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52 posts from March 2010

Torres Strait possible flashpoint in relations


AN AUSTRALIAN Senate committee has begun to investigate illegal activities across the permeable Torres Strait border between Australia and PNG.

PNG Attitude recently focussed on this issue in articles by Phil Fitzpatrick and other correspondents. The matter was subsequently brought to the attention of Australian politicians.

Amongst sensational evidence, the committee was told that traditional Torres Strait border crossers from PNG had recently abducted an Australian woman from Sabai island at gunpoint.

PNG nationals were accused of crossing into Australia at will: “any time they like, any time of the day, and stay as long as they like”.

They were accused of being involved in gun-running and drug smuggling – mostly cannabis.

And, to add insult to injury, it was alleged they unlawfully occupied 30 of 100 new homes just built on Badu Island.

The claims were made before the Senate inquiry session on Thursday Island last week.

Torres Strait regional authority chairman, John Kris, told Senators that islanders lack an adequate police presence, which allows border crossers to move around at will.

Torres Shire mayor, Pedero Stephen, told the inquiry that police response was too slow because of travel times from their base on Thursday Island.

Source: ‘Abduction claim surfaces at inquiry’ by Yehiura Hriehwazi, The National. Spotter: Paul Oates

Forces gather to oppose corruption amendment


IT SEEMS PNG’s Parliament may have gone too far in trying to weaken the Ombudman’s powers to prevent politicians abusing public funds.

Throughout PNG, community organisations and groups are organising themselves to oppose the so-called Maladina Amendment.

Non-government organisations including Transparency International and the Civil Society Coalition say they are ready to convince Parliament to revoke its decision to limit the Ombudsman Commission’s powers.

Under the Maladina Amendment, the PNG Constitution would be changed to remove powers that make Ministers and MPs accountable for spending public money.

Civil organisations are planning to stage peaceful protests throughout PNG on Tuesday 4 May.

Port Moresby protestors will march to Parliament House to present a petition to Moses Maladina, the Member for Esa’ala, and other MPs.

In other provinces, people are also organising to petition provincial administrators.

A spokesperson for Transparency International said it will meet with members of Parliament, including Mr Maladina.

Anti-corruption activist, Noel Anjo, claims the Maladina Bill, if passed, will protect and legalise corruption.

He was supported by Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek, who warned that amending the Constitution would be akin to inviting corruption to flourish.

He said his Commission is concerned that many of Mr Maladina’s proposals will hamper its ability to enforce the leadership code by holding politicians accountable for their misconduct.

Transparency International said it was concerned that some Parliamentarians who approved the Maladina Amendment in a unanimous vote may not have properly understood what they were voting for and the impact of the vote on PNG.

“We are more than happy to meet with Mr Maladina and the MPs and talk with them and try to convince them that weakening the powers of the Ombudsman is the wrong thing to do,” a spokesman said.

He said the community coalition against corruption formed to oppose the amendment had drawn support from groups, organisations and institutions around the country.

Sources: ‘Peaceful protest planned for Parlt’ by Simon Eroro, Post-Courier. ‘MPs urged to say ‘no’ to amendment’ by Alison Anis, The National

Sea weed drama for ‘Home and Away’ star


AAP - A FORMER Home and Away television actor has pleaded not guilty to possessing almost half a kilogram of marijuana on a sail boat surfing charter to PNG.

Putu Winchester, 33, who played a surfer named Pongo in the popular Australian TV series, was arrested in Bougainville with four other men last week.

Winchester - who was also in teenage drama Heartbreak High and police series Water Rats - and friends Thomas Olsen, 43, Clayton McDonald, 33, and Michael O'Neil, 41, yesterday pleaded not guilty to possessing 470 grams of marijuana allegedly found on the 16.5-metre yacht Perenti.

Friends of the NSW men believe the quantity is closer to 47 grams, claiming a recording error when local police weighed the alleged stash at the Buka post office.

Perenti captain, Queenslander Michael Northcote, 46, is waiting for a lawyer to fly from Port Moresby before entering a plea.

PNG customs officers seized Mr Northcote's boat and AAP understands customs and immigration infringements may follow.

The ‘Perenti Five’ were en route from the Solomon Islands as part of RASTA, Real Adventure Surf Tours Australia.

According to the RASTA website, the Perenti has sailed the Pacific on surfing tours for the past eight years.

The website advertises: "Sail aboard Perenti, where you will find the surf of your dreams".

But those dreams turned into a nightmare when Bougainville police arrested the men and put them in jail, forcing them to spend a harrowing weekend locked up with hardened criminals.

Since late last week, when the Buka court granted them each K1,000 ($400) bail, they have been staying at a local hotel.

ALOYSIUS LAUKAI reports from Buka:

A case against five Australians charged with illegally entering the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and having in their possession the dangerous drug marijuana has been adjourned for the third time to allow lawyer for the captain to arrive in Buka.

The men were arrested on board  the yacht, Perenti, in waters off Wakunai in central Bougainville.

No plea was entered and the court adjourned their case to 9.30 am today.

Major bank loses millions to employee fraud


BANK SOUTH PACIFIC – the former National Australia Bank which dominates the PNG market and operates throughout the Pacific region – has admitted it has lost K16 million mainly through the fraudulent activities of its employees.

In 2009 the bank’s “non-lending losses” rose to K25.6 million including “an alleged fraudulent matter that involved staff members of BSP”, who have been identified and charged.

Another matter regarding external fraudulent behaviour is currently under review.

A senior officer with a commercial bank in Port Moresby, speaking anonymously, was reported by thePost-Courier as saying BSP’s was “not an isolated case, it also happens in the other banks in the country.”

“When such things happen, sometimes the banks pass on the burdens to the poor customers in many forms such as increasing bank fees,” she said. “We know that this is not good for our customers.”

In January, Australian law firm Gadens reportedly withdrew from representing BSP in a Port Moresby fraud case after its staff were threatened by armed thugs.

The bank was attempting to recover money from a company owned by former MP and policeman, Peter Yama.

In the Solomons, a former BSP employee has been accused of defrauding $83,000 from the bank.

In August last year, BSP selected Norkom Technologies to protect itself against increasing levels of fraud.

“We wanted a robust solution … to help us manage and defend ourselves against financial crimes such as fraud and money laundering,” said Kevin McCarthy, BSP’s Retail General Manager.

Citizens act to establish anti-corruption body

EAST NEW BRITAIN has established a transparency advocacy group which will work closely with Transparency International in the fight against corruption.

The group, Transparency Advocacy, will investigate corruption in the province and also seek to promote anti-corruption education and awareness.

Spokesman Patrick Varagat said the role of Transparency Advocacy was to promote good governance, good attitudes and values such as honesty, integrity, accountability and freedom of expression amongst the people for effective democratic participation.

The formation of the ENB Transparency Advocacy followed a public forum held in Kokopo last month.

Mr Varagat criticised top public servants and provincial leaders for not attending the forum.

Source: Transparency advocacy group launched in ENB by Elizabeth Vuvu, The National

Time to kill sacred cow of the Melanesian Way


I CAN TELL you the reason for the story of declining services and declining prosperity in PNG; and the declining well-being of the people of PNG.

It’s very simple. As coined by a group of Papua New Guinean intellectuals in the seventies, the problem is “The Melanesian Way”.

There. It’s been said. The big, silent, grey elephant which has loomed in the background, nameless but recognised by many, is out in the open.

Tackle this elephant, or at least recognise it as the handicap that it has become in the struggle for modernity and fair distribution of the nation’s wealth.

Three decades of increasing puzzlement, critical editorials and irate declarations by MPs have been three wasted decades, unless the whole experience is realistically appraised and an appropriate antidote applied to the wounds on the body of this young nation.

The Melanesian Way is the way of a fractured multi-tribal society. A society which existed triumphantly, successfully, and entirely independently for tens of thousands of years. While it was intact.

Within this society, land was the single, prime, and most-often considered fact of tribal or clan life. Clan land must be protected and opportunely extended in any way possible.

Without land and hunting and fishing resources sufficient to meet its needs, the clan or tribe was nothing. Such a condition could eventuate as the result of bad planning by leaders, inept political moves or, ultimately, physical weakness in battle.

The result would be annihilation of the clan or tribe. The anger of the ancestral spirits would haunt the remaining, fugitive remnants of the people, no matter that they might be absorbed into other sympathetic clans. It was the absolute end, and as such was never to be contemplated.

This was also the basis of the way of the ancient Britons and the way of the wild tribes of northern Germany, people whom even Caesar was never able to completely subdue or dispossess.

In PNG, historically, the law which governed life applied totally to one’s own group and, only in terms of one’s own advantage, to one’s neighbours.

Right from mother’s breast, each person learned that within the clan all were brothers and sisters. Outside the clan, all were enemies. Within the clan was solidarity and trust. Outside the clan was the enemy, albeit of various grades.

Thus evolved a set of ethics and moral appreciations which, within an overarching customary system, provided a practical set of safeguards and an acceptable level of justice.

A dispute-resolution system evolved which, while often draconian and violent, worked within the nature of the culture. Here, a lie told, or a pig stolen, from an enemy were not crimes, or even misdemeanours. Only within the clan were such acts a crime.

Disputes arising in the clan could be fatally disruptive, and a long-winded methodology involving mediation, negotiation and payment of some form of compensation-in-kind evolved.

Even though sometimes inconclusive, and inevitably long-drawn-out, it was preferable to fighting within the clan.

Here, then, is a concise outline of the Melanesian Way. While it served the people well for as long as they remained out of communication with the developing industrialised, class-based, nationalistic polities of the rest of the world, it is demonstrably not compatible with the course of modernisation in PNG.

The tribal ethical matrix, where honesty is confined to a limited number of relationships and by nature encourages nepotism, combined with the propensity to talk and procrastinate endlessly - rather than to confront and solve difficult ethical, management, and disciplinary problems - constitute the big, grey elephant that no-one wants to talk about.

Perhaps the Melanesian Way has become a sacred cow.

Kill the sacred cow. Look life and the future straight in the eye.

Directness, honesty and responsibility in government are the marks of an effective, fair society. Social history and ancient customs belong in the school curriculum, in museums and storybooks, not in the management methodology of a modern nation.

A version of this article was first published in The National newspaper.

People urged to oppose Maladina Amendment


THE PNG Media Council has urged Papua New Guineans to confront Parliament and reject changes to the Constitution that would weaken the powers of the Ombudsman Commission.

The so-called Maladina Amendment – named after its mover, Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina – would remove the Ombudsman’s power to issue directives preventing payments from public funds to officeholders it believes are using those funds improperly.

The Ombudsman has previously used the provision to stop MPs applying public money for their own personal or political activities.

The amendment to the Constitution has the wide support of politicians, passing the second reading 83-0 three weeks ago, but is drawing increasing public opposition. It will come before Parliament again in May for the final vote.

The Media Council has called on the public to say no to the change.

Kanekane_Joe “The Maladina Amendment is a deliberate attempt to chip away at the independence and effectiveness of the Ombudsman,” said Council president Joe Kanekane [left].

“The amendment can be stopped by all of us acting together because the majority of the people are against this change,” he said.

“Mr Maladina does not have the mandate to bring this to Parliament. It follows then that Parliament did not have the mandate to bring this constitutional change onto the floor to be voted on.”

Mr Kanekane said any move to weaken and remove the powers of the Ombudsman must be treated with suspicion.

“At a time when the economy is about to undergo a major transformational change, the public expect their leaders to discuss and enact laws to strengthen and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of organisations like the Ombudsman Commission and police, so they can be assured that their increased wealth is protected.

“The Maladina amendment does nothing to give us any confidence that these institutions are being strengthened, as he claims,” he said.

Leading PNG lawyer Peter Donigi has said the Maladina Amendment may be unconstitutional because Parliament does not have powers to amend the Constitution.

‘Perenti Five’ on bail as drug case adjourned


Perenti THE CASE against five Australians charged with illegally entering the Autonomous Region of Bougainville and having marijuana in their possession has been further adjourned.

The men entered Bougainville on the 16.5 metre Sydney-based yacht Perenti and were detained off Wakunai on the Bougainville east coast.

The ‘Perenti Five’ are the vessel’s captain, Michael 'Northy' Northcote (46), Thomas Olsen (44), Clayton McDonald (33), Putu Winchester (34) and Michael O’Neil (42).

