CCJ emphasises importance of consultations, but dismisses appeal in Ogle Airport renaming case

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The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) today dismissed a challenge filed by several operators who had objected to the former government’s move to rename the Ogle Airport to the Eugene F. Correia International Airport.

However, the CCJ emphasised the importance of meaningful consultations by public authorities with relevant stakeholders.

The controversy surrounding the renaming of the Ogle Airport started when former President Granger, on September 17, 2015, at the commissioning of the Correia-owned Trans-Guyana Airways Beechcraft, 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.

Additionally, they had argued that the Correias are controlling the Board of Directors and are the owners of a competing airline, Trans-Guyana Airways, which operates out of that airport.

The nine companies opposing the change were 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.

In handing down the ruling, Justice Denys Barrow said the Court concluded that the duty to consult in this case was in relation to the simple question of whether the proposed new name should be approved or not.

Justice Barrow also said 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.

The CCJ found that in that brief, the submission in relation to the renaming required nothing more than to leave Ogle Airport name as it is. The CCJ also noted that 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,” the CCJ said in a statement following its ruling.

“This was a case where the Appellants disagreed with the merits of the Minister’s decision, of which it is common place that the law gives no remedy,” it added.

The Ogle International Airport was renamed to the Eugene F Correia international airport on May 9, 2016, after the aviation pioneer. Prior to that, however, NATA unsuccessfully sought injunctions against the name change in the High Court and Court of Appeal.

Mr Devindra Kissoon and Ms Natasha Vieira appeared for the appellants. Mr Nigel Hawke,
Solicitor General, and Ms Raeanna Clarke appeared for the respondents.