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52 posts from July 2009

Can you shed light on Black Dogs of Bougainville

Now this is an assignment for you amateur sleuths.

Ken Wright has a dilemma. He’s writing an article on the ‘Black Dogs’ of Bougainville in World War 2 – who I take it were renegade Japanese civilians.

But Ken’s having trouble finding information and is seeking assistance. Having done a cursory bit of internet research, I understand the problem.

Ken says he read a line or two in various books about the Coastwatchers that mention a Japanese civilian called Tashira who established and controlled a kind of vigilante group on Bougainville that was supposed to have raped and murdered locals who were friendly and who aided the Coastwatchers.

“I suspect the real name should have been Tashiro,” Ken says, “as Tashira is not a Japanese family name.

“The only one that fits the description is Tashiro Tsunsuke, who was tried as a war criminal by an Australian military court in Rabaul in 1947. He got ten years for assaulting a native, which was commuted to five years because of numerous good character references.

“There is no court reference to his involvement with the Black Dogs but it seems very strange he got ten years for a crime, if he did indeed commit it, when other Japanese did worse and got only a few months jail.”

If you’re able to assist Ken with his research, you can email him here.  And let me know too. I’m getting interested.

Australian boomerang aid denies PNG full quid

Dr Tim Anderson, spokesman for the independent group Aidwatch, says Australia is failing to train the people it should be helping in PNG.

Aidwatch has been vocal on the issue of ‘boomerang aid’ - where money supposed to assist developing countries ends up funding Australian firms and consultants rather than the people it’s meant for.

Dr Anderson said aid programs tend to be expensive and wasteful. "Very little education and training happens under our aid programs, even though billions of dollars are spent," he said.

He says the problem is systemic. "It isn't resources that stops us training large numbers of people from Timor , PNG or Solomons, and it's not a lack of goodwill," he said. "It's something about our system and the way we do aid programs."

Source: ‘Australia's boomerang aid slammed’ by Claudette Werden, Radio Australia, 29 July 2009

A magic blog from a magical London PNGn

2008 Mari Ellingson is from PNG and lives and works in London.

Mari is a singer, songwriter, poet and playwright and, just recently, a blogger. Her blog is called My Magic Moments, and subtitled ‘A PNG expatriate in the UK’. I’ve linked to it below.

"The idea of blogging is absolutely mind blowing and mind boggling!" says Mari. "Mind blowing because of the possibilities and opportunities it represents. Mind boggling because it can be frustrating navigating on a website and at the same time trying to use a computer as effectively as you can.

"Sometimes it feels like driving on a highway without a map or a sat nav. Last year about this time, I did not know what a blog was or what twitter was all about. Well this year I’ve decided to participate in the 21st Century."

Mari is also a recording artist and her many other interests include music, photography, travel, food, reading, personal development, history, autobiographies, jewellery, paintings and other artistic creation.

Why don’t you pay a visit to My Magic Moments here. And say g’day.

Opposition: govt uses funds to manipulate MPs

Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta has referred Prime Minister Somare, Speaker Nape and Minister Tiensten to the Ombudsman Commission for an alleged unconstitutional adjournment of Parliament.

“What happened yesterday, when the Government adjourned Parliament to November, is an outrage,” said National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop.

Sir Mekere said: “It confirms what the parties in Opposition have been saying for months: that the ruling clique is a law unto itself. They are clearly scared of facing a vote of no confidence, so they have shut down Parliament,”

He said the Government’s action to shut down Parliament was unconstitutional because Parliament had not sat for the required number of days stipulated by the Constitution.

The Opposition said that, for seven years, the National Alliance Government had used the Speaker’s office as a political tool when this office was supposed to be impartial.

They claim that the reason for the MP's revolt and the no-confidence motion was simply that the Somare Government had not delivered much and, when MP's want to take responsibility and fill the void created by the Government, they are hampered.

“The Somare regime uses project funds to threaten or manipulate members and the decisions they make on the floor of Parliament,” it was alleged.

Source: PNG Post-Courier and thanks to Gelab Piak

Australia fiddles while Pacific wildlife disappears

A leading scientist says Australia is ignoring a wildlife extinction crisis on its doorstep, doing little to help Pacific nations deal with overwhelming conservation problems.

On the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns next week, Sydney University ecologist, Prof Richard Kingsford, has urged Australia to draft a regional treaty to guarantee environmental aid to developing island nations.

Despite its ‘palm trees and paradise’ image, Prof Kingsford says the Pacific region has the worst wildlife extinction record on Earth.

More than 80 percent of plant and animal species in eight Pacific nations are threatened by land clearing and urban development.

A study co-authored by Professor Kingsford, published this week in the international journal Conservation Biology and quoted in The Canberra Times, is reviews more than 24,000 scientific publications on conservation issues in the Pacific.

The list of environmental threats includes over-harvesting of corals, shells and tropical fish; bird diseases such as avian malaria and cholera; over-fishing; illegal wildlife trade, and the spread of root-rot fungus or dieback, which is killing forests in Western Australia.

“Australia is not exactly throwing conservation aid into the region despite the Pacific’s importance as a world hotspot for biodiversity.  What little aid is offered tends to be poorly targeted, poorly resourced, and short term,” says Prof Kingsford.

Feral animals and weeds cause 75 percent of all mammal and bird extinctions and more than 1200 of the region’s bird species are extinct.

Prof Kingsford accuses some large global conservation groups of practising ’conservation neo-colonisation’ by ignoring the need to invest in local conservation training.

“It’s a transitory conservation effort, flying in foreign experts to save particular species. There isn’t much thought given to building capacity among local people.

“Earth is experiencing its sixth greatest extinction event, uniquely attributable to humans, and our impact on the Pacific has been particularly dramatic.”

Source: Article by Canberra Times science and environment reporter, Rosslyn Beeby. 29 July 2009. Thanks to Don Hook

PNG in crisis: the citizens express anxiety

In the wake of the suspension of the PNG Parliament this afternoon, as the Somare governmment sought to avoid a vote of no-confidence, tonight's news from Port Moresby has an ominous ring.

“This is politics in the ‘would be dictator’ style and I don't think the people will accept it,” a  veteran observer of Melanesian politics has told PNG Attitude. “We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow.

“I hope that I’m wrong but I expect disruption as from tomorrow.

“There is no real problem with this, but I might have troubles going to the bank if the people start to walk the streets.”

We'll provide further information from our contacts in PNG as we receive it.

If you're in PNG and have information about flashpoints, actual or potential, email PNG Attitude here.

Somare runs scared: House out for four months

It seems the PNG Opposition had more votes in its pocket than the Somare Government gave it credit for.

AAP’s Ilya Gridneff reports from Port Moresby that angry scenes erupted in the House of Assembly this afternoon after the government avoided a motion of no-confidence by adjourning Parliament for four months until November.

“MPs hurled abuse at each other across the chamber and security officers had to restrain members of the public who voiced their frustration when the government won the adjournment vote on Wednesday,” Gridneff wrote.

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta said the Somare government is running scared, so much so that the PNG Constitutional was breached to avoid the no-confidence vote.

"Yesterday Somare said he had the numbers to block a vote of no-confidence, today he adjourned,” Sir Mekere said. “The government is worried, it is fractured. He is afraid to face the music, the Constitution, he will go down in history as someone who has threatened democracy."

Sir Mekere will refer Sir Michael, the Speaker Jeffery Nape and the leader of government business Paul Tiensten to the Ombudsman Commission for violating the Constitution.

Opposition member Sir Julius Chan, a former prime minister, said PNG was not in political limbo but "now in hell".

Some government backbenchers said a series of scandals and corruption motivated them to swap sides.

Yesterday Sir Michael said he had the numbers to defeat a no-confidence vote.

In what was clearly a contrivance, a government spokesman excused the adjournment as allowing for "much needed refurbishments" to Parliament House.

Source: ‘MPs in uproar as PNG parliament adjourns’ by Ilya Gridneff, AAP, 29 July 2009. With thanks to Paul Oates

PNG arm wrestle as both sides claim numbers

The Somare Government’s “days are numbered and they are finding every excuse and obstacle to delay the inevitable”, PNG Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta has said.

“MPs – mostly from the Government ranks - are in open revolt. We have had enough of the Somare and the National Alliance regime and want out where we can represent our people without domination or intimidation,” he told the PNG Post-Courier.

“The honourable thing for them to do is stand aside. But whatever happens they must face our band and dance to the music we play for them.”

The politicking in Port Moresby has been fast and furious these past 48 hours with the Government playing ducks and drakes with the Opposition, seemingly to delay the bringing on of a no-confidence motion.

It is not clear when the vote will be taken but it has been affirmed that Speaker Jeffery Nape was handed the required notice by Sir Mekere and MP Jamie Maxtone-Graham.

After adjourning Parliament because of a lack of quorum and at first denying that notice had been given, Mr Nape later retracted that statement and confirmed the two leaders had served the notice by in his office.

It could take up to seven days before the no-confidence motion is voted on, and it promises to be a tense time in PNG politics as Government and Opposition struggle to secure the numbers.

The National Alliance Government led by Sir Michael Somare is confident it will survive the vote. At a press conference yesterday afternoon the Government paraded 57 MPs, a majority, to show it maintained the loyalty of the majority of members.

”I call on the opposition to officially surrender on the floor of Parliament,” Morobe Governor Luther Wenge, a strong supporter of Sir Michael, said.

According to the Post-Courier, the Morauta group has 43 MPs and expects more government MPs to join it in the coming days to bring the number up to 58.

Source: ‘Government confident of win’ by Gorethy Kenneth, PNG Post-Courier, 29 July 2009

Prosperity gospel bandwagon hits Port Moresby


Joyce Meyer is a 66-year old American preacher and a proponent of the ‘God wants you to be seriously rich’ school of charismatic Christian evangelism.

She’s been a guest at Brian Houston’s sometimes controversial Hillsong Church in Sydney, which has the same ‘prosperity gospel’ tendency (in fact Brian was the warm up act for Joyce’s recent three day Moresby gig).

It's claimed her TV and radio programs are broadcast in 25 languages in 200 countries – including PNG – and it seems Joyce has written no less than 70 books.

According to Wikipedia, Joyce frequently talks in her teachings about overcoming obstacles and finding strength to deal with difficult circumstances, drawing candidly and with humour on her own experiences.

And PNG blogger and occasional PNG Attitude correspondent, Emmanuel Narokobi, a self-confessed Catholic who says he needs to lift his game, has written:

“If faith can move mountains then right now faith has brought us a private jet flying, multimedia, multi-staged, multi-screened, multi-million kina concert extravaganza and all for the people for the price of nothing. All they want are your souls, well I shouldn’t put it that way, but all they want is for you to take part in their brand of faith.” [See Emmanuel’s blog here.]

So Joyce the Voice made a flying visit to Port Moresby in her new Gulfstream jet to teach people, as Emmanuel puts it, “that God desires material prosperity for those He favours. Material prosperity in this theology not only includes financial prosperity but success in relationships and good health as well.”

Joyce arrived in PNG last week to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd that The National said was “yearning for a glimpse of her”. Not that it did The National’s prosperity any good, the newspaper's website has been shut down subsequently after coming under serious cyber attack from some ungodly hackers.

