Sun | Jun 16, 2019

Phillips says PM should instruct CMU to cooperate with corruption probe

Published:Wednesday | June 12, 2019 | 12:31 PM
Leader of the Opposition and President of the People’s National Party, Dr Peter Phillips - File photo

Leader of the Opposition and President of the People’s National Party, Dr Peter Phillips, is calling for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to immediately instruct the leadership of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to hand over requested documents to investigators probing corruption allegations around discarded Education Minister Ruel Reid.

It is being alleged that the university is engaging in strategies to frustrate the investigation, which is close to completion, The Gleaner has learnt.

READ: CMU roadblock 

The matter is being probed by state agencies including the Financial Investigations Division (FID).

Earlier this year, lawyers for the FID quietly went to court and obtained several orders compelling CMU and some of its senior executives, among others, to turn over critical documents to investigators.

But since then, sources claimed, CMU officials have used threats and intimidation to discourage several persons from talking to investigators.

One of the lawyers for the CMU has dismissed the claims.

In a statement today, Phillips argued that this level of obstruction as described in the media reports should not be countenanced.

“The CMU, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education, for which the Prime Minister has direct responsibility, is a public body and any effort to thwart the investigations must be immediately stopped as the government cannot appear to be involved in a cover-up,” said Phillips.

He said that the Prime Minister should instruct all agencies of the Ministry to fully cooperate with the FID and other state agencies responsible for investigations.

Full Statement

Leader of the Parliamentary Opposition and President of the People’s National Party, Dr Peter Phillips, M.P., says Prime Minister Andrew Holness has a duty to immediately instruct the leadership of the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) to hand over all the requested documents to the police and the Financial Investigations Division (FID) and cease impeding the criminal investigation being undertaken.  This level of obstruction as described in the media reports should not be countenanced.

It has come to public attention through media reports that the CMU, in an effort to frustrate the criminal investigation into acts of corruption around former Education Minister Ruel Reid has hired an attorney to challenge court orders compelling the institution and some of its senior executives, among others, to turn over critical documents to FID and police investigators to assist in the ongoing investigations.

It is also reported that CMU officials have used threats and intimidation to discourage several persons from talking to investigators. If these allegations are true, they amount to obstruction of justice and they must not be allowed to take root into our public affairs.

Dr Phillips said the CMU, which is an agency of the Ministry of Education, for which the Prime Minister has direct responsibility, is a public body and any effort to thwart the investigations must be immediately stopped as the government cannot appear to be involved in a cover-up. He said that the Prime Minister should instruct all agencies of the Ministry to fully cooperate with the FID and other state agencies responsible for investigations.

“It reflects a pattern that has disturbing implications for governance and for our country’s fight against corruption," Dr Phillips said.

He said there appears to be an emerging pattern that where corrupt practices are discovered, the Prime Minister assumes portfolio responsibility and investigations proceed while those staff members potentially in breach remain in office, contrary to the normal practice of accountability.

The Opposition Leader said the committees of the House of Parliament have uncovered several cases of diversion of public funds through the CMU and both the police and the FID have indicated that there is an active criminal investigation with the likelihood of persons being involved in unethical and reprehensible activities.

“This is scandalous! And every well-thinking Jamaican must be outraged that this is happening in our country!” Dr Phillips lamented.

He says the Prime Minister needs to immediately instruct the release of the documents and urge full cooperation with the investigative agencies of the state, and those who are found to be blocking the investigations must be sanctioned immediately.

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