VERONA - It is no secret that university governance in Papua New Guinea has been completely politicised.
Rules are not respected and there is no transparency or accountability.
Now it seems all this has been thrown out of the window, and traditional justice practices are being used to resolve university governance issues.
As a foreigner, even after having mastered the relevant anthropological literature, I found it hard to understand how wonderful customary justice principles based on restoration of social harmony, reciprocity and proportionality worked out in practice.
For people not interested in the arcane legal details of university governance, this story may help focus the mind.
In 2014, then higher education minister Delilah Gore gave two cows to Unitech because the university council allowed me to remain as lawfully appointed vice-chancellor and did not impose another.
A professor would be valued at one cow, an associate professor a pig, a senior lecturer a goat and a lecturer a dog or cat. Two cows for a vice-chancellor kind of worked out.
In 2018, however, higher education minister Pila Niningi received only one pig from the University of PNG academic staff association to say ‘sori’ for their strike, which a judge had declared illegal on a technicality.
The strike occurred after the minister tried to impose an unlawfully appointed vice-chancellor on the university.
Under the university ‘sori’ system I previously described, a vice-chancellor was valued at two cows, a professor one cow, an associate professor a pig, a senior lecturer a goat, a lecturer a dog or cat, a tutor a mouse and staff member a mere ant.
Following the principle of proportionality minister Niningi should have been worth at least two cows.
But he received only one pig.
We can see clearly how kastam is no longer respected.