U.S.P. Vice Chancellor cleared

An investigation into allegations of misconduct made against the University of the South Pacific’s (U.S.P.) Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Pal Ahluwalia, has been terminated. 

In a statement, the Vice-Chancellor said he was happy to be cleared by the university’s governing council of the allegations that were raised against him. 

“I am deeply humbled by the love, friendship and support that has been bestowed upon my wife and I, and we are committed to serving the Pacific and making USP even stronger,”  Professor Ahluwalia said. 

“We are elated by the news that the USP Council has cleared all allegations against me. I wish to thank the Council, especially the Special Executive Committee, for their commitment to seek truth and justice.

“I have no doubt that this great regional institution steeped in history, will prosper further and it is my sincere ambition to continue to serve USP to the best of my abilities.”

The council’s decision brings to a close a long-running internal feud at the highest levels of the university. The initiative to investigate Professor Ahluwalia was filed by Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson. 

The Vice-Chancellor was suspended in June while the allegations were investigated; that decision was overturned later that month.  

Mr. Thompson established a team to investigate a range of allegations against the Vice-Chancellor that were said to constitute “material misconduct” in a letter sent to all 12 of the university’s member states, including Samoa. A total of 26 allegations were levelled against the Vice-Chancellor. 

After news of the investigation surfaced in March this year, Samoa was the first of the university’s co-owners to oppose the inquiry. 

In a letter to the University and Council, Loau Keneti Sio, Minister of Education Sports and Culture articulated that the Samoa Government rejects the inquiry set up by the Pro-Chancellor and it should cease immediately.

He said if Mr Thompson does not comply, the Samoa Government as one of the 12 member countries who own the U.S.P., will push for his removal from office.

The position of the Minister was supported by the U.S.P. Alafua Campus Head of School, Dr. Joeli Veitayaki, who told Samoa Observer that the ongoing dispute involving the university's Pro-Chancellor is driven by toxic internal politics.

The clash at the top of U.S.P. management followed a report by Auckland-based audit firm B.D.O., which found that expenses and other allowances had been misused by staff members and even alleged a “sex-for-grades” scandal. 

In response to Professor Ahluwalia’s suspension, staff and students at the university’s Suva campus staged protests and threatened to boycott the university over what they described as mismanagement by senior staff.

Months on, the news of the termination of the investigation is music to VC Professor Ahluwalia's ears after he had endured "a difficult and challenging time."

Professor Ahluwalia thanked the Council, particularly the commitment by the Special Executive Committee to seeking truth and justice.

He added that he is deeply humbled by the support that he and his wife had received during the course of the sour past months, saying they are committed to serving the Pacific and making USP even stronger.


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