Gaston Browne under fire for his handling of LIAT issue

Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne

The main opposition party in Antigua and Barbuda, the United Progressive Party (UPP) is blasting Prime Minister Gaston Browne for his handling of the LIAT issue.

UPP political leader, Harold Lovell, said Browne lacks the skill required to get consensus among his colleague prime ministers, including Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, 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 honouring the institution’s liabilities to creditors, this will be a form of “State banditry.”

He warned the other major shareholder governments of LIAT that if they do not reconsider their decision to liquidate LIAT and instead, reorganize the airline, the Antigua and Barbuda government intends to launch “LIAT 2020 Ltd as soon as possible.”

But Lovell, who is the 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.

Meantime, with its regional airline, LIAT slated for liquidation the Caribbean is looking to outside resources to help maintain air connectivity among the islands.

Speaking during a CARICOM Special Conference, outgoing Chair and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, noted that at least six airlines from the region are keen to back-fill the capacity gap from LIAT’s collapse.

Incoming CARICOM Chair, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, echoed those thoughts.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne skipped the meeting in protest of what he describes as “a conspiracy by a few regional leaders to stymie the resurgence of LIAT as a new entity to provide air connectivity for the Caribbean people and to move tourists within our region.” Browne’s goal is the recapitalization of LIAT as an Antigua-based airline, just as it has operated for the past several decades.

The airline is owned by seven Caribbean governments, with the major shareholders being Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica (94.7 %). Other Caribbean governments, private shareholders and employees own 5.3% of the shares.

The full letter from PM Browne is attached.

Download (PDF, 211KB)

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13 Comments

  1. Calling It Like It Is
    July 7, 2020

    The demise of LIAT is not an unexpected occurrence. This inevitably failed enterprise has been on pertual life support from its inception, continually clinging to life like a foolish balding man holding on to the last strands of vanishing hair.

    Any and all attempts at rebranding, restarting, restructuring, resurecting and revamping were futile at best as this critically ill venture was doomed to fail. The fact that LIAT survived for 62 years is indeed a wonder and major head scratcher. The absence of alternative, competing, viable regional carriers over that period is probably the major reason why LIAT has not been pushing daisies longer.

    Of bigger concern for regional carriers at this time is how do we move on post-LIAT? Do our regional leaders and Grand Poubahs have the requisite business and finanancial acumen to formulate an innovative and successful plan to fill the air travel void moving forward? Time will certainly tell.

  2. Ibo France
    July 6, 2020

    @Domtiguan

    Are you serious about Skerrit by ascribing such niceties to him? The man has surpass Gaston Browne in coarseness, ignorance, corruption, vitriolic language, spite, lies, political tribalism, social fragmentation, money hoarding, incompetence, unproductivity, cluelessness.

    Skerrit came to his present position by default and it’s showing. The man has vandalized the office of the prime minister and set back Dominica economically and infrastructurally light years behind the rest of the OECS.

    Supporting Skerrit and his cabal is the same as indulging in satanic worship.

  3. Afflicted
    July 6, 2020

    Pardon me but if a man black or white could pride himself in sporting a beard Hitler style in this day I’m not surprised how self centered that man could be. Mia seems to ‘have a bias for getting things done’ per Ross Univ. I heard Brown in an interview along with Chastenet of St Lucia, and oh how he talked down to Chastenet as if he Brown was top dog. It’s little wonder afterwards that Chastenet proclaimed colonialism had a heart but island states requesting assistance from Europe are heartless. WTF?
    No wonder CARICOM unable to get off the ground. Lol

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  4. Bring back the kidnapped parrots
    July 5, 2020

    They need to ask Richard Branson who owns Virgin airlines if he would consider forming an airline for the Caribbean and using small jets which could make direct flights to the US. Jets capable of landing on Dominica.

    • Afflicted
      July 6, 2020

      Good idea but instead of a foreigner I think Mia has a better idea to use existing regional airlines, don’t you think?

