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57 posts from May 2009

The candidates’ statements: Gimanama Crowdy

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the forthcoming PNG Association election to write about their aspirations for the organisation. We publish responses in the order they are received.

Why have you nominated for election to the PNGAA committee?

I would like to see Papua New Guineans more involved in an organisation like PNGAA. To meet the organisation's goals it is important to communicate with the community and I feel I am in a good position to do  that.

What would you say is your single highest priority for the organisation’s future?

To involve PNGAA with what is going on in the PNG community here and in PNG.  Also I want to make Papua New Guineans aware of what PNGAA does.  There are lots of people in PNGAA who love PNG, but most Papua New Guineans here don't know of PNGAA's existence.

What other things do you want to achieve in your leadership of the PNGAA?

Get to know people and what they do, and learn from the experience of PNGAA members.  There is an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience in the PNGAA membership, and to learn from this and share it more widely is a great opportunity.

Can you sum up why members ought to vote for you?

I am in a good position to liaise in an appropriate way between PNGAA and the community in Sydney, and have good contacts in other community groups.  I am aware of the complex history behind PNGAA and feel I can act in a sensitive and effective way.

Tomorrow - Terry Chapman; Tuesday – Sue Ward; Wednesday – Colin Huggins. Previously: Bernard Oberleuter, Chris Diercke. In addition to these statements of intent, you can read biographical information about all candidates on the PNGAA website here.

The candidates’ statements: Chris Diercke JP

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the forthcoming PNG Association election to write about their aspirations for the organisation. We publish responses in the order they are received.

1 – Why have you nominated for election to the PNGAA committee?

To be a constructive and active participant with the new, realistic and contemporary PNGAA direction.

2 – As a potential committee member, what would you say is your single highest priority for the organisation’s future?

To ensure that this organisation achieves and maintains cohesive, purposeful, realistic and meaningful direction according to its charter and majority membership.

3 – What other things do you want to achieve in your leadership of the PNGAA?

I am very enthusiastic about establishing and maintaining strategies, resources and general support for recording and archiving PNG oral and written history.

4 – In a sentence, can you sum up why members ought to vote for you?

I am totally committed to the new PNGAA charter; I am a very energetic team worker who is more than willing to promote the innumerable facets of PNG and its history.

Tomorrow - Gimanama Crowdy; Monday - Terry Chapman; Tuesday - Sue Ward; Wednesday - Colin Huggins. Previously: Bernard Oberleuter. In addition to these statements of intent, you can read biographical information about all candidates on the PNGAA website here.

PNG criminals are better armed than police

PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki will tell the Ministerial Committee on Law and Order next week that his police force will grind to a halt unless hundreds of millions of kina are spent to resurrect it.

The PNG National has reported that there is a serious threat that PNG Police will soon be unable to maintain law and order.

Police see the meeting as a last-ditch effort to get Government support. Mr Baki says the lack of adequate funding over the years since independence in 1975 has taken its toll on the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

PNG has 4,800 police, half of whom have reached retirement age and, of the remaining 2,400, half are approaching retirement. Mr Baki says the situation has reached crisis point.

The Police require K50 million extra for housing, vehicles and to buy equipment needed to fight crime.

Police say PNG criminals are better armed than they are and, in the event of major civil unrest, Police will find it difficult to maintain peace in the community.

Source: ‘Dying force - Police facing shutdown warns Baki’ by Oseah Philemon, The National, 29 May 2009

1964-65 CEOs reunion planning well advanced

Sue Ellison

It appears our number for the ASOPA Cadet Education Officer 1964-65 reunion will be approximately 26. There maybe one or two to come on board closer to the date and a few elusive bods who have been in contact but not this year. Thanks to all those who have responded in one way or another.

The idea for a booklet of autobiographies or life histories is going ahead. Ken Grant and Keith Wilson have written theirs. The idea is that each autobiography is accompanied by 'then and now' photos. This applies to everyone whether you are attending the reunion or not.

Keith and Ann Wilson are unable to attend but Keith has contributed his tale. As Ken is the coordinator for this project could autobiographies and photos be forwarded to him. I don't mind forwarding on if you'd prefer to send to me. Ken's email is below.

Here is an up-to-date list of those attending: Annette & Malcolm Ashe; Sue & Kevin Ellison; Ken Grant; Gabriele Litfin; Ed Brumby & Partner; Rik & Ursula Ralph; John & Gaye Barclay; Robyn Edmonds; Col Ridding; Don Williams; Warren & Jill Enks; Mick & Didamain Uibo; Janine & Barry Paterson; Kevin & Jenny Bourke; Carol Thomas; Sue & Rob Linton

Please consider contributing to the life histories book. It can be as brief as you like. No more than one A4 page is required.

1964-65 Cadet Education Officers Reunion: Cairns, 30 September – 3 October

You can email Ken Grant here and Sue Ellison here.

The candidates’ statements: Bernard Oberleuter

PNG Attitude invited each candidate for the forthcoming PNG Association election to write about their aspirations for the organisation. We publish responses in the order they are received.

1 – Why have you nominated for election to the PNGAA committee?

My nomination for Committee membership was prompted by many ex Territorians and family members living throughout Australia. I feel I can make a positive contribution to foster enduring friendships between PNG peoples and the vast number of Australians who were pioneers in forging and preparing PNG for self-government and ultimately Independence.

2 – As a potential committee member, what would you say is your single highest priority for the organisation’s future?

My single and highest priority for the organisation's future is to enhance cooperation, development and partnerships between our two peoples in open and transparent dialogue.

3 – What other things do you want to achieve in your leadership of the PNGAA?

We all have very fond memories of PNG. I was born there and grew up as a citizen. I chose to live in Australia to give my family a better quality of life. Each and every member of PNGAA has a duty to make a contribution to the kantri we once called home.

I would like to see a Permanent Cultural Committee established to coordinate and promote the diverse traditions and culture of PNG through dance troupes (singsing groups) visiting Australia on frequent cultural exchange programs.

I respectfully suggest the creation of a volunteer body within the PNGAA membership, under guidelines to be formulated. To this end, I would like to establish a human resource data base of ex senior bureaucrats, technocrats, education professionals in primary, secondary, technical, vocational and tertiary institutions, agriculturalists, agronomists, health specialists, doctors, nurses, surgeons, radiographers, light house technicians, engineers, accountants, finance and taxation, and former kiaps that could be co-opted for ad hoc projects. Given the will and by our own unselfish contributions, we can make a difference toward improving the quality of life for the rural and remote peoples of PNG.

I would also like to see the PNGAA establish a scholarship program to enable two Grade 12 high school students to study in Australian Universities.

I would like to continue the good work of the PNG Friendship Trust started by ex combatants (soldiers) who fought in the World War 2 to promote the welfare of Papua New Guineans especially in areas where Australian service personnel fought.

Tomorrow - Chris Diercke; Sunday - Gimanama Crowdy; Monday - David Weeden; Tuesday - Terry Chapman. In addition to these statements of intent, you can read biographical information about all candidates on the PNGAA website here.

Ilya's new PNG blog really delivers the news

PNG Attitude - and many readers - have commented previously on the dearth of qood quality and balanced information about PNG affairs in the Australian media.

Well, now, AAP‘s Port Moresby-based PNG correspondent, Ilya Gridneff, one of only two foreign journalists reporting out of our nearest neighbour, has established a valuable new resource for people interested in PNG affairs.

Papua News Guinea, as the website is cleverly titled, includes material Ilya is reporting from PNG for AAP – much of which never sees the light of day in Australia.

This means that the blog provides an excellent service and an augmentation to the National and Post-Courier websites, which are essential reading for people who want to stay in touch with happenings in PNG.

The blog also provides an opportunity for Ilya’s fascinating photos, and he’s no slouch in this department either. The site is worth visiting for these alone.

Papua News Guinea is a site to be bookmarked and visited regularly. You can find it here.

Time to get behind the Montevideo Maru film

John Schindler

Most Australians have never heard of the Montevideo Maru.

When the ship was torpedoed and sank on 1 July 1942, it became Australia’s greatest maritime disaster - and a tragic loss of life on a large scale.

An estimated 1,053 Australian men and boys, military personnel and civilians, died, and sadly their bodies still lie deep at the bottom of the ocean. They were prisoners of war captured in Rabaul and locked in the hold of the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru.

I’ve been leading the production of a documentary film The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru which honours the memories of the lives of these forgotten Australians and pays tribute to their ultimate sacrifice.

The film also gives overdue credit to the Australians who made a stand against the Japanese invasion of New Ireland and New Britain, where they were heavily outnumbered.

We’ve filmed numerous amazing interviews and collected important archival footage and photographs related to this untold story. Many people have given generously of their time, equipment, professional skills and advice to get this film made.

So far we’ve spent funds and received support worth in excess of $500,000. But, sadly, we have now run out of money - and the project is not finished.

To complete this project we aim to raise a further $1,000,000 which will enable us to shoot a significant number of re-enactments that will bring this compelling story to light. In this way, we will ensure that the bravery, sacrifice and tragedy are no longer overlooked.

The documentary is now scheduled to be released and screened on Remembrance Day, 11 November 2009.

I’m asking you to make a tax deductible donation to this historic project. Or, if you know of other people who might offer financial support, please let us know.

Call me if you have any questions or can help in some other way and please visit the web site here or email me here.  My phone number is (07) 3267 0515.

The 'chalkie myth' (and the 100,000th visitor)

Following expressions of concern that the composition of the candidates'  list for the PNG Association elections may be "chalkie dominated", I’ve just done what we used to call in the ABC a 'quick and dirty' analysis.

By my reckoning, it does show that seven of the 18 candidates have, at some time in their lives, been involved in the education sector. That's interesting statistically, but so what?  Most left the classroom to pursue equally interesting careers doing other things.

Of more interest are the six candidates born in PNG (including two Papua New Guineans) and the eight who live in places outside Sydney.

Earlier this year there was a lame attempt, out of Brisbane I think, to get a ‘kiap versus chalkie’ story up and running on the coconut wireless. It got nowhere because there wasn’t a skerrick of anything other than fairy dust about it.

I think the vast majority of us are well beyond a vocationally-skewed view of life.


By the way, I happened to be at my PC when the 100,000th visitor parachuted in to PNG Attitude at exactly 2:42:48 eastern time this afternoon.

The milestone visitor was preceded by someone from Gympie in Queensland and followed by a Foreign Affairs Department type from Parkes in the ACT.

The 100,000th came from Port Moresby - and had googled ‘allen jones asopa’ to get to us. He or she stayed on the site for 2 mts and 55 secs and visited three different pages while here.

Isn’t modern technology exciting?

Pause for thought as we welcome visitor 100,000

As I write this, too late of a Wednesday night, the visitor count to PNG Attitude is 99,915. It’s taken since February 2006 to get this close to 100,000.

And, as I look at the site tonight, I sort of like what I see. A story about the PNGAA – an important organisation on the verge of a wonderful new era – and a comment from Bob Fayle, co-organiser of the Sunshine Coast Kiaps’ Reunion, with one of the great quotes of the year: “Last reunion one Kiap commented he had 275 interrupted conversations.”

At some point in the next 24 hours, PNG Attitude will chalk up its 100,000th visitor, which is a milestone. It’s also an opportunity to say, whether you agree with all or some or none of what we publish, thanks for visiting and reading.

The main aim of this blog is to keep a weather eye on the Australia-PNG relationship, and as many related issues as we can, while promoting the value of that relationship.

