Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has called on Papua New Guinea’s university students to “think before you act” and not to allow others to use or influence them.
This was his message as students from four other tertiary institutions across the country pledged support for the student leadership at the University of Papua New Guinea.
Registrar Jennifer Popat ordered students and staff back to classes today but while students were on campus in numbers, they were reportedly staying out of the classroom.
PNG Today reported O’Neill as saying: “They [others] will not be there for you when you are in trouble,” he said.
“Take it from me. I was a victim of outside influence when I was a student at the UPNG.
“I was involved in student protests and strike because people told us that we, students, were the protector of the rule of law and representative of the silent majority.
“When I was in trouble, no one came to rescue me. All the friends and people who influenced me were never there when I needed them.
“They simply disappeared. I was left to fend for myself. From then onwards, I vowed not to engage in student’s strikes and protests,” O’Neill said.
He appealed to students to go back to class and resume normalcy in the campus.
“Your education is priority. Do not risk it.
“The matters which you raised are in in the courts. Respect me and the rights of others.”
Meanwhile, students at other universities around the country have pledged their support to the UPNG Students Representative Council (SRC) leaders and students on their stand.
The Divine Word University in Madang, Unitech in Lae, University of Goroka in Goroka, and the University of Natural Resources and Environment in Kokopo have joined UPNG students in demanding Prime Minister O’Neill to step aside and surrender to Police for questioning.
Loop PNG reported that even though UPNG staff were on campus today – as instructed by the registrar’s circular yesterday – lecture rooms were still empty.
The director of UPNG’s media unit, James Robins, said that staff had been threatened by rebel students.
“Some students also want to attend classes but they have been intimidated,” he said.
Some had now resorted to emailing their assignments to their lecturers.
“All we need is normalcy to come back so everyone can be productive,” Robins said.
“Lecturers and tutors are being paid but they haven’t been productive for the past two weeks. They’ve been here but students haven’t been.
“This is non-productive money down the drain.”
Robins was explaining registrar Jennifer Popat’s statement on Sunday.
The registrar had said the disruptions had resulted in millions of kina losses to the university and its stakeholders, including loss of learning time to students.