Academic year in peril at PNG's Unitech

3:55 pm on 1 July 2016

The Academic Board of the University of Technology in Papua New Guinea will soon meet to consider the viability and technicality of continuing the 2016 academic year

The remains of a building after it was set alight during violent clashes at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea.

The remains of a building after it was set alight during violent clashes at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Supplied / Albert Schram

The death of the student Graham Romanong on Saturday 25 June and the destruction of four university buildings by arson has extended the suspension of teaching, that was initially caused by a class boycott that started at the beginning of May.

In a statement, Unitech has extended condolences to the family of Mr Romanong and promised to do all it can to send his body home.

The police in Lae have detained three suspects over his killing and Unitech has condemned the perpetrators of the crime.

It said the atmosphere at its Lae campuses was still emotionally charged and had resulted in the vandalism of the Vice-Chancellor's car and threats against staff and students.

Crowds set fire to a number of buildings at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea, leaving extensive damage.

Crowds set fire to a number of buildings at the University of Technology in Lae, Papua New Guinea, leaving extensive damage. Photo: Supplied / Albert Schram

The Vice-Chancellor, Albert Schram is reported to be under police protection.

Dr Schram could not be reached for comment, but in comments to the National he attributed the attack on his vehicle to anger over his decision not to identify the provincial origin of students supected of killing Mr Romanong.

Unitech said it had not taken sides with any student faction and that their two-month boycott of classes has degenerated into something that is volatile and polarized.

It asked for forgiveness and understanding as it mobilised to restore peace, harmony and continue reconciliation, healing and reconstruction.

It added that it was working closely with its catering contractor to establish alternative mess facilities for students that have remained on campus, as the mess hall was one of the buildings destroyed by fire.

The police have imposed a 7pm to 6am curfew at Unitech and at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.