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Monday, 18 March 2019

UNITECH: Beware of Ministers Bearing (Small) Gifts

The recent visit by Minister Richard Maru to the Papua New Guinea University of Technology UNITECH, where he donated a few hundred thousands of Kina in laboratory equipment, can give the impression that everything is fine. In fact, the opposite is true.

The Matheson Library: named after the first Chancellor Prof. Matheson, first VC of Macquarie

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

My wrongful dismissal, malicious prosecution and unlawful detention revisited

Today’s news that after 6 months in September the case against me for “false pretence” was finally thrown out for lack of any evidence, produced in me mixed feelings.

On the one hand, it is good that finally the general public knows, what we knew was true all along. On the other hand, I am put again in a no-win situation, unable to prove my innocence after being falsely accused, wrongfully dismissed, maliciously prosecuted and unlawfully detained, as I explained earlier. 

Now the case has been dismissed for lack of any evidence. Never mind any further accusations or new threats,  which part of dismissed is unclear?

Manifestly Innocent but Falsely Accused

For no reason whatsoever, I was robbed of the opportunity to exercise the last 2 years of my second mandate as Vice Chancellor in order to achieve the transformation of the PNG University of Technology (UNITECH), into a positive learning community embodying core higher education values, just because a few people wish to hold on to their jobs, perks and privileges at all costs.

Today's article in Loop PNG

We have been through this before. Since the official investigation led by former supreme court judge the late Mark Sevua cleared me of all accusations in 2013, the case now being dismissed should not come as a surprise. In fact, in 2014 apologies were made, and I returned to exercise my role as Vice Chancellor in April 2014. Disappointingly, in 2018 the “false pretence” accusation was the same even in the wording, as the one concocted in 2012 to keep me out of the country for 14 months.

Reporting on Results of Sevua Investigation

Triumphant return on 4 April 2014 after being cleared of all charges

The accusations are all madness. Apparently, in Papua New Guinea somebody can come out of the woodwork and start making wild accusations, and part of the police force and the judiciary will play along, for a price.

In fact, it was the infamous con-man Narayan Gehlot who put together a file of trumped up allegations in my regard and distributed it widely. Some gullible council members still seem to believe "there must be some truth in it", despite having evidence to the contrary. A lie does not become true, the more you repeat it.

As the attentive readers of my blog already know, the judge in the National Court ruled on 22 May 2018 that the police had not produced any primary evidence to warrant my arrest. He stated in fact there was overwhelming evidence I did in fact have a doctoral degree, as you can see yourself in the official record of my PhD thesis defense, and the publication of my book with Cambridge University Press, the oldest and largest university press in the world. These sources can not be falsified.

In his verdict on 22 May 2018, the National Court judge blasted the police and the complainant Ralph Saulep, and wrote in his judgement: "In spite of this overwhelming evidence (presented by Dr. Schram) Mr. Saulep continues to dispute the authenticity of the applicant's doctorate degree. I find this ridiculous and difficult to fathom especially when neither he or the police are in receipt of evidence from the European University Institute in Florence Italy, confirming their allegations and suspicions". The judge continued: "The current charge, with respect, lacks the primary evidence to prove the elements of falsity. Whether they will have such evidence by the 12th of June 2018 (the next hearing) is anyone's guess. The reality is that they have failed to do so when the allegations were raised in 2012". What is most astounding is that Council or the lawyers never even attempted to contact the European University Institute in Florence directly, although its working language is English. One email or one phone call would have been enough.

In June 2018, the judge granted me bail as a way of getting out of the impasse, and save the police and accuser's (Ralph Saulep) face. After me departure from my hostage situation,  I have never been so happy to arrive in Singapore in my life. 

Although in a state of law anybody is innocent until proven guilty, and therefore I had no obligation to prove my innocence, I nevertheless undertook to do this. After being released, I did everything I could and spared no expense to prove my innocence, but again I was put again in a no-win situation due to obstruction of the PNG authorities.

Visiting European University Institute on 10 July 2018 to legalize my doctorate
Upon arriving in Europe, at my own expense, I traveled to the University Institute in Florence (Italy) that conferred my doctoral degree. They started the legalization procedure and because PNG is not part of the international "apostille convention", the PNG Embassy in Brussels was in charge of forwarding the document to the court. At my own expense, I traveled to Brussels some 1000 km home, where I received a promise that this would be done. Regrettably, the document never arrived at the court.

Visiting PNG Embassy in Brussels on 20 July 2018 to make arrangement for sending of documents, that never arrived

Frankly, I feel it is time now for Papua New Guineans spend some time and resources in order to create rule-based, democratic and inclusive institutions and universities, if they want those. These days, the government is trying to control the universities directly, and enterprise that is bound to fail.

