Transport Minister Devant Maharaj has refused to meet with the THA Tourism and Transportation Secretary Oswald Williams to discuss support for Tobago’s tourism from national airline Caribbean Airlines (CAL).
Williams wrote Maharaj on February 8 2012 seeking an urgent meeting to treat with the issue which was a “most vexing question” that was “critical to Tobago’s tourism development”. In response Maharaj informed Williams that the issue was discussed at meetings which he did not attend and advised him to request an update from his colleagues.
Williams said he was unaware of who were the colleagues Maharaj referred to since no member of the Executive Council that was responsible for the governance of Tobago was present at any meeting to discuss CAL. However, he said, he found out through the media that Tobago Development Minister Vernella Alleyne-Toppin and THA Minority Leader Ashworth Jack who were not members of the Executive Council attended the meetings and could not speak for the Assembly. “Technically the minister has refused to meet with me to discuss the critical issue,” he said.
Williams recalled that on Wednesday he was part of a meeting with five government ministers during which there were fruitful talks about Tobago’s tourism with representatives of the Assembly and the Tobago private sector. He added: “Here it is we had five ministers who out of concern journeyed to Tobago to talk to us about Tobago’s tourism and other Tobago issues but the Minister of Transport whose portfolio includes two of those issues refuse to speak to me and technically refuses to speak to the Tobago House of Assembly who is the people’s representatives. I find that very disgusting.”
The THA Secretary said he had also requested discussions on the upgrade of the ANR Robinson International Airport, but in his response Maharaj had itemised the runway rehabilitation, the perimeter road and fence upgrade, as well as electrical works and the sewage treatment plant, which had nothing to do with the airport’s terminal upgrade.
He recalled that several meetings were held with former transport minister Jack Warner, culminating in the acceptance of a plan which was considered by Cabinet. Williams said Jack had promised that the upgrade would have started last December and therefore wanted an update on the promised project. “The Minister totally ignored the issue I raised and simply tells me about other peripheral issues, he added.
Commenting on this development, Chief Secretary Orville London said it was the most “insensitive, arrogant and insulting response coming from the Minister of Transport, the minister responsible for Caribbean Airlines”.