Letters to the Editor

Questions answered

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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Dear Editor,

During the Portland Eastern by-election I saw reports of the former Member of Parliament and caretaker of St Ann North Western being an advisor to the Caribbean Maritime University (CMU). My thoughts then were that I wanted to know what was he advising the university and the president on, and was he qualified and/or experienced enough? I also wondered if his selection had gone through the proper processes.

Two months later, the president of the university, Professor Fritz Pinnock, has explained why they employed Othneil Lawrence. I can breathe easy now.

Professor Pinnock created a programme that targets over 1,000 at-risk youth. They needed new coordinators because the ones before just weren't connecting with the targets. The institution uses former politicians, entertainers and sports personnel to reach these youth.

Everyone knows Lawrence is a former politician and a businessman. According to Pinnock, Lawrence was also state minister of transport and works in July 2011; at that time CMU was under that ministry. Basically, Professor Pinnock is saying he had the prerequisite attributes to be a coordinator of that programme.

Professor Pinnock said Lawrence is a holder of an associate degree and he applied for the job in December 2017 and signed a contract in April 2018.

Many will argue that he got the seat because of his party being in government. The president argued that Lawrence went through the process. So before we crucify anyone we should first see the recommendations of the interviewers and also look at the resumes of the other interviewees on whether they had the experience and qualification to connect with these youth. Also, we should check if Lawrence has been performing since he's been on the job one year now.

My Google search directed me to Othneil Lawrence being the first Jamaican ever to be on the executive committee of the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas for the Caribbean region in 2010 when he was elected vice-president. He was the Jamaican representative from 2008 replacing Morais Guy, the current Member of Parliament for St Mary Central. Since Lawrence's departure from 2012 I don't see any other Jamaican politician elected to Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas for the Caribbean region executive committee. That alone shows me quality and the human resource skills that got him elected to that executive committee in just two years.

I defended Camile Buchanan, former head of the Universal Service Fund, when it seemed like experience was nothing and that having a PhD is everything. I never defended the former human resource manager for Petrojam because she got more money than her predecessor, who was reportedly more qualified and experienced than her.

We have many examples, here and worldwide, of former politicians who become advisors at universities.

Teddylee Gray

Ocho Rios,St Ann


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