I REFUTE Willsman’s letter from Kiunga appeared that appeared in The National.
He wrote: “I never forget those moments when students especially from the University of Papua New went on strike”.
I don’t know whether he took part in the strike at that time, but he went on to point out that, “the government’s decision on privatisation brought about a lot of confusions and uncertainties”.
I was a student back in 2001 when we UPNG students protested and asked Sir Mekere Moratua who was then the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea with PDM lead party to stepped down as his government planned privatisation of the bank and all other major government enterprises, including PNG Telecom, Post PNG and Air Niugini, which will inevitably will destroy thousands of jobs.
We protested against his government’s plans – dictated by the IMF and World Bank.
On June 18, 2001, we discuss and made a public campaign to oppose the IMF measures and the proposed changes to land laws, which will require all customary or communal land to be registered so that it can be leased or mortgaged for corporate exploitation.
After voting to boycott classes and seek wider support, we marched to the central government offices near the parliament on June 20, 2001, to demand that Morauta receive our four-point petition.
Morauta refused to meet us to get our petition.
Sir Mekere’s government unleashed the police against us resulting in death toll of about three students – one UPNG student from WHP and causing injuries to about 18 people including a 10-month old baby.
Sir Mereke’s arrogant has shown defeat of ruling PDM Party which made him losing his seat as well as Paias Wingti losing his WHP Governor’s seat to Tom Olga then.
The petition called for the government to resign if it did not halt the privatisation of national assets and land registration, expel IMF and World Bank officials and end all borrowings from the bank.
These all articulated from PNG struggling economy in which Morauta pledged to implement the IMF-World Bank blueprint in return for badly needed loan where his government at that time has a K178 million budget deficit, international investment has continued to plunge and the currency, the kina, has remained at near record lows.
There was evident that every measure taken by his government to carry out the IMF-World Bank program, however, including the military downsizing and the overturning of a minimum wage rise at that time, has provoked popular hostility.
During that year, Sir Mekere shut down parliament for seven months in order to avoid a vote of-no-confidence motion.
No government has shut down the parliament but Sir Mekere has created history.
Nick Tyson Bota