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57 posts from December 2009

Richard Leahy critical after PNG plane crash


Leahy_Richard AAP - SIX PEOPLE are dead and pilot Richard Leahy - son of highlands pioneer Mick Leahy - is fighting for his life in hospital after a light plane crash in PNG.

Mr Leahy, 68, who runs Kiunga Aviation, was flying the plane yesterday when the engine caught fire in mountainous terrain in Morobe Province.

He is fighting for his life in a Brisbane hospital being treated for severe degree burns to 47% of his body and a fractured spine.

The plane departed from Nadzab and was flying to the Baindoang airstrip. Richard's son, Nicholas, told AAP his father had reported "a loss of all pressure and total engine failure".

Nicholas Leahy says his father is an experienced and well-respected pilot. "Dad's been flying up here for 40 plus years," he said. "You'd be hard-pressed to find another bush pilot in New Guinea that's got more experience than him, especially in the mountain range which is his local area. His nick-name is Captain Cautious."

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - December in review


PNG’s anti-corruption boss is shot and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt outside his Port Moresby home. PNG's Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek is left for dead after gunmen fire through the windscreen of his Nissan Patrol

PNG’S huge liquefied natural gas project is given the green light in Port Moresby. Venture partners and the PNG government sign the deal for the $10 billion project at a ceremony at Parliament House. The plan to pipe gas from the highlands to Port Moresby for export to Asia is forecast to double PNG’s gross domestic product and create thousands of jobs

Sir Michael Somare says PNG is not up to the challenges posed by LNG. "We have not trained our people for the projects which will require between 8,000 and 10,000 workers," he says. "How do we get 500 drivers in a day?"

There is a growing backlash against Chinese workers among local populations in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. There are increasing episodes of protest and violence, and Vietnam and India have moved to impose labour rules to restrict the number of Chinese workers allowed to enter, straining relations with Beijing

PNG has failed to live up to promises made in 1975 for improving the quality of life of its people, says former Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan. He says huge amounts of wealth has been generated but the people have suffered. “That is not development. That is not progress. That is failure, pure and simple”

An economic study reveals that, despite PNG experiencing an uninterrupted seven years of economic expansion, this has not translated into reducing poverty. Using the international poverty benchmark of US$1 a day, 40% of PNG’s people live in extreme poverty

An editorial in the PNG press asserts that next year’s referendum in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville could have enormous consequences for the country. In the referendum, Bougainvilleans will decide whether they want to be a part of PNG, or become a separate independent nation

Australia's Environment Minister Peter Garrett is to the new patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee. The committee was established in 2008 to ensure greater recognition of events surrounding the fall of Rabaul in 1942 and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1,053 troops and civilians. Garrett’s grandfather, Tom Vernon Garrett, was a prisoner on the ship

Australia's international aid agency, AusAID, is afflicted with problems of transparency, accountability and a lack of communication capacity, an audit finds. The 180-page report, tabled in federal parliament, says "AusAID faces considerable management challenges... Its approach to classifying costs is not in line with conventional practice and reduces the transparency of aid program expenditure, and the agency's accountability for costs that it controls”

Ongoing insecurity forces Médecins Sans Frontières to withdraw international staff from the Tari General Hospital. “In the past few weeks, there have been repeated security incidents including threats to our staff that we cannot tolerate,” said Monique Nagelkerke, head of mission for MSF in Papua New Guinea

Over K60 million allocated by the PNG government for relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro Province in 2007 has “gone missing”. Provincial authorities brief Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill of the situation but are not able to say where the money has gone

PNG’s national superannuation fund, Nasfund, raises serious concerns about the country’s 2010 budget. “The recent delivery of the 2010 budget leaves a lot of unanswered questions,” Nasfund wrote in its December newsletter. “Two years ago, we proudly talked about a surplus in trust accounts of between 3-4 billion kina … now it has been revealed that the trust accounts have fallen to K1.5 billion with lack of full accountability on how and why this money was spent

Albert Speer MBE is appointed the inaugural life member of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee. Committee member Rod Miller says, “He really is a man of New Guinea

Keith Jackson is appointed to the role of Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland


Mac Vines, 67, Courier-Mail cartoonist and ex-PNG teacher, dies in Brisbane. “He was always fun to be around and provided another dimension to outstation life,” say friends

Sister Clare Gilchrist, 86, dies in Sydney. She arrived in PNG in 1965 to set up a bush hospital at Pumakos near Mount Hagen. She was one of the 178 Sisters of Mercy who served in PNG for the 50 years between 1956 and 2006, mainly in education and health


“Everyone is talking non-stop about the great benefits of the LNG project and what blessings it will bestow upon the poor people of PNG. Yeah, big deal. As usual, it’s all big talk from the government. As usual, there will not be any sustainable 'trickle-down' effect for the grassroots and resource owners” – Reginald Renagi

“This afternoon saw a great outpouring of sentiment from a dozen or more Papuan readers. There was a fiery sense of Papuan nationalism. The corruption and ineffectuality of the PNG government is beginning to have profound effects; starting to get people thinking about some form of autonomy. There are complaints about deliberate manipulation of the electoral system and about a loss confidence and respect in Michael Somare’s leadership. There’s a call for a ‘new generation push’ for autonomy for Papua. I think we should consider ourselves warned” – Keith Jackson

“Sweet potato or kaukau is believed to have been introduced to Melanesia in the mid 1600s. The food was brought to Asia from South America by the Spanish and Portuguese, reaching PNG through Indonesia and also as a result of Polynesian migrations. Kaukau grows from sea level to about 3,000 metres, but its maximum yields occur between 2,000 and 2,600 metres. Its introduction resulted in a dramatic rise in population in the Highland areas where it grew best”- Philip Fitzpatrick

“You, the well-educated, largely urban dwelling middle class of PNG, you are the future. You have influence back home in the village because you are members of a support-group. Make your position in life, your ambitions for yourselves, your kids, and the bubus to come the glue that forms another, far more influential and fruitful commonality. Forge a huge linkage of common interest of class and aspirations for the future, as opposed to the bonds of common ancestry that help perpetuate the problems” – John Fowke

“If the PNG government is really serious about combating corruption, then an Independent Commission Against Corruption must be set up immediately. Setting up an ICAC has been mooted many times before, but nothing substantive has resulted. The main reason: successive governments have lacked the political will to stamp out corruption” – Reginald Renagi

“One of the night shift workers came to me one morning stating he had liklik worry. When I asked what the problem was he explained he had taken his false teeth out to eat his Navy Biscuit and, when went to pick them up, he saw a rat racing off with them. Unfortunately he was unable to catch the rat before it disappeared down a hole. He requested if he could have the teeth replaced as they were his front ones. Goroka Hospital came to the rescue at K20 per tooth” – Terry Shelley

“It is curious that there is a hint of nostalgia for the old kiap days among a few Papua New Guineans, not just us old white farts with rose-coloured glasses. That suggests a desire for organisation on a micro level rather than the macro autonomy plan; perhaps every district in the provinces needs a dedicated zealot to get things done” – Philip Fitzpatrick

“Young, educated Papua New Guineans are starting to stand up and challenge the status quo of yesteryear's leaders. Politicians like Sam Basil have been prepared to speak out and be counted when it comes to issues of ethical governance. This is an encouraging sign. Online discussions I have had with a number of PNG people have indicated a growing awareness of their government's shortcomings and what this is caused by. These are the first steps along the road to change” – Paul Oates

“Consider the feelings of Papua New Guineans, at one moment made free of foreign domination and, so soon after independence, once again heavily colonised in terms of influence and take up of business opportunities by aliens who seem free to break all relevant legislated controls. Is there any wonder that they feel aggrieved?” – John Fowke

“It was morally wrong for the government to extravagantly burn K8 million for the Copenhagen climate change conference. We did not need a big delegation of over 40. PNG has nothing beneficial to show for it. The public should be in an uproar over their government’s spending millions for some greedy people to attend a conference that did not reach any viable agreement. This is a total waste of money” – Reginald Renagi

“K20 million to the Kikori landowner associations? This roughly equates to K2500 for each man, woman and child, let alone what it would be if restricted to members of the associations. The truth will probably be seen in a dozen or two big, flash and over-powered luxury game-fishing-type cruisers, and flash houses with satellite phones for the privileged few, and overhead-laden fish-and-sago-marketing schemes presided over by the owners of the boats. One hopes that this will not come to pass” – John Fowke

“National AIDS Council director Wep Kanawi, says family living lies at the epicentre of the national HIV/AIDS response. The Department for Community Development and UNICEF now focus on the role of family in early child development. It is great to see the way the PNG Post-Courier has changed its focus on family living in recent times. There was a time when it lagged behind in presenting itself as a warm and caring newspaper. The nation has spoken” – Bruce Copeland

“The PNG constitution has been compromised by the use of political power. The Office of the Ombudsman - arbiter of correct parliamentary practice – has been either unable or unwilling to act on complaints against political malpractice, burying responsible government in PNG” – Paul Oates

Most commented on

Development & regional autonomy – 14

Corruption – 14

LNG project issues – 9

Violence – 9

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - November in review


Transparency International’s annual corruption index shows PNG slipping down the league table. In the index of 180 countries, PNG drops three places to 154. “We stand the real and dangerous risk of becoming another failed resource-rich economy where our elected leaders end up siphoning off the nation’s wealth,” said TI chairman Peter Aitsi

Sir Michael Somare says he believes PNG public servants are more corrupt than politicians. Sir Michael reveals a report that show many senior public servants are stealing from government

Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta says Sir Michael Somare has “come to his senses’’ by admitting corruption is rampant in his government, but has failed to act. “Everyone is fed up with the evil and destructive effect of corruption [which is] destroying the fabric of the system on which PNG is built,” says Sir Mekere

The PNG parliament is told that K2.2 million disappeared from the improvement program for the Tewai-Siassi open electorate between May and September. Local MP, Vincent Michaels, blames “a Waigani criminal syndicate”

The Australian Senate reports on economic challenges facing PNG and the Pacific. The committee concedes aid “does not always reach the intended beneficiaries or those most in need of assistance” and says it “could be aligned more closely with the needs and priorities of the recipient country”. The Senate tells AusAID it should link its on-the-ground programs with strategic objectives

An Australian National Audit Office performance audit of AusAID questions its ability to deliver Kevin Rudd’s pledge to double the aid budget by 2016

Malaysian conglomerate Rimbunan Hijau – owner of PNG timber, mass media (The National), property development, retailing and technology enterprises - appears before the PNG parliamentary committee inquiring into May’s anti-Asian riots. Its executives strongly deny allegations of human smuggling, drug running and arms trafficking and it accuses “international non-governmental organisations” of trying to sabotage its operations in PNG

The parliamentary committee investigating the May anti-Asian riots is in turmoil following the government’s sacking of chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham and the resignation of three members – including a vice-minister - in sympathy

A nasty piece of propaganda circulates in PNG instructing Asian businesses to cease trading by 31 December 2009, falsely claiming this is “in line with the PNG parliamentary bipartisan committee findings”. It says that if the businesses do not close, people will take to the streets again. “No need to buy candlesticks on New Years Eve,” it threatens

The Australian parliament highly commends the work of kiaps in pre-independence PNG. Scott Morrison MP moves a private member’s motion calling upon parliament to recognise the service of Australians employed as kiaps between 1949 and 1974 and to acknowledge the hazardous and difficult conditions that were experienced. “The kiaps were an extraordinary group of young Australians who performed a remarkable service for the people of PNG,” Mr Morrison says. “They were some of our nation’s finest”

Relatives of more than 1000 Australian troops and civilians who lost their lives in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru in 1942 have a breakthrough in their campaign for greater understanding of the tragedy. ''I think we all agree now that the detail and the significance of the event have not received appropriate recognition in the past,'' says Veterans' Affairs Minister, Alan Griffin

PNG officials say they are prepared to reopen the Manus Island detention centre to help solve Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's asylum seeker problem. "If there is a request from Australia, our government will consider it," says Foreign Minister Sam Abal


Former Keravat high school headmaster John Bowden dies. He arrived at Keravat in 1954, married another expatriate teacher and stayed in PNG for twelve years, eleven at Keravat. He was headmaster of Keravat from 1960-65

Eric Hawcroft, a pioneering educator closely associated with the development of teacher training at ASOPA, dies at the age of 96. Eric was deputy-principal of Balmain Teachers College for many years

Peter Figgis MC dies. He was a Coastwatcher on New Britain for a year in 1943-44


“How good is Will Genia? This is the question dominating discussion among Rugby followers around the world. It comes after Genia’s meteoric rise through Australian Rugby this year, and his man of the match performance for the Wallabies at Twickenam. The international media has really taken to the pint-sized 21-year-old scrum half who was born in Port Moresby, and is being hailed as Australia’s long-term solution for halfback” – Donald Hook

“This has not been a good year for trekking. We read in the media that the numbers of trekkers has dropped 27%. Five people died on the track itself and there has been an air crash at Kokoda that killed 13, including nine Australians. We’re waiting for the investigation report. The two engines have been sent to Canada. That should hold things up very nicely” - Bruce Copeland

“Several years ago I was dangling a line in the Kikori River at Kaiam in the Gulf Province hoping to snare a barramundi. I noticed a little procession coming down the road and congregating on the other side of the river. They were evenly spaced about twenty metres apart, with a couple of blokes front and rear toting M16s. There is unfettered illegal immigration to this part of PNG. A lot come in through West Papua” - Philip Fitzpatrick

“I was recently back in the PNG highlands and spent some time in Lufa with little Kevinrudd and his family. Kevinrudd is a delightful little boy, cheerful and easy and not at all afraid of white skin (most children his age are). The novelty and interest has waned a little, but nobody in the area is in any doubt where his name came from” - Mark Binns

“It is time for Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to diplomatically tell PNG political leaders to be more accountable for the billions spent in development aid. This is a good time for Australia to pave the way for a new political order in the Pacific. It is time to systematically reduce AusAID funding so PNG is forced to plan better and start living within its own means without being over-dependent on Australia. Today, PNG desperately needs more trade with Australia, not more aid” - Reginald Renagi

“The native men, later named Fuzzy-Wuzzy Angels, were a largely unwilling and confused corps of young-to-middle-aged conscripts. The Fuzzies, all unknowing, were the real pioneers of modern, independent PNG simply by being among those who faced and fought and ultimately subdued the rapacious Japanese Empire, they were heroes in this context and this needs to be said, loud and clear” - John Fowke

Most commented on

Montevideo Maru - 20

AusAID deficiencies – 11

PNG Attitude newsletter - 9

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - October in review


In an interview with Al Jazeera television , Sir Michael Somare sends the clearest signal that PNG is encouraging China to play a greater role to balance Australian influence in the region. “Australia remains our largest and most powerful partner but we are directing our attention elsewhere,” he says

Sir Michael denies corruption among senior PNG politicians - but in conditional words - and calls upon ordinary Papua New Guineans to identify corrupt public servants and tell the government who they are

Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane increases the temperature of public debate by challenging the government to improve its performance. Sir Paulias says PNG will not change and prosper without better leadership. “Ineffective leadership at the political, business, professional, church and community levels has crippled PNG,” he says.

