By Carlena Knight
Political analyst, Arvel Grant, echoed sentiments made by United Progressive Party (UPP) leader Harold Lovell regarding the aggressive approach used by Prime Minister Gaston Browne over LIAT.
Browne said when the topic of LIAT’s possible liquidation was first raised at a meeting of shareholders, he was prevented from discussing two possible paths forward.
He said he left with the understanding that another meeting called for June 29 would concurrently discuss the collapse of LIAT (1974) Ltd and plans to start a new LIAT (2020) Ltd in its place.
Alarm bells were raised when PM Browne noticed that the agenda that was sent out for the June 29 meeting spoke only about the liquidation of LIAT and the implications for regional travel.
“When we met last week as a shareholder group … I was surprised that certain deals were cut without even notifying me as a significant shareholder in LIAT,” he said.
In recent reports, Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, revealed that six airlines were offering to help fill the gap left by LIAT. Two of them – SVG Air and One Caribbean – hail from another shareholding country, St Vincent and the Grenadines.
It was this latest pronouncement that pushed PM Browne to refer to the actions of the two countries as a betrayal as they have shut the door on any proposal from him to revitalise LIAT.
Browne however indicated that it is his aim to scale down the carrier and rebrand it as LIAT (2020) Ltd.
But Grant says although it is understandable that PM Browne would have felt the sting of what he termed a “betrayal”, that reaction is not the best approach in the public eye.
“I was a little bit unnerved by the strength of character of the Prime Minister’s reaction and the more I thought about it, I perhaps would have behaved that way behind closed doors if I was shafted that way by some people, but you know you have to come out smiling and you have to try to win again and I hope that is the prime minister’s attitude about this,” said Grant.
Just this week it was revealed that Dominica, another shareholding government in LIAT, will be supporting Browne’s cause in rebranding the airline.
Grant says that it is imperative now for the PM to regroup and change his approach this time around to strengthen his influence across the region.
“All the noises aside, Antigua needs to reassert itself and continue to assert itself as an axis of influence certainly in the Leeward Islands, as far as practicable within the Eastern Caribbean, and even the Caribbean on a whole.
“We have to move quickly and get to a place where it does not compromise the medium and long-term effects to the country.
“I think we really have to see the Caricom space as part of our psychological territory and we can’t do without any part of it and so this is why I say that after the prime minister would have felt the sting of the stab in his back, he has to wipe himself, tidy up physiologically and be ready to go back in it, and see what he can come out with,” said Grant while speaking on Observer AM on Monday.
Regarding the rebranding of LIAT, Grant is in favour of salvaging the regional carrier as “it has a personal hold” on him. He however mentioned that instead of focusing only regionally with LIAT (2020) Ltd, the carrier should now expand globally.
“I am not a fan of LIAT (2020). I think we ought to be a lot more forward looking and global looking [with] a LIAT Airways, LIAT International, LIAT something that speaks to a LIAT in the future and a LIAT that has the potential to integrate with larger carriers and do bigger things for us. This is where we should go if we are going to bother with keeping it,” he added.