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Thursday 7 July 2016 | Published in Regional

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PAPUA NEW GUINEA – Papua New Guinea Education Minister Nick Kuman is disappointed with the University of Papua New Guinea’s (UPNG) decision to close the 2016 academic year.

He said that the decision will have a negative effect and repercussion in 2017, particularly with the first year students that will attend the university.

Kuman expressed his dissatisfaction after the council of the PNG’s premier university prematurely shot down the academic year because of the law and order situation on campus sparked by a student boycott which was a protest against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

“I am requesting that the council reconsider its decision,” he said.

He said that the government was in the process taken steps relating to the problems at the three State universities – the University of Papua New Guinea, the University of Goroka and the University of Technology.

“We wanted to safeguard the interests of the majority of students who attend these universities, and our position was to ensure curfews in those institutions to bring about normalcy in the running of the universities.

“Unfortunately, the council in its own wisdom terminated the academic year,” Kuman said.

Chancellor Nicholas Mann announced that the university year would end saying the organisers of the protest had broken the law.

“The rule of law has been replaced by mob rule, intimidation, harassment and violence,” he said.

“The learning environment has been turned into a tribal war zone with painted faces, war cries and knife-wielding persons.”

The decision to terminate the 2016 academic year and the suspension of the students’ representative council has not gone down well with majority of the student body.

Student leaders, who represented the four regions have raised their concerns in a joint statement.

They say that the decision to terminate the academic years was “lame” because most of the students were prepared to return to class.

They said the recent incident involving the burning of vehicles and the university printery was not part of the protest but was done by certain drunken students who had a confrontation with the security guards.

The students also said the university council should not use the destruction of the properties as grounds to terminate the academic year as it would have adverse effect on mostly the first year students and the 2017 intakes from secondary schools.

They said the termination would also affect the government sanctioned commission of inquiry into the shooting of students by police.

“The university cannot pass the buck and put the blame entirely on the students. They approved the protest and are now trying to shy away when issues got out of hand,” a student leader said.

The student leaders are calling on the government to immediately suspend the UPNG council and the vice-chancellor for not showing any leadership and effort to resolve the issues.

- PNC/Post-Courier