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65 posts from January 2010

PNG govt puts brakes on recapturing top crims


IT IS THE great escape. A bunch of PNG’s most notorious criminals slips out of gaol and the whole country is horrified.

In an exceptional act, the government offers K1.5 million for a recapturing operation.

But then Police Commissioner Garry Baki orders his headquarters to take over the investigation, cuts manpower, withdraws vehicles and slashes the funding.

Port Moresby police commander Fred Yakasa confirms that seven vehicles hired for the operation have been directed by headquarters to return to base, effectively stopping his men from continuing their hunt.

But Supt Yakasa will not comment on this. “We are using whatever resources we have,” he says.

Meanwhile Simon Eroro reports in the Post-Courier that veteran policeman John Mombre believes “corruption is rampant within our police force”.

“This is no joke,” he says. “Look at us stopping travellers at night for not putting on their indicators, threatening to arrest a female along the road because she’s parked her car although she has the blinkers on but made to sweat explaining she did because she wanted the escort to drive up.”

“Many policemen allow our personal emotions to make decisions which in many instances are unnecessary.”

Mr Mombre goes on to say that 99% of police who breach traffic rules do not get arrested. “Anyone else does it gets arrested,” he observes.

He also says many charges for obstruction of police duty are completely irrelevant. “Look at the drunkard policemen with beers packed in their cars driving around.

“At the road blocks many are out there performing honestly while a few are taking the road blocks as a chance to try their luck in getting a toea or two.”

“In fear of being locked up, many decide to pull out a few notes which eventually works out well. This is corruption.”

PNG: Sophisticated in politics, focused on power

As contributors struggle to make sense of what is happening in PNG today, a book by BILL GAMMAGE, although published 12 years ago, provides some insights. The review is by eminent Pacific historian DR STEWART FIRTH

THE OUTSIDERS marked out part of the Melanesian culture area, put borders around it, called it Papua New Guinea, then left the people of this newly invented country to settle their differences and run a modern state.

In much the same way, historians read the documents of colonial administrations, described what governments claimed to be doing, and wrote the history of a nation coming into being.

Historians—some of the best known anyway—settled for histories of policy because policy gave their stories coherence. Some shoehorned PNG’s history into preconceived theoretical frameworks.

PNG is more complicated than that. Papua New Guineans were many peoples and, in a sense, many nations during the colonial period.

What governments and patrol officers thought they were doing was one thing; what actually happened was different, so that histories of policy can be neat but largely fictional in describing the impact of the government and the encounter between villagers and Europeans.

Generalising about PNG, as historians of policy are forced to do, is invariably misleading.

The deepest understanding of the history of PNG comes from examining closely an event or series of events and from recounting the details that hold wider significance, as Gammage has done in this remarkable book.

His subject is the Hagen-Sepik patrol, the largest and longest patrol ever undertaken by the Australians in Papua or New Guinea, and, as Gammage argues, the “last of the great European explorations which began with Diaz 450 years before”.

The expedition left Mount Hagen in March 1938 and returned in June 1939, traveling three thousand kilometers in between, mostly in country new to the Europeans and to the New Guinean police and carriers who accompanied them.

The Sky Travellers is truly a labor of love. Like historians of earlier generations, though not like those of our own, Gammage immersed himself in his subject, living with it for thirty years, and not writing until he was confident about almost every detail.

Two extraordinary men led the Hagen-Sepik patrol, Jim Taylor and John Black, both of whom Gammage came to know closely over many years.

Taylor had a grand, romantic vision of New Guinea and a deep admiration for the highland peoples and their way of life, one that he thought could endure alongside that of Australian settlers.

Black was more inclined to see New Guineans as savages, but the Hagen-Sepik patrol changed him. By the end of it he knew them to be human beings like any other human beings, brutal to enemies, generous to friends, sophisticated in political dealings, focused—in the end—on power.

Taylor and Black were aware and not aware of the intense politics being played out on the line as New Guinean police vied with each other for supremacy, tested to see what they could get away with, attempted to play one European off against another, and used their armed presence in new country for their own purposes.

Taylor and Black were aware and not aware, too, of the extent to which peoples whom they met along the way sought to use this unexpected group of powerful foreigners in order to destroy traditional enemies, extend power over enemy lands, and change the existing balance of power in their part of New Guinea.

Writing the history of Papua New Guinea is a devilishly difficult task, one beyond the capabilities and patience of most historians. The author of this history is one of the few exceptions, and his book is a major scholarly contribution that deserves the widest recognition. The Sky Travellers will become a classic of Pacific history.

Bill Gammage, The Sky Travellers: Journeys in New Guinea 1938–1939, The Miegunyah Press (Melbourne University Press), 1998, ISBN 0-522-84827-3

Second hand copies of The Sky Travellers are available from Pacific Book House at for $43

Spotter: John Hocknull. The review originally appeared in ‘The Contemporary Pacific’ 12.1 (2000) 258-259

Return to New Ireland – a PNG experience


Comerford+Daughters THE DECISION to make my second trip to New Ireland in 16 months, was made quickly and with limited preparation.

The original reason was to take medical supplies to Kavieng Hospital and reading materials to Carteret and Tsoi primary schools. But another dimension came into play when my wife suggested that I take my twin daughters Penny and Katy with me.

They were born in Popondetta and left PNG in their mid-primary years on Bougainville.

The place was going to be very different for them as adults: one a nursing sister; the other studying teaching at university.

They had travelled in Asia, Europe and the Americas, so presumably had the experience to cope with culture shock and the patience to ‘go with the flow’ when things did not progressing at speed or go to plan.

To assist in their preparation, I downloaded a copy of the independence edition of PNG Attitude which contained current and interesting commentary on PNG 34 years after independence

So, armed with Attitude, two suitcases of medical supplies and reading materials, gifts, a couple of Parramatta NRL guernseys and caps, a first aid kit and very little else, we checked in with AirNiugini and to my relief, when I explained what we had in the suitcases, were not charged excess baggage.

Arriving in Port Moresby, people could not have been more cooperative and, after completing immigration, we were ushered through customs to be greeted by the heat, crowds and the smells of the airport.

The girls told me later that this was the most daunting part of the trip - the sudden confrontation by a predominantly male crowd and the eyes upon them as they made their way through the automatic doors into the heat.

The feeling was only temporary, and we were soon greeted by the hugs from smiling Bougainvillian and New Ireland school friends.

Penny was the first to get a real glimpse of the lack of resources and third world nursing conditions. I left her in the company of an ex-student and graduate nursing sister who was running the post natal clinic at Kavieng Hospital. What an eye opener it was.

Penny is an intensive care nurse who has worked in Dublin and Australia and she was confronted with all types of medical situations at the hospital. She said to my wife Marian on our return, “I don’t know how you handled all these things on a day to day basis when you were so young and the matron here.”

Things were different then with some experienced expat staff support and more than meagre medical supplies. Not that, even pre independence, it didn’t have its challenges.

An ex-student, who was to die a week after we left Kavieng, was awaiting biopsy reports and sharing the only oxygen bottle with numerous other patients.

Penny had nothing but praise for nursing staff. She was in awe of one of the nursing facilitators who had an incredible intellect and wonderful insight and diagnostic expertise.

But everything is lacking - people with skills, support and medical supplies. PNG medical staff are sometimes sent overseas to gain experience but this was not always relevant to the conditions and needs in PNG.

Katy’s experience in the primary schools was also an eye-opener and she commented on how few resources were available, how well behaved and attentive the students were and how a simple game similar to marbles could be played with incredible accuracy and skill using rubber bands. A winner’s skill displayed proudly by the number of bands adorning their wrist.

On our arrival at Tsoi Primary we were formally greeted at school assembly with the Tsoi Island song sung in the typically beautiful harmonious tones of the Pacific. The girls and I were called upon to address the students and this was followed by the donation of materials to the deputy headmistress who later distributed the teaching resources to teachers and the teacher responsible for the simple library.

The ‘outcomes-based education’ has teachers struggling with few if any appropriate resources. The approach has not been particularly successful in Australia either. But in PNG well paid consultants introduce these schemes with what appears little understanding of the real needs of a poorly resourced third world education system.

The teachers we met were dedicated and innovative. One on Tsoi was cleverly using plastic bags and aluminium cans for art and craft. The bags were cut into strips to be woven into ‘pom poms’ and the cans cut and shaped into mobiles to provide some simple but clever displays in the classrooms.

Chalk boards were neatly set out in beautiful cursive writing with the week’s program and topics. School and class rules adorned the limited space on walls at the front and back of classrooms together with displays of creative writing activities.

There was a lot of discussion about the decline in educational standards and facilities, and strong comment that pre-independence New Ireland schools used to be among the leading schools academically in the country are now well down the list.

Some people blamed this on the lack of skilled expatriate teachers; a desire to return to gutpela taim bipo when there was discipline, respect for teachers and family, a desire to learn and a pride in the school. I could have been listening to the same comments here in Sydney.

Others felt that declining academic standards meant a decline in the standard of teacher education, teachers did not really care as much these days. From personal observation and what one reads in the Post Courier, there may be some substance to this.

On the plus side, the New Ireland provincial government has implemented free education policy for all students up to Year 8, which eventually will be extended to Year 10.

From the twin’s perspective, the trip was a positive and stimulating experience. They were fortunate that most of their time was in the company of Papua New Guineans in the relatively safe New Ireland, which gave them an opportunity to re-establish personal and emotional bonds with PNG.

There are very good teachers in PNG, who do their best teaching in poor conditions with few resources, coping with introduced programs and initiatives from systems outside PNG which may not be the most appropriate.

The schools, particularly secondary schools, need administrators with budgeting skills capable of implementing school maintenance programs and dealing with the government officials responsible for ensuring that funds are available and arrive on time at the school to be used for the purpose intended.

This would allow the senior teachers and principals to use their expertise to plan, implement teaching programs, and mentor their staff.

Photo: Penny, Peter and Katy at Tsoi in New Ireland

Govt in crisis as leadership issue boils over

PNG’s GOVERNING National Alliance is in crisis today as party heavyweights publicly express anger that Sir Michael Somare may be about to hand over the leadership to his son, Arthur.

The Post-Courier reports that members of the Alliance from Momase, Highlands, Southern and Islands regions – pretty much all of PNG – are unhappy that Sir Michael is being pushed by Arthur, who wants to replace his father as Prime Minister.

It is understood Sir Michael has been ill and will soon announce a major cabinet reshuffle. This may bring the leadership issue to a head.

Sir Michael, Arthur and several senior politicians flew to Wewak on Tuesday to hold a secret meeting to discuss tactics.

East Sepik council presidents told Sir Michael they would like to see the leadership issue resolved amicably, adding that they do not support Arthur.

Sir Michael’s media advsier and daughter, Betha Somare, has denied the leadership scuffle, saying Sir Michael’s preference for the next leader is his deputy, Sir Puka Temu.

Ms Somare said the Prime Minister will return to Port Moresby this weekend.

Source: ‘Governing party members unhappy; Arthur Somare pushes for PM’s seat’ by Harlyne Joku, 28 January 2010. Spotter: Reginald Renagi

Carbon trading: more questions than answers


WELL, IT happened at lightning speed. Despite the Copenhagen debacle, carbon trading has started in PNG.

No surprise that it’s been hailed by Kirk Roberts, head of Nupan (PNG) Trading Co and self-styled ‘carbon cowboy’, who told the PNG Post Courier: "This is a fantastic thing for PNG, who has chosen to take advantage of commercialised carbon trading while the rest of the world talks and talks.”

Roberts added: “The bottom line is PNG saves their rainforests from logging now, while providing a living and income for the landowners next 100 years."

Unfortunately the newspaper article raised more questions than it answered. In any public business arrangement, there has to be transparency.

