UPNG student protests to continue amid threats of eviction
Students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) wil continue their protests, it was reported today, despite the university planning to suspend the first academic semester and to evict students.
Protests have been ongoing at the Port Moresby university for the last month, with students calling for Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to resign his position and face corruption charges. Around 5,000 of UPNG’s estimated 15,000 students have been boycotting classes. The resistance among students has been spreading, with students at the University of Goroka, Lae Unitech, as well as some secondary schools, also joining the demonstrations.
Those students living in residences at UPNG’s Waigani and Taurama campuses were given 48 hours to vacate the area, a deadline which passed on Thursday. Since then, the National Court has intervened to block the eviction notice and academic suspension. Students have therefore been allowed to remain on campus to protest until the court addresses the issue on Wednesday 1 June.
Gerald Tulu Manu-Peni, one of the leaders among the students, has said of the court’s decision: “it’s given hope to the students to carry on what we have started”
Student protests have a long and rich history of affecting social and political change, whether at university or societal level. From protests against the Vietnam War, to anti-apartheid movements in the 1980s, up to present-day demonstrations demanding greater equality or accessibility, students have proven themselves a considerable force. As of this week, Mr O’Neill has refused to step down. Should these protests continue and grow, as they seem likely to do, he may face a more significant problem.