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UPNG Punishes 12 Over Class Boycott

PORT MORESBY: Twelve students have been found guilty and penalised for violating the laws of the University of Papua New Guinea during the boycott of classes against fee increases last year, the National reports.

The 12 are among 14 students, including a female, who were charged with assault, harassment, consumption of alcohol, property destruction, obstructing the university in its duties, and inciting other students to behave like them, and referred to the university disciplinary committee this year.

According to Pro Vice Chancellor - Academic Affairs, Dr Thomas Wagner, these students and not 32 as reported by the media, were charged specifically for their actions during the 1999 strike against the 25 per cent fee increases.

"This strike was not about free speech and students who spoke against the university have not been charged but we have charged those who committed specific activities such as assaulting lecturers and students and damaging university property," Dr Wagner said on Friday.

He said that of the 12 cases evaluated by the Student Disciplinary Committee, 10 were found guilty and given penalties ranging from a fine of K100 and good behaviour bonds to exclusion from studies for one to three terms. Two students were acquitted.

He said one of the students had inflicted K900 worth of damage and that many of the SRC rules were violated.

"By charging these students we're setting a stage where students are guaranteed freedom of speech," said Dr Wagner.

UPNG Registrar Vincent Malaibe said the university would definitely be tightening up on discipline, more rules will be enforced and there will be more security and he asked students to concentrate on their studies.

"UPNG has an obligation to the State and these students' behaviour and conduct is not in the best interests of PNG," said Mr Malaibe.

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