Former prime minister, Sir Julius Chan, says since independence PNG has fallen further in human development than any other country. At independence in 1975, it ranked 77th out of 150 countries. By 2008 it was 149th. “We need to rethink how government works in PNG as the government closest to the people is [local level] government that knows the needs of the people and not the one located in Waigani,” he says

PNG is heading for food security disaster as a result of climate change and needs to act quickly, 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

PNG Attitude contributor Ilya Gridneff wins a major international award for excellence in environmental journalism. The citation states how he published a series of reports about PNG’s forest carbon market, investigative work that led to abuse, intimidation and death threats

Historian Rod Miller discovers 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 in Rabaul were being shipped to the Japanese-occupied island of Hainan in China for possible prisoner exchange

Sir Michael Somare says Melanesian countries will work to end Australian and New Zealand opposition to Fiji's military regime. He says they should stop shunning Fiji’s military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. “It will be difficult for them to change, but with a lot of explanation and understanding … there could be a change of mind and attitude,” he says

The fight against corruption in PNG is boosted by Transparency International, Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce and the British High Commission combining to implement a new organisation, the Business Against Corruption Alliance. "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”

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

Outgoing Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr, is farewelled by more than 100 guests at a Canberra dinner. Kerr has played a major role in strengthening Australia’s presence in the Pacific

Former Australian all-rounder Andy Bichel takes up his new role as PNG national cricket director. Bichel, 39, played 19 tests and 67 one day internationals for Australia


Judge John (Jack) Goldring, who taught PNG’s first law students, dies at 66 after a lengthy period with cancer. He was present at the birth of legal education at the University of PNG as an academic in the Faculty of Law from 1970-72


“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. 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” – John Fowke

“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” - Reginald Renagi

“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?” – Paul Oates

“In August 1942, the poorly trained and ill-prepared 53rd militia battalion went into battle against experienced Japanese troops at Kokoda. It did not fare well. The Japanese infiltrated its lines and the commander, Lt Col Ward, was killed in an ambush. Everybody forgets the 53rd. Because there’s a furphy that they were a mob of rebellious cowardly bastards”- Bruce Copeland

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

“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” — Bruce Copeland

“[Kiaps’] 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. 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” - Ross Wilkinson

Most commented on

Governance of PNG – 29

The 53rd Battalion – 23

Salamaua social life - 21

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - September in review


The death toll in the PNG cholera outbreak is well over 100 with 5000 others ill. Cholera – not seen in PNG for 50 years - has spread from its epicentre in a village in the Morobe Province to Lae as well as to remote highland areas and parts of the north coast

Prof Hank Nelson says PNG independence probably came too soon, but another five years would have seen Australia bail out anyway. The eminent historian says: "The evidence is we got out too early, but it wouldn't have changed anything.”

In an address to the nation, Sir Michael Somare says while he did not anticipate some of the outcomes of 34 years of independence, he is proud of the gains the nation has made. He vows “not to stop until we get it right; I want to leave office knowing that PNG is heading in the right direction. I also call on the people to really commit yourselves to serving our nation”

The secretary of the PNG Treasury Simon Tosali admits that even though PNG has experienced strong economic growth in recent years, the government is lagging in its obligation to provide infrastructure and services. He says unless drastic measures are put in place to address the problem, PNG will not be able to progress

Economist Charles Yala points out that, despite resources booms in the past 20 years, the average person in PNG got poorer while an elite few benefited handsomely. Getting a better return for the people from the liquefied natural gas bonanza will require ''some serious thinking; leadership will count'', says Mr Yala

Duncan Kerr, 57, Australia’s parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, is to retire from politics at the next Federal election. His PNG service as an academic and lawyer made him the best qualified person ever to occupy the portfolio overseeing Australia’s relationships with PNG

With Duncan Kerr due to stand down, speculation turns to who might replace him. One dark horse is South Australian Senator Anne McEwen, 55, who has been rising steadily through the political ranks since taking her place in Parliament in 2004

Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane turns 78 – a grand age in PNG, where the average male life expectancy is 54. “I got a very big surprise in my life this afternoon after 2.30 pm,” Sir Paulias told PNG Attitude. “Professor Winston Jacob and staff of Government House prepared a big birthday party. The speech Prof Jacob made caused tears to drop from my wife's and my eyes. I did not expect such nice words”

James Kond, PNG's ruling National Alliance party vice-president, was paid K200,000 in May to "consult" on future carbon trading deals, journalist Ilya Gridneff reveals. The deals are central to a pending PNG government investigation into carbon trade arrangements where money has changed hands well before any international scheme is launched

Reports that Australian Federal Police could be back in PNG in large numbers in 2010 poses the question of what they’ll do in the likely event they run into industrial strength corruption. The AFP is about to go to the Federal government with proposals for the deployment of 150 police


Captain Peter ‘Sharpie’ Sharpe MBE, veteran commercial pilot and ocean racing yachtsman, dies at his home in the Philippines after a brief illness that seemed to be of no threat to his life. He learned his PNG flying skills soon after arriving in Goroka from his native New Zealand to work for the late Dennis Buchanan's Territory Airlines


“Members of Parliament need to stop their corrupt practices and gain a true nationalist feeling. Nation building is not an overnight job. It takes many people much heart and many years. It takes the courage to change. If the politicians are not serious about building this nation, then who is?” - Gelab Piak

“I am often caught wondering what the future holds for our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I am aware that roads and bridges have deteriorated since independence, while schools, hospitals and government facilities have also reached a point of disrepair. Thirty-four years of ineffective government and public service delivery since independence has resulted in the unfortunate mess we are in today” - Sir Paulias Matane

“PNG is deserving in so many ways of its unofficial title as ‘The Land of the Unexpected’. It is no place for the newly arrived foreign consultant imbued with missionary zeal. The culture is complex, and has moved beyond colonial simplicity. PNG takes Australia’s aid, but it does not necessarily share its values. The place may look straightforward, but it is sinuous. Emmanuel Narokobi writes of neo-colonialism, and he may have point. But I wonder who’s colonising who?” - John Fowke

“By December 1942, the Japanese in the southern part of Bougainville were applying pressure on the local people to disclose the whereabouts of Australians they knew were on the island. Propaganda was spread that Nippon was the new government and the natives would receive good things if they cooperated but be killed if they didn’t. In this time of conflict and divided loyalties, one pro-Japanese group known as the Black Dogs chased the Coastwatchers and, over an extended period, murdered, raped, pillaged and burnt villages of people who assisted the Australians” – Ken Wright

“Yesterday the National Library of Australia sought permission, which I happily and quickly gave before it changed its bibliophilic mind, to “provide public access in perpetuity” to PNG Attitude. “The Library is committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting research or cultural value,” said librarian Edgar Crook. He says the Library will take the necessary preservation action to keep PNG Attitude accessible even as there are hardware and software changes over time.” – Keith Jackson

Most commented on

Corruption – 9

Black Dogs of Bougainville - 7

Racism in colonial PNG – 7

PNG development - 7

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - August in review


There are calls for Sir Michael Somare to resign as prime minister because “he is too old to run the country” and because he has allegedly not effectively dealt with the severe increase in HIV/AIDS. Deputy opposition leader Bart Philemon says corruption is strangling the systems of the country. “Not long the country will collapse,” Mr Philemon says

Wild rumours permeate PNG that Sir Michael had collapsed and died on a visit to Malaysia. Sir Michael’s daughter, Betha Somare, says the PM has been mildly ill and people who have “nothing better to do” are circulating the rumours. “It’s really in poor taste,” she says

Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek is investigating whether the government has breached the PNG constitution. Sir Michael Somare, Speaker Jeffery Nape and Minister Paul Tiensten face up to 10 years gaol or fines of up to K10,000 if found in breach

PNG high commissioner Charles Lepani offers a blunt assessment of PNG-Australia relations in the John Howard years: “PNG bore the brunt of this patronising and arrogant and abrasive attitude that went beyond the bounds of good friendly relations between the two countries. It was totally disregarding of our sovereignty….it certainly did a lot of damage”

Bob McMullan, Australia’s parliamentary secretary for International Development Assistance, calls for a new approach, saying conditions in PNG are worsening despite Australia’s annual $500 million in assistance. Mr McMullan says PNG is “seriously off track” in achieving its development goals

PNG’s acting chief secretary, Manasupe Zurenuoc, admits that, 35 years after independence, Papua New Guineans are far worse off because government has failed to deliver

The Torokina War Relics Association says it is intercepting many World War II vintage weapons being sold to criminals in Bougainville and other provinces. The ‘mining and rebirthing’ of wartime weaponry and munitions is a major concern to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the United Nations

A verbal battle breaks out between trekking companies on the Kokoda Trail. The Kokoda Trekking Operators Association seeks to limit the numbers of Australian operators and provide support to local firms. Its formation follows allegations that some Australian-owned trekking companies are doing so illegally and cheating both the Australian and PNG governments of taxes.

A group of women in the Chimbu Province celebrates ten years of the community policing with 60 women graduating as officers. Tribal fights in the Kup area in the late 1990s resulted in the establishment of Kup Women for Peace.

A World Bank study suggests that, rather than pushing economic development down into the villages, it might be better to work on establishing communications and transport links so that people in the bush can tap into the economy from the other direction

New Dawn FM, the pioneering Bougainville community radio station, wins the 2009 Communication and Social Change Award offered by the University of Queensland’s School of Journalism and Communication


Don Christie dies at Junee NSW, after stoic resistance to cancer. Don was posted to the Western Highlands in 1958 and later became District Education Officer and Superintendent of the Primary Inspectorate. After returning to Australia he was CEO of Catholic Education in Wagga and CEO of Catholic Education in Canberra


“Although I have looked for the logic behind the creation of a Westminster-type party parliamentary system, I have not found a good explanation. Introduced into one of the most egalitarian societies then existing on the face of the earth, what has resulted, in the saddest paradox in this land of many paradoxes, is that the system imposed by the Australians has produced exactly the conditions of class-disparity, lack of equity in society and lack of justice which prevailed in the England of the twelfth century” – John Fowke

“PNG is in a state of crisis. It is a country sinking into itself. This is the grim reality that faces PNG today. It is uncertain whether the PNG we know today will continue to exist, as service delivery mechanisms break down and provinces seek autonomy. The cause is an incompetent bureaucracy, a corrupt government and a prime minister who doesn’t want to let go of his grip on power” - Gelab Piak

“A great many ex-PNG people in Oz, both ex-Admin and others, who meet together socially and express themselves in various forums, come across as disappointed in what has gone on in PNG over the past 30 years. They miss the point entirely in a Colonel Blimpish way which is at best obtuse and in some cases crassly derogatory verging on racist” - John Fowke

PNG Attitude has not been providing coverage of the Twin Otter crash near Kokoda, which has claimed 13 lives, because the tragedy has been so exhaustively and capably reported by other media. Nonetheless, as I'm sure it did for many of you, the crash brought back for me a host of memories of other air crashes and incidents” – Keith Jackson

“VP Day – 15 August 1945 - marked the end of the war against Japan in the Pacific and the end of World War II. However, as victory celebrations reverberated around the world, isolated groups of Japanese troops continued fighting in PNG. The Aitape-Wewak campaign, along with the campaigns on Bougainville and New Britain, resulted in considerable criticism from Australian and Japanese officers who found it hard to understand why such aggressive actions should be fought as the war was ending” - Don Hook

“A year ago this month, the Federal government announced it would allow 2500 workers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and PNG to come to Australia to do seasonal agricultural work such as fruit picking. The scheme is something of a damp squib. It hasn’t gone off with a bang so much as a pffft. Only 56 workers have arrived. None is from PNG” – Keith Jackson

