St Helena’s chief secretary has admitted to concerns about notorious crime at the airport that is to be the island’s link with the rest of the world – and about the future of medical referrals to Cape Town.
But Roy Burke could offer little response to an accusation of a “shameful” betrayal of Saints working on Ascension and the Falkland Islands, who could be left with no ship and no flights back to St Helena.
Comair Ltd will not offer a link to Ascension when St Helena’s first airport opens in 2016, because it would take pilots over their permitted flying time.
The Honourable Lawson Henry voiced anger, during Legislative Council’s closing adjournment debate, that Saints on sister islands had been left out.
He said it was their votes that had swung the referendum in favour of building an airport.
He also told how he had had his luggage interfered with at the airport, which is notorious for crime.
Mr Burke, in his closing speech, said: “We are all aware of Johannesburg airport’s issues. We will take action to make sure the citizens of St Helena and the travelling public are aware of the issues that are faced there.”
The Honourable Dr Corinda Essex had also voiced anxiety about whether hospital patients would still be sent to Cape Town, where a strong support network had built up among Saints and supporters. Johannesburg had no such network, she said.
Mr Burke said: “I too share that concern, as does the director for health, and we are currently in progress to find a way in which we can resolve that situation.
“Can the link to Cape Town be maintained? That’s a very good question and I don’t have a short answer to that at the moment.
“But I would say that as far as medical referral issues are concerned, it does not necessarily mean that because Comair are flying to Johannesburg, that Johannesburg would be our evacuation point for a medical emergency, which is a different issue.
“It’s possible someone who needed to be evacuated very urgently might have to go somewhere else, and that might not be Cape Town either. So there’s a lot of work going on there to do with medical evacuation, which has yet to be concluded.”
Mr Burke could give little reassurance over future transport for Saint workers travelling for work on Ascension and the Falkland Islands.
They are to lose their current link between St Helena and Ascension – and onward flights to the Falklands – when the RMS is withdrawn from service in mid 2016.
The chief secretary said: “There are ongoing discussions about Ascension, particularly the link with St Helena: whether that is to be by air or sea. [There is] a lot of discussion to be had.
“Keep in mind that St Helena Government, in seeking to secure an air service provider, and also a freight service, included Ascension in the tender documents, although there was no requirement for those companies to provide [for that] as part of the contact.
“But those discussions continue and will continue until a resolution is found.”
Councillors Henry and Essex were among several elected members to welcome the news that Comair was to operate Saturday flights between St Helena and Johannesburg in a British Airways plane.
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