FROM PAUL OATES
Thanks for your newsletter that I read with great interest. The Internet can be an amazing vehicle for getting and keeping in touch. Two of my posts on the Ex Kiap site have resulted in the sons of old PNG friends getting in touch with me, sometimes years after I first put the post on the website.
In regards to recreating ASOPA, there are really three main issues that I can see:
1. To recreate ASOPA or a similar entity at Middle Head would require the Federal government to resist selling off the asset
2. The links with past colonial administration would have to be overlooked by say, the present crop of PNG leaders, and
3. The cost of bringing those people from the Pacific to Oz and being housed here would have to be worth the benefits of not enacting the training locally.
From a cultural perspective, you would no doubt be aware of the 'melt down' occurring to our near north. The 'Melanesian way' is unfortunately, very susceptible to promoting graft and corruption without any accountability. To train people here and then release them back into an environment where the training will have no real impact, is like trying to put a bandaid on a dying man and hope it may help.
I was heartened by the support for the concept being shown by the PNG Governor-General who clearly wants to do something positive for his country. There are a number of people I know who would want to do the same, merely because we have enormous regard for the country and it's people. The essence of the trouble is, DFAT and the current PNG leadership have every reason to keep the status quo in place and almost no reason to change. Throwing more money at the 'slow train crash' that is happening before our eyes will only help 'grease the tracks'.
What's the answer you may well ask? Well, clearly it's not more of the same. The nub of the problem is the need to have responsible and accountable government. Until you get that in PNG, there won't be any change, apart from some temporary and cosmetic filling of the visible pot holes and putting up self congratulatory signage. The rot starts from the top. If the collective will is there to actually achieve some dramatic and long lasting change, I for one would be very happy to lend all the support I can. I know of others who would also feel the same way.
Keep up the good work.
Thanks for you note, and I appreciate greatly your sentiments and support. I also appreciate your thoughtful and provocative contribution to the Ex Kiap website, which helps keep discussion about PNG alive amongst the many friends that country has in Australia and elsewhere. Friends who, you and I are both aware, regard with dismay the state of this wonderful place that, in our youth, offered and gave us so much.
The 'new ASOPA' idea is just that. It's not a solution. It's one way of trying to make tangible the notion that, at the end of the day, if we don't interact with good will and firm purpose, nothing of value will be achieved.
I'm alive to the view that what I've proposed may be seen to be a bit of a 'talk shop' - but I think talking is OK so long as the discussion is about matters of mutual concern and how these may be mutually addressed and how it's pretty good to be talking in a directive way about serious matters that need resolution.
There hasn't been nearly enough of that between PNG and ourselves for a very long time. Certainly not at the level of interested citizens who feel a bit of PNG in our blood - and who see the relationship as personal and important. In 20 years time most of us who have a first hand feeling for PNG will be gone. And I think with us will go a lot of passion. And perhaps a lot of the promise of a really close relationship.
So, for me, the 'new ASOPA' is an opportunity. There will undoubtedly be others that pop up from time to time. It's fine for Heavy Kevvy to sign a 'Port Moresby Declaration' but, at another level, I feel we must create avenues to say to those people we thought we knew so well at the time we lived among them: ‘We're still here; we're willing to lend a hand. Forget about government, this is personal.’
With very best wishes.