Perception of airport as ‘soft target’ for drug smuggling a threat to private sector

- Gouveia

Unless government and the private sector work together to ensure that the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri, ceases to be regarded as an exit port through which illegal drugs can easily be smuggled, the private sector could be denied important international markets, Chief Executive Officer of Roraima Airways Inc Captain Gerry Gouveia told Stabroek Business earlier this week.

Just prior to the interview, Gouveia, delivering a New Year address to staff at his company, had said that it was in the interest of the private sector, particularly the aviation services sub-sector “to work both internally and in collaboration with the authorities to rid our airport of the image of a soft target for drug traffickers. By using various items of food… to move illegal drugs out of Guyana, drug traffickers are, in effect, targeting the private sector,” Gouveia added.

Ground handling operations at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri
Ground handling operations at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri

In December last year, the findings of a Commission of Enquiry, set up by Roraima to probe an incident in which a member of its ground handling staff at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport, Timehri was implicated in an alleged attempt to smuggle illegal drugs out of Guyana included a number of recommendations relating to airport security. “We know only too well that occurrences such as the incident that took place at the CJIA on September 13 last can do irreparable harm to companies like ours,” Gouveia said in his New Year message.

The Roraima Airways CEO told Stabroek Business that a point had been reached where private sector entities  operating at the CJIA had to become more assertive in ensuring that “our image and our interests are better protected. After all, every time an irregularity or an illegality is uncovered at the airport, a light is shone on the services; not necessarily a positive light, but a light that can sometimes be negative.”

Gouveia said that contrary to what is sometimes believed the discovery of illegal drugs being prepared for export “gets the attention of the international community” so that “if, for example, you are providing services for an international airline that airline, upon getting that kind of news, may begin to ask itself questions as to whether its continued business collaboration with the particular service provider is the best thing for the image of the company. Those of us in the sector understand only too well that we may no further than the next incident away from losing an important contract.”

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