No genuine government motivation to curb corruption, says survey
Silent Scream

Students hold firm as UPNG bosses bulldoze & propagandise

Rapa_KennethKENNETH RAPA | Edited extract

I WOULD like to make a proper statement of the recent turn of events here at the University of Papua New Guinea since Thursday 23 June to clarify the position of the UPNG students’ representative council.

I and my fellow SRC Council members were restrained by a court order obtained by UPNG Administration restraining us from conducting further boycott and protests.

Any actions taken by my council members and myself to mobilise students would been seen as actions undertaken to boycott classes and we would be in contempt of court.

The confrontation between the students and Uni Force [security] is an isolated situation from the peaceful protest we have held so far.

As a matter of public interest, it is important to understand the underlying issues which actually prompted a large number of students to mobilise against Uniforce after an initial small confrontation.

We have been suppressed since the beginning of our protests by the UPNG Administration. From the denial of referendums to the invasion of our privacy by police, one sided media propaganda and unreasonable and unlawful evictions of students from campus, and the suspension of classes aimed at causing division.

We have been and are the victims of imposed creative suffering.

This suffering was further compounded and exacerbated by the indiscriminate shooting by police officers at unarmed, harmless, peaceful students on the fateful day, Wednesday 8 June.

Let that day remain forever in infamy in the history of this nation where the tenets and principles of democracy were desecrated and the rights of free peoples violated.

Since then the government has never given a conciliatory word nor condemned the actions by the police system. The UPNG Administration has also failed to condemn the shooting.

We have also noticed that the churches and the Christian community have not come forward condemning the shoot-out nor provided spiritual direction in our so called Christian nation. Their silence has been deafening.

We thank the Catholic Bishop Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands who made some attempts to provide way forward to resolve this issue.

Let the public know, if they have not known, that my students are but human.

What happened on Thursday 23 June, the confrontation of the students and the Uniforce, was sparked off when a flare gun was set off by one of the Uniforce security guards.

At this, students - having been suppressed for so long, traumatised by police shootings, frustrated by court processes, being the subject of media wars - mobilised, burnt, and damaged the properties.

Though I condemn those actions, I urge the general public, at the same time, to have an empathetic understanding mind as to what lead to this turnout of events.

Next, I call on the members of the UPNG Administration. Since the first day of these protests and strike actions, you have not shown true leadership and acted as a true parents would do.

Was it not Professor Albert Mellam, the vice chancellor, who said in one of the first forums, “Yupla ol pikinini blo mi”? But you have never sat us down and never dialogued properly with us.

Your attitude has been that of bulldozing your agendas and stubbornness through circulars, suppression and public media propaganda.

All along I had hoped we would have successfully resumed our studies for 2016, and had our concerns and conditions adhered to in general.

I also request that the injunction obtained in court to restrain my powers be lifted. If the injunction was not in operation, I am confident my leaders and I would have contained the events of 23 and 24 June.

On behalf of the students, the SRC is willing to have amicable discussion with the UPNG Administration on the way forward in resolving these issues.

We had some understanding with UPNG Administration prior to 23 June and 24 June to reach some agreements through negotiations and reconciliation. SRC’s position has not changed.

Finally, I implore the general public and politicians not to make a media circus of things that are going on. What we have stood for as students and that which we have sought are but the expressions of our democratic rights.

We still hold that the prime minister must step down and face the law as any leader of integrity should do.

It has been more than three years since he has been doing his evasive games with the law enforcement agencies and the courts.

For now, we must secure and ensure the education of the students.

Kenneth Rapa is president of the University of Papua New Guinea student representative council, representing more than 5,000 registered students

Comments

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Lindsay F Bond

List and enumerate, John. Proper handling of events calls for accuracy and acumen based on actuality. One source even purports states the kina amount of damage to library asset, so it will be good to see your estimate also.

Consider then how it might be when such detail is viewed in forty years time. Now, the initial impact of Independence under the Somare-led government is under scrutiny by students presently at UPNG. What analyses and views will come from future UPNG students, of the present O'Neill-led government?

Hope is for continuity of UPNG and indeed, excellence of learning outcomes in all of PNG. Look again at prediction for these, as is emerging from studies by folk at UPNG and other PNG tertiary campuses. Starting with acumen...


Philip Fitzpatrick

Nice to hear the other side of the story John.

John K Kamasua

So does Mr Rapa now want to shift the blame entirely onto the UPNG Admin?

He should and will be investigated for his role in "misleading" the students, and triggering off a chain of events that have made UPNG into a cowboy shelter for mindless hooligans and thugs.

There is a grave danger of the institution losing its place as a venue of higher reasoning and debate.

What happened recently with the burning of trucks/cars, destruction of the Michael Somare Library, burning of the Printery and other UPNG assets is criminal. Those who are behind it, must hang their heads in shame, and if they can be identified should be sent to Bomana and furthermore blacklisted from all higher learning institutions.

Chasing students and staff out of classes, misleading students to continue the boycott of classes even after the petition was delivered to the PM; blocking and locking staff to access their offices, and going against Council and Senate of UPNG who are legally the authority to dwell on matters in relation to student welfare etc...are really the hallmarks of people who have ulterior motives.

He must apologise to the students who were injured and their parents; apologise to the majority of the students who now stand a real danger of messing up their studies for 2016.

He did not have a strategy to consider the academic welfare and their well-being. He therefore does not have the support of the 5,000 plus students he now claims he has.

Francis Nii

Agreed with Rapa's final remark and that is, the central issue remains and that is Peter O'Neill should step down and face the law for the alledged corrupt practises instead of running from the law.

Mathias Kin

Well done UPNG SRC President, Kenneth Rapa. We have been bombarded one side from Peter O’Neill and the Uni Administration on the TV and the newspapers. It is good that Mr Rapa has finally spoken out with his side of the story.

Reading his story gives me the impression I have always had – that the authorities, in this case the university administration, has not handled this issue well from the beginning. It seems the administration has been remotely controlled by other forces, from the government and Peter O'Neill most likely.

As guardians in place of the parents who the students left in their villages, the Vice Chancellor and the university council has done a terrible job from the beginning in providing proper (parenthood) counselling to the students on the whole issue.

The students have been treated with disrespect and condemnation at every opportunity. They did not condemn the shooting, did not allow a referendum as is legally recognized in the SRC constitution, when traumatised after the shooting, the administration even “ol husat”(who are they!) at the students, hundreds of their girl students fled into the settlements including churches for cover and their safety? Who knows what may have happened to them?

Mr Rapa must be commended highly for his leadership of the 5000 plus students this far. His call for the PM to step down is central to addressing all the issue at the university campuses and can lead to remedying the current national crises faced across PNG.

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