Guyana’s international airports, the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri and the Ogle International Airport “are not meeting the minimum standards” on security, Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn says.
“It is important that we lift the security profile at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport and Ogle Aerodrome,” Benn said at the opening ceremony for the Airport Risk Mitigation workshop yesterday. According to a press release from the ministry, Benn told the 25 plus participants that a dispassionate review of the airports’ (CJIA and Ogle) security status indicates that “we are not meeting the minimum standards.”
Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to smuggle drugs inclusive of cocaine and marijuana to both overseas and interior locations at the two airports.
In May, two airport loaders as well as a police dog handler, accused of concealing cocaine in the vent of the luggage hold of an outgoing Caribbean Airlines flight, were remanded to prison after being charged with narcotics possession for trafficking. The cocaine amounted to 2.2 kilos. There have been many other cases.
“We do not yet accorded with, mitigated to, the threats we are faced with…we need to take a hard look at ourselves,” the minister said,
according to the release. The workshop is being held at the CJIA’s Control Tower at Timehri and is a collaboration between the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) and the United States of America security watchdog – Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The three-day interactive session is an advanced technical assistance programme designed to assist foreign airport stakeholders in conducting a risk assessment to identify areas as it relates to their security posture, the ministry explained.
The release said that Benn pointed out that the September 11, 2001 acts of terrorism have impacted security operations worldwide; hence, airport security officials have to synergize and create linkages to improve their capabilities. “The Government of Guyana is cognizant of these challenges. You have to make the utmost use of such courses because it improves your personal and professional development. We rely on you to make us safe and secure,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, Bryan Hunt, Charge d’ Affaires at the US Embassy in Georgetown acknowledged that the pressure to propel security process is weighed against the increased threat from persons who want to traffic drugs and/or weapons from one country to another. “It is critically important that nations work together in a coordinated matter to identify and thwart those threats. Security is a global issue. Criminal networks are constantly looking for vulnerabilities to move people and illicit cargo aboard the same planes that supply the goods and resources that grow and develop our economies,” he was quoted as saying.
The diplomat said that the US Government remains committed to aviation security partnerships with Guyana and in the Caribbean as a means of investing in the future and supporting sustainable development of the region.
GCAA Director General, Zulficar Mohamed, said that the Authority has been able strengthen its relationship with TSA, and expressed his appreciation to the facilitators for coming to Guyana in such a short space of time to impart their vast knowledge to the participants. “…we must have the personnel, trained and ready to carry out their duties when necessary,” he said.
Security and Operational staff from CJIA, Ogle, the Guyana Police Force’s Special Constabulary, Customs and Anti-Narcotics Unit ranks and GCAA officers attended the workshop, the release said.