The men entered no plea and the court adjourned their case to next Monday with magistrate, Peter Toliken, releasing the accused on K1,000 kina bail each.

The court further ordered that their passports be held by the court and that they not leave Buka until their case has been dealt with.

Meanwhile the men are said by the ABC to want to get a new lawyer from Port Moresby.

The stash of marijuana is now alleged to be, in fact, 500 grams, not the 10 kg originally reported but still significantly more than the 40 grams claimed on PNG Attitude by supporters of the detainees.

Take me to your leader: confusion at top of NBC


THERE’S JUST a little confusion at my old stamping ground, the National Broadcasting Commission of PNG out there at the Five Mile.

Ealadona_Joseph & Kili It seems managing director Joseph Ealadona [at left, relaxing with my old buddy, PNG's 'Mr Radio', Justin Kili] and his deputy Memafu Kapera are both claiming the same job. The top job.

Ealadona’s term as chief rooster expired three months ago, and the PNG State Solicitor says he cannot continue to act as managing director.

But Ealadona claims the manner of Kapera’s appointment was, not to put too fine a point on it, illegal.

However State Solicitor George Minjihau says he believes Kapera, a government appointee, can keep the job until Cabinet says he doesn’t have it any more.

Kapera_Memafu Meanwhile, Kapera [right] - a man of action – has already used his office to order some senior managers to take leave or face suspension.

Ealadona, on the other hand, directed the same elite crew to keep working, as he was still in charge. No guessing whose side they’re on.

As the Post-Courier put it, “management is in chaos ... staff at the Five Mile headquarters are confused, as directions were coming from both men.”

Perfectly understandable employee reaction, really.

Apparently the whole catstrophe flows from the fact that the PNG Constitution and the Regulatory Statutory Authorities (Appointment of Certain Officers) Act do not apply to the appointment of the NBC managing director.

And everyone is too perplexed to find out why not.

Believe me it wasn’t like that when the late Sam Piniau and I ran the place.

Everyone back then knew exactly where they stood.

Source: ‘Broadcaster in chaos’ by Mohammad Bashir, Post-Courier, 24 March 2010

Ministers involved in crime, says bagman Kapris


AAP – PNG’s most notorious criminal has alleged that triads are sponsoring political candidates for PNG's 2012 national election.

In an hour-long videotaped confession, seen by AAP, William Kapris tells PNG police he was a bagman for a network of Asian crime gangs and senior government ministers who planned and funded his major robberies.

Kapris, who is facing trial for a series of high profile bank robberies and a jail escape, alleges syndicates such as the triads are linked to most PNG government institutions and agencies and use PNG's infamous 'rascals'.

He alleges Asian mafia are funding political candidates for PNG's next elections in 2012. "There are five to ten guys like me who are now working with Asians," Kapris said.

"I would help the network and prepare for (the) 2012 election. We wouldn't remove the Prime Minister by gunpoint but through our own candidates, courtesy of the elections. Once they were in government people like me will be free to do what I like."

Also on the tape, Kapris explains Port Moresby's ‘black bank’ – an Asian network to launder money, for business loans and funding future robberies.

"The Asians (gangs) that are here are all connected to the 'black bank'," he said. "If the state doesn't heed my warning I fear the government will be run by this Asian network. I was there and I saw the threat."

Chin_James Monash University's Professor James Chin [right] has written extensively about rising tensions related to PNG's 'new Chinese' - the recent arrivals from mainland China.

"The Chinese gangs in PNG are not big enough to bankroll an entire party, like the ruling National Alliance, but they can fund individuals, mostly local politicians who can protect their small illegal business", he said.

"There is no doubt about rising criminal elements in PNG from mainland China, but they are not the big triad groups found in Hong Kong.

"However once the ExxonMobil gas pipeline project comes on line and big money flows into PNG, the big triad groups will come."

On the videotape, Kapris also fingers several senior PNG government officials, who cannot be named for legal reasons. He alleges they contributed and subsequently received large sums from his million kina heists.

"Without them behind me, I wouldn't or couldn't have done this," he said. "They provided money, plane tickets, fuel for getaway boats and food."

Kapris was one of 12 prisoners who escaped from the city's Bomana jail on 12 January. Most were recaptured and four prison guards have been arrested for aiding the breakout.

Three-fifths of five-eighths of nothing ..…


BENJAMIN FRANKLIN (1706-90) said it first and he said it best: "Yes, we must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Part of Bougainville already believes it’s on the road to nationhood, and it seems some New Irelanders also think this is the way to go.

But before any further split PNG happens, those promoting the break up (as a remedy to produce better times) should ponder on what has caused the current impasse.

Clearly, ineffectual leadership and massive amounts of unprosecuted corruption at all levels of government have resulted in diverting national resources away from desperately needed services.

A few people have obviously benefited at the expense of many; and this situation has been allowed to continue for many years – sometimes by the very leaders who now suggest regional autonomy will be better for their people.

While everyone in PNG understands the visible effects of the problems, few have come out and said clearly and persuasively what they would do to fix them.

If the solution has been too hard, or is far too electorally painful, for current leaders to contemplate, how are smaller fractions going to be any more effective?

More of the same will produce no different result.

Where are the politicians with guts enough to stand up and publicly denounce what is clearly wrong with PNG today?

Plenty are prepared to talk about what is morally right, but who has actually achieved any results?

The people responsible for PNG's current woes must be identified, denounced and officially charged by public authorities. Anything else cannot and will not work.

So what will change with potentially smaller, fragmented, PNG autonomous regions?

Three fifths of five eighths of nothing!

Province wants to secede as PNG continues to fail


Head FORMER PRIME MINISTER, and current New Ireland Governor and MP, Sir Julius Chan, has responded to secession calls from provincial leaders by saying the region has not improved in 15 years.

“Why are our roads, airstrips, aid posts, elementary, primary and high schools collapsing and people are facing all kinds of social problems,” he said.

Sir Julius claimed K572 million was misappropriated under the Somare government from 2002-07.

“New Ireland must move faster to gain the highest form of autonomy, no less than Bougainville,” he said.

Sir Julius alleged the government headed by Somare could not be trusted. “Bad government leads to fragmentation and it brings distrust, disharmony and split.

“The governance, corruption and violation of our laws continue... It’s time we chart our own course for a safer future for New Ireland.

“With the gold mines, New Ireland can survive and stand alone,” Sir Julius claimed.

In a separate report it has been claimed that PNG’s maternal mortality rate remains high and shows no signs of decreasing. In the ten years to 2006, it increased from two to four women dying during childbirth each day.

Meanwhile, successive PNG governments have been making national economic decisions based on a consumer price index that has not been adjusted since independence in 1975.

Statistician Joe Aka revealed that for the last 35 years every decision on household economy, national productivity and economic activity was based on outdated statistics and assumptions.

Mr Aka said the long overdue survey was due to the government’s failure to fund the National Statistics Office to collect the necessary information.

Sources: ‘Sir Julius responds to autonomy demands’ by Grace Tiden [Post-Courier], ‘Mortality rate high in PNG’ by Nellie Setepano [Post-Courier], ‘Statistician says CPI 34 years old’ by Patrick Talu [The National]

ASOPA reunion was Attitude’s great-grandaddy


THE EARLY ancestor of PNG Attitude was a single-page newsletter produced in February 2002.

Its purpose was to announce that the ASOPA cadet education officers’ Class of 1962/63 was to reunite in October of that year. The question it asked was where the hell are you all?

Well that question was answered successfully, the newsletter grew and expanded and the reunions continued.

Not only that, but they triggered an avalanche of other comings-together of people who had attended that venerable institution – to give it its full name, the Australian School of Pacific Administration – between the 1940s and the 1970s.

Now the Class of 62/63 is planning its fourth reunion in the last eight years: in Sydney from 12-14 November this year

Bill Bohlen has set up a handsome blog to provide this event (and other like reunions) with some motive force, and you can visit it here.

Sydney yacht caught illegally entering B'ville



FIVE AUSTRALIAN citizens are in police custody in Buka charged with illegally entering PNG from the Solomon Islands on the 16.5 metre yacht Perenti.

The Australians have been identified as Michael 'Northy' Northcote (46), Thomas Olsen (44), Clayton McDonald (33), Putu Winchester (34) and Michael O’Neil (42).

Captain Northcote was allowed out on bail and was aboard Perenti when our photographer took this picture. The five men will appear in court on Wednesday morning.

According to Senior Sergeant Alex Gunan, the five arrived at Arawa from the Solomon Islands but did not report to Buka for clearance.

The Perenti, which is registered in Sydney, then continued via Inus towards Buka.

Police were alerted and stopped the yacht as it was trying to leave Inus.

Perenti2 Police had a search warrant and searched the boat finding 10 kg of marijuana.

The captain and crew were then taken to Buka and charged for illegally entering PNG waters and for having drugs in their possession.

The yacht is now mooring near Sohano island between Buka island and the Bougainville mainland.

Photo on the piano helped resolve a mystery


Photo-on-Piano AS A BOY, John Schindler was fascinated by a photo his mother Alice kept on her piano.

The photo of the dapper young man still takes pride of place on the piano, even though Alice died seven years ago.

And the photo led to Mr Schindler, 64, solving a mystery of what happened to some of the 1053 men killed in Australia’s worst maritime disaster.

The Montevideo Maru, a Japanese prisoner-of-war ship, was torpedoed on 1 July 1942, off the coast of the Philippines with the loss of 845 Australian troops and 208 civilians.

Mr Schindler, growing up in Artarmon, listened to his mother’s stories about the man in the photo, her close friend John Wilson Day, who she had met in 1941.

Alice & Molly Mr Day was a horseman from Perth who had become friends with Alice and her sister Molly, before Alice and her husband Gunther were married in 1943.  [Photo: Molly and Alice in 1942]

“We know that John was captured in New Britain in 1942 and that he ended up on the Montevideo Maru,” Mr Schindler said.

“Mum was always upset and frustrated because she didn’t know what had happened to him. He was the bloke who never came back.”

Mr Schindler, now living in Queensland, became a radio announcer before he began making documentaries 20 years ago.

For his mother’s sake, he took it upon himself to find out what happened to John Wilson Day.

“I found out about another ship, the Naruto Maru, that had Australian officers and nurses on board from Rabaul who made it to Japan,” he said.

“So I tracked down people who were still alive to tell the story. I found an Australian officer, Captain Lex Fraser, who had made it through and he led to the start of my interviews.

“I told him I wished I’d met him when Mum was still alive.”

In Mr Schindler’s documentary, The Tragedy of Montevideo Maru, depicts what happened to the vessel.

In the evening of 30 June 1942, the ship came around the top of the Philippines, headed for China.

“An American submarine, the Sturgeon - looking for Japanese ships in enemy territory - chased it. The submarine couldn’t keep up with the Montevideo Maru but when it slowed down for an escort into Hainan (a Chinese island) it was torpedoed and sank in eight minutes.”

Mr Schindler tracked down the only survivor, a Japanese sailor now in his 90s, who escaped on a lifeboat.

“It was terribly sad to hear his story, especially because the men were singing Old Lang Syne in their final moments, which was very poignant,” Mr Schindler said.

“I’m at peace now that I’ve made the documentary and I know a lot of people have closure. It was just unfortunate Mum died before I even started making it. But it is a fantastic tribute to her.”

*Katrina Adamski is a journalist with Sydney’s North Shore Times, in which this article first appeared

The DVD The Tragedy of the Montevideo Maru is available from the Montevideo Maru Memorial Trust, PO Box 1743, Neutral Bay NSW 2089 for $40 (including post & packing). It includes the two part series and much additional material. Or contact the Trust here.

Constitution under siege; no one cares - lawyer


THE MALADINA amendment may be unconstitutional because Parliament does not have powers to amend the Constitution, according to Peter Donigi, one of PNG’s most eminent lawyers.

Two weeks ago Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina introduced amendments to Section 27(4) of the Constitution to remove the independent power of the Ombudsman Commission to issue directives preventing payments from public funds to officeholders where it believes there is impropriety.

In the past, the Commission has used this provision to stop MPs taking overseas trips when it felt the trips were a waste of public funds and has prevented the Finance Department issuing cheques if it felt the motives were political.

