Thursday, March 31, 2011

Renward Wells - National Development Party (NDP) leader: is the time for a third party to really make a difference in the political landscape of The Bahamas

NDP leader: it's time for a third party in Bahamas

Tribune Staff Reporter

HEADING into their discussions last night with Independent MP Branville McCartney, NDP leader Renward Wells said that he feels now is the time for a third party to really make a difference in the political landscape of the Bahamas.

Hoping to either court the Bamboo Town MP into joining the NDP or have their party make some type of alliance with whatever movement Mr McCartney will form, Mr Wells said they hope to be "the alternative" to both the PLP and the FNM at the polls.

"We believe that it is high time for another party, other than the PLP or the FNM. It is absolutely the right time to do it," he said.

At the meeting, which was scheduled to be held at Mr McCartney's home on John F Kennedy Drive, Mr Wells said that the NDP will have 14 persons present, including himself, as representative from the Bahamas Democratic Movement. Other notable young politicians are reported to be attending.

Mr Wells said that his party has decided to send such a large contingent because they represent the heads of a number of their internal committees and must relate what transpired with first hand knowledge.

"Actually I am taking a lot of people who support Mr McCartney so they can hear from him as to what is what, and then they can make up their minds based on what they currently believe and are willing to accept. Because at the end of the day, the others have made their position quite known, this is what it is, he must come to the NDP and they are not changing from that at all.

"And they have said they don't want to go. This is our position and we are not changing that," he said.

Mr Wells said that based on what happens at the meeting last night he may have to "work" on these party members if the NDP intends to move in the direction of aligning itself with Mr McCartney.

If the Bamboo Town MP were to join with the NDP and lead the organization, Mr Wells said that they will hold a convention within 30 days so that this decision can be made by their entire organization.

"There are even people in the NDP already who would want him (Mr McCartney) for leadership; most certainly. I believe that at the end of the day, those persons not only support Bran being the leader of the party, they support it being done the right way.

"I don't want people to believe that Renward Wells is a megalomaniac. I am willing of Bran being the leader in the House of Assembly because he is the only one there. Undoubtedly I can tell you that if I run against him (for the leadership) he will more than likely win. But this isn't about me. This is about the Bahamian people. If they believe that Bran is the best man to make that change, I will grab my shield and follow him into battle," he said.

As a relatively new political organization, Mr Wells said that the NDP has already faced its share of challenges - namely the departure of its former national chairman Dr Andre Rollins. However, he said that because their party is grounded in its message and "principles", they have survived.

"A political party must not be about a man, it must be about the message. It can't be about the person, it must be about the principle. You cannot have an idol, you must have an ideology. Men and women will come and go, but the truth and the message will remain. When you create parties around men, they fail; look at the CDR (Coalition for Democratic Reform). The NDP will and cannot join any institution that is built around a man," he said.

March 30, 2011


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our education system is failing... It is particularly failing our boys

Education system failing our boys

thenassauguardian editorial

Last week new College of The Bahamas (COB) President Dr. Betsy Vogel-Boze told the Zonta Club that only 14 percent of COB graduates are male.

“It is not a problem that happens once they get to us. They are not graduating at the same rates, they are not applying for college at the same rates and that gap continues to widen,” she said.

The newly-landed foreign head of COB is right. Each year the results of the Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) reveal the problem with boys in the education system.

In 2010, girls received 16,233 grades; boys received 10,683 grades. Boys are only receiving 39.7 percent of the grades issued at the senior exams.

The boys receive fewer grades because fewer of them are there at graduation. Our boys are dropping out in large numbers.

What is even sadder is that the boys who stay in school long enough to do their final exams are doing poorly.

For A through C grades at the 2010 BGCSE’s, girls received about double the number of these grades than boys. However, as you move down the grade spectrum, grades D to U, the fewer boys in the system nearly match the girls in poor performance – 554 girls received the U grade and 448 boys did the same.

Our education system is failing. It is particularly failing our boys.

There is without question a correlation between education systems that fail boys and high crime rates. Young men unable to function in a modern economy will not simple sit down and starve to death.

The Bahamas has set three homicide records in four years and it is on pace to shatter last years dubious record. Police have also been battling a surge in recent years in armed robberies and property crimes such as house-breaking.

Our crisis is not just a crime crisis. It is a crisis of integrating young men into the legal economy and into civil society. A national effort is required to help our boys. One part of the strategy to help them may be to separate the genders in the public education system.

Environments need to be created helping young men, collectively, to equate masculinity with honest work, achievement and struggle. As we fail our boys in the current education system they go off into the underworld economy of drugs and violence.

The reformatory schools also need to be expanded. Those who cannot behave should not be allowed to remain in regular schools disrupting the peace. Those parents who cannot, or do not wish to, control their disruptive children should lose custody of those children to the state.

Just as the reformatory schools would exist for the disruptive, a new juvenile prison is needed at Her Majesty’s Prisons. This would be different from the reformatory schools, which would be schools for troubled children. Juvenile jail would be jail for young criminals.

These few suggestions should be a part of a wider national discussion on the failing Bahamian boy and man. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on education in The Bahamas and we have the problems we have. Simply throwing more money at the education system is not necessarily the solution.

There was a time a few decades ago when women were discriminated against in the workplace and by law. We fortunately have evolved beyond those times. Today, however, as women rise and take on leadership positions in the country, men are falling.

The 14 percent figure at COB is dangerous. If we cannot reach our boys and encourage them to embrace education, more and more of them will be before our courts lost, confused and charged with all manner of violent offenses.


thenassauguardian editorial

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bahamians are registering to vote in greater numbers for the next general election...

Bahamian Voters Eager


It seemed to be just what the parliamentary registration needed; something to boost the low registration numbers in the country and according to Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Parliamentary Registration Department Sherlyn Hall an announcement by Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham on Friday did just that.

It was just three days ago the prime minister told reporters at a press conference that the voter register will be closed by July, an announcement that apparently put fire to many Bahamians who are now rushing to the registration booths.

Since that announcement, Mr. Hall said workers in his department have seen a massive increase in the numbers of Bahamians who have registered.

Since it began last year, the voter registration process was moving at a snail’s pace to the point where Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel made several appeals for Bahamians to get the ball rolling in that regard.

Since Friday, it seems Bahamians have gotten on board and Mr. Hall right now some 30,300 people are on the register.

"Since that time we have had tremendous increase from Friday and Saturday’s figures," Mr. Hall said. "They have not been factored in so we are really looking at a tremendous increase on that 30,300.

"For instance on Friday we took over 413 persons alone at the Urban Renewal Centres throughout New Providence. So we’ve seen a tremendous increase all of last week."

On Friday, Prime Minister Ingraham said, "Sometime after June of this year, I propose to cause the current register of voters to [close] and by that I mean that I want that register to come to an end, which would mean that only persons who are registered on the new register will be eligible to vote," he told reporters on Friday.

"I’m going to give 90 days notice of that. I’m now thinking of giving that notice sometime in April so that sometime towards the end of June or July, I intend to bring the current register to an end. The boundaries commission will be appointed after that."

The deputy permanent secretary added that the Family Islands’ representatives are also reporting an upswing with their registration numbers.

He said up to yesterday alone, the department was expecting that some 500 to 700 more people would have registered to vote in the capital.

"I think (the announcement the prime minister made) helped with these figures," Mr. Hall added. "I think that’s where the boost came from. I think the more we can get people excited and let them know that they can come in early, the better it will be for everyone and we are now seeing them doing that. This is the boost we’ve been waiting on for a long time.

"We are very pleased with how things are going and we are pleased with the numbers that have been coming out but we want to urge the public to continue to come out."

The Bahama Journal was able to speak to some of the new registrants yesterday.

They said after hearing what the prime minister had to say last week, they had no choice but to get out and register.

"It’s good to be prepared," Austin Grant said as he waited for his voter’s card photo to be taken. "The way things are going right now they could call the election any minute and I’d like to be ready. It’s always good to be ready and after today I’ll be ready."

Another registrant said, "The reason why I came out is because they said election is coming soon and I’m trying to get in front of the line. What the prime minister said really made me think so I had to come out."

"I’m out here registering to vote so I can have a say in my country and I’m doing it now before it closes," another registrant said.

While he has not indicated any dates as yet, many are speculating that Prime Minister Ingraham will call an election before the end of the year.

March 29th, 2011


Monday, March 28, 2011

To the Ingraham government: ...lay the whole Bluewater Ventures Ltd / BaTelCo transaction on the table of the House of Assembly so that it will be available for public scrutiny

What is the whole truth behind Bluewater?

tribune242 editorial

AFTER a 14-year search for a suitable strategic partner and a lengthy, often acrimonious debate over the past few days, BTC opens its doors today as a privately owned company. Cable & Wireless, with a sound international reputation and solid financing is the new owner. Bluewater Ventures Ltd, the choice of the PLP government, is now history leaving a trail of mystery in its wake.

