The University of the South Pacific vice-chancellor Professor Pal Ahluwalia says there has been misinformation regarding what he earns as salary from the regional institution.
In April, a newspaper in Fiji had reported that the USP’s top man was being paid AU$500,000 annually after his contract was renewed by the USP Council.
“My salary remains the same, that is F$534,000 or $A344,389. This figure was agreed before my reappointment and remains less than what my predecessor Rajesh Chandra got,” Prof Ahluwalia clarified.
“I was paid in Australian dollars in Nauru because that is the currency that is used there. My new contract is exactly the same salary but converted to Samoan Tala (WST 648,000).
“I was not able to open a bank account here but finally last week that happened and the salary will be paid into that account from next week.”
The report had also said that Prof Ahluwali and his wife were staying at a hotel in Samoa which was costing USP in excess of AU$1000 per night.
“The Taumeasina hotel where we have been staying since we finished quarantine charges us WST 400 (AU$203) a night,” he said.
Prof Ahluwali arrived in Samoa on March 9, 2022. He and his wife stayed at the hotel after completing their quarantine on May 1.
He said houses available on the Samoa campus were in terrible shape and needed repairs. Prof Ahluwalia said he has now moved into his rented flat.
“All expenses relating to me are always approved by the USP Pro-Chancellor and Deputy Pro-Chancellor,” he said.
The newspaper also in an earlier edition carried a report about 108 USP staff losing their jobs. Again Prof Ahluwalia said this was not the case.
“There were no job losses. That is another false report that 108 people lost their jobs. If people lost their jobs then they would have been employed on short term contracts, their jobs would have ended and they were never any systematic programs for people to lose jobs,” he said.
“On the contrary, regardless of everything we have tried to preserve people’s jobs.”
Prof Ahluwalia has commenced legal action against the newspaper. An article correcting the story was published in the following week but no apology was offered to Mr Ahluwalia, something which he had asked from the company.
Prof Ahluwalia’s work visa was revoked by Fijian Immigration and he was deported out of Fiji. After this, the Fijian Government refused to recognise Prof Ahluwali as the USP’s lead man and stopped its contribution to the regional university.
It is believed that this amount has now surpassed FJ$70 million.
Prof Ahluwalia now works remotely from Samoa.