The Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Commission has established that processes and procedures that were followed in the detention and subsequent deportation of Professor Pal Ahluwalia and Sandy Price were at all times in accordance with law.
Director, Ashwin Raj says the Commission has also established that team that attended to Professor Ahluwalia and Price consisted of Police Officers, Immigration Officials and an officer from the Ministry of Health. He says they were allowed entry into the premises, following specific instructions issued to ensure the safety of Professor Ahluwalia, Price and the team.
Raj says there was no damage to the residence inside or on the outside and all officers present on the premises disclosed their identity through official identification cards.
He says officials were in the premises before curfew.
Raj further says Professor Ahluwalia disregarded numerous requests to hand over his mobile phone and continued to use his mobile phone to contact unknown persons and Price was also repeatedly advised not to use her phone but they continued despite being told not to use their phone.
The Director says phones were taken away after repeated requests by the officials to allow an orderly execution of the process and for the safety and security of all parties present.
Raj says it should be noted that prior to allowing the team into his residence, Professor Ahluwalia had made at least three calls which were unanswered.
Raj adds the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific had also arrived at Professor Ahluwalia’s residence approximately 2 minutes after the team was allowed entry into the residence and was the independent observer and remained at Professor Ahluwalia’s residence until the team left with Professor Ahluwalia and Price for Nadi Airport.
He says as the immigration officials exited the premises, the Department of Immigration confirmed that Professor Ahluwalia himself locked the door and handed the keys to the university official present.
Raj says Department of Immigration officials also revealed that prior to leaving their premises, Professor Ahluwalia and Price also participated in a prayer session led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.
The Director of Human Rights Commission says the Fijian Immigration Department has refuted the allegation that Professor Ahluwalia and Price were at any time roughed up or manhandled.
He says a subsequent media interview given by Professor Ahluwalia states that his wife was particularly courageous all throughout the ordeal and she was the one who smuggled in a phone to call while in detention.
Raj says from this, it seems that the couple was able to make phone calls whilst in detention.
He further says the Department of Immigration has refuted the allegation that Professor Ahluwalia and Price did not have knowledge of their detention and subsequent deportation to Australia as at all times Ahluwalia and Price were advised that they were being detained and will subsequently be deported to Australia on the next available flight.
He says both were then given an opportunity to pack their belongings and thereafter departed for Nadi Airport and during the course of travel from Suva to Nadi, the team made a stop to allow Professor Ahluwalia and Price to use bathroom facilities in Maui.
Raj says the Department of Immigration has refuted allegations with respect to degrading treatment given to Price.
He says when the team was allowed entry into the premises, Professor Ahluwalia and Price were advised not to use their phones given security concerns and Price advised she was dressed inappropriately and wished to change.
The Director says a female member of the team had escorted her to her room to change into what she preferred and once in her room Price asked the female member of the team to turn around so she could have privacy to change and the female member of the team obliged.
He further says in her room, Price tried to make a phone call in the bathroom however, the female member of the team took the phone from Price and in the process the female member of the team received an elbow to her chest.
The Commission says Professor Ahluwalia and Price were transported to Nadi Airport early in the morning, they were provided with breakfast which included egg and cheese sandwiches, assorted muffins and a hot beverage upon arrival at the Nadi Airport and were accommodated at the VIP lounge at the Nadi Airport.
Raj says Professor Ahluwalia was a diabetic and took medication for his health.
He also says numerous requests were made by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to Professor Ahluwalia to write down the list of medication that he requires and the times at which they were to be administered for the benefit of the team, however Professor Ahluwalia refused to provide the same.
The Department of Immigration has confirmed to the Commission that at all times Professor Ahluwalia had a small yellow suitcase of medication which was with him during the travel from Suva to Nadi Airport and has refuted the allegation that Professor Ahluwalia did not have access to his medication.
He says Professor Ahluwalia also informed the team that he had his medication in his backpack which he was carrying at all times.
Raj adds the Commission contacted Professor Ahluwalia on 7th February, and subsequently on 8th February followed by an email on 13th February. He says Professor Ahluwalia wrote back to the Commission on 14th February indicating that he will endeavour to send a statement in relation to these allegations of human rights violations but the Commission has received no statements to date.
Raj adds in the course of its investigations the Commission has also received complaints against Professor Ahluwalia which the Commission is investigating.
These allegations include USP staff being coerced into signing petitions in favour of the Vice-Chancellor by heads of various sections of the university or face non-renewal of contracts, unfair discrimination as well as victimization for speaking out because staff are considered either for or against the Vice-Chancellor, nepotism and unmeritorious appointments, lack of transparency and consistency in the application of policies and procedures in relation to appraisals and inducements, lack of confidence over the independence of grievance reporting procedures and mechanisms because heads of unions are openly biased,, suspension of staff who are suspected of being whistleblowers.
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