ONE might have thought that Delilah Gore (pictured) - having just replaced the hapless David Arore as Minister for Higher Education, Research Science and Technology - might have taken a more intelligent and democratic approach than she has to the problems faced by Unitech, PNG’s University of Technology.
But no, the new Minister’s response to student protests aimed at reinstating the harshly treated vice-chancellor, Dr Albert Schram, has been to threaten to shut down the Lae university for the rest of 2014 and to declare a ‘state of emergency’.
The threat was made at the end of a long, emotional, illogical and ill-advised media release issued under the Minister’s name late on Thursday afternoon.
“I am now making my FINAL APPEAL [her emphasis] to students to immediately return to class,” Minister Gore wrote. “Failing that, I will be left with no option but to recommend to the National Executive Council to declare a State of Emergency at the campus and closure of the 2014 academic year.
And, in a disgraceful imputation against Dr Schram, the Minister said that some of the recommendation of the Sevua Report into the Unitech issue “are not conclusive especially on Dr Albert Schram.”
The truth the Minister could not bring herself to admit is that the Sevua Report vindicates Dr Schram from all alleged wrongdoings.
The Unitech student body has responded to Ms Gore’s provocation with a feisty and strongly-argued manifesto, A Reply to Minister Gore, that states in no uncertain terms that if the Minister carries through with her threat to close the university, the dispute will spread and there is likely to be a ferocious reaction from influential elements of the community.
“Staff and students already figured out that it will be a financial and logistical disaster for your government to close down school for 2014,” the manifesto said.
“You will create a mess for yourself of thousands of screaming parents who learn the truth as soon as their children return home.
“A state of emergency declared against nonviolent protesting students will finally make the Unitech story a world issue….”
Another student said: “If any problems develop because police are called into our peaceful campus community, any blood will be on your hands and the whole world will be told… We believe you will not do such a crazy thing.”
So Ms Gore’s threats have had the outcome of seeing the students entrench their position, although it does appear now that she is no more than a glove puppet for prime minister Peter O’Neill.
He appears to be calling the shots in this dispute and his protection of former Unitech administrators against whom allegations of fraud and corruption have been made suggests that deeper forces are at work and that these reach into the heart of his government.