16 Jul 2013

Two critically injured following military attack on PNG students

5:19 pm on 16 July 2013

An attack by military personnel on students at the University of Papua New Guinea have left at least two people critically injured.

Dozens of soldiers armed with guns, knives and iron rods allegedly assaulted students, staff and security officials from the Medical and Health Sciences campus in Taurama yesterday.

The vice president of the university's Student Representative Council, Nou Vada told Beverley Tse the rampage took place after two disputes, the first of which began on Friday.

NOU VADA: A member of the PNG defence force and a student of the University of Papua New Guinea medical faculty had an altercation of some sort. This is with regard to an automatic teller machine. The soldier, I believe, was trying to move in quickly to use a machine, not withstanding the fact that there was actually a line of people queued up trying to use the machine. Words were exchanged, and I believe a scuffle happened. Now, the soldier, the following day - this would be Saturday - returned with some of his cohorts and proceeded to have a fight with students on the campus. The police intervened and it was understood that Sunday was supposed to be the time when the conflicting parties came together - that is the students and the defence force - to work out the situation and come up with a solution. On Saturday there was a big fight inside the campus. Armed military personnel in military uniforms in military vehicles entering the campus and assaulting students, male and female, and staff, as well, when security personnel are on the campus. These military personnel opened fire on students and on property. They attempted to set the dormitory on fire. Five rooms were damaged. Many students were assaulted. We understand not one but a couple are in critical condition. We're trying to confirm the exact number of injured, which students are in critical condition, which ones were at Emergency but have been discharged already.

BEVERLEY TSE: Do you know how many students were injured or how many students were hospitalised?

NV: In my view, there are scores of them injured, I would say between 20 and 30, even 40, students injured. These are knife wounds, axe wounds. We're talking about soldiers who have iron rods as weapons. We're hearing reports of a student who was shot. We're trying to confirm that right now. We know one was stabbed and he's in critical condition right now.

BT: If the police were present at this meeting how did things end up escalating?

NV: Basically what happened was that the mediation meeting kind of fell apart, and both parties returned to their own areas. What we saw a few moments later was a regrouping of these members of the defence force moving through the campus.