University kicks out property residents after years of failed negotiations


SOLOMON Islands National University (SINU) is continuing a mass eviction exercise on 40-plus former staff residing in its properties at Kukum and Panatina campuses.

The eviction began last week.

This came after former staff refused to vacate the properties since their contracts expired on July 31, 2021.

SINU used their securities and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force (RSIPF) Police Response Team to carry out the eviction based on an order from the High Court.

Estee Lonamei, Senior Marketing & Promotions Officer of SINU said what happened was an unfortunate situation and SINU management had not wanted to reach this far.

However, he said because the former staff have occupied the University’s properties, SINU has lost about $3.8 million in rental.

“The former staff have occupied their properties without paying any rental, water and electricity bills in the last 14 months.

“The money lost should go to pay for extra desks, materials and building new buildings,” Lonamei said.

Furthermore, Lonamei said High Court had given the occupants seven days to vacate the properties, but they refused.

He said some staff had complied with the High Court eviction order and moved out.

Lonamei said the former workers had demanded SINU pay their long-term benefits before they would leave.

However, he said SINU did not pay their long term benefits after their contracts ended, only their gratuity pay.

Gratuity is a payment made to an employee by an employer in recognition of long and meritorious service, above and beyond the usual wages or salary.

It is usually a percentage of the employee’s total wages or salary for the entire period of service.

Further to that, Lonamei said SINU had already paid the former employees their repatriation package.

He said the highest repatriation package was about $24,000 where SINU paid to a former staff from Temotu province.

The former staff have described the forced eviction as ‘inhumane’ treatment.

This was after they were forced to sleep outside the properties in makeshift homes because SINU securities had locked them out.

One of the women Island Sun spoke to said it was heartbreaking to see police and SINU securities remove their belongings out of the properties.

“Our family have to sleep in small extension we built beside our home.

“Sometimes during heavy rain, we make sure our children sleep well and don’t get wet at night,” she said.

Minister of Education and Human Resources, Lanelle Tanangada told Parliament in 2021 that about 123 academic staff and 107 support services staff are affected by the exercise.

This includes 34 in Faculty of Education and Humanities, 29 in Faculty of Science and Technology, 17 in Faculty of Business and Tourism, 18 in Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Science is 17 and Distant Flexible Learning is eight.

About 70 percent of these staffs are former staffs of the then Solomon Islands College of Higher Education (SICHE).

Almost 90 percent of them have a basic degree in teaching streams while large numbers in the TVET areas have only certificates.

The administrative departments were dominated by staff with diplomas and certificates.

She said there was no mass termination at SINU as claimed by media.

“What I understand based on advice being given by SINU management is notices have been issued to staffs whose contracts have ended and a recruitment exercise has been conducted to fill in the positions,” Tanangada explained.

“This is a normal university activity that administration conducts at the expiry of contracts of staff,” she added.

Furthermore, Tanangada explained that at the inception of SINU in 2013, it adopted a recruitment policy that required all staff recruited by SINU to be on a three-year contract.

She said previously staff were on continuing appointment, meaning it has an open-ended time frame.

Moreover, Tanangada said as SINU Council resolution dated June 22, 2015, all positions must be advertised in the open market before the contracts expired.

She said the rationale was to recruit staff that meet SINU minimum qualifications requirement known as MQR to teach at the university and upgrade to a level and quality of the programme that is taught at the university.

“Similarly positions in administrations and logistics support services at SINU are also advertised as to well-educated and competent persons.

“Up until now and owning to a variety of reasons such as allowing for a period of transitions, the recruitment policy was never previously adhered to and comply with,” she said.

Tanangada said following a period over eight years now as per SINU Council resolution, dated March 29, 2021, the management has now considered it most appropriate to execute the recruitment policy smoothly and seamlessly for purposes of upgrading the quality of the programmes offered at SINU and attracting competent administrative support staffs.

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