| Asia Pacific Report
SUVA - Staff, students and alumni of the University of the South Pacific have called on the Fiji government to immediately reinstate the work permit of vice-chancellor and president Professor Pal Ahluwalia, who was deported yesterday with his wife, Sandra Price.
The USP community also called on the government to issue a formal apology to Professor Ahluwalia for the violation of human rights.
They expressed grave concern over the actions of police and immigration officials who removed the couple from the vice-chancellor’s residence on Laucala campus late last night.
In a petition issued, the group said they were deeply concerned at the disrepute brought to the 12-nation regional university by the actions of the Fiji government in this morning’s deportation.
USP staff associations also condemned the manner in which the couple were removed from their residence and swiftly transported to Nadi International Airport for the 10.30am flight to Brisbane.
“The manner in which the vice-chancellor and his wife were removed is a violation of human rights and due process,” read a joint statement by the USP Staff Union and the Association of USP Staff.
“Given the seriousness of the decision, we demand the Fiji government to provide the justification for this Gestapo tactic.”
“According to media reports, the vice-chancellor was deemed a ‘public risk’ and we as taxpayers, voters and owners of the university demand an explanation on how Professor Pal is a ‘public risk’.
“Given the impact on the university’s reputation and staff morale, we reiterate our support for the USP council to proceed with its scheduled meeting to fully discuss this matter and already agreed to agenda items, to arrive at regionally acceptable solutions.”
It is understood police and immigration officers were acting on directives outlined in a letter allegedly signed by acting director for immigration Amelia Komaisavai.
The document noted that the minister for immigration had declared the couple prohibited immigrants under the Immigration Act and ordered that they leave Fiji with immediate effect.
USP management is also calling on staff and students to remain calm throughout the situation for the safety and wellbeing of the university community.
“Until the [USP] council at a council meeting directs otherwise, the senior management team will take on the role jointly of undertaking the vice-chancellor’s duties,” a statement from management read.
“The senior management team has notified the council leadership and are waiting for direction. The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students and the continuation of university operations remain our priority.”
Several community leaders and politicians have come out strong against the surprising tactic.
Wansolwara is the USP journalism newspaper and website