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JM | Jun 20, 2022

US$10,000 ‘Jamaican student bailout’ by Opposition to be returned, says OPM

Gavin Riley

Gavin Riley / Our Today

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Mark Golding, surrounded by many of the Jamaican students stranded in Ukraine, fêted the group of university students at the Office of the Opposition Leader in Kingston on Friday, March 11. (Photo: Instagram @MarkJGolding)

The Andrew Holness-led Government is today (June 20) advising that Opposition Leader Mark Golding will be reimbursed for his donation toward the repatriation of Jamaican students stuck in Ukraine. 

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), in a statement this afternoon, indicated that its decision to refund Golding would better allow him to determine, on his own accord, the best applications of the US$10,000 donation.

“Accordingly, the Government has decided that the funds be returned to the Leader of the Opposition at the earliest, to facilitate their use as best determined by him,” the statement read.

Hours earlier, fresh accusations by Lenroy James, president of The Patriots—the young professional arm of the People’s National Party (PNP)—claimed that the funds were being ‘improperly used’. 

“The money donated to help the Ukraine students has been ‘re-allocated’ by the GOJ,” James tweeted on Monday. 

“The GoJ has used the funds to reimburse the GoJ for the travel related expenses of getting the students home! That money was to get them back in school,” James alleged further.

(Photo: Twitter @LenroyJames)
(Photo: Twitter @LenroyJames)

In response, OPM counterargued that both the US$10,000 and US$15,000, later donated by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, only covered an “aggregate cost for the successful execution of the repatriation exercise”. 

There was no accompanying breakdown, however, of how both sums have since been spent to date.

The argument from James, and the subsequent OPM statement, are contradictory to the initial announcement by Golding when the 25 mostly medical students had their studies halted due to the invasion by Russian forces. 

At the time, the public was informed that the US$10,000 sum was to go toward “transportation, food and other necessities”. 

See statement in full below: 

“The Government of Jamaica is advising that it has had to take steps to return funds which were donated by Mr Mark Golding, in his capacity as Leader of the Opposition, in February 2022, towards the repatriation of the Jamaican students who were in Ukraine.

In his public announcement, on February 25, at the time of the donation of US$10,000, the Leader of the Opposition note that the funds were to be used for “transportation, food and other necessities” related to the repatriation of the students.

On the basis of the decision of the Opposition Leader to disburse the funds through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Ministry acted on the guidance of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service in depositing the funds to its account as ‘Appropriations-in-Aid’ for the intended purpose, in keeping with the financial regulations of the Public Service of Jamaica.

The equivalent of US$15,000 was also donated by the Prime Minister and also deposited in the same account.

It is to be further noted that the urgency of timing required that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs advance funds for the students’ repatriation and care. 

A section of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) from its Hope Road entrance in Kingston. (Photo: solarheadofstate.org)

The contributions by Mr Golding and the Prime Minister covered only a portion of the aggregate cost for the successful execution of the repatriation exercise.

In a recent letter from Mr Golding, he now indicates that the funds ought instead to be distributed to each student towards his/her education costs. Notwithstanding his change of intention regarding the use of the funds, the communication accuses the Government of improper usage of the donation. Accordingly, the Government has decided that the funds be returned to the Leader of the Opposition at the earliest, to facilitate their use as best determined by him.”

Golding, who fêted the Jamaican students on their safe return to the island, also vowed to address their education limbo.

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