House approves BTC sale
The Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)privatization resolutions were passed in the House of Assembly yesterday with 22 MPs voting in support of the resolutions and 18 voting against. The process to sell 51 percent of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications(CWC)is now almost finished.
All members of the official opposition voted against the resolutions. Independent MP for Bamboo Town Branville McCartney also voted against the resolutions.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham initially made a mistake and he accidentally voted against the first privatization resolution. He was seemingly distracted, using his Blackberry phone, when his name was called to vote. Ingraham said,”No.”
When he realized the mistake, Ingraham quickly said,”Yes.”
His initial”no”vote led to loud cheers and laughter from opposition members.
When it came time to vote on the second resolution, Ingraham clearly said,”Yes.”This also led to laughter from the opposition, considering Ingraham’s initial mistake.
Both resolutions passed shortly after Ingraham wrapped up the debate yesterday evening.
“This is a historic day in the history of The Bahamas,” Ingraham said.”It is the culmination of a process that was started 14 years ago.”
In negotiating the BTC deal, he said the government was motivated by its desire to give Bahamians the best of what is available and to ensure that communications services are reliable and accessible.
Ingraham also accused the opposition of using the unions representing BTC employees as”pawns”in the fight against of sale of BTC to CWC.
Ingraham further criticized the leaders of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union(BCPOU)and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union(BCPMU)–the BTC unions–for leading their members down”the wrong path.”
The unions have led protests and legal action seeking to block the sale to CWC.
Progressive Liberal Party(PLP)MP for Fort Charlotte Alfred Sears took offense to Ingraham’s”pawns”statement. He said the unions are mature groups with responsible leaders who can make independent decisions.
The BCPOU and BCPMU were seeking an injunction to stop the government from selling BTC.
However, Supreme Court Justice Neville Adderley said the unions lacked the legal capacity to institute and maintain the action in their own names.
The unions appealed the decision, but lost that bid before the Court of Appeal Tuesday.
The unions will face significant legal bills as a result of the failed court action.
Ingraham encouraged the unions to engage with CWC.
“I appeal to the leadership, to the unions, to begin to engage in discussions with their new bosses. Because they are going to be the bosses in short order and it makes good sense for them to have discussions,”he said.”Do not allow anyone to mislead you into believing that we do not have your best interests at heart. In fact, had they listened to me they wouldn’t have been stuck with the thousands of dollars in court fees.”
The legislation associated with the BTC sale will next be debated in the Senate.