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59 posts from October 2009

Andy Bichel is the right man for PNG cricket

Wave Former Australian all-rounder Andy Bichel has taken up his new role as PNG national cricket coaching director.

Bichel, 39, played 19 tests and 67 one day internationals for Australia and had an outstanding first class career taking 769 wickets at 26 and scoring 5,860 runs at 26.5 with nine centuries.

He announced his retirement from cricket  earlier this year, surrendering to a nagging shoulder injury. “I've managed to come back from injury before,” he said at the time, “but this is the first challenging test I've failed.”

No one agreed with that analysis. The veteran Queenslander had been forced to have shoulder surgery at the end of last season and it didn’t work out as well as was hoped.

Bichel was always a model of enthusiasm and determination on the cricket field, he bowled fast and was just as quick with a smile.

He played 17 seasons for Queensland starting in 1992-93 and, with 463 scalps, he became the third highest all time wicket taker in Australian domestic cricket.

Bichel took 58 Test wickets at 32.2 and hit 355 runs with a highest score of 71 in Test matches. He picked up the great Brian Lara five times in Tests and three times in one-day internationals.

His performances in one day games were outstanding. They included a 2003 World Cup match in which he skittled England by picking up 7 for 20 then rescuing a doomed run chase with 34 not out in a match-winning 73-run last wicket stand with Michael Bevan.

He’s described as a genuine competitor who puts the team first, and it’s hard to see that PNG cricket – which has heaps of latent talent that needs development – could have found a more capable leader.

PNG president would be a Petronius solution


It has been posited that a presidential system should be on the agenda for PNG.

In Australia, there are many people who would like to see a republic replace our current system of government. A referendum held a decade ago rejected the idea, but it's bound to be raised again.

The essence of the argument was that a republic would allow Australia to have its own head of state and be a nation in its own right.

Australians already have a head of state, of course, a Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, who represents the Crown. But, under our constitution, the Queen has no real power in Australia

Debate between contributors to PNG Attitude suggests that a culturally incompatible Westminster system was foisted on PNG in 1975. It also suggests the system is not working.

The notion has been raised that, if a more direct form of government was in place, people would directly elect a president and hold this person accountable.

Whether this would be the case or not is itself debatable. Are current provincial governors, for example, held accountable for the administration of their provinces? If not, why not?

And if PNG's population was better informed of its rights, would this prevent the current mismanagement and malfeasance? That's the big question. If the current system is flawed, would less rather than more checks and balances fix things?

Once someone assumes the power to manipulate a country's system of government, the opportunity to do so seems to become irresistible in order to retain power. That what’s happening in PNG already.

Would such an initiative merely become another Petronius ‘solution’?

"We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization" - attributed to Petronius Arbiter, 60 AD

Crisis: Has PNG passed the point of no return?


When the PNG’s governor-general is quoted as claiming that poor leadership has crippled his country, it's surely time to ask whether PNG has passed a point of no return. Has our neighbour become the proverbial "dead man walking" and we haven't yet realised it?

To be able to make an objective assessment, it is essential to establish some benchmark. In public administration and the management of nation may be defined as whether the nation has systems of government that are operating effectively, that is that are achieving what they were set up to do.

So let us apply this benchmark to PNG today.

The governor-general publicly states his country is crippled due to poor leadership. Prime minister Somare is on record as saying there is corruption at most levels of the country's government services. At the same time he has clearly ignored his country's Parliament and retains power through financial incentives to those who he needs to keep him in power.

Recent press articles claim that PNG's constitution is not being followed. Other reports detail that corruption and illegal practices are endemic and occur inside the barracks of the police who are supposed to be maintaining the country's laws.

A senior defence force officer has been promoted without proper procedures being followed. And a large part of the force has mutinied on at least one occasion already.

The Australian and PNG prime ministers agree that Australia's overseas aid program hasn’t worked as desired, yet there doesn't seem to be agreement on what new methodology might work.

Foreign business interests are reportedly to act unilaterally in how they conduct their operations in PNG. Thousands of illegal immigrants stream into the country.

Report after report highlights how basic services are underfunded, unfunded or just not there anymore. It now looks like cholera is endemic. It was never a disease of PNG.

The common people's cry is that they want change in their country.

At what point will someone finally objectively agree that PNG has actually collapsed and is in fact a dead man walking? If this is so, what use is it to offer a bandaid to a dead man?

Is there anyone out there? Is no one actually putting all the jigsaw pieces together? Hullo?

Kiaps’ role went well beyond policing function


The original version of Chris Viner-Smith’s kiap recognition submission, which had almost universal support amongst former kiaps, was that our service was unique and contributed to the advancement of good government in PNG.

This service was a significant contribution to the preparation of PNG for Independence in 1975 and went far beyond our policing role as sworn officers of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary (RPNGC).

The response to Chris' initial submissions was poor and tended to focus on kiaps’ functions as commissioned officers of the field branch of the RPNGC.

I estimate that police work represented less than 5% of my total duties. This varied depending on where each kiap served, but it’s wrong to suggest that the primary focus of our activities was the police function, which is the impression gained from Scott Morrison’s notice of motion that he will present to Parliament next month (see yesterday’s PNG Attitude).

The term "hazardous service" should not be considered to be synonymous with "police service". Most of my exposure to hazard occurred through other responsibilities including frequent flights in light aircraft, search and rescue, civil disasters, using explosives for road and airstrip construction, and destruction of unexploded ordnance from World War II, to name but a few.

The police force was one of the few armed constabularies in the world at the time, equipped with Lee Enfield 303 rifles. But kiaps’ parent department also issued us with shotguns and revolvers to be carried when on non-police work. If our non-police roles were not hazardous why did we need these weapons?

Many kiaps died in accidents. Some were murdered on government business. For example, district commissioner Jack Emmanuel killed by disaffected landowners on the Gazelle Peninsula when he attempted to intervene in a dispute. Senior police officers were present so he was there in his administrative role. This is well documented.

Point 6 of the notice of motion “expresses concern that many former kiaps may not meet the eligibility criteria for the National Medal, as eligible Kiap service ceased on 30 November 1973”. It should be recognised that kiap service ceased at midnight on 15 September 1975 on the eve of independence, not self-government on 1 December 1973. PNG continued to be governed on behalf of Australia until independence.

The time limitation in the eligibility criteria doesn't recognise that a young kiap could experience more in the first two years of service than others in PNG for much longer. It also doesn't take into account that some of us had to periodically deal with death.

This is an abbreviated version of a submission Mr Wilkinson wrote to Scott Morrison MP

Kiap motion to be raised in Federal parliament

A motion recognising the work Kiaps undertook in the development of PNG will be moved in Federal Parliament by the Member for Cook, Scott Morrison MP, on Monday 16 November.

A number of ex-kiaps, most notably Chris Viner-Smith, have been working for many years to gain proper recognition for their role in PNG, and this is another important step along the way.

That said, however, Mr Viner-Smith's emphasis on police service as the basis for an award has evoked some controversy amongst ex-Kiaps, given the much more wide-ranging scope of the Kiaps' responsibilities in pre-independence PNG.

Mr Morrison will move that the House of Representatives:

(1)            recognises the service of those Australians who were employed as field constabulary officers (Kiaps) in the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary between 1949 and 1974;

(2)            acknowledges the hazardous and difficult conditions that were experienced by the members serving with the Royal Papua and New Guinea constabulary;

(3)            notes that former members of the Regular Constabulary of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary may be entitled to long service and good conduct medals, such as the National Medal, subject to meeting eligibility criteria;

(4)            supports moves to allow former members of the Field Constabulary to count their service towards the National Medal;

(5)            notes that qualifying service to meet the eligibility criteria for the National Medal must include at least one day of service on or after the medal’s creation on 14 February 1975;

(6)            expresses concern that many former Kiaps may not meet the eligibility criteria for the National Medal, as eligible Kiap service ceased on 30 November 1973;

(7)            recognises that the Trust Territory of New Guinea, under the terms of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949 and the Trusteeship Agreement for the Territory of New Guinea, held sovereignty unto itself and as such, was at law an international country (and foreign to Australia);

(8)            recognises that the Governor-General’s assent of the Papua New Guinea Act 1949 and the signing of the “Trusteeship Agreement” for New Guinea by the Australian Government, prescribed service activity whereby the service was carried out by members of the Australian Police Force and the service was undertaken as part of an international operation; and

(9)            calls on the Australian Government to change the eligibility criteria applying to the Police Overseas Service Medal so as not to prevent the award of the medal to those:

            (a) Australian public servants who were employed through the Australian Government and served in the Australian administered United Nations Trust Territory of New Guinea between 1949 and 1974;
(b) individuals serving in Papua New Guinea as sworn and armed Commissioned Officers of the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary (at the time an Australian External Territorial Police Force).

The motion will be discussed for 20 minutes with two government speakers and two opposition speakers.

Mr Morrison has said interested people are “more than welcome to attend Parliament for the duration of then motion” and he has said he’s keen to host a small function for any former Kiaps who can make it to Canberra.”

Canberra farewells Duncan Kerr the renewer


Outgoing Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, was farewelled in style by more than 100 guests at a dinner in Canberra last night.

During the past two years, Kerr has played a major role in strengthening Australia’s presence in the Pacific.

Aged 57, he retires this weekend as Parliamentary Secretary but will continue in politics until the next election. A successor has not yet been named.

Kerr, who was Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of PNG from the late 1970s to the mid eighties, plans to resume a career in law in Tasmania.

“I have reached the age when, if I’m going to make a change, I must do it now. My natural ambition has been to have a law base,” he said.

PNG High Commissioner Charles Lepani, who hosted the dinner in the Haus Kamasan, spoke of Duncan Kerr’s many initiatives and refreshing approaches to issues affecting the Pacific island countries.

“PNG appreciates tremendously – in spirit and in deed - the revitalisation and renewal of our official bilateral relations since the Rudd Government came to power.’’

Buka_Presentation He said this was reflective of Kerr’s personal history of involvement in PNG, and the enthusiastic and energetic manner in which he’d set about rebuilding bilateral ties after the Howard years.

Kerr, who was obviously surprised at the size of the farewell dinner – he’d been told it would a small gathering – said he was immensely honoured by the occasion.

The dinner was attended by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, High Commissioners and Ambassadors from Pacific Island countries, senior officials from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pacific academics and academic friends of PNG, senior members of the PNG community and students.

