February 13, 2001 By Sean Douglas

Pastor Cuffie gets bogus degree

TEARS of joy flowed freely as Pastor Winston Cuffie was awarded his doctorate by Golden Pacific University.

He thanked God for enduring long nights of arduous study, while his wife and daughters looked on lovingly, and his two US "professors" heartily congratulated him on his award. The event got full-media coverage including half-hour paid broadcast on TV6 at peak hours from 6 p.m.-6.30p.m. last Sunday.

But it was all a sham. The "doctorate" was awarded by a "university" that is not recognised by accrediting agencies in the US and Trinidad and Tobago.

William Iton, campus registrar of the University of the West Indies (UWI) St Augustine said: "We checked our sources and we could see no reference to Golden Pacific University."

He said UWI used two internationally recognised documents to evaluate and to assess for purposes of matriculation foreign university degrees.

He named the publications as The World List of Universities and Other Institutions of Higher Education (21st edition) published by the International Association of Universities.

This publication lists 11,700 accredited universities worldwide.

But Iton said: "Golden Pacific University is not listed."

He said UWI also validated foreign degrees by using another guide. Iton said: Peterson’s (seventh edition) is a recognised handbook for international students, and gives a State by State profile of accredited colleges in the United States.

"There is no reference in this publication to Golden Pacific University."

A spokesperson for the Committee on the Recognition of Degrees (Cord) of Niherst said: "There is no institution listed as being accredited by the name Golden Pacific University."

She said Niherst assessed the validity of university degrees using Peterson’s and the Accredited Institutions of Post Secondary Education by the American Council on Education published in the United States for the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

A UWI source said: "Golden Pacific sounds like one of those places where you could buy a degree. Those "pacific" universities are generally not recognised. We have had a lot of problems with some of these schools."

A very eminent retired "PhD" academic with qualifications from the Universities of London and Toronto, who taught at UWI said: "Golden Pacific is part of Pacific Western University (an infamous ‘degree mill’). You don’t have to attend university. It’s a farce. No self-respecting person does it. It is not accredited in the United States. I checked it on the Internet. It’s an American degree mill. You pay.

"It seems only religious people doing it, like the disgraced Presbyterian Minister Rev Sieunarine. He had one from Pacific Western too. It’s not a doctorate like from UWI or Harvard.

"Pacific Western used to be advertised in the Economist. There are a number of these places advertised like La Salle University and Century University. It’s really a mail drop. It’s not recognised by any proper university in the world. I’m glad the media is picking up on this.

"Rev Sieunarine had a PhD he found on the Internet. He sent in his thesis by fax and received his award by fax. It’s a con game, pure and simple."

Of the two US ‘professors’ who spoke at Cuffie’s award ceremony, the academic said: "You can put a gown on anybody."

At the "award ceremony", Cuffie was photographed with "US professors" Edward Michaelson and Charles Bullock who flew in from the US.

Several searches on the Internet, using search engines like ‘Mamma’, ‘Go To’, ‘Yahoo’ and ‘Ask Jeeves’, could reveal no trace of existence of Golden Pacific University.

Despite repeated attempts over a five-day period to Cuffie’s Miracle Ministries’ office, studio and pastor’s residence, the Independent was unable to contact Pastor Cuffie for a comment. Phone messages were left at his office and residence but Pastor Cuffie did not return the calls. The office repeatedly said that Pastor Cuffie had recently returned to Trinidad and was busy with the church’s school.

Man of controversy

HIS claim to fame is that he has healed bodies and souls but Pentecostal Pastor Winston Cuffie has also been the subject of controversy.

Cuffie, head of Miracle Ministries of Chase Village, Central Trinidad has been criticised for his apparently affluent lifestyle, including the purchase of a plush "Space Wagon" vehicle for him by his church.

In 1997 he was photographed decked out in an immaculate white suit being presented with the $255,000 vehicle.

Adopting a high moral tone, he has also fought several high profile battles in the media with the Roman Catholic Church, and Carnival personalities. He once criticised bandleader Peter Minshall for bringing out a band called "Halleluja". Minshall subsequently changed the band’s name to "Calleluja".

Cuffie was also very critical of David Rudder’s 1999 calypso "High Mas", accusing Rudder of singing "filthy lyrics" and "rot and rubbish".

In the recent general election, Cuffie gave his support to the UNC, attracting criticism from some who pointed to the Government’s recent grant of land to build the a Pentecostal Church.

Since 1986, Pastor Cuffie has built a high public profile by many paid media advertisements of claimed miracle healings and of social commentary.

"I was a ruthless Rasta", "We were paid to kill", "I was deaf for 45 years" and "From death to life" were advertisement headlines ‘testifying’ to the works of Cuffie’s Miracle Ministries.

Seeming having courted controversy for the past 14 years, Pastor Cuffie seems set to continue to be a controversial character, attracting a mixture of admiration and scorn.

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