Joyce’s team preceded her three-day ‘Festival of Light’ (24-26 July) with a five-day medical mission, which offered free treatment to 4300 people, 1000 of whom committed their lives to the Lord on the spot. And Joyce also popped out to Bomana gaol to meet some of the guests.

Steve Grace, whose Christian band warmed up proceedings, writes in his blog: “When half the population of the capital city turns up to hear some good Bible teaching and worship the Lord together, you just know that God is at work in a nation… It was an estimated crowd of 400,000 - the largest gathering for a Christian event in PNG’s history.”

Steve went on: “People came with a great expectation and hunger. Joyce’s Bible-based practical preaching was warmly received by the PNG people. Thousands made decisions to live for Christ each night and everyone who attended received a small booklet called A new way of living. It was like witnessing a phenomenon.”

Joyce Meyer makes $100 million a year. As the St Louis Post-Dispatch has editorialised, “In the Gospel of St Matthew, Jesus says, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ Ms Meyer would seem to believe she can make the squeeze.”

Somare government says opposition can’t count

In a show of contempt for the Morauta Opposition, the Somare government this afternoon invited journalists into a room to count its members to prove it is not vulnerable to a vote of no-confidence.

Earlier today, the Opposition claimed it had the support of a majority of the 109 members of Parliament and said it would use its numbers to initiate a vote of no-confidence.

But there was no vote, as Parliament was postponed because there were not enough members present to form a quorum.

The Government then invited journalists to a meeting room and asked them to count the members present.

ABC correspondent Liam Fox tallied 57 Government MPs - more than enough to defeat a motion of no-confidence.

It was telling that no Opposition member was available for comment.

Source: ‘No-confidence vote: PNG invites media to count MPs’ by Liam Fox, ABC

A short farewell to a cool but short-lived blog

I had meant to note this before, but Ilya Gridneff’s Papua News Guinea blog is no more – banned from the ether by the Grand Poobahs at Australian Associated Press.

Ilya is the AAP correspondent in Port Moresby, from where he covers the affairs of PNG and the Solomon Islands.

Entitled Death by 1001 cuts (although it was the 1001st that provided the coup de grace), Ilya’s final contribution to the blog read: “Due to unpopular demand this is the last post.

“Sadly Papua News Guinea is to die a very premature death due to AAP concerns the 30 per day who daily read it are undermining the nature of their news service.

“That and they may be liable for some law suit due to the author's unchecked behaviour. It was but brief. Adieu all ye PNG fateful.”

The blog provided a breezy, sometimes irreverent and always informative look at PNG affairs. It’s now of strictly archival value, but for the moment you can still read it here.

As one regular reader commented: “I'd never have HEARD of AAP without your blog. I'll certainly remember it now.” But not for the right reasons, I presume.

PNG opposition says it has the numbers to win

PNG’s Opposition, led by Sir Mekere Morauta, says it has the support of 58 of the 109 Members of Parliament and is set to bring on a vote of no confidence in the House of Assembly this afternoon.

Thirty Members are said to have defected from Sir Michael Somare’s ruling National Alliance coalition.

Today's PNG Post-Courier reports that the first item on Parliament's agenda will be a motion of no confidence in the Speaker.

The Opposition says it gained support of the Government members at a meeting of MPs in the Eastern Highlands last week. The meeting was convened to discuss mining legislation, but turned its attention to national governance.

“The government will just have to face the music,” an Opposition strategist told the Post-Courier. “If you look at this current Parliament, many of these MPs are first timers and they are frustrated that there is nothing good for them, even those in the Government ranks. We also have 13 governors supporting us."

There has been considerable disquiet in PNG recently because of what are seen to be inequities in the distribution of wealth from a range of resource enterprises.

The Opposition says momentum is building for a change of government and that a no-confidence vote could be attempted during this week's sitting of Parliament.

Sir Michael, deriding the prospect of a no-confidence vote, questioned whether Sir Mekere even had the support of his own MPs.

Dangerous Keravat high school faces closure

The board of Keravat National High School in Rabaul says the famous school will be suspended at the end of this academic year if facilities are not updated.

The news has shocked people associated with the school, which has educated PNG leaders since it was established in 1947.

“This report is very serious,” says Sir Paulias Matane, PNG Governor-General. “Please work out something positive for the concerned people to do for our former school.”

It comes within days of the formation of a Keravat Alumni Association and as a history of the school is being published. The book, Tuum Est - the history of Keravat National High School and its students 1947-1986 by Barbara Short, will be launched at Keravat by Sir Paulias on 10 September.

At its most recent meeting, the school board resolved to shut the school because of its dangerous state of disrepair. Many classrooms and dormitories that were condemned in 2004 are still being used.

An electrical company has refused to work on the buildings because the structures are unsound, roofs leak and it is dangerous to run electrical wiring through the building. Last week a student was electrocuted - but survived.

Yesterday principal Lilian Hahai reported that a teacher required medical attention when rotting steps collapsed under him and he sustained injuries to a leg.

Ms Hahai said that, despite the board’s decision, only the Minister for Education has the power to close the school. The board, however, has taken the stand that if nothing is done to improve the buildings, it will have no option but to suspend the school at the end of this year.

In anticipation of this closure, the board has approached the media to advise parents to looking for places elsewhere for current Grade 11 students.

PNG having difficulty retaining professionals

Bernard Oberleuter maintains a close and active interest in the affairs of PNG and has now turned his attention to the leaching of well educated professionals from PNG to greener pastures elsewhere.

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the exodus of Papua New Guineans pilots to overseas airlines but Bernard also suspects that the same is happening to professionals such as doctors, mining engineers, geologists, plant operators and quantity surveyors.

Bernard attributes the migration not only to the pull of a better quality of life - material benefits such as better pay, working conditions and housing - but to push factors such as family security, law and order problems and, as Bernard puts it, “na inogat wantok system”.

“Air Niugini has got to lift its game,” says Bernard. “They are the stomping ground for pilot training and, once trainee pilots clock up enough flying hours and secure their commercial licence, they go offshore.

“Air Niugini does not have in place an indentureship to retain trained pilots on the payroll for a maximum of five years after they receive their wings.”

Bernard has some thoughts on how this problem may be addressed and he’d also welcome other comments as he formulates a policy paper on this issue. You can contact Bernard here.

And here’s an interesting list of just some of the PNG pilots who have found overseas jobs:

Capt Ted Pakii [Wabag] - recently appointed Chief Pilot of Skystar Airways

Capt Peter Ansphil – Captain of a Boeing 767 with Skystar Airways

Capt Granger Nanara [Dobu] - flew with Emirates for 15 years before moving to Abu Dhabi to take up his current position as Vice President Operations for Etihad

First Officer Terry Togumagoma [Trobiands] – Etihad

Capt Timothy Nanara [Dobu] - resigned from Air Niugini to join his elder brother and is currently a Training Captain with Emirates

Capt Locklyn Sabumei – Etihad

Capt James Makop [Mt Hagen] – flew with Emirates for eight years and fo the alst two years a Captain at Jade Cargo Airways based in China

Capt Samuel Siaguru - resigned from Air Niugini in 2005 and also a captain at Jade Cargo

First Officer Mark Neah [Wabag] - has been flying with Cathay Pacific for the last seven years

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? And it seems to indicate that the education system (at least in the past) was able to deliver top quality professionals.

There is also a hint that PNG's management (and political) capability does not exist to the the extent required to build the kind of society in which such people can live, work and prosper in the way their professionalism justifies.

QUT honours Brian Bell’s achievements

Josephine Pacey

Brian Bell Sir Brian Bell, an icon of the PNG business community, has been honoured with an award for professional excellence by the Queensland University of Technology.

The ceremony, held at the Brisbane Exhibition and Convention Centre, recognised past QUT graduates who have contributed exceptional community, professional, academic or research achievements.

Sir Brian was honoured with a Special Excellence Award to recognise his exceptional achievements since graduating in 1948 with a Diploma in Pharmacy from QUT’s predecessor Central Technical College.

He moved to Port Moresby in 1954 as pharmaceutical chemist in the Bulk Medical Store and soon after established PNG’s first electrical retail outlet. The business expanded into department stores, home centres, chemicals, cleaning products and industrial equipment.

Sir Brian is Chairman and managing director of the Brian Bell group of companies, the largest business of its kind in PNG, generating annual revenues of K253 million and employing 1,300 people.

The award also recognises Sir Brian’s generous philanthropy. He is a prominent benefactor of the Port Moresby General Hospital (of which he is chairman), the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and Port Moresby City Mission.

Sir Brian was knighted for his outstanding community service in PNG and has also been awarded high honours by Norway and Sweden for his service as their Honorary Consul General in PNG.

Josephine Pacey is Alumni Events Coordinator at the Queensland University of Technology

Victory in PNG due to 'fuzzy wuzzy angels'

It took 60 years, but the contribution of  the fuzzy wuzzy angels to the victory against the Japanese in PNG in World War II has now been officially recognised. DON HOOK lauds their critical support

Wesley_Akove & Alan_Griffin The Allied victories in PNG during World War II owed a great deal to the so-called Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

At the peak of the war, 55,000 PNG males over the ‘apparent age’ of 14 served as conscripted carriers, often under dreadful conditions.

They carried food and ammunition to troops in forward positions. On the return journey they brought out the wounded.

The role of the carriers always will be associated with the fighting along the Kokoda Track. But well before the Kokoda campaign, carriers supplied the Australian Kanga Force based on Wau through one of the most extraordinary lines of communication in modern military history.

Small coastal steamers took supplies for Kanga Force from Port Moresby across the Gulf of Papua to the mouth of the Lakekamu River. There they were trans-shipped to whale boats and pinnaces and ferried across the bar at the river mouth, and upstream to Terapo.

From Terapo, food, weapons and ammunition were taken by canoe for two days up the fast flowing, crocodile-infested Lakekamu to the old mining camp at Bulldog. Loads weighing about 50lb were made up for the carriers who completed the journey to Wau – a seven day walk with loaded shoulders.

According to the PNG war historian, Peter Ryan, the carriers worked under shocking conditions, up and down precipitous mountain ridges more than 7,000ft high, mostly through dank rain forest, constantly wet.

Temperatures at night dropped almost to freezing and carriers were lucky if they had a cheap cotton blanket. During the day their attire usually was merely a loincloth or G-string.

The main food for the carriers was rice, which they had to cook for themselves when they arrived exhausted at the end of the day. Occasionally, a tin of meat or packet of Army biscuits supplemented the rice.

Malaria and other deficiency diseases took a heavy toll on the carriers. At times the sickness rate reached 25 per cent (14 per cent was considered ‘acceptable’).

The Army believed the carriers could deliver 6,000lb of cargo daily to Wau. In fact, they were lucky to deliver 600lb a day.

Fortunately for the Army, and more especially for the carriers, Dakota aircraft began flying supplies from Port Moresby to Wau in late May 1942, swiftly reducing the reliance on the Bulldog Track.

The carriers along the Kokoda Track also worked under shocking conditions carrying heavy loads along a narrow, rough foot track. They too climbed precipitous ridges and plunged into the dark narrow valleys of the Owen Stanley Range. Some of the mountain peaks exceeded 13,000ft and conditions were cold and wet. The track was soon churned into liquid mud.