  5. Ibo France
    July 5, 2020

    If you don’t know that Gaston Brown is the present prime minister of Antigua & Barbuda, just by listening to him, one will be of the opinion that he is just a hardcore gangster and a congenital idiot.

    The man is coarse, thin-skinned and loquacious. He talks before connecting his tongue to his brain. He’s a verbal arsonist causing irreparable damage to long standing relationships among the countries in the sub-region.

    I often shake my head in complete disbelief. Why have our Caribbean people elect such cartoonish characters to the highest political office? The irascible Gaston Brown and the corrupt ignoramus, Roosevelt Skerrit, are just two perfect examples.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1
    • Domtiguan
      July 6, 2020

      Many things you said about Gaston are right on Target but to include Dominica Prime minister in that category you are wrong. Both men are leaders and prime minister of their country but Their difference is night and day.I always wonder why our government associates itself to ALBP especially mr.Asthapan.Skeritt is a gentle man in dealing with his people compare to Gaston who I refer to as the Donald Trump of the Caribbean. If Skeritt was anything like Gaston I would never voted the DLP.

  6. De-lie-lah or De Liar?
    July 5, 2020

    “UPP political leader, Harold Lovell, said Browne lacks the skill required to get consensus among his colleague prime ministers, including Dominica’s PM Roosevelt Skerrit, on the beleaguered airline.”
    Are you serious Mr. Lovell? Does one really need skill to get support from PM Roosevelt Skerrit? Sir you guys reside in Antigua and don’t know a thing about the mess we are under Skerrit as he is really our death and funeral PM, since over the years all he has done is bright death to every healthy thing he met. I need a lot of time and space to mention the funerals of Skerrit but let me try to name a few: 1. He killed agriculture 2. allowed Ralph Gonzales to take our international airport 3. Allowed Ms. Motley to steal Ross from us after 40 years 4. He destroyed ever village and town council and turned them into laundromats 5. He killed community spirit 6. He destroyed sports whether is cricket, football, valley ball etc. Skerrit is a destroyer and no surpris he can’t help save LIAT

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0
  7. As I See it
    July 5, 2020

    PM Gaston Brown brought that on himself when he chose to align himself with the likes of PM Roosevelt Skerrit, who never ran a rum shop or a fowl cage so he could learn to at least balance a bank account before Dominicans made him Prime Minister. Mr. Brown should have realized that after 20 yrs Skerrit destroyed Dominica to the point that we are now behind in every single thing! I mean see how hard Mr. Brown fought to keep Liat and compare it to how easy it was for Skerrit to get rid of Ross University that contributed to more than 30% of our national income and yet PM Brown did so much to ensure Skerrit stole the Dec 6, 2019 election. I bet if PM Brown had the likes of Lennox Linton & Dr. Thompson Fountain on his side LIAT would not be a dead today because they would be able to help get LIAT out of the deep hole Skerrit and others put it in. But when your right hand man is someone with no knowledge and has to buy doctorate to feel accepted what you expect?

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  8. July 5, 2020

    “Speaking during a CARICOM Special Conference, outgoing Chair and Barbados Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, noted that at least six airlines from the region are keen to back-fill the capacity gap from LIAT’s collapse.”

    Praise the Lord! The end of LIAT and its replacement by healthy competition is exactly what we need!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2
    • Man A Lone
      July 5, 2020

      I wait with baited breathe

    • budman
      July 5, 2020

      one question for you: what about the severance for all the liat employees up and down these islands who have worked for decades? they just receive a “sorry”? so while you happy for competition and the other waiting with “baited” (he meant bated) breath, did you think about the employees?

      • July 6, 2020

        Competition includes competition for experienced airline professionals.
        Which environment do you think is better for them: a single carrier limping along for decade after decade, or different carriers who all need good people and have to outbid other airlines to get them?

        Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

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