An important question is whether the PNG government recognises this arrangement, given that the department responsible for these matters was recently reorganized.

It could also be asked if the payments to landowners are to be taxed and who is responsible and accountable for the distribution of these public monies?

The critical issue is whether these agreements will actually stop timber companies from cutting down the forests and how this will be policed. This has never been explained.

The Southern Highlands reportedly contain regions that are virtually in a state of civil war with limited government control. What happens when the initial payments are spent and a timber company then offers to buy the trees?

Has there been a survey on which trees are in the area covered by the agreement and which trees are not covered? Has there been a full and independent examination of who are the rightful owners of the trees?

Three hundred people signed with Nupan yet the details of what was agreed have not been provided. All this agreement claims is that it will “start a carbon trading project to prevent logging in the area and preserve their rainforests for future generations.”. Which I think you’ll agree is pretty sketchy.

An unnamed 'project scientist' is quoted as saying during the ceremonies that: "the people would need to actively work in the forests every month, to provide data and manage the condition of the trees." Exactly who the people would be reporting to and how this would be managed was not revealed.

The report also claimed: “It is expected that thousands of jobs will be created by this process, which will provide employment for generations to come”, but did not elaborate how this would happen.

For those who have seen these promises so many times before, without transparency and proper planning, the initial hype of a project such as this so often leads to disappointment.

Without further details, the potential for this to be revealed as yet another 'cargo cult' or win moni ikamap nating seems great.

If that is the case, it will only exacerbate the frustration of the forest owners and further enhance the plans of the logging companies.

Where will Mr Roberts be then, I wonder.

Australian media wake up to PNG issues


THERE HAVE been more articles about PNG published in the Australian press in recent times, including two significant articles in The Australian.

It seems that our media is taking a greater interest in PNG affairs, with The Australian leading the charge.

In the Weekend Australian magazine there was a detailed and insightful feature about the murders of patrol officers Szarka and Harris near Telefolmin in 1952.

The story was linked with calls for greater recognition of the kiaps and their legacy, and included comment from former district commissioner and PNGAA president, Harry West.

In addition, former PNG-based journalist Rowan Callick, now The Australian’s Asia-Pacific Affairs editor, identified PNG as one of four places where Australian interests are in potential danger, the others being Yemen, North Korea and London. You can read the article here.

In the article, Callick repeatedly makes the point that PNG is a country whose interests are bound up more closely with Australia’s than any other.

He mentions Torres Strait health, Bougainville, living standards, the LNG deals, law and order, political succession, unemployment and poverty; and finishes by saying “If trouble takes hold in PNG, Australia can’t walk away.”

It’s another wake-up call to the politicians about the shared interests of our countries and peoples.

Montevideo Trust seeks Canberra memorial


MS Montevideo Maru
: I’m here for the second time in two months on business related to national recognition of the double tragedy of the fall of Rabaul and the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

As Australia’s new high commissioner to PNG, Ian Kemish, remarked to me in an email just a few minutes ago, “These were two important events; very much worth the memory.”

And this could be no better time to bring you this wonderful impression of the Montevideo Maru.

In the glory days of shipping, maritime postcards were legion – providing somewhat romanticised views of the main ships of the line.

A couple of weeks ago we provided an impression of what we thought was the Montevideo Maru - which turned out to be a successor ship of the same name.

But this one is the genuine article, for which we thank collector James Hook and computer expert Vim Sharma.

The postcard was originally published by Osaka Shosen Kaisha, the shipping company that owned the ill-fated vessel.

Later today, a group from the Montevideo Maru Memorial Trust will meet with Australian War Memorial director, Major General Steve Gower.

The purpose is to see what can be done to accord proper recognition to the soldiers and civilians who died as a result of the Japanese invasion of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands in 1942, including the estimated 1,053 who died on the Montevideo Maru.

We’ll also be meeting with our legal adviser, Bernard Collaery, to incorporate the Trust in the Australian Capital Territory.

The pursuit of proper official recognition of this worst Australian maritime disaster is well and truly on.

The indictment of Lae: beyond the green zone


NASFUND is PNG’s national superannuation fund. It publishes a monthly newsletter on economic conditions and related matters

Lae_Air  LAE IS PNG’s second largest city and the industrial and manufacturing hub of the country. It has the largest port facilities and is the gateway to the highlands.

The Lae gateway and the highlands highway is the lifeline for over 50% of PNG’s population. But something is seriously wrong.

The Lae of today suffers from neglect and lack of decisive political leadership. Never have we witnessed such a steady decline of a city. The heartbeat of industry hums, private sector endures, but the decline of infrastructure underlies a serious tale of woe.

Political leaders prefer the relatively more lucrative and workable capital of Waigani and, when in Lae, take refuge in the green zone – two or three comfortable establishments where, in air-conditioned comfort, their minders can praise them for their initiatives and tell them what they want to hear over glasses of red wine and cold beer.

Outside the green zone, a totally different world emerges that should shake the conscience of any one who cares for the city. Sex workers, desperate to etch out a living, bob up and down between the containers that overflow the old landing strip near town.

If not there, they can be found under the verandah of Nasfund Haus, directly across from the green zone, where lucrative pickings can be had from well-heeled hotel guests.

HIV is rife, as it is along the highway through to the Western Highlands and beyond. A recent HIV test of workers at one facility found 3 of 15 infected.

Young schoolies, whose parents have little, skip classes to join the sex worker throng so they can buy basics like clothes, food and soap. Many do it just to ensure they can pay school fees. A sophisticated network through mobile phones coordinates the sex workers with clients, including truck drivers and maritime workers from the port.

Through mobile communication, client tastes can be ascertained - whether they use condoms or not, likes, dislikes, violent, kind, generous – as part of this highly visible trade.

Lae cannot absorb the inflow of the huge urban drift from the highlands, and settlements abound with all the associated ills. Crime -muggings to murder - is fuelled by home brew, grass and alcohol. The hospitals overflow from the rampage of disaffected, disengaged youths and communities who have worn the brunt of neglect for too long.

The road system is in collapse. Not a stretch of road in Lae can be found without potholes, some so deep as to make sections impassable. The two entrances to Lae look more like rural tracks.

And all this is compounded by the recent “gone missing” of millions allocated to repair part  of the road system.

The poor state of the roads means drivers are easy pickings for criminals, and ensures security companies continuing work, even if it is just to ensure that access to the airport remains unimpeded

Over the last few months security of supplies of water and power have become serious issues. Water was recently unavailable for three weeks and power remains intermittent. Once again it begs the question how this has been allowed to develop in what is PNG's manufacturing hub and gateway.

But what is both depressing and beggar’s belief is the cholera camp on the front lawns of Angau Hospital.

Forget the appalling condition of the hospital for a minute; forget the lack of facilities to treat what in the West would be basic matters; forget the run down wards; forget the desperation on the face of women trying to get treatment for breast and cervical cancer; forget the collapsing hospital infrastructure or the piles of surgical rubbish dumped on a makeshift bonfire to the left of the building.

Let’s just focus on the front lawns. A collection of makeshift latrines and tents, a few iron beds and untied black plastic which fails to hide the camp from roadside visibility and now flaps in the breeze.

Adults and children lying in tents getting treated for a disease that should not be in PNG and certainly not in our second largest city.

A government cheque for K3 million bounced and very little has occurred except through the assistance of AusAID and other donors.

The government has pledged K13 million to assist in the cholera outbreak, and to this day has not released anything. It is a national shame beyond comprehension.

In November, the national government announced its 2050 vision of a people happy and prosperous. One could not but support such an initiative. However, the long suffering people of Lae cannot wait 40 years to secure and share that vision. They need a plan for 2010.

A plan that delivers better roads, safer and secure water supplies, consistent electricity and major upgrades in the area of health and education. To continue to ignore Lae is a blight on the nation and corrosive to the collective soul.

Will someone please come forward?

Source: ‘Lae - A Story of Gross Neglect’, Editorial, Nasfund e-Newsletter, January 2010

John May, Lark Force chaplain, dies in Hobart

A GREAT Australian died today.

Rev John May OBE, chaplain to Lark Force in Rabaul at the time of the Japanese invasion in January 1942, died peacefully this morning in Hobart Private Hospital after a severe stroke last Wednesday. He was 95.

John was one of two padres attached to Lark Force and, after being captured, was sent to Japan on the Naruto Maru and was imprisoned in Zentsuji POW camp.

After World War II, as a survivor, he became an important link between the relatives of the men who died and the events on the Gazelle Peninsula in the early months of Japanese occupation.

For many people, he was able to bring the last account of their loved one's life in captivity.

He was to write of those days:

After the first day or so the nurses were able to come down from the mission, under guard, morning and afternoon and spend most of the day at the hospital (Vunapope).

Before long the guard was given up and they came and went quite freely. We were afraid that they might be molested, either at the mission or as they went to and fro.

They told us that on three occasions at night some soldiers (Japanese) probably drunk, did try to get into the convent, but were kept out. They also told us that they complained to the authorities and the nuisance was stopped.

No one could adequately tell how much the nurses (Australian) did for morale. Their quiet competence in treating the sick, with only a meagre supply of the usual medicines, the mending and the other things they did--making two shirts for me from the BR cloth--their steady concern and cheerfulness, meant that we managed to keep up our spirits.

Each day we got two large loaves of bread and some other items. One rather tricky task was to cut the bread-- some 35 to 40 slices from each loaf, so that each person got one slice and there was not one left over.

There was of course a demand for tobacco. Our meagre supplies did not last long. The mission people were generous in sending us some of the cigars made at the mission. These we cut up and shared. We acquired also sticks of trade tobacco, Beaconsfield Twist which we washed, cut up with old razor blades, dried in the sun and rolled in any sort of paper we could find.

We had no reliable source of news. If the Japanese were particularly pleased, they would make a big announcement, as when Singapore fell, about three weeks after we were captured. We heard an occasional report about some of our people from stragglers who came to give themselves up.

On 28 April 1942, the last of the staff and patients were taken into Rabaul. The nurses were kept at Vunapope. On 5 July they were brought to join the officers aboard the vessel Naruto Maru, and go to Japan.

The story of their subsequent privation and humiliation is yet another indictment of the behaviour of the Japanese towards the men and women who they took as prisoners.

And in another letter he wrote to a bereaved family, the Oakes:

I was in Rabaul POW camp from 29 April to 22 June 1942, during which time I frequently saw and spoke to Mr Oakes. Early on the morning of Sunday 22 June, the whole camp was roused and all the civilians and military personnel (except officers and eight civilians) were later marched out of camp. I saw Mr Oakes march out with them.

The Japanese told us that they were being taken to a ship [which was the Montevideo Maru]. Later we heard that they had left Rabaul and the Japanese report was that the ship had reached its destination, a journey supposed to be covered in 4 or 5 days.

None of us saw the prisoners march on to the ship because the camp was not visible from the water, but there is not the least doubt in any of our minds but that the men sailed on that day.

While I was in Japan a certain camp official Lieut Hosotani told certain prisoners that the ship carrying the Rabaul personnel had been sunk. (This was not official, nor was it public in the camp.)

From a personal standpoint, may I add that there has been no doubt in my mind that all those fellows have gone. It has been a grievous shock, especially when there has been so long a period of anxiety and uncertainty preceding it.

I knew Dan (as we called him) and can speak of the great help he was in a number of ways to his comrades. His health was good and his spirits of the most cheerful.

Please accept my sincerest sympathy. This has been a distressing affair, but we can be glad in knowing that the end must have been swift and clean, and they are now at rest. God be with you and yours.

Soon after he returned from captivity in Japan, John spent some time at Oxford in England and later he became chaplain at Royal Military College Duntroon.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and family members. Mary has asked that donations be made to the Montevideo Maru memorial fund instead of flowers at the funeral.

