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LETTER OF THE DAY: How the SLB almost stole Christmas

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

A decade ago, my sister decided that she wanted to become a teacher and applied for a loan from the Student Loans Bureau (SLB) amounting to a little less than $15,000. Her former husband subsequently gave her $10,000, which she paid upon graduating from teachers' college. The remaining balance (principal and interest) was paid by deduction from her salary.

It was, therefore, a shock to me when I received a letter, on Christmas Eve, the first communication on the matter in 10 years, from a collection agency, Caribbean Credit Management and Investigations, stating that I, having signed as a second guarantor for my sister a decade ago, now owe the grand sum of $88,242.84, the majority of which is interest that has been calculated for close to 10 years!

rude letter

To add insult to injury, the tone of the letter was downright rude and combative. The writer was at pains to tell me that I must ensure that I pay the full amount in seven days, or else! One could easily believe that the Mafia was operating loan-sharking businesses in Kingston!

My sister now lives overseas, and has been for over eight years. After I recovered from my initial shock, I sent her a 'nice' email because I didn't want to foist this piece of news on her the way it was done to me, especially since she is about to have a baby.

I broke the news to her as gently as I could but it did not help. She was hopping mad, even more than I was, and I am the one who the collection agency threatened. She promptly got on the phone on Monday, December 28, to the SLB but, apparently, everyone had taken an extended holiday since no one answered despite the fact that she called all day, as I had been calling since receipt of this threatening letter from the agency. SLB phones continue to ring without an answer as at Tuesday, January 5, 2010.

My sister is now in the process of digging up papers that she has not looked at in almost a decade because this type of atrocity cannot be excused. I certainly am not about to pay either the SLB or Caribbean Credit Management and Investigations one red penny, much less a new 'Shearer'.

I have several questions for SLB:

Why is it that I am the person you have sought to harass when the first guarantor is her father, who has not moved or changed his profession as a policemen in all of these years?

Why is it that the SLB has NEVER contacted me personally regarding this matter, but instead sought to go the route of farming out their responsibility to another institution?

What took the SLB 10 years?

How was this final sum calculated?

Maybe since Hurricane Ivan, or maybe pre-September 11, your record-keeping skills were not up to par. I therefore suggest that before you start harassing law-abiding citizens you do due diligence and find another way of keeping track of those who are bad debtors. Just know this: neither my sibling nor I will be harassed or threatened into paying you twice.