When one examines details of the bids that were published, it is difficult to understand why Bluewater -- the only company not to produce financials -- was the PLP government's company of choice. Many things have been suggested. Finance Minister Zhivargo Laing considered it a "fronting" operation with Bahamians hidden in the background. Whatever it was, all that has been made public -- and much is still hidden-- suggests that it was a company hastily thrown together especially for this bidding process.

At the end of a heated exchange between Opposition leader Perry Christie, whose government pushed the Bluewater deal to a hasty conclusion, and Prime Minister Ingraham who eliminated Bluewater, Mr Ingraham accepted that Mr Christie's last gesture before he left office "was beneficial to the Bahamas."

As he put out the embers of his dying government, Mr Christie took up his pen and ended the Bluewater deal.

"I would recommend," he wrote, "that the matter not proceed any further at this time."

Mr Christie argued that as his government had been voted out of office, it was only right that the final decision on the future of BTC be left for the new government.

Reading from the records on Monday, April 30, 2007 --two days before the general election -- Mr Ingraham said the PLP Cabinet met with Prime Minister Christie's approval. Mr Christie himself was absent, and so the deputy prime minister was in the chair. Mr Obie Wilchcombe was also absent from that meeting. It was at that meeting that the decision was made to sell BTC to Bluewater.

When asked by a House member what he knew about the Bluewater transaction, Mr Ingraham said he knew of a meeting also held at the Ministry of Finance when then Minister Bradley Roberts, "Brave" Davis, lawyer for Bluewater, and a "man from Bluewater" returned to the room and said "we have a deal."

Mr Ingraham said that before the 2007 election he had announced at an FNM rally that the PLP government had sold what was then BaTelCo to Bluewater. His speculation was that at the end "they ran scared," which caused the last minute change of mind.

As our readers will recall the hand-over in 2007 from one government to the next did not go smoothly. Although the FNM became the government on May 2, it was not until May 4th that it was able to assume office.

In the meantime several ministers of the former PLP government, said Mr Ingraham, went around announcing that the Bluewater deal had been approved and recommended that the persons involved should go to the Cabinet office to get "the letter."

By then the Ingraham government was in charge. Mr Ingraham said that the Secretary to the Cabinet came to him one day to inform him that "some people" were at the office saying that they wanted "the letter" -- obviously the letter approving the sale of BaTelCo to Bluewater.

Mr Ingraham thanked Mr Christie for going to London to testify at the hearing when Bluewater was demanding to be indemnified for the loss of BaTelCo. In Bluewater's agreement with the PLP, the Ingraham government would have had to pay $2.5 million if the exclusivity clause in the agreement had been breached. To get out of the Bluewater deal, the $2.5 million penalty clause was negotiated down to $1.9 million.

Mr Ingraham argued that although Mr Christie did not attend the Cabinet meeting that approved the sale of BaTelCo to Bluewater, the fact that he had given Cabinet members permission to meet, and agreed who should chair the meeting, he could not then unilaterally rescind their decision without another meeting and discussion. Mr Christie argued that he did not change the deal, but decided that his government was at an end and suspended it.

Mr Ingraham knows, said an angered Opposition leader, that "this was a process that I was going to guarantee the integrity of -- if only because Brave Davis was the lawyer -- I was not going to allow this matter to compromise the integrity of my government under no circumstances."

In a heated moment, Mr Christie probably suggested more than he intended. Obviously, he was not happy with the deal. His behaviour at the end shows a great deal of doubt. Already he had started the hand washing process.

Bluewater was a deal made on behalf of the Bahamian people. They are entitled to know the facts -- especially why Bluewater was given so many preferential concessions.

We feel it the duty of the Ingraham government to lay the whole Bluewater transaction on the table of the House so that it will be available for public scrutiny.

March 28, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Exactly what do we know about Mr. Branville McCartney so far?

The enigma known as Branville McCartney

By Rick Lowe

Mr. McCartney recently resigned from the government, (as he should have), remaining in Parliament as an independent MP, and rumour has it he will start a new political party to contest the next general election.

Upon hearing this, one of my nephews e-mailed from Abaco to say how exciting this was and felt this new party would win if they could field some good candidates.

My response, after consulting my political crystal ball, was that he might not even win the Constituency he currently represents, (Bamboo Town) again, much less the government based on what we know about him and his policies and how he proposes to implement them to date.

Exactly what do we know about Mr. McCartney so far?

1. He thinks illegal Haitians should be repatriated.
2. He thinks Bahamians should be able to succeed.
3. He is opposed to Cable & Wireless buying BTC.

Now what do we find when we look at what the FNM and PLP think about these things?

Believe it or not, Mr. McCartney, or "Bran" as he is affectionately known, agrees with both the major political parties on the first two points, and agrees with the PLP on the third, since they changed their position on privatisation that is. So what's he got that the other two parties don't have?  Problem is we don't know yet.

Until Mr. McCartney releases a position paper on major issues and how he will "plan or fix" things so Bahamians can get to know him, he stands for nothing original at this point. In fact he just might be so nationalistic that he sets the country back even further than the "devils" we know.

This quote from Nobel Laureate and economist, F.A. Hayek from his masterpiece, The Road to Serfdom, seems appropriate:
"The effect of the people's agreeing that there must be central planning, without agreeing on the ends, will be rather as if a group of people were to commit themselves to take a journey together without agreeing where they want to go; with the result that they may all have to make a journey which most of them do not want at all."
In the mean time it will be fun watching the political posturing until his cards are played for all to see, because at this point Mr. McCartney is little more than an enigma.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

PRIME Minister Hubert Ingraham will close the current voters' register sometime after June 2011... only those on the new register will be eligible to vote in the next general election

PM will close voters' register in June or July
Tribune Staff Reporter

PRIME Minister Ingraham will close the current voters' register in June or July of this year - meaning that only those on the new register will be eligible to vote in the next election.

This move will give the Parliamentary Registrar more time to peruse the new voters' register. It will also allow the Parliamentary Registrar to give the Boundaries Commission a more accurate representation of the number of eligible voters in each constituency.

Once the current register is void, members of the Boundaries Commission will be appointed, the Prime Minister said.

"I can tell you this, sometime after June of this year I propose to cause the current register of voters to die - by that I mean to come to an end - which would mean only persons who are registered on the new register will be eligible to vote," said Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham.

"I've got to give 90 days notice of that. I'm now thinking of giving that notice sometime during the month of April, so sometime towards the end of June or July I intend to bring the current register to an end.

"The Boundaries Commission will be appointed after that."

When asked if elections will be called this year, Mr Ingraham quipped: "No man knows of the hour but one and he ain' talking."

March 26, 2011


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The House of Assembly Passed the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) Privatization Resolutions

House approves BTC sale

Guardian Staff Reporter

PM accidentally voted against sale, then changed vote

The Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) privatization resolutions were passed in the House of Assembly yesterday with 22 MPs voting in support of the resolutions and 18 voting against. The process to sell 51 percent of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) is now almost finished.

All members of the official opposition voted against the resolutions. Independent MP for Bamboo Town Branville McCartney also voted against the resolutions.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham initially made a mistake and he accidentally voted against the first privatization resolution. He was seemingly distracted, using his Blackberry phone, when his name was called to vote. Ingraham said, “No.”

When he realized the mistake, Ingraham quickly said, “Yes.”

His initial “no” vote led to loud cheers and laughter from opposition members.

When it came time to vote on the second resolution, Ingraham clearly said, “Yes.” This also led to laughter from the opposition, considering Ingraham’s initial mistake.

Both resolutions passed shortly after Ingraham wrapped up the debate yesterday evening.

“This is a historic day in the history of The Bahamas,” Ingraham said. “It is the culmination of a process that was started 14 years ago.”

In negotiating the BTC deal, he said the government was motivated by its desire to give Bahamians the best of what is available and to ensure that communications services are reliable and accessible.

Ingraham also accused the opposition of using the unions representing BTC employees as “pawns” in the fight against of sale of BTC to CWC.

Ingraham further criticized the leaders of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) and the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union (BCPMU) — the BTC unions — for leading their members down “the wrong path.”

The unions have led protests and legal action seeking to block the sale to CWC.

Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) MP for Fort Charlotte Alfred Sears took offense to Ingraham’s “pawns” statement. He said the unions are mature groups with responsible leaders who can make independent decisions.

The BCPOU and BCPMU were seeking an injunction to stop the government from selling BTC.

However, Supreme Court Justice Neville Adderley said the unions lacked the legal capacity to institute and maintain the action in their own names.

The unions appealed the decision, but lost that bid before the Court of Appeal Tuesday.

The unions will face significant legal bills as a result of the failed court action.

Ingraham encouraged the unions to engage with CWC.

“I appeal to the leadership, to the unions, to begin to engage in discussions with their new bosses. Because they are going to be the bosses in short order and it makes good sense for them to have discussions,” he said. “Do not allow anyone to mislead you into believing that we do not have your best interests at heart. In fact, had they listened to me they wouldn’t have been stuck with the thousands of dollars in court fees.”

