October 25, 2014

Digital Technology debunks Kaieteur News’ claims of favouritism

Digital Technology CEO Terrence Sukhu

Digital Technology CEO Terrence Sukhu

Another case of abuse of press freedom as…

Digital Technology Group (DT) has refuted claims made by Kaieteur News that the company is involved in the trade of defective products.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Terrence Sukhu made the comment on Friday at a press conference at the company’s Brickdam office to clear the air about any controversy regarding its reputation and character.

This is yet another glaring attempt by the Kaieteur News to besmirch the character of prominent businessman and damage the reputation of their companies under guise of press freedom.

Ridicule, slander

On October 20, Kaieteur News published an article questioning the company’s reputation regarding the legitimacy of products and services. The newspaper also questioned the award of a multimillion-dollar contract to the company.

Sukhu also denied any act of preferential treatment in the bidding process.

“I think the article spoke of some level of favouritism being extended to our company which is totally untrue; we abide by all the rules as it related in the bidding document for that project,” he said.

DT also responded to the article through a press release claiming the allegations are false and that the media entity has attempted to ridicule and slander the reputation of the company on two previous occasions.

“While these absurd statements are once again used as the basis for attempting to destroy DT’s reputation, there was no evidence provided by Kaieteur News to prove them true,” the press release from DT stated.

The article questioned the authenticity of Dell products supplied by DT to a University of Guyana project, concluding that they were not authentic. However, the press release stated that Dell has awarded the company as “being ‘Partners’ Direct’ for 6 years”. The release further stated, “If Digital Technology’s reputation is being questioned in relation to the authenticity of products and services provided, then why were the projects successful and why is Digital Technology still being awarded with multimillion-dollar projects?”

DT maintains that it adheres to ethical practices and provides high-value products and services to customers. It also maintains that they share strategic alliances with internationally well-known companies like Dell, Lenovo, and Microsoft, among many others.

“No beef”

“We have plenty experience in executing projects. We have executed a number of projects for government officials over the years and all of them have been successful and our track record in that area speaks for itself. All of our products that we supply for these projects are genuine products backed by warranty from manufacturers,” the CEO assured.

“In fact, Kaieteur News cover most of our donations or sponsorships that we have given to organisations, they are one of the media entities that run our advertisements so I’m not aware of any beef between us,” Sukhu stated.

Additionally, the article in Kaieteur News had highlighted some of the major projects that DT was awarded in the past.

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Major overhaul for CANU

Head of CANU James Singh

Head of CANU James Singh

The Customs and Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) established several years ago to aid the Guyana Police Force in the fight against drugs has undergone a major revamping which has seen its manpower significantly increased.

This is according to Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon, who made the announcement at a Post-Cabinet press briefing at the Office of the President on Friday.

Since its establishment, CANU has successfully managed to interdict hundreds of persons who were attempting to traffic drugs, especially cocaine in and out of Guyana via several routes and ports of entry.

Only recently, ranks from CANU and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) seized a semi-submersible craft in a creek off the Waini River in the North-West District.

Dr Luncheon said the security reform measure being implemented by the administration was one that is “extremely incisive where law enforcement is concerned in Guyana”.

He said the security reform measure “logically follow inter-current interventions and it recognises the many contributions made by CANU to law enforcement in Guyana. And specifically its functioning in the field of investigations, prosecutions and international collaborations in anti-narcotics trafficking”.

He also explained that the human resource capacity will be significantly increased to more than two times its current strength as the Government looks to hire additional staff for the unit.

“The current strength of the Customs and Anti-narcotics Unit will be more than doubled at the end of the implementation of the project,” Dr Luncheon said.

Pointing to the organisational structure of CANU, Dr Luncheon said the revised organisational structure will be better able to respond to the functions of investigations, prosecutions and provide aid in the international fight against the narcotics trade.

It was also noted that the revision of CANU will also deal with job specifications, job description and will see a salary structure being implemented that “ensures relativity” between the other law enforcement entities such as the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force.

Eradication exercise

In August, CANU destroyed in excess of $5 billion in cocaine and marijuana that were seized through several operations in 2013, and the first quarter of 2014.

