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49 posts from May 2010

Patients wait 8 months for path tests


COULD YOU RAISE the following story from the PNG Post-Courier with your readers, as they should know how bad things are in PNG and may be able to garner support for Angau Memorial Hospital.

I left PNG in August 2004 after 35 years, 18 of which were spent in Lae.

The appalling state of Angau Hospital has been common knowledge for decades, and it has been able to keep running purely because of the help of Rotary and other charitable bodies.

Politicians should hang their heads in shame to allow such a situation to develop.

Years of banging my head against a brick wall, trying to help the hospital, was part of the reason for my departure.

I helped establish the Dr Paddy Dewan Paediatric Foundation to fund operations for sick children but even that got zero support from the government.

The pathology section at the Angau Memorial Hospital in Lae is on the verge of total collapse and the doctor in charge of it is crying out for immediate help.

Dr Francis Bannick said he has had enough and is sticking his neck out for the sake of thousands of sick Papua New Guineans who deserve a vital service they are not getting at the Angau Memorial Hospital.

‘I cannot keep quiet any more and let patients suffer. I have to come out and tell the government what is happening in this hospital in the hope of getting help. The situation here is very serious.’

Medical specimens and biopsies for patients sent to Port Moresby General Hospital for analyses have not been heard of since last September and patients as well as their doctors are still waiting, Dr Bannick revealed.

The Post-Courier emailed the Minister for Health, Sasa Zibe, and Health Secretary, Clement Malau, for their comments. Mr Zibe responded saying that Dr Malau had only just returned from his holidays and they will look into the matter before responding.

Source: Angau pathology useless by Oseah Philemon

Frustration directed at the wrong target


THE UNITED NATIONS has reported that PNG police systematically beat detainees, have crippled people suspected of serious crimes and sexually assault female prisoners.

These were the conclusions from a two-week tour of the country by the UN's special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Nowak, who said police often brutally beat detainees with car fan belts, gun butts, iron rods and stones.

While nobody should try and condone the police actions - which are a gross abuse of suspects’ human rights and freedoms and must be condemned - at one level the police's frustrations are understandable.

All too often the criminals they capture are released by the courts because of lack of resources, inefficiency or a failure to follow proper procedures. Even if convicted, many violent criminals simply walk out of jail and re-offend.

In addition, police are forced to work in terrible conditions. Our police stations are usually a disgrace: run down, dirt,y unhygienic, and lacking the most basic equipment.

Worse, many police families are forced to live in squalor without water or electricity in barracks unfit for human habitation.

If I were a policeman or policewoman I would be frustrated.

But by beating, raping and crippling people they arrest, the police are taking out their frustrations on the wrong people.

As Mr Nowak pointed out, officers of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary are often unable to enforce the law due to insufficient human and financial resources, serious corruption and a lack of political will.

It is business people and senior bureaucrats who are stealing millions of dollars from thepublic, and the politicians who are failing to stem the flow and who should be the target of the police's frustrations.

It is not the police who are responsible for the "overcrowded, filthy cells, without proper ventilation, natural light or access to food and water for washing, drinking and for using the toilets" described by Mr Novak.

These things are the fault of our politicians and corrupt senior bureaucrats.

If the police want to vent their frustrations then they should read the reports of the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry and take up their issues with the people implicated there.

It is these people who are responsible for the medical care that is lacking for inmates which leads "to avoidable amputations and the spread of disease among detainees".

Mr Nowak said he had met with high-ranking PNG government officials and had been assured they took the issue seriously.

"They haven't denied what I said," he said. But they have also not provided any solutions.

Until they do the right thing and stop white collar crime, it is the high-ranking officials who should feel the heat of police frustrations.


Injured Genia will miss Fiji match


WILL GENIA has been forced out of the Australian team to play Fiji in the Rugby Union international at Canberra Stadium next Saturday.

PNG-born Genia suffered a knee injury in the final Super 14 round but is expected to be fit for forthcoming Tests against England and Ireland.

The 22-year-old Queensland captain was in great form during the Super 14s and was runner-up in the competition’s player of the series.

He finished one point behind team mate and fellow half back Quade Cooper, who paid tribute to Genia.

“The speed of his pass and his willingness to break the defensive line really makes my life a lot easier,” Cooper said.


PNG parliament could be irrelevant


A RECENT EDITORIAL in a PNG newspaper highlighted how the increase in the Somare ministry from 28 to 32 has effectively created a quorum that could govern PNG in its own right.

With 32 ministers and a Speaker, the required number of 33 for a quorum is achieved.

In future the Speaker could merely convene the ministry and have it pass laws without having Opposition or other members available.

The Somare government has finally reduced the PNG Parliament to a toothless and silent rubber stamp.

The government has in effect voted non government members into irrelevance.

Opposition members might just as well install cardboard cut-outs in their seats in Parliament or become computer images of virtual reality.

What happens when all members of Parliament other than current government ministers are excluded from the Parliament? If there was to be a lockout of Opposition members, or those members were in some way delayed from attending a sitting, the Somare/Temu government could become a law unto itself.

There is now, no effective way of holding the Somare government accountable either in or out of the Haus Tamberan. With one vote, PNG has entered an entirely new phase of non representative Parliamentary government.

The next step and final step is full blown dictatorship. But wait, could there be light at the end of the tunnel?

When the two new governors of the two new Jiwaka and Hela provinces, arrive in the House in 2012, the numbers required for a quorum will be altered. But then the creation or just one more ministry could always fix that hiccup.

So will the 20 new seats reserved for women alter the balance? Not if they are to have appointed members as occupants.

If the new female members are to be appointed by the government, this will deliver the final death blow to the last vestiges of PNG democracy.

So will these expensive machinations by the Somare government, worth millions of kina, produce a recipe for any better performance in a government that has presided over an almost total collapse of services and infrastructure.

Not by one iota.


Half aid to consultants; few success stories


AN INDEPENDENT review has found that half the Australian aid sent to PNG is spent on consultants rather than the nation-building programs it is intended for.

A review of the PNG-Australia Development Co-operation Treaty commissioned by the two governments, recommends sweeping changes to the much-criticised program.

The aid program for PNG employs 360 technical assistance staff, 50 from the Australian government and the rest as consultants, the report says.

The report also says around a quarter of aid to PNG is paid to a handful of firms who in practice deliver little of substance.

Australian aid agency AusAID has been heavily criticised amid revelations it's paying some consultants six figure tax free salaries to provide what's known as technical assistance.

There are also reports that other international aid dollars are spent frivolously, including $12 million on researching pandas in China.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith defended the government's aid programs after yesterday's release of the review.

The government is working to solve problems in delivering aid, he said.

The review said there had been some success stories, but overall the practice has made little difference to life in PNG and this method of capacity building does not work.

It recommends a reduction in the amount of money spent on technical assistance and says AusAID could do more to reduce the cost of hiring consultants.

The review says Australian aid is being spread too thinly across too many areas and instead recommends a focus on improving education.

It also says non-government organisations such as church groups and the health sector should be given a greater role in delivering aid.

The newly appointed head of AusAID, Peter Baxter, has vowed to crack down on highly paid consultants as part of a broader restructuring of the foreign aid program.

AusAID funding has created a monster


HAS ANYONE thought about recruiting and employing qualified Papua New Guineans to better target Australia’s aid programs in PNG?

Why isn't there an independent recruitment program set up under the AusAID umbrella to ensure that qualified PNG people are available for each position before it is offered to a high priced overseas consultancy firm who employs overseas staff who have very high on costs.

If there are no qualified Papua New Guineans available, they should be trained as soon as possible under a contract that has a sunset clause in it and won't be fully paid out unless prior benchmarks for achievement are met.

The whole AusAID program has seems to be run on a scattergun approach.

A supplement should be provided to all PNG public servants who are prepared to sign a binding agreement not to be involved in corrupt practices and to report those they find breaking the law.

If the PNG public service were to be paid a reasonable wage, it would not have to rely on corruption to feed and look after the family.

Why not concentrate on health or education and ensure these principle areas are working across the nation.

The PNG government is going to increase the number of ministries (and therefore public servants) instead of making sure those they already employ are able to do what they are paid to do.

Clearly AusAID funding needs to be targeted at national achievement and not local appeasement.

A monster has been created that no one as yet seems willing or able to control.


Kokoda Track bug blinds Aussie MP

A MYSTERIOUS bug contracted on the Kokoda Track has nearly claimed the eyesight of NSW Liberal MP, Charlie Lynn.

Mr Lynn is a veteran of the track and when Parliament is not sitting he leads expeditions along the route.

He had to be evacuated from his 59th trek after a parasite lodged under his contact lenses.

He says the parasite may have lodged on his eye when he cooled down in a river at a campsite.

"The second possibility is that of course I use a sweat rag and I'm dipping that in water all the time and wiping my forehead and my eyes," he said.

Mr Lynn went blind in both eyes, but after three weeks treatment in Sydney he has regained some vision in his left eye.

"I should be a lot more compassionate in my leanings, because I can only see out of my left eye now," he said.

He says his eyes are responding to the treatment and the incident has not put him off returning to PNG.

Spotter: Don Hook

PM’s daughter speaks on corruption issues


BETHA SOMARE, daughter and press secretary of Michael Somare, has been in email correspondence with the PNG EXPOSED blog.

While Betha has been willing to talk, which is commendable, she has not provided legitimate answers to some simple questions.

While Betha should be congratulated for her attempts at open government, her answers so far do nothing to challenge the fact that her father, Michael Somare, is the chief of a government overseeing the theft of millions of kina every week from the people of PNG.

From Betha Somare

Thank you for emailing me even though you are nameless. I am happy to inform you that the findings and recommendations of the commission of inquiry were presented to parliament by the prime minister during a recent session of parliament.

This means it became a public document and available for all to see.

Unfortunately, Paraka Lawyers took out a successfully court injunction stopping publication and discussion on the Report.