Did Michael Somare co-sign carbon certificates?

Casual Leader of the Opposition Sir Mekere Morauta [pictured] has renewed his challenge to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare to inform Papua New Guineans for which forest areas he co-signed carbon credit certificates in favour of an Australian-based company Climate Assist last year.

Sir Mekere said it was a very serious issue that demanded a full explanation by the Prime Minister.

Forest resources, whether they are flora, fauna, timber or potential carbon trading assets, belong to people, not to Michael Somare or the Office of Climate Change. People need to know what he has sold, to whom, for how much, and where the money is.”

Official documents bearing the PNG National Government crest show that Prime Minister Somare signed certificates for Climate Assist together with the suspended Executive Director of the Office of Climate Change Dr Theo Yasause and Director of Climate Assist Mr Gregory Thomas Corby.

A certificate was signed on 12th June 2008 with Series Number A33,000,001 to A39,666,666 with the beneficiaries named as Climate Assist (PNG) Ltd and the Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Office (PNG).

It commits 6,666,665 metric tonnes of carbon credits with a maturity date of 01 January 2012 when the current Kyoto Protocol will end.

Sir Mekere said that the Prime Minister must tell the nation whether he signed this document or not. “Is it a forgery? If it is not, he must tell the public why he has done this and which resources belonging to which landowners he has committed. Those landowners and the general public need to know.”

Another document obtained by the Opposition shows that the Ruthven Street Business Banking Centre of the Westpac Bank in Toowoomba Queensland is holding two carbon credit certificates in “safe custody” under Gregory Corby’s name.

According to a letter written on 24 September 2008 to Mr Edwin Price, Executive Manager of Climate Assist by a senior manager at that Westpac branch, the certificates were issued on 22nd September 2008, each for 39 million metric tonnes of carbon credits, with Series Numbers C1 to C39 and B1 to B39.

The letter bears the common seal of Climate Assist PNG, an official stamp of the Westpac branch and is witnessed by a Justice of the Peace.

“Prime Minister did you issue these additional certificates to Climate Assist? If you did not, who did? With authority from whom? And whose resources do they pertain to?”

Sir Mekere said that it was incumbent on the Prime Minister to tell the truth to the nation. “He is yet to answer the 20 questions I asked him some months ago on climate change and related issues.”

“He cannot continue to ignore or evade questions on important national issues, hoping that in time people will simply forget.”

Text of a media release issued by Sir Mekere Morauta KCMG MP, Leader of the Opposition and Member for Moresby North-West, on Friday 21 October

EDITOR’S NOTE: Carbon credits were trading for about $20 per metric tonne when Climate Assist did its alleged deal with the PNG Government. The price has since imploded and they were last trading on the Chicago Carbon Credit Market at ten cents.

Aussie Rules: Kokoda as a training drill is obscene


WhitecrossRioli_Visit1000Steps_Age29Nov07 Hawthorn [Australian Rules Football Club] is doing what so many clubs of any code do and it should make us feel very uncomfortable.

The club confuses football with war. It is an easy and lazy thing sporting clubs do. It is never more prevalent than around Anzac Day. A simple match of footy becomes a theatre of battle.

Coaches have taken clubs to the Shrine in the dead of night. Ostensibly to honour the fallen but really to bond the team. It is a trick, a gimmick.

Any comparison between a game of sport and warfare is to both disrespect and trivialise the sacrifice of the men and women who gave their lives for their country. Australians suffered dreadful injuries, were maimed, families torn apart. War as a metaphor for football is obscene.

Hawthorn, under coach Alastair Clarkson, is preparing to walk Kokoda for a third time. The coach hopes to recapture the spirit that drove the club to the premiership in 2008. The club has reduced the experience to a training drill.

Clarkson told the Sunday Herald-Sun on the weekend: "We love to indoctrinate some important messages and there is no better way of doing that than retracing the footsteps of our forefathers who trekked the famous track in 1942.”

It is irksome to use the Kokoda experience as anything other than a mark of respect to our soldiers, the dead, the injured, the men and women mentally shredded by the primitive awfulness of the jungle war.

To piggyback leadership and fitness schemes off the experience for commercial reasons is nothing but distasteful. As it is, the track is becoming more a business enterprise than a piece of history, both proud and tragic.

To walk the track can be done for only one purpose and that is as a mark of respect and thanks to our fighting forces. To use it as anything else is management hubris.

Walking Kokoda to improve your chances of winning football matches is just as inappropriate. War is not a management gimmick.

This is an extract of an article by Patrick Smith published in The Australian newspaper on Tuesday 27 October

Photo: Hawthorn footballers Brendan Whitecross and Cyril Rioli on the track

Carbon trading – the globe’s newest, bestest scam


There’s been a lively discussion on Emmanuel Narokobi's Masalai blog [visit it here] that has raised the question of whether international carbon trading is likely to benefit the traditional owners of PNG’s tropical forests.

PNG landowners have been involved in an continuing debate about the use of their trees - and whether they or some other entity benefits when they are cut and milled.

Hitherto, it’s reported that large areas of forest have been logged and shipped offshore. Yet the traditional owners of these trees do not seem to be much wealthier.

Once the trees are removed, the soil quickly degrades and is washed away in heavy rain. The value of leaving trees where they are and using them in the traditional manner is being questioned by younger Papua New Guineans.

A remedy to losing forests seemed to be a carbon credit scheme, where owners of trees are paid to keep them standing and provide a resource (for some reason it’s called a carbon sink) that emitters pay to keep intact in exchange for their own damaging emissions.

It looked like a great idea for a win/win. However the devil is always in the detail.

Who would actually receive the credits - the traditional forest owners, the government or some quick-talking entrepreneur?

And if the traditional owners received some payment, how would this be distributed? If the government received the money, would the landowners receive any?

Last weekend’s ABC-TV’s Landline program highlighted carbon credit trading by US farms and showed how the value of the so-called 'carbon sinks' decreased as people wondered whether there was any real value being traded.

The commentator, wisely, suggested caveat emptor [let the buyer beware].

PNG has already experienced controversy around the bona fides of carbon traders. Now a news report from Indonesia raises serious concerns that international criminals may see carbon credit schemes as a new way of fleecing the unwary.

The Indonesian government is warning local authorities to be wary of people purporting to be carbon brokers promising big financial gains. The Jakarta Post reports that bogus operators are signing up local governments and landholders on the promise of developing lucrative forest preservation projects, which in many cases are a con.

Now where have we seen this already?

Salamaua township was no dream: it did exist


Salamaua In the 1930s, there was a thriving social life among expatriates, mainly plantation owners, who travelled the territory in light aircraft.

A popular social venue was Salamaua. On some weekends the airstrip saw dozens of light aircraft land. Rows of aircraft would wait for owners to complete the weekend social whirl.

Men wore white trousers and shoes, sleeveless cardigans and boater hats. Women wore long white dresses.

It was an exclusive club at Salamaua. The riff-raff were kept away by the simple fact they did not have an aircraft. It was socially unacceptable to arrive by row boat.

The richer Lae expatriates had their own weekend houses at Salamaua in which they would hold dinner parties and play tennis or shuttlecock.

But World War II brought Salamaua’s heyday to an abrupt end. There is little sign of the Shangri-la beach that saw mining in the 1920s and the social whirl of the 1930s.

American archeologists located the settlements of the early pilgrim fathers by identifying changes in soil caused by house posts. The town of Salamaua is still there under the sand and grass.

I have seen a photo of Salamaua. It’s no dream. It was there.

Writing this report makes me nostalgic. When I lived at Igam Barracks, the expatriate social whirl was so important. Now it is nothing. Just a memory.

“We had joy. We had fun. We had seasons in the sun. But the wine and the song, like the seasons are all gone” [Terry Jacks, 1974]

Will Genia's meteoric rugby rise continues


PNG-born Will Genia departed Australia at the weekend for the Wallabies tour of Japan and Europe after signing lucrative contracts that will take him through to the 2011 rugby world cup.

The 21-year old scrum half has had a meteoric rise through Australian rugby. He was virtually unknown before making his test debut off the bench in the tri-nations opener against New Zealand three months ago.

He displaced Luke Burgess in the final two tests of the series and now goes on tour as the incumbent scrum half.

No details have been released about Genia's contracts with Australian rugby and the Queensland Reds but they are believed to be worth several hundred thousand dollars.

In addition to his rugby performances, Genia also providesmusical support to his team mates. He took his guitar to New Zealand and soon had other players wanting to leaarn the instrument. At least two have now bought their own guitars and there's talk of a Wallabies band.

Genia was taught to play the guitar as a youngster in Port Moresby by his father, politician Kilroy Genia.

John Goldring: quiz kid, academic, judge


Goldring john 2 Judge John (Jack) Goldring, who taught PNG’s first law students, has died after a lengthy period with cancer. He was 66.

Despite his later judicial career, he will probably be best remembered as an inspiring and innovative scholar and teacher of the law.

Judge Goldring was present at the birth of legal education at the University of PNG as an academic in the Faculty of Law between 1970 and 1972.

Back in Australia he made his mark as dean and professor of Macquarie University’s law school from 1981-87 and then as foundation dean of law at the University of Wollongong from 1990-95.

In 1998, he was appointed a judge of the District Court in NSW, a busy trial court, which was a rare honour for a career academic.

Readers of PNG Attitude who remember the 1950s will recall the Quiz Kids program on 2GB.

Along with names now fading from public memory (like Alana Conlan and Annette Cumine), Jack Goldring was on the panel of five school students who answered general knowledge questions posed by compere John Dease in the program sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

NBC delegation visits Australia to cement ties

Moale_headshot Executives from the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation arrive in Australia today for a week of discussions with the ABC in Sydney and Melbourne.

The delegation is led by NBC chairman Paul Reptario, who is accompanied by board member Moale Rivu [pictured] and board secretary Winterford Suharupa.

The NBC officials are visiting at the invitation of ABC chairman Maurice Newman to build closer ties with Australia’s national broadcaster.

Discussions will be held with ABC executives in Sydney and with Mr Newman in Melbourne, where the group will also inspect ABC facilities.

Mr Reptario will also sign an agreement accepting satellite broadcasting equipment to be installed at Broadcast House in Port Moresby as part of an AusAID media development project.

The ABC is managing the project, which includes attaching specialists to the NBC to provide training in news, programming, engineering, management and information technology.

