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42 posts from September 2009

Potato crisis: Could this be the end of kaukau?


In a letter to PNG's The National this week, there is a timely reminder not to let traditional crops languish in favour of newer, so-called 'better' varieties.

In Ireland's potato famine of the mid 19th Century over a million people starved when disease wiped out the Irish potato crop. Millions more emigrated.

What dreadful catastrophe will occur if there’s a famine in a heavily populated area of PNG? The current situation in the Trobriands is a classic example of what happens when too many people meet too little food.

Here’s the letter, from Gene Drekeke Iyovo, who happens to live, for the time being anyway, in China.

I REFER to the report ‘K5 million to revive potato industry’ (Sept 23). I have two main concerns with regard to potato. The first is it will replace all traditional starchy food sources like organic sweet potato, yam and taro.

A good example is the traditional sweet potato varieties in PNG are now extinct. These varieties were the best for many reasons. They were tolerant to drought, cold and heat, and it took between six and nine months to harvest.

Unfortunately, these varieties were wiped off by a new variety ‘three mun kaukau’, which can be harvested within three months as the name suggests. However, this variety is not tolerant to dry spells or cold and wet conditions.

The other fear is potato itself. If the potato is genetically modified (GM) and needs fertiliser, then it would be a disaster. The GM crop will affect any plants in its surroundings by pollination, suppress plant health and divert microbe activities on land fertility.

The potato industry will serve foreign interest through fertiliser and pathology. Pathologists will design new diseases and spread them through potato seeds and then have you pay more for the cure you desperately need.

While you are in the potato business, who is going to care for the sweet
potato, banana, yam and taro? The same applies to cabbage, broccoli, carrot, etc.

Farmers are not supposed to be led to believe that an artificial crop is their saviour. This does not mean potato is not a healthy industry. Today's technology and science have led to total manipulation of a crop in your garden.

Rather I would support traditional pest, disease, drought and dry resistant food crops handed down from my forefathers.

Well, I don’t know about the claim of deliberately introducing diseases, but the general point about relinquishing the old for the new without fully understanding the consequences seems fair. We need lapun didiman to comment here.

Now hear this … Attitude is available forever


Yesterday the National Library of Australia sought permission, which I happily and quickly gave before it changed its bibliophilic mind, to “provide public access in perpetuity” to PNG ATTITUDE.

“The Library aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future,” said senior librarian, Edgar Crook.

“It has traditionally collected items in print and is also committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting research or cultural value.

“PANDORA, Australia’s web archive, was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications," Mr Crook said.

"Since then we have been identifying online publications and archiving those that we consider have national significance.

Mr Crook says the Library will take the necessary preservation action to keep PNG ATTITUDE accessible even as there are hardware and software changes over time.

“The Library will also add [it] to the national bibliographic database, which is shared by over 1,000 Australian libraries, as well as to our own online catalogue,” he said.

It will also re-record the blog periodically so that significant additions and changes are archived.

We’re feeling very, very chuffed.

PNG ATTITUDE is publicly available forever in the PANDORA Archive at

Picture: The first issue to be archived by the National Library featured yesterday’s Baby Kevin tribute

A story with the power to just keep on giving

18 Months_Gridneff

Big Kevin

A boychild was born in Goroka Hospital in the Eastern Highlands just five minutes after a visiting dignitary happened by in March 2008.

So impressed were the parents, Esau and Lina Kitgi from isolated Degi village, they named the baby in honour of the visitor … Australian prime minister, Kevin Rudd.

And from time to time since, with the help of AAP correspondent Ilya Gridneff, we have kept track of Baby Kevin’s progress.

Well he’s reached another milestone in his short life – first words have been uttered.

“He’s growing up so quickly, talking now too,” says proud Dad, Esau.

Well, sort of. The 18-month old has managed “mum” and “dad” but, as Gridneff points out, “he struggles with his namesake’s favourite phrase ‘programmatic specificity’.”

Baby Kevin is now quite a tourist attraction. Not yet Kokoda Track status, but five Australians this month made the pilgrimage to Degi, where Esau proudly held the toddler aloft in front of cheering villagers.

“I just had to see him for myself and my parents wanted to see him too,” enthused Matt Carr, a renewable energy expert, who brought his visiting parents Elizabeth and John from Toowoomba. “He looked like an Eastern Highlands Jesus – naked with local finery.”

Well, that should get the tourists in – especially if a nappy’s discovered stained with a saintly image.

And now he’s learning to talk, Baby Kevin must surely be poised for rapid escalation as a global marketing phenomenon.

A lively interview with Kerry O’Brien about vertical fiscal integration can't be far off, and this will appear like toddler talk when Baby Kevin really hits his straps.

There’s much more of this story still to come.

I’ll be urging Gridneff to seek solid evidence that Baby Kevin is emulating in some tangible way his better known (but 'less tanned' as Silvio Berlusconi might put it) counterpart.

Is he about to adopt his first pair of round spectacles?

Does he have the ability to dummy spit at tardy air stewards.

Will he potty-mouth senators wanting more postage stamp money?

And how soon will he be able to distinguish between the G20, the G8 and the g-spot?

I, for one, can hardly wait.

Official portrait of Baby Kevin - Ilya Gridneff (AAP). Official portrait of Big Kevin - Unknown

PNG govt not meeting obligation: PNG Treasury

The secretary of the PNG Treasury has admitted that even though PNG has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, the government is lagging in its obligation to provide infrastructure and services to the majority of Papua New Guineans.

Simon Tosali said that, unless drastic measures were put in place to address the problem, PNG would not be able to move forward.

“Ports, roads and airports require significant investment,” he said. “The electricity, water and sanitation sectors need to drastically improve.

“Without addressing these needs, PNG will never be able to address the economic imbalances in the country and empower people in the rural areas.”

He said the government is looking at a public-private partnership model as a way of delivering services and improving economic and social infrastructure.

But while these partnerships are an option for the government, Mr Tosali noted they were not the answer to all the country’s procurement issues.

Source: ‘Tosali admits service failure’ by Madeleine Arek, The National

Then and now: 62 years of Keravat education



As an ex-student of Keravat, an educator for 54 years and an author of 44 books, I am more than happy to launch the history of this good school that has moulded the minds of thousands of Papua New Guineans who have contributed, and are still contributing, significantly, to development.

The story of this school began in 1947, when land was set aside near the old sawmill. It had a slow start. The students and staff spent a lot of their time building dormitories, classrooms and staff houses out of bush materials, and planting gardens for their food.

Life was tough. World War II had left the country devastated and the schools in ruins. It took years to get the Gazelle back to working order. Australian teachers who had taught before the war had signed up as soldiers. But when the war was over people like Frank Boisen, Harry Buckland and Jack Doonar returned.

Amongst the early national teachers were Darius Mamua Logo and Ephraim Jubilee. Ephraim taught before and after the war, became a magistrate and was later appointed a Member of the Legislative Council, one of the first indigenous people to be involved in running this new country.

The early students were taught how to speak English, basic mathematics and many other topics but, just as importantly, they were taught attitudes of the mind: honesty, hard work, diligence, perseverance to name a few.

Many young Australian men, just graduated from universities, started coming to PNG and some came to Keravat. One of them was Bill Wilson from Albany, Western Australia, my first Australian teacher in 1952. Another was John Bowden from Adelaide, my second Australian teacher.

They were about the same age as their senior pupils. They accepted their pupils as friends and lifelong friendships grew. To their pupils they became great role models. There were no problems of discipline in the early years at Keravat.

Are the National High Schools needed any more?

As there are many schools offering Grades 11 and 12, the National High Schools have lost one of their main reasons for existence. They started as the only places where students could do Grades 11 and 12 and there was much competition to get into these schools and entry standards were high.

In the early 1970s, PNG was moving fast towards Independence. The feeling of nationalism and bung wantaim was great. These schools were important in developing national unity.

A tragedy we face today is the number of children who feel betrayed when, after completing Grade 12, they are not able to undertake further studies or get a job, and this is having a major impact on the credibility of education.

I hear university professors are dismayed at the standard of education of new students and feel something has gone wrong in the system over the past few years.

Now National Planning and District Development Minister, Hon Paul Tiensten, has reached an agreement to send 2000 PNG students to Australia annually from 2010 to develop skilled professionals to lead future development.

Another of the tragedies of education in PNG today is the number of gifted children denied an education because their parents cannot afford school fees.

Intelligence is not something that belongs to the well-off. God is in charge and He apportions talents throughout the whole country. The gifted students of PNG need the opportunity to proceed with their education.

Extract from a speech by Sir Paulias at the launch of the book, ‘Tuum Est: The Early History of Keravat National High School, and its students 1947–1986’ by Barbara Short. You can read more in our FRAGMENTS OF ATTITUDE column.

On the track of a civil award for PNG service

Historian RONALD PATTON is researching how to get a general civilian award for people who served in PNG pre-Independence

I`m looking at seeking a civilian award for people who served in PNG pre-Independence. It’s a different approach from that the Kiaps have taken, in that it is not so bound up with some kind of emergency response involving hazard.

While I have a lot of historical argument and examples of precedent, I can see that the area of criteria will turn the whole issue. The criteria for a National Medal do not exactly fit the bill for recognition of civilian service.

Our service fits into an historical phase from 1939 to about 1975 in a context where Australian Governments raised civilian taskforces to complete major works or operations in the national interest.

That era is quite distinct from today but the government of 1994 did recognise civilian work that was historically adjacent to ours and more similar than different in terms of the work undertaken.

There have been radical changes in civilian service in the period since between the wars till the present. Any criteria used by an Awards system must recognise these changes. The Australian system has changed anyway as it has recognised more and more groups and created additional awards.

For example, I`ve discovered that the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Urban Search and Rescue TaskForce has gained international accreditation by the UN for service throughout the world. And the NSW Fire Brigade is in the process of going for the same international accreditation as the Queensland group.

There is a gap in the awards system that will create issues in the future if a general civilian service medal is not created. I know that is not our main concern but as part of my research it has become obvious to me that civilian service in the future is going to change and expand from what it is today.

I am pressing on. If the kiaps are successful, that could assist us. When you deal with a general service medal you don’t have to have everyone doing the same thing. Like with the military, the infantry out front, cooks at the rear.

