Thursday 24 September, 2020

Controversy clouds Pinnocks' return to CMU

Professor Fritz Pinnock

Professor Fritz Pinnock

Although he first took voluntary leave in July to facilitate ongoing investigations at the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), the return to his job on Monday by the principal of the institution, Professor Fritz Pinnock, is now clouded in controversy.

Efforts by the media and parliamentary Opposition to get an explanation as to the circumstances under which Pinnock resumed duties have so far been futile.

On Tuesday, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Pearnel Charles Sr, effectively shut down attempts by the Opposition to get answers.

Strenuous efforts by Opposition Spokesman on Education, the Reverend Ronald Thwaites, went nowhere, as Charles insisted he did not have sufficient time to review and approve questions Thwaites had tabled. Thwaites insisted he had tabled the questions in good time and in the appropriate manner but Charles would not budge.

Not even the intervention of Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who described the situation as “an urgent national matter”, could sway the Speaker although the Minister with responsibility for Education, Karl Samuda, who is also Leader of Government Business, was present in the chamber.

Samuda would have been the minister to provide the answers but he was quoted in the media on Tuesday as saying he did not know the circumstances under which Pinnock returned to work.

Charles insisted he would not allow the question, noting that the Opposition did not have the matter listed on the Order paper. 

“There is no item for discussion (on the Order paper) and as such, there is nothing to debate,” said Charles. He told Phillips that he would not authorise Samuda to respond unless the matter was on the Order paper.

Pinnock first went on six weeks’ voluntary leave in July as the corruption scandal that led to the sacking of then Education Minister Ruel Reid, exploded. The CMU, an affiliate of the Ministry of Education, found itself at the centre of the scandal. Reid is the subject of an ongoing criminal probe.

When the initial leave period of six weeks ended in August, Pinnock extended it by an additional four weeks. He was due to return to work on September 16 but again extended his leave, to allow for the completion of the investigations.

There has been no public report that the investigations have been concluded.

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