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BCPOU president defends late protest

Much controversy remains over why the staunchest opposition to the Cable and Wireless Communications acquisition of 51%of Bahamas Telecommunications Company has come so late, and why the unions did not object to the Bluewater deal.

In an exclusive interview withGuardian Businesson December 16, Bernard Evans, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union addressed both subjects. His defense appears”in his own words”below, with minimal editing.

“I want it to be known unequivocally, I came to office 18 months ago.

The Bluewater deal started in2003.

I was not the union president, as a matter of fact I was not even in the office as an officer. I can’t tell you what the mindset was of Robert Farquharson and his group. When I came to office I made a stand that we could do better by ourselves. The things that Bahamians can do we ought to do. If there’s an opportunity for us to have a piece of the economic pie, then let’s do that. Let’s explore those avenues.

“So right from the get-go we, and I, stood up and said’no’to Cable and Wireless, that’s number one. When we opened the bidding process, Cable and Wireless was not one of those who even bid/made an offer during that period. They were slid in through some back door. When we were asked about them we told them again,’no. We are not interested in Cable and Wireless’.

“We were, I wouldn’t say blind-shafted, but, you remember when the prime minister made the comment that Cable&Wireless wanted to immediately let go 30 percent and he wasn’t for that and this would be a deal that blah blah blah, it was like, yeah we told you so. That was our feeling. We told you so, that you’re not going to be pleased with whatever deal they want. So we stand in shock, you understand, when he told us,’man yeah, we signed the MOU’. Then we asked to see a copy of the MOU.

“Watch this. They said that the unions were full participants in this deal. Carroll and myself–Carroll represents the BCPMU, I represent the BCPOU–we’ve been to three meetings. I was invited to three meetings since I’ve been in office for 18 months.

“The first meeting was talking about laying out the criteria for the kind of strategic partner the government was looking for. The second meeting was the rejection of two bidders. And then the question was asked,’Will the board allow us to talk to Cable and wireless?They seem to be interested.’

“Again, we reiterated our position,’We are not prepared to work with Cable&Wireless’. The same reason the prime minister said that they should not even bother to apply back in 2000. This same prime minister, this same administration, said that Cable&Wireless ought not even apply. And his reasons were on track–that they were not even worthy to dip into this country, because of their practices. And all of a sudden after 140 years they made an about turn in three years?The devil is a liar.

“And so we only on the eve of him saying they signed an MOU, that is when we started agitating. Because we really thought they would listen and just wait.

“Since Baha Mar was coming in, you’re looking at an injection of 400-500 million dollars in the first quarter, or whatever, another 400-500 million, up to 2 billion dollars, we figured now, money will be in the country, maybe you could attract somebody else maybe in another year or two. Attract someone you really want. Don’t be forced to just do this now with these people. You know in your gut you don’t want them. These the same people.”

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