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By RNZ Pacific

There are signs Fiji’s deportation of the University of the South Pacific (USP) vice-chancellor was engineered to avoid his contract being given better security.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia told RNZ Dateline Pacific that on Wednesday last week the USP chancellor, Nauru President Lionel Aingimea, had alerted the university’s governing body, the USP Council, to veiled threats in Fiji news media.

Professor Ahluwalia said this resulted in Aingimea advising council members, including Fijian representatives, that in their next meeting they would amend the vice-chancellor’s contract to afford better security.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia told RNZ Dateline Pacific that on Wednesday last week the USP chancellor, Nauru President Lionel Aingimea, had alerted the university’s governing body, the USP Council, to veiled threats in Fiji news media.

Professor Ahluwalia said this resulted in Aingimea advising council members, including Fijian representatives, that in their next meeting they would amend the vice-chancellor’s contract to afford better security.

However, the vice-chancellor said his work permit was rescinded on the same day (Wednesday) and he was deported on Thursday before the council could meet on Friday, following the notice in the media.

“What had appeared in the Fiji Sun in the Whispers column to say that ‘Watch this space: A school where big students study, its leader will be removed from the country.’ So he took the step to say to council we need to amend the vice-chancellor’s contract.”

An ‘illegal act’ by Fiji
Professor Ahluwalia said the way in which his contract was frustrated was an illegal act.

The USP is a regional institution, said Professor Ahluwalia, owned by 12 Pacific countries and “the decisions of the University Council, which has representatives from all the countries, needs to be respected” which is inconsistent with the way Fiji acted in his arrest and deportation, he added.

The council said in a statement that it was not consulted.

Professor Ahluwalia said he had received a lot of support from the entire region and that he would welcome any action from the USP Council that would allow the university to move forward, including a rumoured move of headquarters to another country.

“I believe I was selected to do the job and it’s obvious that the community – staff and students – strongly endorse what I am doing. So it’s my belief that if I need to move to Samoa to run this university, we’ll make it work,” he said.

“I will abide by whatever decision the University Council makes.”

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

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