The National, Monday 26th March 2012
HUNDREDS of university students in Port Moresby have petitioned the government to repeal the Judicial Conduct Act which was passed in Parliament last week.
The students, despite being warned by police that their march was illegal, walked from the University of Papua New Guinea campus to Morauta Haus last Friday.
They handed over the petition to the government’s Chief Secretary Manasupe Zurenuoc.
Police from the National Capital District – some carrying guns –monitored the activities.
The five-page petition was given to Zurenuoc by the university’s student representative council vice-president Dick Loa.
The petition, signed by 1086 students, urged the speaker of parliament not to entertain the gazetted bill.
The students want a response from the government by tomorrow.
Loa said if the governments failed to address their petition, the UPNG would join other universities in the country to plan other forms of protest.
Loa said student council’s president Emmanuel Isaac was visiting other universities to garner support against the controversial law.
The law was passed in parliament last Wednesday by a 63-7 vote one day after it was introduced.
It gives parliament powers to refer a judge to the governor-general who in turn must appoint a tribunal to investigate the judge while the latter is suspended from duty.
The bill received nationwide criticism from non-governmental organisations, church leaders, prominent citizens, political observers and lawyers.
The bill was condemned as a “vendetta” against Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia, a “power-grab” and an unconstitutional document.
NCD police chief Supt Andy Bawa had warned the students before the march that their protest was illegal because their “notice letter” was late.
“Your notice is late because police should have been given seven days notice in advance,’’ he said.
“This is not good because if you march, there are plenty of opportunists out there who will join the march and cause a riot.
“Your security and well-being is important so I ask you students to be patient and let’s come to an understanding.”
The student leaders told Bawa the march would go on with or without police permission.
Bawa was told that if they could not march, then Prime Minister Peter O’Neill or his deputy Belden Namah or the attorney-general should come to the university grounds to get the petition.
Bawa and two student leaders left for Morauta Haus to get one of the three ministers to come.
The students began marching an hour later after they were told that none of the ministers could come to meet them.