Thou dost protest too much
September 2, 2009
So, I was just reading today’s paper online, and I came across the headline “Hydel University Opens Its Doors.” I kiss my teeth. Whe’h dem come wid university from now? Everybody getting into this business of education these days – starting a school and a church in this country guarantees a nice income from people desperate to be saved – even and especially when they are members of the legislature. I am reading the article and saying to myself, is how BG just up inna di ting so, making all kinds of pronouncements and talking as if Jesus Christ himself had come down and told him he wanted to host the next Last Supper in St. Catherine. Does the PM, his wife and the Min of Ed. go to every university opening? Well, maybe the Min. of Ed. Then I paused. Wait deh likkle bit! Thought again, reached into my memory, called up google, and there it was:
The story that broke in November 2008 is that Hyacinth Bennett, a current senator and longtime friend and political ally of Bruce Golding’s, had somehow managed to get the government agency UDC to buy the property that her private school was located on, and to lease it back to her at less than market value.
When the Gleaner reported the story and suggesting that there was some impropriety in the deal, Bennett cried foul and Golding said, Oh, we always had plans for that property. Of course.
The Observer story had a PNP person saying that he thought that even the shady UDC wasn’t totally on board with it. Why? Probably because they wouldn’t make any money from this deal. As revealed in the July 2009 story in Sunday Herald, this “sweetheart deal” arrangement included all kinds of oddities, such as: tying HYDEL’s rent to the amount of tuition collected from students each semester. That’s like having the bank determine how much your rent/mortgage will be based on how much money you made this past month, not including your pardner draw or Western Union remittances. Very generous arrangement indeed.
So, reading today’s story, all I can think is, how these people brazen wid dem corruption so??? Dem really tek wi fi heediyat bwai.
Back in November 2008, The PM went on record to defend the school with more speculation and fear-mongering than fact. But, to hear him at this event, it is very clear that he has had inside knowledge about Hyacinth’s plans for the expansion of the school. His comments demonstrate that he has thought about what impact he wants it to have, and clearly intends to direct government monies and resources to support the expansion of this particular institution in the future. Apparently, he sees this as a model school. First mi hearing bout this revelation. So, anybody who want to do something similar, the UDC will give them a sweetheart deal too, right? Ring your bell first.
This is all happening at the same time that Min of Ed. Holness has announced that there is not sufficient monies to build additional public (primary and secondary) school facilities that he promised – and which he probably shouldn’t have anyway – and clearly didn’t realize that the “new” schools coming onboard were not going to be public schools, but a private one run by a fellow labourite who’s real chummy with your boss. I guess Holness wasn’t on board with diversion of monies to the HYDEL plan? What a slap in the face. So, who exactly is guilty of “political mischief” here, you tell me.
All I want to know is this:
$ If the country is so broke an no money n’aaa run, how could this deal with Hydel have been made in anything but shady circumstances?
$$ Given that even a blind, stupid person could recognize the conflicts of interest at all levels of this deal, why has the PM never been asked to explain these obvious ethical violations?
$$$ If the IMF deal requires that line items be cut from the budget, then shouldn’t a private school be expected to pull it’s own weight, including paying it’s own rent? (In case you missed it, the Golding administration is SUBSIDIZING the operations of the privately owned Hydel Schools and thus draining money on an entity that was not budgeted for). How can they even justify this to even the most hard of hearing person? Since when is paying the rent for a private institution a necessary expenditure, but building public schools is not?
$$$$ What are the legal provisions that govern how legislators and government officials participate in the private sector while they are in office? What are the rules governing how they can use their influence as well as access to information to maximize their own personal fortune? Was there not a big stink with Donald Wehby of GraceKennedy about his role in the corporation while also serving as a senator? So why has Hyacinth Bennett been allowed to use her time, status and access as a senator to build and advocate for her private corporation from which she draws a hefty paycheck? Has she been living out the Caribbean dream i.e. securing a gov’t position so that she can use the gov’t’s resources to do her real job?
$$$$$ Are the HYDEL even accredited? By who? How do we know that there is anything of quality and substance going on in there in the first place? Just because you call a place a school and a university does not mean that it behaves like one. How do we know this is not just another setup to hoodwink innocent people who think that an education is what will get them up the ladder, when in practice they paying to have a textbook read to them? Where are the procedures and documents to attest to the credibility of this place as an institution of higher education?
$$$$$$ Where the hell is Greg Christie? Or has he been told to stay out of this – “not his jurisdiction”?
Well, if he can’t ask questions, I sure can.