Fiji Opposition political parties condemn VC Pal deportation

Five of Fiji’s six opposition political parties have condemned “inhumane and cruel” actions by Fijian Government officials over the deportation of University of the South Pacific Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia, insisting that the country stands to lose more as long as the current administration remains in power.

In a press conference held at the National Federation Party head office in Tamavua today, presided over by NFP Leader Dr Biman Prasad and attended by Fiji Labour Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry, Unity Fiji Leader Savenaca Narube, SODELPA’s President and Deputy Leader Ratu Epenisa Cakobau and Filimoni Vosarogo as well as Freedom Alliance Party Leader Jagath Karunaratne, the parties’ said the events that transpired two days ago will cost Fiji significantly including diminished investor confidence, loss to the economy stemming from job losses, and threaten the education of current and aspiring USP students.

They also urged the University of the South Pacific Council to continue its work “on removing corruption, cronyism, and nepotism from the institution.”

“We call on the government to respect the decision of the USP Council and follow due process,” Dr Biman said. “Leaders of the opposition parties call on the government to immediately reinstate grants to USP, we also call on foreign governments and those in particular Australia and New Zealand, who support this university through funding, to condemn this inhumane and cruel actions by the Fiji authorities in getting the VC and wife outside of Fiji. We offer full support to the council in its effort to practice democracy in its due process in tis period of cooperation and mutual respect.”

The leaders also called on the Fijian Government to specify how VC Pal and his wife Sandra Price “breached” Section 14 of the Immigration Act to warrant their arrest during curfew on Wednesday evening and their deportation on Thursday morning.

In a statement yesterday afternoon, the Immigration Department did not outline these, and deemed VC Pal and his wife “illegal immigrants” who had to be deported because they repeatedly breached their work permits and acted in a manner that was contrary to Section 13 of the Immigration Act 2003 requiring foreigners to “conduct themselves in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, security, or good government of Fiji.”

In the same statement, the department dismissed concerns over investor confidence saying: “Following recent amendments to Fiji’s Immigration Act, foreign nationals can work and do business in Fiji more easily than ever, and Fiji will continue to welcome foreign nationals whose contributions, experience, and investments enrich the lives of the Fijian people.”

However, Narube differed with the department’s stance maintaining that repercussions would be significant, the cost of which citizens of Fiji will bear.

“It is about time we the people of Fiji understand that. It is about time because the ramifications of this. We all know the many people that will be unemployed if this institution leaves our shores, businesses that service USP and the students who are educated there, what happens to their future. And then on top of that, we have a bigger image of our reputation, in the region and internationally that will hurt us. Foreign investment is not going to come here when they know that their work permit can be revoked. They will be handcuffed and taken to the airport straight away. Who bears the costs – it is you and me, not the government.”

Chaudhry echoed the same sentiments, pleading with the “people of Fiji to stand behind the professor, and stand behind democracy, justice, good governance, public morality and take on this government.”

He asserted that the VC Pal was far from a “threat”, but a role model to students and staff of USP and had the support of other regional governments and Fiji at large.

“How can you accuse such a person as posing a threat to the security of our country? If anyone is posing a threat and the well-being of its people, it is the Fiji First Govt. We can’t afford to have this government in place. They must go for the good of Fiji and the people by now should realise how serious a threat they are to the wellbeing of the people of Fiji.”

VC Pal and Price were put on a 10.30am flight to Brisbane yesterday.

In the meantime, the USP Council is meeting online, without Professor Pal, to decide on the future of the institution with media reports alluding to the possible relocation of the university to Samoa.

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