‘They are trying to crush someone’s career because he did not agree with a curriculum’

A senior lecturer at the Malta College for Arts, Science and Technology has filed an injunction in court to stop a “vindictive” termination of his posting at the college. He says this follows a series of efforts to stop him from teaching and an order banning him from communicating with his students.

Geologist Peter Gatt took the matter to court after he received a letter from the college in June informing him his posting at the college had been terminated and the following day would be his last working day.

Before Mr Justice Francesco Depasquale, presiding over the First Hall of the Civil Court, Gatt’s lawyer Joseph Sammut insisted that the decision to terminate his posting at the college was abusive, vindictive and in breach of his client’s rights.

The court heard how Gatt works for the Education Ministry but is the only geologist at the college and has been lecturing at MCAST since 2014. He lectures in engineering geology, limestone studies and building materials.

Sammut said the targeted efforts to exclude and sideline his client have been ongoing since the last scholastic year when he was not given a timetable and no students to teach. He was also ordered by the college deputy principal not to contact students.  

Gatt is the only geologist at the college and has been lecturing at MCAST since 2014

This matter was reported to Education Ombudsman Vincent De Gaetano who, in a report drawn up in May, upheld the complaint. He ruled that MCAST’s decision not to assign any teaching duties and the prevention from contacting students for such a long period of time, while remaining on MCAST’s books, “was an act which was oppressive and tantamount to degrading treatment”.

Sammut claimed that pressure to oust his client from the college began when he raised concerns about the poor quality of syllabi given by MCAST over the past years.

Particularly, he criticised the syllabus of a unit he was asked to lecture and which he insisted was poorly written and lacked focus.

“He was trying to revise academic matters but in retaliation, MCAST simply terminated his posting there. They are trying to crush someone’s career because he did not agree with a curriculum. He was subjected to degrading treatment instead of sitting to discuss civilly. It is true civil servants can be transferred but not vindictive transfers,” Sammut told the court during a hearing on Thursday. 

Lawyer James D’Agostino, appearing for the prime minister, the education minister and the permanent secretary, insisted that this was a matter between Gatt and the college and that his clients were extraneous to the decision, except the prime minister who approved the termination of the posting as is his prerogative according to law.

He explained that the college asked for the termination of Gatt’s posting and the decision was taken on June 11, with the lecturer being informed about the decision on June 17 and told that the following day was his last working day. He said the injunction was only filed three days later, when the decision had already been implemented.

Sammut countered that the last day was a Friday and the injunction was filed on Monday, at the next available opportunity.

MCAST lawyer Francesca Degabriele said Gatt was not allowed on the college campus as his posting there had ended. 

Mr Justice Depasquale will hand down a decision on the injunction on Tuesday.

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