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Is the airport the means to a craved prize?

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by Dr. Richard A. B. Cox

Once I realised that Dr. Ralph Gonsalves was going to win the elections in 2001 I started pondering on two things: Who is the eminence grise of the ULP and what will the Comrade do to fulfil his very evident aspiration for history to recall him as the Churchill of SVG?

Answering the first question is important for there is always that invisible hand operating backstage pointing the government to “its” priorities. This phantom, historically dubbed “the power behind the throne,” is known in Vincentian political jargon as the kitchen cabinet. These are the forces that financed the party to power and logically expect huge returns on their investment. Politics for them is truly as Marxism teaches, “the concentrated expression of economics”. {{more}}These moguls controlled the SVLP and NDP and are somewhere in the closet pulling the strings in the ULP. The Nano offshore bank fiasco and the Tobago Cays saga might well have been indications as to who sits on this clandestine board of directors of the ULP. The full story is however yet to be revealed.

No footnote Prime Minister

As regards the second issue, I knew that Dr. Ralph Gonsalves would do something spectacular so that the history of this country would sing his praises. Oh believe me, Ralph will never settle for being a mere “footnote prime minister” in the SVG story. He fancies himself among the likes of national hero, the Right Excellent Joseph Chatoyer; the acclaimed McIntosh; and that colossal champion of the poor, Pappy Joshua. Their contribution to SVG’s development will forever be lauded by history; and generations upon generations will be taught to love, respect, admire and emulate them. This then is the rare prize our present prime minister seeks: immortality conferred by history in recognition of great deeds performed bringing honour and glory to country, and in Ralph’s case to self.

Before I go further, let’s be clear. There is nothing wrong with having this aim. On the contrary, it is praiseworthy that our Prime Minister wants to be in such illustrious company, and SVG would progress rapidly if John Public made this his goal. The question is, how to achieve it?

Since universal adult suffrage in 1951, the great Ebenezer Theodore Joshua, Milton Cato and James Mitchell whether by accident or design, through great deeds or infamy share the political spotlight of history. Pappy Josh’s place was guaranteed when he became our first Chief Minister (thank you, Dr. Kenneth John for confirmation of this fact), and more importantly the Robin Hood that fearlessly battled colonialism and the estate ruling class demanding bread, education and respect for the human dignity of the majority poor and black people. He is indeed next in line for elevation to national hero status.

Cato’s place is secured

Milton Cato’s administration tear-gassed, brutalised and jailed our teachers and was the first government in the world to try to pass laws making it illegal for citizens to even think. But one cannot rewrite history; so while he is no hero, Cato’s place is secured for he was the first premier and prime minister.

Then there is James Mitchell. He commands his place if for no other reason than that he is a political record setter. He served 16 years as head of government – record one. He led his party to four consecutive victories the second of which claimed all seats – records two and three. But if that was not enough, he was forced out of office twice, 74 and 2001 – record four. And yes, it was he who dreamt up Ottley Hall that cost us hundreds of millions, almost bankrupting this country. There is no disputing that he is the Sergey Bubka of Vincentian politics.

So these three by doing good or bad have secured chapters in our history, and Ralph will not be contented with a line, a paragraph or a few pages, no sir, he too must stand out.

Ralph needs Gagarin feat

You could say that there is quite a lot being done that might secure his place, take for example, the low-income housing. But that is nothing novel! Pappy Joshua and Cato built housing schemes and Mitchell used to share out galvanise and lumber. And what of the much heralded education revolution? Well, the NDP will have none of it! They say that Ralph is just building on Mitchell’s foundation. And as regards the poverty alleviation business, that is a battle that was waged before and will still be waged by the desperate victims themselves long after the Comrade has returned to the dust. So Ralph needs a Gagarin feat, something that says he was on stage, played his part exceptionally well not just in one or two acts, but also in many defining moments and important scenes. The answer: that economic Mount Everest, the building of an international airport.

I am convinced that Ralph is going to meet this Herculean challenge come what may.

This airport would not simply change our landscape, it would change our connection to the world in agriculture, tourism, general trade, information and technology, even change our understanding of our country and ourselves (Bajans, look out) and much, much more. More than that however, it will be an everlasting monument to and eternal testimony of the exceptional efforts of Ralph Gonsalves to improve the socio-economic condition of his people thereby demanding that history grants him a 21-gun salute. This, therefore, is a major driving force behind the construction of the airport and why I know it will be built. Dr. Gonsalves did not spend a quarter century in the wilderness of opposition politics to be just another prime minister. He is

hell-bent on joining H. E. Chatoyer and the

great Joshua in that exclusive club of Vincentian greatness.

But guess what? We have a dilemma. Whose name will the airport carry? Will Ralph like James get involved in self-praise (which is no recommendation), or will Pappy Josh get his due?

All right, all right, I hear you; let’s concern ourselves with building the airport first.

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