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Three years on: Let’s not forget the brave students of 2016

Shot student
Friends carry a wounded student to seek medical help. It was a miracle that nobody died after police recklessly fired shots into university students protesting peacefully on campus

SCOTT WAIDE | My Land, My Country | Edited

LAE - This week marks three years since students at the University of Papua New Guinea were shot at a public gathering.

In the days leading up to the shooting they were belittled, scorned and told their opinions on good governance and corruption did not matter.

The students were campaigning for greater transparency in government, a stop to overseas borrowing and the resignation of the prime minister.

Ideas whose time has come three years later.

The students coined the hashtag #UPNG4PNG to show their patriotism and loyalty to their country and extended their campaign on social media.

They were uncertain about the outcome and many were unsure if what they were doing would be approved by their parents, families and country.

The girls dressed in black.

UPNG students’ association president Kenneth Rapa and other student leaders called for the resignation of prime minister Peter O’Neill.

Hercules Palme Jim travelled with a group of students to the Highlands in a campaign that challenged the status quo when everyone else was too afraid to speak out.

‘Adults' mocked them. The public servants told them to go back to school and forget about politics because they were 'not qualified' to talk about what was happening in the seat of power.

On Wednesday 8 June, police shot into a crowd of students wounding a number of them, some badly. It was fortunate there were no deaths.

Students were chased and teargassed and NBC journalist Rose Amos, reporting on the protest, was assaulted by police.

The university administration later penalised students for being part of the protest even as their comrades lay injured in hospital. Some were told they would not graduate that year.

They stood up for democracy when everyone else was too afraid.


The key events of June 2016 as PNG Attitude saw them


Saturday 4 June – Prime Minister resign, a poem by Jimmy Awagl

Sunday 5 June - Present state of our economy? Looks grim but who really knows? by Busa Jeremiah Wenogo

Monday 6 June - Peter O’Neill’s assertions do not stand reasonable scrutiny, by Dilu Goma

Wednesday 8 June – Port Moresby bleeding, a poem by Jeffrey Febi

Wednesday 8 June - Some legacy, Mr O’Neill: corruption, incompetence & butchery, by Keith Jackson

Thursday 9 June – Dear Pete, a poem by Lapieh Landu

Saturday 11 June – ‘The police started it; we were ambushed & then they opened fire’, by Keith Jackson

Saturday 11 June - Anti-O’Neill sentiments running high in Enga Province, by Daniel Kumbon

Saturday 11 June - O’Neill should abandon culture of impunity & consider exilium, by Greg Bablis

Sunday 12 June - UPNG students remain strong in aftermath of the shootings, by Kenneth Rapa

Sunday 12 June – Transparency says stop violence & protect civil society, by Transparency International PNG

Sunday 12 June - UPNG shootings: Parsing the words of William Dihm [sic], by Keith Jackson

Sunday 12 June - The stubborn prime minister, a poem by Jimmy Awagl

Monday 13 June - Grand Chief Somare visits students wounded in UPNG shootings, Port Office Box & PNG Facts

Monday 13 June - A personal letter to Peter O’Neill about those police shootings, by Ruth Jewels Kissam

Monday 13 June - No call for bloody crackdown in PNG, says leading Oz newspaper, editorial in the Melbourne Age

Monday 13 June - Pete’s Damn-O’Crazy Alphabet, by Wardley Barry

Tuesday 14 June - It’s make & more probably break time in Papua New Guinea, by Phil Fitzpatrick

Tuesday 14 June - Oz taxpayer funds should not go to the corrupt & incompetent, by Chris Sheahan in The Diplomat

Wednesday 15 June - Peter O’Neill has a straightforward way out of this mess, by Chris Overland



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