US Department of Transport has advised that it has suspended EZjet flights, Guyana govt reluctantly does same
EzJet flights suspended
The United States Department of Transport has advised that it has suspended the operations EZjet Air Services Inc and as a result the Government of Guyana through the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) has followed suit.
Transport Minister Robeson Benn made the announcement this afternoon at a news conference, where he also blamed the media and, in particular, Kaieteur News for negatively reporting on the issues surrounding the airline and contributing to the creation of a public frenzy.
Benn said that the GCAA has suspended the airline’s routes—Georgetown to New York; Georgetown to Toronto and Georgetown to Trinidad and Tobago—as a result of the company’s issues with carrier Swift Air, whose planes EZjet wet leases, with respect to payments.
“We are seeking further details on this issue and the public will be advised shortly,” Benn said.
Benn said that acting Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Irfaan Ali, after a meeting he had with President Donald Ramotar, has been instructed to undertake swift action to assist the affected passengers.
“We are disappointed and unhappy that our efforts to bring low cost operations [to create] a more competitive environment. It has not turned out as expected,” he said. He added that the government had hoped that the low cost travel would have benefited tourism and led to lowering of fares.
The minister said that the calculations are ongoing to see how many passengers would be affected but he confirmed that ticket sales for the airline has ceased.
Two weeks ago, this newspaper reported that Sonny Ramdeo, the CEO of EZjet, had been sued in the United States by a former employer for allegedly embezzling monies entrusted to him.
He is facing a civil suit in the United States that his former employers filed, accusing him of devising a “sophisticated scheme of fraud and deception” to embezzle some US$5.4 million from them. Following the news of his being sued, Ramdeo stepped down from his post as Chief Executive Officer.
Reports out of the US state that Promise Healthcare and 11 of its hospitals brought the suit against Ramdeo, their former payroll manager who they hired eight years ago to manage the payroll for 3,500 employees in hospitals nationwide.
Named along with Ramdeo as plaintiffs in the suit are EZjet GT and PayServ Tax, a company that Ramdeo allegedly set up to commit the fraud. Shortly afterwards, acting CEO of the airline Rosalinda Rasul gave all assurances that the company had not owed any of its goods and service providers and that the court matter is a private one not expected to affect the operations of the airline.
EZjet today issued the following press release asking for patience and saying its looking for new investors:
EZjet Air Services has temporarily suspended its operations due to financial hardship created by its vendors and agents owing EZjet as well as some mismanagement.
The suspension of services comes after EZjet direct carrier Swift Air took off from Port of Spain, Trinidad on November 7th leaving passengers stranded. Swift Air’s CEO, Jeff Conry used a maintenance issue to deplane all the passengers after filling up with fuel paid for by EZjet and taking off to Buffalo, NY with no advance notification to EZjet of Swift’s intent to not to operate the flight or return the passengers.
Swift Air also forced EZjet to cancel its flight scheduled for 2nd & 3rd of November due to the fact that they abandoned passengers at the JFK airport and took another job flying for the
Boston Celtics while inconveniencing EZjet’s passengers.
While Swift Air claims it has not been paid, EZjet believes Swift Air owes EZjet over US$800,000+ relating to various charges including using substitute aircraft when theirs was damaged, ground services, hotel stays for passengers, food and other amenities during delays cause by them.
While EZjet has invoiced Swift Air for reimbursement of these charges, Swift Air has not paid any of EZjet’s invoices.
Swift Air replaced Dynamic Airways after Dynamic suspended its operations owing EZjet over US$1.5 million dollars which includes an US$800,000 cash security deposit. EZjet is in the process of seeking legal action against Dynamic Airways for recovery of the sums owing.
These outstanding balances coupled with the poor collection of ticket sales from the travel agencies has left EZjet in a financial strain. Our CEO states EZjet will of course do the right thing and refund our passengers monies paid unused portion of their tickets.
We apologize to our customers.
We ask the passengers to be patient with our staff and bear with us as we process the refunds.
EZjet is in the process of seeking new investors with the hopes of restarting its Guyana services.
It always worries me when the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr. Roger Luncheon, gets into public space to defend the PPP/C government and members of its cabinet.
Every time the man opens his mouth nothing but sheer disrespect is meted out to the intelligent people of this country. I believe that the time has come for Guyanese to say to Roger Luncheon, we have had enough of your callous disregard for our intelligence and good nature.
