By Hon. Peter Adwok Nyaba (PhD), Juba, South Sudan
Dear Mr. Kon Joseph Leek
June 28, 2016 You requested me, to be clear enough to the ‘striking university teachers’, not in an open letter in any of the English dailies published in Juba, but on PaanLuel Wël, which due to poor internet connectivity, is not easily accessible in Juba.
I reflected on your request and found it necessary to respond in order to inform you that I could not zero in on a particular issue on which I have to be ‘clear enough’ to the striking university teachers. The issue is neither between the striking university teachers and Peter Adwok Nyaba who happens to be the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, nor between the striking university teachers and Prof. John Akech, the Vice Chancellor of University of Juba, but between the striking university teachers and the South Sudan state in the context of the CONTRACT between the two.
In this connection, it must be clear that under such circumstances when one party to a contract defaults, as in not paying the salaries on specified time, it becomes a right for the other party to go on strike. However, the weapon of the strike is always used as the last resort when the two parties fail to reach a compromise in their negotiations.
I met thrice with the representatives of the Staff Associations of the five public universities.
- The first meeting was in my office sometimes in May. They came with three points regarding the delayed salaries (two months of March and April); the medical insurance and air tickets allowances; and the demand to hike their salaries by 300% in the same manner the government raised the salaries of the civil servants (groups 17 -10). I explained to them the circumstances surrounding the delay in the payment of salaries and their allowance arrears. As for the 300%, I told them, it was not automatic as the staff of the institutions of higher education had been delinked from the civil servants salary structures vide a cabinet memorandum I had raised in 2013 according to which the salaries of the academic staff and their equivalents was raised by a wider margin. However, as I told them, I will raise another memorandum to the Council of Ministers to consider their condition in the light of the biting economic reality. Thus in my opinion, there was no tangible reason for the strike since it was a general situation affecting the whole country.
- The second meeting was when the same representatives of the Staff Association of the public universities brought a letter announcing their open sit-down strike to begin on 25 May 2016. I warned them of the consequences of such unilateral action, particularly at a time the students were preparing for their exams and it would negatively affect the university calendar.
- The third meeting followed a meeting in which Vice President James Wani ordered the Presidential Advisor on Education, Hon. Dr. John Gai Yoh to call a meeting with the Minister of Finance and Planning, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, the Under Secretary Ministry of Higher Education, the Vice Chancellor of University of Juba and his deputies, the representative of JUSSA, the representative of the Workers Trade Union. It became apparent in that meeting was the fear of the Staff that they would forfeit their arrears as the financial year was drawing to a close, was the driving force of the strike. The Minister of Finance and Planning assured the representatives that they will not lose their money even if the financial years ends on June 30th. This was echoed on 14/6/2016 by the President, HE Salva Kiir Mayardit, when John Gai, David Deng and I met him in another context.
From the above, it is obvious that as Minister in charge of the universities, I have done what was expected of me to do. The ‘striking university teachers’ like all other public servants received their March salary. They have of two days ago received their April salaries and am reliably informed that their May and June salaries should be out soon and perhaps together with their allowances.
Mr. Kon Joseph Leek
You have insinuated that the strike was against me and the Vice Chancellor of University of Juba. I will speak for myself and there is enough ground to conclude that the strike could have been politically instigated. The Dawn Newspaper in its Editorial on 27th May, 2016 stated clearly that I had instigated the strike. In this respect, if the strike is against me as a person or against me as member of SPLM/A (IO), then it becomes politically driven by the politics of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) in this respect it has nothing to do with the delay in salaries suggesting the state institutions charged with protecting the members of TGoNU are the ones instigating the university teachers to go on strike, and this explains why no action is being taken against them up this material time, contrasting with the inordinately quick violent actions against the journalist and Media Houses, which resulted in loss of life and destruction of property.
Mr. Kon Joseph Leek
You pride yourself as a Commentator on contemporary issues and at the same time a post-graduate student affected the actions of the striking university teachers. This betrays a bias and ‘conflict of interest’ between objectivity and your ‘personal interest’. This blinds and prevents you from seeing that anything has consequences. Staging a strike can result in losing one’s job, prison term or even death at the hands of security forces. Next time you want to write on anything marshal enough data and information.