Jul 25, 2021 Letters
Though Ogle Airport Inc.’s (OAI) Public Relations would toss aside serious matters raised by stakeholders as mere storm in a teapot in its quest to pull a veil over the government’s eyes, nothing can be further from the truth.
In early 2018, unknown to key stakeholders, OAI went ahead and renewed the Eugene F. Correia International Airport’s Land Lease with the Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC), seven years in advance to its expiry date. The First Term Renewal of the Airport Land Lease is viewed as being done unlawfully, prematurely, clandestinely and out of fear that the imminent change in Government would disapprove of OAI managing the affairs of the airport, given that the present government, while in opposition then, was never in agreement with OAI’s decision to change the airport’s name, and leasing lands to oil and gas companies for non-aviation related activities at the airport.
However, OAI, being aware of the political dynamics in motion at the time, took advantage of its close connections with the coalition-led Government to intentionally disrupt and interfere in the duration of the natural life of the 2001 Land Lease Agreement between itself and the government for the benefit of securing its interest and being in control of the airport for the next 50 years.
According to Article Two of the 2001 Master Lease, the correct and lawful thing to do when the time for renewal would have arrived was for OAI to apply to the subject minister 180 days in advance to the expiry of the airport Lease thus signalling its intentions to continue in its role as the airport operator. Now, depending on the satisfactory outcome of a performance review of OAI’s performance, which is required to be carried out by the Airport Review Panel, only then can the subject minister be guided to grant approval for OAI to continue and the airport lease to be renewed. The established legal process for the Airport Lease renewal was breached because there is no Airport Review Panel in existence to carry out such mandatory performance review and to provide guidance to the former subject minister. Therefore, how can the subject minister give the approval for OAI to continue as the airport operator and get the GLSC to renew the Airport Lease for another 50 years, seven years ahead of its expiry?
To add insult to injury, three years subsequent to the Airport’s Lease renewal, OAI has now unlawfully increased its sublease fees by 10 percent, masking the increase as a GLSC fees increase, which it wants lease holders to bear. How can this ever be fair; and why do operators now have to bear a cost the airport incurs, when OAI is not an NGO, but a profit-making organisation? In early 2019, OAI tried a similar stunt when it was moving ahead to unlawfully increase all of its fees by 10 percent, disguising the increase by calling it ‘security fees’. We intervened and OAI aborted its plan. OAI has a habit of levying exorbitant fees onto lease holders over the years, in that the cost to construct vital infrastructure at the airport such as taxiways, drainages and access roads – cost obligations of OAI, is borne solely by the lease holders as upfront costs or ‘infrastructure fees’ paid to OAI; and then OAI converts those infrastructure into its own assets, which it then turns around and charges the lease holders’ user and maintenance fees to use those same assets. In other words, one pays to build his own house from scratch only for another person to gain possession of it and then charges the real owner a high rent to live in it. How can this ever be fair?
I am calling on the subject minister to immediately look into the affairs, breaches, unlawful imposition of fees upon lease holders and the operations of OAI. Think about the potential adverse impact airport fees increases can have on domestic ticket prices. Do not be blinded by the facade of a guided tour of the Eugene F. Correia International Airport by both Ministers of Public Works facilitated by OAI immediately after a change in Government.
Capt. A. Mazahar Ally
Managing Director – Air Services Ltd, AMSL & GRSI
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