Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, is admitting she was the recipient of WhatsApp messages from Education Minister, Senator Ruel Reid, in which he threatened to teach a high school principal a lesson who had publicly criticized an education ministry policy.
In an interview with Nationwide News last night, the Political Ombudsman also admitted that she shared the WhatsApp exchanges with the Education Minister with the Educators he was complaining about.
Last month, the Education Minister stirred controversy by proposing a political code of conduct for educators amid what he described as concerns of activism on the part of teachers and members of school boards.
Through a surrogate, Senior Technical Coordinator in the Education Ministry, Marlon Morgan, the Education Minister admitted to Nationwide News that in what he describes as private communication he threatened to “teach” the Principal of Belmont Academy, Rayon Simpson, “a lesson” after the school head publicly criticized a ministry policy.
According to Mr Morgan, the Education Minister could have chosen better words.
But, just how did the Minister’s WhatsApp messages with the Political Ombudsman become available for public consumption? They were posted, verbatim, on Twitter late last month by Chairman of the PNP’s Education Commission, Elaine Foster Allen.
Mrs. Foster Allen told Nationwide News she would not reveal the source of her information. But, Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, told our News Centre she was the first to share the WhatsApp exchanges between her and Senator Reid.
Mrs Parchment Brown is insisting the WhatsApp exchanges she shared with the Minister were not private and confidential. When quizzed about why the Education Minister would be saying to her “we need to teach this fellow a lesson”, this is what the Political Ombudsman had to say.
In the meantime, Nationwide News also obtained copies of e-mail exchanges between Minister Reid and Lecturer at the School of Education at the University of the West Indies, UWI, Mona campus, Dr Canute Thompson.
In his email, the Minister wrote, “I also question how you as a public officer are publicly criticising government policy. The said ministry that is responsible for UWI. What staff orders permit this? I shall have to speak to Principal Webber”.
The Minister copied that email to the Principal of the UWI, Mona campus, Professor Dale Webber. When our News Centre contacted, Dr Thompson, he said, he interpreted the Minister’s words as threatening and an attempt to muzzle him in his capacity as an academic.
Meanwhile, Mr. Morgan says the Education Minister was attempting to get the UWI Principal to weigh in on what he deemed a critical matter.