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Culture schols show up PNM links

By ANDRE BAGOO Wednesday, December 2 2009

click on pic to zoom in
CULTURE MINISTER: Marlene Mc Donald, Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs....
CULTURE MINISTER: Marlene Mc Donald, Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs....

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.

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