My own position is that Luncheon has exhausted his privileges and he must now be brought to understand that the people of this country will no longer tolerate him and his party’s, inexcusable, negative view of us.
I was prompted to comment on this unfortunate reality when Roger Luncheon, planted himself on state television and state radio to jump to Minister Ifraan Ali’s defense regarding his multimillion dollar home, currently under construction.
The government, through Luncheon, reacted in a most dismissive, irresponsive and disrespectful manner when the people asked the legitimate question of how Ali is able to afford such inexplicable luxury.
The government’s reaction to this inquiry suggest to Guyanese that we are out of order to demand that Ifraan Ali, a common servant of the people, disclose where he got the finances to attempt to swim in such luxurious comfort.
To attempt to shut us up and take the matter out of the public’s eyes, Ali jumped to silence Kaieteur News by instituting a lawsuit against that entity for carrying his story of indescribable wealth.
Luncheon, using the people’s media, held a press conference to tell Guyanese that the young Housing Minister came from a rich family and that he started to build his mansion before he became Minister. What foolishness!
This response was supposed to keep us from asking the vexing questions of ‘show me how you financing this multimillion dollars house’.
Just like Ali rushed to find Mortimer Mingo’s bounced check, he has a responsibility to disclose to the people all sources of his income, legacy, and gifts which were bequeathed to him and which he used to drench himself in the wealth he now sports. He must clearly show how those resources are aiding, or facilitating, in the construction of his mansion.
The government behaves as though they have a franchise on making Guyanese fools and so disregarding our intelligence and disrespecting us becomes an ordinary every day thing.
So they send Luncheon to come to us with coarse rationale and simple logic, without any intention to substantiate anything. Evidence they assume is not necessary to furnish to a people who they regard as gullible, docile and too simple to be bothered with.
This is the only message their actions indicate. My question is, in which other country this kind of ‘low class eye pass’ can happen; where a government might be saying to its citizens, your role is not to question actions of government Minister.
The PPP/C must, however, understand that Guyanese are cognizant of the fact that our right to ask such questions is legitimate and should be welcome in any country which touts itself as being democratic. In these days of massive corruption in government, the people must know where Ifraan Ali, a government minister, acquired those millions to construct such multi-million dollar property.
Knowledge of this proven fact is likely to erase any doubt in the minds of the public. Further, any government who professes to its people that it is ‘transparent’, would, as of necessity, encourage this kind of positive action from its functionaries, be it Ali or anyone else. Only, when this happens can suspicions of corruption removed.
The only facts Guyanese have about this young member of the PPP/C cabinet are; that Ifraan Ali is thirty two years old, he became a Minister in the last Jagdeo led Administration and has been retained as Housing Minister in this Ramotar led government, that his salary as minister cannot afford such an exorbitant and lavish home.
We don’t know that he came from a wealthy family, and if so, we don’t know that this is a logical defense to him splurging himself with the kind of luxurious habitat he is preparing himself.
Further than this, we have a right to demand evidence of how this, ‘supposed family wealth’ was handed down to the Minister. It is our right to know these things lest we feel it is our taxpaying dollars that have been used in a scheme.
Luncheon, the PPP/C government and Ifraan Ali must satisfy the Guyanese people that Ali’s lavish multi-million dollar home, under construction is above board and not linked to corrupt activities, which involves pilfering from the state.
JANUARY 10, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER FEATURES / COLUMNISTS, FREDDIE KISSOON
There is an injunction restraining this newspaper and this columnist from repeating the contents of an article in 2010 captioned, “King Kong sent his goons to break up the conference” The injunction stems from the libel suit filed by then President Jagdeo against my analysis of his Government attitude to African Guyanese.
There were two hearings to remove the restriction. The first was denied by Chief Justice (ag), Ian Chang (who one year later, assigned a judge to hear the libel) and then the Full Court ruled that the injunction must remain.
I observed the court imposition but it is important for writers and journalists to note that all the injunction did was to stop the reproduction of that particular column. It did not hinder me from analyzing Jagdeo’s attitude to race relations in Guyana neither was I banned from applying the term King Kong to the abuse of state power under Mr. Jagdeo. I did not allow myself to be circumscribed by the injunction once I did not regurgitate the contents of that particular column.