Government is also unable to implement the recommendations of the Report because of the pending court decision. For your information, I have attached the PM's statement to parliament when he presented the Report.

I hope that in your quest you can also expose the truth.

From PNG Exposed

Many thanks for your reply and we appreciate your commitment to the truth. Perhaps you can explain:

1. What steps has the government taken to have the temporary injunction obtained by Paul Paraka lifted?

2. Why, knowing that Gabriel Yer is heavily implicated in the scams, has the PM given to him the financial powers taken from the Dept of Planning because of the scams involving Minister Tiensten?

3. What steps has the PM taken to investigate the claims by William  Kapris against Minister Pruaitch, who also benefited from the removal of powers from Tiensten?

From Betha Somare

1. Fundamental rules of separation of powers are at play here so the executive and the legislature cannot interfere with the rulings of the court.

2. Your previous allegation that Yer is PM's appointee is misleading. Gabriel Yer was appointed to my understanding following PSC process. Yes he is mentioned in the COI but government cannot act at this time because of the above mentioned court order.

3. I am not a lawyer but William Kapris is not a remandee, he is a convicted felon. He has no credibility. And you have no evidence that his utterance have any substance. Where are we heading when we begin to believe one person's word without evidence is the truth? In PNG the law is still that one is innocent until proven guilty. Starting from the premise that people are guilty and then trying to make mud stick is an injustice.

From PNG Exposed

Thank you for your reply to the three questions in the earlier email.

Unfortunately most people will find your answers completely unsatisfactory because:

1. On the Paraka injunctions it is nonsense to say the
government cannot do anything because of the doctrine of the separation of powers.

Any law student could explain this for you. Either you are receiving very poor legal advice; or really don't understand the doctrine; or you are deliberately attempting to mislead.

The government employs whole teams of lawyers in both the Solicitor General's office and Department of the Attorney General who are in and out of court on a daily basis on government business. This includes frequently trying to overturn injunctions or questioning the earlier decisions of the court.

There is NOTHING in the doctrine of the separation of powers that stops the government seeking to get the injunction lifted. Indeed, the injunction that was granted was an ex parte temporary injunction given as an emergency measure by the judge on hearing only one side of the argument.

The normal process when an ex parte injunction is given is for the matter to go back before the judge a few days later for all parties to be heard and for the judge to consider whether the injunction should stay in place. By doing nothing to ensure an inter parties hearing the government is failing in its duty to the people.

If the government is hiding behind a misguided reading of the Separation of Powers as an excuse not to act then the people are entitled to conclude the government endorses the K780 million scam. If you require independent legal advice to assist you on this issue then happy to find some lawyers who will help you and the PM on a pro bono basis.

2. On the issue of Gabriel Yer you have completely avoided the question that was asked. To state that it was not the PM who appointed Yer as Secretary of Finance some years ago is IRRELEVANT.

The question you were asked was, why has the Prime Minister, knowing Yer is heavily implicated in the Paraka Scams decided in the last fortnight to hand him all the financial powers of the Department of Planning?

While it was great the government responded to the scams in Planning by taking powers away from Teinsten it was ridiculous to then give financial control of that Department to Gabriel Yer. The PM said in the statement you kindly circulated that he had spent 5 months studying the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry report and therefore he must know intimately all the ways Yer has allegedly stolen large sums of money. Yet he gives him MORE power?

3. On the allegations made by William Kapris your answer is wholly misconceived. Nobody is suggesting that Pruaitch et al are not entitled to a presumption of innocence. What the people are saying is that serious allegations have been made and the police should investigate them.

Yes, Kapris is a convicted felon, but since when did the Police start ignoring tip offs from criminals? Often such people are the polices' best source of information. Who better than a bank robber to know who financed and profited from his crimes? To ignore his sworn statements and not insist on a police investigation smacks of a cover-up.

If the politicians are indeed innocent what do they have to fear? Why does the PM not ask them to stand aside and insist the police conduct a full investigation? Or is it one law for MPs and another for the rest of us?

Waimin: A PNG society changing from within


FOR THE LAST 35 years PNG’s rural societies have been neglected by successive governments.

We continue to plead for basic services like health, roads and education, but our cries are never heard. What can we do? Maybe we have to do something within our own societies.

Here is an initiative taken by a tribe, without any government help, that wanted to build their society.

Waimin tribe, the largest tribe in the Wapemanada district of the Enga Province took the initiative. The Waimin comprises seven sub-tribes with a population of about 9,000.

In September last year, the whole tribe dedicated their land to the Lord, the creator of the universe. They said they wanted to serve the Lord and develop their own land with the help of their elites, businessmen, churches and the community itself.

The initiative was taken by village chiefs George Puu, Abodan Awali, Palus, David Kiso, Kopo Lana and James Kii, supported by businessmen Robert Lasak, Johnson Tolabi, Patrict Komba, Philip Rex and the PNG Four Square Church President, Pastor Timothy Tipitap, and Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, and others from the tribe.

The whole tribe carried a box containing a bible and called it the ‘covenant box’ to show that the tribe made a covenant to serve the Lord so that Lord will protect them and bless their land.

It was witnessed by many officials from various government departments and other prominent leaders from the Province.

An interdenominational crusade will be held on 29 September in commemoration of the covenant.

This was a challenge for the tribes of the province. They had to make strong regulations on how they could maintain peace and harmony so people could lead enjoyable lives.

They prohibited unnecessary compensation payments, tribal fighting, card playing, rape, marijuana smoking, and drinking alcohol and homebrew.

Though it started recently, there are already many positive results. There is a major health center funded by the Foursquare Church, new elementary schools, a regular road clean up, and new churches and houses.

Health indicators, social lives and the local economy have started to improve.

It’s a precedent that other PNG societies must follow to maintain peace and bring development into rural areas without crying for government assistance.

Blatant arrogant and uncaring leaders no longer represent the people’s voice.

A plan for the good governance of PNG


I THINK WE’D all agree that political stability and good governance are vital for PNG's future growth and prosperity.

The government must at all times promote good governance to ensure transparency and accountability in everything it does for its citizens.

Parliament must strive for good government and clean politics. It is time we got rid of the special interests that are corrupting our political system.

If we don’t stop corruption, it will soon destroy our government and society.

The government should start combating corruption using some of these strategies:

Promote open discussion of the most significant problems facing parliament.

Develop priorities for reforms to make government operations transparent and accountable.

Ensure proper oversight of government functions by strengthening internal mechanisms, including investigative and enforcement capacity with respect to acts of corruption.

Facilitate public access to information necessary for meaningful outside review.

Establish conflict of interest standards for public employees.

Introduce effective measures against illicit enrichment, including stiff penalties for those who utilise their public positions to benefit private interests.

Legislate for governments at all levels to adopt and enforce measures against bribery in all financial or commercial transactions both within the state and with external actors.

Despite my irregular appearances at the keyboard over the last week or so, the commentators have held the ground secure and PNG ATTITUDE continues to attract its usual quota of around 400 readers each day. Many thanks to all those contributors. The next few days may also be a bit lean as I grace the Channel Islands with my considerably expanding girth - KJ

We dance to foreigners' music, says Marat

FORMER ATTORNEY-GENERAL and justice minister, Dr Allan Marat, says he was deliberately excluded from the team that originally negotiated PNG’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Brisbane.

“For some reason, I was not included in the team. My advice was never sought... There was no serious consultation with me as principal legal adviser to a matter that was of high national interest.”

He also said, in the case of the Maladina Amendment, MP Moses Maladina never sought the Attorney-General’s advice on proposed amendments to the Constitution relating to the duties and responsibilities of leadership.

Dr Marat said the proper system of protocols was not followed for the Maladina Amendment.

“I do not know how he came up with the idea, and I do not even know how he saw the need to amend the leadership code,” he said.

On the LNG agreement, Dr Marat said the first time he saw the document was on 21 May last year when it was pushed across the table. He was told it would be signed the next day and the legal clearance was required immediately.

“How do you expect my lawyers and I to properly analyse the implications, benefits or matters that would be against the best interest of PNG in less than 24 hours when the agreement was more than 200 pages?” he asked.

“There was no serious consultation on serious matters like the LNG.”

“This gas agreement was drawn up overseas. It was taken away from our government negotiating team and structured overseas. And we are now forced to dance to the music of foreigners,” he said.

Source: The National, 18 May 2010

Bureaucrats idle as Chimbu culture trashed


ONE OF THE great things that the introduction of radio broadcasting did for PNG was to ensure the recording and preservation of the old stories, myths, songs, dances and sounds.

We broadcasters in the sixties and seventies placed great emphasis on this responsibility – undertaking ‘recording patrols’ using portable audio equipment; travelling around rural villages spending long nights gathering material of cultural value.

While the sounds of PNG were on tape, and while they were looked after, they would never die.

The material recorded was carefully archived, and stored in an air conditioned room to protect it from heat, humidity, mould and a fatal condition of magnetic tape called ‘print through’.

“The aircon’s there for the equipment, father, not for you,” as 1970s PNG broadcasting controller, HH (Jim) Leigh, liked to put it.

And, of course, this material also made it to air in programs like Toktok Bilong Tumbuna and Singsing Bilong Ples and Sitori Bilong Yumi.

Such programs, innocuous thought they seem, were not without controversy. For example, in Bougainville, back then anyway, the people of the north detested the Siwai music of the south, and remained in a constant fever of complaint about it.

But broadcasting the stories and the music exposed PNG's cultural variations to its own people and, in a small way, helped build a sense of unity and nation within its great diversity.

When Bougainville disintegrated into a bloody civil war, the radio station I had managed was razed and the irreplaceable collection of tape recordings was destroyed with it.

But now, apropos of no civil strife or natural disaster but simple bureaucratic humbug, the PNG National reports that a rare collection of traditional Chimbu songs, string band music, legends, myths and traditional bamboo flute harmonies has been wilfully ruined.

The National Broadcasting Corporation’s library and archives building in Kundiawa, constructed in 1973, has just been demolished to make way for the new highlands regional Treasury building.