“We want to make it very clear that the action of the Ombudsman in issuing such directives is wrong,” Mr Maladina said, and he proposed a so-called 'parliamentary ombudsman committee' to be set up to make its own inquiries.

Parliament voted 83-0 to amend Section 27(4) but Mr Donigi says the Constitution only gives provides for alteration if the change supports the spirit of the Constitution, which is equality and democracy.

He also said the Constitution could not be amended without a national referendum. But there was no provision for a referendum in the PNG Constitution.

Mr Donigi said it appeared that the Constitution is under siege and no one seemed to care.

“I challenge Mr Moses Maladina to a public debate to be co-ordinated by the vice chancellor of the University of PNG,” he said.

“The rules of the debate are to be determined by the vice chancellor. Mr Maladina must accept my challenge or withdraw all his proposed constitutional amendments,” he said.

Source: Drawn in part from ‘Parlt lacks power to amend’ by Caldron Laepa (The National) and ‘Top lawyer debates on amendment’ by Harlyne Joku (Post-Courier)

Foreign security companies pose threat to PNG

THE PNG GOVERNMENT has still not learned important lessons from the Bougainville crisis, according to former Defence Force commander Major Gen (ret) Jerry Singirok.

General Singirok masterminded the departure from PNG of the mercenaries who 13 years ago were recruited by the government to put down the Bougainville rebellion.

He said the Bougainville crisis provided lessons about the need to invest in and strengthen national security, yet nothing has been done.

Bougainville also had lessons about the need for the government to be extremely careful in engaging foreign security companies to work in PNG, especially in big resource projects.

“Now with the LNG project in the Southern Highlands, the government has allowed developers to bring in foreign-owned security companies who have no appreciation of the local customs, cultures and the people,” General Singirok said.

“These companies are dismantling the police and Defence Force by recruiting their best men to work on the project sites with promises of better pay and conditions.

“With lousy pay and service conditions, police and Defence Force personnel are living below the poverty line. That is why they are taking up offers to work as security personnel for foreign-owned security companies.

“Has anyone done due diligence checks on these companies?” he asked.

General Singirok claimed the foreign-owned security companies came to PNG with one purpose: to use maximum force against landowners or anyone who tried to frustrate project work.

“The presence of foreign-owned security companies in PNG poses a great threat to the country,” he said. “I want to know what their rules of engagement are, what types of firepower they have and who authorised them to have high-powered firearms.

“If they are not careful with what is happening in the LNG project area, the situation there can be much larger and far worse than Bougainville,” he warned.

“Conditions are ripe for a major crisis if the government is not careful. These are the concerns that all add up to what I call a very serious threat to our national security.

“My greatest fear right now is that we are now setting the stage for another Bougainville crisis in the Southern Highlands because all the right conditions are there.”

Source: ‘Ex-army chief recalls lesson from Sandline’ by Oseah Philemon, PNG Post-Courier, 17 March 2010

Factual razor: youthful whimsy put to the test


Michael O'Connor, ‘New Guinea Days’. Australian Scholarly Publishing. 2010, 165pp. $39.95

Maprik_De L'Isle
recounts author Michael O’Connor’s youthful whimsies of the almost nine years he spent as a kiap, recalled and published some 50 years later.

He and Jim Fenton, two newly appointed Cadet Patrol Officers, arrived in the Sepik District in 1957. Fred Kaad was acting District Commissioner, and Tom Ellis was acting District Officer.

O’Connor and Fenton were posted to outstations; O’Connor to Lumi and Fenton to Aitape. (O’Connor incorrectly recalls that Fenton’s first posting was Telefomin.)

At Lumi, where Frank Jones was Assistant District Officer, O’Connor needed to be taken on his first patrol, but Jones “was a bit long in the tooth for what was a physically demanding job”. Frank Jones was then 38 years of age.

Four years earlier, Jones and others had crisscrossed the mountain ranges surrounding the Eliptamin, Om and Tekin valleys in pursuit of the murderers of Constables Buritori and Purari, CPO Geoffrey Harris and PO Gerald Szarka.

Early in 1954, Jones and his party scaled a cliff in a midnight raid, to capture the last of the ringleaders.

The following year, 1955, Frank Jones, Ron Neville and I were ordered to the Palei-MaiMai to sort out a cargo cult. Neville, ADO at Maprik, walked in from the road head at Dreikikir, and I climbed from Aitape, on the coast, via the Yapunda gap.

Jones, at Lumi, had the hardest slog of all. He and his patrol had to traverse the “endless series of north-south ridges” between Lumi and Seim.

The records show that the same, perhaps not so decrepit, Frank Jones led other patrols from Lumi, in 1956-57 and in 1957-58.

In 1958, O’Connor was transferred to Aitape where “Bill Brown was Assistant District Officer until Geoff Burfoot took over”. (There are three references to that unremarkable event.)

At Aitape he learnt “from some of our superiors’ comments on my patrol reports that Geoff had a reputation for letting the young blokes do the hard work. Geoff was no oldie but maybe he got the habit of sitting down from those very superiors.”

Patrol Reports were forwarded to headquarters with comments made over the signature of the District Officer. Any response from headquarters staff was made over the signature of the Director.

Alan Roberts was Director and Tom Ellis was District Officer. Neither would have permitted any officer to be denigrated or disparaged in a public document, and neither tolerated lethargy.

Describing an incident at Aitape, O’Connor tells of his reaction to a communication from the District Commissioner: “I do not know whether he, in his normally ponderous fashion, was being facetious.”

He does not name the DC, but Tom Ellis was acting DC while Bob Cole, who had taken over from Kaad, was on leave. There were one or two ponderous District Commissioners, but Tom Ellis was not one of them, neither was Bob Cole nor Fred Kaad.

In 1959, after three months leave, O’Connor was posted to Maprik, “and very smartly reported to the Assistant District Officer, Bob Bunting, another somewhat chair-ridden old timer.”

The chair-ridden old timer was 37 years of age and as a World War II Spitfire pilot had been awarded the DFC in 1943 for a lone attack on 50 German aircraft.

He had also been awarded a United States DFC for his aerial exploits during the invasion of Italy. He retained that determination and drive as a Patrol Officer in the Eastern and Western Highlands, Milne Bay and Morobe Districts.

At Maprik, Bunting had his hands full - three Local Government Councils, two Patrol Posts, two Agricultural Stations, four missionary groups (Roman Catholic Society of the Divine Word, Seventh Day Adventists, South Seas Evangelical Mission and Assemblies Of God), and the densest population in lowland mainland New Guinea.

The field activities of the Malaria Control and Medical Research units, the three-month’s visit of the ANU/CSIRO Arbovirus Research Team and the almost daily arrival of official visitors from Australia added to the burden.

Bunting Office_Maprik Bunting did not complete a full term at Maprik, but left his mark. He designed and commenced the construction of the trend-setting sub-district office [right], importing a machine to make concrete blocks.

He set PO Nigel Van Ruth to the task of hand painting the 20-metre oil-on-masonite façade and commissioned Agwi, from the middle Sepik river village of Korogo, to hand carve the four massive kwila posts that had been hauled to the site for the frontal pillars.

The “chair ridden old-timer” also revitalised the artefact industry and designed a short golf course of six sand greens, with bunkers and traps. They configured to a nine-hole course and most weekends Bunting trudged in the heat, playing at least two games of 18 holes.

O’Connor rails against the “clever people … those academics, bureaucrats and others drawn from their experience of a sophisticated metropolitan society”.

The clever people “decided that DDT should not be used because birds might die. So the program was abandoned, malaria returned in full force and people died as a result … the malarial control program that involved spraying every hut and house with DDT”.

In fact, the program morphed through many stages, brought about as adjustments were made to the WHO’s worldwide eradication program, in the early days with considerable input from the Maprik based malariologist, Dr Wally Peters.

The first insecticide used, dieldrin, had a short residual effect and it was replaced by DDT in 1959. The people were the strongest opponents of DDT, sometimes resorting to threats of violence to prevent their villages being sprayed.

In 1969 the program was modified, and the spray changed to a mix of malathion and DDT, but overall DDT was sprayed for some 30 years.

The clever people are lambasted in several references because they caused the withdrawal of police and magisterial powers from the kiaps.

David Derham, Professor of Jurisprudence at Melbourne University, made those recommendations after touring the Territory for 37 days in 1960.

He was escorted and assisted by Peter Lalor, Public Solicitor, and former kiap, and visited seven main centres and seven outstations and interviewed senior and junior district staff.

It was Minister Paul Hasluck, whom O’Connor lauds, who commissioned Derham, and it was Hasluck who ignored Derham’s advice that the recommended changes be made slowly. The Minister insisted instead on their speedy implementation.

That haste certainly led to a rapid break down of law and order, but perhaps those incidents that O’Connor recalls may have contributed to the urgency: felling a person with a truncheon blow to the temple to prevent a harangue, or convicting a person on two counts in the Court for Native Affairs to avoid proceedings in the Supreme Court, where a milder sentence was likely.

At Kiunga, in 1964, O’Connor encountered “the new breed of cadets employed on six year contracts. These were good lads but in retrospect they lacked the personal commitment to the long term of my contemporaries.”

By 1973, there were almost 300 contract officer kiaps, including 134 Assistant District Officers and 162 Patrol Officers. They served in every role, in every District, and in all the danger spots.

They were committed, they were dedicated and they were there for the long haul. They stayed beyond 1966 - most staying until Independence, and some staying long after. Sadly, at least four lost their lives while on duty.

* Bill Brown MBE was a District Commissioner in pre-independence PNG

Top: The Governor-General of Australia, Viscount De L'Isle VC KG GCMG GCVO KStJ PC, with Bill Brown and wife Pam (seated) gives an address at the elaborately-decorated sub-district office at Maprik [Department of Information & Extension Services]

‘Culture of intoxication’ threatens development


NEW RESEARCH has revealed the Pacific Islands are facing a growing problem from alcohol, with PNG renowned for its ‘culture of intoxication’.

PNG is also a major cannabis consumer, with firearms commonly seized along with drug hauls.

The research, commissioned by the Australian National Council of Drugs, says consumption patterns are an issue in PNG, threatening development, employment and prosperity.

Information provided by “key informants” supports the view that there are strong links between alcohol use, violence and injury.

The council’s executive director, Gino Vumbaca, says there are now serious flow-on effects from alcohol abuse in the Pacific region.

“We are seeing reports of alcohol-related violence and abuse. We’re seeing long-term health problems in terms of liver and heart damage. We’re also seeing intoxication proving to be a real risk for unsafe sexual practices,” Mr Vumbaca said.

He urged the Australian government to intervene and urged the alcohol industry to also exercise responsibility by providing expertise.

“There are some significant gaps on data in some of the 17 Pacific countries studied, but at least we’re starting to get a much clearer picture of the harm caused by alcohol,” Mr Vumbaca said.

PNG rugby league: looked good; going nowhere


PNG IS THE only country on Earth that boasts rugby league as its national game. It may be the only country in the Universe.

And last year, prime minister Somare announced that the PNG government would fund a bid for the PNG national team – the Kumuls – to join the Australian rugby league competition.

But you can’t buy your way there You must earn it; then buy it.

And earning it, for the Kumuls, would mean playing a few years in a lesser regional competition – probably in Queensland - and then, with a bit of luck, hitting the big league.

According to some observers, this PNG National Rugby League bid stinks. Australian league legend Mal Meninga, previously a strong supporter, is said to have pulled out.

It’s also said the Kumuls have no chance of making the NRL in the foreseeable future – but they have nonetheless managed to secure a bounty of K20 million. “To waste on a pipe dream,” said one critic.

Even the NRL’s bullish CEO, Geoff Gallop, has admitted the Kumuls will get nowhere before at least 2013. Then, maybe, an NRL slot. Then, maybe, an international ranking. Then, well, I’m running out of maybes.

Critics say the K20 million ought to go to developing the game in PNG - bringing on juniors, strengthening the local competition, building a corps of skilled administrators. Not lining the pockets of dodgy advisors who no-one ever heard of.

Meanwhile, the Kumuls have shown they can't even pay their hotel bill.

In a document leaked to PNG Attitude, a prominent PNG businessman says “you have forced me into the unnecessary and uncomfortable position of going public about the debt that the Kumuls owe to the hotel.

“This is not good when the Hon Philemon Embel is negotiating about PNG entering the NRL competition.”

