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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, May 16, IWN — LIAT shareholder governments have agreed to give Trinidad and Tobago a summary of a legal opinion it has received on the fuel subsidy Port-of-Spain gives to its state-owned carrier, Caribbean Airlines (CAL).

“We don’t have to give her (Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar) the whole legal opinion,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said at a press conference on Tuesday.

He, however, said that LIAT shareholder governments, of which he is chairman, would provide Persad Bissessar and her advisors with the facts, as the shareholder governments have them, regarding the impact on LIAT of the fuel subsidy granted to CAL.

Gonsalves, who is chair of LIAT shareholder governments, reading from the confidential legal opinion, said:

“The fuel subsidy, or the fuel cap, granted to Caribbean Airlines by the government of Trinidad and Tobago, on the face of it, violates the obligation of Trinidad and Tobago under the multilateral agreement concerning the operation of air services within the Caribbean Committee and the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

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“There are several breaches for which we can seek different courses or avenues for action,” he further commented.

Gonsalves said LIAT could go to arbitration, lay a claim before Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) regarding alleged breaches by CAL of several articles involving trade liberation, government assistance, public undertakings, and breach of the rules relating to impermissible subsidies.

The regional airline also has the option of lodging a complaint to the CARICOM competition commission to investigate and sanction CAL for anti-competitive business conduct, Gonsalves said.

He said that while the situation is untenable, LIAT’s owners do not want a fight with Port-of-Spain.

“We don’t want a confrontation with the government of Trinidad and Tobago. All we want is a discussion, a good conversation on this subject of unfair competition. Of course, we want to have a discussion on a nexus and there are a number of issues with CAL and LIAT, which we can resolve with routes, and the rest of it. That is one discussion, but we also want to have a discussion on the fuel subsidy or the fuel cap,” he said.

He further said that LIAT is confident that both the law and the facts support its claims against Trinidad and Tobago.

“This has gone on for far too long and we have to have a resolution of it,” Gonsalves said, as he reiterated that LIAT wants “an amicable resolution of this matter.

“But this is a serious matter, especially when you hear the facts,” he further said.

Gonsalves also noted a report in the Trinidad media in which opposition leader Keith Rowley is quoted as saying that if the matter goes to the CCJ, Port-of-Spain “would not have a leg to stand on ‘because we are subsidising an airline which is competing with other airlines in the region who are not part of the subsidy’”.

The report further quoted Rowley as saying the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas requires that his country either stops the subsidy to CAL or makes it available to the other regional airline.

“Of course, you know that is the position that I have been articulating for quite some time and it would be very good to see other governments and other leaders of the opposition, other government not directly connected with the shareholders and other leaders of the opposition other than Rowley, to put themselves on record in this emphatic matter,” Gonsalves said.

One reply on “LIAT to give Trinidad PM summary of legal opinion on CAL fuel subsidy”

  1. Well done Gonsalves. We can now look forward to Caribbean Airlines (CA) losing its subsidy, and SVG losing its tarmac/blacktop for the Argyle airport. Or was that also a lie? have they promised us bitumen products for the airport? Or are they part of the coalition of the unwilling?

    As a diplomat he is only slightly better than his son, and he has proved a disaster, a chip off of the old block, as they say. What a lucky boy to have a daddy that can put him on top of the pile, at the expense of all others career progression.

    Why not amalgamate LIAT, which is an all time loser, with CA. It would be great to unload such a financial burden for Saint Vincent, you have piled multi millions into it over the last ten years, and its still one of the most expensive crap airlines in the World. Charging as much to fly Vincent to Bados as to fly Bados to Canada. Upsetting passengers by giving them a guarantee that their luggage will arrive one or two days later than them, and a third of the time it does.

    By the way who did the opinion? who was on that little earner? We have been taking bets here in Venezuela and need an official confirmation, to determine who takes the pot.

    By the way my friend with many faces, I was going to say two faced, but he’s more than that. Tell us all what you are going to do about the Venezuelan airline buying subsidised fuel at only 15 cents a gallon. Now Mr Multi face, just tell us and the Venezuelans what you are planning. Because what’s good for goose, is good for the gander.

    MULTI FACE, that’s another new name he has now acquired.

    RED RALPH, HURRICANE GONSALVES, DONKEY GONSALVES, just to mention a few of the names that have been applied to him over the last few years. I have forgotten the rest, anyone can remember please post them here.

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