EAST SEPIK SCHOOL FIRE: 20 STUDENTS ARRESTED

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By Haiveta Kivia

LAE, Papua New Guinea (September 7, 1999 – The National)---Twenty students from the all-boys St Xavier high school in East Sepik province are being held in Wewak police cells following a fire which burned down a dormitory at the school last weekend.

Wewak police said the students were assisting with the police investigation into the fire and were regarded as suspects in a possible arson crime.

Two weeks earlier, the headmaster of this Catholic Church-run school on Kairiru Island off Wewak received knife wounds when he was attacked by an auxiliary teacher following an argument over food for the students.

This is the second fire which has burned a school property at an East Sepik educational institute.

Just a week ago, a fire believed to have started as a result of a conflict among students burned down a boys' dormitory at Passam National High School outside Wewak.

Six students and a teacher from Passam are currently facing arson charges.

Wewak police said yesterday that the 20 students from St Xavier were rounded up during the weekend after the fire, taken across to Wewak and locked up.

Police said they believe the fire was deliberately set, but they have yet to establish the motive.

The stabbing of the headmaster during the weekend of August 21-22 was reported to provincial education advisor John Wasori last week.

According to Mr. Wasori, the wounds were not serious, although he had ordered the arrest of the teacher in question.

Mr. Wasori said that according to information reaching him, the headmaster was attacked after telling the auxiliary teacher that there was no money to buy food to replace supplies that had apparently been stolen from the storeroom.

Meanwhile, the teacher alleged to be the instigator of the Passam conflict, John Pat Numa, of Hula, Central province, also was charged with arson and has been remanded to custody at the Boram jail in Wewak.

The principal of Gamoga Lawyers, Karo Gamoga, said they had filed a bail application on behalf of Mr. Numa, which will be heard in the National Court in Lae.

The six students, Michael Sisamong, Luis Montai, Kevin Somol, Kaibo Faita, Thomas Lasor and Luke Kalaio, have been released on their own recognizance after spending the weekend in custody at Boram jail.

They must report to the Clerk of Court at Wewak every Wednesday between 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. as part of their bail condition and also must report to the Wewak CID police when requested.

Failure to comply with these conditions will mean the loss of their bail and their being remanded in custody.

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

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