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Schram fightback: ‘No presumption of innocence; biased process’

Albert-Schram
Dr Schram - "What just happened to me is a clear breach of due process"

ALBERT SCHRAM

LAE - On 15 February, the Council of the Papua New Guinea University of Technology decided to terminate my services, and gave me and my wife seven days to ship out and leave our residence on campus where we have lived more than six years.

On 19 January I was given a mere seven days to answer the allegations and I managed to hand in my answers, though incomplete, before the deadline.

I returned to campus from an engagement elsewhere with my wife on 23 January and that same day Acting Vice Chancellor Dr Ora Renagi wrote that I should “stay away from the office”.

I was also denied an extension of time to prepare myself and I was not given access to important files regarding this case in the Registry and Bursary.

Council itself acknowledged that the main ground for dismissal was that I allegedly did not present a certified copy of my original doctoral degree from the European University Institute. Here is a link to this on the Institute’s website.

This had been a condition for my contract renewal in 2015. In an email dated 13 January 2015, I had requested the renowned European University Institute, established by an international treaty, to send me two hard copies of these credentials, one to my office in Lae and one to Cairns.

Upon receiving the document in Lae, I handed it to the Registrar. The other original I kept. Why would I do otherwise and self-sabotage? And why was this matter not brought up by the Registrar when later, on 26 August 2016, I submitted myself to the annual performance assessment, which lasted a whole day and was supported by an independent consultant?

I was interrogated by the Council last Thursday without being told I was to receive the decision of the Council, had to answer questions or was allowed to give a presentation. I did not know what was going to happen.

At no stage in this process, which started in October 2017, did Acting Chancellor Jean Kekedo ensure I was involved in or consulted about Council proceedings.

An investigation had been launched without a Council resolution and without my involvement. As a result only convenient information was included in the report.

Sam Koim is specialised in fighting corruption but he has no experience with the operation of a large organisation or the running of a university.

What just happened to me is a clear breach of due process.

When crucial physical evidence (the certified copy of my doctoral degree from 2015) was presented to the Council before it took its decision, and it became clear during the interrogation that crucial evidence may have been hidden, the Council failed to correct its course and proceeded to gallop towards the abyss like a band of blind horses.

The whole Council has been misled and has failed to consider crucial evidence. They decided on the facts and evidence before them, but the crucial evidence was missing.

The accusation that I did not do what the Council told me to do and that I did not comply is therefore false. The whole process was biased and I never received a fair hearing.

The fact that the Council decided unanimously is not a sign of strength but rather a sign that due process was not followed.

Before 2012, the former Council always decided unanimously because it was a rubber stamp for the former Chancellor. In this case, the Council was not presented the crucial evidence, and was not given ample time to digest the facts and ask critical questions of the lawyers who had been instructed to put the case together.

There are some very bright minds on the Council today, but they were not able to see through the web of lies and deceit.

As to the other allegations, the fact is that there was no mismanagement at Unitech. Even Sam Koim could not find corruption. It suffices to know that my travel budget had been approved by the Council.

I have asked Emmanuel Isaac of Emmanuel Lawyers in Port Moresby to prepare my case for review by the courts.

As head of a state agency I have many obligations, but I also have a right to be protected from unfair and biased attack. I was not given a fair hearing and never enjoyed the benefit of the presumption of innocence.

After six years it is impossible for me and my wife to vacate our residence and leave the country in seven days. I have become rooted in the business community in Lae. Through my brothers in my adopted village Busama, I have come to love this country and its warm, welcoming, and peace-loving people.

My wife too has contributed much to the community over the past years working for organisations like Buk Bilong Pikinini and Femili PNG against domestic violence. This year, as a volunteer, she was starting to work for the cervical cancer screening program. Both of us did not come to this beautiful country to enrich ourselves but to make a difference.

In the media there have been statements from Council members with all kind of technicalities and impressively looking legal arguments. My achievements over the past six years, the result of all my hard work, however, seem not to have been taken into account.

I have much to say about all this, because I have done nothing wrong, and never lied.

The matter is now before the courts, and it is fitting therefore out of respect not to make further statements about the case so as to allow the judges to make up their minds independently.

Comments

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Martyn Awayang Namorong

Wishing you all the best. Keep fighting the good fight

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