STUDENTS BURN THREE UNIVERSITY OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA VEHICLES

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PORT Moresby, Papua New Guinea (April 7, 1999 - Post-Courier)---Alleged arsonists torched three vehicles owned by the University of PNG at the Waigani campus early yesterday morning.

The vehicles -- a 25-seater bus, a 15-seater bus and a utility vehicle -- were locked inside the grounds of the buildings and estate division along with other pool cars. UPNG security men said the culprits scaled the fence and set the vehicles on fire. Security boss Mike Moir-Bussy said the incident happened around 5:00 a.m.

According to him, they were tipped off at the weekend that something would happen and he had placed additional guards in the vicinity. He said, "We strongly suspect that students are involved -- a splinter group, about half a dozen, that is not happy with the SRC’s (Student Representative Council’s) preference for a solution in a peaceful and democratic way."

He also said his men had heard an explosion, rushed there, found the fire and called the firemen who arrived in minutes and put it out. Mr. Moir-Bussy added that the activities were similar to the burning of another vehicle at the forum last week.

Regarding this morning’s incident, Mr. Moir-Bussy stressed it was "stupid" and "no longer funny," adding that it could have been nasty with a petrol pump located within the premises. He said security people were conducting interviews with eye witnesses and were close to finding the culprits.

Apart from the vehicles, a bomb threat before 9:00 a.m. at the library sent students and staff fleeing outside. A staffer later told the Post-Courier that they returned to work at 11:00 a.m. after security checks showed the place was safe.

The president of the SRC, Benny Tanda, has condemned the burning of the vehicles. He said the SRC executive met on Sunday night and agreed that students should continue normal classes while the independent committee set up by the government looked into the grievances on the restructure. While calling the act criminal, Mr. Tanda said if it found that students were involved, then they were acting without the SRC’s blessing.

He said the university community was made up of other people apart from students, and he alleged that retrenched workers who were frustrated with the university administration could be behind the arson. This claim, however, was dismissed by Mr. Moir-Bussy.

In another incident, students from Enga and Bougainville clashed on Good Friday. Mr. Moir-Bussy said a group of drunk Bougainville students had returned from a party and were rowdy, and an Engan tried to stop them and was stabbed. Mr. Moir-Bussy said the cut was not severe and the victim was rushed to hospital.

Other Enga students retaliated and attacked the Bougainville group on Sunday. Mr. Moir-Bussy described the incident as minor and that the two groups were now engaged in peace talks to solve the matter.

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