“For the past nine years I have been quietly writing history books for PNG schools: enjoying my daily routine at the National Library, but increasingly frustrated by a lack of financial support. Last week I received news that AusAID has made a complete turnaround and has started to accept textbook tenders for PNG schools. I don’t know what caused this change of heart but I’d like to believe that Keith Jackson, by his advocacy in PNG Attitude and through other means, had something to do with it” -  Eric Johns

“Yesterday I emailed PNG Attitude readers asking for help to transport six sets of computer equipment to Kavieng Hospital. The equipment has been assembled by Dr Alan Lawford, a general practitioner in the Sydney suburb of Arncliffe. Remarkably, nearly 50 readers provided advice on how this equipment could be transported free or at minimal cost from Sydney to Kavieng” – Keith Jackson

Most commented on

Problems of development – 22

Corruption - 11

Kokoda air crash - 10

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - July in review


Angry scenes erupt in the House of Assembly as the Somare government avoids a motion of no-confidence by adjourning parliament for four months. MPs hurl abuse at each other and security officers have to restrain members of the public who voice their frustration when the government wins the adjournment vote

PNG’s bipartisan committee investigating the anti-Asian riots stalls due to lack of funds. Chairman Jamie Maxtone-Graham tells parliament: “We have to listen to our people. It is a time-bomb. The last thing we want is more destruction, burning and looting”

There is unprecedented media and political attention on the 1 July 1942 sinking of the Japanese prison ship, Montevideo Maru. Australia’s Veterans’ Affairs Minister Alan Griffin calls on the nation to pause and remember the 1053 lives lost. “War brings many tragedies and today we remember one of the greatest tragedies of the Second World War,” he says

AAP reveals that Dr Theo Yasause, the sacked director of PNG’s Office of Climate Change, issued lucrative official ‘mandates’ to trade carbon. The prime minister's daughter and media secretary, Betha Somare, says the deals were “not valid”

It has taken 60 years, but the contribution of the ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’ to the victory against the Japanese in World War II is officially recognised by the Australian government. At the peak of the war, 55,000 PNG males over the ‘apparent age’ of 14 served as conscripted carriers, often under dreadful conditions

Drunken police raid Smain village west of Wewak and hold it to ransom until they are paid K2400 in cash and given a pig worth K1000. An eyewitness says the police fired several shots, harassed people, destroyed property and threatened to burn houses and rape women if their demands were not met

An address by Joe Kanekane, PNG Media Council president, argues that the days of the media as watchdog are long gone. The media’s role is to “offer what the customer wants”. And what they want, according to Mr Kanekane, is reporting “more focused to their parochial needs than that of their country”

Sir Brian Bell, an icon of the PNG business community, is honoured with an award for professional excellence by the Queensland University of Technology, from where he graduated in 1948

PNG-born Will Genia is called into the Wallabies squad and expected to make his Test debut off the bench against the All Blacks at Auckland's Eden Park. Genia spent his early years in Port Moresby before being sent at age 12 to board at Brisbane Boys College where he learned his rugby

AusAID director-general Bruce Davis, 56, leaves his job to “take up a diplomatic post later this year”. The Lowy Institute's Graham Dobell writes: "Davis has epitomised the AusAID contradiction: it controls billions but deploys little bureaucratic weight”


Edward (Ted) Kenna VC dies three days after his 90th birthday. On 15 May 1945, Kenna, in an action near Wewak, exposed himself to heavy fire, killed a Japanese machine gun crew and made it possible for his company's attack to succeed. For this he was awarded the Victoria Cross


“PNG is not in political limbo but now in hell" - Sir Julius Chan, former PNG prime minister

“The Somare regime uses project funds to threaten or manipulate members and the decisions they make on the floor of Parliament. The ruling clique is a law unto itself. They are clearly scared of facing a vote of no confidence, so they have shut down parliament” - Sir Mekere Morauta, PNG opposition leader

“Asians are crossing illegally into PNG. They do not need to come in containers any more. They just breathe fresh air and cross the border into PNG in broad daylight” – Belden Namah, PNG Forest Minister

“Though I live comfortably here in the US, deep in my heart I still feel for my siblings and my mom from a remote village in the Western Highlands, who find it hard to afford such things as school fees and basic food items. I look at how the government is treating its people, widespread corruption and high unemployment rates among others issues” - David Ulg Ketepa, author of the Kange Nga Kona blog

“This country is on the brink of falling apart. The Somare-Temu government, in power for seven years, has turned a blind eye to the deterioration of works and supplies, health, education, a proper welfare system. Fisheries, foreign affairs, migration and forestry have been plagued by corrupt deals over the years. The defence force has been neglected and the security of PNG is at stake. The police are falling apart” - Gelab Piak

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

"I am a loveable larrikin. I've done nothing wrong, we're doing good things. I am the most beneficial foreigner to this country right now" – Kirk Roberts, self-styled carbon trader and cock fighting impresario

"Very little education and training happens under our aid programs, even though billions of dollars are spent" - Dr Tim Anderson, spokesman for the independent group Aidwatch

“Despite its ‘palm trees and paradise’ image, the Pacific region has the worst wildlife extinction record on Earth. More than 80% of plant and animal species in eight Pacific nations are threatened by land clearing and urban development”- Prof Richard Kingsford, James Cook University

“If faith can move mountains then right now faith has brought us a private jet flying, multimedia, multi-staged, multi-screened, multi-million kina concert extravaganza. All they want are your souls” - PNG blogger, Emmanuel Narokobi, on preacher Joyce Meyer’s flying visit to PNG which attracted a crowd estimated at 400,000

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

“Due to unpopular demand this is the last post. Sadly Papua News Guinea is to die a very premature death due to AAP concerns the 30 per day who daily read it are undermining the nature of their news service”- sign off to AAP correspondent Ilya Gridneff’s last blog

“We were sitting on the balcony drinking wine and saw a huge plume of smoke from downtown. Like any good PNGer we immediately raced towards the disaster and saw the final moments of the famous yet flammable Burns Philp building. A few brave firemen trying to save it with some very leaky hoses. It was a communal affair; well ordered and quite solemn at times" – blogger Mad Dog of Madang

“In March 2002 I commenced a lone campaign to have the service of Kiaps in the Australian External Territory of Papua and New Guinea formally recognised under the Australian Honours and Awards System by the Australian Government” - Chris Viner-Smith on a sterling effort that yielded some, but not all the desired, results

“This tragedy is not forgotten. The families are not forgotten. These men are not forgotten. We honour them all” - Rod Smith, Australia's ambassador to the Philippines, speaking at the Montevideo Maru memorial service in Subic Bay, providing official recognition 67 years after the event

Most commented on

Montevideo Maru – 10

Beeps burns - 8

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - June in review


Hundreds of people rampage in Popondetta, looting Bank South Pacific, Air Niugini and Asian-owned shops. The riot is sparked after oil palm growers, in town to collect money, are turned away by the bank

Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane leads 4000 people on an early morning walk against corruption in Port Moresby. Despite bad weather hundreds of people also march in Kokopo

PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki says his force will grind to a halt unless hundreds of millions of kina are spent to resurrect it. PNG has 4800 police: 50% having reached retirement age and 25% approaching retirement. Baki says the situation has reached crisis point

In the only contested committee election in its 60 year history, the PNGAA for the first time elects two Papua New Guineans to its leadership group

Former PNGAA president, Harry West, is awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Association. He was a distinguished district commissioner in pre-independence PNG

PNG athletes perform well at the Arafura Games in Darwin, winning 40 medals. “They enjoyed themselves; were polite and friendly; were enthusiastic yet fair; and, above all, were great ambassadors for their country,” says official, Don Hook


The death occurs in Brisbane of Sir James Jacobi, 83, a key figure in the development of rugby league in PNG. Jim was also the best known doctor in Port Moresby for 40 years, president of the PNG rugby league for 25 years and a member of the international rugby league board

One of the leading figures in Pacific studies, Emeritus Professor Ron Crocombe, 79, dies in Auckland of a heart attack while on a bus to Mangere for a flight to his home in Rarotonga

Reg Thomson, 89, ASOPA graduate and former director of child welfare in PNG, dies in Queensland. His memoir, Looking for a Good Book, had just been published

Dr Geoffrey Gibson, 79, dies in Cooranbong NSW. He began his long association with education in PNG at Sogeri High School in 1956 and later became head of teacher education before lecturing at UPNG


“It seems the Australian Government and its minions in DFAT and AusAID are beginning to appreciate a little of the reality of what is needed by PNG, as opposed to ‘what Mother orders’. Lets get in there an help in a really practical way; a way which will have a long-term positive effect. PNG is our neighbour, and we are theirs, for the rest of humanity's existence upon earth” – John Fowke

Most commented on

Popondetta riots - 5

Death of Jim Jacobi - 4

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - May in review


There are anti-Asian riots in Port Moresby, Lae, Madang and Goroka. Police commander, Augustine Wampe, says thousands of men, women and children rampage around Goroka, outnumbering police and security guards

It is revealed that Chinese workers employed by the Ramu nickel mine were issued work permits despite not meeting labour laws stipulating all non-citizens must be proficient in English

PNG will receive $414 million in development assistance from Australia in 2009-10, an increase 6% over the previous year

Sir Michael Somare heralds a major shift in policy on development aid. A key feature of the new approach will be the recruitment of more Australian judges, doctors and teachers. Sir Michael says the time has come for PNG “to assert and accept more responsibility for our national development. We must forge a new relationship of equitable partnership with Australia

The head of AusAID in PNG, Bill Costello, says AusAID is keen to work directly with provinces. The reason for the new direction seems to be criticism from Kevin Rudd that AusAID funds have been “misspent" and "not enough delivered to essential assistance in teaching, infrastructure and health services on the ground in villages across the country”

Documents obtained by journalist Ilya Gridneff reveal that 300 advisers consume half of AusAID’s $400 million a year allocation to PNG

Bougainville Copper is prepared to invest more than 11 billion kina to recommission the abandoned Panguna copper mine. The plan includes the creation of 2500 new company jobs, which will generate an estimated 10,000 other jobs in small businesses

The PNG Attitude blog receives its 100,000th visitor and restates its aims as keeping a weather eye on the Australia-PNG relationship and remaining as a point of contact for people with an interest in PNG

Bob Hawke is made a Chief of the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu for his services to the development of PNG in establishing the trade union movement, fighting for wage justice and, as prime minister, presiding over a period of great harmony in Australia-PNG relations

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Kim Beazley, accepts the role of patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee, established to gain official recognition of the World War II disaster, determine precisely who was on board the ship at the time and encourage further research into events in Rabaul that led to the tragedy


Distinguished ABC journalist Albert Asbury dies in Brisbane aged 69. He was with the ABC for 50 years, including a term in PNG from 1969-75 as political correspondent and the first news editor of the National Broadcasting Commission

Veteran PNG educator and ASOPA graduate, Allan Jones, 70, dies in Adelaide after a heart attack. He retired from teaching in 1999 as principal of Cameron Secondary School at Alotau after 45 years in PNG

Sir David Hay, 92, Administrator of Papua New Guinea from 1967-70, dies in Melbourne. John Farquharson writes in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Hay’s period as PNG Administrator was the one shadow over the urbane proconsul's otherwise serene career path. His high hopes foundered on the obduracy of George Warwick Smith, then secretary of the Department of External Territories, who insisted that all decisions be run across his desk”


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

“Yes, things are simmering in PNG. I think the big driver is poverty and frustration amongst the young. Only 10% of the population is in the formal economy while the rest are left behind, with nothing but hardship and hunger down the track. Youths are no longer hunter gathers or gardeners. They are unemployed, poverty-stricken urban mobs and, yes, there is more to come” - Terry Shelley

“The recent riots in PNG against Chinese businesses is cited as a symptom of a nation in crisis. The looting has been condemned and the government has vowed to set up a bipartisan team to investigate the riots. As we probe deeper we realise our problems are complex. Our leaders must be prepared to address the issues, and must investigate the recent unrest” - Gelab Piak

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

“It is the new breed of ‘rogue Chinese’, not those of the old school, who have brought about a feeling of hatred and animosity among indigenous Papua New Guineans against Asians. [The disaffected] are mainly settlement dwellers who are poorly-educated and unemployed and for whom home brew, marijuana and guns are very much a part of life. These people, for too long, have been neglected by the government, and things have now reached boiling point” - Malum Nalu

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

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

“There are likely to be some more problems coming. Some Asians may close up and leave PNG to find greener pastures elsewhere. We hope not” - PNG Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane

“It is almost certain that Chinese triads will establish a presence in PNG” - academic James Chin

“Yes, we lack material wealth in rural areas where the vast majority of our people live but they are not short of food and water” - Sir Michael Somare

“The recent events in PNG are explosive and threaten to destabilise our immediate region. There is an inescapable truth gradually emerging here. The Australian government doesn’t seem to know how to respond to the complex political and social dynamics of its nearest neighbour. PNG abuts our nation and, with six million people, has real scale. It’s a saga waiting to unfold. There is high emotion here for Australians, too. PNG was once our territory and our people died there in peace and war” – Keith Jackson

“PNG school students and people in general [are] ignorant of the main forces and motives that shaped their nation” - author Eric Johns

“Papua New Guineans need a consciousness of what they have in common. A knowledge of a shared history is basic to the building of a nation-state. For a country of six million, PNG has one of the world’s poorest distribution of books” – ANU historian Prof Hank Nelson

