Highlands students want end to year

National, Normal


STUDENTS from the six highlands provinces, excluding Chimbu, at the University of Technology in  Lae, yesterday presented a petition to the university administration saying the resumption of classes cannot happen this year following another flare-up on campus on Tuesday morning between Sepik and Highlands students.
There has been on-going fights at the Taraka campus between the Sepik and Chimbu students which resulted in the hospitalisation of two and the death of one, all from Sepik, nearly four weeks ago.
The death resulted in the exodus of Chimbu students as well as those from other provinces three weeks ago out of the campus.
The university’s standing committee and executive management two weeks ago called for classes to resume.
Most of the students who left campus returned last weekend but at a meeting on Monday with vice-chancellor Misty Baloiloi, registrar Allan Sako and Lae police commander Chief Supt Nema Mondiai, made it clear that they would not return to class unless the Chimbu and Sepik students made peace.
Despite assurances from the administration and police that it was safe to return to classes, a fight broke out the next day, Tuesday purportedly between Sepik and highlands students leaving several students injured.
Student leaders from Western, Eastern and Southern Highlands and Enga  as well as SRC president, Justin Herepe, yesterday morning petitioned the executive management saying although it was the wish of the other students to complete studies this year, they would only do so after the Sepiks and Chimbu students reconciled.
“The environment here is not conducive for learning. We feel that it is only right that we return early next year to complete the remaining academic year,” their petition read.
The highlands students were aggrieved that the Sepik students were allowed to congregate in one area although a memo was sent out forbidding gatherings.
They said the administration should not misinform students and the public that all was well on campus when it was not as demonstrated on Tuesday in front of police and security guards.
They also recommended that an external mode of learning such as distance learning be used to complete studies, a complete overhaul of the campus security system and the perpetrators of the killing and fights be arrested and charged.
Meanwhile, Mondiai said restraining orders had been served on both Chimbu and Sepik student groups, stopping them from harassing and intimidating other student groups.
He said police investigations into the initial fight and murder had progressed but students involved were not cooperating with police.
“Police cannot just go out and round up anyone without first receiving a complaint and evidence to support the complaint. We need names and statement of facts,” he said.