Disregarding mounting concerns by local aircraft operators, Government has announced that it will be moving ahead with its decision to rename the Ogle International Airport (OIA); a move it said, it does not need approval for.
Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson on Wednesday said Government will be going ahead with the renaming of the Airport on May 9, ignoring concerns being raised by operators that the name change will severely affect the competitiveness of the playing field.
Responding to questions raised by journalists at the airport, Patterson said the rebranding will certainly not affect any operation.
“Operators won’t be disadvantaged, the renaming of the airport comes with no additional charges, no additional fees, the longitude and latitude of the airport remains the same. It’s only a name,” he assured.
According to Patterson, Government is seeking to give identification and recognition of honourable Guyanese.
“We have six different races in this country and we have to use whatever means of recognising other persons. We can’t just simply restrict our identifications to Cheddi [Jagan] and Forbes Burnham. If all goes well, the ceremony for renaming will take place on May 9 but if there are any other actions, we will abide by them,” he said.
Speaking also to the media, Public Communication Consultant of the Airport, Kit Nacimento related the issues surrounding the rejection of the injunction against the Airport.
“The injunction brought not by 10 operators, brought by three operators, not brought by NATA, brought by three operators. The major investors in this Airport do not include all of those operators, only three of those operators have any investment in the building of this Airport at all”, he explained.
He continued, “Mr Gouveia for instance has almost $1 billion private investment in developing this airport, 2.2 per cent. The major investment and the major risk in developing the airport has been taken by Correia.” He said the majority of the board and shareholder support the decision.
Meanwhile, the National Air Transport Association (NATA) during a press conference on Wednesday afternoon reiterated its strong objection to rebranding of the facility.
Outraged, the body, which looks after the interest of aircraft owners, flayed Government for moving ahead with a proposal made by President David Granger to have the name changed and even threatened that legal action could be taken against Correia.
Government remains unmoved in its position to have the Airport renamed after Guyana’s first Public Transport Minister Eugene Correia and will be making the big change early next week.
NATA meeting with members of the Press, took a bitter stand against Government and the Correia Group of Companies.
Annette Arjoon-Martins of Air Service Limited (ASL) said the Airport was incorporated back in 2000 with five shareholders, each holding 20 per cent shares. According to her, they all served as Directors of the company.
“Fifteen years later through a series of manipulations by the Chairman, Mr Michael Correia, the Correia Group of Companies which he also heads now own 67 per cent of the shares in this company. As a result, Ogle Inc has become a member of the Correia Group of companies.”
She said of the original five founding Directors, only two were allowed to remain. More than that, five of the seven Directors of OAI currently are either family or associates of the Correia group, which now controls everything at the Airport, Arjoon-Martins said.
“It was never the intention of the five founding shareholders/Directors that one of the aircraft operators should have control at the Airport. It was also never the intention of the Government of Guyana when they signed the lease agreement with OIA in 2000 that one single operator would control the airport in 2016. It should be noted that Government had used the word “fair and equitable access” in this master lease no less than 40 times.”
It was the President who had suggested the name change just after taking office.
PUSH TO RENAME AGAINST WISHES OF MAJORITY
Meanwhile, as reported earlier by INews, the Private Sector Commission (PSC) is calling on President David Granger and his Government to “consider carefully” the views of the majority of operators at Ogle Airport in the interest of all concerned and to complete the promised audit and review.
Noting that it is conscious of the many competition issues that surround the management and regulation of the Ogle Airport, the PSC said renaming of the airport in favour of a former public official of the same name as that of the Chairman of the Ogle Airport Inc. will “add to the already filled vessel of complaints” regarding anti-competitive behaviour of the Board of Ogle Airport Inc. (one and the same with a company operating at the Airport in direct competition with nine other operators.)
The Private Sector body pointed out that these operators publicly and privately expressed their opposition and dissatisfaction with the re-naming of the airport.
President Granger in his weekly television programme ‘Public Interest’ has slammed aircraft operators for the delay in renaming the Ogle International Airport (OIA), describing the behaviour of those operators as “small minded”.
However, in responding, Executive Director of Roraima Airways Gerry Gouveia lashed back saying he is baffled by the President’s insistence and determination to rename the airport against the wishes of the majority.
A few months ago, the president suggested the idea of renaming the airport as Eugene Correia International Airport but this did not go down well with some of the private aircraft owners who objected to the proposal.
These include Air Services Limited, and Roraima Airways, who were more concerned with mending some of the issues plaguing the airport and to holistically develop Guyana’s aviation sector.
At that time, President of NATA Annette Arjoon had stated that despite tremendous contributions to Guyana’s growth over the years, the aviation sector has not seen the development and representation that it needs to propel it forward.
Correia Group of Companies is not a member NATA but according to Vice President Gerry Gouveia, this was due to the fact that the group was “refused” a meeting with Michael Correria regarding the issues affecting operators at the Airport.
However, the Head of State made the proposal on the basis that Eugene Correia would have contributed enormously to Guyana while he was alive. Although dead more than 50 years ago, his career was described as stellar since he was minister of communications responsible for aviation, a pilot, and also the recipient of a national award.
The President noted that after he proposed the name change, he listened to the criticisms and would have met with a few people who objected. “As I said, I continue to be disappointed that they would put personality before nationality… it is my view that is a national interest that the airport is being named after a son of the soil who has done a lot”.
However, the recent comments by the President have prompted a reaction from Executive Director of Roraima Airways Gerry Gouviea, who took to his Facebook page to express views on the issue.
“The President is insulting the intelligence of the Majority of the Aircraft operators. I am baffled by his insistence and determination to rename the airport against the wishes of the majority,” the prominent businessman stated.
He went on to say it is obvious that President Granger is oblivious to the enormous advantages and value of branding in the world of business. He also vented concerns with the words “small mindedness” used by the president during his television programme.