Mixed reactions greet news that Browne Administration has offered “free” LIAT services to airlift injured Guyanese students

News of the Browne Administration’s “generous offer” to the Government and people of Guyana is getting mixed reaction from locals.

On Tuesday, May 23, it was announced that the Government has authorized the use of LIAT (1974) Ltd. aircraft to assist with the airlift of students who were injured in a fatal fire at a secondary school in Guyana. The children are to be flown to a burn unit in Barbados for treatment.

Several people, including Guyanese nationals who live here, are applauding the offer, saying it demonstrates goodwill among CARICOM partners and to the local immigrant community.  

However, others are viewing the gesture with a suspicious eye and noting that the Browne Administration “does not do anything for nothing.”

“What is happening: Are we looking for oil money?” a self-employed technician is asking.

He tells REAL News he finds it strange that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is dispatching LIAT to transport the injured students when the carrier has only three planes to its fleet – and disregarding “all them other airlines down South.”

Another resident asks whether LIAT, as a struggling operation, can really afford to take its planes out of commercial commission for a strictly humanitarian gesture.

Browne has said that all costs for the flight(s) between Antigua, Guyana and Barbados will be assumed by the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.  

However, this has prompted others to ask how the clearly cash-strapped Administration will be able to afford this.  They point out that – since 2020 – former LIAT employees have been waiting on the Government to settle its obligations – legal or moral – to the more than 500 persons who were severed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was only last week, in Parliament, that the Government bench asked for more time to allow the court-appointed LIAT administrator to advance the work of winding up the company.

In the meantime, a well-known sportsman is asking Browne about the families who currently are raising funds among the public in order to afford overseas treatment for their loved ones.  

Among others, he refers to the seven-year-old boy, T’rique Jeffrey, who recently sustained second- and third-degree burns over his body and whose parents are trying to raise US$30,000 for his care overseas.  

And he reminds the public that the family of Andre Simon is still appealing for financial support for the brain-injured national cyclist.

It was only weeks ago that questions were raised about the condition of the hyperbaric chamber donated to the Ministry of Health by businessman Calvin Ayre.  

The equipment, intended to treat persons suffering with decompression sickness, or “the bends,” apparently has been inoperable for years – causing Calvin Air Helicopters to be pressed into service to transport patients to a hospital in Guadeloupe.  

While Government Spokesman Lionel “Max” Hurst claimed that a professional would be coming here shortly to recalibrate the machine, no date for its repair has been given.

These concerned citizens tell REAL News it appears that Browne is “spending off the Alfa Nero money even before he gets it” – a reference to the prime minister’s boast that his Administration will be collecting mor than US$60 million from the sale of the acquired luxury yacht once sanctions are lifted.