As if reinforcing the relevance of that aim, the most popular recent story was one entitled An inescapable truth: Australia doesn’t know PNG, which, if you haven’t read it, you can find here.

A secondary aim of PNG Attitude is to be a point of contact for people who have an interest in PNG – whether that interest is social or political, and whether it is focussed on the past, present or future.

As important as the daily posts on this site is the Recent Comments column, which has developed into a lively readers’ forum, frequently providing first class analysis and debate.

It would be churlish of me not to thank contributors - and especially prolific contributors like Paul Oates, Bob Curtis, Emmanuel Narokobi, Malum Nalu, not forgetting Gelab Piak and, gawdelpus, Colin 'Huggiebear' Huggins. 'Churlish' is a word Bob has used of me, and he's probably correct.

PNG Attitude averages about 180 separate visitors a day who hang around for an average of five minutes. These people come primarily from Australia (66%), the US (8%), PNG (6%) and the UK (3%). Canada runs a close fifth.

Publishing, even on this modest scale, has its highs and lows. It is inevitable that some people will disagree (occasionally vehemently) and be discomfited by what is written. Such is life. But my underlying belief is that PNG Attitude serves a useful purpose and is worth perpetuating and devoting significant hours to.

To me, the best measure of usefulness is your participation, for which I thank you.

Now I’ll get on with writing stuff for the next 100,000 visitors.

You can subscribe free to the monthly email newsletter version of PNG Attitude by emailing me here.

PNGAA changes mind on candidates’ statements

New PNGAA president Riley Warren is to be commended on a decision late this afternoon to enable prospective committee members to provide Association members with further information about their reasons for standing for election.

In an email to committee members, Riley invited nominees, if they wished, “to have further information posted on the PNGAA website about yourself - for example, what you hope to do as members of the Management Committee and what you hope to see the PNGAA achieve in the future.”

These statements will be in addition to the 200-word biographical summaries already on the website that reflect the nominees’ backgrounds and interests.

Riley went on to say: “You will have received an email from Keith Jackson asking you to answer certain questions for his blog. It seems to me that the PNGAA website is the appropriate place for further information about candidates to be published as all members are familiar with the website.”

C’est la guerre.

Riley says: “We are fortunate that we now have many capable members willing to nominate for positions to lead our association - some already serving well on the committee and others who are new and keen to serve.” Couldn’t agree more. It's a great line-up.

Today’s PNG – a story of poverty & hardship

From Terry Shelley in Goroka

Yes, things are simmering in Papua New Guinea.

I think the big driver of the problems is poverty and frustration amongst the young. It is a fact that only 10 percent of the population are in the formal economy while the rest are being left behind, with nothing but hardship and hunger down the track.

This does not coincide with the Prime Minister’s comments of no poverty in PNG. There is - and a lot of hardship to go with it.

On my Sunday drives to Simbu (I worked out I have now made some 2,670 crossings of Daulo Pass a lot of the early ones with blurred vision), I look at the people along the way and nothing has changed. The highland mommas are still washing themselves, their kaukau, their pikininis and, these days, their second hand clothes in the gutters beside the highway. And yet they are still smiling.

There is no future for them or their children. This has lead to massive urban drift, where the only way to survive is crime or prostitution.

And there’s another very important factor with huge future impact - the something like 80,000 kids leaving the education system each year with only less than 10 percent having any chance of finding employment. The Government has totally neglected the most important asset of PNG - its youth.

We have had thirty years of slack government with the priorities all wrong. There is more money spent in Port Moresby than the rest of the country put together.

Noa Badu of the National Economic & Fiscal Commission did a paper on the unfair distribution of wealth (taxes) which sums it up.

My home province of Simbu receives around K12.50 per head. Eastern Highlands K27 per head. Western Highlands K53 per head. These are the three coffee producing provinces that create wealth through coffee exports.

The National Capital District, which produces nothing but empty bottles and full public servants, receives K250 per head. The madness of it all.

The Police Force is the same size today as it was at Independance. Today the Police are nowhere rear as efficient or disciplined as they were 30 years ago. And the rascals are not only better armed but also have mobile phones on their side.

The actions and lifestyle of our pollies does not help either, with flash cars and gold bracelets. Their terrible choice in neckties is also unhelpful.

Youths are no longer hunter gathers or gardeners. They are unemployed, poverty-stricken urban mobs and, yes, there is more to come.

Meanwhile, when I set out on my 2,671st trip on Sunday, I will think of you poor urban buggers in Oz and elsewhere as I gaze at the vision splendid from the top of Daulo and wonder at the beauty of it all. Where else could you possibly live.

We put key questions to PNGAA candidates

As I mentioned in my last post, I was disappointed that material distributed by the PNGAA didn’t give members the opportunity to find out more about why candidates at the forthcoming election (a) want to be elected to the national committee and (b) what they intend to do if and when they get there.

So, on behalf of PNG Attitude readers, I’ve just written to each candidate – and this is what I wrote:

Congratulations on nominating for the PNGAA committee. I’ve read all the candidates’ statements for the forthcoming election and in doing so I’ve read many impressive bios. It augurs really well for the future of our Association.

But I felt something was missing from the bios, something important. And this was an indication of why you nominated for election and what you want to achieve once elected.

So I devised the short questionnaire that follows.

In my blog, PNG Attitude, I intend to publish your responses to the questions, so Association members will not only know who they’re voting for but understand where you want to take the PNGAA.

If your responses are too long I may have to edit them, but I promise to do so sensitively.

Here we go:

1 – Why have you nominated for election to the PNGAA committee?

2 – As a committee member, what would you say is your single highest priority for the organisation’s future?

3 – What other things do you want to achieve in your leadership of the PNGAA?

4 – In a sentence, can you sum up why members ought to vote for you?

PNG Attitude readers who are also PNGAA members may want to take account of these additional statements by candidates before casting their vote.

Now PNGAA is definitely on track for new era

The list of nominees for election to the management committee of the PNG Association of Australia has just been released and is cause for some disappointment but mainly excitement.

The disappointment is that the candidates’ statements – the material that 1,500 members will use to make their voting judgements - provide lots of biographical information but no indication of why people are standing for election nor what they intend to do if elected.

PNG Attitude is working to remedy this situation. More in my next post.

Let’s move on. For the first time under its new constitution, the PNGAA is conducting a postal ballot of all members to determine the composition of the committee.

While the four office-bearer jobs (president, secretary, treasurer, editor) are uncontested, there’s a real derby for the six committee positions – 14 candidates offering themselves.

The bearers of office will be Riley Warren (president), Marie Clifton-Bassett (secretary), Will Muskens (treasurer) and Andrea Williams (editor). Solid team.

The 14 nominations for the committee mean that, for the first time in the Association’s nearly 60-year history, there is going to be a contested election for these members.

The candidates are: Julianne Allcorn, Terry Chapman, Gimanama Crowdy, Chris Diercke, Dennis Doyle, Pamela Foley, Les Harvey, Colin Huggins, Margaret Komarek, Jacky Lawes, Bernard Oberleuter, Deveni Temu, Sue Ward and David Weeden.

I’ll be providing more analysis tomorrow.

Ballot papers will be sent to members with the next Una Voce, soon to be mailed, and ballot papers must be received by the Secretary by 5pm on 26 June.

Based on these nominations, three things can be said for sure and for certain about the PNGAA – it’s in a new era, the in-fighting is over, it’s full steam ahead.

People who care & speak with a moderate voice

The recent anti-Asian disturbances in Papua New Guinea led to a range of views in post mortem: on the one hand, gloomy prognoses that the riots heralded the beginning of a period of civil unrest that would lead to even more violence and social meltdown.

Somewhere between hands, the predictable political response of an inquiry. Politicians are lost without something to look into.

And on the other hand, the limp hand, there was complacency.

For a handful of Australians, however, the events took a dramatic personal twist last weekend when we received a long email from two concerned PNG correspondents, the essence of which is expressed in these words:

“The rule of the grassroots will be this and very clear: No more Asians owning Cottage Businesses in PNG by 31 December 2009. Or otherwise, we will celebrate 2010 New Year with bon-fires of all Asian-owned Takka Shops in flames all around the country. That will be the solution. Forget the government. If they can't do it, we will do it ourselves!”

We all responded with alacrity but the response of one of my colleagues in particular was especially noteworthy because of its measured, sympathetic and positive tone. And, as things have turned out, it proved to be very helpful to the young men concerned, who have since acknowledged the wisdom of the words that were written and their intention to heed them.

It was Bob Curtis who wrote the letter, which he shared with us. And I want to share it with you.

Dear all,

I personally hear the message sent by A and B, and it distresses me, whilst I see that serious unrest is imminent.

I would counsel the PNG Nationals to firstly confront their Elected Members with a very strong message that their position in Parliament depends on their immediate reaction to the people's complaint. Advise the Members that you will sponsor Candidates to stand against them at the next Elections.

Secondly find potential Candidates amongst those with a Secondary Education or a Degree or strong Village status, and push for reform. At least two local Candidates should confront each Member. Preferably one of these Candidates should be female.

Form a PNG Reform Party and go to the people with your Policy Platform and distribute that Platform in Pidgin, Police Motu, Motu, Kotte and Yabim. Use the Churches to assist you. Similarly the Journalists amongst you can help spread the message either through the Press, Pamphlets. the Pulpits. Word of mouth is a powerful media amongst the unsophisticated Bush dweller.

Seek support from the Catholic Church, The Lutherans, the Methodists, and Business. The Ballot box is a powerful argument against Corruption. You should target current Elected members pressuring them to respond to your concerns. You should pressure those investigating Corruption to report to the People urgently.

You should impress on them using non inflammatory language that the time has come for action, and the People are mobilizing. Encourage your Party Members to expose and reveal occurrences of Corruption, Illegal Gambling and Prostitution.

Build a Data bank of information to be given to the People at a time when it will hurt the Law Breakers the most. Fight Police corruption at every turn. Seek higher wages for Police and ask for their support.

Form a Reform Committee and for the time being keep the names of the Committee Persons (Male and Female) undercover to protect them. Boycott the Stores you do not like, in the long term that is a better idea than burning them down.

Remember many Storekeepers give credit to customers, particularly when the customers produce Copra , Coffee or Cacao. The same applies to Bislama, Lili, Vegetables and Kukas. Encourage your Members not to fall into the Credit trap.

Above all, think before you act. Breaking the law is dumb.

Bob Curtis.

Now you don’t have to agree with everything Bob wrote to understand that this was an important and supportive and helpful piece of communication.

And so it turned out, when a response came acknowledging the soundness of that advice and an intention to heed it. Furthermore, there was clear pleasure in being able to communicate with people who cared, and who were sympathetic.

It’s another indication that the power of the Internet and email have more than a little ability to establish useful communication between Australians and Papua New Guineans who do necessarily have institutional influence but who do care about each other as people.

Well done Bob, Colin Huggins, Paul Oates and Bernard Oberleuter.

Big changes ahead for PNGAA as ballot nears

Nominations for the forthcoming elections of the PNG Association of Australia closed late last week and, while I have no inside information, it’s clear there will be a Melbourne Cup field of candidates for committee positions.

This follows last year’s first contested ballot for the presidency. But it seems that, despite the turbulence this generated as I and other people of discernment moved to engender change in the organisation, the PNGAA is set to emerge in fine shape and ready for further positive reform.

Through the in-fighting emerged a new constitution and, just as importantly for the long-term sustainability of the organisation, a surge in member interest in the operations of the Association. This new engagement and focus on governance and productive activity is more than sufficient to change the organisation profoundly.

