By INIGO 'NAUGHTY' ZENICAZELAYA
Well, well, well...what do we have here?
It seems Balan Nair, president of Liberty Latin America (LiLAC), which is the parent company of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) really put his foot in his mouth; then the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) put its foot to his behind.
The dust up started when comments Nair made during an internal staff meeting in Jamaica last week, which were recorded on videos, predictably made their way to social media and have since gone viral.
If you haven’t seen the video, the gist of it is that BTC is one of Liberty Latin America’s lowest performing subsidiaries and its Bahamian workers are apparently a joke (as evidenced by the disparaging laughter throughout the video).
In the video, Nair, pictured, went on to recall a meeting he had recently with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in which Minnis, who is not a fan of outsourcing call centres for Bahamian companies, insisted he wanted more actual Bahamian workers at BTC.
To hear Balan Nair tell it, Doc was either scared, mealy-mouthed or disbelieving in his own words when he made that request because according to Nair our PM couldn’t look LiLAC executives in the eye when he said it.
And this is where I say, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa...wait one God-blessed minute!’
First of all, there is no fault on Minnis’ part for speaking up for Bahamian workers at BTC or any other foreign or Bahamian owned company in this country, especially since it’s what Bahamians would expect from our PM.
If we look at Nair’s comments without being political or “in our feelings” because he was so dismissive and insulting to Bahamians, there are still several problems with his assessment.
I’ll start with the fact that he seems to have a low opinion of an important subsidiary like BTC due to performance issues, but fails to see where the current leadership team (including himself) may be part of the problem.
Yes, we all are tired of dropped calls and all manner of service disruptions that seem to be happening with increased frequency lately, but who’s fault is that?
Who’s fault is it that calling BTC’s service line is sometimes like calling someone on the moon?
Let’s not forget it wasn’t always this way.
I can remember a time when BTC was able to build up a massive customer base not solely because they were a monopoly, but also because they were very reliable.
Sadly, that was a time before LiLAC was in the picture.
Now that they are, executives like Nair and his cohorts should focus their attention on figuring out how to improve service instead of bashing Bahamian workers because the last time I checked BTC is pulling its employees from a workforce that has made millions and billions of dollars in profits for other “foreign” and local companies that actually know how to train, motivate and manage their people.
After being “licked wit da tamarind switch” by the OPM, Mr. Nair offered up a verbal apology directly to the PM who was clever to make him put his public mea culpa in writing for all the country to see.
The only thing better would have been to make him make it on video.
Nair was dead wrong to publicly pander to his audience in Jamaica by disparaging his own staff in here in The Bahamas.
No ‘context’ can make his words right.
Sure, it might be cheaper or more convenient to outsource parts of BTC’s operations, but let’s not forget the company isn’t just pulling its workers from our community, but also its profits.
I hope the next time the good Doctor has to deal with any of these companies, but particularly BTC, he puts his foot down with respect to the country’s and Bahamian customers’ expectations.
Be sure to look Nair in the eye Doc, and let him know if he’s not about working with Bahamians he can #CYC; carry ya cellular. That really is the bottom line, with no old school “bottle to the head” or antiquated “stop-list” necessary.
How can you call yourself “Brave” if you are scared of challenges?
What also jumped out at me this week, was the aroma of fear, emanating from the opposition PLP.
Apparently as the PLP readies itself for its convention, PLP Party leader Philip “Brave” Davis wants no challenges to his leadership team at the PLP convention next week.
Allegedly, after a closed-door meeting at the Pelican Bay Resort in Grant Bahama in mid-June, he made his desire clear to a room of nearly 200 stalwart councillors, according to an article by Rashad Rolle in The Tribune.
Calling for absolute unity, he said he wants his team of Deputy Leader Chester Cooper, chairman Fred Mitchell and Deputy Chairman Robyn Lynes to remain firmly in place, without challengers.
It’s quite “Brave” to put forth such ultimatums, when you’re not expected to face a leadership challenge yourself, Mr Davis.
So if his seat is safe, who is Davis referring to in his statement?
My guess is former West End and Bimini MP, and Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe, who has long made it clear he’s ready for another run in front line politics, and who happened to be seated in the audience at the Pelican Bay resort.
The thought of Wilchcombe challenging current PLP chairman Fred Mitchell, must have Davis in a sweat.
So much so he’s resurrected former scandal-ridden PLP MP and Cabinet minister George Smith, to get the message out, far and wide.
Smith recently offered up these comments regarding the upcoming PLP convention.
“The next chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party, will be the person that the leader and his supporters within the party will throw their support behind, the person that the leader is most comfortable working with, whoever that is. I think this because the people assembled at a convention two years waited daylong, late into the night. They came from far and near and they waited around to overwhelmingly vote for Philip Davis to be leader of the party.
The leader won handily, the deputy won handily and considering that the chairmanship race was between two well-known personalities, a 200-vote majority is these days a comfortable majority in party politics in The Bahamas.
Since then Mr Davis has gotten the party out of the doldrums that the party was in and the organisation now is on a very positive path to win the next general election.”
Considering Wilchcombe in the 2017 PLP convention, received 419 votes to Mr Mitchell’s 627 votes for the chairmanship position, the closest vote among all the positions voted on, it’s obvious that a potential challenge by Wilchcombe, has caused some tribalism and tensions amongst certain factions in the party, and is a serious test of Mr Davis’ control of the organisation.
Let’s not forget that Wilchcombe learned the “art of politics” at the feet of the late Sir Lynden Pindling, he connects to the younger voters as well as the older ones, and has more mass appeal on the street level, than Mitchell does.
Wilchcombe is definitely a serious option for chairman of the PLP and shouldn’t be taken lightly.
As a comedian, I can’t let the irony in all of this slide.
Years ago, in this column I urged “Brave” to challenge the leadership of an obviously underperforming, floundering Perry Christie, who wished not to be challenged.
(We all saw how that complacency by Davis and other key members of the PLP ended up costing the party dearly.)
Now a couple of years later, Davis is pulling a page out of Perry’s book, asking for no challengers!
How can you call yourself “Brave” if you are scared of challenges, and you don’t want a fight, all the while attempting to bully party members into voting a certain way?
If this pattern of leadership continues with Mr. Davis, he might as well change that nickname of his from “Brave” to “Perry 2.0” with the same results as the previous PLP leadership.