KINGSTOWN: St. Vincent & the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said the resignation of Ian Brunton, the chief executive of the regional airline, LIAT, has come at a crucial time, but “nobody is indispensable”.
Dr. Gonsalves, who is chair of the shareholder governments of the airline, said the matter would be discussed by the board of directors.
“He has tendered his resignation,” said Gonsalves. “Under his contract, I have been advised, that he has to give three months’ notice. Naturally, the board of directors will respond to say whether they are accepting it. But that is the factual situation.”
Gonsalves said he had not spoken to Brunton since the announcement and is not in a position to comment on the reasons behind his decision.
“I haven’t spoken to him,” said Gonsalves. “I have spoken to my director, that is St. Vincent & the Grenadines’ director, Mr. Isaac Solomon, who is a very distinguished former public servant and now banker. He has given me his own opinion but it wouldn’t be proper for me to share it.”
Brunton’s resignation comes as poor implementation of LIAT’s re-fleeting exercise over the past few weeks erased any profits that the airline hoped to make over the summer period – one of its busiest.
Gonsalves said this was a crucial period for LIAT, which late last year unveiled a plan that it said would have taken the airline into the black.
“In my view, on the large strategic issue of wanting the re-fleeting, he has been focused but everybody has to be accountable,” said Gonsalves, referring to Brunton. “I have to be accountable to the people of St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Anybody who holds any position has to be accountable. I am not saying that my brother, Ian Brunton, has not been accountable; I am saying as a general principle, everybody has to be accountable.”
The major shareholder governments of the airline are Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Dominica.
Brunton, a former chief executive of Trinidad & Tobago state owned Caribbean Airlines Ltd. (CAL), is spearheading the airline’s multi-million dollar re-fleeting exercise.
Last month, LIAT signed a US$65 million loan with the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to finance the purchase of new aircraft. The fleet modernization project involves the replacement of LIAT’s ageing fleet through a combination of lease and purchase of aircraft; the transition costs associated with the changeover; the upgrade of maintenance facilities and other institutional strengthening activities.
LIAT, which flies to 21 destinations in the Caribbean, said reliable and efficient air transportation is essential for connectivity, mobility and accessibility within the region, and for some islands, LIAT provides the only air links with the rest of the region.