UPNG student protesters will not back down
Protesting students at the University of Papua New Guinea say they will not back down despite the University's demand they leave the campuses within 48 hours.
A student leader at the University of Port Moresby says protesting students will not back down.
For four weeks they've boycotted classes while demanding the Prime Minister resign and face corruption allegations.
Yesterday, the University suspended the first semester and gave about five thousand students occupying its campuses 48 hours to leave.
Ben Robinson-Drawbridge spoke with the student leader Hercules Jim who says the protesters are waiting for a University circular to confirm the semester has been suspended.
Hercules Jim: We are still waiting for the circular. They've given us their word yesterday, but there is no circular out to formalise and legalise and confirm their words that the semester is cancelled. The students are still in the campus, they're not moving out.
Ben Robinson-Drawbridge: If you don't leave within 48 hours are you not worried that the police may move in and evict you?
HJ: Yes, the police will obviously move in. But it's impossible to get five thousand students out within 48 hours without providing them tickets to travel home. How can they survive in Port Moresby?
BRD: Are you saying the majority of these students normally live on the campus, they live in dormitories on the campus?
HJ: Yes, the majority. Seventy-five percent of students live on the campus.
BRD: So if they're evicted from their dormitories you're saying they've got nowhere to go, they can't fly home?
HJ: So how can you send students to the street? They have belongings, they have stationeries, they have books.
BRD: This would seem to be a dangerous situation though. If students don't leave and the police try to evict them could there be violence?
HJ: That might be the case, but I want to let you know that for the first time in the history of the University of Papua New Guinea, we've had peaceful protest for the last one month. It's normally less than one week before they resort to violence, but we have contained the situation into the fourth week of the protest without any violence, without and harm and without any destruction of property. 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 the room. You cannot just send students into the streets.
BRD: But the University has said they will not give you the airfares, so will students stay and demand those airfares?
HJ: Yes we are demanding them to give our tickets, we are demanding them also to reimburse our second semester school fee.
BRD: But the University has said that they may be able to continue the first semester. It'll be suspended but you'll be able to start again at some point. Are you not interested in recommencing your studies?
HJ: That is what we need. I mean that is what we want. But as long as possible we have to fight this battle. There is no hope if we lose this battle. Without this, if you didn't give a fight, our nation will not be a nation anymore given the economic indications.
BRD: So are you saying students will go ahead with their mass withdrawal?
HJ: About the mass withdrawal I cannot comment on that. We are working to make sure things get back to normal and students resume classes.
BRD: But it sounds like the only way that is going to happen is if you compromise, if students back down.
HJ: We have come to a point where we are not able to back down.
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