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The launch, its moment missed

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After more than a decade of toil and troubles, the light near the end of the struggle called for a shout of triumph, a celebration. In fact, the two-day sigh of “we’ve done it” last Monday and Tuesday sounded almost like a call to worship at the new stone, steel, glass and technical altar at Argyle. To the call, thousands responded, and along with guests from at least four continents, the occasion provided a great moment to benchmark progress, unity and history in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Fourteen persons, including two women, mounted the stage, on Tuesday, February 14, and from the first, Rev’d Adolf Davis of the Methodist Church, to the last, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, I think they gave of their particular best in a four-hour acclamation.

It is tempting to examine what the speakers offered to us on this occasion, or even to suggest that other more significant persons were omitted from the platform — in retrospect e.g. a worker, a homeowner and Hon Dr Friday. That is understandable and instructive. What inspires a comment, however, is the tone of the conversation at Argyle. To be more precise, the AIA project evolved in a pained and hurting moral and political context and I heard only one of the eight local speakers touch it in a helpful way. Others glossed it over.

YESTERDAY’S INJUSTICES

To recall the contet, there have been at least six cases and causes of discontent and hurt in the course of the AIA project. As a result, acknowledgement, repentance, reconciliation and redress are needed to be part of the launch in these six instances. The abuse from the AIA project include: injustice to homeowners, contempt of opposition parties, breach of the nation’s unity, avoidance of financial accounting to people and Parliament, unacknowledged technical shoddiness and party balkanization/misappropriation of the society’s project. While the project was ongoing, the project leaders hurled invective, insult and vituperation at innocent enquirers, appropriate criticism, critical opponents and patriotic persons concerned for unity. It was as if all mouths must be sealed and all tongues chained unless they were singing praises. It was strange too, to hear over and over again, even at the launch, that the international airport was entirely built with resources from outside SVG, as if we, the citizens, did not bear any burdens!

The launch was a moment for explicit confession of fault and appeal for pardon and peace. The New Democratic Party (NDP) leadership with its off and on and off position on the airport project came on board unequivocally at the end, naming the airport inclusively as “ours”, and pledging to help make it work. They seem to forgive the errors and failures to give account that they opposed in the past, with faith that such conduct will not take place in the future. I hope that the critics in the NDP are asking themselves this question: Since they did not invite us to speak at the launch, will they invite capable persons from our community to sit on the AIA Inc Board to govern the airport, or not? Will we be a part of “making it work” from the inside?

THE DISCORDANT TONE, THE MISSED MOMENT

In the voices of Hon Camillo Gonsalves and Hon Louis Straker, the tone of mischief and enduring hostility coloured their addresses. Other speakers in the persons of Dr Rudy Matthias, Mr Garth Saunders and Prime Minister Dr the Hon Ralph Gonsalves said that we missed deadlines, we made errors and had technical glitches and lost time (my summary).

That kind of general statement, coming at the launch, struck a warming tone. It was Dr Matthias who started that refrain and it is well recorded that when questions, criticism were raised and errors pointed out, this gentleman usually replied with personal attacks and defensive barbs, unusual, or maybe not. He would soon be leaving the heat and his turn to the left was welcome.

But it was Mr Saunders who put a kind of moral perspective on this tone of voice from these speakers. It was a hope dashing perspective. To paraphrase “In any project of this magnitude, it is impossible to avoid delays, missed deadlines, technical faults and financial problems. These are all part of the terrain we must traverse.” From that perspective don’t look for an apology, don’t expect redress, look for the same performance tomorrow, that precedence is the pathway we will follow. There was no damage; there will be no reconciliation. He didn’t say it, but I translate all that to mean, “Let’s praise the Lord.”

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