The drugs, which totalled close to two tonnes, were set alight in the presence of media operatives, members of CANU and the Guyana Fire Service on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown.

A total of 1970 kilograms of marijuana with a street value of $196 million and 730 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $5.2 billion, were destroyed.

The value was calculated on the basis of prices in the US and Europe, since the drugs were destined for those countries. The estimated cost per kilo for cocaine in Europe is reportedly 45,000 euro, while in the US; it is being sold at US$35,000.

Head of CANU James Singh at the destruction exercise told media operatives that the drugs were found at airports and other operations throughout the country. He also added that apart from Europe and the US, some of the drugs were destined for other parts of the Caribbean and Canada.

Singh noted that ever so often drug mules find the most innovative ways to export the illegal substance, but with the establishment of the task force by the Home Affairs Ministry, they were able to put a dent in the drug trade.

Quite recently, there have been other innovations that were used to ship the drugs out of the country. These included achar, milk powder, fruits, vegetables, mail and frozen fish, among others.

Singh said despite the limited resources, he was elated to report that local law enforcement officers have seized more drugs than other countries which have the best drug enforcement units.

The official also stated that a high number of prosecutions are also done.

CANU is not only focused on getting the bigger “fishes”, but also scouring the country for the middle men who will ultimately lead to the dealers. On this note, he stated that it is wrong to say that Guyana is a narco state.

“We are seizing them as they come in and go out… this is an indication that the Government of Guyana is supporting law enforcement officers in carrying out its mandate.”

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School Board trustee “dials into meetings”

Trustee David Smith

Trustee David Smith

billed taxpayers for roaming charges from Guyana

Trustee David Smith has literally been “dialing it in” — more often than not in the past two years, the Ward 19 Scarborough-Centre, representative attends Board meetings by phone or not at all.

So far this year, he has attended three meetings, missed three and phoned in for two, according to Board minutes of the Canadian school available online.

In 2013, he attended seven, sent regrets for three, and phoned in for 12 — or more than half of all regular or special Board meetings that year.

In 2012, he phoned in for five of 17 meetings, but in 2011 — the first year after he was elected — phoned in for just two and only missed one of 14 in total.

When asked, via email, about his attendance record, Smith replied “as you aware, trustees position is a part-time position,” he wrote.

“As a trustee I have never violated the rules and procedures of the Board. I have met all of the necessary requirements for attendance in person,” he said.

(Under the Education Act, trustees must be “physically present” for at least three Board meetings each calendar year.)

But the candidates running against him say his absence at the boardroom table means students and parents are not getting proper representation.

“A key flaw is his attendance,” said Scott Harrison, a firefighter and former trustee who is running against Smith after losing to him in the 2010 election.

“How can he represent the community if he’s never there? Things aren’t getting done in the community that should be getting done at the Board table.”

Another candidate, Christopher Copeman, even created a chart on his election website showing how Smith’s attendance has gone down over the years.

The phone has also caused other troubles for Smith, who was cited in a trustee expense audit report for international long distance and roaming charges on his Board cellphone to and from Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname.

“Some of these international long distance charges occurred during the Christmas and summer breaks,” the report noted.

Smith said he has friends and family in Guyana, but does not have a home there, and that “since most of my calls were related to TDSB business, I was told all was cleared.”

In 2013 alone, according to other documents obtained via access to information, he billed taxpayers for roaming charges and long-distance calls on a monthly basis from March to December from Guyana.

Smith was also cited for spending US$8,700 for ward newsletters using a vendor not approved by the Board, though he said the expense was approved by the Chair of the Board.

He also was found to have charged taxpayers for US$7.33 for a bottle of beer — alcohol purchases are forbidden — which he said he has since repaid.

He also claimed mileage for Board meetings he did not attend, or attended by phone, the audit report found. (Toronto Star)

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Most Caribbean firefighters good at First Aid – TT Fire Chief

TT Fire Chief  Nayar Rampersaud

TT Fire Chief
Nayar Rampersaud

Fire Chief of Trinidad and Tobago Nayar Rampersaud said though Caribbean firefighters are faced with numerous challenges, it is not enough that most of them are proficient in administering First Aid.

