‘WE WANT JUSTICE’
ABOUT 30 students caught in limbo here as a result of the Lambirds Academy fallout staged a peaceful protest in Constitution Park yesterday afternoon.
The students – all of whom are from India and Nepal – told The VOICE their frustrations are increasing daily as they await word from government officials here on their future.
“Today we are seeking justice for the students of Lambirds Academy,” a female student, SelishaChettri, told The VOICE. “We have been stuck and haven’t moved on from the situation. We’ve been going to the government officials for help but nothing comes through.”
Chettri said she and her fellow students felt they needed to “do something for ourselves” by hitting the streets with banners and placards to make their voices heard. Enough is enough, she said.
“We thought that by doing this protest we can get some things worked out for us so that we can move on from this terrible situation,” Chettri said.
Chettri told The VOICE that she has learned that some of the students who have signed on to the offer being made by the International Organization on Migration (IOM) are scheduled to leave Saint Lucia on June 8, 15 and 22. However, she could not confirm how many students in total would be leaving for Nepal on those three occasions.
She also contends that since the case against Lambirds Academy’s Chief Executive Officer, Iftekhar Ahmed Shams and three other defendants is still active in the local courts, sending the students back to their home country is both inhumane and counter-productive.
With Nepal being rocked by a deadly earthquake in April, Chettri said local authorities need to take that situation into consideration. She believes that should the students be asked to return, they should be able to be compensated for the tuition and other fees they would have spent coming to Saint Lucia to study.
Things took a turn for the worst for the students after police raided six locations in the north of the island following a formal complaint made by some of the students to police. As a result of the mid-morning raid on February 27 this year, Lambirds Academy was shut down and four men taken onto custody, including Shams, on charges of human trafficking and money laundering.
Since the saga unfolded in February, local police have held one press conference on the matter. After a protracted period of refusing to speak on the matter, Commerce Minister, Emma Hippolyte, and Invest Saint Lucia Chief Executive Officer, McHale Andrew, issued statements in the press stating that due diligence was followed in providing the requisite paperwork establishing Lambirds Academy as a bona fide learning institution.
At present, the students are housed at different locations in the north, including the Pastoral Centre at Bois d’Orange. Chettri said that while the students are thankful for the hospitality they have received from kind-hearted Saint Lucians since their plight started in February, the main priority remains getting home – but not empty-handed.
“I just want to say, help us,” Chettri. “We need justice for the Lambirds students. We are poor students who came here by having very big dreams.”