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PM asks Holder to hold resignation

PM asks Holder to hold resignation

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21.JUN.11

Vincentian Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has asked Dr Jean Holder to hold his resignation as Chairman of the regional airline’s board,{{more}} until they have discussed problems relating to the entry of low-cost carrier REDJet into the market.

Both Gonsalves and Holder were said to be awaiting the return of Barbados Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart from an official visit to the People’s Republic of China. Holder was originally nominated as chairman of the LIAT board of directors by Barbados.

REDJet, which has been offering low-cost airfares, has been the source of discordance across the region’s air travel sector.

Holder, who has 51 years of public service, resigned amid the still unresolved controversy surrounding REDJet’s quest to secure licences to operate commercial flights out of Barbados.

GONSALVES has requested that LIAT regional board chairman Dr. Jean Holder hold off on resigning over the REDJet controversy.

The Barbados Government is one of the current three shareholders of the 55-year-old LIAT which has, against the odds, survived previous low-fare airlines. The two other shareholders are the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

LIAT has earned the reputation as the most “endurable” regional airline that operates the highest number of flights — some 158 daily — with 18 aircraft, to 22 regional destinations that extend to the four major language areas of the Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten and Puerto Rico, in addition to regularly servicing the countries of the Caribbean Community.

“LIAT is largely the bread and butter” for operational costs of some regional airports and certainly for Grantley Adams International,” said Gonsalves.

He pointed out that Holder, who prefers to “say very little at this stage”, has been battling the heavy cost of ever-rising aviation fuel (currently US$140 per barrel). In addition, LIAT has to honour required taxes that amount to approximately 40 per cent of the cost of a ticket.

The Sunday Observer learnt that neither Holder nor Gonsalves — who has lead responsibility among Caricom Heads of Government for regional transportation (both air and sea) — was at any time consulted in the ensuing controversy over REDJet’s bid to operate flights into Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica from Barbados.

Asked yesterday why he has requested that Holder hold his resignation and whether he had received any advisory from the Caricom Secretariat in relation to the problems being faced by REDJet, Gonsalves said: “The short answer is no. However, I am sure that since the secretariat is aware of my regional portfolio, I would have been so advised…”

He said he was “not seeking to be involved, without being officially requested. But given the serious development, according to regular media reports, in relation to REDJet, with implications also for LIAT… I would have expected some notification as the Head of Government with lead responsibility for regional transportation…”

The Sunday Observer also learnt on Saturday that Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda has agreed with Gonsalves’ request for Holder to treat his resignation as “a matter on hold”, pending a planned conversation between Gonsalves and Stuart.

Further, Spencer has also advised Gonsalves against giving up his regional portfolio in the face of lack of appropriate consultation on a matter that also extends to the business interest of LIAT “as a vital regional airline…”

At a ministerial meeting in Port-of-Spain last Friday, over the delays in required approval of REDJet’s applications to Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the factor of “safety” of the airline’s aircraft emerged as a crucial issue for resolution, prior to the required official signal to start flying. (Jamaica Observer)

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