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Deported! The mysterious story of PNG & Dr Schram


ON 8 FEBRUARY THIS YEAR, I was deported from Papua New Guinea to Australia.

I’d been to Singapore for a brief medical visit and, upon returning to Port Moresby, I was refused entry and put on a plane to Brisbane.

I was given no chance to say goodbye to my wife or speak to my lawyer and was given no valid reason for my deportation. I was threatened with force if I refused to leave.

Through official channels, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canberra (I am a Dutch national) has asked for an explanation, so far to no avail.

It was a bizarre series of events for me in my role of Vice-Chancellor of the PNG University of Technology (Unitech).

Here’s the story so far as I know it.

Last year Unitech’s former Pro-Chancellor, Ralph Saulep, alleged that, upon my appointment as Vice-Chancellor in January 2012, I had been ‘less than truthful’ about my academic qualifications.

At the time, I responded that this was a baseless allegation and demonstrably false.

After all, I had defended my PhD in 1994 on an economic-historical subject at the European University Institute in Florence. Since then I had taught for several Latin American, US and European institutions of higher education.

My last appointment before PNG was as research funding advisor at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, one of the best young universities in Europe.

Shortly after taking office, my colleagues and I decided we needed to improve the campus and Unitech’s academic quality and financial sustainability.

Since 2006 Unitech had been receiving negative reports from external auditors, and for all this time the Council and management had sat on their hands.

In 2011, the unaccountable financial management at Unitech became public knowledge. In the Auditor General's report to Parliament, the university was the only one of about 70 state institutions to receive an adverse opinion.

At my first board meeting on 5 April last year, I discussed these external reports and announced corrective measures including a number related to financial management, accreditation and personnel management.

Soon after, panic broke out among Council members, who had been sitting on the board for years; some for decades.

The Chancellor, who was not empowered to do so, tried to sack me there and then, after violent protests by students during which the car of the president was set on fire, he changed his mind.

In the following months, former Chancellor Ralph Saulep and former Chancellor Phillip Stagg filed complaints with Lae and Port Moresby police and harassed me and my management team through the courts and in the media.

Subsequently the University conducted an internal investigation on the spending of infrastructure improvement funds in previous years. Major irregularities were found as was proof of criminal negligence and fraud.

It was found, for instance, that the head of department of electrical engineering, Naraya Gehlot, with the approval of management, had received a personal cheque for K676,600 (about $310,000) without proper acquittal.

Then, on Thursday 8 November last year, a minority of Council members convened a meeting in Port Moresby at which I was not present.

There they appointed a new management team. I was dismissed, without due process and without a valid reason.

The meeting, however, had been subject to a restraining order, so its decisions were null and void. In fact, the minutes of the meeting mention the restraining order.

So, until this day, I have never been legally dismissed. Nevertheless I have had to file an appeal with the Supreme Court to ensure I will not be dismissed without a valid reason.

Four days after the Council meeting, on Monday 12 November, David Arore, the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology did the right thing and ordered a thorough investigation into the affairs of Unitech.

He dissolved the Council and appointed an Interim Council led by Sir Nagora Bogan.  On Tuesday 20 November the National Executive Council endorsed the Minister's decision.

Although the old Council had been dissolved by the government, on Sunday 9 December, Saulep and his newly appointed management team tried to take over the administration building. They were accompanied by armed police.

For this purpose, it is alleged that Saulep had falsified a court order and circulated it among Council members and the Director of the Office of Higher Education. Fortunately the bluff was called and the attempt failed.

There were three other attempts to take control of the university administration by force. Meanwhile nobody took action to rein in the deposed Council members or the illegally appointed new management team.

In an upshot to this story, on Friday 15 February the former head of electrical engineering, Naraya Gehlot, was arrested for alleged involvement in fraud. He has since been refused bail and brought to Buimo prison.

He has allegedly implicated the Bursar, who I believe also has been arrested, and more arrests seem bound to follow. Strangely, Minister Arore has publicly come out defended Gehlot.

I hope to get back my work permit, which I believe was illegally cancelled. I also need the police to give assurances for my safe passage into and out of the country pending the fraud investigation.

I feel that, as an outsider, I can bring peace back to the Unitech campus and lead the university along a path to better academic quality, financial sustainability and accountability.

I am very thankful for the unwavering support of the students and staff throughout this ordeal.

Late last week, students clashed with police over this matter at the university gate. There was shooting. I pray that this strange story will end well and that nobody gets hurt.

Prof Albert Schram is Vice-Chancellor of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (Unitech) in Lae, PNG’s second largest university


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Douglas Deseng

Such a sickening scenario where educated elites of PNG defend themselves against what they are accountable for.

Corruption truly prevails in Unitech. Dr. Schram is a saviour sent by God.

Albert Schram

Graduation coming up the 12th, and still no results regarding my return. See here for a time-line of the current stand-off

Sid Patchett

As a former head of department and a great admirer of the University, I hope that it can soon return to be the fine institution we all hoped to build.

Reginald Renagi

I feel very angry and ashamed after reading in the media recently of the very disgraceful and most unfair and discriminatory treatment of Dr Albert Schram.

I hope the investigations (if any) that are going on clear his good name and bring to justice all those who stole from Unitech over the years.

Let justice be done here so Unitech can return to normal and be the premier learning institution it once was.

Keith Jackson

The Typepad techos have worked their magic and this story has been re-opened for reader access and comments

Michael Lorenz

The link,
to this page still works, but the link to the story from the running sheet has been changed to,
(note there is no http etc. prefix on the altered link)

Hope this helps...

