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55 posts from April 2010

Just where is Governor Parkop coming from?


NATIONAL CAPITAL District Governor, Powes Parkop, has offered to be a 'peace broker' between those opposing the Maladina Amendment and its proponent, Moses Maladina.

He has thus exhibited the traditional practice of a PNG leader - to sit down and talk through a problem. In this, he is to be commended.

Unfortunately what this offer also does is to cloud the central issue to the extent it may be overlooked in an apparent public attempt to create harmony and prevent discord.

Can one assume that Governor Parkop, as a Member of Parliament, originally voted for the amendment in the first place, since there were no dissenting votes?

Could this be an attempt to divert a show of solidarity against the legislation? If the planned protests do not go ahead, who will know what level of opposition there is to the Bill?

It would be helpful to have Governor Parkop's view on what he supports and what he doesn't.

There proposed Amendment definitely needs to be brought to a halt. But the Bill first needs to be withdrawn to allow everyone to take a step backwards.

Proper public and political debate can then take place before any changes are made to the PNG people's last line of defence against corruption and malfeasance, their own Constitution.

$300M plundered in sham compensation


ROWAN CALLICK, in The Australian newspaper, has reported leaked details from a Finance Inquiry report, which cannot be published in PNG.

We have deleted names and some other details that may be legally problematic.

The Australian reports:

A cabal of top public servants and lawyers have hijacked Papua New Guinea’s government chequebook, plundering more than $300 million through sham compensation claims.

The rorts include [NAME] initiating a spurious claim of $700,000 for himself and 225 people from his home village. He delivered the money to a dozen of them whom he had flown to Port Moresby, in a case containing 50-kina notes.

A devastating judicial report detailing the conspiracy, commissioned and tabled in parliament by Prime Minister Michael Somare last month, shows the collapse of PNG’s control over its finances.

This is despite the Australian government spending more than $160m in the past decade on programs to 'strengthen governance' in PNG, through highly paid Australian advisers.

When Sir Michael finally managed to table the report after three years and numerous legal battles, [NAME] and [NAME] obtained a court injunction banning any publication of its findings within PNG, where public interest in its contents is intense.

The Australian has obtained a copy of the report, which details a dramatic and pervasive web of corruption.

Sir Michael is now waging the greatest battle of his 40 years in parliament — to wrest back control of the country’s finances from the corrupt nexus, who have been approving and settling vast payouts for claims with scant or no evidence, and sharing the cash with claimants and lawyers.

The report also details $1.5m in compensation claims by [NAME] over contracts for four top government jobs.


Among 57 people recommended for criminal prosecution are [NAMES]; several prominent lawyers and others.

Sir Michael said when tabling the findings in parliament last month: "When you read this report, you cannot help but shudder in awe at the level of corruption that has permeated key government departments and agencies tasked with managing public monies."


A no nonsense message to Ramu Nickel


QUOTE: “The [Court] injunction against the Ramu Nickel project is being driven from outside by a few people.”

Greg Anderson and John Gooding, you’ve got it wrong and we will not sit here and allow you to pump out misinformation so you can cover your backsides with your bosses and shareholders.

You’re right about one thing. There certainly is a lot of misinformation surrounding the deep sea tailings placement system. And it seems to us that most of that misinformation comes from your direction.

Greg is Executive Director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum. John is a big man in Highlands Pacific Ltd. And of course MCC is the Chinese government’s state owned construction company.

This is a pitiful attempt to make it seem like very few people are trying to stop the project, and, somehow, for some reason, these people are outsiders! Yeah, right. Nice try.

Truth is this is a project of the Chinese state-owned construction company MCC, which is driving the project - and they are from the outside. As are Mr Anderson and Mr Gooding.

So stop the ‘outsider’ nonsense. Are you saying we need ‘outsiders’ to tell us that dumping 100 million tonnes of toxic waste may cause a few problems for us and future generations?

By the way, there are a number of successful mining associated deep sea tailings placement installations in operation around the world.

Let’s learn.

Genia being touted as Australian test captain


PNG-BORN Will Genia is being predicted to captain the Australian Wallabies in rugby union tests this year.

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones is leading a push for Genia, 22, to take over leadership of the Australian team from Rocky Elsom.

Present coach Robbie Deans admits Elsom’s captaincy is under review.

He concedes that Genia, who’s played 11 tests and leads the well placed Queensland Reds in the Super 14 series, has the credentials for the top job.

“He’s shown he’s a natural leader”, Deans said.

Elsom, on the other hand, has had a very ordinary season since joining the ACT Brumbies.

No doubt he will be looking for a big game against Will Genia’s Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

The first test against Fiji will be played in Canberra on Saturday 15 May.

You can act now to stop the rot in PNG


"Ask not what your country can do for you; rather ask what you can do for your country" - John F Kennedy, US President

TO PEOPLE like me, who regularly peruse the PNG media and internet blogs, there seems a constant steam of queries as to why 'someone' doesn't do 'something' about the situation in PNG?

So perhaps the question should be posed: why is it that those who want something done aren't prepared to do it themselves?

At Independence, PNG had a governance system imposed on it that was never designed to cope with today's massive amounts of corruption and malfeasance at all levels of government.

In 1975, the situation of today was simply not conceived and the checks and balances were established with a totally different mind-set.

Clearly the present PNG regulatory bodies are unable to grapple with the size and nature of the problem, otherwise it would not have been allowed to develop into what it is today.

If it is possible to generalise, human nature seems to follow a pattern of malaise or languishing under deteriorating conditions until a total collapse requires a drastic response.

This systemic inertia is common throughout every human society and is usually summed up in the claim: 'Someone should do something about it!'

Unfortunately, most people will not contemplate precipitate action until the crisis hits; affecting them personally to the point where they cannot possibly ignore the need to act.

Unfortunately, in the past this has often led to a drastic, last resort solution.

The traditional PNG practice of group discussion and consensus that was so effective in a village based society seems to now be exacerbating rather than helping the current impasse.

Without a culture of individual leadership and decisive action, talk sometimes becomes the point beyond which people are not prepared to go.

So is this quirk of human nature about to condemn PNG to a period of collapse and social dysfunction?

There is an old saying: 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going!'

That’s why it’s so good to see the emergence of civil organisations like ACT NOW! indicating that there’s a new generation of Papua New Guineans who have had enough – and who have decided to do something about it.

If this becomes a significant political as well as civil movement, perhaps what seems like the looming implosion will not be inevitable.

You can get in touch with ACT NOW! Visit its website at or email the organisers at [email protected]. We urge you to act now to stop the rot.

Illegal Pacific: the threat of organised crime


TEN YEARS ago, the Pacific islands were relatively free of organised crime.

But almost overnight it has found a foothold, and is now expanding its activities and reach.

Chinese crime gangs are the most active, smuggling drugs, people and counterfeit goods, and running gambling and prostitution in Port Moresby and Suva.

Illegal migration drives the overall crime trend. While the scale of Chinese criminal activity may be limited by global standards, the impact is magnified in small and weak states.

Ten years ago, the prospect of armed intervention to prevent state failure in the region was considered low.

A policy turnaround in 2003 saw Australian troops and police lead a regional intervention in Solomon Islands to restore law and order, with some returning less than three years later after rioting erupted in Honiara.

Tonga burst into flames with riots in November 2006, while Fiji finished the year with its fourth military coup.

As Kevin Rudd has pointed out, the 'arc of instability' in the Pacific has gone from being a 'strategic concept' to 'strategic reality' in less than a decade.

It is no coincidence that organised crime is spreading at a time of growing instability.

Poor governance, weak law enforcement, and corruption provide attractive conditions for crime syndicates. These problems are most acute in the larger Melanesian countries of Papua New Guinea, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

But even the smallest microstates have become breeding grounds for nefarious international activity. When Nauru frittered away its phosphate trust funds, it resorted to selling passports to raise funds and allowed the Russian mafia to launder billions through its offshore banks.

Money laundering and drug trafficking are thus growth industries in countries with stagnant economies and corrupt officials.

* This is the abstract of an article Sue Windybank wrote for Pacific Policy Magazine (Centre for Independent Studies, Winter 2008)

Sign up for fourth walk against corruption


THE FLIER from Transparency International in PNG pulled no punches.

“Oppose, detest, are disgusted or merely angry about the Maladina Amendments which will weaken the Ombudsman's role in referring public office holders for possible breaches of the leadership code…..

“Disgusted with the way the scandalous PNG bank accounts in Singapore was handled, and the Taiwanese dollar for diplomacy scandal, that have been swept under the carpet and will never, ever see the light of day again…..

“[Then] join us in the 2010 Walk Against Corruption and as a united front let us send a strong message to the few corrupt and greedy custodians who are in charge of our common wealth.

“Or do we wait till hundreds of millions from the proceeds of the LNG project go to the dogs and we start fighting the ghosts in 30 years time?

“Corruption decimates public funds for development and makes us poorer.”

The fourth 2010 Walk Against Corruption, planned for Sunday 6 June, has the theme “Corruption makes us poor: oppose it and restore our integrity”.

In Port Moresby, the walk will start at 5.30 am at Murray Barracks Oval and work its way through Taurama and along Taurama and Angau Drives.

It will be led once again by PNG’s Governor-General, Grand Chief Sir Paulias Matane.

Already corporate teams from Nasfund, Teachers Savings & Loans, Digicel, Gadens Lawyers, Port Moresby Grammar School. Hayden Lloyd & Associates, and the PNG Post Courier have indicated they will participate. How about a PNG Attitude team?

Individuals and corporate groups are invited to participate by emailing the executive director, Emily Taule, here.

Australian Parl't will honour Maru victims


MORE THAN 100 people have already registered for a special event at Parliament House in Canberra to honour those who died in the fall of Rabaul and in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

The Australian Parliament is set to debate an historic motion on Rabaul and the Montevideo Maru on Monday 21 June.

Former servicemen, relatives and friends are invited to Canberra to witness the debate and attend a function hosted by Veterans’ Affairs and Defence Personnel Minister Alan Griffin and Environment Minister and Patron of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, Peter Garrett.

The resolution will cover:

the gratitude of the Australian nation to the military personnel and civilians in Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands for their services in the defence of Australia during World War II

regret and sorrow for the sacrifices that were made in the defence of Rabaul and the New Guinea Islands after the invasion of 23 January 1942 and in the subsequent sinking of the Montevideo Maru on 1 July 1942

condolences to the relatives of the people who died in this conflict

thanks to the relatives for their forbearance and efforts in ensuring that the nation remembers the sacrifices made

The list of speakers includes Catherine King (ALP Vic), Louise Markus (Lib NSW), Bruce Scott (Nat Qld), John Murphy (ALP NSW), Steven Ciobo (Lib Qld) and Bob Katter (Ind Qld).

A similar motion is expected be moved in the Senate by Senator Anne McEwen (ALP SA).

Eligible people who wish to attend these events need to register with Andrea Williams here.

This is a wonderful opportunity for the Australian Parliament to expatiate a lot of the grief and misunderstanding built up over the years since the men of the Montevideo Maru were lost in what was a terrible disaster for Australia.

It will be a significant action by our Parliament: one that the few remaining men of Lark Force and the relatives of those who died, many of them now in their eighties and nineties, have been waiting for and will treasure.

They will travel to Canberra to witness it and be part of it. They will sit in the gallery and know the sacrifice is honoured by the Parliament of their nation.”

In another development, the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Maj Gen (ret) Steve Gower has advised the Society that his Council has given in-principle approval for a Rabaul and Montevideo Maru monument to be constructed in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial.