A peace-time miner and planter, Captain HT’Bert’ Kienzle, of ANGAU recruited many of the carriers. He and the tall, elderly Dr Geoffrey Vernon of the Papua Medical Service were unsparing in their efforts to improve the health, accommodation and working conditions of the Fuzzy Wuzzy.

Captain Kienzle, who was interned in Australia during World War I because of his German background, was awarded the MBE for his services during the Kokoda campaign.

The recruitment of young men to work as carriers had a profound effect in their home areas. Some villages were left bereft of fit men, leaving the women, children and elderly to fend for themselves. In areas of fighting, thousands of Papua New Guineans lost their houses, gardens and all their possessions. After the war, the Australian Government paid these people $4million as some recompense for wartime losses.  Much later, there were other payments and recognition of the service provided by the carriers.

The suffering of the Papua New Guineans was never fully recorded and will never be known in all its detail.  The official records show that 81 PNG soldiers and policemen were killed and about 200 wounded. But there is no record of the number of carriers who died or the village people who were killed in a war fought on their soil and over which they had no control.

Photo: Wesley Akove after receiving his much belated commemorative medal from Australian Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin [Sydney Morning Herald]

Wanted: volunteers to help PNG landowners

Stephen Ellis

The PNG liquefied natural gas project’s announcement on Monday of its secured customers is a milestone that moves the project a step closer to the final investment decision in October.

The massive LNG project is set to change the face of the PNG economy. But PNG landowners need assistance to reap the long-term benefits associated with the project.

LABA Holdings Ltd represents the collective interests of landowners in the western part of Port Moresby. The aims of this new organisation include engaging with landowners in areas affected by the project, negotiating a contract with contractors and ensuring equitable distribution of dividends to landowners.

LABA is also responsible for organising PNG labour, catering, camp services and security as well as managing spin-off businesses in areas such as transport and agriculture.

The LABA Board has requested international development agency ABV to provide volunteer experts to assist set up its office in Port Moresby. The volunteers will focus on building business capacity through a transfer of knowledge and expertise.

The initial goal of ABV is to assist the Board with grant writing to request seed capital from the government. Following this, volunteers will work with the Board to recruit and train staff in business administration, high-level negotiation, finance, human resources and marketing.

This will ensure LABA becomes a sustainable organisation with the capacity to represent the interests of landowners and benefit the whole community.

ABV urgently requires an experienced Business Development Administrator who can work with the Board to hire a CEO, develop a business plan and best-practice procedures as well as assess training needs.

Given the size of this project, ABV is also looking for a number of other business professionals who can assist on future assignments with LABA.

If you or someone you know is interested in assisting with this project, contact Amelia Manion here.

Stephen Ellis is the communications officer with Australian Business Volunteers

The border 1: 1962 seems like only yesterday

PAUL OATES reflects on events surrounding the confrontation between Indonesia and the Dutch in the early 1960s and what they mean in the current context

World War 2 had been over for only 17 years, the Korean War less than ten years and the Malayan confrontation was still fresh in people's minds.

Given the turmoil within Indonesia, President Sukarno decided his people needed their attention diverted to an external 'nationalist' cause and initiated military action against the Dutch in West Papua, or Dutch New Guinea as we called it.

Indonesian paratroopers armed with AR16's, and very poor maps, frequently drifted across the Australian border and encountered our patrols with police armed with antique .303's. Very nasty situations were avoided often due to good luck on both sides.

I overheard my father (a WW2 Army staff officer) saying to an ex-Army mate over the phone at the time, "It looks like war."

Then, almost overnight, the Dutch caved in and it seemed the hiatus was over. Sukarno’s brinksmanship - very similar to that used by a Mr Hitler prior to WW2 – had succeeded. Later, when the backroom machinations emerged, it became clear that our allies, the Americans, had a vested interest in the situation.

Now why would that have any bearing on a matter between Indonesia and Holland? Well, keeping the Malacca and Sunda Strait open so the US Seventh Fleet could move freely from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean seemed like a feasible reason given the situation in SE Asia at the time.

So a paper treaty was forced on the Dutch. A treaty that everyone in the know knew would only be honoured in the breach.

The current situation in West Papua must be understood on multifaceted level. Previous claims that some Sultan had an historical dominion over all the islands in the region are, at best, very hard to prove.

In the sixties, Indonesian maps showed West Irian (Dutch NG), East Irian (PNG) and South Irian (Australia). It was suggested euphemistically that 'Irian' merely referred to an 'island'. Now I thought ‘Pulo' was the Bahasa word for island.

Clearly the two peoples of PNG and West Papua are ethnically similar and in no way like the people of greater Indonesia. That aspect was not lost on the Indonesians who commenced their transmigration policy whereby Javanese were encouraged to migrate and so create a more homogenous nation.

In Papua, the ethnic differences stand out markedly. Forty years ago, the political situation mainly centred on national pride and global strategic considerations. Now it is also a matter of natural resources and who owns and mines them.

For Australia and PNG, this is a very difficult situation on our doorstep. There will never be another East Timor. Indonesia would never willingly allow a loss of face like that again.

So it boils down to an uncomfortable situation maintained by all sides at the apparent expense of those in West Papua who have never been given a real say in what they themselves want. This is a powder keg waiting to explode.

Australia would do well to prepare for the inevitable explosion. This may start with an unofficial transmigration across the Torres Strait or into PNG as has happened, if only in a limited way, in the past.

Paul Oates is a former PNG patrol officer and administrator of Christmas Island. He now farms in south-east Queensland and is a regulatr contributor to PNG Attitude

The border 2: The PNG government must act

GELAB PIAK analyses current PNG - Indonesia border issues and sees a porous boundary accessible to rebels, illegals - and PNGns seeking services

Their common border has always been a contentious issue between PNG and Indonesia.

There was a time in the 1970s and early 1980s when suspicion was so high on both sides that there was a very real fear in PNG of high level invasion by Indonesian forces.

The PNG Defence Force drilled in jungle warfare tactics, mostly to hold off the superior numbers of Indonesian troops in the jungles of PNG.

At the time West Papua freedom fighters, the OPM, took advantage of the suspicion and mistrust between the two countries to carry out rebel activities in PNG territory, further driving a wedge between the two neighbours.

West Papuans crossed as refugees into PNG in droves, heightening diplomatic and security tensions.

Then in 1987, at the instigation of PNG, the two countries signed the Treaty of Mutual Friendship, Goodwill and Respect. Cross-border dialogue improved and increased in frequency.

Today, Waigani and Jakarta share a cordial relationship with embassies in each capital and consulates in Vanimo and Jayapura. But the no-man’s land between the two countries remains the same 1,600km stretch of hostile virgin jungle.

There is no indication as to where the border is except cement markers planted every 75km or so in the jungle. In thick jungle, most of these markers are overgrown and are no longer visible.

OPM freedom fighters still carry out their daring hit and run war against the Indonesian armed forces along the border. Uniformed Indonesian soldiers continue to cross the border in hot pursuit and often mistake PNG citizens for West Papuan OPM activists as happened last month in a border village called Skotso in Sandaun Province.

Amid all this, the PNG Government sits almost uninterested and, even if it is interested, it is apparently helpless.

PNG must now face two realities which might in time become threats, if they are not already so.

All along the border, the Indonesian government seems to have a decided to build infrastructure and improve government services. This is luring PNG citizens, who have tribal relationships across the border, to cross into Indonesian towns looking for jobs, medical treatment and in search of education.

A boy who was shot last month was attending school in Indonesia and was returning home to Skotso when the incident happened. Despite the shooting, relatives ferried the boy back across the border to get medical treatment in Jayapura, reinforcing the idea that, whatever the threat, PNG’s border people seek services on the other side.

The second problem is illegal border crossers. Forest Minister Belden Namah said last week that Asians were crossing illegally into PNG. “They do not need to come in containers any more. They just breathe fresh air and cross the border into PNG in broad daylight,” Mr Namah said.

The PNG response to this is next to nothing. There is nil development of any kind all along the PNG side of the border. And the PNG Defence Force detachment and police border commands in both Western and Sandaun lack vehicular support, communications and other logistics.

The Sandaun police are understaffed by half the required ceiling and have withdrawn all personnel from sub-districts along the border from Amanab and Green River to Telefomin.

“It is a very difficult situation when you call and call and it falls on deaf ears,” Mr Namah said in relation to his attempts to get the Government to improve border security and surveillance and to increase funding for infrastructure and economic projects along the border.

The new Border Development Authority ought to be authorised to use its funds to increase surveillance and to establish agro-forestry projects in Sandaun and Western Provinces.

Gelab Piak is a freelance journalist and student at Divine  University in Madang. He is a regular contributor to PNG Attitude

WW2 remains examined by Defence Department

The Office of Australian War Graves, part of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, has said human remains found near Kokopo on 16 June will be buried in the Bitapaka War Cemetery if they are identified as being Australian servicemen.

Responsibility for the recovery and identification of the remains lies with the Department of Defence, which has placed them in secure storage and will forensically examine them in the near future.

OAWG was responding to Bruce Crawford OAM, an executive member of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles and Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Ex Members Association, who expressed interest in the finding of the skeletal remains, suspected to be World War II Australians, in a pit near Kokopo.

“Men of the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles (an Australian Regiment) met the Japanese on their landing at Rabaul on 23 January 1942 and, though overrun, continued to engage the Japanese as they retreated down the coast of New Britain,” Mr Crawford said.

“Though it is more likely the remains will turn out to be men of the 2/22nd Battalion, I would be pleased if you could note our interest, particularly if it turns out that the remains are those of men of the NGVR,” he said.

OCDP reports on the real Papua New Guinea

Oro Community Development Project

It is relatively simple to distort the image of Papua New Guinea and its people.  Most media reporting is of unbridled violence and sorcery. As a young, growing country the challenges of governance, public services, employment and opportunity are ever present.

If you spend some time moving about the provinces and talking with the people, you find the real pulse of the place. 

They experience the same emotions as we do – they laugh, cry, become frightened, express compassion, love and joy. They want to be successful, want the best for their children. Now through access to the internet and mobile phones at the village level, they know what is happening around the world. 

While there are signs of worthwhile progress that benefit the majority, there is still a way to go.

After the OCDP team’s visit to Oro Province in April, key decisions were made about the focus of our professional support.

The two village schools to be supported are St James’ School at Hohorita and Holy Cross School at Gona. The PNG outcomes based syllabus is new and soundly based. With extra support for teachers, implementation should become easier. The related curriculum materials are necessary as are the student textbooks. OCDP aims to provide these materials together with the professional support.

Clean Hands, Good Health and Bright Smiles, Bright Futures are health initiatives developed by Colgate-Palmolive. Their target is to improve the health of children and communities around the world through education and prevention. Colgate has agreed to partner OCDP to help implement the basic daily practices of good hygiene.

This involves brushing teeth both day and night, using toothbrushes and toothpaste as well as focusing on regular hand washing at certain times throughout the day. Colgate will become actively involved by both supplying materials and personnel. This initiative will become part of the daily program at the beginning of each school day and will be the responsibility of the class teacher.

The maternal and infant death rates in PNG are the highest of any other Pacific nation and equate to some of the worse rates in Africa. Much of this can be attributed to inadequate hygiene practices during childbirth. For most mothers, the only option is to deliver the baby in the village.

