PM Stuart apologizes to his Vincentian counterpart over airport incident

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has apologized to his Vincentian counterpart Dr Ralph Gonsalves “for any discomfiture” he may have suffered when a security guard attempted to screen him at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) on April 14.

The incident, which was first reported by Barbados TODAY and later picked up by regional media houses, occurred while Gonsalves was in transit on his way home from Guyana. He entered the passenger lounge alone as no protocol officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were on hand to greet him when his flight landed.

This photograph was taken by a passenger during the April 14 incident. In the right corner of the picture is Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (Picture compliments I-Witness News)
This photograph was taken by a passenger during the April 14 incident. In the right corner of the picture is Vincentian Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (Picture compliments I-Witness News)

“I told (Stuart) there was really no reason for (the apology),” Gonsalves told reporters in St Vincent yesterday. He added that Stuart remarked the incident was ironic since Gonsalves, on the outbound leg of the trip, had told him that the protocol and security officers at the VIP lounge of the GAIA were “arguably the best that I meet anywhere in the world”.

“He [Stuart] said, ‘It‘s ironic that there was this incident when you had showered such praises’,” Gonsalves reported.

“I said, ‘Yes, and those praises still remain, because the persons who interacted with me on that Tuesday, the 14th [of April] were neither the protocol nor the security of the state of Barbados. That is, the Government of Barbados’, Gonsalves said.

“They [airport officials] came subsequently and, to tell you the truth, I didn’t take it as any big thing,” the Vincentian leader added.

Gonsalves said he came off the plane “casually”, not wearing a jacket. He said his Cabinet colleagues later joked that it was probably because he was “so casual” and had lost so much weight that the security at the airport could not recognize him.

Gonsalves said he was travelling alone, as he often does when taking trips across the region. He also pointed out that contrary to media reports, the flight landed earlier rather than later than scheduled. “But the important point, the protocol officers were not there. And sometimes that happens because, I suspect, [of their] co-ordination with LIAT.”

Gonsalves said when he did not see the protocol officer, he proceeded to the passenger seating area of Gate 9 rather than go to the VIP lounge, as he only had one hour between connections. He said there were two women on duty at the screening station.

“If any of them had recognized me, they would have said to me, as they have done before, ‘Prime Minister, just walk around the actual security screening’, because they know that . . . the protocol for screening is not applied to the head of state or head of government.”

Gonsalves said when none of the ladies indicated an exemption to him. He placed his bag to be screened and he went through the metal detector, which beeped. He said one of the women told him, ‘Sir, it beeped’. “I said, ‘Yes. It’s my shoe. There is something on it.”

Gonsalves had previously said he had an implant in the sole of one of his shoes because one of his legs is slightly longer than the other.

Still relating the experience, he continued: “She says, ‘Well, you have to go through and take off your shoe’. “I said, ‘no, that protocol does not apply to me. I am the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines’.”

Here, the Prime Minister (backing) is in conversation  with security and other officers.
Here, the Prime Minister (backing) is in conversation with security and other officers.

The Vincentian leader said reports suggesting that he was arrogant in his response were “clearly a contrivance by somebody”.

“I always like to be fair to persons. Around that area, you have a noise, a din, and I spoke softly, not aggressively or anything to the lady. So I give her the benefit of the doubt and I went and get my coffee.” Gonsalves said that when he was about to pay for the drink, an officer from a private security firm told the vendor not to accept the money, as Gonsalves had not been screened.

“So I smiled, sipped my coffee, and told him, ‘Don’t create a diplomatic incident. I am the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.” Gonsalves said that the male security officer did not touch him or say anything else but began to use his telecoms equipment.

The Vincentian leader said he then went and sat down and the protocol and other officials from the Government of Barbados arrived shortly after.

“There was no altercation; I behaved quite cool and calm and that is the end of that story. I didn’t think then and I don’t think now that it was significant . . .,” he said.

“I want to emphasize again, it wasn’t a significant matter. I don’t feel in any way put out. I was in no way embarrassed; nothing of any of those feelings. I just took it in my strides as a mature traveller going about my business, wanting to get home; simple, straightforward,” he said.

Source: (Kenton Chance)

14 Responses to SORRY COMRADE!

  1. Veroniva Boyce
    Veroniva Boyce May 7, 2015 at 3:31 am

    Apolgise for what? The staff are full filling their duties. There is no ‘it’s who you know pass through without being checked’ at Airports. Freundel need to get a grip and stop making himself look ridiculous every day.

    • Fiona Waldron May 7, 2015 at 5:05 am

      Seriously?????? In line with the 1961 Geneva Convention on Diplomatic Relations the person of a Head of State is inviolable, i.e., he is not subject to searches, etc. This is a long tradition which is codified in international law. We are signatory to this agreement lady! Pacta sunt servanda!! Very glad that PM Stuart did the correct thing. A soft word turneth away wrath. Why irritate our neighbours over an incident which could be easily and civilly settled?

