Joan Yuille-Williams on Scholarship Fund

Following is Joan Yuille-Williams’ full statement:

Joan Yuille-WilliamsAs the former minister of community development, culture and gender affairs with the responsibility for the Financial Assistance Fund which is now the subject of salacious, misguided and uninformed comment, I wish to state the following fundamental facts for the general public’s information, even as I pursue my option for robust legal action to assert the truth unequivocally:

1. The Fund was never a “scholarship programme” but simply a ‘financial assistance window’ meant to be accessed by the neediest citizens who were in quest of further formal education, training or exposure which would both develop the recipient and redound to the greater benefit of the wider T&T society.

2. The Fund was legitimately established by a Cabinet decision. It was placed in the Ministry of Community Development, alongside a plethora of similar programmes which were operating to assist needy persons—from the youth to the elderly.

Systems were instituted for the proper functioning of the Fund, inclusive of an operating manual, various relevant forms and documents, and the appointment of a Committee to ensure due process.

3. The Committee’s mandate was: To receive and review applications; to recommend those to be approved or declined; to forward recommendations for the Permanent Secretary. There was no place for either the personal biases and prejudices of those in the decision-making chain, or intervention by or forcible influence from the Prime Minister, Minister, or any other official who may have been seeking political interests.

4. The Fund was not publicised as widely as perhaps it could or even should have been, but that was for a number of reasons:

• it was a new facility and flaws needed to be identified and rectified, including the quantum of funds available

• it was felt that since the assistance was meant for the needy and more

• vulnerable in the national society, the identities of persons applying and

• receiving assistance should be treated with sensitivity

• we also sought to protect the identities of Committee members so that they

• would not be exposed to direct approaches, unfair harassment, or undue

• pressures that can sometimes be attendant with that position

• the so-called low public profile of this Fund was consistent with the level

• of exposure given to the Ministry’s other ‘social development’ programmes.

5. There was never any attempt to ‘hide’ the Fund—both Prime Minister Manning and I spoke about it in the Budget Debate nearest its establishment; Members of Parliament representing all parties were thereby informed; NGOs were so alerted; and we counted on a naturally controlling flow via word-of-mouth as opposed to setting off a flood which would have been impossible to manage in the earliest stages. Further publicising was planned.

6. There were never any instances of applicants being declined on the basis of race, colour, creed, gender, or any of the indicators which would have amounted to unlawful, unconstitutional discrimination. The official Application Forms did not even carry a field requiring applicants to state their ethnic origin.

7. A statistical finding of one ethnic group of citizens showing a seven per cent presence among the successful candidates, may very well mean that all of the “seven per cent” who did apply were in fact approved. No figures have as yet been given for how many of which ethnic groups actually applied, were approved or declined, and on what grounds.

8. The sums approved varied simply because of differing costs required for differing educational institutions, or situations which were deemed relevant to the development of the applicant and the wider society.

9. The Prime Minister’s note to this Minister that an application should have been handled ‘quietly’ was not a directive to be secretive—it was simply in keeping with the Administration’s reach for discreetness.

10. The overall responsibility to transparency and accountability was considered to be met and ensured by virtue of the operational systems established, including recording-keeping, regular audits, and the democratic safeguard of such a wide cross-section of the general public being aware of the Fund.

11. If it is found by any person or entity (eg the Equal Opportunity Commission) that a less than perfect 100 per cent performance was maintained by the Ministry, that some documents appear to be not readily available, that some applicants may feel themselves to have been unfairly treated, it is expected that such findings would be regarded as being preliminary; and that both findings and individuals should be treated with the sacred judicial process of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ rather than by the irresponsible waving of documents, irrational threatening of jail terms, or the irascible conduct of those entrusted with the welfare of all citizens.

While I proceed with the legal recourse best suited to establishing objective truth and protecting people’s integrity, I remain loathe at this stage to disclose much more of the details—inclusive of actual persons and cases who can testify to the rigourous fairness of the processes and to the widespread success of the programme in so far as it was beneficial to them and the wider community.

May I warn however, that such a stance of judiciousness should not be taken as one of fear, or a reticence about the merits of matters connected to this Fund. As soon as the time is considered propitious, I shall be most happy to be even more public. And I will do so with confidence in the honesty of the details and with all the vigour of my personal and professional integrity.

14 thoughts on “Joan Yuille-Williams on Scholarship Fund”

  1. Devant Maharaj’s Response to Ms Williams Statement

    There are several issues arising from the report of the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) that merit discussion and debate. They are:-

    1. The lack of transparency in the process that was used to award scholarships or financial assistance

    2. The flagrant violation of the very rules and criteria that was supposedly used to make these awards

    3. Whether “undue preferential treatment” were shown to a political interest group by the former administration contrary to the Integrity in Public Life Act

    4. Whether there was political and/or racial discrimination in the administration of the fund contrary to the constitutional right to equality of treatment in light of the finding by the EOC that only 7% of the awardees may be of Indian origin.

