God, mammon & coronavirus

Old duffers
Old duffers on PNG Attitude have quite a bit extra to chew over in these troubled times....


‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’ - Matthew 6:12

TUMBY BAY – There has been a lively discussion about capitalism and neo-liberalism on PNG Attitude for a number of years now.

Most of it seems to be among the blog’s cadre of old duffers ruminating about their lives and the current state of the world.

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That their names may live on

Rev James Chalmers - Tamate
Rev James Chalmers (Tamate) - his name & the names of many other heroes of PNG will be remembered forever


WABAG - Today, 8 April, is the anniversary of the untimely death of Rev James Chalmers – ‘Tamate’ – who was killed and cannibalised along with Rev Oliver Tomkins and local missionaries on Goaribari Island in Western Province 119 years ago.

When I think about their horrible deaths, the names of four friends come to mind who were all posted to serve in the Western Province at some stage of their careers in the 20th century.

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The turbulent story of Enga

Cr Paul  Kiap Kurai with his father's last wife Kipaukwan and some of his children at Kaiap village_
Cr Paul Kiap Kurai with his father's last wife, Kipaukwan, and some of his children at Kaiap village


WABAG - One of the greatest feats Kurai Tapus accomplished occurred in World War II when he accompanied Daniel Leahy and a group of men to rescue eight missionaries including five Catholic nuns hiding from the Japanese in the jungles of Wewak.

What is intriguing about this story is whether Kurai recognised Leahy as the other white man who had come to Tole on that dark day of the mass killing some nine years previously.

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Good strategy needed to beat Covid-19

Allan bird
Allan Bird - "This is a fight for survival. If we spend all our bullets and deploy our troops in the wrong corridor, we will lose the war"

| East Sepik Governor | My Land, My Country Blog

WEWAK - It is critical that any government be given all the information it needs to combat any issue. Covid-19 is no exception.

We all know that our response to many issues has been generally poor in the past. My fear is that we are taking this same approach to Covid-19.

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Virus: Creeping authoritarianism no answer

USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam (US Navy screenshot)
USS Theodore Roosevelt in Guam - epidemics have been a persistent part of Guam’s history (US Navy screenshot)

| Asia Pacific Report

AUCKLAND - A rather beautiful Guåhan legend is rather poignant in these stressed pandemic times. It is one about survival and cooperation.

In ancient times, goes the story, a giant fish was eating great chunks out of this western Pacific island. The men used muscle and might with spears and slings to try to catch it.

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A paradigm shift amidst a pandemic

Yamin Kogoya - "The pandemic is revealing the cracks in society, about how unprepared the system is when it comes to uniting people against a common enemy"

| Edited extracts

CANBERRA - The creation of an illegal Indonesian state in the sovereign nation of West Papua has brought death and unprecedented catastrophic destruction to Papuan ancestral homelands.

The Indonesian government, with the complicity of Western governments and institutions such as the United Nations (who supported the absorption of West Papua into Indonesia in the 1960s) are guilty of crimes against humanity.

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It’s our attitude; it is us

Alexander Nara - "If we are hit hard, what will be our response if everyone we love starts falling in numbers, leaving behind corpses we are never allowed to bury?"


PORT MORESBY - I find it traumatising enough to think that we may have failed to avoid this fatal breach by death itself into our society, security and sovereignty.

We can blame ignorance, I suppose, which shares the bright lights with our negligence towards Papua New Guinea’s sovereign borders.

It is sickening to imagine what will transpire if coronavirus spreads undetected into our midst.

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Hey Rio! Get back & fix your mess

How Rio Tinto left the once pristine Jaba River - now a toxic 40 km drain to the coast


NOOSA - The Human Rights Law Centre in Melbourne has said Rio Tinto Ltd should fund an investigation of health and safety issues and clean up the environmental mess from the Panguna copper and gold mine in the 20 years from 1970 to 1990.

It says the review would be a starting point for compensation talks and negotiations about rehabilitating the old minesite at Panguna and nearby waterways including the ruined Jaba River.

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Spin, prayer & missed opportunities

Indonesia-PNG border at Vanimo


TUMBY BAY - Apart from yesterday’s proposal by East Sepik governor Allan Bird to shoot border crossers from Indonesia, the most astonishing recent Papua New Guinea government statement came from prime minister James Marape on Monday 31 March.

