PINA – 25 September 2020
RE: CONDITIONAL PAYMENT OF $27.6M USP GRANT FOR2020-2021 BY FIJI’S ATTORNEY GENERAL AND MINISTER FOR ECONOMY, CIVIL SERVICE AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Staff of the USP stand with the USP Students in solidarity in this response to the drastic decision by the Fiji Government to cease the grant contribution to the USP with immediate effect.By this Fiji is reneging on its commitment to its people and the region.
The letter dated 23 September 2020 from the Fiji AG and Minister for Economy to the Pro-Chancellor and Vice Chancellor & President on the cessation of the USP funding has sent shock waves across this regional institution to which eighty percent of graduates from Fiji are indebted to.
The action is being justified by the AG and Minister for Economy as due to lack of adherence to the principle of good governance in the daily operations of the University and the decision of the Council to `ignore’the allegations made by the Pro Chancellor and Chair of ARC.It is apparent to staff that the AG and Minister for Economy is most supportive of Pro-Chancellor Thompson and ARC Chair Mahmood Khan’s allegations against VC/P Pal.
Staff members firmly believe that the University Council, the USP’s governing body should be where Member States take up their issues for discussion and resolution.It is poor governance when a single Member State of the USP Council attempts to dictate its course of action.The staff of the USP strongly object to the AG and Minister for Economy’s decision to cease Fiji’s grant contribution to the USP. This places the University in a critical financial position, jeopardizing the education of Fiji students (80%) and Fiji staff (80%).
This decision is viewed as an assault on the Fiji students and staff who, to date, in this COVID and pre-COVID environment of 2019 have been able to continue their education and work with minimum impact under the current Vice-Chancellor’s prudent leadership and Council oversight.
The Government is seen to be using Fiji students and staff to dictate to and to hold the USP Council to ransom whilst holding a `gun’ to the head of the Vice-Chancellor and President,The action is tantamount to`cutting off USP students and staff legs at their knees’ and therefore their lifelines to coping with living in the current and post COVID environment.Not only will hundreds of families suffer, the quality of support and education for USP students in Fiji and the region will be seriously affected due to the domino effect of this decision.The question being asked is, why would the Government use such strong arm tactics and punitive action to jeopardise the education of its youth who are their voters and the next generation of leaders when the USP’s supreme governing body of12 regional states and development partners have spoken.
Rather than being treated as valuable citizenry, it appears that all are mere pawnsin a political game.The Vice-Chancellor and President is doing what every government, university, corporation and family business in the world needs to do to survive –reflect, redesign and reorganise.
To date, NO STAFF member has lost a job; NO STUDENT REFUSED ADMISSION except for mandated academic reasons and INCREASES IN STUDENT enrolments witnessed.
The gravity of this decision and its implications require serious reflection on the basis of the decision and in-depth reconsideration by the Fiji Government for the greater good of the students of Fiji and our Pacific `vuvale’.