So, the kiaps were out front. If they are recognised, and the rest of aren’t, the question has to be asked: did they do it all by themselves? So their success could assist us!

If you’re interested in assisting Ron, you can email him here.

Could this senator be the next Pacific secretary?


With Duncan Kerr due to stand down from his Pacific Island Affairs portfolio at year’s end ahead of quitting politics at the next election, speculation turns to who might replace him.

One dark horse is South Australian Senator Anne McEwen, who has been rising steadily through the political ranks since she taking her place in the house with the comfortable red seats in 2004.

Senator McEwen, 55, has a passion for PNG. “In 2004, I was privileged to be able to walk where my father had been 62 years before with South Australia’s 27nd Battalion.

"I joined other South Australians to walk the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea,” she said in her maiden speech. (I know, they’re now called ‘first speeches’ but I prefer the traditional terminology.)

“It was shortly after walking the track that I found I was preselected for the Senate. Some would say I left one jungle and found myself in another.”

In all, Senator McEwen has made six visits to PNG. And that jungle experience has not hindered her political career. She is presently deputy government whip in the Senate and chair of the Senate standing committee given the tricky task of examining the national broadband network legislation which seems to have pinned Telstra’s shoulders to the mat.

But, when I met her at the recent PNG Independence day function in Canberra, the senator was more at ease discussing PNG affairs.


“There is a monument at a battle site called Isurava along the Kokoda Track,” she says. “It is, thankfully, maintained by local villagers with Australian government funding and it comprises four granite pillars upon which are etched the words Courage, Endurance, Mateship and Sacrifice.

“It is a moving place. Many Australian and Japanese soldiers died there. I looked at those pillars - hewn, I believe, from granite mined at Mannum in my own state - and wondered if as a nation we still honour those quintessential Australian qualities that young people died defending more than 60 years ago.

“When we say ‘Lest we forget’, let us remember not just the soldiers who died but also the values they were fighting for.”

Before entering Parliament, after taking a BA at the Adelaide University, Senator McEwen became a clerk and administrator before beign elected a union organiser in 1993. She was secretary of the Australian Services Union (SA and NT) from 2002-05 and has been President of the ALP in South Australia. In 2003 she was awarded a Centenary Medal.

Carbon trading: nice work to turn $1M into $1B

Kond & Roberts

James Kond, PNG's ruling National Alliance party vice-president, was paid 200,000 kina ($85,000) in May to "consult" on future carbon trading deals, AAP’s PNG correspondent Ilya Gridneff has revealed.

The deals are central to a pending PNG government investigation into carbon trade arrangements where money has changed hands well before any international scheme is launched.

Gridneff reports that money from Australian environment firm Carbon Planet was cycled through Hong Kong-based company Forest Top that then paid a number of entities including Australian businessman Kirk Roberts, his PNG company Nupan and its local facilitator, Kond.

The money was apparently part of $1.1 million being spent by Carbon Planet to secure carbon projects projected to be worth a billion dollars a year.

In April 2008, Kond signed a memorandum with Forest Top and was told his work would earn him 10 percent of the cash generated from carbon credit sales.

Kond's Western Highlands-based Koo Management was "to liaise with and advise the PNG government" on deals that Carbon Planet would broker for the global carbon market.

"It is a confidential business arrangement and none of your business," Kond told Gridneff. "I've been deputy NA leader for 10 years and doing my part to improve PNG.”

Adelaide-based Carbon Planet declined to answer questions.

In a series of letters obtained by Gridneff, Kond suggests that large forests in the Western Province and East Sepik are potentially lucrative carbon trading sites.

"I will personally be there to assist you to secure endorsement of these projects for carbon trading from the PNG government as I am part of the PM Somare government," he wrote.

In February 2008, Kond urged Sir Michael to meet him and experts from Australia saying "I am delighted to inform you we have already secured two projects for this carbon trading program (and) I am now seeking a formal appointment ... to brief you on this matter."

But, according to Somare's media spokesperson, Betha Somare, "the PM has never met Kirk Roberts or his associates".

Gridneff reports, however, that Somare's then chief of staff, Theo Yasause, met Roberts and several members of Carbon Planet.

Yasause later became director of PNG's Office of Climate Change but was suspended when the office went bankrupt less than a year after being established.

An investigation will delve into this and so-called "sample" carbon trade documents Yasause signed.

Carbon Planet has announced a merger with a publicly listed Australian company, m2m, claiming 25 potential carbon trading projects in PNG that could generate $1 billion a year.

Photo: James Kond and Kirk Roberts strut their stuff

Peter Sharpe, aviator, dies in the Philippines


Captain Peter ‘Sharpie’ Sharpe MBE, a veteran commercial pilot and ocean racing yachtsman has made his last flight.

He died at his home in the Philippines early this month after a brief illness that seemed to be of no threat to his life.

“He was a longstanding member of the PX crowd and a well known character in PNG,” said his colleague Darren Moore, chief pilot of CorpAir Express.

Sharpie left Air Niugini about six years ago after clocking up over 25,000 hours of flying, 60,000 take offs and landings and nearly 100 million flown kilometres without damaging an aircraft or injuring a passenger.

He learned his PNG flying skills, and Pidgin, soon after arriving in Goroka from his native New Zealand to work for the late Dennis Buchanan's Territory Airlines. His early sorties included airdrops to Government patrols in the most remote parts of PNG.

He will be well remembered at the controls of an F28 with the Bird of Paradise on the tail by a generation of young Papua New Guineans who he taught the skills of commercial aviation in PNG's testing environment, as well as by passengers amazed to hear an expatriate pilot giving his cabin announcements in Pidgin.

Sharpie joined Air Niugini soon after it was formed in the early 1970s. He was one of the team whose enthusiasm and commitment proved wrong the critics who said the fledgling airline would not survive. Together they helped make Air Niugini an efficient and safe airline.

During those early years, he was also actively involved in representing pilots through their union, was elected the first and only life member of the PNG Airline Pilots Association. In 1993, he was awarded the MBE for his services to aviation.

“Bamahuta Sharpie,” said one tribute on the Internet. “You were a good friend, fellow aviator and never passed up a chance to share a cold SP. A true wantok.”

Photo: Peter Sharpe at the controls of a DC3 around 1974

Racist Americans should hang heads in shame


Many Americans find it a racist slur, Papua New Guineans say it’s offensive, and I reckon it’s a bloody disgrace.

This digitally-altered photograph of a Barack Obama headshot superimposed on a Huli wigman in full traditional regalia is meant to portray the black president as an African witchdoctor. It’s also meant to be funny. It’s not. It racist, pure and simple.

It’s been pumped out on emails and websites, and splattered on posters and tee-shirts, at US anti-Obama healthcare protests.

Given that the average American expires four years earlier than the average Australian, you’d think these people would be limp with gratitude at Obama's initiative but, nup, they reckon it's black magic.

“Many Papua New Guineans living in the US and around the world are angered by the picture,” writes blogger and PNG Attitude contributor David Ketepa, a Western Highlander who now lives in Detroit, Michigan.

“To the ignorant, racist idiot who distributed this picture, this is not an African witchdoctor’s dress like you claim,” lambasted another PNG blogger. “This is totally absurd and whoever did it needs to apologise to the people of PNG for insulting us. This is our culture and we love it!”

And another PNG writer said: “Keep my country out of your foolishness.”

Americans are debating whether the doctored image is racist or satirical. Most are of the opinion that it’s racist.

These even include the protesters, a group called Tea Party, who say the image might be racist but it reflects anger about where President Obama is leading the country. Yeah, right.

Tea Party says there's been too much US government intervention, particularly in healthcare and taxes. Probably in the financial system too, eh?

That's Attitude! And from the same people who brought us the GFC. It seems totally inconsistent with ever learning how to live those extra four years.

Land of the unexpected has traps for Aussie cops


Emmanuel Narokobi, one of Papua New Guinea’s most perceptive journalists (and PNG is a nation of journalism as much as it is a land of the unexpected) wrote recently that Australian Federal Police advisers mooted for PNG may end up as mere operatives - bit players - due to resentment by the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary of ‘neo-colonial intrusion’.

The police mindset may well manifest itself in this way, although the AFP’s Assistant Commissioner Frank Prendergast has been quoted recently as saying, ”Developing the relationship between the AFP and the RPNGC has been critical in the scoping phase to ensure that the RPNGC … is comfortable with future programs of support.”

Any new program is dependent upon recognition in next year’s Australian Federal budget.

But there’s another possible and insidious trap to be aware of. Clever obfuscatory moves have frequently greeted newly-arrived overseas reformers as they confront revanchist elements within the PNG public service. Keen, and even astute, questioning of executive probity is met by a thick curtain of elaborate opacity.

I have observed first hand how the naïve newcomer can be undermined by entrenched cunning. In the late 1980s, the totally ineffective yet very expensive Assistance to PNG Police (APNGP) program was launched, funded by Australia’s aid agency AIDAB, as AusAID was then badged.

To my knowledge, only one APNGP consultant among the dozens engaged had any experience of PNG. He’d served with the RPNGC as a commissioned officer, worked in Australia, then later been appointed by the international management consultancy contracted  to roll out the first five-year tranche of the program.

The remedies and improvements this consultant advocated, on the basis he had ‘in country’ experience, were simple and commonsense.

For instance he recommended the provision of better boots, as well as raincoats and torches, before the introduction of two-man town foot-patrols each night; the latter a proposal, once implemented, which would impose a sense of purpose and prompt a positive response from the public.

Such simple measures, and remember we’re talking 15 years ago, are the sort of things which build better morale, more application to the job and increased recruitment.

But the consultant’s recommendations were not dramatic enough for the project managers, and he was ultimately ‘let go’ because his advice, put forward forcefully, was seen as simplistic and not appropriate to the objectives of the Canberra-based planners’ grand scheme.

Nevertheless, such moves - plus attention to the appalling state of most of the government housing occupied by members of the force - were objectives any experienced military commander or indeed, any experienced Australian administrator from the pre-independence era, would have embraced immediately upon taking up his posting.

