Mr Prior, restart interconnection work now
Stabroek News
February 17, 2004

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Dear Editor,

I write this letter in a personal capacity and not as an official of Cel*Star Guyana, Inc. I have chosen to write in a personal capacity since the existence of Cel*Star Guyana, Inc derives directly from my tireless efforts as a loyal and bona fide Guya-nese whose business interests are inextricably linked to Guyana's development.

Guyanese are well aware that a civil suit has been brought against me in Florida regarding the initial assignment of shareholding in Cel*Star Guyana. This suit was filed by a company which had promised to invest in the build out of a cellular telephone network in Guyana, but abandoned its promise and subsequently went out of business. I am not at liberty at this time to divulge information I have about who might have encouraged the filing of this suit and for what reasons, but this will be done at the appropriate time.

Unfortunately, the incumbent Guyana Telephone & Telegraph company (GT&T) has taken the opportunity to use this lawsuit as the reason d'etre for discontinuing its interconnection work with Cel*Star Guyana. This is most unfortunate, since the suit is against me and not Cel*Star Guyana and moreso, no court has been asked to grant and neither has it ordered any injunctive relief in this matter. GT&T therefore has no legal basis for stopping its interconnection activities with Cel*Star Guyana.

During this past week I have been meeting with representatives of civil society including the media, the labour movement, the political parties, religious bodies etc. to update on the current status of the lawsuit and developments regarding the interconnection impasse with GT&T. I am indeed humbled by the overwhelming support offered not only to Cel*Star but to me personally for my ongoing efforts to bring investment to Guyana and competition to the telecoms market. Some of these groups have written to GT&T and have expressed their support for interconnection publicly. Several letter writers including Mr Clarence Ellis, a renowned economist and former director of the World Bank have urged that GT&T proceed with interconnection. I understand that one group has even gone as far as distributing flyers around the city including outside Tele-phone House on Brickdam and I have dissuaded other groups from proceeding with plans to stage public demonstrations outside of GT&T in support of interconnection.

Last Thursday night I was invited by the leader of a popular band to go to a street party at 'Chemical Corner' in the vicinity of the East Coast Car Park. Upon acknowledgment of my presence in the crowd of several hundreds "as the man from Cel*Star," I was tearfully overwhelmed as the MC invited the crowd to "big up" Cel*Star and they joined him in so doing. Scores of people sought me out to offer their support and to find out about the launch of our service and job opportunities at Cel*Star.

Throughout the existence of my relations with GT&T I have done everything in my power to ensure that the relations between Cel*Star Guyana, Inc and GT&T remain formally correct, mutually respectful, honest and straightforward. This remains my goal. I firmly believe that any differences which may from time to time evolve between these two companies do not have to develop into acrimonious confrontation nor preclude them from fulfilling their obligations to each other under the interconnect agreement which they have signed.

Given all that I have outlined so far in this letter, and (pardon the lack of humility here) as the Guyanese who from the outset made Cel*Star Guyana a reality and continues to struggle to ensure the launch of its service at great personal sacrifice, I take this opportunity to personally appeal to Mr Cornelius B Prior, chairman of GT&T: Mr Prior, restart interconnection work now!

The popular Guyanese band Mischievous Guys in its just released CD has a song called "Linkin," the lyrics of which point to the benefits for Guyana of several varying forces in the society linking up. The song encourages these various forces to 'link-up' for the good of Guyana pointing to the fact that even "GT&T and Cel*Star linking-up." Neither Mr Prior nor Cel*Star should do anything which would shatter the hope which, as expressed in the song, GT&T and Cel*Star's linking-up engenders among the Guyanese people.

A recent letter writer to one newspaper, purporting to be a GT&T staff member presented Cel*Star Guyana as an entity of dubious credentials seeking to perpetrate a hoax on the Guyanese people. The writer refers to the several delays in launching service and to "second hand equipment coming in from Suriname." It is my fervent hope that the author of such slanderous drivel does not indeed speak for GT&T. However, I would wish the writer and all Guyana to know that I place too high a value on my personal credibility and on my commitment to Guyana's development to perpetrate any hoax on the Guyanese people. This is borne out by the very fact that today I am facing a civil lawsuit. I did not allow any company to become shareholders in Cel*Star Guyana until that company demonstrated tangibly its commitment to invest its money. And I wish to let it be known that I will never be a party to any scheme which has as its motive the exploitation of the Guyanese people.

If the current 35 direct and over 100 indirect jobs fail to impress a "GT&T staff member" who enjoys the good fortune of a secure job, the same surely does not apply to the rest of Guyana where a single additional job is of utmost importance to a country facing a great deal of economic difficulty. Also, the writer's suggestion that the government should not be looking for investment "in an industry that is already well served" can only be described as interesting. Certainly the writer must know that it is the government and people of Guyana and not a GT&T staff member who are best placed to determine how well the local telecommunications industry is served.

I will continue the struggle to ensure that Cel*Star Guyana's service is launched as soon as possible and that Guyanese consumers are afforded a choice of cellular service. To paraphrase Benazir Bhutto I will allow neither impatience nor fatigue to render me indifferent.

Yours faithfully,

Wesley Kirton