17 Jun 2020

Conflict over USP meeting date revealed

4:48 pm on 17 June 2020

A call by Nauru's President and incoming chancellor of the University of the South Pacific for the USP's full council to sit today was dismissed.

The council is to look into the controversial suspension of vice-chancellor Pal Ahluwalia which led to hundreds of students and staff protesting at the regional university.

Lionel Aingimea

Lionel Aingimea Photo: Nauru Government

In a letter, Nauru leader Lionel Aingimea told Pro-chancellor and Council Chair Winston Thompson that all members were aware of a meeting today and New Zealand would facilitate the proceedings.

But Mr Thompson said if the meeting went ahead, it would not be the USP Council meeting as it was not in accordance with the university regulations.

The Pro-chancellor said he also saw no reason why New Zealand should facilitate the meeting.

Mr Thompson, who is part of the executive committee behind Professor Ahluwalia's suspension, said Mr Aingimea did not have the power to call for the meeting to be held today.

Mr Thompson said as chair, it was his responsibility to see the meeting met the requirements of a proper quorum, venue and that members werew properly informed.

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson

USP Pro-Chancellor, Winston Thompson Photo: USP

However Mr Aingimea said today's planned meeting would be in accordance with Statute 33 of the university which set out the procedure for council meetings.

"There is no need for another letter from council members as our initial call for the meeting suffices," the Nauru leader stated in the letter.

"As the secretariat has failed to organise this meeting, we will undertake to provide an agenda, a Zoom link and any additional papers for the meeting by 16 June, 2020.

"I have received confirmation from MFAT [New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] that they will host the Zoom meeting on Wednesday, 17 June, 2020," said Mr Aingimea.

The meeting is now scheduled to be held on Friday.