Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar – Photo by Marvin Hamilton
OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar has challenged a government minister to confirm or deny allegations he was banned from pursuing postgraduate studies at a university because of plagiarism.
Speaking at a United National Congress (UNC) meeting in Claxton Bay on Wednesday night, Persad-Bissessar said she has the documents which name the minister as having been prohibited from registering for a further academic year at a university as a result, but is giving him a chance to come clean.
Identifying the minister by name on the UNC platform, Persad-Bissessar said failure to clarify would result in her making the documents public.
“Talk now, because if you don’t talk, I will expose you and release the documents. Talk and tell us its not you.
“Don’t take a vow of silence and don’t go for no injunction, because Jayanti (Lutchmedial) will beat you left right and centre,” she said.
This was a reference to a failed attempt by Youth Development and National Services Minister Foster Cummings to injunct Senator Jayanti Lutchmedial from speaking out about allegations of wrongdoing against him contained in a Special Branch report.
At the UNC Monday night forum, it was Lutchmedial who first raised the issue of plagiarism by the minister.
She recalled that as far back as 2014, in a public blog, questions were put to then Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley about the inclusion on his slate of a person who was disqualified from a tertiary-level institution for plagiarism.
“Tonight, I ask Dr Rowley: did you ever investigate that allegation? Did you ever find out who is the person? Is that person sitting in your Cabinet?
“It is important for you to know, when you are saying you are interested in the development of youths and you want to foster a better sense of…a higher level of education of youth in TT, that you want them to aspire to greater things.
“It is greater to know the someone sitting in your Cabinet, as part of the core structure of the People’s National Movement (PNM) was prohibited and not allowed to complete a master’s degree in government from a tertiary-level institution because they were accused of plagiarism.
“That is academic dishonesty. I raise these questions because if you cannot be trusted to write a paper or an exam with honesty, how can you trust them with public funds, with the future of the country?”
Lutchmedial said she was verifying the authenticity of the documents, giving Rowley and his Cabinet time to do their own research and give answers.
A message sent to the minister named seeking clarification yielded no response.