THE vice chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea, Albert Mellam, has proven himself to be incompetent at conflict resolution.
From the initial stages of the boycott, Professor Mellam could have easily defused the situation by facilitating freedom of expression.
Instead, he prematurely chose a hard line stand leaving no room for escalation should tensions rise. He brought guns to a peaceful call gathering. He issued threats when students made a peaceful call.
He tried to smother democratic freedom of expression by disallowing and delaying a referendum. He did all this in a democratic country.
When students protested, he quickly requested an armed police presence on campus, effectively burning all his bridges and cutting of any chance of dialogue with students. He created distrust when he should have built relationships.
Mellam demonstrated his apparent lack of skill in negotiating and his inability to contain a potentially explosive situation.
He showed that he was not at all interested in forging relationships that would ultimately ensure the survival of UPNG and ensure mutual compromise for the benefit of all parties.
He stood back and let it escalate.
Then when students were shot, he, the custodian of the institution, took no responsibility. He continued along the path of destruction not learning from his mistakes.
He maintained his ‘guns on campus’ policy and tried to force students into class. Then things erupted. Buildings and vehicles were destroyed. Still he took no responsibility.
Yesterday, he chose the easy way out to suspend the academic year. He has proven unfit to run UPNG.
Students were shot on his watch. Police intimidated students on his watch.
Yet he failed to condemned the actions.
He saw fit to punish students who spoke out using democratic means. He chose to punish them for his mistakes that triggered the escalation.
If anyone is to be sacked, it is Albert Mellam not Albert Schram.