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(SNO) – Things are not as bad as some people make it out to be.
That’s the message Prime Minister Allen Chastanet has conveyed in a social media post regarding his professional relationship with Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne.
Though Chastanet did not specify in his Facebook post on Friday, July 6, it is obvious that it has to do with his recent efforts to clarify his position on LIAT against statements allegedly made by Browne.
Chastanet wrote on his Facebook page: “Prime Minister of Antigua, Gaston Brown and I in Jamaica for the 39th Caricom Heads of Government Meetings. Please don’t believe the propaganda and hype about the two of us. We have been able to discuss the issues amicably in the interest of the peoples of the Caribbean. One for all and all for one.”
The post is accompanied by a photo of the two prime ministers, smiling and embracing.
Earlier this week, Browne was quoted as saying that the governments of Grenada and Saint Lucia have agreed to subsidise the operations of LIAT. The news was shocking to many considering that these governments have been two of the airline’s biggest critics.
Browne did not reveal the details of the contribution by these two governments but said it was agreed to at the just concluded OECS Authority meeting in Saint Lucia.
“The whole idea is to spread the burden and the benefits of LIAT,” Browne was quoted as saying on a radio station. “They have signalled that they are willing to come onboard to provide some financial subsidy to LIAT.”
However, three days after this news surfaced on local and regional media outlets, Chastanet, in a press release, denied that Saint Lucia has made a decision on subsidising the cash-strapped airline.
He said: “We support LIAT as a regional airline and remain committed to seeing the necessary restructuring and some real change in operations at LIAT.
“We have been consistent in our position on LIAT in that we propose that the airline operate on a strictly commercial basis. We have not yet made a decision on subsidising LIAT. What we have agreed to is a meeting to discuss some of the issues relevant to the airline. We look forward to continued dialogue with the OECS and other stakeholders on the future of the airline.”
The following day, Browne responded to Chastanet saying his exact words were: “‘They have signalled that they are willing to come onboard to provide some financial subsidy to LIAT’.”
Browne added: “The above are my precise words. Please forgive me for interpreting St Lucia’s final agreement to meet to address the issues affecting LIAT, as a signal to come on board to support the sustainability of LIAT. Talk can not resolve LIAT’s insolvency problems, it requires the commitment by the various governments to include a possible cash subvention, lower airport fees, capital injection or all of the above.”
Some political pundits have viewed this back-and-fro in the media as a sign that all is not well between the two prime ministers.
Claudius Francis, former president of the Saint Lucia senate, said on local radio last Wednesday that the “intemperate comments” exchanged between the prime ministers could have been avoided with a simple two-minute telephone call.
Francis said: “I don’t think Prime Minister Browne attempted to disparage Prime Minister Chastanet. Prime Minister Browne interpreted certain moves by Prime Minister Chastanet as being beneficial and positive towards LIAT. All that bad blood, all that intemperate comment could have been avoided with a simple two-minute telephone call but, no, each prime minister must say and act independent of each other, even when they are discussing matters of OECS, so there we go… crazy.”