NFP’s Dr Prasad accuses Fiji of threatening stability of USP

Dr Biman Prasad
National Federation Party leader Dr Biman Prasad ... condemns Fiji government over actions against the regional University of the South Pacific. Image: Jona Konataci/Fiji Times

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

National Federation Party leader Dr Biman Prasad has accused the Fiji government of threatening the long-term stability of the Suva-based regional University of the South Pacific.

He said that the Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s threat to withhold funds from the university – which has 30,000 students, four-fifths of them from Fiji – if the government demands are not met are a “defining moment”.

Dr Prasad, a former professor of economics and dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at the university, condemned the Fiji government’s “behaviour” against USP.

“If [USP’s] biggest member is prepared to withhold fund any time it feels like it, how can the university plan for its operations and growth?,” he asked in a statement today.

“If the university’s regional member countries, key development partners Australia and New Zealand, its governing council, its staff and students give in to this threat, the Fiji government will do it again the next time it does not like a university decision.

“The next threat will be to vice-chancellor [Pal] Ahluwalia. It is well known that the Fiji government wants him out.

“The Fiji government has made similar threats in the past. It is now well-known that a few years ago it threatened to withhold funding if Professor Wadan Narsey continued to be employed there. Professor Narsey was finally required to retire.”

Fiji ‘unhappy about no USP cover-up’
Dr Prasad said Sayed-Khaiyum was making the threat to “assuage his bruised ego”.

“He is unhappy that the USP Council did not agree to cover up the USP funding abuses exposed by its new vice-chancellor.

“These funds belong to the people of Fiji. They are not Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s playthings.
Nor are the students of USP, including those who are Fiji citizens,” Dr Prasad said.

“USP taught, employed and nurtured me for more than 30 years. It is the most successful regional institution in the history of the South Pacific.

“The Prime Minister [Voreqe Bainimarama] claims to champion other South Pacific states on issues such as climate change. But it seems he is powerless when his right-hand man wants to destroy our university because he cannot get what he wants.

“If the Prime Minister has any concerns about 30,000 Fiji and regional students and staff and the future of the regional university, he would immediately stop this nonsense.”

The Fijian government has said a letter sent to the pro-chancellor and vice-chancellor at USP last week about the withdrawal of grant payments “speaks for itself”.

The government statement added that this was not a matter to be resolved through the media.

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