MCAST Principal James Calleja has ignored a court order to stop its “abusive” treatment of senior lecturer Dr. Peter Gatt, and defied the court’s instruction to reinstate him, The Shift has learned.
A day after the court ordered the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST) to stop its “vindictive” disciplinary procedures against Gatt, one of its most senior lecturers, Calleja wrote to Gatt informing him that he was no longer an MCAST staff member and that he will be deprived of his salary.
In the letter, seen by The Shift, dated June 22, MCAST’s head told Gatt that he was barred from entering the MCAST campus – where he is a senior lecturer – as he was no longer considered to be a member of the staff.
Calleja also informed the experienced lecturer that his salary would no longer be paid, this depriving him of his income.
Calleja’s letter was dated just a day after the court ordered MCAST to stop its plans to demote the lecturer, describing the college’s actions as irregular and “vindictive”.
In another measure ordered by Calleja – a former personal assistant of a PN Parliamentary Secretary– a notice displaying a picture of Gatt was affixed to the main entrance of the college, asking all security guards to bar Gatt from the premises.
This memo was displayed in full view of the other lecturers, colleagues of Dr Gatt, and students entering the campus.
Calleja refused to reply to questions about why he has persisted in taking action against Gatt, despite the court’s unequivocal orders to desist.
The Shift also asked Calleja if he was going to take responsibility for the possible contempt of court procedures which his actions clearly breach.
Again, Calleja did not reply.
Instead, the college’s director of communications said “the court case is currently ongoing, and information will be communicated once it is concluded.”
The Shift is informed that Calleja’s decisions are being backed by MCAST’s board of governors, headed by constitutional expert and government appointee, Ian Refalo.
What the court ordered MCAST to do
After more than a year of feeling persecuted by the MCAST administration for revealing wrongdoing and various ‘rackets’ at the college, Gatt, a senior lecturer at the college, filed a warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop his transfer to a secondary school.
On June 21, the Court upheld Gatt’s claims, stating that MCAST’s actions were abusive, vindictive and in breach of his rights. The court observed that even the way the college informed Gatt about his termination was hasty and “clearly intended to prejudicing (his) rights”.
The Court ordered that Gatt’s termination order be revoked and that he continues to be considered as an MCAST member of staff.
Despite this court order, MCAST is still not considering Gatt as its lecturer and is not paying him his salary.
Gatt has now opened a court case against the teaching institution.
Persecution for outing rackets at MCAST
Gatt, a fully-qualified geologist, was previously employed at the Education Ministry. In 2014 he was detailed as a senior lecturer at MCAST.
A few years later, he began noticing a series of irregularities in the workings of the institution and informed the authorities and MCAST’s administration of what he’d discovered.
His reports of abuses at the college, included questionable behavior of both the administration and lecturers, especially those related to the preparation of syllabi of courses. Gatt he considered these to be below the required levels and of very poor quality.
He informed MCAST and the Education Ministry that individuals without any qualifications were being commissioned and paid through taxpayers’ funds to write syllabi for MCAST courses, and that these were of very poor quality.
Several of these syllabi had to be re-written even as lecturers were demanding that this work should be done by themselves, as they were actually teaching these courses.
Gatt also outed what he dubbed ‘MCAST rackets,’ in which lecturers were allegedly abusing allowances related to additional teaching schemes and research hours.
Although these alleged abuses were reported to the Education Ministry and to the MCAST principal, no investigations were carried out.
Instead, MCAST ordered disciplinary action against Gatt over “unethical behaviour” while starting to ostracise him by not giving him any lecturing duties and ordering him not to communicate with his students.
Following the hearing related to the disciplinary action, no wrongdoing was found on Dr Gatt’s part.
Still, just a few weeks later, MCAST asked for Gatt’s detailing to be revoked.
This was accepted by Prime Minister Robert Abela last June after which Gatt was forced to go to court to protect his rights.
A complaint by Gatt was also upheld by the Ombudsman for Education, former Chief Justice Vincent De Gaetano, who on May 21 described MCAST’s actions as “an oppressive act tantamount to degrading treatment.”