Footnote: The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society was established to ensure national recognition of Australia’s greatest maritime disaster, a tragedy of war that cost well over 1,000 lives and affected many thousands more. You can join the Society here. Membership is currently free.

Anzac: Our nations honour sacrifices of war


Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel TODAY IS Anzac Day, “the one day of the year”, the day on which Australians and New Zealanders remember and honour the sacrifices made in war.

It’s also a special day in the Australia-Papua New Guinea relationship, reminding us that our two peoples have fought and died together in the defence of both countries. Lest We Forget.

Then there are names that conjure up such vivid images – Kokoda, Buna-Gona, Aitape-Wewak, Rabaul, Milne Bay, Bougainville, Kavieng, the massacre at Tol and the great tragedy of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

It was apt, therefore, that last Tuesday saw the joint release of Australian and PNG stamps in remembrance of Kokoda. This is the first joint stamp issued between the two nations.

There are five stamps that depict the relationship forged between PNG and Australia after the Japanese invasion of PNG in 1942.

Two stamps portray the difficult conditions and the close bonds forged through adversity, another shows the memorial at Isurava, while the others point to today’s relationships through the eyes of veterans and travellers.

PNG Attitude also takes this opportunity of reminding you of Jim Brown’s wonderful poem, The Anzac on the Wall, which you can link to here.

First Day Cover

Forget the Storm: PNG's grand plan for NRL


THE PNG BID to join the NRL is well advanced, with a novel solution to the problem of PNG having limited TV coverage.

The bid team met NRL chief executive David Gallop recently and explained how it would fill a new stadium in Port Moresby with paying customers.

They would all watch away games on big screens around the arena.

This would send a powerful message to sponsors if they regularly filled a stadium.

Already, leading PNG companies support the bid. Total sponsorships exceed K5 million with Coca-Cola contributing K500,000 a year.

The PNG government has committed, wait for it, more than K20 million to the bid, much of it for the construction of a 30,000-seat stadium in Port Moresby.

This will be used during the South Pacific Games in 2015, the same year PNG hopes to field a team in the NRL.

Sports Minister Philemon Embel said: “Whatever the cost, the government is ready to build the stadium. The PNG government is 100 percent behind this NRL bid.''

A park in Port Moresby already shows NRL matches on big screens.

City Governor, Powes Parkop, says he’s enthusiastic about the role rugby league plays in bonding the nation's 800 tribes.he also claims it helps reduce crime.

''Here in Port Moresby, we have been able to translate our people’s passion for NRL into positive community initiatives,'' Parkop said.

“On game night, 15,000 people turn up to watch the game on big screens throughout the city and they reckon it is better than watching at home.

“The atmosphere is electric, but peaceful and harmonious. We endeavour to create an alcohol free environment during the show to enable families to come out, especially mothers and children.

“This initiative is helping us to transform the culture of this city which used to be known for crime and violence and other negative things.

“This is what I want David Gallop and other NRL executives to know, appreciate and experience: that the game is more than a game here in PNG. It has the ability to impact positively on all walks of life.''

An indication of the hold rugby league has on PNG was a recent edict making the sport a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

Minister Embel and Governor Parkop led the delegation to meet Gallop, with the NRL boss insisting problems must be resolved before the PNG’s bid can be taken seriously.

PNG has rejected the suggestion it should invest in a vulnerable Sydney NRL club and has opted to support the Central Coast's bid to bring the number of NRL teams to 18.

General Manager of the PNG bid is Bev Broughton, a sports marketing consultant married to Paul Broughton, chairman of the Gold Coast Titans.

* A longer version of this story was published originally in the 'Sydney Morning Herald'

Beyond self-interest: the answers lie within


THE PNG MIDDLE class seems preoccupied with a debate over whether the country should look south to Australia and New Zealand or would be  better looking north - to China.

But, prompted and encouraged by Australia and China, people are asking the wrong question. And missing the real answer.

So how can PNG lift itself above its current problems and find a better way forward?

The answer is that PNG needs to look internally, it must search within itself, to find a better future.

Paradoxically, considering that the Australian government happily pours millions of dollars into the aid bucket every year, Australia has a terrible record of assistance to PNG.

Australia seems complacent in the knowledge that most of the money is spent enriching Australian consultants and suppliers. And it seems content to disregard the large amounts diverted to corrupt politicians and public servants.

Further, it appears to care little that Australian companies gorge themselves on massively imbalanced trade. PNG has, and continues, to suffer a massive leakage of its wealth to Australian coffers.

And, yes, Australian and other global mining companies have an appalling record in PNG for their social and environmental abuses.

As the Catholic Bishops pointed out this week, this resources bonanza, which should have enriched the whole nation, has left most Papua New Guineans worse off than before, struggling with widespread corruption, poverty and violence.

Now here’s the big question.

Does this mean PNG should turn its back on its old colonial masta and welcome the Chinese as replacements

The Chinese government and its State-owned corporations have, for several years, been spreading across the globe in search of mineral resources, new markets and political allies.

But, ironically, the corruption, human rights abuses and environmental destruction that follow in their wake mirror the past abuses of white European colonialists.

The fundamental truth is that both China and Australia look on PNG with the same hungry eyes, and they care not for the future of its indigenous people.

If PNG it is to move forward to a fair, just and balanced society, it must change its current subservience to both countries and set the terms for a new and different relationship.

PNG’s 'founding fathers' - those bright young men and women who guided the work of the Constitutional Planning Committee in the early seventies - foresaw very clearly what PNG would need to do to avoid the pitfalls of other nations trying to transition rapidly into the 21st century.

They saw the perils of becoming the lapdog of foreign powers.

The CPC established five clear and simple national goals intended to guide people, corporations, government departments and politicians. And they enshrined these goals in the Constitution:

1. Integral human development.

2. Equality and participation for all.

3. Political and economic independence.

4. Environmental protection and wise use of natural resources.

5. Respect for Papua New Guinean ways.

PNG is blessed with abundant natural resources. But these have become her curse over the past thirty years as Malaysian loggers and multinational mining and petroleum companies have intoxicated leaders with promises to get rich quick while blatantly stealing resources from under the gaze of a bewildered people.

PNG’s leaders would do well to stop listening to the self interested harping of people like Greg Anderson from the PNG Chamber of Mines and Madam Lu from the Ramu nickel mine.

They must move from fuelling the debate over whether to allow Australia or China the lead in stealing the family silver and return instead to study the five national goals.

These goals offer the path to a modern economy, a fair and just society, and a united country.

The people of PNG need to wake up to the fact that, if they are to avoid the pitfalls of history, they must take a new and unexplored path to freedom and prosperity.

And they must understand that they already have the roadmap. It is already within their Constitution.

Panguna landowners want mine to re-open


THE CHAIRMAN of the Panguna Landowners Association and candidate for the Ioro seat in the current Bougainville election, Chris Damana, has said local landowners want the Panguna copper and gold mine to re-open.

Mr Damana was talking at a rally of 5,000 people in Arawa organised by the New Bougainville Party, led by leading PNG politician, John Momis, who is a candidate for President of the troubled province.

In the 1970s, the opening of the mine sparked mass protests from landowners that led to a disastrous civil war resulting in the deaths of thousands of people.

Mr Damana said landowners had decided to open the mine after negotiations with Bougainville Copper and the PNG government are completed.

He said it would also take many years for another mine to start up, leaving Panguna as the only immediate project that would save Bougainville’s economy.

Without the Panguna mine, he said, it will take a long time for Bougainville to reach economic capability to run as a nation.

Malamendment undemocratic says lawyer


A PROMINENT PNG solicitor, Tony Pryke of Huon Lawyers, has moved to encourage his PNG colleagues to act against the so-called Maladina Amendment.

Mr Pryke has asked Kerenga Kua, President of the PNG Law Society, if the Society will “express its dissatisfaction and concern” at what Tony terms this “blatantly undemocratic” Bill.

He also referred to the unanimous 83-0 vote in Parliament as “unbelievable” and “scandalous”.

Meanwhile, Madang Governor, Sir Arnold Amet, has said he will not support any change to Section 28(5)(4) of the Ombudsman Commission Act as he believes it to be unconstitutional to bar the liability of leaders from prosecution.

“To remove [these] powers is fundamentally wrong. I don’t think our MPs have understood the meaning and effect of such removal of liability.

“I wish to give the reasonably intelligent MPs, and there are many, the benefit of the doubt. This is technical language that lawyers like me need to read and fully understand.

“It is one I will be advising Government and the Opposition and Moses Maladina that we restore. It is one I will not support,” Sir Arnold said.

Meanwhile, Mr Pryke says he’d like to see “something like a march by lawyers (in their hot woollen gowns) in Moresby, Lae, Hagen etc or something dramatic and attention grabbing” to draw public attention to the Amendment.

“Is this a precursor to a coup?” he asked. “It is certainly the next best thing – immunity for leaders.”

Brisbane media freedom conference is free


THERE’S GOOD news for people who lives in or near Brisbane and want to support PNG Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek.

The World Press Freedom Day 2010 conference in Brisbane from 1-3 May is open to all with no conference fee. “This is a UN event so there is no charge,” says convenor, Assoc Prof Martin Hadlow.

And PNG Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek, will be at the conference, just as the Maladina Amendment – designed to strip his office of anti-corruption powers – is the subject of political scheming in Port Moresby.

“I would suggest that the best session to attend is on Saturday 1 May at the lecture theatre at the UQ Centre,” says Prof Hadlow. [Link to the conference website here]

“This is a whole day on freedom of information and includes an Asia-Pacific session featuring ombudsmen and Attorney-Generals from PNG, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Palau.

“It starts at 10 am on the Saturday and admission is free. This will be a great session to attend.”

Meanwhile, students at Lae’s National Polytechnic Institute have expressed disgust at government attempts to remove the Ombudsman Commission’s powers.

At an Institute forum, the entire student body said it was against the Maladina Amendment, saying it would pave the way for corrupt politicians to “fill their already filled pockets” with money that should be used for providing better services for the people.

SRC president, Yol Donigi, said Parliament’s intention was a step towards dictatorship. “If the Ombudsman Commission, in all its efforts to eradicate corruption has not succeeded 100%, what guarantee is there that a parliamentary ombudsman committee will do us any good,” he said.

Great personalities at the Brisbane Conference

Prof Chris Masters, investigative journalist, Australia

Dan Southerland, executive director, Radio Free Asia

Zuhair Al-Jezairy, director, Aswat al-Iraq

Robert Mukombozi, investigative journalist, Rwanda

Valentina Al-Ama, director, Ma'an News Network, Palestine

Nigel Brennan, freelance photojournalist, 15 months a hostage in Somalia

Ashley Wickham, former general manager Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation

Sophie Foster, Fiji Times

Savea Sano Malifa, Samoa Observer

Susuve Laumaea, co-chair Pacific Freedom Forum, PNG

Lisa Williams-Lahari, founding member WAVE and Pacific Freedom Forum, Cook Islands

Marie-Noelle Ferrieux-Patterson, president, Transparency International Vanuatu

Remember, registration is free and you can find out more here.

Plea for more medals while budget blows out


AAP – LAST YEAR the PNG government spent K2.6 million on medals, a funeral, a kickboxing tournament and a billiards contest.

A Treasury budget report shows K2 million went to the Governor-General's office for supplying medals for national awards.

But the Governor-General's official secretary, Tipo Vuatha, told AAP the spending on medals for the Order of Logohu was too skimpy.

"If anything, it's not enough. We want to get more money for more awards," he said.

"We bought more than 1,000 of all the different Logohu medals, as last year we ran out.”

