PLP tears into FNM political writer Larry Smith of Tough Call

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PLP lashes out on FNM writer Larry Smith

The Progressive Liberal Party notes with interest the 180% about-face turn of Larry Smith and his duplicitous comments, regarding the current government’s expressed intent to regain majority ownership control of BTC.

The fact that Mr. Smith is now one of the most vocal supporter of this most controversial national asset giveaway is not surprising; as the Progressive Liberal Party is privy to information that confirmed that he was/ is a hired gun for the proponents of this ‘deal’.  A most reliable source informed the party that,  “Larry Smith at the Tribune was then used to write columns justifying the FNM’s actions in selling BTC, and to attack the PLP”.

This information, which we had for some time, is further supported by the actual playing out of this drama in Mr. Smith’s ‘Tough Call’ Tribune columns.

In 2006, under the then Progressive Liberal Party Government, assuming that Cable & Wireless was one of the companies who may have possibly purchased BTC, Mr. Smith wrote in his column:

“Experts say C&W is poorly run and despised by politicians and unionists alike as a relic of the colonial past. It is also a takeover target itself – only its odd portfolio of 14 Caribbean licenses plus Fiji and the Seychelles has protected it from acquisition so far.”

If that was not enough, as he further relished in his apparent role of PLP antagonist and FNM apologist, he added:

“Realistically, the best outcome might be for Digicel to take over the cell phone side of BTC while the government keeps the land-line service – with all the excess employees and debt. As a well-run company, Digicel would be foolish to buy all of BTC’s baggage – according to one analyst”.

Larry Smith

The facts are the facts and are indisputable: there is no doubt in the Progressive Liberal Party’s mind that Mr. Smith is a hired gun for the instigators of the very (BTC) sale he is writing about.  In light of this, and specifically on this topic, he should put down his journalistic pen as he cannot be objective.  In fact his objectivity is so impaired that his statements are now bordering on the ridiculous when compared to his earlier comments on the suitability of C&W, as he now attempts to re-write history and distort the facts surrounding this national giveaway.

The question that should be asked of Mr. Smith is – if he did not get an epiphany about C&W – what was the asking price for the about face, as he has now carelessly asserted in his latest Tough Call column:

“Industry observers say they can’t imagine a global public company like CWC accepting minority ownership of BTC. It would have to protect its commercial interests. And even if it did agree to sell two per cent of BTC’s shares back to the government, this would doubtless incur a significant premium – as much as 40 per cent on top of the actual price of the shares.”

The PLP is aware, that to the contrary, not one telecom investor has a problem with the Government investigating the BTC sale and regaining control of the national operations and network assets.   Those in opposition to the PLP plans are afraid of what will come out of any investigation into the sale and current operations of the company and apparently Mr. Smith falls in this category.

In an attempt to disguise the fact that he is anything but objective, Mr. Smith further wrote:

“If the government pursues this to the conclusion it says it wants, it would be disastrous for the Bahamas in terms of foreign investment,” one observer told me. “The international community would look at us and say what on Earth is the government doing? It’s nonsensical because governments shouldn’t be in the telecoms business anyway.”

“In the final analysis, this is all such a monumental waste of time, effort, resources and political capital. Instead of trying to turn the clock back to make a prehistoric political point, this government should be focusing on the future, spurring the economic recovery and finding ways to control our deficits and debt that are rising to dangerous levels.”

The PLP views this statement as desperately self-serving and a last-stand from a hired gun.  We will remain steadfast in our support of the current government’s obligation to the Bahamian electorate in keeping with it election commitments; and its right, in the best interest of the Bahamian people, to investigate and address any and all irregularities surrounding the transfer of shares to C&W[R2] ; and have the following questions for Mr. Smith, his co-conspirators and supporters of this controversial deal:

1.       If Mr. Smith believed what he wrote in 2006, when he described C&W as a company (that in his words) was regarded by experts as “poorly ran” – why didn’t he raise the national alarm when they magically appeared in 2010?

2.       How did C&W get to the table when they were not even on the ‘official’ short-list of bidders?

3.       When did the FNM Government begin negotiations with C&W?   (Sources indicate that internal BTC emails from a high ranking individual to C&W will prove that this deal started long before the short-listed bidders were eliminated).

4.       What was the rationale for the FNM’s government including a penalty fee in the sales agreement without a corresponding premium added to the asking price?

5.       Why is there not an audit provision in the agreement that allows full oversight and review of the financials by the minority shareholder?

6.       Where were the investigative reporters and ‘concerned’ columnists when the following were perpetrated?

o   The ignorant sell-off of the National Fiber Optic Backbone Network, by the FNM Government. (No future operator looking at making an investment in the Bahamas will be prepared to duplicate this investment)

o   The sale by Ingraham of the Digital Highways, i.e., the information roadways connecting all the Islands, discouraging any future investment in the National Network.   (Whoever owns the network controls telecommunications in the Bahamas).

What is even more interesting about Mr. Smith’s role in all of this the eerie silence amongst his fellow supporters.  He appears to be among the very few who is still fighting against the inevitable and the question once again – is what was the asking price.  No right thinking Bahamian resident or citizen can be supportive of an operating model that precludes the Bahamas Government of any overview or decision making over the financial operations and internal control processes.

Mr. Smith is asked to come clean on any hidden agenda/ interest he may have and to drop all pretenses of being an innocent and objective bystander.  He is not objective and any utterance on this topic is a charade, as he is not qualified or suitable to render any opinion on this matter.

The Progressive Liberal Party and its supporters will continue to admonish the new government to do the right thing.  The people’s confidence must be restored and the new government must demonstrate its understanding that 51% is not greater than 49% and that a country should  be in a strong position to protect its precious national assets.

“Professional electronic journalists should present the news with integrity and decency, avoiding real or perceived conflicts of interest, and respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subjects of news.”