Deputy Political Leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Nazim Burke has reacted to statements made by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell against his family and in particular his son, Mikhail Burke, an island scholar winner.
During his wrap-up presentation of the 2014 National Budget, Dr. Mitchell alluded to financial irregularities with a scholarship that was offered to the son of a former senior minister in the previous Congress government.
According to Dr. Mitchell, the minister got the Ministry of Finance to make out a cheque totaling thousands of dollars in the name of the student and not to the university that he was attending.
The senior Burke who was a guest on a morning talk show programme said the manner in which Prime Minister Mitchell attacked his son, really hurt him as a father.
Burke listed the academic success of his son and spoke of him finishing secondary school in Grenada with 11 subjects, and moving on to the T. A. Marryshow Community College where he grated with five CAPE subjects to receive an island scholarship in 2007 under a previous New National Party (NNP) government of Dr. Mitchell himself.
The young Burke decided to pursue studies in Biomedical Engineering, which was being offered at the University of Toronto.
However, the letter Burke received from government informing him that he cannot attend any other academic institution once the University of the West Indies or St. George’s University was offering the programme, but will not receive more than $EC $65,000.00 on an annual basis for three years.
Burke was amazed that Dr. Mitchell would inform the House of Representatives that he (Burke) sat in Cabinet gave his son a scholarship, and by using his ministerial office did certain questionable things.
However, he said the most hurtful statement coming from Prime Minister Mitchell was the claim that Burke’s son had failed the programme after three years, and instead of putting an end to it, the Cabinet of former Prime Minister Tillman Thomas gave the young Burke additional money for a fourth year.
Dr. Mitchell told the House that in the first year, Burke’ son was given over $68,000.00 in finance from the State, the following year another $72,000.00 and went on for two additional years.
“This was absolutely false, and my son graduated from that Programme with an 85.2 percent average, an ‘A’ Student in the four-year Programme, an ‘A’ Student thus making Grenada proud,” Burke said.
According to Burke, with his son having to return to Grenada to serve his bond, he should not have been made to do so with a cloud of suspicion over him based on the allegations made by the Prime Minister.
In an effort to dismiss Dr. Mitchell’s unfounded claim, the former Finance Minister who is a member of the Senate, produced a number of documents in the Upper House of Parliament during his contribution to the 2014 Budget Debate.
He displayed a letter, dated January 16, 2006 from the Ministry of Education, confirming the scholarship to his son under Mitchell’s NNP regime.
He said the ministry gave its blessings for his son to proceed with the scholarship programme at the University of Toronto when it was realised that neither SGU nor UWI offered the course that he was pursuing.
He also referred to another letter, dated May 28, 2008, which was written by the then Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Michael Pierre who is now the Speaker in Parliament.
The Pierre letter, which was written to Mary Mason, Student Accounts Office of the University of Toronto, informed her of Mikhail Burke’s scholarship that was awarded by the Government of Grenada.
There has been no further public reaction from Prime Minister Mitchell on the issue surrounding the scholarship granted by his government in 2007 to the son of the former Congress minister.