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Senator defends PLP presence at mass rally

Progressive Liberal Party Senator Michael Halkitis yesterday defended the presence of the party’s leadership at a mass union rally on Wednesday night.

The rally was called to address workers on the proposed sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company to Cable and Wireless Communications for$210 million plus stamp tax.

Top leaders of the PLP, including deputy leader Philip Brave Davis, party chairman Bradley Roberts, Opposition House Leader and West End and Bimini MP Obie Wilchcombe, Bain and Grants Town MP Bernard Nottage and Elizabeth MP Ryan Pinder attended the rally.

Yesterday Halkitis said with the help of the labor movement in 1967, the PLP was able to usher in majority rule in the country, and so it should be no surprise that PLP leaders would be at the side of workers when they feel they are being taken advantage of.

“When workers in this country decide that their interests are at risk, and when workers in this country decide to exercise their constitutional rights to assemble, I am sure that every single member of the PLP, particularly those in the frontline, are proud to be associated with the struggle for labor.

“When we have the leader of government business holding up the newspaper with photographs of senior members of the PLP turning out in support of the labor movement, as they exercise their constitutional right to assemble, as they exercise their constitutional right to free speech, that is nothing to be ashamed of. It is something to be proud of,”Halkitis told his Senate colleagues.

Earlier in the debate, Minister of Labour and Social Development Dion Foulkes intimidated that the workers rally was a political event.

The Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU), the two labor organizations that represent line staff and middle managers at the company, have voiced their opposition to the sale.

In a recent press release the PLP indicated that it was disappointed that Cable& Wireless representatives were unable to discuss the details of the Memorandum of Understanding(MOU)signed with the government in regards to the sale of 51 percent of BTC.

The unions have hinted at a national strike in opposition to the sale.

Government has said monies from the sale would go towards reducing the national debt, pay for infrastructural developments, and upgrade health facilities, among other things. Halkitis, however, questioned how the$210 million would cover the list of items.

“We have not subtracted the approximately$70 million in unfunded pension liability, which is the amount the government would have to take responsibility for. So we subtract that from the$210 million and then we subtract the$15 million that we left in the bank so we are down to about$140 million,”he pointed out.

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