CCJ dismisses case challenging Ogle Airport renaming

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Tuesday dismissed the appeal filed against several operators, objecting to the former Government’s renaming of the Ogle International Airport.

CCJ Judge Denys Barrow

The controversy started when former President David Granger in 2015 urged that the Board of Directors of the airport consider renaming the facility the Eugene F Correia International Airport in recognition of Guyana’s first Minister of Communications, Shipping and Aviation.

However, nine of the ten operators at the airport had rejected the proposed name change, arguing that it would create unfair competition, since the name is similar to that of the Chairman of the Board, Michael Correia.
Air Services Limited (ASL) Domestic Airways; Hinterland Aviation; Hopkinson Mining Aviation; Jags Aviation; Oxford Aviation; Phoenix Airways; Roraima Airways, and Wings Aviation – all members of NATA contended that it was anti-competitive and that they were not adequately consulted.
The Ogle International Airport was renamed Eugene F Correia International Airport on May 9, 2016. Leading up to this, NATA unsuccessfully sought injunctions against the name change in the High Court and Court of Appeal.
The judgement was delivered by Justice Denys Barrow on behalf of the panel, which also comprised of Justice Jacob Wit, Justice Winston Anderson, Justice Andrew Burgess and Justice Peter Jamadar.

The Eugene F Correia International Airport

Appearing on behalf of the appellants was Attorneys-at-Law Devindra Kissoon and Natasha Vieira while Solicitor General Nigel Hawke appeared for the respondents.
The Court noted that the appellants were able to discuss the name change among other issues at a meeting with the Minister on November 18, 2015, following which they also provided a written brief to the Minister of all the issues discussed, including the name change.
“In that brief, the submission in relation to the renaming required nothing more than to leave Ogle Airport name as it is. There was nothing provided that the Appellants suggested that the Minister would not have understood the nature and substance of their objection, and the court found that the Minister took their concerns seriously enough that they commissioned a legal review of the lease. The court thus held that there was no need for further consultation as advanced by the appellants,” Justice Barrow stated.
In a separate concurrent opinion, Justice Jamadar emphasised that “the duty of the Minister to consult is rooted in the Constitution of Guyana, distinct from any procedural rights based on other legal sources”.
In January, the CCJ heard legal arguments in which the lawyer for Air Services Limited, Devendra Kissoon, argued before the CCJ that the former Government failed to consider the economic impact the name change would have on other operators in the airport.
Kissoon also read documents suggesting that former President David Granger and former Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson had committed to addressing the concerns that were raised soon after the idea to rename the airport began floating around.
However, the lawyer contended that this was not done and that the former Government failed to meet the threshold for consultation with those who had the most to lose, thus violating common law principles attached to consultations. Rather, all the consultations occurred in the Ogle Airport Incorporated (OAI) board room, where most of them do not have a seat.
“The majority of the applicants are small private operators whose livelihood depends on the fair management of Ogle airport. And make up nine out of the 10 domestic operators currently in Guyana. Save for three of them, none of them are Board members of OAI, but are simply arm’s length leasees of the space OAI provides to aircraft operators. And all compete for the market,” he told the Court.
The lawyer further contended that the Correia Group of Companies and the applicants in the case have historically had a strained relationship for the very reason of anti-competitive practices that include the name change.
In his rebuttal, however, Solicitor General Nigel Hawke had argued that there were consultations – just not the consultations Kissoon meant. Hawke noted that the correspondence between the operators and the then Public Infrastructure Minister satisfied the criteria for consultations.
“From what we understand from the evidence, all that the appellants wanted to say to the Minister, was put before the Minister. And issues were raised at some time at some level regarding the (economic impact),” Hawke also said. (G12)