The National – Monday, June 20, 2011
By GABRIEL FITO
A GROUP of Grade 12 students at Passam National High School went on a rampage setting fire to three buildings and looting school property, police said.
The school in East Sepik faces closure after the administration block and ration store were destroyed early yesterday morning.
Fire to the female students’ dormitory was put out by staff and other students.
Wewak police said last night 10 suspects were in police custody and would be questioned over the fire and looting.
Sources said the school would close for an indefinite period after losing all its records and valuables in the fire. The burning down of the two buildings brings to seven the total number of buildings destroyed by arsonists since 2000.
Wewak police responded hours later after receiving a distress call from Passam late Saturday night and arrested the 10 suspects, all Grade 12 students, who were believed to be among 20 others who went on a rampage earlier in the night, breaking into offices, looting computers and other valuables and attempting to set fire to the dormitory.
Eyewitnesses said that the suspects, armed with the deadly wire catapult, scared off staff and students before continuing to destroy school property until after midday when they set the two buildings on fire.
They said they watched helplessly as the buildings went up in flames while the armed suspects prevented anyone from salvaging any item.
Eyewitnesses said the suspects took advantage on the unavailability of police to ensure everything was burnt to ground before they fled into the bushes.
The angry landowners mobilised with police to track down the suspects yesterday while the staff recalled all students to the school hall for a head count to see who was missing.
School principal Theresa Dingu declined to comment, saying officers at the Department of Education would release information on the incident.
However, sources said the suspects were students who were either suspended or reprimanded by the school on disciplinary issues.
Former governing council chairman, Leo Kabilo confirmed that some of the students, who were now in custody, faced the council last year and were reprimanded for indecent behaviour.
Sources said the school was waiting for instructions from Port Moresby.
Deputy landowner chairman John Sambukoi condemned the burning down of the buildings, saying it was not related to the land compensation issue that the landowners were negotiating with the government.