OCDP have become an official Zonta International distributor of the highly acclaimed birthing kits. These are the size of a cigarette box and contain materials that assist in following the six clean methods of delivery – clean hands, clean birth surface, clean ties, clean cut, clean cord care and clean eyes.

The kit consists of a piece of soap for washing hands and mother before delivery, a clean sheet for the child during delivery, a sterile razor blade to cut the cord, clean ties to tie the ‘rope’ and swabs to clean the baby’s eyes after delivery.

The Mother’s Union in Popondetta fully support OCDP and will assist in the distribution of up to 3 000, kits each year becoming an integral part of the program. OCDP health professionals will accept responsibility for the training of the Mothers’ Union volunteers. There is also the vital requirement for the careful monitoring of the effectiveness of the campaign.

Malaria causes more deaths in PNG than any other disease including HIV/Aids.  The use of anti-malaria bed nets dramatically reduces the adverse impact. ‘Rotarians Against Malaria’ has been given major responsibility for organising the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets in PNG. The Global Fund in Geneva have guaranteed to meet the estimated cost of US$175m.

OCDP hope to be involved in this process in Oro Province and has registered its willingness and capacity to meet the project outcomes. 

For further information please contact the Project at [email protected]

Source: Newsletter of the Oro Community Development Project

West Papua: persistent dreams of a PNG union

Extracts from a recent article in which journalist BERTIL LINTNER  looks at the turbulent history and aspirations for a possible future for the Indonesian province of Papua

When the Dutch finally left Indonesia in 1949 -- four years after the declaration of independence -- they held on to their western half of New Guinea. They argued that the territory was culturally different from the rest of the old colony and, if ceded to Indonesia, the Papuans would be exploited by the more politically and economically sophisticated Javanese.

The new Indonesian nation, however, saw it differently. One of the catch phrases of independence leader Sukarno was of Indonesian sovereignty "from Sabang to Merauke"…  The Dutch initially ignored such sovereignty slogans and throughout the 1950s initiated several moves to make their part of New Guinea an independent state.

Basic education was improved, a naval academy was opened, Papuans began to serve in the military as well as civil services and local elections were held in December 1961. The territory even adopted its own national anthem and flag with the white Morning Star, symbolizing the hope for a new day era.

All this happened at a time when Southeast Asia was in deep turmoil. Communist movements were strong throughout the region and especially in Indonesia, where it was a powerful and legal political party. The United States warned the Netherlands against trying to defend its New Guinean possession if Jakarta attempted to use force to extend its writ to Merauke…

The Netherlands gave in and, on Aug. 15, 1962, signed an agreement in New York with Indonesia according to which the United Nations would assume temporary control over the territory. It would then be transferred to Indonesia -- but on the condition that the Papuans would have the right to decide their own future.

On May 1, 1963, Indonesia took full charge of the territory and first renamed it West Irian and later Irian Jaya. In mid-1969, the promised "referendum" was eventually held, but The Act of Free Choice, as it was called, was open only to 1,025 handpicked delegates, which predictably all voted in favor of integration with Indonesia. On Nov. 19, 1969, the U.N. General Assembly accepted the results and Western countries turned a deaf ear to local protests over the dubious circumstances of the vote.

By 1965, the OPM had already been established along with an armed wing, the National Liberation Army, or OPM-TPN, and hit-and-run attacks were launched in the highlands. [Ruben] Maury joined the OPM in 1970, abandoning his family and a job as a pharmacist in Jayapura...

Mr Maury spent eight years in the jungles and highlands of West Papua before he and some of his ill-equipped followers crossed into independent PNG in 1978. But the newly independent state did not want to antagonize its powerful Indonesian neighbor, and promptly arrested the OPM fighters. In 1979, they were all released and four of them were accepted as political refugees in Sweden...

The OPM would find it difficult to establish a coherent sense of nationhood among the Papuans. They just need look across the border into PNG, which many observers consider a nearly failed state with rampant crime, murder rates among the world's highest, and severe environmental degradation driven by an economy almost entirely dependent on the export of raw natural resources.

Still, the OPM's Stockholm representatives see separation from Indonesia as just the first step; the next would be a union with PNG. "Historically, our ties have been with Oceania. Our connections have always been eastwards, not westwards," [Daniel] Kafiar says.

Source: Far Eastern Economic Review, 17 June 2009. Thanks to John Fowke for directing us to this excellent article

Herstein article reveals more pieces of MvM story

The Herstein relatives’ take on the fall of Rabaul and the Montevideo Maru tragedy appraised by CHRIS DIERCKE, who's assiduously pursued the Norwegian connection with the story

Overall Benn Bolt's translation reflects as much as I know about the story, plus bits about which I knew nothing. It also reflects so many unknowns.

As of 2002, when the article was published, descendants of the Herstein crew were still in the dark about what happened to their forebears. Very little has changed.

In fact, the pursuits and achievements of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee to date have impressed the Norwegians with whom I'm in contact.

There are a few errors in the article, some probably due to translation: for example, New Britain is rendered as New England and coast watchers are called coast guards. And the date and time given for POWs boarding the Montevideo Maru (1 July at 3am) are both incorrect.

But the article, overall and in its detail, summarises the complexity of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru tragedies and poses the question once more of what really happened to the Herstein crew and the rest of the hostages from Rabaul.

The author was correct in asserting that some prisoner lists did not include the Herstein crew. In fact some prisoner lists have only some crew members listed; some have no crew listed and a couple have them all listed.

I believe it's helpful and interesting to have received this article from Benn Bolt because it tells us a little more about Herstein and reinforces some information about which we were already aware.

The Herstein men’s fateful decision to stay

The final extract from an article by Norwegian STEINBJOERN MENTZONI on the men of MS Herstein, most of whom died in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru. Translated by Benn Bolt Jr

Once the Herstein crew gathered on land, Captain Gundersen took command.

The crew were accommodated in two nearby hotels, while boatswain Gerhard Olsen, engineer Peter Brandal and cook Arthur Landhaug were taken to hospital to get treatment for injuries received during the bombardment.

Early next morning came the message they all feared. Japanese ground forces were on their way to Rabaul.

The crew came together for a short conference. There was disagreement about what to do. Some thought they should be in the town when Japanese forces arrived.

Norway was not in war with Japan, and they believed they could be sent home, as other Norwegians had been before.

The third mate and third engineer wanted to stay in Rabaul. Gundersen did not trust the Japanese. He thought he could be forced to reveal things that could damage Allied shipping. He argued it was best to escape. The crew, except one of the youngest, wanted to stay in Rabaul. The young man probably died during the flight from Rabaul.

Before the crew split, the captain gave them 60 pounds each in cash. Then he farewelled the crew, urging them to get away from the harbour and the town. With the characteristic Nortraship cap on his head, Captain Gundersen was the only man that came home to their loved ones after the war in 1946.

The crew were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and put under surveillance. They were later used as slave labour. The story of their stay in custody is one of inhuman conditions, torture, starvation and no help or medication for the sick.

Late in June 1942, the prisoners were marched under a strong guard to board the Montevideo Maru. Destination was Hainan Island in Japan.

More than 1,000 people disappeared without a trace. Among them was the Norwegian ship’s crew. At the end of October 1945 authorities sent a telegram to those who waited: "Your husband was on board the prisoner ship Montevideo Maru which was sunk the first July 1942. None of the hostages survived". Several refused to believe this message.

There were no witnesses and there were no traces of the lost ship. There was no one who could explain what had happened. Some speculated that the truth did not come forward because it was deliberately hidden.

Their children hoped their fathers would soon come back. But they never came home. Some fathers from other parts of Japanese occupied areas came home. But no one from Rabaul. Many surviving family members still ask themselves: What happened to my husband and my brother?

Captain Gotfred M Gundersen died on 22 July 1971 and is buried in the cemetery at Tromøy, Arendal. He was the only one from the Herstein that got a grave where relatives can go to remember him.

Source: ‘Where is my son, my husband and my brother?’ by Steinbjoern Mentzoni, Helgelands Blad, 13-14 February 2002. Translated by Benn Bolt Jr, July 2009.

A longer version will be published in the August issue of MvM Newsletter, produced by Friends of Montevideo Maru. Join the Friends free here.

The fatal last voyage of the MS Herstein

An article by STEINBJOERN MENTZONI in a provincial Norwegian newspaper provides new insights into the men of MS Herstein trapped in the fall of Rabaul in 1942. Translated by Benn Bolt Jr

When Norway was occupied, orders came from the ‘new’ Norwegian government that all ships were to go to ports under German control. Not many officers followed this order; most ships instead heading to Allied ports, and became part of the fleet which fought against the Germans.

No one knows with certainty what happened to the crew of the Norwegian ship MS Herstein. The captain survived and came home to his family in Norway. The relatives of the rest of the ship crew still wonder today what happened to their loved ones.

When Herstein left Port Moresby harbour the Japanese forces were on the march, even though no one knew when they would attack. Captain Gotfred M Gundersen guided his ship along the New Guinea coast, navigating as close as possible to reefs to keep any Japanese submarines at bay.

Herstein had barely come into harbour in Rabaul before cargo booms were raised so that the loading of copra could begin. A new message from the authorities gave ordered Gundersen to take a full cargo of copra on board: 6,000 tons instead of 2,000 tons. The additional time in Rabaul was to have disastrous consequences for ship and crew.

Captain Gundersen was at naval control for final orders before departure from Rabaul. The crew began to make the ship seaworthy, even though loading was not complete. Rumours had it that the attack on Rabaul was not far off. There was nervousness in the small Australian garrison.

Herstein was still in Rabaul when it was attacked by Japanese aircraft on 20 January 1942. Captain Gundersen ran towards the ship to get on board. There was no chance. The ship was far from naval control and there was total chaos in the area. About 100 aircraft approached at low altitude.

Bombs and incendiaries hit the ship, which quickly caught fire. Anti-aircraft artillery fired on land and on the ship. The crew struggled to limit the fire. They connected all available fire hoses.

On deck the first mate Møller tried to extinguish the fire. With him was second mate Benn Bolt. But the heat and flames had become so intense that Møller gave orders to abandon ship. Left on deck was steward Karl Thorsell from Sweden. He was killed in the battle. Some other crew members were injured, but managed to get ashore. The crew also got Thorsell’s body ashore. It lies in an unknown grave.

Source: Extracts from ‘Where is my son, my husband and my brother?’ by Steinbjoern Mentzoni, Helgelands Blad, 13-14 February 2002. Translated by Benn Bolt Jr, July 2009.

Tomorrow: ‘The Herstein men make a fateful decision’. A longer version will be published in the August issue of MvM Newsletter, produced by Friends of Montevideo Maru. Join the Friends free here.

PNG govt taken to task over carbon trading

Sir Mekere Morauta, Leader of the PNG Opposition, speaking in Parliament, has challenged the Somare Government over its putative carbon trading activities.

He has expressed alarm at developments that had recently come to light in relation to premature carbon trading, and unusual agreements with a large number of companies to trade carbon on behalf of PNG “without proper scrutiny and without regulatory policy or legislation in place”.

“If we are not careful, cowboys operating behind the scenes, using our name and wearing our cloak, will reap the lion’s share of carbon revenue,” Sir Mekere said.