I’m not privy to the list of nominees for election - I guess that will be made available when the bureaucratic processes say it should – but I know it will include some very capable people.

My only advice for intending voters is to exercise their ballot in favour of people who are achieving something for the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship in the current context. Here are some of the folks standing who will make something of the PNGAA.

They include (and this list is not definitive or complete):

Riley Warren AM, who seems likely to stand for President. Riley is chairman of the Oro Community Development Project which is doing such fine work in what many of us used to call the Northern District.

Diveni Temu, the accomplished Pacific Librarian at the RG Menzies Library in Canberra and a leader of the culturally and socially energised PNG community in the Australian Capital Territory.

Gimanama (Gima) Crowdy, who is president of the Sydney PNG Wantoks that caters for the needs of Papua New Guinean residents and students in Sydney. A very active group that puts the PNGAA to shame in the social sphere.

Andrea Williams, long standing editor of Una Voce, the quarterly journal that has drawn so many new members into the Association. Andrea has also dedicated a large chunk of her life to keeping the flame burning for proper national recognition of the Montevideo Maru tragedy.

Sue Ward JP is deputy chair of Australian Business Volunteers. She has a background in human resources and education and spent 20 years in PNG. Back in Australia, Sue worked for Reserve Bank and later undertook related consultancies IN PNG, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.

Terry Chapman OAM graduated from ASOPA, was a long time in PNG (everything else was an anticlimax, he told me once) and, after PNG until 2004, was executive director of the Association of Independent Schools for 25 years. He knows business, politics and is an accomplished media performer.

Chris Diercke lives in Newcastle NSW and was born and bred at Vunapope, a direct descendant of Queen Emma. Chris has been instrumental in the development of the Lark Force Wilderness Track in the Gazelle Peninsula. He is also PNG representative for the International Porter Protection Group.

Colin Huggins is the only Queenslander standing (one-third of PNGAA members live in the Sunshine State) and has proven himself to be at the heart of an elaborate social networking program, especially for former PNG education officers.

These are all people who do stuff. If you’re a PNGAA member, as many PNG Attitude readers are, you should remember their names when the time comes to vote.

Govt decides its own laws should be undermined

Many PNG Attitude commenters have been up in arms over the last week about the PNG Government’s lackadaisical attitude in allowing Chinese nationals into the country irregardless of the normal immigration requirements.

In taking this hostile view, they have echoed the reaction of many Papua New Guineans who have voiced loud opposition to laxly administered immigration laws. And, of course, the more violent response on the streets and in the marketplaces in cities as far apart as Moresby, Mendi and Madang.

Now PNG’s Minister for Labour and Industry Mark Maipakai has given all these people the one finger salute by admitting the Government had made it easier for Chinese nationals to bypass the labour laws.

“The PNG Government has a special agreement with Ramu nickel mine where we give them special treatment and allow flexibility with our labour laws and regulations,” Mr Maipakai said.

Sir David Hay, former Administrator, dies at 92

Hay_Sir_David Sir David Hay (1916-2009), Administrator of Papua New Guinea from 1967-70, has died in Melbourne at the age of 92.

When he arrived in Port Moresby in 1967, David Hay was welcomed by a Guard of Honour of 1PIR commanded by Michael Jeffery, later to become Governor-General of Australia.

Sir David had himself been a soldier. He joined the Treasury in 1939 and had just transferred to external affairs when World War 2 broke out. He rose to the rank of major in the 2/6 Infantry Battalion and was awarded the MBE in 1943.

He served in the Middle East, Greece and New Guinea,  where he fought in the Milne Bay , Wau-Salamaua and Aitape-Maprik campaigns. After the war, he was lieutenant-colonel commanding the 3rd Infantry Battalion, Citizens' Military Forces.

“Sir David Hay had a reputation for always playing it cool,” writes John Farquharson in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning. “He had a long and distinguished career as a diplomat, soldier and public servant. Hay had the unruffled and unflappable manner usually associated with the top-drawer British diplomat, solidly underpinned by quiet competence and dedication. He brought these qualities to all he undertook, including as Australian ambassador to the United Nations.”

According to Farquharson, Hay’s period as PNG Administrator was the “one shadow over the urbane proconsul's otherwise serene career path.”

Farquharson writes: “Taking over from Sir Donald Cleland, Hay was well qualified to steer the territory towards self-determination at a time when Australia was under intense international pressure to accelerate the dismantling of one of the world's last colonial regimes.

“However, his high hopes foundered on the obduracy of George Warwick Smith, then secretary of the Department of External Territories, who insisted that all decisions be run across his desk. His imperious mode of operation, with a proclivity to intervene, unchecked by his minister, CE (Ceb) Barnes, diminished his role.

“A man of quiet inner strength, Hay was not a departmental front man. His position was aggravated when his submissions for a quicker devolution of decision-making to locals went largely unheeded.

"After Hay spoke in 1970 to the prime minister, John Gorton, Smith was moved to the Department of the Interior and Hay took over as secretary of Territories. This gave continuity to the moves towards self-government. Moreover, a close working relationship had been established between Hay and the new administrator, Les Johnson, who had a profound understanding of the PNG situation.”

Sir David’s final official role was as secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs from 1976-79, when he retired because of poor health. He was made a CBE in 1963 and was knighted in 1979.

In retirement, he wrote a history of 2/6 Battalion, Nothing Over Us, regarded as one of the better unit war histories, and wrote a biography, The Life And Times Of William Hay Of Boomanoomana, 1816-1908.

Photo: Sir David Hay as he appeared in 1967 on the front cover of PNG's School Paper

Seeking answers: What caused the PNG riots?

Gelab Piak

The recent riots in PNG against Chinese businesses is cited by many newspapers and news agencies to be a symptom of a nation in crisis. The looting has been condemned and the Government has vowed to set up a bipartisan team to investigate the riots.

The riots may be uncalled for, yet are well overdue. They result from a  build-up of many issues. PNG is filled with problems such as acute poverty, lack of development, HIV/AIDS, law and order, public service and workers pay, the great divide between rich and poor, landowner issues, the list just goes on and on.

The Government knows about these issues, yet ignores them, and this is part and parcel of the cause of the recent rioting. The riots were the work of opportunists, not coordinated. These opportunists were mainly from squatter settlements, where the poorest live. They took advantage of lootings elsewhere and orchestrated copycat versions.

But dig deeper and you’ll find that these are people from remote areas who have been neglected by the Government for so long. They have moved to the towns and cities in search of government services. Others are primary and secondary school dropouts who become “street boys” and eventually end up in criminal activities.

The education system, too, must be reviewed, as it has contributed to a large number of dropouts over the years. They become contributing factors to f the problems.

The service delivery mechanisms of the Government also need to be reviewed, as these riots evidence the need provide services. The Department of Labor has come under criticism from other government authorities, but all should accept the blame and not pass the buck.

Business regulators must be blamed for not checking to see if foreign owned business and owners abide by PNG law. This issue also paints a bad picture of the way we manage border security.

And, in the centre of this, are corrupt leaders and Government ignorance, not only the current government but also previous governments.

Another fact to consider is that PNG is a developing nation. As such, it is caught in the middle: on one hand is Western culture and on the other our own culture.

As we probe deeper we realize our problems are complex. Our leaders must be prepared to address the issues, and must investigate the recent unrest.

If this problem is properly addressed, we won’t see another Honiara in PNG.

Gelab Piak is a freelance journalist and student at Divine Word University in Madang

Has PNG robbed a generation of its aspirations?

Yesterday PNG Attitude reported comments by PNG AusAID head Bill Costello that his organisation is seeking engagement with Papua New Guinea's private sector to canvass ways to move forward. PAUL OATES believes this glass is also flawed.

With due respect to Mr Costello and his team, who I'm sure are very well meaning, the answers to PNG's challenges do not lie in the private sector.

The private sector can only move development forward when a favourable climate and environment exists for it to do so. Until that is established, AusAID may as well turn its funding hose back into the wind or into the nearest consultant's bank account.

PNG's framework of government has clearly ruptured and haemorrhaged. It is in real danger of falling apart. To understand the essence of the problem one must ask, "Why is this so?"

When the decision was made to move PNG as a single entity, towards self government and independence, there was no detailed plan or agreed timeline to achieve this objective. At the time, the major players were never involved at the 'kunai roots' level and therefore had no idea of what was involved.

I can say that because, as a kiap in the field at the time, I was caught betwixt and between.

On one hand, as government representatives in the field, kiaps were instructed to commence the so called political education process in the villages to prepare the people for this momentous event. In the early 1970's, pressure on Australia from the United Nations to grant independence as quickly as possible impacted directly on our rural operations.

On the other hand, many of us knew that the village people did not want us to disappear overnight and leave them to their own devices.

As public servants, no one ever asked us what we thought about the fast tracking of independence or whether the people we spoke to at village level thought it was a good idea. I seriously doubt if anyone above District level ever read the Patrol or Situation Reports we submitted or, if they did, understood what was being reported.

We were just expected to do what the government directed. Most people in the villages that I spoke to at the time thought the idea was crazy. They didn't want Australia to throw them out of the peaceful development phase they had only just entered.

Training local officers to takeover responsibility at all levels was just starting to take effect when independence was thrust upon PNG. It was a newly created PNG that had not developed a true, national identity nor a broadly based ability to say what it wanted.

So what happened? Old and traditional practices were revived and lauded as the way to go. Traditional practice was clearly the only available alternative to those who had the power of government thrust into their hands.

What this precipitate change in direction did in practice was to bring to a halt, the process of peaceful development through government control. In reality, the change created a power vacuum that could only be filled by the traditional custom of the 'village bigman' and not by effective government systems on a national level.

This reversal of PNG government direction in the mid to late 1970's has now robbed the younger, educated generation of Papua New Guineans of being able to aspire to manage their own country effectively. How can educated Papua New Guineans start to improve their own country when the framework of government responsibility and accountability is flawed. They have been effectively disenfranchised by the elite of the PNG 1960's and 1970's, many of whom still hold onto power.

The only way to manage a country is to start at the top of its system of government and to then have that system improve in a 'trickle down' methodology. The trouble is, who can start this process? At the moment it seems, only those who are part of the problem.

Paul Oates is a former kiap in PNG and administrator of the Cocos Islands. He now farms in south-east Queensland

Ode to a good man

A tribute by Sarah Clay to the late Allan Jones, teacher & mentor, whose funeral was held today in Adelaide

There was stillness at all stations as the word went flying round
that a good man, Allan Jones, had passed away.
From the disbelieving silence came protesting roars of pain
and the anger that soon followed on that day.

In the hollow of bereavement lots of people gathered close
and some others sat in isolated grief,
but the thing they had in common was the pain of losing Al,
who was loved, in high esteem beyond belief.

He was funny and outrageous, with a thoughtful, clever mind
and the knack of making everybody shine.
He worked hard and conscientiously, gave every one his best
and was never lost for humour in a line.

He could cut right through the bull dust but he did it all with style
so it didn’t wound too badly on the day.
If he thought he’d overstepped the mark, he’d talk it through and then,
he’d apologise and find another way.

Forthright in his opinions, he had courage but was kind,
though he often chuckled wryly later on.
He could view the world with humour but did not ignore its pain,
with a heart as big as Phar Lap’s.  Now he’s gone.

Ev’ry one of us has mem’ries of his qualities and help,
some well-known and others private though they be.
Now the seeds of all his caring, the example that he showed,
will grow on as long as we do, you and me.

