Why “The Government” Cannot Sell BTC

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A letter to the Editor

By: R. Rawle Maynard

The reason why the Government cannot sell Batelco’s assets is that neither “The Government” nor BTC has title to them.

Who or what is the Government of the Bahamas? It is not a person; it has no personality. The Constitution of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas by its preamble declares that the people of this family of Islands recognize that the preservation of their freedom will be guaranteed by, inter alia” an abiding respect for Christian values and the “Rule of Law” and Article 1 declares that the Commonwealth of The Bahamas shall be a sovereign Democratic State. It seems to me therefore, that the Government of the Bahamian State is of Law and not of men. Nowhere in The Constitution is Government defined or is such an entity created. Executive Authority is vested in her Majesty and the principal is the Bahamian nation. Government, it is submitted, is a term used to describe collectively all those persons who are employed by the state to enforce the Laws which rule. The Government is a non-entity it cannot acquire or hold property, there is however Public Property.

A Parliament consisting of Her Majesty, a Senate and a House of Assembly is established by Article 52 empowered to make Laws for the peace order and good government of the Bahamas.

In 1958, there was a “General strike “ which was precipitated by members of The Taxi Union, a group of non-employee independent business owners forming themselves into a union, blocking the entry to the newly built Windsor Airport. Before this event the Bahamas had been a peaceful nation having a police force of less than Three Hundred men who also served as a primary Defence Force. The Commissioner of Police Mr. Colcherster Whyms realized that he was in no position to deal with any uprising, there were not a sufficient number of officers and he, most importantly, lacked the ability to communicate with the officers who were deployed, and by secured means with the Governor and the Colonial Office.

After the strike, steps were taken urgently to remedy this security deficiency: The number of police officers were increased, a Riot Squad organized, Special Branch and a radio Division created. I became Technical Assistant to The Force Communication Officers and in that position was privy to discussions relating to the need for a secured Telecommunication system serving the entire Bahamas capable of providing communication for the National Security of the Bahamas.

The Government of the  day and no doubt the Colonial Office, which was responsible for the National Security and Defence of The Bahamas, decided that a Telecommunication system operating as a department of Government was inappropriate, that it would be vulnerable to strike action and sabotage; that a system part of the sovereignty of The State capable of being taken over and operated by the Police and Military during an emergency and providing secured communications internally and externally was necessary.

A Statutory Corporation called Bahamas Telecommunication Corporation, having no Shareholder, not limited; a sovereign asset, perpetual succession and no provision made for its liquidation or winding up, was incorporated. The Bahamas Telecommunications Corporation Act also provided that any person who without authority acquires any knowledge of the contents of any communication with intent to prejudice the rights or interests of any other discloses the contents thereof would be guilty of a criminal offence and any person engaged in any capacity whatsoever at a Telecommunication Station, contrary to his duty, discloses or intercepts any information would be guilty of a criminal offence, also that in an emergency The Governor was empowered to assume control and make emergency appointments including temporary operative engineering staff.

The sovereign nature and national security aspect were so predominant a consideration that in 1974(after Independence) the Act was amended to provide that no person other than a citizen of The Bahamas could be appointed an officer in the Corporation without prior approval of The Minister responsible to Parliament for the affairs of The Corporation.

As a corporate person Batelco is protected by The Constitution against expropriation of its property and since Parliament is not empowered to expropriate property for a private purpose or to alienate sovereignty, it is submitted that parliament cannot authorize the sale of Batelco’s assets. Furthermore, when the corporation was created in 1966 it purchased the assets of The Telecommunication Department out of its own earnings therefore “The Government” cannot now sell that which it previously sold to the Corporation; what it proposes to do is to unlawfully expropriate Batelco’s Property.  The purported transfer to BTC was a sham.

The Rule of Law requires that everyone including officers of The State are subject to the Law. If anyone in the Bahamas took another person’s property with the intent to sell it to another, such a person would have been arrested and charged with stealing.

In the premises, it seems that the only possible way to sell Batelco is to be authorized by a referendum.

