Apparent standoff as Antigua refuses to allow CDB-owned LIAT aircraft to be moved to Barbados

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(CNS) – There is an apparent standoff between Barbados and Antigua — LIAT’s largest shareholder and the airline’s headquarters, respectively.

Sources close to the situation have told Caribbean News Service (CNS) that Antigua and Barbuda is refusing to accede to a request to have three of the planes form LIAT’s fleet of ATRs moved to Barbados.

The three aircraft were purchased with funds borrowed from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which is based in Barbados. The other remaining ATR aircraft are on lease from various lessors.

Gaston Browne, PM of Antigua and Barbuda

On Saturday Prime Minister Gaston Browne  announced that a meeting of the major shareholders — the governments of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica — has been set for Monday, July 20.

It comes a week after another scheduled meeting failed to get off the ground due the unavailability of Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

”Subsequently, we have been given notice as well for a second meeting to take place on the 31st of July for shareholders to come together again with the purpose of winding up LIAT,” Browne said

“So it would appear that even though they agreed to meet that they have already come to the conclusion and that they have drawn a line in the sand, and are saying that LIAT should and will be wound up.

“In the likely or unlikely event that those discussions fail, Antigua and Barbuda will have no choice but to move immediately to take defensive action to protect LIAT from any brutish aggression to destroy it,” Browne added.

Harold Lovell

Former aviation minister and current Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, says while he supports not allowing the planes to be moved from Antigua, Prime Minister Browne is to blame for the way things are playing out.

“What played out in public, that literally poisoned the well, that muddied the water, that made the whole thing like a schoolyard fight with Prime Minister Browne basically in vague language accusing [Prime Minister Dr. Ralph] Gonsalves of lying and that sort of thing,” Lovell said.

“If you speak with anybody with experience in these matters, they will tell you that whenever you see anything accomplished or achieved, it’s not achieved by people going on the radio and shouting. That spoils everything. My own feeling is that things went wrong once we started to have all this letter writing and this statement about who stab who in back and who [is] treacherous. That is not how you get things done.

“Once the well was poisoned, once the water was muddied, you’re going to encourage a lot of people to go down that line. So, then the whole argument instead of being focussed on finding a solution that Antigua and Barbuda can live with, a solution that Antigua and Barbuda can put on the table and get others to agree with, you now have public cussing and people taking attitude,” Lovell added. 

But Lovell said he supports holding the planes in Antigua.

“Barbados now, I don’t know what their thinking is, but I would agree with the position that there should be no movement of the aeroplanes, but it should never have come to this,” he said.

“I would not allow the planes to leave, as a negotiating position. I think if the situation right now is such that it appears as though there is no united stand, it doesn’t appear as though there is any clear position, then the fact that they would be asking for the planes to be returned when the airline is not flying, and where apparently there has been no communication, certainly no agreement, then I think if you are in that type of position where there has to be some form of negotiation in terms of what goes where and who gets what, then to me you freeze everything exactly where the assets or whatever else are located.

“Then we’ll talk from there and if that is decided and that is the clear position that must be adopted then you release them. But for now, I would not release them because to me you have to ensure that all is going to work out in the way that at least you can live with,” Lovell said.

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