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Apologise for unjustly dismissing Professor Bain

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Jamaicans and other citizen stakeholders are very disappointed that the Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies unjustly dismissed Professor Brendan Bain as the Head of the Caribbean HIV Aids Regional Training Network (C.H.A.R.T.) and we therefore demand a public apology.  Empirical scientific research and confident researchers are too important in the fight against HIV/AIDS to have them threatened and dismissed because of the political ideologies of a few interest groups.

Regardless of your religious, moral, or political beliefs, we can all agree that it is wrong to dismiss an expert for giving an expert's report to a Court of Law.

 

Professional groups which have defended Professor Bain so far:

Jamaica Bar Association: "This sort of retaliation against Bain may well be contemptuous of our system of justice as same could be considered as a wrongful interference in a judicial process. Many of us studied at UWI and have taken pride in the strong regional academic experience. Regretfully, the recent academic censorship and contractual termination by UWI of Bain raises serious questions in the minds of all persons who look to UWI for independent thought and creative thinking given its position as a bastion of Caribbean research and pedagogy. We are concerned that the work and worth of Professor Bain and other leaders in other academic fields can be so easily circumscribed. The Jamaican Bar Association calls upon Professor Nigel Harris and the leadership of UWI, if it has not done so, to give due process to Professor Bain. We remind UWI that while not all academic pursuits may lead to outcomes, hypotheses or conclusions that are desirous or popular with your constituents and donors full respect must be accorded to the process and the freedom of expression and thought that we trust will always remain a true and guarded virtue by the University of the West Indies."

Medical Association of Jamaica: "The MAJ is disappointed that one of the pioneers in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS is no longer leading CHART. We want to encourage everyone, all stakeholders, to focus on HIV/AIDS and not against each other."

Human Resource Management Authority of Jamaica: Concerned that the UWI failed to outline guidelines which Professor Bain breached which justify his dismissal.

 

Summary of the Issue

Professor Brendan Bain is a retired UWI professor and world renowned expert on the research, treatment, and public policy related to HIV/AIDS. After a career of service for over 25 years, Bain was fired by the Vice Chancellor as head of C.H.A.R.T, the CARICOM response entity for HIV/AIDS across the region with one year remaining on his contract. 
He was wrongfully dismissed on the basis of an Expert Report he submitted to the Belizean High Court, after certain interest groups falsely claimed that he made legal recommendations concerning the buggery laws in Belize. However he did not make any recommendations concerning the buggery laws.  His report only detailed medical research on the HIV/AIDS risk which is not in dispute. Specifically, he pointed out objective fact that "there was higher relative risk of contracting HIV by men who have sex with men in Belize".  This fact has been acknowledged by all international health organisations and interest groups and is the basis for the increased allocation of resources to stem the spread of HIV amongst men who have sex with men. He was unfairly dismissed because of the political motives of a few interest groups, and objective scientific study and research has been suppressed because of the unwillingness of the Vice Chancellor to act in the interests of the wider public and citizen stakeholders.  

Protests have begun at the University of the West Indies by medical professionals, students, researchers, lecturers and other citizen stakeholders who are deeply concerned about the threat to academic integrity at the University of the West Indies, and a fear that the UWI and C.H.A.R.T. programme will cater only to the limited interests of a few outspoken groups rather than the wider public and all citizen stakeholders.

Observer Article on the issue

Gleaner retraction for publishing false information

UWI Press Release announcing the dismissal

We can make a difference by standing up for justice, for public policy guided by science, and for the freedom of our doctors and researchers.


Professor Bain's Expertise

Professor Bain is one of the pioneers in Clinical Infectious Disease practice in the Caribbean and is a leading medical authority on the HIV epidemic in the Caribbean. He obtained his undergraduate degrees and post-graduate training in Internal Medicine from the UWI. He studied and conducted research in Infectious Diseases at St. George's Hospital Medical School as a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow. He holds a Diploma in Medical Education from the University of Dundee, Scotland and a Masters Degree in Public Health summa cum laude from Boston University, USA. He has published over 30 papers in peer-reviewed medical journals and is co-author of the book, Education and HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean published by UNESCO. He is a retired professor of Community Health in the Faculty of Medical Sciences at the Mona campus at UWI in Jamaica, and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of International Health at Boston University School of Public Health.

He has been heavily involved in efforts in HIV/AIDS research and treatment for the Government of Jamaica, Pan American Health Organisation, C.H.A.R.T. and several international initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. He has been awarded by the Medical Association of Jamaica for outstanding leadership, and twice by the National AIDS Committee of Jamaica for his exemplary service.


5 Main reasons why the dismissal was unjust

1. Professor Bain did nothing wrong

The interest groups which called for his dismissal did not cite any objective evidence that Professor Bain did anything wrong.  In fact, they were wrong in inferring that he made any recommendations concerning the buggery laws when Professor Bain's Affidavit said no such thing.  The release by the UWI did not justify the dismissal apart from saying that the interest groups lost confidence.  There was no conflict of interest as Professor Bain at all times carried out his duties as a medical doctor and acted in the best interests of all citizen stakeholders by presenting empirical scientific research. It is unjust to dismiss Professor Bain without providing lawful reasons as justification.  The dismissal has denied him his Constitutional rights, his duty to the Court to provide an expert opinion, his human dignity, and tarnished his reputation by suggesting that he did something wrong when he did not.