“As public servants, no one ever asked us what we thought about the fast tracking of independence or whether the people we spoke to at village level thought it was a good idea. We were just expected to do what the government directed. Most people in the villages that I spoke to thought the idea was crazy. They didn't want Australia to throw them out of the peaceful development phase they had only just entered” - Paul Oates

Most commented on

Death of Allan Jones – 26

Australia/AusAID are failing PNG - 16

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - April in review


Australia’s former Governor-General, Major General Michael Jeffery, says that, “without the Patrol Officers performing their policing, legal, agricultural, governance and administrative functions, PNG would simply not have been ready for nationhood in 1975”

On Bougainville the last of the Mekamui rebel groups agrees to join the peace process. Mekamui commander, Chris Uma, asks the government to accommodate his group in the chiefly system under the Bougainville Constitution

ASOPA graduate, ex chalkie, medical doctor and veterinarian, Dr Howard Ralph, receives the Sunday Telegraph nomination for a Pride of Australia medal. He has spent the last 30 years working with injured Australian native wildlife


“[I am] totally disappointed and sickened by their work attitudes and inefficiency. Whose interests are the public servants serving? Are they serving the interest of the public, or their own?” - Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane

"We demonstrated the power of the .303 rifle by lining up five shields, making a dum-dum out of a bullet, and showing how it would come out a great gap on the other side. To these people [the rifles] were just sticks and had no meaning until we demonstrated their power" - veteran PNG politician and ex-kiap Sir Barry Holloway, recalling his first trip into an uncontrolled area

“I have been letting readers know for a month now that their supply of a monthly medication hitherto known as The Mail is about to dry up. Although there has been a proviso: should you advise me that you are alive, compos mentis and capable of absorbing information, said supply will continue” – Keith Jackson, trying to determine whether a newsletter was still required in the Age of Blog [the response was overwhelming and PNG Attitude was born]

“Phil Fitzpatrick’s novel, Bamahuta – Leaving Papua, is a beautiful book. Fitzpatrick is not only a powerful storyteller with a keen eye for the descriptive detail that makes you feel you're there, he writes with a beguiling sense of humour and the ability to draw characters who are real (sometimes because they are real) and who we can sympathise with, even when their personalities are less than appealing” – Keith Jackson

Most commented on

New PNG Attitude newsletter – 15

PNG public servants - 5

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - March in review


Once the pride of the New Guinea Islands region, Keravat National High School faces closure. Anthony Tsora, deputy chairman of the National Education Board, says more than K6 million paid to an East New Britain company for urgent work is under investigation by the Ombudsman Commission

Eighteen refurbished ASOPA buildings are to be available for lease and occupation from early 2010. The Sydney Harbour Trust says the site is important as the location of “Australia’s only training institution established to train administrators and officers for Australia’s overseas territories”

More than two million condoms worth $190,000 paid for with Australian aid money sit in a Port Moresby warehouse for more than 18 months. The condoms are past their use-by date and cannot be distributed. PNG has the highest incidence of HIV in the Pacific

The PNG National Broadcasting Corporation is to rehabilitate a radio broadcasting network unserviceable for the last ten years

David Keating’s ‘Operation Library Books’ for Karkar Secondary School ships 7,000 books and school equipment to Karkar Island

Three young PNG footballers arrive in Ballarat to play Australian Rules with Bacchus Marsh

Diplomat and leading world female poke player Sarah Bilney (aka Aussie Sarah) joins the staff of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Duncan Kerr

The first short course for seconded teachers bound for PNG started at ASOPA 50 years ago, the majority from NSW and Queensland. The focus of the course, apart from PNG culture and an attempt to dilute expected culture shock, was the teaching of English as a Second Language


Dr Tony Edmonds, 85, World War II pilot, science teacher, physicist and ASOPA lecturer dies in Mona Vale Hospital after his third heart attack in 18 months


“The question I would like to pose is: Is PNG better off now than it was 40 years ago? The simple answer is: No. I am sick and tired of hearing our politicians say PNG is a rich country. I have not seen one toea of these proclaimed riches filtering to my people in the villages. Is this something to be proud of?” - Dr Kristoffa Ninkama, South Simbu

“I have passion and love my nation. I love my country so much; I can’t even find the words to define it… [But] it’s like living in a fairy tale; each year we hear billion dollar profits announced by companies in PNG, but there is no tangible development. May I ask: where is our money going?” - Gelab Piak

“What PNG needs in order to extract itself from the quagmire is neither messiahs nor revolutions. What it needs is steady improvement in the systems that run the business of government. We have time and time again put our faith in new faces into parliament only to see them become different individuals because of the forces that compelled Lord Acton to write that absolute power corrupts absolutely”- Paulus Ripa

Most commented on

Improving PNG governance – 13

PNGAA reform – 6

PNG Attitude’s 2009 - February in review


Sir Michael Somare gives K500,000 to assist PNG’s bid to have a team in the Australian National Rugby League within three years. PNG is the only country to have adopted the code as its national game

Sculptor and artist Hal Holman OAM is awarded the Order of Logohu by PNG high commissioner Charles Lepani, who pays tribute to his contribution to PNG through design, art and sculpture

Despite government commitments to facilitate the acquisition of Australian visas in PNG, applicants are angered and frustrated by bureaucratic delay. “For too long there has been an unbalanced relationship between what is said will happen, and what actually does happen,” said an observer. “Give the people of PNG a fair go!“

The first indigenous Anglican bishop of the South Pacific, Sir George Ambo, excommunicated from the Church after shacking up with a mother superior and setting up a cargo cult, is posthumously reconciled to the Church. “His name was cleared of any taints," says the Bishop of Popondota, Joseph Kopapa

Val Murphy is awarded life membership of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League for his major contribution to the game’s development. While teaching in PNG, Val was a leader in the organisation of schools’ rugby league

The grassroots group seeking to reform the PNGAA issues a ten-point program for reform. The statement is sent to hundreds of PNGAA members and other people known to have a close affiliation with PNG

Detailed proposals for constitutional change in the PNG Association are published on the Association’s website. Recommendations of a constitution review committee will be put to the membership in a postal ballot


“We want the PNGAA to commit to necessary reform, to be a broad church and to operate in a harmonious way. It is imperative that the Association embrace the interests of all its members” – Phil Ainsworth, PNGAA Reform Group

“The PNGAA has resisted real change for a long time, despite what some of its most worthwhile servants desired… It will take a massive 75-25% majority of voting members to institute even the most modest changes when the constitution comes up for member review in April. If these changes do not succeed – then the PNGAA will remain on furlough. A backwater of pleasant nostalgia and not much else” – Keith Jackson

"It’s one thing to kick the tin when you’re loaded with cash and it’s quite another to do the same when you’re on struggle street... Last week the PNG Government gave $2 million for Australian bushfire and flood relief and this has been followed by various amounts of money raised by groups and communities right across the country” – Keith Jackson

Most commented on

PNGAA controversy - 25

PNG Attitude's 2009 - January in review


Keith Jackson resigns the presidency of the Papua New Guinea Association saying that a vocal minority of people within the Association are implacably opposed to change and he has no desire to preside over a voluntary organisation in which such divisions persist"

Long-standing PNGAA member, Nancy Johnston, says people who want to change the PNGAA should create another organisation: “Let [us] be left in peace to enjoy the Association and what it originally stood for - friendship amongst ourselves

PNGAA members in Brisbane establish a group to reform the Association and contest annual elections due in April. The convenor is Phil Ainsworth, managing director of Queensland industrial and commercial property company, King & Co

A survey of the PNG Attitude newsletter and blog shows readers want more current views of PNG and Australia from inside PNG


Scientist Carleton Gajdusek, 85, whose research into kuru led to important insights into brain disease, dies in Norway. The Nobel laureate worked mainly in the US until being convicted on a paedophilia charge in 1997 and living the rest of his life in exile

Pioneer PNG Highlands entrepreneur Sir Danny Leahy dies in Toowoomba hospital surrounded by family. “Although he was a physically powerful man, he would never raise his voice in anger or resort to violence,” said Goroka Chamber of Commerce President, Terry Shelley

Ex kiap David Speakman, 71, dies. He was a onetime Deputy Clerk of the PNG House of Assembly and later pursued a successful business career in England


“We’ve received an avalanche of commentary in the main supportive of my decision to quit the PNGAA presidency. We Australians who care about PNG, and about its people, and who want to do something tangible to maintain and improve the relationship, will continue along that path. Meanwhile, I no longer have to deal with and try to manage the narrow attitudes of some PNGAA senior members like the one, who, in a recent submission to the Association, observed: ‘I doubt if many members would agree that this Association was for the betterment of the Australia-PNG relationship’” – Keith Jackson

“I walked away from the PNGAA presidency because the conflict was not to my liking. The numbers were there to win, but to use them would have been divisive on my part and I did not want to preside over an Association in this state… I believe I can make an effective contribution to PNG without having to struggle with some pretty ordinary people every step of the way” – Keith Jackson

“Most of the people around here [Duke of York islands] haven’t seen white people before. You imagine if a spaceship landed in your suburb at home and all these funny looking aliens came out with their funny little gadgets - what do you reckon you’d do?” – Craig Tansley, Sydney Morning Herald writer, who seems to believe everything he’s told no matter how preposterous

“I’m aged almost 70, and have spent 50 of those years in PNG, mostly at the coalface of the culture clash between tradition and the West; maddeningly frustrating at times. It has nonetheless been a life full of enjoyment and one which has yielded much of great value in terms of working relationships and personal friendships” - John Fowke

Most commented on

PNGAA controversy - 71

Death of Sir Danny Leahy - 3

‘I have finally decided to kill myself…’


ON 18 JANUARY 1946 an arrest warrant was issued by the Allied Supreme Headquarters in Tokyo for former Lieutenant Commander Norihiko Ozaki of 18 Naval Construction Unit.

This unit was stationed on Ballale Island, part of the Shortland Islands south of Bougainville.

Ozaki was to be interrogated and possibly tried as a war criminal in connection with the deaths of 517 prisoners of war from the British Royal Artillery who had been sent to work as slave labour on Ballale.

There was no trial, no charges laid and the accused were released to continue their normal lives.

You can read the little-known story of Ballale and its aftermath in this latest Ken Wright historical feature here.

Feast of PNG analysis in today’s 'Australian'

THERE’S A SLIGHT impression of headline schizophrenia in today’s Australian newspaper’s coverage of PNG

But, given that PNG is probably one of the most under-reported stories in the Australian media, we shouldn’t really complain when the fag end of the year brings us two particularly good articles on the same day and in the same newspaper.

Mike Steketee, in Papua New Guinea poised for a surge in growth, which you can read here, argues that PNG “has largely slipped off Australian radar screens, even though it is our nearest neighbour and was our responsibility as a former colony.

“So you may be surprised to hear,” he writes, “that it has bright prospects by developing world standards, which could see it rise rapidly through the ranks. But whether those prospects can be fulfilled, particularly in terms of benefits to the mass of the people, is another matter.”

Rowan Callick, whose piece PNG now gravely ill with the disease of corruption seems at first glance, but only at first glance, to be diametrically opposed to Steketee’s, uses as its starting point the recent attempt to kill PNG's Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek, and proceeds to review violence and corruption in PNG.

You can read Callick's article here.

PNG’s future: Em ol lain gut ia – yu mas trastim ol


Fowke_John2 IN AN EARLIER contribution, I suggested that the social, developmental and fiscal malaise which holds PNG in an unbroken grip, proceeds from something deeper and more elemental than the existence of public service, fiscal, and political corruption.

The implication I intended was that the situation is due to an inherent weakness in Papua New Guinean society.

Whilst this view was contested both in posted commentary and by Reginald Renagi in one of his opinion-pieces, I’m afraid it holds true, no matter how humiliating or irritating the suggestion may be.

As a foreigner who has spent by far the major part of his life in rural PNG, I well know the sensitivities and have always tried to avoid the habits of the ‘Ugly Expatriate’, to borrow from Graham Greene.

In that nice old Motuan phrase, I have always endeavoured to be tauna mai manada. In other words, a gentleman.

But having been urged by our revered Blogmeister to contribute a succinct prediction of “things that’ll happen” in PNG in the coming year, I am going to spoil any good impression I may have left behind and be provocative.

The coming year needs to be the year in which the educated PNG middle class stands up, stops hiding behind pen names, overcomes residual cultural fears of offending clan and family or attracting ‘payback’, and speaks with one voice, bound together by a strong but hitherto unrecognised common interest.

The educated middle class must - loudly and forcefully - state what it wants for itself, its families and its descendants. It is long past time for this to happen.

Come on PNG, grow up, stop hiding and complaining and putting forward pie-in-the-sky solutions. Put your shoulders to the load, men and women, coastals, islanders, highlanders, all the educated middle-class together!

You will make it happen. Just do it. You are the Party of Power!

All of you who read and contribute to various blogs and who read the PNG papers, you are the ones who must get up and be the first on the dance-floor, the first to speak, embarrassing as it may be.

Stop whingeing and making covert comments about each other. Stand up and say what you want to be done to get the nation going. If you act as one, forgetting all residues of cultural antipathies and suspicion, you’ll be surprised how fast things will change.

I thought for a while that the Christians would get it together in the last couple of elections, but they didn’t. Perhaps they too are weakened by that old, old characteristic of PNG, the ‘people over the hill syndrome’ - “em ol lain nogut ia – noken trastim ol!”

