By Matelita Ragogo Editor of Wansolwara USP Journalism Programme

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 25, 2000 - USP Journalism Programme/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---University of the South Pacific authorities today fined student leader Veresi Bainivualiku F$ 150 (US$ 69.90) for "manhandling" an Indo-Fijian student in an incident which has shaken the campus for the past week.

Bainivualiku told Pacific Journalism Online outside the Communications Building after the ruling by the discipline committee that he was relieved.

He described the offence as "an isolated incident."

But he accused "some lecturers"' of instigating moves to remove him as president of the USP Students Association (USPSA) through the affiliated Indian Students Association.

Bainivualiku said he had been informed by an ISA executive member that Indo-Fijian lecturers had approached them asking them to take a "more proactive stand" on Bainivualiku’s case.

Bainivualiku had manhandled the Indo-Fijian last Friday outside the university library in the full view of academic staff and students.

The incident prompted a letter from the USP Staff Association president, Dr. Biman Chand, calling for Bainivualiku’s expulsion.

Bainivualiku had been barred from campus for the past week until today’s hearing.

"I am relieved but disappointed that the administration allowed the matter to reach this stage. They did not cut out the involvement of lecturers when they should have," Bainivualiku said.

"There has been propaganda against me since I came into office."

Bainivualiku said the "fiasco" began when he organized protests within campus against a recommendation by a university select committee for the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr. Rajesh Chandra, to become the next vice chancellor in February.

"My record at university speaks on its own. If I was racist, the protest we organized could have been worse," Bainivualiku said.

"Some lecturers had asked me to ensure that Fijian students would look out for their Indo-Fijian colleagues and that is what I told Fijian students in the dining room and in our meetings."

Bainivualiku did not want to name the lecturers allegedly involved, preferring to await an answer to his complaint lodged with Vice Chancellor Esekia Solofa’s office on Thursday.

He also expressed his disappointment at development studies Professor Dr. Vijay Naidu’s reported comments on a Radio Australia interview last night accusing him of being racist.

In his letter to Solofa, Bainivualiku expressed his concern that the involvement of lecturers, continuous claims of lack of security on campus and irresponsible comments like that of Dr. Naidu would only create fear.

"It is all right for them to make such comments because when fear forces the closure of this university, the students will suffer. These lecturers can and will find jobs elsewhere," Bainivualiku said.

Bainivualiku’s hearing lasted three hours and included three witnesses.

Fijian Students Association president Jone Fifita said the students were happy with the verdict.

Title -- 2926 FIJI: USP student leader fined $150 for 'manhandling' Indian Date -- 25 August 2000 Byline -- Matelita Ragogo Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- USP Journalism programme, 25/8/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

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