In the Province where I worked, the handful of Australian policemen deployed by the project, all experienced and mature, were greeted with open arms. It’s fair to say an immediate sense of comradeship was established at Provincial police headquarters.

A spacious office had been vacated, repainted, refurnished and provided with its own fridge. An attractive and competent secretary had been identified by the Provincial Commander and instructed to make the new arrivals' learning curve as flat as possible.

On the first Saturday morning, in the interests of further edification and bonding, an overweight and hung-over HQ force of other-ranks was compelled by the Commander to parade in dress uniform with rifles, so they could be ceremonially inspected by the White Men and express, in turn, their own happiness at the arrival of their Australian benefactors.

The new men, now completely at ease, were quickly and earnestly adopted into the small pool of educated local and expatriate business and managerial people. They were showered with hospitality and offered membership of the limited but lively club and social networks.

Desperate for better service from the police and laden with expectations, the local men of influence opened their hearts, doors and social milieu to the newcomers. The result was a level of after-hours carousing, intimate friendship and sporting encounter which fairly spun the heads of these decent Sans Souci sergeants and Cunnamulla constables.

Back at Police HQ the new men were encouraged to participate in areas in which each had a particular interest.  In one case, where a marijuana-packing and shipping enterprise was suspected to exist, the new Aussie drug specialist accompanied by local drug squad detectives and a sworn witness who’d provided the initial tip-off, travelled together by road to a port a day's drive away.

Here they planned to encounter an overseas agent in the smuggling chain, a yachtsman, who they’d spring as he took delivery from an identified middleman.

The deal went sour when it was found that the star witness had adapted the venture for his own purposes, having secreted a package of compressed marijuana under the police vehicle in which the team had travelled.

The witness attempted to contact the yachtsman to make his own sale and to warn him of the planned arrest. However, he mistook an Australian consultant-policeman for the yachtsman.

The case against the drug-packager was dropped at the recommendation of the Provincial Commander because of what was said to be lack of substantial evidence. The yachtsman, I presume, sailed away laughing.

Our Australian advisers were manipulated by the local force in ways which allowed the White Men, all-unknowing, to preserve some self-respect whilst realising, perhaps, that the job was more complicated than they had expected.

The truth is that very little changed as the result of the APNGP program. The advisers eventually went home with large savings from tax-free salaries and with duty-free cars, stereos and memories of holidays in Singapore and Thailand.

As for the 15-year PNG police program, it was put into the too-hard basket.

At one juncture, I was invited to meet two visiting consultants who were planning and monitoring the project: one an Australian State ex-chief magistrate; the other a senior serving police officer on secondment from her State police service.

They were a nice, well-spoken and in their mid-fifties. I was amazed at the gauche assumptions they made about PNG and the problems of the RPNGC.

Their report of the outcome of this project, like reports of a great many other similar projects, has never been made available outside the closed circle of AusAID. A pity.

PNG is deserving in so many ways of its unofficial title as The Land of the Unexpected. It is no place for the newly arrived foreign consultant imbued with missionary zeal.

The culture is complex, and has moved beyond colonial simplicity. PNG takes Australia’s aid, but it does not necessarily share its values. The place may look straightforward, but it is sinuous.

Emmanuel Narokobi writes of neo-colonialism, and he may have point. But I wonder who’s colonising who?

Take more meal? Penalty: immediate death

In November we’ll ask the federal government to properly recognise the tragedy of the Montevideo Maru and bring a sense of closure to the relatives of the men who died. Here DON HOOK offers a glimpse of the privations of life aboard the hellships


Allied prisoners travelling on Japanese ships during World War II faced immediate death for talking without permission and for a host of other minor infringements.

But those who obeyed the rules and cooperated with the Japanese were to be ‘well treated’.

The regulations, written in English, were given to POWs and civilian internees before boarding prison ships like the Montevideo Maru.

They were promulgated by the ‘Commander of the Prisoner Escort, Navy of the Great Japanese Empire’.

For the next couple of minutes, imagine yourself a prisoner.

The regulations read:

1. The prisoners disobeying the following orders will be punished with immediate death:

Those disobeying orders and instructions

Those showing a motion of antagonism and raising a sign of opposition

Those disordering regulations by individualism, egoisim, thinking only about yourself, rushing for your own goods

Those talking without permission and raising loud noises

Those walking and moving without order

Those carrying unnecessary baggage in embarking

Those resisting mutually

Those touching the boat’s materials, wires, electric lights, tools, switches, etc

Those climbing ladder without order

Those showing action of running away from the room or boat

Those trying to take more meal than given to them

Those using more than two blankets

2. Since the boat is not well equipped and inside being narrow, food being scarce and poor, you’ll feel uncomfortable during the short time on the boat.  Those losing patience and disordering the regulation will be heavily punished for the reason of not being able to escort.

3. Be sure to finish your“Nature’s Call, evacuate the bowels and urine, before embarking.

4. Meal will be given twice a day. One plate only to one prisoner. The prisoners called by the guard will give out the meal quick as possible and honestly. The remaining prisoners will stay in their places quietly and wait for your plate. Those moving from their places reaching for your plate without order will be heavily punished. Same orders will be applied in handling plates after meal.

5. Toilet will be fixed at the four corners of the room. The buckets and cans will be placed. When filled up a guard will appoint a prisoner. The prisoner called will take the buckets to the centre of the room. The buckets will be pulled up by the derrick and be thrown away. Toilet papers will be given. Everyone must cooperate to make the room sanitary. Those being careless will be punished.

6. Navy of the Great Japanese Empire will not try to punish you all with death. Those obeying the rules and regulations and believing the action and purpose of the Japanese Navy, cooperating with Japan in constructing the ‘New order of the Great Asia’ which lead to the world’s peace will be well treated.

Source: Double Diamond, Commando Association (Victoria)

A moral obligation our nation must discharge

For the last few months I’ve been working with other members of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee to develop a paper seeking federal government recognition of the sacrifices associated with the Japanese invasion of Rabaul in 1942 and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

In broad terms, the submission tells the story of this tragic piece of Australian history and asks the government to agree to three recommendations:

(1) To construct a memorial in Canberra to commemorate the sacrifice of those who died defending Rabaul and the islands.

(2) To initiate action to have the site of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru declared an official war grave.

(3) To appoint an official group to develop strategies to ensure that the fall of Rabaul and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru remain an enduring part of the nation’s history.

In late 1941, the Australian Chiefs of Staff and the Australian Government, knowing the dangers and believing the sacrifice was justified in the defence of Australia, chose to position and retain Lark Force and civil administrators in Rabaul, and did not encourage other civilians to leave until too late.

It can be fairly said – and historian Prof Hank Nelson supports such an assertion that this decision, made by a new government confronting the most difficult circumstances, burdens the Australian nation with a significant moral obligation to those men and women and their relatives.

These people were compelled to make a sacrifice emanating from a need to defend Australia. It was a sacrifice that made a great contribution to the safety and security of the nation, and such a sacrifice was a very great contribution to the nation indeed.

I hope to be in Canberra in November alongside Australia’s ambassador designate to the US, Kim Beazley, to advocate the proposal to the federal government.

Horsemen’s shadow falls over islands of love


"Men had to appropriate things because there was not enough to go round" [‘The shape of things to come’ by HG Wells]

The PNG press reports that the Trobriand Islands are running into serious land shortages brought on by unprecedented population growth.

It seems all arable land is under continuous cultivation and, as a result, crop yields have dropped drastically, bringing on a serious food shortage.

In turn, this has triggered other social problems never before experienced including organised gangs raiding other people's food gardens.

In the early 1960's, there were a number of scientific experiments to demonstrate what will happen when overpopulation occurs.

A large 'ratorium' was constructed consisting of mazes, fixed food and water sources and hiding places. A small number of male and female rats were then sealed inside.

Initially, the rats all had enough space and food and water and started to breed. As the population increased, living space became scarce and food and water started to give out.

Eventually the rats formed packs of the strongest, which systematically excluded the weakest from the resources they needed. Eventually they began to kill the weak and young to survive.

It seems to me that the Trobriands are a microcosm of what will soon start happening not only in the rest of PNG but worldwide unless one or all of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse intercedes.

Turn your back on history and you are doomed to repeat it.

Tashiro and the black dogs of Bougainville


During World War II, two groups of Australian Coastwatchers on Bougainville played a decisive part in the battle for Guadalcanal. The first group was led by Jack Read, an assistant district officer from near Buka. The second group was led by Paul Mason, manager of Inus plantation.

One significant effect of the fighting on Guadalcanal was that it committed troops, aircraft and ships that would otherwise have been used in the Kokoda and Milne Bay campaigns.

A vital factor that allowed the Coastwatchers to operate was the cooperation of local people, without which it would have been almost impossible for coastwatching operations to have started let alone continued.

By December 1942, the Japanese in the southern part of Bougainville were applying pressure on the local people to disclose the whereabouts of the Australians they knew were somewhere on the island. Propaganda was spread that Nippon was the new government and the natives would receive good things if they cooperated but would be killed if they didn’t.

An increasing number of natives became pro-Japanese creating a hostile environment for the Coastwatchers. For example, the chief of Sadi, a coastal village, began fully cooperating with the Japanese and members of his tribe were given arms to hunt down the Australians.

In this time of conflict and divided loyalties, one organised group of pro-Japanese natives known as the Black Dogs chased the Coastwatchers and, over an extended period, murdered, raped, pillaged and burnt villages of people who assisted the Australians.

A Japanese civilian named Tashiro, mentioned briefly in several books on the Coastwatchers, was reputed to have established and controlled the Black Dogs. It seemed to me he deserved a little more attention than just a mere line or two in a few books.

So who was this mysterious man? Tashiro Tsunesuke [the Japanese put the family name first] migrated to Rabaul in 1917 at 16. On Bougainville, he became a popular trochus sheller and trader. In March 1941 he returned to Japan on business and was conscripted to serve as a gunzoku [civilian] in the Japanese Navy at a time when the navy was recruiting Japanese civilians who had experience in the South Seas.

Tashiro returned to Rabaul with the Japanese invasion fleet on 23 January 1942 assigned to the 8th Base Force which controlled operations in New Guinea.

This is his story.

