By Youri Kemp
Caribbean News Now associate editor
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, has responded to claims that her government has pro-actively facilitated the relocation of the Ross University School of Medicine (RUMSM) from its neighbour and sister Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member state, Dominica, in a brazen and duplicitous act of poaching.
Dominica is still rebuilding after the devastating 2017 Hurricane Maria and RUSM is said to represent some 30 percent of the island’s economy.
Controversy over the RUSM’s planned move out of Dominica was elevated after former minister for justice and former Supreme Court Justice in Trinidad and Tobago, Herbert Volney, in a commentary published by Caribbean News Now on August 6 stated:
“But I write not to chastise the ‘business decision’ as to condemn the decision of the Barbados government, and its new prime minister, to allow her island state to be used as a pawn of imperialist capital for maximization of profit of that organization.”
Describing it as a “dog eat dog Bajan policy”, Volney went on to state:
“Surely not at the expense of deeply offending Dominica, Dominicans, and the Dominica economy now set to lose 30 percent 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.”
These things, Volney added, were a “Declaration of War” and that: “This is cruel to Dominica. It runs against the grain of everything that is CARICOM.”
Mottley responded via a Facebook video, claiming that it was not malicious or in bad faith that the request by Ross to come to Barbados was made and that Barbadian hands were “clean” in this matter.
Mottley also claimed that she and Dominican prime minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, are good friends as well as colleagues and they communicate on a regular basis, also citing that Skerrit was the first leader of the Caribbean region to visit her upon becoming prime minister of Barbados in May.
Mottley also said that it was determined by her government, after a request came in a week after her coming to office, to accept the request of RUSM only after her government determined that the school’s ability to return to Dominica would not be a feasible option.
Claims of others within CARICOM stating anything other than her government’s determination that Dominica would not be a feasible option at this time for Ross are “ignorant” at best and downright “wrong and wicked”, Mottley concluded.
Volney has also asked for CARICOM to intervene in this matter. In an earlier letter to Caribbean News Now dated August 5, he stated:
“My primary nationalist concern is with the politics of this. There is no way that Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Eric Williams would have tolerated this, for it eats at the very foundation of everything the regional community stands for.
“Allowing one member state to advance must never be at the expense of another as is the case here where the new kid on the block Mia Mottley has fallen hook line and sinker to neo-colonialist power moves of a large American player on the CARICOM chess board. Yes her country’s embattled economy can do with this move and its 4,000 nationals bringing the Yankee dollar on a sustained basis. But at what cost? The obvious cost is the destruction of CARICOM and certainly the good relationship that has existed between the tight OECS economic bloc within CARICOM and Barbados.
“CARICOM has to take a political stand on this and stop it in the bud, for the precedent, if it is allowed, will not end there as American and other companies with economic might will be able to force demands on fledgling economies against national interests, a matter that is intolerable and undermines everything the regional integration movement has stood for.”
Ross University has not commented on the dispute. The press contact on its website is no longer working for the University, and other staff members are apparently unaware of the political and regional implications the move has caused.