Elections halted at Maritime University amid allegations of irregularities

In response to allegations and evidence that irregularities were committed in the election process to choose the rector and deans of the Panama International Maritime University (UMIP) after four hours of extensive discussion, the Governing Council decided unanimously to suspend the call to elections made by the Superior Council on April 22, 2014.

It also decided to establish a committee to make the necessary adjustments to the rules governing the process, in order to enable wider participation by those qualified for the positions, and thus ensure that the electorate in the UMIP may have latitude to choose among professionals most qualified for the positions, as important for the future development of the country’s maritime academic center.

Following the decision of the Governing Council, and to the surprise of maritime community leaders describing it as an “act of insubordination,” the Electoral Committee rejected the decision of the Governing Council and said it will continue with the organization of the elections.

“The only effect this attitude will have is to precipitate the necessary steps to correct the course and straighten up the UMIP management as a key element in the Maritime and Logistics Strategy,“ commented a member of the Governing Council.

According to Law 81 of 8 November 2012, the organic law of the UMIP, “The Governing Council is the highest organ of consultation and decision making of the UMIP.” Among its powers is to “remove, suspend and dismiss from office the rector for the reasons and in ways that it determines under the present Law and the Organic Statute.”

The Council is chaired by the Minister of Education, Marcela Paredes, and is composed of the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Jorge Quijano; the administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority (AMP), Jorge Barakat; Javier Ortiz on behalf of the Panama Chamber of Shipping (CMP); and the Presidents of the Panamanian Association of Marine Officers (APOM), Luis C. Fruto, and of the Panamanian Association of Maritime Law (APADEMAR), Iria Barrancos; the executive director of the City of Knowledge, Jorge Arosemena, and a representative of the Comptroller’s Office.

Irregular process

The nomination period for the elections began on August 18, 2014 when candidates presented their postulations, including Capt. Orlando Allard, founding rector of the UMIP, the current rector, Victor Luna B., and the teachers, Diógenes Moreno, Roberto Pineda, Fulvia Garay and Aladar Rodríguez.

But surprisingly, the Elections Committee disqualified Allard, Moreno and Rodriguez, leaving the race only open to Luna, Pineda and Garay.

The maritime community reacted with surprise to the disqualification of Allard, who was the founding rector of the UMIP. A graduate of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Allard has unquestionable credentials, such as being manager of maritime training of the Panama Canal Commission and the Panama Canal Authority, directing the successful pilot training and the program for tugboat captains, which has led to the agency covering almost 100% of those positions with qualified Panamanians. Better yet, operating under that program with trained staff, the Canal has achieved better levels of safety than under American administration.

Allard was also governor of the World Maritime University in Malmo, Sweden, where he was qualified for guiding the research center, and was Ambassador of Panama to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Another candidate with indisputable credentials, who was disqualified, is Diogenes A. Moreno, a marine engineer with a degree in nautical engineering and a master’s in development of the maritime sector and in higher education. He also is the author of nine books on the subject, including “Rules for inspection of ships” and “Business and maritime transport”.

Moreno, who has led complaints against the irregular process, says it is driven by the current rector for the purpose of re-election. He told The Bulletin that it has been “totally politicized and in that way the Electoral Committee incurred in flaws in the interpretation of existing rules.” He also praised the action taken by the Board of Governors “to suspend elections, acknowledging that irregularities were committed.” He warned that the decisions of the Election Council are to try and force compliance by the authorities of the UMIP.

Meanwhile Capt. Fruto indicated that the now-canceled process was aimed at making Luna practically the only candidate. “It can not be that candidates such as Capt. Allard, who was director of training for the Canal, rector of the UMIP and ambassador of Panama to the IMO, are not eligible to be rector, like other candidates proposed by the APOM, such as Capt. Allard, Aladar Rodriguez and Eng. Moreno”.

He said he was impressed by the level of responsibility shown by the Governing Council for the special meeting attended by nearly every major sector. The Council, he said, “is committed to designing a transparent electoral scheme that involves the largest number of qualified candidates, and make it the best choice.”It’s what suits the country, the UMIP and its students,” he said.

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