20 COMMENTS

  1. FIRST OF ALL EVERYONE IS SOOO HYPED ABOUT BTC FOR SALE. MY OPINION OF THIS MATTER IS CLEAR- WHAT WILL WE GAIN FROM A COMPANY WHO IS UNDER SALE THEMSELVES? C&W BARELY BELONGS TO THEMSELVES BECAUSE OF HOW LOUSY THEY ARE, BTC, WHO HAS BEEN SERVICING AND MAKING MONEY FOR THE BAHAMAS FOR YEARS NOW HAS BECOME SOO BAD. WAKE UP BAHAMAS, YOU WANT EVERYTHING YOU SEE AMERICA HAS, BUT DO YOU REALIZE ALL OF THE HIDDEN CHARGES THAT AMERICANS HAVE TO FACE. YES BTC SHOULD BE UPGRADED, BUT WHAT ABOUT SENDING THEM FOR TRAINING SO THAT THEY CAN IMPROVE? WITH THAT KNOWLEDGE THEY CAN UPGRADE AND BETTER SERVICE THESE UNPLEASING BAHAMIANS. KNOW MATTER WHO OR WHAT TAKEOVER NO ONE WILL BE PLEASED.WE AS BAHAMIANS NEED TO STOP BEING LIKE OTHER COUNTRIES AND TRY TO BE OURSELVES. WHAT IN THE BAHAMAS IS ACTUALLY BAHAMIAN? THE FUTURE GENERATION WILL BE MARKED WITH SUCH RECKLESSNESS. NEXT QUESTION IS: SINCE C$W IS UP FOR SALE AS WELL, WHO WILL ACTUALLY BE IN CONTROL OF BTC? THIS BAHAMALAND IS UNDER SOO MUCH TURMOIL AND WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE A PRAYING NATION. WE NEED TO PRAY THAT DECISIONS FOR THIS COUNTRY ARE NOT MADE BY FLESHY DESIRES, WE NEED TO PRAY THAT GOD WILL DIRECT EACH CHOICE MADE? HOW ABOUT PRAY FOR THIS VIOLENCE? STOP LOSING FOCUS BAHAMAS. FOR FUTURE NOTE, SAVE THE OBSCENITIES, THERE SHOULD BE ANOTHER WORD YOU CAN USE, BROADEN THAT!

  2. This is like beating a dead horse, giving BTC to C&W has not guarantees. I read with interest about the lack of technology that exist at BTC. My question is what exactly is it that you’d like BTC to accomplish that can’t be done presently and what are the reasons for these technologies not being implemented. The question is a simple one, is this the best long-term solution for BTC and telecoms.

    Personally, I think many of the things that we want can only be accomplished through liberalizing the telecoms sector. C

  3. As to the National security argument, if you want secure conversations, write a letter, or talk in person. Believe that!

    To as to whether The Bahamas will benefit from private ownership? Well, if we can get the politicians out, and keep them out, I believe we can move farther, faster, and to more loftier goals…

  4. I’m not sure why we believe forigners will buy BTC and solve all our issues. The first thing on their minds I think will be how do we make as much profit as possible. If that means we get some of what we want so be it. C&W have issues too. They have their own agenda and BTC will be number 14 on their list of Caribbean Telcos.

    I don’t believe BTC is doing as badly as some of us think as far as technology is concerned. I do believe if they weren’t held back by government they would be much further ahead. Looks like the person they fired a few years ago Mr. Williams knew how to make money. We need someone with VISION and a PLAN.
    The company is ours, 100% Bahamian and it is making money which goes into our Treasury 100% and we need the money.
    We shouldn’t just give it away because we have some issues lets work them out and keep our own profits.

    Instead of fighting and wasting millions of dollars trying to sell BTC lets put our heads together and come up with a plan to resolve our problems. We shouldn’t just sell to forigners when ever we have a problem.
    We have many brilliant minds in the Bahamas.

  5. To Awakened and others…i apologise if I was too obtuse or long winded in my response to “the govt cant sell BTC”. I can just say this: Yes, the government can sell BTC. Why, for the reasons stated. It is a Crown corporation. The Crown is the shareholder and can divest itself of its share. It can also enter into agreements to be a partial shareholder with another entity.
    corporate law 101 not intellectual masturbation altho that sounds like a more enjoyable undertaking than all this talk.

  6. So, not one single reply to my post re the benefits of a foreign owned BTC for our children, our nation in 5-10 years time. C’mon! Think strategically for a change! Let’s hear your responses!

  7. Hi there D.Rolle,so what does all of that mean?, could you break that it down to the real, and enlighthen us to what you truly want to say on this matter.

  8. We all know that,Canada, the UK & the USA have all failed in managing their assets.
    The two countries we know that have shown prudence and stability in managing their countries assets, in the last 20 years are China & Cuba.
    Why don’t we ask then for some advice?
    I know why.
    Because those two countries normally give aid and advice free.
    We like to pay for advice that do not work.