Extract from ‘Read, Mason, Tashiro and the Bougainville mystery’ by Ken Wright You can access the full article here. If you have further information or would simply like to discuss his research with Ken, email him here.

Sir Paulias's challenge: Which way now bigman?

PNG Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane’s Independence Day speech, which he has provided to PNG ATTITUDE, contains both a rebuff for critics and a ‘hurry up’ warning for the PNG government.

“While we can give ourselves a little pat on the back for reaching this important milestone in our short history as a nation, the next 50 years poses greater challenges for us as a people,” Sir Paulias began.

Sir Paulias said his “inner instincts” told him to listen to the government and top officials, “not to listen to advocates of doom and gloom both from within PNG and outside… The important question now is, Which way now bigman?”

Sir Paulias alluded to the distant future as a mechanism for delivering some wisdom to PNG’s national leadership.

“I am often caught wondering what the future holds for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren,” he said.

“I am aware that roads and bridges have deteriorated since independence, while schools, hospitals and government facilities have also reached a point of disrepair... This leaves us no other choices but to make the hard decisions on reinvesting in creating an enabling environment. Silver, gold, gas and oil will end some day, but roads, bridges, and facilities, will remain with us...

“Before development can occur, peace, order and security must be restored and maintained.

“I know of some politicians not seeing eye to eye with their departmental secretaries. This to me is immaturity and has no place in public office, let alone, private business enterprise.

“I appeal to those political leaders and senior bureaucrats to stop the rhetoric, and put the lives of 6.6 million citizens of this country first. This is because whatever happens between these two groups, will ultimately have negative ramifications on the development policy outcomes further down the line.”

“Thirty-four years of ineffective government and public service delivery since independence has resulted in the unfortunate mess we are in today,” Sir Paulias observed, predicting that inefficiencies within government and public service will continue to be problematic.

He said “34 years of walking in the wilderness is enough experience for PNG to stocktake… The national government must reach resolution and take the bull by its horns in taking leadership.”

The 78-year old Governor-General concluded his speech on a light-hearted note saying that his “only wish is to remain being alive in order to see this [national strategic] plan being fulfilled in the next 50 years”.

“[Then] our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will witness the unfolding of such vision and say, Hey, didn’t Bubu GG say so?”

Challenges, but we changed destiny says PM

In an address to the nation, PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare has admitted that, while he did not anticipate some of the outcomes of 34 years of Independence, he is still proud of the gains the nation has made.

And he vowed “not to stop until we get it right”.

“Many think that the job of governing a nation such as PNG is easy, even simple,” he said. “Many conveniently forget the difficulty of our terrain… Some of our biggest critics come from countries that do not have these geographical features; their populations are concentrated in urban areas and their infrastructure has been in place for hundreds of years.”

“I want to leave office knowing that PNG is heading in the right direction. I also call on the people to really commit yourselves to serving our nation.”

Sir Michael said much development was hampered by frequent compensation claims. “Our schools and aid posts that costs millions over the years for government to build are being burned down and the communities are not taking any responsibility.

“Instead they place demands on government to rebuild immediately.

“When a natural disaster occurs, opportunists impose illegal fees on roads or claim compensation for something that is an act of God.

“This is disgraceful behaviour we actively seem to condone.”

Sir Michael said the government’s efforts to establish factories and bring in foreign exchange were being obstructed, again by “opportunists who deprive their own people of income”.

He said there was “loose talk distracting us from the fact that we are growing our economy and our rural people are contributing to this growth”.

“We have travelled a long and challenging road,” he said.

“It was my choice in 1968 to run for political leadership and with my colleagues change the course of our history and destiny as a people of one nation.”

Morobe is epicentre of lethal disease outbreak

Alan McLay, president of the Lae Chamber of Commerce, has provided PNG ATTITUDE with this update on the cholera outbreak in the Morobe Province.

There are 320 reported cases of cholera with 24 confirmed and four possible deaths.

The disease seems to have been contained in the original Sio villages but has spread to villages near Wasu. Other affected areas are Siassi, Finschhafen, Kabwum, and Goroka.

Cholera is now in many of the Lae settlements, the hot spots being the Papuan compound, the Maus Markham, Sodas and Wara Tais settlements, the Butibam, Kamkumung and Bumbu settlements, Situm and West Taraka.

Cholera is an acute, diarrheal illness caused by a bacterial infection of the intestine. The infection is often mild, but in 5 percent of cases can be severe being characterised by profuse watery diarrhoea, vomiting and leg cramps. Rapid loss of body fluid leads to dehydration and shock. Without treatment, death can occur within hours.

Poor standards of living and hygiene have resulted in the spread of the disease. A better understanding of cholera and precautions and preventive measures are vital if it is to be contained.

The cholera situation has been complicated by an outbreak of dysentery in the Menyamya area which has spread to the Bulolo, Salamaua and Marawaka in the Eastern Highlands. So far there have been 880 reported cases of dysentery.

There have also been between 4,000 and 6,000 cases of influenza resulting in 59 deaths.

AusAID, UNICEF and Jackson Wells’ client Colgate has been very active in helping combat the disease. Colgate has deployed its own cholera awareness team in most settlements and affected areas in Lae.

Sir Paulias, PNG’s grand old man, turns 78


Sir Paulias Matane, PNG’s Governor-General, turned 78 today – a grand age in any society but especially in Australia’s nearest neighbour, where the average life expectancy for males is 54.

After a distinguished career in the public service, Sir Paulias has been a widely respected figure and a nationally stabilising influence as PNG’s vice-regal representative.

“I got a very big surprise in my life this afternoon after 2.30 pm,” Sir Paulias told PNG ATTITUDE.

“Professor Winston Jacob and staff of Government House prepared a big birthday party at the State House for my 78th birthday this afternoon.

“The speech Prof Jacob made caused tears to drop from my wife's and my eyes. His message was moving about what he felt I had done for the benefit of the people, not only in PNG but also abroad. I did not expect such nice words.

“We have just finished and I am back in the office to catch up with more work.”

Grand Chief the Right Honourable Sir Paulias Nguna Matane, a Tolai, was elected to his office by Parliament in 2004. For many years Sir Paulias wrote a column in The National, containing the advice of an elder to the younger generation.

He has written 44 books focusing on his own overseas travel and nation-building subjects, saying that Papua New Guineans should understand that books are a useful source of information and that they should not regard them as something only for foreigners.

AFP gets ready to return to a creaky police force

Reports that Australian Federal Police could be back in PNG in large numbers next year pose the interesting prospect of what they’ll do in the likely event they run into industrial strength corruption.

Four years ago Australia had to withdraw hundreds of police officers from PNG following the collapse of the Howard government's so-called Enhanced Cooperation Program.

Now, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, the AFP is about to go to the Federal Government with proposals for the deployment of 150 police.

But the AFP intend do things differently this time, emphasising human resources, finance, policy making, training and internal discipline – in other words advising the command structure rather than undertaking operational crime fighting roles.

The AFP’s view is that the Enhanced Co-operation Program failed because there was a failure to consult effectively with the Royal PNG Constabulary before the Australian officers were deployed.

This made PNG police resentful that the program had been imposed on them. Eventually the PNG High Court ruled that immunities granted to Australian police were unconstitutional - an issue that has still not been resolved.

The RPNGC is an inadequate, ineffective and ageing force, beset by corruption, and allegations of brutality, and lacking the trust of the community.

There have also been allegations made in the PNG media as well as PNG ATTITUDE that the RPNGC is unduly influenced by politicians and not strong enough to withstand political interference.

The AFP seems to understand that one of its biggest obstacles will be in trying to deal with - and reform if possible - the impact of the wantok culture, where obligations to family and tribe are stronger than obligations to the State.

This makes the imposition of internal discipline and an ethical culture nearly impossible unless police are posted to districts other than their own, which has been difficult to achieve in recent years because of a lack of police housing.

Another huge LNG venture mooted for PNG

Like Australia, PNG seems set to enjoy a protracted resources boom as a third exploration company has announced it will develop a liquefied natural gas production facility and pipeline.

The Canadian company Talisman Energy has followed Exxon Mobil and InterOil in planning to exploit vast LNG reserves.

It plans to combine its gas areas in Papua New Guinea with those of Rift Oil and aggregate as much as 5 trillion cubic feet of reserves.

Talisman will build an LNG facility with a capacity of 2 - 3 million tons a year at an estimated cost of $2 billion.

Leaders hit out at PNG’s culture of bribery

Two prominent Papua New Guineans have used Independence Day addresses to attack the growing practice of bribery in PNG.

Morobe Governor Luther Wenge has said that PNG desperately needs leaders who are as “clean and as white as white paper”.

Addressing a large crowd at Lae’s Kilage Stadium, Mr Wenge said PNG needs leaders who are not corrupt and who do not bribe people to do work for them.

“That is why we are going backwards,” he said. “Leaders want 10 percent under the table first before they work. Many leaders have dirty hands.”

Meanwhile, Mt Hagen local government councillor, Mapun Papol, has said bribery is eating away the credibility of the public service.

Mr Papol said the “rot in the public service” was forcing ordinary citizens to pay bribes to get their inquiries processed faster.

“If you want something to be done for you, you need to pay a bribe or else your enquiry or application will be ignored and then chucked into the bin,” he said. “Bribery is a secret income for public servants.

“It is shameful because the people are forced to pay a bribe if they want a service which is supposed to be received free.”

Mr Papol claimed that if people wanted something done, they had to present their inquiries with some money to “speed things up”.

He said he was in Port Moresby last month to have an application processed and ended up paying K2,000 as a bribe to get it done.

Independence celebration put on delay

Canberra: It turns out that PNG shares its national day with Mexico, which has caused some confusion in the ranks of Canberra's diplomatic corps about who turns up where on the big day. The sixteenth. So this year, PNG decided to hold its function the following day - which was today - and Charles Lepani hosted a very pleasant event indeed. So I presumed the Mexicans had broken out the Corona the previous day - their national day. Nup! They'd advanced celebrations by 24 hours so as not conflict with PNG. National day's marked in Canberra on 16 September = zero. The big news in Charles' speech today was that PNG is moving decisively with Australia to restructure the bilateral relationship on a more equal basis. And Duncan Kerr, about to step down from Pacific Affairs after two years of sound achievement - especially in terms of the PNG relationship with Australia, expressed great satisfaction with his decision to return to the Tasmanian bar. Filed from iPhone

Independent but dependent: PNG 34 years on

On this Independence Day, GELAB PIAK, in an extract from a longer paper, concludes that the nation-building task in PNG is still incomplete

Today, 16 September 2009, marks the 34th year of our independence.