The legislation associated with the BTC sale will next be debated in the Senate.



Friday, March 25, 2011

Free National Movement (FNM) Bamboo Town Constituency Association on Branville McCartney’s Resignation

Bamboo Town Association Blasts McCartney Over Resignation


For months tensions boiled within the governing Free National Movement (FNM) party and after remaining silent on the issue for quite sometime now, representatives of the FNM Bamboo Town Constituency Association are speaking out about Branville McCartney’s resignation.

In a press release issued late yesterday the association said, "We wish to express our considerable personal and collective disappointment over the resignation of Mr. Branville McCartney from the FNM and the abrupt manner in which it was done."

The release went on to say that Mr. McCartney did not inform the executives of the Bamboo Town Association prior to his decision adding that they learned of his decision at the same time it was made public.

The association said having worked for his election to the House of Assembly and on his behalf in Bamboo Town, they would have expected the basic courtesy of prior notification and consultation.

"Mr. McCartney had numerous opportunities to inform the association leadership of his decision, even as recently as last Thursday night, when two of our executives met with him. He could have telephoned our association chairman immediately prior to his resignation," the release added.

"Many in Bamboo Town still do not understand his abrupt resignation from the Cabinet and now his resignation from the FNM. The philosophy, manifesto, policies and leadership of the FNM have not changed since Mr. McCartney was elected to the House of Assembly as an FNM, and joined Mr. Ingraham’s Cabinet."

The association said it is its view that the majority of FNMs in Bamboo Town, as well as the majority of residents in the constituency support the government’s creation of a new partnership between the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Cable & Wireless to create a cutting-edge telecommunications company that will move The Bahamas forward.

The associations’ members say they were stunned that when the big vote came in the House of Assembly, Mr. McCartney seemed more concerned about his own personal decision than the broader needs of the people of The Bahamas.

"We will continue to work for the new and better direction the country is moving in under the leadership of Prime Minister Ingraham and the Free National Movement," they said.

"The Bamboo Town Constituency Association is proud of the work our party has done under Prime Minister Ingraham’s leadership during the worldwide economic downturn.

"We pledge ourselves to ensuring that in the next general election Bamboo Town remains FNM country."

Mr. McCartney resigned from the FNM on Monday.

March 24th, 2011


Thursday, March 24, 2011

If Branville McCartney takes the third party course, he could be committing political suicide

Would you vote for a third party?

thenassauguardian editorial

Since the resignation of Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney from the Free National Movement (FNM) Monday, the national airwaves have been dominated by talk of the formation of a third political party to challenge the FNM and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

The last major politician to try the third party route was former PLP deputy leader Dr. Bernard Nottage in 2002 when his Coalition for Democratic Reform (CDR) took on the two major parties. Dr. Nottage’s party failed and he lost his seat. CDR candidates were crushed as non-contenders at the polls.

At the time Bahamians were upset with the FNM, which was fractured and falling apart. They chose to go with a Perry Christie. He was a part of a major political force and he was also a new face to leadership. Christie ran as a “new PLP”, seeking to break with the somewhat tarnished legacy of the defeated old PLP.

At that 2002 election there was something new that was still a part of the mainstream for Bahamians to choose. Dr. Nottage could not compete with that.

Almost ten years later, a young, attractive and charismatic politician (McCartney) may try the same thing. He is not as politically accomplished as Dr. Nottage was at the time he led the CDR to defeat. However, McCartney may have an advantage if he pursues the same course.

At this general election, neither political party has anything new to offer at the leadership level. FNM leader Hubert Ingraham and PLP leader Perry Christie both entered the House of Assembly in 1977. Both men are known. Neither man can claim to be new. Neither man can suggest he can offer something he has not already offered during his long political career.

At this election it could be argued that a message could be presented, stating that Ingraham and Christie, and the FNM and the PLP, are the same thing and a new direction is needed for the country. In recent years there have been annual murder records; the down economy has persisted; and the Bahamian education system is doing poorly.

Though this environment exists, it is unclear if Bahamians will break with the PLP/FNM duopoly.

The key for any third party movement would be to determine if dissatisfaction with the parties could be harnessed into votes. If that dissatisfaction cannot be, starting a third party will only waste money.

Ultimately, Bahamians will have to decide if they will accept others at the national table of decision making or if they think only card carrying PLPs or FNMs should lead The Bahamas.

Before any third party enters the election arena it should understand what is at stake. If defeated badly at the general election, the force will look like a joke never to be considered again.

If McCartney takes the third party course, he would be risking his political career. His force would need to make some sort of impact.


thenassauguardian editorial

To Opposition Leader Perry Christie: Get your "political operatives" under control

Christie urged to control party's 'political operatives'

tribune242 ediorial

IN THIS column yesterday we briefly discussed the dangers of politicians using "persons known to the police" to participate in public demonstrations and civil unrest.

We wrote that "one only has to look at what eventually happened to politicians in Jamaica who played this game too long. Edward Seaga is a case in point."

Although Seaga represented Jamaica's west Kingston constituency - stronghold to a powerful drug gang - it was Prime Minister Bruce Golding who inherited this precinct from him, eventually getting into political hot water at home, and difficulties with the United States when his government balked at extraditing a drug lord who had supported his party's elections over the years.

"The prime minister, Bruce Golding, had good reason to stall when the United States requested the extradition of Christopher 'Dudus' Coke on drug and gun charges last August, " wrote The Economist in its May 27 edition last year. "The Shower Posse gang Mr Coke allegedly runs--so named for showering its foes with bullets--is based in Mr Golding's own constituency in Tivoli Gardens, in the west of Kingston, Jamaica's capital. The gang's weapons are of military calibre and it has the loyalty of local residents. Any attempt to apprehend Mr Coke would surely cause widespread violence."

Mr Golding stalled as long as he could while relations deteriorated between Jamaica and the US. Eventually he was forced to send troops into tightly guarded Tivoli to flush Coke out. However, Coke had already fled, but not before 47 persons were dead, many others injured and at least 260 arrested -- most of them Coke supporters.

It was claimed that Coke's Shower Posse were paying troublemakers more than $1,000 a day to create diversions to distract the police. Eventually Coke was arrested and is now in a federal prison in the US awaiting trial.

Although Golding denied any connection with the drug lord, he eventually had to admit that his party had indeed retained a legal team to lobby president Obama to drop the charges against him.

Connections with such undesirables is deep-rooted in Jamaican society.

The dons had close ties to Jamaica's two major political parties and were believed to fund many political campaigns. They were noted for their "get-out-the-vote" operations at election time. Coke could be counted on to deliver Tivoli to Seaga, then later to Golding's Jamaica Labour Party. Elections in Jamaica are noted for their violence, often ending in death.

It's not surprising that over the years crime escalated in Jamaica -- too many criminals were politically protected.

What has taken place in parliament square these past few weeks to entice demonstrators to create a perception of large crowds is not the first time for the Bahamas. It has happened often. However, this is the first time that the payment of these persons -- many well known to the police-- is being openly discussed.

It is dangerous. It should be stopped immediately. Just as paid protesters have been demanding payment this week, they will soon be demanding protection from police as crime continues to escalate.

If some of Magistrate Hercules' tales from the past during the Pindling regime are to be believed this interference with the law is nothing new.

Opposition Leader Perry Christie has made it clear that he wants nothing to do with this practice. We suggest he go further and get his "political operatives" under control. Washing his hands like Pilate from the stench is not good enough -- firm action is needed.

March 23, 2011

tribune242 ediorial

The "evil role" of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in the Privatisation Process of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC)

Maynard: BTC/CWC Issue Damaging Bahamians’ Psyche


Golden Isles Member of Parliament Charles Maynard said he believes Bahamians have been brainwashed into thinking that the deal between the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) is more controversial than it really is.

Mr. Maynard said as much as he led off day two of debate on the BTC privatisation in the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon.

In fact, he said it was a plan masterminded by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) that has obviously been working as tensions mount in the country over the pending BTC/CWC deal.

He added that ever since the government made steps to privatise the state-owned company the official Opposition has played an "evil role" in the entire process, a process he said has toyed with the minds of the Bahamian people, and that he added was more then evident at those mass rallies, motorcades and protests that grabbed the country’s attention.

"They have done considerable damage to the psyche of many Bahamians," Mr. Maynard said. "They have stirred up emotions that really didn’t need to be stirred up and I think that the worst victims are the employees of BTC.

"What I don’t understand and cannot appreciate is why would you play with the emotions of the hardworking people at BTC, why would you do that? Why would you make people feel uncertain about their futures, why would you encourage them not to meet with who could be their potential new bosses? What benefit would that have to them?"

To say that the BTC/CWC issue has drawn battle lines in the country would be an understatement.

Free National Movement (FNM) and PLP supporters, BTC union representatives and workers and the general public are either for it or against it, but whatever their position they made it known with posters, bullhorns and even blood, sweat and tears.

But according to Mr. Maynard these actions are being fuelled by the PLP who he said is "behind all of the civil unrest in the country right now."