So today we come together to remember this good man,
celebrate his loving life and say goodbye.
In our hearts and minds Al’s treasured and he always will remain
each time that we recall him bye and bye

While our tears relieve our heartache let our memories bring joy
for the laughter and the learning, near and far,
And let us raise our glasses to a Good Man, Allan Jones,
And remember that he really was a star.

High level committee to investigate PNG riots

With the resounding support of Members of Parliament, Eastern Highlands Governor Malcolm Kela Smith yesterday petitioned the National Government to remove Asian business people from PNG because they had exploited locals. Most MPs who took part in the debate supported the petition.

Mr Smith claimed Asian businesses were oppressing local employees and depriving them of their rights. “They get a small wage for long hours work and young local girls who work for these Asian run businesses are sexually assaulted and threatened not to report or lose their jobs,” Mr Smith said.

The Governor said he cooled off a very large mob by agreeing to present the petition signed by more than 5000 Goroka people.

The 78 members of the House of Assembly present later voted to establish a bipartisan committee to look into the riots and looting. The committee was expected to be formed today and include Foreign Minister Sam Abal, Labour Minister Mark Maipakai and Social and Community Development Minister Dame Carol Kidu together with respective departmental heads.

Mr Abal admitted there were big problems with the Immigration office and Employment Minister Mark Maipakai said his department was not aware what visa arrangement everyone entering the country had.

“The moment somebody enters the airport, he is not on my screen,” Mr Maipakai said. “I don’t know who is entering, what visa arrangements he has, because I don’t have a network with Foreign Affairs. So we really don’t know who comes here, when they arrive and what purpose they are here for.”

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said: “Foreigners are here because our systems allow them to be here, they work here because our systems allow them to work here. We have no one to blame but ourselves.”

Meanwhile, the head of AusAID in PNG, Bill Costello, has said his organisation does not have all the answers to PNG’s development challenges and that it is now seeking engagement with the private sector to canvass ways to move forward.

“AusAID will sit down with business leaders and development stakeholders to look at where we are and how we can improve our engagement. Achieving development outcomes through innovative partnerships with the private sector is perhaps an area in which we have only scratched the surface so far,” Mr Costello said.

Sources: PNG Post-Courier, The National

Oro Community Development Project update

John Kleinig

In late April, an Oro Community Development Project [OCDP] team of three teachers and a medical doctor visited and worked with schools and health centres throughout Oro Province.

It was also an opportunity to renew friendships from previous recent visits, establish new contacts and further concentrate on helping teachers to teach, empowering mothers to be the basic health providers and encouraging children to take a much greater interest in the village garden and agriculture in particular.

The aftermath of Cyclone Guba in November 2007 is still very real. Many of the large bridges on the main road from the provincial centre at Popondetta to Kokoda have been washed away and have not been replaced.  Access across the major Kumusi River is limited to one person at a time in a motor vehicle tyre tube, towed across the river for a fee of K20 one way. The lowland areas suffer from inadequate supplies of fresh water and there is evidence of the dislocation caused by the loss of complete villages.

The Australian Government emergency aid response to the cyclone was comprehensive and lasted for a fortnight. Various internal rebuilding agencies were established but progress has been agonisingly slow and further initiatives appear uncertain.

Despite the setbacks and the serious lack of basic services, there was nevertheless, amongst those that we met, a determination and optimism to overcome the many problems. It became clear that they knew what they wanted to do, but they needed some help in getting there.

The schools are very basic and education as we know it, is erratic and in some places bizarre; at Eroro primary school, at Oro Bay, the children have not been to school for eighteen months. The team spoke directly with many teachers, who were impressive but concerned about being able to effectively implement the outcomes based curriculum. The OCDP volunteer teachers have these skills and have endured the introduction of a new curriculum in NSW.  They are anxious to return to Oro.

The health situation is dire. It is little wonder that the hospitals and medical centres have so few patients because the facilities are so appalling. Most people, who are sick, suffer in the village and die there, with the biggest killers being malaria and AIDS. Tuberculosis and typhoid are also common, particularly amongst the young. The maternal death rate is now amongst the highest in the world with most births occurring in the village. However, it looks as though we may be able to make a small contribution.

We have made an application to organise the purchase and facilitate the distribution of birth kits to the 3,000 mothers in the province and there is a real possibility this will happen. We have also established a network in Oro to distribute anti malaria nets. The use of these nets dramatically reduces malaria related deaths.

An OCDP team will again visit the province in early October. The planning process for these ventures has been exhaustive. It has essentially focused on ensuring that teachers and health workers in the schools and their community are better able to do their work.

If you want to learn more about this excellent project or assist it in some way, you can contact John Kleinig here.

An inescapable truth: Australia doesn’t know PNG

Over the last few days PNG Attitude has reported the high drama of anti-Chinese riots throughout the PNG mainland and the low comedy of 300 AusAID consultants being paid astronomical salaries (amounting to half of Australia’s aid budget) to deliver indiscernible outcomes.

(An obscene waste when you consider the many small organisations and individuals struggling to deliver services on the ground in PNG with no government support at all.)

At the same time, the Attitude has published comments from astute observers of PNG affairs analysing the reasons for the riots (grassroots neglect and social dislocation compounded by low and high level corruption).

We’ve been further educated, this time implicitly, by the deathless silence from the Australian Government and media about what just might be the first definitive indication (because of its geographically widespread nature) of a future broader-based insurrection in PNG.

There is an inescapable truth gradually emerging here. The Australian Government doesn’t seem to have a clue about how to respond to the complex political and social dynamics of its nearest neighbour.

The recent events in PNG are explosive and potentially threaten to destabilise our immediate region: worse than Fiji and the Solomons combined. Think Timor with tribes, mineral wealth and foreign influence extending to the Chinese mainland.

PNG abuts our nation and, with six million people, has real scale. It’s a saga waiting to unfold. There is high emotion here for Australians, too. PNG was once our territory and our people fought and died there in peace and war.

More personally, to many of us, Papua New Guineans are kith and kin. Cousins.

After years of serial neglect (occasionally peppered with offence) by the Howard Government, the Rudd enterprise decided to rebuild the relationship. Good thing and long overdue.

But a relationship is more than warm words and polite handshakes. PNG is not an Australian marionette. Because it won’t say no to $400 million a year, even if half goes back whence it came, and won’t flaunt an important commercial relationship, doesn’t mean it’s in our keep.

When the political going gets tough and internal problems get overwhelming, when much more investment comes from the west than the south and when we remain supine, the real PNG may turn out to be rather more individualistic than Australia thinks it is.

There's evidence that the Australian Government apprehends that PNG - especially in the approaching post-Somare era - is headed for an unpredictable and unstable period with outcomes that may be inimical to Australia's interests. But there's no evidence that our Government knows what to do about it.

Half of Australia’s PNG aid spent on consultants

So now we know what Kevin Rudd was on about when he told a Canberra press conference late last month that AusAID was allowing “too much money [to be] consumed by consultants and not enough money … delivered to essential assistance … in the villages.”

Documents obtained by AAP PNG correspondent, Ilya Gridneff, and just revealed this morning, disclose that 300 advisers working under Australia's development program consume half of AusAID’s $400 million a year allocation to PNG.

These consultants earn between $240,000 and $360,000 a year tax-free. If they bring along a partner they get $14,239 a month extra. And if they have children the allowance goes up by another $1,000 a month for each child.

A company called Coffey International Development has been delegated by AusAID to hire these staff. Coffee International did not respond to AAP's questions.

The $200 million a year spent on consultants contrasts starkly with the unavailability in village schools of history books that would cost a few thousand dollars and AusAID's dismissive attitude to a project that would see these books in the hands of Papua New Guinean teachers and students.

More illegal workers enter PNG as riots continue

As PNG continues to reel from the outbreak of anti-Asian rioting, with further violence yesterday, it has been revealed in The National newspaper that Chinese workers employed by the Ramu nickel mine were issued work permits despite not meeting labour laws that stipulate all non-citizens must be proficient in English.

Dr Rhonda Nadile, an executive of the Department of Labour and Industrial Relations, said the workers entered PNG “despite strong opposition from the Department”. According to Dr Nadile, the Government circumvented the labour laws because of the importance of the Ramu nickel project.

Despite officials expressing bemusement about the causes of the recent riots, close observers of PNG politics have linked them to widespread community concern about the activities of Asian businesses and workers in PNG.

Businessman and former politician, Graham Pople, told PNG Attitude yesterday: “The current unrest against Asians is caused because [Government agencies] have not been doing their proper duties as required by the laws of PNG. Many of these people come into our country and engage in activities that are forbidden to them by law.”

There has been further violence in the Highlands and Mamose regions with the number of people shot by police as a result of the riots and looting rising to four.

In Wabag hundreds of people broke into shops operated by families of Korean and Chinese origin. Police in the Highlands are on full alert in Goroka, Mt Hagen, Kainantu and Wabag while most shops operated by Chinese and other families of Asian origin remain closed in the Highlands, where up to 90 percent of shops are run by Asians.

Meanwhile, Jamie Maxtone-Graham, the MP for Anglimp-South Waghi, has told Parliament that the riots of the past week are a sign of a country in social turmoil. While the Government has ensured the country was shielded from economic and political instability, it had failed to address issues that are at the heart of the community: population growth, unemployment and rural-urban drift.

“These problems had a potential to blow up in our faces,” he said. Parliament must establish a ministerial task force to adequately address social issues that had been created as a result of development. Acting Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu said Mr Maxton-Graham’s suggestions were extremely vital as there was an urgent need to address these issues.

In Port Moresby yesterday Governor Powes Parkop raised concerns about the protest march held last week in Port Moresby. “NGOs and political activists should not mislead our people into taking mindless action that will not resolve whatever grievances our people have,” he said.

“If these NGOs or political activists are really interested in helping our people, they should help and encourage our people in setting up businesses or creating income generating activities for them instead of inciting them into engaging in mindless destruction.

“Chasing Chinese business people from our city or country will not solve our problems and those who are inciting our people to engage in such cheap and mindless agendas, should stop now,” Mr Parkop said.

Sources: ‘Rules bent for mining project’ by Barnabas Orere Pondros, ‘Total mayhem’ by Robert Palme, ‘Riots a signal of a nation in turmoil’, ‘Parkop takes NGOs and political activists to task’ by Travertz Mabone ['The National' and 'Post-Courier']

The riots: Bigman, gavman & planti giaman tumas

The second part of a special feature analysing recent attacks on Chinese businesses in the major cities of Papua New Guinea.

Observers of PNG politics say allegations of a rise in Chinese organised crime and corruption involving PNG officials has generated a seething grassroots community anger that boiled over in the recent anti-Chinese riots in some of PNG’s largest cities.

“Resentment builds up through the spoken word and is not being publicised,” says long-time resident and PNG citizen, Graham Pople. “Asians seem to have no respect for our laws and way of life. They seem to think they can do whatever they like and, if they get into trouble, can buy their way out by bribery.

“PNG nationals are sick and tired of these people coming here and doing this when, historically, it has seldom been done by waitskins who, instead of doing the job to the detriment of the nationals, normally concentrated on training them to do their job. The Asians do not do this. They seem to want to keep the jobs for themselves.

“They have moved into reserved occupations such as kai bars which are reserved for PNG nationals but, when advised they are in the wrong, normally bribe PNG Government officials to turn a blind eye.”

