Say why you fired Reid, PNP tells prime minister

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 21, 2019

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The Opposition People's National Party is demanding that Prime Minister Andrew Holness immediately tells the country the basis on which Ruel Reid was expelled from his Cabinet and the Senate yesterday.

Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips made the call at an emergency press conference at his office in the wake of news that Reid — who had portfolio responsibility for education, youth, and information — had resigned from the executive after being asked by the prime minister to do so.

Dr Phillips suggested that Holness knew about the allegations of corruption, misappropriation of funds and nepotism involving the ministry and several of its agencies, even before the Opposition raised them on Monday.

“The fact that the prime minister acted so quickly gives me reason to believe that he knew, even before we called (for the investigation), that there were misdeeds underway in the ministry and yet he did absolutely nothing until it became evident to him that it was public knowledge. That doesn't seem to suggest the kind of leadership that has set its face against corruption that we would expect from the head of a Jamaican Government,” Phillips said.

The party had called for a full investigation into the activities at the ministry, in light of reports of corruption, nepotism and misappropriation of public funds involving that ministry and associated agencies.

Phillips said this latest development indicates the depth of the cancer of corruption that has now engulfed the Holness Administration.

“Reports indicate that not only the central Ministry of Education is involved, but other agencies, including Caribbean Maritime University, the National Education Trust and the HEART Trust – which was transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister,” Phillips said.

Phillips pointed out that Reid is the second senior minister of Government who has been forced to resign in less than a year under the shadow of corruption affecting agencies under their portfolio.

The opposition leader again called on the auditor general, as well as the Integrity Commission, the Major Organised Crime Anti-Corruption Agency and the Financial Investigations Division, to fully investigate the allegations which have led to Reid's forced resignation.

He claimed also that there have been reports of the security agencies being hampered in their investigations into the allegations. “We expect them to act with integrity and urgency to hold those who broke the law accountable,” Phillips said. “In light of disturbing reports that the security agencies are being hampered in the conduct of their investigations, we are calling on all the heads of the integrity agencies to act with integrity and urgency.”

In a statement yesterday, Holness said he had met with Reid regarding “certain allegations in the public domain”, and that his resignation “will ensure that any investigation into matters of concern will not be in any way impeded by his presence or oversight of the ministry”. He said the ministry will now fall under the temporary supervision of the Office of the Prime Minister.

Reid, in his resignation letter, said he had nothing to hide as he believes in good governance and transparency. He also said he had no wish to harm the Government, the governing Jamaica Labour Party or the people of Jamaica in any way.

Reid, who was principal of Jamaica College (JC) since 2006, was appointed to the Upper House as an Opposition senator in 2013 after being granted leave of absence by the JC board. After the February 2016 General election he was appointed a Government Senator and education minister in March 2016.


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