We, as Papua New Guineans, are proud of our nation, but at the same time are troubled by a torturous thought. What are we really celebrating?

Yes, we are celebrating our freedom and our independence. But there is a nagging question: what is freedom?

Freedom is the power to express thoughts, words and rights and to act without objection or intimidation, unless we violate the law of our land.

Last month, metropolitan police superintendent Fred Yakasa, stopping a political march, said that the police actions were to protect the people’s rights. What rights were the police protecting? In fact, contradictorily, they deprived people’s rights and freedoms.

The people have the right, under the law of the land, to express freedoms such as freedom of speech and the right to express their thoughts, actions and words without objection.

The people also have the right to services and the elected Government has the obligation to provide services. When the Government doesn’t do what it is obliged to do, then civil society has to stand up.

The vibrancy of any democracy depends on the freedoms and the liberation of its civil society to exercise its rights. When civil society’s freedoms are suppressed, a nation’s democracy is under threat.

The opposition has on several occasions cried foul about Parliamentary democracy not being exercised. Are these tell-signs of suppression and oppression at the highest level?

What is independence? Being independent is being able to fend for oneself, to meet one’s own needs. Put that way, it is very hard to see the PNG Government providing for the needs of its people, now or in the future.

Members of Parliament need to stop their corrupt practices and gain a true nationalist feeling. Nation building is not an overnight job. It takes many people much heart and many years.

It takes the courage to change.

If the politicians are not serious about building this nation, Papua New Guinea, then who is?

Together, we need to build a Papua New Guinea nation, then we will have something to celebrate.

The hare, the eagle … and corruption


Slashing the dry grass in one of the paddocks yesterday, I had a thought about how easily corruption can take hold.

Early each Spring, I slash the old grass. It engenders new growth (the cattle need the protein) and reduces the risk of fire.

Out here in the bush, many fires are started by smokers disdainfully flicking lighted butts through car windows.

It’s important when slashing grass to work clockwise, so the machine throws the windrows left, and not where you mow next.

This means you start at the edge of the paddock and work inwards. As you do, the animal life in the tall grass starts retreating to the middle. For birds and predators, the tractor's work uncovers a bountiful food source.

So it is that I’m joined by a legion of birds. Goldfinches eat the thistle seeds. Then lapwing plovers, butcher birds, magpies and crows find a feast of grasshoppers. The resident brown hawk lands on a nearby ironbark and watches. Far overhead, a pair of wedgetail eagles soar the warm air in wait.

A small mob of eastern grey flyer kangaroos gets edgy and moves away. Several large hares bolt through the tall grass to the centre.

An adult hare that can disappear in two foot high grass is now clearly visible on the mown paddock. Every now and again, one runs to the limit of the slashed area, looks out on the clearing and dashes back to cover.

As the centre of the paddock approaches for slashing, it is clear the hidden hares have to make a run for it. There is a mass breakout. What the eagles waited for has arrived. They pounce on a luckless hare for dinner.

Here’s a parable. How big tragedies can grow from small things – like mowing the paddock.

It’s hot and the tractor’s drone sends the mind on an expedition. I think of PNG and of corruption.

It doesn’t take much. It can start in small ways. Taking something small. Something you need but don't have, and is available where you work.

Then you turn up late and leave early because, you tell yourself, no one knows or cares, and others do the same thing anyway. Finally, it’s a habit hard to break. Why not take the money. No one gets hurt.

The hare kept choosing the easy option. Back into the long grass until there was no long grass. Finally forced into the open: everything visible, no cover.

Then it’s just a matter of time.

Independence – evidence is we got out too early

PNG Independence probably came too soon but another five years would have seen Australia bail out, says eminent historian Prof Hank Nelson, who had dedicated most of his academic his career to studying PNG.

Emeritus Professor Nelson is now a visiting fellow at the Australian National University's Division of Pacific and Asian History.

"The evidence is we got out too early,” he told Alan Howe of the Melbourne Herald-Sun, “but it wouldn't have changed anything.”

The Country Party's Charles (Ceb) Barnes, as Minister for External Territories had, in 1971, set out the timetable for self-government and independence.

"By the time Whitlam came to power in 1972, the timetable was effectively set," Prof Nelson says.

PNG did not have the educated people it needed to run the mechanisms of a modern democracy -- the judiciary, departments of health and foreign affairs, the education system and the public service.

"In 1972, one year before full internal self-government, there was one government department headed by a Papua New Guinean," Prof Nelson said. "The rest were Australians."

While PNG may have rejected independence if there had been a vote, Australia did not want to remain. "Australia was keen to give independence to PNG for its own reasons, and they were good reasons," Prof Nelson says.

PNG represented challenges for Australia. There were some serious regional divisions in the Gazelle, Bougainville and Papua and the chances of Australia using force to impose its will "was just not on.”

"The other thing was the border with Indonesia. Already there had been various incursions by OPM (Free Papua Movement), Indonesians demanding hot pursuit," Prof Nelson said.

"There had been a couple of very nasty incidents on the border and Australians feared, again, a clash with Indonesia."

Prof Nelson says Australia naively assumed that PNG “could sustain [itself[ and even prosper."

"What we know now, much more sharply, because we can see it in Iraq, we can see it in Kosovo, Somalia, Sudan, the Horn of Africa -- to build a state is an extremely difficult process.

"We wouldn't make that mistake now."

Source: ‘Left early, but we were right’ by Alan Howe, Melbourne Herald Sun, 14 September 2009. Spotted by Eric Johns

Deaths increase as cholera outbreak gathers pace

The death toll in the cholera outbreak in PNG is now well over 100 with 5,000 other people suffering from the disease or serious influenza and diarrhoea.

Cholera – not seen in PNG for at least 50 years - has spread from its epicentre in a village in the Morobe Province to the provincial capital Lae as well as remote highland areas and parts of the northern coast.

A World Health Organisation official has reported 700 confirmed cases with 133 deaths, although there are fears the toll could be far higher. If the epidemic is not contained, the outcoems for PNG could be extremely serious.

The strain of cholera has been identified as one widespread in South East Asia. The worst hit area is around Menyamya, where 101 people are reported to have died.

Ten people have also died near Wonenara in the Eastern Highlands as the disease spreads to the highly populated mountain valleys,

Vanessa Cramond, medical director of Medecins Sans Frontieres in PNG, says many victims are being ostracised and unable to get treatment. "People don't know what cholera is and don’t know how to respond to it, and how urgent it is to seek care and treatment," she told Reuters. "There is stigmatisation of people with cholera."

Rotary clubs in PNG and Australia have been quick off the mark in offering practical assistance to help curb the epidemic by contributing cash to a disaster fund, tanks to store fresh water and chlorine tablets for water purification.

The national emergency response is being coordinated by personnel from AusAID, the World Health Organsisation, the Australian Army and, after a slow start, the PNG Government.

The Army has erected tents in the grounds of Lae Hospital and established a triage centre. One of the prime concerns is to contain the spread of the disease as many local people have fled from infected areas to their villages and may be promoting the epidemic to otherwise sterile locations.

Source: Reuters, PNG Post-Courier and other sources. Thanks to Murray Bladwell

Marking PNG independence – 16 September 1975

With the 34th anniversary of PNG's Independence to be marked this week, DAVID MARSH reflects on how it all happened.

WHEN in 1975 Gough Whitlam asked Michael Somare to provide a date for PNG Independence, Somare set the date and gave me the job of organising the events. We had 2½ months to do it.

Getting people to join me to get the job done was difficult. It had to be a PNG show, yet there was no expertise amongst the indigenous people, or the government for that matter, and government departments were reluctant to release their senior staff.

There were some early concerns over micro-nationalistic movements and cults that had sprung up, also emotional talk from University students.

But when I had a general picture in my mind of the ceremonies that were required, the people to invite, the security, transport, accommodation, and so on, I gathered a few staunch souls together and started on the detail.

We raised funds from business, organised fireworks for each district and provided cash to ensure activities in all districts. We also paid for the West Indies cricket team to play in Port Moresby and Lae, had an Independence Medal made and issued all sorts of literature and badges.

During the six days of celebrations from 14 - 19 September there were exhibits, church services, sporting events, bands, pageants, formal addresses, dinners and ceremonies.

The two outstanding ceremonies in Port Moresby were the flag lowering ceremony at sunset on 15 September 1975 and the flag raising ceremony the next day.

I selected Sir Hubert Murray Stadium for the flag lowering, as it was the closest possible place to Hanuabada where the British flag was first raised in 1884. That marvellous sunset, together with Sir John Guise’s words “We are lowering this flag, not tearing it down” made for a memorable occasion.

The flag raising ceremony was conducted on Independence Hill, a hill where there had been an anti-aircraft gun during the war defending Wards Strip. It is within sight of the administrative headquarters, Parliament House, the Supreme Court and the Prime Minister’s residence.

At one minute past midnight on 16 September, the Proclamation of Independence was announced by the Governor-General in a radio broadcast, followed by the National Anthem and a 101-gun salute provided by the Royal Australian Navy.

At 9.30 am the flag raising ceremony commenced. Prince Charles inspected the Royal Guard before taking his place on the VIP dais. Cultural groups then handed the PNG flag to the Governor-General who handed it to the Commander of the PNG Defence Force, asking him to raise it on behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Two chaplains blessed the flag and it was raised at 10 am followed by a fly-past of Royal Australian Air Force and PNG Defence Force aircraft.

Prince Charles unveiled a plaque and joined Sir John Guise and Sir John Kerr in planting trees to commemorate the occasion. The officers in charge of each official occasion did very well and government departments – especially Public Works, the Government Printer and the Department of Information – all rose to the great occasion.

Many people say Independence came too soon, but a country growing up is, to me, just like any family of teenagers wanting to express themselves and resenting parental controls.

