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Ruel had to go - Holness says former education minister would have damaged Government

Published:Wednesday | February 26, 2020 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett/Senior Staff Reporter
Prime Minister Andrew Holness gestures during an interview at Jamaica House yesterday.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness says not accepting the resignation of Ruel Reid as education minister would have compromised the integrity of Jamaica’s “entire system of government”.

Now, almost one year after Reid’s resignation, Holness believes that his decision was justified.

“Once I had knowledge of the allegations that were made [against Reid], I had no choice obviously but to bring the minister before me and have a conversation about the issues that are now public knowledge,” said Holness.

WATCH: Holness says former education minister would have damaged Government

“And ensure that there can be integrity in the process. It would have been, I think, an erosion of the integrity of the entire system of government were that process not to be engaged,” he added.

In an exclusive interview at Jamaica House yesterday, the prime minister could not resist a jab at his political opponents, arguing that for too long in Jamaica “no one has been held to account whenever these issues are raised”.

“The difference with this Government is that ministers have been brought in, we’ve had our conversations, and they have submitted their resignations and I have accepted them,” he said, in obvious reference to former energy minister Dr Andrew Wheatley, who quit amid allegations of impropriety at Petrojam, the state-owned oil refinery.

Reid, a career educator, handed Holness his resignation last March amid swirling allegations of corruption, cronyism and mismanagement at Caribbean Maritime University (CMU), which falls under the Ministry of Education.

Seven months later, Reid; his wife, Sharen; daughter, Sharelle; CMU President Fritz Pinnock; and councillor for the Brown’s Town division of the St Ann Municipal Corporation, Kim Brown Lawrence, were arrested on fraud-related charges for allegedly diverting approximately $50 million from the CMU.

“I think what has been subsequently revealed would justify the acceptance [of the resignation]. I don’t think there is any mystery,” Holness told The Gleaner.

The prime minister acknowledged that he still communicates with Reid.

“There are still issues on education which he will send me a note on and I will hear what he has to say.”

Holness acknowledged that he has a “very good professional relationship” with the former Jamaica College principal dating back to when he was opposition spokesman on education and Reid was president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association.

“We saw eye to eye on education issues. He was my adviser and we have mutual friends … but obviously I don’t have the luxury of frequent communications,” the prime minister said.

Investigators have charged that nearly $50 million of public funds was diverted to the personal use of Reid and Pinnock through a number of schemes, including one that mirrors the Career Advancement Programme-Youth Employment Solutions (CAP-YES) run by the education ministry.