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Three bridges officially opened in North Leeward

Three bridges  officially opened in North Leeward

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by Adrian Codogan

The members of the Ecuadorean Army Corps of Engineers who constructed four bridges here over the last eight months, now consider themselves sons of St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

According to Major Manuel Querembas, Commander of the Ecuadorean {{more}}Army Corps of Engineers, today, they are sons of SVG, because they “helped to write a chapter in its history, development and progress.”

The commander said eight months ago, Ecuadorean armed forces troops placed their boots on “these blessed grounds hoping to materialize feeling of solidarity and support from the Ecuadorean people to the distinguished people of SVG.”

Querembas made these statements last Friday at Chateaubelair, while addressing a ceremony to officially open three bridges that were built in North Leeward to replace those that were destroyed in the 2013 Christmas weather system.

The commander also expressed praise and gratitude to the 44 men and women under his command and the local workers who worked on the bridges at Top Sharpes, Plan and Kakartha, and river defences along their banks. The Ecuadoreans also fixed a section of the Sharpes road that was damaged during the storm.

A fourth bridge was constructed by the Ecudoreans at the Central Leeward community of Vermont. The bridge was officially opened yesterday, June 22.

“Thanks for giving us the chance to help to write this glorious history; through sacrifice comes victory, through nobility comes pride with humility. At the end of helping here, we left SVG not only with solid and durable bridges, but we also left our hearts on bridges where we are linking fraternal people as the best show of solidarity,” Querembas stated in a passionate address.

“Gentlemen, we are soldiers, soldiers with decent and impeccable conduct and temperament to fulfil our duties with discipline and devotion. I am proud to be a member of the Republic of Ecuador Armed Forces who arrived here with our only weapons being our strong will,” he concluded.

Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, in his feature address, thanked the Ecuadorean government and people for the four bridges and river defences that were made available to SVG. He also implored the residents to take good care of the bridges.

Permanent Secretary Hudson Nedd and Minister of State in the Ministry of Transport and Works (MTW) Julian Francis also addressed the gathering.

Also present at the ceremony were the Venezuelan charge d’affaires, Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Camillo Gonsalves, ULP candidate for Central Leeward Sir Louis Straker, other officials and members of the media. Press secretary to the Prime Minister Hans King was the Master of Ceremonies.

Following the ceremony, the Prime Minister and Major Querembas walked onto the bridge for the symbolic drawing of ribbons to declare the Plan Village bridge officially opened.

The official party, members of the press and others in attendance then journeyed the approximately one mile distance to Kakartha at the north-western end Fitz-Hughes for a similar symbolic ribbon drawing.

Upon arrival by the Prime Minister at the Kakartha bridge, he was greeted by jeers from a group of villagers on the other side of the bridge. Strung above their heads were a line of yellow T-shirts, some with symbols of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP). Some of the persons gathered there were beating buckets and drums, blowing shells and chanting “No Carlos.” Carlos James is the Unity Labour Party’s candidate for North Leeward.

The Prime Minister, after he had passed the gate where the protest activity was taking place, turned back, entered the gate and commandeered the largest drum from one of the protesters.

To the surprise of onlookers, the Prime Minister then began beating the drum and chanting “Labour!,” with the crowd responding with cheers and jeers.

After beating the drum and chanting for a few seconds, he hugged a few of the women, then left to conduct his ceremonial duties, declaring the Kakartha Bridge officially open.

A similar opening ceremony was then conducted at the Sharpes Bridge, where there was also a protest, albeit on a much smaller scale.

At that location, one home close to the bridge was also decorated with yellow campaign T-shirts. Yellow is the colour of the opposition NDP.

The Sharpes bridge was the first of the three bridges in North Leeward to be completed by the Ecuadorean Army Engineering Corps, followed by the Plan bridge, then the one at Kakartha.

On the morning before the bridge at Kakartha was to be officially opened, persons painted ‘NDP’ on several parts of the bridge, however, those areas were painted over in time for the ceremony.

The four bridges were constructed at a cost of US$4.2 million by the Ecuadorians, who arrived here in October 2014. They were assisted by local tradesmen.

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