Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Salamaua school forced to close by cult violence

THE growing violence among high school students in Papua New Guinea continues unabated – the latest victim Morobe’s Salamaua Secondary School, The National reports.

Provincial authorities have suspended classes indefinitely after most of the 800 students fled following a fight involving cult members at the weekend.

Salamaua is the latest education institution in the past week to be hit by cult and ethnic violence and destruction of school properties – the others being Mainohana Catholic High in Central and another Catholic-run school Fr Peter Secondary (Fatima) in the Western Highlands.

The Education Department has not officially commented so far on these three incidents.

In the latest violence, according to reports reaching Lae, two male students, allegedly members of a school cult group, were seriously injured and were admitted to Salamaua health centre after the fight on Monday.

Most of the students fled in fear of their lives; some took refuge in the bushes while others returned to Lae yesterday.

Salamaua local level government manager Joe Paru said the fight started on Sunday night and escalated the next day, forcing authorities to close the school.

According to reports, tension had been building among the different students’ groups for the past two weeks following a confrontation between two Markham students and members of a cult group at the school known as the “panel beating squad”.  

The squad members demanded money from the male student before beating him up for breaking the cult law of walking with a female companion and refusing to pay a “fine” for this “offence”.

His fellow Markham and Wampar students, fed up with the questionable activities of the cult, retaliated on Sunday evening by bashing up the squad members, injuring two students, believed to be from Sepik, in the process.

Paru said yesterday the panel beating squad was a threat at the school which even teachers feared but could little to stamp out.

It is led by Grade 10 students and made up mostly of students from the notorious miles area outside Lae.

The squad forces other students to take part in their alcohol drinking and marijuana revelries; those who refuse are usually beaten up.

“Many problems at the school are instigated by these hoodlums,” Paru said.

Rain and rough weather prevented Lae police from travelling into Salamaua by banana boat on Monday and again yesterday.



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