Minister Patterson’s address at the Ogle Airport renaming was significant to NATA. That our concerns had not fallen on deaf ears and were deemed to have merit and his recognition that what had worked 10 years ago may not be applicable today was instructive. His pledge to ensure that the legal review of the lease between the Government and Ogle Airport Inc (OAI) will be done in a consultative and inclusive manner was most important since this approach is a foreign concept in our relationship with OAI.
The findings of that review of the lease agreement will “form the basis of determining the way forward as regards to the proper implementation of the Agreement” and NATA looks forward to the proper implementation as this is an important safeguard to our collective interests.
This new dispensation to openness and transparency by the Minister and the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was clearly a foreign concept to Mr Michael Correia, the Chairman of OAI who was also present as he cautioned the GCAA about placing a draft document online. NATA commends the GCAA for taking steps in keeping with our “Green Economy” and moving away from the expense of printing numerous copies of voluminous documents for circulation. We congratulate the GCAA for its inclusionary and democratic approach to place this important document online to enable review and feedback from the industry itself and not just a select few.
Where the aviation industry’s development is concerned, it is unimportant whether aviation stakeholders are members of NATA or the Aircraft Owners Association. What is important is that compliance is non-negotiable. Non-partisan collaboration by the membership of both associations to ensure that the most productive feedback is provided to the GCAA is what the industry needs. I made this offer and remain hopeful it will be accepted so we can move forward.
Space will not permit a full response to Mr Anthony Mekdeci’s letter of May 18, 2016 in sections of the media, so I will address some aspects.
His deliberate misinformation that Ogle International Airport is 100 per cent built, owned and operated by a Private Sector company, OAI is dishonest. An inventory of the assets of the State, the assets of the aircraft owners built by their blood, sweat and tears and finally the assets that came into being as a result of the investment of the shareholders of OAI would be instructive.
This would expose Mr Mekdeci’s claims of Mr Michael Correia meeting the greater burden of the financial obligations imposed by the Lease Agreement as dishonest.
A forensic audit would expose that the Correia Group of Companies were the main beneficiaries of contracts to provide services to the Airport. Benefiting from such non-arm’s length transactions contributed to their confident investment over the years as they were assured of financial returns whether the Airport made a profit or not. This windfall in the early years continued to the later years as well. That they are the only beneficiaries of all international business opportunities coming into the Airport has been enabled by the Airport Management team of Messrs Anthony Mekdeci and Malcolm Chan-a-Sue. If the other companies were as fortunate to have benefited from both sets of windfalls, they could have also become greater shareholders.
Minister Patterson recognised the importance of the domestic operators also. The significant sums of revenues paid by these domestic operators over the years to the Airport management also enabled the Airport’s development to a great extent. Mr Mekdeci’s claim that it was only Mr Correia, the altruist, who invested his monies to make the Airport’s development possible chose to ignore this reality which is easily verifiable from the company’s financial records.
In spite of Government’s recognition of the significant importance of the domestic operators, their needs were never catered for in OAI’s developmental plans. This was deliberate as it enabled further benefits to the Chairman of OAI and his group of companies. His Caribbean Aviation Maintenance Company Limited (CAMSL) rented office space to OAI, its tenant for 16 years, and to small aircraft operators as well. Correia Mining Company (CMC) was leased land for use as a car park and container storage, then became landlord to aircraft operators who constructed their office and bonds out of containers on that land. Not surprising all of those companies went out of business as contiguous access is crucial for the survival of small operators especially and was absent.
The lucrative contracts which resulted from the Airport management sending all international business to the Correia Group of Companies placed a premium on the space they rented to the small operators. The small operators received eviction notice with no consideration by their landlord, the Airport’s management nor OAI as to where they were expected to go, other than out of business.
After the eviction of these small operators by the Correia Group of Companies, OAI then had the audacity to write Air Services Limited, Roraima Airways and Wings Aviation Limited on March 22, 2016 asking that they grant airside access to the small operators.
In essence, the Chairman of OAI through the CEO of the Airport was now delegating OAI’s responsibility to these three larger companies.
NATA acknowledges all the regulatory requirements by OAI to the several international and domestic bodies which have jurisdiction over the International Airport. However, this should not come at the cost of the domestic operations which the Government had clearly prioritised and should benefit from the “fair and equitable” development of the Airport.
The needs of the domestic aviation operators have been superseded by those of the international operators. We are hearing of plans to extend the runway even further to accommodate more international aircraft whilst nine operators have to share one small, narrow, winding taxiway to the runway. This is on the side of the Airport where several additional leases are being considered. In addition to the already congested taxiway increasing the operational cost of the disenfranchised operators, there are serious safety implications that both the international and domestic bodies should be concerned about.
We at NATA make no promises to anyone to remain silent on matters affecting our members.
We have rights and we shall exercise them. These include approaching the courts of Guyana to address grievances. We have also exercised our rights to appeal to the higher courts.
The matter of the manipulation of the shares of OAI is before the courts and we will not argue that case in the media.
But the fact remains that Ogle Airport is, as Minister Patterson correctly stated, a national asset. It is truly not easy to steal an airport in broad daylight.
National Air Transport