By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
“MEANINGLESS shuffling and schemes” will not be in the Prime Minister’s best interests as the government further considers BTC and Cable & Wireless’s final offer, the Free National Movement warned.
On the heels of Prime Minister Perry Christie’s
postponement of the discussions about Cable & Wireless with his Cabinet to focus on the pressing issue of crime, FNM Chairman Darren Cash told The Tribune yesterday that the postponement, “presents the PM with a valuable opportunity to take another look at the offer and possibly to reconsider the statements he proposes to make to the Bahamian people.”
“The leader of the ‘Take BTC Back’ committee is a senior accountant of long-standing. We expect that he would have advised the Prime Minister of a critical principle in accounting: substance over form,” Mr Cash said.
Two weeks ago, PM Christie said the government had concluded negotiations with Cable and Wireless for the majority stake in Bahamas Telecommunication’s Company Ltd.
The next step, according to the Prime Minister, is to take the proposal to Cabinet for their approval or disapproval – a process he said should be completed before the end of 2013.
“I think it is fair to say that the negotiations are complete, when I met with the outgoing Chairman and the incoming Chairman of CWC in London we had a meeting and I discussed with them the settlement and whether or not there are advantages that can accrue to the Bahamas Broadcasting Corporation as a result of the movement of BTC into television and when it takes place,” he said at the time.
“Their main concern throughout this process was giving up their control of the Board of Director, of which they have control because they own 51 per cent and so that was the real challenge for them in terms of this deal. I think they understood very clearly at all times the importance of the position that the government and the negotiating team had and the question now is the final outcome being presented to my cabinet – which I propose to do before the end of the year, so that we can decide before the end of the year whether we accept or whether we don’t. We will meet before Christmas.”
However, a cabinet meeting initially scheduled for December 30, 2013 to discuss BTC was postponed by the PM to address escalating crime in the aftermath of four persons being murdered at Freedom Park, Fox Hill, in a drive-by shooting.
The Prime Minister said the Cabinet meeting was originally scheduled to formalise a new deal with Cable and Wireless, the current majority owner of BTC, however “nothing is more fundamental” than keeping Bahamians safe.
“I have determined that nothing should distract us at this particular moment in time from the urgent need to escalate the war on crime. Accordingly, this crime-ﬁghting imperative will be the singular focus of Cabinet tomorrow. As a result, Cable and Wireless has agreed that we should postpone the formalisation of the new deal until January.
Mr Cash responded that the prime minister’s announcement in the near future “must be a solid and substantive arrangement.
“Meaningless shuffling and schemes will be easily evident and would not be in the PM’s best interest. And while he has never been able to measure up, Mr. Christie should follow the example of his predecessor in office – Hubert Ingraham – and take the discussion and debate to Parliament.”
“The Bahamian people will not tolerate another shady, back-room deal like Bluewater that nobody understands,” the FNM chairman added.
He concluded that the Bahamian people would have no reason to be optimistic if “the promise of ‘substance’ with respect to BTC is anything like the substance we got after ‘substance’ was promised in the aftermath of the Fox Hill massacre and the ‘emergency’ cabinet meeting.”
In 2011, former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham sold 51 per cent of BTC’s shares to CWC with an agreement that the company would have a monopoly of the Telecom’s sector until April 1, 2014.
The sale of BTC was met with heavy resistance from many Bahamians and during the 2012 general elections, the PLP promised to return the majority shares of BTC to Bahamians if elected to office.