But he said more training institutions need to be built in order to continuously improve the skills of firefighters.

Aside from being good at administering First Aid, he said firemen are not properly trained, and as such, they struggle to work efficiently.

This problem, he said is noted limited to the Caribbean as it is a worldwide issue.

He added that at the beginning of every training programme, fire officers are taught how to handle cases of emergency.

The Trinidadian said too that although much attention is not being placed on the First Aid aspect of the job, it remains one of the most important and should be given due attention.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief Marlon Gentle said the Guyana Fire Service (GFS) has been working to continuously improve its services, pointing out that a training centre was recently opened in Leonora, West Bank Demerara to train firefighters.

The GFS, he said has been working hand-in-hand with fire services in the region to open another centre in Guyana to train local and Caribbean officials.

Recently, a team of firefighters, along with the Trinidad and Tobago Fire Chief arrived here to be part of the Annual Caribbean Firefighters’ Conference.

The delegation was involved in a number of activities as part of Fire Prevention Week 2014. The week came to a close with a cricket match between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago.

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Diwali celebrated traditional style

Children having fun on Diwali night

Children having fun on Diwali night

Hindus decked out in traditional garments on Thursday turned out in full numbers at temples across the country to attend early morning worship in observance of Diwali.

Throughout the country, women and girls were seen dressed in colourful shalwars, many of whom were carrying basins of fruits and parsad as they made their way to various temples.

The men and boys, many elegantly bedecked in kurtas, others in white long sleeve shirts and jeans, followed in groups behind.

In the temples, they performed pujas, offering their fruits and parsad to the Devine Mother Lakshmi, seeking her blessing for a happy and prosperous life.

Most of the services lasted for two hours, during which bhajans (holy songs) were song by both the women and men alike, with support of the youth groups of the mandirs.

The pandits (priests) urged their gatherings to seek to discover the inner light within them as they celebrate the Festival of Lights.

An illuminated Alexander Village Mandir

An illuminated Alexander Village Mandir

This, the congregations were told is important as it is the recipe for peaceful lives, empowering them to shun greed, hatred, haughtiness and the many vices in life.

The devotees were told to always love their neighbours, ensure unity in their families and embrace their religion, but mostly important the values and virtues it teaches.

The latter, the gatherings were informed is necessary for the sustenance of the religion of their ancestors, and the maintenance of a disciplined and enlightened approach to life.

Aside from the extolling of the virtues of Hinduism, the messages of the priests were common: they called on parents to transmit the teachings of Hinduism to their children, and make every effort to ensure that they receive a sound education.

This, the pandits conclude is the road that will enable the “Triumph of darkness over ignorance” and ensure a generation of wise, humble yet brave, progressive leaders.

At the conclusion of the worship, parcels of the blessed parsad were given out and worshippers greeted and wished each other a happy Diwali.

For many, on returning from temple, the cooking began. Seven curry and various sweetmeats were prepared, some of which were distributed to neighbours and friends.

Some families spend the day quietly, while for others, the occasion was more of a family get together.

But no matter how the day was spent, around 16:30h, preparations began for the lighting of diyas.

And at 18:00h, many residence were transformed, with a series of diyas (some artificial lights) laid out in elegant patterns, creating scenes to behold. Some homes were beautifully decorated with fairly lights.

Soon after, amid the silence, firecrackers began to go off, with scores of youth appearing in the streets.

Some were seen “spinning” (rotating) lighted steel wool on binding wires, running through the streets, while others scamper for cover to avoid getting burnt.

At most street corners, squibs were lighted in discarded milk tins, in some cases, several together, followed by laughter and a frantic race to safety.

As the night progresses, the contraband became more evident with explosions coming from every direction.

Historically, the origin of Diwali can be traced back to ancient India, when it was probably an important harvest festival. However, there are various legends pointing to the origin of Diwali. Some believe it to be the celebration of the marriage of Lakshmi with Lord Vishnu.

In Bengal, the festival is dedicated to the worship of Mother Kali, the dark goddess of strength. Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god, the symbol of auspiciousness and wisdom, is also worshiped in most Hindu homes on this day.

