“The peace reconciliation must be between the students themselves; the different groups, the different factions, the pro-boycott and anti-boycott group and the different provinces” - UPNG acting chancellor, Dr Nicholas Mann.
“There was no internal conflict between students from different ethnic groups. There is unity between the students of the University of Papua New Guinea. Everyone is in this issue together” – UPNG student leader, Cameron Wari
THE PERMANENT ban on 60 UPNG student leaders from entering the Waigani Campus casts serious doubt on today’s planned reconciliation and peace ceremony.
Student registrations for the restitution of classes disrupted by student protests against prime minister Peter O’Neill’s alleged involvement in corruption ended yesterday. And today a reconciliation ceremony is meant to pave the way for a peaceful start of the program on Monday.
However, when student leaders including student representative council vice president Arthur Amos turned up early this week for registration, they were handed permanent termination notices by the university administration and escorted off the campus by security guards.
Learning of this, I took a taxi to the campus to find out what was going on and spoke to a number of students gathered at a security check point.
“This is the concern at the moment,” one told me. “There is no leader and we have no idea who is going to lead us students and organise the reconciliation. We are confused.”
“I don’t think any student will be willing to lead in fear of repercussions by the university administration,” another said.
Reports said the banned student leaders were given seven days to appeal against their termination, but the notices were received after the appeal period was over.
“The university administration may have deliberately taken that course,” a student remarked. “We will wait and see what happens on Friday.”
I asked two students who walked by what was the general feeling of the student body about the termination of student leaders.
After a moment of consideration, one replied, “I feel the leaders should not be made scapegoats for the whole thing.”
It is in our Melanesian traditions that, in any peace negotiation, there must be two parties and the peace accord has to be signed by the leaders of both sides.
This makes the accord legitimate, binding and an effective working agreement.
It seems today’s UPNG reconciliation ceremony by the university administration will leave the student body leaderless.
This raises the fundamental question of the spirit and legitimacy of the peace accord.
We will wait and see whether it is capable of producing the intended result.
At present, university security is very tight. All campus entrances are closed except for one gate manned by security guards.
“Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty,” said American essayist, poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau. “The obedient must be slaves.”