2.  There are no legitimate reasons to lose confidence in Professor Bain

As citizen stakeholders we have not lost confidence in Professor Bain and would like to see him continue his objective research and openness concerning HIV/AIDS research and treatment. The interest groups that expressed that they lost confidence presented no facts to substantiate their position. In fact, it is clear that Professor Bain did not make any recommendations that are contrary to their political positions and therefore the loss of confidence is misguided and baseless. Professor Bain's affidavit referenced undisputed research that has not been contradicted by the UN, PAHO or any international health body. He should not be fired solely because limited interest groups wrongly feel that Professor Bain should not have brought the attention of a Court of Law to that research.  The Vice Chancellor should be bold in defending the interests of all citizen stakeholders by using empirical evidence and honest conclusions to decide the future of Professor Bain.  Instead he caved to pressure from certain interest groups instead of correcting their misguided assertions.

3.  Limits our access to all scientific research and information related to HIV/AIDS

Scientific research should not be suppressed for political reasons. As citizen stakeholders we have an interest in receiving a balanced view of the medical and scientific research concerning HIV/AIDS.  We do not want such research to be suppressed, or for the doctors and scientists who conduct such research to feel threatened or compelled to act for political interests rather than in our best interests. This dismissal sends a frightening signal that the Vice Chancellor and C.H.A.R.T are more interested in catering to the political goals of certain limited interest groups when we want them to be interested in factual research. As citizen stakeholders we find this unacceptable.

4.  Prevents medical experts and research professionals from carrying out their mandates

Medical professionals and research experts have the mandate to carry out and report on the conclusions of scientific research without political interference. This is extremely important in order for us to make informed medical decisions and public policy decisions. The dismissal threatens the freedom of such experts, and several groups including the Medical Association of Jamaica have already expressed their concern.  As citizen stakeholders we think it is very important for our doctors and researchers to have the freedom to research and make decisions without influence or pressure due to political ideologies.

5. The Vice Chancellor failed in his duty to uphold justice and act in the broader interests of the public

The Vice Chancellor of the UWI, with authority to hire and fire the Director of C.H.A.R.T. has the responsibility to act in the interests of the broader Caribbean society and in the interests of the researchers and medical experts that serve the region.  All citizen stakeholders deserve access to empirical research The Vice Chancellor failed in his duty to be guided primarily by that duty, and instead surrendered to the unjustified pressure of a few interest groups. 

 

CITIZEN STAKEHOLDERS are concerned about the following:

1. We do not want scientific research to be suppressed for political reasons

2. We do not want medical experts and researchers to be bullied and silenced for political reasons

3. We are concerned that the Vice Chancellor has used C.H.A.R.T to put political interests over medical and public policy interests

4. We have not lost confidence in Professor Bain and view any loss of confidence as unjustified

5. Regardless of your moral or political ideologies,  the dismissal of an expert for giving an expert opinion is wrong

6. We are concerned that this is the beginning of more bullying of medical experts, scientists and UWI lecturers who conduct research

7. We are concerned that the VC is unable or unwilling to make independent decisions concerning C.H.A.R.T in the broad interest of all citizen stakeholders

8. We do not want the academic environment at UWI to transform into one of conformity to certain political ideologies

9. We are not confident after the unfair dismissal that UWI will remain a center for open and objective scientific research

10.  Professor Bain did not falsify information, or present disputed studies so there was no basis for dismissing his Affidavit and firing him

 

What we want

We demand that the Vice Chancellor issue a public apology to Professor Brendan Bain and to all Citizen Stakeholders, specifically addressing the following:

1.  Acknowledge that the dismissal was not based on anything Professor Bain did or did not do, but solely on the basis of pressure from certain interest groups to have him removed.

2.  Acknowledge the role and importance of citizen stakeholders, separate and apart from the limited interest groups that have been referenced by the UWI thus far, and reaffirm the commitment of C.H.A.R.T. and the University of the West Indies to their broader interests.

3. Respectfully and publicly affirm the professionalism and expertise with which Professor Bain has carried out his job as Director of C.H.A.R.T., as a Professor of the University of the West Indies, as medical practitioner and researcher, and restore his dignity in the face of public attack.

4. Correct any assertion or implication that Professor Bain explicitly made any legal recommendations, and that any opinion that he did so is not only speculative, but cannot be justified on the basis of Professor Bain's Affidavit.

5. Clarify whether any of the actual scientific studies cited by Professor Bain are in dispute and whether the scientific studies he cited are authentic.

6.  Address the integrity of the academic process at the University of the West Indies and clarify whether students and academic staff are free to conduct research and publish their findings without the threat of being dismissed due to conflict with a political ideology or certain interest groups

7.  Clarify whether students at the University of the West Indies attend an institution where only one political ideology is tolerated, or where only certain interest groups govern the dismissal of academic staff and more generally,

8.  Clarify whether objective research and study is encouraged by the Office of the Vice Chancellor.

9.  Clarify whether academic staff are permitted to publish or address their own research or cite independent research that may be in conflict with an ideology and whether they will be dismissed for doing so.

10.  Clarify whether citizen stakeholders and governments should expect that the public policy suggestions by the UWI and/or C.H.A.R.T. is based on empirical scientific research or based on the political ideologies of certain interest groups.

11.  Clarify whether research at the UWI can be empirical and come to objective conclusions, or whether conclusions must be determined by the source/s of funding.

12.  Clarify whether medical doctors at the University of the West Indies and at the health centres at the UWI are generally entitled to discourage behaviours which pose a health risk to their patients, and whether they will be dismissed for doing so.

13.  Clarify whether C.H.A.R.T. no longer has the mandate to "strengthen healthcare professionals and systems to provide quality HIV prevention, care and treatment and support for all Caribbean people."

14. Denounce the widely reported "bullying" by certain lobby groups who have sought to use threatening tactics to advance their political ideologies.



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