Monroe College Brawl!


Ramesh Sinanan, former Dean of Monroe College

It can be described as the case of Ramesh Sinanan vs Monroe College. But what begins this morning at the High Court in Castries is no small matter—not by any measure. It involves the man responsible for establishing the island’s best-known offshore educational institution, and who is now taking the owners and principals to court—charging breach of contract among claims.

Ramesh Sinanan is Trinidad-born, a US-based academic administrator. He was originally contracted by the parent company to lay the ground for the establishment of its first Caribbean campus here.  He lived on-island and did the normal rounds, pressing the flesh and rubbing shoulders with all the right people in all the right places in the best interests of this island’s first US-recognized institution to grant degrees in subjects relevant to the needs of Saint Lucia and the wider Caribbean.

Sinanan was well known among the local glitterati. He also made a name for himself in the wider community as a lecturer in criminology and was highly regarded in local police circles as well as the legal fraternity, especially after he had placed the subject on the curriculum at Monroe’s local campus.

The Monroe College project at Barnard Hill is a classic private investment success story. It came, it grew and expanded—all in record time: local students soon outnumbered foreign counterparts. The record number of Saint Lucians graduating each semester gave the government and people good reason to crow.

Thanks largely to Sinanan, Saint Lucia had a fully functioning private academic institution with its own private academic board, employing Saint Lucian lecturers and turning out graduates at an unprecedented pace. The pass-rate levels bordered on the incredible, with students scoring highly in more subjects than ever before.

The day’s government was as excited as the parents of graduating students and soon Monroe was receiving an enviable share of government concessions. The institution started to market itself beyond Saint Lucia’s borders. The Saint Lucia Development Bank was officially directed to open a window specially for the benefit of local Monroe students—effectively a guarantee of their tuition fees, in the process widening  Monroe’s local recruitment base.

It was clear Monroe had friends in high places. Mindful of this society’s political underpinnings, the College also cultivated institutional relations with leading lights both in the Government and Opposition. (Ministers and ministers’ wives—past and present—their satellites too, were among top local staff. For one there was Dr Robert Lewis as director of studies, now education minister. For another, there was Gus Small, former deputy director at Bordelais Correctional Center now assistant secretary of the incumbent Saint Lucia Labour Party.)

From time to time, imported Monroe staff would run into local Immigration problems that normally would have gotten others in a similar situation on the first plane out of Hewanorra. But not Monroe’s academic imports.

Alas, the winds of change started blowing at Barnard Hill. Sinanan seemed to be growing less and less conspicuous. Indeed he seemed to suddenly disappear. He was no longer courted by the press nor quoted singing Monroe’s praises. More and more Sinanan seemed to be spending his time at the Cap Estate golf course.

It soon emerged that Monroe had recruited a new principal for the local campus— a Dr Alex Ephrem, a vice president imported here from Monroe’s US headquarters to take over both the academic and administrative reins at Barnard Hill. There was never an official announcement of the all-important adjustment, except to say Sinanan’s responsibilities had been assumed by the new man from New York. But there were buzzes, some of them legal.

It emerged that there had been a major falling out between Sinanan and the college he had introduced to Saint Lucia. But there was never any public washing of dirty linen, only private preparations for a legal battle. Sinanan—who’d by then settled here with his family—had run into major problems with the New York Monroe hierarchy and they had quickly parted ways.

Neither Sinanan nor Monroe has made public the details surrounding their suits, but the STAR has been aware for some time that they’d been filed. And now the case is finally underway, with widely envisaged accompanying fireworks. Both sides have hired high-profile local lawyers to plead their respective cases. The case begins in the high court today at 9 am.

More on this most interesting development in Saturday’s STAR!

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