USP chancellor condemns Fiji’s treatment of Pal – now in Nauru

USP Chancellor Lionel Aingimea
USP Chancellor Lionel Angimea ... the university "should not be treated as a political institution". Image: United Nations

By Litia Cava in Suva

Never again should a University of the South Pacific staff member be treated in the manner vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia was in being deported from Fiji, says the USP chancellor.

Chancellor Lionel Rouwen Aingimea, who is also the President of Nauru, hinted at the possibility of Professor Ahluwalia “continuing in his role from one of the university’s other member countries”.

Aingimea said the university’s expatriate staff needed to be assured that they had security of tenure – and allowing staff to operate across member countries would support their job security and enhance the academic reputation of the university.

He said he had been entrusted by the USP Council to chair a subcommittee that would look into Professor Ahluwalia’s contract and a recommendation would be made soon.

He also revealed Professor Ahluwalia was in Nauru at his invitation and was witnessing first-hand the challenges countries in Micronesia and the South Pacific faced.

In an earlier report by Luke Rawalai, Aingimea said USP was not solely owned by one country but 12 countries whose interest it needed to serve well.

Responding to questions from The Fiji Times, Aingimea said it was called the University of the South Pacific because it was inclusive.

“It is not a university of any particular country,” said Aingimea.

‘Not political institution’
“It is not a political institution; it should not be treated as a political institution.

“It should be treated as a place where ideas are fostered, where learning is upheld to be sacrosanct.

“I am also concerned that because of the reputational risk that USP carries, that we have to carry a reputation that will want donors to come in and give money.”

Aingimea said donors wanted to invest in the university’s maritime school, law school, and other schools within the institution, adding they needed confidence in the university’s administration.

“Donors need to see that we have the governance ability to be able to use their money well and to use it for the betterment of the Pacific countries.

“One of the most important things for us to remember is that the university is a regional institution and what I would like to basically tell the students and the staff is this, as a chancellor that I want to reassure them and want to emphasise that first and foremost are the staff and the students of the USP, their interests come first.

“Good governance strategy and vision must go hand in hand and that’s what many council members are concerned with and of course council must always be thinking ‘how do we safeguard our students, how do we safeguard our staff’.

“That also is of great importance.”

Litia Cava and Luke Rawalai are reporters of The Fiji Times.

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