, historians and environmentalist came together in order to save a small area within the Clifton locale from development, highlighting cultural and historical significance.
Their efforts culminated with the establishment of the Clifton Heritage National Park.
The park, besides being a nature reserve, celebrates the Lucayans-Arawaks, African and European heritage of the Bahamas. The area has become a sacred space for all Bahamians; if not because of its historical significance, but for the effort it took the public to claim the land and to protect it for future generations.
In recent times, there has again been a call to save Clifton.
The organizers of the social commentary group, “re-negoiate.org” lead by attorney Keod Smith has sounded the alarm, that Louis Bacon takes credit for the establishment of the Clifton Heritage Site.
Recently, Bacon received the Audubon Medal for Conservation, for his environmental work; and within his acceptance speech, he mentioned that he was amongst the leaders who lead the charge to save Clifton for the Bahamian people.
How many groups does it take to save Clifton?
Smith considers Bacon’s comments as an affront to the legacy of the Clifton Park; subsequently waged war against Bacon in order to have him retract his statements.
Since the establishment of Smith’s “Save Clifton Again” organization, two other groups have emerged; all led by former leaders of the original Save Clifton campaign.
There is the “Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay” lead by environmentalist Sam Duncombe and attorney Fred Smith; and the “Coalition to Save Clifton” chaired by Rev. Dr. C.B. Moss.
All three groups seem to be gung-ho to save Clifton from the grips of each other, and not so much about educating the Bahamian people about the environment.
Battle Lines are Drawn
Interestingly enough, listed as a senior member of the “Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay” is one, Louis Bacon; a fact that would not matter except that, as a part of the Coalition’s priority issues, is the effort to stop the development happening at Nygard Cay. (Peter Nygard is the proprietor of the Cay’s development and Bacon’s apparent feuding rival).
The Coalition has partnered with a number of Bahamian conservation groups and has also listed American environmentalists Robert Kennedy Jr. and Nicholas F.Brady as a part of its membership. The group aims to use their prestige to bring attention to their marine environmental efforts including saving Clifton marine area.
Besides charging Nygard with destroying the environment through illegally dredging the seabed and extending its shoreline, the Coalition to Protect Clifton Bay has accused Nygard of turning Lyford Cay into a commercial centre, contrary to its zoned residential area status.
The Coalition has also petitioned the prime minster; demanding that a marine park be established at Clifton, and that the crown land and sea beds be protected at Nygard Cay. Fred Smith, spokesman for the Coalition has also threatened the government with launching a Judicial Review proceeding in the Supreme Court if the Government fails to respond to its concerns over construction activity at Nygard Cay.
However, to this point, the government has remained mute regarding the issue.
The Coalition has also raised concerns regarding the apparent unregulated works being done at Jaws Beach, which comes under the statutory jurisdiction of the Clifton Heritage Authority.
The construction of new docking facilities, the resurfacing of the beach area and other minor developments has been commissioned by Peter Nygard’s attorney Keod Smith.
In a recent interview, Smith said;
“We don’t need to ask anybody’s permission to do what is ours. You don’t have to ask permission to do what is in your yard. This is our yard… I’m not going to ask my government, certainly not going to ask the Clifton Heritage Authority for permission to do anything.”
Since Keod Smith’s pronouncements, there have been several exchanges of words between he and attorney Fred Smith. One incident resulted in Fred Smith being allegedly attacked at Jaw’s Beach by workers employed by Keod Smith, damaging the back windshield of Fred Smith’s rental car.
Fred Smith claimed that he was at the beach photographing the area, talking with the workers and giving out monies to buy drinks, until Keod Smith came on the scene; subsequently the assault happened.
Another time, police had to be called to keep the peace, as Robert F Kennedy Jr. attempted to make a press statement about the environment on the beach. Eventually both parties were barred from accessing the beach’s premises.
The feud Continues
It is clear that the public feud between Louis Bacon and Peter Nygard continues; this time with Bahamian lawyers and environmentalists serving as rooks and knights and the legacy of Clifton as a mere pawn within this billionaires’ game of chess.
Rev. C.B Moss, Executive Director of the Bahamas Against Crime, has asked the Prime Minister to immediately intervene to settle this matter, as he is concerned that this Clifton feud will become an open warfare.
~ By Cecil Newry