By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
PROGRESSIVE Liberal Party deputy leader Chester Cooper wants the Utilities Regulation & Competition Authority to investigate Bahamas Power and Light, insisting apologies won’t help the many consumers and business owners that have lost valuable appliances during continued power cuts.
The Exuma and Ragged Island MP further questioned why Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’s voice had been absent in comforting Bahamians suffering during this “death spiral” of BPL.
He said it appeared Dr Minnis was hiding behind Minister of Works Desmond Bannister who asserted this week that BPL is performing better now than it was under the former Christie administration.
Mr Cooper’s comments came as load shedding continued in the capital.
BPL said yesterday while the first bank of rental Agrekko units carrying 10 megawatts were up and running since yesterday, the second bank is to be installed no later than Saturday.
Speaking during a Southern Shores constituency meeting last night, Mr Cooper criticised the Minnis administration saying it failed to adequately address BPL’s problems since taking office.
He suggested that had PowerSecure still been managing the affairs of BPL the situation would have been far better, adding the summer of 2016 with the company at the helm had gone relatively smooth.
“I am seriously concerned for the future of our nation,” Mr Cooper told party supporters. “From this budget of special interests to what appears to be the death spiral of Bahamas Power and Light, I am genuinely afraid for our children and for us.
“For more than a week now, Bahamas Power and Light has launched load shedding resulting in rolling blackouts throughout the island. But not only Nassau has been impacted. Bimini, Abaco and other islands have been impacted. However, Nassau has been impacted the worst.
“After days of silence and a week of untold suffering, the new BPL chairman, who got his job after the prime minister fired the previous board, got up and said he apologised. How nice? After babies and the elderly and everybody else was left to sweat and suffer, we get an apology. After sick people couldn’t get the oxygen machines to work in their homes, we get an apology. After business after business had to shut down and send employees home, we get an apology. Fusion (Superplex) lost $32,000 in one day.
“Rosalee’s Takeaway off Nassau Street lost her fridge and can’t operate in the dark; she got an apology. An apology won’t help the hundreds, maybe thousands, across our country who lose appliances and electronics from the surges and who complain that they get peanuts in settlement from BPL.”
He continued: “I call on URCA to investigate the policies and practices of BPL as it relates to reimbursement for the damage they cause. And I can tell this government quite plainly and clearly, you could keep your corned beef and you could keep your apology. An apology won’t help a frustrated mother who can’t put her children to sleep. An apology won’t help the woman who was in the newspaper, dying of cancer, whose family had to feed her ice chips to try and keep her cool. An apology doesn’t help traffic congestion when all the traffic lights don’t function.
“They had two years to fix BPL, but this lousy crew played games rather than fix this situation and understand that this is only the start of the pain. Rental generators will mean that the people will pay for that. It means your light bill will go up again. And we get apologies.
“All this time, the prime minister is silent. All this mouth in Parliament about the PLP being corrupt, but where’s his mouth now? You put the chairman of BPL out here to apologise But he works for you. You’re his boss. The Bahamian people didn’t elect him to hold him accountable.
“Where are you, Mr Prime Minister? Are you hiding behind our Minister of Works and his nonsense? I heard Desmond Bannister on the news saying that this summer has been better than under the five summers of the previous PLP administration. You think his head good? You think the heat getting to him? That’s the best he has?”
The MP also noted the government’s failure to make public a report from a police investigation into a series of fires that crippled infrastructure at the power provider’s Clifton Pier Power Plant last year.
Earlier this week, Bahamas Electrical Workers Union president Paul Maynard said the ongoing situation is at its “worst” as he suggested Bahamians needed to protest against BPL’s failure to do its job.
On Monday, BPL chairman Donovan Moxey blamed this month’s adverse weather conditions for the power provider’s inability to receive rental generators earlier, which rendered it unable to fulfil electricity demands over the weekend when two of its units went offline.
Although this was an “anomaly”, according to Mr Moxey, he apologised for the “unacceptable” widespread load shedding, which grossly inconvenienced thousands of customers.