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Reid's arrest won't affect education ministry, says Samuda

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS
Senior staff reporter
dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, October 10, 2019

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KARL Samuda has assured that the dramatic events that unfolded yesterday, ending in former Education Minister Ruel Reid and Caribbean Maritime University President Dr Fritz Pinnock being detained by the police as part of ongoing investigations into financial improprieties, will in no way affect the daily operations of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

“Let me assure you that the Ministry of Education is in good hands. The ministry is executing its responsibilities in a very efficient and professional manner in pursuit of the best that can be offered to our children and their development.

“So there is no need to fear, in any way, shape, or form, that we will be impacted negatively to the extent that it would compromise any aspect of the operations of the Ministry of Education,” said Samuda, the minister with portfolio responsibility since Reid resigned from the post.

He was speaking to members of the media during a post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House in St Andrew, yesterday.

His statements came even as operations — which were being conducted simultaneously in Kingston, St Catherine and St Ann by the Financial Investigation Division, Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, and the Financial Unit of the Counter Terrorism and Organised Crime Division — resulted in Reid, his wife Sharen, their daughter Sharelle, Professor Pinnock, and Brown's Town Division Councillor Kim Brown Lawrence being taken into police custody during the coordinated strike.

Several documents, computers and other items were also taken by the police who are continuing their investigations into allegations of corruption, fraud and misappropriation of public funds involving the Ministry of Education and the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU).

Yesterday, Samuda, who described the development as “regrettable and unfortunate”, hastened to put some distance between the ministry and the CMU.

“The CMU is not the Ministry of Education; members of the media tend to associate them in an inextricably linked fashion, which is incorrect,” he noted.

Where the Administration is concerned, he said the approach has been hands-off, and for good reason.

“The investigation that has been embarked on is one that we had absolutely nothing to do with, nor did we, at any time as a Government, me as a minister, or any other minister, to my certain knowledge, in any way sought to influence neither the manner of the investigation nor the outcome of the investigation, as that would be a major breach of our commitment to the upholding and maintenance of the rule of law,” Samuda insisted.

As it related to the tenure of Professor Pinnock and former Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western Othneil Lawrence, whose association with the university has been questioned, Samuda said the Government has had “no discussions”.

“From where I stand, we have had no discussion as to the tenure of Mr Lawrence and Professor Pinnock. Professor Pinnock, as you know, voluntarily went on leave and [he extended it]; then when the course of his leave ended he returned. We did nothing to influence him one way or the other, the decision was entirely his. We did have a discussion on the matter and he explained that, in the interest of ensuring that he was not seen as standing in the way of the investigations, he would be willing to go off again on leave, and in every instance that I am aware of he has done so voluntarily,” Samuda said.

The corruption allegations have been a thorn in the side of the Administration and have resulted in, among other things, Reid's resignation from the post of education minister on March 20 this year.


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