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Protests at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) have escalated, and armed police have moved onto both Port Moresby campuses at the request of the university’s administration.
Students have been boycotting classes for the last two weeks, protesting Papua New Guinean Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s refusal to step down from office despite being embroiled in an ongoing corruption scandal.
NBC News reported that the protesting students had notified police that the boycott would consist of “peaceful awareness activities,” and had received verbal permission to continue with their plans.
UPNG’s student leader Hercules Jim said that alongside wanting O’Neill removed, they wanted to raise awareness of the dire state of PNG’s economy.
“Peter O’Neill must respect the integrity of the office of the prime minister of this nation. Because there are many allegations attached to him, and the people, the university students have lost confidence. That is why we ask him to respect the integrity of the office of the prime minister. Simply, step down and face the full force of law,” he said.
UPNG Vice-Chancellor Albert Mellan issued a statement saying that campuses will be sealed off as some of the students’ activities have become increasingly criminal in nature.
The police force was “called upon to perform its constitutional duty to protect lives and properties,” the notice said.
Opposition MP Belden Namah has stated that O’Neill is using heavily armed police to shut down the protests against him, and this is removing students’ constitutional rights.