I refer to Charles Sohan’s letter of 12.3.2009 in the Stabroek News captioned ‘An airstrip on Leguan could expose the residents to a floodgate of criminal activity.’
I found Mr Sohan’s case extremely negative. He chose an angle of attack on the government involving a topic that is very popular with the people of Guyana: crime.
First, government cannot please everyone. I know Vertrouwen personally. It lies at the tip of Leguan on the side that is adjacent to Wakenaam. I am not sure if the launch service operates from Vertrouwen any more. I am sure it was in the 1970s and early ’80s that a launch service operated from that point to Wakenaam. At that same period, much of the courida swamp in that part of Leguan was reclaimed from the Essequibo River. A dam was built close to the water line and the land was drained and allocated to farmers. I recall bananas, plantains, cassava, sweet potatoes, yams and other cash crops being planted and reaped from that reclaimed land. Paw paws and coconuts grow extremely well on these islands also. I used to go to the farms and pastures with my cousins about 30 years ago. As to what the place looks like today, I am unable to say.
Mr Sohan disounts the economic viability of the proposed airfield. He compares it to a white elephant project in circumstances where Leguan is apparently neglected by the government. He cites river defences and roads among the ‘crumbling’ infrastructure. I have personally not been to Leguan Island in about 20 years and I am unable to speak of the state of the island and its infrastructure. However, I am aware that government recently rebuilt the ferry stelling which allows a lot of agricultural produce and livestock to be transported from Leguan. I remember when there was no electricity, running water and only gravel roads on the island. As for a telephone service, there was none. I am unsure of how credible Mr Sohan’s statements can be when today we have most, if not all these amenities on Leguan and Wakenaam. As to their quality, again, I am unable to say.
The proposed airfield could be set up under a co-operative which could charge fees for landings and take-offs and post security or use ‘blocks’ to prevent illegal landings. While all will agree that crime still is a big problem in Guyana, I would say that folks like Mr Sohan are giving very little credence to the Government of Guyana and the security forces for the dramatic and sincere efforts that they are making to arrest the crime rate. These folks deserve the highest praise given the resources and training that they have at this point. People have got to start somewhere. Remember for a moment whence we came.
As for the comparison with Jamaica, I am unsure which airfield Mr Sohan is speaking of, but it will not have the potential to compare to our Essequibian islands. We are looking at direct export from field to market, and we may be dealing with highly perishable products such as meat, milk and seafood. Don’t you think that our overseas and local customers would much prefer to buy the freshest produce available? Who would have the better edge over competitors? We can cater to the hospitality industry of the whole Caribbean if we go into greenhouse farming. Our islands are ripe for these kinds of industries. Bring the Chinese and let them show us how. Fresh cut flowers are a huge Canadian and Californian industry. The possibilities are endless.
When, there is a call from Caricom and the wider community to produce more food, we are struggling to pursue vendettas against the government and certain people in our societies, Let’s think global, folks. We have Hog Island which is so fertile, and we can use Leguan as a prototype and expand our agricultural base to all the other islands, as well as places such as Pomeroon and the North West District. So, I say that the government should go full speed ahead with planned infrastructural works and not let critics impede development. If the government followed critics and detractors, it would have got nowhere. We would be behind 1992.
Airfields on Leguan and Wakenaam as well as Hog Island, are worth every penny of the investment.
So, Mr Sohan and critics, sit back, relax and let the government do its work. Let’s support them. Some day soon, we hope the river defences, roads, telephones, electricity and potable water will all be in a desirable state if we can build a country that can support itself economically, politically and socially. We can only do this if we can bring revenue to Guyana and manage it. Bringing it is not all. We have a track record of not making the best use of our revenues. We must stop criticizing and offer words and deeds of encouragement to the powers that be. We must be civil in disagreement and we must learn to utilize dialogue. The planet was saved at a bargaining table. It is okay to criticize but it is not okay to impede.