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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post Courier, Mar 10) – A forum at the University of Technology Taraka campus yesterday turned rowdy, with students mobbing the chancellor Philip Stagg and other executive members.

Mr Stagg, vice chancellor Misty Baloiloi, university council members and other senior officers had to run for the administration building to escape the mob, who attacked with sticks and stones.

Lae police Metropolitan Superintendent Simon Kauba was also among the officials attacked, although the stones and sticks missed him, he said later.

The rowdy students threw stones at the windows of the vice-chancellor’s office, shattering the glass as well as damaging the walls.

The 15-minute melee erupted while Mr Stagg was responding to a petition by the students in which they had called on the council to order Mr Baloiloi and his executives to step aside so the national academic staff could return to work.

This, the students petition said, would allow for classes to resume immediately.

The student leaders had told Mr Stagg during the forum outside the administration building they had exhausted all the avenues to convince authorities to intervene.

The student leaders said the allegations by the National Academic Staff Association (NASA) could be investigated later.

They said all they wanted was to get back to classes as they had already missed two weeks of classes due to the strike by NASA.

The student leaders had gone to Port Moresby last weekend and met with Higher Education Minister David Basua as well as officials from the Office of Higher Education but returned unsuccessful.

Mr Stagg, in his response, said he alone could not make a decision and he would call a meeting of the council today to make a decision before informing the students. Students shouted abuse, demanding an immediate answer. Mr Stagg’s move to block students questions directed at vice chancellor Mr Baloiloi also added to the students ire.

After the melee had calmed Mr Stagg and the other officials returned and continued to address the forum.

Many students who spoke pleaded with Mr Baloiloi and his senior managers to "voluntarily step-aside", but Mr Stagg explained the matter was before the courts and the legal process needed to be followed.

The National Court in Waigani had ruled the NASA strike illegal and had ordered the arrest of the union leaders for contempt of court.

City police chief Mr Kauba explained later although the court had made its decision and issued the orders, the Unitech administration had to present the orders to police with directions to effect the arrests.

Police were on standby outside the university gates, which the students ordered locked until the forum ended.

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