At the moment, I really do not have the resources or the time now to return to PNG and engage another lawyer to remove my bail conditions. This should in fact be automatic, if no evidence has been presented to warrant an arrest in the first place.

In my fight against corruption, I already lost most of my small inheritance in 2013, while forced to live in Australia. In 2017, I lost all the money I thought I had saved due to backpay: half of it Council took for no reason, and the other half I had to pay in legal and hotel expenses while being held against my will on a tourist visa in Port Moresby.

Regrettably, at the University the mismanagement started again as soon as I was sidelined in November 2017. The senior staff continues to pay itself 15% travel allowance, which they know is illegal since December 2017. They also know I was "grossly underpaid", in the words of the consultant, and was owed a substantial amount of backpay. In December 2017 finally the calculations were done. Council however found excuses to pay only half of this backpay, which I accepted. What change everything however is their collusion with shady lawyers, who revived the 2012 false accusations about false pretence.

It pains me to see how my hard work during 6 years to restore the reputation and credibility of UNITECH both nationally and internationally was destroyed. There will be no more support from Australia, New Zealand or India for this university. Internationalization has stopped now, and it has turned into a sort of village university. We were able to get visiting lecturers from India, Australia and even Europe, but there will be no more visiting lecturers now from any these countries. The hiring of unqualified or dishonest academics has started again, since nobody in their right mind would apply in a country where false accusations are taken at face value.

It took us so long to set UNITECH on a positive course, but in the end the forces of darkness prevailed again. It does not paint a good picture of the country or the University of Technology Council. One honest former Council member told me the truth: “Albert there was nothing we could do to stop it, it was all orchestrated in Waigani”.


So why all this? There are obviously powerful external and internal forces at play. Ralph Saulep, the main accuser, still hopes that in the confusion he will eventually be appointed Chancellor, a role he has always felt entitled to, and nobody wants him take up. In fact, when he got his front page, the students burned the newspapers in anger. In my regard, he acted out of anger, spite and revenge, in collusion with the current lawyers of Council.

Saulep's front page: in his wildest dreams

Students burning the newspaper with Ralph Saulep's front page (28 March 2014)

There is also the matter of me rebuking the Chinese when they were trying to pervert the Council approved process for campus development in the Masterplan. Evidently, this displease some Minister who allegedly have a vested interest in making deals with the Chinese.

As to the internal forces, the dishonest Registrar was lying about never receiving the original of my legalized doctorate in 2015, because she wanted to save her own job. The dishonest Deputy VC was trying to get the VC's job, with the support of his uncle Puka Temu, the famously ineffective Minister of Health. 

The rest of the staff fell in line out of fear, or because they new I would take away the 15% travel allowance they had been paying themselves illegally. There was also staunch resistance to any change or restructuring, and dishonest employees caught stealing by the internal audot unit were reinstated by Council. The illegality of this allowance, which I had always resisted, was finally established in December 2017, but is still being paid now more than one year later.

In all,  the PNG University of Technology reverted to its original state, and can still best be described as a joint criminal enterprise with the purpose of mismanaging public funds. Meanwhile, the University still has no Vice Chancellor, there is still no Student Representative Council, and the continuity of operations and teaching has come into question because the student dining hall has been dismantled, and the bill for satellite internet has not been paid for months.

After the firing of hundreds of life rounds at the peacefully protesting students on the UPNG campus on 8 June 2016, it seems everybody is too scared to speak up. It has never been cleared up who gave the order, and moved these policemen from the highlands to Port Moresby.

Gratefully Moving On

Many of our readers have asked how we are doing after this ordeal. Today, I have moved on, and I feel relieved to be freed from those terrible dishonest colleagues, all professed Christians, who unhesitatingly first knowingly falsely accused me, then threw me under the bus, and never again reached out or said or wrote a word to me (with only a few exceptions). These Christians must be experts in betrayal, since Jezus himself was betrayed by his own disciples.

It really pains me we won't be able to see the many good friends we have made in over 6 years living among the good people of Papua New Guinea. I can only come back to the country, if all charges are dropped, all costs and damages that my family and I suffered are reimbursed.

Meanwhile, we live modestly at home in Verona with my mother who is 88 years old and almost died of worry last year. In 2015, we invited one of the UNITECH students who studies in Europe to visit our place, and he was impressed by the peacefulness of the place and friendliness and civility of its people.

My wife has a job in one of the leading high schools teaching English, and I have a modest job as Professor with an American University, teaching management and history university courses on US army basis in Northern Italy.

My continuing academic career makes clear I am not a fraud. My credentials and work experience were rigorously checked before I was appointed, and I had to undergo extensive training to learn their systems and teaching methods. In fact, World Education Services has now legalized my doctorate for the United States, and can send any university a copy. You don't get such a job if you are a fraud, trust me.

