Fiji govt to reinstate USP grant contributions

Fiji's new government is committed to re-instating the countries multi-million-dollar grant contributions to the University of the South Pacific.

Finance minister Biman Prasad told RNZ Pacific all three parties in the coalition had promised this in their election campaigns and manifestos.

The former FijiFirst government have withheld the payments since 2019 over a protracted battle with the institution's deported Vice Chancellor, Pal Ahluwalia, now operating in exile out of Samoa.

"They didn't like a man who was doing the right thing who exposed corruption within the university," Prasad said.

"And it has done you know, to some extent, is a terrible damage not only to the university, but also the unity in the whole region."

In July the two unions representing staff at the university said the Fiji government owes the institution $FJ78.4 million.

"Well, I can't tell you the timetable, but all I can say is…that the university will receive the appropriate funding, as well as the government will pay what is due as a result of the previous government withholding the grant to the university," Prasad said.

His revelation comes after a government statement released on Monday by prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka invited Pal Ahluwalia to return to Fiji.

Rabuka said he wants to apologise to Mr Ahluwalia in person upon his arrival.

The prime minister has also invited the widow of exiled Fijian academic, Brij Lal, who passed away on Christmas day last year to bring home his ashes for burial at Tabia near Labasa.

Biman Prasad said they look forward to welcoming home more exiled Fijians and expatriates exiled during Frank Bainimarama's 16-year-reign.

"Fiji is now a free country. We will welcome everyone wants to come to Fiji. No one should fear about any kind of vindictiveness or harassment," Biman Prasad said.

"That is what we promised during our campaign, and that is what this government will deliver."