Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said Liberty Latin America CEO Balan Nair called him early this morning to apologize for his recent comments about the prime minister and Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) employees, which have widely been condemned as inappropriate.
However, Minnis, who was addressing the House of Assembly, said he told Nair that it would “be wise” to send an official letter of apology to the Office of the Prime Minister and to the Bahamian people in general.
Meantime, Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis questioned whether Nair should be placed on a stop list after he “mocked” Minnis.
“The member for Killarney is my prime minister,” Davis said just before Minnis addressed the controversy.
“I have some views on it, but those views are for me to express and for us to discuss and we should have our disagreements. Let me [curse] our prime minister, don’t let anyone else do it.
“The question I have, I’m wondering whether this person, Balan Nair… of Liberty [Latin America], who mocked the prime minister, who was so derisive in a social media video that was circulated, whether he is in the country, whether he has been put on the stop list?”
Davis and Minnis were responding to comments made by Nair during a meeting with Liberty’s Jamaican staff. Video clips of the meeting were widely shared on social media.
Nair said the performance between Liberty’s Jamaican subsidiary and BTC is like “night and day”.
Regarding The Bahamas, Nair said, “My biggest wish is that one day they would say, ‘We can be like Jamaica. We can do what they have done in this country.’
He added, “It’s so funny. I’ll tell you a story.
“Garry and I and a few others were meeting with the prime minister of The Bahamas on Monday, and you can see him standing there, his crown jewel BTC is ran by a Jamaican, who’s sitting right across from him, and he brought up more than once, ‘we need more Bahamians’, and he’s not trying to make eye contact with Garry.”
The story was met with light laughter from the crowd.
Nair said Liberty had to send Garfield “Garry” Sinclair, a Jamaican, to BTC to turn things around.
Continuing his address in the House of Assembly, Davis offered to handle the matter for Minnis, adding, “you should not allow yourself to invite foreigners [who] come in and talk and display such broadside.”
Following Davis’ intervention, Minnis sought to clarify the chain of events.
He said he had a meeting with the executives of BTC and Liberty about a week ago.
“I informed them… that the government will not tolerate the removal of the call center from Nassau to some other entity, Guyana or elsewhere, because I found it very insulting,” Minnis said.
The prime minister said he also made it clear that the government would not tolerate the dismissal of Bahamian workers at BTC while foreigners are being hired.
Referring to a video that has since gone viral in which Balan referred to that meeting, Minnis said “the video is not what had taken place”.
“The CEO, Balan, called me on my cell and he apologized if the Office of the Prime Minister was insulted,” Minnis added.
“That was never his intent.
“He apologized to the Bahamian people if that was the interpretation. That was never the intent.
“And I told him, this was a communication early this morning, that I think it would be fair and wise if he would send an official letter of apology both to the Office of the Prime Minister and the people of The Bahamas.
In a statement yesterday, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister Pakesia Parker-Edgecombe said Nair’s “distasteful” comments about BTC and Bahamians are an “insult” to Minnis, the Bahamian people and are “unacceptable and extraordinarily inappropriate”.
Education: Benedict College, BA in Mass Communications