PNG appoints retired judge Andrew to head university violence probe

The old University of PNG printery building, also known on campus by staff and students as the "Book Nook", was set ablaze last week. Image: Loop PNG

Papua New Guinea’s government has appointed retired judge Justice Warwick Andrew as Chair of the Commission of Inquiry established to investigate recent violence at state-run university campuses around the nation.

Justice Andrew will be supported by a team of technical and legal experts that will soon be appointed.

This follows the killing of an engineering student at the University of Technology at Lae by off-campus attackers last weekend, the burning of buildings and cars at the University of Papua New Guinea and clashes at the University of Goroka last week,  and the police opening fire on peacefully protesting students at UPNG on June 8 with some 23 people wounded.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said in a statement the commission was essential in helping to better understand what transpired in recent weeks, as well as preventing a repeat in the future.

“We all need answers, right around the country, to understand the factors leading to the escalation of student protests and the acts of violence that we have seen in recent weeks,” O’Neill said.

“This Commission of Inquiry will be independent and thorough and seek to get to the bottom of this issues identified in its terms of reference.

“I call on all relevant parties to work with the Commission of Inquiry as members go about their tasks.”

The Commission of Inquiry will look into the following matters leading to protests and violence of recent weeks:

  •       The role of the Student Representative Councils
  •       The role of the management of the affected universities
  •       The role of police
  •       Whether there was outside influence and whether students were incited to encourage unrest at the universities.

The full terms of reference for the investigation will be published in the coming weeks after being finalised, the statement said.

Meanwhile, in other developments yesterday reported by Loop PNG after six weeks of anti-government student protests and class boycotts:

    • National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop earlier called on Prime Minister O’Neill to make a bold decision to find a solution to the ongoing destruction of properties and students’ fight at state-run universities. “I call upon the Prime Minister to take immediate and decisive action to arrest the situation,” Parkop said, while he also challenged students to take responsibility of their future and not destroy university property.
    • A group of men broke into two rooms at the Luavi hall of residence for female students at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby around 1am yesterday morning. Only six female students were at Luavi 3 and were located a few floors above the site of robbery.”I heard a loud hammering below me then I heard men walking up and down the stairs,” a final year student said. “I woke up and used my bed to block the door. There were no guards … It’s very unsafe on campus.”
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