PM says at Cel*Star engineers graduation...
Govt. committed to open telecom sector By Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
February 14, 2004

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The Government of Guyana (GOG) remains committed to an open, competitive telecommunications sector in Guyana, Prime Minister Sam Hinds reaffirmed yesterday at the graduation of Cel*Star's first batch of trained engineers.

Speaking to members of the staff and the media at a simple ceremony held at the headquarters of Cel*Star, 56 High Street Kingston, the Prime Minister noted that the GOG encourages and supports competition since this benefits the consumers and makes companies more efficient.

Pointing to the issue of monopoly which Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) has, the Prime Minister noted it creates the environment for suspicion and the perception that a particular company is taking advantage of consumers. Additionally, monopoly creates a level of uncertainty with the price of the good or service offered, he noted.

While insisting that Government welcomes and encourages foreign direct investments, the Prime Minister pointed out that good cooperate business policies are required.

He described the training as another step for growth and development for Guyana's human resources capacity.

Cel Star took another significant step yesterday when the first batch of trained engineers graduated after extensive training with certification in the Ossidian examinations, which will allow them to function as the foremost authority on Global System for Mobile communications (GSM) within Guyana.

The Ossidian is an internationally recognized training institution that provides tutorials and courses, by incorporating the knowledge of wireless telecom experts worldwide.

The Engineering training will facilitate Cel*Star Guyana in deploying its state of the art GSM network to ensure that the Guyanese public benefits from a reliable and technologically advanced telecommunications service provider.

Certificates were presented to Petal Beaton, Mark Cheong, Qamar Gaine and Raj Kumar Sukhdeo, by Prime Minister Hinds.

Chief Operating Officer Mr. Pierre Strasser was quoted as saying, "The quality of the service that would be offered to our customers would depend significantly upon the technical competence of our engineers that are responsible for installation and network monitoring and maintenance. As such we are happy to invest not only in our engineering team but in Guyana as a whole in an effort to exceed the expectations of Guyanese with our provision of quality service."

Cel*Star Guyana in a release issued to the media stated that it is pleased to invest its time and resources in deploying a team to the Career Day workshop which was held yesterday at the University of Guyana in an effort to attract skilled Guyanese looking for employment within the vibrant company

The release added "to date Cel*Star employs 30 Guyanese staff members and is looking to fill over 30 additional positions before launching its service."

Meanwhile the Guyana Consumers Association released a letter to the press yesterday which was addressed to the Chief Executive Officer and to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of GT&T.

The two page letter signed by the Consumer's Association Chairperson Eileen Cox and President Patrick Dial expressed surprise that GT&T had stopped the process of interconnection and urged the company to reconsider its position.

The letter pointed out that this recent development prevented Cel*Star from getting ahead with their business and wasting that Company's investment and denying consumers their expected benefits from the competitive environment.

The letter stated, that when Cel*Star company signaled its intention to establish in Guyana, this was regarded country wide and in particular by the consumer community as a very important and welcomed development.

"We feel greatful that ATN/GT&T initially did not appear to be hostile to the advent of the new company" the letter noted.

The Consumer Association added that it welcomed Cel*Star firstly because unlike most investors in poor countries like ours, they did not make exorbitant demands and showed their good faith by investing a large amount of money in setting up state of the art equipment, in furnishing a headquarters and providing immediate employment for over thirty Guyanese.

The Association said that it recognizes that the establishment of the large investor would greatly improve the investment image of Guyana and could be a catalyst to attract other foreign investment.

"We were given to understand that the reason d'etre for GT&T's failure to continue to honour its interconnection agreement with Cel*Star in Guyana was that there was a court case involving a newly registered Company called Cel*Star Caribbean and Wesley Kirton which is being heard in Florida outside Guyana's jurisdiction. GT&T as we understand it, somehow or other, has been linking the outcome of this case to the honoring of their interconnection contract with Cel*Star in Guyana" the Consumers association explained.

The Association concluded "In our view, GT&T could suffer no loss or damage from the Florida Court case and their honoring of their contract is in no way pendant upon the outcome of that Florida case which seem to us to have no relationship whatsoever to the contractual arrangements between GT&T and Cel*Star in Guyana."

The Association issued a call to GT&T to reconsider its position in the interests of the consumers as well as Guyana's national interest and proceed with whatever it is obligated to do to allow Cel*Star to start up their business and offer their services to Guyanese consumers.

"We do hope this impasse between GT&T, Cel*Star and the Guyanese consumers could be happily and quickly resolved." the association added.