FijiFirst was never anti-USP: Usamate

November 29, 2023 6:37 am

Opposition MP Jone Usamate [File Photo]

Opposition member of Parliament Jone Usamate has called for urgency to set the issue right between the University of the South Pacific Staff Association and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia.

In a statement released, Usamate highlights that when FijiFirst was in government, they raised concerns about leadership and governance at USP, where Vice-Chancellor Ahluwahlia was in fact not allowed to operate from Fiji because he breached the conditions of his work permit.

He says that FijiFirst was never anti-USP but stood for the governance at USP, which was effective and efficient and was in the interest of the people of the Pacific.

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Usamate adds that now it’s a 180-degree turnaround by the same USP staff who wanted him back—a complete change of view by USP staff.

Usamate adds that the same people who were supporting Pal Ahluwalia have turned against him, like Staff Association President Elizabeth Fong, who was his biggest supporter and is now calling for his removal.

The former minister says the Fiji First Government stopped paying grants to USP, it did so for the simple reason of getting an independent inquiry done on the basis of the Audit and Risk Committee’s recommendation, which was never done.

He says that the Fiji First government would have resumed the grant if the independent investigation had been done since Fiji is the largest contributor to USP and has all the right to request an independent investigation.

Usamate says that Professor Ahluwhalia still operates from Samoa, where he stays in a resort and makes frequent visits to Fiji and stays in a hotel, incurring huge costs to the university but still not paying attention to staff matters.