We wish that the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, and our PM Gaston Browne, would make like mimes and curtail all talk on this LIAT matter. Not a chance! Notwithstanding their claims of respect and brotherly love for each other, these good gentlemen appear committed to a verbal tit-for-tat, and we are the unhappy audience. We have to suffer through aspersions and low blows. Would to high heaven that they could withhold their unhelpful rhetoric, and wrap their minds around the possibilities for a rejuvenated LIAT. After all, they have a crucial meeting this coming Monday.
Mercifully, the PM of Barbados, Constance Mia Mottley, has been quite reserved with her pronouncements on LIAT, as has been PM Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica. Skerrit has said that “The government and people of Dominica stand ready to invest in any new entity that is formed to replace LIAT.” We have not heard much else from him. For her part, the good Mia Mottley has said that there are six airlines ready to fill the breach left by a liquidated LIAT, and that her government is prepared to assist in the cause of regional travel, in conjunction with other regional governments and the private sector. Think local or regional consortia. Her words were, “I can report with certainty that since announcements were being made earlier this week about LIAT’s demise, six airlines have come forward offering to fill the space. We are satisfied that these six airlines can more than fill the immediate gap, particularly given the reduced traffic within the Covid-19 pandemic. There are other private sector players who have also expressed an interest in being able to see how they can work either on their own or with some of the existing players.” Hmmmm! Seems, it will take an extraordinarily attractive plan by our PM to change Mottley’s mind at the upcoming confab.
As you can imagine, that is also the thinking of the good Dr. Gonsalves. He has declared that our Prime Minister was privy to talks about liquidating LIAT, never mind our PM’s protestations about being stabbed in the back and all of that sort of thing. According to the good doctor, the four major shareholders of LIAT UNANIMOUSLY agreed with the recommendation of the Board of Directors that LIAT cease operations. The good doctor has further said that he is willing to listen to our PM’s plans to save LIAT, but he is insisting that our PM had better come good. (See Sparrow’s NO, DOCTOR, NO! with the classic line, “Yuh better come good, or ah have a big piece of mango wood!” The point is that, much like Mia Mottley, who is on a fiscal tightrope in Barbados, and clearly has other spending priorities, Gonsalves appears to be lukewarm to our PM and his plans. Gonsalves is suggesting that the plan has to be a no-nonsense, workable one.
Not surprisingly, our PM, he of pull-no-punches repute, threw this latest jab into the mix yesterday, “Ralph, 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 as the truth. My dear Comrade, let’s bury the intellectual subterfuge and recriminations. You are fully aware that I never, and I will never, support the liquidation without the creation of a new LIAT. Let’s reorganise LIAT for the benefit of the Caribbean people.”Good grief! Talk about fightin’ words, with an olive branch of sorts in the mix. Guys, take it easy! This is not a schoolyard where macho pubescent boys duke it out over real or imagined slights to their egos and menhood.
By the way, we find that Mottley’s pronouncements about filling “the immediate gap” . . . “within the Covid-19 pandemic” to be rather short-sighted. We are surprised that she is not thinking more about the long haul. Hopefully, our PM can concentrate her mind in that regard on Monday. LIAT is too important to regional integration and travel to end up on the trash heap of history. Presumably, PM Browne is putting together a plan that is feasible and appealing to the various governments and private sector investors. He has oft touted his financial acumen and wizardry, and Monday’s meeting will be his Aberdeen Proving Ground.
The nay-sayers, and those of little faith, have scoffed at the notion that LIAT, in a new-and-improved iteration, can be saved. Indeed, a cartoon from a Barbados publication depicts our PM haplessly sitting on, and flogging a dead donkey named LIAT. It represents the prevailing view of many in the Caribbean. Here’s hoping that it can be said by LIAT, as once was said by Mark Twain, when rumours of his demise had begun to circulate, “News of my death have been greatly exaggerated!”
In the meantime, let us tone down the rhetoric.
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