“It appears that the Prime Minister and his henchmen, including the Minister for Planning and more recently the Director of the Office of Climate Change, have been hawking these potential assets around the world to all and sundry”.

Sir Mekere said one firm appointed by the government, Climate Assist (PNG), is a one dollar company based in Rockhampton with its sole director, Mr Gregory Corby, providing an address in Toowoomba.

“Another Australian company, Carbon Planet, last year advanced the Office of Climate Change $1.2 million,” he said. “As with Climate Assist, the Opposition wonders what connections Carbon Planet and its Chairman, Mr Jim Johnson have with the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister’s associates.”

“A close relative of the Prime Minister is involved with yet another company, Pacific Carbon,” he said. “The media alleges the PM’s relative has been urging people in East Sepik to sign away rights to land for trading carbon to this company.

“We also wonder why, when questioned about this payment by an AAP reporter, Mr Johnson would say so defensively: ‘I am not explaining at all. I am not having this conversation’.

Sir Mekere went on to say that these three cases were not the only examples of premature carbon trading conducted by the PNG government.

“Apparently last year, the Office of Climate Change authorized a Swiss based broker, South Pole Carbon Asset Management, to market 1 million tonnes of avoided carbon dioxide emission per annum from a PNG logging project based in the Sepik."

He also revealed that Macquarie Bank is the latest company to want to jump on the bandwagon.

“Macquarie Bank has been in discussions with the Office of Climate Change, offering to broker carbon trade deals and retain 15% of profits,” he said. “If the voluntary carbon market turns out to be worth billions of dollars in the next couple of years, as predicted by a number of players, the Bank’s 15% would be very handsome income indeed.”

“It is obvious that the whole situation in relation to carbon trading in our country is a complete and utter mess,” Sir Mekere concluded. “Instead of developing an appropriate policy and legal framework that ensures protection of the interests of landowners and the state, the Prime Minister, Ministers and the staff of the Office of Climate Change have been criss-crossing the globe, appointing ‘brokers’ on who knows what terms, and basically selling people’s and national assets at whim.

“If the funds have not been paid to Consolidated Revenue, we want to know how are they being accounted, and what authority the Office of Climate Change has to raise or to spend these funds.

“Above all, we want to know why the Government is promoting all these deals, when there is no regulatory policy or legislation for carbon trading in PNG."

Cock fighting larrikin now PNG carbon trader

AAP’s Port Moresby correspondent ILYA GRIDNEFF has been doing some digging around the PNG carbon trading imbroglio, and has discovered some colourful characters…

A former Australian horse trainer who ran a Philippines cock fighting business is involved in carbon deals central to an inquiry into PNG's suspended climate change boss.

Kirk William Roberts denies any wrongdoing in his carbon dealings in PNG and claims former business associates are running a smear campaign against him.

"I am a loveable larrikin," Roberts said from his Port Moresby home. "I've done nothing wrong, we're doing good things. I am the most beneficial foreigner to this country right now."

But Roberts' role in a series of carbon deals is now at the crux of PNG's carbon trading woes that includes an investigation in Dr Theo Yasause's role as director of the country's Office of Climate Change.

Dr Yasause gave Hong Kong based company Forest Top and Mr Roberts, a director of another company called Nupan PNG, an official mandate to trade carbon after Roberts locked in local landowners for potential carbon deals.

But documents show Dr Yasause issued the mandate when he was the PNG prime minister's chief of staff, signing documents as interim director of OCC on 12 May 2008, one month before he was officially appointed director.

The documents show Dr Yasause allowed Mr Roberts to go to the world market offering lucrative carbon credits in PNG. On the same day Roberts and Yasause also signed a memorandum of understanding with Forest Top director David Leamey to facilitate international carbon credit deals.

Forest Top then gave Australian company Carbon Planet the exclusive rights to broker the credits and provide technical and scientific input to verify the credits. Forest Top was to be the body that distributed carbon credit sale proceeds to the stakeholders like Nupan, Carbon Planet and landowners.

An Australian Securities and Investments Commission document shows Carbon Planet last year gave $1.2 million for projects in PNG which were associated with Nupan and Forest Top.

Carbon Planet chairman Jim Johnson said they still stood by their PNG deals but declined to comment further. The deal between Yasause and Roberts' company Nupan became public last month, and as PNG does not have any carbon policy nor legislation for such ventures, the PNG government sidelined Yasause and launched a full investigation into the OCC.

The prime minister's media secretary Betha Somare said any of the deals struck were not valid.

Nupan and Forest Top are now in dispute and Leamey and Roberts are locked in various legal battles over wide ranging allegations centred in the Philippines, where Roberts is under investigation by the Philippine immigration department.

"I want nothing to do with carbon credits and nothing to do with Kirk William Roberts," Leamey said.

Source: AAP Report by Ilya Gridneff, 16 July 2009

Rampaging police hold Sepik village to ransom

Gelab Piak

Smain village west of Wewak is still in a state of shock and fear after police raided homes, took the village under control and held it to ransom for four hours on Monday.

The policemen left the village only after they were paid K2,400 in cash and given a pig worth K1,000.

Village councillor Ignas Sual said, when the officers arrived, they appeared drunk and harassed people, fired several shots, destroyed property and threatened to burn houses and rape the women if their demand for money was not met.

The police raid was in response to an earlier attack by several drunken youths from the village on a Forestry vehicle travelling from Vanimo to Wewak on 4 July.

Fearful villagers paid the ransom, and the police ordered the councillor to bring in the suspects the next day.

The suspects arrived in Wewak and were beaten by police before being released after they paid another K400. None was charged.

A detailed report of the earlier incident could not be obtained from police yesterday as the provincial police commander was attending a meeting.

A formal complaint of the incident has been reported to Wewak police for investigation.

Yu save olsem wanem: Winmoni ikamap nating?

PAUL OATES examines whether there’s any difference between cargo cultists & modern investors seeking astronomical returns

Oates Paul In Anthropology lectures at the Australian School of Pacific Administration during our training as kiaps to work in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea, we were briefed about a strange phenomena called ‘cargo cult’.

This concept arose when some people in PNG first saw the material possessions (‘cargo’) brought by the newcomers. Quite naturally, they wondered why they didn’t possess these marvelous items.

The missionaries seemed to provide the answer. They preached about their god and how through prayer all things are possible. It didn’t take long for the idea to form that something had happened to interrupt the equitable flow of these material goods. After all, in most traditional PNG societies, everyone shared almost everything.

Obviously these westerners had done something mystical and a way needed to be found to remedy the bottleneck. Then the flow of material goods would commence and people would also get their fair share.

So it was that many villagers tried to establish a connection with the flow of material goods from on high. The so-called cargo cults, which were frustrated by government officials who took a dim view of such mystical arrangements.

The thinking behind cargo cults was regarded by westerners as primitive and uneducated. But what was the real reasoning behind what was being expressed? The basic concept, after all, seemed to be, in essence, how to obtain wealth without having to work for it. In Tokpisin, this may be expressed as ‘Winmoni ikamap nating’.

Now doesn’t this ring a bell? On a recent visit to Melbourne, I walked through a quarter of a kilometre of poker machines and gambling tables at Crown Casino to get to the restaurant. Thousands of people were playing these games of chance and presumably expecting to receive more money than they were outlaying. Were they working hard to produce something of value? Or hoping to receive a reward for little effort?

You can read Paul’s complete article here:  Download 'Winmoni ikamap nating'.

Gone, Beeps, in a great flipping flaming flambe


You remember the Burns Philp department store in downtown Moresby? Roughly, very roughly, opposite the rough Bottom Pub. Uptown was the Top Pub, 50 yards away.

Beeps. Remember it? Large canvas punkah ventilation systems punkahing overhead. Relentlessly stirring the humidity. We could have been in Delhi if we’d the imagination for it.

The Burns Philp store burned down the other day. Nothing left except the old clock tower. Until I saw the aerial photo I hadn’t realised just how close to the wharf it was. Everything seemed further away, more spacious, then. Maybe it was because the mind was working faster.

A blogger, Mad Dog of Madang, has written of this final fatal fire…

'We were sitting on the balcony drinking wine and saw a huge plume of smoke from downtown. Like any good PNGer we immediately raced towards the disaster and saw the final moments of the famous yet flammable Burns Philip building...

"There were vast and knowledgeable crowds who were remarkably close to the action and a few brave firemen trying to save Westpac with some very leaky hoses… It was quite a communal affair. Well ordered and quite solemn at times."

Burns Philp Then I liked the Burns Philp store. Just down from the Chimbu and just married, it seemed like David Jones gone tropical so far had the mind wandered.

The staff were friendly enough. And there were more trade goods than in the entire highlands’ supply of Heagneys. You could easily spend an hour there buying whatever you liked – from jockettes to joke books

Everywhere has an aroma, Moresby had the aroma of sweet sweat. After the first day you got used to it and never smelled it again until you went away for a while.

Alight Until you went into Beeps, where you could smell this musky ambience – and then slip over the road for a beer or three in the Snake Pit, if my memory serves me right. (‘Serves you right’, says my memory.)

If you have stories of the late, great Beeps, pre flambé, write them now while you can. They’ll be appreciated. Link in through Comments below.

PNG media elite not interested in the grassroots

PHILIP FITZPATRICK has dug out a little-reported speech on the PNG media, and finds it may need to be read between the lines

PNG doesn’t get much media coverage in Australia and when it does it is usually negative. The Australian media gives its audiences what it thinks they want. In PNG’s case this is invariably stories about corruption and lawlessness – good news just doesn’t make the cut. Thank goodness the media in PNG has a more objective, balanced and less depressing view. Or does it?

An address by Joe Kanekane, President of the PNG Media Council, to a United Nations Development Program sponsored governance forum in Port Moresby in March casts some doubt over this proposition.

Mr Kanekane argues that the demography of PNG media audiences has changed significantly since the Media Council was set up in the 1980s. These days people are more sophisticated, thanks to globalisation, technology, better education and a “booming economy”.

He says the days of the media as watchdog is long gone. This role is more rightly the province of the Ombudsman Commission, the Public Accounts Committee and the Auditor General. The media’s role is rather to “offer what the customer wants”. What they want, according to Mr Kanekane, is reporting that is “more focused to their parochial needs than that of their country”.

Talking about the print media he says “a booming economy has a transcending affect. More people have money to spend and that demands additional pages to cater for that”. So what goes into these additional pages?

Mr Kanekane says that in the four main publications in active circulation it is amazing the “number of advertorials, classifieds and even the short anecdotes that appear”.  This explains, for instance, the bemusing pictures in the classifieds of kids having birthdays accompanied by lengthy and glowing testimonials.  He adds “climate change, corruption, law and justice and HIV/AIDS sadly don’t feature prominently”.

There now seems to be middle-class elite in PNG which is big enough and powerful enough to dictate media content. These are the people who buy the newspapers and can afford television. They are not interested in grassroots issues like corruption and the collapse of rural infrastructure. The few dissenters among them seem to be mainly younger people, including students who have access to technology like the internet.

Mr Kanekane cites the Reverend Oria Gemo who said in 1996 that “information is (now) regarded as a marketable commodity rather than a social right”. Mr Kanekane further adds that in this sort of competitive environment the decision to include a story on a social issue must include consideration of its “selling value”. He notes that “anything controversial arouses interest and prompts more readers”.