In Jainism, Diwali has an added significance, the attainment of nirvana (eternal bliss) by Lord Mahavira. Diwali also commemorates the return of Lord Rama along with Sita and brother Lakshman from his 14 year-long exile and the vanquishing of the demon king Ravana.

In joyous celebration of the return of their king, the people of Ayodhya, India, illuminated the kingdom with earthen diyas.

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Rodney was too trusting of Smith – Crime Chief

Dr Walter Rodney

Dr Walter Rodney

Rodney CoI:

By Alexis Rodney

The first week of the sixth round of the Walter Rodney Commission of Inquiry came to an end on Friday. Still on the stand and under cross-examination was Police Crime Chief Leslie James who, from his perusal of the 1980 evidence, said that Dr Walter Rodney probably lost his life because he was too trusting of Gregory Smith.

Smith, the former Army Sergeant said to have been used by the People’s National Congress (PNC) regime of the 1980s to assassinate the world-renowned educator, was known to have been in contact with Dr Rodney for some time before his death. The Crime Chief, who was tasked with scrutinising the 1980 files of the investigation into Rodney’s death, was under cross-examination by Barbadian Queen’s Counsel and Attorney representing the interest of the Rodney Family, Andrew Pilgrim. Pilgrim was pressing to establish that while Dr Rodney could not have been reckless and caused his own death as was established by the Crime Chief during an earlier cross-examination, he was a victim of his failure to discern the true intent of his alleged assassin.

The Crime Chief had said that Dr Rodney was an intelligent man. It was suggested, however, that while he was intelligent, he may have lacked what is described as “road sense”. This was raised against the backdrop that his life was threatened on several occasions. He had even informed his wife, Patricia, that he was told at one point that a bomb would be placed in his car.

Dr Rodney had also told his wife that Smith was an “unreliable” person. This was surmised from his many dealings with the former Army Sergeant, especially as it related to keeping his appointments on time. All these things, he said, should have raised Dr Rodney’s suspicion of the late electronics expert.

The argument emanating from the cross-examination was that Dr Rodney was not all knowing and could not be aware that Smith would have double crossed him in such a manner. According to Pilgrim, based on the evidence provided by Donald, as far as the two were aware, when Donald was sent to Smith’s house to uplift the item on the evening of June 13, 1980, all they knew was that a walkie-talkie had to be uplifted.

They were at no time aware that a bomb was hidden in the device.

Meanwhile, the head of the police crime unit admitted too that the police work carried out in trying to find Gregory Smith was not “totally thorough”, based on the evidence provided.

But Commissioner Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, QC, seeking to offer some clarity based on the evidence, explained that the Police may have been working according to the availability of evidence.

She said the investigation could be divided into different periods. She said the Police first dealt with the information they had between April and June 13, 1980. There was also the availability of information between June 13 and 17, 1980 leading up to the trial of Donald Rodney, along with the information gathered from the end of the trial up until 1995, when an arrest warrant was issued for Gregory Smith, who was at that time living in French Guyana.

According to her, it was understood that the investigation was completed and the files either opened or reopened during the different periods. Based on the information at their disposal then, the Commissioner explained, the Police might have taken steps accordingly.

Attorney Pilgrim directed the Crime Chief’s attention to period one, a few days after Dr Rodney was killed. The argument was that the investigative team, headed by Senior Superintendent Ignatius McCrae, failed to launch a search for Gregory Smith. Even upon examining the coroner’s report which suggested that Dr Rodney did not handle any explosive material at the time of death.

Dr Rodney had become a controversial figure in Guyana and several countries around the world. He was known for his no-nonsense approach to the affairs affecting the working class and human beings in general.

Returning to Guyana in May 1974, after living and teaching abroad, he had come into conflict with the then ruling Government, the PNC headed by Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham. That regime has been accused of assassinating the historian, who was also a founding leader of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA).

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Diwali not just India’s festival

US President Barrack Obama gestures on meeting a Swami (Hindu priest of high rank)

US President Barrack Obama gestures on meeting a Swami (Hindu priest of high rank)

Perhaps it will come as a surprise to many to learn that Diwali is not just India’s biggest festival; many nations around the world follow this festival with great pomp and show.