Treasury listed 200,000 kina for a billiard and snooker championship, 200,000 kina for a kickboxing title and another 200,000 kina for funeral expenses for Oro Province administrator, Monty Derari.

AusAID says PNG is not meeting its human development goals despite strong economic growth; and the country’s K4.2 billion kina spend in 2009 was K214 million above budget.

The Treasury report also showed PNG's Higher Education Minister, Michael Ogio, was given K50,000 kina for a three-day conference in Malaysia.

The Attorney-General's office received 1.5 million kina for the hearing of the Wafi gold mine land dispute.

The Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby cost K615,000 while the African, Caribbean and Pacific States-European Union Joint Parliament Assembly cost nearly K300,000.

Public infrastructure finance on the move


NASFUND BECAME interested in infrastructure financing in 2002 when it advocated tax free incentives to induce long term investment in public infrastructure.

Wind the clock forward to recent history, and we have seen many development projects earmarked for the provinces become stymied in red tape and incapacity of the public sector to deliver.

A common cycle is that funds are raised but, because of incapacity or political intervention, the money instead is deposited in trust accounts. These monies are then used for purposes other than what was originally intended, including bolstering recurrent budgetary expenditure.

Even worse, as espoused recently by the Parliamentary Accounts Committee, “the public service is patently and demonstrably incapable of lawful managing trust accounts and officers of that service are clearly incapable of understanding or performing their duties as trustees.”

The recent announcement of K125 million to fund road and sewage works in Kopopo, for which NASFUND purchased a treasury note from the State, is recognition that a new way has to be developed to provide direct infrastructure in an accountable framework. The K125 million was the largest onshore capital raising for infrastructure in the nation’s history.

The overall aim was to ensure development that is accountable and funded and, while there will always be noise associated with any new approach, the important point is that we had to move from toktok and actually start reviving infrastructure in PNG.

In developing as well as developed countries with superannuation industries, there is an expectation that superannuation funds have a major a role in nation building because of their ability to harness capital. Further, infrastructure spending can expedite growth and national development and can also deliver strong returns to members.

We cannot be 100% sure that this new approach to infrastructure development will be an entire success, as indeed it is not possible to be 100% sure about most things in life.

The NASFUND Board had some robust discussion as to accountability and trust – two core ingredients for successful private-public infrastructure projects. At the end of the day, the Board was of the view that, with proper controls, this was an experiment worthy of support.

The real future risk is some overriding political agenda or interference that renders this program a failure. To NASFUND, our K125 million is guaranteed by the State whether the program fails or not. It would however be a national shame, having gone this far, that the program was derailed by unwarranted political intervention.

We remain of the view that with proper independent oversight, there can be a partnership and we can create a “win win” for both the nation and the members of NASFUND.

* Adapted from a NASFUND newsletter editorial

That’s the Attitude – just getting on with it


PNG ATTITUDE doesn’t do meetings. There’s no annual report. No one gets paid. No one’s ordered around. We just get on with it.

People read us voluntarily, subscribe to us for free and contribute when they feel like it.

Fortunately for all of us, there are some very experienced and talented people on both sides of the Torres Strait who regularly give us the benefit of their views and insights.

Our bias is towards PNG and especially towards ordinary Papua New Guineans. We believe the PNG government should be doing better for ordinary Papua New Guineans. We believe the Australian government should be doing better too. Much better.

We’re motivated by your support and the thought that we may be able to do a bit of good.

And we’re delighted that civil action against wrong-doing is strengthening in PNG, despite all the problems and challenges, because, at the end of the day, PNG has to solve its own problems.

In the last 24 hours, 900 people read this blog – a record. And we also signed the 500th subscriber to the newsletter.

We also launched our Crook, Clean & Mean project – and we’ll see how that goes.

Over the last week, we’ve also seen a number of issues that contributors have been highlighting for months, if not longer, now showing signs of getting somewhere.

PNG Foreign Minister Sam Abal is to push for a priority review of AusAID’s multi-million kina consultancies.We feel that the large portion of aid being used for consultants cannot be allowed to continue,” he says.

Australia has begun paying more attention to the porous Torres Strait border, across which drugs are reported to come south and guns go north.

PNG’s Catholic bishops have come out and said ordinary people haven’t benefited from the mineral wealth of PNG. “Only a few people have benefited significantly, some becoming enormously rich,” the bishops said. “Wealth hasn’t trickled down… for many people, the most obvious outcome of so-called development has been more negative than positive, for example, widespread corruption, poverty and violence are on the rise.”

The Liberal Party in Australia is beginning to take a serious interest in PNG, even as the Labor Party's interest seems to be on the wane. (Whatever did happen to that Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs?)

Let’s keep at it.

Crook, clean & mean: collecting information on the MPs who are not playing the game


HERE’S AN IMPORTANT project you can assist with. It’s designed to support PNG initiatives like the ACT NOW! website and the 2010 Walk Against Corruption on Sunday 6 June, organised by Transparency International.

The project is designed to reveal the names and wrongdoings of PNG politicians who are not acting responsibly with taxpayers’ money or who are otherwise using their positions improperly.

PNG Attitude has a large pool of well placed and well informed readers who can provide information that may bring pressure to bear on corrupt politicians. But we need your assistance. You have to give us the information.

It may be information you know first hand (facts); it may be information you know second hand (pointing us to people who know); or it may be information you can research on the internet, or elsewhere.

What is it we’re looking for? In a nutshell: Which MPs are on the take (the crook) and which are fighting the good fight (the clean).

And PNG Attitude is the means. Because we mean business.

This is how our ten-point program works.

(1)          If you know of an MP you think is corrupt, taking bribes or otherwise doing the wrong thing with PNG people’s money, email us here. (At this stage, we’re just looking at politicians, we’ll deal with senior public servants later.)

(2)          We also want to know who the good guys are, that is, those politicians working hard and honestly but not getting the credit they deserve.

(3)          Your email will be confidential. You send it to us and we won’t tell anyone who you are.

(4)          But you need to provide evidence. That is, you have to give us facts in as much detail as you can. You need to tell us what the individual has done wrong, and how you know that.

(5)          Your information may not be published on PNG Attitude immediately. We will check it out. And, if we do publish it, to protect you it will be under our name, not yours.

(6)          Before we publish information, we will check it with lawyers so we don’t get our pants sued off us.

(7)          We may also share the information with appropriate agencies, politicians and the media.

(8)          So go to it. Give us the dirt. We’ll handle it discreetly. But we’ll do something with it.

(9)          We’d also like readers to volunteer to trawl through open source information (that is, material already on the internet or elsewhere) that may reveal the actions of particular politicians.

(10)       And, finally, we’d like someone to provide us with an updated list of PNG politicians and Ministerial portfolios. The DFAT and official PNG government websites don’t seem to have been updated since 2008.

Email us here and let’s work together to get rid of corrupt politicians in the great nation of Papua New Guinea.

Please do not post your comments implicating politicians directly to the site. PNG Attitude will do that when the allegations have been thoroughly checked.

PNG: Too many generals; not enough troops?


THE PERSONNEL ceiling of 2000 for the PNG Defence Force gives limited scope for the achievement of its many operational requirements.

The government needs to take defence and national security more seriously and institute increases to defence capabilities over the next decade.

The Constitution establishes the Defence Force. The Defence Act provides for its control, maintenance and discipline.

The documents, however, are not explicit as to what rank the PNGDF commander should hold.

Thus, in more recent times, some generals personally upgraded the commander’s rank from Brigadier-General to Major-General, added a Deputy Commander’s position and created additional Brigadier-Generals as functional commanders.

I initially advised against this upgrading of the commander’s rank when I was chief of defence plans in the early 2000s. The assessment then was it was neither required nor justified and non-cost-effective.

The PNGDF was already too small too warrant the commander being a Major-General. And none of this augured well for the personnel costs involved.

At the time, it was considered more essential for the PNGDF to consolidate by setting as a first priority appropriate command support systems and management mechanisms.

Simply creating unnecessary generals’ positions was hardly a first order issue.

More generals will cost more in scarce resources and do very little to improve the PNGDF’s capability. Having a Major General and four new Brigadier Generals is total over-kill, and should be a low priority.

My professional advice at the time was not graciously accepted by some individuals (the generals) but I think my assessment has been proven over the years.

The PNGDF is subject to the control of the government. In order to carry out government directions, it must have an effective core force with an efficient command structure.

Any future restructuring must be aimed at enhancing the effectiveness of the force in discharging its constitutional functions towards national security and development.

It is envisaged that much political and public support will be gained as a result of the implementation of a military reserve scheme and later, National Youth and School Cadet Schemes.

A major reform such as this requires sustained political and bureaucratic attention under the new Defence Command and new Ministerial direction to refocus stalled defence reforms.

Court rules to defend Ramu landowner rights


THE NATIONAL Court in Madang has refused to lift an injunction preventing the Chinese Metallurgical Construction Company (MCC) constructing a marine tailings disposal system for its Ramu nickel mine.

The mine is one of several large mining projects under construction in PNG and is the first major Chinese investment in the country.

Others major developments include the Frieda River copper and gold mine owned by Xstrata, expected to start production in 2012, and Nautilis Minerals’ Solwara 1 undersea mine located off the west coast of New Ireland.

At the same time PNG is trying to manage the development of two huge new liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, the first of which, managed by Exxon-Mobil, will bring an investment of $18 billion (ten times the investment in the Ramu nickel mine).

The mining sector in PNG has a chequered history, with Bougainville, Ok Tedi and Pogera notorious for their environmental damage and negative impacts on local people.

And it seems the lessons of the past have not been learnt, and that the advice of PNG’s own founding fathers is still being ignored.

PNG’s Constitution establishes five national goals, which cover human development; equality and participation for all citizens; political and economic independence; conservation of natural resources and the environment; and the primary use of Papua New Guinean forms of social, political and economic organisation.

None of these goals seem to have guided the development of the Ramu mine, and it is this failure of leadership that has led to a group of disenfranchised landowners successfully pleading their case in court.

The government and mine proponents failed to correctly identify and ensure the participation of all landowners impacted by the mine.

Thus there has been a failure to ensure equality and participation. These same issues have already appeared in relation to the Exxon-Mobil LNG project, which is threatened by landowner disputes.

In the case of the Ramu mine, the government has handed control to a foreign company whose resources far exceed the ability of the PNG government to monitor and regulate its operations.

This means the company is able to operate almost as it pleases, as evidenced by many claims of human rights and worker abuses, the large number of poorly qualified and non English speaking Chinese workers brought in to construct the mine, and the use of the PNG police as armed guards to protect the foreign company against local landowners.

The government has also failed to ensure that the operations of the mine will not have a serious negative impact on the environment and therefore the daily lives of local people.

Independent scientific evidence suggests the marine tailings disposal could be an environmental disaster.

This prompted the government to seek its own independent advice through the Scottish Association of Marine Science, findings which have never been released. And, anyway, the government gave environmental approval before the report was even commissioned!

It appears the government has decided the development of the Ramu nickel mine is more important than the people of Madang and more important than the Constitution, and has allowed an investment which threatens not only environmental disaster but a social and political tragedy as well.

PNG as a nation is crippled by corruption, widespread disregard for the views and interests of local people, and the destruction of its natural environment whether by mines, logging, oil palm or overfishing.

All negative impacts that ignore PNG’s national goals in the rush by a few to get rich quick.

PNG citizens say it's time to ACT NOW!


Act Now Banner “I AM THE program manager for ACT NOW! and a regular reader of PNG Attitude,” writes Effrey Dademo.

“Thank you for doing such a great job in instigating debate of critical issues in this country. Every effort counts and your part is appreciated.”

