Urgent call for USP Council to step in, reverse VC suspension
USP’s suspended VC and President Prof Pal Ahluwalia speaks to staff and students rallying outside the Administration Block on Monday. He was subsequently suspended by the Executive Committee of the USP Council yesterday following allegations of material misconduct. Picture: SUPPLIED/USPSA
By WANSOLWARA STAFF
Nauru’s President Lionel Aingimea has called for a special council meeting to urgently reverse what he claims was an illegitimate decision to suspend The University of the South Pacific’s vice-chancellor this week, a move be believes has now jeopardized the future of the institution.
In a letter to USP Council members, Mr Aingimea expressed his disappointment at the decision made by the Executive Committee of the Council to suspend VC and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
He claims the actions of a small group of members represented a personal vendetta against the VC and it was high time the Council met to begin the process of removing the Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson and conduct the election of the deputy Pro-Chancellor.
“The Executive Committee met despite the conflicts of interest and serious concerns expressed by Council members. Due process was disregarded. This must not be allowed to rest here and further action is warranted.
“In recent days, the hostility and a lack of duty of care to a Council-appointed Vice-Chancellor shows what a small group of members, who are not direct members, have highjacked Council processes and failed to accord duty of care and natural justice to a Council-appointed VC,” Mr Aingimea claimed.
Samoa’s Minister for Education Loau Kaneti Sio had also on Mr Thompson to step down as Pro-Chancellor amid growing tensions at USP.
Yesterday, the USP Executive Committee suspended Prof Ahluwalia from duties on pay, and without withdrawal of privileges following allegations of material misconduct.
In a statement, USP Council deputy Pro-Chancellor Aloma Johansson said the Executive Committee resolved that an independent investigation into the allegations would be conducted and an acting Vice-Chancellor and President be appointed in the interim by the Council to manage the affairs of the University.
This subsequently led to the appointment of Professor Derrick Armstrong as acting VCP until the outcome of the investigation was determined.
Events leading up to the decision to suspend Prof Ahluwalia has not gone down well with staff and students.
USP Students Association Federal vice-president Viliame Naulivou said the student council and its members, comprising students from USP’s 14 campuses did not recognize Prof Armstrong as the acting VC.
He said the student body was working closely with other members of the University Council to convene an urgent meeting in line with the University Council statutes.
The USPSA had also threatened to boycott exams, classes and other activities in all 14 campuses if the USP Council failed to look into their concerns regarding the actions taken by Pro-Chancellor Winston Thompson in handling allegations of mismanagement and policy breaches.