About two decades ago, a couple from Nagpur visiting Singapore during Diwali holidays were very surprised to find the Singapore airport decorated with marigold flowers, roses, diyas and rangolis!

Not just Indians, every foreigner landing there was greeted with a cheery “Happy Diwali” and offered mithai.

Diwali is also celebrated outside of India mainly in Guyana, Fiji, Malaysia, Nepal, Mauritius, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Trinidad and Tobago, Britain, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Africa, Australia and the US, among the Hindus across the world.

Guyana, formerly known as British Guiana, is located on the northeast coast of South America. Guyana is 82,978 square miles in area and has a population of about 770, 000. Hindus constitute 33 per cent of Guyana’s total population.

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana, South America celebrates Diwali according to the Hindu Solar calendar. The day of the festival is declared as a national holiday in the official calendar of Guyana. The tradition of celebrating the festival is believed to have been brought to Guyana in the year 1853 by the first indentured people from India.

Diwali Lights at Leicester Belgrave, United Kingdom

Diwali Lights at Leicester Belgrave, United Kingdom

The name Indonesia came from two Greek words: “Indos” meaning Indian and “Nesos” meaning islands. The majority of population follows Islam and Hindus constituent just about two per cent of Indonesia’s total population.

However, the Indonesian island of Bali is famous for celebrating the festival of Diwali, as a majority of the population there is that of Indians. It is one of the most revered festivals of the locals. The celebration and rituals of the festival is mostly similar to that celebrated by their counterparts in India.

Fascinating in its diversity, Malaysia has many mesmerising charms and attractions. With a population of about 20 million, comprising of a harmonious multi-ethnic mix of Malays, Malaysia promises a colourful potpourri of cultural traditions.

The Hindu community of Malaysia constitutes about eight per cent of its total population .The community celebrates Diwali as a symbol of triumph of good over evil. It is interesting that Malay Indians celebrate Diwali as the South Indians of India do. The Malaysian people call Diwali as Hari Diwali. This festival is celebrated during the seventh month of the Hindu solar calendar.

The south Indian traditional of oil bath precedes the festivities. The celebration includes visits to temples and prayers at household altars.

Small lamps made from clay and filled with coconut oil and wicks are a common sight to signify the victory of Lord Rama, the hero of the Hindu epic Ramayana, over the demon king Ravana.(Nagpur Today)

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CARPHA strengthening region’s ability to respond to Ebola

CARPHA will host workshops geared at strengthening the Caribbean’s ability to prepare and respond to outbreak situations such as Ebola

CARPHA will host workshops geared at strengthening the Caribbean’s ability to prepare and respond to outbreak situations such as Ebola

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) will host workshops geared at strengthening the Caribbean’s ability to prepare and respond to outbreak situations such as the ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

 From November 17-21, CARPHA, in collaboration with the Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis (CHA) unit of the Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO), will provide two training workshops on infectious substances shipping training and bio-safety practices for the clinical laboratory, at its Port of Spain, Trinidad headquarters.

Laboratory professionals from across the Caribbean who complete the world health organisation shipping infectious substances course will be certified to prepare shipments of laboratory samples.

Successful participants will be certified for a period of two years to handle and package Category A infectious substances, such as samples from suspected cases of Ebola virus disease.

CARPHA will also train personnel in bio-safety measures, practiced in the laboratory, which include infection control, proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and waste management measures.

It is expected that laboratory technicians actively involved in the packaging of laboratory samples, for the purpose of international transport, will in turn provide similar training to other colleagues at institutional and country level.

Both the shipping and bio-safety courses are in accordance with WHO guidance on regulations for the transport of infectious substances 2013-2014 and WHO Biorisk Management Programme respectively.

