NEWS

Lawyers To Give Opinion On Pal Case

Professor Pal’s employment contract which he signed on July 24, 2018 has a clause which states that if his work permit in Fiji is revoked, his employment would be terminated immediately.
06 Feb 2021 10:40
Lawyers To Give Opinion On Pal Case
Professor Pal Ahluwalia. Photo: Ronald Kumar

Suva lawfirm Munro Leys has been tasked by the University of the South Pacific Council to provide legal opinion on whether:

  • Any termination of Professor Pal Ahluwalia’s contract as USP Vice Chancellor is legal or not?
  • And, whether his same contract could be amended to allow him to operate as VC from any other USP member country;
  • Or a new contract could be given to him without advertising the position of the Vice Chancellor of University of the South Pacific.

A committee has been formed, chaired by Nauru President Lionel Aingimea, to look into this issue and will liaise with Munro Leys.

Professor Pal’s employment contract which he signed on July 24, 2018 has a clause which states that if his work permit in Fiji is revoked, his employment would be terminated immediately.

Contract 

A copy of his contract obtained by the Fiji Sun stated: Clause 24 (b) Work Permits: “This offer of appointment is also subject to your obtaining and maintaining a permit to reside and work in Fiji and the University similarly obtaining its permit to employ you. Please complete and return the enclosed work permit application form together with the documents requested in it to me as soon as possible.

“Should your work permit be declined or cancelled for any reason, your appointment will be terminated immediately without notice or payment in lieu.”

His work permit in Fiji was revoked when he was deported with his wife Sandra Price on Thursday.

His deportation came following allegations that the two breached section 13 (2) (g) of the Fijian Immigration Act.

The section states that no foreigner is permitted to conduct themselves in a manner prejudicial to the peace, defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, security, or good governance of Fiji.

The Fijian delegation in the council meeting was led by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed- Khaiyum, Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts Rosy Akbar, Permanent Secretary Anjeela Jokhan with USP’s chair of Audit and Risk Committee Mahmood Khan, Pro Chancellor Winston Thompson.

However, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and Ms Jokhan left during the lunch break to attend a pre-arranged briefing that Mr Sayed-Khaiyum had with all permanent secretaries.

Ms Akbar then led the delegation.

The council is expected to meet next Friday and the legal opinion is expected to be provided by the firm by then.

Fiji Sun has been able to establish that the review of Prof Pal’s contract was agenda item 3. When Nauru tabled this agenda, Fiji pointed out that the contract could not be reviewed since it had been terminated.

Nauru, Tonga, Samoa and co-opted member Semi Tukana pushed for a new contract to be given to Prof Pal. Fiji on the other hand asked that the council follow due process and form a committee to appoint a Vice-Chancellor, adding that a terminated contract could not be reviewed or amended. Fiji also pointed out that USP has its own processes in place which needed to be followed. Fiji recommended that Nauru President chair a committee which should follow the processes of the Vice-Chancellor’s appointment.

Furthermore, there were no discussions about the possibility of moving the USP Headquarters to Samoa. However, there have been talks to insert a clause in the Vice-Chancellor’s contract stating that a VC can be based outside of Fiji.

Meanwhile, Tongan national Giulio Paunga has been appointed as the Acting VC.

He held the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Regional Campuses and Estates & Infrastructure and was responsible for the 14 campuses located in each of the university’s 12 member countries.

The council in a statement said: “The council of the University of the South Pacific at its Special Meeting held, Friday 5 February 2021 decided as follows: The Council was not consulted over Professor Pal Ahluwalia’s deportation, that it has not made a decision to dismiss him and expressed disappointment that it was not advised, as Professor Ahluwalia’s employer, of the decision to deport him. The council has established a Sub-committee, chaired by the President of Nauru including the council representatives of Australia, Tonga, Niue, Solomon Islands, Samoa and two Senate Representatives to look into this matter. The sub-committee will bring recommendations on these matters to council.”

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

Feedback: fonua.talei@fijisun.com.fj



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