Some 37 years of recordings have been wantonly destroyed.

And all this was done in the presence of Governor Fr John Garia, other Chimbu MPs, PNG Finance secretary Gabriel Yer, NBC managing director Memafu Kapera, and NBC chairman Paul Reptario.

They are named because they need to be shamed.

The National’s reporter saw remains of the destroyed material, much of it still burning, lying in the wreckage of the bulding and around the perimeter fence.

The management and staff of NBC Kundiawa have been blamed for failing to relocate the items when they moved from the building three months ago.

Whoever is responsible, it is a national and cultural disgrace.

More emphasis needed on public health


THE OCCURRENCE of outbreaks of disease like the current cholera epidemic would be much lower if public health was given the top priority in the health sector.

The outbreak of cholera and dysentery in Morobe Province that spread to the highlands and Madang is now reaching other parts of the country.

Port Moresby has reported five deaths and 35 people under observation.

Cholera and diseases like HIV/AIDS impact the whole nation because public health has never received the attention it deserved.

Almost two-thirds of the population is poor - living in remote areas without basic services like health, education and roads. If contagious diseases reach these places, they can wipe out whole populations.

Prevention is better than cure, but the government is failing to prevent. It must pump more money into public health and not just into hospitals, because having a good public health system can prevent diseases from occurring.

Until now, much money and effort have been put into health care facilities ahead of public health and that is beginning to tell.

There is a need for many more public health promotion programs and environmental health activities.

The government must put more effort and resources into public health and get the balance with clinical health right.

Do nothing, change nothing: that’s the truth


THE ONLY THING necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

No, that’s not me; it’s English philosopher Edmund Burke. He knew a thing or two about human beings.

At each signpost along the road, the PNG people have had an opportunity to divert the wagon of state away from eventual destruction.

The current political situation, where a cartel of self seeking and corrupt leaders have usurped the power of government for their own purposes, has not happened overnight.

It is the result of a gradual white anting over three decades. The food in the national garden has been mumuted in front of the people's eyes.

But because this has been a gradual underground process, no one has clearly understood what’s been happening.

Many younger PNG people in positions of responsibility never experienced what pre-independence PNG was like.

While no human society is free from corruption and criminality, the contrast between PNG in the early 1970's and today is indescribable.

Perhaps this is why many people are now blasé and complacent about the slow implosion of their society and nation.

So is the impending melt-down inevitable? And can something be done to reverse the downhill slide?

History is full of examples when people have had enough and decided to mobilise.

If enough people in PNG decided to organise, nothing is impossible.

One thing is for sure. Until enough people start thinking about their nation and their children's future, nothing will change.

Complaining about what everyone knows ain't gonna change anything

‘Perenti’ skipper jailed for 6 months in Buka


Perenti BUKA DISTRICT court has sentenced an Australian, Michael William Northcote, to six months jail after a two-month court case which followed the seizure of the yacht Perenti in Bougainville waters.

Four other Australians who were with him on the yacht were previously acquitted because of lack of evidence.

Bougainville Police searched the boat [pictured with Mr Northcote on board] after a tip-off and found it was carrying a quantity of marijuana.

Buka District Magistrate, Vincent Linge, took into account that Nothcote was a first offender and his cooperation with police investigations.

Mr Linge said carrying drugs, no matter how small, was an offence and PNG does not tolerate people who do not respect the country’s laws.

He said that as Bougainville recovers from a bloody war, the last thing it wants to see is its visitors trafficking illegal drugs.

Mr Linge said genuine tourists are welcome in Papua New Guinea and Bougainville, provided they abide by the country’s laws.

The six months jail sentence will be served in Buka.

The yacht has been forfeited to the government of Papua New Guinea.

Basil's speech opens up a smelly package


IN HIS STIRRING speech to Parliament last Friday, Opposition MP, Sam Basil, threw down the gauntlet to the Somare government and PNG law enforcement authorities.

In the speech, an edited version of which appears below, Mr Basil said: “Continuous inaction and silence [by the police] and allowing high profile crimes to fade with time without justice being done is nothing but a recipe for disaster. Such is an element that is directly corroding the foundations of democracy which is the rule of law.”

Now, a visibly angry Prime Minister Somare has been stung into responding.

"Instead of opening our big mouths and accuse each other, we must all read and understand procedures and processes of government,” he exploded.

“The so-called university graduates should read the law instead of leading demonstrations."

Somare compared protest leaders to parrots and said it was Parliament’s job to determine if there is something wrong with the system and to change laws.

But, wait a minute, Prime Minister. If the laws already exist but are not being followed, what use is it to change or amend them further?

That’s just another case of diversion and denial.

Newly appointed Attorney-General and Justice Minister, Ano Pala, then cautioned MPs who questioned the integrity of the Parliamentary Speaker.

“Basil has questioned the integrity of the chair; if you want to question the authority and dignity of the chair, you are attacking all of us,” Pala said during a grievance debate.

Yet Mr. Basil didn't accuse all MP's of being corrupt. So why is Mr Pala trying to share the blame? Mr Basil presented the facts. Let Mr Pala respond to the facts.

Mr Basil has been brave enough to open up the smelly bag of decay that is today's PNG government. He deserves to be supported by all PNG leaders, including Sir Mekere Morauta and the Opposition.

Tari-Pori MP James Marape said, “If you are not happy or satisfied with government, dispose of the government in a properly conducted election.”

But will a properly conducted election be allowed in 2012? In the 2007 general election, the improper use of a government plane and promises of public money hand-outs by Somare ensured his cartel held on to power.

No one seemed to be able to ensure the law wasn't broken then. So what confidence can the PNG public have that this corrupted election activity will not happen again in 2012?

Mr Basil should be hailed as a champion of PNG democracy and actively supported by all those who want a better future for PNG.

Jobs, jobs, more jobs – but sorry, not for you


HERE IN THE Hervey Bay/Maryborough area of Queensland we’ve got a local daily newspaper, The Chronicle, which has been around since Adam was a lad.

About a year ago the editor retired and was replaced by a refugee from the south.

The paper immediately lurched dramatically to the right and now forsakes hard news and informed comment for sport, car crashes, drink drivers and council-baiting. I’ve persisted with it because it still carries a Phantom comic strip.

This is the heartland of Australian apathy and the last thing I would ever expect to see in it would be an article about PNG.

Today, in the jobs section, there was a full page spread on the LNG project. This looks promising I thought.

However, when I read further I discovered it was a thinly disguised advertisement for several international petroleum industry recruiting agencies that seem to have the game sewn up.

I imagine they paid for the same article to go into local papers all over the country.

The only encouraging thing is that most of them now seem to have offices in Port Moresby. I wonder if the same advertisement appeared there too.

The article starts off by saying: “Talking jobs and Papua New Guinea it really is a jungle out there. The tiny island nation to our north is one of the least explored countries in the world”.

Having hoofed it over a fair slab of the country I’d take issue with the description of PNG as “tiny”.

It goes on with the unexplored theme (read primitive): “In a country with very little infrastructure – 72% of the population lives rurally, with the nation on the whole one of the least explored on the planet – there is a massive amount of work to be completed before the project actually produces any LNG”.

The crux of the matter is summed up in the box alongside the article.  It begins by saying, “Interested in working in Papua New Guinea on the biggest project the country has ever seen?” and follows by listing the exclusive recruiting agencies.

To me those words are saying “there are going to be heaps of jobs paying big money come and join the feeding frenzy”.

The article mentions that the PNG government has a “national content plan” which will focus on “the development of the local workforce, expansion of supplier capability, and strategic community investment”.   I wonder if AusAID had a hand in penning that bit.

Underneath the article there is a large advertisement from Toyota in Brisbane for a “Toyota Retail Specialist in PNG”.

Suffice it to say I am currently unaware of any government programs madly training workers for the LNG project. I’m sure the prime minister said, “Bugger it, we’ll use Asians?”

Other than that, I’m puzzled. Why do you need an Australian to sell Landcruisers to Esso and Oil Search?

But that’s not my point. What I wanted to say was, watch out workers of PNG - it has begun.

Be quick and, if you’re lucky, you may be able to grab a shirt tail as it goes past.

Guilty: a bilum and a handful of lamb flaps


PEOPLE OFTEN ASK whether there are two sets of laws when it comes to equal justice for all in PNG.

In the newsaper I again see concerns raised, with the headline 'Laws for Rich & Poor'. The story is about Sam Kewa of the Western Highlands who is sentenced to 12 months in prison for stealing a bilum and a K7.80 packet of lamb flaps.

He will pay dearly for his criminal actions, even though the reasons for stealing may have begun from a hungry stomach or a need to feed his family.

Papua New Guineans, mainly small people, submit to the law of this land while people of high profile live lives without fear of the law, pushing corruption to unprecedented heights.

Stealing K100,000 20 years ago would spark a nationwide march, but today K100 million can be misappropriated and the nation just watches, and mumbles over it, and forgets it the next day.

Most times the politicians and departmental heads entrusted to safeguard the wealth of this nation are the ones who steal from the vault they guard, often in collaboration with private business.

Our leaders have a lot to answer fo, but seem to be immune from the rule of law. The lower class are the only ones answerable to the law of this land.

The rule of law, which is the foundation of civilised society, demands that all persons are equal before it. The law is the master of the government. The government is its slave; not the reverse.

That the law should govern, and that those in power are its servants, is central to democracy, a system PNG has adopted through our Constitution.

The Constitution, particularly section 197(2), empowers the Police to perform their duties without control or direction from any other person.

The Courts have held that the decision to lay a charge by Police investigating a crime is an unfettered discretion.

Whether of high or low profile, every person is equal before the law and all have to be dealt with in the same way. Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.

The Police know what to do but they are not doing it.

If fear of malicious prosecution is the reason for not charging accomplices to crime, it is an unreasonable and a cover-up excuse. Section 7 of the Criminal Code Act provides that every person who aids another person in committing an offence is also a principal offender.