If the report by Glenda Popot of FM100 is accurate, the Covid-19 crisis has prompted the prime minister to admit that “the country’s health system lacks proper resources and care facilities including basic medical drugs”.

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Coronavirus: What our correspondents say


NOOSA - I don’t like to be morbid, but the imminent escalation of coronavirus in Australia and, most likely, Papua New Guinea require a reflection.

This modern plague is costing many lives and many more livelihoods. And in Australia its spread, until very recently, was facilitated by our political leaders and their subjugated medical advisers who, for some wild fancy, believed it could be micro-managed.

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The story of how ‘gavman’ came to Wabag

Jim Taylor and Michael Leahy
Early highlands explorers Jim Taylor and Michael Leahy


PORT MORESBY - The colonial Administration utterly failed to understand why native people in the vicinity of Wabag patrol post vehemently opposed the government establishing contact with them.

Colonial kiaps described the native people as the “most difficult to be found anywhere” for continuing to oppose them after a base was established in Wabag during the Hagen-Sepik patrol of 1938.

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Fear & loathing in a time of virus


ADELAIDE - This morning I went out to undertake a mundane task; that being to purchase a few items from the local supermarket.

Upon arrival at the place, it soon became apparent that it had been looted by persons unknown. Many staples like rice, pasta, sugar and meat had vanished from the shelves. Paper products like toilet rolls and tissues were non-existent.

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Frieda River mine ‘unfit for purpose’

The Frieda River


WEWAK - A civil society organisation, Project Sepik, has called for the rejection of the proposed Frieda River mine saying that the environmental impact statement is ‘unfit for purpose’.

The copper and gold mine proposed to be located in the remote Sepik region, would be the largest ever mine in Papua New Guinea and one of the largest in the world.

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4,000 nurses to strike over coronavirus

People last-minute shopping in Kokopo ahead of the coronavirus lockdown (Kalolaine Fainu  The Guardian)
People last-minute shopping in Kokopo ahead of the coronavirus lockdown (Kalolaine Fainu,  The Guardian)

| Guardian Australia

PORT MORESBY - Four thousand nurses are expected to participate in strikes across Papua New Guinea this week over concerns that the Pacific nation lacks the medical supplies and funding to handle a potential coronavirus outbreak.

The industrial action follows a sit-in by nearly 600 nurses in the capital of Port Moresby on Thursday over concerns about the lack of personal protective equipment for medical staff.

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African swine fever found in highlands

John Simon  Minister for Agriculture and Livestock
Agriculture Minister John Simon - swine fever was suspected in February when 336 pigs in died in Mendi

| PNG Today

PORT MORESBY - The multi-million pork industry in PNG is under threat with the African swine fever now in the country.

The swine fever is a virus which causes a hemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in domestic pigs, killing pigs in large numbers as quickly as a week after infection.

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The wave is coming, says top medico

Dr Mathias Sapuri - More than 6,000 cases of interest but PNG is doing very little coronavirus testing


PORT MORESBY – Dr Mathias Sapuri, chairman of Papua New Guinea’s medical board, says he believes that coronavirus is already present in the country.

“Our two closest neighbours, Indonesia and Australia, are climbing exponentially with Covid-19 cases,” he said, “and so they are serious risk to us especially after the PNG lock down period.

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Experts warn of PNG health catastrophe

| Canberra Times | Edited

CANBERRA - At his meeting with fellow G20 leaders on Friday, Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison called for international focus on the plight of Pacific island nations and said Australia was "reconfiguring" its development assistance to support the operation of critical health services and manage the economic impact.

According to the ABC, this includes the reallocation of $22 million of existing aid commitments toward a COVID-19 support package for the Papua New Guinea government.

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Michael Dom: A young poet comes of age

Michael Dom 2
Michael Dom - "Picks up the ordinary and mundane, and projects it on to a page and makes us see what we are unable see on our own"


26 Sonnets: Contemporary Papua New Guinean Poetry, by Michael Dom, JDT Publications, March 2020, 66pp. ISBN-13: 979-8621-24-062-2

Free download 26 Sonnets eBook by Michael Dom

PORT MORESBY - I have great respect and admiration for the bold and measured language in Michael Dom’s poetry.

Reading this collection assured me that Dom is willing to take up forms of poetry that are structured and articulated through very specific rules of construction.

