Increased remuneration for police ranks assigned to the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), Timehri is to be examined as a means of curbing the security failings there as the facility recovers from over $15 million in theft in 2008.
There are still not enough police officers at the airport and it is hoped that offering better salaries for those being placed there will encourage more of them to take up the challenge, Chief Executive Officer Ramesh Ghir told the media on Wednesday at a year-end press conference held at Transport Minister Robeson Benn’s office.
Reporting on the airport over the year, Ghir said there had been a 9% decline in international passenger arrivals and a 4% reduction in international landings.
Acknowledging the challenges that the airport faced over the year, Ghir made particular mention of the runway lights fiasco and the heavy lightning which caused severe damage to many pieces of equipment including those inside the airport’s control tower.
The runway lights were down for a period during which there was reliance on a back-up system. The non-functional lights had even interrupted flights for a short period and the government was forced to accept an offer from the Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados which loaned 150 lights to Guyana to assist with landings during the country’s hosting of Carifesta.
Some runway lights were also stolen and no one has ever been charged even though some items also belonging to the airport were found at the home of a Timehri man.
Meanwhile, Ghir said the damaged equipment had been repaired, but noted that the airport’s management was still evaluating several proposals in the area of lightning protection.
To this end too, he restated that the squatting which is taking place around the airport has also contributed to the security challenge. Efforts made to remove the squatters from around the airport are ongoing.
Ghir told reporters that come next year a local commercial bank will establish an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) facility at the airport. Additionally, he said, by the first quarter a fast food concession would be established.
The airport CEO was questioned on the issue of security in light of a recent incident in which the head of IAST Suresh Naraine was able to board a Caribbean Airlines flight with ammunition in his possession.
The 12 rounds of ammunition and gun magazine were detected at the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad, Police Commis-sioner Henry Greene had said.
Greene had said that he received a telephone call from Trinidad informing him of the find and questions were being asked as to how Naraine, a licensed firearm holder, was allowed to leave Guyana with the items. An investigation was conducted and the matter has since been forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for advice. However, Greene said it did not seem as if any charges would be laid since the incident was a “genuine mistake” on the part of Naraine, who had in fact lodged his firearm at the Timehri airport but apparently forgot about the ammunition and magazine.
This lapse by security personnel at the airport gave weight to the words of Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon, who had told the media weeks before this incident, of government’s plans to review access to the VIP executive lounges at the airport since, among other things, there might have been breaches that could have contributed to the trafficking of narcotics.
He had said that a report received by cabinet had suggested that there may have been some exploitation of the failure to adequately coordinate “and things are falling through the cracks.”
It is in this regard that Ghir was questioned about the status of security at the checkpoints at the airport given the amounts of cocaine that have by-passed those checkpoints and were intercepted in other countries. He emphasized that the corporation was responsible for the prevention of incendiary devices getting on board aircraft, but the issue of drugs was the responsibility of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and the police.
He argued that the airport was adequately equipped but said he could not speak for security personnel. He reminded the media too that the surveillance cameras at the airport were the property of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) and the airlines also had their own cameras.
With specific reference to the VIP lounge, he said there was an established procedure for its use which was nothing to do with the airport’s management. He said the lounge fell under the purview of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which has its own established protocols.