This year NBC board members also attended a program on the role and responsibilities of directors conducted by the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

We need responsive and responsible government


What's been happening with PNG's national parliament of late is not good for the country.

The real losers in the present political debacle are ordinary Papua New Guineans. The government seems to have lost the plot since it took office in 2002.

Nothing substantial has been achieved to improve citizens quality of life.

The plain truth is that the national parliament has become dysfunctional. The government consistently uses its numbers to bulldoze half-baked bills.

The PM fails in his duty of care as CEO of PNG Inc when he allows 'legislation to be rushed through without thorough and rational debate.

To make matters worse, the Speaker constantly shows he’s the wrong person for the job - gagging debate and frustrating the opposition through his favourite tactic of numerous points of order to stop opposition MPs taking the PM and key government ministers to task over critical national issues.

There is another serious aspect to this. The PM wants the status quo to keep him in power so, despite over 40 years in politics, he seems to have forgotten the value of an opposition voice as an important alternative view.

Shutting out opposition is akin to the PM ignoring the cries of citizens about the way their country is governed. People now wonder why the PM is allowing so many problems to get out of control during his watch.

The recent recall of parliament proves this point. There was no urgent need for an early recall. It was a waste of taxpayer's money for just four hours of low quality discussion with only the government in attendance, as the opposition boycotted parliament this week. The media reports this action by the government cost taxpayers K125,000.

The exercise was a farce. It makes the PNG parliament and government a laughing stock within the Pacific region. Many educated Papua New Guineans seriously believe their government has for a long time now abandoned good governance.

The government seems to not care that the people know what it’s doing.

Many people believe it’s time for a fresh leadership to take PNG to a better place. What PNG needs now is responsive and responsible government. A government that will work well with the opposition to ensure parliament is working at peak performance.

It is time to activate a national succession plan before the 2012 election. PNG urgently needs new and better leadership to give hope to ordinary Papua New Guineans.

PNG will greatly benefit from a proactive and transformational government willing to fight for the progress and prosperity of all citizens.

As long as the current mob run a dysfunctional parliament and government, PNG seems bound to run aground. Some say PNG has already ‘gone to the dogs’ and is being sold off to special interests by its own leaders.

Opposition withdraws no confidence motion

In a sign that it is struggling for traction against a rampant Somare government, the PNG opposition has withdrawn a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.

The decision came after Sir Michael Somare asserted his dominance over Parliament, mustering a comfortable majority of MPs to pass two bills creating Hela and Jiwaka provinces in the Southern and Western Highlands.

“We have withdrawn the motion because we do not have confidence in the integrity of the process being used by the government,” said opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta.

“We heard from reliable sources that [Parliament’s] private business committee will reject the motion, allegedly on some technical ground,” he said.

“We want the Speaker to tell us what we should do to satisfy the private business committee so we can submit a new motion that will conform to the committee’s requirements.”

The government abruptly adjourned its urgent recall of Parliament yesterday after just two days of a week-long scheduled sitting.

The Foundation - the honest brokers of Kokoda

B&W  When a trekking company owner dismissed Dr Genevieve Nelson as an “armchair expert speaking from a cocooned office in Sydney” on matters to do with the iconic Kokoda Track, allies soon leapt to her defence.

They didn’t really need to, because her Track record spoke for itself – nine traverses in the last ten years, a PhD gained studying village level education at Naduri, Efogi, and Manari and other villages in the area, and a burning commitment to the people of PNG.

Since January, Genevieve has been executive director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, an Australian philanthropic organisation which aims to repay the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels by helping to improve their lives and their descendants’ lives.

It’s already doing that in an instrumental way assisting with education and healthcare, trying to protect their environment, and helping the growth of responsible trekking and tourism.

The Foundation’s current projects include providing 124 school scholarships to students from villages along the Track, funding educational supplies to 23 schools, supporting the Kokoda Memorial Hospital and constructing seed multiplication nurseries to rebuild village food gardens destroyed by Cyclone Guba.

Patrick  I met Genevieve and Foundation chairman, author and journalist Patrick Lindsay [left], at the Jackson Wells offices in Sydney yesterday and we agreed to cooperate in promoting the work of the Foundation through the PNG Attitude blog and newsletter.

There is a quintessential comfort in this arrangement, since there is much controversy surrounding Kokoda’s commercial trekking operators. Aligning with a philanthropic organisation with no commercial interest in what has developed as a $50 million and highly profitable industry should put us on the side of the angels.

The Foundation has a philanthropic model designed to significantly enhance the relationship between Australia and PNG and one that puts most similar organisations to shame. We must hope that it may spread its wings in future to embrace other parts of PNG.

It also has an excellent website here and if you want to become a member for just $50, as I did last night, you can subscribe here.

In fact, given that PNG Attitude has no subscription fee, if you feel like giving something back, I think you ought to join the Foundation.

Grand Chief Hawkie makes light of Logohu award

Sculpture Bob Hawke was considered one of Australia’s more larrikin prime ministers, and now he’s uttered a couple of one liners at the expense of PNG’s highest honour, Chief of the Grand Commander of the Order of Logohu.

In his chiefly role, he joins luminaries such as the Queen, Princess Ann, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Gough Whitlam, Andrew Peacock, Bill Clinton and former Governor-General Michael Jeffery.

Mr Hawke received the award for services to PNG before and after independence because of his involvement in the establishment of trade unions.

He is very pleased about the title ‘chief’. "I want deeper bows thank you. Much obeisance," he said.

He says the Order of Logohu is one of a number of honours he’s received since leaving politics. "I've got one from Thailand… That was the Order of the White Elephant…”

The ABC reports that Mr Hawke was one of dozens of people to be conferred honours during an investiture ceremony at Government House in Port Moresby today.

Photo: Bust of Robert James Lee Hawke, Chief of the Grand Commander of the Order of Logohu

Now there's plenty of action to honour the MvM

Subic_Display Bob Chester is designer of the Hellships Memorial at Subic Bay, which is a marvellous tribute to prisoners of war unfortunate enough to be incarcerated on Japanese vessels in World War II.

Bob is currently working on a Montevideo Maru display in the Hellships Museum ready for a Remembrance Day service on 11 November - which PNG Attitude understands may be attended by a senior Australian politician.

He knows it's very short notice, but Bob would greatly appreciate memorabilia that can be loaned to him for presentation in the display on Remembrance Day. If you’re able to assist, his email address is

And you can see something of what Bob is doing by visiting this website here.

“We did a display of Montevideo Maru with things I could put up, carvings photos, story,” says Bob. “I have a large display case that needs items.”

The local Angeles City RSL Sub Branch, using $7200 from the Australian Department of Veterans’ Affairs, is installing an interpretative panel at the memorial and also assisting the museum to mount the display that tells the Montevideo Maru story.

In all, this is a splendid cooperative effort in the Philippines after many years during which this terrible  tragedy – Australia’s worst disaster at sea - has been sorely neglected at home.

Subic_Plaque Also in the next couple of weeks a project is to be launched to place a memorial, with a commemorative plaque for Lark Force and the men lost on the Montevideo Maru, at Cape Bojeador off the north-western tip of Luzon, the point most adjacent to where the ship was torpedoed 110 km to the west.

This project will cost $5000 to complete, which will be privately subscribed. At some point soon we’ll be soliciting donations from readers.

The objective is to have the memorial in place by 1 July 2010, the anniversary of the sinking of the ship.

The organisers are planning a ceremony on that day in which a boat will travel to the site of the tragedy and wreaths laid on the water.

It’s great to witness such a buzz of activity around the Montevideo Maru after so many years of neglect and official indifference.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday 17 November, Kim Beazley and I will meet with Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin in Canberra to present a submission seeking greater national recognition of the tragedy. More about this in the weeks to come.

Upper photo: Bob Chester and assistants in action at the Hellships Museum

Opposition boycotts early sitting of parliament

PNG’s parliament could become a farce as the Morauta opposition decided to boycott an unexpected parliamentary session due to start yesterday afternoon.

The opposition is protesting against the Somare government’s decision to recall Parliament early – a move described as illegal and in wilful disregard of the nation's laws.

It was expected several provincial governors and government backbenchers will join Sir Mekere Morauta’s protest.

Parliament’s was abruptly adjourned in July when the government appeared to be facing defeat in a no confidence vote. This sparked widespread outrage as it was deemed a deliberate violation of the constitution.

“The provision to recall parliament relates to situations of real emergency in the nation where there is imminent danger of war or natural disaster,” Sir Mekere said.

“But none of these exists in the country, so what is the real motive for the recall?”

He suggested there may be controversial legislation the government had secretly prepared and it needed to get backbenchers together to induce them to support it.

Following the premature adjournment of the last sitting and payments of K2 million each to compliant MPs, the opposition referred Somare, leader of government business Tiensten and speaker Nape to the Ombudsman Commission for possible prosecution for breaching the constitution.

The commission has done nothing and Sir Mekere says parliament should not sit until a deliberation is made.

PNG is a Mugabe-style regime says Sir Mekere

The decision by the police to prevent the Salvation Army and the Council of Churches rally in support poverty represents a worrying trend in PNG says opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta.

“Why would anyone in authority prevent this rally from taking place,” said Sir Mekere. “All these church and civil society representatives wished to do was to express their concern about poverty.”

“What is wrong with that? We should be encouraging such debate. But it seems the government wants no public discussion of anything,” he said.

“This is not the Michael Somare that PNG used to know. Where have our democratic rights and freedoms gone? This is yet another example of this government of turning PNG into a Mugabe-type regime.”

Sir Mekere said the important institutions of state, like the police, are being turned into “compliant tool kits by the government for its political interest.”

He urged all Papua New Guineans to speak out and to insist on protection of their constitutional rights.

In a surprise development, Sir Mekere’s words was supported by Community Development Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, who expressed concern over the police ban on the proposed rally.

She said there “must be some misunderstanding” and the ban would be reviewed.

She said the government had endorsed the UN campaign and her department was actively involved.

“I personally congratulate the Salvation Army and Captain John Kerari for their plan to hold a peaceful rally to raise awareness,” Dame Carol said. “The churches are my department’s valuable partners.”

Meanwhile, prominent PNG blogger Emmanuel Narokobi, commenting on plans for a peaceful protest march in Madang, said the march could not take place because police commissioner Gari Baki disapproved.

“May we remind Mr Baki and the members of the current government in Waigani [that] this is still an independent and democratic country where citizens have such freedoms,” wrote Narokobi.