If ordinary people named in a crime can easily be picked up from the street and charged, why is the same not true for politicians and departmental heads. Their culpability is very high because they are leaders.

That there is evidence behind current allegations tells a story of worsening corruption. The law enforcement agencies cannot, should not, ignore these concerns.

The continuing inaction and silence of the Police in allowing high profile crimes to fade with time without justice being done is nothing but a recipe for disaster.

It is directly corroding the foundations of democracy, which is the rule of law.

Civil society is fed up with the complete disregard of lawful duties by the Police. Bribery and other forms of corruption are weakening the functions of the Police as an independent body.

A number of cases are still pending for investigation and prosecution, yet nothing is done. These involve very senior members of parliament, departmental heads and various business people associated with organised mafia activities operated by Asians. These are all very well known to the Police.

The Ombudsman Commission, the Public Prosecutor and the Police are funded by taxpayers' money and must execute their duties. Their failure can only form an opinion in the public of two sets of laws: one for the rich and powerful citizens and one for the majority, mainly the poor and marginalised citizens.

Outgoing Chief Magistrate John Numapo recently made headlines in the print media when he claimed that the magisterial service has been politicised, an allegation that brings into question the independence of our whole judicial system.

I am not surprised, because many political cases hang in the air.

Nobody will answer the concerns I have raised. But if the Ombudsman Commission, the Police, the Public Prosecutor and other law enforcement agencies cannot do their jobs, this nation will decay into corruption and eventually become a failed state.

If nobody can apply justice, then I commit this debate of mine to God to intervene.

So God, please help Papua New Guinea.

* Sam Basil is the Member for Bulolo in the PNG national parliament. This is an edited version of a speech made in the House last week.

Democracy is being swept under the carpet


PNG democracy proudly raised its head with peaceful public demonstrations against the so-called Maladina Amendment, which will gut the corruption-fighting capacity of the Ombudsman Commission.

The big issue now is whether this justifiable and intelligently executed public activity will achieve any lasting effect.

Clearly it is the intention of prime minister Somare to sit tight, tough things out and wait until the storm passes by.

Sir Michael has claimed that, since parliament has already passed the Maladina Amendment, it is too late to listen to the will of the people.

Of course, as he should know, in a democracy it is never too late to embrace the people’s will.

As in many other cases of scandal and political bastardry in PNG in recent years, the prime minister is depending on noisy talk being followed by apathy and inaction: a pattern that allows him to continue uncontested rule.

So the burning question is whether the Somare government will be allowed to get away with it again.

Opponents of this base government need to understand that the only approach likely to yield positive results is a continuing, consistent and well orchestrated campaign that keeps up the pressure.

Unfortunately the PNG Opposition, whose job it is to maintain a continuing articulation of a better alternative, seems to operate only in fits and starts.

In truth, unresolved issues never go away; but they can lie dormant for a long time while much collateral damage is incurred.

If pressure eases following the recent public demonstrations and petitions, it will be easy for Somare to again sweep the Maladina matter under the carpet.

But the damage will continue.

Now a general service medal for TPNG?


FORMER SCHOOL TEACHER Ronald Patton is nothing if not diligent and persevering.

His goal is to seek Australian government recognition of official [Administration] service in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea.

Now this is a subject we’ve heard much about over the last two years in relation to the sometimes controversial and largely-thwarted Kiap recognition project.

But, despite these rather dampening experiences, Ron has shaped a greater objective: seeking recognition for all qualified people who served in the TPNG Administration prior to independence.

He’s worked up a 180-page justification – cheerfully admitting “this is rather too long [and] I am in the process of reducing it to a more appropriate size”.

Ron says: “It’s not a submission about how wonderful we were, but rather based on the existing precedents and existing procedures that have been applied to all relevant awards that could relate to TPNG service.”

“Simply put,” argues Ron, “the Australian administration of TPNG was performed under the auspices of the United Nations.

“The Australian Government had accepted Trust Territory administrative obligations contained within the Charter of the UN that included conditions and obligations to assist with the well-being and progress of the native peoples of TPNG, which would ultimately lead to a position where self-government or independence would be granted.

“As a result, the general civilian service performed by the expatriate Australian public servants was of an ongoing, prolonged humanitarian service to the people of the Territory as indicated by the advancement of the Territory and its people from 1949 to 1973.”

Ron goes on to discuss the “numerous precedents and procedures" within the existing Awards system that support recognition of such service.

“The Civilian Service Medal 1939-1945 is a starting point,” he says, “but it is not the only reference point. Indeed, the deeper I dug [in my research], the more examples I discovered of not only precedents but actual procedures that relate to not only the creation of civilian but also military awards.

“This is the key to the whole operation because our claim is not based on how wonderful we were but on the basis that there exists within the existing system quite a number of precedents and procedures that equally apply to the civilian general service performed in TPNG.”

In his delvings, Ron also came across an interesting submission that he says involves Kiaps, the AFP, State Police, Customs and Fisheries officers who are seeking the creation of an Australian Border Protection Medal that would be both current and backdated to 1945.

Ron promises to keep us informed of progress with his self-anointed and Herculean task.

AusAID adviser review a bad Aussie joke


PNG FOREIGN Minister, Sam Abal, claims – without originality – that much Australian aid is wasted on consultants and advisers rather than being spent on top development issues like health and education.

In response, Australia's Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, states that AusAID will join with partner governments to conduct a review of adviser effectiveness.

Which looks to PNG Attitude a bit like Caesar being appointed to judge both Caesar and Caesar’s wife.

Mr Smith says Australia is committed to providing effective and 'value for money' advisers. We can all breathe easy in the face of such banality.

Given the vacuousness of such political analysis, PNG Attitude feels compelled to examine both Foreign Ministers’ statements in more detail.

The PNG Foreign Minister is right, even if obvious. Many overseas advisers and consultants are reported to be paid half million dollar contracts by AusAID.

So-called 'boomerang aid' has been around for years and refers to the giaman [flawed] practice where AusAID pays contracting firms and Australian consultants lots of money which comes back to Oz bank accounts with PNG not accruing any substantial benefit.

This money has been pouring into PNG for decades; the consultants have been there as long; AusAID has been superintending in its role as banker. So, easy question, what major gains have been achieved in PNG as the result of Australian aid. 

Can we now have the scorecard, please? Email to PNG Attitude here.

It is claimed that PNG experts are not available and overseas consultants must be recruited. But why are local experts not available? Why, after so long and so much money, are they not there?

In our day, we worked ourselves out of a job by effectively training Papua New Guineans.  How else did PNG gain independence when it did?

The present strategy seems to be having the effect of driving the PNG public service into greater dependence on aid.

Could it be that AusAID contractors (thoroughly conflicted, because for every new PNG professional, less contractors are required) aren't highly motivated to train Papua New Guineans to take over their jobs.

After all, working yourself out of a job is not consistent with contracting companies' bottom line. These companies exist to have their consultants stay in jobs.

When you combine this conflict of interest with PNG government appointment processes severely corroded by the nepotistic and corrupt wantok [tribal affiliation] system, many educated Papua New Guineans have nowhere to turn to build fulfilling, creative nation-building roles.

They are cut out of the action by both 'boomerang aid' and wantokism.

Some go overseas to pursue their careers; these people are highly regarded as thorough professionals whether as pilots in Singapore or nurses in Brisbane.

Others sit on the backbench in PNG - waiting, hoping, they'll get a chance to contribute meaningfully to their country. Frustrated by a system that excludes them because of trivial, parochial politics.

These people are a wasted resource to PNG, and both PNG and Australian governments have a lot to answer for in not creating an environment in which the nation's talent is fully and fairly deployed.

But let's get back to AusAID, where the old idea that paying peanuts and getting monkeys has – it seems - morphed into the notion that the more you pay, the better the monkey. Well, yeah...

In the case of Australian aid to PNG, the main outcome has been to increase many foreign bank accounts.

When did you last read a story about a major Australian aid triumph in PNG? We fear the casebook is pretty much empty.

There's a feeling that, with the consultants out of the way (?), aid can be directed to PNG unfiltered to perform great tasks. This is nonsense. The truth is that health, education and like programs, which are the direct responsibility of the PNG government, can't just be hot wired to Australia's overseas aid program.

A recent inquiry into PNG government finances revealed horrendous inefficiencies, and worse, in the management of most government departments. Giving more dollars to badly governed agencies is hardly likely to achieve the desired results.

And to reiterate a point we made earlier, which is the worst aspect of this so-called review. That AusAID and partner governments are being asked to appraise their own programs is a disgrace. It is a bare-faced, grubby conflict of interest.

Moreover, it is no recipe for change. It is a plan for dissembling, covering up and continuing a corrupted system that needs to be cleaned up quick smart.

The corruption of aid processes exists on both sides of the Coral Sea, with the Australian government – as the aid giver - probably more culpable than anyone.

AIDS orphans – the untold tragedy of PNG*

THE WORD orphan in PNG can be an emotive term with even political leaders pronouncing there is no such thing in the country.

So, to progress the discussion, let’s remove this terminology by just calling them children whose lives have been impacted by HIV.

In the last few years the number of children whose parents have succumbed to the HIV virus has become noticeable. Anecdotally, this appears to be in the many thousands.

Left with no support, the children, in most but not all cases, are absorbed within the households of relatives or friends.

The last year, however, has been an eye opener for the Board of the Serendipity Educational Endowment Fund (SEEF), established by the Asia Pacific Business Coalition on AIDS to provide education for PNG children whose lives have been impacted by the AIDS epidemic.

As it carries out its mandate, SEEF has begun to comprehend the enormous number of young people whose lives have been affected by HIV and this has allowed us to take away the veneer that the extended family is the end of the story.

The common theme of so many of these children is that they are of secondary status. They are the last to be considered for anything, including education.

Young girls and women face the additional hardship of having to justify why they should be educated and this is compounded when household resources are scarce and families have to make unenviable choices.

