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Monday, 3 March 2014

Papua New Guinea Blogs: A united front is required to set Unitech on a new direction

(This was published last week. It contains relevant reflections and reminders for today's situation at UNITECH. Indeed only when we work together can we make UNITECH live up to the promise contained in its mission.

Today, we can see that that all those associated with Mr. Arore, Gehlot and Saulep's evil schemes met their downfall. Those who collaborated with them or enabled their delaying tactics must feel silly now. The power of civil society activism facilitated by social media, where media are not paying attention, is indeed great.

Let's hope now the employment visa I requested in August 2013 will be granted, and I will be invited back into the country as Vice-Chancellor of UNITECH.

We also hope that those adversaries who were sidelined or exposed in their incompetence or ineffectiveness, will move on, get a life and refrain from the traditional pay-back. They only have themselves and their own actions or lack thereof to blame. AS)

Original: Papua New Guinea Blogs: A united front is required to set Unitech on a new direction
Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Fundamental Truth About Activism

The title of this article is nothing more than the most famous statement ever made by Margaret Mead. Mead was a well known American anthropologist who carried out research in the Trobriands and on Manus. She was not an activist by profession, yet she is best remembered for this statement. It not only explains in a nutshell how change takes place in the world, but inspires thoughtful, committed citizens to stop being passive observers and start taking charge.
Abundant examples of injustice and genocide throughout the world over the centuries should make it clear to us all that God Himself does not bring change to our world. That is why sitting back and leaving everything in the hands of God has always been a recipe for disaster. Instead, history teaches us that God gave us freedom to do what we wanted and and intelligent brains to control our destiny. Sitting back and whinging achieves nothing. Only persistent activism as practiced by Jesus Christ Himself has ever achieved landmark, game changing results in our world. Margaret Mead is right.

A High Level Victory Against Incompetence in the PNG Government
It was a rare example of focused PNG activism that led to the joyous surprise on 24 February. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that he was sacking the Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (HERST) David Arore “in the nation’s best interest”. What led to this decision? Obviously it was pressure created by a small group of thoughtful, committed PNG citizens taking matters into their own hands. They weren’t content to sit back and whinge in private to each other about the incompetency of the HERST minister. Instead, they took to the social media. Margaret Mead would be proud.

Over several months, we read one article after another on, which educated us about the Ijivitari MP corruption and incompetence and highlighted the foolishness of any government that would retain such a clown in such a high level position.

As the truth finally came out, Minister Arore’s reputation began to collapse, including within the Prime Minister’s Department and the HERST ministry.

Credit for putting Minister Arore’s sins on display before the world must go to the thoughtful, committed (and yes, anonymous) PNG citizens who applied effective detective work, then combined it with excellent writing skills. Obviously those skills came from having had an excellent level of higher education that is almost extinct in PNG. Obviously these writers were forced into the years of writing practice that would enable them to write words that cut like sharp knives. Hit by a thousand verbal cuts, the HERST minister was toppled from his throne and people like Keith Jackson would knowingly nod their head, knowing how powerful words can be, when they’re well organised and focused on a target.

Activists or Onlookers Amongst Our Respected Ones?

As the campaign to expose Minister Arore unfolded, prominent citizens who were in the best possible position to play activist roles and speed the process to get rid of national embarrassment included HERST’s David Kavanamur, Simon Kanehe, and Joseph Sukwianomb. In addition, UniTech’s Acting Vice Chancellor John Pumwa and his senior management colleagues, and probably the UniTech Council members, especially Chancellor Nagora Bogan, would have known useful information that, if made public, would speed up Minister Arore’s downfall and save the nation much embarrassment and energy.

Whether any of the above notable Papua New Guineans actually stood up for the public interest in PNG and spilt the beans on the HERST minister, we’ll probably never know. Was one or more of them in back of the anonymous whistleblowing that divulged critical state secrets so that incompetence and corruption would finally see the light of day? Or were they all content to passively read the words of others, so badly paralysed by a “follow the rules” mentality that they could not lend a helping hand? Hopefully, we can put them into the first category so they can carry their heads high. Hopefully, one of them will now take on the last remaining challenge, and that is find a way to leak the full Sevua report onto the internet.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill should not be overlooked. He deserves credit for taking administrative action necessary to depose the HERST minister. However we also cannot forget that months went by with the Prime Minister doing nothing to end the nightmare at HERST. It is painfully obvious that Mr O’Neill’s hand was finally forced by the persistence of the few committed PNG citizens who kept up the heat by spilling out distasteful truths. In other words the true leaders in this saga were activist citizens, not the Prime Minister.

Ancient Lessons Of Activism Finally Reach PNG

How Minister Arore finally lost his job is a wonderful example of the positive power of activism. It never would have happened if it had not been for a few committed citizens who did whatever necessary to achieve this goal. Whether they were a few or many, or they worked together or independently, we’ll probably never know. What we can be certain about is that as a group, they never gave up. What we can also say with certainty is that truth and justice prevailed.

Mahatma Gandhi once outlined what you have to go through to achieve justice in our world. Process 1 is to start speaking out and being persistent at it. Never giving up will eventually push you through Process 1 and Process 2 will begin. Process 2 is when your opponents start worrying about the impact of your words on their power and will stop ignoring you and start trying to silence you in some way. If you survive this and continue to persist in your efforts, you will complete Process 2 and start Process 3. And what is Process 3? You win!

A Remaining Pocket of National Shame

Tonight’s sacking of David Arore is a great victory for justice and decency in the land that we love. However in the context of “UniTech Saga” it is only Step 1 to achieving a bigger goal: justice for an innocent man known as Albert Schram.

UniTech’s Vice Chancellor came to PNG to do good. In return he was slapped with injustices that should shame all of us as citizens of PNG. What did the Vice Chancellor of UniTech do to deserve these slaps? His only reported crime was that he lifted the lid of a box full of dark UniTech financial secrets and shined a light inside. His light hit the panicking faces of former UniTech Vice Chancellor Misty Baloiloi, former UniTech registrar Alan Sako, Chancellor Philip Stagg, Pro Chancellor Ralph Saulep, and former Professor Narayan Lal Gehlot, among others, who emerged from their slime holes like angry hornets and immediately began stinging the Vice Chancellor, hoping to chase him out of PNG before any more secrets would be revealed.

It has been said that UniTech is bigger than any one person and this is very true. However it is a worn out statement that misses the point about Albert Schram today. Whether he appreciates it or not, the UniTech Vice Chancellor has become the most conspicuous symbol of the test of whether we as Papua New Guineans are capable of creating a just and decent society for ourselves, or whether we will forever let corruption and selfishness prevail. Albert Schram is a powerful symbol of justice and decency. Will that symbol be allowed to come back and shine within PNG or will that symbol continue to be pushed outside our borders, leaving us in darkness? If justice is to prevail in PNG, Albert Schram must be given his work visa now and his return to PNG come before the end of March.

It Is All Up To The Students Now

It will be the students of UniTech who will play the biggest role in determining whether this happens. If they succeed in getting Schram back here to continue sharing his skills and knowledge, it will be a great national victory that will go down in the history books. If UniTech students win, “UniTech Saga” will stop being a national embarrassment and instead serve as hope for the future of PNG.

UniTech students, PNG awaits your action. As a potential people power movement, you have the final word on what happens to Albert Schram. Use your power to its fullest and apply the lesson of persistence, but also use that power non-violently and wisely.

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