North Andros and Berry Islands MP Vincent Peet would tell you that while he has no problem privatising BTC, however, he said he does have a problem with the lack of transparency with the process.

"It appears to me that Cable &Wireless is the only winner here," he said. "Why is there a two per cent fixed operating fee to be paid to Cable &Wireless for managing BTC?

"It is highly improper for an entity to purchase another entity and then be paid to manage that new entity. This is a guaranteed amount and they get this money even if BTC doesn’t make a cent."

Mr. Peet also accused the government of "selling Bahamians’ generational property" to CWC.

However, Montagu MP Loretta Butler-Turner was quick to shoot down that thought as she claimed she has too strong of an attachment to the country to ever stand for such a thing.

"My grandfather Sir Milo Butler fought for the rights of Bahamians and (you) dare say I, who still live among my people would come in here and sell out our birthright for the Bahamians I live with and see everyday," she said.

"I am a third generation Bahamian. I don’t have to buy the loyalty of Montagu, I live among my people I have to pass them everyday. These are people that I go to church with, went to school with, that I live with, that I work with, they know me. They don’t have to worry about their MP selling out their birthright."

The debate is expected to end on Thursday.

March 23rd, 2011


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

W. A. Branville McCartney - M.P. for Bamboo Town - Contribution on the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) / Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) Debate - 23rd, March 2011

Mr. Speaker, my aim is not to lecture, chastise, or insult the intelligence of any person in this Honourable House, and whereas, I may have only been a sitting member for a short time, I came in to this great place either knowing of and/or admiring many of these Honourable Men.

In fact, on many occasions, I remember silently thinking - in awe - what an honor and privilege it is to be sitting among the Members for North Abaco and Farm Road; indeed men who once spoke out emphatically on issues of truth, justice, and equality. So, in saying all that I have said before this, I would hope, Mr. Speaker, that my words – in any way – will not be an affront to any person and I hope that persons do not take offense to them. I would want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that, it is as a result of the courage and boldness that I have seen in some of these Honourable Men over the years, particularly when confronting issues of national importance, I am now emboldened to speak the following.

When I made the decision to enter into politics, I made that decision based on what I saw taking place in my social environment. Among other things, crime was rampant and people were no longer feeling safe in their own environment; dysfunction was at an all time high among our young people and they were failing out of society in larger numbers than ever before; for various reasons, political leaders were continuing to dishonor their office and bring shame on our sovereign nation; while the average Bahamian worked and struggled, the nation was coming undone at its seams. And it seemed as if no one cared; while the people suffered, it appeared to be all politics as usual.

At the time, I thought about my young daughters and wondered if the Bahamas that I saw unfolding before my eyes was the same Bahamas that I wanted for them. I thought about my wife going about her business, not knowing if, at anytime, she would or could become another robbery or murder statistics. I felt compelled to step forward and offer myself as a change agent, not just for my family but for all Bahamians and Bahamian families who were feeling trapped and powerless in a society that was imploding all around us. I was motivated by the idea that I could possibly be one of a few who could be that difference, indeed the difference maker, when it came to shaping the future direction of what is, potentially, the greatest nation in the world. My intention was and is to “be the change I want to see in the world”.

The question for me was, however, how did we allow this situation to occur? I think many of us can remember the excitement that Bahamians from all walks of life felt on July 10, 1973 when the Black, Gold, and Agua Marine was hoisted for the first time to signifying that the Bahamas was a free and independent nation. With this new flag replacing the old Union Jack, no longer were we going to be considered second class citizens in our own society, in our own country. No longer would we be, as Sir Etienne Dupuch puts it in his Tribune Story, seen so “far behind to be conscious of a destiny.” Independence was the promise of a new destiny. And the courage and boldness of a few exceptional men gave all of us - all Bahamians – the courage to dream again. We all become enchanted by the thought of the economic prosperity and social mobility that independence would bring us. We were all enchanted, as a nation, with the promise of empowerment that was to come with independence – a kind of empowerment that was unconceivable before 1973. What a concept:

· Economic empowerment – the thought that we would each have sufficient wealth to take care of our own personal needs;

· Political empowerment – the right to have a voice and say in the way our society is organized and how decisions are made; and

· Societal empowerment – where we would be treated fairly and equally.

For the average Bahamian this was the vision.

Empowerment! What a vision.

We are here today at each other’s throats, not just because the people are angry and worked up at the impending sale of BTC, but we are here today because, some forty years after independence, after decades of dangling the carrot of empowerment before them - offering a pittance here and a pittance there - Bahamian people are disillusioned, fed up with, and angry at feeling disempowered in their own land. And whereas the proposed sale of BTC is the matter before us today, this same sale of the telecommunications corporation is only a symbol of the disenfranchisement and lack of vision that continues to be a slap in the face to the average Bahamian who bought into the dream of independence – a dream that many have given up on as only an illusion.

I hope that, by making my statements today, my intentions in advocating for Bahamian empowerment will not be misconstrued, as I would be remised and, somewhat disingenuous, in not acknowledging the benefits which foreign investors and foreign investments have brought our people and our nation. However, to spend a great deal of time elaborating on that would serve no real purpose at this time, particularly since it has been “thrown” in the face of Bahamian people from time in memoriam. The point of the matter however, at this stage, is that Bahamian people, after decades and decades of educating themselves in some of the finest colleges and universities that the world has to offer, with the hopes of proving themselves, should now – my God - have an opportunity to prove their worth – to the highest degree – in their own country.

If Cable and Wireless is as great as our leaders are purporting them to be, let the government take it hands out of BTC’s operations, open up the market, let Cable and Wireless, Verizon, Sprint, Digicel, and any other provider who wish to enter the market come in. Let them “duke” it out, and may the best man win. But at the end of the day, Bahamians would have to prove their value and their worth,their intelligence and their ingenuity, and if they fail at it, then so be it. But, again, why does Cable and
Wireless need a three year head start on the competition? Politics, nothing more than pure politics.

I will paraphrase a good friend of mine who said that “some of us in society have allowed, and continue to allow our political leaders to us the time proven strategy of divide and conquer to cast one as
the enemy of the other, pitting us imprudently against each other to achieve their goals, while at the same time preventing us from achieving the simple ones we have set for ourselves and have worked so tirelessly to see actualized as a people – the creation of a nation that is a reflection of our collective and intellectual wills.

“At some point, however,” this friend continues, “we must recognize that we are not the enemy of each other, and no matter what our station or position is within society, we are all categorized and classified as Bahamians, and it is under this umbrella that we must collectively assemble” and challenge the political status quo that, for decades, has denied us as a people the right to have the semblance of power that independence has promised us.

What we have seen outside these walls in the past few weeks and days is a challenge to that very same political status quo; what we have seen is a new awakening in a generation that has been disenfranchised for too long – a new people who are crying out to be rescued from, as Martin Luther King calls it, a false sense of inferiority and a feeling of nobodiness.

On January 30, 1997, in one of his last addresses as leader of the Progressive Liberal Party, Sir Lynden Oscar Pindling said his vision for the Bahamas is that it becomes:

· “a nation built on Christian principles and consisting of a citizenry dedicated to respecting and defending human rights, human dignity, and the equal value of all mankind; a nation committed to the reverence for God, the sanctity of the traditional family, equal opportunity, diligent work for the welfare of all its citizens.

· He says the future Bahamas should be “a nation where the people are the most precious resource over and above all natural and material resources, and the national prosperity is measured by the quality of the health, education, and social environment and self esteem of its people;

· He says it should be “a nation where the individual and corporate productivity are synonymous with self-worth and where the love for work is esteemed as a national obligation;”

· But most importantly, he says that the Bahamas should be “a nation where economic diversity creates a broad spectrum of opportunities to challenge all the rich, creative talents, gifts, abilities, and ingenuity of the people, thus producing an atmosphere of variety, healthy competition, and entrepreneurship.”

Now, I have heard all of the colorful commentary over the past few years and month, as people have sought to offer up their analysis and interpretations of me, my actions and my intentions.

Some have said that I am a show-boater and that I like to showboat or indeed grandstand; some who doubt my ability to lead say that I am unqualified, but as one gospel psalmist says, God may not call the most qualified, but he qualifies those whom he calls; and some add that I am a young upstart, and that I should wait for my time; but King says, time is always ripe to do right, and now is the time to make real the promises of democracy and transform our pending national elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. And over the next few weeks and months, and even years, as I seek to continue serving the people of Bamboo Town and the Bahamas, I am sure that the colorful commentaries, criticisms, and characterizations will only intensify as the naysayers will naysay in their attempts to discredit me and send me to my political graveyard. But I can assure you here today, as I stand in opposition to the offering up of the majority holdings in the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation, no matter what commentaries are offered up about and against me, I promise the Bahamian people, from Grand Bahama in the north to Inagua in the south, Long Island to Rum Cay, from Baintown to Bamboo Town, from Ft. Charlotte to Ft. Fincastle, that God willing, I will continue to do what I entered politics in 2007 to do, and that is work to ensure that The Bahamas becomes a society free from the force of complacency brought on us by years and years of oppression, insensitivity, bitterness, and self-hate – a place where people can begin to feel a true sense of “somebodiness.”

