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Court blocks campus eviction order

Friday 27 May 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Student leaders at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) have obtained a stay order on a decision forcing students to vacate the campus.

Students have boycotted classes for nearly four weeks, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill over alleged corruption and mismanagement.

This week the UPNG Council decided to suspended classes for semester one, and gave students 48 hours to vacate the school premises.

A student leader warned that police may be directed to use force to evict protesting students.

Hercules Jim said the majority of students lived in dormitories on the campuses and would have nowhere to go if they were forced onto the streets of Port Moresby.

The deadline for students to vacate the campus lapsed on Thursday afternoon, but the court decision means students can continue to stay on campus until the matter returns to court next week.

Justice Collin Makail granted the temporary stay until Wednesday June 1 when parties will return to court.

One of the student leaders, Gerald Tulu Manu-Peni, told RNZI the court’s decision would enable the students’ action to continue.

“The decision of the University Council on Tuesday is stayed by the court. That is a plus for us the students. It’s given us hope, it’s given us strength to pursue our agenda. In the meantime, many of the students, we’re still residing on the campus.”

Acting chancellor Dr Nicolas Mann said he was aware of the court decision and he expected students to behave responsibly while remaining on campus.

“We expected something of this nature and it’s not surprising, and the council is expecting the students to be rational,” he said.

Despite the court order, more than 30 female students have been locked outside their dormitory since Thursday afternoon.

Students said security guards told them they would not be allowed into their rooms.

Most of the students affected come from outer provinces and have no way of returning home.

The university administration earlier told the ABC although there was a 48-hour notice for students to vacate, it could be flexible for students who were unable to go back to their home provinces.

Student leaders have demanded that the university pays for the flights for student from distant provinces as most stay in dormitories on the campus, a suggestion shot down by Education Minsister Malakai Tabar.

But Tabar indicated they’re on their own.

“We don’t have any money to send anybody home. If they want to go home, they go home on their own,” he said.

Tabar said the students boycotts had brought complications to the whole university system and that staff were trying their best to prevent the whole academic year becoming a write-off.

UNPG officails are now trying to secure additional government funding in order to reincorporate the suspended first semester into an extended academic year.

- PNC sources