BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
TWO staff associations that pushed for the removal of Solomon Islands National University (SINU) vice chancellor Dr. Ganesh Chand have no legal standing and are therefore illegal.
That’s according to High Court judge Rex Foukona in his ruling of the case between the two associations and the SINU council.
The associations, the Lecturers Association of Solomon Islands National University (LASINU) and the Solomon Islands National University General Staff Association (SINUGSA), last year demanded the removal of Fijian Chand on allegations of corruption.
But the SINU council, chaired by Health minister Dr Culwick Togamana, argued SINU does not recognise them as unions.
Because of that, the council further argued, the associations have no legal standing to represent staff of SINU and therefore cannot demand the removal of Chand.
SINU council also argued the two associations are not registered and therefore cannot represent staff of the university.
The dispute ended up at the Trade Dispute Panel (TDP) last August.
After a hearing, TDP ruled the associations have standing and are recognised by law to represent SINU staff in trade disputes.
SINU council through private lawyer Andrew Radclyffe appealed the TDP ruling in the High Court.
Radclyffe submitted that since SINU does not recognise the two associations, their existence as unions has no basis under law.
Justice Foukona agreed.
“It is clear from Radclyffe’s submissions that the University did not recognise the associations,” Justice Foukona said.
He added it is important for SINU to recognize the associations because in the event disputes arise there is recognition and understanding that the associations and SINU ought to work together corporately or with one accord to achieve discipline, healthy academic and amicable co-existence.
He further pointed out that lawyer for the associations, Michael Pitakaka, submitted that both associations had been established and registered under the SICHE Act.
But Justice Foukona said:
“Unfortunately that proponent must be flawed on the specific basis that the Act that established SICHE had been repealed and substituted with an Act alleviate of a new status as SINU Act 2012.
“Practically for reasonableness sake, anything established or registered under the requirement of a repealed act must be repealed as well.
“Unless there is provision specifically prescribe for peaceful transition, equitably to maintain such establishment to continue have standing and function under the new act, lack of such expression, as I note, render the associations’ locus standi at stake to appear as representatives of their members in the TDP proceedings.”
Foukona said the TDP should have done further investigations into the status of the two associations before making its ruling.
He revoked the entire TDP ruling.
Meanwhile, Vice Chancellor Chand is currently in Fiji following pressure from the two associations to have him removed.
He was sent home after the Labour Division refused to grant him a work permit in the wake of the dispute.
His current status with SINU is not clear.