Today has been emotional and shocking. Late this morning we began to hear reports of police officers shooting unarmed students at UPNG as they gathered to walk to Parliament Haus in support of the attempted vote of no confidence by the Opposition against Prime Minister Peter O’Neill. This comes after five weeks of student democracy protests in PNG, which received little international media.
Thankfully, after many confused reports of multiple deaths, there have not been any student fatalities in Port Moresby today. My thoughts are with the estimated 36 students who were shot and injured, particularly the two critically injured and in need of surgery. I cannot imagine what your family and friends must be feeling tonight. Perhaps anger. Frustration. Despair.
The fact that these students did not die does not make this event any less harrowing. Our country is currently on its knees. We need to restore our collective respect for life, for education, for freedom of speech, for freedom to protest.
Papua New Guinea cannot move forward in its current state. Our hearts are heavy today with the reality of what our young country has become since independence.
We sometimes forget that the world is watching and it sees so many stories of violence erupting out of Papua New Guinea. On one hand, it’s comforting to know that we are part of and accountable to the international community, on the other, I struggle constantly with having to defend my love for Papua New Guinea considering all the negative media surrounding us.
We cannot allow the actions of a few to destroy what our parents and their parents imagined for us at independence 40 years ago. There is still so much hope for Papua New Guinea if we are willing to claim her back. We tend to act in extremes, to react in the moment without thinking through the consequences.
If there was ever a moment to pause and think - this is that moment. We must draw on our ability to reason and plan for the future.
I hope for a peaceful resolution to today's shootings and for peace to return to Port Moresby.
Words by Amanda Donigi
Image 1 - mourning mothers on campus after police opened fire on unarmed students today at UPNG. Charles Baiisen
Image 2 - Protester shot in Port Moresby. Martyn Namarong