Univer­sity PNG stu­dents, staff feel the squeeze

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Port Moresby: 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. Mr Tabar’s com­ment comes af­ter the UPNG yes­ter­day sus­pended the first se­mes­ter and gave about 5000 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. 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.” 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. RNZI

Stu­dent pro­test­ers at the Univer­sity of PNG hold­ing a sit-in.

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