Students seek justice amid tensions at PNG universities
The prospects of Papua New Guinea university students returning to class soon have been further dampened by violent unrest this week at campuses as students seek justice over last week's police shootings at the University of PNG.
The prospects of Papua New Guinea university students returning to class have been further dampened by violent unrest at campuses this week.
Students across PNG have been boycotting classes since early May in an effort to pressure the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill to step down to face fraud allegations.
But the academic year is close to being written off following last week's unrest at the University of PNG in Port Moresby when police opened fire on students who sought to march to parliament.
As Johnny Blades reports, students and the public are seeking justice.
The University of Goroka in Eastern Highlands has suspended classes for two weeks after a violent clash between students injured as many as 30 to 50 people on Tuesday. It came a day after a clash among students at the University of Technology in Lae. The clashes are linked to divisions among students over whether to return to class as their administrations are urging them to do.
The Morobe provincial governor, Kelly Naru, hired several buses to bring students from his province back to Lae from the University of Goroka. He told EM TV that he implored students, and the general public, to exercise patience around their grievances with the prime minister.
KELLY NARU: We have to refrain ourselves and restrain ourselves from conduct that is going to be unbecoming or that is going to cauyse a breach of the peace. Exercise patience and with that patience and restraint, wait for justice to be delivered. Unfortunately, all of us are not empowered to deliver that justice.
At the University of PNG in Port Moresby, students largely stayed away from class this week, partly due to trauma at last week's shootings, but also as a sign of respect for injured classmates. Student Representative Council rep, Gerald Tulu Manu-Peni, says it wasn't the first time police have wrought brutality on civillians.
GERALD TULU MANU-PENI: I myself as a Bougainvillean (can tell you) this was the cause of the Bougainville crisis. The police were the very first people to go down on Bougainville, and they did terrorise the people there with such practices. And that's why it grew on that island and it caused the civil war, and that attitude of the police force hasn't changed for the past 20 to 30 years and it's still here. What they did to us, it's nothing new.
The government and the police force have announced inquiries into factors leading up to the unrest. But the former Chief Justice Sir Arnold Amet, who claims the shootings at the UPNG were a gross violation of the students' right to peaceful protest, says he has no confidence in the inquiries.
SIR ARNOLD AMET: None of those have any teeth. They are going to drag out and, at the end of the day like many other commissions of inquiries and internal investigations, end up being brushed under the carpet with no accountability.
But Sir Arnold says victims can seek redress in the judicial system.
SIR ARNOLD AMET: Seek to enforce their constitutional right that they can contend has been violated: the freedom of expression, the freedom to assemble, the freedom to express dissent, and then the right of protection of the law, having been shot at whilst totally unarmed; all of those numerous provisions, in my opinion, have been violated.
However, the National Court has blocked an attempt by UPNG students to have police removed from campuses. The now common sight of police patrolling campus is a sign that all is not well at PNG's universities.
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