In SN of March 8, an advertisement was put out by the Ministry of Public Works & Communication (MPWC) inviting applicants who have lands measuring approximately 3000 ft long by 300 ft wide for sale on the island of Leguan for the construction of an airstrip.
Rumblings on the island indicate that a site at the remote location of Vertrouwen has already been identified for the MPWC and the advertisement inviting applicants was just a formality as could be deduced from the submission time, since MPWC would be hard pressed to find applicants with suitable land satisfying the technical imperatives for an airstrip. It is hoped that the MPWC selection process is transparent and not based on one applicant.
However, building an airstrip on Leguan raises many troubling questions. Firstly, its construction cannot be justified on economic, strategic or security grounds, and people are concerned that the limited resources allocated to the island by Government of Guyana are being spent on a white elephant instead of their priority needs, which are improving their deteriorating road network, crumbling river defences, poor potable water supply, irregular electricity supply and inadequate education facilities.
Secondly, building an airstrip on a remote part of the island could open up a floodgate for criminal activity of enormous proportions, from trafficking in narcotics to contraband smuggling. The social disruption as a result of these criminal activities on the lives of this rather peaceful rural community could be enormous, and the Government of Guyana should be fully cognizant of the social upheaval it is likely to create. A review of airstrips built by the Government of Jamaica on its north coast could attest to this claim.
Finally, the government should make clear to the people of Leguan its philosophical and priority decisions to construct this airstrip for the common good, in preference to other more pressing economic and social demands of the people of this island which are so necessary at this time of very limited financial resources to improve the quality of their lives.