The fund's bank details are: Montevideo Maru Memorial Committee. BSB 082-401 A/c No 16-083-2367 [NAB, Neutral Bay NSW]. Could you please drop an email to the Committee here if you do make a donation in this way.

In what was to be his last contact with me in November, shortly before he became ill, John wrote:

“I have been talking about the forthcoming Montevideo Maru broadcast with Stan Cooper. He and I are the only Tasmanians left who were from Rabaul and ended up in Zentsuji POW camp in Japan.

“Otherwise there are only Lex Fraser in Ingham and Lorna Johnston in Auckland, who did not manage to escape Rabaul.”

Our heroes may be fading, but let’s keep their light shining.

Mermaid for Mermaid – Hal’s newest creation


Mermaid HAL HOLMAN, the most accomplished expatriate sculptor to create a body of work in PNG, has just created this magnificent body for Mermaid Beach in Queensland.

Hal, now pushing towards the venerable age of ninety, is still producing exciting work. Perhaps his most famous design was the PNG national crest, but his sculptures of the busts of all of the nation’s prime ministers since independence can’t be far behind.

Hal has been awarded The Order of Australia for services as a sculptor and designer and the Order of Logohu for distinguished service to PNG.

This service includes several large steel and bronze sculptures (preying mantis, frog, dragonfly) for the Port Moresby Botanical Gardens and a three-metre high bronze Bird of Paradise fountain at the University of PNG.

His most recent sculptures include an eight-metre high stainless steel Bird of Paradise on a roundabout on a six-lane highway in Port Moresby, and a one tonne steel version of the National Crest on the Supreme Court building in Waigani.

Among his other PNG works is a twice-life size bronze bust of Queen Elizabeth II, presented by Great Britain on the occasion of PNG’s Jubilee year of Independence and sited in the grounds of Government House in Port Moresby.

Hal_Somare Hal’s Sydney oeuvre includes a fifty-metre decorative steel fence in Centennial Park, Sydney, and a cast bronze bust of Filipino hero, Jose Rizal, presented to the City of Sydney by President Ramos.

Hal is available for private and public commissions. You can see more of his sculptures and obtain contact details for him here.

Ode to Madang: Yet another paradise lost?


Barry_Glen PRIME MINISTER Michael Somare of Papua New Guinea is ruling as a Mugabe like thug bent upon becoming a tinpot dictator….

On the bidding of Somare's increasingly despotic and erratic leadership, PNG’s natural assets are being sold off to invading Asian business interests - destroying rainforest, ocean, water and land - as well as the resource and ecosystem rich nation's future development potential.

Will one man - bigman Sana or not - single-handedly destroy Earth's third largest remaining contiguous old rainforest expanses?

Nowhere is this more evident than in Madang Province, which contains some of Earth's last remaining mostly intact tropical and marine ecosystems.

The ‘Jewel of the South Pacific’ includes large ancient rainforest tracts, huge tuna and other fisheries, and barely explored mineral deposits; as well as beautiful, loving and peaceful people.

Madang's rainforests and oceans feed and house all its citizens, regulate national and regional climatic patterns, and make the Earth habitable by providing global ecosystem services.

As Somare flits about in his new high-end private jet (who paid for that?) signing illicit business deals with Asian cartels and otherwise stealing Madang and the nation's resources (including attempts to corner nascent carbon markets), Madang and PNG's infrastructure including schools, hospitals, police and roads are in shambles….

Exactly 20 years ago I fell in love with Madang, its peoples and PNG as a Peace Corps volunteer. I married locally and for over a decade I worked as a PNG rainforest activist – helping stop many dodgy timber deals.

My tribe’s ancestral land lies in the Sogeram, the entry point to Ramu logging, and an area that has been partially logged.

Recently, on the basis of a hand-shake with German NGO Rettet den Regenwald (Rainforest Rescue), I had the opportunity to have my personal expenses covered to research the situation, and to find local and international campaign opportunities, as we visited and holidayed with family.

There have certainly been many adventures, successes and failures – some of which I will relate here.

You can read the complete article here.

* Dr Barry founded Ecological Internet and is an independent political ecologist, writer, computer specialist and technology researcher. He is committed to communicating the severity of global ecological crises.

Remember Rabaul; and the Coastwatchers

Jap_Marines_Rabaul EXACTLY 68 years ago - soon after midnight on Friday 23 January, 1942 - the 5300 strong Japanese South Seas Force invaded Rabaul.

Before midday, Australian military commander, Col JJ Scanlan, ordered “every man for himself” as Lark Force was overwhelmed. And so Rabaul fell.

While about 450 people escaped through New Britain, most troops and civilians surrendered. Some were quickly executed, including a massacre of 160 men at Tol and Waitavalo plantations.

Most of the rest were interned at camps in Rabaul. And the majority of these – 1053 troops and civilians – ended their lives drowned on the Montevideo Maru.

But some men stayed. By March 1942, Coastwatchers were positioned around the coast of PNG, adjacent islands and the Solomon Islands.

These men were kiaps, planters and regular soldiers. As they were operating in enemy held territory, they were all appointed to military rank. So they would not be treated as spies, but as prisoners of war.

As it turned out, the subtle difference of being a serving member in the Australian military or a civilian meant nothing to the Japanese and those who were caught were summarily executed.

Throughout the war, the Coastwatchers transmitted comprehensive and accurate information to the Director of Naval Intelligence. There was little the Allies didn’t know about the strength and location of the enemy.

Knowledge of the terrain in which they operated and the friendship and assistance of the local people were the essential elements needed for Coastwatchers to operate and evade Japanese patrols.

You can read here an encomium to this group of men, Thank God Such Men Lived, in Ken Wright’s latest contribution to PNG Attitude.

Kiaps can go no further without strategic shift


THERE'S A story in The Australian today (unfortunately not on its website) about the continuing pursuit by Chris Viner-Smith and colleagues of national recognition for kiaps.

A couple of pars from the story will give you some indication of the flavour:

Despite facing the threat of being beheaded, speared, shot with arrows or dying of hideous tropical diseases far from medical help, Australians who served as New Guinea patrol officers are to receive only the same honours as long-serving SES volunteers and ambulance officers….

Last year a group of former kiaps and their families lobbied the federal government for a medal to recognise their service – similar to that given to the Australian Federal police who serve overseas on peacekeeping duties.

In my view the kiaps have Buckley’s chance of getting an award on the basis of either the danger of their work or their policing role, and the government has indicated as much.

This was never a course that would have yielded the best result.

A more effective approach would have been emphasising kiaps' central role in nation-building, which encompassed a wide range of skills and functions (including policing) with the most important being those related to instilling structures of government and institution creation.

I also think the proponents of this campaign have made an error of judgement in using the 1953 murders of kiaps Gerald Szarka and Geoffrey Harris to leverage their claim.

Governments these days respond better to evidence-based argument than to emotional intensity.

The federal government will feel it has gone as far it intends to go in easing eligibility limitations so ex-kiaps can qualify for the award of the National Medal.

The call for greater recognition is unlikely to progress further unless the ex-kiaps present more compelling arguments based on their consummate work in building a nation.

In praise of an oil company: Chevron in Kutubu


I SEE A ray of hope in the way Chevron handled its oil drilling operation in Papua New Guinea.

Yes, you read that right. I'm about to praise Chevron Oil.

It should be no surprise that I don't sport a ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ sticker on my back bumper. I'm no fan of Big Oil.

But I realise we're going to be using petroleum products for a long time, so when an oil company does something right, I'm encouraged.

A Chevron oil drilling operation in New Guinea is described in Collapse by Jered Diamond.

Diamond has spent a great deal of time in New Guinea and is familiar with the obscene, flame-spewing, oil-spilling sites which are all too typical of drilling operations in the country.

But during the months he spent at this site, he saw something different.

Diamond went as a consultant with the World Wildlife Fund, which Chevron engaged “to prepare a large-scale integrated conservation and development project for the whole (Kikori River) watershed.”

The first time he flew over, Diamond was surprised to see an undisturbed expanse of rain forest and a thin stretch of roadway. The road, he found when he landed, was only 10 yards wide, just enough space for two vehicles to pass each other safely.

Diamond is a lifelong birder, and walking along the roadway, he saw bird species that usually can only be found in remote areas. They were practically tame, showing they had not developed a fear of humans. Hunting and fishing were strictly prohibited.

“In effect,” Diamond concluded, “the Kutubu oil field functions as by far the largest and most rigorously controlled national park in Papua New Guinea.”

You can read the complete article here.

Source: The Explorer Newspaper, Tucson, Arizona, 20 January 2010. Spotter: John Fowke

Fixing the land laws – PNG is on the right track


IN 1972 I was a dogsbody for the Commission of Enquiry into Land Matters.

The chairman was the venerable Sinaka Goava and Bill Welbourne was the secretary.

One of the main things that concerned the Commission was finding a way to free up customary land for economic development.

The eventual outcome was the passage of the Land Groups Incorporation Act in 1974.

The Act never really worked very well and led to a rash of indigenous land group registrations, particularly in the resource development area, and widespread rorting and monopolisation of the system.

Among other things there were no checks or verifications of land claims and many customary land owners were ripped off by their relatives and wantoks.

In 2005, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Lands, Sir Puka Temu, held a National Land Summit. Out of that came a National Land Development Task Force which reported in early 2007.

Then in March last year, the recommendations of the task force were incorporated in two new Acts which amended the wonky 1974 version.

The new Acts introduce stricter governance and transparency rules for indigenous land groups, including mandatory reporting and the inclusion of women on management committees.

The Acts also replace the reliance on dodgy genealogies to support land claims with a system which uses official birth certificates.

The aims of the amendments are to make it easier to use customary land for economic purposes and to spread the benefits to all customary land owners so it is not monopolised by a greedy few.

It is hoped the amendments, by providing greater security of tenure, will also unlock the vast economic potential of customary land.

The government describes the amendments as one of the first small steps towards reforms in customary land tenure.

Despite all the hard work, the outcomes of the original Commission of Enquiry into Land Matters never seemed to me to be particularly satisfactory.

I always thought the overseas consultants had too much to say and the PNG commissioners too little.

Hopefully these new steps will begin altering that perception.

Congratulations, starting with Sir Puka Temu, are in order. To me it smacks of good governance.

PNG police should consider Neighbourhood Watch


IN THE Post-Courier today there’s a good example of public spirited self help.

Local police were complimented on the effect their public patrolling of Lae was having on reducing urban crime. The writer, however, still had to band together with others and defend a young person against thugs who were trying to rob her.

So is putting your life on the line the only way to stop urban crime? At the moment, the answer might appear to be 'Yes!' But there is a better way.

Creating a Neighbourhood Watch program, or some other organised arrangement between public and police, needs to be investigated.

Members of the public cleared by police can then go about helping their community reduce personal assaults and petty crime. Standing up for public decency and reporting criminals to police without having to physically engage is an effective way of assisting police.

Effectively organised, People Power can work wonders.

If each suburb and settlement had a Neighbourhood Watch program that wase the eyes and ears of the police, this intelligence could well help reduce urban crime.

It will also make law-abiding citizens aware of how they can assist with their own security. Reports of modus opperandi or details of local crime can also help people become more aware of how they can help themselves.

While some people will always try to use a system to their own advantage, the overall benefits of Neighbourhood Watch in PNG cities might be worthwhile.

The RPNGC could help themselves as well as the public by becoming more proactive rather than just reactive.

PM undecided on fate of unwanted Mr Tiensten

SIR MICHAEL Somare has not responded to demands for the sacking of National Planning Minister Paul Tiensten.

The New Guinea Islands parliamentary wing of the governing National Alliance Party met with Sir Michael following its expulsion of Mr Tiensten from the National Alliance in their region.