Referring to China, he said: “We are very clear some of our neighbours to the North have governments which do not allows its citizens such privileges.”

“We would certainly hope the current Waigani government and the current police commissioner are not getting advice from their friends to the North nor do we hope they are being influenced by them in how internal PNG matters should be handled. That would be a mistake on many levels.

“We would like to thank both governor Sir Arnold Amet and provincial police commander Anthony Wagambie Jr for their understanding and promotion of democracy and the rights of the people. We wish your counterparts in Port Moresby understood democracy as much,” Narokobi concluded.

A small photo on the piano began a long journey

Portrait Film producer John Schindler, right, is reaching the end of a very long road.

His epic documentary The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru is about to hit TV screens across Australia.

And in a nice touch, the two one-hour episodes are to be broadcast back-to-back on Foxtel’s History Channel on Remembrance Day, Wednesday 11 November, from 7.30 pm.

There’s no release date yet for the DVD, but I can tell you it will have much additional material and interviews not shown in the TV version.

“I got engaged with the Montevideo Maru story two years ago, when Mum died,” says Schindler.

“My brother and sister and I were deciding what should be done with items very precious to her and I was intrigued by a small photo Mum had on her piano. It was of a handsome lad, a friend of the family named John Wilson Day.

“My Mum and her sister Molly had promised John and the three Turner brothers that they’d wave goodbye to their troopship, Zealandia, from the middle of Sydney Harbour Bridge as it sailed in 1941.

“But they were late and, when they got there, the ship had passed Pinchgut and was almost out of sight.

“John and most of his company didn't come back from the war. Mum said it was a mystery what happened to them. All she knew was they died on a ship called the Montevideo Maru.”

And that’s how John Schindler became involved with the Montevideo Maru. It’s a compelling story, as I come to learn myself - and as Schindler explains.

“In my films, I’m drawn to factual stories about human bravery and self sacrifice for the good of other human beings. In the case of the Montevideo Maru the ultimate sacrifice was made by over 1,000 brave young Australian men.

“I think this story should be told for their sake, for the sake of their relatives, many of whom are still alive, and for the sake of the Australian people who enjoy a democratic society because of them.”

The film includes interviews with people connected with the tragedy as well as archival footage, still photos and dramatic re-enactments. The original music is by two of Australia’s top film music composers. Production began in 2007 and filming has taken place in San Francisco, Boston, Japan, the UK and throughout Australia.

New PNG anti-corruption body gets into stride

A Transparency International meeting in Sydney today will be told how the fight against corruption in PNG has been boosted by an initiative of Transparency International PNG, the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and the British High Commission.

The three bodies have combined to implement a new organisation - the Business Against Corruption Alliance (BACA).

BACA, from which AusAID is notably absent as a founding partner, was made possible by funding from the British High Commission.

"Corruption is hugely depleting business and national development all over the world,” says British high commissioner, David Dunn. “Fighting it is the responsibility of everyone.”

Mr Dunn said the British Government was pleased to support what he called “this excellent initiative”.

“PNG business and employees are taking a stand to say ‘no’ to corruption and ‘yes’ to fair, transparent and open business,” he said.

BACA is a coalition of business and industry that aims to reduce corruption within their spheres of activity.

“A society that fights all forms of corruption is one that is good for legitimate businesses that see compliance as the norm,” says Chamber of Commerce president Ron Seddon.

“This alliance will tell government, investors, suppliers and consumers that we aim to do business fairly, properly, in a non-corrupt manner and that, most importantly, you can trust us."

BACA will review existing codes of conduct and use this information to draft membership criteria.

"Corruption has a direct effect on the cost of doing business in PNG,” says PNG Transparency International chairman Peter Aitsi.

“Corruption, whether it be in the form of outright bribes or inefficient processes, costs companies money. The unfortunate truth is, in a developing country like PNG, it is the grassroots who suffer as costs continue to increase."

BACA will invite corporations, business groups and state-owned enterprises to become members after meeting stringent guidelines.

PNG police crack down on anti-poverty rally

There have been a number of stories in PNG Attitude about PNG police suppressing non-violent acts of civil protest on legitimate issues and supported by respected members of the community.

Some correspondents have said they believe this is related with the RPNGC increasingly being used by the Somare government as an instrument of civil repression.

Such was the case when Port Moresby police recently stopped a church rally organised to support a United Nations Stand Up, Take Action campaign.

The campaign was designed to focus attention on the provision of adequate food, shelter and access to education and health care for poorer members of society.

But the PNG police seemed to think this was a bridge too far.

The Salvation Army and the PNG Council of Churches had planned to join citizens around the world to take a stand against poverty. "We were ordered by police not to do it," said Captain John Kerari from the Salvation Army.

“We do not want to be seen as humbugs,” he said. “We were planning a peaceful rally with prayer and singing.”

He said organisers had followed proper processes and written to the police for approval. But deputy police commissioner Raphael Huafolo had rejected the application without reason or explanation.

Captain Kerari said church representatives were disappointed they could not express their freedom of speech.

“This was an opportune moment to join hands throughout PNG and the world to alert leaders and citizens that there are glaring inequalities in the distribution of the world’s resources which has resulted in gross discrimination and suffering,” he said.

“The Salvation Army‘s mission in PNG is nothing less than to spread God’s word and to ensure that living conditions are improved.”

Melanesian nations unite to rehabilitate Fiji

In a move that will probably cause some angst to  the two main South Pacific powers, Sir Michael Somare has said Melanesian countries will work to end Australian and New Zealand opposition to Fiji's military regime.

The Melanesian position, which followed some golfing diplomacy in Fiji last week, also snubs a decision by the Pacific Forum.

Sir Michael said Australia and New Zealand should stop shunning Fiji’s military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

“It will be difficult for [Australia and New Zealand] to change, but with a lot of explanation and understanding … there could be a change of mind and attitude,” Sir Michael told reporters.

In 2006, Commodore Bainimarama toppled Fiji’s elected government in a coup. Subsequently Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth.

He has cold-shouldered demands for elections that would restore democracy, saying he needs to implement reforms and develop a new constitution, which will take about five years.

Sir Michael was upbeat on the situation in Fiji. “There is no feeling of military regime,” he said. “Infrastructure is in place. The economy is picking up. Fiji is like any other democratic country.”

He also said Mr Bainimarama was trying to end friction with the ethnic Indian minority. “What he wants to see is a real multiracial society.”

The Australian government has not responded to the slight, nor commented on whether it feels in need of "more explanation and understanding"  from Melanesian leaders in prosecuting its Fiji policy.

Action needed to avoid food crisis: scientist

PNG is heading for food security disaster as a result of climate change and it needs to act quickly to address the problem, according to environmental expert Dr David Wellik.

He says PNG is “heading for doom” unless stringent mitigation measures are put in place to deal with food and land security problems.

Apparently increasing greenhouse gas emissions have already affected PNG’s temperature, rainfall and sea levels. That’s certainly the case in the Carteret Islands, from where people are already being resettled.

Dr Wellik says if PNG is not careful the next 30 years will lead to problems with food production, soil erosion, salination, drought, fire, pests and disease. That’s quite a list.

Impacts on agriculture will reduce yields and increase dependence on imported foods, which in turn will lead to poor diet and increasing disease.

“The high cost of imported foods is already forcing households to switch to cheaper products of poor nutritional quality,” Dr Wellik says.

PNG Attitude has no reason to doubt Dr Wellick’s veracity, but just wishes he’d adduced some hard data to support his dramatic pronouncements. Reliable statistics always provide us with a large degree of comfort.

Climate: hold govt to account says Sir Paulias

In another noteworthy intervention into national politics, PNG Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane has said the government must be held accountable for the effects of climate change.

“Due to the fact that our Government’s finances rarely trickle down to our people as promised,” said Sir Paulias, “our rural people surrender their lush tropical forests to foreign logging operation under the pretext of development – in other words, the destruction of our natural forests.”

He said the effects of logging were seen in soil erosion and landslides and destruction of biodiversity and natural forest habitats.

Other climate change issues such as rising sea levels were a result of the inadequacy and inefficiency of the infrastructure of democratic government that the country had adopted at independence in 1975.

“Many of the social and economic problem connected with deforestation and climate change are direct results of being irresponsive and not resilient enough in implementing the fine principles the government has,” Sir Paulias said.

This year the Governor-General has increasingly injected himself into issues relating to governance, including crime and corruption, inefficient public servants and lack of infrastructure investment.

He has said PNG has suffered from “34 years of ineffective government and public service delivery” and is in an “unfortunate mess”.

In June he led an anti-corruption march through Port Moresby.

Did PNG get a constitution that can't work?

There's been an instructive discussion about the PNG constitution on Emmanuel Narokobi’s Masalai blog focussing on whether it is a workable document.

The five participants in the dialogue [Australian Paul Oates and four Papua New Guineans]  sought to better understand whether the behaviour of PNG's politicians, in their disregard of constitutional principles, is wilful, venal or a straightforward articulation of PNG culture.

It was observed that traditional PNG bigmen [clan chiefs] were implementers as well as leaders and that the present political leadership seems to be perpetuating this dual role.

But difficulties arise when, to obtain and retain power, leaders feel compelled to provide material goods to supporters; the main source of which is public money that should otherwise be allocated to infrastructure and services.

Here’s a précis of the Masalai dialogue.

David: Get a president and hold him accountable to the constitution. We can play on our existing big man culture by introducing a president who will be our collective bigman. Then we can bring in Western ideals of accountability and hold him accountable to his mandate. I'd like to see a solution that is practical and encapsulates PNG's realities rather than trying to use ideals drawn from cultural backgrounds that are distinctly different to ours.

Emmanuel: In most cases [the PNG constitution] is reduced to being just a mission statement. The mechanisms for accountability are in place, it is up to the people to judge whether they want change bad enough to demand it.

David: There is no doubt PNG has departed significantly from her [constitution] since 1975. The leadership is too compromised and too weak to fix it under the current circumstances. On the question of who should fix it, I nominate the head of state who I see as the lesser of the bad apples. But in all reality, he won't. Our GGs have mainly been lame duck puppets and I can't see this changing. So to break the vicious cycle, we must part with the Queen and the people must elect our own president and hold him accountable to the constitution.