Because, despite what some may say about us - despite what we have been fooled into believing about ourselves - we are a great people, and we have one of the greatest country in the world. As a matter of fact, Dr Miles Munroe always says and I agree, that ”The Bahamas is the place where God lives”.

That is why almost everyone in the world wants a piece of the Bahamian rock. But the time has come for us to stop giving ourselves away, particularly for cheaper cell phone rates! My Lord, my Lord.

Now, because I am reminded that our own dear Prime Minister is himself a transplant from the Progressive Liberal Party of old - (thank God for
radicalism, freedom of expression, and the freedom not to bandwagon) - and the illustrious leader of the opposition has remained a true stalwart, I say what I am about to say without fear of reprisal; In an attempt to get our country back on track, it is time for a revisiting of Sir Lynden’s vision for The Bahamas.

It is time for us to come up with strategies where, as a nation and people, we can continue to use and sustain a moderate tourism and financial product as revenue generators, while at the same time, find new ways to diversify our economy by creating a broad spectrum of opportunities to challenge all the rich, creative talents, gifts, abilities, and ingenuity of the Bahamian people; our country is brimming with a whole generation of young people out there waiting to take up the call. I know!!!!! I speak with young people everyday!! I am a young person and the young people are listening and they will make the difference!!!!!!

We must begin to lay the framework for an economy that is less based on physical capital in favor of one that is more dependent on human capital, for as Ralph Massey says, “human capital is more important to the public welfare than is physical capital.”

We must move away from an economy that thrives primarily on imported goods and servitude, and create one which is more of a producer model, driven primarily on exported goods and services – in many forms – created by manufacturing innovation and invention.

We must have a plan for the mobilization of our land mass, where each island will be developed and advanced so as to play an integral part in the country’s well being.

We must see to it that education is harnessed and used as the tool by which Bahamians, using the ingenuity derived from a quality education, will be able to meet more of their own consumer needs, and at the same time, meet and fulfill the needs of many of the global neighbors, particularly those in other Caribbean nations.

We must clearly define our national needs and stop allowing others to come in from the outside to define them for us. The future model for The Bahamas must be one in which we have a clear vision of the direction that we want our country to go in, and – God forbid – in the absence of qualified Bahamians, we invite a qualified labor force in to assist us with the building of our national dreams – instead of us using our labor to continually build the dreams of others.

Only when we begin to move in these directions, valuing the people as the most precious resource, will we become “a nation where the individual and corporate productivity are synonymous with selfworth and where the love for work is esteemed as a national obligation”

Again it is unfortunate that we have gotten to this day such a day in our history, and I am being put in a position such as this, but what is becoming evident all around us, once again quoting Martin Luther King, “oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself;” this is what we are now experiencing at this momentous time in our history.

The uprising taking place in our country says that we as a people have come full circle in our quest for true independence. And we have lost faith in our chosen leaders to deliver on the promises made decades ago, even years ago.

Disappointingly, I bring my contribution on this debate to a close by quoting from the Honourable Member from North Abaco who once said, among other things, that his job, as leader, is to “anticipate the future as best as he can and to act in the people’s interest.” At that time in 1997, our Prime Minister said to the people of the nation, “because I believe that Bahamians ought to own the majority in Batelco, I shall never, never, ever sell the majority holding in Batelco to anyone other than Bahamians.”

He also said, “I have stated often that I do not want to be elected to office promising one thing, knowing I am going to do another, but neglecting to say what I am going to do, just to get elected.” What a difference 14 years makes. At the time, it was just a matter of trust.

Now, however, some 14 years later, it is regrettable that the promise of empowerment made to the people of the Bahamas - captured in the phrase “never, never, ever” - a promise that they were told that they could trust, is being flagrantly tossed aside as a miscalculation of the time; Time and time Bahamians have showed that they are a trusting people, willing to take any old thing at face value because they want to believe in truth and honesty.

But how many more broken political promises can an already broken people take before they say enough is enough?

I hope that when we see the marches and the demonstrations, and hear of resignations, and other forms of civil protests, we will not be so quick to deplore these marches and demonstrations, and resignations, and other forms of protest without expressing similar, strong criticism for the
conditions that brought about the marches and the demonstrations, and resignations, and other forms of civil protests.

As I take my seat, I think it is quite obvious that I have no intentions of lending my support to the government’s plan to give over to Cable and Wireless a majority holding in the country’s telecommunications corporation. For the sake of a brighter future for our country, I hope that there will be others of my former colleagues who will be ready to rise above the fray and put aside political allegiances and alliances, to give our people - your people - a vote of confidence in their ability to be innovators, to be owners, and to be operators in a democratic, free market economy; I hope today that we will be affording them some semblance of pride and dignity by voting against this that is before us, and where and when they falter, be a source of encouragement for their betterment; I hope that some of my fellow colleagues will find the courage to show their individual character, and join me in attempting to begin the process of delivering to the Bahamian people the economical, political, and societal empowerment that they have so long been promised but denied.

It is not just me, not just those on the opposite side of the isle, and not just those demonstrating and protesting outside these walls who are making this request; if you have really looked around at our society in the last decade or so, you will have recognized that our entire society is, in some ways, crying out for a vote of confidence. Let us do what is right for a nation. I ask that you and other Bahamians join me and let us turn back the tides of injustice by saying NO to Cable and Wireless as majority owners in BTC.

Bahamas Blog International

The Perry Christie camp is certainly desperate to win an election

Election tactics to fool Bahamians in full swing

tribune242 editorial

DURING yesterday's rally Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union president Bernard Evans expressed the hope that "between now and the vote something will happen to derail the sale" of BTC to Cable & Wireless.

We are certain that the Bahamian woman who called a radio show yesterday morning to complain that she tried to pay her telephone bill but found no cashier on duty at any of the outlets-- except at the BTC Marathon office -- to assist her is anxious for the sale to go through. She is probably among the many Bahamians who -- unlike Mr Evans -- cannot wait for the company to be privatised so that persons like herself will get the standard of service they have every right to expect.

It is presumed that instead of manning their stations yesterday many of the missing staff were on Bay Street protesting the sale of BTC. Lower fees, better service and more choice in their public communications is what the public wants -- as far as many of them are concerned, it cannot come soon enough. Sunday night an internal e-mail, claiming to have been sent by Philip "Brave" Davis to six party members, mysteriously found its way to the desks of several newspaper editors and reporters.

With daily information being supplied by TV, Twitter, Face book and all the other new fangled means of information, Bahamians are sufficiently well informed not to buy into the PLP's propaganda blaming the Bahamas' economic downturn on the Ingraham government, rather than where it rightfully belongs -- the world economic crash.

"We have not been able to persuade the electorate that it is management and not the global economy that is causing the woes today..." said the e-mail. Party members have been advised to change their tactics. The e-mail claims that what is "resonating is the intentional delay and slothfulness to get things started that was left in place." We do not think that what the PLP like to call "stop, review and cancel" will resonant with Bahamians either if they fully understand what the Ingraham government has saved for them by going over all agreements left in place by the Christie government. When they realise what they would have lost had this not been done, we do not believe that even this propaganda slogan will resonate with anyone.

The Davis e-mail suggested that the chorus line to this week's debate about the sale has to be the five reasons why the "BTC deal stinks and this word has to be the chorus line to all contributions." Taking Mr Davis' advice yesterday, Fort Charlotte MP Alfred Sears during his contribution to the debate called for a Commission of Inquiry because the deal "does not pass the smell test."

The Christie camp is certainly desperate to win an election. They are clutching at any and every straw that passes their way to try to capture votes.

The e-mail advised the party stalwarts to be "dismissive" of the rally. This was a reference to Saturday night's FNM rally attended by a large, enthusiastic and orderly crowd. We presume that the directive was to ignore it, but one intrepid PLP MP broke ranks and suggested that the FNM were disappointed by the poor turnout to their rally. The police estimated that on Saturday night the rally drew a crowd of about 7,000-- hardly a poor turnout.

One bystander watching yesterday's demonstration outside the House believed the people should protest, but wondered if "anyone is listening." Why should anyone listen when reports persist that "party operatives" are paying many of them to be there.

We have been told by eyewitnesses that when the House broke for lunch around 1pm yesterday, a long line --"from the top to the bottom of the stairs" -- of demonstrators waited outside the Opposition's office door in the Bayparl building, demanding payment for doing what they claimed they were paid to do at the rally. "One of them urinated on the stairs, they were smoking grass, swearing and saying they wanted their money," an eyewitness said.

We then had reports of another disturbance at the PLP's Gambier headquarters last night when a fight broke out and police and an ambulance had to be called. Again, according to an eyewitness, it was claimed that a bus load of persons arrived demanding payment. How can anyone listen to demonstrators, a large number of whom are being paid by "party operatives" to swell the ranks. Obviously many of them neither understand nor care about the issues. Despite these alleged inducements, the turnout has been sparse, especially for an issue about which Opposition politicians claim the people are so passionate. Paid protesters do not reflect the opinion of the general public and, therefore, cannot be taken seriously.

