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'Threats & untruths': Former UNRE boss accuses chancellor

In a statement sent to students and staff at PNG’s University of Resources and Environment, former vice-chancellor Professor John Warren has responded from his home in Wales to what he terms a “grandiose" and “untrue” letter from interim chancellor Professor Kenneth Sumbuk and revealed the story behind his resignation from the university. Warren also calls into question the truth of an interview given by PNG's head of higher education, Father Jan Czuba. 

John Warren
Professor John Warren - "The most important untruth in the letter of 13 August is Professor Sumbuk’s claim that he did not threaten me"


LLANFARIAN - In his letter to you [UNRE students and staff] dated 13 August 2018, the chancellor of UNRE made several untrue statements that I feel compelled to clarify so that you have an honest and full picture of events surrounding my departure from the university.

[Professor Sumbuk’s] letter opens with rather grandiose statements about my breaching my oath of office. Unfortunately, history reveals that university councils within Papua New Guinea have a poor track record of understanding their role.

The 2010 Garnaut and Namaliu report on the state of PNG universities and the 2013 external audit of UNRE both emphasise that PNG’s university councils do not understand governance.

At the meeting of UNRE council on 27 July, it was very apparent that none of the members of Council were familiar with the DHERST [department of higher education] ‘Governance Manual for University Councils’.

This document recommends that members of council attend a training course before taking on their positions. No members of UNRE council have ever received such training.

It is the job of a university council to ensure good management practices are being followed within the institution. This involves shining a light on all aspects of the organisation.

Far from swearing an oath of secrecy, it is best practice to speak out and expose bad practice whenever it is found. For that reason, I always insisted that recordings were made of ALL council and management meetings. (You can request to hear these recording, surely, they have nothing to hide!)

In the rest of his letter, the chancellor makes several other claims which are internally inconsistent:

  1. That UNRE Council had no confidence in my ability as vice chancellor. (This was never mentioned at the council meeting. The only discussion was about renewing my contract).
  2. That he and council were surprised when I resigned.
  3. That several attempts were made to encourage me to withdraw my resignation.

In fact, UNRE has not officially been in contact with me since acknowledging receipt of my resignation. As far as I am aware my resignation has not been accepted by council, and there has been no information about the terms of my departure. Certainly, there was no request to withdraw my resignation.

It is impossible to believe all these three claims at the same time. If I was about to be sacked (as Professor Sumbuk also stated on Radio Australia), then why would he be surprised that I resigned, and why would they try and get me to withdraw my resignation?

Kenneth Sumbuk
Prof Kenneth Sumbuk - Prof Warren says he felt compelled to clarify several of Sumbuk's untrue statements 

The most important untruth in the letter of 13 August is Professor Sumbuk’s claim that he did not threaten me.

This has publicly been exposed as being untrue, because a recording of the event (which was made with his knowledge) has been subsequently broadcast by Radio Australia (this is still available online for the world to hear).

In an earlier recording, Father Jan Czuba (DHERST Secretary) informed Radio Australia, that he had visited Rabaul to investigate my claims that I had been threatened and found no evidence to support this claim.

However, when confronted with the recording, Fr Jan changed his story and was also exposed to have lied.

In fact, I had contacted DHERST immediately after the chancellor had made the threats against me and informed them that I was worried about developments. Father Jan, replied; not to be concerned as he was planning to replace Professor Sumbuk as Chancellor (this email thread can be made available).

In the light of the recent treatment of vice chancellor Albert Schram and having been threatened with the possibility of court action myself (however ridiculous), I could not take any chances in how I departed UNRE and PNG.

My resignation letter, therefore, only said that I had resigned for personal reasons (not on health grounds). It seemed unwise to say too much and provoke the wrath of Professor Sumbuk.

Prior to my resignation I had booked leave and Dr Cathryn Warren had informed my PA [personal assistant] of the dates of our departure.

I had also met with the head of [human resources] and ensured that my leave records were correct, and that HR was aware of our travel plans.

However, after our departure, I was informed that Professor Sumbuk had openly made more threats against me and it would be unsafe to return to PNG. His claim that I left without following due process is therefore another nonsense.

Regrettably, we were therefore unable to say farewell to so many friends and close colleagues at UNRE.

It has been a great honour and privilege to have worked with you over the last two years. We have every confidence that you will continue the good work that we started together and that UNRE will continue to improve.

Unlike the chancellor I will not plead with you to do this or that. I trust in your wisdom to act in the best interest of UNRE and PNG. You have seen open, democratic, honest and transparent management in practice and have enjoyed the benefits that this brings.

Sadly, UNRE has also seen what happens when management decisions are taken behind closed doors by a few individuals. We wish you all the best for the future and will remain supportive of your future endeavours.


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Albert Schram

Regrettably, PNG universities are operating increasingly as joint criminal enterprises. As a result, they violently resist any opportunity to change or improve, and can not be helped from outside.

Foreign faculty are systematically being misinformed about their labour conditions and their salaries, while senior national staff are paying themselves illegal allowances and enjoying unlawful tax exemptions.

In addition, there is no work load model, so foreign academics are expected to do the brunt of the teaching while some national academics take off without notice to do consulting work.

Students meanwhile loose out by not receiving a quality education. Naturally, they are angry and disappointed, and have staged mayor class boycotts, some with violence, five years out of the last six years.

Now the government has chased out two vice chancellors, known as effective administrators and honest academics, their hopes for improvement are dashed. Truly PNG universities are not "a great place to work".

Albert Schram

It seems clear now that several people in the higher education sector have been caught lying. The most surprising thing is how they continue to believe they can get away with it?

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