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5,000-year-old artifacts rewrite PNG history

Some of the stone tools and art from the Waim site (UNSW - Ben Shaw)
Some of the stone tools and art from the Waim site (UNSW - Ben Shaw)

| Ancient Origins | Edited

With thanks to Fr Garry Roche who brought this important research to our attention

DUBLIN - Scientists have unearthed ancient artifacts in the Papua New Guinea highlands that settle a longstanding archaeological argument regarding the emergence of complex culture in PNG.

About 10,000 years ago, the climate changed to better suit the planting of crops and the Neolithic revolution that brought about agriculture emerged in different parts of the world at different times.

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An enduring book about Australian bastardry

Behrouz Boochani would have made a great Australian


No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison  by Behrouz Boochani, Picador, 2018, ISBN: 9781760555382, 374 pages, AU$15 from Amazon Australia.

TUMBY BAY - I’ve been holding off reading this book for a while. I’m not really sure why.

Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t face the misery and the pathos of that I thought it would depict. Perhaps it’s because of the sense of shame that I thought it would provoke.

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The fallacies at the heart of neo-liberalism


ADELAIDE – In the extract from his book, ‘You’ll Never Work Again – The Great Safety Charade’, Bernard Corden has given us a great example of where letting the market rip, unfettered by effective regulation, combined with blindingly obvious conflicts of interest, leads to disaster in the service of accumulating vast profits.

And, once again, "the weak suffer what they must".

Continue reading "The fallacies at the heart of neo-liberalism" »

Praying to ‘Gote’ at a time of coronavirus

Daniel in Manus
Author Daniel Kumbon in Manus before his failed attempt to return to his family in Wabag. He is now in Port Moresby


PORT MORESBY - The woman next door continues to pray day and night pleading with God to take this pestilence away from Papua New Guinea because the people are innocent, they did nothing to bring the virus into the country.

Alone in her house, she prays and sings worship songs in both Tok Pisin and the Enga language.

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Informal economy needs virus protection

Street market - a large part of Papua New Guinea's daily trade and commerce relies on the informal economy


PORT MORESBY - As the spread of coronavirus claims thousands of lives throughout the world it has also brought economic hardship to many countries.

Businesses and governments face a bleak future with economic activities shutting down and the movement of people becoming more restrictive.

In Papua New Guinea the government recently introduced a state of emergency after a foreign mine worker travelling to PNG’s second biggest city Lae tested positive for the virus.

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Am I A Whore Now


Many young women are becoming victims of revenge porn. In Papua New Guinea, one nude photo is enough to turn you into a whore or porn star. The stigma sticks and it can be a traumatising experience for the women. I hope this poem can help people understand and sympathise with victims. More importantly, I hope victims know that there are people who see their worth - WDIB

Am I a whore now for loving you?
Am I a bitch, too, for trusting you?

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After the crisis – more of the same?

Australian businessman Gerry Harvey - bragging about doing well out of coronavirus panic and exulting in other people's distress


TUMBY BAY - There is an interesting and still underlying debate going on about what will happen once the COVID-19 crisis abates.

On the one hand there is the expected conservative view that everything should return to normal.

This is promulgated by most politicians in Australia and elsewhere and seems to be the accepted view of businesses and the public at large.

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Remote business never easy in PNG

Map of the Sepik region by Bill Brown


BRISBANE - In 1970 we sold our Vanimo stores and bulk fuel depot to Steamships Trading Company.

Mr Lee, the manager of Steamships Madang, had approached us to negotiate the transaction. He was such a fine person to deal with.

Then, 36 years later, Steamships, by now owned by the British multinational Swire Group of Hong Kong, also purchased our stores at Aitape.

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Planning for resilient island communities

Kinjap - Consultant Wendy Lee at BRCC planning workshop (Peter Kinjap)
Consultant Wendy Lee and participants at the climate resilience development planning workshop (Peter Kinjap)


PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea's Climate Change and Development Authority (CCDA) is implementing a K93 million Climate Investment Fund grant to secure greater climate resilience in small islands and atolls.

The project started in 2016 and will end in 2021 in Bougainville, Manus, Morobe, East New Britain and Milne Bay.

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Learning important coronavirus lessons

PNG Defence Force (Alexander Nara)
PNG Defence Force personnel have been assigned to assist in the fight against coronavirus (Alexander Nara)

| My Land, My Country

LAE - So it’s a global pandemic with well over 16,000 dead already, 380,000 infected and less than 103,000 recovered.