It seems the whole enterprise, launched with such glory less than a year ago, is already falling apart. Despite the K20 million.

Rural radio threatened by transmitter closures


Philip_Apr09 “SURELY THAT can't be true; it defies belief,” exclaimed the normally unflappable Phil Charley OAM [right], pioneering PNG commercial broadcaster.

He was responding to a statement by the managing director of the PNG National Broadcasting Corporation, Joseph Ealedona, who has announced the NBC will soon do away with its shortwave and medium wave transmitters, replacing them with FM services.

CD ROM “I was very surprised to see this report and hope it is not correct,” said broadcasting expert, Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow [left] of the University of Queensland.

“To switch off the shortwave radio stations seems extraordinary in a country like PNG.

Vanuatu and Solomon Islands use shortwave to reach the most remote dwellers. Even the ABC in the Northern Territory uses shortwave to broadcast to distant communities.

“I find it hard to believe that FM can do that in PNG. Can you imagine FM in the Highlands? It is a line-of-sight transmission medium and I am not sure how it would reach into valleys and over hills.”

Speaking at the launch of Central Province FM station Kibi Gadona (Voice of the Conch Shell), Mr Ealedona, said the acquisition by all provinces of FM services paved the way for the NBC to broadcast nationally through the first direct satellite service, donated by the Australian Government.

Mr Ealedona said this meant the NBC could soon decommission its medium and short wave transmitters.

And professional broadcasters are appalled.

“I’m not sure whether this means people have to buy a satellite receiver, satellite radio is not, of course, an FM radio signal, or whether the satellite will deliver signals to a downlink point for terrestrial transmission on FM radio frequencies,” said Prof Hadlow.

“And how long will the donation of satellite time by the Australian Government continue?”

Is this a Papuan Pandora's box being opened?


Prime minister Kevin Rudd has reportedly directed his Foreign Affairs Department to look at the legal status of a group of Papuans seeking Australian citizenship.

INNUMERABLE DEBATES have resulted from the decision to combine Papua (an Australian External Territory) with New Guinea, (a United Nations Trust Territory administered by Australia) and to create the new nation of Papua New Guinea.

Rumbles about whether Papuan people were actually able to qualify for Australian citizenship have continued to this day.

Hitherto, there was an accepted line being touted by successive Australian governments that Papuans were not eligible for Australian citizenship, even though PNG people of ethnic or mixed Chinese background were able to apply for Australian citizenship at PNG Independence.

It appeared to some that there was perceived discrimination being applied, depending on one's ethnic background.

In an article in The National, it appears that the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has requested the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to look into this vexed matter again.

If Papuan people in 1975 did have some entitlement to claim Australian citizenship, who would be able to determine who had some entitlement in today's PNG?

Most PNG people had no concept of international borders that were drawn up in the 1880's. 130 years ago, the internal population of the island of New Guinea was virtually unknown to those who drew up these artificial colonial borders.

So would people in the original Southern Highlands now be considered as potentially eligible for Australian citizenship as opposed to people in the Western Highlands?

Where does it leave PNG people who were born in New Guinea but now reside in Papua or who have married and had children in Papua.

The border between Australia and PNG in the Torres Strait has been porous enough when it comes to traditional activities and cultural exchanges.

More recently however, government services that do not now exist on the PNG side are being accessed by PNG nationals on the Australian side of the border. What happens if this 'relative' trickle becomes a flood?

Will lakatois of Papuan 'refugees' be treated in the same way as those who have been transiting through Indonesia to get to Australia?

If indeed, the Australian PM has requested this matter be looked at again, has he opened the proverbial Pandora's Box?

It’s time our government planned for the future


WE HEAR and read in PNG’s newspapers, websites, radio and other media about our leaders being positive on our economic growth and political stability.

They claim “PNG is rich enough”, “PNG has a bright future”, “PNG’s economy is booming”, “PNG can withstand global economic crisis”, “PNG is better off with LNG” and “PNG has kina stability”.

But where’s the proof? Can PNG really withstand what is the continuing global economic crisis?

We know PNG has a big problem with its economy due to mismanagement and corrupt practices by greedy, arrogant and self-centered government leaders, MPs and bureaucrats in Waigani.

They may be called the “fat rat” burrowing in a Waigani café.

The leaders want the people of PNG to be optimistic, even though they actually know they have made the wrong economic decisions and while the most powerful economies in the world are facing financial problems.

PNG is no exception to this - and before too long we are going to feel the pinch of mismanaging those surplus funds in the government's trust accounts.

At the moment, what the government needs to do is invest more of its budget into creating capital goods, so PNG has the capacity to produce its own products and serve its six million plus population.

The export earnings from gold, copper, coffee, oil and gas may one day come to a stop or seriously reduce.

This will occur sooner rather than later if countries like America, Japan, China and Australia cut down their imports of raw materials from PNG because they face a further financial crisis and are forced to reduce spending.

When this happens, PNG will have regret but no hope.

The money will be gone and the economy will be unable to meet the ever increasing demands of the people.

This is the right time - when we have a boom in mining, oil and gas, timber and so on - for the government and the leaders to sit down and look for options to sustain this economy before it’s too late.

Restoring fairness & social well-being in PNG


Fowke_John2 John Fowke’s known lineage goes back to 17th Century India - "a touch of the tarbrush there," he says - thence to Ceylon, where an Irish ancestor, Ensign Grey, married a colonial Dutch girl around 1808. Great-granddad Fowke was a pioneer tea planter in the late 19th century. Present day Fowke continues the agricultural tradition.

The English used to call white colonial families like the Fowkes, 'Country bottled, old boy, country bottled!'   "Arseholes," says John, who never took to being patronised by anyone.

John knows rural development (and coffee in its pre-Starbucks’ state) like most people know their eye colour. He writes here from the PNG highlands, where he's having an extended stay, and provides something of real value: a solution - KJ

EVEN IF 2012’s Papua New Guinea general election sees a really dedicated reformist group lead this nation, a compromise will already have been made.

Fence-sitting parties will have been promised inducements to join in coalition, so forming a majority.

These inducements will have been shaped in a mould formed by tradition; a mould filled with the spurious metal of personal greed and opportunism.

It will be an alloy entirely lacking in idealism, or care for the future. It will be devoid, also, of that most essential ingredient, the principle of separation of powers.

Here … are opportunities for men who, though well-educated, possess little understanding of the outside world or care for principles of probity and transparency in public life.

Such men, once elected, adopt lordly guise, endowed with the means to dispense largesse, in this case in the name of ‘electoral development funds’.

Funds provided as of right with sketchy supporting budgets and plans. Funds dispensed without reference to relevant government managers and technocrats, who are completely sidelined in terms of task-related lines of control and technical expertise.

Hungry for personal wealth and the adulation of their own clansmen, a great number of today’s MPs are in the game entirely for themselves.


John & Sinak, 80, 200210 As it stands today PNG is in a state of rolling social and civil crisis. The rule of law is almost entirely absent; there is no firm hand upon the steering wheel.

The arrival of projected vast returns from the newly-sanctioned gas resource projects can only increase pressure and disorder and discontent within this society. A society which already has great difficulty in managing and accounting for the rents it receives from already established extractive industries.

There is no evidence that the situation will be abated, let alone rectified, under the present leadership; and little reason to expect the current style and substance of administration to alter even when names change after the election to come.

How may PNG engender the emergence of a sympathetic, socially-conscious, “structured-to-fill-real-needs” political regime? How can it build a fairer and more open regime where the basic needs of society are met and the rule of law re-established?

Attempts to persuade politicians unilaterally to improve existing practice and systems in any dramatic way will meet resistance.

A revolution or a coup is unlikely in the near to mid-future, and in any case will only produce more of the same; more gravy for the already well-fed. Papua New Guineans from all walks of life ponder this question and shake their heads.

But there is a way. A way which is non-confrontational and entirely constitutional, and one which will need little if any rejigging of current legislation.

You can read John Fowke’s full article, ‘Power Returned to the People’ here.

Photo: John reunites with 80-year old comrade, Sinake ... "still full of life and ideas"

Ombudsman comes out fighting on Moti report


THE PNG OMBUDSMAN Commission has defended its report on the Moti Affair, denounced by the Somare government in parliament last week.

The three Ombudsman commissioners said their investigation was Constitutional and the lawful and denied they had failed to comply with their statutory obligations.

They said all persons adversely named, including prime minister Somare, had been provided with an opportunity to comment on a preliminary report that had incorporated all findings and substantive responses, including the prime minister’s.

The commissioners said the prime minister had not raised any of the matters he subsequently attacked in parliament.

The commission observed that the Moti report was an administrative investigation into the conduct of PNG government officials in relation to the alleged entry, arrest, detention, bail and transportation of Mr Moti to the Solomon Islands.

The report had identified administrative failures across government agencies that allowed the unlawful removal of Mr Moti to the Solomons.

The commission denied an accusation made by the prime minister of “sneaking the reports through the back door”, saying it had complied with the Constitution and the law in all its actions.

Meanwhile, Community Development Minister, Dame Carol Kidu, has told a meeting of civil society organisations and churches that she is dissatisfied with social and political development in PNG.

“The system of democracy is not working as well as I would like to see it,” she said. “Government will not do it. It has not for the last 30 or 33 years. We will do it in partnership with the people like you.”

Dame Carol urged people to be aggressive in questioning the government and to hold it accountable for its actions and its promises.

“Parliament is there to hold the executive accountable,” she said. “And civil society must hold the whole of parliament accountable.”

Source: PNG Post-Courier

Violence mars election run-up in Bougainville


LESS THAN two weeks before writs are issued for the second Bougainville government polls, election-related violence has broken out.

At the weekend, supporters and employees of a senior Bougainville Minister physically assaulted an intending candidate who is also a senior Administration officer.

The man was admitted to Buka Hospital with serious wounds but is now recovering at home.

Bougainville President James Tanis, who is contesting the election against PNG’s former Ambassador to China, John Momis, condemned the attack and said that such action by Ministerial staff was shameful.

“This will not help the Minister, the victim might win on sympathy votes,” he said.

Mr Tanis said that, as a bridge builder, he is not worried about who wins the election, only that leaders will work together after the election.

He said he had done a lot of travelling in the last twelve months to try and bring peace and reconciliation throughout Bougainville.

Writs for the ABG general elections will be issued on 26 March, nominations close on 2 April. Polling starts on 7 April and will continue until 21 May. Writs will be returned on 9 June.

Part 1: Something not quite right in Paradise


“Corruption is an insidious plague that has a wide range of corrosive effects on societies. It undermines the rule of law, leads to violations of human rights, distorts markets, erodes the quality of life and allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human society to flourish.” Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General

UNFORTUNATELY the attempted assassination of the Chief Ombudsman, and the lack of outrage at such an act, highlights a grave trend seeping into our law enforcement and judicial system.

It is a trend that, in the absence of strong resolve, has the ability to have major negative consequences on how we operate and how others see us over coming years.

In the last few months we have seen a disturbing trend of vigilante activity that strikes at the heart of our system. We recently saw the breakout of the bank robber, Kapris, and eleven others from Bomana prison.

It has now been alleged in the Sunday Chronicle that two government ministers provided K25,000 used in the planning of the escape.

The next installment of the Kapris matter involves a minister and a law enforcement chief seeking private “audiences” with the recaptured Kapris.

It seems these two gentlemen fail to understand that Boroko lock up is not Vatican City, and Kapris is not the Pope.

It is extraordinary that these gentlemen felt it necessary to step outside the normal legal processes during an investigation - on a “get to know you better” mission with a recaptured criminal.

Then we have the disturbing case of two Australian professional bankers arrested for doing heir job in seeking the legal repayment of outstanding bank loans of over K7 million owed by a former politician. Yes, you read it right.

The worst kept secret in town is that the two gentlemen are innocent, and nothing more than pawns in a bigger chess game. The intimidation of a raft of people from Gadens Lawyers, Posman Kua Lawyers, Deloittes, an MVL executive etc, who all had an involvement in this matter, is but another appalling episode in this laughable case.

Laughable, that is, only if we do not see the wider implications of the threat to an independent legal system.

The financial and investment fallout of this episode is enormous, irrespective of the wider implication for upholding the rule of law.

If banks and other financial intermediaries cannot recover loans from contracts entered into then the financial system is put at risk and investors become shy at dealing with a system that does not protect their rights.

