By Serah Aupong – EMTV News, Port Moresby
University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) students are determined to continue the protest and petition the Prime Minister to step aside despite the university senate’s stance that they will not support the boycott of classes.
According to SRC representatives they wrote to the senate on Monday informing them that the student body has agreed that they will not attend classes for a week to ensure that their petition is delivered to the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, and to Police Commissioner, Gari Baki.
They have two demands: that Prime Minister O’Neill step aside to allow police investigations to continue regarding allegations made against him, and for the Police Commissioner to reinstate Matthew Damaru as Director of the National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Albert Mellan, said while the senate will not suppress the students’ right to protest or express their opinion, they will not allow suspension of academic activities, so students therefore can choose to either attend classes or take part in the protest.
While the senate informed the media yesterday of this stance, it was communicated to the students yesterday in writing in response to two letters from the SRC informing them of the students decision to boycott classes and to protest.
Since the boycott of classes yesterday the student body has organised itself into the four regional groups, Momase, Highlands, NGI and Southern, and some have camped outside the forum square overnight.
Since early yesterday morning, they were told that the Vice Chancellor would be addressing them regarding the senate’s stance.
That did not eventuate until 4.30pm after the senate’s media conference. Professor Mellam went to the forum square to address the students, the students showed their frustration at the senate’s decision and the long wait by refusing to listen to him.
The students say despite the senate’s decision they will continue with the protest and plan to deliver the petition to the Prime Minister and Police Commissioner this week.
They say if they do not receive a favourable response then they will execute their next course of action.
Meanwhile, Professor Mellam said the senate will be closely monitoring the situation and will convene again on Friday to assess and make further decisions.