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$10M for Christmas

By Andre Bagoo Tuesday, December 24 2013

A WEEK after announcing a Christmas gift of a 20 percent discount on oil and flour, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar was at it again, this time spreading Christmas cheer to the tune of $10 million to religious bodies.

The Office of the Prime Minister yesterday announced that Persad-Bissessar had distributed cheques to eight religious leaders at a closed ceremony at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair.

In a press release, the Office of the Prime Minister said the Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration had given out $6 million “to the major religious bodies”. These bodies were not specified in the press release.

The Office of the Prime Minister also said grants were given out by the Sports and Culture Fund, under the Office of the Prime Minister, in the vicinity of $4 million.

Minister of National Diversity and Social Integration Rodger Samuel was quoted as noting the Government also distributes grants to religious bodies for Eid and Divali.

The office of the Prime Minister did not list the eight religious officials given cheques or outline specific amounts handed over to religious bodies. Spokespersons were unable to provide details.

However, among those present at the ceremony yesterday were Monsignor Cuthbert Alexander of the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Archbishop Claude Berkeley; Shouter Baptist Archbishop Barbara Burke; Reverend Dr Adrian Sieunarine of the Presbyterian Church; Robert Soogrim of Miracle Ministries and Reverend Noland Warner of the Pentecostal Assembly. Officials of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies and the Evangelical Council of Churches were also present.

Sieunarine said the Presbyterian Church received a total of $250,000.

“We received one of the smaller amounts,” Sieunarine said

Alexander said he could not say the specific amount given to the Catholic Church.

“That was a donation to the Archdiocese and so I simply delivered the cheque to the appropriate body,” he said.

Asked yesterday to detail the amounts distributed, Samuel said, “The Office of the PM gives the official statement.” He refused to give any details.

Peter Kanhai, head of the Sport and Culture Fund, did not return calls and messages.

Asked to divulge the Anglican Church’s allocation, Berkeley said, “That is a good question. I think that information should come from the Office of the Prime Minister.”

On December 6, the Prime Minister announced Government would, for the first time ever, make donations to churches for their Christmas celebrations.

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