USP staff unions reject Fiji AG’s claims, ‘set record straight’

USP's Professor Pal Ahluwalia
USP's Professor Pal Ahluwalia ... defended by the regional university's staff unions. Image: Fiji Times File

By Luke Rawalai in Suva

Both University of the South Pacific staff unions have attacked claims made in Parliament last week by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum about the university.

The Association of USP Staff (AUSPS) and the USP Staff Union (USPSU) issued a statement in answer to Sayed-Khaiyum, who said the Fiji government would not make any monetary grants to USP until investigations were carried out against vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

The AUSPS and USPSU said it was their duty to set the record straight.

The staff groups rejected Sayed-Khaiyum’s claims that Professor Ahluwalia had been “illegally appointed” for a three-year term despite “significant opposition” at the USP Council, saying the decision was made by a majority vote of its members.

“The minority that included the Fiji members, abstentions and opposition were insignificant in this democratic process,” the joint statement said.

“In Parliament, the majority rules. Likewise in council, the majority ruled.

“It should be noted that since the council as the employer did not terminate his [the vice-chancellor’s] employment, any references by the AG to the process of appointment are null and void.

Council rejected deportation
“Upon independent legal advice, the council refused to endorse the act of deportation that was the decision of one member country without the professional courtesy or diplomacy to consult the employer and give due justice.

“The majority of the council voted to appoint VC Ahluwalia for good reason and this was based on the fact that as the legal appointing authority, the council was neither informed nor consulted by the Fiji government of any of its concerns.”

The staff unions also attacked Sayed-Khaiyum’s claims in Parliament that the vice-chancellor’s appointment was evidence of “mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism, poor financial accountability and — in some instances outright fraud”.

They said the AG should refer to the findings in the BDO report that was commissioned by the USP Council after Prof Ahluwalia, in his first four months in office, identified past mismanagement and fraud at USP.

Questions sent to Sayed-Khaiyum regarding the union’s comments remain unanswered.

Luke Rawalai is a Fiji Times reporter. Republished with permission.

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