This weakness is shown in the currently fashionable view that a split into semi-autonomous regions will solve the problems. Be real, blokes; it’ll be even more disastrous than the present set up.

No, you, the well-educated, largely urban dwelling middle class of PNG, you are the future.

You have influence back home in the village because you are members of a support-group. Make your position in life, your ambitions for yourselves, your kids, and the bubus to come the glue that forms another, far more influential and fruitful commonality. Forge a huge linkage of common interest of class and aspirations for the future, as opposed to the bonds of common ancestry that help perpetuate the problems.

This is the future. Mini-states are meaningless states in the context of the wider world.

Make PNG the paradise it should be. It’ll be hard, it’ll take long, but remember…only you (with the others) can do it. If you love your country, you must raise your voice and show your face without fear.

That’s it for now, but I’ve lots more to say to anyone who wants to email me here.

And a splendid Christmas to all our readers...

Recycled bottle Xmas Tree  ... with special thanks to regular contributors and commenters Paul Oates, John Fowke, Phil Fitzpatrick, Reg Renagi, Emmanuel Narokobi, Richard Jones, Malum Nalu, Loch Blatchford, Terry Shelley, Graham Pople, Bruce Copeland, Don Hook, Ilya Gridneff, Ken Wright, Colin Huggins, Ross Wilkinson, Laurie Meintjes, Sir Paulias Matane, Brian Darcey, Roy Clark, Chris Viner-Smith, Robin Mead, Gelab Piak, Chris Diercke, Mari Ellingson, Bill Brown, Bernard Oberleuter and Barbara Short

Photo: Recycled bottle Christmas tree, Sydney [Bruce Kerridge]

Of rats, false teeth and Euclidean geometry


GOROKA – I want to report for PNG Attitude on a couple of incidents that happened here during the year so that the B4s may know all is not doom and gloom.

One of the night shift workers came to me one morning stating he had liklik worry.

When I asked what the problem was he explained he had taken his false teeth out to eat his Navy Biscuit and, when went to pick them up, he saw a rat racing off with them.

Unfortunately he was unable to catch the rat before it disappeared down a hole.

He requested if he could have the teeth replaced as they were his front ones. Goroka Hospital came to the rescue at K20 per tooth.

On another occasion I requested my welder to measure the circumference of a screening barrel.

He replied: "Maski, em hat tumas.”

I was just about to give him a good old serve when he pulled out a tape measure and measured the diameter. Then he punched the number into his Nokia Mobile.

He then said: “Em ia, em mak bilong em."

I was astounded and asked him: "Yu savi long pi r²?”To which he replied "Nogat mi savi long 3.146," or whatever the number is.

Who said there was no progress in PNG?

PNG voices bode well for the country’s future


Fitzpatrick_Philip I’VE SPENT most of my time in PNG in the Western Province, the majority of which is an economically depressed and poverty stricken backwater.

The biggest event of the year was undoubtedly the final announcement that the liquefied natural gas project would go ahead.

While the province is not the focus of the project it is close enough to capture a heap of spin-off petroleum exploration programs, all of which will add their bit to the economy and provide some community development.

The other interesting thing in 2009 was the slow but sure appearance of PNG voices on PNG ATTITUDE.

That was particularly heartening because it showed us in concrete terms what we already know – that there are many honest, intelligent and literate people in PNG.

I think this bodes well for the future and may help the groundswell of public opinion for change that is building up. Where the latter goes in 2010 is anyone’s guess.

Among those voices for change were several strident calls for direct action, particularly among the younger contributors.  While this was tempered by the more moderate contributors it was somehow unsettling.

I was surprised to hear the calls for Papuan autonomy later in the year delivered in tones reminiscent of the Papua Besena days. I can’t see that getting anywhere soon but who knows? 

There are a couple of people I would nominate for King of Papua if it gets legs. It did demonstrate, however, that people in PNG are thinking in terms of big changes to the country.

I also watched with a mixture of bemusement and disbelief the Yes Minister/AusAid-type carry on over the Gong-for-Kiaps Campaign, added my two bob’s worth and watched it eventually come to nothing.

Perhaps the didimen and mastamaks can give it a go next year, or, heaven forbid, the chalkies. Like John Fowke suggests, perhaps we need bumper stickers and personalised number plates – can I reserve ‘KIAP-067’ before anyone else jumps in?

It is curious that there is a hint of nostalgia for the old kiap days among a few Papua New Guineans, not just us old white farts with rose-coloured glasses.

That suggests a desire for organisation on a micro level rather than the macro autonomy plan; perhaps every district in the provinces needs a dedicated zealot to get things done.

Finally, what would I like to see in 2010? Maybe some good news stories, more female comment on the blog, a bit of interest in the Australian media....

There's hope: First steps along the road to change


Oates Paul WHILE THE traditional Christmas message is one of hope for the future, I remember the message Queen Elizabeth II gave one year that began, "They say, no news is good news, but these days it seems good news is no news."

Maybe that statement could sum up the Australian media's view of PNG. Many people tend to be depressed by each new round of bad news from PNG yet, for me, there have been some encouraging signs that all is not doom and gloom.

Young, educated Papua New Guinenas are starting to stand up and challenge the status quo of yesteryear's leaders.

Politicians like Sam Basil have been prepared to speak out and be counted when it comes to issues of ethical governance. This is an encouraging sign.

Online discussions I have had with a number of PNG people have indicated a growing awareness of their government's shortcomings and what this is caused by. These are the first steps along the road to change.

No one can yet say if this will be a peaceful change yet without awareness, there can be little hope for any improvement.

I look forward to 2010 as being the year when PNG builds on those first tentative steps along the road to a better life for her citizens, wherever they live.

Big LNG cop-out threatens to leave people behind


PNG PRIME minister Michael Somare has admitted that PNG is not up to the challenges posed by the liquefied natural gas project.

Using the royal plural, he says "We have not trained our people for the projects which will require between 8,000 and 10,000 workers."

Clearly the PNG people are being softened up for the importing of thousands of skilled workers whose presence will be justified by the claim that there are not enough PNG workers available or, if there are, that they’re not up to it.

"How do we get 500 drivers in a day?" Somare went on to say. Now let me think? Where could PNG get 500 drivers (in a day!) and share the joy with the country who is buying the LNG? Gosh! That's a hard one.

Of course the trucks and vehicles might also come from... now let me think? Gee whiz, that’s it! Begins with 'C' and rhymes with 'miner'.

But who exactly is Somare referring to when he blames "We"? For much of the time since PNG Independence, Somare has been in charge. Who else is therefore to blame but the so called 'Father of the Nation'?

Why isn't the current Somare government getting off its collective backside and organising the training of an additional 500 drivers, if that's what is required? Where are the reciprocal training schemes to ensure PNG workers don't get left out of this bonanza?

The more Somare wrings his hands and laments how useless his own country has become, the more he condemns himself and his cronies for both inaction and underselling his own people.

To pin all your people's hopes on a PNG ‘vision’ for 2050 is about as much use as saying while the fish aren't biting today, don't worry, they’ll definitely be biting in 41 years.

Sorry, Mr Somare. Your use by date expired a long time ago.

Copenhagen a big waste of money for PNG


THE DAILY news is very discouraging to the people of PNG.  They hope for a better future for their children and grand children one day.  But that one day is a long way off.

There are many problems affecting their livelihood and want the government to address their immediate needs. But the mass media hype in recent months is mostly about the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen and what we will tell other world leaders.

It’s no big deal. Everyone's being hoodwinked - ordinary people that is, but not intelligent PNGeans. It is one big cop out by the people running this country.

We have many important national priorities to address. Lately, however, these are being constantly overshadowed by a smokescreen of public statements about the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (or REDD) scheme, a global plan to slow down or eliminate the deforestation responsible for 20 percent of global emissions., as if it is the only viable policy option available.

REDD is only one aspect of a complex global phenomenon. PNG's delegation in Denmark seemed to have no real fall-back position if REDD was not acceptable to the world's developed nations who are the biggest biggest polluters.

In the past two weeks, critics have accused the PNG delegation of not being fully prepared for this conference. They are right.

The PM and his men forgot what is the position of our parliament and Opposition. We should have included the opposition’s stance on climate change to come up with a good bipartisan paper for Copenhagen.

We also did not need a big delegation of over 40 when half a dozen people should have been sufficient. It was morally wrong for the government to extravagantly burn several millions for this conference.

Considering the alleged eight million Kina for this conference, PNG has nothing beneficial to show for it.

The public should by now be in an uproar over their government’s spending millions for some greedy people to attend a conference that will not even reach any viable agreement.  This is a total waste of money.

The people could have used this money in many needy areas. Our women have been crying out for a cancer machine for years. Teachers and nurses need a pay rise to meet the rising cost of living. PNG’s national security situation is appalling and needs much improvement.

With a tough year about to end, the people could do with some spare money now to enjoy a nice Christmas roast in this festive season. 

Come on, Papua New Guineans, can’t you see they are laughing at our expense? Let us get rid of these greedy people in 2012.

Chinese migrant worker backlash grows globally

THE NEW YORK Times reports on a growing backlash against Chinese workers among local populations in Asia, Africa and the Pacific.

There are increasing episodes of protest and violence, and Vietnam and India are among nations that have moved to impose labour rules to restrict the number of Chinese workers allowed to enter, straining relations with Beijing.

China, famous for its export of cheap goods, is increasingly known for shipping out cheap labor. These global migrants often work in factories or on Chinese-run construction and engineering projects.

In May there was rioting in a number of major towns across PNG, in which Asian businesses were torched, rioters were killed and particular hostility was directed at immigrant Chinese.

Some 740,000 Chinese workers were abroad at the end of 2008 and the number in 2009 will be about the same.

The workers are hired in China by Chinese enterprises or labour agencies; there are 500 licensed agencies and many illegal ones.

Chinese executives say their workers tend to be more skilled and easier to manage than local workers.

But in some countries, such as PNG, local residents accuse the Chinese of stealing jobs, staying on illegally and isolating themselves from the local people.

There are about 35,000 Chinese workers in Vietnam and the Vietnamese are very aware of the economic juggernaut to their north. “The Chinese economic presence in Vietnam is deeper, more far-reaching and progressing faster than people realise,” said Le Dang Doanh, a Hanoi economist.

Conflict has broken out between Vietnamese and Chinese laborers. One reason is that there are plenty of unemployed people in this country of 87 million.

Derived in part from ‘China’s Export of Labor Faces Growing Scorn’ by Edward Wong, New York Times, 20 December 2009

PNG’s new wealth is not reducing poverty

A RECENT study has revealed that, despite PNG experiencing an uninterrupted seven years of economic expansion, this has not translated into reducing poverty.

The study’s author, Laurence Chandy of Australia’s Lowy Institute, says poverty affects much of PNG. Using the international poverty benchmark of US$1 a day, 40% of PNG’s people live in extreme poverty.

The study found that PNG’s major problems include lack of access to jobs, money, education, clean water, health care, transport and roads.

The research paper focussed mainly on who owns the money, how they spend it and how much is given to the poor. It found that people with high incomes generally did not apply their good fortune to poverty reduction.

Mr Chandy said PNG’s poverty is a rural problem; and that the rural poor are more impoverished than their urban counterparts because of a lack of basic services.

He recommended strategies for increasing the impact of growth on poverty, but said these would work only if individuals, companies and the government participated in translating them into policy.

Meanwhile contributor Paul Oates and I have derived some statistics that show comparative health indicators in PNG and for indigenous people in Australia’s Northern Territory (NT figures in brackets):

Expenditure on health per capita - $38 ($5,461)

Life expectancy – 57 (65)

Infant mortality rate  - 50 (14) per 1,000 live births

Maternal mortality rate - 470 (22) per 100,000 live births

Doctors - 1.3 (16) per 10,000 people

Nurses / midwives – 15 (51) per 10,000 people

A troubled land of discrete ever-warring tribes


ONGOING insecurity has required Médecins Sans Frontières to withdraw international staff from the Tari General Hospital.

“In the past few weeks, there have been repeated security incidents including threats to our staff that we cannot tolerate,” said Monique Nagelkerke, head of mission for MSF in Papua New Guinea.

I spent some three months at Tari in 2008, leaving before the expected arrival of the MSF team . Already MSF was running the long-neglected Lae Angau Hospital, PNG's second-biggest hospital.

I met the MSF advance team on their exploratory visit to Tari. At that time the Tari Hospital, which catered for a very large population had been without a full-time Medical Officer, to say nothing of specialist practitioners, for five years. This in an area where - aside from the nearby Catholic HIV/AIDS clinic - there is little NGO input in terms of health services.

Prior to the present pullout, the MSF team had already been withdrawn on one occasion after drunken locals besieged them at night.

It is all very well prating about corruption and maladministration as cardinal reasons for PNG's sad social decline, but one is forced to retort to all who cite these aspects, both Australians and Papua New Guineans, that the malaise is much more deeply-rooted.

This is a society which is telling us, by its own actions, that it is incapable of looking after itself on terms other than as a land of discrete ever-warring tribes, allowed to live in a territorial vacuum by the rest of the world.

Of course, this is not going to happen, and the interventions, which will come, will not be, as MSF's was intended to be, for the good of the people.

Big man, great man: kaukau made a difference


RECENT CALLS for Papuan separatism stimulated by Reg Renagi saw a number of Papuan commentators claim that they are culturally different from PNG Highlanders.

