Jack Melkonian: It Took 78 Years To Build Up MEI And It’s BeingDestr


NICOSIA, November 10 (Noyan Tapan). The great-great nephew of the two
founders of the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) is in Cyprus
to join the fight to save the 78-year old school founded by members
of his family, the Cyprus Mail reported.

MEI is under threat of closure from June 2005, after the Armenian
General Benevolent Union (AGBU) decided the loss-making school should
close finally.

The move has prompted outrage amongst the Armenian community in
Cyprus and abroad, which suspects financial motives on the part
of the AGBU as the MEI is sitting on an estimated million worth of
commercial property.

Swiss-based businessman Jack Melkonian has decided to join in the
legal battle to save the school and questions the motives of the AGBU.

“I am very concerned about what is happening because this was a
donation made by our family. It was a long time ago – three generations
back – but nevertheless as a family we are concerned because there
have been a lot of rumours. I have come here to see with my own eyes
to see what is happening,” he told the Cyprus Mail in an interview
on November 9.

It was his great-great uncle Garabed, who died in Cyprus in 1934 who
made the donation that allows the school to exist. Melkonian said his
family has a copy of a deed which clearly states that a trust should be
set up, the proceeds of which were to keep the school going. “There
is no mention in that deed that the school should not exist. In
fact my great-great uncle was rather concerned that the school stay
open. The amount donated at that time corresponded to the budget of
Luxembourg. It was a very large amount of money so if it had been set
up as a trust, the interest should have covered the expenses of the
school,” he said. “It also says clearly that if for any reason the
AGBU cannot take care of the school or that the AGBU closes down,
that this fund should be transferred to another institution that
could take care of the school which in my opinion clearly says that
the continuity of this school was very much an issue”.

Melkonian said he has approached the AGBU on several occasions and
written to each member of the board individually. He said he was told
that they possess another document, which cancels out the wishes of
Garabed Melkonian. It’s a document, he said, nobody else seems to
have seen. He has asked for a copy of the document before travelling
to New York at the invitation of the AGBU, but so far it has not been
forthcoming, he said.

“I have nothing against the AGBU as an organisation, it is
wonderful. We have great esteem for it but we are more concerned
about the people who are running the AGBU at the moment who have
taken this decision.”

Melkonian said his family was puzzled over the trust fund that was
designed to support the school. “Even if the money has been exhausted,
the school and the land are still here and there are a number of
members of the Armenian community that are willing to support the
school to set up a new fund. There is also an income from the business
centre on the land. The revenue of that centre is almost half the
running costs of the school.

“That money seems to flow to the States and we don’t really know what
they are doing with it. They are claiming the maintenance of the school
costs them .2 million of which already half should be covered from
this. There is still .5 million from what was donated originally so
we think there is no need to close this school for financial reasons,”
he added.

Melkonian said the AGBU seemed to have forgotten that although it is
supposed to be a financial organisation, it is also supposed to have
a human side and questioned how such a far-reaching decision as the
closure of the MEI could have been taken by a mere handful of people.

“The Melkonian is a monument to 20th century Armenian history. It
took 78 years to build it up and it’s being destroyed within one year,
which is a great mistake. With a little work the school can be saved.”