Corruption accused USP staff ‘apply for state jobs’, says Fiji opposition

Opposition SODELPA MP Ro Filipe Tuisawau
Opposition SODELPA MP Ro Filipe Tuisawau ... Attorney-General only tells "one side of the USP story". Image: Image: Fiji Parliament

By Felix Chaudhary and Luke Rawalai in Suva

Some people who were accused of corrupt practices at the University of the South Pacific have applied for Fiji government positions, claims opposition SODELPA member of Parliament Ro Filipe Tuisawau.

He was responding to Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s statement against the governing USP Council in Parliament last week.

“Some people who were accused of corrupt practices have applied for government positions to be part of the civil service,” Ro Filipe said.

He said Sayed-Khaiyum was fond of bringing up allegations against expatriate USP vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia but failed to mention allegations against the previous Fiji vice-chancellor [Professor Rajesh Chandra].

He said victims of the USP saga were students and staff members who mostly comprised Fijians.

He said there were allegations of corrupt practices before Professor Ahluwalia’s term that should be investigated and the Attorney-Genefral only told “one side of the story”.

“Fiji should be paying more (in grant) because there are more Fijian students.”

Fiji’s USP stance ‘vindictive’

Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry
Former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry … Attorney-General “giving Fiji a bad name” over USP. Image: Jonacani Lalakobau/Fiji Times

Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry described the Fiji government’s decision not to release its annual grant to USP unless an independent inquiry was carried out on allegations against Professor Ahluwalia as vindictive.

“One does not expect this degree of immaturity and pettiness from a high-ranking government minister,” Chaudhry said.

“The minister should know that USP will go on regardless of such petty behaviour from him, it is Fiji that will suffer.

“His antics are giving Fiji a bad name and putting regional cooperation at risk.

“We have the PM making an upbeat statement in Parliament talking of regional solidarity and building trust and confidence in our relationship as a forum family’ while the Economy Minister is going all out to wreck this regional family.”

He questioned whether, in line with his new policy on USP, the minister would also suspend payments under the Toppers and TELS scheme to Fiji’s USP students.

“I also wonder what our two big regional donors [Australia and New Zealand] and forum partners think about such petty behaviour.

Divert budgetary support to USP
“Maybe they can consider diverting some of the budgetary support money they donate to the Fijian government, to the USP to make up for the default in Fiji’s annual grant payments.”

Questions sent to Sayed- Khaiyum last week regarding Chaudhry’s statements remained unanswered.

While the Australian consulate has chosen to remain silent on the issue, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said its government respected the collective decision of the USP governing Council to reappoint Prof Ahluwalia.

New Zealand would continue to work with all stakeholders to find a solution that was in the best interests of students.

“New Zealand remains concerned by the ongoing management and governance challenges at the University of the South Pacific (USP),” a statement from the ministry said.

Felix Chaudhary and Luke Rawalai are Fiji Times reporters. Republished with permission.

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