Police attack students

Wednesday, July 24, 1996

By Norm Dixon

Police fired tear gas and several rounds of live ammunition at protesting students in Port Moresby on June 29. Several students were injured when hit by buckshot or tear-gas canisters or trampled in the ensuing panic as police violently tried to prevent university students from marching on parliament.

Students were protesting against a recent decision by the University of PNG Council to increase student fees by K90 (A$90) for the second semester.

Police refused to allow the students the right to march despite their having earlier reached an understanding with local divisional police commander Philip Taku. When the students protested, the police opened fire with tear gas and shotguns.

EMTV reporter Benny Malaisa was attacked while he was taking pictures of two students being arrested. He was punched, kicked and struck with a rifle butt. His camera and videotape were damaged.

Students finally succeeded in presenting a petition to the prime minister calling for the user-pays policy to be dropped. Education minister John Waiko said the government would not reverse its policy. Students won a partial victory, however, when Waiko said the PNG government would pay the increased fees.