“We call for the immediate suspension of the individuals who are holding current positions at USP and further investigation about the matter,” demands a petition being circulated on the internet a day or so after the governing body of the university, the USP Council ordered the reinstatement of its vice chancellor and president, Professor Pal Ahluwalia.
Just 24 hours after its online launch, the petition had already collected more than 700 signatures. Its sponsor Dr Rohitesh Chandra, is a former lecturer of the university. “Immediate suspension of individuals implicated in the BDO Report on mismanagement at USP” was the petition’s headline.
Dr Chandra and supporters of the petition plan to submit it to the incoming Chancellor of the USP, President Lionel Aingimea of Nauru. It stems from fears that while the Council had returned Professor Ahluwalia to his role, it had left or so it appears, controversial Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson of Fiji alone, as well as the 25 senior managers, and academics and support staff who were named in the BDO audit report.
Equally worrying for supporters of transparency and good governance at the university was the sudden change in the position of the Fijian Government at the June 19 special Council meeting. Going into the meeting as the biggest supporter – and sponsor some would even argue – of moves to oust Professor Ahluwalia, Fiji’s education minister Rosie Akbar startled the meeting when she asked that the motion to reinstate the vice chancellor – who had been suspended by her and other members of the Council’s executive committee just one week earlier – be carried without the need for a vote.
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