Fears of escalating tensions in PNG

6:33 am on 9 June 2016

A Papua New Guinea MP has warned of repercussions after a day of unrest when police opened fire on students at the University of PNG in Port Moresby.

UPNG students gather on campus.

UPNG students gather on campus. Photo: UPNG4PNG

The students had planned a rally at Parliament on Wednesday to show their support for a vote of no confidence in the government when police refused to let the students leave their campus and opened fire on them.

They have been boycotting classes and protesting for over a month, demanding that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill stand aside to face fraud allegations.

Police say 23 people have been hospitalised, in which five were critically injured with bullets.

The Governor of Oro province, Gary Juffa, said the students come from provinces around the country where there will be repercussions for the government.

"And they will hold their leaders to account. Some of the reactions of the leaders leave a lot to be desired."

"They're calling the students childish, they're saying who are they, they're saying they are not intelligent, they're saying they should go back to school. these are things that will only escalate the tension, they do not resolve anything," he said.

Gary Juffa, PNG

Gary Juffa, PNG Photo: Supplied

Security in the capital

Police officers will again be out in force in Port Moresby today.

The Police Commissioner, Gary Baki, has denied anyone was shot, and says officers will be back with a visible presence on the streets today.

Our correspondent, Todagia Kelola, said the situation was tense, particularly among workers and parents.

"There are mixed feelings among the members of the public as to how the University students have prolonged this issue and have come out, but there are also some who are supporting the university students and they are questioning as to why the police had to use firearms against unarmed students."

Meanwhile, Peter O'Neill has called on people to be calm and appealed directly to parents of students to encourage them to return to class.

The Prime Minister has further announced that an inquiry will be undertaken to determine the underlying reasons for the unrest and continued protests by students who he alleges are being manipulated by the parliamentary opposition and individuals outside the student body.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill still commands a strong majority support in the parliament.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill still commands a strong majority support in the parliament. Photo: EMTV

Parliament adjourned

Papua New Guinea's parliament has been adjourned until August by the acting speaker Aide Ganasi, due to concerns about the security situation in the capital.

The Speaker of Parliament, Theo Zurenuoc, who's currently serving as the Governor General, expressed disappointment that in his absence from the house, Parliament did not deal with the issue behind the unrest.

The students had wanted to rally at Parliament in support of the opposition's motion of no-confidence against the Peter O'Neill-led government.

Mr Zurenuoc said that if the government feels it had the majority support in the Parliament, it ought to prove that on the floor of Parliament.

"I still believe the government does have the numbers, but it's a matter of making it known on the floor of parliament so it sends a signal to the public that the confidence of the government is still intact. It's a leadership issue and you deal with this issue on the floor of parliament."

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