Wanton act of terrorism

The National,Monday June 27th, 2016

THE killing of a PNG University of Technology (Unitech) student and destruction of several buildings at the weekend is a wanton act of terrorism that must be condemned by all law-abiding citizens, including political and civil society leaders.
Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and Higher Education Minister Malakai Tabar were the first to condemn the unprecedented attack at Unitech, which followed last Thursday’s all-out brawl between a group of University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) students and security guards that resulted in the burning of four vehicles.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in that incident but the Unitech attack has taken campus violence to a new level.
“The cruelty of what happened last night is very disturbing,” O’Neill said in a media statement yesterday, indicating the likelihood of a curfew being imposed at the affected State universities “to ensure safety and the respect for law and order”.
Tabar blamed criminal elements for the Unitech attack, saying: “I assure you that the long arm of the law will bring the perpetrators of this murder to justice.”
Whoever was responsible for this barbaric and murderous act must be immediately hunted down by police to face the full force of the law.
Lae police must pursue these culprits within the city and prevent them from escaping to the Highlands or Madang.
The student’s death and destruction of several buildings, including the mess, at the Taraka campus on Saturday night has forced the university management to start evacuating students as of yesterday.
Breaking news of the attack came via a Facebook posting of Unitech vice chancellor Dr Albert Schram’s statement at 5.30am yesterday.
“Around 10pm last night, a group of men armed with bush knives attacked a student in the male dormitories in C block in an apparent targeted attack. We regret to inform that the student passed away a few hours later as a result of his wound.”
Schram confirmed the immediate evacuation of students yesterday.
“The evacuating of most students will be completed during the morning since the university can no longer provide food.”
This is despite the Tabar’s assurance to parents that his office was “doing its best to complete the academic year and that all law enforcing apparatuses of the state will be brought to bear on restoring normalcy to our universities”.
If the objective of those responsible for planning and executing the attack was to force the cancellation of the Unitech academic year, they have somewhat succeeded.
The Taraka campus is now in lock-down mode and the only way for students to return and resume classes is for a temporary messing facility to be provided and strict security measures to be imposed, including the proposed curfew.
An emergency meeting of the National Security Council, headed by Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari, was held yesterday to discuss the issue and make a recommendation to a special Cabinet meeting today to impose the curfew.
As O’Neill said yesterday, “A curfew needs to be imposed on affected campuses and strict controls must be in place to ensure that only students, staff and people with a legitimate reason to be there are able to visit campuses.”
We agree that campus violence can be effectively curtailed and controlled through the imposition of a curfew, which will ensure that students continue and complete their studies in a secure and safe environment.
No doubt, the past few weeks have been traumatic for students, staff and managements of the state universities, especially UPNG, Unitech and the University of Goroka, which have been caught up in the prolonged protest against the O’Neill Government.
The violent clash between students and police at the Waigani campus earlier this month, which left several students with gunshot injuries, and the subsequent clash between student groups at Unitech and the University of Goroka, have caused so much dissention.
Moreover, time has been the students’ greatest enemy as they continued with the boycott of classes.
It was envisaged that normalcy would return to the three universities with the full resumption of classes today but the latest incidents at UPNG and Unitech have only added salt to injury.
Indeed, today will be a day of reckoning for all concerned as the university managements ponder over plans to save the academic year while the National Executive Council decides on the proposed curfew.