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Daily Post Calls For 'Truth' At USP

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SUVA: Fiji's Daily Post today called for the "truth" about the University of the South Pacific in the wake of allegations of racial threats and ethnic cleansing on the Suva-based Laucala campus.

In an editorial, the newspaper also called for cultural understanding at the regional 12-nation university and an end to race-based student groups.

The calls came as the president of the USP Students Association, Veresi Bainivualiku, faced a disciplinary hearing on campus today over allegations that he assaulted an Indo-Fijian student and threatened staff last Friday.

He was banned from setting foot on the campus until the hearing decided his fate.

Bainivualiku, a former broadcaster, has been at the centre of controversy since taking office at the start of this year over issues including:

* The student administration's response to F$27,000 missing funds.

* A decision to pull the plug on the campus FM station, Radio Pasifik.

* A campaign against the journalism student newspaper Wansolwara.

* Breach of confidentiality and protests against a university select committee's recommendation for the next vice-chancellor due to be appointed for early 2001.

* Allegations of links with rebel George Speight's insurrection.

But Bainivualiku condemned his suspension, saying it was unfair.

He claimed the action take against him was the work of "people who are trying to destabilise the university, given the current political climate".

Bainivualiku said students and staff who had committed more serious offences had been allowed onto the campus without being disciplined.

While the Indian Students Association called for Bainivualiku's resignation, the Fijian Student Association president, Jone Fifita, assured all students and staff on campus of their safety.

"Is race such an important issue at the University of the South Pacific, apart from what is being taught about it during academic learning?" asked the Daily Post.

"If not then well and good! However, if it is true then God help the future of the region.

"In the last two days, disturbing stories have emerged from this university.

"In one case we have Indo-Fijian students and lecturers fearing for their lives and on the other Fijian students assuring them of their safety.

"The Indo-Fijian concerns were fuelled by an incident involving the student president, Veresi Bainivualiku.

"These students are claiming that the incident was among the many acts of ethnic cleansing that are happening at the university. They claim there is more.

"At the same time some students are saying that they are subjects of victimisation because of their race. Some even claim that victimisation begins in class and is evident in all phases of the university.

"They claim that two rules apply, one for all other groups and one specifically for them.

"One must ask whether the university is really being "Fijianised" or "Indianised", as these two ethnic groups claim?"

The newspaper challenged the very basis of student groupings at the university.

"For a university that prides itself on its diversity, it is actually surprising that it encourages ethnicity as a basis for student grouping.

"Education is a whole process ... in the case of USP, which is the elite academic institution of the region, education should extend to student grouping...

"Is it really necessary to have a Fijian student body or an Indian student body representing only one country? All other regional countries are represented by only one body."


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