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NDP tried to block LIAT’s first flight to Argyle airport – PM

NDP tried to block LIAT’s first flight to Argyle airport – PM

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The New Democratic Party (NDP) tried to stop last Sunday’s inaugural landing of a Liat aircraft at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) by writing letters to the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA) and to LIAT.

However, the efforts of the NDP proved futile, as at about 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, a LIAT ATR 72 600 aircraft, piloted by captains Gregory Williams and Phil Gunsam, landed at Argyle.{{more}}

“Eustace write a letter to the regulatory authorities, the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority; they send it not even on a letterhead, but in an email on the 3rd of December,” said Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves on Sunday, during a rally at the AIA site, a few hours after Liat 456, with 53 passengers and four crew on board had touched down.

“It is my understanding that the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has approached LIAT to land a plane on the unfinished AIA. This is the fourth year of over-run in relation to the opening of the AIA which had initially been scheduled for completion in 2011. The runway is approximately 60% complete, the fencing is incomplete and the construction of the fuel facilities have only recently commenced.

“SVG is scheduled to hold General Elections on December 9th, 2015 and the request for a LIAT to land at the International Airport is being seen as a political manoeuvre aimed at influencing the outcome of the general elections.

“I understand that a substantial payment has been made to induce LIAT to undertake this questionable landing which will include undue risk to LIAT’s plane, pilots, other staff and any passengers. There is also a risk associated with insurance coverage.

“I hereby request the Authority to re-examine its decision and avoid the risk of being accused of being involved or interfering in the political affairs of SVG-a shareholder in LIAT.

“I hereby request the authority to review its decision promptly. Given the short time frame an early response is urgently solicited,” an email dated December 3, addressed to the ECCAA from Jennifer Eustace, wife of the president of the NDP Arnhim Eustace stated.

The email was endorsed by Eustace as President of the NDP.

The ECCAA, in response, told the NDP, “…in accordance with your request, a review of our assessment of conditions at the Argyle International Airport was conducted. It was determined that the flight to which you alluded can be conducted with no threat to the safety of the aircraft and its occupants.”

In addition to the Liat ATR-72 600, six other planes made landings at the AIA last Sunday. These were the second set of flights that have landed at the AIA, four planes having landed there on November 19.

Gonsalves said that the NDP had also pressured the chief executive officer of LIAT in an effort to stop the flight, but Liat had told the NDP that the flight was a straightforward commercial flight that had been approved by the ECCAA.

Gonsalves, in his address, said he is hoping to open the airport “sometime after Easter next year,” while according to him, the NDP has said if they are elected, that they cannot open the airport until around 2020.

The Prime Minister said that he has served the people of this country well and dedicated his life to fighting for the underprivileged, while he has worked extremely hard to build the AIA.

He stressed that he is very passionate about the AIA and it would be a disappointment if the ULP is not allowed to finish the project.(LC)

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