Source: Editorial, Nasfund e-Newsletter, March 2010 edition. Nasfund is PNG's national superannuation scheme.

Part 2: A system no longer working effectively


In Papua New Guinea, less than one in a hundred serious crimes ends with a gaol sentence… 'In order to protect our sovereignty, we need to get buy-in from outside our country by our international friends'

RECENTLY we saw another attempted assassination of a well known PNG-Chinese businessman on Paga Hill by rogue elements with suspected links to the Asian underground.

Yes we have an Asian mafia in a country with a stressed legal system and capacity constraints within the police force.

Dealing with this growing threat is but another elusive challenge - with a number of state actors including Foreign Affairs and the Labour Department caught up in this complex milieu.

The increasingly battered business community responds to these challenges through additional costs in terms of security and attracting and employing skilled labour.

The inadequate development of the legal system has given rise to numerous complaints by the business community that court judgements are inconsistent, compounded by court delays in judgements and by unreliable enforcement.

We also now see a disturbing trend of high profile business leaders being escorted by personal security alarmed by the threat to them of their families being kidnapped or attacked. This is not a trend any of us wish to see continue.

These episodes are symptomatic of a system no longer working effectively. District courts are often used as playthings by unscrupulous litigants to obtain spurious orders that frustrate or delay due process and create a stranglehold over the system.

Civil litigants wait months if not years to get to the relatively more secure upper echelon courts that, while slow, tend to still function with independence.

Criminal courts face their own difficulties. To put this challenge in perspective, recent statistics have shown that for every 100 serious cases reported (rape, murder, stealing, violence) only ten end up with arrests and charges. Of them, five are thrown out by a district court.

This is often due to maladministration or police failure because of lack of manpower or internal corruption. The police force has become increasingly politicised, factionalised and devoid of trust within its ranks.

Unfortunately the ability to successfully prosecute means that less than 17% of the five remaining serious cases actually make it to the national court and receive a gaol sentence. [That is, in PNG less than one in a hundred serious crimes ends with a gaol sentence. Ed]

In 2002 we saw the institution of the ill-fated Enhanced Cooperation Program to assist in capacity building and strengthening law and order. While structurally problematic, the ECP nevertheless provided a basis for engagement in dealing with the current malaise within the legal and judicial system.

We desperately need a redesigned compact to revitalise the police force, the judiciary and State actors like the Solicitor’s Office and the Attorney-General’s Department so they can deal effectively with crime and ensure that the rule of law remains unquestioned and free of manipulation.

Similarly we need to safeguard the independence of these agencies, something that has become blurred over recent years. Failure to see the seriousness of what has been creeping into our system condemns our Nation to a very difficult road ahead.

There will be some in this debate that argue sovereignty is more important than seeking external assistance to help arrest the decline in law and order.

A more realistic argument is that our sovereignty remains precarious because of the failure to deal with law, order and transnational crime.

In order to protect our sovereignty, sometimes we need to get buy-in from outside our country by our international friends. That time appears to be now.

Source: Editorial, Nasfund e-Newsletter, March 2010 edition

Position on Pacific ‘contradictory’ say academics


THE ORGANISERS of a major forthcoming conference on the Pacific say they have identified “a contradiction in Australia’s role in the Oceanic region”.

“Official institutions are attempting to increase their influence in the region,” say the organisers of Oceanic Transformations, yet Australians learn less and less from their educational institutions and media about this region.”

They were commenting on the failure of the Federal Government to ensure its new draft curriculum for years 1-10 in primary and secondary schools gives due attention to the Pacific.

The Australian Association for the Advancement of Pacific Studies (AAAPS) will hold its Oceanic Transformations conference in Melbourne next month.

Academics, postgraduate students, journalists and people with an interest in the Pacific region will meet at Melbourne’s Victoria University from 8-11 April.

Prominent Pacific Islanders such as 'Alisi Taumoepeau, former Attorney General of Tonga, Dr Lyndes Wini, of the vector-borne disease control program in the Solomon Islands, and Siula Bulu of Vanuatu’s ‘Won Small Bag’ theatre group will speak at the conference.

Also among the diverse range of speakers will be Wep Kanawi, former PNG senior civil servant turned HIV-AIDs activist, and Mosmi Bhim, human rights proponent from Fiji.

The conference seeks to incorporate the study of Pacific Island countries more thoroughly in school and university educational curricula.

Papers in anthropology, history, politics, international relations, economics, health, the environment, education and culture form the backbone of the conference.

Cultural activities by members of Pacific Island groups in Australia will also form a major part of the program.

More information: See Fragments of Attitude

To register: Visit the AAAPS website at

Read the AAAPS’s recently launched strategy for the Study of the Pacific in Australia at

PNG: Take 'interfering' Australia to world court


AUSTRALIA IS “interfering” with PNG’s sovereignty according to Morobe governor and former national court judge, Luther Wenge.

And, while prime minister Michael Somare did not name Australia, he also used parliament to accuse “the agents of another government” of concocting the Moti Affair.

In what seems an attempt to distract public attention away from serious issues in his government, Sir Michael alleged “that PNG was unwittingly drawn into the Moti issue by agents of another government trying to carry out a political plan contrived by their government to discredit Moti”.

Justice Minister and Attorney-General, Dr Allan Marat, called for proceedings to be brought against Australia in the international court on the grounds that Australia had violated international transit law.

He said Australian police had unduly influenced PNG police to arrest Mr Moti while transiting through Port Moresby from Singapore to the Solomon Islands.

Mr Wenge said the act in arresting Mr Moti in transit was instigated by Australian police, was based on a fake document and broke international law.

Meanwhile Bulolo MP, Sam Basil, has called on Sir Michael to hold a Commission of Inquiry into the financial management of the national parliament.

Mr Basil said there had been huge mismanagement of funds allocated to parliament since the National Alliance came into office in 2002.

He said many contracts had been awarded by Speaker Jeffery Nape, including a K160,000 contract to chop down two trees.

“I heard that the contract was given to a relative of the Speaker and that’s why Mr Nape paid a K160,000 for a job that could cost only K5000,” Mr Basil said.

Source: PNG Post-Courier, 12 March 2010

Somare in ‘dangerous power grab’, says minister


MICHAEL SOMARE, abandoned by his ministers and his family, has found a new means to cling to power: abandon the National Alliance and re-invigorate his old Pangu Pati.

So says a person said to be a prominent PNG government minister on the anonymously-authored website Crime and Corruption in PNG [link to it here].

The minister also says:

·         Somare doesnt believe he will be endorsed for another term

·         he does not listen to the advice of his ministers

·         other ministers ‘do not have the guts” to speak out

·         the government could fall in a matter of weeks

The minister claims “Sir Michael is hell bent on staying in power and is paving the way to form a Pangu-led coalition because his own party won’t nominate him to be prime minister again.”

The minister, perhaps for obvious reasons, did not want his name revealed.

The revolt by senior National Alliance politicians is open knowledge in the party, the minister alleged.

“His lack of support of his own ministers and his support of Pangu is open knowledge. This should be brought to the attention of people. He’s openly supporting Pangu and his chief advisor is Chris Haiveta,” he said.

Haiveta, 50, is a former Finance Minister whose seven children live in Australia. He is head of the Pangu Party and works in the prime minister’s office. A controversial politician, he was twice governor of Gulf Province before being suspended in 2007.

“The prime minister does not have the support of many of his senior ministers,” the anonymous minister said. “He’s not listening to the advice of his deputies and he’s doing whatever he pleases.

“This is happening because he doesn’t believe his own party will re-endorse him for another five years at the National [Alliance] convention in August. [Even] his own family do not support him.

“People like Chris Haiveta are dictating what he should do. Every parliamentary member of NA is concerned about it, but nobody will talk out. The public have got to become aware of this.”

The minister said matters had reached a stage where he felt he had to speak out. “Others don’t have the guts to do this and when other NA members see it [the article], they will be very happy.”

He said that what happens next “depends on the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the law on political party integrity.

“If the Supreme Court declares [Sir Michael’s action] is unconstitutional, you will see this government fall in a matter of weeks.

“The prime minister is of the opinion that the Supreme Court has got nothing to do with it, it depends on parliament. But very few people will agree with that. He’s playing a very, very dangerous game.

“He has put in a whole lot of political appointees and these appointees are his robots. They do whatever he wants them to do.”

The minister said highly respected people like Leo Dion and Peter Humphreys [New Guinea Islands governors who are part of the National Alliance] are in open revolt.

Sir Michael had been advised to reshuffle his ministry but “he won’t do it because he’s promised so many people ministries that he’s got himself into a dilemma.

“All these secretaries that have been put in there are not working. And there’s massive, massive wastage in government, misappropriation, wastage and lack of policy implementation.

“The prime minister has walked out on us [National Alliance] and he’s keeping quiet.

“So it’s got to be brought out into the open. He’s made serious commitments to Pangu and he’s paving the way to join Pangu and run Pangu.”

Basic services require a bigger resources stake


THE PNG GOVERNMENT needs to make amendments to the Gas and Oil Act so the state can take a 30% stake in resources projects in PNG.

The government’s current 22.5% equity is insufficient to meet growing requirements for services in PNG.

When split between the national government, provincial governments, local level governments and landowners, it is like ten people sharing the same plate of food.

Of the 30%, the national government should retain 20% with the remaining 10% given to provincial governments, LLGs and landowners of the project area.

The problem of signing oil and mining agreements will be a bigger issue in future because landowners have learned from past experiences that have left the resource provinces with nothing but continued poverty.

If the government amends the Gas and Oil Act, landowners are more likely to cooperate in signing future agreements.

We must realise that the boom in the mining and petroleum sector is a cyclical wave. One day these non-renewable resources will come to an end.

Now they generate billions of kina, but we will be regretful when they resources are gone if this money is not used wisely now.

This is an urgent call to the government to make amendments to the Gas and Oil Act so we can have enough from our resources for the country’s development.

PNG – time for a review of Australian policy

This compelling article, the best appraisal of current conditions in PNG we have seen, was sent to PNG Attitude by a reader. Its author is not known, but s/he writes with persuasive force and a thorough understanding of today’s PNG. The article has been edited to remove some potentially defamatory references.

PAPUA New Guinea is on the verge of being a failed State.

The country is facing a very difficult future. The economy has grown slowly or come to a stop, despite new LNG deals with foreign corporations.

The outlook for growth is bleak because of the continued lawlessness and continued corrupt practices revealed by the media and heavily promoted by the government of Michael Somare and Puka Temu.

Corruption is rife. Everywhere you look and however you look at it, it’s taken a toll on the lifeblood and development of this country, it’s a disease, its spreading in all facets of the government to even the lowest paid individual in the office.

Law and order have broken down. We have seen in the past eight months an increase in the number of jail breakouts, and it is truly unsafe to go out or even visit at night.

Recently 12 hard core prisoners, with the aid of people in authority, managed to escape Bomana’s high security prison. People behind this escape have been identified, but knowing the weak laws and the laid back culture, you will have to bet your life savings if there are people arrested to face justice. In my mind, I know nothing will happen.

The government is very weak in its approach to apprehending people implicated in crises. What I am saying is that there is too much talk but, when it comes to the crunch of arresting and putting criminals behind bars, the people in authority have a weak spot.

We have had Commissions of Inquiry, one after the other, yet nothing is happening - no one is arrested. We know very well that Somare is protecting people close to him and himself. I thought Sir Mekere was a renegade PM, but at least he was not afraid to speak his mind. He brought much needed change to PNG.

The man we have now as PM has leached this country’s lifeblood and the next generations of Papua New Guineans will pay for his stupid decisions.

The country’s borders are unmanned. An influx of illegal activities is taking place across these borders yet there is no stamp of authority or any concern shown by this government. The country has become a safe haven for terrorists from Afghanistan and Pakistan who can easily bribe their way across the PNG-Indonesia border.

On this current government's watch, high level white collar crime is rampant, Nepotism and wantokism have been taken to a new level with the appointments of cohorts that relate one way or another to Somare or the Somare business and political dynasty.

Should this downward trajectory continue, Papua New Guinea could become a failed state. Just last week the Public Accounts Committee lauded just five of the 1000+ government departments, agencies, provincial governments and statutory organisations. The other 995+ have a poor and somewhat uncanny approach to reporting their financial management and administration.

