CMU boss admits university paid towards Ruel Reid's yacht party
The Caribbean Maritime University (CMU) has admitted that it paid out over $600,000 towards a yacht party for discarded education minister Ruel Reid.
CMU President, Dr Fritz Pinnock, was also forced to explain his description of the party as an “industry function” after documents submitted to the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) of Parliament showed he was aware that the soirée was organised by a group called ‘Friends of Ruel Reid’ to recognise the former minister’s achievements.
According to the documents, the east Kingston-based university paid two companies a total of $674,930 to rent and decorate the yacht.
B & D Trawling was paid $160,000 to rent the Caribbean Queen yacht for four hours while DEC Events was paid $514,930 to “enhance specific areas with fabric, accessories and props” among other things.
But, Pinnock, during a second appearance before the PAAC in three weeks, sought to clarify that the payments were made against a US$8,300 debt CMU owed to one of the organisers of the party.
According to Pinnock, the debt was incurred in January 2017 after the event organiser, identified as US-based Jamaican businessman Balfour Peart, picked up the tab for ground transportation and logistics support for CMU’s team to the World University Cheerleading Competition in the United States.
“Having thought to the outstanding amount owed to Mr Peart, CMI (Caribbean Maritime Institute) advanced funds totalling $674,930 to cover the payments to the vendors it has engaged in providing services for the industry event,” CMU explained in the documents submitted to the PAAC.
The CMU was previously called the CMI.
PAAC Chairman Dr Wykeham McNeill was not amused by the new revelations.
“It was incumbent on you to clarify, at that point that you were, in fact, involved, even if you were going to disclaim and said it was not a party,” McNeill said, referring to the May 15 meeting of the PAAC when Pinnock was first asked about the party.
“But you almost left it as if you were not involved. It was only on the follow-up questions that we find out that you were, in fact, a major sponsor of that function held on the yacht,” he added.
He also blasted Pinnock for describing the party as an “industry function".
“It is not an industry function. The Caribbean Maritime Institute was assisting with a function that was clearly by the ‘Friends of Ruel Reid’ to honour the minister,” the PAAC chairman said.
But, Pinnock insisted he was never asked to explain what he meant.
“You are correct sir. But what I mean by industry function is that members of the education community or the education industry were there. I was not asked to clarify so I’m saying this was not the birthday party. We had nothing to do with the birthday party,” he insisted.