Solomons’ Students In PNG Threaten To Boycott Classes

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Solomons’ Students In PNG Threaten To Boycott Classes Government has one week to release outstanding allowances

By Charley Piringi

HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, August 6, 2013) – Government-funded Solomon Islands students, studying at the University of the Papua New Guinea’s (UPNG) Waigani campus, have given the government seven days to settle their outstanding allowances or they will protest and boycott classes.

A statement from the Solomon Islands students association (SISA) in Waigani yesterday said failure by the government will result in the students staging a protest.

The ultimatum was issued on Monday and will lapse in seven days time which is next week.

The students’ president Jack To’ofilu, on Monday in a statement reiterated his appeal to the Government once and for all to settle the students’ allowance issue within seven days.

He said the seven day’s notice is being issued as of today (yesterday) after the students have been waiting long enough for their allowances.

The students are now in week seven of lectures without any financial support from their sponsor.

"This letter serves as an ultimatum to the Solomon Islands Government to seriously and immediately settle our students’ allowances within seven (7) days as of today, (Monday 5th August 2013)."

"Failure to do so will result in students taking another step further regarding the issue by staging a protest and strike action."

The letter was also sent to the National Training Unit (NTU) within the ministry of education.

The president said the delay has been so long with conflicting responses from both the ministry of finance and education.

NTU earlier said that they have made submission to the finance ministry for payments to be raised.

But in response the ministry of finance said NTU had advised them not to issue any payments until the students’ academic results are released, something NTU denied.

President To’ofilu said that such issues are things government should priorities and have it immediately addressed.

"This long allowance delay has badly affected our learning. This is a serious matter that needs to be immediately addressed because students have been affected for the last six weeks.

"The government should not ignore our calls as it has an obligation to settle it in due process."

NTU director Selu Maezama when contacted on Monday to explain the issue said that the first payment was raised for students in PNG before those students in Fiji.

He then questioned what went wrong that resulted in the delay and confusion.

"I was wondering what’s gone wrong that resulted in the UPNG students being unable to receive the payments. They were the first ones we have prepared and made their payments and they should have no problem by now."

He said he only received an email on Monday from the ministry of finance querying if the government will meet UPNG allowance or not.

"This was the misunderstanding between us, and in my response I told them that, yes, it was the government that is responsible to meet all these.

"The ministry of finance should have been aware of this and querying us creates misunderstanding between us. I’m just wondering now because we have cleared our part," Mr. Maezama added.

Deputy Accountant General Marilyn Kodoleke could not be reached for comments as she was at the Parliament due to the debate of the Public Financial Management Bill 2013.

Meanwhile government funded students at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji are reportedly facing the same allowance dilemma.

On SISA forum USP Fiji online on Monday, one of the students Whitlam Saeni uploaded a video showing the extent of problem facing the students due to the delay by the government in settling the students’ final allowance payment.

The Government paid part of their (USP) allowances at the start of the semester but that was not enough for the students, it was revealed.

Their problem worsened on Monday when they came together to share the little food they have.

They described it as ‘they have come to a dead end’.

Mr. Saeni said, that was the only thing the students can do because of the situation.

The USP SISA president could not be reached for comments.

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