  2. zeus May 7, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Veroniva I am not surprise at your comments after I observed your likening for a team that is manage by a man called a specialist in failure …..very stupid comments I must say

  3. Tony Webster May 7, 2015 at 6:12 am

    “It is better to be thought a fool, than to speak and to remove all doubt” (About the onlies’ thing I can readily recall of my years of servitude in formal education) Mind you, some folks, like politicians, retired bankers (!), and used-car salesmen…do it every day…with enthusiasm!
    Meanwhile, back at the ranch…did the cost of a bread-and-two…change significantly?

  4. Justice For all May 7, 2015 at 6:55 am

    Please reply to other comments without being insulting and calling names. Every one is entitled to his or her own opinions. Because you may not agree with someone else’s opinion, shouldn’t give you the right to be so downright rude.

  5. DAP May 7, 2015 at 9:19 am

    V Boyce is out of place, is that the morals that she install in her children if she has any,shame on you

  6. Ralph Talma May 7, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Well done to the Prime Minister. He has defused what could have become a serious diplomatic incident. Let us hope it does not reoccur. One question however remains unanswered: why did the incoming PM not go to the VIP lounge?

    • wayne dread May 7, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I think he said it was decision he made based on the short time he would be intransit.

  7. Ralph Talma May 7, 2015 at 10:51 am

    @wayne dread. I hear what you say, and read it earlier. But, having travelled the world for 35 years, I know that if you are entitled to something, you make use of it, just on the off-chance of preventing something like what happened occurring. If he had walked into the VIP lounge alone, then immediately, those concerned would have been informed, and all would have been tickety-boo.

  8. dave May 7, 2015 at 11:54 am

    overzealous security jackasses are the biggest threats to security. always doing nonsense. have nothing really to do and always bored always put pressure on law abiding persons. Security in Barbados is a joke waiting to be laughed at

  9. Boomstatic May 7, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    If what PM Gonsalves is saying is true, I totally agree an apology is necessary. After he was not recognized, he proceeded through the metal detector to be processed as a normal passenger. The moment he identifies himself as a VIP, he should be accorded the relevant protocols. I might be able to understand if 1 person doesn’t recognize him but not more than one. Further to that, didn’t they not confirm who he was by checking his passport? This whole incident reeks of a lack of common sense and an abundance of ignorance and ‘igrance’. Then to add further insult to injury, a union official will try to justify this garbage. But the unions’ growing irrelevance and impotence is whole other topic…

  10. Tony Waterman May 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    @Veroniva Boyce!!! Unlike others who are commenting on this unfortunate Incident, i am not going to attack you, because CIVICS are no longer found necessary to be taught in our schools in Barbados, because if they were , then you would probably have been aware of a treaty that were (Barbados) are a signotary to called the “Geneva Convention” and under the rules of this aforementioned Treaty, persons like Dr.Ralph Gonsalves, PM of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, must NOT be subjected to Searches etc.they also would have probably been able to easily identify him for who he was, i will bet Dumplins to Doughnuts that most Barbadian School Children can’t name all the Ministers of Government in Barbados, so how would anyone expect a graduate of the system to identify a foreign leader of a neighbouring Island??

    @Fiona Waldron!!!! Not by any chance my favourite Bajan Politician of the last Century, but i was taught to give Jack his Jacket, so be it, and hopefully, he will light a fire under the Protocol Officer who failed miserably at their job.

    @Ralph Talma!!!! as i have said, you seem to be laying this debacle at the feet of the PM of St.Vincent and the Greanadines, who made a concious decision not to go to the VIP Lounge, because his intransit stay was VERY Short, on the other hand, you have not reserved ANY criticism for the Protocol Officer from Foreign Affairs, who should have been there one Hour before that plane landed at GAIA. If he had walked into the VIP Lounge alone, some fool would probably have made a bad thing worse, by kicking him out, because they would have not have recognised him for who he was.

    @Dave!!!!!that is unfair to persons, doing a job that they are improperly trained for, they have NOT been properly trained from School up, they just did not recognise the PM of a Neighbouring Caribbean Country, so go complain to the Ministry/Minister of education about that, ask them to put CIVICS and Caribbean studies back in the Cirriculum, and whilst you are at it, ask them to make children WRITE reports, not PRINT them.

  11. dave May 7, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Tony Waterman
    Thank You!

  12. jr smith May 7, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Dear all , diplomatic privileges. Our PM, did the right thing. I have seen the rudeness by staff at the Sir Grantley and also heard from lots of friends, not surprised. Bajans need a good shaking up.our culture has gone.


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