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Editorial | CMU’s vanity project

Published:Saturday | June 1, 2019 | 12:00 AM

The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) has made an important statement by renaming the Dr Andrew Wheatley Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing. From henceforth, the building, located at the university’s main campus, will be known as the Centre for Digital Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing.

Tellingly, this name change came about after the institution faced some tough questions from the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee of Parliament, which was seeking answers to some of the activities that went on at CMU which suggest curry-favouring with government officials.

Professor Fritz Pinnock’s answers to some of the more penetrating questions gave the public a clue that some choices made by the institution suggest that priorities at CMU stood in stark contrast to reality. For example, when one considers the price tag for a vanity party compared to the needs of struggling students trying to eke out an education in trying circumstances. Vanity projects usually divert resources from more worthwhile projects.

It is a fact that people want to be remembered for the good things they did while on this earth. It’s called their legacy. No one is more protective of his/her legacy than a politician. Hence, it is the practice to reward politicians by naming various highways, streets, buildings and monuments in their honour. These honours are uniquely reserved for politicians, with a sprinkling of a few philanthropists who may make huge cash donations to institutions.

The United States, for example, has libraries dedicated to its former presidents, along with other monuments. These decisions are not always popular, and from time to time some of them have been met with protest by a discerning public who feels these egotistical honours are without merit.

We believe CMU went a bit too far in glorifying the then minister by naming a building in his honour. This naming ceremony came about merely a year after he was named minister for the portfolio. Indeed, this can only be described as a political vanity project.


As it has turned out, Dr Wheatley’s service as a minister was short-lived. He was forced to resign in July 2018 amid a slew of allegations pointing to nepotism, cronyism, ineptitude and poor stewardship, both at his ministry and the state-run refinery, Petrojam. There is a blight on Dr Wheatley’s performance, which will likely be attached to his name for a long time.

But even after his resignation, Professor Pinnock, CMU head, kept trying to justify the project and insisted that Dr Wheatley’s name would remain. This is the stance he took back then: “We will not change or remove Dr Wheatley’s name from the centre. When you serve, you serve. Your legacy is what you leave behind, and I can say that Dr Andrew Wheatley did a lot of positives here.”

We reckon that the CMU Council, which held an extraordinary meeting recently, was responsible for dictating the about-face. We applaud this decision as a bold step in the right direction.

If we must have these vanity projects, then let them offer up a vision of a brighter future and act as a symbol of hope to our young people.