Ministry appeals ruling
28 January, 2020, 8:03 am
THE case of the dispute between the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church’s Vatuvonu Adventist College and the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts will be heard next month.
The matter was called before Justice Suresh Chandra of the Court of Appeal in Suva.
The Ministry of Education has appealed against the decision made by the Civil High Court, which stated “there were provisions for religious bodies to have a say in the appointments of school heads”.
Legal officer at the Office of the Attorney-General, Ofa Solimailagi, represented the Ministry of Education.
The court was informed that submissions for both parties were due on January 30 and the reply to the submissions to be filed before February.
In November last year, the High Court in Suva ruled that only the permanent secretary for the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts had the lawful authority under the Education Act 1966, to order the closure of the Vatuvonu Adventist College.
Justice Brito-Mutunayagam had also ordered that trustees for the SDA Church had no lawful authority or right to effect the closure of Vatuvonu Adventist College at any time, without the sanction of the permanent secretary for Education.
He also declined to grant an order for the trustees to handover the management and control of the Vatuvonu Adventist College to the ministry until the outcome of the investigations conducted by the ministry into complaints of alleged abuse of funds by the school and trustees and any prosecution were completed.
In April last year, the school and its registered trustees of the SDA were restrained from interfering with the Education Ministry’s right to appoint a suitable head of school or teachers or staff members and any acting positions relating to the open merit recruitment and selection system.
This was after an order was issued by acting Chief Justice Kamal Kumar, restraining the college and its trustees from effecting any closure of the college, or without the sanction of the permanent secretary for Education Ministry, after they declared their intention to close Vatuvonu Adventist College.
The hearing will be held on February 14.