CABINET’s policy which saw a reduction of national scholarships and bursaries is final.
Attorneys for the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha were told this by the secretary to the Cabinet, in a response for disclosure relating to the new scholarship scheme.
However, the religious body which initiated legal action over the award of scholarships and bursaries, are prepared to give the Cabinet extra time to respond if they revert to the previous policy of awarding 400 scholarships.
On March 23, attorneys for the Maha Sabha wrote to Cabinet secretary Cheryl Hem-Lee complaining of the cut in the number of national scholarships and the implementation of a new bursary system.
They claimed there was no subjectivity in the process.
Attorney Rhea Khan, who appears with Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, SC, Dinesh Rambally, Stefan Ramkissoon, and Kiel Taklalsingh for the Maha Sabha, said the new policy, which reduced the number of scholarships from 400 to 100, and introduced 500 bursaries, leaves a potential applicant in the dark as to what criteria to focus on.
The letter said the new system gave no guidance on how a student could qualify.
“A striking and troubling feature," she said, was "the deliberate removal and complete absence" of academic performance as a criterion. Khan asked if the policy, published by the Education Ministry on March 11, was final, and she was told it was.
In a subsequent letter, attorney Zelica Haynes-Soo Hon, of the firm Al-Rawi, Haynes-Soo Hon and Co, which is instructing Senior Counsel Douglas Mendes, Michael Quamina and Rishi Dass for the Cabinet, also wrote to Khan on April 1, askingthey hold their hands on legal action until April 12.
However, Khan gave the Cabinet until April 9.
Khan told Haynes-Soo Hon the matter was one which should be dealt with urgently.
“We thought that it was obvious given that students are awaiting a decision as to whether or not they would be awarded scholarships, which will in turn materially affect their prospects of tertiary education, is a matter which should be dealt with on an urgent basis.”
Scholarships were announced on March 11. Khan also said they intend to apply for interim relief to preserve the rights of students who would have benefitted from Cabinet’s previous policy of awarding 400 scholarships on the basis of academic performance.
However, Khan said they were prepared to extend the time asked for by the Cabinet on the condition they get an undertaking that the Cabinet would apply the previous policy for students who sat the CAPE examinations this year.