But what should be of no surprise is the trauma faced by children whose lives have been turned upside down by HIV.

The impact on them is compounded but such considerations as whether they also have the virus that killed their parents and what faces them in an uncertain life. They worry about whether their adopted family will stick by them. And observe that they are not able to enjoy what other family members have.

And then there is the overriding, all pervasive stigma of discrimination. There is a powerful message that a person is different because their parents have HIV or died from AIDS.

The mix of community ignorance and fear is much harder to bear on the innocent shoulders of the young.

Over the next three months a trustee of SEEF, Elizabeth Reid, will provide NASFUND with some of the findings that are coming out of the educational endowment fund on how HIV is impacting on the lives of children.

With these greater insights, people may be able to more positively contribute to delivering better outcomes for this often ignored group whose lives have been greatly and irreversibly altered.

* From the NASFUND e-newsletter for May

Jim Griffin, noted academic, dies at 80


THE DEATH has occurred of writer, teacher and historian Emeritus Professor James Thomas Griffin - a person with a special interest in PNG.

He had a considerable influence around the time of independence in 1975, when he was professor of history at the University of Papua New Guinea.

After retirement, although Jim never really retired in any conventional sense of the word, he was made a professor emeritus of UPNG and became a frequent contributor to the Australian Dictionary of Biography, which includes his notable entries on Archbishop Daniel Mannix and John Wren.

Jim never eschewed controversy, in fact he welcomed it; viewing argument and debate and polemics as an essential part of understanding the human processes that underpin history. 

When one of the writers had much to do with him - in Bougainville in the early seventies - it was immediately clear that Jim the political scientist was at least as acute as Jim the historian.

Jim Griffin was born in Warrnambool, Victoria and died at his home in Canberra on Sunday at the age of 80.

He is survived by his widow Helga and children Justin, Gerald, Denis, Anthea, Cathleen and Gabrielle. A son James predeceased him.

The funeral service will be held on Friday 14 May at St Christopher’s Cathedral, Canberra Avenue, Forrest ACT, starting at 10am.

He will be buried at Warrnambool General Cemetery next Monday.

Ramu waste impacts were unknown to govt


ITS OFFICIAL - the Deputy Prime Minister has confirmed that, when it approved the process, the PNG government had no idea what the effects of the waste disposal arrangements from the Ramu nickel mine would be.

The Environment Minister stood by while Sir Puka Temu admitted to people of the Rai Coast that the government was now undertaking 'awareness on the process of deep sea tailings'.

Both ministers received a petition calling for an immediate stop to work on the waste disposal site and the funding of an independent scientific study into the project.

The government has been given 21 days to respond before local people take further action.

Had the local residents not obtained an earlier court injunction on mine construction work, it is clear that the PNG government and Ramu Nickel would have gone ahead with the planned underwater tailings disposal: a process that many people have serious concerns about.

This admission by the government begs the question of what else about this particular mining project has not been fully investigated, prior to government approval.

A similar mine in New Caledonia had significant problems with its waste disposal arrangements.

A qualified mining engineer has previously claimed the PNG government agreed to a vastly undervalued deal with Ramu Nickel.

If this is true, the PNG people have been sold out by their own government. Perhaps the local landowners should be insisting that the government now examine all aspects of the mine before any further action is allowed.

Thanks Chief, PNG now needs new leadership


I THANK Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare, a talented and instrumental leader who took this nation out of foreign hands without bloodshed.

There were few figures like him who shaped the future of PNG, politically, constitutionally, socially and economically.

So we thank the first PM, Sir Michael, the first Opposition leader, the late Sir Tei Abal, because these guys with their first political parties made a great impact in bringing independence in 1975.

Other great contributors are Sir Rabbie Namaliu, Sir Julius Chan, Fr John Momis, Sir John Kaputin, Anton Parao and Paul Torato.

Those who have left us are Sir Silas Atupate, Sir Yambake Okuk, Sir John Guise, Sir Albert Kipalan, Sir Buri Kidu, John Watts and Sir Sinake Giregire and several others.

With due respect, I must say that our nation now needs young leaders with new mindsets and visions who can take this nation forward for the next 34 years.

You cannot teach an old dog a new trick. We now need young and innovative leaders who are focused on issues like globalisation, economics and trade to take the country from here and move forward.

It’s shameful to see the National Alliance Cabinet making sweeping decisions when it comes to decision-making in parliament. The National Alliance party is making use of “fence-sitting parties” to bully the number games in parliament.

Bullying over what will be a hazard to the health of the country is nonsense. Our politicians need to be conscious of  the future of this nation. The country is for the people and whatever decision that is made must be in the best interests of the people.

I think PNG needs a new leadership for a new era. As a father and founder of PNG, Sir Michael must put the leadership on the floor of the parliament so that it may decide on a good leader. That is, if he is kind enough. He may do something that people do not expect.

Passing the leadership down the line would mean he is a caring father to the nation.

A 6-point plan for better government in PNG


IT’S UNFORTUNATE that, since independence, PNG has lacked a progressive and transformational government.

We desperately need to restore parliament to its rightful place as the people's house.

Papua New Guineans have unfortunately lost respect for a parliament that is supposed to make good laws for people and country.

This is because parliament and government have compromised PNG's national interest.

PNG needs a fresh new and uncompromising leadership to make things right by and for the people.

The future leadership must aim to create an improved system of government in which power is properly shared with the legislature, and the people instead of being concentrated in the office of prime minister and cabinet.

The PNG government must restore a significant, independent role to our parliament through this six-point plan:

1.    Elect an independent speaker, who will not sit in a party caucus during the term of the legislature over which he presides.

2.    Establish legislative committees in key policy areas with the power to initiate legislation, propose amendments to government legislation, and investigate and report on the progress of government programs in their policy areas.

3.    Appoint a special legislative committee to ensure proper scrutiny and public discussion of government proposals in areas of national and provincial concern.

4.    Mandate government to make comprehensive responses to parliamentary committee reports within a fixed time, indicating acceptance or rejection of the committee findings and giving reasons for acceptance or rejection.

5.    Amend the Elections Act to require a by-election to be called within 60 days of a vacancy and held within 90 days of a vacancy.

6.    Enable real public dialogue that can have a genuine influence on government policies and priorities.

It is time for the government to adopt an open legislative process to allow maximum consultation and improve the quality of PNG’s democracy.

Bougainville election starts at slow pace


POLLING IN the second Bougainville elections has started slowly.

Presidential nominee John Momis was the first candidate to cast his vote.

Current president, James Tanis, is in Nagovis where he will he will vote when polling opens tomorrow.

The United Nations observers in the province to monitor the conduct of the election are expected to visit each area including Panguna.

They will also witness counting in three Hutjena, Arawa and Kangu Beach.

Polling booths opened their doors to voters in four constituencies in the Buka District.

Acting Electoral Commissioner, Reitamah Taravaru, said polling in North Bougainville constituencies should start today, while those in south and central regions will follow this week.

PNG Electoral Commissioner, Andrew Trawen, has expressed satisfaction on preparations for the election.

PNG requires an effective energy strategy


IT’S TIME THE government came up with a sound national energy plan as PNG should not depend too much on imported oil and its by-products.

PNG needs alternative energy solutions for when the world's crude oil reserves are depleted a century from now.

It’s important we not blindly follow other countries by relying too much on imported oil – which exposes us to a great strategic risk.

We should be planning for other viable, cost-effective energy sources. Creative entrepreneurs here already have some experience in using alternative fuels. The government must now take this a step further.

The plain truth is that oil, ‘black gold’, powers the world and makes almost everything move. Today’s world relies heavily on oil. Its petrochemical ingredients are made into thousands of other products used daily by people everywhere.

On the futures market, oil is an important energy commodity traded daily by millions of investors (and speculators, and hedgers). Crude oil is the most active futures contract traded as a physical commodity.

Petroleum futures markets were introduced in response to price volatility caused by the OPEC oil embargoes of the early 1970s. When crude oil is pumped to the surface, gas and water are removed, and graded for density and sulphur content, then transported to refineries.

The futures market actively trades in crude oil, heating oil, unleaded gasoline and natural gas. The most important products that result are vehicle fuel, heating oil, jet fuel (kerosene), diesel oil and propane.

With the demand for crude oil growing daily another potential problem is brewing. For some time now, oil production has barely kept up with demands and the prospoect of supplies being disrupted cannot be entirely ignored.

The demand for oil is forecast to increase by over 50 percent in the next 20 years. Despite steadily rising oil production in recent years, this can only spell disaster for the world, and PNG.

For PNG, it will become very much a survival of the fittest. The big kids on the block (industrialised nations) may have to fight it out while the rest of us will watch helplessly from the sidelines.

How does this affect PNG? A lot, even in the short to medium term. We cannot hope to do without oil.

But good planning can see PNG start reducing its need for imported oil-products. At the same time, we must increase our own oil production for domestic energy usage.

The oil we produce here need not be exported but refined onshore for domestic consumption at low cost to consumers. This strategic reserve is important for PNG so we need to save it for future contingencies in the event that global oil supplies are either disrupted or depleted.

Exporting our oil today will not make much difference to global oil supplies. When others are selling their oil to meet growing demand, PNG can be smart ountry by storing its oil and building its reserves.

The government and opposition need a bipartisan bill to implement a sustainable national energy plan.

The government also needs to create more partnerships with the private sector in natural gas, geothermal heat pump technology, solar, wind energy and other clean energy alternatives as part of our long-term energy solutions to enhance future supplies in PNG.

Finally, in as far as international trade and relations is concerned; PNG must actively develop and consolidate strong relationships with energy producing countries within our region.

The bottom line for PNG is plan to improve the future outlook for investment, trade and ensuring reliable supplies of energy products to our shores.

The May PNG Attitude e-magazine was emailed today. Some PNG readers have missed out because one of the ISP's there employs a very aggressive spam filter called Barracuda, which didn't appreciate receiving traffic from Hanoi where I'm spending a couple of days. Let me know if you want No 147 and I'll try to figure out a work-around.

