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Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves. (iWN file photo)
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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves Monday said he would not blame either his Dominican or Barbadian counterparts for the controversy surrounding the decision of the US-owned Ross University to re-locate to Barbados.

Speaking at a news conference, Gonsalves told reporters that he had received information “from different sources” and he does not believe that “anyone can reasonably blame Prime Minister (Roosevelt) Skerrit (of Dominica) of losing Ross University neither can one reasonably blame Mia Mottley of poaching Ross University.

“The matter which comes out stark to me first of all is that the business entity has no loyalty to any country or any community if that loyalty conflicts with what they perceive to be their immediate, medium term long term interest,” Gonsalves said.

Over the weekend, the Dominica government called for an end to the “unwarranted verbal attacks” against the Barbados government as a result of the decision of the university to re-locate after 40 years there.

“The decision to relocate to Barbados was a decision taken solely by Ross University School of Medicine (RUSM). The relationship between Barbados and Dominica is longstanding and amicable. The people and Government of Barbados have always stood with us both in good times and most recently in difficult times,” Skerrit said in a radio and television broadcast.

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The Skerrit administration said it had informed the Ross University School of Medicine that it could have resumed its operations on the hurricane struck island even before the start of the January semester in 2019.

The island’s ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Vince Henderson, speaking on a radio programme last Tuesday night, read from a three-page letter Prime Minister Skerrit had sent to the university in July indicating that plans were advanced for the resumption of classes in Portsmouth, north of here.

“It is my fervent hope that all things considered there will be a much earlier re-opening of the campus that has been indicated in your earlier communication and during your visit in April 2018,” Skerrit wrote in the July 9 letter to the Adtalem Global Education president and chief executive officer at Ross University, Lisa Wardell.

“I wish to assure you that all the arrangements we discussed for the accreditation for Ross by the Medical Board have been acted upon to meet the desired expectation,” Skerrit added.

Last week, Mottley denied there was anything underhanded by her administration into accepting the Ross University School of Medicine’s move to the island.

“Barbados came into the picture, only when, for Ross University, returning to Dominica for the start of the January semester in 2019, was not an option. This is not and has never been a case of poaching or enticing anyone away from Dominica,” she said in a statement.

Earlier this month, Skerrit announced Ross University, which had been forced to relocate its operations to St. Kitts and the state of Tennessee in the United States following the passage of Hurricane Maria last September, would be leaving the Eastern Caribbean nation after 40 years.

Hours later, Mottley and Wardell held a press conference in Bridgetown indicating that Barbados would be the new home of the American university by Jan. 5, 2019.

In her statement, Mottley said while she could not speak for or on behalf of Ross, “the hands of the Barbados Government are clean in this matter”.

Gonsalves said Ross University was built in Dominica, recalling that “when Ross went to Dominica in 1978 …they started with 80 students, they would have had a hurricane in 1979… that did not stop them, they were just up and running, they came back.

“They have had other hurricanes. The Barbados government, nobody could tell Ross that there will be no hurricane in Barbados. Barbados has had hurricane in the past.

“They (Ross) have assessed where they are. The back-to-back hurricanes were probably the occasion, the spark for them having consideration for moving. But they would have assessed that their immediate, long term interest is no longer with Dominica”.

Gonsalves said the decision by Ross was “clearly” not based solely on the weather.

“Look, Grenada is outside the hurricane belt more than Barbados. They say Grenada is south of the hurricane belt but what happened in 2004. Ivan blow down the whole place including the medical school and they build it back better because they saw their long term interest being there in Grenada….”

Gonsalves recalled that when the off shore medical schools were first coming into the region, some Caribbean countries campaigned against them saying “they are bad for the medical profession.

“Now their thinking is clearly different,” he said, adding he is unaware if the medical professionals in Barbados “are yet convinced about having it (offshore medical school).

“It is going to be interesting to see how those medical doctors going to work with the medical students at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I am sure they would be working out all of those problems and I don’t want to be negative about that, but I come back to the fundamentals that you can’t reasonably blame Roosevelt Skerrit or Mia Mottley.

“The thing is this between the decision to leave somewhere and to go somewhere else is always some period of uncertainty and that has to be sorted out…and they decided they going to Barbados. But basically 40 years of Ross in Dominica, clearly they did not consider that to be of any importance to them,” Gonsalves told reporters.

13 replies on “Don’t blame Dominica, B’dos for Ross University relocation — Gonsalves”

  1. Clearly, Ross did not consider 40 years in Dominica to be of any importance. (Like we needed the PM to tell us that?) And, all the talk about hurricane and so on. How did your State-visit go in Japan? (You forgot? getting down in age old boy.) No reporters to meet you at AIA when you returned? Very charming (2X)indeed. Who should not blame Barbados?

  2. Well said, Prime Minister, except for your views on Caribbean hurricanes.

    1. If Ross University’s departure broke any legal contract that it had with the Commonwealth of Dominca then Dominica should sue for breach of contract in a court of law. Since the medical school is moving to Barbados, another CARICOM country, such a law suit would be the best way to receive damages. That nothing of the sort has been mentioned by any party, I assume that there are to legal impediments to this move.

    2. CARICOM’s mandate to enact a Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) says that the free movement of capital, services, and labour from one CARICOM country to another is to be encouraged. This move helps fulfill this mandate. It is not an example of “poaching” in any way, shape, or form.

    3. These kind of business moves take place every day all over the world. It’s called free enterprise and the spirit of capitalism. (This is why Donald Trump’s anti-free trade policies are bound to fail because they will make America far worse off.)

    4. Despite what the Prime Minister has siad above, Dominica is in heart of the Caribbean hurricane zone; Barbados is on its periphery.

    5. The medical students and school staff would be much happier in the place like Barbados with so many more activities and amenities.

    6. As the PM implies, I believe that Ross University has been considering a move for some time and that the hurricane — the damage from which I’m sure the company was insured for — gave them a perfect excuse to act on the fact that their future success and growth meant that the infrastructure and amenities of Dominica were no longer meeting their needs.

    7. If Dominica were successful in halting this move, by whatever means, it would create a shockwave of ant-Caribbean invesment sentiment: don’t bother spending millions to do business in any of these countries because if you want to move elsewhere, the government will arbitrarily try to seize your assets.

    So, good luck to Ross University in its move to Barbados.

  3. Y papa have to put his mouth in everything that does not concerned him and SVG have so much problems that need fixing like jobs for it’s people and fighting crime witch is out of control deal with your home problems first .( mine ya funky business)

  4. Mica country Montreal, Quebec Canada says:

    RR totally in agreement with you. So many problems SVG under going at this moment Mr talkative can not even fix neither clean his own dirty laundry but he always poking his nose and ears where it doesn’t belongs. Papa please clean up your gabbages behind your back yard it’s filthy.

  5. These organizations come, they rape our islands but because there is no unity and too many greedy leaders in the Caribbean who seeing about their own interest, they will continue to do it.

    1. Good point, we need to unite and stop fighting down each other and selling out each other for a plate of food. I feel really strong about this but I don’t want to offend anyone. Let’s hope that they figure it out.

  6. We have our own issues with of shore medical schools where violent and petty crimes are rampant. So comrade be careful that you will not be delivering your own eulogy with respect to the medical schools here in Vincyland.

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