So is there a difference between lowlanders and highlanders? Well, the anthropologists seem to think so. And it’s because of the humble sweet potato.

Sweet potato (ipomoea batatas) or kaukau is believed to have been introduced to Melanesia in the mid 1600s. The PNG sweet potato varieties are similar to the plant in South America, suggesting this as the original source.

The food was brought to Asia by the Spanish and Portuguese, reaching PNG through Indonesia and also as a result of Polynesian migrations.

While kaukau grows from sea level to about 3,000 metres, its maximum yields occur between 2,000 and 2,600 metres. Its believed that its introduction resulted in a dramatic rise in population in the Highland areas where it grew best.

Apart from food for humans, kaukau is useful as animal feed; and the number of pig bones at archaeological sites in the Highlands correlates well with the notion that the introduction of kaukau also led to an increase in the number of domesticated pigs.

These major changes in population and agriculture had a marked effect on social institutions leading to pressures that saw, for instance, the development of large scale warfare in the Highlands.

It is a maxim in anthropology that dense population leads to stricter social control. By the time Europeans reached PNG there was a real difference between the social structures of lowland and highland communities.

Anthropologists distinguish the two social systems as ‘Big Man’ and ‘Great Man’. In ‘Big Man’ societies, such as those in the Highlands, material wealth is significant.

This is evidenced in the payment of bride price and compensation paid for those killed in battle.  In other words, women, pigs and war dead have a commercial value.

Prestige and leadership is achieved through control of this wealth in elaborate and competitive ritual exchanges. Societies are organised around the circulation and redistribution of wealth.

In ‘Great Man’ societies, exchange is less significant and social systems more complex. Leadership is gained by an individual’s ability to assert dominance over a range of rituals and other aspects of life.

‘Big Man’ societies with their emphasis on material wealth tend to adapt well to western economic systems. ‘Great Man’ societies, with limited exchange systems, find it more difficult to deal with western-style economics.

Most Papuan societies fit into the ‘Great Man’ camp. Dual social systems and other practices lead to complex social relationships that inhibit broad-scale organisation and tend to encourage internal conflict.

Leadership based on hunting, ritual and warfare skills, many of which are now obsolete, do not easily translate into political skills. Having loose and ill-defined land boundaries creates insecurity and does not lend itself to commercialisation.

Anthropologists suggests these things might be the reason why lowland societies are not well developed and have extremely scattered settlements, low population density, stagnant community development and, despite vast resources, desultory levels of economic activity – I’m think about the Gulf and Western Provinces here.

I like to think that it makes for a more benign and caring society, too, but I’ve always had a soft spot for Papua.

More than a school history: the Kerevat story

Tuum Est Tuum Est, Barbara Short’s history of Keravat high school from its foundation in 1947 until 1986, is more than well-crafted research and scholarship.

It is a fine and scintillating book of great interest to people who were in the New Guinea islands in those years, to anyone interested in social history and to educators everywhere.

Tuum Est is not just a comprehensive history, compelling in its own right, it is laden with anecdotes, insights and personal reminiscences that bring that history to life.

Here’s an extract:

On 20 July 1970 a large number of Mataungan Association supporters arrived at Keravat township, but were prevented by a police road block from proceeding to Vunapalading. On 21 July there was a major confrontation out along the Vudal road.

Rev Ian Whitelock, the United Church chaplain at Keravat, who lived very close to the school: “One morning we were woken up by the sound of gunfire. We thought an uprising had started, however it turned out that a contingent of police had been placed at the bridge over the Kerevat River. At the salute of arms, one policeman accidentally fired his rifle.”

The Rev Whitelock and his friend Rev Garlick, the Minister from Matupit, went up the Vudal road to see what was going on. They were amazed to find Mataungan men, some of them from Matupit, decked out in war paint and preparing their bows and arrows while the police were in full battle gear, carrying gas masks, tear gas, shield, truncheons and guns.

At one stage Keravat Primary A School was closed for three days, and there was a lot of tension in the small town…

Keravat National High, the first high school in New Guinea, began as a central school and institute for the training of teachers. Tuum Est tells its story through the memories of teachers and students and close study of the school magazine, Kokomo, and other publications such as the Keravat Mirror and Wawarikai magazine.

Most of the chapters are organised to reflect the Keravat story under its various principals, including a wealth of information from each era and numerous photographs that are alone worth the price of the book.

At the end of each chapter are the names of graduates of the school, and information on what they have done with their lives since leaving Keravat.

Tuum Est also tells the early history of education in New Guinea, especially in East New Britain.

Short_Barbara Barbara Short [left] spent 1971-74 teaching at Brandi High School in the Sepik before spending six years at Kerevat (1975-81)

At Kervat, she taught social science and became deputy head, and then acting head for part of 1981.

Barbara's last assignment in PNG was as headmistress of Manggai High in New Ireland (1982-83).

Upon returning to Australia in 1984, she taught at Pymble Ladies College, Pacific Hills Christian School and Abbotsleigh before retiring in 1998.

All profits from the sale of the book go to the school.

There are three versions of the book available in Australia (add an extra $10 for packaging and postage):

Regular - $30. A4, 380 pages, 227 b&w photos, soft-back hand-stitched clear plastic cover.

Special - $70. Same book as regular but with strong buckram cover.

Deluxe - $90. Leather cover, many colour photos, better quality paper.

Cheques to Mrs Barbara Short, 27 Chesterfield Road, Epping NSW 2121.   Phone 02 9876 1018.   Email

In PNG, the book is available from Mannen Kuluwah, who you can email at

A prevailing climate that just has to change


MASS break outs continue from PNG gaols and one might wonder why.

There was a clue in an article in the PNG Post-Courier, which claimed there are 20 officers in Lae gaol guarding 700 prisoners.

In such circumstances, Assistant Police Commissioner Labi was quite correct to point out it could hardly be the fault of the Corrective Services officers that this breakout occurred.

Corrective Services Chief Superintendent Jaro acted with bravery and initiative to try to prevent further escape attempts, but unfortunately he was taken hostage and his efforts proved more use to the inmates than the public.

In the same newspaper, it was reported that the police who are investigating the attempted murder of PNG Chief Ombudsman, Chonox Manek, don't have the funds to properly protect important public figures.

In the meantime, millions of kina have been blown away sending the Prime Minister and a 40 plus delegation to the climate change conference in Copenhagen.

It is understood that the PM banded with his opposite numbers from the Congo and Colombia who each have some uncut rainforest still standing.

The United Nations wants to ensure the money actually goes to the proper landowners but this cartel of three has indignantly drawn the line at accepting the millions on offer to preserve their country's rainforests because they aren't happy about the provisos.

The three leaders are also incensed about another proviso that the UN send inspectors to verify that trees funded under a carbon credit scheme are not cut down.

How's the climate over there in Denmark, Mr Somare. A trifle cooler than where you come from, one might suspect.

Mac Vines: headteacher TPNG outstations, 1970's


MAC Vines, who died on 11 December at the age of 67, was always fun to be around. He provided another dimension to outstation life.

Those who knew him at Kabwum can remember his energetic highland fling and his sense of the ridiculous that constantly had you in stitches.

Mac could walk into a door and make it seem like an accident.

On one notable occasion, he helped organise a stir for a expat Welshman at Kabwum. He had a group of us standing under the house humming Men of Harlech and hammering the metal pylons.

Mac, in a mining hat complete with lighted candle and a blackened face, ascended the ladder of the fire escape and opened the trap door to wake the occupants not long after dawn to say hello. Mac's opening statement, in a Welsh accent was, "Is this the way to Aberystwyth?"

His substantial omelettes were also a good remedy for a previously heavy night.

When faced with a problem of long grass and snakes at his school, I can remember his methodology to find out why the school's lawnmower was not being fixed.

Swearing on the radio was a 'no-no', so Mac's inventive telegram to the School's Authority in Lae read: ‘Where / the / next group B / next group L / next group O etc, spelling out 'Bloody Hell' in single letters before ending the signal, "is my lawnmower". It got immediate results too.

Mac was famous for his Phantom jet takeoff impression. This involved a full speed run down the hallway of an AR20 house with the front door open, then launching over the verandah.

The landings differed depending on the terrain and amount of rain but were always remedied with a nice red.

In later years, his cartoons in the Brisbane Courier-Mail were enjoyed by many.

See you later Mate.

PNG must fully embrace regional autonomy


A RECENT editorial in the PNG press asserted that next year’s referendum in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville could have enormous consequences for the country.

I agree. In this referendum, Bougainvilleans will decide whether they want to be a part of PNG, or become a separate independent nation.

PNG governments have been complacent these past 14 years and have not seriously addressed this issue. It’s likely that early next year, faced with a call for an independent Bougainville, the government will panic and do some last minute paper shuffling to draft a new accord.

Somare will wait until the 11th hour before the referendum to talk peace or offer political platitudes as to why Bougainville should remain as part of the PNG entity.

The government has no real policy on this issue, so next year’s referendum should jolt Waigani from its deep slumber, and to plan how to accommodate the issue of autonomy within the context of PNG’s future sovereign development.

The press editorial reminded the government and public that regional autonomy is a threat that must be taken seriously.

On the contrary, I see the issue of regional autonomy not as a threat but a positive development tool for the government, if it is approached in a rational manner and as a long term strategy.

The present political and government system is not working for the people, and only fuels increasing levels of political corruption.

PNG needs a regional (State) government system where the country is divided up into five regions.

I would envisage future separate governments for Papua, Highlands, Momase, New Guinea Islands (including Bougainville) and a central government based in Waigani, pretty much like the ACT.

Since the Bougainville crisis ended, four PNG governments have gone to sleep on the issue of autonomy. It has no contingency policy if other provinces demand autonomy like New Ireland (Sir Julius Chan) and East New Britain (Leo Dion).

Autonomy means different things to different people. Autonomy can be adapted as a form of self-rule. As a compromise solution, it can provide the possibility of sharing legislative and executive powers between the national government and the provinces.

For PNG, autonomy has to be considered as both an efficient means of conflict prevention through accommodation of regional needs, and as a fundamental right of self-rule. The whole issue of political autonomy should not be seen as a threat but as a challenge.

The Somare government has not given much thought to the looming Bougainville referendum. Prime Minister Somare government must now take the bull by the horns and address the issue of autonomy as part of its national strategic plan.


Vital development funds being applied recklessly


Kikori MP Mark Maipakai is fuming over the payment of more than K20 million … to several landowner associations’ chairmen, instead of being routed through the joint district planning and budget priorities committee – The National, 15 December

TWENTY million to Kikori? To Kikori landowner associations? This roughly equates to K2,500 for each man, woman and child in the Kikori, let alone what it would be if restricted to the members of the landowner associations.

The truth will probably be seen in a dozen or two big, flash and over-powered luxury game-fishing-type cruisers, and flash houses with satellite phones for the privileged few, and overhead-laden fish-an- sago-marketing schemes presided over by the owners of the boats. One hopes that this will not come to pass … but!

To anyone who has spent time at Kikori this really brings home the truth of what is happening all over PNG right now.

In the Highlands today, men who had debts the like of Mexico's a few years ago, are suddenly building new coffee-factories and paying huge prices for absolute rubbish coffee, wet and full of defects, so as to be the "biggest buyer" of the district.

Roads, hospitals and schools languish courtesy of the release of huge amounts of "development" funds under various schemes of huge largesse.

This seriously depresses the quality and reputation of PNG's attractive and useful village coffee, which is far and away the largest component of its coffee exports. The product of some 400,000 small family-owned coffee blocks is a vital part of the Highlands subsistence economy.

Writers signal breakaway tendency in Papua

I’M NOT in the habit of commenting on Recent Comments because I believe commenters should be allowed a view – legalities permitting – without impediment.

But this afternoon saw a great outpouring of sentiment from a dozen or more Papuan readers, and I am moved to remark on this.

I don’t believe for a moment that this rush of commentary is not a coordinated effort. But, unlike many other write-in protests, most of these people have their own take on things, sparing readers the rent-a-letter sameness associated with most similar campaigns.

Given that there are eight pages of commentary in the right hand column, let me summarise what’s been said and give you my take on things.

The first thing you’ll notice about these letters is their fiery sense of Papuan nationalism.

The corruption and ineffectuality of the PNG government is beginning to have profound effects. These are starting to get people thinking about some form of autonomy.

“The current political system is corrupt, unfair and has failed to live up to Papua’s aspirations and expectations,” says one writer. And another, “Papua needs new honest political leaders.”

There are feelings of being besieged and preyed upon … “Papuans want fair distribution of its resources and equal opportunity in developing their region”… “Deliberate targeting and raping of Papuan womenfolk” … “tribal fights, pay-back killings, ridiculous massive compensation demands, spread of the HIV/AIDS” … “spreading non-Papuan squatter settlements on traditional lands in Port Moresby and Central province”.

And one commenter even goes deep into history: “The Papuan people were not given the opportunity by the Australian government to have a referendum of a 'free choice' whether they want to be part of New Guinea or remained independent from Australia.”

The letters indicate there has been a recent move to form a bloc of Papuan MPs at a meeting in Alotau. “Papuans are encouraged by this,” says one writer, “and there is a lot of talk to get MPs to not continue to support a very corrupt government under Somare”.

There are complaints about “deliberate manipulation of the electoral system”, about a loss confidence and respect in Michael Somare’s leadership and that it “is time the new generation push for a separate autonomy region for Papua”.

