What is the basis of the ‘ridiculous contentions’ about Ogle Airport and why were they not referred to Guyana Civil Aviation Authority?

Dear Editor,

Kaieteur News, abandoning all pretence at publishing a professional newspaper, over this past week, has published a series of stories based on half-truths, invention and just plain lies, masquerading as facts, attributed to unnamed sources identified only as “domestic operators”, to attack the management and operations of Ogle Airport Inc and libelling Michael Correia and his family.

This is sensational, speculative reporting dedicated to pursing a predetermined and private agenda, at its very worst. No attempt has been made by the paper to independently check or verify the allegations made in these reports. Not once has Kaieteur News seen fit to check the allegations for comment or response from a representative of OAI. What is the basis of the Kaieteur News’ ridiculous contentions about ‘land grabbing’ and nepotism? Why has Kaieteur News not referred these reports to the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, which has licensing and regulatory authority over the operations of the airport?

In 2003, Ogle Airport was an airstrip and little more. In that year OAI leased the airstrip and surrounding land from the government. By 2011, OAI had transformed the airstrip into an international airport which all Guyana can be proud of, investing some $1.3billion in the process. That investment was funded by the issue of shares offered to all shareholders.

Only some shareholders chose to increase their investment. Others did not see the potential in the airport, and refused to buy more shares.

Each and every accusation against the management of the airport and assault on the good name and reputation of Michael and Nicole Correia has been based on information provided by an undisclosed source. We know the source. But every attack on the airport   by this ‘source’ has failed when the underlying dishonesty of each attack became known.

When President Granger decided to name the airport the Eugene F Correia International Airport, Air Services Ltd, whose extensive airside facilities occupy about 24% of the total acreage of sub-leased airside land at the airport, launched exactly the same attack and made exactly the same allegations against the airport when seeking a court injunction to prevent the name change. The Judge ruled that all these claims and allegations were “unfounded” and denied the injunction. Air Services also applied to the Chief Justice’s Court for an Order against the government. That was similarly refused, the Chief Justice at the time not even requiring an answer from OAI. Air Services appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal out of hand.

Previously, Air Services had attacked OAI by filing a complaint before the Fair Trading Commission. That attack failed, and the court ordered the commission not to hear it.

Air Services has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to attack the airport by every means available because it is frustrated at its minority shareholding. Air Services has lobbied past and present ministers of government. Those attacks failed when the real facts were discovered. But Kaieteur News cares little for the facts and even less for fair and balanced reporting.

The fact that Mr Correia is the elected Chairman and represents the majority shareholder  of the company,  does not justify Kaieteur News’ unprofessional and uninformed attack  based on information from its ‘source’ which has already been rejected by every other  objective authority.

The Airport Operator is required to operate “in accordance with the Civil Aviation Laws of Guyana and in compliance with all other applicable laws, statutes, regulations and international agreements that pertain to the operation of an international airport including those promulgated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (‘ICAO’), the International Air Transport Association (‘IATA’) and other international bodies having jurisdiction”. The airport is, therefore, regulated by the GCAA and not OAI.

It is precisely because of enforcement of these regulations that there has been a history,  almost from the inception of the airport, of  Air Services and the Mazaharally Group in particular, resisting regulation and complaining about it to all and sundry and, from time to  time, running to the less responsible media with false and unsubstantiated allegations.

So after the Mazaharally Group had been frustrated in taking their complaints to the Fair Trade Commission, they then refused to comply with the international standards required for the delivery and sale of commercial fuel at the airport, finally having to comply with the IATA/JIG standards licensing requirements.  ASL’s Manager, Mazahar Ally, at the time, crashed a loaded fuel tanker carrying illegal fuel through the gates of the airport, endangering the entire airport, which could have resulted in a total disaster.

In yet another example, ASL’s Manager refused to comply with directions of the airport’s Chief Executive Officer to stop the unauthorized construction of a taxiway on the airport, resorting to vulgar abuse of the officer and an assault of the police officer called to restore order. Mr Ally was arrested and a court case was withdrawn on terms that he make an apology.

Ogle Airport Inc, as is perfectly well known, has committed to a Private/Public Partnership with the Government of Guyana for the development and management of the airport. The partnership is governed through a lease agreement for the “Management, Operation and Development” of the airport.

The agreement sets out in very specific terms, the obligations of the company “to operate the Airport for the use and benefit of the public” and those of the government to provide Air Traffic Control, Inspection and all those services required to be provided by government agencies such as Customs, Immigration and Port Health. OAI is justifiably proud that it has met all of these obligations, and Guyana should be proud of its newest international airport.

OAI has so far, at the insistence of its Chairman, tempered its public response to the attacks  by Kaieteur News and its ‘source’ because the Kaieteur News reporting uses much of the  same matter filed in a case pending in court by Air Services and parties and, therefore,  is sub judice and should not be commented on. But Kaieteur News and its ‘source’ have no such compunction, and have for six days published dishonest and libellous articles posing as news.

OAI will not waste any more of its time responding to these scurrilous reports in the Kaieteur News. Mr Correia, in the meantime, has indicated to OAI that he will be filing proceedings in court seeking from Kaieteur News compensation and other relief for libel. We look forward to the disclosure in that action of the identity of the Kaieteur News ‘source’.

Yours faithfully,

Kit Nascimento

On behalf of Management Ogle Airport Inc

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