Official Report Legalizing my Doctorate for the USA

First paragraph of my contract with the University of Maryland University College
(privacy protected)
I am grateful for the opportunity to have served the PNG University of Technology and its wpnderful students well,  during the 2.5 years the Council was not politicized and controlled by the government.

In Italy, I was given this opportunity so soon after returning to teach at this world class institution, and learning about online and hybrid course delivery. Today, we enjoy working with our friendly, competent and helpful colleagues, and my and my wife are both contributing to providing a true education for willing learners. We escaped penniless but with our lives from Papua New Guinea. We could have come back with wonderful stories, but we did not. It could have been so much better for the PNG University of Technology.

The Spirit of 2014 Has Disappeared after the Students' Shooting on 8 June 2016

Further viewing & reading

Video 2016
SRC 8 June 2016 UPNG students shooting

EMTV UNITECH riot prevented


ABC Radio Interview: demanding answers for students' shooting on 8 June 2016

Times Higher Education article 1

Times Higher Education article 2

Times Higher Education article 3

The Australian 1 (paywall)

The Australian 2 (paywall)

Australian National University blog 1

Australian National University blog  2

Minister Arore promising investment that never came

Dr. Schram's ANU lecture on failed university reform in PNG

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

My story and my PNG traditional storyboard

My story board

This beautiful traditional storyboard was made by Henry, a Papua New Guinean artist from Sepik, after I returned from my first exile in Australia on 3 April 2014. It has been hanging in my office in Papua New Guinea, now in my office in Italy.

The storyboard depicts my imaginary visit to the Sepik village, where Henry the artist hails from.The text on the storyboard reads:

"Dr. A. Schram, it is good you care. Most wellcome to PNG heritage". "Thank you tru for choosim Papua New Guinea. Your stay in PNG will be a historical one & commendable to the citizens. Mi hamamas tru long u".

(In English: Thank you for choosing PNG. ... I am very happy for you")

Indeed I believe my 6 years in the country have brought some good, though many colleagues in the university management and council were utterly resistant to implementing any positive change, preferring instead to serve themselves exclusively, and to play the corrupt politics, of greed and inflated ego's in Waigani .

For many of the students coming from villages just like these, however, we are sure we have brought some truth, light and hope.

What is touching is how most people in the country have been so kind and welcoming. Although Papua New Guinea is not the only story in my life, having worked as a professor in other wonderful countries like Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala, my PNG story is the most memorable and interesting. 

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

The Village University

(A better edited version of this article was published on the PNG Attitude blog
thank to Keith Jackson)

When I was Vice Chancellor from 2012 to 2018, we worked hard to bring the Papua New Guinea University of Technology (PNGUoT) into the 21st century as to its basic IT enhanced learning environment, as well as through the delivery of a modern curriculum.

The current management and Council, however, seems to be making an effort to bring the university back half a century, into the 1970s of the 20th century, intentionally or through sheer ignorance, incompetence or carelessness. Here is a sad tale of regression, which has forced me today speak out in an effort to reverse this trend.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

A Trojan Horse as a Birthday Gift for PNG's 43rd Independence Day

Happy 43rd Independence Day

Let me wish all the good people of Papua New Guinea a happy 43rd independence day celebration with their families.

Not wishing to put too much of a damper on the celebrations, let me use this occasion to share some present and serious concerns about this government's management of the national economy.

As an economic historian concerned with long term economic growth and development, and an avid reader of the reputable national and international press, as well as specialized economic analyses regarding the country's economy, I feel I must make my voice heard. When things go south in PNG this year or the next, nobody can say I kept quiet.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

A Sad Ending: wrongful dismissal, malicious prosecution and unlawful detention

My Arrest

Now that I have safely left Papua New Guinea, I feel free to write about what happened after my arrest at Jacksons Airport on 1 June coming into the country, and all those things that were not reported in the national media. 

Relief: safe arrival in Singapore in transit to Europe

As Vice Chancellor (President) for the PNG University of Technology appointed for 2 terms from 2012 to 2018, I worked with 7 Ministers of Higher Education, and 3 different Chancellors. It has been a tumultuous ride, because in the 5 years I was on campus, there were 4 attempts to dismiss me mostly orchestrated by members of the government and their allies in the University council.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Hooray! Two important milestones for the PNG University of Technology

Letter from the Auditor General on our 2015 accounts.
See my interview on EMTV on 28 November 2017. See my earlier post on why the PNGUoT is the premier University in PNG.

UNITECH has reached two important milestones. The Auditor General's report on our 2015 accounts did not contain any qualification. We are now part of that handful of state agencies that received an unqualified report on our accounts.