Effrey is program manager of ACT NOW!, a new organisation (launched 9 April) which aims to reassert the role of PNG's national goals and directive principles in the governance of the country.

ACT NOW! will try to do this by mobilising people and communicating their concerns to the leaders of PNG. It was established to give ordinary people a greater voice in PNG's future: “Holding leaders accountable and developing solutions,” as Effrey puts it.

It’s a not-for-profit organisation and you can link to its website here. Membership is free and open to anyone who wants build a better PNG. And I guess that would be just about everyone reading this.

“PNG faces many problems including widespread violence against women, appalling health and education services, a crumbling infrastructure and the poor management and oversight of major resource projects,” says Effrey.

“Underpinning many of these problems is widespread and pervasive corruption that seems to be growing out of control.

“As a nation we have many strengths including abundant natural resources, a rich cultural heritage and resilient people with many skills, but the interests of ordinary people are not being protected and their voices are not being heard when decisions are made about our future.”

ACT NOW! is funded through voluntary donations, is totally independent, and not affiliated to any organisation, political party or politician.

A poll currently on its website asks the question: ‘Is the government doing enough to tackle corruption?’  The no vote is 98%. That seems to say it all.

Join up here. I have. And if each of our nearly 500 subscribers do the same, imagine how much weight that represents in PNG.

Manek to speak at Qld freedom conference


Head CHRONOX MANEK, PNG’s Chief Ombudsman, is to attend a major international conference at Queensland University early in May.

In the last 12 months, Mr Manek has survived an assassination attempt and is currently resisting the political hijacking of the powers of the Ombudsman Commission.

He believes the so-called Maladina Amendment will allow PNG’s politicians to cripple the Commission's anti-corruption activities.

Associate Professor Martin Hadlow, convenor of the World Press Freedom conference to be held at the university from 1-3 May, says Mr Manek will appear as a panelist in a session on freedom of information.

The session will run from 11-12.30 on Sunday 2 May, and we urge PNG Attitude readers to register, which you can do here.

he United Nations has designated 3 May each year as World Press Freedom Day, and this is the first time it has been hosted in Australia.

Prof Hadlow says four students from Madang’s Divine Word University, an institution that provides many commentators for PNG Attitude, will also attend the conference.

We also understand that a group from Brisbane’s PNG community, the largest in Australia, will use the conference to mount a peaceful protest in favour of Mr Manek and against the so-called Maladina Amendments, known to PNG Attitude readers, you may recall, as the ‘Malamendments’.

Leak of Kapris statement is serious breach


YESTERDAY’S PNG Post-Courier was groaning with reports based on leaked information attributed to an official police statement by PNG's most notorious criminal, William Kapris.

And it seems copies of the official transcripts of the Kapris statement are circulating in PNG's business community as well as the media.

In fact AAP's correspondent in Port Moresby, Ilya Gridneff, obtained some this material nearly two weeks ago.

Three prominent politicians are named in the statement as supporting Kapris' criminal activities and have reportedly benefited from the proceeds of recent high profile robberies.

If indeed this information is in the Kapris statement, it raises two very important issues.

Why has the statement been leaked to business and the media and by whom?

Has this action has been taken by someone who is totally frustrated with the apparent inaction on the matter by PNG's police? Or could it payback time for a disaffected political rival?

But, more seriously in terms of the justice system, could this action jeopardise future legal action?

Why haven't PNG police investigated Kapris' claims and, if there is a prima facie case against certain people, arrested and charged them?

Police Commissioner Gari Baki needs to act swiftly to ensure he and his police are not subsequently held accountable for what, on the surface, appears to be high level incompetence.

PNG aid & resource revenue is wasted


THERE’S SUCH a severe shortage of skilled labour in PNG that the government is spending K750 million a year on foreign consultants.

And this is in addition to the US$340 million aid dollars spent on so-called “technical advice for capacity development”.

The cause of the ‘skills gap’ is an education system that has ceased to deliver qualified people in sufficient numbers to satisfy market demands.

And it seems that, for some reason, PNG’s higher education and secondary education institutions beyond Year 8 are excluded from aid assistance.

But Australia's aid agency is not standing idly by. AusAID’s PNG chief, Stephanie Copus-Campbell, said the matter "would be discussed later in the year".

Meanwhile, Emeritus Professor Ron Duncan of the Australian National University has pleaded with the PNG government to “have an in-depth discussion about how future national government resource revenues can be managed on a consistent, effective basis.”

Echoing columnist Joe Wasia in PNG Attitude yesterday, Prof Crawford said PNG would certainly continue to experience commodity price booms and slumps but with the LNG project coming on stream “revenue inflows and fluctuations will increase significantly.”

He said the experience of developing countries in wisely using the revenue had not been good.

“Waste, corruption, macro-economic instability, civil conflict, and distortion of political processes have widely accompanied the flows of these revenues,” he said.

Prof Duncan suggested PNG adopt a model preventing the government having direct use of resource revenues, instead distributing these funds directly to increased rural activity.

“PNG has a desperate need to see resource revenues go towards the development of its physical and human capital,” he said

“However, if the past is any guide, one cannot be optimistic that government expenditure of these revenues will deliver the desired results.”

Ombudsman slams the Malamendment: ‘Leaders can do anything with funds’


THERE HAVE been many interesting inputs and perspectives in the debate on PNG Attitude about the Maladina Amendment.

An important issue is who do you trust? I see from old news reports (circa 2004) that Hon Moses Maladina was previously twice sacked from Cabinet.

I further understand that Mr Chronox Manek was previously Chief Prosecutor and has had a distinguished legal career. Manek was personally selected by none other than Prime Minister Somare himself when his predecessor bowed out (some might suggest after pressure from the PM) after the Moti debacle.

This whole issue begs some questions. If this Amendment is in PNG's best interests, why wasn't it first debated in Parliament prior to being moved? Why weren't all the details revealed to the public? Why is there a need to change PNG's Constitution at all?

If people are calling for the issue to be debated and closely examined prior to it becoming law, where is the harm in that? It would be proper democracy at work; something some would suggest PNG today desperately needs.

In a recent interview on Radio Australia, Chief Ombudsman Manek and a deputy, Phoebe Sangetari, made it clear why the Maladina Amendment is not in PNG's best interests. Here’s the transcript of the interview:


THOM [presenter/interviewer]: This is not the first time the member for Esa'ala in Milne Bay Province has submitted a proposed amendment to the Constitution. In May of 2009 he submitted the same proposal, but withdrew it due to procedural irregularities. Chief Ombudsman, Chronox Manek, says after the first submission failed, the commission called all members of parliament to debate this before the proposal wasread in parliament again.

MANEK: There was no response made following the Commission's request for dialogue by the Hon Moses Maladina or his committee, hence the commission is now calling again on parliament to delay debate on the bills until there was or has been adequate public discussions and consultation with stakeholders and after having read the Commission's submission that had gone before them, dated 8 May 2009.

THOM: Mr Manek says the proposals will hamper the ability of the commission to enforce the Leadership Code and make it harder to hold leaders accountable for their misconduct.

MANEK: Some of the areas of concern include the amendments having the effect of making the work of the Commission more difficult. Secondly, the creating of preferential treatment of leaders, especially in relation to criminal offences, for instance missed applications.

If a leader was charged or brought and processed under the leadership code for misapplication, that amendment will bar him from undergoing any criminal prosecution.

THOM: The Commission says in relation to the amendment of Section 27 subsection 4 of the Constitution, it sees that there is no need for a change. Mr Manek says Section 27-4 is the right arm of the Commission's operations, and if removed it will more or less cripple the Commission's duties and responsibilities. He also adds that Section 27-4 has hardly been used in cases against leaders.

MANEK: The Commission invokes the use of 27-4, 27 sub-section 4, very, very sparingly and only in very, very exceptional circumstances where there is prima facie evidence. We don't just go do that.

We must find that there is prima facie evidence of possible misuse of funds. This is again intended to protect the integrity of leaders from potential conflict of interest or possible breach of the leadership code, whilst the matter is under investigation.

THOM: The Commission stands on this, saying that amendments to the Constitution will breed corruption at all levels of government.

MANEK: Section 27-4 of the Constitution is never, we say it's never a hindrance to economic, social, cultural or infrastructural development of Papua New Guinea, if leaders were to do things by following the laws and processes that are available.

The provision promotes transparency, accountability and good governance. So to amend this in any shape or form in our view is acting to invite corruption to flourish.

THOM: Ombudsman, Phoebe Sangetari, says on the rare occasions the commission has used Section 27-4 it saved millions of kina in public funds.

SANGETARI: We have used it as the Ombudsman has mentioned. We have used it before to protect misuse of public funds and millions.

We cannot give you the figure. If we kept figures on how much we have protected in terms of public funds we have saved by issuing our powers under Section 27-4, it would go into millions, millions of public funds that we have protected, exercising our powers under this. So as Ombudsman said if they remove this we are helpless, leaders can do anything with public funds.

THOM: The Commission is calling on the public to use this time to consult and debate the amendments before it is read the third time in parliament in May.

Review the relevant Ombudsman Commission documents here and here.

Church reluctant to condemn 'pilfering'

BISHOP FRANCESCO Panfilo, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, says the condition of the people of PNG is becoming worse despite the country being rich in natural resources.

“As bishops, we know what is going on in our dioceses, and we know the conditions of our people are becoming worse rather than better,” he said.

“We know that social services are very inadequate and our people are becoming frustrated with the government.”

He said PNG was rich in natural resources and yet people were poor because foreign companies have been exploiting them under the guise of investment.

“In reality what’s going on is pure and simple pilferage of the country. Are they respecting and protecting the environment?” Bishop Panfilo asked.

He admitted that, if the cause of poverty was corruption, the bishops were unable to pinpoint where corruption was coming from and who was responsible.

He also revealed bishops were reluctant to speak out on issues because they lacked sufficient facts to substantiate their claims.

“If we dare to speak out, do our words or statements have any effect? Last year we issued a statement expressing our concern for the population of the rural areas but it was ignored,” he said.

He said that the bishops have requested Fr Philip Gibbs to set up a social research centre by next year which will provide information on the social welfare of the people in PNG.

He said the centre will create awareness and provide information for the church to provide social services and development.

Source: Frank Rai, PNG Post-Courier

Resources policy should shape PNG’s future


THE MINING industry in PNG has contributed so much to the economy for the last 34 years.

It is sad to see that major revenue earners like the giant Ok Tedi Mine and Porgera are reaching the end of their lifespan.

The closure of Misima and the forecast end of Ok Tedi sends a signal to the government that these are non-renewable resources.

This is a big challenge for the government and the people of PNG to always be aware that non-renewable resources will come to an end one day.

When that happens, what will be the government’s major sources of revenue to sustain the growing demands of the people?

At present many countries are major aid contributors because they have an interest in our natural resources. After the resources are gone, PNG will be left like an empty plastic bag on the street.

We have to be more mature about these resources but so far nothing much has been done with them.

The government must do something right now to raise the standard of living. There is no time for poverty and corruption to linger. If other countries in the world can prosper, PNG can do it too.

It is irritating to hear that PNG is ranked one of the poor nations in the world. Why is that?

In fact, I feel we are going backwards, fuelled by a chronic attitude problem and a high level of official corruption and bribery.

The government must do something to sustain the nation after the resources are gone. There is still time.

The government needs to check itself out and properly plan what they can do to sustain the country when giant mining companies shut down their operations.

This is an urgent call to the Government to act now before it’s too late.

At last: Aussie pollies are getting interested


TOGETHER WITH my colleague, former Moresby and Rabaul ABC journalist and distinguished PR man, Bob Lawrence, I had a remarkable meeting yesterday.

