Common sense must prevail

Editorial
Source:
The National,Thursday June 16th, 2016

NOTWITHSTANDING the refusal by Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down from office as petitioned, the voice of university students has been clearly heard.
And they can be rest assured that after they had petitioned the Prime Minister and more so following last Wednesday’s police shootings, it is no longer business as usual within the corridors of power in Waigani.
Point made, point taken and massive public sympathy has already been won.  If theirs was a voice against any one ruling political party or individual in power at the moment, the constituency is neither deaf nor blind.
The students have made a statement and the political leadership, as well as the voting public, have heard it loud and clear. Rather than being content with what they have achieved, the students have chosen to prolong their boycott of classes.
That they did at the risk of creating dissent and division among themselves, which has resulted in life-threatening confrontations at the Lae and Goroka university campuses this week.
What started as a protest by an apparently unified student body, triggered by the student representative council at the University of Papua New Guinea and catching on at the other state universities, has unfortunately dissipated into ethnic and regional clashes among the students.
It now appears that the universities’ academic programmes for the year would be very difficult to salvage if the boycott continues beyond this week.
The announcement by Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari to convene a crisis meeting with vice chancellors of the state universities may be a little too late.
Firstly, because the on-going student boycotts over the past month or so has affected the academic calendar of the universities so much that the saving the remainder of this first semester would seem unlikely. Secondly, because the prolonged student protests have not only affected students themselves but businesses and government institutions in centres outside of Port Moresby. They have suffered extensive damages and loss already at the hands of students or opportunists.
The Prime Minister’s refusal to step down in response to the students’ petition has forced students to change tack and revert to plan B, part of which a protest march to the Parliament when it was in session to petition MPs to take up the fight to change the leadership of the county.  The protest march was stopped by police and resulted in a violent confrontation that left several students seriously injured.
The chain of events following the shootings and fighting among students in Lae and Goroka now call into question the capability of the student leadership and their ability to maintain the unified stance they had at the start of the protests.
It appears that there is clearly a division between students who want to continue with the boycotting and those who want to return to classes.
As a result, there is a sense of confusion which has given rise to the events in Lae and Goroka and several more students have been wounded and hospitalised in campus fights over whether to resume lectures or otherwise.
Unfortunately, students at the University of Goroka have reportedly started vacating the campus yesterday following Tuesday’s fighting.
A fact that must be remembered by the current crop of student activists is that there are among our current political leaders, bureaucrats and private business people, some who were starry-eyed young people during their university days and who had marched on Waigani shouting anti-government slogans.
Some now seem to have thrown out that youthful idealism or have been rendered impotent in the whirlpool of political and moral decay that you are fighting against. Perhaps, after having made your point, would it be advisable to now stand back and learn all you can.
Perhaps change that you and the rest of the suffering public are eagerly earning for may not happen immediately.
Bide your time, learn and then turn the tide when you have the opportunity.
That change, unfortunately, cannot be brought on by semi-educated village folk but a well-educated young generation. That requires university education which you are sacrificing at the moment.
That is the hope of parents, sponsors and all who indirectly contribute to university education.