SPAT: Kenyan Ambassador forces Australian Airline industry boss to apologize for JKIA insult
Kenya’s High Commissioner to Australia Isaiya Kabira has got a rare apology from a public figure in Australia who demeaned Kenya’s main airport and even placed it with the same league as Somalia’s.
Mr Kabira had on May 27 written a protest letter regarding the remarks made by Greame Samuel, the chairman of an organisation for airline CEOs named Airlines for Australia and New Zealand (A4ANZ).
The Canberra Times reports that Mr Samuel, while speaking in Australia’s Parliament on May 24, made the snide remarks against Kenya while protesting against unacceptable charging of diversion fees at the Canberra Airport.
“I can’t contemplate any place in the world, except perhaps Somalia or perhaps Nairobi, where an aircraft would, having had to make an unscheduled landing because of weather, had a car parked in front of the aircraft, saying you cannot move until the airline provides a Visa card to extract a charge of $18,000,” said Mr Samuel, the former head of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
He added: “That’s not Australia. That’s a Third World country. I’m assured by Qantas it doesn’t even happen in third world countries they are involved in.”
That is the remark that angered Mr Kabira. Canberra Times says the Kenyan envoy then wrote an open letter to Australia’s Fairfax Media, one of the leading Press companies in the Indian Ocean country-cum-continent.
“While it is in your full right to express your outrage, we find it extremely unfortunate that you draw parallels of inefficiency and imagery of piracy to a respected and much-admired airport of Nairobi,” the publication quotes Mr Kabira as saying.
Mr Kabira, who was once the head of the Presidential Press Service, added that the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is “a bustling freight and transport hub of which Kenyans are proud”.
His letter drew an apology from Mr Samuel, who said he “immediately regretted” his reference to Nairobi, saying it was a spur-of-the-moment comment with a poor choice of words.
“I would like to issue an unqualified apology for remarks I made during a panel discussion on May 24,” Mr Samuel said.
“I did not intend in any way to offend you or your country. In fact, in my comments I went on to say that I was sure that the behaviour described at Canberra Airport would not occur in Nairobi.”
The former Australian government official then expressed readiness to hold talks with Mr Kabira should he be invited.
“I do hope, however, that this explanation and apology serves to reassure you that both Airlines for Australia and New Zealand and I hold Kenya in high regard,” he stated.
The Kenyan High Commission last Thursday shared the Canberra Times story about the apology on its Twitter account.