Several unsavoury points arise with the exposure. The main concern must be how the Culture Ministry was able to “award” all of these scholarships in fields having nothing to do with Community Development, Culture or Gender Affairs. And this leads to the question of Cabinet approval. Was this system of scholarship awards, and its financing approved by Cabinet, and if so when and under what conditions? The Minister, now that the courts have stripped from her the “confidentiality” protection she had sought, must stand in parliament, moreso in the Senate where she originally refused to answer the pertinent questions, and explain the genesis and system selection for these scholarship awards. We do not expect her to apologise for her earlier stance, for we are convinced that she will say she “thought that the information requested was confidential.”
But that was always nonsense and untenable, as the courts have now shown. Scholarship awards have never been secret, and have generally been the subject of proud announcements — both for the recipients and for the institutions awarding the scholarships.
So why did she then claim secrecy, under the guise of recipient confidentiality? This she must now explain to the country. And she must state under what conditions were government scholarship awards deemed to have been “confidential,” and indeed why?
When it takes a lawsuit to get a minister to divulge what should be standard information to parliament, suspicions are bound to be raised. And our suspicions certainly have been, along with most of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. And the suspicions centre upon who were the fortunate awardees of all of these Ministry of Culture Scholarships.
The lists of names will now be examined closely, by opposition and independent sources, to assess the extent of alleged political patronage in the selection of the awardees. There will be calls to ascertain how these scholarships were announced or advertised, who might have heard of them, and how many persons had applied for each scholarship available. And this research will of course lead to the persons who may have applied but who were rejected.
And herein lies the source of the original question put to Minister McDonald in the Senate. Clearly the opposition had become aware of what is becoming, according to the opposition, another slush fund of taxpayers monies being used to “further the education” of PNM stalwarts. And if the list of names of awardees bears out the suspicions of Senator Wade Mark, Devant Maharaj of the Indo-Trinbago Equality Council, and attorney Anand Ramlogan, what will Minister McDonald then say?
One thing though, the question of race, raised by some detractors, should not be an issue here at all.