A foreign student who came to St Lucia to study at one of our offshore medical schools has told a story of experiences he has had in our country that is bound to make every self-respecting St Lucian feel a sense of revulsion and shame. It vindicates the popular earlier feeling that Lambirds was the tip of a mammoth iceberg.
The young man, who comes from India, was featured on Rick Wayne’s TALK television show on Thursday night, in what was a pre-recorded interview. Frankly, the content of that interview we find most disturbing. Admittedly, it is a one-sided story thus far, but it is also a challenge to the authorities to provide the other side or sides that would disprove or trash this young man’s story.
In that interview the young man told how he and several of his countrymen responded to a newspaper advertisement at home about medical training opportunities in St Lucia, a country which he was led to believe was part of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also promised were employment and educational loans. Does this sound at all familiar? He then recounted problems he had with the so called offshore medical school, which ironically, had no equipment to train its students. This resulted in him and other students raising concerns. For this, he said, they were threatened with punitive action.
Some of what we find most shocking about this interview is the young man’s detailed claims about students being restricted, of feeling like prisoners, of being monitored, intimidated and him being physically attacked by persons associated with that school and of the involvement of the police. Surprisingly, there was no indication that anyone was ever charged for attacking him, although the student claimed that the police were effective in getting his attackers off his back.
Be that as it may, the fact that this particular offshore medical school was painted as operating virtually as a state within a state is worrying, and makes it imperative that the government take a look at its operation
One of the most alarming statements made by this student, however, was that one of the persons involved in this school had come to St Lucia as the husband of one of the medical students and ended up going into “business” here for himself through an involvement in the highly controversial Lambirds Academy, some of whose officials are now in court here facing charges of money laundering and human trafficking.
How is it that those who have been trying to convince us that the necessary due diligence was carried out in granting Lambirds licence to set up here, failed to pick up this kind of information? In an earlier editorial we lamented the fact that these schools were never monitored by the government while they operated here and the results of this lapse are now very evident.
At a time when we are still trying to get our government to fully explain Lambirds, including the sudden unexplained transfer of certain government employees who were involved in that matter, this student’s TALK interview is bound to cast a dark shadow over the reputation of the entire offshore school community in St Lucia, not to mention the reputation of our country as well.
The government of St Lucia can no longer maintain its silence on this long-running mess. In the name of the often cited commitment to transparency, accountability and good governance, the people of St Lucia must demand that this can of worms be finally addressed and expunged.