The Mia Mottley administration did not poach or entice Ross University School of Medicine to shift its operations from Dominica to Barbados, the Prime Minister insisted Tuesday.
Saying that Barbados’ hands were “clean on this matter”, Mottley said Barbados came into view only when the American-owned medical school decided that returning to Dominica for the start of the January semester in 2019, was “not an option”.
In a video release, the Prime Minister revealed that the university’s decision to sever ties with Dominica was predicated on the fact that island was still recovering from the damage caused by Hurricane Maria last year.
She said when her Government was first approached on May 31 regarding hosting the university, she first inquired if there was anything that Barbados and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries could do to help Dominica maintain its 40-year relationship with the school, which is said to account for as much as 40 per cent of the island’s economic activity.
“In our first conference call the following day on June 1st, I sought to have a number of matters clarified. My first response was to enquire of the state of recovery and rehabilitation in Dominica and whether there was anything sister islands in the Caribbean, like Barbados, could do to fast-track the process of rehabilitation in Dominica,” Mottley said.
“It must be known and understood by all concerned that Ross University had not actually been operational in Dominica since the passage of Hurricane Maria and indeed, the student and faculty bodies were temporarily relocated to two separate countries since last year, namely St Kitts and [the US state of] Tennessee. That situation will continue, I am told, into the next semester,” she added.
The move has caused anger among Dominicans, who rapped Mottley for what they believe to be an act of kicking a CARICOM neighbour while it was down. Among those directly affected would be the residents of Picard and Portsmouth in the north of the island, who have built apartments because they were assured of sustained business from the 1400 students and faculty members at the university.
In a scathing opinion piece, a former high court judge-turned-politician in Trinidad, Herbert Volney, suggested that the owners of Ross University approached Barbados purely from a business standpoint with no consideration for the social impact to Dominica.
Volney, who is of St Lucian and Dominican parentage, further suggested that the Mottley administration grabbed the opportunity to kickstart the flagging Barbadian economy with no regard for brothers and sisters in the Nature Isle.
“Surely not at the expense of deeply offending Dominica, Dominicans, and the Dominica economy now set to lose 30 per cent of GDP! On balance, with all the concessions likely granted by the Mottley Government to Ross to regroup and resettle in Barbados, what benefit truly worth it would’ve enticed Mia Mottley into undermining a fellow CARICOM state now struggling to catch itself from the ravages of a devastating Hurricane Maria?” Volney declared.
“Rather than decline the offer to allow Ross to remove itself from one CARICOM state to Barbados, or to engage in tripartite talks with Dominica on the issue, the Mia Mottley Government clearly secretly plotted this with Ross without any consultation with CARICOM on sovereign propriety. The government of Dominica was preparing for the return of Ross,” he added, while warning Barbados that “karma is a b***h”.
“Mia Mottley, and I pray you and Barbados do not reap the whirlwind for this act of regional treachery. As I repeat, karma is a b***h and we just have to sit back and watch it happen. Shame on Barbados,” the former judge wrote.
However, the Prime Minister said in her statement today before the decision was taken to have the university move here, discussions were held with the Roosevelt Skerrit government which, while hopeful of the school’s return, conceded that a January start-up was highly unlikely given the country’s circumstances.
“It was only after Dominica was ruled out for the January start-up of classes and when attention had turned to at least two other potential locations in the region, two sister Caribbean islands, that Barbados then embraced the idea of making itself available as a possible site for relocation,” she said.
“Let me stress that the relationship between Barbados and Dominica is strong. Our Governments work closely together and my relationship with Prime Minister Skerrit is very good . . . .Therefore, for anyone to suggest that I would knowingly or deliberately set out to hurt, harm or undermine the interests of Dominica, Dominicans, their Government or their leader, simply do not know or understand Mia Amor Mottley.”
Last Friday, Skerrit, in a televised address, said the decision by Ross University to relocate to Barbados was strictly a business decision, and he urged Dominicans not to bear any animosity.
“Over the last ten months we explored all options that one could think of in our discussions with Ross,” Skerrit told Dominicans. “At the end of the day, the officials of Ross, like any any other business person, reserve and exercise the right of the shareholders and the many interests, to include but not limited to, parents, students, faculty and sponsors.
“This is a direct consequence of Hurricane Maria,” the Dominican leader said. “Let us make it very clear that Ross loves Dominica and Dominica loves Ross. We have had a very long relationship over the years. Had it not been for these two weather systems, there would have not been any considerations of Ross University’s departure from Dominica.”