Tavuvur: Disposing of the GG in favour of a republic will not solve compromised or weak leadership. PNG is complicated - there is a need to resurrect a national identity in every Papua New Guinean. It is only when we all understand that we have the power to determine who will be good for the country as opposed to who will be good for me as an individual that we will see quality candidates sitting in the Haus Tabaran. Education is key, too.

David: [This is] more like a long term solution. But something must happen in the interim to save the constitution. There is frustration about the status quo among a lot of Papua New Guineans and I fear we might wake up one morning and regret that we no longer have a constitution.

The problem with the current arrangement is that the GG is appointed by parliament and so there is inherent limitation on his independence. It is Catch 22. To break this vicious cycle, the head of state must be appointed directly by the people. In this way, we can hold that individual accountable to our constitution. The closest proxy currently is the PM. But he does not care what people think about the way he governs the nation.

Paul: I can't understand how things have gone so far off track. If the basic legitimacy of the central government is flawed, no amount of plans, reorganisations and smoke and mirrors can or will correct the situation. The government has become a law unto itself.

Justin: In the long run PNG's future rests in education. As Tavurur said, we must see ourselves as a nation and only education can help us to do that. The solutions to the problems lie in a marrying the traditional and the modern. Why do we have tribal fights or resort to tribalism? Because the current system of government has failed to afford us the security of the tribe.

David: Why are we trying to hold fast to a system that has clearly not worked for us? Our current system of governance was essentially a greenfield concept. It was forced upon us and never tried and tested in PNG before then. But now we have some experience behind us, we must not be afraid to change it to accurately reflect the realities. The last 34 years have been a journey of self discovery, and I think we've come to know ourselves well enough now to change things to suit our own circumstances. We must find our own solutions to our problems that reflect those cultural aspects.

Paul: Clearly there isn't either the knowledge or the will to use the system to fix the problem. The mechanisms are in place, it's just that no one is using them. So what would be different if a presidential system of government were to be introduced to PNG?

David: Obviously you believe that the current system is not working because someone is not making it work. I think the system is not working because it does not suit us. One aspect of that is that politics in PNG has evolved in such a way so politicians are seen as implementers rather than as policymakers. This perfectly mirrors our culture where the bigman is expected to be the deliverer and not just a decision maker. His decision-making ability was actually a function of how well he could deliver. The person who delivered best won the right to be the decision-maker.

I sometimes feel sorry for our politicians because they are caught between the old and the new. Oftentimes, they choose to be implementers rather than playing their role as policymakers due to the overwhelming weight of expectations on them. This clouds their judgement and leads to muck up after muck up!

Sure my proposition about a presidential system may not be the best solution for us. But I can see how, by using this, we can marry the old and new as Justin suggested and come up with a workable compromise. The big man culture is real and deeply ingrained in our national psyche. The current system, unfortunately, has been one big attempt to try and kill that system, which existed in PNG for centuries, in just under 34 years.

My proposal for the president to be directly elected by the people is an attempt to both circumvent and play on the big man culture. You circumvent it because whoever runs for president can never afford to be seen as the deliverer through the length and breadth of PNG. Too expensive and impractical.

While PNG is still emerging from an enclosed, clan based social and political structure, we are being asked to adopt a system that has its roots in similar settings but which had already passed this stage of its evolution. It is a grossly unfair ask. I have great respect for the authors of our constitution, but how could they miss such a vital link in our evolution process?

Paul: The authors of the constitution obviously did their best given the constraints and available knowledge at the time. The acid test was how to provide effective and accountable leadership. Therein lay the dilemma. Some people have recently suggested by giving more power to local government, the current fiasco will right itself. I disagree. Leadership, by its very nature, must come from the top.

Gridneff, death threats & the Rudd government

Ilya AAP correspondent and PNG Attitude contributor Ilya Gridneff has won a major international award for excellence in environmental journalism.

And, in exposing information that blew apart the PNG phony carbon trading issue, he encountered a Rudd government that tried to ignore it: repeatedly refusing to discuss with him its relationship with PNG around forest protection.

Gridneff's citation states how he published a series of reports about PNG’s forest carbon market and other vital environmental issues. He uncovered Australian ‘carbon cowboys' taking advantage of PNG landowners, investigative work that led to abuse, intimidation and death threats.

Dharman Wickremaratne, director of the Asia Pacific Forum of Environmental Journalists, says Gridneff is a “a courageous journalist who has investigated environmental problems, sometimes at considerable personal risk.”

"We salute all environmental journalists in Asia and elsewhere who fight silent battles everyday on behalf of the planet," Mr Wickremaratne said. "We must defend journalists who expose attacks on the environment."

Gridneff's stories of corruption and mismanagement in the emerging carbon trading market also led to the sacking of climate change director, Theo Yasause.

His reports undermined PNG’s claims to be a world leader in forest carbon and, at an international level, highlighted problems of trying to enable carbon trading in countries with poor levels of accountability and transparency.

He also highlighted the lack of direction by the Australian government that repeatedly refused to discuss with him its forest protection plans with PNG.

But most important, says Gridneff, “it prevented dubious characters talking hold of PNG's natural resources for their own profit”.

The award will be presented on Monday at a ceremony during the 18th APFEJ world congress of environmental journalists in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Read these stories by Ilya Gridneff on PNG’s environment track record:

PM's nephew

Carbon Planet

Yasause suspended

Logging by stealth

Ignore hysteria: we don’t need the death penalty


The PNG media recently raised the question of whether we should implement the death penalty to deter serious crime.

This followed a public outcry after a highlands mother allegedly killed her children. Similar reactions are expressed by citizens when brutal murders are committed.

The reaction is only natural. But for years, the government has vacillated on this issue. It has passed a law on imposing the death penalty for serious crimes like murder. But it has never been imposed.

The snag is simple. The government has not made a decision about the approved method of execution. So the introduction of the death penalty is delayed while a suitable method is studied.

Execution has been used since ancient times for a wide variety of offences: sometimes to punish crime; sometimes to suppress political dissent.

Execution is final. It permanently removes people. It certainly stops a killer from murdering again. It may make us feel safer. Dead criminals are not a threat; they cannot commit further crimes.

Some people defend capital punishment by saying society has a moral obligation to protect the safety of its citizens. Murderers threaten people’s safety so by putting them to death we ensure convicted killers do not kill again.

Society may further assume a deterrent affect – you kill; you will be killed. Common sense would then tell people that if they know they will die, they will be unwilling to perform that vile act.

Capital punishment is society’s way of retribution. The criminal is made to suffer in proportion to the offence. Some say there’s still a place in modern society for the old principle of “eye for an eye” and a “tooth for a tooth”.

If the people’s cry for capital punishment is consistently rejected by an indecisive government, elements of the public may feel they need to uphold justice themselves, leading to vigilantism. In a society like PNG, where many of our people are still primitive in their thinking, we must guard against this.

There’s no such thing as a humane method of putting a person to death. Every form of execution causes the prisoner suffering. Execution is a terrifying and gruesome ordeal.

And it happens that innocent people are executed. There is no possible way to compensate for this miscarriage of justice. The death penalty removes any chance of revocation or rehabilitation.

It’s wrong for a PNG government to kill in order to teach our people not to kill.

Public opinion should not determine justice. Hysteria leads to unjust conviction and wrongful execution. An unpopular government seeking public support could easily succumb to the temptation to execute an innocent person.

The PNG government is left with three clear choices.

It can walk away from the death penalty and the problems it causes.

It can execute only the worst criminals: better than keeping them for life in prison, use the money on the more genuinely needy.

Or it can use the death penalty as a deterrent to diminish serious crime.

Personally, I strongly oppose capital punishment.

Maru civilians on way to freedom when killed

Anniv Cover 1972 Historian Rod Miller has discovered new evidence linking the Montevideo Maru with planned internee exchanges between Japan and Australia in World War II.

In a paper, Sunk en route to freedom, Miller says the 1053 men being shipped from Rabaul when the Montevideo Maru was sunk off the Philippines by a US submarine on 1 July 1942 were being shipped to the Japanese-occupied island of Hainan in China.

It was Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

Miller agrees with the Chifley Government’s assessment that a post-war inquiry into the loss of the Rabaul men was unnecessary because all the facts associated with the occupation of the Rabaul area were known to the government.

“This knowledge included the loss of the men captured there [who were] aboard the Montevideo Maru,” Miller writes.

He says the movement of the Montevideo Maru was associated with the exchange of Japanese and Allied internees in 1942, writing: “circumstantial evidence supports the contention that the Rabaul men were being moved into a zone that had been negotiated with the Japanese for the exchange of civilian internees.”

Miller’s research also reinforces that the Australian government was exploring all avenues to gain information about the men in Rabaul, including negotiating with the Japanese.

The government received advice from Japanese sources about the Rabaul prisoners, citing this extract from a file:

“Approximately 1,300 troops were at Rabaul at the time of the Japanese attack: of these 700 were taken prisoner or surrendered, according to advice from Japanese sources, 300 were in hospital or were casualties, and 160 had just been rescued. This left 140 not accounted for. He thought that most, if not all of these, would be casualties.”

Even if the Rabaul prisoners had reached Hainan, however, they may not have made it to freedom.

The prisoner exchange may have foundered on Foreign Minister HV ‘Doc’ Evatt’s view that it could be “highly dangerous to return from Australia 1120 [Japanese] internees many of whom will be able to imperil our security during the critical period of war.”

History buffs can find the complete paper on Rod Miller’s Montevideo Maru website here.

Photo: PNG First day cover with postmark commemorating 30th anniversary of the departure of the Montevideo Maru from Rabaul on 22 June 1942. Left click on the image to enlarge it [Max Hayes]

Defection, reflection – what happens now in PNG?

As PNG’s parliament moves towards a sitting where a no-confidence motion is expected from the Morauta opposition, rumours abound in the local press that three senior members of Sir Mekere’s coalition are about to defect.

The three MPs were unavailable for comment, and the Post-Courier knew, but wasn’t prepared to disclose, their names.

They were said to have been offered inducements such as a ministry if they agreed to stop openly criticising the Government on corruption and other issues.

When a no-confidence vote was mooted during the last sitting, it was terminated early and ‘cooperative’ MPs given K2 million each to spend in their electorates.

Advocating Undaunted by the gossip of impending defections from his ranks, opposition leader Morauta responded by calling Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare [left] an “arrogant self promoter”.

