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Vice chancellor backs expelled colleague -

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Vice chancellor backs expelled colleague

Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Thursday, November 5, 2009 12:14:00

ELEANOR HALL: The vice-chancellor of the Australian National University says he won't take
retaliatory action over the expulsion of a member of his staff from Fiji. But Professor Ian Chubb
is defending his colleague, Professor Brij Lal, who was interrogated in Fiji last night and boarded
a plane back to Australia this morning.

And overnight, the US administration joined in the condemnation of Fiji's military leader Frank
Bainimarama.

In Canberra, Alexandra Kirk reports.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Professor Brij Lal is an Australia National University academic who's written about
Fiji for 30 years and has been living there for the past three months. A frequent media commentator
on Fiji politics and history, he did a few too many interviews in the past couple of day for the
Fijian military regime's liking.

Like this one:

BRIJ LAL: I think that on the whole there is a sense of puzzlement and a sense of disappointment
that this has come to pass. This is unfortunately a tragedy for this country.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Last night he was taken into custody, interrogated and given his marching orders.

BRIJ LAL: I was in a cell for an hour, and then interrogated and then told to leave the country
within 24 hours or else.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Brij Lal says it was a case of being talked to rather than questioned.

BRIJ LAL: More being lectured to about, about my lack of understanding of what's happening there,
the corruption of democracy, the benevolent role of the military in the governance of this country
and that if I had any ideas I should express them directly to the military or to the government
(inaudible) end quote.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Fijian-born Brij Lal hopes he can return to Fiji when things settle down.

His boss, ANU vice chancellor Professor Ian Chubb is concerned by the events of the past few hours.
He stands by his academic who he says was in as good spirits as could be expected under the
circumstances when they spoke last night.

IAN CHUBB: He was not traumatised by the experience, but probably bewildered by it. I mean it's not
the first time he's spoken out and spoken up but this is the first time that this has happened to
him. He told me that he was going to be on the first plane that he could get out to Sydney which I
gather he's on now.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: What do you think the ramifications are? Will you recommend to your academics not
to go to Fiji or not to speak out?

IAN CHUBB: I certainly won't be recommending that they don't speak out. I think we have an
obligation to speak out where we have expertise and we can help inform the public using that
expertise. With respect to travel to Fiji, well we'll take it as we do everywhere, where there's
some risk Alex we have a fairly now well established protocol that people go through if they want
to visit somewhere that's, or a troubled part of the world.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Will you review that in the light of what's happened to Brij Lal?

IAN CHUBB: No I don't think we have to review it. I think Brij is not a neophyte, he's been there
before, he's spoken out before both there and here. Our pretty thorough protocols would not have
picked up the fact that he was going to get expelled this time because they haven't any other time
he's been there, if you see what I mean.

So I don't imagine we'll be changing our protocols, I think they work pretty well.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Do you plan to take this up with the regime in Fiji?

IAN CHUBB: We will have to take some advice on that. I mean there are certain things that we can do
that are effective Alex, there are certain things that can do that make us feel good but are
totally ineffective, and I would much rather try to do something that is indeed effective and going
to make some positive contribution to developments in Fiji.

So when he gets back and I have a chance to talk to him, when I talk to some of my other colleagues
we'll work out what would be the best thing for us to do.

ALEXANDRA KIRK: Would part of the things that you'd be looking at perhaps include how you approach
Fijian academics visiting the ANU?

IAN CHUBB: Well I reckon the world's a better place when people are educated Alex so I'm not going
to actually, you know, to engage in some you know visceral reaction by saying well you kicked out
one of ours so we're not going to invite one of yours.

I mean, I would rather use the opportunities that education provided, provides to show people
better ways - be more analytical, be more considered in their reaction and thinking and I don't
think the world will ever improve if everybody we didn't like we excluded from educational
processes or from education. That would leave out a substantial chunk of the world I might add and
I think that would be to the detriment of the world.

So if we're going to try and make it a better place we'd do it through education, through the
understanding that comes from education, through the tolerance that you develop when you know the
multiple angles to an argument and you don't do it by isolating fellow academics and students.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the vice chancellor of the Australian National University, Professor Ian
Chubb, speaking to Alexandra Kirk.