Oswald Brown Writes
I find it hard to believe that there has not been a more resounding outcry against the blatant example of raw and unadulterated conflict of interest that has been exposed in recent weeks with regard to the executive leadership at the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA).
No matter what side of the political divide you on, whether you support the FNM or the PLP, all Bahamians should be offended by the web of deceit woven by Hubert “THE DICTATOR” Ingraham to ensure that nothing derails his seemingly irreversible decision to sell the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications. There should be absolutely no doubt in anyone’s mind that the appointment of Usman Saadat as CEO of URCA and the subsequent hiring of Marsha Lewis, presumably by Saadat, as a human resources consultant are important aspects of Mr. Ingraham plan to see to it that BTC is sold to Cable and Wireless, despite convincing and unimpeachable evidence that his government has made a bad decision in agreeing to the sale.
It is now public knowledge that both Saadat and Lewis were once top executives of Cable and Wireless and their departure from that company was around the same time that Cable and Wireless probably renewed its interest in purchasing BTC. This certainly is prima facie evidence that those decisions are connected, and I’m sure that Wayne Munroe or any of the other highly competent lawyers in The Bahamas would agree with this conclusion.
We certainly can’t believe Minister of State for Finance Zhivargo Laing when he claimed in the House of Assembly last week that any suggestion that “the government coordinated, orchestrated for any employees of Cable and Wireless to work at URCA or anywhere else in pursuit of this privatization is false, inaccurate and absolute nonsense, absolute nonsense,” as he was quoted in the Nassau Guardian as saying. Laing’s credibility was reduced to virtually nil when he reportedly estimated on a radio talk show that those demonstrating outside the House last week against the sale numbered between two hundred and three hundred. The Guardian estimated the demonstrators to be between seven hundred and eight hundred and other estimates placed the number in excess of one thousand. Yet we have an individual who is involved in the day-to-day management of the country’s economy making the ridiculous estimate that he did. Either he was knowingly attempting to deceive the Bahamian people or he can’t count. If the latter is the case, then he should be dismissed forthwith from any responsibility he has with regard to the management of this country’s finances.
Actually, there is some conflict as to when Marsha Lewis left Cable and Wireless to form her Barbados-based consulting firm. In an excellently researched article written by Candia Dames and published in The Guardian on February 24, Dames claimed that while Cable and Wireless said Lewis left “in March 2009, her LinkedIn professional profile, which was changed after The Guardian story, claims she left in December 2008. Early yesterday, Lewis was still listing herself as a ‘current’ CWC executive. That all changed at some point during the day.”
Dames added: “Lewis would be the second CWC former employee to have a key position with URCA. The other is current CEO Usman Saadat, former CEO of CWC in St. Lucia.”
What makes this “revelation” more astounding is that the sale of 51 percent of BTC to Cable and Wireless must be approved by URCA. Let’s face it, whomever the government had appointed to head URCA would have been expected to “rubber stamp” their decision to sell BTC to Cable and Wireless. So why did the government feel it necessary to use such “cloak and dagger” measures to ensure that URCA agreed with the decision? The answer to this question is simple. Despite the government’s claim that the sale has widespread support among the Bahamian people, it does not. Mr. Ingraham simply could not risk having a Bahamian at the head of URCA and have him or her publicly oppose the sale; that is, of course, after he had fired them as CEO of URCA.
Fortunately, the Bahamian people can still entertain hope that the sale will not be approved. It’s a slim hope, but hope nonetheless. Passage by the House of Assembly is also a requirement for the sale to be finalized. Certainly, the Free National Movement has a majority in the House and with URCA’s approval the sale of BTC should be considered a done deal. But because of his bull-in-the China shop personality, Ingraham no longer has the Svengalian-type control he once had over elected FNM members and he is actually now despised by some of them, especially those that are aware that he intends to deny them a nomination to seek re-election in 2012. It would only take a couple of them to “vote no” when this measure is debated in the House and along with PLP members they will hand Ingraham a bitter defeat.
Now is the time for Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney to demonstrate that he has what it takes to be a leader and organize the disgruntled FNMs into a voting block and do what they know would be in the best interest of the Bahamian people. If they are too afraid of what Hubert “THE DICTATOR” Ingraham might do to them if they make this bold move, all they need to do is refer to that section of the Constitution of The Bahamas which states: “…Whenever there shall be an occasion for the appointment of a Prime Minister, the Governor-General shall appoint as Prime Minister: (a) the Member of the House of Assembly who is the leader of the party which commands the support of the majority of the members of that House…”
Of course, this section of The Constitution is generally applicable immediately following a general election, but if the sale of BTC to Cable and Wireless were to be rejected by the House, Hubert Ingraham will no longer have the support of the majority of the members of the House. This will be tantamount to a “vote of no confidence” and he will be forced to call a general election. If this were to happen, the Bahamian people will most certainly let Ingraham know just how they feel about his decision to sell BTC to Cable and Wireless.
Oswald T. Brown
Freeport, Grand Bahama
February 28, 2011.