By Samisoni Pareti in Suva
A major development out of the besieged University of the South Pacific has meant that two main characters in a saga that threatens the financial viability of the regional institution are now out of the University Council.
Controversial chair of the USP Council audit sub-committee Mahmood Khan of Fiji was voted out of the position at the council meeting that was held virtually yesterday.
However, he remains as one of Fiji’s 5 representatives in the council.
Equally controversial council chair and pro-chancellor of the university, Winston Thompson, will be replaced in the position by Hilda Heine, former President of the Marshall Islands, one of the 12 Pacific Island nations that co-own USP, together with Fiji.
She takes over the pro-chancellor and chair of the council position when Thompson completes his term on December 31.
Thompson together with the ardent support of Khan and Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum have been at the forefront leading moves to get USP Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia removed.
This began with the leak to Islands Business magazine in 2019 of a confidential report authored by Ahluwalia alleging numerous cases of administrative and financial mismanagement and abuse by the previous university administration.
It saw the purported suspension of the VC by Thompson and Khan and culminating in his deportation together with his wife from Fiji in late January of this year.
Ahluwalia is leading the university from the USP campus in Nauru where he awaits the opening of flights into Samoa, where the office of the vice-chancellor will be now based.