Guyana can well become a saviour to Caribbean residents

first_imgDear Editor,As a young journalist working for the Barbados Nation newspaper in the 80s, I was sent to cover the aftermath of the very devastating Hurricane Hugo, which wreaked havoc in Montserrat in the summer of 1989.It was the morning after when we got there. When we landed at the main John A. Osborne Airport, after riding in the belly of a British C110 aircraft out of Barbados, we were dumbfounded.I tried to hold ‘my own,’ but it came gushing out in torrents of tears after my editor (a tall hulk of a man) Timothy Slinger began crying. It was a horrifying sight; the island was in a mess. It looked like there had been an island-wide fire; everything was brown. There were no leaves on any tree. Nothing was in place. Cars and household furnishings were scattered in the valleys. People walked the roads aimlessly. I immediately began shooting pictures.When I returned to Barbados with my pictures, the front page picture in our newspaper was with a little boy – maybe 10 years old – sitting on a three-threaded concrete stair with nothing behind him. He was digging, with his hands, hard coconut jelly from a coconut that had blown off a tree during the storm. That was his breakfast. He told us that where he was sitting was his home. There was nothing but the concrete steps remaining. The blue horizon framed his background.We drove from the airport into the capital of Plymouth behind a frontend loader that was lifted by helicopter off a British ship. The machine was pushing the boulders out of the way to make the roads accessible. That was my first trip to Montserrat.Then, in 1995, the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, in the southern part of the island, came alive. Because of my previous affinity with the island, I was assigned to cover that story. I would visit that island several times between 1995 and 2000.I was there when the initial major eruption happened and claimed its first victims – some farmers who had ventured beyond the safe zone to take care of their cattle. The constant belching of plumes of ash and sulfur would eventually make the southern parts of the island uninhabitable. I saw two-thirds of the island’s population being forced to flee, some to surroundings islands, but most to the UK. The United Kingdom lays claim to the island.There were fewer than 1,200 people left on the island. Today the numbers are slowly creeping up. No doubt, the recent spate of hurricanes will retard that momentum.I have lived in Barbados and have been a witness to several hurricanes and tropical depressions. And with the latest uptick in these destructive weather patterns, I am wondering if life in the Caribbean will not make a formidable turn.Could it be that if the globe continues to warm – which is a catalyst for the most deadly and destructive storms – the islands will (like Montserrat) become sparsely populated? The Bible speaks of an eventual disappearance of islands; could this be a foretaste?Guyana – if only because of our sizable land mass and English language – can well become a saviour to the Caribbean residents. We need to begin to think in these terms. We were long the laughing stock of the Caribbean. However, our new-found brush with oil wealth and the prevailing and predicted weather patterns might very well position us as a proverbial “rejected stone” that becomes the “head of the corner”.Of course we can benefit from the mental acumen and the entrepreneurial skills of our fellow Caribbean sisters and brothers. We can benefit from their assistance, particularly in the areas of tourism and offshore investments. Maybe there should be a nonpartisan committee established to begin to explore ways of offering Islanders terms and packages that will lure them to Guyana as financial investors. I think that we need to strike the nail while it is hot. There is a proverb which says, “He is wise who does now what he will eventually be asked to do.”Pastor W. P. Jeffreylast_img

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