Mr Tiensten is the Member for Pomio Open in East New Britain, where nullification of his NA membership was initiated.

The NA branch there and the national president Simon Kaiwi have refused to offer detailed grounds for Mr Tiensten’s sacking but it is understood they centre on allegedly unaccounted use and one-sided payments of public project funds in the province.

Amongst other matters, there has been recent public controversy, reported in PNG Attitude, about funds deployed to the upgrading of Keravat National High School.

Mr Tiensten has powerful support in the Somare Cabinet and the PNG Post-Courier was told “Sir Michael could not immediately reach a decision.”

The litigious Peter Yama strikes again


AAP - A CONTROVERSIAL PNG businessman denies that intimidation is behind the detaining of two Australian bankers in Port Moresby but says more arrests may be imminent.

Robin Fleming and John Maddison, senior executives of Bank South Pacific (BSP), are on bail after being charged under PNG law with ‘conspiring to defeat the course of justice.’

Former government minister Peter Yama last month won K7.6 million ($3 million) in a legal battle against a motor vehicle insurance company, but BSP moved to secure the money, claiming Mr Yama had millions in outstanding loans.

Mr Yama, a former police officer and serial litigator, told AAP that BSP, their lawyers and two employees tried to defraud him because of a vendetta dating back to 2001.

"I was the main man against the sale of the bank in 2001, I called an inquiry against the bank (now BSP)," he said.

"No (it's not intimidation), they are arrested because it's very clear they have defrauded me. The law is on my side, I will beat them. I win every case.

"I owe BSP nothing, I told the court, I owe them nothing. While we are talking a few prominent lawyers will be charged."

Mr Yama said he expected another Australian, James Kruse, a Deloitte senior accountant, to be arrested.

"We will be monitoring the court proceedings closely," an Australian Foreign Affairs spokesperson said.

It’s not the first time individuals in a court case with Mr Yama have ended up in jail. Last year and in 2008, New Zealand-born lawyer Erik Anderson was twice arrested on fraud charges after BSP paid him from money the bank recouped from Yama's account.

Collecting culture: an aversion to taim bipo


Phil IN LATE DECEMBER 1968, Graeme Pretty from the South Australian Museum went to the Southern Highlands with a bag of money and bought over 800 artifacts.

He was accompanied by Tony Crawford, who was later instrumental in reviving the distinct carving traditions of the Gogodala people in the Western Province.

Tony wrote and illustrated a lavish book about the Gogodala called Aida and went on to work for Robert Brown and Associates and later his own publishing company, Crawford House, producing many fine books on PNG and the Pacific.

Graeme Pretty had money from the Australian Arts Board and the support of Chief Justice Sir Alan Mann, who was also chairman of the board of directors of the fledgling PNG Museum.

Des Clancy, the District Commissioner of the Southern Highlands, had colluded with Tony Crawford a year earlier to get the ball rolling. Graeme had been impressed by a collection donated to the South Australian Museum over a number of years from Menyamya and Yaramanda by Pastor Harold Freund.

Graeme and Alan Mann split the collection in half and shared it between the two museums. Graeme’s professed aim and the deal he had with Alan Mann was to collect two of everything made and used traditionally by the Mendi and at Tari people.

Following Freund’s example he wasn’t just after your usual bows and arrows and axes but also all the mundane things of everyday life.  He said he wanted to capture the material culture of the Mendi and Tari before it was swept away. 

He said the world was quickly becoming homogenized and often alluded to the spread of men in grey flannel suits. He thought the material culture of the unspoiled Mendi and Tari was worth collecting because it was so different.

I met Tony at Balimo in 1971 when he was working with the Gogodala carvers, showing them pictures of their old carvings and upsetting the local missionaries in the process. Graeme showed up a bit later when the retrieval of bodies from a crashed plane north towards Nomad showed up a cluster of longhouses belonging to a yet uncontacted group of Kamusi people. 

I think meeting Tony and Graeme was probably what got me interested in anthropology and accounted for the many frustrated years I spent working in Aboriginal heritage and native title.

Some years ago I spent several happy months working with a sprightly 94 year old Pastor Freund documenting his collection and, after Graeme died (at a relatively early age), I moved on to documenting his collections from 1968-69. I’m still at it – Graeme had terrible handwriting and spoke and wrote a particularly fractured Tok Pisin.

Graeme and his PNG collecting eventually had the rug pulled out from under it by Gough Whitlam, or more particularly Nugget Combs, who was hell bent on spending the money exploring his weird ideas about Aboriginal trackers and setting up an institute for the purpose. 

To their credit the staff of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies has subverted Nugget’s ideas into a creditable and valuable national treasure. Graeme had little choice but to go with the flow and never made any more large collections in PNG.

As I try to decipher Graeme’s many field notebooks and sort through his hundreds of photographs I often wonder why people and museums love collecting other people’s stuff.

If you’ve ever pulled a putrid set of cassowary claws hung on a moldy piece of cane that has been sitting untouched in a box in a suburban warehouse for forty odd years these sorts of thoughts are bound to arise.

Buying the odd fine axe or bow and arrow to hang on the wall I can understand, but mountains of it stored in boxes that nobody ever sees is, to me, slightly strange. Did you know the South Australian Museum is reputed to have 23 million stone chips picked up off Aboriginal campsites?

The people in Mendi and especially Tari certainly didn’t share Graeme’s vision. To the Tari, once they’d seen their first trade store goods, their own material culture was just junk. They even gave some of it to Graeme free. In fact, once they’d seen what the white man had they were positively ashamed of their own stuff.

This shame thing still exists. I once spent some time with a dedicated little band of people in the tiny museum on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Every piece of traditional material culture there was either destroyed by the missionaries or carted off to foreign museums.

All they’ve got are a few things made recently by people who vaguely remember how it was made in the old days. Do you think they can get anyone else on the island interested, no way, they just don’t care?

The PNG Museum, tucked out of sight at Waigani just past Parliament House, suffers from the same syndrome. Talk to the staff in their damp and stuffy offices and the story is the same.

There is a distinct lack of interest, even an aversion, to things from the taim bipo. If and when I finally get to look at the half of Graeme’s collection left there I suspect the four hundred odd artifacts will be out the back somewhere covered in mould.

The only good artifact is the one you can sell to the tourists or mass produce for the dealers. Mind you, there’s plenty of pride in the craftsmanship, just no interest in museums.

Maybe, like John Fowke avers, it will all come when there is a large middle class in PNG. An Institute of Papua New Guinea Cultural Studies may have to wait.

Bob McMullan quits as Australia’s aid supremo


McMullan_Bob ANOTHER SENIOR Australian politician with strong PNG and Pacific Island links is to quit politics.

Parliamentary Secretary for International Development Assistance, Bob McMullan, announced last night he will retire from politics at the federal election later this year.

He says he will look for a new career in the international development area.

McMullan, 62, was national secretary of the Australian Labor Party from 1981-88 before becoming a senator for the Australian Capital Territory (1988-96).

He switched to the House of Representatives and held several ministerial positions including trade and administration services.

He says he’s found over recent months that his enthusiasm is moving more towards the issues of international development, especially global poverty, that he’s been dealing with in his job as parliamentary secretary.

In November, Duncan Kerr resigned as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs to concentrate on a legal career in Tasmania. No replacement has been announced.

Comment by Keith Jackson ...

When the Rudd government was elected in late 2007, Bob McMullan missed out on a ministerial appointment, and was clearly disappointed by this.

It must be said his stewardship of Australia’s aid program was less than distinguished. In 2009, AusAID’s performance was the object of serious criticism not only from the Auditor-General and a Parliamentary committee but, by implication, from the prime minister himself.

The departure of both Kerr and McMullan within such a short period of time provides Kevin Rudd with the opportunity of a total revamp and renewal of two critical elements of the Foreign Affairs portfolio. He's taking his time getting there.

Autonomy? Bougainville political pace quickens


AT A CEREMONY at Anganai village near Kieta on Friday, Bougainville president James Tanis said there was “no doubt” the Autonomous Province will become an independent nation.

Mr Tanis expressed confidence that the people of Bougainville will vote ‘yes’ to independence whenever a referendum is held. Not before 2015 is the agreed timeframe.

The reconciliation ceremony was one of many being held throughout the island right now to expunge the enmities resulting from a civil war in which 20,000 Bougainvilleans died.

Bougainville faces an election for a new parliament and president in March, and Mr Tanis knows what many of his people want to hear - a call for autonomy.

And, conscious that he became president by default – his predecessor Joseph Kabui died in office in June 2008, Mr Tanis emphasised the importance of continuity in government and said his leadership should be judged by how much he has accomplished in a short time.

A week ago, an opposition party, the New Bougainville Party, was reconstituted in Buka. It will be led by PNG’s ambassador to China, John Momis.

“Ambassador Momis will definitely contest the presidency, with the party contesting all seats in Bougainville,” NBP official Linus Sahoto said.

“The Party, under the leadership of John Momis, if elected to power will pursue the development of Bougainville bringing about changes to the current stagnation,” he said.

Bougainville must move forward and be counted amongst the developed regions of the Pacific.

“We have no reason to remain divided and underdeveloped, for we have the capacity and resources to develop Bougainville the way we want at our own pace,” he said.

Meanwhile, a prominent Bougainvillean, Patrick Heromate, has said Bougainville’s journey towards autonomy is unclear and that there are big questions for people and government to answer.

Mr Heromate says funds worth millions of kina pumped into Bougainville’s economy have disappeared, leaving many development projects incomplete.

“Millions have been lost and Bougainville must change its dealings with the spending of funds,” he said.

“We have just turned the page into another new year and if our leaders continue to spend money and resources like this, the people will suffer.”

Mr Eromate said public order issues were on the rise and that law enforcement officers needed to step up their efforts in fighting crime.

He also called on leaders to address weapons disposal, saying guns are still being used in some parts of Bougainville.

He said the people and leaders must not turn a blind eye on the problems and that Bougainville has a long way to go before it is ready for any referendum on independence.

Archive display features loss of Montevideo Maru


THE WW2 SINKING of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of 1,053 Allied prisoners is featured in a major display at the National Archives in Canberra.

The display, Memory of a Nation, traces events and decisions that have shaped Australia and the lives of its people.

The Montevideo Maru, en route from Rabaul to Hainan, was torpedoed off the Philippines on 1 July 1942 by the American submarine Sturgeon.

The display includes an extract from the nominal roll of prisoners, a plan of the ship, details from the submarine’s log and a photograph of a memorial service in Rabaul on the fourth anniversary of the sinking.

There’s also a Territory of New Guinea ‘Form of Information of Death’ relating to Ernest Charles Bye, 60, a master mariner, who’d been in Rabaul for 18 months before the Japanese invasion.

The informant, his daughter Joan, a schoolteacher in Queensland, stated on 6 April 1946 that her father had been lost when the Montevideo Maru was sunk.

A ‘Military Service & Casualty Form’ lists Gunner John Eshott Carr, who turned 20 just before the ship left Rabaul, as “missing”. In late 1945 this was changed to “believed dead”.

The display will run until 30 May. Admission is free.

Image of Montevideo Maru II comes to light



IT IS THE Montevideo Maru as you’ve never seen it before.

This is a wonderful composition and is almost certainly of a motor vessel built around 1956 as the successor to the first Montevideo Maru.

The negative came to light on eBay and was purchased by James Hook, a ministerial adviser with the Northern Territory government. Palm Photographics of Darwin went to work on the negative and came up with this stunning image.

James has identified the bridge in the background as the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The first Montevideo Maru was a passenger vessel. This successor is a freighter.

Business ponders penetration of organised crime

THE PORT Moresby Chamber of Commerce has expressed disgust at the escape of 12 prisoners, including cop killer William Kapris, from the maximum security division at Bomana Gaol.