I am nonplussed at the two decisions on that particular judgement of the court. Now we have another court gag on discussion by this newspaper of alleged assets of Housing Minister, Irfaan Ali. This newspaper is prevented from further journalistic expression on his finances. This should not deter commentators from pontificating on matters of public interests involving the particular minister.
Jamaica, without any fanfare in the Caribbean media, has gone in the modern direction in reforming its libel laws.
In this country, our libel laws are terribly outdated. Surely, no one is entitled to publicly call a married man a homosexual if the proof cannot be supplied. But preventing media houses from commenting on matters of public interest is a practice the courts worldwide have frowned upon. I believe it is perfectly legitimate to ask public officials questions relevant to their public lives.
For me it is legitimate as a commentator to seek questions from a thirty-one-year-old Minister to account for the sources of his funds in building a large house with a swimming pool. I say most inflexibly, that is a perfect journalistic question in any modern society. The Minister in turn should feel obliged to respond.
Sadly from a journalistic standpoint, I think Justice Insanally’s injunction will deter further writings on the financial possessions of the Minister.
Giving life to the controversy is the response from the Office of the President on the Kaieteur News front page story on Ali’s house and swimming pool. It was the usual PPP insanity. This ossified political animal will not learn anything from the sixty of years it has been in existence.
There was a vicious attack on this newspaper that was sickening in terms of the language used. And after the violence of language was abated, there was no plausible response to the legitimacy of journalism as contained in questions asked about the financial resources of the young minister
Can a Guyanese Minister as young as thirty-one years old with just a three years in his portfolio build a house like what Irfaan Ali has plus a swimming pool plus the pool house? The answer is a resounding yes. Surely, he could have acquired the money in a legitimate way. But because of his age and because of the construction which took place after he became a Minister, the press is entitled to probe. That is the fundamental role of the press.
It doesn’t mean that the Minister is a scoundrel. It doesn’t means that his wealth is illegal
in any modern society, the Irfaan Ali construction would attract the interest of the media. As a response, the Minister’s Government would then reply with bone fide statistics and a plausible explanation. If these statistics and this plausible explanation exist, we didn’t see them in his Government’s response.
Instead the nation is treated to the insanity and depravity of the PPP that this country has had to endure since the birth of the PPP. In defending Ali, the Government’s attitude was to resort to its usual tirades against the media.
Irfaan Ali needs to go over and over his Government’s defence of him and he will see it was an incompetent and most messed up operation. All it did was to prolong the controversy and increase suspicion. It is simply sad that leaders who have been in politics for so long cannot seem to get anything right. This was the downfall of Bharrat Jagdeo. He never got anything right.
Kaieteur News successfully baits another clown from the Guyana Govt – Irfaan Ali Minister of Housing into suing them
One would have thought the clowns at freedumb house would have wised up as to the PPP dirty laundry that these suits expose.
Housing Minister Irfaan Ali has sued Kaieteur News for $100M over a front page in New Year’s Day edition under the headline “After two years as Minister Irfaan Ali builds mansion and pool house’.
The lawsuit was filed in the High Court yesterday by the Minsiter’s Attorney-at-law, Parag Hukumchand who also sought and was granted an ex parte injunction restraining Kaieteur News from printing or publishing anything about the Minister’s house or any elated matter until the hearing and of the matter. Justice Diana Fazeela-Insanally granted the injunction and set January 19 for a hearing.
Minister Ali is suing for damages for sum of $100 million for libel. He is citing photographs and an article headed “After two years Minister Irfaan Ali builds mansion and pool house”. The Minister is claiming damages in excess of $20 million.
According to the writ the Minister stated that prior to his appointment he worked as a representative for the Guyana Government in the Project Implementation Unit, overseeing funds disbursed by the Caribbean Development Bank.
The document further stated that the Minister is the holder of a first degree in International Business and a Master degree in Human resources planning and development.
Irfaan Ali further claimed that he is registered with the University of the West Indies to do his Doctor of Philosophy degree. Ali through his lawyer stated that he enjoys an unblemished record both locally and internationally.
He is contending that the article and photographs were intended to create the innuendo that he obtained and developed the property through improper means.
“I acquired the property while being employed with the Ministry of Finance four years ago and since then I have been developing it”
In the lawsuit the Minister says since the publication he has suffered considerable distress and severe injury to his reputation.
