I woke up on Friday morning, looked at the headlines of the Kaieteur News, and was swept over by a feeling of happiness that reminded me of the aftermath of my first sexual experience. I felt good, really good, and extremely happy.
The headlines of that day spoke about the imminent departure of Dr. Henry Jeffrey, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation. I felt no reaction to that story. I was once asked what I thought of the minister and my reply was plagiarized from a novel I read over two decades ago. It was, “I do not think of Henry Jeffrey.”
What really made my day was the headline about the opening of the Berbice River Bridge to light traffic by December 23, of this year. This is really fantastic news and regardless of whatever else happens this year, it will be for me the best thing that has happened to Guyana in 2008 and for a long time.
I have long looked forward to that bridge. I was disappointed when I learnt that the late arrival of some of the bridge components would occasion the delay in its completion. I know too that there were thousands of others who shared my concerns.
It would have been wonderful if this bridge could have been completed by September of this year as originally conceived. That would have really made Christmas in Guyana because financial crisis or no financial crisis, there would have been thousands of Berbicians living in the Tri-State area that would have come for the holidays knowing that they would no longer have to endure the hassles of the ferry.
The absence of that bridge has made life extremely hard for Berbicians. Particularly, it made travel out of the county intolerable. Persons having to go to the airport to catch flights often had to leave homes fourteen to sixteen hours in advance just so that they could join the long lines to get across and then make their way to the airport. Many a Berbician have spent hours sleeping in the car park at the Cheddi Jagan international airport simply because they had to, as a precaution, leave early to ensure they got on the ferry in time so that they would not miss their flights.
For those arriving at nights from overseas, the trip back home was even more tortuous. You had to sleep at the ferry stelling and catch the first boat in the morning. By the time you recovered, one day of your vacation would have passed.
I think this bridge is going to bring a lot of Guyanese back home because the hassles of the ferry crossing would have been removed. It is also going to bring a lot of strangers at an unexpected rate into the communities of Berbice, which are in the main still very much traditional.
Berbicians are people who generally sleep early and rise early. You do not find a lot of late night activity, except in the towns, and this discipline of early to bed, early to rise has allowed for a great deal of stability within the Ancient County.
I have long urged the authorities to come up with a plan to deal with the influx of visitors that will be occasioned by the opening of the bridge and the possible negative social consequences that can result. I will now urge strict adherence to the opening and closing of shops so that Berbice does not become the “watering hole” of the rest of the country.
I am happy for Berbice, and I am happy for myself since this bridge will make life easier for me. Words really cannot express my joy at the announcement that the bridge will soon be operational.
My greatest appreciation must of course go to the man who made this all possible. He has taken quite a few knocks in this column. I have been at times highly but justifiably critical of him.
I know my sentiments are shared by tens of thousands of Guyanese inside and outside of Guyana when I say that without him this bridge would not have been possible. There will be an operational bridge across the Berbice River because of him.
For the great joy that this has brought me and for the great joy that it will being to others; for the pride that it will evoke, for the pure thrill that a long drive is now possible from Corriverton to Parika, I thank him for his great vision and for his relentless efforts to have this bridge built. Thank you Ravi Dev!
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