Need for defence force audit & enhancement


IT IS TIME the PNG government audited its Defence Force.

Since independence, the PNGDF has had many challenges.  They continue to this day - a result of constant failures by successive governments.

The whole defence organisation has a seriously eroded institutional capacity and is in danger of being like the rest of PNG’s dysfunctional public service.

In recent years, several people have expressed concerns to government that it must start seriously addressing the national security situation.

The government has failed to ensure our defence force is appropriately equipped to effectively carry out its core functions.

The present state of affairs clearly demonstrates a lack of a long term vision. Moreover, successive defence administrations have done little to address ongoing deficiencies.

Before auditing the military, the government needs to look at the national security big picture to ensure defence policy complements foreign policy.

It should ask what role it expects of the PNGDF in future.

The Ministry must generate a new defence white paper to ensure all programs and activities are properly budgeted, and not done ad hoc manner as has been the norm in recent times.

Despite its shortcomings, the PNGDF is a necessary instrument of the state.

In PNG it has several functions. Not only does it undertake various security roles [surveillance and response, enforcement and interdiction, maritime law enforcement, border patrols, intelligence collation] it provides aid to the civil community [remote area medical patrols, coastwatch duties, search and rescue, mercy missions, etc].

Its span of responsibilities overlap with agencies like police, fisheries, customs, health, environment, foreign and provincial affairs, works and transport departments, provincial and community governments, and so on.

At its present complement, the PNGDF is not at a minimum credible level to satisfactorily meet its obligations.

As a result of budget-driven reductions, it is grossly under strength with many hollow operational units.

The pool of well trained junior officers and other key personnel is too small. It’s time for Defence to receive a higher priority in PNG.

Maladina petition cannot be dismissed lightly


WHILE THE prime minister and his supporters sulked in private, PNG’s opposition leader and four Morobe politicians accepted the 20,000 signature petition requesting the withdrawal of the Maladina Amendment.

According to Opposition Leader Mekere Morauta, Parliamentary standing orders prevented the tabling of this petition as the matter is currently before parliament and has been deferred for further consultation.

However, surely the issue of whether the petition is tabled or not is irrelevant. The fact is that the petition exists and is a very public expression of the will of many Papua New Guineans on the matter.

The large public demonstration and the petition are substantial facts the PNG government and parliament cannot overlook.

For anyone to ignore this significant milestone in PNG democracy and political history would be unwise.

A line has been drawn in the sand and the people who drew it are now watching.

Momis is first to vote in Bougainville poll

Momis Votes

POLLING IN the second Bougainville election began at 8 o'clock this morning.

Former PNG ambassador to China, John Momis, hot favourite for the presidency, is pictured here by Aloysius Laukai casting his vote at Sohano. He was the first candidate to vote after the polls opened.

The election is a critical one for the autonomous province, still struggling to regain its feet after a disastrous civil war.'

The next government is expected to take Bougainville to a referendum on whether it should remain with PNG or become an independent nation.

To reach altitude PNG needs right attitude


Comparing PNG with other countries, you see a nation very rich in natural resources but very poor in development.

The 2008 survey by World Bank showed PNG is one of the ten most poor and corrupt nations in the world.

The difference between rich and poor nations is not the age of the country. Places like Egypt that are more than 2000 years are still poor.

On the other hand, countries like Canada, Australian and New Zealand – about 200 years old - are developed and rich countries today.

The difference between rich and poor does not reside in available natural resources.

Japan has a limited territory but it is the second world economy. Switzerland and Singapore do not have many natural resources but are also advanced economies.

Race and skin colour are also irrelevant. Its not that we are rated poor because Papua New Guineans are black or Australians rich because they are white.

What is the difference? It is the attitude of the people, framed down the years by education and culture.

On analysing the behaviour of people in rich and developed countries, it is found that the great majority follow nine basic principles: 1) ethics 2) integrity 3) responsibility 4) respect for laws and rules 5) respect for rights of other citizens 6) work loving 7) strive for saving and investments 8) will of supper action, and 9) punctuality.

When comparing these principles with the attitude of Papua New Guineans, there is a big difference. Almost all of us never follow these nine basic principles in our daily lives.

We are not poor because we lack natural resources or because the government is failing us. We are poor because we lack ‘attitude’.

Every individual needs to comply with these nine functional principles and change our attitudes because it is attitude that will take PNG to higher altitude.

Our Attitude survey reveals good attitudes


THE PNG ATTITUDE readers’ survey conducted in recent weeks shows you – esteemed reader – responding positively to this site.

Which is good news for us who bring it to you, wherever we may be in the world.

More than half our readers visit the site at least once a day (a sturdy 23% visiting more than that to see if there’s anything new) while another quarter visit the site 3-4 times a week.

Eighty percent of you reckon the information we provide is important to you and three-quarters of readers find most articles we publish to be of interest.

The sections that most attract you are News (63%), Issues (60%) and Commentariat, People and History (all 57%).

Here are the details in full…..

1 – How often do you read PNG Attitude

Several times a day - 23%
Once a day - 33%
3-4 times a week - 27%
Weekly - 17%

2 – How important to you is PNG Attitude?

Couldn’t do without it – 13%
Provides excellent information – 67%
Good but not essential – 20%

3 – Which answer is most true for you?

Most articles of interest – 73%
Some articles of interest - 23%
Few articles of interest – 3%

4 – Which section interests you most

News - 63%, Issues – 60%, Commentariat – 57%, People – 57%, History – 57%, Obituaries – 43%, Books & media – 40%, True stories – 40%, ASOPA – 34%, Events – 33%, Research – 33%, Nostalgia – 33%, Business – 27%, Kokoda – 27%, Montevideo Maru – 23%, Reunions – 23%, Sport – 17%, PNGAA – 17%, Travel – 13%, E-Course – 7%, Miscellanea – 7%, Music & the arts – 3%, Food & drink – 0, Housekeeping - 0 [readers were allowed as many choices as they liked]

New training school builds shipping industry


FOR THE FIRST time in many years, PNG has a new sea training school aimed at filling an important gap in the maritime industry.

It’s a small start but the country’s first private sea training school, the Pacific Maritime Training College, managed by former professional mariners, has a vision of training educated men and women as skilled ratings to serve PNG’s shipping industry.

The PMTC management believes in learning through application and requires its seafarer trainees to apply what they learn in the classroom at sea, in whatever capacities they may be employed.

PMTC puts special emphasis on ship safety and course materials are designed to instil in students an understanding of personal safety, discipline and social responsibility as seafarers.

The College, founded last year, is recognised as a national undergraduate and graduate sea training school. It offers programs designed to help mariners advance from Ordinary Seafarer to Bosun or Assistant Engineer, working on board vessels of unlimited tonnage trading in PNG coastal waters.

As Director of Training and Master Trainer, I work under the college principal (a former merchant shipping master mariner) to create a positive learning environment.

I see a very big future for the country’s first private maritime training institution and I’m excited about including other intermediate and advanced course in the next 12 - 24 months.

Many the students who have already passed through the school have found jobs on board vessels, putting to good use the training they received at PMTC. We are now conducting our third training course for this year.

All courses are conducted in accordance with professional requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act regulations and involve both classroom and practical sessions.

In future, PMTC plans to have professional trainers from recognised international maritime schools to conduct specially designed professional short course programs.

In addition, plans are underway to work closely with the Pacific Marine Crewing Agency to do job placements not only for seaman graduates from the school, but for other seafarers seeking shipboard employment opportunities.

Business is booming in PNG, especially with the LNG project, and the need for more seamen will increase with time. The expanding shipping business and other activities in PNG’s petroleum and mineral sectors will see many vessels wanting to employ trained seafarers.

The PMTC is self-funded but we are confident the government will support the school’s vision to provide trained seafarers required for PNG’s shipping business, and help grow a strong economy.

The sky is the limit and the PMTC plans to expand by running more relevant industry-related courses as well as increasing its trainer staff within the next 24 months.

Lihir mine to benefit from company merger


THE LIHIR ISLAND gold mine in New Ireland is set to benefit from the merger of Lihir Gold Ltd with Newcrest Mining.

Newcrest agreed this week to buy Lihir for an increased offer of $A9.5 billion to create the world’s fourth biggest producer of gold.

Newcrest operates gold and copper mines in Australia, Indonesia, PNG and Fiji, while Lihir has mines in Australia, PNG and the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

It’s expected synergies from the merger will yield about $85 million.

Lihir Chairman, Dr Ross Garnaut, told shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting in Port Moresby that the merger will create an $A25 billion company.

“It will be the leading gold producer in the Asia-Pacific region – one of the top few in the world with a standout portfolio of long life, high margin, tier one gold assets,” Dr Garnaut said.

He said the Lihir Island mine had a great future as the jewel in the crown of what will be the region’s pre-eminent gold company.

“Importantly, I have received commitments that Newcrest will continue Lihir’s approaches to the equitable sharing of the benefits of mining with local communities.

“Like Lihir, Newcrest has a strong track record on responsible environmental management.”

Lihir announced recently that it planned to increase production by about 50 per cent over the next ten years.

Some 4,250 people are employed directly or indirectly by the mine.

Fish poaching in PNG must be stopped


PNG LOSES millions of kina worth of fish and other marine resources every year through illegal poaching by foreign fishing vessels.

Despite numerous public complaints and media reports of illegal fishing activities, such activities continue. An effective response is urgently needed as time is running out for many fish stocks.

We can do this several ways. Let's start by having more surveillance craft and an effective national coastguard service to patrol our archipelagic waters in the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone.

The Defence Ministry needs to establish forward operations bases in strategic locations in Western, Milne Bay, the New Guinea Islands and the Admiralty group.

Apart from ships, good synergy can be achieved by the use of aircraft to augment overall surveillance.