    5. The breach of established State policy whereby recipients were not contracted to serve the State after graduation.

    6. The relevance of the areas of study and the choice of foreign universities in light of the availability of similar courses locally that are GATE approved and funded.

    I reject Ms William’s clever deflection of PM Manning’s instruction to “keep this quiet” as part of the protocol of the Ministry. It seems as if this was the overriding motto for the disbursement of these funds. This was a blatant attempt to hide the facts from the glare of public scrutiny. The fact that the instruction was being issued in relation to the provision of assistance to a Grenadian student when it was supposed to apply to citizens of TnT alone exposes the emptiness of this justification.

    Why was this fund never advertised in the newspapers like all other government scholarships, bursaries, grants and benefits? The list of recipients and the programmes for which the assistance was given suggests that the objective of assisting the needy may not have been met.

    Senators are adequately remunerated for what is essentially a part-time job. In spite of this, the following awards were made:

    · PNM senator Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing received $500,000 during 2004- 2006 to pursue the LLB in London (this is available locally and she did not graduate)

    · PRO in the Office of the Prime Minister, Paige De Leon, was awarded a $173,640 grant for the pursuit of a Master’s degree (gainfully employed)

    · PNM General Council member and senator Joel Primus received a grant of $15,000 for pursuit of a diploma in general management, as well as another $5,000 grant for pursuit of Year One studies for a BSc in computing and information studies in 2004 at a St Augustine institution.

    · PNM senator and daughter-in-law of well-known financier (now Mayor) Louis Lee Sing Rain Newel-Lewis received approximately $200,000 to pursue a Master’s in international business economics in London (available locally).

    · A number of radio and talk show journalists employed with PNM Mayor Louis Lee Sing’s I95.5 FM were able to secure assistance.

    GATE funding was available (and probably accessed) for a number of the courses chosen. The relevance and extravagance of the areas and countries of study is a cause for concern:

    · $40,000 grant was awarded to Afton Le Gendre for study at Université Rennes 2, France

    · $200,000 scholarship for AB Initio Helicopter Pilot Training was awarded to a student at Hummingbird Aviation Training Ltd, Cocorite

    · Grant for CXC O-Levels.

    · $400,000 for the pursuit of certificates in “Caribbean Culture and Society

    · At the Pacific Lutheran University Wang Centre in Washington.

    If there were shortcomings in the Ministry’s response to the EOC, it should be noted that this investigation was in fact carried out during the tenure of the PNM administration and it is hardly likely that it would have withheld information that could justify or explain its conduct.

    To focus the spotlight on the racial imbalance alone would trivialise the other fundamental and important points that arise for discussion about the PNM’s style of governance and the lack of transparency in the expenditure of public funds.

  2. There was no lack of transparency based on her statements. This sounds like an ethnocentric witch hunt.It reads as if some people have alot to get off of their chest and are a little bit froggy concerning the nation and their identity within the nation. People must be ready for the leap to come.

  3. Actually, the election of the Prime Minister was probably the leap. The whole situation in TNT seems like a power grab is taking place and those who are seizing power are aligning the chips to whipe out what they see as the problem with the nation.

  4. “6. There were never any instances of applicants being declined on the basis of race, colour, creed, gender, or any of the indicators which would have amounted to unlawful, unconstitutional discrimination. The official Application Forms did not even carry a field requiring applicants to state their ethnic origin.”

    That is a subjective statement. The PNM owes people of Indian Origin in T&T at least $10 billion. Why because they practiced rampant racial discrimination against Indians. My wife said to me when she applied for a teaching job in those days it was Service Commission she was told that with her name the chances of getting a job is minimal. You don’t need a field requiring applicants to state their ethnic origin to discriminate. All you need is a name that does not sound or look like it was given to you by “massa”.

    The evidence of racial discrimination is empirical in nature, meaning you look at it with your eyes and then make a determination. Under the PNM 85% of those employed in government was non-Indians, this when Indians are the majority in T&T. Perhaps Joan can explain this phenonmenon.

    As Gandhi once said this about racism “you must stick it to them”. Call the racist out and expose their wanton descriminatory practices. Here every creed and race finds an equal place. Fair must be fair.

  5. “9. The Prime Minister’s note to this Minister that an application should have been handled ‘quietly’ was not a directive to be secretive—it was simply in keeping with the Administration’s reach for discreetness.”

    HAHHAHAA, Joan you not easy. I can’t believe I am reading such brazen nonsense. Keep it secret, just like all the secret operations of PNM funding programs for PNMites since 1956. As the good book states “what is in darkness will come to light”. Tax payers money being kept secret from the tax payers. Sounds to me like a dictatorial system instead of a democratic system.

