PNG authorities yet to condemn police shootings
Papua New Guinea university students have been afforded little sympathy by authorities after police opened fire on them at a campus in Port Moresby this week. Urged to end their boycott of classes and return to class, the students largely appear too traumatised to do that.
The trauma of being shot at by police on Wednesday is likely to mean students at the University of Papua New Guinea will stay away from campus in the near future.
Police opened fire on students on and around the University's Waigani campus in Port Moresby after students tried to march to parliament in a show of support for a planned vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.
But, as Johnny Blades reports, in the wake of the shootings, authorities have focussed on allegations that students broke the law.
Around 40 people, mostly students, were reported to have been hospitalised with injuries, including four who are in a critical but stable condition.
Two of those hospitalised appear to have been chased and shot by police several kilometres from the campus.
The students had been boycotting classes since early May, demanding that Mr O'Neill stand aside to face fraud allegations.
Following the unrest, the UPNG's acting chancellor, Nicholas Mann, told local media the university obtained a court order which effectively disallows students from continuing protest action.
In the last five weeks of boycotting, some students have gone around intimidating, harassing, intimidating staff and students, and also barricading and causing illegal activities within the campus. The council has given consent for a court order to be taken to prevent any intimidation on campus.
The University is urging students to return to class as the semester resumes next week
The president of the Students Representative Council, Kenneth Rapa, says with police remaining on the Waigani campus, students are fearful.
If the police can go right into the campus and shoot them, it's unsafe for them to stay in the campus anymore so most of the students have left the campus already. After what has happened on Wednesday, how could you expect the students to go back to class right after they've been traumatised and some students have been hospitalised?
Kenneth Rapa, who understands police have been seeking his arrest, says the Council will leave it to students to decide as individuals whether they want to return to class.
A senior government Minister Ben Micah says while it's regrettable that they were shot, students didn't adhere to rules around public demonstrations and that police responded as an operational issue.
It is regrettable that certain elements in the student leadership, and certain elements at the political level supported the students to do these things that they did. As a leader of the country, I very much regret what has happened. There'll be a commission of inquiry and if the police are proven to have acted beyond reasonable force, then those policemen will be dealt with also by the same laws.
Echoing the government's announcement of an inquiry, the Police Commissioner Gary Baki has established a probe into the unrest which would look into sources of support for protesting students.
Mr Rapa denies claims that they have been funded or influenced by non-student players.
What we are doing is not because someone is influencing us or pushing us. It's because we believe that this government has an issue of gross mis-management.
Stopping short of condemning the shootings, the prime minister Peter O'Neill has admitted that Wednesday's confrontation could have been handled better.
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