CLINT CHAN TACK and SHANE SUPERVILLE
EDUCATION Minister Anthony Garcia yesterday said there was no divergence of views between himself and junior minister Dr Lovell Francis over letters of dismissal issued to staff at the University of TT (UTT).
On Tuesday, Garcia told the Senate that the UTT staff members who were issued dismissal letters, were “surplus” to the needs of the university.
That same day in Couva, Francis said the dismissal letters to 11 lecturers were withdrawn pending discussions between the university and the OWTU. Garcia yesterday said an “unfortunate mix up” in communication was to be blamed.
The minister said he has since spoken with Francis and the issue was resolved. “We work well together,” Garcia said. The minister said that Francis had tried to contact him on Tuesday but he was in the Senate at the time. Francis later spoke to a senior ministry official who was not apprised of the situation, Garcia added.
He explained that none of the letters issued to UTT staffers have been withdrawn but other planned dismissal letters have been put on hold pending the outcome of today’s Cabinet meeting.
Garcia said he would issue a statement after today’s meeting.
He remains unfazed by threats of legal action by the 11 dismissed lecturers saying people are free to seek redress if they wished to do so.
Yesterday, five of the 11 lecturers staged a “hunger fast”outside the ministry on St Vincent Street, Port of Spain to draw to Garcia’s attention, the pain they are going through on being fired.
Mathematics lecturer Solomon Rajnauthsingh said he and his colleagues were dismissed despite being mandated to lecture students in the university’s Faculty of Education. He said reassurances by UTT officials that lecturers would be transferred from the Faculty of Engineering to reinforce staff shortages, are evidence of their relevance.
“We hope to see the minister and give him some additional information on the matter.
I know he is trying to make the best decision, given the information available to him, but my thinking is that he (Garcia) is missing information. Our purpose is to meet with him so he can arrive at a better decision.”
One of Rajnauthsingh’s colleagues said if Garcia did not meet with them, they are prepared to take their protest outside Parliament tomorrow and possibly initiate legal proceedings against the minister.
Up to press time, it was not known if Garcia had not met with the lecturers.