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Boycott forces university to close

Wednesday 25 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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PORT MORESBY – Authorities have suspended the University of Papua New Guinea’s first semester for an indefinite period, effectively ending a student boycott of classes.

Students have been boycotting for more than two weeks, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill over alleged corruption and mismanagement.

Acting chancellor Dr Nicolas Mann said the university council’s decision is based on recommendations from the university senate.

The senate consists of lecturers, professors and heads of schools within the university.

The university council decided that the 4000-plus resident students at the Waigani and Taurama campuses have been given 48 hours to vacate the university and that all support amenities for students will cease after that time.

The announcement comes three weeks before the normal semester break.

The council will review the academic calendar and decide a date of resumption for the university’s academic programmes.

Dr Mann said students are expected to reflect on the current situation while they are away from campus.

“We expect normalcy in the campus when students return,” he said.

The suspension of the semester message met some anger with booing and verbal abuses hurled at Dr Mann by students at the Waigani campus.

Dr Mann said the decision addressed the concerns of parents and sponsors at the potential loss of their children’s’ once in a life time opportunity to gain an academic qualification and become a meaningful member of the business community.

Dr Mann said the council was unified in their call for normalcy to return to the campus and for students to fully understand the impact of the rolling boycott on the non-delivery of lectures, tutorials and assignments.

He said that no disciplinary actions would be taken against students for unruly behaviour was the council was more concerned with “patching the academic hole”.

This will mean patching of academic calendar schedule for semester one into semester two.

The students at the University of PNG and the University of Technology in Lae have been boycotting classes for more than two weeks in protest against O’Neill’s refusal to comply with a two-year-old warrant for his arrest for corruption.

They say they also have concerns over the government’s financial management and dealings.

The students petitioned the Prime Minister after police occupied the University of PNG campus in Port Moresby, shutting down the noisy demonstrations which had occupied the centre of campus.

On Monday, O’Neill published a lengthy response to a petition from students and said he would not be stepping aside.

“I have challenged the warrant of arrest in the court as there has been a clear miscarriage in the administration of law,” O’Neill explained.

“ As a citizen, I am entitled also to exercise my rights as provided for by the constitution. In addition I have a duty to protect the Office of the Prime Minister.

“I wish to state clearly that I have no intention of either stepping aside or resigning.”

- PNC