Violent crime rates are escalating: crimes against the family, crimes against humanity, like those relating to sorcery, are soaring. Yet these are not that important to the ruling National Alliance Party, which is interested only in consolidating its numbers because in the coming months there is likely to be a vote of no confidence in Parliament after a recent rift between party stalwarts from two regions who no longer have confidence in the leadership of Somare.

At first glance, such pessimism may seem misplaced.

Despite the difficulties of governing a geographically scattered and ethnically diverse population of some 800 language groups, PNG has remained intact. A peace process eventually brought an end to the devastating secessionist war in Bougainville.

Unlike many postcolonial states, PNG has maintained a record of formal democracy since independence from Australia in 1975. Changes of government have been regular and constitutional. But the chaos, violence and fraud that marred the 2002 and 2007 elections indicate an emerging crisis of governance and state legitimacy.

Somare’s handpicked Electoral Commissioner and cousin, Andrew Trawen, made it his business to ensure candidates from the National Alliance Party and from the Highlands provinces of Southern Highlands, Enga, Western Highlands, Simbu, Eastern Highlands, won their elections. Documentary evidence shows there was widespread corruption and bribery involved.

Anyone that Trawen saw as a threat to Somare was dealt with diligently. There is evidence that Paias Wingti was snubbed and robbed of the Western Highlands regional seat because he was a threat to the Somare government.

Australia will not be able to quarantine the consequences if its nearest neighbour falls apart. The two countries are separated at their closest by a short island hop across the Torres Strait. PNG’s population is expected to double to nearly ten million by 2025. Should internal conditions worsen for its people, Queensland - Australia's northernmost state - could become the frontline for a potential flood of illegal migrants and refugees.

They could pose both a health and security risk, given the high rates of AIDS infection in PNG. The fragility of PNG also has broader regional security implications. Weak states are easy prey for terrorists and transnational criminals.

Although PNG has not been identified as a major target for transnational criminal activity, a small but significant firearms-for-marijuana trade across the Torres Strait, then inland to highly populated Highlands provinces by canoe and dingy via the Fly, Kikori and Purari Rivers has already contributed to the corrosive effects of rising crime and violence in major towns and the Highlands.

This increased availability of, and resort to, arms makes conflict more protracted and difficult to resolve, particularly when warlords and criminals outnumber and outgun PNG police and the PNG Defence Force.

Grim prognoses for the future of PNG are growing, but the worst has not yet happened. It has so far muddled through despite severe economic difficulties and political instability. But several trends suggest that each year of muddling ultimately reduces the prospect of getting through.

Living standards and annual per capita income have barely improved in PNG since independence. Mining revenues and generous foreign aid have not been invested in roads, schools and health services. Infant and maternal mortality rates are closer to those of sub-Saharan African countries than to the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.

Population growth is high and job creation low. The rising number of unemployed young people, particularly in urban areas, leads to demoralisation, feeding crime and civil unrest. The extent of lawlessness scares off investors and tourists, reinforcing a downward spiral in which not enough jobs are created and law and order get worse.

Some doubt about the muddle through scenario must also arise from the erosion of the subsistence safety net that has enabled ordinary Papua New Guineans to weather hard times in the past. Crime has spread to the countryside so that gardens and houses are no longer safe from thieves.

Villagers are robbed taking their coffee to market. Impassable roads and broken and unsafe bridges make local trade in goods difficult. The resulting hardship is taking its toll on traditional village life, fuelling the movement of people into cities and towns.

For the past 28 years Australia has played the role of disinterested donor, respecting the sovereign right of PNG to make its own choices by supporting its development since 1975 with more than $12 billion in Australian taxpayer funded aid.

But little development has taken place. Moreover, the nature of aid makes it part of the problem, not the solution. Dependence on donors has enabled PNG to live beyond its means; the government postpones the need to tackle problems because it can always be confident that international help will come to the rescue.

A fundamental review of Australian policy toward PNG is urgently needed. Conditions must be enforced on how aid is used and dispersed.

But even strictly controlled aid is pointless if PNG’s policies do not change. Without progress on basic issues like the economy, civil discipline and official prosecutions for corruption, no outside help, no matter how well-intentioned, will have an impact on the country's entrenched problems.


In related news from PNG this morning:

PARLIAMENT yesterday rejected the Moti Affair report, effectively putting an end to the controversy without any further action.

SIR MICHAEL Somare has been accused by Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta of sending a veiled threat to Police Commissioner Gari Baki to ignore the Ombudsman Commission’s final report on the Moti Affair. Sir Michael had issued a public statement attacking the report and describing it as “sinister, lacking objectivity, unfair and based on hearsay”.

Politicians' grab power to misuse public money


THE PNG PARLIAMENT has weakened the investigative powers of the Ombudsman Commission and diluted politicians’ accountability for spending government funds.

It has established a so-called 'parliamentary ombudsman committee' that will make inquiries of its own.

This removes the independent power of the Commission to investigate matters such as politicians’ and departmental heads’ travel and the disbursement of regional funds.

All the politicians in the House were in on the act, voting 83-0 to amend the section of the Constitution empowering the Commission to issue directives to ministers and heads of departments.

Section 27(4) allows the Ombudsman to issue directives to prevent payments from public funds to these officeholders if it feels there is impropriety.

In the past, the Commission has used this provision to stop MPs taking overseas trips when it felt the trips were a waste of public funds and has prevented the Finance Department issuing cheques if it felt the motives were political.

The Commission froze the RESI (Rehabilitation Education Sector Infrastructure) funds last year after allegations that millions of kina were misappropriated.

It has been alleged that RESI funds were misused and diverted away from Kerevat national high school, an issue covered extensively by PNG Attitude earlier this year.

Introducing the amendments as a private motion, Esa’ala MP Moses Maladina said section 27(4) had been used by the Ombudsman many times to stop cheques, thus preventing the implementation of government policy.

“We want to make it very clear that the action of the Ombudsman in issuing such directives is wrong,” he said.

Mr Maladina said there had been many physical confrontations between officers of the Ombudsman and PNG leaders at the international airport, as the ‘leaders’ sought to take trips that the Ombudsman considered inappropriate.

Let last year, an assassination attempt was made on the life of the Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek.The gunmen have not been caught and no motive has been established.

Tribal peoples’ land rights need to be respected


Donigi I’M CALLING upon the governments of PNG and Indonesia to implement the terms of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This Declaration was adopted by the General Assembly by a vote of 143 to four. The countries that voted against were Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

PNG was absent from the chamber when the vote was taken.

While Indonesia voted in favour, its representative distinguished between indigenous and tribal peoples.

This implies that tribal peoples have no customary laws in respect to their land, including territorial integrity. This is another way of saying that tribal peoples have no rights at law. This is a colonisation of tribal peoples by the State.

It makes the government not any different to the previous Dutch colonial government of Indonesia before Indonesia became an independent nation.

The PNG and Indonesian governments should recognise that both countries are made up of tribal peoples who have their own laws, governing systems and land rights.

There is no difference between tribal peoples and indigenous peoples. Historically, nations all over the world started off as tribal groups and nations.

In my previous role as chairman of the UN Decolonisation Committee, I went to great lengths to get the colonial governments of the remaining non-self-governing territories to come to the negotiating table by promoting a new agenda.

This was that granting the peoples of the remaining territories the right to self-determination did not necessarily include the right to independence. It can include the choice of self government within the metropolitan State.

In this regard, it is important for the territory concerned to control, manage and use its natural resources for its own advancement. Indonesia is a member of that UN Committee and I valued their friendship and support in this regard.

I therefore call on both governments to implement the Declaration and in particular Article 26 which states:

“Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those which they have otherwise acquired.

“States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the indigenous peoples concerned.”

A nation’s strength is in empowering its own people to become rich so as to alleviate poverty and increase economic and industrial growth within the nation.

PNG and Indonesia may have gained independence but have not removed the shackles of colonial mentality.

Adoption of their colonial masters’ philosophies of extracting resources from the tribal/indigenous peoples’ land is an abomination of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Such policies create poverty and perpetuate a dependency of its citizenry on the centrist government handouts.

Peter Donigi CBE LlB is interim president of the UN Association of PNG and a prominent PNG lawyer and author. He previous positions have included Public Prosecutor, Legal Advisor to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Special Representative to the UN and Ambassador to Germany. His analysis of weaknesses in the PNG Land Groups Act can be downloaded here.

Bernard Narokobi, constitutional architect


THE ONLY fierce part of Bernard Narokobi was his intellect.

Bernard, one of the fathers of PNG independence, was serving as high commissioner to New Zealand when he died yesterday after a short illness. He was 72.

From 1987-97 he was Member for Wewak in the national parliament, serving as Minister for Justice (1988-92), Agriculture Minister (1992-94) and Opposition Leader from 1998 until he lost his seat in the 2002 elections.

He was probably the most talented Papua New Guinean never to have become prime minister. In April last year the UK Guardian newspaper described him as one of PNG’s "living national icons".

Bernard was born in Wautogik village in the Sepik. His father Anton was one of the early catechists, working in the Boiken and Dagua areas. Bernard was educated at Dagua Catholic Mission and Brandi High, where he was taught by Michael Somare.

Narokobi_Bernard Later, Bernard completed a law degree at the University of Sydney and, soon after, in the early seventies, was appointed as adviser to the Constitutional Planning Committee, in which role I came into frequent contact with him and quickly grew to admire his sharp intellect and quietly-spoken manner.

Bernard had a large stake in writing the constitution adopted when PNG achieved independence in 1975. Later he worked as a private lawyer, a law lecturer at UPNG and had a stint as an acting judge in the National and Supreme Courts before embarking on a political career.

His wife, Regina, died of breast cancer in 2007. Bernard leaves seven children: Vergil, Daniel, Anna, Justina, Ottonia, and twins Benedine and Regina. Vergil is a Cambridge-educated lawyer and Anna recently completed her degree in law in Australia.

Bernard Narokobi’s death is a huge loss to PNG.

Photo: Bernard Narokobi greeting a Chinese diplomat

High performing Nasfund is a PNG success story


Tarutia_Ian THE NATIONAL superannuation fund, Nasfund, responsible for the retirement savings of 300,000 Papua New Guineans, continues to be one of the best performing operations in PNG.

Nasfund CEO Ian Tarutia [left] has announced an after tax profit of K205 million for 2009 and credited K213 million to members’ accounts after excellent gains in the fund’s investments.

As a result members’ savings have been boosted by 15%. Last year, members received 8% after a record 37% in 2007, 10% in 2006 and 29% in 2005.

“The international environment remains uncertain at this point and there is potential for a double dip recession,” Mr Tarutia said, but indicated potential results that would exceed this year’s forecast 9.5% inflation rate in PNG.

Mr Tarutia said Nasfund was pleased with the results, and said the management expenditure ratio had fallen to 1.12%, down 0.13% from 2008.

“So, as we are growing, we are becoming more efficient in the use of assets in administering the organisation,” he said.

Nasfund paid K126 million to 56,000 members during the year, while inflows were K233 million.

Gains in equity portfolios especially in New Britain Palm Oil, Lihir Gold and Oil Search, as well as currency gains contributed K127 million.

March magazine is with (most) subscribers

PNG ATTITUDE No 145 was despatched to most subscribers early this afternoon, although one group of 50 missed out due to an email glitch that will be remedied by tomorrow.

The eagle-eyed Loch Blatchford has also pointed out an error on page 17 where we mistakenly refer to Les Johnson as head of the Department of Territories when he was, in fact, still in PNG as Assistant Administrator (Services) under Administrator David Hay.

The March magazine is dedicated to Joe Wasia’s mother, who was buried in the hills beyond Wapenamanda yesterday. Joe wrote this month’s evocative lead story ‘PNG – too many dreams without meaning’, and credits the hard work of his mum and dad, both village people, for getting him through school and to university.

We send our condolences to the entire Wasia family, including the two girls in Grades 7 and 10.

If you’re not already a subscriber to PNG Attitude – The Magazine, email me here.

- Keith Jackson

Recollections of the Aitape-Wewak campaign


BY HER VERY NAME Noriko Miyake–McClintock personifies a bond between Japan and Australia that would have been inconceivable in the darkest days of World War II.

