By Carmella Gware in Lae
University students carrying out awareness in the Highlands region of Papua New Guinea have received overwhelming support from the rural population.
The University of Technology’s Student Representative Council (SRC) deputy chairman and Eastern Highlands student leader Livingstone Fontenu, said that about 4000 people turned up at their first forum at Goroka last week.
About 5000 students were evicted from the campus of the University of Papua New Guinea last week, although the students have filed a challenge in the National Court. Students throughout Papua New Guinea have been calling on Prime Minister Peter O”Neill to step down and face corruption allegations.
“A handful of policemen and provincial government workers, who had children in universities, came and told us to go ahead with the [Goroka] forum,” Fontenu said.
“The public made a contribution of K1840 to us that day.”
The next day (Thursday), they travelled to Henganofi to conduct their awareness on the current issue that PNG is facing with its economy, including the call for the prime minister to step aside and clear his name.
“Around 900 people were present to listen to us,” said the student leader. “Henganofi contributed K470 to us.
Raining but big support
“We drove to Kainantu and had the last forum at around 2pm. It was raining but the support was overwhelming.
“They contributed around K1200 and gave it to us.”
Unitech was accompanied by representatives from the University of Papua New Guinea and the University of Goroka.
The students have so far campaigned in Madang, Morobe, East Sepik and the Highlands region, except for Hela Province. This is because the province is still mourning the loss of late governor Anderson Agiru.
The Eastern Highlands police warned the students from carrying out awareness or protests in the province due to the death of UOG acting vice-chancellor Dr John Kola.
“However, we all knew that this is a national issue so since there was no time to lose, we went ahead to stage the awareness,” Fontenu said.
Police are reportedly looking for the student “ringleaders”.
“We are waiting for them (police) to come arrest us here.
“We received independence on a golden plate, no one shed blood for this country. No one understands what it means to be free, no one cares and respects its sovereignty.
“We are more than ready to take a bullet for the love of our motherland.”