There appears to be a split developing between Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne and some of his OECS colleagues.
Prime Minister Browne disagrees with Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles’ assessment that LIAT’s closure is imminent because the destinations the airline serves have not heeded LIAT Shareholder Governments’ appeal for financial help for the cash-strapped airline.
However, it’s another OECS leader who Browne is most annoyed with, although he did not mention him by name.
That leader’s apparently St Lucian Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, who says that if LIAT shuts down it can be easily replaced.
Some 700 of LIAT’s employees are based in Antigua, and a LIAT shutdown could mean many of these employees losing their jobs.
Prime Minister Browne has warned that those showing no empathy for the LIAT situation should reflect on the possibility of the OECS breaking up.
The OECS Secretariat is based in St Lucia.
“In my mind LIAT makes a far greater contribution to the OECS people and the Caribbean people than the OECS and I heard a particular Prime Minister say that as far as he’s concerned LIAT can be collapsed because some other airline can replace LIAT. Well guess what, what if a few of us within the OECS a few countries that the OECS could be collapsed because it is duplicating many of the functions of CARICOM, how would that the Prime Minister feel because … his country would lose a few hundred employees, how would he feel? And I want to make the point here too that we continue to be an extremely insular people we do not show any empathy whatsoever for each other.”
Going straight for the jugular, the Antiguan leader blasted some of his OECS colleagues but did not mentioned them by name.
“Some of them are totally rudderless, the whole issue of oneness means nothing to them, they’re extremely selfish and I have to tell you they are not following in the tradition of the John Comptons, and VC Bird and so on, they’re just going in a totally different direction and we better understand we better join together, swim together or drown on our own that is the stark reality that this region is actually faced with especially the OECS sub-region. So those of us who believe they can go it on our own and that we are going to wish other countries within our space to suffer or to have a situation in which the people would suffer, we do not show any empathy whatsoever for each other.”
On the question of pay cuts for LIAT employees, Gaston Browne defended the six per cent agreed to by the pilots and other LIAT staff members, and indicated that he disagrees with plans to ask for deeper cuts in salary.
The Antiguan leader proposes looking at other ways to cut costs, and suggested that LIAT destinations could consider reducing the landing fees the airline pays in those destinations.
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