Though it was pitched as a national event and was largely so in style and rhetoric, the Feb. 14 rally to celebrate the opening of Argyle International Airport had a partisan political message on display throughout.
While there were several national flags of St. Vincent and the Grenadines being waved by members of the public at the event, the largest and highest-flying flag was one with a message of the ruling Unity Labour Party.
A few individuals also waved smaller ULP flags from the December 2015 elections campaign.
The flag in question had an artist’s impression of the airport terminal building and an aircraft talking of, along with the words “Argyle International Airport. SVG” and “ULP Moving Forward”.
It is not clear who erected the flag or why it was allowed to fly at the ceremony that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves maintained was a national one.
Twice in as many days, a prominent ULP symbol stained the national events to mark the opening and beginning of operations at the airport.
On Monday, when the airport was inaugurated, a star was cast in concrete near the entrance to the terminal building.
Gonsalves said on radio on Thursday that Rudy Matthias, chair of the International Airport Development Company (IADC), had told him that, in Gonsalves’ words, “in the excess of zeal, this matter was done by some people”.
The prime minister said the star should not have been cast at the airport.
“You can’t agree with that. Properly, I mean, it was wrong; no question about it,” he said on Boom FM.
He further said that efforts began on Monday to obscure the star, adding that if one didn’t know a star was there, it would not be possible to recognise it.
However, that was not the case when iWitness News visited the area on Thursday.
The government has given no explanation about where the materials for the casting of the concrete star came from or who were the 10 or so men that worked on it.
Also, iWitness News is not aware that the government has given an explanation about why the partisan flag was allowed to fly, in the manner that that one did, at a national event.
At last year’s Independence Parade, leader of the pro-China SVG Green Party, Ivan O’Neal waved a flag of the People’s Republic of China at the event, which was attended by Taiwan’s ambassador to SVG, Baushuan Ger and other Taiwan officials.
Some persons condemned O’Neal’s actions as disrespectful, while others defended it, citing freedom of expression.