Ahluwalia still USP’s vice-chancellor, says Aingimea

Pal Ahluwalia Open DevPolicy 680wide
USP's deported vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia at the 2019 Open Day ... the ensuing standoff between USP host country Fiji and the USP Council has put the institution’s funding at risk and its future in jeopardy. Image: DevPolicyBlog

RNZ Pacific

Deported Canadian academic Professor Pal Ahluwalia is still vice-chancellor and president of the University of the South Pacific, says chancellor Lionel Aingimea.

Professor Ahluwalia and his wife, nursing lecturer Sandra Price, were forced to leave Fiji in early February after the Fiji government claimed the couple had breached provisions in their work permits.

Aingimea, who is also Nauru’s President, said once issues relating to the academic’s departure were cleared at the council level, Professor Ahluwalia would be allowed to operate out of any USP member country, except Fiji.

Aingimea’s comments comes amid a council meeting this week to discuss a report which had highlighted governance issues at the regional institution.

The report was compiled in 2019 by forensic accountant BDO Auckland following allegations by Professor Ahluwalia of “serious mismanagement and abuse of office” at the USP.

The fallout between the university’s governing body, the USP Council, and the head office host nation, Fiji, came to the fore following the deportation of Ahluwalia.

Aingimea had condemned the deportation.

USP not informed
He said the USP Council, Professor Ahluwalia’s employer, was not informed of his deportation by the Fijian authorities.

The council had not revoked Professor Ahluwalia’s contract, Aingimea said.

He told the Fiji Times newspaper last week that he had received a lot of letters from USP students and staff expressing their disappointment that issues remained unresolved.

The question of Professor Ahluwalia’s role was put to a subcommittee, Aingimea said, and the subcommittee had returned it to the council meeting this week with some recommendations.

“As far as I am personally concerned, he [Ahluwalia] is still the VC of the USP,” he said.

On Ahluwalia not being able to return to Fiji, Aingimea said he could operate from any member country.

“As far as I am concerned there are other campuses around the region, USP is a regional institution and, therefore, the VC can, as far as I am concerned, operate out of Samoa, Vanuatu or Nauru or any other country for that matter.”

Ahluwalia and his wife were taken from their Suva home late at night on February 3 and driven to Nadi International Airport to be put on a flight to Australia.

According to the Fiji government, Alhuwalia and Sandra Price had continuously breached Section 13 of the Immigration Act which led to their deportation.

The couple have denied the claims.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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