USP unions calls for suspension of staff

By Peni Komaisavai

Employees of the University of the South Pacific are calling for a thorough and independent investigation into allegations of mismanagement and abuse of process at the university.

All three USP staff unions are also demanding that all those implicated in the leaked report that highlighted the alleged abuse be suspended while the independent inquiry is conducted.

The demands were raised at a public forum university employees held at their main campus in Suva today. It comes as the supreme decision making body of the university, the USP Council, meets in the Vanuatu capital, Port Vila today.

It is not clear whether the meeting would discuss the content of the report, first reported by IB Online last Friday. Before his departure for Vanuatu on Monday this week, USP Pro Chancellor and Council chair Ambassador Winston Thompson of Fiji confirmed that the matter was not on the agenda.

He did admit that if raised by any of the 12-member island countries that own the university, the matter could be discussed in a closed door session amongst the ministers only. Education ministers of the 12-member countries are members of the USP Council, as well as representatives of university staff and students.

Ambassador Thompson was not a popular man among the university employees who attended today’s public forum. In their three-point demands released at the end of the forum, university staff said they wanted “a firm response to the Pro Chancellor on his press release and the way he undermined the office of the Vice Chancellor and President of the USP.”

The staff unions are claiming that Ambassador Thompson bypassed Vice Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia when he used university resources, including the USP letterhead, in releasing a media statement late on Tuesday this week.

In that statement, Ambassador Thompson said he was concerned and disappointed that “a confidential document containing unsubstantiated allegations against many individuals including myself has been leaked before any of the others have even seen the allegations and before any of us have had a chance to refute them.”

“Quite clearly, a gross injustice has been done to the named individuals who have worked assiduously and who do not deserve to be treated in this way. I apologise to them in the name of the University.”

Ambassador Thompson also disclosed that he had requested an investigation to be carried out to ascertain the person or persons that leaked the confidential USP report.