‘DPP’s advice does great harm to the good name of Roraima Airways’

Dear Editor,

The media has recently reported extensively on advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to Crime Chief, Seelall Persaud, in connection with narcotics found in a Delta Airlines passenger’s suitcase by US authorities. The DPP’s advice does great harm to the good name and integrity of Roraima Airways and has resulted in the management of Cheddi Jagan International Airport withdrawing access to the airport of three senior managers of our Ground Handling Operations and another of our managers being charged before the Courts.

I have since seen a letter from the DPP to the media stating that her advice on the matter was based merely on the evidence in the file before her. Clearly, as the facts disclose, the file before the DPP misrepresented the case and might have invited further enquiry from the DPP before she arrived at her position. I had previously spoken with and written to the DPP providing her with a comprehensive brief on the airport’s security system and on the responsibilities of the Roraima’s employees in the belief that she would reconsider her advice and direct a full investigation on the matter.

I believe that I should now share my letter with your readers.

Yours faithfully,
Capt Gerald Gouveia
Chief Executive Officer
Roraima Airways

April 20, 2010
Ms. Shalimar Hack
Director of Public Prosecutions
Office of the DPP
Rabbit Walk
Georgetown

Dear DPP,

I ask you to accept that I write this letter with deep respect for you but out of considerable concern for the well-being and good name of my company, Roraima Airways, and my employees who have been traumatised and stigmatised by the actions of the police and airport management taken, I am informed on your instruction.

I would therefore like to outline the duties and roles of my company Roraima Airways and particularly those of my employees affected.

Background

1. Roraima Airways is a Guyanese company that was incorporated in 1992 and is owned by my wife Debra Gouveia and myself. We are both Airline Transportation Rated Aircraft Pilots with in excess of 50 years Aviation experience between us.

Both of us were trained in the USA and we returned and worked all of our professional lives in Guyana.

Roraima Airways’ financial foundation was facilitated in its start up by a loan issued to us by Omai Gold Mines Ltd to purchase our first aircraft, and subsequent loans from Golden Star Resources and Republic Bank to purchase two more aircraft and further loans from Republic Bank to expand our hotel, lounge and ground handling division.

Roraima Airways over the last 17 years has extended its range of services in the following areas:

1. Local and Regional Charter Airline Roraima Airways

2.  International Travel Agency

3.  Residence Inn Hotel

4.  Duke Lodge Hotel

5.  Executive Passenger Lounge at CJIA

6.  Crew Lounge at CJIA

7.  Aviation Security Services

8. Ground Handling for International Aircraft

9.  Arrowpoint Nature Resort – Eco- Resort

10. Roraima Tours

11. Ogle Airport Operations – We are one of the four owners of the Ogle Airport Inc.

Roraima Airways is a law-abiding company that employs over 150 Guyanese and is also highly regulated by:

1.  The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority

2.  The Guyana Airport Authority

3.  The Environmental Protection Agency

4.  The Guyana Tourism Authority

5.  The Guyana Revenue Authority (Hotel Licensing)

6.  The Guyana Fire Service

7.  The Mayor and City Council (Environ-mental and Food and Beverage Licenses)

8. The Maritime Administration Depart-ment (Licensing of Boats)

Our investment and operations at the CJIA averages approximately $500,000,000 and have expanded considerably over the past five years where we today conduct the largest portion of our day-to-day activities.

Our operations at the CJIA have contributed significantly to improve the image and service not merely of the airport specifically but generally Guyana.

In relation to our ground handling and security operations, we have absolutely no responsibility for the contents of passenger suitcases which are checked for loading into the aircraft.

It is extremely important to understand that our security responsibilities are to ensure that every checked suitcase which has cleared state security inspection, primarily during the scanning and profiling process, is thereafter matched to the passenger’s name on the passenger manifest to whom the suitcase is tagged.

I cannot, therefore, emphasise too strongly that it is the responsibility of the state security agents, not Roraima Airways, to deal with all matters relating to the contents of passenger bags, whether with regard to narcotics or other illegal items. In fact, the contents of passenger suitcases are primarily examined by the state security by means of the scanning process prior to the suitcases becoming the responsibility of Roraima Airways for placement on the aircraft.

All of our airport staff are trained by Delta Airlines and the International Aviation Security Training Agency, Longport. Our security agents are required by Delta to undergo recurrent training every six months. It is also important to state that before we hire our staff to work at the airport very detailed background checks are carried out, first of all by an independent security agency and then by the airport authority.

I would now like to specifically outline the roles and responsibilities of our staff that have been particularly affected.

