USP Senior Librarian interviewed and released for allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions
NFP, FLP and NGO Coalition on Human Rights claim that USP protestors are being intimidated

USP Senior Librarian interviewed and released for allegedly breaching COVID-19 restrictions

NFP, FLP and NGO Coalition on Human Rights claim that USP protestors are being intimidated

By Vijay Narayan
Tuesday 16/06/2020
The University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong [Image: USP SA]

Police confirm that the University of the South Pacific’s Senior Librarian, Elizabeth Read Fong has been interviewed and released for allegedly breaching the COVID-19 restrictions, and they will not comment on any allegations of intimidation made by certain groups. Fong walked into the CID office in Toorak at around 10 o’çlock this morning and was interviewed for over 1 hour.

Police spokesperson, Ana Naisoro says the CID had requested Fong to come in and she was questioned for the alleged breach. Fong has been a staff representative speaking out against USP Vice Chancellor Pal Ahluwalia’s suspension pending investigations.

She was also part of the group of staff and students that had gathered at USP in support of Ahluwalia last Monday. Meanwhile the NGO Coalition on Human Rights says it is disturbed by the recent conduct of the Police in handling student and staff protests at USP.

They say Fong and then another staff Ilima Finiasi were questioned today.

Coalition Chair, Nalini Singh says students and staff are being continuously threatened for airing their concerns around the Vice Chancellor’s suspension and other worrying allegations of corruption at USP. Singh says the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions is not an excuse to curtail human rights, freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.

National Federation Party President, Pio Tikodaudua says the alleged harassment, intimidation and questioning of USP staff and students is disrupting education of students as well as work of the staff, and causing them mental anguish when they are sitting for their exams. Tikoduadua says the questioning of Elizabeth Fong by Police is yet another example of Fiji fast turning into a police state with scant regard for the rights of people and their fundamental freedoms of speech and assembly. He says Fong is renowned for her principles and ethics.

Tikoduadua says her desire for good governance, transparency, accountability and to uphold and cherish academic freedom is renowned and well respected. He says they deplore Police for using COVID-19 social distancing restrictions to harass and intimidate USP staff and students.

Tikoduadua says this is ridiculous and nonsense when no social distancing is being practiced in supermarkets, municipal markets, buses and other public transport, restaurants, malls and on the streets. Fiji Labour Party Leader, Mahendra Chaudhry says the questioning and harassment of Fong is abuse of Police powers. Chaudhry has branded the COVID-19 restrictions as a farce.

He says the social distancing requirement is hardly observed anywhere whether it be the bus stand, supermarkets, municipal markets, retail outlets or by the people who attended the opening by the Prime Minister of the Rakiraki Market a fortnight ago and the Namoli Village reclamation wall last week.

The FLP Leader further says that there is no further need for the social distancing restrictions and the 10pm curfew if Fiji is indeed COVID-19 free. He claims the restrictions are becoming instruments of persecution for critics of the government. All COVID-19 health guidelines remain in place and Police have said that they will not make any comments on all these statements.

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