I have a long-standing grievance with the Ministry of Public Service and other concerned parties which has severely affected me by changing the course of my life for the worse and left me feeling like a second-class Guyanese. I had a scholarship taken from me without a valid reason, faced blatant discrimination and my constitutional rights were violated including my right to an education and free movement. The Public Service Ministry even acted like a Mafia boss by sending me a letter alleging that I owe the Government of Guyana millions of dollars at an astonishing 70% interest rate. Who charges 70% interest? And although I requested to see evidence of how the millions were arrived at it seems as if my request was to see a live unicorn.
My ordeal stems from a scholarship which I applied for and was granted in 2008 to study Human Medicine in Cuba. And although the genesis of my problem lies over a decade ago in the past I am still affected because every time I leave the country, I am forced to produce a court order without which I would be denied my right to free movement and subject myself to an interrogation by immigration officials. As recently as July 2019 I was subjected to this nonsensical process.
In November 2008 I resigned from my job and commenced studies in Pinar del Rio with almost a hundred classmates. While in Cuba I had no issues which warranted the attention of school officials and was doing well academically. Then in early 2010 I was contacted with the news that my mother was hospitalised in the ICU at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). For years she suffered from an illness which was possibly neurological in nature and progressive. She was expected to seek diagnosis and treatment at the hospital in Cuba. However, at the last moment this hospital declined to take her and I was tasked with finding another which I did.
In the latter part of March 2010, I was granted leave from the medical school and returned to Guyana with the expectation of accompanying my mother to the hospital in Cuba. I had absolutely no intention of giving up my scholarship and remaining in Guyana.
On arrival it was revealed to me that my mother was on a ventilator and could not travel immediately. Acting on this fact and information which I received from a friend at the medical school regarding study leave and exams for the semester I requested an extension of my leave until the first week of May 2010 from the Public Service Ministry.
However, in mid-April while the person I’d requested my leave from was supposedly on leave, another lower down in the hierarchy used this ‘opportunity’ to act in a most unethical manner which resulted in me purportedly losing my scholarship.
When I realised the gravity of the situation I’d been manipulated into, I tried to get an audience with the then Minister of Public Service. However, I was screened out by the secretary who most likely deemed me unworthy of being granted such an exceptional request.
Through a referral from a friend I was able to see another well-known politician in May 2010 who was based at the Office of the President. He advised me to seek a leave of absence for the semester which had already begun and promised to deliver my letter personally to the Minister of Public Service. Later he assured he did as promised but I never received a response in any form from the Minister.
In August 2010 my mother died in the ICU at GPHC.
My desire to continue my studies and eventually become a medical doctor had not waned. I contacted the level head of the school in Cuba and after some consultations with school officials I was informed that they would allow me to continue my studies. When I approached the Ministry of Public Service in August with my request to travel to Cuba I was given a memorandum stating that as a Government of Guyana (GoG) trainee proceeding on vacation overseas, I was required to lodge surety to the sum of $4 million with the Accountant General of the Ministry of Finance.
I was not allowed by the Ministry of Public Service to continue my studies nor was I given a job yet I was deemed a Government of Guyana Trainee. With regard to the requested sum it was out of my reach. In fact, I resigned from my job in order to take up the scholarship and while in Cuba I received a stipend from the GoG of 50 Canadian dollars per month for the first six months which was subsequently increased to $100 per month. Also, these scholarships were touted as an opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged to elevate themselves. And what about the legality of such a document?
After this experience I approached my contact at the Office of the President who was also a member of parliament at the time. I entrusted him with a second letter for the Minister of Public Service seeking approval to resume my medical studies. Although assured once more that it was delivered, I never received a response from the Minister to my letter but a ‘Cost of Training’ letter from the Ministry of Public Service in September 2010 alleging that I owe the Government of Guyana almost $5.6 million at an incredible 70% interest added to all costs. No receipts or other evidentiary documents accompanied this letter.
I was not deterred from pursuing my goal and in July 2011, I travelled alone to Cuba on a tourist visa. There I met the dean of the medical university in Granma where my year group was studying. He was very helpful and sympathetic to my plight. I was allowed to stay in the dorm with Guyanese students and advised to contact the education officials in Havana.
