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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

SLP questions Attorney General’s statement on CARICOM Airways

CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – The main opposition St. Lucia Labour Party (SLP) has accused Attorney General, Rudolph Francis, of misleading the region when he said recently that the aviation dispute involving the Suriname-owned St. Lucian-registered CARICOM Airways dispute has been resolved. Tourism Minister Allan Chastanet had threatened to ground two Vincentian carriers operating here unless authorities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines allowed the St. Lucia based carrier to land there under a reciprocal CARICOM arrangement.

However, in a recent ruling the ECCAA announced that CARICOM Airways was operating illegally, and has ordered the carrier to immediately discontinue its operations within the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

Francis, who accompanied Chastanet to Antigua and Barbuda for talks on the issue last week, while not providing details of the agreement, indicated that the ECCAA has acted hastily in calling for the grounding of CARICOM Airways.

But SLP Leader Dr. Kenny Anthony said the statement by Francis was “patently false and misleading”.

Anthony said that Francis had also misled the region when he said the ECCAA acted prematurely and the dispute was very successfully resolved.

“No such resolution was ever achieved at the meeting in Antigua,” Anthony said, noting that the ECCAA had advised the St. Lucia delegation “CARICOM Airways, not being the holder of an Air Operator Certificate issued by ECCAA on behalf of the state of St. Lucia cannot be allowed to provide commercial air transportation in the absence of such certification."

Moreover, he said the ECCAA repeated to the delegation what St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves has said that the Multilateral Air Services Agreement "cannot remove the need for an Air Operator Certificate”.

Anthony said the ECCA had also sought to persuade Chastanet that he could not use the Civil Aviation Act to temporarily exempt CARICOM Airways from the requirement for the Air Operator Certificate.

“By a letter dated 31st December, 2010, ECCAA advised the Senator Chastanet against such action as it would be contrary to the convention of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Further the Minister was told that "the exemption can have repercussions for Saint Lucia and cannot be recognised internationally," Anthony said.

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