  9. where have all the heros gone,in the last 50 years or we have had nationalist or world leaders such as fidel castro who got rid of batista,nelson mandela stood up to apatheid and mahatma gandhi stood up for india poor.we have leaders in this country wo don’t give a dam .they only look out for there friends,family and lovers.the prime minister made comments yesterday regarding who want’s to own every thing in this country does he say the same thing when it comes to mr symonette and his hot mix plant.or any other white bahamian company mosko construction,cavlier construction etc.don’t these companys get all or most big government contracts so what is mr prime minister point.i think it is time for a fresh crop of national leaders to step foward to take this country to the next levle.i honestly think that when hubert ingrahm looks in the miror he dosen’t see him self as a black man ,i honestly think he hates the color of his skin or has a house slave mentality.where only white or light skinned bahamians have sense.we in this country need change and soon,god bless the bahamas.

  10. In our system parliament is supreme except in those areas where the Consititution specifies something esle. But, the constitution can be changed by a mechanism that itself contains.
    The government corporation is a “Crown Corporation” in that the shareholder is Her Majesty — the constitutional executive authority in The Bahamas. Her Majesty can divest herself of the corporation. In our system, the government is Her Majesty’s Government and the government can sell or distribute crown properties in Her Majesty’s Name. In our system, the government of the commonwealth of The Bahamas acts in Her Majesty’s Name for the Crown is the Executive Authority. That is our constitution. The Crown holds this authority and the government has use of it. So, yes, the government can sell a crown corporation.
    Today in Canada this is the case as it is in the UK. In fact right now the British government, in the Crown’s Name, is selling the British post office to a foreign company! Recently in New York the Canadian government reted an apartment for its senior diplomat. The lease was between “Her Majesty In Right of Canada” and the landlord. In our system the government acts in the Queen’s Name because in our system and according to our constitution, Her Majesty is vested with the executive authority of this country.

  11. R. Rawle Maynard, Thank you for this information.
    Most bloggers, get lost if your comments are more that 10 lines.
    Forgive them.

  12. Profile, Parliament is Supreme. Any Law made by Parliament can be undone by the same Parliament. Maynard is talking fanciful nonsense..The Constitution states clearly when a Referendum is required to change any Law of the land…

  13. Why don’t you jackasses read and try and understand what Mr Maynard is saying? First of ae ask you asses, do you have the ability to understand what you read, when you read? Mr Maynard is telling you that under the original telecoms act, it was designed (and for our national security reasons) in such a way that it’s assets could never be sold and or disposed of and neither can the telecom giant be wound up. This was done for the country’s national security reasons. It is designed to remain in the hands of Bahamian taxpayers and no government can legally dispose of the majority shareholding. We can sell up to 49.99% but not 50 or 51%. In other words the act wanted to make sure that the government remained always in control of the country’s communications and that was for our national security reasons. So please display some common sense guys. And you, Thomas Finley, I am surprised at you because from your blog you seem to be slightly above average intelligence. Have you allowed your emotions to run away with your ability to reason?

  14. Can we please have a serious discussion about why a foreign owner of BTC is actually very, very good news for our children? Let’s forget about us – the 30 – 60+ year olds and look ahead to the new generation.

    A BTC still owned by the government will never, ever be able to provide the technology platforms that will be common and standard throughout the rest of the world. Without such an infrastructure, modern, new businesses will never have a chance — and its happening right now here in Nassau and on the family islands as well. We have no advanced mobile applications that can work here. We have no telemedicine here. We have very poor broadband (that’s expensive and unreliable) while other nations are racing ahead for 100% penetration rates of 1 gigabit per second connectivity.

    No Bahamian child who studies any information technology subject would ever come back home and work here in such a backward environment. A huge reason for the “brain drain” in our country is because we are so insular in our thinking. If C&W took over, our students would be highly incentivized to study Information Technology and work for C&W here. And C&W would court those Bahamian students.

    But let’s expand this to cover all business sectors in the Bahamas in 5-10 years. Our financial services sector and accounting and medical and on and on won’t have a chance in hell of succeeding. It will be a PREREQUISITE for any business to have access to an advanced communications infrastructure, one that only a global telecom company can provide due to economies of scale and expertise.

    Now imagine that we could wave a magic wand and all Bahamians could own the company via shares. Would you be willing to see your share values plunge because you would need to invest so heavily to overcome the current platforms? Would you tolerate paying roughly an excess of 300 of the 1200 people currently employed an average of $70,000 per year?

    Would you be willing to pay roughly 3 times more for the equipment and talent because you don’t have critical mass in either?

    I look forward to intelligents rebuttals/responses to my position.

    Best Regards,

    Mike

  15. Batelco cannot be disposed of by a government that created it? A Corporation cannot be sovereign; where was Batelco created in The Constitution? Mr. Maynard has a fanciful imagination, I will give him that.

  16. To ‘newsman’: Are your statements all that you are capable of contributing to this discussion? Rather than resorting to a personal attack on the writer, please present an intelligent argument in favour of BTC’s sale. This is what Bahamians need to hear, in order to make an informed judgment on the matter.

Comments are closed.