Journalist Ilya Gridneff sees it this way: “There is significant resentment amongst the grassroots and the easiest most visible target are Chinese shop owners who have come in and over the last 10 to 15 years and pulled the carpet from underneath grassroots Papua New Guineans. No one is angry at Australian businesses nor about old Cantonese.”

Graham Pople also draws a sharp distinction between the Asians who arrived in PNG many years ago and the more recent immigrants. “They settled here, made themselves part of the community, have been a very important part in the development of this nation and we should acknowledge that they are completely different from the present influx from Asia that has occurred since independence.

“Those earlier immigrants have helped this country to grow, are marvellous people and call themselves PNG citizens. Please do not classify them as Asians, but rather as Papua New Guineans.

Ilya Gridneff says resentment is also tied to serious allegations of top level corruption amongst public servants, police and politicians allowing illegal business practices and turning a blind eye to organised crime.

“But locally,” he says, “I sense it's the grander narrative of no tomorrow. Grassroots sold out by bigman and gavman and planti giaman tumas.”

Graham Pople feels the same way. “The most recent influx have a complete contempt for the laws of PNG and have faith in their ability, if they do get into trouble, to buy their way out,” he says.

“If this is publicised there will be an enormous backlash by those concerned. But can they face up to a mirror and say that what I have stated is wrong. Not if they are honest.”

Journalist Malum Nalu believes that “Michael Somare, in his mad rush for independence, failed to see he was not in a position to maintain the high standards set by the Australians and is now making the country pay a terrible price.

“A whole generation of ill-educated, sick, gun-toting, drug and homebrew-addicted young men and women have been set loose upon this country. Basically everything in this country has gone backwards since 1975.”

“The government has to immediately attend to the various social problems the country is facing or worse is to come,” he predicts.

According to Graham Pople, one answer lies with the Departments of Labour and Immigration and others involved “doing their jobs much better and checking these Asian enterprises.”

But he sees a problem. “When they try to stop it they will be tempted to overlook it by being offered a bribe. And who can blame them when they accept it and fail to proceed with prosecution. Their ‘leaders of the Nation’ are doing exactly the same.”

“Michael Somare, his family and cronies have to get down from their ivory towers, stop buying mansions in Australia and jet aircraft the country doesn't need, and attend to the very basics such as education and health,” says Malum Nalu.

“It reminds me of the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette.Unless the government addresses the problem right now, we could be looking at widespread unrest all over the country.”

A dismayed Graham Pople agrees: “People who should be languishing in gaol and have their personal assets transferred to the State continue in a position of power,” he says. “Frustration grows.”

Pressure building inside PNG’s social sospen

It’s been a rivetting 24 hours, with great reader interest in the aftermath of the rioting in PNG.

This is the fifth PNG Attitude story today, and four of them – including a surprise intervention from the PNG Governor-General - were about this very live issue.

Some people - not including Sir Paulias Matane and not including me - feel disaster may be imminent.

Accordingly, I’ve received some interesting email feedback. It needs to remain anonymous (although I do know the authors’ names) but I felt I should share a few of the comments with you.

Comment 1

The rioting and looting by youths in Lae is graphic evidence of just what pressure is building up inside the social sospen - that big saucepan inside which dwells the majority of PNG's population; the lid firmly wedged on and the heat of impoverishment slowly increasing.

Years of the disgraceful ‘eyes-shut, pockets open’ policy maintained by the authorities are now likely to be challenged by a growing unity in this previously split, multi-tribal society. A unity never engendered by the fulsome words and flamboyant promises of their lordships, those who govern and administer in situations of personal security and comfort unseen and unimaginable to the boys who rioted in Lae.

Those big houses and 'permanent resident' status in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere may soon prove to be very wise investments for their owners.

Comment 2

It's all too obvious in PNG that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. And unless the government addresses the problem right now, we could be looking at widespread unrest all over the country. The seeds are already sown and it will most likely take the form of street violence and mass destruction of property.

Comment 3

There are a lot more frustrated people but not all have come out as yet. Time bomb waiting to go off. And I know that it is very near.

It makes for challenging and thought-provoking reading, doesn’t it?

More tomorrow.

Governor-General says PNG can solve problems

Papua New Guinea’s Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, has said he believes PNG will be able to solve problems associated with the anti-Chinese riots of the last few days.

Sir Paulias told PNG Attitude that there have been protests and looting of shops owned by Asians in Port Moresby, Lae, Madang, Goroka, Kundiawa and Mt Hagen.

“There are lots of reasons looters come up with,” he said, “like poor wages paid to natives who work for Asians and allegations of them favouring girls in employment. These allegations are as a result of frustrations, mostly by young people, due to high costs of living and unemployment.

“Many of our leaders in Government, Opposition, churches and the community have voiced their concern and told the looters to stop what they are doing and look at the positive things in life.

“For example, the Asians provide service and employment opportunities to the community and they strengthen the national economy by paying taxes to the government.”

Sir Paulias remarked that matters are now gradually returning to normalcy, although still tense. “There are likely to be some more problems coming,” he said. “Some Asians may close up and leave PNG to find greener pastures elsewhere. We hope not.”

He said the issue is now being discussed in the National Parliament: “We will have to wait for any decisions on the matter. Let’s wait and see. My guess is we will be able to solve the problems.”

Is AusAID denying PNG access to its own history?

It was the par buried right at the end of Ilya Gridneff’s AAP story on the campaign to get history text books into PNG schools that gave the game away.

The report had linked Kevin Rudd’s recent statement that too much aid to PNG is consumed by consultants with news of a project to get PNG history books into PNG classrooms.

“Papua New Guineans need a consciousness of what they have in common,” ANU’s Prof Hank Nelson told Gridneff, arguing that “a knowledge of a shared history is basic to the building of a nation-state.”

Gridneff also quoted author Eric Johns as saying PNG history should be taught in schools to avoid “PNG school students and people in general [being] ignorant of the main forces and motives that shaped their nation.”

This is a straightforward proposition – get history books into classrooms so Papua New Guineans have an understanding of how PNG came to be and who, as a nation, it is. “For a country of six million, PNG has one of the world’s poorest distribution of books,” Prof Nelson says.

And what was the AusAID response? Weasel words.

"Australia's focus in the education sector, as agreed with the PNG Government, is on teacher training, school infrastructure development and strengthening education administration,” said an unnamed spokesman.

AusAID’s dismissive comeback demands answers to some fundamental questions.

What does AusAID expect teachers to teach if they do not have books?

Does AusAID understand that, while infrastructure is important, the content of learning is critical?

How long does AusAID think better educational administration will take to penetrate the villages?

And does AusAID appreciate that its bureaucratic ‘focus’ is much less important than responding to need where that needs exists? And that is at the grassroots.

AusAID’s much criticised top-down approach to aid delivery that so concerns the Australian Government and that saw officials recently rush to Boroko for a rural [sic] photo opportunity is clearly evidenced in its lamentable reaction.

Australia’s development aid agency simply has to do better than this.

Communal riots: PNGns feel squeezed out

PNG Attitude asked some Papua New Guinea residents who are close observers of national affairs and politics to analyse the recent anti-Chinese riots that began in Port Moresby Wednesday then spread rapidly and seismically to Lae, Madang and the Eastern Highlands.

Communal violence has been rare in PNG, but when thousands of people spontaneously attack and ransack Chinese-owned stores, it is clear the pressure has been building for some time.

This poses problems not only for the PNG Government but also for an Australian Government, which is watching developments in PNG with increasing concern.

The Lae police commander said he didn’t know what triggered the riots in his city while Port Moresby police chief Fred Yakasa blamed the violence on louts. "It was just hooligans taking advantage of the situation with an emotional build-up," he said. "There is nothing to worry about, as we will continue our patrols and increase presence on the streets."

Rioters on the street of Lae had a different view. "Who is allowing these Asians to come into our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New Guineans?” they asked. “They are ripping us off and investing their money in their country.”

Businessman, former politician and PNG citizen Graham Pople sees it like this: “The current unrest against Asians is caused because the Departments of Labour, Immigration and other Departments have not been doing their proper duties as required by the laws of PNG. Many of these people come into our country and engage in activities that are forbidden to them by law.

“The trouble in Madang was reported as being caused by a Chinese tractor driver running over a PNG national. There should have not been a Chinese driving a tractor as that is an occupation reserved for PNG nationals. This is resented by PNG nationals.”

Journalist and blogger Malum Nalu says: “In all honesty, I don't think these people have anything at all against the original Chinese. They are using this as an opportunity to steal things and mostly to show their frustration at a government that has neglected them for far too long.

“On the part of the Chinese, it is the new breed of ‘rogue Chinese’, not those of the old school, who have brought about a feeling of hatred and animosity among indigenous Papua New Guineans against Asians.

“[The disaffected Papua New Guineans] are mainly settlement dwellers who are poorly-educated and unemployed and for whom home brew, marijuana and guns are very much a part of life. These people, for too long, have been neglected by the government, and things have now reached a boiling point.”

Journalist Ilya Gridneff agrees. “PNG's Chinese community began with immigration in the late 19th century, but local resentment has grown as an influx of ‘new Chinese’ has slowly taken over small businesses like trade stores and food shops in the past 15 years. Many in PNG feel squeezed out and complain about working for ruthless Chinese bosses who impose tough conditions.”

Tomorrow in PNG Attitude: The Riots – Analysis and Prognosis

Illegals & triads the root of anti-Chinese riots

The recent anti-Chinese riots in Papua New Guinea were predicted last year by academic James Chin who said he expected there would be increasing physical attacks against mainland Chinese, in particular petty traders and kai bar operators.

And in a startling forecast Chin also said “it is almost certain that Chinese triads will establish a presence in PNG”.

In a journal article last year in which he examined the contemporary Chinese community in PNG, Chin pointed out that the new Chinese were the biggest beneficiary of the sell-off by European business after the dramatic fall in the value of the kina in the late 1990s.

They are now the biggest investors in PNG outside the oil and gas sectors, with the mainland Chinese and Malaysian Chinese being predominant.

In 2008 the population of ‘old Chinese’ in PNG was estimated to be about 1,000. The ‘new Chinese’ number around 20,000 with 300 a week arriving without proper documentation, most of them from mainland China.

Chin says that most mainland Chinese invest in ‘reserved’ activities such as kai bars, bakeries, low end restaurants and clothing stores that often bring them into conflict with local residents and authorities. “This conflict increases corruption,” he writes, “as many operators pay off police and immigration authorities when they come to check on illegal businesses.”

The other Chinese groups (including PNG Chinese) do not like the mainland Chinese and see them as crooks and conmen.

Chin says the weight of mainland Chinese numbers and their important economic role mean they will soon dominate sections of PNG’s economy. While there are growing calls for the government to act against mainland Chinese traders, the bureaucracy (including the police) is so inefficient and corrupt that any actions it takes against these illegal operators are likely to be useless.

Sources: [1] ‘Contemporary Chinese Community in Papua–New Guinea: Old Money versus New Migrants’ by James Chin, Journal of Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, Volume 2, 2008. [2] ‘Chinese people in PNG’, Wikipedia

Anti-Chinese riots spread to Goroka and Madang

The anti-Chinese riots that hit Port Moresby and Lae last week spread to Madang and the Eastern Highlands over the weekend. And police in Wewak and Mt Hagen also stepped up patrols to prevent attacks on traders.

