Samoa features in U.S.P. V-C's uncertain future

As his future hangs in the balance, Samoa is further examining providing a possible safehaven to the suspended Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific (U.S.P.) after his deportation from Fiji. 

Professor Pal Ahluwalia was arrested and deported following a late-night raid on his house by several agents of the Fiji Government, the state which houses the university’s headquarters.

The Professor was deported for stated reasons, all of which he denies, including posing a risk to Fiji’s public order. 

Samoa is a member of the sub-committee that will investigate and respond to those allegations, including representatives from Tonga, Niue, Solomon Islands and the President of Nauru. 

It was appointed by the U.S.P. 's governing committee, which is composed of representatives of all 12 university member states and which earlier expressed disappointment at not being consulted at the Vice-Chancellor’s deportation. 

Speaking to the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, Loau said the sub-committee will meet again on Thursday to review the allegations against the Professor before presenting recommendations to the university’s council on 16 February. 

Meanwhile, Loau revealed he had been in contact with the suspended Vice-Chancellor about him potentially moving to Samoa in the event of his reinstatement; an offer Professor Ahluwalia has accepted. 

“I don’t think that can happen soon,” he said when asked about the Professor possibly being relocated to U.S.P.’s Samoa campus. 

“We had our special meeting last Friday and we had a talk with the President of Nauru and hopefully they can house him there in Nauru.”

Professor Ahluwalia, an Australian citizen, is currently in quarantine in Brisbane after his deportation. 

“It’s quite a serious allegation but hopefully by next week we can come up with recommendations,” Loau said following the conclusion of Parliament on Tuesday. 

Loau said Samoa has invited Professor Ahluwalia to relocate to the newly rebranded Samoa Campus and work from here.

And in an interview with the Samoa Observer, the Vice Chancellor confirmed he would be delighted to take up the offer.

Meanwhile, negotiation over whether his deportation from Fiji has nullified his contract with the University continues. That matter and the legality of his deportation will be examined by the sub-committee. 

Professor Ahluwalia has linked his dismissal to his role in exposing apparent financial mismanagement at the university, which an independent audit by the firm BDO Auckland found included unaccountable bonuses, salaries, and other benefits to senior staff. 

He has accused the Government of Fiji of acting with impropriety. 


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