PNG university boycotts enter third week

7:13 pm on 16 May 2016

Students at the University of Papua New Guinea are still refusing to go to class, despite an apparent ultimatum by university management that threatened to end the semester.

Papua New Guinea university students.

Papua New Guinea university students. Photo: RNZI / Johnny Blades

The entire student body has boycotted classes for two weeks protesting the prime minister Peter O'Neill's refusal to step down from office amid a corruption scandal.

The students were to hold a referendum on whether or not to continue with the boycotts last week, but that never happened, and the university said it has no authority to conduct a referendum.

The university's management has told local media that the issues raised by the students were not related to the university and the students should go back to class.

University staff spoken to by RNZ International have said no students turned up on Monday and senior managers were assessing whether it was viable to continue with the semester.

It is not known when a decision will be reached.

The protests have spread to other universities around the country, including the University of Technology in Lae, where the Vice Chancellor, Albert Schram, is urging students to return to class.

Mr Schram said his administration's hands were tied as a referendum on the Unitech campus showed 90 percent of the student body supported the boycotts.

Mr Schram said the students' action was putting added pressure on an already strained academic system and the sooner things returned to normal the better.

"We are in a constant dialogue with them and pointing out that they have a duty to their country but also to themselves and their sponsors," said Mr Schram. "It is very stressful for the university management and this is a political problem which should have a political solution. But our students feel very strongly about it."