FIVE CHARGED IN UNIVERSITY OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA ARSON

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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (April 22, 1999 - The National)---Five students from the University of Papua New Guinea have been charged with arson and destruction of public property after they were arrested by police in a dawn raid on the Waigani campus yesterday.

The students are alleged to have been involved in the burning of government vehicles three weeks ago at the height of protests over the restructure at the university.

A police task force unit, with the help of the university security, raided the student residential areas and arrested 11 students.

Six were later released after questioning by detectives from the criminal investigation branch.

Boroko police confirmed the arrest of the students, and said those charged have not been allowed bail.

Police said they will go through the details of the statements obtained from those released, and will question them further if necessary.

The students have been arrested in their seventh week of their lectures of the ten weeks allotted for this term before their final examinations and assessment.

Chief of University Security Michael Bussy said the students were arrested at their residential halls between 4:30 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.

He said: "The police task force quietly entered the university and arrested the students, who are alleged to be involved in the hijacking and torching of a government vehicle at the forum area on March 30.

"They were also allegedly involved in torching four UPNG vehicles and damaging others at the university's transport pool, cutting telephone lines, and making a bomb threat at the Michael Somare Library on April 6."

Mr. Bussy said the students were arrested soon after police criminal investigators completed their investigation into the incidents.

He had said earlier that his security personnel were aware of the identities of those involved in the two incidents and would report them to the police for investigation.

The Student Representative Council had denied that students were involved in the burning of cars, and blamed outsiders for doing it to cast the blame on students, given the situation at the campus at the time.

A senior academic at the University who spoke after the arrests said a fraction of the students were not registered or had not completed their registration, and some of them were causing problem for others.

It is understood that the university administration would soon go through the lists of students who have registered, and may force non-registered students to leave.

The university's administration staff expressed fear that friends of those arrested might take ''revenge'' by disrupting preparations underway for the graduation tomorrow.

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

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