Presently, the Manus patrol boat base and Port Moresby landing craft base limit surveillance coverage and our two maritime squadrons are unable to respond effectively to their offshore protection duties.

The PNGDF's maritime element (navy) must effectively project its forward presence in response to illegal marine activities.

This is a big SOS call for the PNG government to ensure collective action by key agencies to safeguard the country's rich marine resources. 

The reality today is that many fishing nations have already depleted fish stocks in their own waters, so are now poaching in PNG's rich marine resources with much impunity.

Alfie breaks his silence to deny Kapris


AAP - A CONVICTED Papua New Guinean bank robber has denied any involvement in violent crimes the country's most notorious criminal says he helped orchestrate.

Alphonse Sailas, 35, known as ‘Alfie’, rejected as "complete rubbish" numerous allegations made by William Kapris, who faces court over charges relating to jail escapes, hostage taking and bank robberies.

Sailas was fingered as the country's top underworld boss in a videotape confession to police by Kapris.

The tape shows Kapris alleging that a network of government ministers, Chinese mafia and Sailas had funded and plotted the numerous crimes for which Kapris now faces charges in court.

When it was leaked, the hour-long tape caused a furore in PNG. It was discussed in parliament, uploaded on YouTube and sold on CDs at local markets in Port Moresby.

Sailas said the infamous tape was fantasy, fabrication and falsehoods. "Kapris is looking for ways to get leniency from the court, saying he is a pawn," he said. "Kapris is the mastermind of the crimes he's in jail for. He is lying about me and the ministers helping him".

PNG police confirmed they found no evidence to arrest Sailas after raiding his house last week when acting on the allegations.

"Kapris is like a crocodile," Sailas said. "You can look after the crocodile for 40 years then one day it will turn around and harm you. He's like that, he can't resist, he's very cunning."

Sailas was sentenced to ten years in Bomana jail for an armed robbery in the 1990s. Since then he says he's lived a clean life, although he was highlighted as a potential risk in a 2008 Bank of South Pacific security report.

The report, obtained last month by AAP, raised concerns Sailas and Kapris were working together with BSP staff. Kapris has been charged for robbing four BSP branches across PNG.

"We come from the same area in East Sepik but we are enemies," Sailas said. "The BSP robberies, I am not party to that, I have no idea, I only heard about it in the newspapers."

A PNG government source told AAP the Kapris tape was part of an elaborate smear campaign fuelled by the Opposition party, police and correctional service officers.

"It's total fabrication," he said. "It's a weak attempt by Kapris to blame the named ministers and to gain leniency."

PNG's Attorney-General, Allan Marat, who resigned on Tuesday, was criticised for visiting Kapris after the tape's release and PNG Police Commissioner Gari Baki launched an investigation into the leak.

Australia ignores good advice from PNG


AUSTRALIA HAS JUST announced a 40 percent tax on the “super profits” of its resource developers.

No doubt Joe Wasia, who has pointed out that PNG’s meagre cut from the LNG Project is only 19.4%, will be encouraged. Why?

Because it appears that the people giving the Australian government its advice on resource management are also the same people giving the PNG government its advice on resource management.

It seems, however, that Australia is only lending half an ear to that advice. Paul Cleary, writing in the Australian newspaper, says that PNG is a much better listener. He says PNG has adopted a “much bolder and more transparent framework’ for managing its resources boom.

“Under its medium-term fiscal policy, PNG can only spend the average level of resources income.  All tax revenue above this amount must be invested in long term-term capital works projects, used to retire debt or saved in trust funds.

“PNG also plans to set up a sovereign wealth fund, similar to the highly successful Norwegian model, to save revenue from its planned massive gas plant in the Southern Highlands.”

The irony is that Australia is providing technical assistance to set up this fund but doesn’t follow the same policy itself.

If it had, Cleary points out, Australia would have collected a savings pool of at least $100 billion over the last ten years to use on infrastructure development and to keep the exchange rate at a competitive level for its exporters.

What did Australia do instead? It splurged the money and drove up inflation and interest rates.

Cleary says that Australian Treasury economists have been impressed with PNG’s performance.

Perhaps Australia is a bit too good at giving advice and not so good at taking it.

On a more sombre note, we know what has happened to trust funds in PNG in the past.

Good planning is one thing but keeping the pollies sticky fingers out of the pie might be a bit harder. If PNG is going to do that it needs to start slapping those greedy little digits right now.

PNG economy needs to diversify & deepen


PNG needs to diversify its economy. The government must plan now to look well beyond the minerals boom.

The way to do it is to analyse future patterns of economic growth and opportunity, and adapt innovative approaches to financing, building, operations and wealth creation for our people.

More importantly; the government must be serious about diversifying the economy and put the whole nation to work, revitalising itself and the private sector.

PNG has some of the world's richest natural resources. The country's natural beauty, culture and lifestyle could make it a great place to live, work, visit and do business. Yet, since independence, successive governments at all levels have mismanaged our assets and squandered many good opportunities.

The consequences are widespread and increasing unemployment and underemployment, low incomes, high taxation, substantial urban migration, below-standard services, and a big national debt.

I believe one of parliament's key future objectives is to commit its resources towards these key areas of national concern aimed at achieving sustainable development.

A bipartisan growth plan is needed with clear strategies to transform PNG into a prosperous, progressive and united country. These strategies must be reviewed periodically to target areas that will grow our economy, create jobs and support small business.

PNG is well overdue in reforming its political system, getting the economic fundamentals right and meaningfully rewarding people for working hard for their country.

An important issue is to place greater emphasis on all our people getting greater benefits from the development of their natural resources.

To create a stable and secure country, every citizen must be fully committed to rebuild the nation. The government must develop a realistic plan and adopt a new leadership approach to bring about this major change.

The strategy must target growth in small and medium business, tourism, information technology, fisheries, forestry and agriculture. The country’s growth strategy must also strengthen government structures, and cabinet decision-making processes.

The pace of technological development has become so rapid that if we do not keep up, we are bound to miss the boat. This will result in us losing the economic war without even fighting.

The new PNG leadership approach must be aware of this double-edged global threat. There are basically two options for the future: we adapt or, highly uncompetitive, we die.

Petition was example of democracy at work


FIVE THOUSAND people peacefully demonstrated against the Maladina Amendment in Port Moresby yesterday, when a 20,000-signature petition calling for the Amendment to be withdrawn was presented to Opposition Leader, Sir Mekere Morauta.

While this is a very important step in fighting corruption, it is an equally important time for PNG democracy. The organisers of the demonstration should be congratulated.

It will now be very interesting to see what happens in the Haus Tamberan.

And will the people in rural areas now become involved and equally energised? Is this enough to get the attention of the majority of PNG politicians so that they might start thinking about the results of their own actions and not just about themselves?

What yesterday does prove is that PNG can organise a law abiding, peaceful demonstration. Police Commissioner Baki should take note and assist this type of activity in the future.

Perhaps he should also take note of how many people want 'someone' to actually do 'something' about the recommendations for police investigations from PNG's judiciary and the PNG Ombudsman.

Finally, why was it the Opposition Leader accepted the petition and not the government? Could it be that for once government ministers and members were a tad apprehensive of being seen?

Like father like son? Just give me the money!


LEADING UP to self government and independence in PNG, I had the privilege of working with a very distinguished Papuan magistrate.

His unfailing dedication, honour and selfless dedication to the good of his people was inspirational.

He was also a founding member of the first political party in the country and dedicated to its rose coloured vision.

He was the sort of man in whose capable hands you thought PNG would do well.

He wasn’t the only one of course, there were many like him in those days, but to me he was always special.

I kept in contact with him intermittently and occasionally visited him in Port Moresby until a few years before he died.

In his later years, when he was supposed to be retired, he persisted in championing and working for (usually unpaid) a range of organisations and their good causes.

I was pondering the calibre of this man when scrutinising the recent clutch of PNG lawyers and public servants named in the recent Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Corruption, and who were exposed by Rowan Callick in The Australian a few days ago.

I nearly choked on my Scotch Finger biscuit. There, in black and white, was the name of the son of the man I so much admired!

The corruption is so massive and blatant that it has even taken Michael Somare by surprise.

These are only allegations at this stage, they have yet to be proven in court (if they ever get there), but judging by the swiftness of the injunctions against publication of the report in PNG there seems little doubt about the authenticity of the list.

I was angry about the ham-fisted greed of some politicians taking kickbacks for contracts on the liquefied natural gas project and their apparent indifference that their short-term gains might jeopardise the whole thing. 

But the revelations about my old friend’s son are so far beyond anger that I cannot find the words to explain my feelings. This man is one of the educated middle class who everyone is hoping can get PNG back on the rails!

Then again, perhaps I’m overreacting.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that the bloated budgets and ridiculous swanning about by the Governor-General came to light. 

He is a man who everyone looks up to and regards as a champion against corruption.

But he’s showing, and this is not corruption, that his office is willing to be a bit more profligate with public money than is necessary.

Is PNG a failed state? The people in charge seem to be giving it their best shot.

Maladina petition ceremony tomorrow

PNG’s COMMUNITY Coalition Against Corruption (CCAC) will present a petition opposing the Maladina Amendment to MP, Dr Allan Marat, at a ceremony in Port Moresby tomorrow [Tuesday] morning.

The ceremony will be held on Sir John Guise Drive in the open area opposite the Indonesian and Chinese embassies, uphill from National Library and Archives.

The presentation of petitions to Parliament will occur at 9.15 am and be preceded by a sermon and vigil to start at 8.45. The event will conclude at about 9.30.

CCAC says it “pleads with ordinary citizens of PNG to join us tomorrow in a peaceful assembly.”

It commended Metropolitan Police Superintendent Fred Yakasa for approving the event.

“We seek all Papua New Guineans outside the National Capital District to join us in prayer as we present the petition to our representatives of Parliament,” CCAC said in a statement.

“[This] represents the people's conscience and voice for the amendments to be reviewed with wider community consultation so they can be truly representative of what the people of PNG want.

