Karl Samuda assigned to temporarily oversee Education Ministry
Prime Minister Andrew Holness has moved to assure the nation that there will be no disruptions to the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) examinations now being taken by students who are about to exit the primary school system because of the resignation of Education, Youth and Information Minister, Ruel Reid, on Wednesday.
At the same time, Holness said Minister without Portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Karl Samuda, has been assigned to the Education Ministry to provide oversight.
The prime minister made the disclosure on Wednesday afternoon in response to questions posed by Opposition Leader, Dr Peter Phillips, and Leader of Opposition Business in the House, Phillip Paulwell, at the end of the 2019-2020 Budget Debate.
Paulwell told the House that he had been receiving calls from parents about whether a segment of the PEP exam scheduled for next week would have been postponed in light of the development.
He also said he was concerned about the ministry being temporarily located in the OPM in light of the numerous functions already based at that office.
“This would be a step in the wrong direction for this significant portfolio to be attached to the Office of the Prime Minister,” Paulwell stated.
He said the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) seems to be at the centre of the issues relative to Reid’s departure, and said it is therefore important for some clarity to be given on the matter.
According to Holness, he requested Reid’s resignation from the Cabinet and Reid also tendered his resignation from the Senate, ostensibly because of information in the public domain about corrupt practices at the ministry and the CMU, which fell under Reid’s portfolio.
Holness, in a statement issued on Wednesday morning, said the Education Ministry will temporarily come under the supervision of the OPM.
He told the House that he has already asked the permanent secretary in the ministry to give him a full report on the functioning of the ministry.
“That instruction has already been given (and) I have assigned earlier today, Minister Samuda to go over to the Ministry of Education and to assist …,” Holness revealed.
He said the review to be undertaken by the OPM should not last longer than a month or two.
And he said he will move quickly to prevent a constitutional crisis, as the constitution states that no fewer than two, and no more than four, members of the Cabinet must be drawn from the Senate. Reid, alongside Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, were the two members of the Holness Cabinet who were drawn from the Senate.
Meanwhile, the prime minister will leave the island on Thursday for a meeting with United States President Donald Trump on Friday. Holness is scheduled to return to the island on Sunday, by which time he said he should be in a position to make an appointment to the Senate and fill the constitutionally required position in the Cabinet.
The prime minister said the Education Ministry has a very strong public administration culture and therefore its operations will continue unimpeded.
“I am expecting that the new exams, the PEP, will go off without any difficulty,” he said.
The departure of Reid came eight months after the exit of then Energy Minister, Dr Andrew Wheatley, from the Cabinet at the height of the Petrojam scandal in 2018.