When their attitudes and demands reach a point of no return, the parent is wise to modify control and just provide advice when it is requested.

David Marsh was a long-serving District Commissioner in PNG

A spirit turbulent in the cause of the people

By the late 1920s, many members of the white population of Rabaul perceived theemselves as a community under siege.

Especially in the private sector, there was a belief that the native people would cheerfully cut their throats. There was an offsetting feeling of  comfort with the deep mistrust and animosities which divided the native people.

There was also a belief that the local people were not capable of organising a large scale rebellion and a conviction that ‘loyal natives’, such as the police, would remain faithful, enabling the whites to control any situation that might arise.

Native employees were compelled to live in areas prescribed for them by whites; they could not leave these areas without a pass between 9 pm and 6 am, nor sing, dance or make other disturbing noises at night. They were not permitted to wear clothes on the upper part of the body, nor show disrespect towards whites.

White planters and the business community also resented what they saw as an Administration too liberal in its views of the native people and too protective of them. Such policies were seen to make business more difficult and to cause the natives to be arrogant and trouble making.

It was in this context of cultural chafing that the native people of Rabaul decided to organise a strike. The chief organisers were Sumsuma, a clever visionary and ship’s master from Tanga Island in New Ireland, N’Dramei (Rami) a Manus sergeant-major with the Rabaul Police, and Bohun a ship’s cargo master from Buka.

The purpose of the strike was to secure a wage rise from 6/- to 12 pounds a month. It was determined by the organisers that there would be no violence, though the police involved could easily have used their firearms.

There were two major factors galvanising the organisers. They knew that labourers on the Wau goldfields were being paid wages well above 6/- and black Americans on visiting ships mocked their wages and encouraged them to strike for better conditions.

After much secret organising, in early January 1929 about 1000 strikers assembled at Malaguna Methodist Mission and another 2000 assembled at Rapolo Catholic Mission, even though the missionaries did not support the strikers. Of the 3000 assembled, 190 were members of the Rabaul Police. Rabaul’s white residents awoke on 3 January to find “their shaving and bath water cold, their breakfasts not cooked and their servants missing.”

The Rabaul Times’ headline on 4 January was ‘Mutiny’ and the Sydney Morning Herald later reported ‘Rabaul Native Labourers on strike. Position very grave’.

Intervention by Police Superintendent Walstab and Assistant Superintendent Ball and their white special constables and 12 loyal police resulted in indecision, confusion and the ultimate dispersion of the strikers. Flogging and physical violence by some whites occurred .The majority of strikers returned to their workplaces. Some went into hiding.

A citizens association of whites was formed, its main objectives to instigate a Royal Commission of Inquiry to denigrate and embarass the Rabaul Administration and to reintroduce harsher measures to control the native population.

Assistant Superintendent Ball’s response at the Inquiry was straightforward: “After all a strike is the traditional Australian way of achieving things. Why be so upset by this one?”

The Inquiry, under Brigadier Tom Griffiths, concluded that the “origin and causes of the strike were (i) the talk of the Negro sailors (ii) Sumsuma and (iii) Sergeant-Major Rami and that there were no other or more complex causes”.

Subsequently 143 strikers were sent to Salamaua to work in pitiful conditions on the Wau goldfields.

The ringleaders were confined to the Loch Katrine, a coal hulk in Rabaul Harbour and later sent to gaols in Kavieng, Aitape, Madang and Salamaua for an average three year sentence.

Native employees’ wages did not rise for some time.

Sumsuma died in 1965 at home in New Ireland. It was written of him after his death: “Thus there passed to rest a spirit which had ever been turbulent in the cause of the people, one who in life had been aptly nicknamed Tolimblimbur, (the Wanderer).

“For in his time, few men, white or black, could match the restless grandeur of his vision. He deserves to be remembered in PNG, for he saw what others could not see, and he trod a path which only in recent years his countrymen have begun to follow.”

Source: Summarised from ‘The Rabaul Police Strike 1929’ by Bill Gammage, UPNG, 1973. Thanks to Chris Diercke for the reference

Col. Huff’s last stand – now for the ashram

Columnist JOHN FOWKE receives a communication from a slightly frazzled Col. Huff, keen to return to obscurity

The storm-in-a rum-glass over my Colonel Blimp posting and the later contribution from an old and dear friend, Col. Huff, has prompted the latter - a sprightly nonagenarian currently at his bush retreat, a lonely and telephone-less spot north-west of Bundaberg - to pass on his regards and final comments.

He only gets to a phone each fortnight when he travels to Bundaberg to refill his larder. He regrets deeply that the once young and idealistic lads who taught and kiaped and didimaned in places such as Pindiu and Finschhafen view their years in PNG in an increasingly melancholy, if slightly self-congratulatory light - the "good years before the drought" as it were - rather than, as this old agriculturalist puts it, "the fertiliser before the crop".

We all have had a hand in forging modern-day PNG, a country which, despite its slow descent into conditions where it is widely classified as a failing state, is still one which cannot, and is unlikely ever to be, classified as a failed one.

This is simply because of the existence of a strongly cynical and Aussie-like democratic ideal in the general population coupled with a free and constantly critical local press. The latter being two of several hugely important institutions of which Oz can be justly proud.

PNG is not yet at the depths reached by such as Haiti and the Congo; but in terms of corruption, services, lifespan, re-emerging pandemics, HIV/AIDS and awful percentages of literacy and numeracy, is well on the way.

Despite this, my friend Huff insists (and I agree entirely) that our closest neighbour, in cultural terms (next to the shaky islanders in the black footy gear), is the closest to us in ways not well-recognised.

He refers to such phenomena as PNG's national obsession with League football and an emergent fondness for Union, the continued existence of a viable all-PNGian lawn bowls (clubs in all major towns) and a love of meat pies and sausage rolls and beer in stubbies.

There’s also a passion for Blundstone boots, tough-looking green workwear, barbecues and Australian slang. Oz is looked upon with favour by the broad spread of PNG's populace, and professional PNGians feel comfortable enough with Oz to arrive in Cairns as first-time visitors, hire a car or Tarago, and drive to such points of interest as Uluru, Canberra and the War Memorial and Sydney Harbour.

The Australian culture is familiar and accepting, as opposed to that which they encounter in Asian and European countries. Added to this, Col. Huff declaims, is the fact that like it or not PNG is our nearest friendly neighbour, potentially for all time.

It behoves us to return this feeling as genuinely as it exists up there, for both nations' sakes and the future welfare of both sets of children and grandchildren.

This sympathy should be expressed through our service organisations, relationships between towns and schools and universities, the mainstream churches (which all provide reliable, ethical medical and educational services in PNG), and mediums such as PNGAA and this very blog.

This as opposed to the visitation upon PNG of droves of young aspiring PhD candidates with no conception of the history or the culture, nor of the languages spoken, and who confine their activities to what may be done cowering within the high-security Oz Highcom - "Fort Shitscared" in local Port Moresby parlance.

With a few creditable exceptions, these tyros and the ‘consultants’ engaged at huge expense by Oz taxpayers thru AusAid have done little to advance and consolidate an important relationship. (I have written elsewhere of the essential requirement for a pre-PNG/Pacific-posting orientation course along the lines of that once provided by ASOPA and no longer extant - to our cost.)

Finally perhaps, I should explain that dear old Col. Huff is noted, or perhaps notorious, for two facts concerning his early life.

He was the youngest officer ever promoted to Lt. Colonel status in the Army catering corps, in which capacity, with privileges and access to consumables, he created the Australian cultural icon - a beer-drinking game distinguished with his name, i.e., "Colonel Huff for the first time....." etc.

As a gesture of good will Col is creating, at his remote hideaway, what he describes as a "Gruntling Ashram for disgruntled ex TP&NG officers."

At the Ashram, with the help of Imbroglio, the son of his old Maloid mankimasta, who Duff imported on a 447 visa (Imbroglio is a qualified cabinetmaker/shopfitter), he is establishing a concrete tennis-court and a large hauswin complete with Sepik carvings and a bar.

Imbroglio will serve the drinks wearing only a laplap to complete the illusion of time travel. Col. Huff hopes very much that this final act in a life devoted to human welfare will "hamamsim ol Masta bilong gutpela taim bipo" in an effort to fit in with the miasmic memories of those he hopes will be attracted to the Ashram.

Duncan Kerr to step down from parliament

Duncan Kerr, 57, Australia’s parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, is to retire from politics at the next Federal election and will relinquish his ministerial duties at the end of October.

His PNG service as an academic and lawyer made him the best qualified person to occupy the portfolio overseeing Australia’s relationships with the Pacific, and especially PNG.

Mr Kerr certainly displayed tremendous forbearance when, speaking at last year’s Christmas lunch of the PNG Association, he found himself heckled and slow hand-clapped by some members of the audience who seemed to have had one glass too many and had built up enough Dutch courage to be disrespectful.

His retort that the recalcitrants should “listen and you might learn something worthwhile” was cliched but a neat piece of repartee in the circumstances.

Mr Kerr is a former minister for justice and attorney-general in the Keating Government and has held the seat of Denison in Tasmania since 1987.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Mr Kerr had made an outstanding contribution both as a minister and in opposition where he held portfolios including immigration, environment, justice and the arts.

As parliamentary secretary since late 2007, Mr Kerr has played a key role in strengthening Australia's presence in the Pacific and its relationships with PNG after the disastrous Howard years.

Mr Kerr, who will resume his career in law, said he will leave parliament feeling a "great sense of achievement" after 22 years in politics.

Of rampaging cholera & oversized rats

The PNG Government has declared an emergency as the country's first outbreak of cholera has become a grave public health issue.

Over the last six weeks 18 people in Morobe Province have died from cholera and 240 others have contracted the disease. At the same time, an outbreak of dysentery has killed 29 and infected 400.

Health minister Sasa Zibe says the emergency declaration will give health authorities greater powers to contain the outbreaks. They will be able to shut down restaurants and prevent people from moving to and from infected areas.

Meanwhile, the world’s biggest rat has been found in PNG by a British scientific expedition.

The Bosavi woolly rat is the size of a small domestic cat, measuring about 80 cm in length. Experts say the rat is the same as those found in city sewers, only bigger.