It has been revealed that the escape involved a suspended warder who was involved in a previous escape by Kapris from Port Moresby General Hospital in 2008.

The Chamber of Commerce says heads must roll over the rash of escapes from PNG’s major prisons. It noted that 140 prisoners had escaped from prisons around the country in recent times.

“There are too many nagging questions about this incident, ”said a spokesman for the Chamber, “which makes us wonder how far organised crime has permeated into the higher ranks of our society.”

He said a cleanup of Corrective Services was required and urged the government to act immediately and suspend those responsible.

Several unnamed senior officers from Corrective Services said the department was “a family company” and “rotten with corruption.”

Source: ‘Suspended CS officer helps out in the great escape’ by Mohammad Bashir, PNG Post-Courier, Friday 15 January

A year since New Dawn’s voice first heard


Banner IT’S ONE YEAR since Bougainville’s pioneering community radio station, New Dawn FM, was officially launched.

The station had started test transmissions in April 2008 but two months later its transmitter was destroyed by a cyclone. It was not back testing until November and, broadcasting on full power, was formally launched in January 2009.

A companion news website, New Dawn On Bougainville, which you can link to here was established in March 2009 and is still going strong as the most comprehensive and regular source of news and information from the autonomous province.

Office & Studio Now, New Dawn is about to move into permanent accommodation in Buka with the completion of new studios and offices [right].

“Our new building is about complete and we should move to the new building by the end of this month,” says station manager, Aloysius Laukai.

“Also Telikom is introducing a new high speed internet service (hope it will work).

“The University of Queensland is interested in doing a pilot project on climate change with us this year.

“A lot of people are watching the New Dawn FM website and we have been getting very good comments from people all over the globe.”

This year is a big one for Bougainville – there will be elections for a president and for a new provincial government, which will be instrumental in determining the political climate for a referendum on independence due in 2015.

New Dawn FM, which won the University of Queensland’s 2009 Communication and Social Change Award, will cover these events, as well as economic developments on the troubled island.

The big political and economic question, of course, is whether mining will resume in the province. Mining triggered the secessionist uprising which led to the deaths of 20,000 people in the 1980s but its resumption represents probably the only way that Bougainville can achieve viable nationhood, if that is what the people choose.

Malum Nalu pays tribute to Captain Cautious


MEDICS HAVE A rule of thumb by which they assess the severity of burns.

They add your age to the extent of the burns. You’re 60, 40 percent of your body is burned – that’s 100. That, and anything above it, is considered highly likely to result in death.

So when Richard Leahy, 67, suffered burns to 47% of his body, as well as a fractured spine, in late December’s Baindoang plane crash that killed his six passengers, his survival was very much in question.

Mr Leahy – the Captain Cautious of PNG aviation - continues to be treated in Royal Brisbane Hospital.

But this didn’t stop Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, launching a most intemperate attack on him.

Now Malum Nalu, who publishes PNG’s 2009 Blog of the Year, has written a colourful article on Leahy including what Malum calls “that unfair criticism of him by our useless Morobe Governor Luther Wenge.”

You can read the full article here, but first an extract…

Mr Leahy lived on a wing and a prayer, an unsung hero who in his own quite little way, brought about so much development to rural PNG, flying into places where only eagles dare.

This is why Morobe Governor Luther Wenge’s attack on the aging Australian aviator, who calls PNG home, has opened up a hornet’s nest in both PNG and Australia.

Newspaper pages and the internet have been running hot since Mr Wenge – who lost close relatives in the crash - said Mr Mr Leahy should be charged with manslaughter and deported from the country.

Among these is John Pasquarelli, legendary Sepik River crocodile hunter, member of the first house of assembly in 1964, founder of Pauline Hanson’s infamous One Nation Party in Australia, and now artist and political commentator – who has often been called a “racist”.

“Malum, if I'm a racist then this Wenge is the king of the castle!”he told me in typical dry Australian style.

“I hope Wenge is not a relly of yours mate!”

Prime Minister says PNG jails are out of control

FOLLOWING a mass escape of hardened criminals from the maximum security area of Bomana Prison this week, Sir Michael Somare has said the PNG correctional service command has lost control, Ilya Gridneff has reported for AAP.

Tuesday's well planned mass jail breakout saw twelve of PNG's toughest criminals, including the notorious police killer William Kapris, on the loose. None has been recaptured.

Gridneff reports that PNG has been plagued by mass prison breakouts due to lax security, corruption, a lack of political will and pay disputes.

"The command is not in control," Sir Michael said. “It's gone a bit loose. (But) it's an internal matter for the correctional services.

“We are concerned that it happened. It's the third time it has happened to us but the first time (in) the maximum security area," he said.

A frustrated Correctional Services Commissioner Richard Sikani told Gridneff: “We just don't have the funding to do our job. If the government was serious about law and order they would give us the money we need.”

The Kerevat High rehab that just went wrong


IT WAS a plaintive letter to PNG Attitude.

It read in part: “I'm often too scared of libel to write what I see is the truth in matters like this. I'm sure with your journalism skills you will know how you can state the problem publicly and get away with it.”

Nothing motivates PNG Attitude more than a challenge and a risk – and a compliment.

Classroom The subject: whether or not K7 million budgeted for the upgrade of Keravat National High School to full operational condition was fully and properly expended. At left, you can see a recent photograph of a classroom at Kerevat.

As it happened, another correspondent, who is a former Keravat student, chimed in, asking a simple question: “What has gone wrong?”

Which he answered himself, like this.

“Lending organisations all over the world give large loans to support the [PNG] government's infrastructure building projects. Most of the funds for these types of projects are given to Members of Parliament to award to people they ‘think’ can do the job.

“Most of the time, the contracts are awarded to their supporters or their own businesses run by family members or cronies (you know what I mean).

“Many of these businesses do not have experience in the type of contract they have been offered. And no one really keeps an eye on whether the job has been completed before payment is approved.

“But when the Minister breathes down your neck to release his money, I'm sure any junior public servant will just shake in his boots and give him his cheque!”

The ex-student then made a final and telling point: “Members of Parliament need to be made more accountable in handling public money.” Correct!

Meanwhile, the East New Britain provincial administration commissioned an independent assessment of the rehabilitation work on Kerevat High following a public outcry that the K7 million project did not seem to be, well, happening.

Provincial administrator Akuila Tubal said: “I am worried that the school will not be ready for the new academic year” and school council chairman, Ronnie Ilam, blamed the contractor for not completing required tasks.

Enter SWT Contractors managing director, Eremas Wartoto, who begged to differ. “The refurbished dormitories are as good as those in universities,” he said, not altogether relevantly, before adding that the contract covered dormitories, water and sewerage systems, not classrooms.

Ceiling Asked if the K7 million might have done something to address deteriorating classrooms, Mr Wartoto said: “Contracts were given accordingly to job scopes awarded by the Central Supply and Tenders Board. Proper procedures were followed.”

That’s it then. There’s clearly no good reason for readers to disagree with this man’s assessment.

At about the same time, and with a hazy connection to the foregoing, PNG's Minister for National Planning and MP for Pomio, Paul Tiensten, was sacked as a member of the governing National Alliance Party by his East New Britain party branch.

Mr Tiensten, who had just arrived back from an important trip to Brisbane, was said to be shocked by the news. “These are the work of desperate power hungry people who use cowardice tactics to pursue personal interest,” he said.

Which somehow explained it all.

The press reported that it was the first time in PNG’s short political history that a party branch sacked a senior politician. For his part, Mr Tiensten said his expulsion was regrettable, as new developments were taking place in the province.

Unfortunately, one of those developments did not seem to be Kerevat National High.

Fortunately for Mr Tientsin, his position in national politics is safe. The local party branch was overruled.

Unfortunately, that K7 million didn’t seem to buy very much improvement at Keravat.

Sir Thomas Ritako of New Ireland, and others

PETER COMERFORD has provided the sad information that Sir Thomas Ritako has died.

“I have heard that he was laid to rest last week,” writes Peter.

“He died of a brain tumour, I am led to believe. “I am assuming he was buried in Mangai village in New Ireland.”

An anonymous writer in Viewpoints in the PNG Post-Courier has written some fine words about Tom and a number of other PNG greats who died recently.

“A handful of deaths have hit hard at the emotions of a lot of people who knew the people involved and know what a loss they will be, personally and to the nation," wrote Mr Viewpoints.

“We speak of businessman and sports administrator Henry Kila, sports star and administrator Florence Bundu, longtime public servant Sir Thomas Ritako, aviation pioneer Nat Koleala and quirky and humane politician James Mopio.

“These five people all made their contributions to life in Papua New Guinea in their own spheres and in their own ways, but the net result was a big profit to the nation.

“Each of these people had made their mark in society. They had the common marker of having come up through the colonial times and then the fresh, emotion-filled years of early independence.

“It was a time of opportunity and an era of challenge. These people were given the chance to succeed, grasped their opportunities firmly and made something of those avenues. Politics, business, sports and public service were affected by this group of people.

Is there anyone amongst our readers who can offer PNG Attitude the information to provide a full obituary for Tom Ritako, a faithful servant of PNG. If you can, please email us here.

Hillary cancels because of Haiti emergency

US SECRETARY of State, Hillary Clinton, this morning postponed her visit to PNG, New Zealand and Australia.

Mrs Clinton has flown back to Washington from Hawai'i to oversee the response to the Haitian earthquake, estimated to have killed around 100,000 people.

No new date has yet been announced for her visit to the South Pacific.

Understand that PNG moves along a difficult path


WHILST 99% of what Paul Oates’ writes is very well-informed and very well-put, one can't help but wonder why "a few hundred kiaps" and their toil - and subsequent alleged travail - engender repetitive reference and a pervading air of bitterness.

The day of the kiaps is generally revered among ordinary village-dwelling Papua New Guineans and among much of the urban middle-class of educated people, even though there have always been critics within the academic and political worlds.

Somare himself may have spoken dismissively of the "age of white kiaps" in years gone by. But such is the way of leaders of newly-independent colonies.

The decline of the "kiap system" as such, pre-dates Somare's rise to prominence, beginning with the enforcement under Chief Justice Sir Allan Mann of the "separation of powers" ideal. Something which realistically had to happen.

Be assured, the kiap legacy is positive, alive and well, in PNG, even if the beer-and-barbecue-based consumer society we have allowed to arise in Oz over the past fifty years has no interest at all in PNG, let alone the record of a few hundred Australian public servants more than 34 years ago.

So let’s abandon this irritating recurring reference to the age of the kiap and the sadness and frustration of being relegated to being yesterday's men; the constant and wearisome carping criticism of what is going on now in this land we have all been in love with at some time in our lives.

We don’t see similar comment from ex-E-Course chalkies, for instance, who as idealistic and often wet-behind-the ears young men from all sorts of walks of life were dumped in villages in a generally much more isolated and challenging environment than Cadet Patrol Officers faced in their first term.

These are men who might express just as much frustration about the state of things in PNG today as one or two ex-kiaps do.

Of course, chalkies were not, for instance, lower court magistrates, as I was at age 22, manning a one-man patrol-post in the middle of one of the world's larger swamps. But what they were involved in - a specialist or single-mission role - was very important.

Their psychology was necessarily a bit different from ours, and maybe they are more tolerant of what they read and hear about PNG today as a consequence. But they were there, out in Woop-Woop, coping and working with an ideal in mind, just as almost all field-based Aussie officers were.

I think by far the great majority of ex-kiaps are realistic enough to understand that you don’t give a thousands-years-old multi-tribal society the benefit of some 30 years of training to enter a world which it only began to understand during World War II.

You just can’t expect it to be an up-and-running, modern, western-style society in that time.

Australians, Paul included, need to understand that PNG moves along a very difficult path, despite all the help it has received, and continues to receive, from Australia and others.