Four Chinese-owned shops in Goroka were emptied of goods and lost an undisclosed amount of cash early yesterday morning when men, women and children ran amok. In Madang on Saturday, three shops were attacked by people believed to be squatters. Sisiak and Bukbuk settlers were joined by hundreds of others in attacks on two new Chinese shops and a kai bar in the heart of Madang. Other shops, Asian and national, were forced to close their doors.

According to Eastern Highlands provincial police commander, Augustine Wampe, thousands of men, women and children men flocked onto Goroka streets outnumbering police and security guards.

Mr Wampe said four Asian shops were emptied of deep freezers, radios, TV sets, washing machines and groceries. Losses were estimated at K250,000.

In Port Moresby, acting Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu has instructed police to immediately investigate the incidents and deal with the ring leaders. He had also instructed the Department of Commerce and Industry to investigate claims that a number of the Chinese shops were operating illegally.

Meanwhile, National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop has blamed police for the anti-Asian riots in Lae and Port Moresby. Mr Parkop told a news conference that the incident got out of hand because the police “probably tolerated a march which should not have taken place”.

A distraught Mr Parkop was adamant the march organisers should be arrested and made accountable for their actions. He assured Asians that Port Moresby is safe and they should reopen shops and trade as normal.

The president of Madang Chamber of Commerce, Stotick Kamya, has said anti-Chinese sentiment is damaging potential investment. “The uprisings were not conducive for investments; they are not a good indicator for business,” he said.

The riot in Madang erupted on the eve of the Australia-PNG Business Council forum aimed at strengthening and improving existing bilateral business and government relationships.

Sources: Madang looters empty two shops by Kevin Pamba; Madang, EHP shops looted by Pisai Gumar; Governor blames cops for city riots by Madeleine Arek; Uprising threatening business climate by Barnabas Orere Pondros [The National]

Aussie authors push for history books

Ilya Gridneff of AAP

Port Moresby - Australian authors have launched a campaign to get much needed history text books into Papua New Guinea’s schools on the back of talk of an aid policy shift.

The complexities and differences of an estimated 1,000 PNG tribes, many in rugged remote places, have hampered PNG’s progress in achieving true nationhood since independence from Australia in 1975.

PNG’s divided, fractured state and poor education standard play their roles in the Government’s inability to deliver basic services like health, law and order and education.

Earlier this month, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said historically, too much aid money to PNG had been consumed by consultants and not enough went to essential services like education and health.

This has given hope to those pushing for history books to get into classrooms.

Australian National University professor Hank Nelson, who taught and lived in PNG, said the issue was crucial for PNG’s development. “For a country of six million, PNG has one of the world’s poorest distribution of books,” he said.

“There are very few functioning libraries, in the whole country there is maybe one bookshop. The others are religious or for tourists,” Prof Nelson said.

“Papua New Guineans need a consciousness of what they have in common. A knowledge of a shared history is basic to the building of a nation-state.”

Eric Johns, a retired PNG teacher trainer, wrote a history text book for PNG students but publishers dropped his next book project when AusAID stopped funding such projects around 2002.

Mr Johns has continued working on his history text despite the possibility of not getting it published or distributed by the Education Department or a supporting European Union program.

“I hope the situation changes as there is a crying need for a more detailed book in schools. Until this has been written, PNG school students and people in general, will be ignorant of the main forces and motives that shaped their nation.”

Mr Johns said a few books existed but none were in PNG’s schools and they did not cover the important role Papua New Guineans played in early settlement circa 1850 to 1975.

An AusAID spokesperson said: “Australia’s focus in the education sector, as agreed with the PNG Government, is on teacher training, school infrastructure development and strengthening education administration.”

Montevideo Maru, the film, needs your help

JOHN SCHINDLER, executive producer of the documentary film, ‘The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru’, talks to Keith Jackson

Movie It all started two years ago. Mum died and my brother and sister and I were deciding what should be done with items very precious to her.

I was intrigued by a small photo on the piano. It was of a handsome lad Mum had known and his name was John Wilson Day. He was a friend of the family. My brother Tim suggested I should try to find out more about the photo and the circumstances surrounding John’s death.

It turned out that my Mum and her sister Molly had promised John and the three Turner brothers that they’d wave goodbye to their troopship, Zealandia, from the middle of the Sydney Harbour Bridge as it sailed in 1941. But the girls were late, and when they got to the bridge the ship had passed Pinchgut and was almost out of sight.

John Wilson Day and most of his company didn't come back from the war. Mum said it was a mystery. All she knew was they died on a ship called the Montevideo Maru.

My Mum and Aunty Molly never did find out what happened to John and the Turner brothers. This film is too late for them. They have died and many others have passed on without knowing.

In my films, I’m drawn to factual stories of human bravery and self sacrifice for the good of other human beings. In the case of the Montevideo Maru, the ultimate sacrifice was made by over 1,000 brave young Australian men. I think this story should be told for their sake, for the sake of their relatives, many of whom are still alive, and for the sake of the Australian people who enjoy a democratic society because of them.

The film includes interviews covering a wide spectrum of people who were drawn into these tragic events. The interviews are interspersed with colour and black and white archival film, still photos from the period and dramatic re-enactments.

I’ve been financing it mainly money from my own pocket plus resources from film industry colleagues who’ve donated their time, expertise and equipment. We’ve now reached a point where we need financial assistance to complete the project.

We hope the film will be released on 11 November this year. Overwhelmingly, I’m very saddened that so many young men lost their lives. I feel so sorry for the relatives and friends of those who died. They have not been able to find closure.

You can visit the website of 'The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru here.

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee will publish its first newsletter this week. Become a Friend of Montevideo Maru (membership is free) to receive the newsletter each month. Email Keith Jackson here.

Verily, by our words ye shall truly know us

More than 70 years ago, T Willmett and Sons of Townsville published what might be the first Pidgin English Dictionary to have been put on public sale. Priced at two shillings (equal in purchasing power to about $30 today) it advertised its contents as “common nouns and phrases used in conversation with natives in The Territory of New Guinea”.

Pidginhousehold Some of the common household phrases included “your work is not correct” (fashion belong you along work, crooked an about), “I want you here at dawn” (behind you come up long half light) and “how long is it since you had a bath?” (skin belong you ‘e stink. Callim ow much time ‘e loose, long yu wash wash?)

Judging by the tone of the phrase book, these colonial New Guinea households were places of draconian rule and Presbyterian dourness, with servants needing to be watched constantly, half trusted at best.

Indeed, it was this suspicious pateralism that most surprised me when I arrived in the Territory in 1963 and still perturbs me when I encounter it today, so many years later.

The dictionary also contains an impressive list of ‘Don’ts for Visitors and Residents’. Here are a few examples of one PNG Attitude reader has termed “our benign Administration and our attitude”:

Pidgintips Don’t fraternise with natives. Familiarity breeds contempt rapidly where a native is concerned.

Don’t put up with studied insolence – see your Kiap – he will correct the boy.

Don’t lose sight of the fact that a boy cannot think as quickly as you can, nor for that matter, work as fast as you can.

Don’t strike a boy with your hands, if you are provocated [sic] to the extent of striking him. This form of attack often leads to rapid retaliation on his part.

More colonial reading if you left click the images, which were kindly provided by Albert Mispel at the Mispelit website here.

1965 – Teachers begin to organise & politics stirs

Loch Blatchford

Senior Ed Madang 68

1965. Three new districts are declared in Papua New Guinea – Chimbu, West Sepik and West New Britain – in a year in which indigenous school teachers form organisations whose industrial base makes tangible the stirrings of national political organisation in the Territory.

The University of PNG and the Institute of Higher Technical Education are underway. Their sites are determined, interim councils appointed and council meetings held. The University plans to enrol preliminary year students in 1966 and the Institute is to commence a Diploma in Civil Engineering in 1967.

The elected leaders of the House of Assembly and the Administrator’s Council prove to be independent thinkers, much to Canberra's dismay. John Guise impresses Cleland as a future leader and Matthias Toliman expresses definite views on education. In Australia, Gough Whitlam, Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, pushes for PNG independence by 1970.

The World Bank report is recommended to Cabinet in April and presented to the House of Representatives in May. The Bank wants a concentration on secondary, technical and higher education. It argues for the three types of secondary education to be amalgamated and the curriculum changed to a comprehensive one for the first three years.

The World Bank also argues for a massive expansion in secondary education over the next five years and a need for more secondary teachers. Primary is to be restricted. Schools and houses are to be built of local materials by local people. Boarders are to be phased out and expatriate primary teachers replaced by indigenous people. 1965 is the last year of primary teacher training at ASOPA. The E Course finished in 1964.

The Department of Education finds it difficult to recruit secondary teachers and attract indigenous students to teacher training. Director Les Johnson, saying the Department is facing serious financial shortage, considers terminating secondary education at the end of Form IV. Students wishing to proceed further could attend the preliminary year at the Administrative College or  continue their education in Australia.

The World Bank recommends the establishment of a Research and Production Unit to produce curricula, texts, teacher materials and aids. It also suggests the establishment of a separate teachers’ branch of the Public Service Association. The Public Service Commissioner is asked for a Research Division.

Many professional associations are emerging: the Tertiary Students’ Federation (Ebia Olewale); the Administrative College Students’ Representative Council (Albert Maori Kiki and Michael Somare); the Local Teachers’ Association (Vincent Eri, Waterhouse Wai Wai, Kila Onno, Madi Roua and Nelson Giraure); and the PNG Teachers’ Association – previously the Teachers’ Occupational Group of the Public Service Association.

Port Moresby Teachers' College trainees protest over the gap between European and indigenous wages and force the Administration to increase their pay.

In-service training courses draw many teachers from the schools but are essential for localisation of the Department. Les Johnson is also prepared to release a further 20 teachers to undertake preliminary year studies at UPNG in 1966. Five graduates from earlier in-service courses are now working in headquarters – Kwamala Kalo, Alkan Tololo, Vincent Eri, Kila Onno and Gaino Malolo

Les Johnson is awarded a Carnegie Scholarship to study educational planning and Ken McKinnon returns from the United States with his doctorate. In December 1965, he is appointed Acting Director of Education.

The 1965 summaries of The Blatchford Collection are now available in Attitude Extra.

Photo: Ken McKinnon and senior Education personnel at a 1960s conference

Outbreak of race violence in Moresby & Lae

A dramatic outbreak of unexplained lawlessness and looting on the streets of Lae yesterday morning took on the grim appearance of a race riot. One youth was reportedly hacked to death and other people were injured.

Thousands of men and boys stormed Chinese shops throughout the city bringing Lae to a standstill and catching the police off guard. The Lae police commander said he did not know the cause of the riot.

The PNG National reported youths as saying: “We are frustrated with small Asian shops sprouting unnecessarily, selling cheap items around the city. Who is allowing these Asians to come into our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New Guineans? Mipela tait na les pinis long ol Kongkong nabaut ya. Mipela ino wari long polis tu. Inap em inap.”

The Post-Courier talked to a shocked Chinese businessman who was preparing to leave PNG as a result of the attack. He said that, following five years in Lae, he was calling it quits after his shop was looted. “I cannot stay here, I am scared of what has happened,” he said.

Police said attacks on Asian shops started as early as 5am, taking businesses, government agencies, schools, markets and other institutions by surprise and forcing them to close. By 10 the city was shut down.

Looters rushed into shops stealing tills and goods. Guards were left helpless. Police fired tear gas and warning shots and thrashed stubborn rioters with batons and vehicle fan belts to disperse them.

“It was the first time the city experienced mob looting that struck three major shopping areas at once,” said Momase police, who did not know the identity of the organisers.