It was with Rochelle Hill, adviser to Julie Bishop, who is Australia’s Deputy Opposition Leader and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The meeting was interesting (a word I find more useful than appealing) at a number of levels.

First, because we have a political party in Australia now taking PNG seriously. Two years ago we thought that party was Labor. But the Rudd government has apparently given up on PNG. Its attitude seems to be: It’s all too hard, let’s give ‘em the half billion and hope nothing goes seriously wrong.

Now the Liberal-National Coalition is getting interested, seriously interested. And that’s good news.

I had another meeting yesterday, with an NGO doing fine work in PNG. The chairman told me he was tired of hearing AusAID in PNG repeatedly announcing the same project to gain a little kudos from an even tinier effort.

He was also perplexed about how little the AusAID money was really achieving. It’s well known that not much of it actually helps the people of PNG for whom it’s intended.

In fact, it’s hard, almost impossible, to find an objective person in Australia (or PNG) with a good word to say about AusAID. The agency is considered to be an expensive waste of space.

The second reason the meeting with Rochelle was interesting was because she wanted to listen – not just to Bob and me but to the many other people she’s talking with. Australia’s opposition party is on a mission to develop a coherent and realistic approach to PNG. And that’s also good news.

Unfortunately, this is not something we’ve seen from the Labor Party since the retirement of Duncan Kerr, a man I admire enormously and who was once treated horrendously by some contemptible members of the PNG Association of Australia.  Duncan disappeared as Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs nearly half a year ago - and has not been replaced.

Killing off the Pacific Affairs minister is a great signal (I’m being ironic) to send to our friends in PNG. Rudd’s version of the one finger salute. Maybe he’s practicing for Anzac Day.

The third reason the meeting was interesting was because, through her questioning, Rochelle forced me to address the reasons why we publish this website. Rochelle reads PNG Attitude regularly (hi Rochelle!), and that’s why she wanted to talk with me.

After all, there’s no money in PNG Attitude; on the contrary. It doesn’t exist for any commercial purpose. And it can be a real burden sometimes.

I explained to Rochelle the three compelling reasons that motivate me and the many contributors to this site.

One, we Australians associated with PNG Attitude care deeply about PNG and its people and we want to see that they’re OK.

Two, Papua New Guineans associated with the site want Australians to understand what PNG is like today. It’s a smart, sophisticated country having a bit of a bad run with its politicians.

Three, we Australians want Papua New Guineans to know that there are many of us who care, who are concerned, who support them and who want to be able to help.

I can assure our friends in PNG that many Australians continue to feel that strong common bond of history, of shared experience, and, yes, let’s use the good Aussie word, of mateship.

Now I know it seems that, without action, these appear to be hollow words. After all, words can be cheap while action costs.

But I can assure readers that action is in the wind.

PNG Attitude, at last, seems to be gaining some critical mass. It’s beginning to generate something more than words and ideas and hopes and aspirations.

People who are able to act are beginning to take notice.

But, action can be a long and tortuous process. I’ll let you know more about what we’re trying to do in the weeks and months ahead.

Meanwhile, our readers’ job (that is, your job) is to get more people to subscribe to our free monthly newsletter by emailing us here.

As I wrote yesterday, and as we are observing, there is real power in numbers.

Also, and this is very important, and aimed especially at our many PNG commentators, before you email an anonymous comment or one that does not bear your name, think again.

Writing your name may take courage, but it amplifies the weight of what you say a hundredfold.

Anonymous comments may seem safe, but ultimately they have little influence. They simply lack credibility. Their motives can be suspect.

If we’re going to succeed in using the power of words to generate action, we’re all going to have to show a bit of courage.

Rochelle and Bob and I discussed a range of creative ideas to strengthen the ties between Australia and PNG.

We discussed, for example, how to get Australia working to make PNG a better place without Australians being seen as intruders, neo-colonialists or unwanted guests.

I must thank all our contributors for offering the ideas that made this discussion with Rochelle so useful.

As you say so often to me, keep up the good work.

Bragging note: Yesterday was a record day for readers – well done all 717 of you.

Aussie talk fest says emperor has clothes


THE LOWY INSTITUTE was richly endowed by the multi-billionaire Australian Lowy shopping centre family to give earnest consideration to matters of international policy affecting Australia.

The Institute will soon (on Thursday 22 April) collaborate with the Australian National University to spend half a day on a ‘survey’ called Papua New Guinea Update 2010.

It’s a joke.

As the Institute’s flier says “the survey will cover the PNG macro-economy and fiscal management, oil, gas and mining developments, urban property markets, and achieving growth and donor assistance.

“Other presentations will cover the recently announced LNG project, mobile phones in PNG, the informal sector, Millennium Development Goals and political parties.”

An eminent colleague of mine – a former Senator, MP and diplomat - invited me to attend with him. I told him I would be wasting my time.

Normally I'd leap at something like this, I said, but the program avoided some real big issues that have a direct impact on its ostensible agenda. I nominated these as:

1 - Corruption

2 - Chinese influence

3 - Failure of resources to get to the grassroots

4 - Fissiparous tendencies

5 - The permeable border with Australia (drugs south, firearms north)

6 - Government by the elite, for the elite

7 - Looming political instability

Then I noticed who's sponsoring the program - AusAID - which led me to...

8 - The failure of Australian aid to make any real impact on the lives of ordinary PNGns

I suppose I could have added (9) What’s Australia doing about this?

I hope the participants enjoy the morning, bathed as they will be in the warm glow of commercial opportunity and political and social unreality.

MPs: recruits for stealing from the state


WE HAVE SOME good MPs in PNG. There’s deputy prime minister Sir Puka Temu, Dame Carol Kidu and Sam Basil MP to mention a few.

They are committed, hard working and diligent and take their parliamentary duties seriously.

Unfortunately, though, before the 2012 election, big money politics will have a more significant influence than politicians with integrity.

And after the election, many winning candidates will forget ethics and promises as money changes hands and loyalty is unashamedly purchased.

Offers will be made that cannot be refused. Compromises based on material benefit will be the glue that binds players together in order to form a government.

PNG politics is not for the faint-hearted; not for God-fearing Christians.

An aspiring politician who refuses to play by the rules of the game will find that all doors immediately close.

Cut off from the real action (where money is used to seduce), and denied access to the inner circles, the only benefit left will be the personal satisfaction of a principled position.

This is why political corruption is hard to stop in PNG. Most of the people voted into public office are recruited to become part of a process of stealing from the State.

It is an open secret in PNG that many good and decent people start out as honest politicians only to become compromised in office.

These people are either bought off by special interests or they themselves buy their way into positions of power, privilege and influence.

We can no longer ignore this. We need politicians with the courage, vision and leadership to take us to a new level.

Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before we are brought to our knees.

If things do not soon change for the better, prolonged social frustration will push our people over the edge.

I believe Papua New Guineans can stop corruption if we vote for strong honest leaders with the political will and moral strength to critically address these issues.

It compels one to ask: what are the Churches doing to combat such turpitude?

On the floor of parliament, when government (and even opposition) members see their perks threatened, they simply vote against the threat.

Look at the way the Ombudsman Commission is being diminished right now.

Perhaps the Governor-General, as head of State, needs to be empowered to throw out an errant (that is, highly corrupt or compromised) government.

If need be, the Governor-General could dissolve parliament for early elections rather than prolong the people’s suffering through bad governance.

But who’s going to vote for that?

Wife of bank security hero speaks out


THE WIFE OF Duncan Smith has told PNG Attitude her husband put his personal safety on the line to provide the highest security for the money Papua New Guineans entrusted to Bank South Pacific.

Smith was the bank security expert dismissed by BSP after he raised serious security concerns about the association of bank executives with known criminals and questioned the bank’s security arrangements.

Documents uncovered by AAP journalist, Ilya Gridneff, last week showed that Smith, then BSP's head of security services, warned the bank of security problems shortly before there were serious robberies of BSP branches in Kerema, Madang and Kimbe.

Millions of kina were stolen and police shot dead two men.

Anne Button-Smith told PNG Attitude that the Smith family’s personal safety was so threatened they had to leave PNG.

“Three generations of the family had lived and supported the development of PNG since the 1960's,” said Mrs Button-Smith.

After one investigation conducted by Smith, the family’s home was shot at.

“He put his and our family's security at risk meeting with informants and passing this on to people in the bank who, in my opinion, treated him and the information with contempt,” said Mrs Button-Smith.

See 'Recent Comments' or link here for Mrs Button-Smith’s full letter

How to name & shame & stay in the game


I LIVE ON Queensland's Fraser Coast, where the towns of Hervey Bay and Maryborough have a mix of retirees and young people and subsequent high unemployment and inevitable high crime rates.

The crimes are mainly burglary, domestic violence and traffic offences: much of which is alcohol and drug related.

Our local paper has taken to publishing the names of the thieves, crooks and drunks passing through the courts each Monday morning. The theory is that by ‘naming and shaming’, people might think twice about re-offending.

In some ways the tactic has been successful. But the more stupid miscreants wear their public humiliation as a badge of honour. The more contrite offer the magistrate embarrassed assurances that they will never again do whatever it was they did.

In the light of the revelations about Minister X taking bribes before issuing contracts to landowners for work on the LNG project, I’ve been pondering how a similar 'name and shame' system might work in PNG.

There is one major stumbling block, however, and that is the propensity of the accused to take legal action or to despatch their thugs to sort the matter out.

I have discussed this situation with Keith on a couple of occasions after he has deleted incriminating names from articles. As Keith has pointed out, although  physically removed from potential violence and undeterred by it, he is still open to litigation.

Without the considerable resources to fight defamation actions, he has to walk a very fine line. Of course, anyone based in PNG is open to intimidation of both kinds: legal and thuggery.

This is why organisations like Transparency PNG are not game to publicise the names of crooked pollies, public servants and business people.

I have no doubt that if the Post-Courier or The National published a weekly list of crooks caught with their hands in other people’s pockets it would have a beneficial effect.

Unfortunately I can also envisage the headquarters of both organisations going up in flames.

Much critical comment made in the media in PNG is done under assumed names. There is a culture of fear and retribution.

Is it something the churches can help with?  Would the crooked pollies beat up clergy and burn down churches in a Christian country? Unfortunately, I’ve no doubt they would.

I understand that even the firebrands at Divine Word in Madang worry about what they say publicly. What to do then?

 Maybe a website based in Madagascar or the Congo or somewhere else far away and hard to get at and where the defamation laws are flaky?

What about a website where investors, business people or just ordinary people in PNG can make contact and quietly get emailed a current list of the crooks? Is it something the Ombudsman can do?

There'sBanner_front a new anti-corruption PNG website, just launched, called Act Now (link to it here). Maybe it will start naming and shaming, but not yet.

Then there's the crazy brave (and anonymous) website Crime & Corruption in PNG (link to it here), which occasionally publishes names, and is being pursued around the globe for its trouble.

Just in the last few days, it took down an item even it found too hot to handle. The article was certainly defamatory and gave the website publisher a quick, harsh lesson in the laws of libel.

What do you think? Any ideas?

More than a makeover; a renewal of intent


UNLESS YOU'RE you’re a first time reader, you’ll have observed PNG Attitude’s change of appearance and the new strapline: ‘Committed to strengthening the PNG - Australia relationship’.

Given our professed intention to build stronger links between our two countries, it's fair to ask why we take such a critical view of PNG governance. And of Australian policy towards PNG.

As individuals, politicians are not a big concern of ours. Ordinary people - and how they are affected by politicians and bureaucrats - are a big concern. New reader Paul Ning commented yesterday “I personally believe PNG is a failing state.” Failing states and failed states do incredible harm to their citizens. We must do what we can, small though we are, to avert such an outcome.

