By Andre Bagoo
December 02, 2009 – newsday.co.tt
PERSONS who are members of, or have links to the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM) are among the hundreds listed as recipients of scholarships from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.
The list was released last month to the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council under the Freedom of Information Act by the Office of the Attorney General on behalf of the Ministry of Culture. Among those listed are PNM Senator Laurel Lezama-Lee Sing, who received a total of approximately $500,000 in funding over the years 2004, 2005 and 2006 for the pursuit of an LLB in Law and Politics from the University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom.
In the year 2006 PNM temporary Senator Joel Primus, also a member of the PNM’s National Youth League, received a Culture Ministry grant of $15,000 for pursuit of a diploma in General Management from the School of Accounting and General Management St Augustine, as well as another $5,000 grant for pursuit of year one studies on a BSc in Computing and Information Studies at the same institution in 2004.
Former temporary PNM Senator Rain Newel-Lewis, who served as a temporary senator in September 2003, received a total of approximately $200,000 in funding over the years 2003 to 2004 for the pursuit of a Masters in International Business Economics at the University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom.
Kareem Allette, son of late PNM councillor Bert Allette, received a $63,000 grant for pursuit of a degree in quantity surveying from Jamaica University of Technology, Jamaica.
To date, the Ministry of Culture, which does not have a fully-functioning internet website, is yet to reveal the criteria used for the award of these scholarships, or to justify their awards.
The scholarships listed in documents provided to ITEC, but not yet made available to the general public, range from those for pilot studies to dentistry. For instance, a $40,000 grant was awarded to Afton Le Gendre for study at Université Rennes 2, France, in 2004. A $200,000 scholarship for “AB Initio Helicopter Pilot Training” was awarded to a student at Hummingbird Aviation Training Limited, Cocorite, Trinidad, in 2005.
Another student was awarded a $6,125 grant for “CXC O’Levels” at the Harmon School of Seventh Day Adventist, Rockly Vale, Tobago. Kareem Scoon received a grant of $20,000 for a certificate in business management at Scottsdale Community College, Washington, United States. Malika and Morineke Joseph got awards averaging $23, 000 for hospitality and tourism management studies.
Four students of the Pacific Lutheran University Wang Centre for International Programmes in Washington, United States of Amercia, got a $400,000 grant for the pursuit of certificates in “Caribbean Culture and Society”.
Public relations officers now employed with the State, such as communications officer for the Office of the Prime Minister, Paige De Leon, was awarded a $173, 640 grant for the pursuit of a masters degree. Wendy Campbell, then communications officer for the Police Service, received a grant of $5,428.50 for “mass communication” at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom.
There were also awards for degrees related to the humanities, like an $18,000 award to Keisha Donaldson for pursuit of a BA in English and Literature at the University of the West Indies.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Lezama-Lee Sing, an in-law of Louis Lee Sing, said, “can I call you back?” She did not.
Devant Maharaj of the ITEC yesterday wrote the Integrity Commission, calling for an “immediate and urgent investigation” into the award of the Culture Ministry scholarships over the years 2003 to 2007. He argued that Section 24 of the act, which calls on public officials to act impartially, may have been breached.
Maharaj also noted that while the list of scholarships was released only after the Culture Ministry conceded a court case brought by the ITEC under the Freedom of Information Act, the ministry has not complied entirely with the requirements of the Act, by not revealing the scholarship criteria. “We are pursing that,” he said. “They still have not complied with the entire application,” he added.
Culture Ministry schols for computer studies, spa management
Joan Yuille-Williams was the Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs from 2003 to 2007, when more than $46 million in local, regional and international scholarships were granted to citizens to pursue studies.
…Indo-Trinbago council wants probe
Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC) president Devant Maharaj is calling on the Integrity Commission to investigate the award of $46 million worth of State assistance to 466 tertiary education students from 2003 to 2007.
…Wade Mark: Something for the Fraud Squad
Opposition Senator Wade Mark has called on the relevant authorities to probe corruption with respect to the $46 million Government spent to award scholarships under the Culture Ministry.
Panday: Culture Ministry schols, ‘party patronage’
OPPOSITION Leader Basdeo Panday described the award of Culture Ministry scholarships as evidence of “party patronage”, arguing that the grants demonstrate the need for constitutional reform in order to make State bodies more transparent.
Behind the scholarships
The revelations about the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs scholarship awards now need to be fully explained. While these awards were kept secret from the country’s parliament, on the tenuous grounds of individual confidentiality, concerned citizens went to the courts, and under the Freedom of Information Act, were able to expose what Minister Marlene McDonald had sought to conceal.
December 03, 2009
Yuille-Williams must quit as ambassador
Chairman of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (Itec) Devant Maharaj has called on Joan Yuille-Williams to resign as an ambassador in light of the revelation of the award of $46 million in “secret” scholarships, during her tenure as Minister of Culture.
