Liberty Latin America (LLA) CEO Balan Nair apologized for his “distasteful and insulting” comments about the prime minister, the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and its employees, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said yesterday.
Minnis, who was speaking in the House of Assembly, said Nair called his cell phone yesterday morning to apologize.
The LLA CEO came under fire after disparaging comments he made about Minnis, BTC and The Bahamas began circulating on social media. The comments were contained in several videos.
Minnis said he advised Nair that it would “be fair and wise” to send an official letter of apology to the Office of the Prime Minister and to the Bahamian people.
Opposition Leader Philip Brave Davis questioned whether Nair should be placed on a stop list for his faux pas.
He even offered to handle the matter for Minnis.
“I am very concerned,” Davis said, just before Minnis addressed the controversy.
“The member for Killarney is my prime minister.
“I have some views on it, but those views about my prime minister 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, 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 a stop list?”
Nair said the performance between Liberty’s Jamaican subsidiary and BTC is like “night and day”. He also joked about the prime minister asking for more jobs for Bahamians and being unable to look BTC CEO Garfield “Garry” Sinclair in the eyes.
Following Davis’ intervention, Minnis sought to clarify the chain of events.
He said he had a “very cordial” meeting with the executives of BTC and Liberty last week.
“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 explained.
He said he was very firm that the government would not tolerate Bahamians losing jobs and the matters have since been resolved.
“I know that some video is going around, [but] the video is not what had taken place,” Minnis continued.
“The CEO, Balan, called me on my cell and he apologized if the Office of the Prime Minister was insulted.
“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.”
During an address to employees in Jamaica, Nair said, “My biggest wish is that one day they (BTC) 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 Sinclair, a Jamaican, to BTC to turn things around.
Nair yesterday sent an email to BTC employees, apologizing for the “insensitive nature” of his remarks and “any unintended consequences that have arisen as a result of the comments”.
Nair also later sent Minnis a letter, formally apologizing for his comments.
“The messages I was trying to convey did not come across appropriately, have hurt many feelings, and for that I am sorry,” Nair wrote.
“I mean no disrespect to the prime minister, his office, or the citizens of The Bahamas. I look forward to putting this incident behind us and building a better BTC for its employees and for The Bahamas.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications