THE recent removal of now-former vice-chancellor of the Fiji National University, Dr Ganesh Chand, has not been received well by members of the Opposition, who claim the removal is the result of Government interference.
At a press conference in Suva yesterday, chief Opposition whip Ratu Isoa Tikoca and National Federation Party leader Professor Biman Prasad questioned the forced removal of Dr Chand and the suspension of acting permanent secretary for Education, Basundra Kumar.
"The forced removal of Fiji National University vice-chancellor Dr Ganesh Chand and the suspension of acting permanent secretary for Education Basundra Kumar raises more questions about Government's interference in employment issues, as well as the blatant disregard and violation of constitutional rights, employment and natural justice," Ratu Isoa said.
"The removal of Dr Chand and the suspension of Mrs Kumar come soon after the forced removal of two Fiji Television executives and the absence of any response to the Opposition's statement that their sacking was due to Government interference.
"In the case of Dr Chand's removal as FNU vice-chancellor, it is quite apparent that his forced exit has nothing to do with the university's strategic plan and future direction as claimed by Education Minister and FNU Council Chair Dr Mahendra Reddy," Ratu Isoa claimed.
Ratu Isoa went on to say that Dr Chand's unexplained and forced removal was a "direct assault on academic freedom" at the university.
"Academic freedom is a fundamental principle upon which universities operate. This is a blatant attempt to kill academic freedom and lawful dissent in the country."
Ratu Isoa and Prof Prasad also said Mrs Kumar's sudden removal was somewhat controversial.
"The issue of Mrs Basundra Kumar's removal as acting permanent secretary for Education and her suspension also smacks of interference by the Education Minister. This has eventually led to Mrs Kumar tendering her resignation under duress," they claimed.
Several attempts to obtain comments from Education Minister Dr Reddy on the matter yesterday were unsuccessful.