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By Staff Reporter : PNG Today

PM O'Neill directs a police investigation into the killing of the student at Unitech in June 2016.

Commentary by PETER S. KINJAP

PRIME Minister Peter O’Neill has directed a police investigation into the brutal killing of the first year student at the University of Technology (Unitech) in June 2016.

The late Graham Romanong was brutally murdered in June while he lay asleep in his room at the Unitech campus.

 Peter O’Neill issued a prime ministerial directive for Police Commissioner Gari Baki’s personal commitment to fully investigate, arrest and prosecute all persons involved in planning, financing and eventual killing of the late young Graham Romanong in his room at Unitech, Lae on June 25, 2016.

He assured the deceased’s relatives and a huge crowd on Monday August 1,2016 at Umbimi village outside Mendi town, Southern Highlands, that all individuals who have involved directly or indirectly will have their day in court.

He told a crowd of more than 5,000 people that those who masterminded, funded and orchestrated the death of late Graham were equally responsible and would be made accountable for their criminal acts.

 O’Neill thanked the late Graham’s relatives, tribesman and the Kambiri people for not taking the law into their hands by seeking revenge.

“When Graham Romanong died you did not take revenge and I thank you for that. You acted in a civilized and matured manner and demonstrated leadership in containing what could have exploded into major ethnic conflict resulting loss of lives and destruction to properties.

 “We can’t be like them (killers), because it is a primitive act, barbaric and animalistic behaviour,” the Prime Minister stressed.

 O’Neill was accompanied by Francis Awesa MP for Imbongu Open and De Kewane MP for Mendi Open.

 The MPs could not attend the actual burial ceremony because it took place during the week Parliament was meeting to deal with the vote of no-confidence motion on O’Neill, sponsored by the Opposition.



The Incident in Lae's Unitech Campus

At around 10pm on Saturday night of 25th June, 2016, a group of men armed with bush knives attacked late Graham Romanong in the male dormitories in C block in an apparent targeted attack at the PNG University of Technology.

"We regret to inform that the student passed away a few hours later as a result of his wounds," said Unitech vice-chancellor Dr. Albert Schram in a statement soon after the killing.

"The management was on the ground immediately, and has been dealing with the situation as it developed. They were assisted by the university police and security guards, plus a few dozen men from the Lae police, who had been called in earlier last week to protect students and university property."

“Subsequently, a group of marauders proceeded to set fire to various academic buildings. The power supply was cut off, and the telephone network went down”, said Dr Schram.

At around 1am, fire was set to the SRC president's residence, DODL and ATCDI buildings, and finally the mess. These buildings suffered substantial damage from the fire.

At around 2am, the Chief Security officer sounded the campus alarm siren, and the Metropolitan Superintendent sent in extra security forces as reinforcements.

"Regrettably, for some time the forces were outnumbered by the marauders, who constantly moved about campus.

“Finally, in a joint effort, the forces deployed on campus were able to disperse the marauders using tear gas."


Violence  in Port Morseby's UPNG Campus

Meanwhile at UPNG in Port Moresby, the protesting students were stopped from leaving the University of Papua New Guinea, where they have boycotted classes for five weeks demanding PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill step down over corruption allegations.

But Mr O'Neill accused opposition MPs of stirring up the students, and said they had made false claims in Parliament that students had been killed by police.

He said five people had been treated at the hospital and were in a stable condition.

Mr O'Neill said the students had thrown rocks at police and "provoked a response that came in the form of tear gas and warning shots".

But he said police stopped several buses filled with students, and then opened fire after the students attempted to march by foot.

A witness, who gave his name only as Stephen, told media that police have since set up a blockade close to the local hospital to prevent relatives from reaching the wounded.

He said there were fears of retaliations.
"It doesn't look good right now. All the shops are shut, all the schools are shut."


Why did the students protest against Peter O'Neill's Government?

The feeling of discontent with the Government especially the Prime Minister Peter O'Neill’s administration, provided the fuel for the violence at the national universities.

A widespread student boycott of the universities and higher education term kicked off in the first days of May, with the University of Papua New Guinea's Waigani campus at the center of the protest.

"If we do not do it, nobody will do it and others outside us will not do it," one of the students at UPNG Samuel Apa said.

"The students, we have this power, this time, to do it and we will do it," Mr. Apa said.

Organized existing student groups, such as the UPNG Student Representative Council and other tertiary student councils across the country, were increasingly aligning with groups such as UPNG Focus and broader coalitions such as the Community Coalition Against Corruption.

The groups were many, but the students' message since the early days of May was singular: the Prime Minister must face the long-stalled and overly-lawyered corruption allegations brought by a range of official corruption squads.


Prime Minister Peter O'Neill avoids facing allegations

Mr O'Neill has repeatedly tried to thwart investigations into allegations that about $30 million of fraudulent legal bills were paid to a legal firm Paraka Lawyers. It is alleged the payment was made on the written insistence of the Prime Minister.

Interviews with one prominent lawyer have suggested some, if not most, of the missing money had been siphoned into Australia to buy real estate or other investments.

But Lawrence Stephens, PNG chair of anti-corruption agency Transparency International, said attempts to find the money or question the Prime Minister had yielded little information.

"Many people are particularly concerned that he has made no apparent effort to work to uncover the circumstances that were involved in that particular law firm receiving the funds that it was receiving or to look for other cases where the huge amounts of money are gone missing," he said.

"In one instance he admits to 8 billion kina lost from trust funds with no sign that there's any interest at the official level in trying to track this.

"People get pretty frustrated. These are trust funds collected by Government on behalf of the people for all sorts of different reasons — landowners, people who are resource owners — their money in accounts and simply lost.

"Those accusations go back over many, many years. He will point out that he has never been found to have committed an offence and so he deserves to be treated as innocent by the law.

"But he's vigorously used every legal channel that he can to avoid presenting the information that investigators are seeking."

Mr O'Neill has been in and out of court with slip rules, stays, interim orders, and the setting aside of appeals.

Along with the shortening of parliamentary years, the defunding of anti-corruption police, and the locking of the gates of the fraud squad, the Prime Minister's accountability to the nation's robust courts has been repeatedly stalled, while Papua New Guineans have watched on.

The students, in boycotting classes from the start of tertiary term from Moresby to the Highlands, have been clear in their call for Mr O'Neill to be accountable to the charges.

On May 19 thousands of them met on the Waigani campus with their parents, citizens and civil groups to put a petition to the PM through National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop.

He promised to deliver it to Mr O'Neill immediately.

However the very next day, Mr O'Neill published a lengthy response, saying: "I wish to state clearly that I have no intention of either stepping aside or resigning from the Officer of the Prime Minister."

It is unclear what caused Wednesday's shooting violence, but it was the student movement that laid the path.

That, and the sudden heavily armed police presence that happened early in the morning on May 17.

Port Moresby police chief Benjamin Turi told Pacific Beat police were present "to make sure there is normalcy back in students' classes, going back to class, and stop all the encouragement by any other students stopping others from going to class".

"We're here as friends, as peacemakers. We're here on request of the [university] council to protect lives and property," Superintendent Turi said, letting slip he was a student protester when he was young.


Posted by Staff Reporter : PNG Today on 3:52 AM. Filed under , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Share this Article

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