Digicel urges GT&T/ATN, gov’t to explain hold up of liberalizing law

Digicel Guyana is demanding “a full and frank explanation” from GT&T’s US owners, Atlantic Tele-Networks (ATN) “regarding the nature and extent of any legal or other threats made against the Government of Guyana concerning the planned introduction of telecommunications reform in Guyana last week,” the mobile operator said in a press release yesterday.

In the meantime, Digicel has also formally written to the government here seeking an explanation of events last week regarding the withdrawal of legislation that was expected to liberalise the telecommunications market, and is awaiting a response.

Digicel in its release cited media reports in Guyana that attributed the dramatic 11th hour reversal by government last week to the “possibility of litigation and acrimony” which arose following communications between the government and US-based ATN/GT&T.

These reports appear to contradict statements made by GT&T’s CEO, Yog Mahadeo, last week when he stated that GT&T had made no last minute representations or submissions to government on this issue, the release noted.

This statement has now been openly contradicted by the Government of Guyana and a full and frank explanation from GT&T/ATN is required, Digicel declared.

Gregory Dean, CEO of Digicel Guyana, is quoted in the release as saying: “The people of Guyana deserve to know the whole truth about this most unfortunate episode.” These comments, the release said,  follow statements made by Cabinet Secretary, Dr. Roger Luncheon in which the “fear of litigation” on the part of ATN was alluded to as a significant factor in the dramatic last ditch reversal of the government’s plans to liberalise the telecommunications market.  The passage of this legislation would have provided for immediate competition in the international calling market and would have led to significant reduction in the price of international calls for Guyanese consumers, the release stated.

The release said further that circumstances now demand that GT&T and its American owners come clean in relation to their actions which have, it would seem, led to the withdrawal of the liberalisation legislation which has been promised for so long,.

Meanwhile, Digicel said that it welcomes President Bharrat Jagdeo’s public statement at the GuyExpo launch on Thursday on the commitment of the government to liberalisation.

Digicel added that it believes the factors that led to the most recent failure ought to be revealed and discussed by stakeholders to avoid a prolonged period of deferral.

“The people of Guyana deserve to have the benefits of full and open competition in all sectors including the telecommunications sector.  They should no longer continue to be losers financially and be denied access to new technologies,” Dean concluded.

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