Editor: Thousands of Vincentians, both at home and in the diaspora, witnessed the making of history at the Argyle International Airport on Valentineâs Day. It is indeed a dream come true. An international airport for St Vincent and the Grenadines was always a promise by successive administrations, with none of them knowing how to accomplish it. The airport was always the desire of the majority of Vincentians and so it was always a campaign promise, even though some administrations knew very well that they could not achieve it, but it was a good vote getting promise. Former prime minister Sir James Mitchell even boasted of having the money in his back pocket. But to the New Democratic Partyâs (NDPâs) credit, they did the MMM study on the possibility of an international airport on mainland St Vincent, and that is why I couldnât understand their opposition to the project when PM Gonsalves and the Unity Labour Party (ULP) found a way to build the airport, something that successive NDP administrations could only promise.
The airport became the centrepiece of the ULP campaign in 2001 and the people voted the ULP into office with that in mind. The people were serious about it and so was The Comrade. In our first cabinet meeting on Good Friday 2001, the airport came in for serious consideration. I recall the Prime Minister saying that everyone is talking about airport, but no one is building the damn thing. He said; âComrades we have to build the airport.â He was asked, how could you when we have no money. His reply was, âThe money is in my head.â That then began the quest to build the airport. No praise is too much for Dr Gonsalves in delivering that long needed project. He began with his coalition of the willing and today we have the airport.
The people of St Vincent and the Grenadines must also be commended for sticking with the ULP administration and believing that the project would be delivered in the face of hostile opposition from the New Democratic Party. We would always remember Mr Eustaceâs âthatâs thatâ if the NDP had won. We would always remember that it was âa phantom projectâ and it will never be completed. We will never forget the call for a tsunami to wash it away. Those were unbelievable utterances towards a project that was supposed to be for this and future generations. For a project that is supposed to inspire national pride and assert our independence. Those comments reveal an intrinsic backwardness and gross ignorance which all of us must take every step to avoid. Some even went so far as to conjure up lies about wind studies and march against rats in order to hinder the project, but God is always on the side of the true and faithful and we must give Him thanks that today we have our own international airport.
Everyone, Editor, knows the capability of an international airport in aiding national development. It opens up the country to the world for market and tourism; it offers direct travel to and from the state, and those are reasons why every country would love to have its own. So why not St Vincent and the Grenadines? Are we worse than the other nations? Are other people more deserving than we are? We heard how no planes would come here; how it wouldnât make money and all kinds of nonsense. Some even vowed not to use it. I think we must keep an eye on those who said that, to see what they will do now.
Editor, Iâve seen many people shed serious tears Valentineâs Day morning when Dynamic Air created history for us. Iâve heard some expletives too, aimed at the naysayers, but the thousands of Vincentians from home and abroad who came to witness history last Tuesday will never forget what they saw and will have a story to tell for the rest of their lives.
We now have an international airport. Itâs ours… letâs make it work for us. We now have an option to fly direct. We can now avoid the bad treatment some of us got as we use other peopleâs airports to and from SVG. It was good to see members of the Opposition in attendance at the ceremony on Monday. Iâm calling on them to no longer oppose the project and to encourage their supporters to do the same and let the Argyle International Airport work for us.
Finally, Editor, nuff respect to Dr Gonsalves for his vision and leadership and for taking the money out of his head. I know that he doesnât want the airport to be named after him, but it will eventually be called âComrade Ralph International Airportâ and I donât think anyone will grudge him that.