Court grants UPNG students go-ahead to seek judicial review over eviction

University of PNG students with their lawyer. Image: Loop PNG file

By Ruth Rungala in Port Moresby

Papua New Guinea’s National Court has granted leave to the University of PNG Student Representative Council to apply further for a judicial review of the University Council’s decision on May 24, ordering students to vacate the campus within 48 hours.

The interim injunction yesterday seeking the stay of this order has also been further extended until the matter returns for a directions hearing on June 22.

Justice Collin Makail, however, rejected the SRC’s application for judicial review of the UPNG Council’s decision to deploy police to the campus.

He maintained that the invitation of police to the campus was done to maintain law and order and if students had any concerns about police behaviour on campus, there were avenues available for students to take these concerns up to.

He also rejected the application on grounds that a separate case based on human rights violations was also before the National Court.

In granting leave to the SRC, Makail was satisfied that the student body had sufficient interest in this case as it affected their welfare on campus and that it had the necessary standing to file this case on behalf of students.

The university’s counsel argued that the notice to vacate within 48 hours was sufficient and had been done to give time to the university Senate to meet and restructure the semester and its programmes.

Vacated campus
UPNG registrar Jennifer Popat, in her affidavit, claimed by 6:00pm on May 26, almost three-quarters of the student population had already vacated the campus.

Justice Makail however demanded evidence of head count to verify this and further asked the university’s counsel to provide evidence of a repatriation plan after the 48 hours was over.

The defendants failed to show how their client would have repatriated the students back to their places of origin.

The judge found that the 48 hours was insufficient and granted leave to the Student Representative Council.

Ruth Rungula is a reporter with Loop PNG.

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