“Since the publication I have received several phone calls and visits from friends and acquaintances who have concluded that I obtained and developed the property through improper and dishonest means”.
Kaieteur News said that it will defend the writ vigorously. Publisher Glenn Lall said that everything his paper printed is true. He said that he is not concerned about insinuations and innuendos. That is the Minister’s business, he added.
JANUARY 6, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
…as body lacks staff, investigative capacity
With the Integrity Commission currently hamstrung by its staffing constraints, the
declarations provided by Ministers and other public officials that fall under the requisite legislation, are currently gathering dust.
The Integrity Commission receives about 70 per cent of the obligatory financial and other declarations by certain categories of Public Officials, inclusive of that of Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali.
However, being staffed only with a Secretary and the few Commissioners, the body lacks the investigative capacity and as such is unable to determine whether the assets declared, coincides with the declarations.
Under the Integrity Commission Act, “Where a person who is or was a person in public life, or any other person on his behalf, is found to be in possession of property or pecuniary resource disproportionate to the known sources of income of the first mentioned person, and that person fails to produce satisfactory evidence to prove that the possession of the property or pecuniary resource was acquired by lawful means, he shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine and to imprisonment for a term of not less than six months nor more than three years.”
The fine is calculated in relation to the value of assets or property belonging to the named individual.
The Housing Minister’s declaration came into question recently with the publication of photos of a lavish seaside mansion owned by him coupled with a pool along with extravagant poolhouse.
Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr Roger Luncheon along with Office of the President subsequently defended the Minister against what they called a “character assassination” and “media excesses” but failed to provide any facts to support that Ali did lawfully acquire the money to build the property.
Ali had also defended himself by saying that he had spent the last four years struggling to finish the property.
A missive signed by 64 persons from the Leonora area and addressed to the media had insisted that, “Ali is the great grandson of one
Mr. Dos Mohamed, who was a very rich and well established business entrepreneur since in colonial days.
“Irfaan’s parents are both intellectuals, who are earning high salaries from their employ and other sources, thus they continue to this day to spend lavishly in fulfilling all of Irfaan’s maintenance. It is what they want to do to show their appreciation for a son that has made them proud,” the missive stated.
The Integrity Commission meets once monthly but without a Chairman and as such the work of the body is even more stymied.
The most recent Chairman of the Commission was Bishop Randolph George who resigned in 2009.
The Commission also falls under the Integrity Act and is empowered to request assistance from the Guyana Police Force through the Commissioner of Police as well as the Director of Public Prosecutions but is again stymied by its staffing constraints.
The Commission again came in for flak yesterday by A Partnership for National Unity whose Prime Ministerial Candidate Dr Rupert Roopnarine called the Commission a ‘toothless poodle.’
He said that realistically, the next step forward would be to put in a Commission that “we need an Integrity Commission that will do its work.”
Dr Roopnarine told media operatives during an APNU press briefing that this will include placing serious persons on the Commission and “it means above all providing the Commission with what it needs to do its work.”
He said too that the body must have an investigative capacity, adding that, “right now there is a requirement that officials, including Members of Parliament and other people should submit their financial reports to the Integrity Commission.”
The APNU Executive said that he is not sure that the declarations are even read by anyone when they are submitted.
“I Can tell you that I as an individual…when I served in the national Assembly, I refused to make any submissions to any Integrity Commission because in my view it was improperly constituted.”
Dr Roopnarine said too that it will be a novelty for him at this time to be making any submissions to the Integrity Commission where it will be studied carefully as should be the norm.
The Integrity Commission Act, Chapter 19:12 came into effect with the passage of the Integrity Commission Act No 20 of 1997. This law provides for the establishment of a Commission to ensure probity in public life, particularly among elected officials and public officers entrusted with responsibilities by the State.
Under this Law, the designated public officials are required to submit annual returns of their assets and may be subject to penalties if they fail to do so without reasonable cause, (Section 22(a) and 22 (a) i).
Among the declarations that are required to be made, are all gifts received by public officials and it is for the Integrity Commission to determine whether those gifts are personal, or, whether they belong to the State. The only exceptions are gifts from relatives.
JANUARY 1, 2012 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
The construction of a house at Leonora, West Coast Demerara, is the talk of neighbours who say that the property is owned by 31-year-old Irfaan Ali, the Minister of Housing and Water.
