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Students fire back as Minister threatens to shut down Unitech


ONE might have thought that Delilah Gore (pictured) - having just replaced the hapless David Arore as Minister for Higher Education, Research Science and Technology - might have taken a more intelligent and democratic approach than she has to the problems faced by Unitech, PNG’s University of Technology.

But no, the new Minister’s response to student protests aimed at reinstating the harshly treated vice-chancellor, Dr Albert Schram, has been to threaten to shut down the Lae university for the rest of 2014 and to declare a ‘state of emergency’.

The threat was made at the end of a long, emotional, illogical and ill-advised media release issued under the Minister’s name late on Thursday afternoon.

“I am now making my FINAL APPEAL [her emphasis] to students to immediately return to class,” Minister Gore wrote. “Failing that, I will be left with no option but to recommend to the National Executive Council to declare a State of Emergency at the campus and closure of the 2014 academic year.

And, in a disgraceful imputation against Dr Schram, the Minister said that some of the recommendation of the Sevua Report into the Unitech issue “are not conclusive especially on Dr Albert Schram.”

The truth the Minister could not bring herself to admit is that the Sevua Report vindicates Dr Schram from all alleged wrongdoings.

Protesting students at UnitecThe Unitech student body has responded to Ms Gore’s provocation with a feisty and strongly-argued manifesto, A Reply to Minister Gore, that states in no uncertain terms that if the Minister carries through with her threat to close the university, the dispute will spread and there is likely to be a ferocious reaction from influential elements of the community.

“Staff and students already figured out that it will be a financial and logistical disaster for your government to close down school for 2014,” the manifesto said.

“You will create a mess for yourself of thousands of screaming parents who learn the truth as soon as their children return home.

“A state of emergency declared against nonviolent protesting students will finally make the Unitech story a world issue….”

Another student said: “If any problems develop because police are called into our peaceful campus community, any blood will be on your hands and the whole world will be told… We believe you will not do such a crazy thing.”

So Ms Gore’s threats have had the outcome of seeing the students entrench their position, although it does appear now that she is no more than a glove puppet for prime minister Peter O’Neill.

He appears to be calling the shots in this dispute and his protection of former Unitech administrators against whom allegations of fraud and corruption have been made suggests that deeper forces are at work and that these reach into the heart of his government.


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Artos de Kejoke

Politicising an institution of learning, especially the only one that has the potential to give rise to future developers of this developing country, is not the right path to be heading towards.

The PM should hang his head in shame at his incompetency in resolving this issue at its early stage - he should resign to maintain his integrity or will be thought of as how the people saw the Somare and the NA regime.

For Gore - she has just shown that PNG women are still incapable of taking higher leading roles in this country....its a real shame.

Joe Wasua

Ms Gore's actions on the Unitech issue send a cloud over 22 proposed reserved seats in parliament for women.

Rodney Peawi

The government is of the people, for the people and by the people. We are confused who'es interest the government of the day is serving. Let me say in reality that unitech saga is and overdue issue. The issue has been neglected by government for too long. Our ground is solid and and still stands: No Shcram,No School! We will not retreat nor surrender..

George Palu

Bluster only succeeds when you have truth on your side. Minister Gore does not.

Leonard Roka

A woman politician that knows no part of being a leader. Topple Peter O'Neill government!

Michael Dom

Feminisim is no cure for lunacy.

Phil Fitzpatrick

The women in the 2012 National Parliament have been a bit of a disappointment.

You have one busily helping to chop up carvings in the Haus Tambaran, another doing away with an 'offensive' provincial flag and now one threatening to close a college for no good reason.

Dame Carol Kidu must be wondering what's going on.

Doesn't augur well for the concept of reserved seats for women either.

Bernard Yegiora

Sounds like Gore is a rubber stamp.

Mrs Barbara Short

Takes me back to the Keravat emergency of 1981 when I had breakfast with the Secretary of Education in Rabaul but he refused to come out to Keravat to speak to the striking students.

I had to go and speak to them on his behalf. I was the Deputy-Head. The Headmster had collapsed and had to be flown to Australia.

But we got the show on the road again! Someone with guts has to take the initiative and talk to the students and work out a compromise so the university can resume classes!

Giorgio Licini

State of Emergency in a school campus? Something unheard of in one thousand years or so of University education!

Laurence Quinlivan

Interestingly there does not appear to be any comment (support or otherwise) from International universities (Vice-Chancellors or Student Bodies) over the whole lengthy period of this saga. Is that a sad reflection of the academic credibility of Unitech?

Mrs Barbara Short

Yes, it is very sad that Ms Gore is allowing herself to be manipulated by her political masters. Shame on her!

She needs to go into the university and hold a round table conference with staff and students. She must have the guts to stand up for herself and make her own decisions.

Michael Dom

Oh Peter, you silly little boy! And Delilah, what a naughty girl you are to join him. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I really must apologise for their childish behaviour Dr Schram.

Soon now their toys will be taken away from them and they won't be given any sweets. Somebody will smack them on their naughty bum bums.

Albert Schram

Regrettably, the prime minister has endorsed Minister Gore and added a few misinformed statements of his own.

It is sad to see that those who have been feeding him untruthful information are still there to cast doubts over the students, the Chancellor and my person.

We must stop them from destroying Unitech as an institution of higher learning, and disrespecting the autonomy of Council.

It is a sign of desperation that they rely on a travel ban to keep a regularly appointed and lawful Vice-Chancellor out of the country for political convenience.

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