Pacific Churches and regional NGOs condemn removal of USP Vice Chancellor

The Pacific Conference of Churches has joined regional NGOs in denouncing the deportation of Professor Pal Ahluwalia by the Fijian Government.

 Immigration and police officers detained and later deported the head of the University of the South Pacific late on Wednesday on allegations that he had breached public safety.

 The Pacific Regional NGO (PRNGO) Alliance in a statement said the heavy handed decision by the Fiji Government to deport the University of the South Pacific (USP) Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his partner Sandra Price ahead of a USP Council meeting is a sign of growing crisis of regionalism.

 “At a time when the Pacific Island countries and governments are urging regional solidarity to respond to the climate crisis, the pandemic and the consequent economic fallout which is devastating our region, this recent move, particularly as Fiji is set to be the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum in 2021 will damage efforts at the regional level to act collectively in the interest of the region and our people.

 The Pacific Regional NGO (PRNGO) Alliance said it notes this as a sad day and joins the growing condemnation of the manner in which the Vice-Chancellor and his partner were deported.

 “USP was conceived as part of the regional architecture in 1968, to ensure higher education for Pacific islanders, an important step towards the autonomy of island countries. The Government of Fiji at that time along with key Pacific island leaders were instrumental in bringing this regional vision to life. The unilateral actions yesterday (Thursday) will only damage Fiji's long history of visionary regional leadership and its growing global leadership.

 “USP has since come a long way in sustaining regional initiatives with shared commitments and values, charting courses forward for a premier University for Pacific Islanders and in particular our young people. As a learning institution, USP has produced many great Pacific Island leaders and the next generation of leaders to come. USP is a regional institution and belongs to all the people of the Pacific.

 The overnight decision to remove Professor Ahluwalia is a concern and compromises the principles of good governance and management, it said.

 The Pacific regional civil society sector hopes good sense will prevail and calls on all parties, particularly host countries of our regional institutions to remain fair and to ensure adherence to due process.