In May 2008 The National (which, incidentally, is owned by an Asian logging company) featured a photograph of a hanged and crucified drug addict on its front page who had “decimated” a young teacher on his way to school. Despite the community outrage about the photograph he says this was okay because circulation was high for the edition.

He also unapologetically noted that “most importantly, this level or kind of news presentation was targeted at selling the product”. What negative social impact the picture had was unimportant - the main thing was that it sold newspapers!

What hope of having his voice heard has the average subsistence farmer in the provinces who seldom sees a newspaper and gets most of his news from the radio? Provincial radio stations used to be the main source of information on agriculture, health, law and justice and community news, usually in the local languages. Now they play music all day and charge to run community announcements. The farmer, it seems, has lost his voice.

Even television, not the most elucidating medium, is under threat. Channel 9, for instance, has bought into PNG in a big way, dropped local production of programs like the popular Tok Piksa and substituted the sort of mindless pap we have to endure in Australia.

Mr Kanekane notes that the biggest purchaser of advertising space in PNG is the government. He also notes that the media have been very lucky. Except for a couple of abortive attempts at control “the industry has been graced immensely by the benevolence of many of our governments since independence” and has not been “subjected to circumstantial greed or the manifestation of absolute power”. He reiterates this point several times in his address; one wonders why?

Mr Kanekane’s address is reported verbatim in issue 2 (2009) of PNG Resources magazine. The address is not easy to read and I suspect, for the initiated, is rife with hidden meanings. He seems to think that a media that caters mostly to the needs of the elite and makes a buck on the way is a good thing and the way of the future. He calls this “opinion making”. Where have I heard that before?

I am afraid for the 'land of the unexpected'

David Ketepa

I think Laurie Meintjes [Recent Comments] describes well the current scenario in PNG.

Pre-independence days, when Laurie and others worked in PNG, were some of the best days with none of these pressing issues. Most times I wish that PNG could still have been a colony until such a time where we were really ready to take the challenges to lead the country ourselves.

I think Somare and some of his cohorts were ill-advised to make the decision to gain independence.

Though I live comfortably here in the United States, deep in my heart I still feel for my siblings (still in high school) and my mom from a remote village in the Western Highlands, who find it hard to afford even such things as school fees and basic food items.

I look at how the government is treating its people, widespread corruption and high unemployment rates among others issues affecting PNG.

What saddens me, furthermore, is that the government is using all kinds of euphemisms, distortions and excuses to try to weasel their way to dismiss whatever people are doing to speak up against their actions. For example, using excessive police force for example to cool tensions.

This causes brokenness, frustrations and separates people from the government. When there is no proper relationship with the government and its people, disaster can strike and I am afraid a lot of problems might be caused for PNG and situations get out of hand in the 'Land of the Unexpected'.

David Ulg Ketepa lives and works in Detroit, Michigan. You can read his Kange Nga Kona blog here.

An infectious disease poisoning the people of PNG

Gelab Piak

What the Opposition leader has said is true. It is time for the Somare-Temu Government to go. Sir Mekere Morauta has made a correct judgment and his call to every right thinking Papua New Guinean must not go unheard. He believes we are at the crossroads.

This country is on the brink of falling apart. The Somare-Temu Government, in power for the past seven years, has turned a blind eye to the deterioration of Works and Supplies, Health, Education, a proper welfare system. Fisheries, Foreign Affairs and Migration, and Forestry have been plagued by corrupt deals over the years.

The Defence Force has been neglected and the security of PNG is at stake. Our greatest concern in the near future is to have a large and well equipped force. The Police are falling apart. While it’s true, as claimed by the government, that millions are being pumped into the RPNGC, the funds are for operational purposes and not for housing, allowances or equipment.

The PNG police use brutal tactics such as shoot-to-kill to illustrate that if you want trouble you’ll get a bullet. The way they’re shooting criminals is disgusting. The whole Police Force is controlled by one man, the Commissioner, and he’s controlled by the Government. This poses serious questions. Are the Mobile Squads being used as a private army of the Government? If so then, whose army is it, and why? Is it used to protect special interests and corrupt deals?

A growing trend is that major conflicts are related to land owner issues. The Porgera call-out was not only about law and order and illegal mining. There were threats to the Government by landowners, with certain factions threatening to create another Bougainville. The fight in Wau was a land owner issue. And the Ramu nickel mine controversy is a land owner issue. The emerging Watut matter is a land owner issue.

Why is the Government going against the people? This Somare-Temu government needs to investigate corruption, which must run into the billions now. It was made known in the media last week that Somare and his MPs have bought mansions in Australia and have access to the best health facilities. Back home people are dying in Port Moresby General Hospital. What is wrong with the Government? Or is there something wrong with the country itself?

These are the questions that many people are asking. With a Government like this and a society riddled by poverty, is there really a bright future for us? A big nationwide protest should be organised in support of the Opposition and to show the Government that the people are fed up with this corrupt, incompetent, uncaring style of rule.

The people of PNG must stand up now or it will be too late. I ask the Opposition to call for protests. It is time, people like Sir Mekere and Bart Philemon displayed true characteristics as leaders by mobilising people and leading them in democratic protests.

Without doubt we need to get rid off this Government. It is like an infectious disease that shall poison us until it kills us.

Funding problems stall PNG race riot inquiry

It looks like a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ as concerns grow that the PNG Parliament’s bipartisan committee investigating recent anti-Asian riots is going nowhere.

Committee chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham told Parliament the committee formed in May to investigate and report on the causes of the riots had stalled due to lack of funds.

Mr Maxtone-Graham said the committee would need K3 million to conduct hearings in the four regions of the country and K1 million for the inquiry.

“We are crippled by lack of funds because we have to listen to our people,” Mr Maxtone-Graham said. “If we don’t, we will be seen to be losing touch. It is a time-bomb. How do we solve the problem? We have to go out and defuse the situation. The last thing we want is more destruction, burning and looting.”

Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta blamed the Government for allowing Asians to come in. “I do not think we need K1 million to solve the problem. The Prime Minister [and other Ministers] have to make statements of loopholes in the net that allowed Asians to swim through,” he said.

PNG Attitude believes this is one of those important issues on which the Australian Government, appreciating the critical nature of the inquiry, could help out our neighbour by offering  logistical and financial assistance.

Our politicians and bureaucrats should see that getting to the root causes of the race riots will potentially provide an important policy input into the thinking of the PNG Government about issues of social harmony and stability.

The comeuppance of the errant Private Kenna

Don Hook

Private Ted Kenna arrived at Heidelberg hospital in Melbourne in 1945 as part of a medical convoy. He’d been in Wewak. His face had been shattered by a Japanese bullet through the mouth.

The task of removing Ted Kenna’s bandages was given to Private Marjorie Rushberry, a young member of the Australian Army Medical Women’s Service who, years later, recalled the stench of unwrapping dressings applied in faraway battlefields.

Nurse Rushberry was involved in Kenna’s care from the days immediately after his admission to Heidelberg. At first, his recovery was far from certain as he lay in the one room reserved for the most serious case.

Gaining consciousness at long last, Kenna gazed at the caring face of his AAMWS nurse and said: “I’ll marry you”. And he did. And they stayed married until Kenna VC died this week.

His recovery involved many operations to reconstruct his jaw, and it was a year before he left hospital. During this time the romance with Marjorie blossomed (although they admitted later that canoodling was limited).

For a long time Kenna’s jaw was wired and a plaster frame from which spikes projected encircled his head.

But, as he recovered, Kenna frequently absented himself from his hospital ward, courting Private Rushberry. His fellow patients covered for him at roll call and inspections.

One day there was panic in the ward when a message on the PA system ordered Private Kenna to report immediately to the hospital commandant. Kenna, not unusually, was absent.

People scurried in all directions looking for him. He was found in the AAMWS quarters – an area strictly out of bounds for patients.

A sheepish Kenna, fearing the worst, presented at the commandant’s office. The door opened. The commandant saluted him. The Victoria Cross was pinned to his tunic.

And the celebrations began.

Don Hook adds: “I met Ted a few times and had the opportunity to talk quite a bit to him and Marjorie during the 1995 Australia Remembers pilgrimage to PNG. I also reviewed Gwynedd Hunter-Payne's book On the Duckboards on the history of Heidelberg Hospital - officially the 115th AGH - which opened in March 1941 in a sea of mud at Heidelberg, then on the outskirts of Melbourne.”

Keravat alumni group to form in Port Moresby

A Keravat Alumni Association is to be established at a meeting in Port Moresby on Sunday.

One of the first tasks of the group will be to coordinate sales throughout PNG of Barbara Short’s new book Tuum Est throughout PNG. The book is a history of Keravat National High School and its students from 1947 to 1986,

The book will be launched by Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane in the Gazelle Peninsula on 10 September and Barbara has announced that all profits from book sales in PNG will go to the school.

“This book tells the history of the school and from the history we can learn a lot,” says Barbara. “It may help the educational planners of today see what needs to happen to improve education throughout the country.”

Barbara says that she prays that the book, and the profits from its sale, will be a blessing for the school.

“We are all looking forward for a successful meeting on Sunday afternoon,” Sir Paulias says.

The meeting will be held at the Telikom Mambu site. “It has a Haus Win and trees all around to give us shade, benches, a BBQ place and enough parking spaces for our vehicles,” says organiser, Mannen Kuluwah.

Tuum Est will be available in August. You can contact Barbara Short about book orders  by emailing her at [email protected]

Ted Kenna VC, Australian Wewak hero, dies at 90

Kenna VC Edward (Ted) Kenna VC, who has died today three days after his 90th birthday, enlisted in the AIF in August 1940 and served in the 23/21st Battalion in Victoria and later in the Darwin area.

Later the unit was disbanded and its members sent as reinforcements to other units. Kenna was assigned to the 2/4th Battalion and embarked for New Guinea in October 1944.

On 15 May 1945, Kenna was involved in an action near Wewak, during which he exposed himself to heavy fire, killed a Japanese machine gun crew and made it possible for his company's attack to succeed. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The citation reads:

In the South West Pacific at Wewak on the 15th May, 1945, during the attack on the Wirui Mission features, Private KENNA’s company had the task of capturing certain enemy positions.

The only position from which observation for supporting fire could be obtained was continuously swept by enemy machine gun fire and it was not possible to bring Artillery or Mortars into action.

Private KENNA's platoon was ordered forward to deal with the enemy machine gun post, so that the company operation could proceed. His section moved as close as possible to the bunker in order to harass any enemy seen, so that the remainder of the platoon could attack from the flank. When the attacking sections came into view of the enemy they were immediately engaged at very close range by heavy automatic fire from a position not previously disclosed.

Casualties were suffered and the attackers could not move further forward. Private KENNA endeavoured to put his Bren gun into a position where he could engage the bunker, but was unable to do so because of the nature of the ground.

On his own initiative and without orders Private KENNA stood up immediately in full view of the enemy less than fifty yards away and engaged the bunker, firing his Bren gun from his hip. The enemy machine gun immediately returned Private KENNA's fire with such accuracy that bullets actually passed between his arms and body. Undeterred, he remained completely exposed and continued to fire at the enemy until his magazine was exhausted. Still making a target of himself, Private KENNA discarded his Bren gun and called for a rifle. Despite the intense machine gun fire, he seized the rifle and, with amazing coolness, killed the gunner with his first round. A second automatic opened fire on Private KENNA from a different position and another of the enemy immediately tried to move into position behind the first machine gun, but Private KENNA remained standing and killed him with his next round.

