NASSAU, Bahamas — Opponents of the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) sale took to the streets of Nassau again on Monday to protest the government’s decision, as the debate over the matter began in Parliament.
The protesters, many displaying their political affiliations on t-shirts, marched on Bay Street with signs, Bahamian flags and several bull horns, shouting and singing.
One of the first songs the protesters sang when they approached Rawson Square was The Bahamas’ national anthem.
Their signs were mostly anti-Free National Movement (FNM), some with slogans like “Fire Ingraham” and “Stop the world and let the FNM off,” while others decried the sale of BTC to Cable and Wireless Communications/LIME (CWC) with jeers such as “Epic Fail” and “Politicians vote for Lime: You’re Fired.”
One sign even called for the Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) to be done away with.
Demonstrators could not overrun police barricades to enter Rawson Square this time, as the barricades were chained together. The crowd was smaller than the last group to demonstrate against the sale in February.
On Monday, the demonstrators succeeded in opening the barricades on Parliament Street and for a few minutes several protesters poured through the opening that was created.
Police quickly replaced the barriers and calmed the crowd.
During the last protest on Bay Street, police were forced to beat some of the protesters with batons as they pushed barricades aside.
Police were out in full force on Monday, though not in the numbers present at prior protests, suggesting they were convinced that their reinforced barricades would hold back the line of protesters.
As ministers left the House of Assembly they were booed by several protesters.
When Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham left the House the crowd began a cacophony of boos and jeers.
As Ingraham walked over to the Churchill Building surrounded by police officers, some protesters attempted to follow him, shouting at him as they ran across Rawson Square.
Bamboo Town MP Branville McCartney, who resigned from the Free National Movement on Sunday, received a warm welcome from the crowd, however.
During much of the protest, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) Bernard Evans was in court where an appeal against a decision of the Supreme Court regarding the privatization of BTC was being heard.
The unions are seeking to block the sale through court action.
However, Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union (BCPMU) president William Carrol stood with his fellow BTC workers
Other union leaders joined in the protest, including president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of the Bahamas Jennifer Isaacs Dotson
“We have quite a number of affiliated unions under the NCTUB to support the Committee to Save BTC,” Isaacs-Dotson said.
“Whatever we do we need to combine our efforts. There is no sense in us separating our efforts to try to get the government to change [its] mind in selling BTC, so we’re all here together and working together in collaboration to still say to the government, stop, review and cancel this decision to sell,” she said.
The unions maintain that they will not relent until the government changes its position on the sale of BTC and will continue to march on Parliament until the sale of BTC to CWC is dead.