Tensions have risen at the Ogle Airport Inc. (OAI) with air operator, Air Services Limited (ASL), insisting that it was discriminated against by management of the facility.
On Tuesday, the airport ordered a halt to construction works on a site that had been earmarked for expansion as the operator.
OAI explained late Tuesday that ASL has not secured the necessary approvals and would have to complete these before permission is granted. ASL is owned by the Mazahar Ally family.
Following the publication of the article in Kaieteur News yesterday, ASL yesterday in a statement said that even though the airport may appear to be doing the right thing, “we feel that ASL is being discriminated against by the Board of OAI”.
Among the reasons set forth by the operator is the refusal by the airport to grant an additional one acre plot, which effectively prevents the company from advancing its construction work.
“This additional acre is essential as ASL is expanding and we need the space for developmental purpose. Only recently we have applied to import three more Cessna 208 Grand Caravan aircraft.
ASL applied for two acres of land to build a dormitory for students and instructors since December, 2003.”
ASL said that although it did not identify the exact location of the land, it was asked to meet with the Airport Manager to discuss the matter. The company also claimed that it never received a response from the airport’s Chief Executive Officer.
“During construction of a building at Ogle, we were told clearly that no worker was to overnight at the airport. We complied. Later on, the bus company called IntraServ and owned by a company associated with the Correia Group of Companies and managed by Mr. Chris Correia, the brother of Michael Correia, built a house on the airport. Persons are living there.”
ASL also alleged that Correia Mining Company, part of the Correia Group of Companies, has an office and land which they lease for parking even though CMC is not associated with aviation. The same is also applicable to the IntraServ Bus Company which has its maintenance base within the airport compound at Ogle, East Coast Demerara.
The air operator said that it has been among the few original investors in OAI.
“Before that, we built a roadway to our hangar at our cost. We also built a taxi-way at our expense. Our company continued to cooperate with OAI for the development of the airport. Yet, at an Annual General Meeting, in the absence of the Managing Director of ASL, Captain A. Mazahar Ally was removed (not elected) from the Board of Directors of OAI.”
ASL also accused the airport of then electing a recent investor as a director. Another family member of another director was also made part of the board of the airport.
In making its case for discrimination, ASL also said that the airport leased space to another individual which has not been built up.
“Neither the Board of OAI nor the CEO did anything to help in this process.”
As an original and major investor in the aviation field in Guyana and the OAI, ASL claimed it is treated very shabbily by the officials there.
The operator, in another statement in response to the Kaieteur News article, also sought to clarify comments made by OAI’s spokesperson, Kit Nascimento, on Tuesday.
ASL explained that on November 8, 2009, it made a request for two acres of land.
“This request was approved by letter dated 12th May, 2010 and signed by the CEO, Mr. Anthony Mekdeci. The land was surveyed by the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission supervised by a surveyor from OAI since May, 2010. However, the survey plan has not yet been given to us by GL&SC. The markers are in place on the ground.”
ASL said that it then started clearing the land soon after and then realised it needed another acre which was applied for on June 18.
“Since then, more than five months later, despite speaking with persons from OAI, we haven’t had a response to our request.”
On Friday, ASL sent a letter to the Chairman of the Board of OAI, Michael Correia, appealing to him to deal with the application.
“Our appeal had an extraordinary reaction. On Tuesday, 30th November, we were instructed by the CEO of OAI through his Engineer, Mr. Bissessar, to cease all work on the land until a plan has been presented and all lease arrangements concluded. The work that we were doing consists of clearing and filling the land, digging drains and preparing to concrete the ground.”
According to ASL, Nascimento in statements had said that approval of lease applications could take between three to eight months.
“Our application was for one acre adjoining the two acres already approved and surveyed. Why should this application take as long as eight months?
This application was made on 18th June, 2010 – more than five months ago – and to date we have not even had an acknowledgement. It is necessary for us to have the additional acre so that our plans and construction would follow a smooth process.”
ASL also denied that OAI had called it to sign the necessary lease papers.
“This is not true. We have had no communication from OAI, either orally or in writing indicating that our lease papers are ready to be signed.”
The operator pointed out that as a major developer of Ogle since it was owned by GuySuCo and a significant shareholder of OAI, ASL is not being informed of what is happening at Board meetings since Captain A. Mazahar Ally was “removed” from the Board.
“As such we are not sure whether other users are in fact complying with policies and procedures.
Our infrastructural work on the plot of land i.e clearing, filling and laying drains has been going on for about two months without any interference from OAI. It is strange that they are stopping us now when approval for the one acre is, at maximum, less than two months away.” On Tuesday, spokesperson for OAI, Kit Nascimento, said that
there is absolutely no case of discrimination at the airport.
Rather, there are established procedures on how things are done.
In the case of ASL, it was pointed out that the company made an application for more lands to expand. The airport requires the necessary permits, designs and approval and the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission must complete its work also.
According to the spokesman, approval could take between three to eight months. The go-ahead to build is nearly approved and ASL had been called to sign the necessary lease papers. However, the company has failed to do so, Nascimento claimed. In the case of CMC, that company had applied since last year to do construction and was only granted permission this year. “So clearly there are established procedures and ASL will have to adhere to these.”
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