“I’ve never in my life heard any PNG politician so nakedly promoting himself,” said Sir Mekere. “To say the LNG [liquefied natural gas] project depends on him is utter nonsense. Does he think Papua New Guineans are so naive or stupid to believe him?

“Come out, Arthur, and tell the people [who are] the owners of the gas resources what you and your father agreed to give away.

“All he’s doing is desperately trying to shore up public support with a vote of no-confidence looming,” he said.

Meanwhile, former prime minister and New Ireland governor, Sir Julius Chan, called on PNG to wake up and realise that, since independence, it has fallen further in the human development index than any country in the world.

Sir Julius said at independence in 1975 PNG ranked 77th out of 150 countries. By 1990 it had dropped to 105th.

“By 2004, PNG was 139th and by 2008 we had dropped another 10 places to 149th. Think about this, in only 33 years PNG had been eclipsed by over 70 countries,” he said.

“We need to rethink how government works in PNG as the government closest to the people is the [local level] government that knows the needs of the people and not the one located in Waigani,” Sir Julius said

The shallow roots of PNG’s democratic politics


Papua New Guineans who are concerned about the relationship between the people and the State are also confused as to what can be achieved by citizens and voters.

The confusion exists even though Papua New Guineans have a strong conviction that a democracy is the best sort of society to live in.

Right now they’re wondering how to make progress toward change that will return the social steering-wheel to the people: how to make the decision-makers listen.

The party political system in PNG is like a drop of oil falling into still, clear water. It spreads in colourful and attractive patterns on the surface but its depth is infinitesimal.

Party politics is unappealing and largely useless. The Westminster system was imposed directly on top of the traditional political culture. There was no link to the established local government system, that seemed to be working well.

Party politics was a cultural sea-change like no other. Apart from the arrival of Christian missionaries almost a century before the national election of 1964.

As  a young public servant stationed at Talasea, I took part as a team member conducting the poll in villages from Cape Gloucester back to my base. Then I participated in the vote count at the Talasea council meeting room.

Although I had already conceived a deep affection for PNG and its people, I was too immature to give the subject of the imposition of this party-based national political system meaningful thought and analysis.

I was, however, aware of the likelihood that one result would be the effective exclusion from the chain of government of the grassroots councils, and I thought to myself that this was probably a mistake.

In hindsight it is sad that none of that generation of senior administrators like Sir Donald Cleland and Sir Paul Hasluck, nor the coven of PNG-literate anthropologists who drew income from the Territories Department, seemed to have thought much about it either.

At any rate, nothing was made public about any argy-bargy at senior level. What was essential was the implementation of a program as penetrating and full of idealism as the Christian evangelisation of pagan PNG in the latter part of the 19th century.

The level of change in society we addressed so breezily in 1964 had very shallow roots indeed.

The conversion of an ancient tribal clan-based political belief system to a concept of statehood and personal nationality was a breath-taking goal.

The adoption of a national as opposed to a clan-based political structure was an Everest undertaking; of the same magnitude as that which the Christian churches undertook.

Time for PNG to take new look at defence needs


It would be a big plus for prime minister Somare's government to complement PNG's new 40-year strategic plan with a defence white paper.

Like Australia, PNG must now outline a plan for an overdue shake-up of the country's military. PNG must not wait for Australia and New Zealand to always take the lead security role in the Pacific.

It’s a national disgrace to see the last two governments and the present political regime without a defence, or foreign policy, view of the future. Eight years since taking office in 2002 until today, government policy has been overtaken by events.

PNG’s strategic circumstances have considerably altered, and warrant an urgent review of the national security environment. The current defence white paper is nearly a decade old.

Like defence, the country hasn’t had a new foreign policy white paper for over 18 years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the process of reviewing its policy, and a new policy white paper is due soon.

The key defence reform activity should ensure all programs are properly planned and budgeted in accordance with a long term plan. Approaching reform this way will ensure the defence force is appropriately structured for the future and become more relevant to the needs of the country and its people.

The success of reform will depend ultimately on the attitude of both military and defence civilians to the changes required in building a viable and effective institution.

As in any major change, there will be difficulties with both organisation and personnel. However, with cooperation, defence can resolve them.

Defence management is comfortable with its organisational practices, which have served it well in the past. A reform program will require a review of many past practices as new and innovative ways of conducting defence business are considered.

The Defence Ministry must now make ‘sea change’ a top priority: a fresh course that will ensure that properly planned reforms are implemented in the next five years and beyond. This must be done in a way that will maximise opportunities for the people to benefit.

To better shape a learning organisation, military commanders and civilian managers must adopt a positive attitude to address new challenges in reorganising and restructuring defence. Everyone needs to march to the same drum beat.

The bottom-line is for the prime minister and his government to immediately take a proactive approach to seriously address PNG's future national security challenges.

Colonel (retired) Renagi is a former senior officer in the PNG Defence Force

Reg Renagi 1: colonel, captain, community leader

Retired former PNG Defence Force Colonel (a Naval Captain), Reginald Renagi ('Reg' to friends), has been a recent informative and fertile correspondent to PNG Attitude. I emailed him yesterday to welcome him to our club and to find out more about him.

As readers know, this is a club with no membership fee other than a tolerant attitude, and no barrier to entry for anyone interested in the future of PNG and its relationship with Australia.

Reg is an interesting bloke: a well regarded figure and a prolific contributor to the media in PNG, writing social commentary for the Post Courier, Weekend Courier, The National and the Sunday Chronicle.

“I write about certain key strategic issues our government needs to address in PNG’s national interest,” he says. “They don’t … so concerned citizens have to keep reminding them. I also get invited to go on NBC talkback programs or give radio interviews on controversial issues in the public interest.”

Since March, Reg has been director of training at the newly established, private Pacific Maritime Training College. “Some of my former navy pros help me teach classes in seamanship training and, when I’m not in front of a group of eager seaman trainees, I go back to the job behind the desk.”

Reg retired from the PNG Defence Force with the rank of Senior Colonel. He’d been a senior defence executive, his appointments including director of maritime operations, director of manpower, director of planning and force development, director of personnel services, chief of operations and chief of staff, including a two year secondment to the Department of Defence within the policy and planning division.

He underwent initial naval training as a midshipman in the Royal Australian Navy and was commanding officer of the attack-class patrol boat HMAS Lae. He commanded two shore establishments: the PNGDF landing craft base in Moresby and the PNGDF patrol boat base on Manus Island. During is career, he attended staff colleges in Australia and executive programs in the US.

“I retired in September 2004 after 34 years of dedicated service to God, Queen and Country,” he says. “It was a nice sea change and a breath of fresh air from working for so long as a state agent.”

Since then he’s tried “a sprinkling of anything that got my interest: freelance security consulting, small business advice, mail order and information marketing, a small family PMV business, occasional freelance writing, studying the futures market as a hobby and, as a self-developed “critical thinker”, being a voracious reader of just about “anything under the sun”.

For a short time before the 2007 national elections, Reg worked for former Opposition Leader, Peter O’Neil MP, as chief of staff. After the elections, he decided to do his own thing and found himself mostly homebound - helping his wife Lulu look after their second daughter, Jeannie, who had been very sick for seven years, since the time he was in the military.

Next: Personal tragedy and Papuan autonomy

Reg Renagi 2: Sowing seeds of Papuan autonomy

“Eventually our beautiful daughter Jeannie failed to respond to the long term regime of medicinal drugs, special diet, family love and support, and left us to meet her maker in September 2007,” says Reg.

“It was such a gut-wrenching experience for an anguished father and a desperate family - watching our beautiful daughter’s life slip away daily in the terminal stages of her illness.

“I miss my daughter terribly and still mourn for her in my quiet moments and say a short prayer for her before I start my day and before I go to sleep each day. The healing will take some time as she was my favourite girl since she was a baby.”

“But we have weathered the storm,” he says. “I praised our Lord for giving us the strength to provide the best for our little girl, with what little resources I had at the time on a small military pension, to make her final moments a little comforting.”

Reg is thinking of writing Jeannie’s story one day. But right now he’s writing a book about former army mate, Bruce Copeland. The book looks at HIV/AIDS as a serious national issue that the government is not seriously addressing despite the political rhetoric. “It’s based around the work done in the last ten years by Bruce and a small band of courageous people,” says reg

In recent times, a group of concerned Papua New Guineans convinced Reg to be involved in community advocacy to help others in need of professional support. He has given his time freely, mainly ex-servicemen with no government support, who could not afford the high fees of “those who charge an arm and a leg for advice”.

Reg is also deputy chairman of the Papua Focus Group which is in the process of launching the first Papuan newspaper, Papua Gadona (Voice of Papua).

“I am encouraging Papuans to contribute anything of interest to raise our people’s awareness of what being a Papuan is like today in PNG,” he says.

“There is a growing groundswell of Papuans who desire autonomy in future,” says Reg. “The majority of Papuans feel PNG is not really a united country and they feel marginalised and failed by the present political system.

“The system is corrupt to its core and politicians have let us down since self-government. We want to see Papua on its own as an autonomous region to develop a secure and peaceful society for the next generation of smart Papuans.

“This sentiment is sowing the seeds of a future autonomy push by Papuans as they think of the good old days under the Australian administration. Life then was good, secure and safe – but not now under the present political leadership where insecurity and the threat from primitive non-Papuan groups have increased over the years.”

Welcome aboard, Captain Reg. Controversy and all, we look forward to hearing a lot more from you.

Criteria to guide an effective PNG planning effort


PNG will become a more open and competitive market economy through a process of economic reform and restructuring.

To better achieve this, the private sector is expected to support future development efforts and contribute significantly towards the national strategic plan.

Some key factors that national planners must fully take into account are:

Government modernisation programs within the region;

The future impact of economic interdependence and changing trade alignments on international relationships, and whether this will produce stability or new tensions;

The economic dynamism of Asian countries will increase the stability of the region, but if sustained will bring changes to relative national strengths;

Continuing economic and social problems in the south-west Pacific, and

National aspirations for better quality of life and well-being.

PNG’s strategic environment poses many development challenges. We are facing transnational issues with serious security implications that the government must address.

Development priorities must be driven principally by our vision, mission and core values and guiding principles derived from the Constitution.

Careful planning of future development must ensure we have the right level and mix of state management capabilities necessary for national self-sufficiency and reliance.

Therefore, development efforts must be at an appropriate level that can be economically sustained within national resources. This approach provides a rigorous, enduring basis for disciplined planning as our future strategic circumstances become more demanding.

