USP saga drags on

Controversial pro chancellor of the University of the South Pacific Winston Thompson of Fiji has been instructed to convene another urgent meeting of the USP Council.

This time, interim USP Council chair, and president of Nauru, Lionel Aingimea told Thompson that the university’s supreme body will need to determine his fate and that of the chair of the Council’s Audit and Risk committee, Mehmood Khan, also of Fiji.

It apparently stems from Thompson and Khan’s refusal to accept the decision of the USP Council to endorse a recommendation by one of its sub-committees to clear USP Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia of misconduct allegations.

Since Ahluwalia’s appointment in early 2019, both men have led an intense campaign to remove the Canadian academic.

President Aingimea’s letter to Thompson dated 18 September also disclosed that his call for another special USP Council meeting has the endorsement of more than the required 10 members.

The meeting has to take place within the next 10 working days, added President Aingimea in his letter.

Supporting his call are Council members from Marshall Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and representatives of the governments of Australia and New Zealand and the university Senate, staff and student bodies.

Fiji IT company director and co opted USP Council member , Semi Tukana and USP’s vice chancellor, Professor Pal Ahluwalia have also lent their support.

The letter says the agenda for the Special Council meeting should also include election of the Depty Pro Chancellor and the “dire” financial situation of the USP and the Vice Chancellor’s proposals to address this.

Last week Thompson told media that USP lost revenue of about $20m last year under the leadership of Professor Pal Ahluwalia, and claimed the Vice Chancellor was trying to restructure the institution without following the proper channels.