“Papuans want a new Papuan political order,” says one writer. “Papua demands full autonomy like Bougainville … The government must have a policy in place to seriously address the issue of autonomy.”

This letter-writing campaign is not much of a challenge to the PNG government, still less a force for change – but it is an indication of discontent.

It points to a serious stirring of forces and influences which may generate difficult times for the Somare government.

As one writer says, “Papuans are a proud and intelligent group of people who feel that they are being suppressed.” And if there's one thing we know about suppression, it is that it leads to reaction.

This movement appears as the new Papua Besena, but the background of government corruption, ineffectiveness and incompetence against which it is being played out, would seem to make it a far more formidable movement than its colonial predecessor.

I think we should all consider ourselves warned.

PNG budget needs more discipline, says Nasfund

IN AN article entitled Do We Still Have Our Hands on the Wheel?, PNG’s national superannuation fund, Nasfund, has raised serious concerns about the country’s 2010 budget.

“The recent delivery of the 2010 budget leaves a lot of unanswered questions,” Nasfund wrote in its December newsletter.

“While we applaud a balanced budget, this in itself has been masked by slippage through trust accounts.

“Two years ago, we proudly talked about a surplus in trust accounts of between 3-4 billion kina … now it has been revealed that the trust accounts have fallen to K1.5 billion with lack of full accountability on how and why this money was spent.

“The implications of that expenditure are very clear - an economy that is overheating and the flow on effect of anticipated inflation of 9.5% in 2010.

“The economy needs no further stimulus, in fact remedial action is now required to ensure that public sector largess does not crowd out the development naturally occurring through the private sector.”

Nasfund said the PNG economy requires “a reality check”.

“Evidence of the current exuberance has been the extraordinary credit growth in excess of 30% over the last few years.”

Nasfund concluded that the government must freeze further expenditure from the trust accounts and that the Central Bank must “flex its independent muscle and raise interest rates.”

Nasfund also said that the exchange rate should be allowed to appreciate to 50 toea to the Australian dollar from the current 40.

“This would have a positive deflationary effect, taking some of the steam out of the 2010 expected inflation rate of 9.5%. It will also increase the real purchasing power of urban workers who are facing rising costs of imported goods and fuel.”

Nasfund said PNG is about to move into three to four years of extraordinary development and there can be no room for complacency or undisciplined expenditure.

“To do so, would undo much of the good work already achieved. We need to keep our hands firmly on the wheel.”

PNG's LNG deal was big news in China too


THE recent announcement that China’s largest refiner, Sinopec Corp, has signed an agreement to buy liquefied natural gas from PNG was well covered in the Chinese media.

Under the agreement, Sinopec will purchase 2 million tons of LNG per annum for 20 years from the Exxon Mobil-led PNG project.

The gas will arrive at Qingdao in Shandong Province, where Sinopec will build a LNG terminal. Initially, it will have a capacity of 3 million tons a year but this will be expanded to 5-6 million tons.

The English-language China Daily Business quoted a senior official of Sinopec as saying the terminal will provide long term, reliable and clean natural gas resources to the Shandong market.

However, the official did not disclose when the terminal would come into operation.

China received its first LNG shipment in May 2006. It plans to build more than 10 terminals on the east coast to meet a government target to double the use of natural gas in five years.

At present, China imports large amounts of LNG from Qatar in the Middle East.

Peter Garrett is new Montevideo Maru patron

Garrett_Peter AUSTRALIA's Environment Minister Peter Garrett is to be the new Patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee.

In February, he will take over the role from Prof Kim Beazley, recently appointed as Australia’s ambassador to the United States.

The Committee was established a year ago to ensure greater national recognition for events surrounding the fall of Rabaul in 1942 and Australia’s greatest maritime disaster, the sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1,053 troops and civilians.

Peter Garrett’s grandfather, Tom Vernon Garrett, was a prisoner on the Montevideo Maru.

Tom, a planter, was born in London UK and served in World War I with the 6th Light Horse Regiment. He lived at Varzin Plantation on New Britain and was 54 when he died.

“My grandfather’s death was mentioned in passing at family events, but it wasn’t until my mid-twenties, when I saw an article concerning the incident, that my understanding was filled in,” Mr Garrett said.

“It’s time to fill a huge gap in our history,” Mr Garrett said.

“By giving recognition to one of the most significant and tragic events of World War II, we can honor those who lost their lives and provide a much needed commemoration of this extraordinary event.”

“The sinking of the Montevideo Maru was one of the most significant events of World War II but is still relatively little known. It is an important part of Australia’s history and, given my family connection, I was pleased to become Patron of the committee.”

Peter Garrett AM MP was elected the Labor Member for the electorate of Kingsford Smith at the 2004 federal election and was appointed Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts following the election of the Rudd Labor Government in November 2007.

He is a passionate advocate and campaigner on a range of Australian and global issues, particularly related to the arts and the environment.

Performing He came to public prominence as a member and lead singer of the Australian band, Midnight Oil. In this role, he wrote the lyrics of a popular song, In The Valley, which drew its power from the Montevideo Maru sinking and other tragic events that had affected his family.

My grandfather went down with the Montevideo
The rising sun sent him floating to his rest

Peter Garrett will take up his position as Patron of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee on 1 February 2010.

See also John Huxley's piece in today's Sydney Morning Herald here.

And you can view a clip of In The Valley on YouTube here....

The Montevideo Maru issue has a powerful connection with PNG, and especially with Rabaul and the New Guinea islands. MvM Newsletter is a free monthly publication that reports on developments, research, history and on the activities of the Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee. Subscribe now by contacting Keith Jackson here.

PNG Ombudsman wounded in attempted ‘hit’

Head Nine MSN reports this morning that PNG’s anti-corruption boss was shot and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt outside his Port Moresby home on Friday night.

PNG's Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek was left for dead after gunmen fired through the windscreen of his Nissan Patrol, but is in hospital in a stable condition.

Mr Manek said shots were fired at his right chest at point-blank range. A bullet went through his shoulder.

After shooting several times, the gunmen got back in their car and sped off, "thinking I was dead," said Mr Manek, adding it was a "miracle" that he had cheated death.

He tried to follow his attackers but, dizzy from loss of blood, drove to nearby Paradise Hospital.

"Police are determined to get to the bottom of this," said Police Commissioner Gari Baki.

PNG's Prime Minister Michael Somare, Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch and a host of other government figures are currently under investigation by the Ombudsman Commission.

Mr Manek is from the Boana area of the Morobe Province. He was formerly the Public Prosecutor and Public Solicitor. He holds a Bachelors of Law from UPNG and a Masters in Law from Melbourne University.

Exposed: Carbon cowboys offer ‘miracle money’

H&S Al Jazeera reporter and producer, and PNG Attitude reader, Juliana Ruhfus, recently visited PNG to make a documentary on carbon trading, a far more lively subject than it sounds.

Carbon Cowboys presents a rattling good yarn, great camerawork, and a cameo role for AAP correspondent and Attitude contributor, Ilya Gridneff.

“We had great access to carbon cowboy Kirk Roberts, and I think you may enjoy the film,” Juliana wrote to me.

Well I did enjoy it, and I’m sure you will too. You can view the 20 mt program through the YouTube link below.

Carbon Cowboys begins with an explanation of the Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (or REDD) scheme, a global plan to slow down or eliminate the deforestation responsible for 20 percent of global emissions.

The core idea of REDD is that the maintenance of forests will be exchanged for carbon credits, giving forest owners a source of income without cutting down trees. Thirty million hectares of PNG forest has already disappeared into woodchip.

Enter Kirk Roberts – cock fighting impresario, racehorse trainer, carbon trader and self-styled greenie. Roberts is a charismatic figure with a colourful turn of phrase – and the documentary shows him explaining to PNG landholders his “miracle way of making money”.

Village people living in forest communities are promised money and development in exchange for signing away ‘carbon credits’. Roberts claims he has already garnered credits for millions of hectares of PNG’s forests.

Logging companies and the PNG government have other ideas about this – as everyone struggles to identify precisely who are the legal owners of the forests. This one will end up in court shortly before it ends in tears.

LNG – another big bang project to taunt PNGeans


Everyone is talking non-stop about the great benefits of the LNG project and what blessings it will bestow upon the poor people of PNG. 

Yeah, big deal. As usual, it’s all big talk from the government. As usual, there will not be any sustainable 'trickle-down' effect for the grassroots and resource owners.

Apart from little benefits to the resource owners and ordinary PNGians, as has happened many time before, everyone in the food chain (local, provincial, national governments; corrupt cronies; a dysfunctional public service; foreign investors; carpetbaggers and many special interests) will get a piece of the action (or fingers in the cookie jar).

This will further increase future prospects of political corruption on a grand scale. We will see more local member's pork-barreling pet projects sprouting up all over the country. The greedy 'pollies' will continue to fill their pockets. More wanton plundering of the people's resources by those they mandate to lead and govern this country.

Today’s typical PNG member of parliament has unfortunately and unashamedly become a greedy despot.

He has appointed himself to become his people's bank manager, funds loans officer, project manager and general carpetbagger. He will give out cash and other goods 'willy-nilly' and won't invest the time needed to be fully committed to making good laws in parliament to protect his country's natural resources.

When some senior MPs are jailed then maybe PNG political corruption levels may abate as the message sinks in.

The politicians and other unscrupulous people selling the country's resources to foreign and other special interests must be convicted. The Melanesian culture of being publicly shamed by being locked away in the kalabus for a long time might do the trick.

While LNG looks a big bang product, every man and his dog is really going at it in a feeding frenzy.

The poor rural villager is much caught up in this confusing euphoria. The people do not really understand what the hell all this excitement is about. And it’s made worse by the BS preaching of the CEO of PNG Inc.

The fact is that people will suffer more from the negative effects of this mad rush to fast track the LNG project. This is being done at the people's expense and the real problems of PNG are not being addressed by the prime minister and his government. 

Many people are fed up and look forward to 2012 when they hope the crooks will be thrown out of the Haus Tambaran by the real people of PNG.

History’s analogy: understanding PNG resentment


“While Papua New Guineans are looking forward to Christmas Day, Asians in this blessed country are looking beyond this red letter date, and with so much apprehensions, anxieties and dread… The cease-your-business-operation’ order has been issued by a group of faceless and nameless anarchic individuals who are spearheading a hate campaign against Asians in PNG… If the Chinese close shop, who could we expect to takeover from them … the grassroots? I don’t think so” [Alfredo P Hernandez, Malum Nalu blog]

What Alfredo and other less-outspoken commentators have said recently regarding a lack of interest in individual enterprise within PNG society -  which they say has led to a vacuum filled by enterprising Asians -is something to be considered, although it is not entirely correct.

It is wrong, in fact it is insulting, to ascribe signs of a growing unrest at the recent Asian invasion into many areas of business in PNG, to simple envy and  jealousy on the part of PNG'ians.

As for the presence of Philippine nationals as such in PNG, most of these, beginning in the 1970's, have been professional and administrative and trades-connected migrants who have come as workers rather than business-people.

I think this fact is recognised although Filipinos in general, like all foreigners who stay for long in PNG, are still new colonials in the eyes of most citizens.

May I recommend to Alfredo and to his countrymen who are of a similar general opinion that they look back upon the history of their own nation?

The small, semi-tribal kingdoms, rajahnates, and principalities which ruled the islands of that great Asian archipelago, today the independant Republic of Philippines, were free in the same measure as pre-colonial PNG was free up until 125 years ago.

These small Philippine kingdoms conducted their own affairs and benefitted for centuries in terms of a sporadic but important contact with seaborne traders from China, Vietnam and other neighbouring kingdoms.

Then came the Spanish explorers, and the expedition led by Legaspi in 1564 which established the foothold from which dominance and full control by Spain over the whole archipelago arose.

Spain ruled, and controlled not only the civil affairs and the laws, but also the trade of this rich colony for more than 300 years.

Spain was displaced  by the United States of America which granted full independence to the people of the Philippines in 1946, only 30 years before PNG became an independant nation.

Don't tell us, please, Alfredo, that your fathers and your uncles and grandparents, to say nothing of their ancestors right back to 1565, did not chafe under the yoke of authoritarian colonial control and colonial exploitation?

Dont tell us that even today,  Phillipine nationals don’t have any negative feelings about the heavy presence of American multinational companies and those less-desirable effects emanating from the US military presence in your country? 

Under Aguinaldo in the 1890's your people fought a vicious and prolonged guerilla war against the colonial forces of the US, until, at the cost of a great many lives on both sides, the Americans again established control over your country. 

Don’t tell us that the Filipinos of that generation together with their descendants held no animosity toward the Americans, who still have quite a large influence on the commerce and the politics of your country.

Think about this and then consider the feelings of Papua New Guineans, at one moment made free of foreign domination, and so soon after independence, once again heavily colonised in terms of influence and take up of business opportunities by aliens who seem free to break all relevant legislated controls. Is there any wonder that they feel aggrieved? 

Speer MBE is inaugural life member of MvM group

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee rarely meets face-to-face.

With members scattered throughout the world – Norway, Dubai, Japan, as well as Australia - it conducts the vast bulk of its business online.

Despite that, it’s been a big first year for the group, with the Montevideo Maru soaring into public consciousness in Australia; the Federal government becoming engaged in the issue after decades of official neglect; and the formation of a thriving organisation (over 160 members and growing daily).

Albert Speer, Esq MBE On Wednesday - at the committee’s second meeting in Sydney – Albert Speer MBE was awarded inaugural life membership of the committee.

