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Marat claims only Engan students support the Chief Justice

By Kolopu Waima

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, March 28, 2012) – The University of Papua New Guinea (UNPNG) Student Representative Council (SRC) has condemned Attorney-General Dr. Allan Marat’s alleged accusation questioning the integrity of Engan students on Radio New Zealand in the strongest possible term.

Dr. Marat’s claim that the protest march mounted by UPNG students against the Judicial Conduct Act 2012 last Friday was the working of the students of Enga Province, who were biased towards the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, who himself is an Engan.

UPNG SRC President Emmanuel Isaac in a statement yesterday brushing aside the "unsubstantiated" public statement by Dr. Marat said: "In fact three-fifths of the SRC executives are Engans but that does not guarantee us to pursue our own vested personal interest which is unbecoming. As such, we did not capitalize on the controversial bill as a pretext to protest the suspension of the Chief Justice."

Mr. Isaac added the whole student body petitioned the Government to repeal the controversial Judicial Conduct Bill in the best interest of the nation. It is the students’ social obligation to the silent majority.

"The peaceful protest march last Friday was initiated and agreed to by the whole student body after a thorough discussion at the Forum Square at which equal opportunity and time was given to all provincial student leaders to make their stance. They aired their official stance to the student body and all 22 provinces representatives motioned to march the following day – and we did!

"That reflects the neutrality of Engan students and the whole student body as a whole and that this was not only the doing of Enga students as alleged," the SRC resident said.

He has urged Dr Marat, one of the most respected ministers, not to make purportedly unsubstantiated public statement which might discredit the integrity of Engan students and the whole student body.

The students demanded an immediate apology.

[PIR editor’s note: PNG University of Technology students are also planning a boycott on classes in order to support other universities condemning the recently-passed judicial bill. Unitech students have also questioned the speedy nature of the law's passing by the government, which allegedly was accepted without public consultation or discussion.]

Meanwhile, the students in a separate statement said what Dr. Marat needs to understand is that the protest was a direct result of a resolution passed by the Student Body at the General Forum Meeting last Thursday and not a single Engan student body at UPNG.

"In fact, students from Dr. Marat’s own New Guinea Islands region were some of the most vocal and active members of the march and committees behind it. However, we do not deny that of the UPNG’s five SRC executives, three are Engan and the others two are from the Mamose Region. But in organizing this march, students from all provinces played important roles in key aspects of the march and putting together of the petition," the students said.

They added that the petition was drawn up by a committee chaired by a student from Sepik and the committee that prepared the Opinion on the Bill was chaired by a Papuan.

"We did not see along regional lines, we stood together for each other and for Papua New Guinea, organizing our successful march to Marauta House. We find the Justice Minister’s statements most unhelpful, and is the kind of thinking that would tear up unity on the Campus right now," the students said.

Even the Prime Minister acknowledged the UPNG petition in his address to the nation on Sunday night as being "in the public interest."

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