USP Council reinstates vice-chancellor Pal Ahluwalia pending inquiry

US security check
A USP security officer checks a vehicle at the main entrance of the University of the South Pacific's Laucala campus in Suva, Fiji. Image: Rama/Fiji Times

Pacific Media Watch

The University of the South Pacific’s vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia has been reinstated to office and his suspension has been lifted, reports FijiVillage news website.

According to reliable sources, the USP Council agreed to the decision after a full day meeting starting at 9am and ending about 5pm, report news editor Vijay Narayan and reporter Semi Turaga.

FijiVillage said the radio network had been informed that the allegations of material misconduct against Professor Ahluwalia would still be investigated.

READ MORE: Special reports on the USP leadership crisis

However, he would remain in office during the course of the investigation.

The USP Council stated that having considered the decision by the university’s executive committee to suspend the vice-chancellor and president, the council was not persuaded that due process was followed in the suspension of vice-chancellor Ahluwalia.

The USP Council said that it set aside the suspension of the by the executive committee and had resolved that the process as prescribed in an ordinance to govern the discipline of the vice-chancellor be followed in investigating any allegations.

Earlier in the council meeting, USP pro-chancellor Winston Thompson withdrew from discussions due to a conflict of interest as he was chair of the executive committee that had suspended Professor Ahluwalia pending independent investigations.

News media barred
Earlier today, Fiji news media reported tight security at the USP’s Laucala campus in Suva.

Pal Ahluwalia
Reinstated vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia … initiated reforms at USP. Image: FBC News

Reporters were barred, including from the university’s journalism programme newspaper and website Wansolwara that usually gives comprehensive coverage to campus issues.

The Fiji Times reports: “A media personnel said [that] when trying to get into the premises to cover the USP Council meeting underway at the Laucala campus in Suva he was told by a security guard that the media was not allowed into the premises.”

Other Fiji media carried similar stories and RNZ Pacific also reported the ban, saying journalists had been barred from entering USP as the full council met to “resolve an impasse at the regional institution”.

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