PLP accuses govt of running from BTC controversy
Opposition MPs yesterday dismissed the government’s explanation for the early suspension of the House of Assembly, saying government members were afraid to face the crowd gathered in Rawson Square to protest the imminent sale of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC).
But according to Leader of Government Business in the House of Assembly Tommy Turnquest, proceedings suspended yesterday because an additional amendment had to be made to the bill thatwas scheduled for debate.
“The government fully intended to proceed today with the debate and passage of amendments to the Business Licence Act,”Turnquest said in a statement.”The government discovered late Tuesday evening that a subsequent amendment to the Local Government Act would also be necessary to proceed with the debate.
“The amendment to the Local Government Act was not available at the time of this morning’s sitting of Parliament.”
Turnquest explained that the government intends to debate and pass both sets of amendments concurrently as they are interconnected.
However, opposition members loudly objected to the suspension of Parliament. The opposition members, including PLP leader Perry Christie, stood in protest while House Speaker Alvin Smith was ordering the suspension.
As governing members left, PLP MPs shouted”cowards”and”they’re ducking today.”
Scores of demonstrators meanwhile were clashing with police outside as the demonstration grew heated.
Several hundred people were gathered in the square and many of them were sitting in the middle of Bay Street.
TheBahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)and the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)are against the sale of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC).
Many of the major unions showed up in support to the BTC unions .
Christie told reporters outside Parliament that he believes the government is waiting on the unions’steam to die out.
“I think the government is very fearful…scared of this issue,”Christie said.
“They know that they are riding a tiger and you know the old Confucius saying,’he who rides the tiger dare not fall off.’So they have postponed this to a date in January, I presume when they believe they will finish this deal.
“They want the country to forget what is happening to downplay this issue.
Parliament was suspended until January 19, 2011.
Leader of Opposition Business in the House of Assembly Obie Wilchcombe pointed out that he attempted to ask the government to discuss the sale of BTC in the House of Assembly, however the Speaker did not allow him to speak.
Instead, the House was suspended after meeting for under an hour.
Christie said the opposition MPs’right to speak their minds in Parliament had been violated in a”very fundamental and basic way”.
“Instead of heading to a direction of a maturing democracy we have these examples of total control being exercised when the national interest is concerned. Surely as members of Parliament we are able to get up and raise certain issues. It is our duty to raise the question. We have here people demonstrating,”he said.
“We are supposed to represent these issues in Parliament and we were frustrated when the Speaker disallowed even one of our members to speak.”
Christie said the government ought to make public the Memorandum of Understanding it recently signed with CWC.
“This is a fundamental issue to the country. The question is why is the government so clandestinely dealing with this issue… deep in secret?If they had an agreement as they say then they ought to be able to demonstrate their confidence by allowing the public to see,”he said.