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Airline defends PM search

CAROL MARTINDALE, [email protected]

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American Airlines has defended its decision to search Grenada’s Prime Minister Tillman Thomas before he boarded one of its airlines at the Maurice Bishop International Airport last month.
In a brief statement issued late on Friday, the airline said it always follows prescribed security screening procedures established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 
“These procedures are uniform and the screening of the Prime Minister of Grenada, the Honorable Tillman Thomas, was conducted in full consultation with the Government of Grenada’s Protocol Officer and conducted with the utmost respect in a private area of the airport away from the public. 
“This private screening procedure is frequently used for Heads of States traveling on American Airlines,” said the statement which directed inquiries to its media relation unit in Miami.
Thomas told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) earlier this week that he had no problems with the search which occurred at the Airport’s VIP lounge last month.
“It’s a complicated matter.  It’s not something that I could clarify. The Airport Authority would have to clarify it,” Prime Minister Thomas said, adding “no I had no problem with it. It’s a procedure. To me it does not make a difference to me”.
The incident has caused a major embarrassment to the Grenada Airports Authority (GAA) which has since written to the Prime Minister apologising for the ordeal, local media has reported.
Opposition Leader Dr. Keith Mitchell described the search as a national embarrassment.
“I was so embarrassed as a citizen of Grenada I made no noise because I feel it is embarrassing to the country” said Mitchell.
“It does not matter to me what Tillman Thomas wants to do or allowed to be done to himself that’s his choice but he represents us. He is the Prime Minister of the country”.
The security directive according to the TSA website notes that during the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures and also lists certain categories of passengers who are travelling with the Head of State or Head of Government. (CMC)