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International airport development in SVG and Grenada

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06.JUNE.08

THE NEIGHBOURS ARE CLOSE IN EVERY SENSE

INTRODUCTION

St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) seems set to open an international airport about 100 years after the completion of the Kingstown Jetty. In the early twentieth century, ways of enhancing our access and our accessibility were vital considerations, and the jetty was a key development. Now, where the considerations are the same, an international airport has become the optimal solution. Therefore, even in these introductory stages we may draw a conclusion: a jetty in its time is no different from an international airport in its time.{{more}}

Applying this lesson to a different context, one may say that the revolution in Grenada and the revolution of the intellect in SVG-apparently different approaches-are close in every sense. Their purposes are the same, including the purpose of international airport construction. Indeed, one of the efforts may be chronologically closer to the Jetty Age; but both are used to defeat, inter alia, imperialism.

THE USA – AN OPPOSITION PARTY IN GRENADA?

Airport development in this part of the world has new meaning because of the Grenada Revolution. Maurice Bishop, jokingly-and maybe also accurately-said that the airport under their construction in Grenada enjoyed the greatest publicity to ever befall such a project. In large measure, this publicity came because of strenuous efforts by the United States of America (USA) to frustrate progress – efforts that increased the people’s resolve.

The reasons tabled for US opposition tell the story of a wild imagination. The suggestions were that the airport would be used for Cuba/USSR refuels, for military purposes and for other purposes that were against the imperial interests. Consequent upon this kind of reasoning, the USA made deliberate, even desperate-but ultimately unsuccessful-diplomatic moves to deny Grenada crucial international support.

From this kind of historical experience, we can understand why airport development in SVG should be a matter of such immense national pride. It is to this national pride that Senator Saboto Caesar hinted in his column of May 23, 2008. Caesar pointed out, in different terms, that the movement towards an international airport becomes a movement against the powers, against the tide, against the odds. Overall, there is a clear campaign to inform on this symbolism, a campaign that many-and I-have now joined.

Recently, a good deal of relevant information has been presented for our assimilation. Among the disclosures, we find: details of the airport development plan; highlights of economically significant benefits; and even cautions. Only weakly presented, however, is this Grenada-SVG link, even as the parallels that may be drawn are fascinating.

MAURICE, RALPH: COMRADES IN THINKING, APPROACH AND SPEECH

There are striking similarities between Comrade Ralph Gonsalves and Comrade Maurice Bishop. By a little study, the closeness of their thinking, the closeness of their approach to the international airport, and the closeness of their speech become immediately obvious. Let us consider the speech element since this would provide an all-encompassing understanding.

Bishop spoke on international airport development on April 18, 1982 in almost exactly the same terms that Gonsalves spoke on May 21, 2008. The major differences are concerned with the minor matters of location and the comparative stage of airport development, but the similarities are profound. Both men highlighted the following:

  • That the predecessor government (in our case the NDP) had spoken to international airport development for donkey years, but without action.
  • That under the past administration (which in both cases enjoyed long terms of office) study after study was completed on the matter of airport development.
  • That the existing airport (in our case E. T. Joshua) is unsuitable for further development, which at the extreme would mean a transformation into an international airport.
  • That Fidel Castro had made a deep commitment to help-not with money-but with skilled workers and in other beneficial ways.
  • That the USA provided no meaningful support of the project.

It needs no more stressing that the speeches tell a common tale – the tale of two nations trying to make the best of times out of the worst of times.

THE ULTIMATE MEANING

Let’s return to Saboto’s article where he said that we need to compensate for lapses in our past development. What according to our Prime Minister is our most fundamental lapse?

Dr. Gonsalves said that one of his political disappointments was: “the failure of the progressive anti-imperialist forces in SVG to make more headway in the late 1970s, through the 1980s and early 1990s” – in his judgment, a lapse in our development. Now, the Prime Minister is compensating, and there is no better way to compensate than in the spirit of one of the greatest heroes of anti-imperialist struggle that CARICOM has known.

It follows that the international airport project must have the same meaning for Comrade Ralph, Comrade Maurice and the people they lead/led. The meaning for Bishop was clearly expressed in a letter he sent to Gaddaffi. Bishop said:

The airport is of extreme importance to our revolutionary process. Its completion and official opening on March 13, 1984, the 5th Anniversary of our Revolution would be a striking victory over US imperialism which has worked and continues to work relentlessly to stop the advances of the Grenada revolutionary process.

The greatest importance of our international airport may be the defeat-by the revolution of our intellect-that it hands to imperialism.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the revolution of our intellect takes the place of revolutionary government. This may be the essence of any difference in the approach of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to international airport development when compared to the approach that Grenada took – an adjustment for time and place.

We don’t know where the first flight would come from, we don’t know what date that flight would come… we don’t know if we would be on that first flight, nor for that matter, if we would be alive. What we know is that when that plane touches down, St. Vincent and the Grenadines would have achieved an important victory. In the midst of all the uncertainty, a legitimate hope is that whatever the future brings, unlike in Grenada, our faith and our leader would see us through.

R. T. Luke V. Browne
May 28, 2008
lukebrowne@yahoo.com

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