This tactic of paying this type of person-- some of whom the police say are "well known" to them -- to disturb the peace is dangerous. One only has to look at what eventually happened to politicians in Jamaica who played this game too long. Bruce Golding is a case in point.

It would be wise for Bahamian politicians -- especially after what must be to them an embarrassing episode -- to call a halt and change course. Bahamians want to know the truth for a change. They are tired of propaganda.

March 22, 2011

tribune242 editorial

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The national spotlight is now on Branville McCartney

The next step for Branville McCartney
thenassauguardian editorial

Branville McCartney is no longer a member of the Free National Movement (FNM) and he will remain outside the FNM as long as Hubert Ingraham is in control of the party.

On the day Ingraham made his statement to the House of Assembly in the debate on the sale of 51 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), McCartney upstaged the prime minister and the governing party by resigning.

McCartney must now consider his steps carefully, or he will be remembered as someone who had potential.

His options are to run as an independent; to join the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP); to form a political party; to join a coalition of candidates; or to retire and leave politics.

Clearly McCartney wants to continue in politics, so retirement won’t happen.

If McCartney joined the PLP, he would be at the end of a long line of people who want to be leader after Perry Christie. Those men and women would let him know right away that he could not jump that line.

Running as an independent, forming a party or joining a coalition of independents all appear more likely options for the Bamboo Town MP.

If McCartney wants to form a party, he needs to get to work on that right away. He needs to find candidates and money. To run a serious campaign, McCartney would need millions. He would also need to find serious people to stand with him.

The problem small parties such as the Workers Party, the National Development Party and the Bahamas Democratic Party have is that they are not comprised of enough people capable of governing a country.

Standing as an independent, or with a group of independents, would be simpler. The key here would be for McCartney to try and win his seat, challenged by both the PLP and FNM. He should not assume that Christie and the PLP would cut a deal with him. The PLP needs every seat it can get in what looks like another close election.

McCartney has repeatedly said his move away from the Ingraham Cabinet and the Ingraham-led party was based on conscience. If he is to be an enduring force in Bahamian politics he must now prove to his constituency and the country that he has a vision for The Bahamas and that he has the intelligence and will to execute that vision.

So, the Bamboo Town MP needs to start talking. And he needs to talk often. His constituents and the country want to know if he has what it takes.

The national spotlight is now on “Bran.” We’ll shall all see if he can harness the mass dissatisfaction with the old political order, transforming that raw energy into results at the next general election.


thenassauguardian editorial

Economic nationalism and crony capitalism in The Bahamas

Lessons for BTC from Bahamas Airways

by Simon

A recent editorial cartoon of MPs bearing a coffin labelled Bahamianization was cute as a caricature but unconvincing as commentary. The cartoon represents a polar extreme from the left. From the right is another polar extreme claiming that Bahamianization has been tried and has failed.

As usual, the truer picture is somewhere in the middle beyond the hyperbole and casual analysis. Certainly, we are not where we want to be, but to deny various advances since independence, of which both extremes are prone, betrays many examples of progress despite the distance we have to travel.

All of which begs the question: What constitutes Bahamianization? Like all strands of nationalism, notions of Bahamianization are often driven by romanticism, ideological purity tests, prejudice and fear. At its most extreme, nationalism can explode into jingoism, xenophobia and racism.

At the heart of nationalism is a sense of identity and belonging to a place and may include political, social and economic nationalism. The highly emotive debate about the future of BTC has triggered various waves of economic nationalism which concern issues of opportunity, ownership and empowerment.


But if the issues are about the greater empowerment of and opportunities for Bahamians, the BTC question is not as simplistic as the ardent nationalists suggest. The aviation industry offers an instructive case study in economic nationalism.

In 1968 Cathay Pacific Airways agreed to a partnership with the Bahamas Government in the development of Bahamas Airways as our national airline. The Hong Kong-based carrier was given exclusive rights to a number of important routes while providing the country with deep pockets and expertise in the airline industry, as well as an extensive international travel network.

Cathay Pacific (CP) invested heavily in the aircraft, marketing and training needed to develop routes between The Bahamas and tourist markets like New York and other cities. Once profitable, CP agreed to sell a 25 percent stake to the Bahamas Government at the initial share price of Bahamas Airways, which would have resulted in a windfall profit for the country.

The Bahamas would have had a national flag carrier able to compete with the big American carriers. Today we own 100 percent of a carrier that cannot compete. Is this Bahamian pride and nationalism? With crocodile tears about nationalism, Sir Lynden unilaterally and underhandedly broke the agreement with Cathay Pacific whom he himself courted and brought to The Bahamas.

Our national airline would have been integrated into the global aviation network decades before the more recent wave of globalization, providing guaranteed airlift for our tourist market, business passengers and cargo.

Imagine the possibilities of The Bahamas as a regional hub for Bahamas Airways/Cathay Pacific with direct flights to Latin America years ago, flying directly to many cities in the U.S., expanding our access to European capitals and better linking the country to the Pacific and China.

Sir Lynden and others defended his about-face by saying that Bahamians should fully own the routes Bahamas Airways had been granted. In the event, his waving the nationalist’s banner was a cover for crony capitalism as he awarded the routes to a crony who failed to get his airline off the ground.


The result was the collapse of the arrangement with Cathay Pacific, a blow to the credibility of the government with investors and a big scandal for the country. The crony airline became known as “the paper airline” and became a laughing-stock.

Sir Lynden’s decision on Bahamas Airways was one of the pivotal issues which provoked increasing dissatisfaction with his leadership, eventually resulting in the break from the PLP of the Dissident Eight and others.

The founders of the FNM and other nationalists who remained in the Pindling government had to take tough and pragmatic decisions early on in the greater national interest of making the Bahamian dream more accessible and advancing the promises of majority rule.

They overwhelmingly and correctly concluded that to expand tourism and economic access and opportunities for Bahamians, and in order to grow the Bahamian economy to fund priorities such as education, that the Cathay Pacific partnership was an exceptional deal for The Bahamas.

Sir Lynden’s decision was tragic. In significant ways it set the country back decades. While it may be difficult to calculate the lost opportunities and economic benefits to the country and the Public Treasury, we know what Bahamasair has cost taxpayers -- now approaching half a billion dollars.

For point of reference, our total national debt today is approximately $4.2 billion dollars. Over the years Bahamasair constantly flew off course with poor service and incompetent management, various scandals and rip-offs, political interference and featherbedding of supporters, as well as wasteful spending.

Four decades after the Bahamas Airways debacle, the country owns 100 percent of a national airline that has been a significant failure in many respects. Is this more preferable than a 25 per cent stake in an airline that would have been more profitable, that would not have cost the Public Treasury the mind-boggling sums expended on Bahamasair, and would have guaranteed airlift into our prime tourism markets?

Then there are the opportunity costs of millions which could have been invested in education, health care, the arts, infrastructure and other areas. In all probability our national debt would also have been lower and our public finances healthier.


Such rational cost-benefits analysis does not hold the emotional appeal of thumping our chests, waving the national colours and proclaiming that we are the majority owners of our national airline. Still, Bahamian pride must be more than nostalgia, unthinking nationalism and outdated economic thinking.

Surely we cannot fully know what the future of Bahamas Airways would have been amidst the turmoil that has roiled the airline industry over the decades from oil shocks to mergers to intense competition.

What we do know is that Cathay Pacific is still a healthy and competitive airline and that many of Bahamasair’s domestic routes are now in the hands of private fully Bahamian-owned companies that are profitable. The model Bahamas Airways could have followed is a concentration on international routes leaving domestic routes to local carriers with, in some instances, government subsidies to less profitable inter-island routes.

Suppose that in the 1980s The Bahamas was again offered a partnership with an international carrier to buy a majority stake in Bahamasair, with an agreement similar to the proposed BTC and Cable & Wireless partnership?

The agreement would have entailed the Government maintaining a significant though not majority stake, veto power over key decisions and significant board seats. The new partnership would leverage the resources of the well-established airline including extensive capital investments and other resources made available to Bahamasair that it could not access on its own.

The new partnership would also help to integrate the new Bahamasair into a global travel network of expanded routes with significantly better economies of scale in a more competitive global airline industry. Eventually, shares would be also sold to the Bahamian public

If this was the deal on the table, what would those who oppose the new partnership between BTC and Cable & Wireless, have thought and argued? Clearly, one could not plausibly argue that the national interest would have been better served by insisting on a 51 percent stake.

Undoubtedly the airline and telecommunications industries are different. Yet, there are parallels between the Bahamas Airways story and the proposed new partnership for BTC.

