Be neutral, Fiji University warns staff

BY Anish Chand

Fiji National University staff have been told that they must be politically neutral in the lead-up to the 2018 general election.

In a message to all staff, Vice Chancellor Nigel Healey says being a public institution, they are mandated by the FNU Act 2009 to remain strictly impartial.

Healey has informed staff that the Ministry of Education has issued guidelines that prohibit all forms of political campaigning by staff of FNU.

“This includes wearing the T-shirt of a political party, putting up posters for a political party, using social media to promote or oppose a political party, speaking at a political rally, carrying a banner at a rally and organising political events on campus,” the VC says in the circular.

Healey says FNU is a publicly funded institution with almost 20000 students.

“University staff have considerable influence over both their students and peers and it is vital that in order to preserve the integrity of the democratic process, as employees of the national university we are politically neutral and do not use our positions to advocate for any political party” says the VC.

Healey, however states in the circular that if any FNU staff member wishes to stand as candidate or participate in political activities, he or she must take leave from work.

FNU’s Human Resource Policy states “employees who wish to be involved in high profile association with political parties need to seek leave from the University (annual or leave without pay) for the duration of the employee intends to remain associated with political parties”

Two Fiji National University staff have recently been named as FijiFirst candidates.

FNU regulations state they must take leave to contest the elections.

If they are elected to Parliament, they would have deemed to resigned and if they lose, “the employee must return to duties within seven days.”