May 16, 2008
Sparks fly at Jet Airport opening at Canouan

Looks can be deceiving; the picture of Terrence Ollivierre, Parliamentary Representative for the Southern Grenadines sitting next to Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves during the opening of the EC$58 million Jet Airport in Canouan last Sunday presented a pleasant, non-partisan, sight.{{more}}

But once Ollivierre, the fifth person to give remarks, had finished speaking, the olive branch was traded in for a whip, and blows rained.

In the same breath that he hailed the jet airport as a dream come through, calling the opening a day of celebration, Ollivierre stepped into a nest of red ants as he tried to paint a historical picture of the airport’s development, crediting the former Sir James Mitchell administration for work done in the genesis of the airport.

This included the sourcing of funds from the Canadian government for the paving of the runway in the 1980s. This, Ollivierre said, marked the beginning of the development of tourism in Canouan, as it was under Sir James’ leadership, that Italian Investor Antonio Saladino was first introduced to the island also.

“We can thank many persons for the introduction of the donkey cart… and we can also thank persons immensely for modern jet aircrafts,” Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves quipped, when it was his turn to speak, as he purposely noted that the new airport in Canouan is a vast improvement on what existed before.

He blasted the Opposition for opposing his decision to borrow the US$15 million needed for the project, suggesting that they failed to see the benefit of the investment when they raised questions about the national debt.

Before the Prime Minister, however, Director of Grenadines Affairs Edwin Snagg, the man who was soundly beaten by Ollivierre in the last two General elections, also fired a few shots.

He praised the work being done by the Government in the Grenadines.

“What significant progress that we have made in these small islands of the Grenadines,” Snagg said.

“What has happened today is a good thing and it doesn’t matter who does a good thing. Once it is a good thing, it must be acknowledged,” he added.

Snagg said that the Grenadines has the potential to transform the economy of St Vincent and the Grenadines, but noted that as the islands go forward in a new dispensation, a new era, it must be “forward ever, backward never.”

For his part, Tourism Minister Glen Beache accused the Opposition of being ignorant about what is happening in Tourism, and suggested that they speak out of turn, void of proper information, when they are critical of the direction that the industry is heading.

He noted that this year’s tourism numbers are expected to show about $325 million in visitor expenditure, and over 300,000 in visitor arrivals. “We are moving in the right direction,” Beache said.