As committee member Rod Miller said, “He really is a man of New Guinea.”

Albert was born in Roslyn NSW in 1922 and needed his mother’s permission to join the army in 1942 aged 17 to serve in World War II.

He became a medic in PNG and served at a number of locations including Milne Bay and Wau.

After the war, he stayed on with the post war administration as a medical assistant.

His role with the Department of Public Health took him to Kerema, Popondetta, Lae, Tari, Koroba, Rabaul and Goroka as well as Moresby.

Most famously, he was involved with medical support after the Mount Lamington volcano erupted, and, in the movie New Guinea Patrol, was part of the team that was in the field for seventy days with a patrol line half a mile long.

When he retired in 1979, Albert had served in PNG for 37 years.

He became interested in the Montevideo Maru during his posting in Rabaul and started intensive research into the tragedy around 1997.

Speer_Award His commitment to finding the nominal roll of the men who died on the ship was often frustrating and for many years seemed fruitless. But Albert was undaunted and, in his pursuit of the truth, kept the flame burning for the relatives of the missing men.

Now, as the search for the nominal roll warms up, and as the new committee engages itself in a range of matters related to the national recognition of the tragedy, the awards acknowledges the great contribution that Albert made through his unyielding effort.

Combating PNG corruption: a blueprint for action


If the PNG government and parliament are really serious about combating corruption at all levels, then an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) must be set up immediately.

Setting up an ICAC entity has been mooted many times before in various public forums, but nothing substantive has resulted.

The main reason for inaction is that successive PNG governments have always lacked the political will to stamp out corruption.

An ICAC should be a principal agency with a statutory charter to investigate and prevent corruption. It must be totally independent of the executive branch of government.

Its principal objectives should be:

To vigilantly enforce anti-corruption laws and to make corruption a high-risk crime.

To identify and eliminate opportunities for corruption in government departments and public bodies by reviewing their procedures and practices.

To promote corruption prevention in private sector business.

To educate the community about the evils of corruption and enlist their support in the war against corruption.

The anti-corruption agency needs a simple plan of action before employing more complex strategies to combat corruption.

It should conduct investigation, prevention and education through operations, corruption prevention and community relations divisions.

The agency must implement effective strategies - such as employing proactive investigation techniques - to identify and prosecute instances of corruption which might otherwise go unreported.

It should use undercover operations and intelligence and information technology if it needs to.

In addition, its investigators must be given continuous professional training to keep pace with the changing commercial environment, technological advances and developments in criminal investigation techniques.

The training should embrace a wide range of topics, including financial investigation, IT applications, computer forensics, video interview techniques, case management and court proceedings.

Joint operations groups must be established comprising retired senior officers, dedicated agents and the disciplined services. Regular meetings should be held to ensure operational liaison, address common concerns, and develop anti-corruption strategies within the respective disciplined services.

ICAC's main strategic tasks should be focused on reducing opportunities for corruption in government departments and other public bodies.

It should include advising private sector bodies on corruption prevention. The agency must conduct detailed studies of public sector practices and procedures and help them to effectively implement corruption prevention measures.

Establishing ICAC in PNG will help other state agencies develop their corruption prevention capability by producing best practice on ways to prevent, minimise or curb corruption-related opportunities in corruption prone areas like procurement, staff administration, information system security, contract letting and administration.

A good community relations strategy is required to educate the public and enlist their support in the fight against corruption.

PNG has failed its people: Julius Chan

Head PNG has failed to live up to promises made in 1975 for improving the quality of life of its people, says former Prime Minister and New Ireland Governor, Sir Julius Chan.

“We have not provided the health care, the education and the infrastructure that we should have provided,” he has told a conference.

He said, according to the World Bank, the country has fewer aid posts today than it had at independence.

“We know the condition of those that are still open. They have no power, most have no clean water supply and many have no housing for our health care workers.”

Sir Julius said PNG has also failed to improve access to education.

“Our primary and elementary schools are falling apart. We do not have basic textbooks in the schools, we do not have decent toilets for our children, we do not have decent teachers’ houses and often we do not even have the teachers because housing is so bad that they cannot live in it,” he said.

Sir Julius said the country’s infrastructure was no better.

“We used to have roads that we could travel on but they have not been maintained for 10 or 15 or 20 years. Our roads have gone bush and our people cannot get to market to generate income,” he said.

Sir Julius said huge amounts of wealth had been generated but the people had suffered.

“That is not development. That is not progress. That is failure, pure and simple,” he said.

Source: ‘Quality of PNG life still not improved’ by Grace Tiden, PNG Post-Courier, 8 December 2009

Huge resource project will transform PNG

PNG’S huge liquefied natural gas project was given the green light in Port Moresby this afternoon.

Venture partners, including Oil Search and the global giant Exxon Mobil, and the PNG government signed the deal for the $10 billion project at a ceremony at Parliament House.

The plan to pipe gas from the highlands to Port Moresby for export to Asia is forecast to double PNG’s gross domestic product and create thousands of jobs.

The deal is expected to deliver $35 billion in revenue for the PNG government and affected land owners and is predicted to have a transforming effect on the PNG economy.

Inspector Huggins cracks the MvM plaque

The Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee’s recent submission to the Federal Government mentioned that there is a small memorial plaque at the Brisbane General Post Office commemorating three Rabaul-based wireless technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department who died on Montevideo Maru: Wilfred Leonard Duus of Brisbane; Hedley Turnbull of Laidley; and TM Plunkett. COLIN HUGGINS sallied forth in search of the plaque, and reported on the adventure.

The plaque - to find it....

John Holland, Brisbane PNGVR historian, did give me a pretty good clue about where to look, but initially I couldn’t find it, so around and around that building I went - almost into the restricted zone!

I ventured into the private mail boxes - all the time thinking, someone is going to pat me on the shoulder and ask what on earth I’m doing. Seems to prove that security isn't all it is beefed up to be. If anyone looks like a possible terrorist, I fit the bill.

However I had my story ready for them if patted on the shoulder - the 44 page Montevideo Maru submission to the Government.

Just as I was about to give up, I found it.







WORLD WAR II – 1939-1945




The plaque is located on the right hand side of the building as you walk through to St Stephen's Cathedral - at the back of the front pillar.

I saw the very old paper seller at the front. He knew of the plaque, but had no idea what it represented. So I did my best to inform him. I spoke to a few other people, too.

So, hopefully, when they read something in the newspapers of the Montevideo Maru disaster, they will know what it is all about.

Whatever happened to those Kavieng computers?

Back in late August, PNG Attitude appealed to readers for help in transporting six sets of computer equipment to Kavieng Hospital.

The equipment had been assembled over a number of months by Dr Alan Lawford, a general practitioner in the southern Sydney suburb of Arncliffe.

He was responding to a request for assistance from a colleague at Kavieng Hospital.

Within 48 hours over 50 readers provided advice on how this equipment could be transported free or at minimal cost from Sydney to New Ireland.

“I am gobsmacked by the plethora of great suggestions from your friends who are in turn friends of PNG,” said Dr Lawford at the time.

“It is overwhelming that this could generate so much interest in these well wishers of PNG.”

Well, we identified an organisation that could deliver the computers – Rotary International.

And this week nine boxes of equipment left Sydney en route to Kavieng, where they will arrive early next month.

Many thanks to those people who assisted.

PNG: Time for all the good men to associate


“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle” - Edmund Burke 1729-97)

David Ulg Ketepa asks on his blog why crime is increasing in PNG.

PNG inherited and enshrined a legal system and has laws that are the equivalent of those in any modern state. These laws derive from the PNG constitution.

In practice, however, it seems the constitution has been compromised by the use of political power.

The Office of the Ombudsman - arbiter of correct parliamentary practice – has been either unable or unwilling to act on complaints against political malpractice, burying responsible government in PNG.

There are many instances where the PNG Ombudsman could and should act. The Moti Report, Taiwan millions, missing public funds, forestry concessions and many other cases have all been canvassed in PNG Attitude.

Furthermore, the use of the Speaker of parliament in a tactical political way has effectively created a rubber stamp for the Somare cartel when any debate proves contentious.

So to crime. If PNG leaders ignore the law, why should their people not do likewise?

The long awaited Commission of Inquiry into Financial matters produced an 800-page report, so far effectively ignored.

Crime is like a rotten apple in a barrel. Unless detected and excised early, it spreads its toxin, eventually turning the whole barrel rotten.

In PNG, lawlessness has become a national disease. There are daily news reports of serious breaches of law and order, yet the government does little about it.

The government has lost control of large areas of the country, but is in denial or does not appear to be concerned.

It has been observed that crime is 95% opportunity and 5% intent. Urban drift, lack of employment, poverty and a sense of hopelessness all combine to promote the conditions for crime and violence.

Without effective control, those who see the opportunity for easy money will take a chance.

The Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary has just been given a pay rise but this seems more to guarantee police loyalty than to combat crime.

The PNG government is implicated in many shady deals; the opposition can do nothing; the institutions enforcing probity are weak; the people are denied accountability and effective law and order; and the police force is under-manned and outgunned.

The answer to David Ketepa's question is another: 'Why should we expect crime in PNG to be decreasing?'

And if Edmund Burke was alive today and living in PNG he would surely be asking, ‘Where are all the good men?’

An inquiry, a misunderstanding and a good read

The House of Representatives standing committee on petitions met on Wednesday and two of the petitions under scrutiny concerned the sinking of the Montevideo Maru and the burial places of missing troops who fought in PNG in World War II.

You’d probably be of the view that parliamentary proceedings are, by and large, not likely to be put on your preferred reading list. But the committee exchange, which you can download, below took an interesting turn or two – and I think makes compelling reading.

The parliamentarians in attendance were chair Julia Irwin, Dick Adams, Russell Broadbent, Darren Chester and Maria Vamvakinou.

Appearing before them as Defence Department witnesses were Group Captain Henrik Ehlers, Director of Air Force Coordination, Brian Manns, Manager Unrecovered War Casualties and Brigadier David Mulhall, Chief of Staff, Army Headquarters.

In the course of his evidence, Brig Mulhall said that he believed the Army may have found a copy of the missing Katakana roll, believed to be the most reliable record of the prisoners who may have been on the Montevideo Maru when it was sunk.

If this was so, it would be a momentous discovery. The roll was brought back from Japan soon after World War II – and went missing. It has never been located.

“Right now we are in the process of trying to verify the authenticity of that document,” said Brig Mulhall. “That is being worked on actively and we hope to be able to give some advice in due course.”

Unfortunately, the brigadier was mistaken. While the hunt for the roll has gathered pace in recent times – and researchers believe they may be getting closer to it – it has still not been found.

But there was much more to the inquiry than this misunderstanding.

For example, here’s Brian Manns talking of searching for missing troops in PNG:

“Locations rely almost invariably on local PNG citizens finding them. In fact, I am going to Port Moresby this week to bury three Australians that have been identified through our program.

“Invariably it is local individuals. In most of the smaller rural communities in [PNG] they have a subsistence style of living, and they move and establish new gardens.

“Once one garden peters out, they move and establish another garden and it is not unusual for them to find remains. One of the sets of remains that we have been working with in this last PNG group of cases was actually found by somebody digging a well.

“So a lot of the remains that are found nowadays, particularly of soldiers, are there because the original battlefield burial sites for whatever reason were obliterated.”

You can read the Hansard transcript here.

Poor little rich kid PNG set for LNG take off

The $16 billion ExxonMobil liquefied natural gas project in PNG is likely to be approved on Tuesday, following the first sale of gas from the project.

Chinese company Sinopec has inked a contract with ExxonMobil to take 2 million tonnes a year from the project as China trebles its use of gas to about ten percent of energy consumption by 2020.

The PNG project is a joint venture between ExxonMobil (41.5%), Oil Search (34%), Santos (17.7%) and other investors.

It will be the largest private investment in PNG, contributing more than $30 billion to the nation's economy over the life of the project.

''It is very pleasing to have signed the first of four anticipated sales and purchase agreements,'' said Oil Search managing director, Peter Botten. ''This agreement signals the commencement of a long-term relationship.''

Development licences seem likely to be granted this weekend. ''If that happens then it is good to go and Tuesday will be a great day,'' a source told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Source: ‘$16b Papuan LNG project ready to go’ by Mathew Murphy, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 December 2009

K60 million disappears from Oro restoration fund

This is the kind of story that dismays Australians who are working hard to do positive things for PNG.

Over K60 million allocated by the PNG government for relief and restoration efforts after Cyclone Guba devastated Oro Province in 2007 has “gone missing”.

Provincial authorities briefed Public Service Minister Peter O’Neill of the situation but were not able to say where the money had gone.

Provincial administrator Owen Awaita said K11 million was allocated for restoration work during the state of emergency after the 2007 disaster, and another K50 million was ‘parked’ at the Treasury Department in Port Moresby.

All the money disappeared.

Mr Awaita said a commitment of K600,000 made to Girua landowners was not honored, and this is now causing problems for authorities who are being denied use of customary land for a supply route.

In a swift expression of ministerial authority and acumen, Mr O’Neill said he would raise the matter when he returned to Port Moresby, asserted that restoration was not his responsibility and asked provincial authorities to fix the problem.

Australian private aid groups like the Oro Community Development Program, must feel like they have been kicked in the guts.

Source: K60m ‘gone’ by Isaac Nicholas, National Times. Spotter: John Fowke