The NGO Coalition for Human Rights (NGOCHR) is deeply troubled with last night’s arrest of the University of the South Pacific (USP) Vice-Chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia and his wife Sandra Price.
According to Island Business updates, the USP Vice-Chancellor Pal and his wife Sandra Price were detained last night and transported to the airport for deportation.
The arrests were made under the Immigration Act 2003, S13 (2)(g), “a person who prior to or after entry into the Fiji Islands, as a result of information received from any country through official or diplomatic channels, or from any other source the Minister considers reliable, is deemed by the Minister to be a person who is or has been conducting himself in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, security or good government of the Fiji Islands, provided that and notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the decision of the Minister made under this paragraph shall be final and conclusive and shall not be questioned or reviewed in any court:”
It is unacceptable that Immigration, State officials and police have responded so extremely, forcefully entering their home in the middle of the night to make these arrests. The NGOCHR is concerned about the justifications that led to this arrest and what constitutes a threat to public order and safety.
The arrest comes after months of tensions with USP and the Fiji government, with student and staff protests erupting last year in June following the removal of USP Vice-Chancellor Pal and ongoing serious allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement. The timing of these arrests are also alarming as a USP Council meeting was scheduled to take place soon.
NGOCHR reiterates that USP is a regional entity and in the spirit of regionalism, there should have been better processes of consultation. It is disheartening, particularly for students, staff and alumni to see a regional pillar for learning and education be threatened in this way.
This strong-armed approach by government is not reflective of our commitments towards protecting human rights and upholding democratic values and principles.
Fiji represents itself as a leader in human rights at the global stage. Fiji’s representative to the United Nations, Nazhat Shameem Khan was just elected as the President of the UN Human Rights Council. It is appalling that we are still witnessing these arbitrary arrests and deportation take place in Fiji.
Intimidation against USP staff and students must stop!
The NGOCHR supports the statements by the Association of the University of the South Pacific Staff and the University of the Pacific Staff Union.