The founding father and Governor of East Sepik Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare has condemned the actions of police this morning at the University of Papua New Guinea campus, reports Loop PNG.
“It is inexcusable that unarmed students are fired upon by police as they prepare to peacefully march on to Parliament,” he said in a statement.
“We need to establish who gave the orders for policemen to inflict harm on unarmed students. What warranted police to surround the campus in the first instance?
“Is the university safeguarding the interest of our young people?
Unconfirmed media reports earlier today said Parliament had been told that up to four students were shot dead and at least 13 were wounded, but student leaders were uncertain about numbers.
Police denied that there had been deaths and put the number of wounded at eight. They said the situation was now under control.
Students across Papua New Guinea have been protesting and boycotting classes peacefully for two months in an effort to persuade Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down and face allegations of corruption.
Widespread unrest in several places followed reports of the shootings and Facebook images showed a UPNG classroom ablaze and wounded students being carried to safety at Port Moresby General Hospital.
For Loop PNG, Freddy Mou reported that Sir Michael said: “I call on police to stand down in the interest of the public, you are not there to protect the interest of individual politicians.”
Sir Michael said he have never used the police for his own interest during his time in office and nor should any other individual holding office.
“It is a bad precedent for our emerging democracy.
“I also call on Commissioner Gari Baki to call his men to stand down.”
Sir Michael said Baki could not protect the Prime Minister anymore at the expense of security and safety of the general public.
“I am informed by members of the public and staff that there have been numerous reactions following the actions of police at UPNG and I understand Lae City is also on high alert.
“The government of the day has to be very careful in the steps that they will be taking to protect our democracy and the security of our people.
“I strongly suggest that Peter O’Neill diffuse this situation by stepping down from the Office of the Prime Minister.
“In issuing this statement I want to state categorically that I have no intention to run in the next election my concern stems from the fact that as a senior Papua New Guinean I do not want our country to come undone because leaders are abusing their office at the expense of our people,” said Sir Michael.
Meanwhile, O’Neill in Parliament today strongly rejected the call by the Opposition to step down from office.
He told the Opposition that on the issue of stepping down from the high office, he responded and asked: “Stepping down for what?”
O’Neill said he was always available for any interview and questioning by police in regards to allegations against him or any of his staff.
He said there had never been a question about that.
“The question is about the warrant of arrest as to why we have to run and get a warrant without even conducting an interview at the first place,” O’Neill told Parliament.
He added that “everybody in this country is innocent until proven guilty.”
Earlier, O’Neill pledged a commission of inquiry to investigate the police shootings.