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The President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr, paid a courtesy visit to Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP at the Laucala Campus in Suva this week.
Remengesau was accompanied by Ngedikes Olai Uludong, Ambassador and Permanent Representative (E&P) and Rebluud Kesolei, Deputy Chief of Staff, Office of the President of Palau.
USP was represented by Professor Chandra, Dr Giulio Paunga; Vice-President Regional Campuses and Property and Facilities; Professor Richard Coll, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Learning and Teaching and Student Support; Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and International; and Iresh Lal, Development Manager.
Professor Chandra extended a warm welcome to Remengesau and his delegation saying he was pleased that they had chosen to meet despite their busy schedule in Fiji.
“I offer my congratulations to your Excellency for being the only President of Palau who has been elected for the fourth time and for your distinguished service to Palau and the Pacific,” Professor Chandra remarked.
The President acknowledged the VC saying he recognised the fact that many Palauan students and professionals are proud to have been students and graduates of USP, including Ambassador Uludong.
Remengesau, who is in Fiji for the preparatory meeting for the UN Conference on Oceans in New York in June, said “this is a grand opportunity on the international stage to showcase the cultures of Pacific islands, the economic importance of the ocean to our island nations and the fact that the ocean is not only important for the islands, but for the rest of the world”.
He made mention of how important it is for educational institutions like USP to educate students on the significance of our oceans.
“If we don’t implant in our children’s minds the importance of oceans then it is just a conference, or political agenda. We have to focus on what it will take to ensure that our children know the importance of sustaining our oceans.
“USP will definitely play a vital role to complement the agencies that will take the lead in funding or organising this conference and I hope there is a correlation between educational institutions, Governments, NGOs and all other stakeholders on such an important matter,” he added.
Remengesau said there were not many Palauan students at USP due to the fact that they not only have a small population but also because there is an abundance of other educational opportunities available to them.
Furthermore, he suggested that USP adopt a name change to reflect the entire Pacific and not just the South Pacific, considering that Palau and Papua New Guinea have sought membership of the University.
Professor Chandra said the notion of a change of name had been coined around for a while and this would need further talks.
He said USP is distinguished by the fact that it is a training ground of Pacific leaders for instance the current Prime Ministers of Tonga and Solomon Islands are alumnus of USP, including the bulk of Cabinet ministers and public servants.
“The University has prepared people for a broad basis of their own cultural understanding as well as an understanding of other cultures. We produce confident and competent Pacific islanders anchored very strongly in their own cultural traditions but equally very much aware of the need for all these small countries to work together,” Professor Chandra explained.
Professor Chandra remarked that the ease in which the Pacific cooperates and negotiates is significantly due to the fact that a lot of leaders studied together at USP and there is a deep cultural understanding of each other.
He said another distinguishing factor is that “we belong to the (member) countries and we link what we do to their development ambitions and plans and as a Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agency we participate actively in regional development work.”
“The University looks forward to more dialogue with Palau Government officials on its interest to become a member of USP and how best this can be pursued further,” he added.
At the end of the successful talks, the delegation was given a tour of the Laucala Campus.
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