Chief Secretary takes Transport Minister Devant Maharaj to task

altTHA Chief Secretary Orville London has taken Transport Minister Devant Maharaj to task for refusing to meet the Assembly on the “vexing and critical issue of support for Tobago’s tourism industry by national airline Caribbean Airlines (CAL)”.

He recalled that Tourism and Transportation Secretary Oswald Williams had written Maharaj seeking a meeting and the Minister responded by saying that the issue was discussed at meetings at which he (Williams) was not there and should get the information from his colleagues.

London said: “This was the most insensitive, arrogant and insulting response coming from the Minister of Transportation, the Minister responsible for CAL. We have to understand that in many cases it is a personal thing because this attitude, this arrogance, this insensitivity was in such marked contrast to the kind of signals we got from the Minister of Trade, from the Minister of Finance, from the Minister of Planning who came to Tobago and treated with Tobago, but more importantly treated with Tobago’s issues in a professional manner, taking responsibility for sharing with Tobago so that at the end of the day we can find a resolution.”

The three Ministers were part of a five-member team that was in Tobago on Wednesday (22nd February 2012) to discuss the way forward for the economy of Tobago.

The Chief Secretary said this has to be brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and he would want to know if the Prime Minister supported this. Further, he said, he would want to know whether the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago supported this.

“I would want to know which represents the true partnership and the true Central Government. Is it Mr Maharaj’s response or is it the kind of response that we got from the Ministers and that is the dilemma we have at this time,” London added.

London said the meeting with the Ministers at the Coco Reef Resort was held in an environment that was professional, it was focussed and it was mutually respected because they dealt with Ministers who came to do work and therefore they were not concerned about who ran the THA but focussed for three to four hours doing the people’s business.

He said it was very heartening to get the commitment from the Ministers about CAL, which has not been supportive, has not being cooperating as it should have been or could have been in assisting Tobago in making its mark or in being able to have a more formidable presence in the international tourism market.

“I think the posture of the Ministers in this situation contrasted very markedly with the posture of the Minister of Transportation and as a responsible official, the Secretary of Tourism would have written to the Minister indicating to him in very clear language the issue of support for Tobago’s tourism is a most vexing question. The THA has been knocking on CAL’s doors for years for airlift in support of Tobago’s tourism and he went on to explain.

“I am inclined that certain Ministers understand what the relationship between the Central Government and the THA entails and treat with that situation as professionals while others have a different view and treat with the situation as if they treating with underlay. In one case it is a matter of partnering and in the other case it is a matter of patronising and in some cases insulting,” London said.

He said he must place on record his appreciation for the way in which the Minister of Finance and his team conducted that meeting and conducted themselves. He added: “As a result of this, I am not saying there were any miracles; as a result I am saying that we were able to come to some decisions and if they can be implemented successfully, it would redound to the benefit of Tobago and Tobagonians.

“We were able to give some assurance to the business community, those businesses that are associated with the tourism economy about levels of support, recognising of course that the support cannot be given in a vacuum, but that the support has to be given in an environment where the businesses have a chance of resuscitation and therefore linked to that would be working together with the THA and the Central Government, working together so they can revive the tourism industry,” London said.

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