Monday, 17 December 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St. John's - It has been several weeks now since the Minister of Education, Gender Affairs, Youth Affairs & Sports Dr Jacqui Quinn-Leandro has been absent from her ministry, the Cabinet and Parliament.
Dr Quinn-Leandro, the current Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of St George, is considered a senior member in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, and has on occasion acted as Prime Minister when he is out of state.
She was notably absent during last month's fiery House of Representatives' debate on the controversial Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP) Bill - where her contributions would normally have been difficult to miss.
Whether on the political platform, in Parliament, via the news media or elsewhere in public, the lone elected female MP is usually on the frontline of battle for the United Progressive Party (UPP) government.
It was while seeking comment from the former ABS News Director concerning a media-muzzling component of the original CIP Bill that Dr Quinn-Leandro responded via a brief text message: "Had surgery yesterday. I am on medical leave. Not in Parliament."
In the six weeks since, no official statement was ever issued to either announce or explain the prolonged absence of the substantive education minister, or the precise reason why Senator Winston Williams has during that time formally deputized for her as the Acting Minister for Education and all that.
Caribarena has learned that Quinn-Leandro is battling breast cancer, and undergoing treatment in Atlanta, Georgia.
It was with this in mind, we were told, that the Board of the Medical Benefits Scheme convened last Wednesday and approved a mammoth grant of US$100,000 to Dr Quinn-Leandro to help pay for her huge and mounting medical bills.
The meeting is said to have continued past midnight into Thursday morning, as not all Board members were in agreement, and there was considerable argument over the amount approved for instant disbursement.
Those with reservations pointed out that other people needing medical treatment abroad for equally (or even more) severe conditions were limited by the rules of MBS to grants totaling less than EC$10,000.
In fact, we were told, those expressing misgivings about the sum (and the rapidity with which its disbursement was being sought) pointed out that applications were currently in hand from four other persons requesting sums of EC$10,000 for overseas medical treatment, but these had been turned down because they exceeded the allowable amount for such grants.
According to our sources, however, in accordance with the instructions to the MBS Board (which were issued at the level of Government) the full amount was approved and wired to Atlanta the very next day Thursday December 13th 2012.
Caribarena has so far been unsuccessful in our attempts to reach the chairperson of the MBS Board of Directors, Joanne Lovell, or MBS CEO Pierre Richardson.
Two opposition figures who were contacted for comment said they were coy about coming across in any manner that would sound as if they were making political mileage out of Quinn-Leandro's health and associated financial challenges.
They said they wanted to make it clear that while they believe the procedures and benchmarks associated with such grants need to be handled in a manner that does not give precedence to status over actual need, the minister's treatment and recovery is at this time their foremost consideration.