‘We’re with Pal

USP Laucala Campus
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USP student association Solomon Islands throw support behind Prof Ahluwalia

By Alfred Sasako

SOLOMON Islands students studying at the University of the South Pacific (USP) Solomon Islands Campus in Honiara have thrown their support behind Prof Pal Ahluwalia, urging regional authorities to investigate allegations he has raised.

The students yesterday staged a peaceful protest outside the USP Solomon Islands Campus at Lawson Tama to show solidarity with other student bodies in other campuses around the region.

“We the USPSA-SI executive and council are rendering our support with other regional campus student bodies towards Prof. Pal Ahluwalia. Our support for Prof. Pal is not based on our legitimacy to our USPSA body and its Federal (body) but to put a clear message that we do not entertain corruption within the shores of the University of the South Pacific.

“In fact, we see Prof. Pal working ethics differently from … past Vice Chancellors in (that) he serves the interest of our USPSA body and other regional student association to fight against corruption.

“Thus, Prof Pal (does) really stand out when he has discovered financial and salary (rorting) underway and has compiled a paper, “Issues, concern and breaches of past management and financial decisions,” the Solomon Islands’ Student body said in a statement issued yesterday.

They said the paper was presented to the USP Council in one of their recent meetings in Vanuatu.

“Prior to this paper, these allegations investigated by a consultancy firm, BDO Auckland but the report has (been) kept in secret since then,” the statement said.

“Lately, the contents of the report have emerged on social media and this has given an opportunity for Pro Vice Chancellor Winston Thompson and his associates to file an allegation against Prof. Pal for misconduct.

Prof Pal, based at the Laucala Campus in Suva, is suspended on full pay.

“With that, he called an urgent meeting for (the) USP Council to suspend Prof. Pal. “However, the move and process taken by PVC Winston has raised eyebrows (amongst)  USPSA and other regional campus student bodies including us, USPSA-SI.

“In fact for us USPSA-SI, this is conflict of interest strategically (taken) to cover up the mess Winston and his associates have caused, hence, we see this as an act of corruption at its best. (We) therefore condemn it,” the students’ statement said.

They said the issue does not speak well for the good of the governance of USP and we the USPSA-SI want to pose questions of our concern to whoever is concerned.

“Why not deal with the allegation put forward by Prof. Pal first before moving on to such allegation which resulted in the suspension of Prof. Pal? What is the motive behind the allegation which resulted in the suspension of Prof. Pal?

“Therefore, our stand here is plain and crystal clear … we say “No to Corruption” and yes to good governance and integrity. In (this regard), we support Prof. Pal and call on the USP Council to reconsider their decision (in suspending him).

“Also, we are calling for the allegation made by Prof. Pal to be considered as genuine because we the USPSI students support it and deserve to know the truth about the result of the investigation by BDO Auckland.

“Moreover, knowing that USP is owned by twelve (12) member countries including us, Solomon Island, we the USPSA-SI, call on the Solomon Islands Government to support us in the good (cause) to fight against such act of corruption so that good governance does prevail in the University of the South Pacific.

“On that note, we call (on) the Solomon Islands Government (SIG) (to make its stand known) with regards to this issue because (while) other member countries have shown their support and have their say on this issue so far, SIG has not done so,” the statement said.