What PNG Attitude can do, through a growing readership, now nearing 500, is to apply pressure to people of influence who are not doing the right thing or not doing enough.

We have a group of marvellous and knowledgeable contributors who - while occasionally voicing frustration at lack of progress - continue to press for positive change, rational policy, efficient administration and ethical government.

The best thing you can do to assist, dear reader, is to recruit more dear readers. There is power in numbers. I have been a politician myself, and I know the inescapable truth of numbers. You - and your friends and colleagues - can always contact us here.

Question, Sir Mek, whose side are you on?


The Ombudsman Commission needs to properly and clearly showcase the negative impacts the proposed amendments to legislation governing it will have on its functions and the people. This is the word from Opposition Leader, Sir Mekere Morauta – PNG Post-Courier, 9 April 2010

IT WAS AN INTRIGUING and revealing article, that piece in Friday’s newspaper.

It turned the spotlight on PNG Opposition Leader, Sir Mekere Morauta, who had trained his guns not against a government trying to ride roughshod over the PNG Constitution, but on a group of courageous officials trying to maintain a half decent leadership code.

It’s not the Chief Ombudsman who should be explaining why his Commission's powers should be left intact. He’s done that. He’s already explained why it’s a real bad idea to start tampering with the proper monitoring and control of public funds.

It’s up to Morauta to explain why the Ombudsman Commission has it wrong. And that doesn’t mean engaging in some puerile semantic exercise that belongs in the back bar of a pub rather than in the more rational forum of national discourse.

It seems the Morauta opposition voted with the government to trash the Ombudsman's powers as set out in Section 27(4) of the PNG Constitution and Leadership Code: the so-called Maladina Amendment.

MPs voted 83-0 to put to the sword the bulwark of a nation’s stability, its Constitution. Some kindly souls attributed the opposition’s position to a less than complete understanding of what Mr Maladina was on about. Now we know that they knew only too well.

Every politician who voted for the amendment (and that was every one of them in the House at the time) knew it was a licence to keep their snouts firmly in the public trough.

The MPs didn’t like being interrogated about their (mis)use of public funds. So their solution was to change the rules. To get stuck into the Constitution by parliamentary fiat. (An action, by the way, that a leading PNG lawyer Peter Donigi says is itself unconstitutional.)

There’s not a reputable civil organisation in PNG that agrees with what the government and opposition are trying to do. A protest is planned for Tuesday 4 May to express the dissatisfaction and concern of the community. But no major political entity supports it.

If ever there was evidence that the bulk of PNG’s politicians do not govern PNG for its people but for themselves, this is it.

In Australia, to change our Constitution, we need a majority of votes in a majority of States in a national referendum. That’s how important our Constitution is. Our founding fathers didn’t trust a bunch of politicians with messing around with it. After all, they were politicians themselves, and they understood the magnetic attraction of self-interest.

Constitutions are meant to be platforms and prescriptions for good governance; not bits of paper to be torn up because an MP is prevented from flying first class to Singapore to check out a private business deal.

Morauta’s attitude begs the question of whether the PNG opposition is any better than the government. It’s a question that shouldn’t take you too long to answer.

Fight corruption: it's a risk, & I know the risk

Short_Barbara There are many Australians who have a passion, respect and love for PNG and its people. One of these is author and ex-teacher BARBARA SHORT. Today, after deep reflection, Barbara decided to write to her many Papua New Guinean friends about her thoughts on corruption. Here is her letter…

 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs - 1 Timothy 6:10

Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow - Proverbs 13:11.

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money - Matthew 6:24.

Jesus said to them – You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight - Luke 16:15.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. So we can say with confidence “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”  - Hebrews 13:5

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies - Romans 8:33.

IN THIS MORNING’S Sun-Herald is a story about a Sydney policeman who was sent to King’s Cross police station in years gone by and, as he did his job in the correct manner, he started to realise his bosses and others around him were corrupt.

He went on to expose some of the worst paedophiles in Sydney who were also involved in drug dealing. But the corrupt people rose up against him and made his life dangerous.

In the end he had to expose the corrupt policemen. He has since left the police force. But he stood up for what is right and that is the important thing to him.

In PNG today there is a lot of corruption. I heard yesterday about how the chairman of a company had been offered a contract of K15 million – but first he had to come up with K10,000 for a Minister. The chairman asked a friend to lend him the K10,000, and promised to repay K30,000 when the contract was signed.

The friend refused. He had the inner strength to enable, him to stand up to the tactics of the corrupt. He realised that if he was “going to be making a lot of money without actually doing anything to deserve it”, it was corruption.

Have you got this inner strength? Can you tell Right from Wrong? We hear that there are a lot of people getting away with corruption in PNG today. They steal government money to use for their own enjoyment when they are supposed to be involved in using it to help in the development of their country.

In order to protect themselves from corruption, some countries set up authorities, such as the Ombudsman Commission in PNG.

The Ombudsman Commission has been trying to deal with this problem. Recently some people tried to kill the Chief Ombudsman. One can only assume that they wanted to protect the corrupt from being found out.

In Sydney we have an Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

At the moment, ICAC is conducting an investigation into whether the general manager of Burwood Council and other council officers engaged in corrupt conduct.

It is also conducting an investigation into allegations of corruption involving a Department of Housing officer and an associate. The allegations are that the officer failed to disclose an interest in contracts that were awarded to his associate.

ICAC is also conducting an investigation into whether a head carpentry teacher employed by the NSW Department of Education engaged in corrupt conduct by misusing government resources for their personal gain.

It is also conducting a range of other investigations. I got all this information from the ICAC website.

I wonder if PNG has a similar body to deal with corruption. I’m sure the PNG Police are involved with a lot of investigation into evil things that are happening in PNG today. Just like in Australia.

I think we know that to deal with corruption we have to be willing to join the battle between Good and Evil, which goes on all the time. We have to decide which side we’re on. We have to decide if we have the guts to stand up for what is right.

We may have to name people. These people will become enemies. Like the Australian policeman, if you start to “name names” you will leave yourself open to the possibility that someone will want to kill you as they tried to assassinate the Chief Ombudsman. You have to be able to say – “Go on kill me! I’m going to stand up for what is right!”

The most important thing is to not get caught up in corrupt practices. If you have been in the past, now is the time to stop.

During this year, I have heard from ex-Kerevat students who have worked out where corruption is taking place and they have told me that they are going to do something about it.

I wish them well and hope they can work out ways to expose it and to stop it. If corrupt people are named and shamed, then others who feel like getting involved will think twice about it.

If you are a Christian, you have God on your side and, even though some people may hate you, that does not matter. Just so long as you can live with yourself. You may be called to stand up to corruption, to expose someone, to go through some ordeal, or some difficult times. Well, do it!

In the end you will know that what you did was correct in God’s eyes. If you have helped to decrease the amount of corruption then that is good. If people hate you because of it, that’s too bad. Just get on with your life.

Tuum Est As my father used to say to me “To thine own self be true.” I’ve been involved with fighting corruption and people have threatened to kill me. So I speak from experience!

God be with you as you work out what God wants you to do to fight the big problem of corruption in PNG today.

Barbara is the author of Tuum Est: the history of Kerevat National High School.

In praise of a journo; in contempt of a ‘bank’


I WANT to start this piece with a few paragraphs in praise of AAP’s PNG correspondent, Ilya Gridneff. He’ll be embarrassed, but this needs to be said.

If Australia cared as much about PNG as PNG cares about Australia, Ilya’s articles would be matters of great moment.

If Ilya was working in Sydney and not Moresby, he’d be lionised as a ground-breaking investigative reporter.

And if he was employed by one of Australia’s great dailies rather than a news agency, he’d have a front page story every week.

Ilya’s latest piece reveals that PNG’s largest bank, Bank South Pacific (the old NAB), received numerous warnings that its senior staff had close criminal connections just months before three branches were robbed.

Ilya, a dab hand at obtaining documents some people would prefer to remain secret, has disclosed internal bank security briefings showing links between ‘raskols’ and bank staff, with criminals even visiting senior staff at the bank’s Port Moresby head office.

The documents show how BSP's former head of security services, Duncan Smith, raised serious security concerns with bank executives as far back as February 2008.The following month, Smith was sacked one year into a three-year contract.

The explanation – “company restructuring".

Bizarrely, Smith was soon rehired on a two-week contract after BSP's Kerema branch was robbed of one million kina. Four local bank staff and a villager were arrested.

Smith's subsequent report to BSP executives in early June 2008 stated: "The recruitment of security staff is, again, unsatisfactory and requires immediate review."

The report was shelved and a month later, BSP's Madang branch was robbed with staff kidnapped and held hostage.

Later, in a shootout at BSP's Kimbe branch, police shot dead two robbers and recovered 500,000 kina.

In a recent videotaped police confession, also uncovered by Ilya Gridneff, PNG's most notorious criminal, William Kapris, facing trial for alleged involvement in BSP robberies, alleged senior government officials funded and supported him and said he also received help from BSP employees.

Asked for a comment, Bank South Pacific chief executive, Ian Clyne, did not respond to AAP's repeated emails and phone calls.

Spotter: Paul Oates

Bougainville presidential hopefuls on parade


POLLING IN the second Bougainville Autonomous Government election began on Wednesday and will continue until 21 May.

The outcome won’t be known until 9 June, when the 40 member parliament will be elected and, most importantly, the identity of the next president of the autonomous province will be known.

There are seven presidential candidates and I provide pen pictures of them here, together with their own descriptions of their place of residence and vocation, in the order of their appearance on the ballot paper.

Robert Atsir (Kona-Selau/Suir) Business Executive

Robert is a young Bougainville businessman. After leaving school he joined the National Broadcasting Corporation as a cadet broadcaster. He later spent time as a teacher and is now a successful businessman running his own consultancy. He has been president of the Bougainville Business Association on several occasions. Atsir is the face behind CDA Finance and is currently Bougainville Resource Development Corporation chairman. Robert is considered one of Bougainville's most astute business leaders.

John Momis (Sohano Island) Villager

In Regalia The appellation ‘villager’ against John Momis’ candidature is one of the great understatements. The recently retired PNG Ambassador to China has had an amazing political career which began when,as a young Catholic priest, he was elected as regional member for Bougainville in 1972 in the parliament that took PNG to independence. This kicked off a political career that lasted 33 years and which he hopes is about to resume.

As de facto chairman of the Constitutional Planning Committee that drafted PNG's Constitution, John was an architect of independence. He subsequently served in a number of ministries including a period as the first Minister for Decentralisation. In 1997, during the Bougainville uprising, he was kidnapped by the separatist Bougainville Revolutionary Army but released unharmed. It has been said of him that “his story may well be one of the most significant accounts of public life anywhere in the Pacific in recent times.”

In 2005 John stood for the Bougainville presidency but lost to the late Joseph Kabui, an ex-commander of the BRA, by the large margin of 37,928 votes to 22,970. He is expected to do better this time.

James Tanis (Rabaram Village) Accountant

Speaking James Tanis, born in 1965, was raised in Panam Village in Lamane on the border of South and Central Bougainville. He is the current President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, having previously been Vice President of the Bougainville People's Congress.

James was inaugurated as Bougainville's second elected President in January 2009 to complete the term of Joseph Kabui who died in office. His focus has been on promoting unity in the aftermath of the civil war that devastated the province. He said he was "not looking at achieving much" during his 20-month term in office, but tried to ensure that peace prevailed through reconciliation.

