KOTOR, MONTENEGRO – Professor Kenneth Sumbuk, the chancellor of Papua New Guinea’s University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) in East New Britain has spoken for the first time about the resignation of the university’s vice-chancellor, Prof John Warren.
Warren, a 55-year-old British botanist, fled PNG this month because of concerns for his safety and worries he could be entangled in a lengthy court case and prevented from leaving the country.
It was the second case this year of an expatriate vice-chancellor in PNG fearing unwarranted legal bullying, Warren following the earlier harassment, arrest and eventual freeing on bail of Prof Albert Schram of the University of Technology.
Warren said his relationship with the university’s council and chancellor Sumbuk had deteriorated significantly before he resigned.
Breaking his silence, the Oxford-educated Sumbuk told The Australian newspaper that problems had arisen after Warren had lost confidence in the university administration.
“The University of Natural Resources council did not want to remove John Warren because he is a white man or an Englishman,” Sumbuk said. “He was about to be sacked because he was an incompetent vice-chancellor.”
Sumbuk denied threatening Professor Warren and accused his vice-chancellor of illegitimately removing the university’s registrar, bursar and accountant, one of whom then decided to take legal action.
Sumbuk said the Schram and Warren cases were “obviously very different”, involving different universities, different councils and different chancellors.
“Bullying foreign academics seems to be ‘a la mode’ in PNG at the moment,” Schram told The Australian from his home at Verona in Italy.
“My politically motivated and wrongful dismissal was condoned, if not orchestrated, by some members of the government of PNG.”
The exodus of academics from PNG universities would continue, Schram predicted.