Former UPNG student calls on PM to keep his word

A former University of PNG student leader has called on the Prime Minister to keep his word and update PNG on the promised Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the 2016 students’ shooting.

2016 student leader and human rights and anti-corruption advocate, Hercules Palme Jim, said the 5000-plus UPNG 2016 students experienced the worst ever police treatment, where they were shot at and hunted like animals at the UPNG Waigani campus.

“Firstly, we want to make it clear that we do not support the Opposition nor the Government but we support the call/position by the Opposition to ask the Prime Minister to update the people of this country on the promised Commission of Inquiry (COI),” stated Jim.

“Also, we are appealing to the Ombudsman Commission to make available the report from the investigation into the 2016 police shooting.

“The June 8th police shooting is a question of democracy. Are we truly a democratic country? Are the systems and processes to keep the government on checks and balance, and is the wheel of justice running? If yes, for who?

“The most frightening question is this; if the police can shoot the students in daylight and in front of international media without any accountability and justice; where are we going as a nation?

“The UPNG students and the people of Papua New Guinea are waiting for the prime minister to keep to his promise. We also ask the opposition leader, Patrick Pruaitch, who was then the Minister for Treasury, to apologise to the students when he said on the floor of parliament, “who are they?”, during the police shooting.

“Those brave young Papua New Guineans who stood by our side and were ready to die for this country will still recall.”

On June 8th, 2016, after over a month of boycotting, students attempted to stage a peaceful march to the parliament to present their petition, but were thwarted by armed police personnel.

The university students were calling on PM O’Neill to respect the Office of the Prime Minister, step down and be investigated over corruption claims.

However, on the day of the peaceful march, unarmed students were met with brute force at the main UPNG gate.

Four male students were admitted to hospital with bullet wounds while several others, including female students, suffered minor injuries, allegedly at the hands of law enforcers.

Apart from physical injuries, students were also mentally affected, with reports of at least 100 first year students withdrawing from studies that year.

Furthermore, eight of the student leaders were terminated, the 2016 academic year was suspended while properties valued over billions of kina, both in UPNG and the University of Technology, were destroyed during the prolonged unrest.

(Loop filepic of the presentation of the petition on May 19th, 2016)

Carmella Gware