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Ronnie Thwaites' son leaves Postal Corp

Sunday, June 30, 2002    

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DANIEL Thwaites, the chairman of the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, stepped down from the post several weeks ago and has gone abroad to study.

But it remained unclear last night whether the decision by young Thwaites had anything to do with the current controversy swirling around his father, ruling People's National Party (PNP) parliamentarian, Ronnie Thwaites, and his handling of money belonging to the Jamaican Post Office.

Commerce and technology minister, Phillip Paulwell, confirmed from New York yesterday that he was shopping around for new chairmen of the Postal Corporation and the Spectrum Management Authority, both which were headed by Thwaites. Paulwell promised replacements soon.

According to the minister, the life of both boards would have been at an end weeks ago and Thwaites had indicated that he would not be available for re-appointment.

"He had indicated that for family reasons he would be away for a protracted period -- that he would be pursuing other interests overseas," Paulwell said.

But Paulwell, who, being abroad, said he was out-of-touch with the details of the Ronnie Thwaites issue, said he could not comment on the possibility of a connection between Daniel Thwaites' decision and his dad's troubles.

The elder Thwaites on Thursday night volunteered on the Power 106 current affairs show, Nationwide, that was the subject of an article by Daily Observer columnist, Mark Wignall, about to a PNP politician who had demonstrated a habit of theft and corruption. No names were called in the Wignall column.

While conceding that the information related to him, Ronnie Thwaites rejected any claim of corruption or theft on his part, including an incident, about two years ago, relating to $5 million belonging to the Post Office.

According to Ronnie Thwaites' account, he had been hired by the Post Office in his professional capacity as a lawyer to collect outstanding debts owed to it.

Among the money he collected was a cheque for $5 million, which, inadvertently, was lodged to his law firm's client account. The money, said Thwaites was not paid over with "the promptness that it should have been done".

The money stayed in the account for three to four weeks, but once it was brought to his attention he acknowledged what had happened and paid the sum over in two tranches. His offer of interest was not accepted, Thwaites said.

Elder Thwaites rejected that he had taken the cheque from his son's desk, surreptitiously acquired Post Office stamps and fraudulently converted the cheque. He also denied heated arguments with his son over the issue, but said that the issue was discussed and the "circumstance was regretted".

At the time of the incident, the Postal Corporation of Jamaica, Ronnie Thwaites said, was just being established with his son as chairman, but the corporation as yet had no authority over the Post Office.

The Post Master General at the time, Sam Stewart, had acted on his own accord hiring his law firm to collect the debts, the elder Thwaites said.

Daniel Thwaites, in his late 20s, has undergraduate and advanced degrees in law, philosophy and theology from American universities as well as the Oxford in England.

He returned to Jamaica in the late 1990s and became active in the media, writing a column in the Gleaner newspaper and hosting a talk show on KLAS FM radio. He was also a founding member of the Patriots, a PNP caucus of young professionals and intellectuals. Daniel Thwaites seemed to have ambitions to enter representational politics.

Yesterday some colleagues were surprised to hear he had left Jamaica and those who knew said he spoke little about his plans.

One colleague said Daniel Thwaites was disappointed earlier in the year when he was overlooked by Prime Minister P J Patterson and Kern Spencer of the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) was appointed to the Senate and named a junior minister for national security.

"Daniel also said that his wife was not enjoying Jamaica so they were going abroad," said another political colleague. "He talked about doing a doctorate in philosophy. But none of us knew exactly when he left."

Meantime, a three-member committee of PNP officials is expected to this evening present a report to Prime Minister P J Patterson on the Ronnie Thwaites affair, based on a raft of allegations about the Central Kingston MPs business dealings.

The committee is comprised by of PNP general secretary, Maxine Henry-Wilson; deputy general secretary, Harry Douglas, and chairman, Bobby Pickersgill.

The findings are to form the basis of a full discussion of the affair at tomorrow night's weekly meeting of the party's executive.

Patterson said he would comment on the affair after the report, but based on its findings.

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