The end of this road lies far enough in the future that none of us PNG Attituders will be here to see it.

A perspective from where I sit now

Evolution and the spread of innovation has brought me to type this article on an internet-enabled computer.

But my distant Celtic/Pictish MagAodh (later McKee) tribal ancestors - who murdered and ate their male enemies, who married the terrified women, who were tattooed all over, and who ultimately became founders of what we now know as Scotland - were in a state of small-tribe semi-anarchy when the Romans colonised Britain.

These tribes resisted the advance of civilisation for several centuries after the construction of Hadrian's famous wall (built to keep them out of Roman Britain) and the tentative approaches of Christian missionaries like St Columba.

So do give PNG's digitally-enabled generation of leaders and the educated middle-class, which is largely the product of Australian assistance, a generation or two more, at least.

It has encountered and is weathering a transformation of society, the nitty-gritty of which we are very hard put to fully understand. And these people deserve our admiration and our ongoing assistance, even though this may be accompanied by periods of frustration.

The problems of coping with the gas-and-minerals decade to come, and the entry of vast numbers of Asian workers in addition to those tens of thousands already there, are huge indeed.

As a society PNG is well aware of the shortcomings of the current politico-fiscal-administrative regime. Constructive assistance is needed, not the carping criticism which has become wearisome on this and other PNG blogs.

As for Somare and the kiaps, obviously many kiaps left PNG both before and shortly after independence. This was not because they were forced out by Somare or anyone else. It was a response to changing times and the altered environment, and to the offer of a career compensation package known as "the golden handshake."

Quite a number of men stayed on for many years, doing valuable work for which they are remembered in PNG. These men had to accommodate the obvious major changes in methods and the philosophy of management which emerged in accord with the rise of local officers to the most senior positions.

They did so, and were successful, and useful and positive. And they were not discriminated against by Somare or anyone else. They finally left of their own choice, or for reason of health, as late as in the mid-1990s.

One, Graham Tuck, only recently retired from the PNG public service at the end of 40 years continuous work, most recently in the area of Local Level Government policy and training.

Graham now works with another ex-kiap, Sir Barry Holloway, as a policy and program adviser attached to the Public Service Reform Advisory Group, a government-funded, detached organisation which is working at getting through to politicians on all the issues we on PNG Attitude so often feel disappointed or aggrieved about.

Sir Barry and Graham are among those in PNG who will welcome any help they can get from anyone who has a practical, and importantly a practicable, idea to contribute to their mission.

The ‘Hillary effect’ is about to hit PNG


Images US SECRETARY of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will meet PNG leaders tomorrow, is seen by many as a globetrotting champion of women’s rights.

Mrs Clinton, 62, is especially well-known because of her period as America’s first lady. She’s had many ‘firsts’ in her lifetime as a student, lawyer, academic, and politician.

Three years ago, she strove for another first – to be the first female president of the USA.

After a vigorous campaign, she conceded her nomination when it became apparent that nominee Barack Obama held a majority of the delegate vote. 

President Obama nominated her to become Secretary of State (Foreign Minister). Her appointment was officially approved by the US Senate almost 12 months ago on 21 January 2009.

Since her appointment there’s been an increase in the number of top US diplomats who are women. In Washington this is known as the ‘Hillary effect’.

It will be interesting to see whether the ‘Hillary effect’ works in her talks with PNG’s largely male leadership (there’s only one woman, Dame Carol Kidu), especially on issues relating to women.

The Fiji example – what lessons for Somare?


THE REAL issue concerning Australia and New Zealand over Fiji is one of legitimacy.

Without being freely elected in a transparent election process, any leader who assumes political power sets an example for the future and therefore a potential threat to other leaders.

Frank Bainimarama has not been elected, yet he is being accorded legitimacy by people like Michael Somare on the claimed rationale of Melanesian brotherhood.

Yet if Somare really thought about it, he might see that he could be supporting the seeds of his own undoing. What if the PNGDF decided that if it’s OK for Fiji, why not us? A scenario that’s almost surfaced a couple of times in the past.

The issues that led to the current impasse in Fiji should not be overlooked.

When the Colonial Sugar Refinery wanted workers to cut sugar cane, the local Fiji people weren't all that enthusiastic. Why should they be? They were perfectly happy before the sugar industry arrived and they owned their land.

The sugar industry then imported foreign workers from the Indian sub continent. Over the last century, Indian workers settled and raised their families as Indian Fijians. When the number of Indian Fijians reached numerical parity with ethnic Fijians, problems emerged.

The Indians were accused of dominating business. When an Indian Fijian was elected Prime Minister, the issue boiled over and Fiji has not been politically stable since.

In the neighbouring Solomon Islands, a similar situation existed. During World War II, the US imported labourers from the neighbouring island of Malaita to work on Guadalcanal. After the US juggernaut moved on, the Malaitans settled and eventually population pressures threatened the original Guadalcanal people.

To make matters more intense, expatriate Chinese business owners were seen as excluding the local people from business opportunities and the result is the uneasy situation that still prevails.

At the start of the civil unrest, the Chinese government paid for planeloads of Chinese expatriates to be airlifted out of the Solomons.

In Timor Leste, the Portuguese threw their hands in the air and allowed the Indonesians to take over what had never been Indonesian territory before. Suddenly the people were confronted with a culture and language they had not had to cope with and after 30 years of oppression, were offered a chance to form their own country, which they grasped with open hands.

The fact that Australia, as part of the UN initiative, allowed the Portuguese émigrés to take over and become the new task masters was a travesty of ignorance.

West Papua is another example where the UN, along with the US in its infinite wisdom, allowed the ethnic Papuan people to be taken over by a totally different culture. The resulting civil unrest has continued for 40 years.

Vanuatu has had an insurrection and, although short lived, it required the interference of foreign troops.

So can any democratically elected government and leader stand back and meekly accept a military takeover of a nearby country? At their own peril one might think, yet it doesn't seem to worry Michael Somare in the least.

Should he be concerned if illegal foreign workers pour into PNG and start small businesses?

One can't help wondering why a few hundred kiaps were such a problem for Somare at independence? But those kiaps simply obeyed their PNG masters and packed up and left when asked to.

New high commissioner has PNG background


Head AUSTRALIA has just announced its new high commissioner to PNG. He is Ian Ferguson Kemish AM, who spent several years as a schoolboy in Port Moresby.

Ian Kemish, 46, was born in England but went to PNG at a very young age. His father Len worked for Elcom in the 1960s and early 1970s and was a commissioned officer in the PNGVR serving in Lae, Rabaul and Port Moresby.

Mr Kemish holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Queensland and a Diploma of Education. He was a schoolteacher before joining the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1988.

Fluent in Tok Pisin, Indonesian and German, Kemish served at Australian diplomatic missions in Vienna, Bander Seri Begawan and recently was Australian Ambassador to Germany.

He’s also worked on secondment to the New Zealand Ministry of External Relations as desk officer PNG/Vanuatu/Solomon Islands, and as head of the international division in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra.

He was made a Member of the Order of Australia for managing the Australian government’s response in the aftermath of the 2002 Bali bombings.

Ian is married to Roxanne, and the couple have two daughters aged 22 and 18. He will take up his posting in Port Moresby next month.

Note to Hillary: PNG’s govt has failed its people


With Hillary Clinton about to visit my country, does she know that the cries of Papua New Guineans go unheard?

Past trends show that PNG’s current political regime will not drastically change its poor governance. It is now up to the next new leadership and government.

PNG desperately needs a new progressive government after the 2012 elections, one that will totally transform the country.

Since independence, government policies have not regularly being reviewed, updated and broadened. The next PNG government must have a sound development strategy with two overriding goals: greater participation by the people, and sustainable development.

PNG needs a revolution in political affairs. It must change its political landscape. Every citizen and government must work together for a better country.

A fresh leader with a new political message to inspire PNG is also required.

Today PNG faces very serious national challenges; its performance in the past twenty years has been dismal.

The country is disunited. There is high unemployment, serious crime, social and political instability, serious health and environmental challenges, a decrepit health care system and rapid urbanization.

Papua New Guineans are simply fed up with their government’s performance. Its central agencies are inefficient. Their output has failed to meet people’s expectations.

The people want to see a progressive and transformational government. A government with a sound plan and clear strategies targeting critical areas, to totally transform PNG into a prosperous, progressive and united country.

PNG needs a responsive and responsible government with the right plan and a new leadership approach to bring about major change.

The people of PNG desperately wants a caring government with sound policy strategies to target key areas that will grow the economy, create jobs and give full government support to small businesses.

Do we have political parties out there listening to the cries of Papua New Guineans? Do we have any MP and other aspiring politician prepared to take up this future challenge and field a good prime minister for PNG?

Porous northern border invites Papuan refugees


AN INTERESTING window was recently opened on Indonesian Papua.

Despite a virtual news blackout on anything contentious, an article in the PNG National revealed that the OPM (West Papua Movement) insurrection is still alive and kicking, nearly 38 years after the Indonesian invasion and takeover of West Papua.

Hundreds of PNG nationals and the Sandaun administrator were in attendance at a trade fair on the Indonesian side of the border when shooting started and three Indonesians were shot at point-blank range, one killed instantly and the other two seriously wounded.

That’s a shocking incident but it says a lot about perseverance, given that many, young West Papuan people would not have been around when there country was forcibly invaded and taken over.

Given the large influx of Javanese and other Indonesian resettlements in an attempt to muddy the water (the transmigrasi program), it seems that West Papua is still a running sore that both Australia and PNG would rather ignore. We have already had one refugee boat arriving from West Papua and the possibility that more could arrive can't be ruled out.

In East Timor, even after 26 years of Indonesian occupation, the people wanted self determination. Nearly 200,000 Timorese were killed in that time of a total population of 600,000. One wonders what the statistics for West Papua might be if someone was allowed to assemble them.

Given the porous nature of Australia’s northern border, we should perhaps await further developments if the Indonesian government should ever look like succeeding in its efforts to stamp out the OPM rebels.

Clinton PNG visit likely to include China talks


Images ONE OF the world’s best known politicians, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, will visit PNG on Thursday.

While no details of her movements have been being released in Australia, according to the US State Department her visit to Port Moresby is to discuss the environment and women's issues in PNG.

Observers say it's likely that China's increasing presence and interest in the Pacific Islands will also be raised, along with issues such as the HIV AIDS pandemic in PNG and global warming.

Mrs Clinton will be joined later by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates for a visit to Australia and New Zealand.

The aim is to further cement relations with two key Pacific allies in a region overshadowed by the rise of China.

Clinton and Gates will take part in regular ministerial consultations with their Australian counterparts from January 17-19 in Canberra and Melbourne.

In Honolulu tomorrow, Mrs Clinton will deliver a policy speech on US engagement in the Asia-Pacific region.

New defence commander has a big task ahead


Agwi_Francis THE PNG Defence Force has a new Commander and General.

Infantry Colonel Francis Agwi [right], former Chief of Defence Intelligence, replaces Commodore Peter Ilau, who served from 2001–09.

Cabinet also appointed another senior infantry officer Colonel Tokam Kanene as chief of staff to the commander.

Colonel Kanene, from Simbu, is presently defence advisor at the PNG Embassy in Jakarta.

The changes saw the former commander and chief of staff, both from the Navy, replaced by two Army officers.

Rumours have been circulating within the defence community about the criteria used by Cabinet in arriving at these decisions.

Former commander Ilau was appointed as Defence Commander in October 2001 by the then new Morauta government. Commodore Ilau was directed to cull force manpower to 2,000 under a very controversial reduction program.

What followed was a debacle and disgrace to loyal servicemen, who dedicated their life to their country’s military.

The exercise was a political and administrative nightmare. Even eight years later, many servicemen have not received their full service entitlements.

