Fiji’s ‘vile act’ to USP’s VC Pal

University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia. Picture: BALJEET SINGH

The FijiFirst government’s deportation of University of the South Pacific vice chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia was “a vile act”, says senior lecturer at the University of New South Wales Dr Rohitash Chandra in a recent research paper.

Dr Chandra, a lecturer at USP from 2013 to 2015, said “if there was incompetence in leadership by the VC, there are professional ways to address the matter”.

“It seems that the Fiji government does not have enough power in the USP Council to ensure an independent investigation when allegations were made about mismanagement and hence, the VC was deported by the Fijian government in 2020,” he said in his research.

“In my view, the deportation was a vile act by the previous government. If there was incompetence in leadership by the VC, there are professional ways to address the matter.

“Moreover, the deportation itself became a political event, with opposition parties back then giving full support to VC Ahluwalia and the calls by the Fijian government about mismanagement allegations was seen as a justification for the deportation.”

Dr Chandra said coupled with the VC’s deportation, more damage was done to USP at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A number of leading foreign academics left USP — hence USP suffered in terms of research leadership. Then due to shortage of staff, USP had to overload the existing staff with a heavy teaching load and hence their research time was reduced to almost “zero”.

“Typically, 40-50 per cent of the time of an academic is allocated for research at USP.

“It is through research outputs that universities are ranked internationally and this can only happen when academics get sufficient time and by increasing postgraduate research students, along with funding for equipment.”

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