May 5, 2015
Gonsalves ordered to undergo screening at Barbados airport

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves says he considers as minor, an incident at the Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA) two weeks ago, when a security guard was summoned for him.

So insignificant, the Prime Minister says, that he did not even tell the members {{more}}of his Cabinet or his wife about it.

However, online publication Barbadostoday reported on April 30, that Barbadian authorities have launched an official probe into the “embarrassing episode.”

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on May 1, Gonsalves said that on April 14, he arrived in Barbados from Guyana on LIAT flight 512, intransit to St Vincent. The Prime Minister said the flight was a few minutes early, so he was not met by protocol officers, as is customary.

“Occasionally, it has happened that the protocol does not meet me on arrival, when the plane is a little early or late. When you come, they are not actually there, but you meet them along the way, as they are in communication with LIAT.”

Gonsalves, who has been this country’s head of government for the last 14 years, explained that since the time between his flights was less than one hour, he did not go to the VIP lounge, but proceeded to Gate 9 to await his flight to St Vincent.

He said as he approached the screening area at Gate 9, he realized that neither of the two female screeners appeared to recognize him, so he decided he would not create an incident by walking around the screening machine, as he would, when accompanied by protocol officers.

The Prime Minister said he put his bag on the conveyor belt and then walked through the screening machine.

“I was alone, I was dressed casually, then the beep went off when I went through the screening. So I told the lady, it is the material on my shoe, and she said ‘Well, you have to take off your shoes and go back’. I said ‘No, that protocol does not apply to me. I am the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Gonsalves said he is willing to give the screening officer the benefit of the doubt that she did not hear him, as he spoke “softly, without aggression” and the area was quite noisy.

“I then took my bag and just went to the concessions stand and dispensed a cup of vanilla latte and began to sip it, while approaching the counter to pay.”

The Prime Minister said the screening officer then called a private security guard, who approached him and told the vendor at the concessions stand not to sell him the latte.

“So, I told him, ‘Listen, don’t create a diplomatic incident. I am the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines’.

“I paid the lady, as I was drinking it (the latte), so she had to take the money.”

Gonsalves said the security guard did not touch him, but told him he would have to go through the screening machine.

He said he ignored the security officer and took a seat.

According to Gonsalves, the security guard then got busy on his telephone and talking with LIAT staffers at the exit of the Gate.

The Prime Minister said within a few minutes, senior protocol and security personnel arrived at the Gate. He said he explained what had happened and they apologized and said they would deal with the security guard, as he was “out of order.”

“They asked me if I would write the [Barbadian] prime minister about the matter, and I said no, no, no, but I said this fellow should not be here if he cannot recognize the prime minister who has been around for 14 years.

“At no time was I upset, agitated. I just realized that these were people who should not be there.”

The Prime Minister said he has not written or called Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart or that country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McLean.

“I didn’t tell them anything; I didn’t make an issue of it, because the senior security and protocol officers at the airport told me they would brief the prime minister and write a report. They were very apologetic.”