Suspended USP academic chief calls on council to clear his name

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USPSA executives and Pacific flags ... students of the University of the South Pacific have been strongly in support of Professor Pal Ahluwalia, calling for his reinstatement at the council meeting today. Image: USPSA

By Lena Reece in Suva

The University of the South Pacific’s suspended vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia claims that his suspension was illegal.

In a statement to the USP Council dated on Wednesday, Professor Ahluwalia said his suspension was done without due process and without any proper reason.

Professor Ahluwalia said the council had the chance to clear his name, support him in his role and reinstate him as the vice-chancellor and president of USP.

READ MORE: Special reports on the USP leadership crisis

Pal Ahluwalia letter
Part of Professor Pal Ahluwalia’s three-page letter to USP Council this week. The council holds a special meeting today to consider the leadership crisis. Image: PMC

He also stressed that he did not fear an independent investigation.

Professor Ahluwalia highlighted that in March, 26 charges were levelled against him, adding that his lawyer had advised the deputy pro-chancellor and the council that the charges were out of time and not sustainable.

He claimed that the pro-chancellor Winston Thompson’s report confirmed that the allegations date from 2019 and that many of the accusations against him last year continued to be repeated even though some have been cleared.

Professor Ahluwalia said that the executive committee meeting held last week apparently considered another 33 charges against him.

He claimed that this time the charges were a mix of new and repeated allegations adding that he was not given the opportunity to defend himself and that none of the allegations were sustainable.

The USP special council meeting will proceed as scheduled today.

The meeting will appraise members of the leadership crisis at the Laucala campus in Suva.

The USP pro-chancellor, Winston Thompson, confirmed that one of the items up for discussion was the executive committee’s move to suspend vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia last week.

Pal Ahluwalia
Suspended Professor Pal Ahluwalia … initiated reforms at USP. Image: FBC News

Nauru President Lionel Aingimea, who is also a member of the council, earlier highlighted that it should be included in the agenda of the meeting – for council members to determine whether the decision of the executive committee to suspend the vice chancellor was made in bad faith and should be overturned.

A number of USP member countries have indicated

they do not support the suspension of Professor Ahluwalia.

A petition signed by more than 200 staff, former staff and alumni in support of Professor Ahluwalia has also been sent to council.

The special USP council meeting will be held today at USP’s Laucala campus from 10am-4pm.

Jioji Kotobalavu article
Retired Fiji civil servant and former ambassador Jioji Kotobalavu, a lecturer in public law, international relations and diplomacy, writes about “ensuring good governance” at USP in today’s Fiji Times. Image: PMC

Leena Reece is a senior multimedia journalist with The Fiji Times.

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