Samoan Government rejects U.S.P. probe

The University of the South Pacific’s (U.S.P.) Alafua Campus Director has applauded the Samoan Government for intervening in a protracted dispute between the university's leadership. 

Dr. Joeli Veitayaki said the ongoing dispute between the university's Pro Chancellor, who is seeking to launch an investigation into the Vice Chancellor, had become driven by toxic internal politics. 

Last month, the U.S.P. Pro Chancellor, Winston Thompson, told the University Council and country members that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Pal Alhuwalia, was to be investigated over alleged material misconduct.

But the Samoan Government, through Minister of Education, Loau Keneti Sio, formally objected to the move in writing and asked  for the probe to be dropped.

Dr. Veitayaki said it was pleasing to see the owners of the university making a stand against what he says are concerning internal politics. 

"I think for me and most others, we are really concerned about the University and what it is going through and if the Samoan Government has raised its concerns [then] I am personally very happy," he told the Samoa Observer.

"Because the university belongs to the countries of the region and if Samoa [who] is the member of that group is not very happy with how things are going then that’s the way it certainly should work.

“I like that the member Governments are taking a stand on the matter which is theirs. And I feel that the Pacific islanders and those of us who have been to the University and now work for the University, we wish the best for this institution for the sake of future generations.”

Dr. Veitayaki said the push for a probe was “odd”. He argued it was incumbent on the 12 Governments who co-own the University to closely examine how the institution is run.

"I really salute them for that because anything that happens to U.S.P. will affect the region and that's what's obviously [being done],” he said. 

“You want justice for the people involved but the institution is more important than people like me and everyone else.

"It's good; that's a good sign for us.

“The kind of things that are happening there are too close to what our political leaders around the world are now doing."

The intervention from the Samoan Government to the university’s authorities was sent out this week, it was reported by Island Business. 

Pro Chancellor Thompson has not detailed the allegations against Professor Alhuwalia nor disclosed by whom they were raised. 

“My Government’s position is that Council should instruct the Pro Chancellor to cease and desist from carrying out this investigation into the charges of material misconduct against the Vice Chancellor as these are substantially to do with issues referred to the Commission,” Loau wrote.

“That further, serves a formal caution on the PC (pro chancellor) that his actions are counter to Council’s intent and resolutions to address the issues investigated and reported on by the B.D.O. (accountancy firm), through a process of institutional reform under the auspices of the Commission.

“In the event that the PC does not comply, that Council will begin proceedings to remove him from office.

“This submission is not taken lightly but the viability of our regional university is too important to be put at risk by the actions of one individual.”

The response from the staff and students’ association of the University had also been unfavourable to Thompson and are calling for the intervention by all Government owners of U.S.P.

“I am persuaded by the staff and student letters that this is a matter we must take seriously. They are out constituent bodies and the university does not exist without them,” the local Minister of Education’s letter reads.

“Students and staff are lobbying for their vice chancellor. Council must pay attention to their voices.”

“Regrettably, the actions of the [Pro Chancellor] is creating disruption to the work of the university and the charges against the [Vice Chancellor]  is a continuation of his paper [...] last August seeking to suspend the [Vice Chancelllor].”

The mentioned paper by PC Thompson was submitted to Council in August last year, but was neither endorsed nor approved.

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?