NOOSA – Nearly two weeks ago, when entering Papua New Guinea through Jacksons Airport in Port Moresby, the former vice-chancellor of PNG’s University of Technology was stopped by migration authorities.
Dr Albert Schram and his wife Paulina were transiting Port Moresby from Cairns en route to Europe following his controversial dismissal from his academic post.
Immigration officers gave him a 30-day tourist visa then handed him over to police, who insisted on seizing his passport.
At Boroko police station the following day, he was told officers were investigating him based on a complaint lodged six years earlier, in 2012, by former Unitech pro-chancellor Ralph Saulep involving an alleged fraud concerning Schram’s doctoral degree.
The credentialing matter was subsequently investigated in a formal inquiry at which full proof of authenticity was presented and which dismissed the allegations as false.
Furthermore, after a dispute with the Unitech council led to his dismissal, on 18 April this year Schram signed a release agreement with Unitech which explicitly exempted him from any criminal charges related to his work as vice-chancellor.
Now, somehow, those six year old charges had resurfaced. The Unitech council denied any complicity in them. Schram was confident that he could sort it out and soon be on his way.
But, after being kept on tenterhooks for a week during which he was extensively questioned by police, Schram was arrested last week and released on K2,000 bail.
I was in Port Moresby as the saga played out and during this time had a number of conversations with him and Paulina, friendly and straightforward people.
“There is an abundance of decency and humanity among the good people of PNG,” Schram told me.
“Nobody could expect this madness when we were transiting through Port Moresby.
“All matters with the university [in seeking Schram’s resignation] were settled, and all allegations and charges were dropped.”
In those conversations Schram was his customary cheerful and optimistic self, although his Kenyan-born wide Paulina grew very stressed as the week ground by with no resolution.
Then, just before I flew back to Brisbane last Monday, I received a short note from Schram which said: “Our cheerful looks yesterday when we met were masking profound desperation and total frustration by the lack of any progress.
“There is no common sense, reason or any sense of humanity and respect in all this.”
These words that describe perfectly the astonishing and hostile series of events that have stripped Schram of his human rights over false claims, clearly made as a reaction to his successful work to clean up a malfunctioning Unitech, that had been previously addressed and dismissed.
Dr Schram is in court today and it is to be hoped the PNG justice system will quickly see off these most recent allegations, chastise the perpetrators and let him and Paulina continue their travel to Amsterdam and on to their home in Genoa, Italy.