Oct 16, 2012 News
By Abena Rockcliffe
The structure that stands monumental to represent 73 persons who lost their lives during the Cubana air disaster, was yesterday unveiled by President Donald Ramotar and Cuban Charge d’ Affaires and Economic and Cultural Affairs Officer Praxedes Nordet.
The bombs exploded eleven minutes after takeoff from the Grantley Adams Airport when the aircraft was at an altitude of 18000 feet. The date was October 6, 1976.
Those who perished were 57 Cubans, five North Koreans and 11 Guyanese. The Guyanese were Ann Nelson, Jacqueline Williams, Sabrina Harripaul who was seven at the time, Rita Thomas, Margaret Bradshaw, Violet Thomas, Rawle Thomas, Raymond Persaud, Harold Norton, Gordon Sobha, and Seshnarine Kumar.
Present yesterday were Carol Thomas who lost her 18-year-old brother Rawle Thomas- a Queen’s College graduate travelling to pursue medical studies; and Oscar Limerick who lost Rita Thomas, Violet Thomas and Sabrina Harripaul.
The Thomases had missed their original flight and were placed on Cubana de Aviacion.
Cubana de Aviacion ‘Flight 455 was a Cuban flight from Barbados to Jamaica that was brought down by a terrorist attack on October 6, 1976. Two bombs exploded on board killing all 73 passengers on the Douglas DC-8 aircraft in what was then the most deadly terrorist airline attack in the western hemisphere.
The monument dubbed the ‘Cubana 455 Monument.’ now stands on the Turkeyen Campus of the University of Guyana in the vicinity of the pond east of the University’s library.
The task of building the monument was undertaken by the Ministry of Public Works and takes the form of a fountain; four elevated stairs and a plaque with the names of those who died as well as the flag of Guyana, Cuba, Korea and Barbados.
President Donald Ramotar said that the monument is erected appropriately since five of the Guyanese who perished were students going to study in Cuba. He said that the monument will serve as a reminder to Guyanese.
Ramotar expressed that he sees it necessary for Guyanese to understand that the disaster represents the use of terrorism in political struggles. “It was at the height of the cold war, a time where reason seemed to have taken flight; when the mentality that prevailed was that if you were not with me you are against me, therefore someone’s terrorist was another’s hero.”
Further, the President made known his view that no political objective can justify the bombing. “I firmly believe that we cannot aspire to lofty goals with dirty and bloody hands”.
“Since the cold war has ended I still cannot understand why one of the perpetrators of this crime is still walking free.”
Ramotar said that the best way to honour the memories of those who were victims of terrorism is by working hard to improve the quality of life of all Guyanese so that what the martyrs did not live to see can still be achieved.
“Further, he said that the promotion of international peace will also serve as honouring those who died.”
The President extended sympathy to the family and friends of the deceased.
Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn, said that no physical monument can be fitting enough to assuage the hurt, the damage and feeling of lost that resulted from the disaster.
He too said that the attack marks a defining moment in the history of the Caribbean people as from then to now, countries have been freed from colonialism and imperialism.
Benn said that the Koreans, Cubans and Guyanese whose remains rest in Barbados’ water will not be honoured unless Guyanese continue to understand the nature of the sacrifice in the context in which it occurred.
The monument was handed over to Minister of Culture Youth and Sport- Frank Anthony, who said that the structure that has been long awaited serves as memory of the pain inflicted as a nation, and hurt that loved ones of those deceased must have felt.
He said that the act which occurred 36 years ago cannot prevent progress as many Guyanese still travel to Cuba to study.
Praxedes Nordet, Economic and Commercial Counselor, said that Cuba will not rest until justice has been served.
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