Leader of the Opposition, Godwin Friday has raised questions about why a politician and not an engineer explained the recent problems with the runway at Argyle International Airport, which opens on Tuesday.
Last week, the government completed repairs of what is said was some 4 per cent of the runway, where sub-standard materials were used.
The explanation about the repairs came from Minister of Works, Sen. Julian Francis on a pro-government radio programme.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Friday spoke of the recent repairs and said he had enquired as the Leader of the Opposition and a concerned citizen.
“I would like to hear, quite frankly, the engineers give an explanation as to what the problem is, rather than any political figure, because they are the one who should know,” he told Parliament during the Budget Debate.
“But what I am told, Mr. Speaker, is that the issue that is happening there is what is referred to as pavement failure and there is a chance that it will continue to happen, because water is coming up through the sub base and because there is no sheeting that would prevent the fine silt from coming up and affecting the asphalt, then it creates these soft spots that have to be addressed from time to time,” Friday told Parliament.
“I am told that this is a very serious problem. If it is not the case, then let us get the correction, because it is not the first time that the repairs have been done.”
Friday did not give way to the Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves who rose to offer a clarification.
He told the Speaker of the House of Assembly that Gonsalves could respond while wrapping up the debate.
Gonsalves, noting that Friday had asked for an engineer’s explanation, said that an engineer cannot come to Parliament and explain it there.
“The engineer doesn’t have to come to Parliament, Mr. Speaker. They could have a press conference. They can say this is what happened; explain to the people instead of the Minister of Transport and Works giving technical information about what the problem is.
“I would find it a lot more persuasive if the engineer in charge of the project had a press conference and said this is what happened and this is how we are fixing it and this is why you shouldn’t worry. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.”
In a Facebook Live interview with iWitness News on Wednesday, Gonsalves said his works minister’s explanation of what had happened was correct.
He said Chief Executive Officer of the Argyle International Airports Development Company, Rudy Matthias, told him that when they were doing quality assurance, they found that 2 per cent of the runway had material “which was of a less, was of an uneven quality compared to the rest”.
Gonsalves said that the section of the runway could have been repaired it in about a year to 18 months after the airport began operating.
The problem with the section of the runway was also discovered while workmen were doing the grooving of the airport.
He told iWitness News that while some 4 per cent of the runway was redone, only 2 per cent was defective.
“What happens, just think about a house, … there’s a crack on the wall. You don’t just do the little part that thing (cracked). You dig out the part to the top and a little bit to the bottom and you do that over to get the continuity. That’s what happened.”
Gonsalves said that was also the same explanation he received is from Garth Saunders, chair of Argyle International Airport, the company responsible for the management of the airport.
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