USP shock: Vice Chancellor deported

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Professor Pal Ahluwalia. Photo by RNZ
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BY BARNABAS MANEBONA

GOVERNMENT says it will make its position at a later date on the Fiji Government’s arrest and deportation of the Vice Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific (|USP) on Wednesday night.

Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandy Ahluwalia were arrested on Wednesday night by Fiji’s immigration and police officers from their home and taken to Nadi International Airport, where they were placed in an Australia-bound flight yesterday morning.

Fiji Government claimed the couple violated their immigration status, but critics say the decision was political than anything else.

Solomon Islands is a member of USP and accounts for the second highest number of students at the regional university.

Approached for comments yesterday, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development Dr Franco Rodie said:

“As in the past, SIG will make its position on the situation at a time and space as it sees fit.”

In Brisbane, where the couple are currently staying, Sandy Ahluwalia described what happened that night:

“While I sit here on the plane I would like to share my thoughts from last night.

“At around 11-1130pm while sleeping, I heard a woman calling out Pals name inside our locked backyard.

“The back gate had been broken. She kept saying to go to the front door as security needed to see him urgently.

“We both got out of bed and looked out of the window. The woman had 3-4 plain clothed men with her.

“Pal and I together went to the front door, hearing the doorbell being rung constantly and banging on the door.

“We could see through the glass, another 2-3 men standing at the back door and at least 8-10 at the front door.

“I quickly rang the deputy vice chancellor as he lives nearby.

“I then gave the phone to Pal. Upon seeing me on the phone, the immigration official ask someone to break down the door.

“Four men barged into the room and grab Pal heavy handedly taking the phone from his possession.

“I was unable to see if they were armed.

“The same immigration official produced a one page letter signed by Amelia Komaisavai stating that Pal ‘was a risk to the public’ and we had to pack 3 days of clothes and personal effects immediately.

“I was instructed to get dressed and they confiscated all electronic devices including our phones, iPads, lap tops, watches and passports.

“I was not left alone to change or even use the washroom.

“Where were my moral and human rights?

“As a staff member of FNU, I have my own work visa. I informed them of that but they didn’t care.

“I still haven’t been allowed to contact my employer to inform them why I am not at work today.

“There were at least 15 people in our house after curfew.

“We threw items into a suitcase and just as we left DVC Paunga said a beautiful prayer that gave us some solace.

“We were ushered into a three car procession, driving over 120km/hr to Nadi.

“Initially they wanted us to travel in separate vehicles. Divide and conquer maybe?

“We were not given any details about what was to happen next.

“Our car blew a tyre while going at high speeds and had to change cars during the trip.

“Upon arriving in Nadi before 3am, Pal was informed that we were being deported to Brisbane at 1030am.

“We were promptly ushered into a small room with no air conditioning.

“We had between 3-5 staff watching us for the next 7 hours.

“I explained to a staff member that my husband was diabetic and needs to eat breakfast and they told us that no food is available until the flight.

“We were offered water.

“Even as we were being ushered into the plane, my amazing husband thanked the people who had been supervising us, saying to them; don’t forget, whilst Jesus was on the cross, he said ‘Lord forgive them as they do not know any better’.

“Our electrical items were given back only as the plane was taxiing down the runway for take-off.

“Passports once we arrived in Australia. Therefore we were unable to contact our friends, family, colleagues or children during our ordeal.

“We have limited clothes, limited medications and no sleep yet we have faith and are stronger together.

“We truly believe that good will always prevail over evil.”

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