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Ramotar leads high level Ebola talks

President Donald Ramotar, Cabinet Sector Ministers and other officials meeting to discuss Guyana’s preparedness for dealing with any possible Ebola cases

President Donald Ramotar, Cabinet Sector Ministers and other officials meeting to discuss Guyana’s preparedness for dealing with any possible Ebola cases

President Donald Ramotar on Friday met with top officials from several sectors including, security, aviation and medical officials to discuss Guyana’s preparedness for any possible Ebola cases. The meeting is one of several scheduled to keep all officials apprised of the latest developments, and possible constraints that may arise in addressing concerns across the sectors in dealing with any possible cases.

The meeting held at the Office of the President was also advised about facilities that have been prepared, and are being prepared for the quarantining of suspected victims of Ebola.

The Health Ministry has begun training more than 1,600 persons to deal with any suspected cases of the disease. Health care facilities are also being prepared to handle suspected cases, along with the procurement of protective gear and medical supplies. In case of the latter, international support from agencies such as the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) it is anticipated would provide the necessary support on a case by case basis, to boost the capabilities of Caribbean member states as needed to respond to suspected cases.

About 5,000 people have already died from the disease, with close to 9,000 other cases being reported according to the WHO.

Guyana has instituted travel restrictions for persons from West African nations stricken by the disease. Several Caribbean nations have also instituted similar travel restrictions; these include St Vincent, St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis.

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Benn wary of ‘fly by night’ airlines

Transport Minister Robeson Benn

Transport Minister Robeson Benn

…unaware of return of TravelSpan, Dynamic Airlines

BY BHISHAM MOHAMED

In light of recent media reporta of the return of Dynamic Airways and TravelSpan to the Guyanese market in time for the Christmas peak season, Transport Minister Robeson Benn on Friday disclosed that the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) was not officially contacted by the airlines.

He also expressed concern with airlines which may come into the Guyanese market seemingly to “cream off” the peak of the traffic.

“They are only here when you have peak conditions and as soon as the peak goes, they go,” he said.

Nevertheless, he noted that they are looking forward to see that arrangements are put in place which would assure that there is optimised and sustainable air travel in and out of the country.

Almost three months ago, Dynamic Airways suspended flights from Georgetown to the John F Kennedy international Airport (JFK), owing to a number of issues, including ground handling personnel.

The airline entered the Guyanese market in June, but after a few flights, suspended services after it was unable to operate out of the JFK. The service was expected to resume on August 18, but more challenges had surfaced.

According to the airline, this temporary suspension will allow them to secure time slots at the JFK, organise better ground handling and check-in process, as well as secure schedule integrity which Dynamic Airways is well known for.

Cancelled

In mid-august, the US authority on aviation, the Department of Transportation published its list of public charters for 2014 and Dynamic Airways’ operation on the Georgetown/ New York route was listed as being cancelled, effective August 6, two days before it was scheduled to re-enter the Guyanese market.

In October, the US Department of Transport has reportedly granted approval for Dynamic Airways to operate at a variety of destinations in South America, and as such, plans are moving apace to resume regular flights between New York and Georgetown, in November.

Apart from that route, the airline will also inaugurate services between Orlando and destinations in Brazil, Canada, and US.

On the other hand, following a fallout with Vision Airlines, TravelSpan had announced that it would be suspending service out of Guyana, but with the hope of returning to business once it secures another company from which to rent an aircraft.

It was reported that the company was in the process of finalising new arrangements with another airline, while noting its dissatisfaction with the services of Vision Airlines.

While the TravelSpan staff, including Flight Attendants and management has worked diligently to offer a much-needed solution for an alternative airline within the market, its rented planes have been plagued by mechanical issues, which resulted in unsatisfactory service on the flights.

In addition, due to the lack of consistent service proven by the significant amount of cancelled and delayed flights that caused major inconvenience to TravelSpan’s clients and the continued losses to TravelSpan and to Vision Airlines, the company discontinued its General Sales Agent (GSA) status.

TravelSpan re-entered the Guyana Market last December with fully-booked flights to the United States out of Guyana, but stumbled in July of this year, with several cancellations which resulted in a dispute between Vision Airlines and TravelSpan.

Just before the pull out, TravelSpan had applied to the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) for permission to operate a scheduled service, moving away from the charter service it is licensed to provide.

Officials at the airline had told this newspaper that the move to acquire such a licence basically indicates that TravelSpan is here for the long haul.

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