The house appears to accommodate eight bedrooms, a large living room, a detached kitchen and a walkway that runs around the front of the building. One resident described it as a mansion.
In addition to the home there is a multi-million-dollar pool house which makes the $69 million Corentyne office of the National Insurance Scheme office look like a garage.
The cost of the construction which is nearing completion is estimated at more than $300 million if the sums paid by the government for projects that have been advertised and completed, are a yardstick.
One contractor, using the same Government estimates, said that to fence the compound of that estate would be about $50 million.
Some have actually questioned Minister Ali’s wealth bearing in mind that he came from humble beginnings and has been a Minister for just about three years.
DECEMBER 15, 2011 | BY KNEWS | FILED UNDER NEWS
“Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”– Ramjattan
Housing Minister Irfaan Ali is again being accused of blatantly lying to the nation in
relation to statements he made.
Alliance For Change (AFC) Chairman, Khemraj Ramjattan, told this publication that the 15,000 houselots that Ali is now talking about in relation to the $4B paid to the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) for land in Diamond, appears to be a figment of Ali’s imagination or a deliberate attempt to mislead Guyanese.
Following the brouhaha that erupted over the manner in which the money was transferred to the state-owned in late 2009, it was also found that no money was allocated for the development of the land that the Housing Ministry purportedly bought.
Ramjattan said that it is Ali’s dishonesty that had put him in trouble in the first place when he along with the Finance Minister, Dr. Ashni Singh, breached the Laws of Guyana to have the money secretly transferred to GuySuCo as a bailout.
This bailout, according to Ramjattan, was necessitated by the mismanagement of the industry by individuals including the newly sworn in Labour Minister, Dr Nanda Gopaul, as well as the current President, Donald Ramotar, who were, at the time, both Directors on the Board of the ailing sugar corporation.
Ramjattan insisted that neither he nor his party is arguing against the development of houselots for Guyanese. However, the Minister breached the rules when the money found its way from the nation’s coffers to GuySuCo without the requisite Parliamentary approval, he said.
The AFC official recalled that the money was paid over to GuySuCo long before the Parliamentary approval was sought for its use and this is the issue that he had raised in the National Assembly, sparking a furore on the part of the Minister.
Ali was at the time also accused of flagrantly “disrespecting and acting in contempt of the National Assembly” when he attempted to avoid being grilled on the matter.
The state-owned Guyana Chronicle yesterday reported the Housing Minister as asking “What is so wrong with creating more than 15,000 houselots for Guyanese?”
Ramjattan retorted, “Where are the 15,000 house-lots that he is speaking of if no money was allocated to develop the land that they paid GuySuCo $4B for?”
The AFC Chairman says that following the brouhaha surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing, the 2011 Budget was unveiled and it was revealed that there was no money allocated for the development of the land in Diamond, vindicating the position that the money was merely for a bailout of GuySuCo.
There were several subsequent Supplementary Provisions sought in the National Assembly with no money being identified for the development of the land that had been bought by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) with the $4B, through the aegis of the Housing Minister.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Sugar Corporation, Paul Bhim, when contacted yesterday by this publication said that he could only confirm that the negotiation between GuySuCo and CHPA for the $4B has been completed.
He said that he was not in a position to say just how much of the land owned by GuySuCo was sold to CHPA to the tune of $4B.
Bhim said, too, that he was also at the time not aware of any additional payments made to the sugar corporation for the land.
He did say that at least half of the money went to capital works for GuySuCo to purchase tractors but could not elaborate any further at the time.
Following the revelations surrounding the $4B and the Minister of Housing’s involvement, the then Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud had told the Parliamentary Economic Services Committee that the money was made as an upfront payment to the entity which at the time was still in negotiations with the CHPA as to the value of the land being sold.
As such, Persaud at the time was unable to tell the Committee exactly what was the value attached to the land at Diamond which GuySuCo was disposing of to the Housing Ministry.
The company at the time was said to be seeking some $37B for its canelands in Diamond which was being retired and disposed of (some 2000 hectares) with close to half committed to housing.
The remainder of the land was scheduled to be put up for sale through a public tender process which Persaud had said would ensure transparency whilst the state company sought to acquire as much as possible for the land.