Complaints by ex-servicemen, some of whom are still stranded in barracks and bases, have fallen on deaf ears. Many servicemen have died while still waiting to be paid, leaving their families destitute.

The government seems oblivious to their plight. These military families have been failed by the system. Governments have done them a great disservice.

As a result of 2001’s forced reduction of service personnel, all three PNGDF elements now comprise hollow operational units. A difficult job lies ahead for General Agwi, who faces an almost impossible task of taking over a grossly underfunded, undermanned and demoralised force.

These are most trying times for a once proud national icon. Defence and national security seem not to be top priorities for the government.

The present regime shows an unfortunate ignorance and apathy about improving PNG’s national security situation.

Commander Agwi must instigate some basic changes to a force that needs a better deal. He will have his hands full whipping the present military into top shape.

He will have a chance so long as he appoints a ‘no-nonsense command team to help him and can resist the temptations of his predecessors not to take unnecessary overseas trips.

A new good command team is an absolutely must. It will ensure the commander’s intent and mission are not compromised. He needs committed and dedicated officers and subordinates.

General Agwi needs to ensure the PNGDF is not a mere paper tiger, but a true national force.

To achieve his mission, he must tell his government and the bureaucracy to ‘put up or shut up’.

Reginald Renagi was a former senior officer in the PNG Defence Force

Seeking information about Thomas Kavali


SIWI AIPE, from Nondugl in the Western Highlands, works in Bougainville and is  researching the prominent highlands politician, the late Sir Thomas Kavali.

“I am a 1980’s generation and really feel for the treatment of Australians on natives during colonial and pre-independence eras,” writes Siwi.

“It was really fortunate to have people like you work in PNG at that time. It was part and parcel of PNG’s independence. Let me thank you from my heart.”

Siwi is developing a website as a project for the Jimi Electorate, which has a page for former Jimi MPs, including Sir Thomas.

A former warder, Kavali was a member of Bully Beef Club, an early 1970s discussion group that produced so many of PNG’s great politicians, and he subsequently founded and led the National Party.

Before the 1972 House of Assembly election, he took the party into the National Coalition Government and, at age 27, found himself as Minister for Public Works and Government Whip.

Siwi has asked whether readers have any further information about Sir Thomas. If you have, you can email him here.

In the meantime, I dug out this excellent photograph from the April-May 1972 Pangu Patu Nius. It shows Thomas Kavali, Michael Somare, Julius Chan and John Guise.


Henry Kila – leader & scion of a wonderful family


ALL THAT has been said in tribute to the late and lamented Henry Kila is true.

Both as a man and as a business executive, he was a credit to his family and his nation. As it is expressed in Hiri Motu, Henry was tauna mai manada momokani. He was a true gentleman.

I first met Henry in 1985, and what got us interested in each other's stories was the fact that I had known Henry's father, the late Kila Kone, a leading light in the cooperative movement in the '50s and '60's.

I worked for a short time with Kila, and travelled with him on the cooperative coaster MV Hiri where I remember hilarious yarn-swapping between Kila and the Hiri’s skipper, Frank Gorogo, another very well-respected identity along the Papuan coast in those days.

Henry's father was closely associated with the late and also well-known Mahuru Rarua Rarua, a founding figure in the co-op movement, and an MLC before and an MP after self-government and full independence.

Both men were talented musicians, Henry told me, recalling wonderful private gigs played by his father, Mahuru, and other musical friends at the Kila Kone residence.

Here the young Henry, a schoolboy at the time, would be sent off to visit a known bootlegger who would provide the necessary lubrication for the musicians in those far-off dry days of  discriminatory prohibition.

And of course, Henry himself became a top musician and formed his own band, becoming as well-known for this facet of his early life as he was later to become known for his leadership in the insurance industry, as a sporting administrator and as a quietly-achieving, respected communal leader.

Turagu, bamahuta.Emu toana ai do lalotau elabona aiemai lamepa danu bodo.

Henry Kila OBE, leading businessman, dies at 57

Kila_Henry THE SUDDEN death of business, sports and community personality, Henry Kila, president of the Business Council of PNG, has stunned Port Moresby.

Mr Kila, 57, died from an acute heart attack and a diabetic condition at Port Moresby Private Specialist Medical Centre.

Close personal friend and Deputy Opposition Leader, Bart Philemon, said: “Henry Kila was a trail-blazer in the insurance industry for 40 years, a major player in sporting development, and a key stakeholder in business development.

“He nurtured the Business Council from infant stages to its current dominant present. We have lost a true nationalist, an unhailed statesman and an outstanding Papua New Guinean.”

Henry Kila was the first PNG national to sit and pass the Australian Insurance Institute course and read law before a trail-blazing career in insurance and insurance brokerage interspersed with his other love – sports and sports administration.

He was managing director of South Pacific Insurance Advisors Limited and a Fellow of the PNG Institute of Directors.

Mr Kila was also represented PNG as a member of the APEC Advisory Council. He was president of the PNG Sports Federation and National Olympic Committee from 2000-03 and a commissioner with the PNG Sports Commission.

He was recognised with an OBE in 1997 for distinguished services to commerce and the community, the same year he was appointed honorary consul of Israel in PNG.

“Mr Kila’s passing is a great loss to the business community and the sporting fraternity of PNG,” Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare said. “PNG has lost a good man of very humble demeanor”. Sir Michael also acknowledged Mr Kila’s contribution to promoting Australia-PNG relations.

Mr Kila is survived by his wife Sandy Masau and sons: Guy and Emmanuel, in-laws Janet and Trinnett, grandchildren Lawrence, Casandra and Solomon, his mother Avia, brother Jack and sister Joan, Ruth and his in-laws and their children.

“We are proud of Henry’s contribution to PNG, a man of principle and high integrity,” said his sister, Joan Kila Ahi. The loss of our brother is also the loss of the people of Central Province and the nation. We will always treasure all that he has done.”

After Oates: What'll it take to get us interested 2


I WAS BORN of a long-established colonial family in Sri Lanka and I keep in touch with what goes on there.

I saw a BBC report recently telling of the construction of a huge new port facility at Hambantota, a town east of Colombo, whose own port is artificial for the most part, sheltered by a very large breakwater.

Sounds good. Sri Lanka seems to be on the cusp of an era of renewed prosperity and development now the civil war is over. There is at least the appearance of measures of infrastructural restoration in the embattled north, and some evidence of reconciliation between the two religio-ethnic factions.

A Sinhalese friend told me that the road systems throughout the south, central, and north-central regions have recently been completely refurbished by Chinese roadmakers, financed by China.

China and Ceylon/Sri lanka have had a close and cooperative relationship since the early 1950s. All very positive, but the BBC report goes on to say…

Western countries criticised the Sri Lankan army's conduct in the war, and the government is now looking east for support. China has stepped in to help build the port, which, it is thought, could one day serve a military purpose.

Bearing in mind what Paul Oates said in his recent posting PNG: What will it take to get us interested? one is impelled to say: “Hambantota today; Lombrum in a year or three's time; that might get us interested!”

To use Phil Fitzpatrick's phrase, this would be a big bite in Kev's tight little bum. That’s if such a plan exists, and provided evidence of it comes to notice before Kev goes back to being a testy little househusband with a very rich wife.

So why is the question of China's increasing presence in PNG of concern for us here on PNG Attitude.

Whilst it is mainly a mercantile presence, aside from the Ramu mine private-enterprise-led, it is an extension of the expansion of overseas Chinese through south-east Asia since the end of WW2

In SE Asia overseas Chinese corporations have great influence either with legislators or the military and wield great power in a number of large and resource-rich countries throughout the region. It is a financial hegemony that is exercised very discreetly.

Of course, the overseas Chinese have big stakes elsewhere also, not least in the US and Oz.

There is a distinct possibility that the Pacific Ocean is soon to be a Chinese lake; or at least the western half of it.

In this transformation, Australia may well take on the status and influence of British Hong Kong before the Chinese annexation. An entrepot and trade centre with interesting products and services, but a suckerfish, nonetheless, firmly attached to the great Chinese shark.

Perhaps we'll get a bit of work doing maintenance for them up at Lombrum.

Are you all prepared for this? It appears to be happening, even if it is many decades in process.

Carbon trading to make us rich, says Mr Roberts


Images KIRK ROBERTS’ take on Copenhagen is that it was a public relations disaster that forces PNG to make its own way if it is to save its rainforests.

The self-styled carbon cowboy and environmentalist believes logging has been good for PNG, but that it’s now time for the country to change its ways in the broader interest.

“The United Nations is developing a method of granting forest owners the right to trade the value of the carbon sequestration held in the forests,” says Mr Roberts.

For this is Mr Roberts’ – former Philippines’ cock fighting impresario – latest business. Saving the planet.

“By [the UN’s] own admission this mechanism, which PNG supports, is years away from being decided,” he says. “In the meantime, [there are] a number of methods by which forest owners can take advantage of carbon trading right now, without in any way prejudicing their [future] ability to trade.”

Mr Roberts, whose company Nupan (PNG) Trading Corporation Limited aims to make a fortune from exchanging PNG’s unlogged forests for carbon credits, claims forests will be spared rapacious logging and landowners will get paid for the value created by leaving the trees where they are.

“These annual payments can add up to millions of kina over 20-50 years,” he says, “all the while providing employment for thousand of people who will be needed to manage the forests.”

He claims Nupan has demonstrated it’s possible to get a new carbon trading project up and running in just a few months, and Mr Roberts is a ‘do it now’ man.

“The process is complex from the scientific side,” he says, “but a system has been proven that facilitates land owners to move into this new field in a progressive and controlled manner.”

He has calculated “there are thirty odd steps required” before a project can be submitted to international authorities for validation.

Right now, Nupan has one project in place, three about to be submitted and 30 going through the initial process.

He says: ”The benefits to the people and to PNG as a whole will be enormous. Every project will require years and years of forestry work, sampling, scientific study and monitoring, to make sure the forests remain in the pristine condition they currently enjoy.

“This means generations of interesting work for thousands of people, and real boost to the economy of PNG, and the local economy of every village and town in every project area.”

Mr Roberts says PNG is already at the forefront of this new economy; it just needs to realise carbon trading can be a huge trading opportunity for the whole country.

“And we get to save our rainforests for future generations while we do it!” he says. With an exclamation mark.

You’ve got to hand it to the guy. He just never, ever gives up.

A practical model of community empowerment


REGINALD RENAGI wrote in PNG Attitude yesterday that a future PNG government must ensure equality for citizens by empowering them to equally participate in the country’s development.

It is a good thought.

Empowerment involves being heard, concerns being collected, noted and followed up.

Periodic voting in elections represents one way of being heard, but this can be enhanced in other ways.

Perhaps parliamentary democracy can be improved through better ways of assessing public concern (as distinct from populism).

Let me discuss one way of enabling people to be heard that is consistent with parliamentary democracy.

The Garling Commission of inquiry into the NSW public health system was a direct consequence of major community and political concern about some alarming failures within the system.

Commissioner Garling and a well-resourced support team conducted a far-reaching inquiry, in close cooperation with the many authorities: hospitals, health institutions, and nursing, medical, allied health and administrative staff.

Over 100 recommendations were made to improve things, break the malaise and make real improvements.

This was followed by visits to each hospital in NSW by the Health Minister and senior staff to explore grassroots concerns.

Great care is needed in such exercises to ensure authenticity and public trust.

The focus needs to be less on announcements and more on results. There must be discussion, dissent, brainstorming, questioning and challenge. The aim is good quality decision-making.

Crises within systems require a willingness to, first of all, take responsibility, then to get out and seek people’s views in an open way.

The resulting information is evaluated with the expectation that there will be follow-up, and practical action.

This approach is systematic, and the health of a community is in so many ways linked to its systems.

