Asia Pacific Report newsdesk
University of the South Pacific staff unions and students have protested in “disgust” over what they call interference and unsolicited presence by Fiji police on the Laucala campus.
“We demand that this must immediately stop, to allow staff to work and prepare for incoming students and the semester of learning ahead,” said a joint statement today from the Association of USP Staff (AUSPS), USP Staff Union (USPSU) and the USP Student Association (USPSA).
The unions described the police activity as an “attack on the right of staff to operate freely, with dignity and safety at the work place”.
The unions said that police officers had been seen on campus since the “unethical” deportation of the vice-chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia last Thursday.
USP security officials had also reported a number of incidents involving police vehicles that had been refused entry onto the campus.
“This is seen as an attempt to intimidate and harass staff while disrupting preparations for the semester ahead,” the statement said.
Fiji police were reminded that Laucala campus was a place of work and tertiary education for regional Pacific students as well as Fiji students.
“As such, [the police] must respect the right for these students to be facilitated by USP staff in an environment that is free of harassment and intimidation,” said the statement.
The USP is a regional institution with 12 member countries and comparable to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).
The opposition National Federation Party (NFP) said in a statement that Fiji’s credibility as a leading state in the region was at stake over the deportation of Kenyan-born professor Ahluwalia, reports RNZ Pacific.
The opposition walked out of parliament yesterday after the Speaker disallowed urgent questions about the removal of Professor Ahluwalia and his wife, saying the matter wasn’t of public importance.