7 May 2020

Fiji university appoints new vice-chancellor after former was sacked

6:53 am on 7 May 2020

The University of Fiji has filled the vacancy created by the former vice-chancellor's unauthorised departure during the recent Lautoka lockdown.

Shaista Shameem.

Shaista Shameem. Photo: University of Fiji

The Dean of Justice, Professor Shaista Shameem, has been appointed to act in the position.

Ms Shameem replaces Sushila Chang whose work visa was terminated by the government following her unexpected departure during the Covid-19 lockdown of Lautoka in March.

The chair of the university's council, Pandit Kamlesh Arya said Ms Shameem was expected to take the university through the crisis faced by all higher education institutions in the country due to the pandemic.

Meanwhile Sushila Chang said she breached the lockdown restrictions on 20 March to be with her cancer-stricken husband.

Ms Chang was sacked after she departed for Australia two days later and Fiji's Immigration Department cancelled her work permit on 24 March.

Earlier Ms Chang told the Fiji Times her husband, who left the country a day before the lockdown, had requested she join him.

Ms Chang had since apologised for her actions but said she could not refuse her husband's request.

She said the couple had intended to return to Fiji once her husband had completed his medical treatment.

But Pandit Kamlesh Arya said Ms Chang had not formally written to the university to inquire on whether she could return to work.

Sushila Chang.

Sushila Chang. Photo: University of Fiji

Moving forward, Mr Arya said Shaista Shameem had vast experience and the expertise required for her new role.

Mr Arya said Ms Shameem previously taught sociology, social anthropology and women's studies at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.

She was director of the Fiji Human Rights Commission from 1999 -2007 and ombudsman from 2007-2009.

"She has a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD in Sociology) and a Doctorate of Juridical Science (SJD in Law). She also has a Master of Arts, a Master of Law and a postgraduate leadership qualification from the JFK School of Government at Harvard University," Mr Arya said.

A police checkpoint at the main crossing to Lautoka City from Natalau.

There were checkpoints around Lautoka when Sushila Chang left the country and breached protocols in place Photo: Supplied