Her plea in yesterday’s PNG Attitude to locate Australian veterans of the Aitape-Wewak campaign of 1944-45, happily brought forth immediate responses from Des Martin, Donald Hook and Doug Stewart.

(By the way, if you are familiar with this theatre of war in New Guinea, you might like to drop Noriko an email here.)

Des Martin was kind enough to send me a copy of his communication with Noriko. Des – who was a Sergeant with the 6th Australian Division that saw action in the Aitape-Wewak – now lives with wife Pam in that idyllic corner of south-east Queensland called Buderim.

Here’s part of what he wrote:

I served with 6 Australian Infantry Division during the Aitape-Wewak Campaign 1944-45.

Generally speaking two Australian brigades, the 16th and 17th, pursued the Japanese forces under the command of General Adachi along the coastal littoral while the 19th Brigade plus a PNG unit, did the same inland beyond the coastal mountain range.

As I recall, the Japanese forces at the time were more or less living off the land, as the US naval submarine force had cut off supplies from reaching the area. Accordingly, Japanese units were scattered throughout the area in smaller sub units which made it easier for them to subsist than if they had remained together in larger formations.

The result of this was that many small units were over-run or passed by, and one was likely to run into a small Japanese patrols in areas which seemingly had been cleared of Japanese forces.

Thus even the non-combat units were likely to contact a Japanese sub unit and were forced to go armed and post sentries in areas which should have been safe.

I hasten to add that their condition did not impact on the fighting ability of Japanese troops, and they remained tough and skillful soldiers fighting to the last when contacted by our forces.

The area along the coastal littoral was heavy tropical rain forest in most places right down to the high tide mark. There were exceptions, of course. For example, the Japanese airfield at But had been built of coral and when we arrived a number of Japanese aircraft lay abandoned for lack of fuel but otherwise in good condition. Other more open areas had been pre-war coconut plantations producing copra.

Given all the years that have passed my memory is a bit faded, but I still have the impression that when we first advanced against Japanese forces around the Aitape area they were not skilled infantry fighters and were easily overcome.

It seems that many were non infantry, from naval or air force units, whose parent organisation no longer existed and who had been conscripted as infantry.

Later as we pursued the Japanese forces along the coastal fringe we came against seasoned infantry which made the various clashes more difficult.

Japanese soldiers killed in the Aitape-Wewak area were buried where they fell and, in my opinion, it would be impossible to determine the burial sites of the 9,000 or so soldiers killed by my division during the campaign.

When reciprocity becomes a national disgrace


DURING THE APEC forum in Chile, Sir Michael Somare tried to hose down concerns of Western countries who perceive high-level gift-giving in Melanesia as bribery.

The PNG prime minister said: "Sometimes people take us wrongly. I explained that sometimes the Westerners think that this is buying the right. It is not buying the right. It's appreciation of each other."

Using the example of pig-giving, the ultimate gift in many PNG cultures, he explained: "That's not me buying you or you buying me. That's just our custom”.

Then he told the press conference he was dismayed by PNG public servants' expecting a "six-pack" to do jobs that they ere paid to do by the government.

Let’s talk about reciprocity. Ross Wilkinson observed in these columns yesterday that there is another side to reciprocity. “Receiving a gift was not really receiving a gift,” he wrote, “it was merely the opening of negotiations. What could one give in return that was equal to or better than the intent of the gift received.”

And he pointed out “the offence of thinking that it really was a gift and giving nothing in return.”

One might suggest that Australian taxpayers have paid out billions of dollars to assist PNG since independence, not demanded anything in return and not got much.

The PNG government has directly and indirectly received this money with no established agreement about accountability and responsibility for the expenditure of these funds.

If the PNG government happily accepts this annual largesse, why would it not expect to give back something of equivalent value.

That way Sir Michael could evenhandedly apply his stated Melanesian principle of 'appreciating each other'.

When, with Australian assistance, a program was introduced in PNG to actively assist an ailing police force, Morobe governor Luther Wenge claimed he ‘saved’ PNG by torpedoing the program. Some saviour. Some appreciation of each other.

Papua New Guineans are very familiar with reciprocity. But if PNG politicians give gifts involving taxpayer funds to people who reciprocate by giving gifts back, the taxpayers are nowhere in the equation.

Recent claims by the PNG Opposition that foreign millions helped Somare retain political power are very worrying. What could the ‘gift-givers’ want in return?

And, of course, down the years there has been much more. Unlodged tax returns, the Taiwan millions, pillaged trust funds, secret Singapore bank accounts, district services funds gone missing, boomerang aid (sorry, that’s Australian self-reciprocity).

Until the PNG Ombudsman and Police investigate all inappropriate donations, gifts and benefits politicians and public servants have derived while in public office, no start can be made to creating a graft and corruption free PNG.

It’s well past time that Sir Michael stopped dressing up graft as traditional reciprocity and gave his country a break.

Sapos mi laik givim samting,
Husat imas save tingting?
Em samting bilong mi,
Ino samting b'long PNG,
Emino bagarapim yumi?

Ol pipol isave lukluk,
Watpo yu krai olsem kokaruk,
Mi sandap olsem Gren Sif,
Mi singaut, mi bilip,
Emi gutpela pasin bilong yumi.

Trabel istap long ol raskol tasol,
Kain save istap long ol pipol,
Lain bilong mi ino mekim,
Kain olsem mi no sekim,
Dispela tok ilaik daunim yumi?

PNG ikamap gutpela hap nau ia,
Nogat wari na belhevi istap a?
Yu mas bihainim dispela singaut,
Maski tingting igo wokabaut,
Yu tok tasol; 'PNG i nambawan kantri.'

Kain olsem yu noken wari long moni,
Benk bilong mi igat dispela save,
Bihainim tok bilong mi,
Bai yumi girapim PNG,
Nau tasol, tiket bilong balus istap we?

Wanted: Australian veterans of the NG war


Miyake_Noriko I AM A freelance media researcher and my task is to locate Australian war veterans who witnessed the PNG Aitape-Wewak campaign in 1944-1945.

I have spent hours and hours in front of my PC searching in vain until this evening.

I finally reached your site and saw people's names like Des Martin, Albert Speer and the father of Barbara Knowles. I believe these are the very people I have been looking for.

NHK has been making a World War II documentary film on the war in PNG toward its end, especially in Aitape-Wewak. As one of the Japanese generations born long after the war, I did not know much about what happened in PNG until five years ago.

My first task was to research the Cowra incident at the Japanese POW camp. We visited Australian witnesses in the NSW and Victorian countryside and interviewed them.

My work on PNG began last year and my main research objective has been to look into the records archived at the Australian War Memorial. At that time, I tried to find war veterans who served in PNG but I ran out of my time and gave up further search.

This year, we have resumed work on another film which is scheduled to be broadcast next year. My main task is to locate relevant witnesses and see if we can contact them to hear their stories.

I would very much appreciate it if you could pass my message to those people to see if I could get in touch with them.

I thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you.

You can contact Noriko Miyake, who is based in Australia, at email [email protected] or fax 02 9984 8923.

PNG – Culture, reciprocity & corruption


ON EMMANUEL Narakobi's Masalai blog, there has been an interesting debate that began as a discussion about the world's most corrupt countries.

The subject of corruption is topical and the exchange turned to a consideration of corruption in today's PNG.

The question of exactly what constitutes corruption can be in the eye of the beholder.

Illegal activities should be easy to spot and prosecute. However unethical activity can be a grey area.

A recent decision by an Australian government minister, which benefited a number of Australian TV moguls, was announced soon after the minister had been skiing with one of them.

The opposition leader called it “a bribe”. It certainly occupied the grey area.

Many countries have a recognised culture of reciprocity. In Australia, the culture tends towards giving without necessarily expecting something in return. Yet this is not the case in many other cultures.

Prior to working in PNG around the middle of last century, part of our training required learning about reciprocity and how one might actually give offence to someone by giving them something they had no way of repaying on an equivalent level.

This was a new concept for us, just as the expectation of paying and receiving a 'tip' used to be totally foreign to an Australian.

In PNG, there has been a growing practice of 'tipping' or, as it is referred to locally, the 'six pack' culture - referring to getting a government official to do something by rewarding him with a six pack of beer.

Prime Minister Somare is on record as saying he believes the PNG public service is corrupt yet he seems unable or unwilling to do anything about it.

PNG's ethical standards are set out in the Constitution and legislation. This was influenced by an Australian and PNG perspective prior to independence and has been accepted by successive PNG governments.

The traditional PNG practice of reciprocity doesn't feature in the PNG Constitution. This aspect allows some people to believe that no stated mention means it isn't illegal.

So what benchmark is acceptable in today's PNG? Surely those elected to Parliament are expected to serve and look after the PNG people ahead of themselves?

At the apparent behest of the Prime Minister, the PNG Speaker, who is supposed to be impartial, last year effectively closed down Parliament to prevent a vote of no confidence in the government.

If the PNG government is not prepared to permit Parliament to operate as it was designed to do, then PNG democracy is at an end. It is suggested by a PNG blogger on the Masalai site that PNG dictatorship has now effectively commenced.

Post-malarial Rudd Jr celebrates 2nd birthday


BabyKevinBilas AAP – IT HASN’T been all birthday cheer for PNG’s most famous toddler, Kevin Rudd Junior, recovering from a bout of malaria on his second birthday.

The birthday boy marks his second year today with a cake cutting ceremony attended by local dignitaries.

In an interview covering the Australian-PNG relationship, Kevin Junior's family stressed to me the importance of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd tackling climate change.

Malarial mosquitoes have moved into the colder climates of the Highlands and Kevin Junior's family are claiming the lad to be a "climate change victim".

"Climate change is here, it never was before," father Esau said. "Little Kev had malaria, but he is doing fine now.

"He is in good health, looking strong and well for his second birthday."

Kevin Rudd Junior was born in Goroka General Hospital, five minutes after PM Rudd made a visit two years ago today.

Thrilled parents Esau and Lina Kitgi, from the isolated Degi village, named their new-born in honour of the Australian PM who was in PNG shoring up relations shortly after being elected.

Esau took the opportunity to again invite the boy’s namesake to visit their village. "Everyone would love to see him in Degi, especially little Kev," he said.

Loven Forapi, Kevin Junior’s uncle, is preparing a special 12-page briefing for new Australian High Commissioner, Ian Kemish.

"We will update him on the latest information about Kev Junior," Mr Forapi said, adding that Kevin Junior embodied the spirit between the two countries that was cemented in World War II.

The family is aware of fluctuations in the opinion polls on PM Rudd's popularity and believe the Australian electorate will see through Mr Abbott's 'can do' antics.

"We would never change Kev Junior's name and think PM Rudd is doing a great job," Esau said.

Post-war Moresby: superior to the 'rubble towns'


Yesterday, we took a look at Port Moresby in the sixties. Today, thanks to the keen eyes and diligent typing of Phil Fitzpatrick, we roll back another 20 years to the forties. This is an extract. The full article 'Temporary in post-war Moresby' is available as a download below.

Port Moresby
can at least, perhaps, feel superior to the rubble towns of Rabaul and Lae, but there is little ground for much satisfaction in this.

Certainly the other towns were left even more desolate and look even less tidy.  Certainly Moresby has a new picture theatre tastefully designed for tropical conditions – although the shows are a little old by the time they reach this part of the circuit. 

Certainly there is a reasonable pub, and another, is soon to open; but the beer lasts only a few days after each boat, and the boats are none too frequent.  Lucky Rabaul still has its native market (Bung) at which anything and everything in the fresh food line can still be bought for a stick of tobacco.

So that, with the many small frictions which upset local residents in these days of change, there is little incentive to municipal patriotism.  The water supply is overtaxed and breaks down every few days.  Fresh food runs out between boats. 

Papua Hotel Petrol is extremely short, and many people who want to get to town are faced with the prospect of walking, which may be a matter of three or four miles. 

The cost of living is extremely high, with eggs 4/6 per dozen, tea 6/6 per lb., and bread 2/4 per loaf.  Every second person trying to maintain a wife in the Territory will tell you that his deferred pay is rapidly slipping through his fingers.

Houses are in desperately short supply.  A large number of married men are living in the numerous messes; their chances of bringing their wives up to live with them will be remote for some time to come. 

Since the resumption of Civil Administration only about forty houses have been built for the hundreds of Administration personnel wanting them, and a large number of these are sisalkraft  "temporary temporaries". 