Thanks Michael, the matter has been referred to my blog service provider - KJ

Albert Schram

The biased terms of reference for the inquiry now have caused new expressions of outrage and disgust in the Unitech community.

Follow it on my blog

Dale Mea

The evil leaders thought that they would get away with their corruption but it backed fire big time. I hope the present government will sort this type off demonic corruption.

Ben Akuani

As you all could see that was a clear picture of a politically influenced situation happened to Dr Schram.

Corruption and crime in Papua New Guinea are out of control and linked through networks of ethnicity and other devoted support.

State crime control strategies and community capacity in relation to crime control are often politically influenced by these types of economic and social impact of corrupt practices.

These types of evil practices are already in the system and we need to do something before it gets out of hand.

I urged Dr Schram and all other good citizens of this nation to come together and make those types of culprits face the full force of law and let the justice prevail.

M Setlo

I feel that we are not doing enough to spread the story of what is going on behind the scenes at Unitech.

It has long been a story of complete corruption, milking the cash cow all at the expense of the students.

Any of you who are parents and sent your kid to Unitech because of the way it was, you should be scared to death.

Right now, years of lax and corrupt leadership have led to poor teaching, poor facilities, and a bunch of slacker admin staff that need to be gotten rid of immediately.

There are also a few diamonds amongst the administration who now should be allowed to come out and shine, taking over the duties of the slackers before them.

Parents (I happen to be one) please speak up. Speak up in the most visible way possible especially by writing letters to the editors of our daily newspapers.

There are too few letters appearing in support of Dr Schram and fact is the newspapers are read by many thousands more people than are the blogs.

Albert Schram

Here is the follow up: "No Witch Hunt at Unitech"

Gigil Marme

It's a very sad story for Unitech, this story by Dr Schram.

We know too well that PNG has one of the highest rate of corrupt practices in the world. A lot of people take advantage of public office to become rich overnight.

But those who earn their living through hard work and honesty will prevail in challenging times.

Let us all remember that righteousness will conquer evil at the end. So do the right thing, Dr Schram.

Alphonse Doyaki

The university council is corrupt. We desperately need you back to head the university.

Hope the current government will make some wise decisions for the good of everyone.

Dennis Pundia

It is good to note that Dr Schram intends to see this fight through, him being a foreign national and all, however, it would be great to get both sides of the story.

I'm sure it shouldn't be too difficult for our learned council men to post something on this (or some other public information outlet) in their defence or cause.

Let the people be the judges. Further, if Dr Schram is right, he should not lack support especially in a nation sick to the brim with corruption.

Gaironama Pouata Tavita

What is the other side of story that we need to hear more about? The law can deal with that...

It is the attitude of all those culprits who initiated war against a qualified person wanting nothing but to upgrade a system that has been devastated by thieves from within.

How much more light do we need to read and hear about, to be able to make a balanced judgement. It is so simple even the dogs on the street could smell the truth.

Dr Schram, thank you for your great effort unnoticed by the blind PNG government.

Corney K. Alone

Suspended judgement is a virtue.

It would be nice to see a detailed response from the other side before the audience can be able to form an informed and balanced opinion (on this matters and others like this).

It has been my observation that in PNG "the other side" often maintains an intractable and stony silence on matters such as these. One must also consider the old saw that justice delayed is justice denied - KJ

Ganjiki D Wayne

Appalling the extent people go to cover their sorry bums, and remove anyone that threatens their comfortable thievery.

In the wake of it all giving PNG a bad reputation for deporting and banning valuable foreign nationals....

All the while giving a citizenship to an international fugitive.... I am utterly ashamed.

And, for what its worth Dr Schram, I am sorry.

Henry Ume

I have a child who started first year at Unitech and I, like many parents, want to see this saga brought to a close.

We chose Unitech over two overseas universities not to save money but I had high regard for PNG's Unitech as a former student and council medal winner.

Dr Schram must be brought back for the good of the university and investigations set up to uncover the misuse/abuse of funds and bring those implicated to justice.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin

If this story is true, we call on the patriotic Papua New Guineans higher up in the bureaucracy to bring back Dr. Schram and get the egocentric demons together for public whipping before sending them back to their respective villages to hide forever and never surface again. Shame on them!

David Kitchnoge

Students are the most important stakeholders in this saga because they would have the largest slice of the cake in the losing stakes.

They stand to lose a lot more than anyone else in this whole saga.

So my logic tells me that authorities (whoever they are) should listen to the students more in trying to sort this thing out.

Bernard Yegiora

Very interesting. I posted the first piece by Keith on the Divine Word University Staff Broadcast and will post this one tomorrow so more Papua New Guineans get to read and follow the story.

This is a classic case of organised corruption.

Jeff Febi

Shame! Shame! Shame on those thieves!

Albert Schram

You can follow me on twitter @albertschram or look at my blog for the latest on my deportation case:

Peter Kranz

Albert - you have suffered much from what I believe is a shameful case of discrimination and corruption.

I agree threats of deportation against expats is scandalous and all too common.

When I was working in PNG I received threatening emails one of which said "we can have you deported, we've done it before and can do it again through our wantoks in Police and Immigration."

Similar things happened at UPNG in the machinations to get rid of vice-chancellor Les Eastcott.

Albert Schram

I am a long time follower of your blog and your tweets, which I find refreshingly insightful and independent.

I just wish to thank you for the attention you gave to my deportation case.

The procedure to bar expats from entering the country is too vulnerable to interference.

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