Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) repatriated to Western Province 34 students studying in East New Britain on Thursday April 28, after clashes erupted between students at the Kokopo Business College and Ulagunan settlers earlier in the week.

The students were caught in the middle of a war zone and forced to seek refuge at the Takubar Isolation Centre before being repatriated.

The 34 students are from Tabubil, Kiunga, and Daru in Western Province, and Oksapmin and Telefomin in the Sandaun Province.

Hannah Hagoba, a first-year Business Studies student said it was a frightening experience for them as they were forced out of the school for their own safety.

“As we boarded the OTML Charter, I felt a sense of relief knowing we were okay now,’ she said.

OTML came to the rescue of the students after it received a request from the students’ parents to assist repatriate the students, who were living outside the school premises since Monday April 25.

Speaking on behalf of the parents, outgoing Deputy Principal-Administration of the Tabubil Secondary School, Ronald Samek, who is a parent of one of the students attending the college thanked OTML for its assistance

“I am very grateful that OTML responded positively and swiftly,” said Mr Samek.

OTML Deputy CEO and General Manager Community and Operations Support, Kedi Ilimbit, said, “OTML responded immediately to repatriate the students given the dire situation they were in of being forced to leave the school out of fear. It is also a parent’s worst nightmare not knowing if your child is safe during a tense and volatile situation.

“The students are the next generation of human resources for Western Province and the country and we are happy to contribute in one way or another to ensuring their safe return back to their homes.”

The clash between students and Ulagunan villagers erupted following the murder of a Western Highlands man in Kokopo last week allegedly by youths from Ulagunan.

According to media reports, opportunists took advantage of the tense situation, entered the college armed with homemade guns, knives and other weapons and robbed students.

A clash ensued which resulted in two of the opportunists killed and four students sustaining serious injuries.