March 18, 2011


Monday, March 21, 2011

Branville McCartney - Member of Parliament for the Bamboo Town Constituency Resigns from the Governing Free National Movement (FNM) Party

Branville McCartney's facebook RESIGNATION NOTE: Due to personal convictions, today I have resigned from the Free National Movement. I remain your representative for the Bamboo Town Constituency and be assured that the level of true representation that you have become accustomed to will not change. I remain your humble employee. Bran.

Bamboo Town Branville McCartney on facebook

Monday March 21, 2011

The Bluewater Ventures Limited / Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) Privatization deal that came close to reality

Bluewater Unveiled

NG News Editor

A look at the BTC deal that almost was

The veil of secrecy surrounding the group that almost purchased 49 percent of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) under the Christie administration is being lifted.

According to a closely guarded document obtained by National Review, Bluewater is a privately held entity, which does not have audited statements or disclose financial statements publicly.

“However, at signing or immediately prior to signing the [letter of intent] we are prepared to disclose relevant financial information and give the relevant assurances on Bluewater’s acquisition vehicle, including its financial capacity to complete the transaction,” the company said in 2006.

The response came as part of the due diligence exercise carried out by the Privatization Committee under the Christie administration, which subsequently recommended to the government that negotiations should proceed with Bluewater.

Members of that committee included the financial secretary, the legal advisor to the Ministry of Finance, BTC union officials, private sector members and telecommunications consultants.

As the government gets closer to closing a deal with Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) to sell 51 percent of BTC, the Bluewater deal that almost came to be remains highly controversial.

Speaking at his party’s rally on Clifford Park Saturday night, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said if the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) had its way BTC would have been sold off to Bluewater, which “had no experience in telecommunications. The company wasn’t even traded on the stock market.”

Ingraham said, “We still aren’t exactly sure who had their hands in that Bluewater pot or who the real players were behind a deal that would have purchased BTC on credit…”

Details of the deal that almost came to be are likely to be discussed in greater details in the BTC privatization debate, which gets underway in the House of Assembly today.

Ingraham has already promised to have more to say about Bluewater and what the Christie administration had planned.

In 2006, the privatization committee posed a number of questions to Bluewater, which were answered in detailed form in a document to the committee dated September 13, 2006.

One revelation made in that document is that Bluewater was formed to invest in and manage companies in the telecom and media industries.

According to the document, there was no plan for any layoffs. Between 2006 and 2011, average salary at BTC was projected to rise from $43,332 to $48,780.

Bluewater said in 2006 it would negotiate contracts with the existing management team between signing the letter of intent and closing the transaction.

“We anticipate that as a part of their package executive management will receive equity participation in BTC,” Bluewater said.

“Bluewater also anticipates that all board members will receive industry standard board compensation packages.”


Bluewater outlined 25 key initiatives to target in the first two years of purchasing the BTC shares.

It committed to plugging revenue leakages; reducing discounts to prepaid vendors; reducing bad debt charges; charging for in-home wiring to recoup costs; tightening the pre-paid card distribution process; instituting a new sales incentive scheme; reducing fleet maintenance costs; reducing overtime expenses and reducing contract service costs by 20 percent.

The company said that in the first year of the BTC acquisition it expected $92.5 million to be spent in capital expenditure to focus on consumers and core networks.

Asked to provide the supporting details and data for Bluewater’s proposed debt to equity ratio and any plans for external financing, Bluewater said it “does not intend to leverage BTC, so the net debt to equity ratio does not change during our projections.”

It also said it expected “all free cash flow after capital expenditure to be dividended to shareholders. This excludes current cash on the balance sheet which will be left at the company for working capital purposes.”

Bluewater also advised that it expected the cost of management and consultant contracts to be covered by the employee costs and the consultant costs in the business plan.

“In addition, we anticipate setting aside 10 percent of the equity of BTC for employees,” said Bluewater in 2006.

Under current plans for BTC, which appear poised to go through, the government says it will, by the end of this year, sell nine percent or approximately $40 million of the shares in BTC to the Bahamian public.

Bluewater said in 2006 that it did not intend to transfer or sell any of BTC’s shares for three years or any longer period of time as agreed by the shareholders.

The Bluewater plan also called for an improvement of EBITDA margins from 26 percent in 2005 to 39 percent in 2008.

The company said the improvement in EBITDA would have been achieved through the streamlining of operations.

The 2006 document to the Privatization Committee added, “Bluewater also intends to offer better value to its customers through reductions in wireless and international long distance tariffs as laid out in our business plan.”

The company had planned to launch an IPTV offering in 2009.

This would have included more than 1,000 movies on-demand “available to watch exactly when you want”; interactive music channels; on-demand movies and TV that you can stop, rewind, pause or fast-forward.

IPTV revenues were projected to be more than $9 million by this year.

The deal that came close to reality also included a plan for improving telecommunication services on less developed Family Islands.


The Privatization Committee asked Bluewater to provide the propose management candidates for BTC.

Several board members were named.

One of them was Trinidad and Tobago native Roger Ames, who served as chairman and chief executive officer of Warner Music Group and president of Warner Music International between August 1999 and August 2004.

Carlos Espinal who in 2006 was CEO of TSTT, the national telephone company of Trinidad & Tobago, was named as another Bluewater executive.

Prior to joining TSTT in 2004, he spent eight years with Verizon as senior vice president international - Latin America.

During his time with Verizon, he worked as a turn-around specialist for Verizon’s Latin American and Caribbean businesses, Bluewater said.

John Gregg was listed in the document sent to the Privatization Committee as managing director of Bluewater. According to that 2006 document, he had 15 years of building companies in the media and telecom industry in Europe, the U.S. and Asia.

Another board member named was Andrew Sukawaty, who was named as the chairman and CEO of Inmarsat, which Bluewater said was the world leader in global satellite communications.

According to the document, Sukawaty served as president and CEO of Sprint PCS, one of America’s largest mobile phone providers. It said he grew Sprint from a start up to a company with 9.5 million subscribers and approximately $6.6 billion in revenue.

Bluewater also named several operational advisors, a finance team and a legal team.

The document said Bluewater’s principals intended to invest in BTC through a standalone Bahamian entity that would have been capitalized and controlled by Bluewater’s principals. It said Bluewater is an entity controlled by John Gregg.


Today, Bluewater of course is a dead deal, but what the Christie administration had proposed continues to come up in the current privatization debate.

The Christie administration had agreed to sell a 49 percent stake in the national telecommunications provider for $260 million shortly before the May 2007 general election.

However, after the Free National Movement was returned to power, Ingraham vowed to review the deal, claiming that Christie and the former Cabinet were planning to sell BTC "on credit" and that Bluewater would enjoy too lengthy an exclusivity period as a monopoly in an industry that his administration was keen on liberalizing.

According to documents previously obtained by The Nassau Guardian, Bluewater had agreed to pay $220 million for BTC in cash at closing, $25 million at the end of the fifth year following closing and $15 million at the end of the sixth year.

Under the deal, Bluewater would have been granted mobile and landline licenses with five and six-year exclusive periods, respectively.

Speaking at a press conference at PLP headquarters on Farrington Road yesterday, Christie again defended the deal.

“By innuendos and suggestions he (Ingraham) started off immediately after he became prime minister to suggest that there was something crooked about our involvement in Bluewater,” Christie said.

“The Progressive Liberal Party structured an approach to privatization that relied on the integrity and leadership of the financial secretary (at the time) Mrs. Ruth Millar.

“To ensure that we were on safe grounds we placed the leaders of the management union of BTC and the workers, BCPOU (Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union), as full members of the negotiating team.

“That team, including the union leaders, would come into Cabinet and brief Cabinet. We took a transparent and accountable approach to it.”

Referring to the prime minister, Christie said, “…If he really wants to look for something, tell the Bahamian people whether or not there are deals in this BTC sale to Cable and Wireless.

“That’s where he should be looking at. The Progressive Liberal Party lost the elections. We can explain the positions we took.”



2012 General Election Predictions (Part 2) - Bahamas

Election predictions - part 2

THE odds are stacked against Zhivargo Laing in Marco City in the next general election.

Frankly, the race in this constituency appears to be between two unpopular candidates. Mr Laing, who may yet again have to move to another constituency (similar to the constant relocation of former PLP MP Paul Adderley) is said to have worn-out his welcome in his constituency. Constituents have complained that Mr Laing is out of touch with public sentiment and have objected to being seen or addressed in a patronizing, condescending manner by any politician. Mr Laing's constituents have complained about an air of perceived arrogance and expressed an interest in having Mr Laing spend more time actually listening (genuinely) to their concerns. The Marco City MP is a banana peel away from slipping into the political abyss. PLP nominee Greg Moss (lawyer) is likely to defeat him.

Brensil Rolle, the Garden Hills MP, will likely defeat Dr Kendal Major. Mr Rolle is apparently quite popular on the ground and considering the population shifts in the constituency--due to the recent construction and sale of houses in newly constructed housing subdivisions--he may have the advantage in an electoral showdown.

Vincent Peet, the MP for North Andros has been relatively quiet of late. Mr Peet is likely to retain his seat.

