PROFESSOR Kenneth Julien is no longer president of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT).
Finance Minister Colm Imbert sent Julien a letter on June 1, informing him that Cabinet decided to restructure the board of the UTT.
“Accordingly, on behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean region and many further afield, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, wishes to thank you for your outstanding contribution of over half a century as the most singular driving force in the development of engineering education and the industrial sector, particularly the national energy sector, in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere. We owe you a huge debt of gratitude and your contribution can be described as nothing less than iconic,” Imbert’s letter said.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia told the Sunday Express that Julien’s term of office had come to an end and the Government was reviewing the composition of the board.
“It is the view that Dr Julien needed to make contributions in other areas,” said Garcia.
He said Julien’s replacement will be announced shortly.
Julien, often referred as T&T’s energy czar, is now 87.
He conceptualised and founded the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), an industry-oriented university, in 2004 and became chairman and president from 2004 to 2010. He reinstalled as chairman with effect from November 2015, shortly after the ruling People’s National Movement returned to power.
Well aware that retirement was in the cards, Julien told the Sunday Express yesterday, that he had felt a personal obligation to stay on at UTT and to contribute as long as he was able to help.
“I’m fairly comfortable. It’s 15 years old, which is very young, and I played a role in getting it going. So I am leaving it in a fairly stable position,” he said.
“I hope the work continues,” he said.
Last year, after an eight-year court battle, the board of state-owned Evolving Technologies and Enterprise Development Company Limited (Eteck) decided to discontinue its negligence case against its former board, then headed by Julien.
One week before the trial was set to begin, Eteck opted not to continue with it “based on legal advice” it obtained from James Guthrie QC.
In response, Julien described the matter as a nusaince.
The action was initiated under then attorney general Anand Ramlogan in 2011.
The State had alleged that the board entered into a US$5 million investment with a Hong Kong-based company, Bamboo Networks Ltd, between January 18 and May 17, 2005, without carrying out a due diligence exercise into the company’s financial records beforehand.
The defendants were Julien and other directors at the time—Ulric Mc Nicol, Brian Copeland, Rene Monteil, Eugene Tiah, Sonia Noel, Wendy Fitzwilliam and John Soo Ping Chow. For Julien, the action when it was initiated, came as a surprise given his decades-long career in public service.
It was the first time decisions taken by a board he was a part of were pursued for negligence.
In an interview published in the Express Business magazine in September last year, Julien said: “Let me contrast that with my own personal experience, when I came back and joined the University (of the West Indies) in 1964. I was invited to serve on the board of T&TEC because I had a degree in electrical engineering. I think I served for 25 years on the board on T&TEC and nothing like this ever happened.
“We took some major decisions—the whole Point Lisas plant, power generation. All kinds of decisions were taken under my leadership and at no time was there any query or any sense that the government would want to embarass or create any stress for us. I think that is how it should be because when you sit on these boards you have to make decisions. That is the whole idea of moving them out of bureaucracy. Sometimes the institutions are not the right one. But board members should have a sense that they are not being persecuted or harassed because as a board they took a decision that did not turn out to be the best. I am not saying this happened. That’s separate from individual members using their positions for fraud or bribery. I am talking about the entire board taking the decision. That is my concern and I am not sure how that will change,” he told the Express in a interview following the matter being dropped.
Despite the case, he still went back to chair the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) in November 2015 when he was asked, as he recognised the need for specific training in the energy and industrial sectors at the post-secondary level.
On his legacy, he had told the Express Business in September: “I don’t want at any point for anyone to say to my grandchildren that your father is a crook or he did this or that. The legacy must be clear if there is a legacy at all. I would want the legacy to be if my grandchildren drive down to Point Lisas and they know nothing about me and that part of my life but someone said, ‘most was initiated by your grandfather’, that’s a legacy.
“The legacy I am more proud of, which is alive, are my students. They are running that show. They are running all that show. They still call me ‘Prof’. That legacy of students holding key positions, not political positions. The only student that came under me is the current Minister of Finance and both he and I may not want to admit that (laughing) but basically that’s a legacy, that would remain.”