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Student journalists at the University of the South Pacific have condemned the Papua New Guinea police for the “highly reckless” open firing into a crowd of unarmed students in Port Moresby on Wednesday.

In a statement today to Asia Pacific Report, the Fiji-based USP Journalism Students Association (JSA) said its members were “deeply shocked and saddened” by the reported shooting, causing gunshot injuries to at least eight or more people who were taken to hospital.

According to some news reports, four students were rushed to the Port Moresby General Hospital in a critical condition, while four others sustained minor injuries.

Some news reports have cited 23 injuries from the shooting incident.

The shooting occurred after more than five weeks of protest over a disputed arrest warrant for the country’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill for a police investigation into alleged corrupt practices.

The USP JSA said in its statement that it “strongly feels that the PNG police department grossly overreacted and behaved in a highly reckless manner”.

It added: “This kind of behavior from the authorities will only aggravate the situation.”

Double standards
JSA president Shalveer Singh expressed his disappointment with the double standards being practised.

“On one hand political leaders encourage youth to voice their opinions, but on the other hand, when they start voicing out their opinions, they are intimidated by higher authorities,  and in this case, shot at and severely injured.”

Singh said the PNG authorities must put a stop to this double standard and must immediately apologise to the students and families concerned.

“As Pacific island university students, we stand strongly behind our PNG student brothers and sisters. We deeply sympathise with their predicament,” he said.

The JSA said that it “strongly feels that the shooting should not have happened and must not happen again”.

“Surely there is a better way to bring the situation under control. In order to de-escalate the situation, there should be an urgent inquiry into this incident and the immediate suspension of the perpetrators until a full investigation is done,” Singh said.

“Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims and their families. We wish this issue is swiftly and peacefully resolved without any further loss of life or injuries.”

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