Protests over Telecommunications Privatization in the Bahamas

Hundreds of protestors fought with police in Nassau on Wednesday during a demonstration against the sale of a majority stake in the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) to Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC). An estimated 700 to 800 demonstrators turned out. The clashes occurred as the demonstrators forcibly removed barricades the police had set up to block them from entering Parliament Square. The Nassau Guardian reports that the downtown drama intensified as Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham made his mid-year budget statement in the House of Assembly.

Police officers had to form a human chain to keep the people from crossing to the House of Assembly, where the doors were locked to prevent disruptions. The protesters shouted for Ingraham to resign his post for pressing ahead with the sale and called on CWC to pull out of the deal. The march was organized by the Committee to Save BTC for Bahamians. As they sang “We Shall Overcome,” the demonstrators marched peacefully until, when they neared Parliament, barricades blocked their way.
The angry demonstrators pushed through the barricades, clashing with police officers in riot gear as they made their way to Parliament Square.

Yesterday (Thursday) protests continued with shouts of “No justice, no peace” and called for Ingraham’s resignation. Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU) president Bernard Evans said the move to stop the sale has gone national and is not just a union fight. “It’s bigger than BTC and any union,” Evans said. “This is a Bahamian fight.”

Charmaine Farrington-Austin, one of the protestors, called on the government to reconsider the deal. She said her forefathers fought hard to bring the country to where it is today and the government should not give away the birthright of Bahamians: “I want to ensure that people like my daughter Asia and others have an opportunity in The Bahamas because it is all about Bahamians first.”

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