House clears modern Civil Aviation Bill
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Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson (Delano Williams photo)
Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson (Delano Williams photo)

…Min Patterson assures legislation ICAO-compliant, progressive

THE Civil Aviation Bill 2017 which repeals and replaces the Civil Aviation Act, Chapter 53:01 and brings Guyana’s aviation law up to international standards was passed in the National Assembly Monday evening.

The bill also makes provisions for enablement of the Chicago Convention and the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System. It provides for offences pertaining to the safety and security of passengers, aircraft and airports and for the regulation and control of orderly development in the sector.

Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira (Delano Williams photo)

The bill was with the Special Select Committee for over one year and benefited from wide consultations and scrutiny, Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson said in reporting to the full House the work of the committee.

When signed into law the legislation will allow for the establishment of the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). Opposition Chief Whip Gail Teixeira stood before the House and objected to adoption of the report, citing several issues. Minister Patterson said she was misinformed about those issues as she had attended only four out of 18 meetings held by the committee.

Minister Patterson stated that the bill had been in the Select Committee for over one year and was “exhaustively debated.” Regarding the accusation of non-compliance with ICAO standards, he stated: “If the member came to the meeting, attended the Select Committee meetings, she would have learnt and agreed with us that the bill is ICAO-compliant. We had the help of technical staff from the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority; we had the help of the Parliamentary Counsel and our meetings, sir, were half-day long.”

Teixeira also contested that the manner in which the bill deals with offences is “draconian”; she gave as an example the fining or imprisonment of any passenger who boards an airplane while tipsy or intoxicated.

But Patterson rebutted that it was the opposition’s own member Joseph Hamilton and the government’s parliamentarian Michael Carrington who pushed for the same. “The questions of fines and increase of fines came from the two most unlikely persons in the committee…[they] even to my, as the chairman, dismay proposed and insisted that the fines were increased, because they deemed that the fines that were in the original proposal were minuscule and the two gentlemen thought that the fines needed to be increased, so the severity of the issues can be conveyed,” Patterson said.

Patterson also responded to the opposition MP’s comment that civil aviation organisations consulted were denied follow-up meetings with the committee, while an issue raised by a particular organisation for clarification was ignored. He stated that the committee had benefited from oral presentations from the GCAA; Ogle Airport; the Cheddi Jagan International Airport; the Aircraft Owners Association of Guyana; the Guyana Airline Pilots Association of Guyana; the National Air Transport Association and Trans Guyana Airways.

Written presentations, too, came from the Guyana Police Force; the Guyana Defence Force; the Hydrometeorological Service and the Civil Defence Commission. “Of all the names listed, of all the persons that came before us, one single entity raised the concerns that [MP Teixeira highlighted] out of about 10 entities that came here to us,” Patterson said.
“There are 10 registered aircraft operators in this country and nine of them are represented by the National Air Transport Association. One declined to join the aircraft association and that one is the only organisation that raised any objection or raised all the objections that the honourable member mentioned.”

Some of those which Teixeira had also mentioned were aspects of the bill which give the minister certain powers; economic regulations and accident investigation. Continuing, the minister stated: “Sir, we wrote them. We wrote the head of the organisation as is contained in the report saying ‘this is where we are’, ‘these are the positions of the committee, do you have anything to add or any other concerns?’ And they wrote back and said no. I [had] even informed the Honourable Member that despite what she said they wrote back and said no.”

Then, still addressing the aforementioned concerns raised by Teixeira, Minister Patterson stated that economic regulations are a standard part of the industry and there is only one privately operated airstrip in the country.
“We have assured them, sir; I have personally assured them that economic regulations will not adversely affect anyone,” Patterson said while addressing licensing and registration he stated, “it is the standard all through.”

The minister clarified that: “As chairman I made it my particular duty to ensure wherever the minister’s name appeared in the bill, it’s only there purely for necessity and could not be avoided because I, like the Honourable Member, do think that the minister is just to facilitate. But there are certain things that the minister is required to do, that is why his name has to be there. He has to put some Orders in place, gazette a few things, that obviously is why the minister’s name appears there.”

At the end of his presentation to the House, the motion that the report of the Special Select Committee on Civil Aviation Bill 2017 be adopted was carried by the majority. The bill was then read for the third time and passed as amended.

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