By Nasik Swami in Suva
The Fiji police “thuggish-like” tactics against the University of the South Pacific staff members and students is disrupting education of students and the work of its staff, says National Federation Party president Pio Tikoduadua.
Tikoduadua said the questioning of the USP chief librarian, Dr Elizabeth Reade-Fong by police on Tuesday was another example of Fiji fast turning into a police state with scant regard for the rights of people and their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly.
“Academic freedom is the cornerstone of every university, USP is therefore no exception,” he said.
“While Fiji may brag about being the host country and the largest financial contributor to USP, one cannot hide the indisputable fact that Fiji is the biggest beneficiary of the regional tertiary institution.
“Elizabeth Fong is renowned for her principles and ethics.
“Her desire for good governance, transparency, accountability and above all to uphold and cherish academic freedom is renowned and well respected.”
He claimed that the questioning by police was a prelude to many others being questioned under the pretext of covid-19 regulations and the Public Order Act after their massive show of support for the now-suspended vice-chancellor.
“We therefore deplore police for using covid-19 social distancing restrictions to harass and intimidate USP staff and students.
“This is ridiculous and nonsense when no social distancing is being practised in supermarkets, municipal markets, buses and other public transport, restaurants, malls and on the streets.
“Even functions where the prime minister and Cabinet ministers are chief guests do not have social distancing.
“I call on the Fiji Police Force to exercise caution and professionalism in the conduct of their duties. They should conduct themselves in a way that makes the people trust, not fear them.”
Nasik Swami is a Fiji Times reporter.