Media reports said the riot was triggered by a protest march in Port Moresby on Tuesday in which youths called on National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop to place restrictions on foreigners operating small businesses.

The NCD police commander said he had approved Tuesday’s civil society march saying it was nothing more than a peaceful protest. However, Asian shops in the city were targeted by protesters and closed their doors. On Wednesday, police were caught by surprise again when several Asian shops, especially those belonging to Chinese nationals, were ransacked.

In a separate development, the PNG Government has said it is thinking of bringing back an Australian team of police. Acting Prime Minister Dr Puka Temu told Parliament that the Government was also contemplating getting a foreigner to be Police Commissioner.

Sources: ‘Mobs loot in Lae’ by Franco Nebas and Poreni Umau [Post-Courier]; ‘Asian shops hit in Lae’ by Pisai Gumar [National], ‘Top city cop urges Asians to trade again’ by Travertz Mabone [National], ‘Government considers getting a foreigner as police chief by Gorethy Kenneth [Post-Courier]

Australian aid to PNG soars past $400M

Papua New Guinea will receive $414.3 million in development assistance from Australia in 2009-10, an increase of $25 million, or more than 6%, over last year.

And, firmly demonstrating its commitment to its own backyard, the Australian government has increased all-up aid to the Pacific region to nearly $1.1 billion.

Under the Partnership for Development scheme, assistance to PNG will initially focus on five priority areas:

(1)   Better transport infrastructure to improve national roads, regional airports and ports.

(2)   Faster progress towards universal basic education, targeting increasing primary and elementary school enrolments with a focus on increasing the number of female students. Activities will aim to raise the enrolment rate in primary schools to 70% by 2015.

(3)   Improve health outcomes by providing assistance to meet targets on triple antigen and measles vaccinations and reducing malaria and tuberculosis rates.

(4)   Strengthen the public service by improving public administration at national, provincial and district levels, including improved financial management.

(5)   Implementation of a national statistics program. Consistent data collection will enable policies and programs to be based on sound statistics.

Other assistance will include work to improve governance and nation building by working with civil society, the private sector and government to support enhanced governance, civic education and community development.

Australia is also providing a strengthened response to the HIV crisis through a $100 million five year program to prevent the spread of HIV and to provide treatment and care for those affected.

Local anger over Bougainville land grab

Aloysius Laukai

A dispute over foreign acquisition of land threatens to set back the Bougainville reconciliation process.

Landowners and chiefs in the Tinputz area are upset over the purchase of plantations by a group of foreign investors and some prominent Bougainvilleans known as the Bougainville Island Group.

At a meeting in the Tinputz administration centre last week, landowners said they were not happy as there was no consultation between them and the Bougainville Island Group before the plantations were purchased from the liquidators Deloitte and Westpac, who are current titleholders to the plantations.

The landowners said such actions can have drastic effects, even derail the peace process on Bougainville.

They are now calling on the Autonomous Bougainville Government to assist by immediately finding ways to put a stop to the plantation sales so landowners can deal directly with the liquidators regarding payments and transfer of titles to the original landowners.

I understand that although landowners have occupied most of the plantations since the Bougainville crisis, they will have to negotiate with Deloitte and Westpac to re-acquire these plantations through legal means.

More news of Bougainville affairs at the New Dawn on Bougainville website here.

Those golden days: Asbury & New Guinea

Extracts from SEAN DORNEY’s eulogy at Albert Asbury’s Memorial Service in Brisbane, 8 May 2009

Newsroom In 1969 Albert went to Port Moresby and became the ABC’s political correspondent in the then colonial Territory. Albert shone.

He covered PNG’s rapid transition from colonialism to self-government and won the confidence of the major political players of the time – one of whom, Sir Michael Somare, honoured Albert with the PNG Independence Medal in 1975.

Albert did a superb job. Amongst his long list of great contacts was Sir John Guise, then Speaker who became PNG’s first Governor General. Post-independence, Sir John used to ring Albert and ask him to duck up to Government House for a drink because he had a bit of gossip to tell him, sometimes at Somare’s expense.

One remarkable story from PNG’s pre-self government period was to win Albert life-long thanks from a number of the other journalists based in Port Moresby. PNG is one of the most dangerous places in the world to fly, and Albert was on a chartered media plane carrying the journos. The pilot became violently ill and Albert, with no formal flight training, took over the controls.

He radioed ahead for an ambulance and with his nervous colleagues quaffing OP rum and thinking they were about to die, Albert steered the light plane over the Owen Stanley Ranges and, with the guidance of some mumbled instructions from the semi-conscious pilot and ground control, brought it down safely. One result of that episode was that the ABC boosted its insurance coverage for journalists flying on non-commercial fights.

In late 1973, self government came to PNG and the ABC handed over its operations in the Territory to the newly created National Broadcasting Commission. Albert was seconded to the NBC as News Editor and had the job of combining the newsrooms of two organisations.

Albert hired me and couple of other young ABC journalists from Australia. On the day of my arrival in Port Moresby, only a minute or two after collecting my bags, Albert introduced me to the wonderful products of South Pacific Brewery. There was a bar at Jackson’s airport then and we didn’t get past it for some hours.

Another of the ABC journos Albert recruited was Bob Lawrence from Adelaide. Bob and I became fast friends and we regularly got into trouble riding around in a roofless Honda two seater sports car wearing plastic pith helmets that we bought at a Chinese trade store and poking fun at Australia’s colonial rule as it wound to an end. Albert always fished us out of trouble.

Albert was a huge supporter of his staff and he was more than happy to let me have time off when I got selected for the PNG National Rugby League team, the Kumuls. He used to come and watch me play.

At one game, he was sitting in the grandstand with a friend, John Randall, and Albert said, “My shout. What do you want?” SP had two beers, one in a green bottle and one in brown. Randall said, “I’ll have a greenie.” Albert came back with a beer for himself and a schooner of Crème de Menthe for John. Hang the expense – anything for a laugh.

You can read the eulogy in full here. It is a marvellous exposition of the life of a journalist in an era that is fading.

Photo: NBC Port Moresby newsroom c 1973 - Sean Dorney, Bruce Bertram, Albert Asbury and Bob Lawrence

PNG & the GFC – weathering the storm

The Australian Government’s budget last night made a successful attempt (if you judge success by media coverage) to shove much of the pain of newly acquired national debt on to future generations, which those of us over 60 probably think is a pretty good strategy.

OK, that shows this blog’s relevance and that I have an opinion – but, more pertinent to PNG Attitude, what’s going on with the PNG economy?

The ANZ bank, which is much bigger per capita in PNG than it is in A or NZ, has predicted a 5% growth rate for PNG this year. Which leads Australia, with a negative forecast, in the shade. Daylight second.

This is down from 7% growth last year, but inflation is dropping too – from an unhealthy 10.7% last year to 8% this year, with another drop to 6% forecast for 2010.

PNG’s foreign exchange reserves are up from about $2.7 billion to $2.9 billion and the forecast trend is steadily upward to $3.2 billion next year. The relative values of the kina and the Aussie dollar have changed little leaving that aspect of the PNG economy stable in terms of its largest trading partner.

The prospective liquid natural gas project has helped PNG weather the impacts of the global financial crisis, underwriting strong domestic demand. But ANZ has warned that, while PNG might be able to steer a smooth path through the crisis, in the Pacific region overall tourism, remittances from workers overseas and commodity prices will be hit.

“The timing of a recovery for the Pacific region depends heavily on developments in the advanced economies. Our current call is for a gradual recovery to take hold next year. The risk is for a prolonged though not necessarily deeper downturn,” according to ANZ.

Controversy surrounds PNG climate hero

Conrad_Kevin AAP’s PNG correspondent, Ilya Gridneff, has sent people diving for cover in Port Moresby with revelations that one of the world's most outspoken voices on climate change, Kevin Conrad [left], has been linked to failed business dealings in PNG.

Mr Conrad was the man who achieved international fame at the 2007 Bali climate conference when he told the United States to either lead the debate or get out of the way. At the time, he was PNG's special envoy for climate change.

Last year, Time magazine named him as its top placed ‘Leader and Visionary’ in its list of Heroes of the Environment. But in PNG, perceptions of Mr Conrad are different.

There have been allegations in Parliament that he was involved in a failed housing scheme where $8 million was spent and not a single house built and in the PNG Banking Corporation writing off $18 million and landowners losing plantations in the collapse of a coffee export company.

Now a new controversy has erupted around Mr Conrad’s role in carbon trading.

“If he is going to be directly involved in a mechanism managing trust funds for carbon trading,” AAP quotes Paul Barker, director of the PNG Institute of National Affairs, as saying, "concerns about the past need to be resolved. He really needs to do a little bit of explaining. There is a wide public scepticism within PNG.”

First PNG candidates for PNGAA election

There is a lot of unfinished business on the agenda of the Papua New Guinea Association that the new management committee to be elected next month will need to address.

And one of the most important of these is to get the Association to act more assertively to encourage Papua New Guinean residents in Australia to join the organisation.

It is estimated there are more than 70,000 Papua New Guineans in Australia and they are massively underrepresented in the organisation that bears the name of their country of birth.

It’s hard to say how many Papua New Guineans belong, those statistics are not kept, but it is probably no more than a handful of the 1,500 members.

Now it seems that the Association has an opportunity to start remedying the deficiency. Two prominent members of the Australian PNG community have indicated they will stand for election to the PNGAA Committee at June’s elections.

They are Gimanama Crowdy, President of the PNG Sydney Wantoks and prominent in Sydney netball circles, and Diveni Temu, Pacific Librarian at the RG Menzies Library at the Australian National University in Canberra and a leading figure in the ACT PNG community, which is very active socially and culturally.

This is an exciting development that every member of the Association should welcome and support. Over time, having prominent PNG members will lead to a stronger, more diverse, more credible and better organisation.

An indication of this comes from a recent event in Adelaide called the Welcome Gathering, a joint initiative of PNGSA, a support group of Papua New Guineans living, visiting or studying in the city, and the PNGAA.

“In many ways, it was quite an emotional afternoon,” writes Jan Kleinig. “The welcome speech by Imelda from PNGSA who thanked us all for giving up part of our lives to help the people of Papua New Guinea was completely unexpected.”

Imelda summed up the event: “Everyone mingled and networked, I thought that was fantastic. This is such a positive step for both our groups. Some people in PNGSA that did not come to this, got wind of what a fab event it was and have been inquiring about when the next one will be. Thanks so much to you for getting your people all together.”

Footnote: The late Allan Jones supported the Welcome Gathering from the beginning. “He had no doubts,” says Jan. “In fact, he paid the hiring fee for the centre. On the day he worked quietly chopping up the onions. And then at the barbeque, in the cold and rain, grilling the meat and the sausages and frying the onions. He told me he wasn’t an upfront sort of person but just loved helping.”

Allan’s life so richly exemplified the spirit of cross cultural friendship and understanding that should be the hallmark of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia.

You can be part of rebuilding of the PNGAA and exercise a vote in the forthcoming election by joining here. Membership is just $20 a year, and this includes a subscription to the quarterly journal Una Voce.

Veteran PNG educator Allan Jones dies

Jones_Allan_1963 One of Nature's gentlemen, Allan Jones died in Adelaide on Friday at the age of 70 after a suspected heart attack.  He was travelling home from a Rostrum Club meeting.

Allan was a quiet, cheerful and Christian man and his sudden death is a matter of great personal sadness for me, a sadness which I know will be shared amongst the many people who knew him.