Names of beneficiaries on Govt secret list
The Indo-Trinidadian Equality Council (ITEC), utilising the Freedom of Information Act, has been able to acquire a secret list of people who received State grants for education totalling $46 million from the Ministry of Culture and Gender Affairs during the period 2003-2007.
I got no money
Schoolteacher whose name appears on secret scholarship list:
SCHOOLteacher Meera Millington said yesterday the Government gave neither her nor the University of the West Indies (UWI) in St Augustine, where she studied, any money for her tuition. She said despite this, her name appears on the list of people the Ministry of Culture gave financial assistance to in 2004 to pursue tertiary studies.
…Senator must pay back grant, says Devant
Government Senator Laurel Lezama should be compelled to repay the money she received as part of the ‘poor people’ scholarships awarded by the Culture Ministry.
Ministry: No stopping help for needy students
The Community Development Ministry is claiming that people opposed to its Financial Assistance Programme were engaging in racial divisiveness.
Unfair and unwise stonewalling
A year and a half after Government Minister Marlene McDonald refused to reveal to the Parliament information about scholarship awardees, their names have been obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council. And now questions will be raised as to why Ms McDonald refused to give the information which was requested in the Senate Order Paper, why the Ministry did not advertise the availability of these scholarships, and what were the criteria by which persons were deemed eligible.
December 04, 2009
Clear Our Names
Lawyers named in secret ‘scholarship’ list: We got no money
Ex-Minister: Culture funds are not schols
FORMER MINISTER of Culture Joan Yuille-Williams yesterday said the controversial scholarships awarded under her tenure between 2003 and 2007 were part of the ministry’s social sector programme for persons in need of financial aid.
Marlene tells all in the House today
Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Minister Marlene McDonald will speak out in Parliament today on the controversial Financial Assistance Programme, which is administered by her ministry.
Minister tells all today: Scholarship list issue
Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Minister Marlene McDonald will be making a statement to the Parliament today, on the controversy surrounding the financial assistance provided by the ministry to tertiary education students towards their studies from 2003 to 2007.
‘Manning must account for payout’
Prime Minister Patrick Manning must say what he knows of the $46 million in scholarships given by the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs between 2003-2007.
Panday: Schols’ list reeks of corruption
Leader of the Opposition Basdeo Panday says the “so called” list of scholarship recipients, which the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs was fored to produced following a directive from the courts, “reeks of secrecy, corruption and lies.”
‘ITEC’ complains to ‘Equal Opportunities’
Indo-Trinbago Equality Council president Devant Maharaj has now filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission, regarding the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs’ financial assistance disbursements to tertiary education students from 2003 to 2007 to the tune of $46 million.
December 05, 2009
Marlene orders probe
AFTER discrepancies came to light following the release of a list of scholarships issued by her ministry, Culture Minister Marlene Mc Donald yesterday said a probe into these discrepancies would be done and she implored persons listed as getting money, but in fact did not, to come forward.
Probe Into Schols
An investigation is to be conducted into the secret ‘scholarship’ list by the Ministry of Community, Culture and Gender Affairs.
Ramesh: Needy left out of programme
Opposition MP Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj is calling on the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry to examine the disbursement of tertiary education grants totalling $46 million from 2003 to 2007 by the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs.
Marlene: No bias in bursary programme
Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Minister Marlene McDonald has dismissed accusations that bursaries awarded through her ministry served as a slush-fund to further the education of members of the ruling People’s National Movement (PNM).
‘More questions than answers’
Minister addresses scholarship issue
Culture Minister Marlene McDonald’s statement on the list of people who received financial support from the Ministry failed to address serious questions that have arisen, head of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council (ITEC) Devant Maharaj says.
Scholarship list committee identified
Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs Minster, Marlene McDonald, yesterday identified the members of the committee that approves applications for financial assistance from her ministry during a statement on the matter.
More schol ‘winners’ want names cleared
Culture Minister Marlene McDonald has promised an investigation into how the names of people who got nothing from her Ministry ended up on a secretive list of those awarded grants to cover tertiary education expenses.
MP: No UNC supporters got financial aid
‘Action to be taken against Minister, Govt’
Opposition MP Roodal Moonilal says not a single United National Congress constituent or supporter who applied for financial assistance under the Culture Ministry received bursaries.
Transparency needed in all state spending
Once again the national community appears to be engaging in one of those dust-ups which bring all the regular players out on stage—ministers, opposition politicians, lawyers, gadflies, letter writers, radio-callers, et al—emitting the regular noises of accusation, denial, charges of racism and nepotism, calls for resignation, demands for inquiries, statements in Parliament, interviews, etcetera.