PNG government defector blamed for student unrest

11:49 am on 19 July 2016

A Papua New Guinea government minister who last week defected to the opposition has been blamed by another government minister for engineering recent university unrest.

PNG Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko.

PNG Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko. Photo: Facebook / Hon Justin W Tkatchenko MP

The unrest spiralled in early June when police opened fire on students wishing to march to parliament.

A student was later killed at the University of Technology in Lae in an attack which observers claim was linked to differences over the class boycott.

The Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Ben Micah and his People's Progress Party defected from government last week, citing dissatisfaction with the prime minister's handling of the student protests.

The South Moresby MP Justin Tkatchenko has dismissed Mr Micah's stand.

"I think Ben Micah was the one that caused the issue with the students. He was the one right behind it. He was the one that manipulated the situation. The most important thing was there was no lives lost," said Mr Tkatchenko.

"It was a very unfortunate situation that the police did take the law into their own hands in that scenario, I believe there was a lot of provocation on both sides."

Mr Tkatchenko expressed support for the prime minister to survive in his position despite rising public and political pressure for him to stand down.

Members of the coalition government have been camped in Alotau for lobbying before this Friday's parliamentary vote on the opposition's motion of no-confidence in Mr O'Neill.