The country’s long term plan covers 40 years and, over that time frame, we must factor in future risks with suitable inbuilt hedging strategies designed to minimise them.

The task for national planners is not easy and they need to make certain that our strategic framework is comprehensive enough to cope with future contingencies not yet discerned by even the most far sighted government analyst.

Joseph Read: Too far away thy grave to see


Australiantroops1914 A volunteer was Joseph Read. He’d come to Australia from London to start a new life and took on a plasterer’s trade after his arrival in South Australia.

He enlisted on 31 October 1914 in the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force tasked to seize German colonies in the Pacific and became Private Joseph Read, Number 118, D Company, 3 Battalion.

He had served with the British Army in the Boer War from 1901-02with the 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment.

By 13 November, the full quotas from the States had been assembled and sent to Liverpool Army Camp outside Sydney with Major FW Toll as their Commanding Officer. With the barest of training, the members of 3rd Battalion embarked from Sydney on 28 November aboard His Majesty's Australian Transport SS Eastern bound for Rabaul.

The other German possessions named by the British Government were progressively occupied by the Australian forces. New Ireland, the Admiralty Islands, Western Islands, Bougainville, New Guinea, Nauru and the German Solomon Islands were all brought under Australian administration until their future could be decided after the war.

Private Read was a member of the occupying forces possibly stationed on Bougainville, as his location is not mentioned in his service record.

He died on 11 February 1915, not from the effects of a German bullet or an unfortunate accident but from the bite of a mosquito. He contracted blackwater fever, a very dangerous complication of malignant malaria.

Private Read was buried in the Kieta Cemetery having served his country for a little over three months and leaving his brother Arthur in Australia as the only one to mourn his passing.

Photo: Australian troops in the Gazelle Peninsula, 1914

You can read the full story of the Australian expeditionary force’s occupation of Rabaul here. Download Wright_Too far away

Duncan Kerr goes to prison – just visiting


Outgoing parliamentary secretary for Pacific island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, whose new beard is flourishing in the warmer weather, has made one of his last official visits to PNG.

While in Port Moresby he visited the Corrections Service headquarters where officers formed a guard of honour to welcome him.

Mr Kerr urged officers to be proud of their job and to take their responsibilities seriously.

“You have a difficult task of making sure that you enforce discipline and respect,” he said, “but at the same time you can be the eyes of the people you’re working with,” he said.

He said every officer had the opportunity to play a part in the history of PNG.

“It’s in your hands whether this country grows stronger and prosperous,” he said. “It’s worth working for and worth striving for.”

So you thought collecting stamps was boring

Madang FDC

On 5 September 1962, about the same time I was in my cheap Mosman flat dolefully contemplating a forthcoming ASOPA education officer examination, a new three shilling postage stamp appeared in PNG depicting a policeman on point duty in Port Moresby.

The policeman was Constable Ragas Namusmatia – and he ended up not only featuring on the stamp but on a little memento produced by an avid purchaser who took the trouble to produce what you see above.

By the time the stamp was issued and the photograph taken, Constable Matia was stationed in Madang. And he kindly signed the first day cover, which was soon on its way to a collector in the UK.

Now Nat Diercke, scion of an old Gazelle peninsula family and now based in the Old Dart, has picked up this wonderful piece of memorabilia at auction as part of his growing collection of PNG postal history.

Did I hear someone say stamp collecting is dull!

Dialogue will determine if Panguna mine re-opens

Bougainville’s President James Tanis says he will not tell the people of central Bougainville that they must reopen the Panguna copper mine.

Speaking during a visit by Paul Coleman, Bougainville Copper’s company secretary, Mr Tanis said he would have nothing to do with the decision to reopen the mine.

He said his role as President was to act as a facilitator, and not to direct or force BCL or other parties concerned to reopen the mine. He said the mine’s future will be decided by BCL and the other parties concerned.

Mr Tanis said that before the issue was discussed, peace and normalcy must prevail on the island.

Mr Coleman was invited by the ABG president to establish a dialogue with all parties involved in the crisis.

Meanwhile, three major reconciliation ceremonies will be held this month in central Bougainville, the first one on October 16 at Panguna.

PNG’s deputy prime minister Sir Puka Temu will attend all three ceremonies.

The ceremonies will coincide with the official opening of the President’s offices in Arawa.

InterOil project runs into more political problems

In addition to having difficulties gaining support from the PNG Cabinet, the company InterOil Ltd, which wants to develop LNG resources in Papua, has struck trouble with the Gulf provincial government.

According to the PNG media, the government has raised serious allegations about InterOil’s plans for tax exemption for the two gas wells.

“The Gulf provincial government is concerned that the content of the project agreement contains serious fundamental flaws both legally and morally,” Gulf governor Havila Kavo has written in letter to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

Sir Michael has already encountered serious obstacles gaining approval for InterOil’s development plans from his son and Enterprise Minister Arthur and a majority of other ministers.

“InterOil Ltd is seeking exemption from tax regimes across the board, including 20 years of loss carried forward,” Mr Kavo said, adding that the company will “be running losses for the next 20 years” which would be a “deliberate act of price transferring”

Speaking to the PNG National, Mr Kavo accused InterOil Ltd of being deceptive and upped the rhetorical ante considerably by accusing the company of “collusion, curtailing, price transferring, racketing [sic] and corporate fraud.”

“We will not support this project in its present form,” Mr Kavo said.

InterOil has said it will give a comprehensive response to these allegations and used its website to express pleasure that Sir Michael and Energy Minister William Duma have assured their support for the LNG project.

Blame shifting, buck passing & MT promises


The numbers are in, the analysis is done and the conclusions have been reached.

After years of receiving aid, the PNG people are worse off than before independence.

How can this have been allowed to happen?

Can it be that those in AusAID managing Australia’s aid to PNG have lacked the capabilities they need to deliver effective development programs?

Or has the political relationship been more important than the development relationship so precise arrangements aren’t important so long as the money flows?

The Australian PM declared after his visit to PNG last year that there’d be a change to the current aid program and this year Michael Somare has said it’ll be all over red rover by 2015.

But until then, what benchmarks exist for PNG aid deployment to be measured as successful before programs are renewed or re-financed?

And what outcomes are expected for the forecast Australian Federal Police assistance program? Will these be enunciated before any boots hit the ground?

US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that said 'The buck stops here'. In US vernacular this declared that Truman was ultimately responsible for decisions and that there would be no blame shifting.

Where does the buck stop in PNG?

The buck seems to stop nowhere. There is no buck passing or blame shifting because no-one takes responsibility for failure.

Before the last PNG election, Michael Thomas Somare promised many things to many people.

Could these now be labelled ‘MT promises’?

Melanesian leaders in Fiji for golf diplomacy


Ilya_Torso In a sign of the times, Pacific leaders from PNG, the Solomons, Tonga and Vanuatu spent this weekend in Fiji – counting numbers on the golf course.

The aim was to complete 18 holes with Fiji's top brass in the Ratu Mara Somare Cup golf challenge at the Natadola Bay championship golf course on the Coral Coast.

Commodore Frank Bainimara was not on the links but previous Fiji coup leader and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka proved to be a formidable competitor

Keen golfer Michael Somare with a contingent of PNG politicians, government officials and business leaders flew to the Solomons where they picked up PM Derek Sikua en route to Fiji.

Sir Michael told AAP the weekend was an equivalent to a "Melanesian Ashes series". But the 22 carat gold kundu trophy worth thousands of dollars never leaves PNG regardless of the cup's outcome.

"We have a silver version of the trophy for them if they win," he said.

"The idea of the cup is to get Melanesian leaders together. It's not about politics, it's about golf."

"On the golf course you have no title, so I am not a grand chief, I am a golfer."

Most recently the so-called Melanesian Spearhead Group decided Fiji should not be expelled from the Pacific Forum and the Commonwealth.

PNG’s constitution – honoured or dishonoured?


Paul-Oates2-small Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, as a young lawyer, reportedly had a large part in the drafting of PNG's constitution.

The announcement of his intention to retire from politics at the next federal election prompted me to examine the historical document that articulated the ideals and the hopes of PNG's 'founding fathers'.

At Independence, when PNG’s leaders accepted responsibility for their country, they at the same time became accountable for acting in accordance with what is expressed in their constitution.

Thirty-four years after Independence, it seems appropriate to examine if the PNG constitution remains a meaningful document and to examine, where it may not have been followed, who might be responsible for this failure.

It might then be appropriate to examine what sanctions ought to be imposed on those who, under PNG's constitution, are accountable. Fortunately the constitution clearly sets out the process of defining responsibility.

In the accompanying document, which you can download using the link below, I have selected relevant parts of PNG's constitution and, in the light of recent events in PNG, have highlighted in red some interesting areas.

It is questionable as to whether the constitution is being followed. If it is not, it could be concluded that there have been unconstitutional acts.

If so, whose then has the duty to investigate and rectify such breaches?

Download Report Card on PNG Constitution

Will Genia's meteoric rise through rugby


After a meteoric rise through Australian Rugby, PNG-born Will Genia is about to depart on the sport’s greatest prize – the Wallaby tour of Japan, Britain and Ireland. The 21-year-old began the year as a reserve with Queensland Reds in the Super 14 competition; he is now the top half back in the Australian squad. 

Genia was born in Port Moresby, the son of a former PNG Government Minister Kilroy Genia.  He didn’t play organised sport, let along a team sport, until he moved to Brisbane in 2000 at the age of 12.  The story goes that he only started playing rugby because fellow students at Brisbane Boys College assumed he would be a star – simply because he was an islander.

By the end of his schooldays, Genia was an Australian under-19 representative.  He caught the attention of former Wallaby coach Eddie Jones and it wasn’t very long before the present Australian coach Robbie Deans had his eyes on young Will.

Deans was impressed by his inventive play around the ruck, strong defence and crisp service at the breakdown.  In fact, Deans had Genia earmarked for a considerable time and only a hand injury kept him out of the Wallaby squad at the start of this year’s international season. 

Led by new skipper Rocky Elsom, the Australians leave on October 24 for Tests against New Zealand (in Tokyo), England, Ireland, Scotland. and Wales. They will be attempting to emulate the famous 1984 team that completed an undefeated grand slam of the four British home unions.

Bougainville at forefont at awards ceremony

The journey out of Buka was replete with delays, but with minutes to go New Dawn FM manager Aloysius Laukai lobbed in to Queensland University in time to receive, on behalf of his radio station, a major international award last night.

