According to reports reaching MiyVue.com, the Prime Minister has called on aviation authorities in St Lucia to do their work properly regarding the operation of an airline between the two countries.
Further, he is advising the owners of CARICOM Airways not to listen to Allen Chastanet, the Aviation Minister in Castries, as Kingstown continues to deny the airline permission to fly to St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
“Now, I am hopeful that those who are advising the CARICOM Airways that they do what is required. And, please, don’t take any advice from Mr. Chastanet. Because no kind of threat, no kind of public relations tactics will pressure this government from doing what is required to be done,” Dr. Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves’ statement is part of an ongoing impasse between SVG and St Lucia over the operations of CARICOM Airways.
Chastanet has said that CARICOM Airways is a St Lucia registered company that has been given permission to fly to St Lucia and Dominica and had applied to the authorities in SVG since April.
But Gonsalves said last week that the airline has not been granted permission to land in SVG because it is “in breach of the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority operating procedure” and as such “is operating illegally”.
Chastanet told Kingstown last week to resolve the standoff within a week or expect that Vincentian airlines SVG Air and Mustique Airways will no longer be granted rights to fly to St Lucia.
Kingstown did not approve commercial flights to and from SVG by CARICOM Airways because the airline’s Islander aircraft had a one-member crew, Gonsalves said last week.
Gonsalves, who is also the Minister of Civil Aviation, also said the airline did not have sufficient insurance, and had not obtained the requisite licence from the Eastern Caribbean Civil Aviation Authority (ECCAA).
But Chastanet said the airline was operating under the Airline Operation Convention (AOC) from Suriname, which under the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Convention, allows member countries to accept each other’s AOC.
“Now, I want to make it absolutely plain that an agreement cannot and does not supersede the legislation which was passed in each of the countries of the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) which established ECCAA,” Gonsalves told reporters on Monday.
He said the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS) agreement can “in no way supersede an act of Parliament by merely having that company registered in St Lucia or in any other state in the OECS”.
“The registration of a company cannot be equated with the establishment of an AOC or complying with the other aviation requirements of ECCAA,” Gonsalves said.
He further stared that while the CASSOS agreement says that CARICOM states consider registering each other’s airlines, the airline must meet the legal requirements of the specific jurisdiction.
“I do not understand why the government of St Lucia is permitting a minister to be making these statements without reference to what is the legal position and to address the matter through all the appropriate channels,” Gonsalves said.