June 19, 2018

Papua New Guinea police open fire on student protest

Mr O’Neill has rejected calls for his resignation

Police in Papua New Guinea have opened fire on students protesting against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Several students were injured but local media say there have been no fatalities.
They were marching from their campus in the capital, Port Moresby, towards parliament, where Mr O’Neill faces a possible motion of no confidence.
The students are demanding that he stand down over corruption allegations, which he denies.
Footage obtained by the BBC appeared to show a large crowd of students at the campus running away as shots and tear gas were fired.
Medical officials in Port Moresby told Reuters that at least 10 students had been admitted “in a difficult situation”.
Images circulating on social media also showed injured students being carried away.
What are the students protesting about?
Political tension in the country has been rising for weeks, with thousands of students at the University of Papua New Guinea boycotting classes demanding the resignation of PM O’Neill over alleged corruption. Classes were officially suspended last month.
What has Peter O’Neill said?
In May, Mr O’Neill responded to a petition from students saying that he would not be resigning. He said the corruption allegations against him were of “questionable political intent”, as reported by ABC.
Why is PNG so turbulent?
Papua New Guinea was ranked one of the most corrupt countries in the world in 2012 by Transparency International.
In 2014, Mr O’Neill himself was accused of fraud by the national anti-corruption watchdog, which issued a warrant for his arrest. The warrant has not been carried out so far.
According to the World Bank, 70% of the country, the most linguistically diverse in the world, lives in poverty.
One eyewitness, David Rupa, told the BBC he was on his way to work when he became caught in the protest at about 08:50 local time (23:50 GMT Tuesday).
He said he could see tear gas and people running for cover and heard shots fired.
“I saw policemen hit and kick girls who couldn’t run [fast enough] and were bashed up. I cried and was told I will be shot if I was going to take photos or video.”
He also said he had seen smoke coming from a dormitory at the university, and that parents were coming down to the campus to make sure their children were not hurt.
Gary Juffa, an MP and vocal critic of the prime minister, said on Twitter he had been told the shooting began with an argument between one student and a police superintendent.
Reports suggest the students had refused to hand over their protest leader to police.
Opposition figures told parliament that four people had died, while some reports said one person was dead. But local news site EMTV told the BBC there had been no confirmed fatalities.
EMTV said the university had suspended classes to deal with the student boycott, but they were supposed to resume this week.
The students were continuing their boycott, however, as opposition parties lodged a no confidence motion against Mr O’Neill.
Mr O’Neill, who has a majority in parliament, has consistently denied wrongdoing and has refused to stand down.

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