Wednesday 22 May, 2019

Reid sent on leave by JC amid new questions in education ministry saga

Ruel Reid

Ruel Reid

Embattled former Education, Youth and Information Minister Ruel Reid has been sent on leave by the Board of Jamaica College.

Reid, who was forced to resign by Prime Minister Andrew Holness last Wednesday, was on three years' leave as principal of the prestigious all-male institution since 2018. He had previously been on secondment from JC for two years after he was appointed to the Senate by Holness and put in charge of the education ministry in 2016.

But Reid was sacked by Holness mere hours after allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism were made against him by the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP). Apart from the ministry, several connected agencies over which he had oversight responsibility are also caught up in the unfolding scandal.

They include the Palisadoes-based Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), the HEART Trust and National Education Trust. Investigations into the allegations are being carried out by the police, the Financial Investigation Division and the Auditor General’s Department.

Reid has maintained his innocence, but the JC community was becoming increasingly bothered by the allegations. Influential old boys including Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson had said in the media that Reid should not consider returning to the Hope Road-based school until the matters are resolved. 

The school board is also awaiting a meeting with Holness to discuss the issues surrounding Reid’s firing. 

In the meantime, the board has advised that Wayne Robinson will continue to act as principal. With questions in the public domain, the board has also stated that Reid was not being paid a salary while he was on leave. However he had, up until about a month ago, continued to occupy the College Green house that is owned by JC and which is assigned to the principal. Detectives raided the house last Saturday and removed several items according media reports.

In the meantime, the PNP upped the pressure on the Holness administration on Monday. Several party spokespersons used a press conference at the party’s Old Hope Road headquarters to ask a series of questions of the Holness administration regarding the mushrooming scandal.

They include the spokesman on education, Ronald Thwaites and the Chairman of the PNP's Education Commission, Elaine Foster Allen, who is a former permanent secretary in the education ministry.

Foster Allen asked whether the CMU hosted birthday or appreciation parties for Reid or any other senior official of the ministry between 2017 and now.

She also wanted to know the cost of the parties and who paid for them. Additionally, she asked whether any relatives of Reid’s were on staff at the CMU, when they were hired, and what are the qualifications for the positions.

And Foster Allen also wanted to know whether any personal staff members of the former minister are paid by the CMU or any entity associated with the CMU.

Additionally, the former permanent secretary wants the Holness administration to reveal the number of consultants or advisors who are engaged by the CMU, their responsibilities and salaries.

And, she wants to know the specific duties assigned to former Jamaica Labour Party Member of Parliament Othneil Lawrence in his role as advisor to CMU President, Professor Fritz Pinnock.

Thwaites has asked the prime minister to provide answers when the House of Representatives meets on Tuesday and to avoid the traditional tabling of questions which sometimes takes months before they are answered. Thwaites said education is too important and must be kept above the political fray.

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