It was discovered in the crater of the extinct volcano, Mount Bosavi wheere researchers had set up an infra-red camera which provided the first images of the animal.

"This is the biggest true rat in the world - unbelievable," a researcher said. "It's actually so big it doesn't look like a rat ... it just is incredible. This is a really significant find."

Sources: Radio Australia and BBC

Mixed blessings of PNG resource development

Economist Charles Yala has pointed out that, despite resources booms in the past 20 years, the average person in PNG got poorer while an elite few benefited handsomely.

Getting a better return for the people from the liquefied natural gas bonanza will require ''some serious thinking … leadership will count'', says Mr Yala.

The biggest difficulty facing resource companies is not topography or isolation, but the tangled clans and tribes occupying the minefield, caught somehwre between decaying tradition and emerging and potentially damaging modernity.

Oil Search CEO Peter Botten describes PNG as a ''reactive democracy from the village up. What is needed,” he says, “is 'an intimate understanding of the community, not a stand-off that says you work outside the fence and we work inside''.

But the major partner is ExxonMobil, more renowned for its more aggressive approach to doing business, which may not take such a sensitive view. Whatever the outcome, those who will feel it most live around Laita, the centre of the minesite.

Amongst the women of Laita there is much discussion about the uncertainty of benefits. Tradition dictates women have no voice and little power, but they are weary of their men spending benefits on prostitutes, beer and plane trips.

They want the gas to deliver what government has failed to do - clinics, schools, buses, better roads, police protection. They hope for jobs for their sons.

They blame oil and gas for depleting harvests and damaging nutrition. They are not reassured by promised environmental safeguards.

Dr Bryant Allen, from Australian National University, has spent 30 years studying PNG culture and the effects of development. He leads a company-sponsored team working in the communities where the gas plant, a large airstrip and main road will be built.

The team goes from house to house to track the kinships that determine land rights. They plot boundaries, photographs gardens and document conditions. The information will be used in compensation claims by people affected by the project.

''People are very keen to have the project,'' Allen says. ''These are people who have lived literally on the edge of the world for all their lives. They see this as their chance to be part of the modern world.

“But they are also very anxious - particularly the women, because they don't completely understand what is involved.''

A member of PNG Transparency International comments: “''Landowners deserve better management and accountability of their benefit entitlements, so that they know what they are due rather than receiving wads of cash only when they complain.''

Source: ‘Black gold in them thar hills’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 September 2009.Spotted by John Fowke

Australia pledges $1.8m for Kokoda upgrade


The Australian Government has committed $1.8m to improve safety along the Kokoda Track in the wake of the recent aircraft crash that killed 13 people including nine Australians.

The funding will include safety audits of Kokoda airstrip as well as regular maintenance such as mowing, repairing potholes and clearing drains. 

Windsocks, cones and markers will be installed, and radio communications in the area will be improved.

The work will be first of a planned broader program of joint initiatives between the Australian and PNG Governments.  It will be separate to any recommendations that emerge from the crash investigation.

Australia's own history of apartheid in PNG

Controversial Pacific academic DR RON CROCOMBE wrote this article for publication on It adds more fibre & passion to PNG Attitude's forum on the Australian legacy in PNG

Any feeling in Australia that only Papua New Guineans caused the problems they suffer from can only be based on ignorance.

Many of Australia’s colonial and post-colonial policies and practices are a major factor in the problems of Papua New Guinea today, and cause some Papua New Guinean leaders to have serious reservations about their Australian counterparts.

Despite being a colony from the 1890s, Australia ensured that Papua did not get its first high school until international pressure led to its opening in 1955. Very few others were built for a long time in a country of similar size and population to New Zealand.

Likewise for three generations nothing was done to develop Papua New Guinean leadership, in fact everything was done to block its development and ensure that leadership roles and responsibility were held by Australians and that there was no chance for the development of national consciousness or leadership.

I remember, in about 1964, being on a Qantas flight from Port Moresby to Brisbane seated across the aisle from a Papua New Guinean. It was the first time I had seen a Papua New Guinean on a flight to Australia. No one was seated next to him. The hostess gave everyone their meal except the Papua New Guinean.

I assumed it was a simple oversight so asked her if she could please get his lunch, to which she replied with scorn, “We don’t feed natives”. I objected but she explained, “It’s company policy, we are not allowed to feed natives”. I took it up with the company and they confirmed that it was indeed their policy – on the advice of the Australian officials who “understood them”. That was consistent with their practices on many fronts.

About 1966 John Guise (later Sir John Guise, the first Governor General of Papua New Guinea) was then an elected member of the Legislative Assembly with the largest majority of any member, and he was Member for Agriculture (a prototype Minister for Agriculture in the lead-up to independence).

He had been invited to study agriculture overseas with all costs paid and visited me to ask if I could help him in relation to the document he (and all Papua New Guineans) were required to fill in to seek approval to leave the country at any time for any purpose. It was an official form entitled “Application for Permission to Remove a Native”. The content was as bad as the title.

Guise was offended and humiliated by it but was used to constant humiliation, of all Papua New Guineans, not only by officials personally but by the system as a matter of policy.

I was then Director of the New Guinea Research Unit, a facility of the Australian National University (now the National Research Institute) and knew Guise personally. I saw the Administrator, Mr David Hay, about it and told him I would take it up internationally if nothing was done: not only for Mr Guise but to do away with the document for everyone.

Mr Hay was genuinely embarrassed by the system he was required by Canberra to administer and assured me he wished to have that document done away with and would act on it. He did get an improvement, but restrictions remained tight for years after.

Chris Kaputin was to be deported because she was white and dared to marry a Papua New Guinean, John Kaputin, now Sir John Kaputin, who later became for many years Minister for Foreign Affairs. Only an appeal to the United Nations stopped the deportation. But it did not stop the personal harassment they both suffered.

Any government official who even dared to invite a Papua New Guinea woman to the cinema was whisked off to the most isolated part of the nation or deported back to Australia.

The Konedobu Club was the big club for civil servants at the government headquarters. When Julius Chan (now Sir Julius Chan, twice Prime Minister and a successful businessman and recently Chairman of the Pacific Plan) came back with a degree in commerce from Australia and was appointed to the civil service, he was banned from the Konedobu Club as no non-Whites were allowed. He soon left the service.

When the East West Center and the University of Hawaii began inviting Pacific Islanders from all over the Pacific to study there, with funds provided by the US government for the purpose, students from all islands attended – except from Papua New Guinea.

The President of the East West Center told me personally that they wanted to include Papua New Guineans but had been requested by Australia not to do so. We then made unofficial arrangements to get the first two accepted despite the Australian blockage. For fear of international adverse publicity they were allowed to travel. It was a small breakthrough.

When the United Nations Trusteeship Mission issued a blistering critique of Australia for its constraints on education and training, among other things, (and that report was written by the Chairman of that Mission, Sir Hugh Foot, an Englishman and former British colonial governor), Australia could not get enough staff and had to advertise internationally, but it would only do so in White countries.

Every applicant had to send a photo so that, as was confirmed to be by an Australian official in the selection process, all non-White applicants could be weeded out without declaring their racist policy.

And all this time Papuans were Australian citizens and had been since 1906, since Britain required that. Australia had made them citizens without consultation, but would not allow them to enter the country of which they had been made citizens, nor any of the rights of citizens, nor any citizenship of their own.

When, in the 1960s, some Papuans who were part white Australian and part Papuan, asked to enter Australia, the country of which they were citizens, they were bluntly refused, as were all other Papua New Guineans.

My wife is a Cook Islander who had taught in New Zealand and Cook Islands schools and the Teachers College (and she taught at Port Moresby Teachers College). The first time she went to buy meat at the main Burns Philip shop in Port Moresby she was refused service. She came home in tears after being told that natives can only be served through the outside hatch.

She had been in many countries but never treated like that. She never went back, but it was a small part of the accepted code of the Australian system in Papua New Guinea.

One could recount similar examples by the hundred. These were not isolated or atypical events but were rigorously implemented systematic policies. There were many people of good will and good intentions in the government service there. But their best intentions had to be fitted within the policy and practice of full Apartheid.

Past misunderstandings can be overcome, and many on all sides are trying their best to do so. But any feeling in Australia that only Papua New Guineans caused the problems they suffer from can only be based on ignorance.

The genuine efforts that one sees from many people of all ethnicities and persuasions will pay off in the long run, but it will require deep rethinking of the total relationship (not only between governments) and long-term commitment to contributing to a positive and productive future.

More Indian remains likely to be found in Rabaul


On the final night of a recent visit to East New Britain to guide a group of six Germans around the Gazelle Peninsula and the Duke of Yorks, I was addressing a meeting of the local Rotary Club.

James - a Rotarian who is an earthmoving contractor's foreman - approached me to tell me about the remains of Indian troops discovered in the area. The next day, Monday 24 August, he took me to the site.

While excavating pumice for road base, the operator unearthed human skeletal remains. Due process was followed including the police being notified. The area was cordoned and investigations commenced.

The findings concluded that the remains were probably of World War II vintage and Australian authorities were informed, technical specialists later arriving to ascertain possible identification.

Apparently dental examinations determined the remains were not Caucasian or Oriental (apparently different ethnic groups have different molar characteristics).

Some artefacts at the site, for example, webbing, enamel cups, buttons and miscellaneous kits indicated that these artefacts belonged to members of Commonwealth forces in World War II.

The current finding is that the remains andartefacts were those of Indian military personnel.

The person in charge of excavation operations has unearthed the partial remains of five skeletons, which were recovered and taken to Kokopo for safekeeping.

Further excavations did not resume while I was there, but future excavations are to continue for road base and the workers predict there will be more remains found at this site.

The site of the findings is on the old Takubar Plantation close to the Gunanur- Tobera Road and about one kilometre from the old junction known as Chinaman's Creek.

Kicking our old colony in the guts

This article by CHRIS HERRIES was first published on line three years ago but, in the light of the current sometimes overwrought debate on PNG ATTITUDE, definitely deserves another airing

Ask almost any Australian what they think of Papua New Guinea, and the stereotyped response goes something like: “Most dangerous place in the world.” or “You’d have to be brave to go there.”