Melanie Griffin will politically sucker punch FNM challenger Joshua Sears. I am told that the boundary cuts will favour Sears, extending Yamacraw further eastward into large chunks of Brent Symonette's St Annes' constituency. However, because there are also plans afoot to relocate Phenton Neymour to the Exuma constituency, Mr Sears' name has been bandied about as a likely replacement for Mr Neymour in South Beach.


If Phenton Neymour contests the South Beach seat, his teeth "will be on edge" having tested the sour grapes of what's said to be an impending defeat. Mr Neymour lacks the political horsepower to recapture the seat, as many residents express displeasure with his lackluster representation.

However, if Mr Neymour runs in Exuma, he could possibly edge out incumbent PLP MP Anthony Moss. Mr Moss is said to be unpopular in the Exuma Cays and has rendered a performance that is purportedly the reason for much voter discontent. Black Point residents--the second largest polling division--claim to have not seen Mr Moss since the last general election. Noticeably, Mr Neymour has made frequent trips into the Exuma constituency of late. Even more, of late Mr Neymour has also dropped the moniker he used to describe his constituents in Parliament--"the kings and queens of South Beach"--giving one the impression that perhaps the underlying notion now is that the Royal family of South Beach are preparing to dismiss their servant.

That said, Neymour's entrance into the Exuma race will leave the constituency too close to call--for now.

Notably, if Joshua Sears contests the South Beach seat as the standard bearer for the FNM, he has a more favourable chance of defeating Nurses Union president Cleola Hamilton (PLP), who has already been described by some residents as "charmless."

The Fox Hill seat could go either way. I'm told that the boundary cuts will now incorporate a polling division--out of Montagu and near to Step Street--in hopes of assisting challenger Dr Jacintha Higgs (a lady who wears the most enrapturing outfits) in gaining a foothold on the constituency and rendering current MP Fred Mitchell a seatless wonder. By all accounts, Mr Mitchell has been a visible, working MP, thereby leaving his opponent with a long, tough journey to the polls. My electoral crystal ball could not yet reveal a likely winner in this contest.

Kenyatta Gibson, the bombastic-talking MP for Kennedy, is abandoning the constituency and running as the FNM's candidate in South Eleuthera. Although incumbent MP Oswald Ingraham is in his 70s, he could still vie for the seat or be replaced by one of eight applicants for the PLP nomination--a list that I am told includes local government chief councilor Hank Johnson.

Although Mr Gibson and his family purportedly have roots in the constituency, it is likely that he will be sent deeper into political oblivion following the next election. It appears that Mr Gibson walked the Parliamentary floor and will now be walking out of Parliament altogether!

Tommy Turnquest holds a slight edge over Arnold Forbes in the race for Mount Moriah. Although the Bahamas remains in a state of national "un-security", Mr Forbes' campaign may become anemic and lose traction due to reported business-related issues emanating from Canada.


Bain and Grants Town is likely to remain in the PLP column, as Dr Bernard Nottage is expected to take out whoever the FNM nominee will be. At this juncture, party insiders inform me that the former area MP Gregory Williams is vying for the nomination in an attempt to make a political comeback; also reportedly seeking the nod is former candidate David Jordine and Rev CB Moss, who is said to be in talks with the FNM. Of course, Bain and Grants Town is a traditionally PLP seat.

PLP leader Perry Christie will most certainly humiliate his challenger in the Farm Road constituency.

The race for the Marathon constituency is setting up to be a slugfest. Of late, newcomer Jerome Fitzgerald has amped up his courtship of constituents by purchasing alarm systems and having them installed in their homes. Whilst incumbent Dr Earl Deveaux certainly has the upper hand, having spoken to constituents and political insiders from both of the major parties, I've concluded that the Marathon brawl is too close to call at this time.

The contest for North Eleuthera constituency--given the decision of House Speaker Alvin Smith not to stand for re-election--should be an exciting race to watch. Purported FNM candidate Theo Neilly--an airport manager and local government chief councilor--is slated to run against Spanish Wells native and fellow local government councilor Clay Sweeting. However, for the FNM, lawyer Richard Lightbourne's name has also been mentioned as a possible nominee. Here again, it's too far out to call this race, particularly since--at least on the national scene--both candidates are political neophytes. However, I am told that the contest for North Eleuthera is expected to be a costly affair, with lots of money changing hands.

The voters of Golden Isles will rebuke MP Charles Maynard in a runoff where challenger Michael Halkitis is expected to beat the incumbent MP like a piƱata. A walloping could leave Mr Maynard having fits of post-election hysteria and, like the movie Sleepless in Seattle, he'll likely be Sleepless in Golden Isles.

During his term in office, Mr Maynard has struck me as a representative/minister who--unlike the movie--politically has no true grit.

With Kenyatta Gibson speedily running away to Eleuthera, the Kennedy seat will easily remain a PLP stronghold with newcomer Dion Smith trouncing all challengers.

PLP Deputy Leader and MP for Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador Philip "Brave" Davis will put a spanking on FNM challenger George Wilson. In the past, Mr Wilson unsuccessfully ran as an independent candidate in the same constituency.

There is also another angle that must be explored relative to Mr Davis' political future as he has been speculated as having an interest in relocating to the St Cecilia seat. PLP insiders inform me that if Mr Davis runs in St Cecilia, the party is likely to send former Police Commissioner BK Bonamy to vie for the Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador seat.

There is chatter that Verna Grant, FNM MP for Eight Mile Rock, is facing some serious opposition. Purportedly, Ms Grant is attempting to retain her nomination as former Senator Kay Forbes is said to be interested in displacing Ms Grant and running for the FNM in that seat. In what some say will be a tumultuous election season for her, Ms Grant is also expected to face vigorous challenges from potential PLP nominees such as Sandra Edgecombe (former principal at Eight Mile Rock High), Caleb Outten or a yet unnamed opponent. This time around, it appears that the polls could go either way.

High Rock MP Kenneth Russell (FNM) will rout the still unnamed PLP challenger in this largely FNM borough.

Lucaya MP Neko Grant will torpedo the electoral hopes of supposed PLP nominee Dr Lea Percentie.

The Pineridge seat is being contested by two five-star candidates. It is unfortunate that one of these men will have to politically cancel out the other.

Current MP Kwasi Thompson has been an outstanding representative, whilst challenger PLP Senator Dr Michael Darville--who has a medical practice in the constituency--also earned much praise from residents.

Frankly, the PLP should have nominated Dr Darville in the Marco City constituency, as he is not overwhelmingly favoured to beat Mr Thompson as opposed to the outright favourable rating in a race against Zhivargo Laing. That said, Dr Darville is a formidable candidate and, whilst Mr Thompson holds a slight edge at this time, the quality of the candidates vying for the voters support in this race could cause the pendulum to swing either way. This race will certainly be a nail biter, i.e. if Dr Darville is not transplanted to contest the Marco City seat.

PLP incumbent Frank Smith will face-off against likely FNM challenger Linda Treco in the St Thomas More constituency. By all accounts, Mr Smith has earned the ire of the Prime Minister, so it is expected that the full weight of the FNM's electoral machinery will be coming down upon him.

Reliable sources inform me that upcoming boundary cuts will place a portion of St Thomas More in Loretta Butler-Turner's Montagu constituency, arguing that because she won by more than 1000 votes in the last election, she can likely absorb some votes against her and still preserve a comfortable margin in another victorious run. Apparently, a portion of Fox Hill will likewise be absorbed into Brent Symonette's St Anne's constituency. I'm also told that Paradise Island will become a part of the new St Thomas More constituency.


Pinewood, a PLP foothold, could once again return to the party's win column. Frankly, MP Byron Woodside has done a creditable job in the constituency. However, a loss may, among other factors, be due to changes within the voting block and the luck of the political draw as the constituency has had an extensive love affair with the PLP. The race for Pinewood will no doubt be close and quite competitive.

According to sources, the PLP intend to run attorney Damian Gomez in Pinewood.

Flip a coin and, quite similarly, the Elizabeth constituency can go either way although incumbent Ryan Pinder (PLP) is favoured--at this juncture--to retain his seat. That said, I've been clued-up by FNM insiders of the likely mapping out of a favourable boundary cut for challenger Dr Duane Sands--a cut which is set to incorporate "more FNM polling divisions" and cut-out a part of Elizabeth Estates.

Edison Key will retain his South Abaco seat.

Prime Minister and FNM leader Hubert Ingraham will crush all challengers--whether that is Ky Mills and/or Jackson McIntosh--in the race for the North Abaco seat. Frankly, the electoral hopes of Mr Ingraham's challengers are comparable to running in quick sand--struggling and sinking fast!

As we enter another general election season, Bahamians must begin to demand true and visionary leadership within their constituencies and on the national front.

The upcoming general election will certainly--as is seen every five years--be a political circus. Indeed, this will be a helluva election season, which will leave--upon its conclusion--more than a handful of sitting MPs and electoral hopefuls reaching for a crying towel.

March 19, 2011

2012 General Election Predictions (Part 1) - Bahamas