Oh, how the mighty mouth has fallen silent.
Months after the May 24 general election sent a score or more of politicians into retirement, questions abound as to their decade-long stewardship as Ministers of the Crown.
But we were struck – or perhaps dumbstruck – by the steadfast refusal of one of loudest of loyal lieutenants of the First Among Equals to be held to account for the appearance of an unaccredited university on his watch.
Mr Ronald Jones, you may not find it difficult to recall, had much to say on many a matter as this nation’s longest-serving minister of education.
His off-the-cuff speeches were as legendary as they were lengthy. At one school’s SpeechDay, his homily ran so long that the prize giving had to be deferred because Ronald Jones could not be deterred.
We assumed that the force with which the minister spoke was, if anything, borne out of a sincere desire to see education fulfill its role in shaping the destinies of countless Barbadians.
Often, too often, the rhetoric did not soar. And so, the well-meaning schoolteacher finally put in charge of running schools spewed forth not only pearls of wisdom but often duds somewhat out of place in this modern postcolonial era.
Witness his 2013 gem, calling for “cracking heads” of protesters unhappy with the Stuart administration.
Now, a Barbadian ‘Ronald Trump’ has shown us, like the eponymous master of mayhem in the United States, that it perhaps was all a performance available on demand while he was on the clock as a member of Her Majesty’s Cabinet of Barbados. But nothing more. No more.
Now that he is among Yesterday’s Men he finds himself under no compunction to clear the good name of Barbados, mired in scandal engulfing the Washington University of Barbados.
“I have nothing to say… nothing to say. I am a private citizen now, lemme enjoy my private life. Not a word, I have nothing to say,” he told this newspaper in the wake of the scandal surrounding the closed “Washington University”, a university in name only, bereft of official sanction.
How can he expect to be left alone when questions abound as to how such a school could have been allowed to operate for years without accreditation from the competent authority, the Barbados Accreditation Council, an arm of the Ministry of Education?
Did he or did he not visit the campus and assure the staff and students that the university would soon be accredited by the BAC? Did this happen before or after the electorate stripped him of ministerial authority?
Was he not the same minister who boasted of our great strides as a hub for medical education, with the “Washington University” being touted as a success story in the Government’s thrust to lure offshore medical schools to our shores?
Has he ‘nothing to say’ to Subash Agarwal, a parent of one of the students who spent US$32 000 for his daughter to be educated here, who was himself recruited in India and told that the “Washington University of Barbados” met all the necessary health requirements by a marketing video presented to the staff before their arrival here?
Did he authorize or cause to have appear in the video Prime Minister Stuart and Minister of Health John Boyce? Was it on the education minister’s word that the video contained a guarantee that the institution met the necessarily stipulations?
You say you have nothing to say, Mr Jones; that you ought to be left alone as a private citizen – having walked out of Government as Minister of Education, Science and Technology and walked into the Bridgetown International University, a medical school on Harbour Road, as its Vice Chancellor.
Did this school not also come into operation on your ministerial watch, sir?
Did you not rattle off your ministerial and teaching experience in an interview on Indian television, following a visit to the Medical Council of India? Did you not translate your public and professional standing into your new role as private citizen?
We have even more questions for the previous minister of education. For the nation’s name is on the line.
This silence of Mr Ronald Jones is unacceptable. Such is the stuff that public inquiries are made of.
Thankfully, our system of government, flawed as it may be, has ways of making you talk, Mr Jones.