|PM stands firm against CWC|
Guardian Staff Reporter
Published: Jun 20, 2012
Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday a mass disruption in communications services in the country on Monday only proved why the deal to sell the majority interest of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) should not have happened.
BTC suffered a system-wide meltdown, which affected more than 300,000 mobile, landline and broadband customers.
Company officials reported that a power outage knocked out BTC’s network management center on Poinciana Drive, and a full investigation into the blackout has been launched.
BTC CEO Geoff Houston on Monday apologized for the blackout and noted that it was not a good day for BTC.
Christie, who has pledged to regain the majority interest in BTC for Bahamians, met with CWC CEO Tony Rice on Monday during the outage.
The Ingraham administration sold a 51 percent stake in BTC to Cable and Wireless last year.
Christie described his meeting with Rice as a very private and cordial one where CWC took its position and the government reaffirmed its position “to faithfully pursue by all lawful means the obtainment of the majority interest in the company”.
“It so happened that whilst we were talking the greatest collapse that I’m aware of ever of communications services (in The Bahamas) took place for which we are expecting a report, and [it] reminded us of all the things we said and why we ought not to have agreed with Cable and Wireless,” Christie said. “But in any event we had a good discussion.”
Christie said Monday’s meeting, which lasted an hour, was the first of many. He pointed out that both CWC and the government are discussing their respective positions on BTC and working on a possible conclusion in a reasonable timeframe.
“They (CWC) are probably the most experienced communications company in the world,” Christie said. “So they know governments, they would have seen and noted that we took a position on the sale of the majority interest of BTC.
“They would have seen us speak to that during the campaign and they would have seen us ask the Bahamian people to vote for us on that basis. So they do understand the moral implications of that.
“What I said to them was that whatever we do we’re not going to disserve the operations or even the value of the company by any kind of acrimonious discussion and debate.
“So we had a very, very cordial meeting and discussion where we agreed to go back and set up a process and then I asked them to give me a full report on BTC’s operations to date, including explanations for what took place.”
However, if there is a deal the prime minister said he does not expect employees to be affected.
“We’ve just had a first discussion; everyone understands the commitment of the government,” Christie said.
“We understand the position of Cable and Wireless. CWC would wish to persuade us not to seek that position, not to stay with that position.
“We understand that, but this is what negotiations with partners are for. After all we have a partnership — the country with CWC — with respect to the ownership.
“I expect that whatever happens, it will be done in the right way…and will not affect anyone’s employment or the value of the company.”
Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who approved the deal in April 2011, recently suggested the sale was irreversible.
“We shall see, that’s how I respond to that, we shall see,” he said.
“Remember Mr. Ingraham said the PLP couldn’t beat him and most certainly Perry Christie couldn’t and we saw.”