Reuben Siara (Arawa) Lawyer

Reuben is a former rebel leader and was a key adviser to Bougainville revolution leader, Francis Ona. He has been against reopening the Panguna mine because "people are opposed to it; there has been so much suffering and people blame the mine."

However Reuben says that "too much blame" was put on Bougainville Copper which was operating under an agreement backed by the PNG government and former Bougainville Governor, John Momis, who he blamed for not taking the initiative to review the agreement.

"They (the company) may have taken a big slice but they were dealing under an agreement," he said, adding that the civil war was due to "foreign domination, exploitation and ethno-nationalism".

Martin Miriori (Hangan Village) Businessman

Martin Martin is the older brother of the late first President, Joseph Kabui. He was Secretary of the Bougainville Interim Government during the civil strife in which Bougainville rebels fought PNG troops in whay proved to be a debacle for the PNG defence forces and a disaster for the people of Bougainville.

Martin had been actively involved in Panguna landowner issues against Bougainville Copper since 1982 and his brother Joseph had entered politics primarily to represent the interests of people directly affacted by the mine.

Martin co-chaired the first forum immediately after the ceasefire in March 1990 and in 1991 he reported the worsening Bougainville human rights situation to the United Nations. In 1992, he established the Bougainville Office in Honiara which, because of the PNG blockade of Bougainville, became the main link between the island and the rest of the world. It coordinated a full range of activities including humanitarian assistance, international human rights lobbying and campaigning, peace advocacy work and media relations.

As fighting on the ground escalated and tensions increased, the Solomons government became increasingly concerned for the personal safety of Martin and his family and in 1996 evacuated them to Brisbane and then Amsterdam.

Sylvester Niu (Haku) Refrigeration Mechanic

Sylvester has contested elections in Bougainville previously without any luck. He is a trier but a rank outsider.

Magdalene Itona Toroansi (Takoo Village) Politician

Facilitating Group Magdalene, seen here faciltating a group at a women's workshop, is the only woman contesting the presidential election, and she brings strong credentials to her nomination. She was a former senior PNG official in Washington and later served with the Foreign Affairs Ministry before resigning to become an MP under former President Kabui.

“She was a very committed public office-holder and a strong principled woman leader who was displaced by an impatient political leadership,” Reginald Renagi writes.

“Toroansi diligently stuck to her principles and diplomatically tried to persuade the then President to do the right thing by her people and province. This resulted in her being displaced within the president's team as this unassuming but competent woman could not be bullied or swayed from her well-intentioned and good-governance stance.”

It will be hard for Bougainvilleans to bring themselves to elect a woman leader but, if they do, they will find they have a strong and determined person at the helm of the troubled province.

Aussie NGOs' silence on Maladina action


A FEW DAYS AGO I was bold enough to write to the heads of a number of Australian NGOs with a close interest in PNG.

My letter concerned the so-called Maladina Amendment, a piece of malign would-be legislation designed to butcher the PNG Constitution by weakening the powers of the Ombudsman to monitor and investigate the expenditure of public funds by politicians and other public officials.

In PNG, a large number of civil organisations have coalesced to oppose the amendment and a day of peaceful protest, which we’re calling ‘Freedom Tuesday’, has been planned for Tuesday 4 May.

It was my hope that Australian NGOs would use the opportunity to present a petition, drawn up in PNG, to PNG government offices in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane.

I told the NGOs that, while I did not see it as my role to lead such action, I was willing to put my own resources - and those of my company – to support it.

I asked the NGOs to communicate with each other to determine whether such a protest was feasible and practicable, adding that it would be a sign of great solidarity with the people of PNG.

Mike Ahrens of Transparency International responded, saying he’d see what he could do. None of the other NGOs – including the Australia-PNG Business Council and the PNGAA – even bothered to acknowledge the letter.

Meanwhile, in Port Moresby, anti-corruption activist and protest leader, Noel Anjo, has said PNG is “heading for destruction under dictatorship" if the powers of the Ombudsman Commission are removed.

“It’s time citizens stood up to let their voices be heard,” he said.

Transparency International (PNG), through the Community Coalition Against Corruption, is lobbying for nationwide support against the Maladina Amendment. Copies of the petition are circulating in government departments, statutory bodies, business houses, churches, non-government organisations, women’s groups, schools, institutions and individuals.

The petition is also posted on the internet here. It’s one way you can show your support.

Transparency International has called on prime minister Somare to declare his position on the Maladina Amendment.

Chairman Peter Aitsi said Sir Michael had openly stated his disgust at the rampant corruption that is gripping the government.

Mr Aitsi said Sir Michael’s efforts to bring real and lasting change to the management of government services will be permanently hijacked and damaged by the amendment.

He said the community stood ready to support the Prime Minister’s call to get serious in the fight against corruption.

“What we now need is real action,” Mr Aitsi said.

“Sir Michael has supported the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department. He presided over the ratification on the UN convention against corruption and the drafting of a national anti-corruption strategy.

“However, all these well-intentioned acts will come to nothing if he does not oppose the Maladina Amendment.”

He said the growing public opposition to the amendment demonstrated a widespread concern that the Ombudsman Commission’s remaining power to protect the integrity of public office will be stamped out.

“We look to Sir Michael for clear leadership and to assure the public by expressing opposition to the amendment,” he said.

Leaders with no heart for the nation


THE PETITION brought by the Community Coalition Against Corruption seeking the withdrawal of the so-called Maladina Amendment is a pressing issue in PNG right now.

If the amendment is passed, it will decimate the powers of the Ombudsman Commission to ensure leaders are accountable for their conduct and their expenditure of public money.

The Ombudsman Commission is an independent body with powers under its own Act to uphold the PNG Constitution including Organic Law on the Roles and Responsibilities of Leaders.

If the amendment is passed it will largely prevent the Commission from exercising these powers.

People and civil organisations throughout PNG believe this will give politicians and other public officials open slather in abusing the use of public funds.

In my view, what are known as the "fat rats of the Waigani Café” will be able to cut down the best branches of the big tree.

They will have what they call the “power of free access” to public funds that right now are restricted only by the power of the Ombudsman. They want no one to monitor their actions. And that can only be bad.

I believe with the help of the father and creator of this great nation, NGOs led by Noel Anjo and the Ombudsman with collaborative efforts from other stakeholders will divert these fat rats from their intended course.

It was a disgrace that MPs voted 83-0 for the amendment; although many now say they did not understand quit what they were doing.

The so-called “vibrant” Opposition and its leaders were not on the ball and had nothing to say when the amendment was being voted on.

This showed compromise, self-centeredness or lack of care among our leaders. They have no heart for the nation.

The leaders have foregone accountability, transparency and good governance; issues that they always preach about to the people. These basic building blocks of the nation are crumbling.

If the amendment is passed, PNG will lose. It will become a fragile nation with an unstable Constitution. Democracy will be undermined and so will national security.

We must do something now or a prosperous nation will become a phosphorous nation.

A nationwide protest against the Constitutional amendment is planned for PNG on Tuesday 4 May. ‘PNG Attitude’ is urging relevant NGOs in Australia ton show solidarity with this popular movement.

AusAID: heaps of money; stuck on first base


The basic accountabilities of a government to its people that underpin the notion of democracy seem to be breaking down in PNG. This is distressing enough, but so is the Australian government's apparent helplessness about how to address the consequential problems. We asked DR MARK THOMSON to offer some insights. Dr Thomson worked for AusAID for 20 years, managing law, justice and community development programs in PNG for about a decade. He coordinated the PNG drought task force in 1998.

I DON’T BELIEVE it’s so much an issue of Australian government helplessness as it is a failure to come to grips with the realities of PNG.

For instance, Australia has made no effort to strengthen the institutional capacity of the PNG government to train its officers through standardised national public administration curricula.

The administrative colleges struggle to find relevance and a niche role in strengthening public administration. Their infrastructure and staffing resources struggle from years of neglect.

The excellent work done by Kathy Whimp and others on the problems of organic law on Local Level Governments and decentralisation, and the ways and means of strengthening financial management at provincial and local level, was never really supported by the powers that be in AusAID.

We tried to get AusAID support for an initiative to strengthen provincial level budget training through a mobile team of trainers that would systematically target key players in each province, under the auspices of the Department of Economic Affairs.

I couldn’t get this past first base in Canberra. But the PNG side wanted it!

I’m afraid the old centralist paradigm that saw support for local government development stymied during the sixties was still at work during my tenure on the PNG program.

AusAID didn’t understand that you could throw heaps of money at strengthening central agencies but, until you bridge the gap between central program support and actual delivery of services on the ground, the aid program would struggle to achieve any legitimacy.

Some gains have been made in education and health delivery, but the administrative framework through which public monies are managed at provincial and local level is so damaged as to make these gains tokenistic.

Even in health, one has to ask why the Port Moresby General Hospital has never had a makeover under the aid program. It should be the key public health facility; capable of training nurses and doctors in best practice for work across the country.

It is an under-resourced disgrace, which is more of a risk to public health than a support!

I could go on, but I remain optimistic that Australia can still be a genuine development partner. China is looked upon with great suspicion by many switched on Papua New Guineans determined to achieve good things for their country.

Some of my observations may be a little dated and things may have happened that I’m unaware of, but my years working on governance, law and justice and civil society programs in PNG were the most frustrating, angst-ridden of my professional life.

This was mainly due to the inability of the official Australian side to get beyond a paternalistic (‘we know best’) mind-set and see the real PNG struggling in its villages and myriad settlement communities.

Senior colleagues considered grappling with deep-seated structural problems and critical areas such as customary land title management as quixotic notions that were ‘just too hard to contemplate’.

InterOil: Do big flares mean big flows?


For Release – Monday, 6 April 2010

The Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare congratulated InterOil and Mitsui Corporation for entering into a preliminary commitment agreement to develop phase one of the Elk/Antelope LNG project.

Sir Michael Somare said, “With these Japanese partnerships that we as a country are establishing, I will be happy to eventually (2012) leave politics with the knowledge that this government has enabled PNG to take positive steps towards a secure and prosperous future.”

There was no discussion in the press release of issues associated with InterOil – issues that have become a major subject of speculation on Wall Street. One of these is very revealing - suggesting the geology of the Papuan resource is not all it's cracked up to be.

An anonymous source writes: "I send this around because I believe it inappropriate that the prime minister expends his diplomatic capital with North Asia doing the bidding of what some people say is a fraudulent American stock promotion.

"I do not believe that these issues have received adequate circulation in the PNG press or in politics," the source says.

"Papua has valuable resources – but squandering the political capital needed to exploit them should not be done. The prime minister is far too keen to do deals with the latest ratbag. Put this in the same boat as PNG selling greenhouse gas credits."

Here’s one independent analysis of the InterOil resource:

The analyst's broad contention is that the type of rock InterOil is drilling has been shown to produce huge initial pressure and flares (thus explaining the "world record" flows the company has touted), but that the gas reservoirs InterOil has discovered are not as extensive as the company has said.

Also, the analyst believes that the gas that is there is not recoverable at a reasonable cost and, therefore, that the massive future profits InterOil is promising investors are a figment of its imagination.

The analyst believes InterOil is having trouble finding a deep-pocketed, experienced partner (such as ExxonMobil) to help it develop the gas field--because the potential partners aren't buying InterOil's reserve estimates.

Another commentator reports thus:

InterOil has a party-trick. They take a Morgan Stanley analyst or someone from Soros Funds Management or even Michael Somare to a well site. They turn on the flow and they produce a massive flare. There is no question it is impressive. So impressive that Guinness awarded InterOil a world record for the highest gas flow rate ever.

There is no question that the InterOil wells flow at huge rates. Huge gas flares demonstrate this. The “party trick” is convincing.

