PNG STUDENTS GO ON STRIKE OVER COST OF LIVING

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Demand explanation from government

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 5, 2008) – Students at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology are on an indefinite strike over the high cost of goods and services.

More than 2,000 students at the Taraka campus in Lae, Morobe Province, boycotted classes on Wednesday. The boycott is to continue until the Government explains why the price of basic foods, services and products in the country have gone sky high.

"We have a situation here where the kina today does not have any value, however we are told that PNG is flushed with cash,’’ Student Representative Council (SRC) president Jackson Kiakari said during a open forum at the campus yesterday.

"How can that happen? Everyone in this country is bearing the pain silently and the Government and MPs do not seem to care.’’

Mr Kiakari, who is also president of the National Union of Student, said he was talking with the student leaders from the University of Goroka, University of Vudal, University of PNG and other tertiary institutions to get them involved in the protest.

Mr Kiakari said the students had decided to take this course of action to draw the attention of the Government to the plight of the ordinary people.

"Our parents, our relatives and our workers in town are not able to get a lot of food for K100. This money has no value now," he said.

"This is affecting our school fees and our survival as students."

The Unitech administration yesterday said the forum was part of a NUS movement, not related to issues at Unitech.

Acting vice chancellor Wilson Tovirika said the NUS at its congress held at Unitech two weeks ago, had agreed to pursue this matter and raise awareness on corruption and bad governance which was leading to issues of poverty, high prices of goods and services, drop in basic service such as education, health etc.

"As Unitech SRC president, Mr Kiakari is current NUS chair. It was then left to him to lead the action. They are hoping other universities also join in the protest," Mr Tovorika said.

He said students should refrain from boycott of classes.

"There is just five weeks before the exams, which start on October 17 to 24, and boycotting classes would disrupt preparations towards that," Mr Tovorika said.

"The issues between the students and Kuima Security are still fresh, and the administration does not want any outflow that could occur if any protests got out of hand, driven by opportunists

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