Cel*Star/GT&T impasse
PUC explores authority to order interconnection
Stabroek News
July 4, 2004

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The Public Utilities Commis-sion (PUC) has moved to the Court of Appeal to ascertain if it has the legal authority to direct the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GT&T) to implement interconnection with Cel*Star Guyana.

Stabroek News understands that the PUC's action came after Cel*Star Guyana Inc complained that GT&T had failed to comply with an agreement to that effect signed by both companies on April 4, 2003.

However, subsequent to that complaint, GT&T had claimed that it had been unable to act in compliance with the agreement since there was an ongoing legal dispute regarding the ownership of Cel*Star Guyana Inc.

The Court of Appeal matter started on Friday before Chancellor Desiree Bernard and Justices of Appeal Ian Chang and Nandram Kissoon.

According to the documents, "...the Commission respectfully seeks the opinion of the Court of Appeal on the question of law: 'Does the Public Utilities Commission under section 36 of the Public Utilities Commission Act No. 10 of 1990, in pursuance of its statutory obligations, in the public interest have the power and jurisdiction to order GT&T, a public utility, to implement interconnection with the current management of Cel*Star Guyana Inc, on the terms and conditions established by the Commission and on an interim basis, pending resolution of court proceedings between Cel*Star Guyana Inc and third parties as to the ownership of the shares of Cel*Star Guyana...'"

Cel*Star's Chief Operations Officer, Pierre Strasser, had expressed the hope that GT&T would support the avoidance of any unnecessary delays in ongoing proceedings before the High Court so that the validation of Cel*Star Guyana's ownership can be established as soon as possible.

Work on the competitive cellular service system has been stalled since October 2003 by GT&T's refusal to proceed with interconnection work while litigation brought against Cel*Star's CEO Wesley Kirton by his former business associates is pending.

But after the February 20 dismissal of the matter in the Circuit Court of Seminole County, Florida, Cel*Star Guyana has been calling for work to be restarted immediately.

The Court of Appeal matter in which Senior Counsel Miles Fitzpatrick is appearing on behalf of GT&T; attorneys-at-law Stephen Fraser and Nigel Hughes for Cel*Star Guyana Inc; and attorney-at-law Vidyanand Persaud for the PUC, has been adjourned to a later date following opening arguments.