By Carlena Knight
Political analyst Peter Wickham is advising the Caribbean leaders involved in the possible liquidation of regional air carrier, LIAT, to keep the fight out of the media.
“I really feel that we are at a stage that both the press and the politicians need to step back a bit. My thing is, during the West Indies Federation, one of the main reasons why it broke up was because politicians stopped speaking to each other and started shouting across the sea in the media.
“The challenge we have now in the media, it’s all over with social media and so on, so comments that are being mentioned are being twisted, echoed and manifested across the seas in a way that is suggesting that right now we have an all out war with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St Vincent. I don’t know if that’s the case and I think the best way to clamp that down is for us in the media to give them an opportunity to do their work and for them as politicians to communicate with each other,” Wickham said.
Since the first report of the possible end to LIAT, the leaders of three of the four shareholding countries, namely Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, St Vincent and The Grenadines’ Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados have engaged in verbal outings as Browne publicly accused the other two of thinking of their own personal gain instead of making regional integration the focus.
He claimed that during the recent Caribbean Community (Caricom) Summit to discuss the broader issue of air connectivity within the region, Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines were “hell-bent” on liquidating LIAT to replace it with six other carriers, two of which hail from St Vincent and The Grenadines.
But Gonsalves, in a recent interview, indicated that all of the shareholders were aware of the agenda and had agreed to begin liquidating LIAT.
Browne quite recently took to his Facebook page and responded by referring to those statements as a “deception”.
“Out of respect and deference for you, as a senior Caribbean Statesman, I will not venture to call you a notorious liar, but I must signal my disappointment with your deception. A partial story to suit a recriminatory narrative could never be considered the truth. My Dear Comrad, let’s bury the intellectual subterfuge and recriminations. You are fully aware that I never and will never support the liquidation without the creation of a new LIAT. Let’s unite and reorganize LIAT for the benefit of the Caribbean people,” Browne posted.
These exchanges are among others that Wickham is referring to.
Despite both parties agreeing to a proposal meeting on Monday where PM Browne will make a presentation on the rebranding of LIAT, based on the impressions of Mottley and Gonsalves, Wickham is not convinced that this rebranding may occur.
“My expectation that LIAT can be rescued honestly is less real. I already hear talks that the [Barbadian] government is looking to settle the question of severance with their own workers and honestly I am getting the impression that the Barbados government is increasingly seeing itself as not in a position to continue the LIAT conversation. It’s sad, I really do think it is sad but that seems to be where we are.”
Regarding relationships among Caricom leaders, Wickham is certain that the newly appointed Chairman – Dr Gonsalves – ‘has his hands full’ as these relationships due to LIAT and even the Guyana elections have been strained.
He referenced the absence of PM Browne from the recent Caricom Heads meeting as a sign that the ongoing friction has already weakened regional ties.