United Progressive Party (UPP) Political Leader Harold Lovell has criticized Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s handling of the LIAT issue, suggesting the nation’s leader lacks the skill required to get consensus among his colleague prime ministers on the beleaguered airline.
In an open letter this week, Browne said if the majority shareholding group of LIAT is opportunistically allowed to collapse this regional institution and form a new entity without honoring the institution’s liabilities to creditors; this will be a form of “State banditry.”
But Lovell, former aviation minister, said this is not the type of language that is needed at this time.
“We’re in a very serious and very difficult situation and you require at this stage the art of knowing what to say, when to say it and to whom to say it,” Lovell said.
“I recall in 1974, the then premier of Antigua and Barbuda, George Walter, he was able to get not only Venezuela, but he was able to get 11 CARICOM countries to come together to really rescue LIAT at the time. The famous 1974 bailout. That required a certain amount of skill where you know how to bring people together in order to get the desired result.
“When you start using the type of language that the Prime Minister likes to use , I don’t think you begin to open doors. You close doors, and this is a time when Antigua really needs as much goodwill as possible,” Lovell added.
Pointing out that “we are going down the wrong track,” Lovell said he had ministerial responsibility for LIAT for a five-year period, and he knows what’s needed at this time.
“I was Minister responsible for Aviation between 2004 and 2009 and I have had the opportunity to meet, to discuss, and I have an idea of some of the difficulties that LIAT has faced. This is not the first time that we are here. After 1974, we had great problems with LIAT and LIAT almost went belly-up, and at that time the options were the same — to restructure, to leave it as it is or to collapse it,” he said.<