USP vice-chancellor told to ‘step aside’, committee member resigns in protest

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Vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia ... students, staff call for a halt to "harassment" of their top academic. Image: FBC News

By Edwin Nand in Suva

The University of the South Pacific’s vice-chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, a Canadian, has been told to step down to allow for independent investigations relating to allegations of misconduct and breaches of USP policies and procedures.

FBC News has independently verified that the USP executive committee, which met this morning, has decided that allegations against Professor Ahluwalia need to be looked into.

This arises from a report compiled by the chair of the risk and audit committee, Mahmood Khan, listing numerous incidents of alleged breaches by the USP vice-chancellor.

READ MORE: USP students, staff call on council to stop ‘harassment’ of Ahluwalia

However, Pacific Media Watch cites a Samoa Observer report at the weekend saying that the students and staff association had called for a halt to the “harassment” of Professor Ahluwalia and for the “investigation” to be dropped.

The governments of Nauru, Tonga and New Zealand have also called on the 12-nation university council to stop pursuing the investigation.

A Fiji coopted member of Khan’s committee resigned today in protest, saying he was “not going to be a party to this surprise move” by Khan.

“What spurred Mr Khan to make this surprise move is a mystery,” said Semi Tukana, founder and chief executive of two companies, Software Factory and CloudApp Laboratories.

“There is no urgency here to warrant a rushed approach to the handling of his complaint as the university is continuing to operate well even under the current health and economic crisis.”

FBC News approached Professor Ahluwalia earlier today, but he referred the reporter to the university’s communications department.

In an email reponse, FBC News was told that the vice-chancellor would not make any public statements on this matter and all responses will be communicated directly to the USP Council.

It also said Professor Ahluwalia had absolute faith that the USP Council would deal with this matter “diligently”.

Edwin Nand is a multimedia journalist of FBC News.

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  1. The same council that has investigated him 9 times previously. This would be the tenth and they gonna do it ‘diligently’. I think all integrity in the council is gone… that goes without saying, insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result. Now they’ll have to resort to making up evidence. It is pathetic, and everyone knows it.

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