University PNG students and staff feel the squeeze

7:49 pm on 25 May 2016

There is no money to help students being evicted from the University of Papua New Guinea to return home to their provinces, according to the Higher Education Minister.

Malakai Tabar's comment comes after the UPNG yesterday suspended the first semester and gave about 5,000 students occupying its campuses 48 hours to leave.

For almost four weeks they've boycotted their classes while demanding that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill stand aside and face police questioning over an alleged fraud case.

UPNG students gathered in their thousands to demand that the prime minister Peter O'Neill stand aside to face questioning over a fraud case.

UPNG students gathered in their thousands to demand that the prime minister Peter O'Neill stand aside to face questioning over a fraud case. Photo: upng4png

Student leaders are demanding that the University flies them home as most stay in dormitories on the campus.

But Mr Tabar indicated they're on their own.

"We don't have any money to send anybody home. If they want to go home, they go home on their own," he said.

The minister urged students to allow the university to resume as normal business as much as possible.

"You have to be around when the university calls you up for re-enrolment, you must enrol. If you're not there and you don't enrol, you've made yourself unavailable, you've lost your scholarship. End of the story."

Mr Tabar said the students boycotts had brought complications to the whole university system and that staff were trying their best to prevent the whole academic year becoming a write-off.

"The university and the administration of the university needs to organise itself to salvage the semester," the minister said, urging students to opt for a return to class in order to salvage the academic year.

"If nothing is done within the next few weeks, we can forget the whole year - that's the issue."

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill.

Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O'Neill. Photo: PNG Blogs

Meanwhile, a student leader warned that police may use force to evict protesting students.

Hercules Jim said the majority of students lived in dormitories on the campuses and would have nowhere to go if they were forced onto the streets of Port Moresby.

"Police will obviously move in. But we have contained the situation without any violence without any harm and without the destruction of any properties," he said.

"And now they are trying to break it off within 48 hours without giving us the tickets or whatever things we need to travel home because the students have their belongings with them in their rooms. You cannot just send students in the streets."

Hercules Jim said the students' protest had reached a point where they could not back down.

However, Peter O'Neill has also been clear in his response to the students' demands that he will not resign, as matters they are protesting about are still before the courts.

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