The headline crossing the wires from the Caribbean News Agency (CANA/ CMC) was quite a pleasant surprise: EDUCATION MINISTER RESIGNS! (See regional section yesterday’s DAILY OBSERVER). Of course, the pleasure and the hope that most Caribbean citizens felt at that wonderful news stemmed from the fact that, it is only on the rarest of occasions that Caribbean MP’s will do the right thing and remove themselves from the public trough! They, for the most part, have no shame!
Noteworthily, many Antiguans and Barbudans quickly went to their preferred news source (Observer radio) to see if . . . perchance . . . (fingers crossed) we could be so lucky. Alas! It was not to be. Apparently, the CANA news item was referring to the Jamaica Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Mr. Ruel Reid following “allegations of corruption at his ministry.” According to the CANA/CMC report quoting the Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, “This morning I met with Minister Ruel Reid regarding certain allegations in the public domain. In keeping with the principles of good governance, I requested and received Minister Reid’s resignation. The Minister’s resignation will ensure that any investigation into matters of concern will not be in any way impeded by his presence or oversight of the ministry.” WOW! (Pause, and let what you just read about Jamaica sink in). We certainly salute PM Holness for his no-nonsense approach to transparency, accountability and “the principles of good governance.” Would that other leaders across the Caribbean could follow suit. (Sigh) If wishes were horses . . .
Anyway, our own embattled Minister of Education was due to make his contribution to the Income Tax Amendment Bill (2019) in parliament yesterday, and Antiguans and Barbudans were waiting with bated breath. Would he? Could he do the right thing and pull a Ruel Reid in the interest of our children? Would he? Could he stand by his letter voicing concerns about the Global Ports Holdings (GPH) giveaway? (Exhale) Our fervent hopes and prayers were dashed. Instead, what we got was a most forgettable performance. The good Minister of Education, he of eBooks, and the wimpy retraction of his concerns over GPH, stood up to make his contribution to the aforementioned bill that would help fund the University of the West Indies (UWI) fourth landed campus here, and everybody simply fell asleep. Talk about a most ordinary and mundane presentation – a most simplistic and childlike recitation of the many benefits that will accrue to Antiguans and Barbudans in the effort to bring UWI to our shores. He cited the vendors who will be able to sell needful things to the students, and the rent-a-car owners who will be able rent cars, and those UWI students who may be able to do research on fever grass and its medicinal uses, much like cannabis research at other universities. In fact, in a long and rambling attempt to substantiate this point, he spoke of how he lives in Buckley’s and how whenever he leaves his door, if he turns east there is fever grass, and if he turns west, there is fever grass, and if he turns north, there is fever grass, blah, blah, blah. (Yawn!)
And the good minister was not done with his aimless meandering. He delivered a long, tiresome story about a man who left the government to start his own business, and how he is in the industry that is servicing the university students here, and he is making so much more money in the private sector than he did as a big government employee. (Yawn!) Everybody knows that! The pathetic thing about this ‘startling’ and ‘remarkable revelation’ by the good minister was that he made the claims with animation and excitement, as though these were earth-shattering truths and a grand “Eureka” moment.
And just when the fast-asleep gallery (in and out of parliament) was hoping that the slow-motion verbal torture was coming to an end, mercifully, the good minister attempted to buttress his already established arguments (trickle-down/multiplier economics), that local teachers would benefit, by launching into more mindless drivel about how, when he was studying in New York he supported himself by teaching at this university and that university and that other university yada, yada, yada (Yawn, yawn!)
Finally, surely he must be done! But alas, he was not. He prattled on about a Chinese lady hopping out of a van and selling cooked food to students /teachers /workers in short order. He then stuck out his chest self-righteously and said that upon seeing that, he called everybody that he knew that could cook to tell them of this golden job opportunity.
He went on and on and on ad nauseam, blissfully oblivious to the fact that the only thing that anybody cared to hear from his mouth was his expected-to-be-lame explanation for his pusillanimous about-face as pertaining his GPH denunciation letter, and his long-awaited speech of resignation as Minister of Education for his role in the eBooks travesty, among many other education travesties in our fair state. But, no! The good minister, a man clearly in love with the sound of his own voice, and one given to much self-regard, droned on with grasping acknowledgements of the promptings of his colleagues and a nod to the good Speaker of the House for affirmation of his run-of-the-mill arguments. He pointed at the air, he stabbed at no one in particular, he gesticulated wildly. And he flailed and articulated to anyone who would listen (precious few were listening) even as he fiddled with his jacket pocket with an air of self-importance. And nobody cared!
Everybody was waiting on the moment when the good minister would digress or segue into the reason for his shameless about face, and why he purged his conscience to support the Global Ports agreement, notwithstanding his substantive misgivings. After all, the government Chief of Staff, Lionel “Max” Hurst had promised that the good minister would address the matter.
To be fair, it appears as though the good minister was prevented from addressing the matter by the Speaker of the House who issued guidelines from the chair, but . . . (Sigh)
Another day in paradise with fig leaves and red herrings!