There are considerable doubts about the reservoir rock, however. The best description is that the gas is trapped in rock that resembles a large fractured dinner plate. The gas flows out really fast from the fractures but then there is nothing. A big flare proves that there is a big flare but not a sustainable gas resource.

For a sustainable gas resource in such rock you need massively interconnected fractures over large areas or large porosity. InterOil has never proven that such a system.

But one must be phlegmatic about such matters. While InterOil remains a matter of conjecture about its high level of commercial (and political) risk, most resources ventures are the same.

Look at Edie Creek. Or the Laloki gold that never really glistened. And its progenitor, Herbert Hoover, went on to be a US President.

Seven to contest Bougainville presidency


SEVEN CANDIDATES have nominated to be next President of Bougainville – a role that may take the autonomous province to the brink of nationhood.

They are current President James Tanis, former rebel leader Reuben Siara, just returned PNG ambassador to China Father John Momis, Martin Miriori, Robert Atsir, Sylvester Niu and the only woman candidate, Magdalene Itona Toroansi.

And by yesterday afternoon, 236 candidates had nominated for the 40-seat Bougainville House of Representatives.

Nominations closed on Friday but final nominations have not reached Returning Officer, George Tarara, in Buka due to communication difficulties.

The seat of Haku on Buka Island has 20 candidates, the highest number of any constituency.

Two women have nominated to contest constituency seats while 19 will contest three reserved seats for women in the House of Representatives.

Reciprocity gone mad: curse of the 10% men


OVER THE PAST few years in PNG there has been a renewal of a form of traditional reciprocal gift giving, which was an essential part of the social contract and village culture.

When I killed a pig and provided some of the meat for my friends, they had the obligation to repay the gift.

But reciprocity has taken on a most pernicious form.

Everyone who handles money or goods claims that, as a giver of a gift, he has the right to a reciprocal return. These are the 10% men.

My housekeeper has gone to Port Moresby to collect her husband’s retrenchment gratuity from the Army. The two self-appointed army chaps who have been negotiating with the government demand 10%.

Yarapos Girls High school receives a grant for building. The landowner demands 10%. The headmistress took the matter to a senior official. She is told that for her security she should pay.

Tusbab High School here in Madang loses a staffroom to fire. A year later the chairman receives a grant of several million to rebuild and carry out maintenance. The provincial administrator and treasurer who handle the money demand 10% A year later the money has not been released because the chairman refuses to pay.

And this leads me to offer a word about the state of the country’s postal services. I suspect that postal workers are taking their 10% on letters and parcels with overseas stamps.

Things here are not getting better.

PNG Attitude magazine has been distributed

The April issue of PNG Attitude has just been sent to our 450 subscribers and includes the best summary of the past month’s affairs in PNG you’re likely to read anywhere.

The e-magazine contains all the usual sections – briefing, opinion, business, people, obituaries, books and history. And that’s not to mention our Feedback feature, which summarises the best of the month’s commentary on this blog.

You can subscribe free by emailing us here.

A gentleman, his father & colonialism


Sinaka Book Cover Crossroads to Justice: Colonial Justice and a Native Papuan by Sinaka Vakai Goava, edited by Pat Howley. Divine Word University Press, Madang, 2007

SOMETIMES IN LIFE one comes across an individual who is truly inspirational.  For me one of those people was Sinaka Goava.

I had the privilege of working for him in a minor role in the early 1970s when he was chairman of the Commission of Enquiry into Land Matters.

Sinaka was a true gentleman. He was articulate, gentle, courteous and polite and never had a bad word to say about anyone, no matter what they had done to him. He also had an iron will and an intelligence that was awe inspiring. As a young expatriate in Port Moresby, fresh out of the bush, he completely changed my view of the Papuan people.

His father, Goava Oa, was a different kettle of fish. Apart from being an incorrigible and beguiling charmer he was a sorcerer, gambler, drinker, womaniser and convicted murderer. He was also, by 1930s standards, well educated and fluent in English.

In those pre-war years, these attributes in a Papuan were not hailed as positive proof of the efficacy of Pax Australiana by your average expatriate; on the contrary, they were seen as downright dangerous and a threat to European hegemony.

Goava had worked for Hubert Murray’s administration in various capacities, including that of clerk and interpreter. As an intelligent man he pushed the parameters of these roles and earned a reputation as an ‘uppity native’. Murray eventually sacked him over a dispute about his long service leave.

In 1938 Goava was involved in the murder of three Kuni tribesmen. Murray saw red and, despite the obvious conflict of interest, presided over the court that sentenced Goava and one of his accomplices, an ex sergeant of police, to hang.

The Pacific Islands Monthly summed up the feelings among Europeans when it said “the murderers were both educated natives – the dangerous kind who wish to place themselves on equality with white men” and that the death penalty was “essential” so “the Papuan natives generally should experience the full moral effect of the execution”.

The London Missionary Society, including Percy Chatterton, saw the sentences as manifestly excessive. They argued that most murders involving Papuans carried sentences of imprisonment, usually ten years or so, and appealed to the Australian government.

In a last minute reprieve Murray’s sentence was overturned. So piqued was he that upon reconvening the court he sentenced Goava to life imprisonment with the instruction he never be released.

His son, the young Sinaka, growing up in a sometimes impoverished single parent family, eventually came to see his father’s sentence as unjust and began a campaign to have him released. After many years in prison he thought his father had paid his debt to society and should be freed.

An accomplice, the ex police sergeant, had been released a year after the trial and the other two men a short while later. Sir Hubert Murray was unmoved and resisted Sinaka’s many petitions to the very end. It was only in 1963, when Sir Donald Cleland reviewed the case, that Goava was eventually released. He had served 24 years in prison.

Goava Oa, Sinaka Goava, Lilly Goava Goava spent his later years living with his son’s family in Hanuabada and died there in 1975. Sinaka himself died in 2003. During the latter part of his life he had begun to research his father’s trial and had begun to put together material for what he hoped would become a book.

He was encouraged in this endeavour by associates from the University of Papua New Guinea and Latrobe University in Australia.  He retired from the public service in 1982 but couldn’t help himself and spent many years doing largely unpaid community work.  Whenever I was in Moresby I would drop in to say hello and would be coerced into driving him somewhere or other for one of his many causes.  In 1998 he was knighted.

Pat Howley’s book is an attempt to bring together his good friend Sinaka’s research about his father, place it in context and set the record straight. It is a valiant attempt but one that I ultimately found frustrating.

Pat is a Marist Brother from the Divine Word University in Madang. Readers of this blog may have noticed that the university is a veritable hotbed of dissent during these troubled times in PNG.

This tradition is very evident in the book and it is easy to see the influence of the pre-independence academics, like Ted Wolfers, who were critical of the colonial administration, in the contextual parts of the book.

That aside, there are other aspects that also frustrate; I could not, for instance, discover to my satisfaction whether Goava actually struck any of the fatal blows during the murders of the Kini men.

There is also the intriguing matter of sorcery. One of the catalysts for the murders seems to have been an incident where the child, Sinaka, brushes against one of the Kuni men’s bag containing a sorcerer’s stone and is crippled for some time.

Sinaka certainly had a limp when I knew him but he never alluded to sorcery as the cause. It would be good to know what this urbane and highly intelligent man actually believed about sorcery. I’m currently reading Tom Leahy’s second book and, while he doesn’t actually come out and say he believes in sorcery, he certainly found it very persuasive.

The last thing I found frustrating about the book was its length. There is much more to the story of Sir Sinaka Goava, his brave mother and his delightful wife and daughters.

It is a story that needs to be told in its entirety as it would shed a lot of much needed light upon what has gone into making the modern Papuan and would be tremendously inspirational for modern generations.

None of these criticisms are Pat Howley’s fault. He had a limited amount of material to work with and has done an admirable job. In Michael O’Connor’s recent book, New Guinea Days, he mentions coming across an old trustee in Balimo called Goava who was doing plumbing work and who he had heard was a cannibal.

I found that sort of misinformation annoying. Hopefully this new book will set the record straight.

While I would like to see a fuller account of Sinaka’s life I would also guess that his story is only one of many in the same vein that need to be told in Papua New Guinea.

Freedom Tuesday: You too can play a part

On Tuesday 4 May, Community Action Against Corruption will petition against legislation that will weaken the PNG Constitution making official corruption easier.

PNG Attitude is asking readers to show solidarity with our Papua New Guinean friends by signing the petition on the internet here and forwarding it to the address shown. It's a practical way in which you can show your support.

Merauke plans threaten our porous border


INDONESIAN GOVERNMENT plans to create a vast agricultural estate in its province of Papua pose an increased threat to Australia’s porous Torres Strait border with PNG.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald says the ambitious Merauke Food and Energy Project could expand to 2.5 million hectares, or about half the area of Merauke district in south-east Papua.

It is expected to swell the population of Merauke from 175,000 to 800,000, heralding a return of mass migration from the rest of Indonesia that did much to antagonise the indigenous population.

''We have two concerns,'' said Father Decky Ogi of the Merauke Diocese of the Catholic Church. ''The first is ecological and the second is about what happens to the indigenous people.''

More than two-thirds of the land needed for the project will have to come from felling virgin forest.

Father Ogi said Merauke's ethnically Melanesian people were anxious about the plan. They fear traditional land will be taken, and are apprehensive about an influx of people from other parts of Indonesia.

''The transmigrasi policy stopped in 2000 but its impact is still going on,'' said Father Ogi.

''Indigenous people are marginalised and there is a social gap. It has created a lot of social jealousy. If [this] is implemented, I think indigenous people will be more marginalised.''

The project could also increase the threat of illegal immigration across the Torres Strait, which is already a growing issue for Australia.

Source: ‘Jakarta's plan for farm in jungle unsettles Papuans’ by Tom Allard, Sydney Morning Herald, 3 April 2010

Spotter: Phil Fitzpatrick

PNG’s friends should stand up & be counted


THE SO-CALLED Maladina Amendment has been an insult too far for many Papua New Guineans who are growing increasingly anxious at the corrosive influence of corruption in PNG.

It has also been a subject of vocal concern for many readers of PNG Attitude.

The amendment, if passed, will undermine the PNG Constitution by diluting the powers of the Ombudsman to make Ministers and MPs accountable for the way they spend public money.

The Member for Bulolo and senior PNG Opposition MP, Sam Basil, has urged Moses Maladina to recall his amendment.

“The public has said their piece, the majority of the Opposition has admitted being misled and will not support it, while some government MPs have indicated their intention to withdraw their support for the bill,” he says.

Within PNG, the group Community Action Against Corruption has become a catalyst for a large number of civil organisations and individual citizens to take a stand against corruption.

These organisations, including Transparency International and the Media Council of PNG, are planning to stage peaceful protests throughout the country on Tuesday 4 May.

It seems to me that this provides an unprecedented opportunity for PNG’s friends in Australia to rally in support. There’s been much talk so far; now here’s an opportunity to act.

The PNG government has official offices in Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane. It would be a wonderful gesture of support for PNG if the petition being promoted by Community Action Against Corruption could be reinforced by action in Australia.

PNG Attitude encourages Australian organisations like the PNGAA, Wantoks, Transparency International, Australia PNG Business Council, Kokoda Track Foundation, PNG Australia Alumni Association, Amnesty International and others to lead such a move.

PNG Attitude is willing to act as an initial point of contact for NGOs and individuals interested in organising and participating in these events.

The public relations firm I chair, Jackson Wells, will ensure media coverage. But the motive force will need to come from you.

People interested in forming an organising group should email me here or call me on 0411 222 682.