UPNG students protest over offensive comments

4:26 pm on 12 May 2023
UPNG students protest over offensive comments.

UPNG students protest over offensive comments. Photo: RNZ Pacific / Scott Waide

Students at the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) are marching to Parliament House in Port Moresby in protest over offensive comments made by Foreign Minister Justin Tkatchenko.

Tkatchenko was responding to public backlash over a TikTok video - depicting luxury travel and high end shopping - posted by his daughter during a taxpayer funded trip to King Charles III's coronation in London.

In an interview with the ABC, he called the critics "useless" and "primitive animals".

His comments have been condemned by the PNG's opposition leaders, but the Prime Minister James Marape says Tkatchenko has apologised for his comments and Marape has asked people to forgive him.

University students began gathering this morning around a banner hoisted outside the campus and marching to parliament in the last hour.

"It is not just about the offensive comments," UPNG student Michael Pais said.

"The primary reason is the manner in which money has been spent on this trip and the extravagance displayed whilst our people lack the most basic services," he said.

"The minister's response shows a blatant disrespect for PNG."

The Papua New Guinea Trade Union Congress held a news conference this afternoon and has issued a strong statement calling for Tktchenko's removal as foreign minister.

"We will not accept the apology given to the Prime Minister [Marape]," Police Union president Lowa Tambua said.

"It is not a matter for the Prime Minister to decide if we should forgive forget. It is a matter for the 10 million people of this country to decide," he added.

UPNG students protest over offensive comments.

UPNG students are not happy with Justin Tkatchenko calling Papua New Guineans "primitive animals". Photo: RNZ Pacific / Scott Waide