It was a national health worry. But within days, it became a national emergency.

The prime minister taking advice from the National Security Council, a state of emergency declared and police commissioner David Manning appointed emergency controller.

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'The patient Earth is sick....'


TUMBY BAY - While a number of conspiracy theorists, alarmists, doomsayers and social media terrorists have tried to insinuate that there is a link between the coronavirus epidemic and climate change, more level-headed minds have been trying to alert us to the connection between the health of the planet and the health of humanity for some time.

In 1993 the Norwegian physician, Per Fugelli, wrote: "The patient Earth is sick. Global environmental disruptions can have serious consequences for human health. It's time for doctors to give a world diagnosis and advise on treatment."

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Cry me a river – The Rabaul Queen disaster

Rabaul Queen survivors await rescue - 246 were picked up; as many as 500 died


Extract from ‘You’ll Never Work Again – The Great Safety Charade’ by Bernard Paul Corden, self published, 2019, 1058 pp. A thorough examination from global sources of how corporate barons – large and small – so often place their employees and the public at unconscionable risk. Download 'The Great Safety Charade'

BRISBANE - On 2nd February 2012 the MV Rabaul Queen ferry capsized and sank with the loss of approximately 150 passengers in treacherous waters off the northern coast of Papua New Guinea.

Despite holding a current but somewhat superficial seaworthiness certificate, the congested, overloaded, listing and dilapidated rust bucket departed from Kimbe in West New Britain the previous day.

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Now we learn they can’t handle a crisis


TUMBY BAY - One thing is becoming abundantly clear as the coronavirus epidemic rapidly escalates.

And this is that any government based on an ideology of neo-liberalism is the worst possible model to deal with a crisis of this magnitude.

This is most apparent in the USA, the home of laissez faire capitalism, where confusion reigns supreme and the virus is uncontrollably rampant.

But it is also becoming evident in Australia.

At the moment there are huge queues of people outside Centrelink offices who have lost their jobs because of the lockdown of businesses.

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Marape declares state of emergency

James Marape and health minister Jelta Wong


PORT MORESBY – Following the detection of the first coronavirus case in Papua New Guinea late last week, in an emergency meeting yesterday the national executive council decided on the implementation of a series of tough measures to stop or slow the spread of the disease through the country.

“This is not just a health issue but a national security issue,” prime minister James Marape said in a public statement, adding that it will have profound effects on the economy, law and order and education.

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The old priest & the young councillor

Alois Alapyala Yolape (right) speaking with Paul Kurai at opening of new Leptenges churchDANIEL KUMBON

WABAG - Alois Alapyala Yolape often thanks Fr George Schubbe publicly, even though the priest is dead, for playing an important role in getting him elected for the Monokam council ward in the Ambum Valley 57 years ago.

Recently, he again acknowledged Fr Schubbe at a new church opening at Leptenges near Sirunki, where his late mother was born.

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Coronavirus & the ignorance of privilege

Simon Jackson (2)
Simon Jackson; Will coronavirus forge a new realisation of the world as it is, or reinforce the bastions of privilege?


AUCKLAND - Like many people who have lived deeply in developing countries and been exposed to crises people in 'developed' nations see only on TV or at the movies, an observation by Chris Overland in PNG Attitude yesterday hit home for me.

Amongst much else worth thinking about, Chris wrote in 'Coronavirus: A warning from history', that whatever else awaits us in the aftermath of this coronavirus epidemic, “we will not be able to sit here, fat, dumb and happy, while bad things happen to other people."

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Sepik boosts border virus surveillance

Wutung entry facility at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (RNZ - Johnny Blades)
Wutung entry point at the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea (RNZ - Johnny Blades)

| Radio New Zealand | Edited extract

AUCKLAND –Members of parliament in Papua New Guinea's Sepik region say they'll fund bolstered surveillance of the international border with Indonesia.

West Sepik province hosts the main land access point between PNG and Indonesia where coronavirus cases are surging.

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Coronavirus: A warning from history

Indian pangolin. Some people believe coronavirus entered the human domain because the pangolin  (found in Africa and Asia) is considered a delicacy in China


ADELAIDE - I spent 32 years working in various capacities within the health, hospital and aged care sector.

It was a continuous learning experience for me and one which, despite the anxiety and distress it sometimes generated, was richly rewarding in providing insights into the nature of humanity.