    1. Don’t blame Joan ,mammoo,for being slick with the people’s money , while pretending dat both her and Patrick Manning cared about poor folks education. Such hogwash, and can someone just call me up when ready ,to open some firing squad bullets on this clueless bum. Do a comprehensive survey ,and one can be assured that the recipients were kids of elitist cronies , and party hacks. I just wonder how many went to a desperate kid from neglected Tobago, all of which are still being treated like low caste , bums, sinply because the majority do not have similar DNA like …. well, fill in the blanks, hmmmmm?
      However I digress , and as I was saying , blame dat idiot leader you were stuck with for too long, named Basdeo Panday , who spent a lifetime ,trying to lead his people to the promised land of Canada ,and Norte Americana,too busy dividing de country along racial lines,that remained solely obsessed over insignificant matters ,such as Cock on the Roof of the Red House, changing names of national awards, as well as streets, and worst yet, wasting parliamentary time ,by playing scrabble, checking his stolen loot at his online ,London Bank account, while simultaneous investing,Clico , and maybe the two criminal pals ,Ish and dish, UNC party supporting funds , all from his laptop, even as our dedicated Speaker of the house , repeatedly advised him not to do so.

  6. The stark facts, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission, is that funds were earmarked for students who were not in true financial need. And it would appear that only seven percent out of all the persons who got “grants” under the programme from 2002 to 2007 (not during McDonald’s tenure), were of East Indian descent. In a notification, which the commission itself released this month under an application lodged under the Freedom Information Act, the commission said there was a “prima facie” case of discrimination against East Indians as posed by the programme from 2002 to 2007.

    The commission noted that the programme was not advertised and appeared to be known to some applicants by way of their PNM political connections. “The commission considers that (there is) enough evidence for an inference of discrimination to be made out against the ministry. The complainant in this case has therefore made out at least a prima facie case,” the commission found.

    “The ministry’s not advertising the existence of a scholarship fund but allowing persons of other ethnicity (to access it) did impose a disadvantage upon a significant proportion of the population inclusive of the complainant.”

  7. Mamoo, dont talk racism in Trinidad. It went down on both sides. I only had Indo-Trini bosses in the four non-governmental jobs I held in Trinidad, and I “ketch my nennen.” So let us not fool ourselves or pretend. But that is not the issue I am writing about. Could the fund be called a scholarship fund if it was not coming from the Ministry of Education? Isn’t the Ministry of Communty Development responsible for handing out monies to people in all different grouping? Example, if someone wanted to teach how to melt marbles in the community, did they not go to Auntie Joan? Just asking?

    1. “Isn’t the Ministry of Communty Development responsible for handing out monies to people in all different grouping?”

      Is that how it works. No wonder the nation is debt today. Just paying down the PNM debt has bankrupt T&T. A million here, a billion there. All PNM projects were suffering from cost over-run to the tune of billions combined. Nations do not operate like that Frontsman and survive. Every cent must be properly accounted for.

      1. Every cent WAS properly accounted for, it is simply that others do like where the money went or who the money allegedly went to. Remember, this is the same Ministry, under a different name, that was sharing out money by the millions this carnival. Nations do not operate like that and survive.

  8. Archbishop Gilbert’s plea to politicians: Stop race talk
    Outgoing Roman Catholic Archbishop Edward Gilbert yesterday warned of further division among citizens in the face of growing cries of racism and discrimination by politicians.

    Politicians like Jews
    ARCHBISHOP of Port-of -Spain Edward Gilbert has likened politicians in Trinidad and Tobago to the Jews, who although a compassionate and caring people only looked after “the people of their nation, to the people of their race, to the people of their ethnic communities.”

    ‘Flagrant violation’ of scholarship rules says Devant

    …Why did PNM senators get grants?
    Why were former People’s National Movement (PNM) senators given financial assistance from the Government when the fund was supposedly to target those in need?

    Devant: Integrity Commission must act on schols scandal

    Gypsy on scholarships: ‘I never had anything to do with that fund’
    Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Winston “Gypsy” Peters is steering clear of the controversy surrounding the award of scholarships under the Financial Assistance Fund. Peters, speaking yesterday with reporters at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church, Harris Promenade, San Fernando, said the fund no longer existed since his ministry was a new one.

  9. Shamelessly, the PPP misfits do play the race card first and from all appearances they are prepared to break the law to do so.. In order to prevent what is happening right now in this country following Kamla’s outburst, the Equal Opportunity Act prohibits the publication of any Report, complete or otherwise, until a matter has first gone to conciliation and conciliation has failed! Now hear this – one of Kamla’s relatives, in the person of John LeGuerre, the Chairman of the EOC broke the law, I repeat BROKE THE LAW and published a Report to Devant Maharaj EVEN BEFORE CONCILIATION HAS BEGUN! Not only that, the Commission chaired by him has come to findings of discrimination which it is not entitled to do. Now,what do you make of that? Isn’t that an open declaration of war.

  10. ” John LeGuerre, the Chairman of the EOC broke the law, I repeat BROKE THE LAW and published a Report to Devant Maharaj EVEN BEFORE CONCILIATION HAS BEGUN!”

    Not much to say about this statement except that it is total nonsense. The report can be submitted to relevant authorities pending conciliation.

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