In Havana I was allowed an audience with the person who oversaw the department that dealt with foreign students. After reviewing my file and listening to my story he was perplexed that I was not allowed to continue my studies. He even advised me to return to the university but I did not have the appropriate visa and the Guyanese officials were a concerned party to the scholarship arrangement. I was told to contact the Cuban Embassy in Guyana on my return.
I did as told and soon after the person responsible for my dilemma from the Ministry of Public Service contacted me via telephone. She called to confirm my trip to Cuba and my desire to continue my studies; nothing else was asked. Also, I never received a response from the Cuban embassy.
In September 2011 I attempted to leave the country through the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. I was prevented from doing this by immigration officials. I was told that my name was placed on the ‘Blacklist’. Prior to this incident, I was not informed that I would be prevented from leaving the country and the reason(s) why.
For months I was given the royal run around and empty promises of getting ‘the big ones’ to rectify my situation. After nothing panned out, I resorted to shopping around for cheap lawyers and finally settled on the cheapest one I found. At the said time I was not working because I still had my heart set on my studies.
In June 2012 the late Chief Justice, Mr. Ian Chang ruled in my favour and granted me a court order which was made absolute. The matter dealt with the violation of my constitutional rights particularly Articles 40, 142 and 148. I was not reimbursed for legal fees, lost airplane tickets nor accommodation already paid for.
Editor, I was forced to go to court for something that should not have happened in the first place. I even wrote about my blacklisting ordeal in 2017 in a ‘Letter to the Editor’ which the Weekend Mirror responded to by publishing an article which labelled me as a fabricator. I was never sought for a comment or verification of my claims by this media entity.
I believe that officials from the Ministry of Public Service sent false information about me to immigration officials. Last year during the interrogation at the airport I was asked if I have a contract with the government. I was not allowed to continue my studies and I was not given a job yet I apparently have a contract. Is this legal?
Editor, it is my contention that the Ministry of Public Service discriminated against me; that I was not given the same opportunities and privileges as other Guyanese. In November 2008 when I commenced studies five students who were in Cuba previously but encountered difficulties and returned to Guyana were allowed by the Ministry of Public Service to resume their studies. Why weren’t I given the same opportunity? I can name these students and one is the daughter of a well-known senior politician in the PPP/C party.
I am also aware of the fact that some ‘fresh’ students who commenced studies in 2008 with me completed their programme a year or two after the majority because of ‘issues’ encountered. I am aware that the terms of the so-called contract that I signed were applied in a discriminatory manner. While some were sent home for ‘breaking the contract’ others were allowed to continue their studies. When contract mixes with discrimination is there validity?
It is my belief that I was denied my right to an education as enshrined in the Constitution of Guyana. I applied for and was granted a scholarship, nobody ‘helped me’ to get it. By not allowing me to continue my studies, my right to an education was violated. At the time, due to a number of constraints it was not possible for me to pursue my desired course of study without a scholarship.
I am still affected by this scholarship issue. Even after my allegations of being blacklisted were published in 2017 I still cannot travel freely and I received a second ‘Cost of Training’ letter in 2018 alleging millions owed to the Government of Guyana.
Also, I cannot let go of the fact that I was treated like a second-class Guyanese. I have seen persons whom I studied with in Cuba and are now doctors complain about not getting scholarships to do post graduate studies and I am reminded that I was not even allowed to attain what they presently have in terms of academic qualifications. Actually, I was doing quite well during my time in Pinar del Rio. When I left for Guyana in March 2010 the Assistant Dean of the medical school gave me a copy of a letter which she had sent to the Embassy of Guyana in Havana. It attested that I had obtained excellent academic results.
Why should I as a Guyanese accept what was done to me by the Public Service Ministry? Why should I accept discrimination and the fact that my acquaintances were given educational opportunities and I weren’t, am I a less than person?
I believe officials from the Ministry of Public Service engaged in unethical and possibly illegal acts. Although it was proven in the High Court of Guyana that my constitutional rights were violated, I still do not feel that I have received justice. I was denied the opportunity to become a medical doctor and years of my life were basically wasted in a limbo state.
In 2008 I was an older student in comparison to the majority who were around 18. In 2012 I had to start over having gained nothing in the preceding years except mental trauma and being poorer both financially and career wise than in 2008 before embarking on my studies.