ROSEAU, Dominica, Monday August 13, 2018 – Amid accusations and name-calling as a result of Ross University School of Medicine’s decision to leave Dominica after 40 years and relocate to Barbados, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit has called for an end to the hostility and the “unwarranted verbal attacks” against his Barbadian counterpart.
Earlier this month, Skerrit announced that the university, which relocated to neighbouring St Kitts and the US state of Tennessee following the passage of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, was leaving Dominica. Hours after his disclosure, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and an official of Ross University announced that the institution would be located in Barbados by January 5 next year.
Mottley was subsequently accused by some in Dominica of poaching the university away from the Eastern Caribbean country, but she insisted that “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. “The hands of the Barbados Government are clean in this matter.”
However, the verbal attacks continued, and Dominica’s ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Vince Henderson, said Prime Minister Skerrit had written to the university in July, indicating that plans were advanced for the resumption of classes in Portsmouth, Dominica.
But in a statement issued over the weekend, Skerrit called on all involved to “refocus and move forward”.
“I wish to call on all who are accountable to cease and desist from the unwarranted verbal attacks on the Government and Prime Minister of Barbados and by extension on all Barbadians. The decision to relocate to Barbados was a decision taken solely by Ross University School of Medicine,” he said.
“I do not think it is right, neither do I support any attacks on Prime Minister Mottley and the Government of Barbados. I reiterate my call to all Dominicans, including those who support me, that these attacks are not in our best interests, nor to our benefit. It is not the Dominican way. It is not who we are!”
Skerrit said his camaraderie with Prime Minister Mottley had not been affected by Ross’ decision to relocate, and his profound love for the people of Barbados remained intact.
He pointed out that the people and Government of Barbados have stood with Dominica in good times and in difficult times. Among the assistance he pointed to was a US$10 million loan which Barbados gave Dominica on concessional terms when the Eastern Caribbean island were at the mercies of the IMF in 2002.
“At that time, this was a lifesaver for our country and Prime Minister Mia Mottley was a member of that Government. After Tropical Storm Erika and Hurricane Maria, the people of Barbados, including Prime Minister Mottley herself, were at the forefront of tirelessly raising funds and securing food supplies, among other relief efforts, for us in Dominica. What is especially notable is that she accomplished this even though she was the leader of the Opposition at the time,” he told Dominicans.
Skerrit also used his address to assure citizens that despite the economic fallout of Ross’ closure, it was not the end of Dominica.
“There are ongoing discussions between Ross and my administration, and I am confident that they will conclude with our country benefitting. Dominica shall become stronger and indeed more prosperous from this experience and I trust that the good Lord will continue to create opportunities for us as a nation, just as he did numerous times in the past when we were jolted by natural disasters,” he said.
The Dominican leader said the nation would recover, just as it did on previous occasions.
“My call to us all, is to look forward. We have a country to build! Being negative and gloating on setbacks will benefit no one.”