Pacific Media Watch

19 June 2020

REGION: USP Council lifts suspension of academic chief – no due process

Reinstated University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia speaking to student supporters early in the Laucala campus leadership crisis. Image: Fiji Times

By Wansolwara staff
SUVA (Wansolwara/Asia Pacific Report/Pacific Media Watch):
The suspension of the University of the South Pacific’s vice-chancellor and president, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, has been lifted by the USP Council following a seven-hour virtual meeting today.

The institution’s highest decision-making body convened a virtual special council meeting to determine whether USP executive committee’s recent decision to suspend vice-chancellor Pal Ahluwalia was valid.

After the seven-hour long discussion, the USP Council set aside the suspension of Professor Ahluwalia by the executive committee, stating it was “not persuaded that due process was followed” in the suspension of the VCP.

READ MORE: Special reports on the USP leadership crisis

USP media release
Today’s brief University of the South Pacific Council media statement after the seven-hour meeting. Image: USP

“The Council, having considered the decision by the Executive Committee to suspend the Vice-Chancellor & President, agrees that the process prescribed in An Ordinance to Govern the Discipline of the Vice-Chancellor be followed in investigating any allegations against the VC & President of USP,” a statement from the council secretariat said.

Fiji’s Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Rosy Akbar, who was part of the virtual meeting, said the idea of the meeting was to find a resolution to the issues faced by USP.

“Fiji’s stand has always been on good governance and we still promote good governance and that is why we are part of the council’s decision,” she told local media at USP’s Laucala campus after the meeting concluded.

Before the start of the virtual meeting, journalists were refused entry into the university by security officers at the campus gates, who were following directives that the “media was not allowed on campus”.

Tight campus security
Campus security was also tight at the virtual meeting venue for council members in Fiji.

Concerned staff and students maintained strong support and solidarity for good governance over the past few weeks and welcomed the council’s decision to reinstate Professor Ahluwalia.

In recent weeks, Pacific leaders echoed strong calls for USP Council members to work together to resolve the ongoing challenges currently faced by the region’s premier educational institution.

Professor Ahluwalia was suspended on June 8 by the executive committee for alleged material misconduct, pending an investigation. The decision resulted in numerous demonstrations by concerned staff and students at USP campuses in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The University of the South Pacific journalism programme is in partnership with the AUT Pacific Media Centre.

Flags at USP
Flags of USP’s 12-member countries fly high again outside the USP Students Association (USPSA) Federal Office at Laucala campus. The student body had taken the flags down when the vice-chancellor was suspended on June 8. The flags were raised this morning to support good governance at USP. Image: USPSA/Wansolwara


Pacific Media Watch

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