A fascinating part of my long term learning experience was working in the public and environmental health division of South Australia’s department of health.

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How much aid ‘leaks’ into corruption?

Double-talk-and-corruption (C Gado)
The double talk of aid and corruption (C Gado)

| DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - Is development aid an effective solution to lifting countries out of poverty?

Some argue that aid plays a central role in promoting economic development in the poorest countries, while others are still very sceptical.

A recent World Bank research paper has added to the debate (and garnered a lot of media attention) by drawing a strong link between World Bank aid flows to poor countries and deposits from those same countries in international financial havens like Switzerland, Singapore and the Cayman Islands.

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Expats flee PNG as Australia shuts borders


PORT MORESBY – Even as Papua New Guinea's airline, Air Niugini, announced it will cease carrying inbound international passengers from midnight tomorrow, expatriate workers and their families were flooding back to Australia to escape the closure of its borders.

Australia has been a late starter in providing an adequate response to the spread of coronavirus and even now there is controversy about whether it has done enough.

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Crack down on international flights

Air Niugini
Papua New Guinea joins the global aviation shut down

| NBC News

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea is shutting down international flights amid Coronavirus fears.

Flights in and out of Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Sydney, Honiara and Nadi will cease next Sunday.

Prime minister James Marape said flights will be limited so as to only allow “controlled entry” from Brisbane, Cairns and Singapore.

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The tragic flight of Mary Madsen

Cessna 180
The Cessna 180 Skywagon was a common aircraft in 1960s PNG


MELBOURNE - In the mid-1960s, Mary and her partner, ‘Mads’ Madsen – no-one used his given forename, ran a small trade store at the top end of Angoram’s infamous Tobacco Road, a few metres from the banks of the Sepik River.

Both were in their mid- to late forties, although no-one knew for sure, and kept mostly to themselves in a small house attached to the trade store which they shared, literally, with a collection of possums and cuscuses which, as you’d expect, provided the house with a none-too-pleasant odour.

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The library of unpalatable facts

Still from  ABC-TV footage of what appears to be an extra-judicial killing of an Afghani civilian by an Australian SAS soldier


TUMBY BAY - Apart from the escalating disaster of the coronavirus epidemic, a couple of other unsettling items have come to my notice this week.

The first was the release of the appalling footage of an Australian SAS soldier executing an unarmed villager in Afghanistan in May 2012.

The second was an email relating to a horrible and disgusting incident involving police and defence force personnel in Papua New Guinea in 1998.

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Coronavirus a testing time for Marape

With its first possible case of coronavirus just recorded, James Marape and his government know that they face a testing time

| The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

SYDNEY - It’s been a volatile week for the PNG Hunters.

The Papua New Guinea rugby league team was celebrating on Sunday after staging a late comeback to clinch a 32-30 win against the Souths Logan Magpies in the first round of the Queensland Intrust Super Cup last weekend.

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PNG announces coronavirus measures


PORT MORESBY - The Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) has been put on alert as the health minister, Jelta Wong, formally declared coronavirus as a ‘quarantinable disease’ under the country’s health laws.

On Tuesday, the PNG national security council met to discuss additional control measures in light of the worsening crisis in Australia and surrounding countries.

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Coronavirus forces changes to SDA program

SDA church in Goroka

| Adventist Record | Edited

MARYLAND, USA - Preachers from other parts of the South Pacific will no longer be going to Papua New Guinea for a harvest program scheduled for May.

Church officers consulted with the PNG Union Mission about the inherent risks of the coronavirus pandemic before taking the difficult decision.

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The protection of PNG’s democracy

PNG flag raising (Department of Defence)JEFFREY WALL
| Australian Strategic Policy Institute

CANBERRA - One of the questions frequently asked about Australia’s closest neighbour, Papua New Guinea, is whether a military, or other, coup is possible.

Over the 40-plus years of my association with PNG, my view has been consistent—it is possible but fortunately highly unlikely.

There are two reasons why I have always been confident in this assessment.

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The hind foot competition

The Peië grasshopper

| Transcribed by Emily Bina

KOTIYUFA VILLAGE 2013 - Gholou-e valley, before human beings arrived, was occupied by two tribes of grasshoppers. One was the dull brown coloured Ganu tribe. The other was the multi-coloured Peië.

During the dry season, as leaves of plants matured and died, the food source for grasshoppers would diminish. As the dry season got longer, the competition for good green leaves to eat became intense.

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