In terms of PNG, or any attempt to resolve a problematic situation, the Garling process is an area worth looking at and further engaging with.

If readers want to find out more, you can email Robin here. Or simply post a comment on PNG Attitude.

Gerhard (Gerry) Heyen, aviator, dies at 78


At_Controls GERHARD ANDREW (Gerry) Heyen was born in 1931 into a famous Australian seafaring family.

His interest in PNG was sparked by his father’s appointment as Marine Superintendent in Port Moresby after distinguished war service in the navy.

After initially signing on to go to sea, Gerry was selected to become part of the group of cadet patrol officers who commenced service on 13 March 1950. He was posted to Goroka but also saw service in the Western Highlands.

At the end of his first term, he resigned to go to England where he joined the Royal Air Force and learned to fly. It was during this time that he met his future wife Pam.

He returned to Australia, was recruited by Mandated Airlines and based in Lae for several years before moving to Fiji where he flew for Fiji Airways for seven years.

He also flew in Kenya with East African Airways and with the Dutch charter company, Schreiner, in Indonesia.

Radio_Shack_Goroka Gerry returned to Port Moresby in 1974 flying DC3s for Air Nuigini. It was at this time that I met and married his daughter Louise, with Des Fitzer performing the service for us. At the reception Des and Gerry yarned about mutual acquaintances.

A couple of years later Gerry became Managing Pilot for Schreiner’s operations in Malaysia, and then for its Indonesian arm.

After retiring from flying, he was appointed Director of the Air Safety Investigation Branch of the Civil Aviation Authority in Port Moresby before finally returning to Australia to live on the Mornington Peninsula.

Gerry maintained his interest in aviation history and completed an Arts degree with Honours at Monash University with a view to taking up ceramics full time.

Unfortunately, shortly after the death of Pam, he suffered a serious heart attack in 2001 and this curtailed his plans. He lived with Louise and me at Frankston for the past eight years.

Long-term complications saw his health deteriorate markedly until he passed away peacefully on New Year’s Eve aged 78. He is survived by Louise and Ross, Steven and Cecile and Gerry and five grandchildren.

Photos: Gerry at the controls of what looks like a DC3 (top) and in the radio shack at Goroka (lower).

Our porous north is about to bite Rudd’s bum


A WHILE ago I wrote about drug running and illegal immigration in the Torres Strait area adjacent to PNG.

I’ve been examining the issue in more depth, and it seems the potential problems are being blatantly ignored by both the PNG and Australian governments.

The Torres Strait Treaty between Australia and PNG was ratified in 1985. It recognises the commonality of kinship, language and customs within the Torres Strait protected zone. Thirteen villages on the Papuan coast have traditional rights of access to the zone.

In cultural terms, many of the people in the Torres Strait are Melanesian who speak the same language as the people in the Oriomo-Bituri area of the Western Province.

In other words, the international border is a political device. It is fascinating to note that the precedent for Eddie Mabo’s Native Title Act in Australia is a distinctly Melanesian land tenure model.

In the past the area was notable for the trade in pearl shell, stone axes and canoes. The coastal Kiwai people acted as middlemen and eventually came to dominate the system. There was also an early conduit of trade goods into the Highlands.

The evolution into modern times includes wage labour on fishing and prawn trawling boats, access to trade stores, fishing and hunting and the gathering of plants.

The exchange system also provides a route for illicit items, including drugs and firearms.

Marijuana, known colloquially in Australia as ‘Highlands Gold’ because of its high quality, principally travels this route.

In economic terms the balance of advantage lies in the Torres Strait where government welfare funding provides a permanent income not available to coastal Papuans, who are economically disadvantaged in comparison.

As services decline in PNG, the coastal Papuan people have come to rely on access to the Torres Strait for medical services, schools, casual employment and the purchase of cheap consumer goods.

Some Papuans have settled in the Torres Strait for just this reason. For younger Papuans, the Torres Strait offers relief from the boredom of village life and access to money and goods and the status these bring when they return home.

Worsening medical services in the Western Province have seen an increasing traffic to the Torres Strait, not only by coastal Papuans but other people from as far afield as the Southern Highlands.

The free flow of people from different parts of PNG into the Torres Strait, particularly for medical care, is a major issue with HIV/AIDS effectively out of control in PNG.

Other diseases on the increase in PNG, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are also likely to be transmitted into the Torres Strait and eventually mainland Australia through this open doorway.

Traditional trade and activities involving wild game and plants also has the potential to create problems. Exotic species of fish, birds and invertebrates are being noticed in the Western Province and it is possible that those not originating in West Papua are coming in via Australia. What is going the other way is anyone’s guess.

The area is also a focus for illegal immigration. There is easy access for Asian immigrants who come to work in the predominantly Asian-owned PNG logging camps, or who set up businesses like trade stores in the Gulf, Western and Southern Highlands provinces.

The main road running from Merauke in West Papua to Oriomo, just north of Daru, is used extensively by illegal immigrants and drug traffickers.

There is also a relatively easy conduit for people smugglers. I was sceptical about this at first, but my sources confirm it as true. There are no customs facilities in Daru to deal with any of these problems and the border patrols in Australian waters are few and far between.

Rumours suggest that Asian triads, known to be in Port Moresby, are also moving into the drug trade.

Both Keith Jackson and Paul Oates have written about the recent apathy of the Rudd government with regard to PNG and the Pacific. I’m predicting that this apathy is going to rear up and bite Kevin Rudd on the bum; very soon.

Top Australian official offers to coach Pukpuks


A LEADING Australian Rugby Union official has offered to coach the PNG national team, the Pukpuks.

The aim is to have PNG qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Chris Lane is the ARU’s Queensland-based elite player development coach and has guided schoolboy players through club and Super 14 rugby to international level.

He has worked in Brisbane with Port Moresby born Will Genia, the Australian scrum half.

Will and elder brother, Pukpuk flyhalf Frank, support Lane’s application to coach.

They travelled to Port Moresby with Lane when he discussed his offer with the PNGRFU president, Richard Sapias.

Sapias expressed appreciation of Lane’s interest and said a decision was on the agenda for the next PNGRFU executive meeting.

Readers rule as comments triumph over posts


THIS ITEM is both for the statistically minded, and a tribute to all those commenters who make PNG Attitude such a lively internet space.

When this blog kicked off nearly four years ago, on 26 February 2006, the first comment, from Henry Bodman in Brisbane, appeared the same afternoon.

And Colin Huggins, who still chips in regularly with his two bob’s worth, put in a maiden appearance in Recent Comments two days later.

But there wasn’t a helluva lot of commentary back then. I wrote the posts and people read them largely in silence.

It wasn’t really until regular commenters like Paul Oates (first post, 4 November 2007) got into their stride that the interactivity really blossomed.

Back then, the site was entitled ASOPA People and it had a much narrower view of its purpose. Its evolution into PNG Attitude came over time and was largely driven by a growing and diversifying readership.

It was never in doubt that the internet could be a strong influence in bringing together Papua New Guineans and Australians who cared about the relationship between our two countries, and who wanted to strengthen it.

But for that to happen, the blog had to be a real forum – it had to be interactive, it had to have a wide input from a range of contributors, and it had to be controversial and even irritating.

Well, we’re now getting around 250 visitors on a good day and on Monday, for the first time, the number of comments on this site overtook the total number of posts.

A few moments ago, PNG Attitude contained 1,407 comments and 1,385 posts. That’s the statistic I was referring to. It's a lot of words. And a lot of opinion.

It’s been said that the comments are frequently much more entertaining than the posts. I’ll leave that judgement to you.

Analysis shows that readers go both places when they visit the site.

Anyway, I think contributors and commenters should all take a bow this week. You’ve made PNG Attitude a very valuable forum indeed.

I think this'd be a worse place without people like John Fowke, Reg Renagi, Phil Fitzpatrick, Bruce Copeland, Ilya Gridneff and many others.

An important objective is to secure the services of even more PNG contributors.

Another, just as important, is to make sure the voices of all these people are heard.

PNG Attitude welcomes new contributors. Send your article to Keith Jackson here.

PNG: What will it take to get us interested?


Sir James Mackintosh (1745-1831) wrote in his dissertation, The Causes of the Revolution, that a principal cause was “disciplined inaction”.

He could well have been referring the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Having read too many DFAT reports in my career, I can empathise with Sir James. Nothing seems to be done systematically through to fruition.

If our external relationships were left entirely to Foreign, as it’s known, there would be plenty of reports, but little action.

To be fair, it’s not the province of a government department, no matter how aristocratic, to make public policy decisions. That’s the responsibility of the elected government.

Australians should be concerned at what is happening in PNG. For the first time in nearly 70 years, the balance of power in the Pacific is becoming unstable.

There is a contestable struggle going on, with China - the biggest buyer of our resources and therefore key to our prosperity - on the other side of the ring.

The average Australian has a very hazy view of such issues.

So it’s worth speculating on what it would take to have public opinion here sufficiently concerned to force our government to start acting strategically in relation to PNG and the Pacific.

Would Australia act if our nearest neighbour slowly collapsed from within?

Would Australia act if a non democratic foreign power set up shop next door?

Hmm. Seems all this is happening and the response is disciplined inaction.

When PM Rudd gets through saving the planet from global warming, ostensibly on our behalf, it may just be time for him to welcome a new regime to our region.

Maybe we’ll wake up when the fireworks start.

Let’s spread the blame: the realpolitik of PNG


MOST OF the criticism about poor governance and corruption in PNG is rightly directed at the national government.

But take a closer look and provincial governments, loud among the chorus of critics, don’t come up that well either. And if you follow the line down through the districts to the local level governments, it gets even worse.

There are three levels of government in PNG: national, provincial and local. (Bougainville is a different and complicated kettle of fish.)

The provinces are not separate states but branches of the national government, with the governors having seats in Parliament.

Each province is divided into districts and each district into local level governments. The local level government areas are divided into wards with ward councillors each representing a number of villages or communities.

The district boundaries correspond to the Open electorate boundaries so each District has a representative in Parliament. Until 2006 the presidents of local level governments had seats in the provincial assemblies – why that changed is still a mystery.

The three tiers of government were ratified under the Provincial and Local Level Governments Act of 1995. Under the Act, local level government became the focal point for much basic service delivery, including electricity and water.

The national government, weary of carping from, and mishandling of funds at, provincial level, devised an ambitious plan to directly fund districts under a new District Support Improvement Plan. In the 2009-10 budget, K14 million was allocated to each district. A laudable move, one would think.

Unfortunately most districts lack the capacity to absorb these funds and to implement development programs.

The district administrators, because their districts align with the Open electorates, are politicised, resulting in a high turnover of staff at the senior level.

There is also a lack of trained personnel, particularly in program management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation. There was a recent kerfuffle in which it was claimed MPs were given big lumps of money for which they were apparently not accountable? That was district funding.

In most provinces ward councillors are generally unaware of the powers available to them under the Provincial and Local Level Governments Act and, if they are aware, they tend to be unsure how to exercise those powers.

This has resulted in a weak and ineffective nexus between the districts and the local level governments, and has led to stalled and collapsing development and service delivery.

Unless this nexus can be strengthened, the drawdown of funds to community level will remain intermittent and irregular.

When the national government is forced to suspend corrupt provincial governments, which happens quite often, the picture really becomes muddy.

So when the national government throws money at the districts, it inevitably bounces off. Where it lands is anyone’s guess.

Some of it has never left Port Moresby and is still sitting in trust accounts. You might say this is the fault of the national government, because it has allowed provincial and district level infrastructure to deteriorate.

But, in the culpability stakes, the provincial governors, district administrators and local government presidents need to shoulder their share of the blame.

Source: Improving local level government in Papua New Guinea. You can read more about this Synexe project here.