Who can blame anybody for such jaundiced views? The Australian public is merely reflecting a sensationalised media image of PNG as a murderous, lawless, corrupt state on the verge of meltdown. An August ABC Four Corners feature “Sick No Good” did much to cement that view in the public mind.

Let’s make one thing clear. Without question, PNG is afflicted with enormous development problems, among them, and featured on the ABC program, is the alarming spread of HIV-AIDS. Add to that a level of political corruption, uncontrolled exploitation of its resources by foreign multinationals and many other problems experienced by developing nations everywhere. These problems should not be censured.

Australian media stands accused, not of telling the truth about PNG, but of telling only a small fraction of the truth: the bits that titillate; the bits that feed our overbearing sense of cultural superiority; the bits that spare the Australian nation the knowledge of its own role in exacerbating, if not causing, many of Papua New Guinea’s development woes.

Now to put this tarnished image-making into perspective, imagine for a moment that media from a dominant foreign power, say Japan, came to Australia and reported on our nation to the world. And imagine if that reporting (done without sensitivity) honed in on the “stolen generation”, the mindless ways we have destroyed our soils and river systems, the drug culture among youth in our cities. And imagine if this was the total image of our nation, projected to the entire world. And there was no way of redressing or balancing such a jaundiced, distorted image.

Having spent a total of four delightful years in Papua New Guinea (spread over 35 years) I have searched for the essence of that country’s culture. In doing so it eventually dawned on me how low self esteem can affect a whole nation. This tiny nation - squeezed into a tight corner by economic globalisation, depicted unfairly as a “failed state”, pack raped for its resources - carries all the hallmarks of a person suffering from low self-esteem.

We know all about how damaging low self-esteem can be for the individual. Transpose the phenomenon of low self-esteem from the individual to an entire nation and the symptoms stay precisely the same - particularly that of self-destructiveness. Likewise the remedies. Kicking our former, struggling colony in the guts is not a recommended treatment.

PNG is nothing like the media hype suggests. Yes, the country has enormous development problems, but 95 percent of Papua New Guineans live simple, quiet village lives, tending their gardens, looking after their young and old, trying to straddle their rich cultures with growing modernity. In many ways they are far more reflective of, and honest about, their own problems than Australians are of theirs. Unlike Australia, they own their own problems. They don’t exploit other nations. They are not at war with anyone.

For the most part PNG culture exhibits many fine attributes that our modern nation has lost. In terms of sustainability, PNG stands heads and shoulders above Australia, for instance. This is not to put Australia down, just a plea to understand our former colony, not as an errant teenager run amok, but as a young nation that deserves the dignity of our respect as equals.

To help mend the hurt felt by PNG people for their media-tarnished image, I spent many hours talking with village groups, comparing the pluses and minuses of Australia-versus-PNG cultures, and of the colonial relationship that tie the two together.

Not least I spent many hours apologising for our nation’s folly in rushing the independence of PNG 30 years ago. Few Australians are aware that the undue haste with which we withdrew in 1976 left PNG without the infrastructure, the national leadership and the administrative capacity necessary for a smooth transition to independence. In short, they never had a chance.

This fateful piece of history needs to be openly owned and admitted. It should be brought right to the very centre of the contemporary debates about PNG, its governance failures and its future.

As a colonial parent, Australia performed better than most colonial powers. Our relationship with PNG was, in the main, a fairly benevolent one - albeit overshadowed throughout by an air of cultural superiority. PNG people are keenly aware that Australia’s role has not been an entirely altruistic or beneficent one, yet, in the eyes of our former dependents, we are mostly seen appreciatively as a sort of kindly uncle.

We can carry that history with some pride, but this should not blind us to the mistakes that we made, or our obligation to own those mistakes and make up for them. Our media has a responsibility to openly report on our nearest neighbour with fairness and justice. It is not good enough to just pick out a juicy story and run with it.

In the light of serious problems grappling our own nation, our overbearing sense of cultural superiority in the Pacific is badly misplaced. We have a lot to learn.

Source: ‘Kicking our old colony in the guts’ by Chris Herries, Online Opinion, November 2006

Rabaul soldiers’ remains identified as Indian

World War II remains found near Rabaul at first believed to be Australian soldiers are those of Indian soldiers captured by the Japanese.

In June, a construction workers at Kokopo found skeletons and artefacts thought to be Australian.

An Australian Army Recovery Team - including a forensic anthropologist, forensic odontologist and an archaeologist – was deployed.

"It was determined that the remains represented five individuals and were those of Indian soldiers interned by Japanese forces as prisoners of war," a Defence spokesman said.

Artefacts found with the remains included military equipment used by Commonwealth forces. But sewing kits were of a type used exclusively by the Indian Army.

"Japanese forces used Indian prisoners of war to build the considerable fortifications surrounding the harbour at Rabaul and for other labour tasks from June 1943 until the end of the war," the spokesman said.

"It is unknown how many Indian soldiers were held and perished at Rabaul, however, over 5600 were liberated by Australian forces at the end of the war."

The Indian High Commission in Port Moresby has taken responsibility for the remains.

Source: 'Digger' remains in PNG actually Indian by Ilya Gridneff, AAP PNG correspondent

PNG as seen through the brush of William Dobell

NG Fishermen

In 1949, at the invitation of Sir Edward Hallstrom, and again in 1950 sponsored by Qantas, the great Australian artist Sir William Dobell visited Papua New Guinea.

"It was fascinating. Oh, it was beautiful, like Switzerland without the snow," he said in an interview.

And, describing the indigenous people: "They are physically superb and with a sense of human dignity which sophisticated civilisation seems to have forgotten."

Painting: New Guinea Fishermen 1950s [oil on board, 25x30]

Source: Dobel Museum, Wangi Wangi, NSW

PNG’s Genia gets run-on role in rugby test


Genia_Will PNG-born Will Genia will start at halfback for the Wallabies against the South African Springboks in Brisbane on Saturday night.  It will be his first run-on appearance at Test level.

The 21-year-old PNG-born star replaces Luke Burgess who performed poorly in Australia’s 25-32 loss to the Springboks in Perth last Saturday.

Genia came off the bench to replace Burgess with 20 minutes of the game remaining.  He quickly helped revitalise the Wallabies attack, providing fast accurate service to Australia’s chief playmaker, five-eighth Matt Giteau, resulting in two late tries.

Genia, son of a former PNG Defence Minister Kilroy Genia, spent his early years in Port Moresby before being sent at the age of 12 to Brisbane Boys College where he learned his rugby. He plays for the Queensland Reds in the Super 14 competition.

Australian coach Robbie Deans has taken a keen interest in Genia and would have included him in the Wallabies squad earlier this year except that Genia suffered a serious finger injury in a game against the ACT Brumbies in May. 

Deans says Genia has what it takes to do well at Test level. “Every experience he gets will be good for him.”

Riding the tiger’s fine, until it gets hungry


“Dictators ride to and fro on tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry” - Winston Churchill

In a previous article on PNG Attitude, John Fowke referred to his time in PNG as sometimes being like ‘riding the tiger’. It’s an analogy that rings true about today's PNG leadership.

It seems everyone who’s ever been to PNG has a view about what went wrong with its governance.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, when colonies in Africa and Asia were demanding and being granted Independence, a logical and steady progression of PNG to nationhood was never straightforward. Colonialism was a dirty word. Self-determination was the flavour. That the Soviet Union held many countries in subjugation tended to be conveniently overlooked.

The accepted template was a democratically elected, multi party parliament with the political party holding the majority forming the government. This Western view was a benchmark for the United Nations.

There was little questioning of whether the Westminster system was really the gold standard. Perhaps a benevolent oligarchy, a bit like Australian colonialism itself, could provide less chaotic government. The problem was, of course, ensuring benevolence.

Until 1975 PNG was governed by an unelected bureaucracy (albeit responsible to democratically elected Australian government). Mistakes were made, but on the whole the system worked.

Arguably it worked because the people who were entering a state of being governed from outside the tribe wanted it to work because of what they saw it could offer. We, the administrators, also wanted it to work, because that was our duty. It was a miniscule team of government officers in a country (then) of three million people, and the system worked.

It worked, but it was basically government by bureaucracy. The people had known traditional bigman control and this had been briefy overlaid by gavman control. There was little awareness, and still less understanding, of the alternative of a pluralistic, democratic government.

Many PNG people look back on the period leading to Independence as a ‘good time’ for PNG. Certainly, if the benchmark was on achieving results in proportion to resources, the system delivered good outcomes.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the Australian government these days doesn’t want to know anything about how the kiap system worked. In today’s argot it may have been politically incorrect, but it delivered effective outcomes.

The important outcome it seems it did not deliver, because it did not have the time and the opportunity, was a robust Westminster democracy where the people – the voters – were the focus of political attention.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, the world was a different place. Newly emerging African and Asian countries were eager to demonstrate their new found power in the United Nations. The clamour for an independent PNG was overwhelming. The only question was ‘when’. ‘When’ was always going to be too soon.

Since 1975 many people have debated the timing and the circumstances of PNG Independence. In fairness, Australia did not have much say in it at all. The world was on the move and we were compelled to move with it.

One might observe that some of those anti-colonial critics who, back then, threw metaphoric mud at Australia did not themselves emerge as shining examples of democracy at work. That accusation might also include those who are now riding the PNG tiger. Recent events indicate that the tiger may be getting hungry.

Cholera returns to PNG with a vengeance


An outbreak of cholera is being blamed for the deaths of up to 41 villagers in Morobe Province.

Scores of other unexplained deaths are expected to be either cholera or swine flu, PNG Health Department Secretary Dr Clement Malau told AAP.

"There has been two outbreaks in two different parts of the Morobe Province, Menyamia and Wasu. We've confirmed cholera in Wasu and are trying to assess whether the other disease is swine flu or an influenza strain," he said.

"We are very concerned and hope cholera hasn't established itself in PNG as it would be another great burden to an already strained health system,"

PNG health officials had been receiving information about a mystery illness causing havoc in Morobe for the past month.

PNG’s last case of cholera occurred in the 1960s. It is thought the disease originated in marine life.

The PNG Government has reported the disease to the World Health organisation as required under international health regulations.

Ilya Gridneff is the Papua New Guinea correspondent for Australian Associated Press