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2003-03-08 01:25:30

Roberts Says Tribune Guilty Of "Irresponsible" Reporting

"...the media should not be bias and "rush to print," charged Bradley Roberts

Bradley Roberts, Minister of Public Works and Utilities with responsible for Bahamasair, refuted remarks in the Tribune's March 1st publication, accusing him of forcing 95 passengers off a Bahamasair flight to cater to another group, whose charter service to Trinidad were halted due to mechanical problems last Thursday.

"I was not involved in, comprised of or consulted about any decision to promote the charter of a flight to Trinidad, and certainly not the force of passengers on a Bahamasair Miami-bound flight," said the minister, delaying Wednesday's adjournment of the House of Assembly to next week.

The flight 921 en route to Piarco, Trinidad experienced mechanical failures to one of its air-conditioned and pressurization systems. The Miami-bound flight had already departed Nassau 15 minutes after the 921 flight failed. The pilot elected to return to the airport to switch the aircraft.

Mr. Roberts, who just returned from Trinidad, said The Tribune suggested that it was him who ordered the deplaning of the passengers. For this reason, he felt it necessary to "clear up" the accusations made against him. He stressed that only the executive board oversee and operate the national carrier.

Noting that there are always two sides to every story, he said "intelligent" people should always seek that truth.

"As minister of the government, the Tribune, by innuendo, has sought on more than one occasion to place me as irresponsible. However, if the Tribune was seeking to act in a responsible manner and desired to get the other side of the story, they could have contacted my office and obtained the details of my whereabouts in Trinidad," charged Mr. Roberts, adding that the media should not be bias and "rush to print."

To the Bahamasair staff, he said he has made it "crystal clear" that he has no interest in the "micro-managing" of the national flag carrier.

He challenged the Bahamasair management and the board directors to present evidence that he directed them to deplane the Miami-bound flight to make room for himself and the other passengers en route to Trinidad.

Bahamasair's Chairman Basil Sands in a statement explained what happen last Thursday, while assuring that Mr. Roberts presence had nothing to do with the switch of flights.

Mr. Sands said he regrets the inconvenience to both the charter service and the passengers affected by events, he said were "unavoidable."

"The Tribune and the Bahamian public should be aware that as a seasoned-businessman and as minister responsible for Bahamasair, I will never seek to impose my will, politically or otherwise on the day-to-day functioning of the national flight carrier," Mr. Roberts charged.

He said he would be a "fool" to emulate this behaviour, which he said has been carried by the former government.

Mr. Roberts remarks came after Senator Desmond Bannister responded to the matter, stating that like other Bahamians he was "shocked and disappointed" at the reports.

"Once again we in the Free National Movement and Bahamians in general are being reminded that we are quickly racing back towards the old wicked and manipulative days of the PLP," the Senator said in a statement.

"Too many Bahamians, as well as hard working staff members at the national flag carrier are being painfully reminded of the dark ages in Bahamian aviation when Cabinet members abused their positions of power and commandeered aircraft at will for their own entertainment and enjoyment at the expense of the taxpayer."

Mr. Roberts took advantage of the scarce financial resources to "party" at the annual Carnival festival in Trinidad. This, Mr. Bannister said, will not be tolerated.

Mr. Bannister called upon Prime Minister Perry Christie to require Mr. Roberts to apologize immediately to the Bahamian public and the 95 abandoned passengers, who he said were "selfishly inconvenienced."

Meanwhile, before the session in the House of Assembly adjourned, Member of Parliament for Montagu Brent Symonette requested a full report from Mr. Roberts, detailing the lost of revenue, cost of charter, cost of gained revenue and other particulars surrounding the matter.

This report will be presented when parliamentarians meet again March 12, Mr. Roberts promised.

By Khashan Poitier, The Nassau Guardian

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