The result of Private KENNA's magnificent bravery in the face of concentrated fire, was that the bunker was captured without further loss, and the company attack proceeded to a successful conclusion, many enemy being killed and numerous automatic weapons captured.

There is no doubt that the success of the company attack would have been seriously endangered and many casualties sustained but for Private KENNA's magnificent courage and complete disregard for his own safety. His action was an outstanding example of the highest degree of bravery.

Three weeks later he was shot in the mouth and spent more than a year in hospital before being discharged in December 1946. The following year he married Marjorie Rushberry, who had nursed him at Heidelberg Military Hospital.

After leaving hospital, Kenna returned to his home town. Proud of their VC winner, the people of the Hamilton district raised funds to build Kenna a house which remains the family home.

After the war he worked with the local council and played Australian Rules football for the local team. For many years Ted Kenna led the annual Anzac Day march in Melbourne.

Sources: Australian War Memorial and

Somare threatens ban on Origin football telecasts

Sir Michael Somare has said that Papua New Guineans have “gone crazy” over the Australian Stateof Origin rugby league series, which is broadcast widely on PNG television.

He said the craze had resulted in destruction to property and loss of life. In violence linked to the game, two university students were killed at Port Moresby’s Five-Mile settlement two weeks ago after the second State of Origin encounter.

Sir Michael, who has backed a PNG team entering the Australian rugby league competition, said people had gone crazy over a game that was not played on PNG soil and not played by  Papua New Guineans.

“Many times you hear wives being bashed up, TV screens smashed, big sums of money lost through bets, but at the end of the day those players are not Papua New Guineans,” he told Parliament. “Why can’t we show the same enthusiasm and support when our own people are sweating it out in the field?”

“There is no logic at all and if I had a say, I would ban the NRL from being telecast in PNG,” he said.

Source: ‘PM: We are crazy over a game played by Aussies’, The National, 8 July 2009

A significant risk of robbery near Parlt House...

Thanks to Richard Jones and Phil Fitzpatrick for providing us with such an interesting debate in Recent Comments.

So what does the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website have to say about the safety and security situation in PNG?

Overall it gives our nearest neighbour a ‘High Degree of Caution’ flag. Let’s face it, even taking into account  DFAT’s notorious prudence when it comes to these assessments, it’s not a real good wrap for a country in which Australia has such a vested interest - and for which we have assumed such great responsibility.

Here’s an extract, and a link to the full advisory is provided below.

We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in PNG because of the high levels of serious crime. Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.

Crime is random and particularly prevalent in urban areas such as Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Settlement areas of towns and cities are particularly dangerous. Violence and use of 'bush knives' (machetes) and firearms are often used in assault and theft attempts. Carjackings, assaults (including sexual assaults), bag snatching and robberies are common. Banks and automatic teller machines are increasingly targeted.

Although most crime is opportunistic, there have been incidents of robbery in which expatriates have been targeted in their homes or workplaces. There have been a small number of high profile kidnappings for ransom.

There is a significant risk of robbery and carjacking in the area near Parliament House in the Waigani suburb of Port Moresby and along the highway between Lae and the Nadzab Airport, particularly between the two and nine mile settlement areas.

Walking after dark is particularly dangerous in Port Moresby and other urban centres. All travel at night should be made by car, with doors locked and windows up.

Due to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, victims of violent crime, especially rape, are strongly encouraged to seek immediate medical assistance.

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary faces a number of obstacles, including limited resources, and this may affect police response times in the event of crime. Many businesses, including the High Commission, employ private security companies to help deliver a prompt response to calls for assistance.

You can read the full DFAT travel advisory for PNG here.

Meanwhile, in PNG, after several recent high-profile murders, the death penalty is on the agenda. PNG law allows for people to be sentenced to death by hanging but it has never been enforced.

Attorney-General Dr Alan Marat said today there are no regulations governing how an execution should be conducted and he’s asked his department to draw them up. "I want to take that regulation to cabinet for endorsement but it's just not ready, but as soon as it's ready maybe we start implementing," he said.

The long uphill struggle for kiap recognition

“In March 2002 I commenced a lone campaign to have the service of Kiaps in the Australian External Territory of Papua and New Guinea formally recognised under the Australian Honours and Awards System by the Australian Government.”

So begins Chris Viner-Smith's description and analysis of a Kiap recognition project that has got somewhere, but not quite to the end of the road.

Referring to the specificity of his original goal Chris says in a summary document The Case for Kiap Recognition (you can download it here): “That campaign has been lost, other than gaining eligibility for Kiaps to the National Medal, but on the way some small victories have been achieved.”

Let’s itemise those ‘small victories’ because, in the context of an issue not yet finally resolved, they do count for something:

The Federal Government has agreed to:

Extend to Kiaps eligibility for the National Medal for service to 30 November 1973

Accept that Kiaps were sworn commissioned officers of an Australian external territorial police force, that is, the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary

Mount a Kiap exhibit at the National Archives of Australia in Canberra, researched by professional historians and funded by the Government to provide a means to formally acknowledge and laud the collective efforts of Kiaps in steering PNG towards independence

Sponsor a launch event to which key officials including the PNG High Commissioner would be invited to coincide with the 35th anniversary of PNG independence on 16 September 2010

Publish an article on the contribution of Kiaps in the NAA magazine, Memento

Consider a Ministerial speech in Parliament to place on public record the nation’s gratitude for the Kiaps’ contribution to the development of PNG

What the Government has not agreed to, and what is unfinished business, is more formal recognition through the presentation of a citation or certification to ex Kiaps.

In seeking this greater recognition, Chris has the support of former Governor-General Michael Jeffery who has said: “I am disappointed with [the] response and will take the matter up personally …”

Chris remains hopeful that General Jeffery might have some success in persuading the Government to recognise the incredible work Kiaps undertook on its behalf in bringing a nation to independence.

“You will understand how we feel,” says Chris, “when ADF reservists are entitled to a medal for three months service in Brisbane whilst we put our lives on the line daily for the Australian Government in a foreign country and are denied any recognition.”

You can read the submission provided to Senator John Faulkner, then Special Minister of State, earlier this year by downloading it here. It remains an important document.

In whose interest? Political ethics under scrutiny

If we hauled Australian and PNG politicians into a searching ethical spotlight, just how good would they look? PAUL OATES examines what seems to be a growing deficit in proper ethical reasoning.

Most stories and articles about PNG these days focus on the negative aspects of political corruption and malfeasance at the highest levels.

In his remarks on an article in yesterday’s Melbourne Age about today’s PNG [Dave Tacon: ‘As things fall apart’], Phil Fitzpatrick comments in PNG Attitude:

“… it’s almost a mandatory requirement for stories about PNG. I suspect that Dave Tacon knew that without the negative sensation, including the title, his story wouldn’t have otherwise been published.”

Is this therefore the situation most journalists find themselves when an editor calls for an article on PNG? Is this why. in PNG Attitude, the PNG Governor General called on PNG writers to write about only good things that are happening in PNG today?

Any ethical debate about a politician’s actions should focus on outcomes and not inputs. Otherwise, there is a tendency to start tripping over the trees while losing sight of the forest.? Could there be a more practical way? After all, what we really want are politicians who, by their actions, can improve our existence, not make it worse.

Imagine if all politicians were held accountable for their time in office and responsible for achieving what they said they would do prior to being elected. Imagine if there was a public report card on each elected member prior to the next election. Surely the acid test ought to be whether the lives of their fellow countrymen and women were demonstrably better off for a politician being elected.

How would Australian and PNG politicians stand up to assessment, I wonder?

You can read Paul’s article about ethical reasoning in the current political context in its entirety here: Ethics & Politics: Are they mutually exclusive?

Keravat school history complete and at printers

Barbara Short’s book, Tuum Est, is now with the printer. Tuum Est recounts the early history of Keravat National High School between 1947 and 1986.

Orders are now being taken for the book, which comes in three editions. The standard edition is a softback with hand-stitched and pasted cover to withstand tropical conditions. There are 380 A4 pages and 227 black and white photographs.

This edition will sell for $30 in Australia. Keravat alumni will be selling the book in PNG and will work out a local price.

The hardcover edition will cost $55 and the deluxe edition (leather bound, some colour photos) will cost $80. All the books will be available by early August.

You can contact Barbara at [email protected] to order your copy.

Moving backwards – the sadness of today's PNG

Today’s The Age has a must-read story for anyone with a serious interest in Papua New Guinea.

Dave Tacon, a Melbourne-based freelance writer, has penned an insightful and elegant feature on a country that, far from developing, has just been demoted to underdeveloped status by the United Nations.

Dave’s piece moves from the neglected bush to the dangerous towns covering a lot of important issues in its sweep. Thanks to John Fowkes for pointing it out to me. Here’s a taste:

Detective Andrew Mokoko, 35, walks the street outside the bank agency office in plain clothes, nonchalantly toting a pump-action shotgun. A local identity, he chats with passers-by and the betel nut vendors. Although he is officially on duty, he is earning a little extra as a security guard with a weapon from the police armoury.

This is explained to me by a former police officer. When I ask why Mokoko is out of uniform, the reply is: "Well the raskols often wear police uniforms."

In PNG, corruption is taken for granted. Still, Kerema is tame compared with the country's more populous regional centres, where a largely uneducated population flock in the hope of work. Unemployment is rife. Violent crime, driven by poverty and tribal allegiance, is out of control. In recent weeks there has been sustained rioting throughout the nation. The targets are mainly Asian-run businesses — convenient scapegoats for the disenfranchised.

Commenting on recent rioting in the nation's capital, Port Moresby, Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare acknowledged the perception that his Immigration Department is so corrupt that "a six pack (of beer)" is accepted tender for a passport.

Papua New Guinea, a country with more than 760 distinctly different languages, was ill-prepared for the independence granted by Australia in 1975. To this day, the prevailing political system is based on wantok — the support of one's friends and family above all others. Superimposed into government, wantok is a system of pure cronyism and nepotism.

Fortunately for us, The Age has Dave Tacon’s full article online, and you can link to it here.

Source: As things fall apart by Dave Tacon, The Age, 4 July 2009

The Australian Department of Tourism Denial

What on earth is happening at the Australian embassy in Moscow - the embassy that also handles all visa formalities for PNG?

Embassy staff – who should be facilitating travellers and tourists who wish to visit PNG, not to mention Australia  – seem hell bent on preventing them.

Twice in two days PNG Attitude has had cases referred to it that attest to the difficulty of getting a visa from Australian consular officials in Moscow.

In the first case, a group of Russian adventurers want to visit PNG and climb Mt Wilhelm and then trek to Ramu through Bundi.

After three months of trying, the group leader Nikolay Nosov notes plaintively: “We have problems with entry permit to Papua. I visited more than 40 countries in the world - no any problem with visas. I can not understand why it is so difficult to take entry permit for tourists?”

And Bernard Oberleuter reports the disturbing case of his friend, Marat Shagiahmedov, who has been denied a tourist visa for Australia in the most dismissive way.

