Barbadian authorities have launched an official probe into an embarrassing episode, which occurred at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) earlier this month, in which security officers were summoned for Vincentian Prime Minister
Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
The region’s longest serving prime minister, who has been in office since 2001, was headed back home at the time. He arrived on April 14 on LIAT flight 512 from Guyana and was due to connect on the regional airline’s later 737 service from Barbados to St Vincent when he was not recognized by the security officers on duty at Gate 9.
Gonsalves, who both visits and transits Barbados frequently and is one of the most high-profile Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders, was ordered by a female G4S officer to return for further screening after his bag went off during his initial security check.
To make matters worse, Gonsalves, who has previously bemoaned Barbadian immigration authorities for the treatment meted out to Caribbean brothers and sisters, and in the wake of last year’s Shanique Myrie judgment had called for “immense education” of regional officials and “alterations of pre-existing domestic regulations and procedures, was made to suffer through the rather demeaning episode without reference to any protocol officer after his flight was late in arriving from Georgetown.
Despite the female security officer’s insistence, the prime minister refused to do as she told him.
It was then that she called for back-up security support in her quest to ensure that the “unrecognized” passenger underwent more rigorous security checks.
It was not immediately clear how long the entire airport fiasco went on.
However, before departing the island that evening, senior GAIA officials issued an unequivocal apology to the Vincentian leader, not only on account of the fact that he was not recognized, but also for the lapse in his official protocol arrangements.
Normally, protocol officers accompany prime ministers and other dignitaries, but none was present for Gonsalves’ arrival. They were late in attending to the Vincentian leader after his flight did not arrive on time.
The episode ended after Gonsalves was finally recognized.
When contacted today, Gonsalves declined to comment to Barbados TODAY on the matter at this stage.
Airport and Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials, who have so far called for a detailed report on the situation, were also tightlipped on the matter.
However, Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean, who said she was out of the country on the date in question, promised to get back to Barbados TODAY, saying she would need to be briefed on the matter.
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, who has responsibility for GAIA, also said he would look into the report.
Head of G4S Roger Barrow could not be reached for comment but when contacted, the supervisor on duty Keith Withers said he was not authorized to speak on any incident involving the security firm. He directed us to Marketing Manager Maria Boyce-Taylor when the office opens tomorrow.