USP staff want Fiji’s pro-chancellor Thompson to step aside in abuse probe

University of the South Pacific staff at a Laucala campus meeting last month to discuss the allegations against part of the management. Image: Wansolwara

By Peni Komaisavai in Suva

Staff of the University of the South Pacific at the university’s main Laucala campus in Suva have called for pro-chancellor Winston Thompson to step aside to allow for an independent investigation into alleged abuse and mismanagement to proceed.

This was one of three demands USP staff made in a petition they presented today to the university’s senior management team.

The petition was signed by 500 staff members comprising academic and administrative, and addressed to pro-chancellor Thompson, who is also the university council chair, as well as to his deputy chair Aloma Johansson of Tonga, council members and the university’s vice-chancellor and president, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

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The June edition cover of Islands Business featuring vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia. Image: IB

Demand number two in the petition calls for pro-chancellor Thompson to “be recused from council chair immediately,” adding “his public defence of those implicated in the allegations is premature and unprofessional and compromises his position as chair.

“Furthermore, his recent public statements against VC&P Pal Ahluwalia are unprofessional, prejudicial and damaging to the university.”

To regional governments who are owners of the USP, as well as donor partners “especially Australia and New Zealand,” university staff in their petition wanted them to ensure that the investigation into the alleged abuses would be fair, thorough and remedial actions effected.

Closely watching
University staff are closely watching the investigation process being led by the USP audit and risk committee.

The committee is headed by Mahmood Khan, a Fiji government nominee to the USP Council, and a chartered accountant who used to work in New Zealand.

In a statement last week, the university council deputy chair Aloma Johansson of Tonga said four Auckland-based accounting firms had been invited to submit bids to undertake the probe.

She said then that the Khan-led committee would meet tomorrow to select the investigation firm.

This Islands Business article is republished with permission.

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