In recent times Allan had engaged with the Papua New Guinea community in Adelaide. In the words of Jan Kleinig, “He told me he wasn’t an upfront sort of person but just loved helping.”

Allan officially retired from teaching in December 1999 as principal of Cameron Secondary School at Alotau in Milne Bay. He’d spent 45 years in PNG and found it hard to tear himself away, continuing to work there with AESOP Business Volunteers until 2002, whereupon he retired go pinis to Adelaide, his dog Goofy, travel and community service.

After graduating from the Australian School of Pacific Administration, where the accompanying photograph was taken, in 1963, Allan taught at Daumagini (1964-68) and Hula (1969-74) and later, after gaining a Bachelor of Education degree, he was headmaster at Karkar High (1979-86), Popondetta High (1989-93) and Cameron Secondary School.

Of his time at ASOPA, Allan once wrote: “Having gone from secondary school to insurance office work and then National Service, ASOPA was the next step in broadening life’s experiences and the gateway to a career in education.

“I recall the general atmosphere of good friendship amongst the Class of 62/63, Dick Jones’ concerns about Geelong Football Club, Edgar Ford referring to Howie Ralph and me as ‘ignorant oafs’, the ‘tactics’ used by Barry Paterson in the back straight of a race at the sports carnival, and personal friendship with Geoff Lawson, Brian White and Keith Bain.”

May newsletter out – subscribe for free

Attitude_May09 Each day somewhere between 150 and 200 people read this blog and each month nearly 200 people are emailed the rather more elaborate print version of PNG Attitude.

The second issue of the new look newsletter was circulated yesterday and has already received positive feedback from readers.

The newsletter takes this website a step further by extending and adding to the articles you read here.

The May newsletter has articles on Australia’s aid program in PNG, Michael Somare’s Canberra visit, the Montevideo Maru (including a hard-to-find speech by Kim Beazley Senior), the PNG Association, the Kiap Recognition Project and much more in the way of comment, news, book reviews and other features. Next month’s issue will feature full coverage of the impending PNGAA elections.

You can subscribe to the free newsletter by emailing us here.

AusAID in PNG gets loud wake-up call

The evidence mounted over the last week or so.

A colleague back from Oro Province saying teachers in rural schools have rejected a methodology called ‘outcomes based education’ because it does not work in the PNG village situation. (OBE has divided the educational community in Western Australia and other jurisdictions also. It may well be asked, what’s this ideology doing in PNG?)

Eric Johns - featured in PNG Attitude over recent days - unable to get history books into PNG schools because the educational authorities, guided by Australian experts, were otherwise engaged on curriculum development. For five years.

And, most damningly, Prime Ministers Kevin Rudd and Michael Somare agreeing in Canberra last week that too much AusAID money is being spent on consultants – and not enough getting to where it needs to go: down to the grass roots.

Against this backdrop, and especially the sphincter-tightening rocket from the national leaders, it was not surprising to read in the PNG press yesterday that AusAID spun around a few times and emerged travelling in a different direction.

‘AusAID changes strategy’ said the headline in the PNG National. The story began: “The Australian Agency for International Development in PNG is embarking on a different approach to its aid program by directly involving the provinces and districts.”

Decentralisation in a largely rural agricultural nation – now that's a revolutionary idea.

It seems the head of AusAID in PNG, Bill Costello, and AusAID assistant director general, Margaret Calla - perhaps rushed to Port Moresby amid the reverberations of Prime Ministerial gunfire - have told the Central Province administration that AusAID is now keen to work directly with provinces and districts. The word 'now' is instructive.

As the National reported, the reason for the new direction was the blast from Kevin Rudd  that AusAID funds had been “misspent" and "not enough was being delivered to essential assistance in teaching, infrastructure and health services on the ground in villages across the country”.

“AusAID strongly recognises the provincial and local level governments,” Mrs Calla said, "and we are looking at how best AusAID can assist as we have a strong interest in supporting them."

It has taken a long time for the aid agency to comprehend that resources are needed in the villages, where kids are taught and food is grown and health care delivered,  and that - even more difficult - that service sustainability has to built at that level.

But, let’s be fair, we should be grateful that AusAID is looking into it.

In doing so, the organisation should note a truth from half a century ago that still prevails today - PNG cannot be run from a desk in Port Moresby.

Urgent need for PNG histories: Nelson

Head & Shoulders Mono Australia’s pre-eminent historian on Papua New Guinea, Emeritus Professor Hank Nelson, has come out in support of author Eric Johns’ plea that more should be done to educate the people of Papua New Guinea about their own history.

PNG Attitude reported yesterday that bureaucratic  logjams in AusAID and with the European Union’s aid program had prevented textbooks reaching schools, even though the PNG Education Department wants them.

“Eric Johns has had a long concern with teaching, teacher education, history and PNG. All have come together in his efforts to write histories of PNG appropriate for students in PNG schools,” said Prof Nelson, who works in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University.

“The need is urgent. Few schools – or towns – have libraries and some schools are almost bookless. The one or two books on the history of PNG in a school may be coverless and one may have been written when Australia was still the administering power.”

Prof Nelson said able students have few resources and the average student has no basic texts. “The teachers, often facing large classes and without the promised support for major topics in the syllabus, need relevant textbooks – for themselves and for every student,” he said.

“Papua New Guineans need a consciousness of what they have in common. A knowledge of a shared history is basic to the building of a nation-state.”

Prof Nelson said Eric Johns has already demonstrated he can write accurately and sympathetically on and for the people of PNG and that he combines the skills of a historian with experience in the classrooms of PNG.

Enabling PNG to know its own history

Eric Johns is a former lecturer at Port Moresby Teachers College. A dismayed lecturer, I might add. Dismayed by the lack of history and social studies resources available to teachers in Papua New Guinea.

Unlike most of us, who would have shook our heads and walked away, Eric decided to do something about it.

The ‘something’ began with PNG History Through Stories, published in two volumes by Pearson/Longman in the 2000's. The publisher has since asked Eric to embark on a more ambitious project: A History of PNG for senior students. He’s two years into writing and probably has three to go.

The main difficulty is that which you’d think would be the least: getting these books to their intended audience. This is despite the desires of the PNG Department of Education – which wants them but presumably can’t afford to buy them.

When Eric began writing the books, Pearson's was confident of getting them into the schools with AusAID money, because this is how the system had worked previously. At about the same time, however, it seems AusAID began hiring consultants for curriculum development and further funds for placing teaching materials in PNG schools dried up.

Pearsons eventually gave up on AusAID and approached the European Union, which in 2006 said money was available. It must be something about aid agencies, because they were no better.

This is a bottleneck begging to have the cork popped. And now, I’m pleased to say, the Federal Government is having a long hard look at it.

Eric, of course, not only wants to see his PNG History Through Stories made available to their intended readership but he’d like some reassurance that the great effort he’s putting into A History of PNG will be rewarded.

Rewarded, though, not through financial largesse but as a result of the books serving their intended purpose of making good a deficiency of essential knowledge for Papua New Guineans growing up in their own country.

As Eric puts it: “There is a crying need for a more detailed book covering the period from pre-history to 1975. Until this has been written, PNG school students, and therefore PNG people in general, will be largely ignorant of the main forces and motives that shaped their nation.”

More on this issue tomorrow.

A bit of housekeeping to be going on with

A notice in the post reminds me that elections for the Papua New Guinea Association are due at the end of next month, with postal voting to occur before that.

A new Constitution matched by a fresh national committee should be just the medicine the Association needs to reinvigorate itself for a new era. I won’t be a candidate but, as you might expect, I retain a continuing interest in the progress of the organisation.

By the way, if you’re not yet a member, you should join. The PNGAA quarterly journal, Una Voce, edited by Andrea Williams, is alone worth the $20 membership fee. Join here.

Since stepping down from the presidency in early January, I’ve continued to involve myself in some major projects related to PNG (not least of all is the production of PNG Attitude both in the form of this blog and as a monthly newsletter, subscribe free here.) Today, I thought I’d update you on how these projects are travelling.

The Kiap Recognition Project – ably led by Chris Viner-Smith - has reached a point where the Federal Government, through the Special Minister of State and the Prime Minister’s Department, having decided in general terms that some form of recognition is merited, is now determining what form that recognition should take. You should contact Chris here if there are specific issues related to the project you want to raise or questions you’d like to ask.

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee has just appointed Kim Beazley as patron and me as chairman and is very busy. Its activities range from preparations for the unveiling of a memorial at Subic Bay in the Philippines on Wednesday 1 July to getting itself ready to formally propose to the Federal Government that there be some form of national recognition of the loss of 1,053 men in the sinking of the ship in 1942 – Australia’s worst disaster at sea.

The Committee will also be seeking officially sanctioned research into issues related to the Japanese invasion of Rabaul earlier that year and the failure to evacuate civilians from the town.

A detailed statement of the Committee’s objectives and activities  will soon be available (we will publicise it on this website) and, from later this month, a newsletter will be published. If you’d like to become a Friend of Montevideo Maru and have your name added to the newsletter distribution list, email me here.

In this context you should also know about a documentary film, The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru, due to be released around November this year. The producer is John Schindler and you can visit the film’s website here.

Over the last week or so I’ve joined forces with Eric Johns in a PNG History Project to try to get much-needed history and social studies books into PNG schools. I’ll be writing more about the background to this in the future – one stuff up after another by the authorities – but  we’re now talking to the Federal Government about how the log jam can be kicked free.

Eric is three years into a five-year project writing his monumental A History of PNG for senior students and there needs to be some certainty that this work will reach its destination –the classrooms of PNG. You could email Eric here if there’s any way you believe you may be able to assist with this project.

Finally, my association with the Bougainville radio station New Dawn-FM has moved into a new phase since the station was launched late last year to assist with reconciliation and development in the Autonomous Province. Station manager Aloysius Laukai and I publish a New Dawn on Bougainville blog that provides up-to-date news from the island. You can link to it here.

Political stoush on poverty comments

Sir Michael Somare has defended his comments at a Canberra press conference last week where he said no one went hungry in PNG.

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta subsequently criticised the Prime Minister for saying there was no poverty in PNG, saying that many people were starving and the majority of people still lacked basic services.

Sir Michael launched a stinging attack on the Opposition, strongly defending his Government’s track record since taking the reins seven years ago and questioned what Sir Mekere was doing to improve services in his own Moresby Northwest electorate.

“There has been a lot of finger pointing going on by some urban Members of Parliament and I want to know what these urban Members, especially the leader of the Opposition, have done with the increases in their allocations over the last four or so years.

“Has Gerehu police station been improved to better serve the community? I hear Baruni dump being brought up in the media recently. Can the local Member (Sir Mekere) tell us how he has used his district allocation to assist in alleviating urban poverty? With the district road improvement programme, are there new roads in these urban electorates?” Sir Michael asked.

“We have given each of the 89 districts adequate funds since the first term of this Government. In the first year, it was K1 million, then K4 million and recently K10 million.

“Yes, we lack material wealth in rural areas where the vast majority of our people live but they are not short of food and water,” the Prime Minister said.

He said social services should be improving with the resources that his Government had been continuously pouring into all Government departments and districts. “It is not for me to make inspections of aid posts and schools; it’s the responsibility of managers in those sectors.

“We recognise that there are deficiencies and have ploughed money into the districts to complement the work of departments such as police, Works, Transport, Health and Education,” the Prime Minister said.

He said the public sector was a stumbling block, making delivery of services to districts difficult.