8 Sep 2020

Staff, students elated as case dropped against USP vice-chancellor

8:22 am on 8 September 2020

Staff and students at the University of the South Pacific have welcomed the decision to clear the Vice Chancellor of all allegations levelled against him.

Pal Ahluwalia was in June suspended by the USP's executive committee, led by Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson, over alleged malpractice in a decision that was widely derided as politically motivated.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia. Photo: supplied

He was reinstated after weeks of protests by students and staff, when the university council - which includes most of the region's governments - ruled due process had not been followed.

A special council meeting last Friday fully cleared Professor Ahluwalia.

USP Staff Union's Ilima Finiasi said the move put an end to what he described as an 18-month witch-hunt.

"Professor [Ahluwalia] can go back to what he's hired to do, that's to lead USP," Finiasi said.

"During this time he wasn't able to be sure what exactly the university wanted him to do as the VC, because most of the time he's been trying to defend himself so now he can be allowed to carry on his work."

Ahluwalia said he was elated at the council's decision, descibing the past 18 months as a "difficult and challenging time."

He said he wanted to move on "to ensure that students are able to get the best possible education".

Meanwhile, the university is expected to focus on the recomendations of the BDO Report at the centre of the dispute, which found serious mismangement at the regional institution.

Finiasi said they still wanted the report to be publicly released by the university.

"They should release the BDO report to the people and all 12-member countries of the USP who are funded by the taxpayers. In this report, they are accountable and let people know what has been the findings."

Finiasi said he was concerned that those implicated in the report remained in management positions.

The USP Council at a meeting last year.

The USP Council at a meeting last year. Photo: USP