UNIVERSITY OF PNG SAYS IT MAY BE FORCED TO SHUT DOWN

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (March 17, 1999 - Post-Courier)---The University of PNG has warned students that if they continue to boycott classes into next week, the administration will be forced to close down the campus for the year.

The notice was contained in a letter from Academic Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr. John Luluaki to Student Council President Benny Tanda yesterday. Copies were also sent to Vice Chancellor Dr. Rodney Hills, the Registrar and all acting deans.

In a related development, the National Court yesterday ordered student leader Benny Tanda and his executives to refrain from conducting any forum or public awareness on the university restructure. Dr. Luluaki noted that the boycott, in the past few days, had brought about significant implications.

"If the boycott of classes continues this week, or if students are forcibly prevented from attending classes through physical intimidation or threats, it would become difficult, if not impossible, to continue the academic program in many faculties this term and consequently the entire 1999 academic year," said Luluaki.

He says if the boycott continued, it would be impractical to continue with classes and the school year would be forced to terminated for the year.

Dr. Luluaki called on Mr. Tanda to guarantee an end to the student boycott.

"If I do not get a response from you by 7:45 a.m. on March 17, I will assume that you are unwilling to make this guarantee and that students are agreeable for the boycott to continue," said Luluaki.

When Mr. Tanda was asked late yesterday about the warning, he denied knowledge of the letter.

He said the University must have a very good reason to shut down the campus, and find tickets for students to return home.

Dr. Luluaki stressed that students involved in acts of harassment would face disciplinary actions.

Vice Chancellor Hills issued a circular to all teaching staff, informing them to continue to arrange classes.

Dr. Hills said the suspension of classes was not initiated by the University, but by students, and added that if the lecturers faced harassment, they should refrain from teaching.

The office of the Education Minister, Muki Taranupi, said that Prime Minister Bill Skate has summoned the minister to a meeting this morning over University’s problems.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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