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