Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz
Students of the University of Papua New Guinea gathered early yesterday morning at the forum square on the Waigani campus to vote for a referendum said to be conducted by the Electoral Commission.
However, the vote never happened.
The protesting students have a petition calling on Prime Minister Peter O’Neill to step down and face an alleged corruption investigation. But they refused to hand over the petition to government officials last week when they visited campus without the prime minister.
The Electoral Commission told PNGFM News when contacted that the commission did not recognise the UPNG Students’ Representative Council (SRC) body and they would not conduct any ballot that day.
According to the Electoral Commission’s legal team, the SRC body has no powers to request for referendum to be conducted.
The commission would only respond to a request from the UPNG administration.
The director of UPNG’s public relations, Jim Robins, clarified the administration’s stand that it would not have any say in the referendum or how it would be conducted.
“The university administration cannot request the Electoral Commission to conduct the referendum as we would be in contempt of court if we do that,” he said.
Robins also stressed the statement by the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, Malakai Tabar, saying students should return to class before tomorrow to avoid exclusion from their courses.
‘Threat to democracy’
Earlier this week, the general secretary of the Trade Union Congress, John Paska, claimed current student boycott of classes threatened the country’s democracy.
He urged students to return to class until all legal processes had been exhausted.
Paska has called on workers throughout the country not to join the protest, saying any demonstration is legally baseless.
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- UPNG warns student planned protest ballot ‘bordering on contempt’
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