Aviation Security Department (AVSEC)

AVSEC is a division of Roraima Airways employing 17 agents. This operation is separate and apart from our ground handling operations. The AVSEC agents are specially trained by Delta Airlines. Our responsibilities do not and cannot substitute the duties of the state security agents and, as I have already pointed out, have nothing whatsoever to do with the contents of passengers suitcases.

The role and functions of AVSEC are as follows:

1.  Terminal access – prevention of passengers leaving terminal

2.  Document Checks – ensure that all documents are in order.

3.  Scales – observe the check-in process and the weight of suitcases

4.  TSA – profiling and searching of passengers’ hand luggage in passing area. (This is the only duty involving content performed by Roraima Airways)

5.  Baggage Make-up area:  There are three agents attached to this area and their duties are as follows:

Agent 1.Stamp every bag after leaving scanner

Agent 2. Record all bags that are tagged direct to New York and are in one line

Agent 3  (i) Record all bags that are tagged as first class

(ii) Record all bags that are tagged as connecting bags

(iii) Escort the baggage cart from baggage area to the aircraft hold

(iv) Record all bags that are searched by state security agents and the agency that carried out the search.

6.  Aircraft Access  – monitor both front and rear doors

7.  Baggage hold – monitor both front and rear baggage doors

8.  Aircraft search – search interior of aircraft

9.  Customs  – state of arriving bags

1.  Roderick Peterkin is a retired regimental sergeant major (RSM) of the Guyana Defence Force with 25 years of unblemished service. He is the holder of a Diploma in Public Safety and Security Management from the University of Guyana.

On the day in question he was posted to the Baggage Make-up area and assigned the duties of Agent 3 as outlined above.

Note 1: Peterkin did his job without flaw on the day in question.

Note 2: There was a passenger named Indra Sanasie [passport number given] on flight DL384 in Seat 26D.

Note 3: There was no recording of Dorothy Sears’ bag as being searched because it was not searched; a decision which was mandated by the most senior rank of CANU.

Mark Chan is the supervisor of AVSEC. He has always conducted himself and performed his duties professionally and honestly. His role was to deploy the AVSEC staff as well as oversee the effectiveness and quality of the Roraima Security Operations.

It is perfectly normal and to be expected that his name would appear with most incidents of security related to Delta Airlines because he is the security supervisor and, as a result, he is almost always present. It is quite possible that unknown persons will attempt to besmirch his character.

Ground Handling Services

Roraima ground handling operations has been in existence for in excess of 15 years. We have handled flights for North American Airlines, Zoom Airlines, Air Transat, Constellation, Air Caribbean, Carib Express and presently Delta Airlines and other international Airlines as requested by external Agencies.

Its functions are as follows:

1.  Manning the computerized check-in counters and facilitating the passengers’ check-in process including the tagging of passengers suitcases

2.  Manning the boarding gate

Preparing the documents to facilitate the departure of aircraft

3.  Providing the required ground handling equipment and staff to handle the smooth and expeditious off-loading and loading of passengers’ bags as well as catering and pushing back of aircraft.

Warren Chase has been working at the airport for in excess of 25 years first with the now defunct Guyana Airways Corporation (GAC) then with Roraima Airways for the last 12 years. He is a highly respected and honest individual and is appointed as one of my senior staff.

On the day in question, he was assigned the duties as the boarding gate agent and was assisted by other staff during the actual boarding process. Also among his duties was the responsibility for paging and advising passengers who are required by the state security agent for baggage checks. First class passengers are not paged but are either informed directly in the executive lounge or are informed at the boarding gate.

Note 1: Since Sears’s baggage was waived by CANU there was no need to look for her                          specifically at the boarding gate

Note 2: Warren Chase conducted his duties as assigned by Roraima Airways with due               diligence and professionalism on that day.

Roraima Executive Lounge

This is a private lounge where first class passengers and club members await their flight in executive comfort. The airline provides an invitation to the passenger who then present that said invitation to the lounge attendant.

The only use for the invitation is for invoicing purposes by Roraima Airways Inc to the respected airlines.

There is no compulsory requirement to record any data on the invitation by the lounge attendant.

Mrs Carmen Peterkin is the lounge manager and has been employed by Roraima Airways Inc for the past ten years. On the day in question she performed her duties as was required and with her usual professionalism.

The aforementioned information is intended to give you a better understanding of whence we came as a company, where we are at present and of the functions performed by our operatives at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport.

I would be most grateful, if, in the circumstances, you would consider reviewing your position on this matter.

Yours respectfully,
Capt Gerald Gouveia

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