Friday 26 May  2023

UPNG Chancellor Robert Igara raising concerns made by his students on the content of the DCA at  the dialogue held at the PNG Defence Force Headquarters at Murray Barracks, Port Moresby

The Chancellor of the University of Papua New Guinea  Mr Robert Igara reiterated his students’ call for more insight into the  Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA)  signed between Papua New Guinea and the United States on Monday 22 May 2023.

Addressing the information session at the PNG Defence Force Headquarters at Murray Barracks on  DCA and Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA),  Chancellor Igara expressed concerns about the impact of state decisions on the universities, and stressed the importance of countering disinformation that may influence students.

The university is entering exams period, thus Chancellor Igara appealed for clarity on the ongoing developments and urged government representatives to visit the university and provide a comprehensive explanation on the DCA.

His colleague Chancellor of the PNG University of Technology, Dame  Jean  Kekedo mirrored similar views on the matter during the discourse, and emphasized the need for increased transparency from the government, particularly regarding state decisions concerning the country’s sovereignty and democracy.

Chancellor Kepson of the Institute of Business Studies University (IBSU) supported his fellow chancellors, and clarified that in due process the document will be made public when it is presented for debate in parliament.

Responding to the concerns, and statements raised by the chancellors, the Secretary for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Lead Negotiator for PNG in the DCA, Mr Elias Wohengu gave the assurance that the DCA would position PNG favorably without compromising its sovereignty or democracy.

Secretary Wohengu emphasized his commitment to leading the country in a manner that safeguards these principles.

“The agreement is currently in the framework stage and will undergo thorough debate before becoming fully operational.”

Mr Wohengu appealed to the students, urging them to approach relevant authorities and voice their concerns, and assured them that if a well-structured forum were organized, meaningful discussions would take place.

Secretary Wohengu further called  on all university students to prioritize their studies while assuring his willingness to visit universities alongside the Defence Secretary to address student queries directly.

He reassured the forum that improvements had been made to the leaked draft, taking into account PNG’s laws, legislation, and constitution, and stated that the document will be made available once it is put to the floor of Parliament for debate.

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