CANBERRA - Last month, University of Natural Resources and the Environment Vice Chancellor Professor John Warren quit his post and Papua New Guinea after receiving police threats.
Professor Warren, who only took up his position in 2016, was previously Professor of Botany at Aberystwyth University in Wales. PNG Attitude has released his letter giving his account. It seems that he fell out with the chancellor and then with the university council.
After receiving threats of being reported to the police, first from the Chancellor and then others, he resigned and left PNG as quickly as he could.
UNRE is clearly a troubled institution. The previous vice chancellor had his appointment terminated following allegations of mismanagement of funds, and was referred to the fraud squad following allegations made by Rabaul MP, Dr Allan Marat.
(The EMTV news item reporting the protests is the only mention by the press of this scandalous case that I have been able to find.)
Earlier in the year, Unitech vice chancellor Albert Schram quit after a dispute with the Unitech Council.
He was subsequently arrested and had his passport confiscated on the trumped-up charge of fraudulently claiming to have a PhD (trumped-up because he did indeed have the PhD he claimed to have), a turn of developments engineered by a former senior Unitech leader Schram had earlier crossed.
John Warren explains in his letter that the treatment of Dr Schram, and a warning that he too would be arrested, led to his decision not to hang around for the end of the academic year, as he was requested to do by PNG’s higher education secretary.
Both the Schram and Warren cases – whatever their details and whatever their differences -- will have a devastating impact on the reputation PNG’s higher education sector.
Will PNG ever again be able to attract an international candidate for a tertiary leadership position?
There are many outstanding PNG nationals fighting the good fight, and standing up for justice and the national interest.
But there are also too many powerful individuals in PNG who use the police for their own interests to harass those in leadership positions. The damage to the national interest is immense.