Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham is staking his political future on the passage of the BTC deal.
Following a meeting of all FNM generals, MPs, Cabinet Ministers, and party officers, Mr Ingraham made it clear that if the FNM government is unable to comsumate the deal, he will be forced to call an early election. The Prime Minister feels that a ‘no’ vote in Parliament will signal a vote of no confidence in his adminsitration.
Indeed, the BTC vote is crucial for the FNM party.
Debate on the issue is expected to begin in the House of Assembly on Monday. At the end of debate, parliamentarians will vote on whether the sale should go forward.
The proposed sale has created much controversy over the past few months. The opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) has indicated publicly that it will not support the sale of BTC to CWC.
Mr Ingraham feels fairly confident that the deal will go through. Currently there appears to be support from all FNM members of Parliament, except for Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney, who has stated publicly that he is not sure which way he will vote.
“The Manifesto of the FNM committed the party if it became the government to privatizing BTC. Every candidate who ran for the FNM committed him or herself to that policy. Those who won, won on the basis of the policies in our Manifesto,” Mr Ingraham said.
“We therefore expect when it’s time to vote on it, all FNM MPs will vote for it. If FNM MPs do not wish to vote for it and wish to repudiate that, then we will say that we have said to the public of The Bahamas that we will do something that we are unable to do and we will return to the public of The Bahamas the power that you gave us so that you can decide who will govern you, because if you have a party that commits in its Manifesto that [it is] going to do something but is unable to do so because of the candidates elected, then you have a right to have a say in the matter.”
Mr Ingraham’s remarks are somewhat confusing because the FNM, in their Manifesto, also promised to pass a Freedom of Information Act, but has yet to do so. It is not clear if Mr Ingraham feels that the lack of such legislation would also consitute a breach of the FNM’s promises to the people of the Bahamas.
Meanwhile, groups opposing the sale plan to hold a demonstration outside Parliament when debate begins on Monday.
Despite pockets of opposition to the sale, Mr Ingraham has said that “nothing” can stop the deal.
The Government of The Bahamas and Cable and Wireless Communications have already signed the shareholders agreement and the share purchase agreement which would give the controlling interest in BTC to Cable and Wireless. The sale has also received approval from the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA).
In addition to passage in the House of Assembly, the deal must also be approved by the Central Bank of The Bahamas. Finally, the Bahamas Investment Authority must issue a new permit for CWC and the Communications Act must be amended to accomodate the licensing terms neccessary to make the proposed exclusivity period legally binding.