The so-called ‘official reason’ offered by Senior Migration officer in Moscow, a Ms Munro, was in fact no more than an assertion that she was “not satisfied that (Mr Shagiahmedov) genuinely intend[ed] to visit Australia temporarily”.

Ms Munro may have a suspicious mind, but what she offered was definitely not a reason. It was doublespeak.

Bernard comments: “It appears the Australian embassy in Moscow is stifling would be tourists. [We] spend millions of dollars advertising for tourists, but fail to provide the necessary visa for these visitors to our shores.”

I repeat the question: What on earth is going on at our Moscow embassy?

PNG-born scrum half called into Wallabies squad

Don Hook

Genia_Will PNG-born Will Genia has been called into the Wallabies Tri Nations squad and is expected to make his Test debut off the bench against the All Blacks at Auckland's Eden Park on Saturday 18 July.

Australian coach Robbie Deans kept a promise made some weeks ago to call up the 21-year-old Queensland Reds scrum half once he recovered from a serious finger injury received in a game against the ACT Brumbies in May.

Genia replaces incoming Brumbies scrumhalf Josh Valentine in the Australia squad.

According to a report in the Canberra Times, Deans said he'd noticed Genia last year. "He's grown physically and with that he's really grown in confidence in the game.

"Against a tiring defence, a guy like him is going to be pretty challenging and we've seen that through Super Rugby."

Deans is said to have called Genia and told him he would have been in the squad for the first four internationals but for the in jury.

Genia spent his early years in Port Moresby before being sent at the age of 12 to board at Brisbane Boys College where he learned his rugby.

Genia becomes the number two scrumhalf in the Australian squad behind Luke Burgess. It's almost certain he will start his Test debut on the bench, replacing Burgess on the field during the second half.

Footnote: Rugby must run in the Genia family.  Will's younger brother Luke is halfback for the Queensland 1 team in the Australian Schools Championship being played in Sydney. 

AusAID boss heads off into the bleak unknown

Davis_BruceAusAID director-general Bruce Davis has left his job. It looks like a sudden departure. There is no permanent replacement and he is said to be off to fill an unknown overseas post.

Bruce is 56 and has retired after ten years in the job to “take up a diplomatic post later this year”. He joined the then Australian Development Assistance Agency (ADAB) 34 years ago at age 22. A career bureaucrat.

The Lowy Institute's Graham Dobell wrote in May, as rumours of an imminent departure circulated: "Davis has epitomised the AusAID contradiction: it controls billions but deploys little bureaucratic weight. AusAID’s distance from power is expressed by its comfortable headquarters in Civic, on the other side of the lake from Parliament and DFAT."

Specific criticisms of AusAID include allegations that it services Australian commercial interests through its procurement policies and has misused aid to support foreign policy initiatives such as the so-called Pacific Solution for processing asylum seekers.

AusAID has also been criticised from the right wing, particularly by Helen Hughes of the Centre for Independent Studies who has argued that "aid has failed PNG and the Pacific"  - a criticism of the broad policy of AusAID.

PNG Attitude has seen fit recently to take AusAID to task over its apparent 'hands off' policy in relation to PNG aid - leaving the on the ground decisions to multinational consultancies while it provides the funding.

This has led to a seeming disconnect between objective evidence of what is required at the grassroots and the large amount of money moving between AusAID and the PNG Government.

MvM recognition boosted – and now the next step


During the last week or so - and especially in the last 24 hours - there has been great media and political attention on the 1 July 1942 sinking of the Japanese prison ship, Montevideo Maru, that cost 1,053 lives.

You can find ABC-TV's report (WWII tragedy remembered) on yesterday's ceremony at Subic Bay here and SBS-TV’s report (Maritime disaster remembered) here. You'll have to forgive the ABC's interpretation of the ship's name - Motivideo Maru – and get through the SBS intro ad, but both pieces are worth a look. Our thanks to PJ Madam (SBS) and Gavin Fang (ABC) for their work.

The press coverage of the issue has been too extensive to list here but there were substantial articles in all of Australia’s major newspapers – including The Australian, Age, Sydney Morning Herald and Canberra Times – as well as in many regional papers and on the internet. 

Alan Jones was particularly supportive through his nationally syndicated radio program.

And Foxtel took the opportunity of the anniversary to announce that it will screen John Schindler's two-part documentary, The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru, later this year.

After an early hiccough, the political commentary was generous and to the point.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin called for the nation to pause and remember the 1053 Australian lives lost. “War brings many tragedies and today we remember one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War,” he said.

Shadow Minister Louise Markus thanked and acknowledged the men who “made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, a sacrifice that has contributed to the peace we enjoy today”, adding: “But there is still more to do for the families of these heroes. I urge the Australian Government to do everything that it can to locate the resting place of the Montevideo Maru.

And Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines, Rod Smith, appended an eloquent and pertinent footnote when he concluded yesterday’s speech at Subic Bay by saying: “This tragedy is not forgotten. The families are not forgotten. These men are not forgotten. We honour them all.”

These are words that the victims’ families have wanted to hear and have so often been denied by politicians and bureaucrats down the years.

The public exposure of the Montevideo Maru issue will take a rest for a while, but the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee will continue to prepare a submission for the Federal Government on how this tragedy can be prominently and permanently marked.

Some proposals include a memorial in Canberra and for the site of the sinking to be declared a Commonwealth War Grave. PNG Attitude reader Bob Curtis has usefully suggested that the PNGAA could take the lead in organising a public subscription for a memorial plaque.

These and other ideas will be considered by the Committee. The submission is expected to be with the Commonwealth early next year – and then will follow a vigorous process of advocacy.

We’ll keep you informed from time to time, but if you want more regular information through a monthly newsletter or to express support for these activities you can become a Friend of Montevideo Maru by emailing me here. By the way, yesterday the number of Friends passed the 100 milestone.

Photo: Andrea Williams (PNGAA) and Phil Ainsworth (PNGVR Ex-Members Association) at Subic Bay. Both are organising members of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee.

These men are not forgotten, they are honoured

These extracts are taken from the speech given by ROD SMITH, Australia's Ambassador to the Philippines, who presided at the Montevideo Maru memorial service at Subic Bay today

Smith_Rod At about a quarter past ten on the night of Tuesday 30 June 1942, the United States  submarine Sturgeon patrolling northwest of Bojeador of Luzon sighted a darkened ship on a westerly course going at high speed.

The log of the submarine’s captain, Lieutenant Commander WL Wright, tells the story:

“Put on all engines and worked up to full power, proceeding to westward in attempt to get ahead of him. For an hour and a half we couldn't make a nickel. This fellow was really going, making at least 17 knots…

“Determined to hang on in the hope he would slow … sure enough, about midnight he slowed to about 12 knots. After that it was easy…

“At 0225 fired four-torpedo spread, range 4000 yards. At 0229 heard and observed explosion about 75-100 feet abaft stack. At 0240 observed ship sink stern first. He was a big one.

“A few lights were observed on deck just after the explosion, but there was apparently no power available, and his bow was well up in the air in six minutes.”

The ship torpedoed and sunk was the Montevideo Maru. To the best of our knowledge, she carried 1,053 prisoners from the Australian Territory of New Guinea, one as young as fifteen.

There were fathers and sons, civilians and troops, missionaries and traders, businessmen and administrators. They had all been captured and interned by the Japanese in Rabaul. They all died.

The youngest, the fifteen-year old, was Ivan Gascoigne, recorded as a clerk, the son of Cyril Gascoigne, who also died.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru at 2.40 am on Wednesday 1 July 1942 was Australia’s greatest disaster at sea, then and now. It remains one of our country’s worst disasters.

This memorial to the Hell Ships of World War 2 now includes a commemorative plaque to mark the tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru 67 years ago today.

The plaque has been placed here as a result of the generosity of a number of private organisations - the NGVR/PNGVR Ex-Members Association, the Lark Force Association, the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia and the Greenbank Returned Services League Club in Brisbane.

I pay tribute today to all of you who have travelled so far to be present for this historic event in this special place.

This tragedy is not forgotten. The families are not forgotten. These men are not forgotten. We honour them all.

Opposition wants govt to fund search for MvM

Shadow Minister for Veterans' Affairs LOUISE MARKUS MP has marked today’s memorial ceremony at Subic Bay by calling on the Federal government to fund a search for the Montevideo Maru

The unveiling of a new plaque to commemorate Australian prisoners of war and civilians lost when the Montevideo Maru sank after being torpedoed off the Philippines in World War II is welcomed.

The sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians on I July 1942 is the greatest single tragedy in Australia’s maritime history but more importantly it is one of our lesser known.

Those who perished had been previously captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the Island of New Britain in what is now known as Papua New Guinea.

It is important to thank and acknowledge those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation, a sacrifice that has contributed to the peace we enjoy today.

But there is still more to do for the families of these heroes. I urge the Australian Government to do everything that it can to locate the resting place of the Montevideo Maru.

In April 2008 a spokesperson for the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd said the Government would consider the idea of a fundraising appeal to find the ship.

In June 2009 my parliamentary colleague Steve Ciobo tabled a series of petitions on behalf of 1,295 Australians calling on the Rudd Government to fund the search for the ship.

I call on the Government to respond so that families who lost their loved ones can have closure.

Australia should pause and remember: Minister

On the 67th anniversary of Australia’s worst maritime disaster, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Alan Griffin, has called for the nation to pause and remember the 1053 Australian lives lost in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

“War brings many tragedies and today we remember one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War,” Mr Griffin said.

Speaking on indulgence in Parliament last week, Mr Griffin said the story of the sinking was an unfortunate and lesser known episode of the Second World War.

“On 1 July 1942, a United States submarine, USS Sturgeon, torpedoed and sank what it believed to be a Japanese merchant vessel. It was in fact the Montevideo Maru, carrying Australian prisoners of war and civilians who were locked in the hold with no means of escape once the ship was struck,” he said.

“On board were 1053 Australian prisoners of war and civilians who had been captured and held by the Japanese at Rabaul on the island of New Britain, in what is now known as Papua New Guinea.

“The Montevideo Maru took 11 minutes to sink.  No Australians survived.  It was not until after the war that Australian authorities discovered the tragic fate of those captured at Rabaul.

“The families and associations with connections to the Montevideo Maru have never lost sight of the tragedy that occurred 67 years ago. That some questions concerning the ship may never be answered must also add to their sense of loss.  It is something that we as a nation should never forget,” Mr Griffin said.

Mr Griffin said a local ceremony would be held in Subic Bay to remember those lost in the tragedy.

“Today the Australian Ambassador to the Philippines, Mr Rod Smith, will unveil a plaque commemorating those on board the Montevideo Maru on behalf of the Papua New Guinea Volunteer Rifles Association at the Hellships Memorial, established in memory of all the ships that carried POWs,” he said.

Mr Griffin also confirmed he has approved a $7200 grant to enhance the central plinth at Subic Bay.

“Later in the year, under a grant made by the Australian Government to the RSL Angeles Sub-Branch in the Philippines, commemoration of the Montevideo Maru at the Hellships Memorial will be further enhanced and an interpretation will be placed in a nearby museum.”

The funds have been granted through the Overseas Privately-Constructed Memorial Restoration Program, which recognises the contribution that organisations around the world make to honouring Australia’s wartime heritage.