The award is given for the most outstanding contribution to using communications for social change, and the fledgling Bougainville radio station won it first of all for existing in the first place, and secondly for its already significant contribution to peace and reconcilation and its efforts to stabilise the sometimes tricky civil situation in the province.

Aloysius was able to announce at the ceremony that the station is about to build a second studio in Arawa, the capital, and to install new repeater transmitters that will carry its signal to most of the island.

University vice-chancellor, Prof Paul Greenfield, who presented the award, said "you can't help but be inspired by what people do in difficult circumstances."

"Social change is a serious business and New Dawn FM is about serious business."

In response, Aloysius said "the crisis divided most of our people".

"We wanted to allow freedom of expression to help reconcile people after the conflict."

The Bougainville insurrection took 20,000 lives and displaced 40,000 people of a population of 120,000.

New Dawn FM has just been commissioned by the PNG national government to conduct a five-year long awareness campaign leading up to a referendum on Bougainville independence in 2015.

Meanwhile, the good news from the autonomous province, not reported elsewhere so far, is that serious discussions are about to begin about re-opening the Panguna mine.

It seems that the former developer, Bougainville Copper Limited, is front and centre for this role despite interest being expressed by Chinese and Russian mining concerns.

The real & gritty story of the Kokoda Track


Fit young men, fresh from the Middle East and the battle fields of Syria, were sent to Port Moresby.  Their immediate mission to head across the Owen Stanleys to relieve the beleagured and greatly outnumbered and outgunned "chocos" of the 39 Battalion at Isurava.  They were going to show these Japs!

On that first climb up to the crest of Imita Ridge, in their khaki shorts and shirts of the Western Desert, they were strung out and struggling.  Suddenly it wasn't a picnic any more! Each carrying 30+ kilos of personal equipment, weapons and ammunition.  Everyone was carrying two mortar bombs for the 2 inch mortar, extra grenades and an extra bandolier for the Bren LMG.

Occasionally someone would drop out of the line exhausted.  His mate would stop, pick up his pack and move on.  The line never stopped until nightfall.  The next day it would start all over again.

On 27th August 1942, C Company 2/14 Battalion (AIF) arrived at Isurava and dropped into the weapon pits of the 39 Battalion (CMF) in the middle of a Japanese attack. Progressively over the next day the rest of the battalion arrived and were assigned to take over various 39 Battalion company positions. 

Continuous attacks throughout each day at different positions around the defensive perimeter.  39 Battalion, exhausted after several weeks of doing it alone against the Japs, were ordered out of the battle but refused to go.

A party of 30 wounded from the 39th, some distance back at the RAP, reasoned that their mates were in strife and headed back into the battle site. 

Bruce Kingsbury won a VC posthumously by charging into a massing enemy group which threatened the 2/14 Battalion HQ.  Charles McCallum, nominated for a VC, was awarded a DCM for single-handedly providing a rear guard for his platoon to extract themselves from the immediate threat of being overrun by superior numbers of the enemy.  He was alternately firing a Bren and "Tommygun" from each shoulder, stopping to reload one weapon with that hand whilst firing the other weapon to keep the Japs at bay.

Ultimately, the order was given to withdraw and regroup, but, unfortunately, many had to scatter.  A party largely from A Company 2/14 Battalion were cut off; 47 under Captain Syd Buckler, including 7 wounded, tried to find away around the enemy to regain the rapidly withdrawing Australian lines. The wounded had to be carried.

For three weeks they moved slowly forward before realising that a better alternative was to head back towards the North coast.  One of the wounded, Corporal John Metson, shot through both ankles, recognised that the group could not operate effectively and carry all the wounded.  Each morning he would have his hands and knees bandaged and would set off before the main party, crawling!  He would arrive in the dark at that night's encampment.

Finally, a decision was made to leave the wounded at Sangai No 2 village with the medical orderly, Private Tom Fletcher, while the main party moved at pace to find help.  Eventually the main party reached an American camp on the Kemp Welsh River several weeks later. 

Unfortunately, a flight over the village found that the entire party left at Sangai had been murdered after being betrayed to the Japs.  Corporal John Metson was posthumously awarded a British Empire Medal for his courage and fortitude and the example he set for others.  Tom Fletcher died not knowing that he had been awarded a military medal for continuously attending to the wounded under fire throughout the several days of the battle at Isurava.

This is what the Kokoda Track represents and what all trekkers should be prepared for. It is not a walk in the park.  If it hasn't happened already, I am waiting for the day that a family of a deceased trekker sues the trekking company for accepting, and the certifying doctor for providing, a certificate of fitness for something the doctor is not qualified to provide because he has never been to the Track.

When I was young, for weeks on end, I used to run between the villages when on patrol, sometimes for quite long distances.  However, I have not walked the Track and, whilst I obviously have a very close connection to the Track, do not intend to.  I am 62, overweight and have wonky knees.  I don’t need a doctor to tell me I wouldn’t make it. 

Don Christie, educator, farmer & jazz musician


Christie_Don On my return from recent travels I realised no one had recorded the passing of yet another ex-PNG education officer – Don Christie. Don died in August at Junee NSW, his home for most of the last 34 years, after stoic and ever jovial resistance to cancer.

Don was married to Nora and had four children born in PNG - daughters Joanne, Donna and Megan and son Matthew (who recently completed three years with the Australian High Commission in Moresby).

After attending ASOPA for orientation in 1958, Don was posted to the Western Highlands and later became District Education Officer under Tas Hammersley.

Then followed a series of senior positions: Port Moresby Teachers College; District Superintendent Gulf; and Superintendent of the Primary Inspectorate at headquarters following the amalgamation of the government and mission systems.

(In this role he was the recipient of the hilarious Gau Ongu hoax letters, penned by the late Dave Pitt, which chronicled the efforts of a fictional local inspector who was determined to attend ASOPA for further training).

After returning to Australia he became CEO of Catholic Education in Wagga and CEO of Catholic Education in Canberra.

Don was a notable sportsman (cricket, squash, and an Australian Rules umpire) and an accomplished jazz musician (saxophone, trumpet, trombone).

After his career as an educator he turned to farming, always with a strong environmental bent. Don died on 19 August aged 73.

PNG looks at establishing free trade zones

A US business news website in Georgia reports that one JM Striplin, an Atlanta consultant, has been selected to participate in a feasibility study into the establishment of free trade zones in Papua New Guinea.

This comes hard on the heels of an article on the same subject last month by Chips Krakoff on the US website ‘Investor Insight’. It's a thoughtful and well-written piece and I’m taking the liberty of providing you with some extracts:

I am here on a quick visit to negotiate a contract with the government, which has selected my firm, together with a local consulting firm, to prepare a strategy for the development of free trade zones and/or special economic zones throughout the country…

PNG scores pretty well in the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, especially in areas like trade, taxation, business licensing, and labor, though its overall ranking is dragged down by a high level of corruption and a lack of secure property rights, the latter unsurprising in a country in which most land is under customary tribal tenure.

The challenges the country faces in trying to develop a modern economy are enormous. Far too many of the people I see on the streets of Port Moresby have the shell-shocked and blotto look, common among American Indians, Inuit, and Australian Aboriginals, of indigenous peoples forcibly uprooted from their traditions and cast into the lower reaches of the modern world, which has little time or use for them.

Alcoholism, family violence, street crime, and HIV are rampant. People warn me not to take even a licensed taxi. “They will take you somewhere else and rob you.”

PNG, however, is about to come into great wealth, which may be the biggest challenge of all. The huge Ok Tedi copper mine in Western Province, which has been the source of most of the country’s export revenues and a significant chunk of total GDP for the past 20 years, is expected to shut down in 2013, its reserves exhausted.

But a natural gas bonanza is in the offing. In 2008 the government signed a $10 billion agreement with a consortium led by Exxon Mobil to develop gas fields in the Southern Highlands and to build a pipeline to transport it to a new port and LNG terminal and refinery.

The project is expected to export over 6 million metric tons of LNG annually and promises to double, or even quadruple, national GDP, transforming PNG from a least-developed to a middle income country. PNG also has vast mineral resources, and the government in 2006 signed a $1 billion deal with state-owned China Metallurgical Construction Corp to develop the Ramu nickel mine.

With corruption already endemic, PNG risks joining the legion of countries – think Nigeria, Congo – whose natural resource wealth has impoverished them through “Dutch Disease,” the sudden currency appreciation that can destroy a country’s agricultural and manufacturing base, and a shift from democratic governance to kleptocracy.

To its credit, the government here seems to recognize the challenge and appears determined to use the country’s resource wealth to improve the lot of its people, 40 percent of whom live on a dollar a day or less.

The free trade zone/special economic zone program is one small part of that, an effort to create a sustainable non-resource economy, and it goes together with other initiatives to build road, telecoms, and port facilities, and to build low-cost electricity generating capacity based on the gas and the county’s abundant hydroelectric potential, which can fuel development of energy-intensive industries like aluminum smelting.

Its location on the Torres Strait, a major shipping route between China and Australia and New Zealand, gives Papua New Guinea a big location advantage too.

Nation shamed as AusAID staff stir restlessly

Moresby ain't what it used to be... It’s still a hardship posting – but the notion of ‘hardship’ has been redefined.

Sensitive AusAID personnel who are resident at the Paradise Palms lodgings have a problem. Not content with consuming half of Australia's PNG aid budget, they also want to be Saturday night party poopers.

Ilya Gridneff reports from Port Moresby, in an AAP piece that made a satisfying splash across Australia’s media today, that AusAID staff have complained that noise from the glitzy Lamana Club affects their sleep.

They even procured a sound measuring device to record decibel levels emanating from the popular Port Moresby night spot.

Because of security concerns, the Lamana is one of few venues officials are recommended to patronise.

One official told AAP: "It's pretty bad, every Saturday night … what's worse is the type of music that's played". Seems Mahler was given a miss.

An unnamed AusAID spokesperson said residents were fed up that the club was “exceeding acceptable noise levels”.

But was quick to add "no costs were incurred in measuring the noise levels."

Just as well, with some 300 AusAID consultants already chewing up nearly $200 million of Australia’s aid hand-out to PNG.

Think of how many ear plugs that would buy.

Apparently the officials got very nervous when they heard AAP was going to run the story of their Saturday night fever.

They should be grateful. Some people pay good money to get exposure like that.