By OSWALD T. BROWN
Bradley Roberts, National Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party, exposed what appears to be a scandal of mammoth proportions during a recent guest appearance on Jones & Co, the popular weekly television public affairs show aired on Love 97.
Yet since Mr. Roberts’ appearance on that show there has been no explanation forthcoming from Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham and his Free National Movement (FNM) government over startling evidence presented by Mr. Roberts about a clear conflict of interest with regard to the sale of 51 per cent of the shares of the Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation (BTC) to Cable & Wireless.
At the closing of the “deal” with Cable & Wireless, the FNM government announced several new BTC directors, including Mark Holowesko, a director of Franklyn Templeton Investments. On the surface it would seem as if there’s nothing questionable about Mr. Holowesko being on the boards of BTC and Franklyn Templeton Investments, but when the veil of deceit is removed, the conclusion can easily be reached that there is a definite conflict of interest in Mr. Holowesko being on both the board of BTC and the board of a global investment management organization that operates as Franklin Templeton Investments.
Information revealed by Mr. Roberts shows that Franklyn Templeton Investments “portfolio holdings” as of December 31, 2010 included investments in both Cable & Wireless Communications and Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which certainly legitimizes these questions raised by Mr. Roberts: “Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition demands to know in whose interest is Mr. Holowesko serving. Is Mr. Holowesko representing the interest of the Bahamian people as a government appointee on the board (of BTC) or is he a representative of the company for which he is employed, or is it both?”
These are questions that demand answers from Prime Minister Ingraham, but he has remained absolutely mum since Mr. Roberts’ shocking revelation. His silence, of course, is in keeping with a pattern that has developed that strongly suggests that Mr. Ingraham does not give a hoot about what the Bahamian people think about questionable decisions he makes; consequently, he simply ignores any criticism generated by such decisions.
He has yet to provide the Bahamian people with an explanation as to why he decided to fly off to South Africa at the height of the country’s economic crisis last June to party with Atlantis owner Sol Kerzner for ten days, ostensibly to attend the World Cup, although he is not known to have an interest in any area of sports. Likewise, he has yet to tell the Bahamian people why he arbitrarily decided not to renew the work permit of Hannes Babak, chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) in December of 2009, despite the fact that Babak had strong support from one of the GBPA’s principal owners, Sir Jack Hayward, and had a number of investment contacts in Europe that may have by now materialized into projects that would have provided some economic stimulus to Grand Bahama’s crippled economy. Instead, Ingraham chose to engage in a public dispute with Sir Jack over his refusal to agree to sell the GBPA to interests representing the Chinese.
C. Allen Johnson, a regular contributor on the social network Facebook, may have provided another reason for Mr. Ingraham’s antagonism towards Sir Jack when he noted in a recent posting on Facebook that Temasek Holdings Pte Limited, the parent company of Cable & Wireless, was also interested in purchasing the GBPA at one point in time, presumably with the support of Mr. Ingraham. As was noted by Mr. Roberts during his appearance on Jones & Co, Temasek Holdings Limited owns 54 per cent of Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel), in which Templeton Global Advisors Limited, which falls under the umbrella of Franklyn Templeton Investments, is also a major shareholder.
These revelations certainly leave room for a great deal of speculation. One question that quickly surfaces is this: Exactly how much influence does Mark Holowesko, as a director of Franklyn Templeton Investments, have on decisions made by Prime Minister Ingraham as this country’s Minister of Finance? Clearly, Mr. Ingraham knows very little about financial matters at this level and his Minister of State for Finance, Zhivargo Laing, who is supposed to be his principal financial advisor, has proven over and repeatedly that he is way out of his league when it comes to dealing with serious financial issues.
This being the case, it is conceivable that Mark Holowesko may have far more influence on financial decisions made by the FNM government than is generally known by the Bahamian people. We know that Mark’s mother, Lynn Holowesko, is among the individuals that Mr. Ingraham seems to favour a great deal. From 1995 to 2000 she served as Ingraham’s Ambassador of the Environment and was appointed an FNM Senator in 2000, serving in that position until the FNM’s defeat at the polls in 2002. When the FNM returned to power in 2007, Ingraham appointed her as President of the Senate and there was talk at one time of her being named Governor General, but any thought of that happening was blocked by strong opposition from women in the FNM, who felt that appointing a white woman as Governor General would be an insult to well deserving black women like FNM stalwart Janet Bostwick, a former member of the House of Assembly.
Of course, the fact that Lynn Holowesko is a lucrative link to large financial contributions to the FNM by white Bahamians is another reason why Ingraham rewards her with important governmental appointments, but an even greater reason could very well be the role her son Mark plays is making important economic decisions for Mr. Ingraham. If this assumption is incorrect, it is incumbent on Mr. Ingraham to respond to the questions raised by Mr. Roberts during his appearance on Jones & Co. Should he continue to remain silent on the “nagging questions,” as Mr. Roberts described them, that “persists as to what role Mr. Holowesko is playing in this BTC and Cable and Wireless marriage,” then the Bahamian people can only conclude that Mr. Holowesko is The Bahamas’ de facto Minister of Finance.