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Students to continue protests

Friday 10 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Papua New Guinea university students have signalled they will continue to boycott classes in their ongoing protest against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

The University of Papua New Guinea has obtained an injunction to stop protests after a number of people were hurt when a student march on parliament turned violent.

Police opened fire as students were trying to march from their campus in the capital, Port Moresby, towards parliament.

Police commissioner Gari Baki said 23 students were injured, four seriously, local news site EMTV reported. He said an investigation would determine if they were shot.

A handful of police officers were also injured, he added.

The students want Prime Minister O’Neill to stand down to answer corruption allegations, which he denies.

O’Neill is also facing a possible no-confidence motion in parliament.

On Thursday, protest leader Noel Anjo told Reuters news agency that the students’ demonstrations would continue despite the ban.

“We’re not going to give up,” he said. “The students are not going to give up until and unless the prime minister resigns or surrenders himself to police and is arrested and charged. This fight will continue.”

The court order also bans students from continuing to boycott classes, which they have been doing for the past five weeks.

The country’s higher education minister, Malakai Tabar, welcomed the injunction, Australia’s ABC News reported.

“The overwhelming majority of students simply want to go to class, sit their exams and proceed to the next semester,” he said, while blaming the violence on “thuggery”.

Amnesty International has condemned the police shooting of protesters in Papua New Guinea as a disgraceful attack on the freedoms of assembly and expression.

The NGO’s director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Rafendi Djamin, said the shooting of students was reminiscent of the worst excesses of repressive regimes in the region.

Djamin said Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s reaction, denying that police targeted students and only fired tear gas and warning shots, was completely inadequate.

He said O’Neill’s claims and statement that placed blame on the students directly contradicted several first-hand accounts of the violence.

Djamin said O’Neill should not seek to evade responsibility and instead establish a thorough, independent investigation instead of allowing authorities to investigate themselves.

- PNC sources