Many men scrounged their own material and built their own sisalkraft cottages at Konedobu, where the settlement now contains about twenty homes.

The word "temporary" is the town's pass-word. 

No one knows whether it is to be the permanent capital, whether the two Territories of Papua and New Guinea will permanently be administered jointly, whether there is any economic future in New Guinea or, in short, what the future holds for anyone.

Download the complete article here

On the boss: The social strata of colonial Moresby


DO YOU recall those magic years spent under balmy tropical skies?  The following words, written some 40 years ago about Australians in colonial Port Moresby, might refresh your memory.

Sixties In the towns they build boats in their backyards, barrack for Carlton, St George, Brothers or whatever team it is, lounge on the beaches, deplore student activity, play two-up, join church groups, argue about cars, read Carter Brown and Dostoevsky, punt with the local bookmakers and invest in mineral exploration, argue politics, angle for invitations to Government House, drink too much beer, own hi-fi equipment and often two cars, belong to clubs and hospital benefits, and uphold the rights of the individual to do just about anything he wants to, especially if he’s an Australian.

The town dweller, they say in the Territory, has it made. And so he has. If he lives in a Government or company house he pays only a fraction of the rent a similar house would demand in an Australian city. He seldom worries himself with any other than emergency household repairs, he rings the maintenance man. The painters come every few years, a Government department hands out fruit trees and shrubs. Everything is on the boss. Everything that is except the electricity, water, sewerage and garbage disposal.

At the back of the house is a smaller (usually one room) dwelling known as the boi house. Here his domestic servant (boi) lives, sometimes with his wife and family. For a lawful minimum of $6 a week the servant will perform household duties with a degree of efficiency dependant mainly on his desire to remain employed, the ability to the householder to demonstrate clearly what must be done, and the grip both parties have on the language chosen as that to be used.

This employee is called upon in almost every situation. Apart from his major functions of washing, ironing and sometimes cooking, he will be instructed to wash the car, cut the grass, weed the garden, chop the wood, polish the silver, dust the furniture, make the beds, run the messages, meet the children after school and escort them home, wash the dishes and a thousand other chores. Another of his more important functions is to accept full responsibility for a high percentage of the Acts of God that intrude to irritate in every home.

Point Duty The social structure is clearly defined. At the top is the Administrator and his most senior officers, the judges, business leaders, district commissioners, full colonels and brigadiers, bank managers, airline bosses, archbishops and bishops. Politicians, professional men and academics seldom make it unless they have some other special qualification, high office in a service club, a record of charity work or something of that kind.

For those at the top two or three evening meals each week will consist of angels on horseback, cocktail frankfurts, multi-coloured pickled onions, cheese crackers and salted peanuts. To all the best parties these days a few Papuans and New Guineans are invited.  That is THE thing to do.

One rung down the social ladder come the departmental heads, half-colonels and majors, lesser church dignitaries, lesser businessmen, more junior district officers, the occasional police officer, lawyers, doctors and architects, engineers, dentists, politicians and planters.

The academics still haven’t made it; perhaps they don’t want to. At these higher levels it is all very neat and tidy. As the scale descends confusion mounts.

A distinctive feature of those not in the top two slots is that the women tend to dress more expensively, the men drink more, and the parties seem to go longer. More often than not interesting relaxed conversation is possible. But even in the confusion at these humble social layers there is some order. At least everyone knows he is not top drawer, and he won’t be until his boss retires or he wins the Opera House lottery.

Extract from a lengthy article by then New Limited journalist Don Hogg, based in Port Moresby in the 1960s. ‘The Australians – buckets of beer and plenty to spend’ appeared in the October 1969 issue of the magazine ‘New Guinea’, published by the Council on New Guinea Affairs and edited by the late Peter Hastings.

Thanks to Donald Hook for spotting this reminder of a time now long past. After leaving PNG in the early seventies, Don Hogg worked at the ‘Australian Financial Review’ and for some years wrote a popular wine column. He was last heard of living in South Australia. My first wife and I held our wedding reception in his Badili home in 1966.

Photos from sixties Port Moresby courtesy of Jan's Home Page here.

New Ireland’s Lihir Gold to increase production


THE LIHIR Island gold mine in New Ireland plans to increase production by about 50 percent over the next ten years.

The company aims to produce 1.45 million ounces a year on average for the five years from 2012-16.

This is an increase from the forecast output of around one million ounces this year.

A company statement further says production is expected to rise to about 1.5 million ounces a year between 2016 and 2021.

The ore body on Lihir was discovered in 1982, construction of the plant began in 1995, and the first gold pour was recorded in 1997.

Since then the mine – one of the world’s largest – has produced more than seven million ounces of gold, and 4,250 people are employed directly or indirectly in its operation. Only about 100 are expatriates.

Mining on Lihir is scheduled to continue until 2021 at current rates, with processing of lower grade stockpiles to continue beyond 2030.

Sadly, compensation always starts at the top


WRITER AFTER writer in the PNG newspapers complains abut the deplorable state of PNG government services.

If I main accost and momentarily detain an old joke, you can't really complain about the services, because there aren’t any! Boom, boom!

I mean, Blind Freddy can work out what's wrong.

In yesterday's PNG National, three articles effectively highlight the essential issue that has determined why a country, so rich in resources, has a large, disadvantaged population.

Speaking about the Sir Michael Somare, PNG Opposition Leader Sir Mekere Morauta says: ""Is the Prime Minister blind? Is he so insensitive and intoxicated with power that he cannot see what the nation and people need?

"PNG does not need a K130 million executive Falcon jet for exclusive use by the Prime Minister. We need that K130 million to repair classrooms, teachers' houses, health centres and staff housing, training for teachers and health officers, repair and buy new life-saving medical equipment as well as repairing fast-deteriorating inter and intra provincial roads.

"The Falcon jet is already being used as a mini bus. How many millions will the Government spend to operate and maintain the mini bus?"

Sir Michael was also ridiculed for trying to increase the number of ministries from 29 to 33. The five new ministries seemed to be required to ensure Somare retains power despite the logic.

The logic? If 28 ministries can't manage PNG, will 33 manage it better?

In the same newspaper, Dulce Oreke highlights a deficiency in the PNG health budget. The new hospital in the Port Moresby suburb of Gerehu, providing health services for 800 people a day, has had to close due to lack of funds.

And the highway that is the critical artery servicing the PNG highlands, is in desperate need of maintenance.

Sir Michael complained the landowners were at fault for claiming compensation.

"The Government cannot pay compensation as well as pay for road works. Let's get sense into our people. Leaders must educate their people," Sir Michael said.

"We have to stop these huge unnecessary compensation claims."

But when people see their leaders claiming brib… er… kickba… er… compensation, how is it that they are supposed to behave differently.

Over to you Sir Michael.

Investigate Somare over Moti, says Ombudsman


AAP - A REPORT by the PNG Ombudsman Commission has condemned the Somare government's role in helping Julian Moti flee the country in 2006 despite Australia's request for his extradition.

The report tabled in PNG's parliament yesterday says police should investigate the part played by Sir Michael Somare and other senior PNG government and military officials what became known as “the Moti affair”.

At a time of soured Australia-PNG relations, Mr Moti was put on a PNG military plane and flown from Port Moresby to the Solomon Islands in October 2006, although Australia had asked for him to be handed over to face child sex charges, which ironically were later thrown out of an Australian court.

Mr Moti, a Fiji-born Australian citizen who was later appointed attorney-general of the Solomons, was wanted in Australia over allegations he had raped a 13-year-old girl in Noumea and Vanuatu in 1997.

Sir Michael has always denied sanctioning the flight to the Solomons, but a leaked PNG Defence Force inquiry in 2007 found he had ordered it and recommended he and senior government officials be charged.

The Ombudsman’s report states that “the direction to transport Mr Moti to the Solomon Islands came from the PM of PNG, Sir Michael Somare, which was facilitated by key Government officials".

The report lists ten leading figures including the prime minister, then deputy prime minister Don Polye and the prime minister's chief of staff, Leonard Louma, along with PNGDF and police officials, in a chain of people involved in spiriting away Mr Moti.

Mr Moti was arrested in December 2007 at Brisbane International Airport after being sacked as attorney-general of the Solomons and deported from Honiara.

In December last year, after lengthy court proceedings, Justice Debbie Mullins threw out the case after finding that Australian Federal Police payments to the alleged victim's family had brought the administration of justice into disrepute.

PNG today – too many dreams without meaning


WHERE IS PNG heading? Sure, liquefied natural gas looks like it will be the major pillar of the country's economy.

But will the so-called leaders and bureaucrats manage revenues from this project with the mindset of developing this nation?

We gained independence from Australia in 1975. Since then, the country has remained stagnant in terms of development for 35 years.

I often ask myself whether the much talked of multi-billion kina LNG project in the Southern Highlands will really change the lives of the people.

Much of the infrastructure we see today was built before independence, including schools, hospitals, health centres, roads and bridges.

These facilities are in critical condition as they have not been maintained. Most of our people are living in remote places where there are no basic services such as aid posts, schools or even roads.

Goods and services are not distributed equally to the people. About two-thirds of the population is living in poverty. Another thing affecting Papua New Guineans is the constant increase in the price of goods and services. Basic items like rice, tinned fish, fuel and school fees have spiked dramatically in recent months. I doubt people earning less than K500 a fortnight can survive for a fortnight in such an environment.

The people of PNG know that we have a big problem with our economy and the development of this country, but the government keeps mentioning things like “National Alliance stability”, “kina stability”, “economic boom”, “full of hope” and “PNG on the right track”.

These are positive statements but we do not know what they really mean and how our lives can be improved. We are rich in natural resources compared to Singapore, New Zealand and many other countries. Yet, they are highly developed, and we are not.

If they can achieve such development status, what is happening in PNG? What are we going to do when non-renewable resources such as gold, copper, nickel and natural gas run out?

And what do we do if major overseas aid contributors stop helping us after hearing of so much corruption in the country?

We have too many dreams without meaning. We shouldn’t expect miracles of LNG. If we can’t manage the revenue from these resources and continue the current system of bribery and corruption, there won’t be anything for us enjoy.

Poor people will continue to live poorly and politicians and bureaucrats will live luxuriously in mansions. The leaders and the people of PNG must now stand up to put an end to corruption and bribery. Otherwise, we have no one but ourselves to blame for ruining what could have been a great and wonderful country.

The task of bringing home the dead continues


HARUMI SAKAGUCHI is a very special person. He is concerned that those who sacrificed their lives in PNG in World War II– on whatever side – are known.

Through his dedication to recovering the remains of Japanese war dead and his work assisting the Montevideo Maru Memorial Trust, Mr Sakaguchi – an independent researcher – has gone beyond the call of duty.

Harumi Sakaguchi was born in 1946, just after World War II. He studied in USA and then spent more than 35 years in the field of development assistance, mostly with the United Nations.

Along the way, he served in Geneva and New York; but it was his last posting to PNG, from 2004-08, that proved a significant part of his career and his life.

Now retired in Japan, the essence of Mr Sakaguchi’s current research is the location of the remains of Japanese victims of World War II, some of which he believes are buried near Port Moresby.

And, as he points out, while the war is long ago, the task of recovering the war dead and bringing closure to their families must continue.

“The task of recovery and repatriation is far from over. A huge number of Japanese families hope for final closure,” says Mr Sakaguchi.

This is where you – or a relative of yours – may be able to help.

Mr Sakaguchi wants to make contact with Australians and Papua New Guineans – whether ex-servicemen or other folks - who may have been engaged directly or indirectly in the burial of Japanese servicemen, especially prisoners of war.

He hopes Australians or Papua New Guineans can help provide information that may assist the final recovery of these servicemen.

He is particularly keen to contact and consult people who may have knowledge of:

(1)          the burials of Japanese prisoners who died at the 2/9 Australian General Hospital near Port Moresby

(2)          the remains of Japanese naval airmen recovered after being shot down during raids on Port Moresby

(3)          the Japanese servicemen and war prisoners initially buried in a Japanese war cemetery constructed by an Australian force in Torokina on Bougainville

You can contact Harumi Sakaguchi here, and I sincerely hope you do.

PNG Attitude readers assisted Mr Sakaguchi on a related project in April last year, as he says “triggering a sequence of events which I could never had induced on my own”. So let’s do it again.