20 Jun 2013

Report into troubled PNG university will not be made public

5:08 pm on 20 June 2013

The Papua New Guinea government says an investigation it ordered into unrest at the University of Technology in Lae will not be made public.

The government ordered the inquiry after a split between the management and the board at the university sparked rioting by students.

The students and many staff have been strongly supportive of Professor Albert Schram, who was sacked as vice chancellor just a few months after assuming the job.

The acting minister of higher education, Don Polye, says the inquiry's report is not a public document and will not be made public.

Our Lae-based correspondent, Oseah Philemon told Don Wiseman the government's decision is weird.

OSEAH PHILEMON: I know that people are concerned about that. Because they expected that report to be released publicly so that everyone knows exactly what has happened, especially the recommendations of Judge Sevua, who headed the investigation. His report has already been given to the government, but Mr Polye says that it will not be made public, and that is of concern. The government has seen the recommendations and they're going to pick and choose which ones they can implement and which ones they will not implement. There are certain things they don't want the public to know, in terms of the recommendations. That's a bit worrying, because if that is the case problems at Unitech will never be solved.

DON WISEMAN: You're living in Lae. What do most people there hope for out of this enquiry?

OP: Well, most people hope that the recommendations of the enquiry, of Judge Sevua investigation, will be made public so that people know exactly what the enquiry is saying, they know the truth or whatever. At least they have a clear knowledge of what has happened, so that they know exactly where Unitech can move from now on. Right now that's not going to be the case, and we have a fear that the troubles at Unitech will just continue on.

DW: The staff, and we know, the students, were very strongly supportive of Dr Albert Schram. What's the likelihood of him returning?

OP: Personally, Don, I think it is very slim. I don't think Dr Schram will return to the country. Not that he doesn't want to, but I think at higher levels of government and maybe in the bureaucracy, I fear that attempts will be made to ensure that he doesn't return to Papua New Guinea or return to his seat as vice chancellor of Unitech. Mind you, he still continues to be paid while living in Australia. So they really have to make a decision - is Dr Schram going to come back as VC? Will he ever be allowed to re-enter Papua New Guinea, or is it all over for him? If it's all over for him then I think they should say so and clarify that to him and just move on. Right now, because he lives overseas, there is an Acting VC at the university. The situation is calm at the moment, but it doesn't mean that it's all okay. I don't think it is.