(CARIBBEAN NEWS NOW) — According to Claudius Francis, former president of the Saint Lucia senate, the “intemperate comments” exchanged between the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Saint Lucia could have been avoided with a simple two-minute telephone call.
The latest controversy arose this week after Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne was reported as saying that the governments of Grenada and Saint Lucia had agreed to subsidise the operations of regional air carrier LIAT at a recent OECS Authority meeting in Saint Lucia.
On Monday, prime minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet, denied that his government has agreed to subsidise LIAT.
“We support LIAT as a regional airline and remain committed to seeing the necessary restructuring and some real change in operations at LIAT,” Chastanet said.
“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,” he added.
The following day, Browne issued a statement saying that his precise words were: “They have signalled that they are willing to come onboard to provide some financial subsidy to LIAT.”
“Please forgive me for interpreting Saint 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,” he continued.
On local radio on Wednesday, Francis weighed in on the issue, saying that Chastanet should have picked up the phone and explained to Browne that he misinterpreted what was said, and allowed him to clarify, so that nobody loses.
“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,” Francis said.
Instead, he noted, Chastanet issued a statement that sounded very much like the response by foreign affairs minister Sarah Flood Beaubrun to Saint Lucia’s vote at the OAS, when she said we didn’t really vote against Venezuela, we voted for a meeting to vote against Venezuela.
However, Browne’s statement continued that “talk cannot resolve LIAT’s insolvency problems”, in other words, Francis paraphrased, “Chastanet is just talking, no action.”
Browne went on to say that “the notion that LIAT should first become profitable to get support is a misaligned proposition”.
“You know what misaligned proposition means, to you and me?” Francis said, “Gross manifestation of supreme idiocy, that’s what Gaston Browne is saying, that our prime minister’s statement is a statement of idiocy.”
All of that could have been avoided, Francis reiterated.
“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,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, according to intelligence sources, this latest bickering, in the midst of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) summit that is supposed to be focusing on unity, may be part of efforts by regional business interests and politicians beholden to them in a renewed campaign to undermine Browne after corresponding attempts to influence the March general elections in Antigua and Barbuda failed miserably.