UWI backs down

An­tigua PM sup­ports lo­cal MPs want­ing to ques­tion use of funds

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Jovan John­son Staff Re­porter

GAS­TON BROWNE, prime min­is­ter of An­tigua and Bar­buda, sup­ports Ja­maican politi­cians who say the Univer­sity of the West Indies’ (UWI) ini­tial re­fusal to ap­pear be­fore a par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee must be used by Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARI­COM) coun­tries to gal­vanise ef­forts to cut links with the Bri­tish monar­chy. The UWI stunned the Par­lia­ment’s Pub­lic Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee (PAAC) on Wed­nes­day in a let­ter ad­vis­ing that it would not meet a re­quest to ap­pear be­fore it as the in­sti­tu­tion is a re­gional au­ton­o­mous one, and un­der its 1962 Royal Char­ter, the UWI an­swers to the Bri­tish monar­chy, iden­ti­fied as the ‘vis­i­tor’.

Wil­liam Iton, the univer­sity’s regis­trar who signed the let­ter, in­stead di­rected the PAAC to get in­for­ma­tion on how the univer­sity uses gov­ern­ment funds from rep­re­sen­ta­tives on a fi­nance com­mit­tee.

Yes­ter­day, the univer­sity’s vice-chan­cel­lor, Pro­fes­sor Sir Hi­lary Beck­les, is­sued an apol­ogy, say­ing that the let­ter was “mis­un­der­stood” and that the univer­sity “is keen and will­ing to ap­pear be­fore the PAAC”.

EM­BRACE NA­TIONAL GOV­ERN­MENTS

Not­ing that UWI’s gov­er­nance sys­tems have been cre­ated “to em­brace” na­tional gov­ern­ments, Beck­les con­tin­ued: “There is, there­fore, no at­tempt to chal­lenge the au­thor­ity of the Ja­maican Par­lia­ment, which we cel­e­brate and recog­nise as hav­ing made the sin­gle largest in­vest­ment in the UWI in th­ese past 68 years.” PAAC chair­man Dr Wyke­ham McNeill, to whom the apol­ogy let­ter was ad­dressed, said he was pleased that the UWI had changed course and at­tempts would now be made to ac­com­mo­date them. “I’m happy. What we’re in­ter­ested in as a com­mit­tee is just en­sur­ing that there is

proper over­sight of pub­lic funds. The univer­sity has never ap­peared be­fore us, [and] we had con­cerns.”

In the mean­time, McNeill said the com­mit­tee would still make rec­om­men­da­tions to the Par­lia­ment for Ja­maica to in­flu­ence CARI­COM to re­visit ar­range­ments with the univer­sity to en­sure that par­lia­ments could sum­mon of­fi­cials to dis­cuss how pub­lic funds are used.

“In the day, th­ese in­sti­tu­tions, gov­erned un­der char­ters, would report di­rectly to the monarch. But the monarch is the head of the Par­lia­ment, too. Th­ese are anachro­nis­tic, and it re­ally comes to us as a peo­ple to un­der­stand that we have taken far too long to move to the process of not just self-gov­ern­ment, but be a Par­lia­ment that an­swers to the peo­ple of Ja­maica.”

On that, McNeill has won the sup­port of the An­tiguan prime min­is­ter who said that any en­tity that re­ceived pub­lic funds was “ob­li­gated” to make it­self avail­able for pub­lic scru­tiny.

Ac­cord­ing to Browne, it is “proper” for the Par­lia­ment to sum­mon any en­tity that gets money ap­pro­pri­ated by that same Par­lia­ment.

“You can utilise that Royal Char­ter if you’re per­haps in­de­pen­dent, but if you’re de­pen­dent on pub­lic funds, you have to ac­count. Un­til the univer­sity be­comes wholly in­de­pen­dent of the Gov­ern­ment, I don’t see how they can take that po­si­tion. I do not know that they get money from the queen,” he told The Gleaner.

PO­LIT­I­CAL MA­TU­RITY

The prime min­is­ter said the sit­u­a­tion again high­lights the lack of “real value con­tin­u­ing with the monar­chy” and brings into fo­cus the pol­i­tics in­volved in coun­tries tak­ing ac­tion. “Un­til we get to the level of po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity, where we can treat th­ese as is­sues rather than whether you sup­port a po­lit­i­cal party, we’ll have some dif­fi­cul­ties mak­ing those changes,” he ar­gued.

CARI­COM gov­ern­ments con­trib­uted 46 per cent of the univer­sity’s to­tal in­come for the 2014-2015 aca­demic year, ac­cord­ing to a report from univer­sity bur­sar Archibald Camp­bell.

He, how­ever, noted that gov­ern­ment con­tri­bu­tions over the years have been in “per­pet­ual de­cline”.

Ja­maica con­trib­utes about 20 per cent of the an­nual fund­ing of the UWI.

This year, Ja­maican tax­pay­ers are pro­vid­ing $8.3 bil­lion, an amount that could fund the jus­tice and trans­port and min­ing min­istries.

See full text of UWI snub let­ter and apol­ogy note to Par­lia­ment here: http://bit.do/UWIs­nub.

BECK­LES

FILE

Prime Min­is­ter of An­tigua & Bar­buda Gas­ton Browne.

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