St. Vincent and the Grenadines Ambassador to the United Nations, I. Rhonda King, has said that since the opening of the Argyle International Airport (AIA), “there has already been an increase in the number of visitors arriving by air.”
In her maiden address to nationals in Winnipeg, Canada on Saturday, marking the 38th anniversary of St. Vincent and the Grenadines political independence from Great Britain, King said, in July, “we received 7,518 stay-over visitors; this year we had 8,186 – an increase of 668 in the month of July.
“Let give thanks for AIA, for the vision and tenacity of our Prime Minister, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves and his government,” King told the gala ceremony, organized by the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Association of Winnipeg, Inc. “Let us give thanks for the rapidly increasing speed of accessibility to our shores. Let us give thanks for the new possibilities this accessibility will bring.
“Infrastructure and accessibility are critical components in our quest for more sustainable development,” she added. “They are not optional. Indeed, they are imperatives.”
On Feb. 14, the Gonsalves administration opened AIA, the nation’s first international airport.
King described the airport as “a beautiful, state of the art facility — arguably now the most beautiful in the Caribbean.”
The envoy noted that it was recently announced that both Sunwing and Air Canada Rouge will operate flights into AIA during this Christmas season.
She said the application process for the additional routes is “more difficult in the United States and which, apparently, could not begin in earnest prior to the completion of the actual facility.”
King said Caribbean Airlines has now applied for direct access to AIA from John F. Kennedy International in New York, disclosing that other applications and negotiations are underway.
“In the meantime, Caribbean Airlines provides an excellent service to bridge the gap in this interim period,” she said, stating that she went home for the summer, leaving JFK at 7:30 am and arriving at AIA before 3 pm on that same day.
The diplomat also said negotiations for a United Kingdom route “will advance when the Buccament Beach Resort reopens and an additional 200 rooms are made available once again.”
Stating that “the issue of citizen security” was on the minds of many patrons at the ceremony, King said “the recent spate of deaths by gun violence is cause for alarm.
“I stand here to underscore the assurance of the Hon. Prime Minister, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, ‘our civilization will never allow a handful of gunmen and their opportunistic allies to hold sway. We shall be relentless in pursuing them. Our parliament, cabinet, law courts, police force, and all other security and law-enforcement agencies, at home and abroad, in communion with a supportive people as a whole, will defeat these vile threats to our citizen security.’”
King said 50 percent of the murders last year and again this year were confined to groups participating in drug related activities, adding that 50 percent of the murders were caused by domestic violence, “with the exception of the four murders last year committed by a mentally ill individual.”
“Nevertheless, let us be mindful that the absolute number of crimes reported is declining annually and is down significantly this year with a reduction, perhaps, of over 40 percent, when compared to last year’s statistics if we stay on the current trajectory,” she said.
On foreign policy, she said the nation’s “very robust,” stating that recently, it was “our robust and effective defense of the principle of sovereignty, non-intervention and non- interference at the OAS [Organization of American States] that thwarted the intentions of the misguided to interfere in the politics and internal affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and possibly mount an invasion under the falsely manufactured accusations of human rights violations.
“Let us remember that in the aftermath of the recent devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean it was Venezuela that immediately came to the aid of Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica,” King said.
She said while St. Vincent and the Grenadines is “still a young nation,” it has “made great strides.
“As we contemplate the journey ahead, we might be well served to recall the famous words of the late John F. Kennedy: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask, too, what you can do for your country.’
“Let us agree that, together, we will work to eradicate the nagging spirit of dependency by encouraging new attitudes to work, production and productivity,” the envoy said.