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Akbar yet to comment on Suva High Court ruling declining application for MOE to appoint school heads without SDA interference

Akbar yet to comment on Suva High Court ruling declining application for MOE to appoint school heads without SDA interference

By Pratika Mala
Wednesday 27/11/2019

Minister for Education, Rosy Akbar is yet to give a definitive answer on what the Ministry will do now that the Suva High Court has declined an application that was seeking to make certain that the Ministry of Education had the lawful right to appoint any suitable Head of School and any Acting positions without any interference from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fiji.

Fijivillage approached the Minister yesterday where she said the Ministry will look into it.

We are however still trying to get a response from Akbar as concerns are being raised on how this new ruling will affect the new appointments for the coming school year as this is the time when staff appointments and changes are made. This allows the new appointees to prepare for the new school year.

Fijivillage has also asked Akbar if the Ministry will appeal the ruling made by the Suva High Court.

The judgement was handed down by High Court Judge Justice A.L.B Brito-Mutunayagam in the civil action case between the Ministry of Education and Vatuvonu SDA College and five trustees of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fiji.

The Judge said the government is required to appoint a civil servant as Principal of Vatuvonu SDA College in terms of the Open Merit Recruitment Selection and in a manner consistent with the constitutional right in section 22(4) which means that the proposed appointment must be acceptable to the Church.

The section states that every religious community or denomination, and every cultural or social community, has the right to establish, maintain and manage places of education whether or not it receives financial assistance from the State, provided that the educational institution maintains any standard prescribed by law.

Justice Mutunayagam also granted a declaration that the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fiji has no lawful authority or right to effect closure of Vatuvonu SDA College at any time without the sanction of the Permanent Secretary of Education.

The Judge also declined to grant an order for the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fiji to handover the management and control of Vatuvonu SDA College to the Ministry of Education until the outcome of the investigations conducted by the Ministry into the complaint of alleged abuse of funds.

Justice Mutunayagam had also declined the application by the Attorney General's Office that sought an order that the five trustees of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fiji do not interfere with the Ministry of Education's right to appoint any suitable Head of the School and any Acting positions.

The Judge also granted a declaration that only the Permanent Secretary for Education has the lawful authority under the Education Act 1966 to order closure of Vatuvonu SDA College. 

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