Barbados, T&T on collision course over REDjet

(Barbados Nation) Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are on a collision course over the failure of the low-budget regional airline REDjet to get a licence to fly into the twin-island republic.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart yesterday threw down the gauntlet, accusing the Trinidad and Tobago government of “second-guessing” the credibility of its aviation officials on the safety of the airline. He said he was willing to “play the game” the Kamla Persad-Bissessar administration was playing.

“We in Barbados certified REDjet in Barbados as safe,” Stuart said after emerging from a session of the Heads of Government talks here in St Kitts. “We are being second-guessed on that. Other people certify their aircraft and we don’t second-guess them.

“I made that point at the meeting [of CARICOM leaders], but if this is the way these issues are going to be handled, I only want to know the rules. I just want to now how people are playing the game; I can play the game as well as they can play it.”

But later in the evening Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar said her country was concerned about the safety of the regional carrier and what she termed REDjet’s low air fares.

“We have raised concerns, safety concerns. We are of the view that the safety of our nationals is paramount and, therefore, given the flags that we raised, complications of the aircraft, we are of the view that those should first be dealt with before we can go forward with the matter,” said the T&T Prime Minister.

She noted that a suggestion was made for the civil aviation authorities from Barbados, Guyana, T&T and Jamaica to look into her Government’s safety concerns.

Persad-Bissessar also spoke of what she termed “predatory pricing”, an obvious reference to REDjet’s low budget fares.

However, Stuart earlier charged Trinidad and Tobago with carrying out a smear campaign against the Barbados-based regional carrier.

At a meeting held in Trinidad last month with the relevant ministers of civil aviation, Stuart said Barbados Minister of International Transport George Hutson was shown apparently questionable photographs about the airline, but the T&T government has up to now not responded to a request for certification of the said photographs.

“He (Hutson) was told that they (pictures) had to do with REDjet. He (Hutson) asked to have them certified, so they refused according to what he (Hutson) told me. And the next thing we knew that they (photographs) were on the Internet and the smear campaign against REDjet continued,” Stuart said.

He added: “I say this, Barbados nor I do not intend that Barbados should be in a position of any mortician fighting over a corpse called the regional integration movement. I know what happened to the West Indies Federation. I know who the morticians were, so Barbados has always stoutly defended the integration movement and has been a leader in the regional integration movement and that will continue under my leadership.”

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