Pacific leaders call for ‘common sense’ to prevail in USP impasse

Emalus USP protest
USP students protest in support of suspended vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia at the Emalus campus in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Image: USPSA

By Wansolwara staff

Pacific leaders are echoing strong calls for USP Council members to work together to resolve the ongoing challenges currently faced by the region’s premier educational institution.

The call by Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano yesterday comes in the wake of mounting pressure from staff, students and stakeholders for good governance to prevail after the executive committee (EC) of the USP Council suspended vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia on Monday for alleged material misconduct, pending an investigation.

The decision by the EC sparked many demonstrations this week by concerned staff and students at USP campuses in Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

READ MORE: Civil society advocates condemn Fiji police ‘intimidation’ of USP students

Natano, who is also the chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Secretariat, said all members should work together and in the Pacific way to chart a course forward for the premier institution of learning.

“Common sense must prevail if we are to be successful in bringing about lasting solutions to the ongoing challenges at the university,” he said in a statement today.

“USP is a highly valued institution for educating the young minds of future leaders of our Blue Pacific. As Pacific leaders and custodians of this vital institution of higher learning, we take pride in what the university stands for – a shining example of regionalism and the benefits of pooling our collective resources for the betterment of our Pacific people.”

Ensure governance, says Cook Islands
The Cook Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration shared on its social media platform the need for the USP Council to ensure governance and management of the regional university was administered and governed by established due processes.

“The welfare of the staff and students of the University must be given priority consideration, particularly amidst the unprecedented challenges that have arisen from covid-19,” the ministry said.

“As a member country of USP and as a member of council, the Cook Islands looks forward to the convening of an extraordinary council meeting this month, and joining all council members in deliberations that go to the heart of the welfare of staff and students, governance and the future of our regional university.”

Meanwhile, USP donors Australia and New Zealand, as well as Tonga also joined calls by incoming chancellor Lionel Aingimea, who is President of Nauru, and Samoa’s Education Minister Loau Sio for a special meeting of the full USP Council to be held to resolve the impasse at the regional university.

During a media conference on Thursday, pro-chancellor Winston Thompson confirmed that a special meeting of the USP Council would be held after receiving a written request from 14 council members.

The meeting is expected to take place early next week.

The Pacific Media Centre republishes Wansolwara articles in a partnership with the University of the South Pacific journalism programme.

‘Stand down,’ NFP tells Thompson

NFP view on USP
Fiji’s opposition NFP has called on Fiji to stop “meddling” in the affairs of the regional university USP. Image: FBC News screenshot/PMC

FBC reports that Fiji’s opposition National Federation Party (NFP) has called for USP pro-chancellor Winston Thompson to be stood down.

NFP president Pio Tikoduadua said vice-chancellor Pal Ahluwalia must also be reinstated until the USP Council meets next week.

He said Fiji was “meddling” in the affairs of the university, something which Fijian Education Minister Rosy Akbar had denied.

Tikoduadua said Akbar must participate in “good faith” at the planned special USP Council meeting.

Flashback to an earlier debate on the ongoing crisis at USP on Simpson @ Eight on October 17, 2020. Video: MaiTV

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