“We seek everyone’s support and full cooperation tomorrow.

“The churches, NGOs, civil society, children and mothers [are] all concerned about certain aspects of the Maladina Amendment being detrimental to the Ombudsman Commission's effectiveness and leaders’ accountability to the people of PNG.”

Time to get serious about a coastguard


PNG'S NATIONAL security since independence has remained no better than static, and it’s time the government started to get serious about it.

For a start, the whole Defence organisation must be completely overhauled as part of the government's national strategic plan 2010-50.

The Defence Ministry must improve its capacity in several critical areas, and there are a lot of them.

Command, management, leadership, culture and effectiveness, assets and facilities, administration processes, strategic policies, programs and projects, military rules and regulations, conditions of service for active members and retirees (pensioners), and ancillary services.

This challenge is now before our government. There have been a lot of hollow speeches by politicians over the years that are nothing more than platitudes.

Such useless speeches only give people unnecessarily high expectations come election time and, soon after getting into public office, politicians forget about improving our country's security.

Politicians have yet to develop the required statesman skills. They must be educated in what defence is about and what it can do to develop PNG.

Defence has an important nation-building function mandated by the constitution. The defence organisation can contribute immensely to national security, development and unity of PNG if it is adequately resourced. 

Since independence, defence employees have been very loyal, committed and dedicated to successive governments. Over the years, service personnel have been inculcated with the noble ethos of diligently serving God, Queen and Country.  his military mindset makes defence very different from the dysfunctional bureaucracy we have now.

Despite some inherent deficiencies, defence is a more loyal and committed state employee than any other national agency. This has unfortunately been a one-way street.

Our elected representatives are plain ignorant about key issues affecting national security. PNG needs far-sighted visionary leadership that will address national security today - not in another 33 years.

The Ministry and its defence council must demand more from our government for a better deal for defence. Defence officials must no longer be reticent about getting the government to put its money where its mouth is about national security.

Defence has become a national disgrace because our country's leadership has consistently failed it and I urge senior defence officials to effectively articulate this to parliamentarians.

We only have to see what our neighbours' armed forces are doing to make us feel ashamed of our own lack of real leadership.

PNG has the resources to change defence's present status. If not, our country will be seriously compromised.

The government needs to set up its own independent National Coastguard Service by 2012, which would serve PNG well by contributing directly towards security and economic development.

The coastguard will represent a new maritime security regime generating and protecting revenue and will enhance PNG's national security.

I suggest government planners incorporate this option as a key priority development program within the national strategic development plan.

The writer is a former patrol boat commander and defence chief

Now is the time for all good citizens


OPPOSITION TO the so-called Maladina Amendment is entering a crucial stage as Parliament will sits this week.

The Amendment will change the law to weaken the powers of the Ombudsman Commission, protecting Members of Parliament from possible criminal investigation for fraud and corruption.

The ACT NOW! organisation is therefore urging all its members and supporters to get involved and have your voice heard.

What can you do?

1. Download a copy of the Community Coalition Against Corruption petition here and get all your family, friends and colleagues to sign - the petition includes details on where to fax or send the form once you have enough signatures

2. Email your to ACT NOW! here, telling MPs what you think about the amendments. ACT NOW! is writing to all MPs and we will include all your personal messages. So this is your chance to speak directly to all 109 MPs.

Latest developments in the campaign against the amendments include:

Transparency International announcing that it has collected 6,000 signatures to be presented to Parliament

A packed forum at the University of PNG on 23 April where students unanimously opposed the amendments

The Ombudsman Commission submission to the National Executive Council opposing the changes

The on Bosco Techinical College announcement of its opposition to the proposed changes

Remember, this is an important opportunity to have your voice heard and for you to make a difference.

If we can stop the proposed amendments then our MPs will realise they have to start listening to us, the people of PNG, and we can start to get our democracy working again. So this really is the time to ACT NOW!

Thanks for getting involved

The tough are starting to get going


MOSES MALADINA may have misled the PNG Parliament, claims a senior legal officer from the Solicitor General's Office.

Sam Koim also claimed that Governor Luther Wenge may have been in on the actl, given his legal background.

"What I would like to state here is the way Mr Maladina has cleverly ushered the bill to be voted on by a 83-0 majority of the MPs in Parliament,” Mr Kom said.

“I further extend this by addressing on the issue whether the amendment to Section 27 (4) and others that received the 83 MPs' blessing is already a law, as is claimed by Hon Moses Maladina and Hon Luther Wenge.

“Both of them happened to have some legal background and have been around Parliament long enough to know the procedures stipulated in the Constitution and the Parliamentary Standing Orders.”

The tough are starting to get going but will this be enough to pull PNG back from the edge? Now, more than ever, public support is needed to help preserve the country from corruption and political intrigue.

A central issue here is why hasn't any PNG government or Opposition member called for the police to investigate and charge those implicated in the Moti Report?

The recommendations from a senior PNG judge have been tabled in the Parliament. Why hasn't any action been taken? Why haven't the police been asked to investigate?

Silence implicates those who maintain it.

PNG the next Fiji? Constitutional crisis looms


AAP - PNG FACES a constitutional crisis and possible civil incursions over a $16 billion gas project, while the government struggles to pass vital legislation before the 2012 national elections.

Commentators are troubled that PNG's government appears to exhibit uncomfortable parallels with Fiji, as constitutional amendments mount up with time running out before the general elections.

There are concerns disgruntled Highland villagers surrounding the ExxonMobil liquefied natural gas (LNG) project could take up arms against the government if it fails to create two promised provinces.

A report by Dr Jim McPherson, a senior PNG public servant of over 20 years, highlights the litany of constitutional amendments needed before elections and the potential for violence.

"Shortage of time could lead to corrupt manipulation of electoral rolls and increased political tensions, even unrest in provinces," Dr McPherson said.

"PNG could quite possibly face a major constitutional crisis like (that) seen in Fiji or faces similar violent scenes to what happened in the Solomon Islands."

At the heart of the problem is PNG's National Alliance-led government, which has overseen prolonged economic growth and political stability and is now at the end of its second five-year term.

Last year the government set about creating two new provinces, Hela and Jiwaka, in the LNG centre of the Southern Highlands, and also in neighbouring Western Highlands.

And as PNG ramps up the LNG project - touted as the saviour of the resource-rich but development-poor nation - there are fears that already sporadic violence could intensify, with cashed-up and angry resource owners buying more high powered weaponry.

"If this is not handled with care, a corrupt election in Hela which had no legitimacy with the people of Hela, could spark an explosion felt across the country," Dr McPherson said.

Critics who spoke to AAP accused Prime Minister Michael Somare's government of overburdening the legislative timetable.

Even PNG's Chamber of Mining and Petroleum raised concerns in a recent industry newsletter.

Creating two new provinces means adjusting electoral boundaries that have remained unchanged since PNG gained independence from Australian administration in 1975.

While Australian politicians have no say in whether their electorate gets squeezed because of population shifts, PNG politicians have succeeded in blocking all proposed boundary changes for more than 33 years.

"Electoral boundaries have not changed at all, I would say variation in the size of voters to the districts, according to the last national census, is up to 500 per cent," Dr McPherson said.

"If the next Boundary Commission recommendations are not accepted before the election, questions will be raised about the constitutional status of the next parliament."

Paul Barker, director of PNG's think tank the Institute of National Affairs, says electoral boundaries must be properly defined otherwise existing social and ethnic problems will multiply.

"PNG has been dangerously moving towards supposedly elected leaders simply controlling funds and not representing the people," Mr Barker said.

"We need to improve the dreadful state of infrastructure, service delivery and accountability in this country, not just establish new lairs or units of ineffective administration."

To make matters even more confusing, another proposed government bill introduces 22 women-only seats, one for each province.

With little national debate, this could increase PNG's parliament from 109 members to at least 133, taking in the two new provinces.

The PNG government last year announced this well-intentioned plan to give women better parliamentary representation, but in part also to honour the legacy of PNG's only female MP, retiring Australian-born Community Services Minister Dame Carol Kidu.

However, the Somare government in its previous term amended legislation to abolish provinces.

Now the current Somare government wants to make more provinces, including women-only provincial members.

These contradictions help explain in part why PNG is sometime referred to as the "land of the unexpected" and also highlight the shambolic nature of its nascent democracy.

Deputy Prime Minister Sir Puka Temu told AAP he was "optimistic but also concerned".

The government will retain provincial seats and plans to meet with key stakeholders to resolve these concerns, he said.

"The only challenge is whether by July this year, we have the numbers on the floor of parliament to pass these important constitutional amendments."

The PNG cabinet has set up a team to prepare Hela's administration, with a similar Jiwaka team to be discussed and then established in May.

"I think we are on target," Sir Puka said.

But a range of issues outside the government's control are stacking up.

Constitutional amendments require a vote of "absolute majority", which is a tough slog considering consensus is rarely achieved, sometimes even on popular issues in PNG's fractured and unpredictable politics.

Also, the government last year sat for only 29 of the prescribed 63 days.

This year, a similar pattern of repeated parliament adjournments has been a government strategy to avoid a vote of no-confidence that emerged from their own frustrated backbench.

In addition, PNG plans a census in July this year, the first since 2000.

By conservative estimates the census will be finished and compiled by early 2011.

Whether PNG's institutions can then update the 2012 electoral rolls with the new data is highly questionable.

Dr Alphonse Gelu of PNG's National Research Institute fears the government could rush through crucial changes that could cause more trouble down the track.

"When are they going to give the legal effect to the administrative set-up of those two new provinces?" he asked. "When are they going to draw the boundaries?

"It's not a simple thing for creation of a new province. Come 2012, there will be major problems and we will have to go back to the drawing board."

Researching German Bougainville


BRISBANE - I was born in Rabaul in 1955 but grew up on Bougainville - on a couple of plantations: at Tenakau near Wakunai and at Aropa, which my dad, Greg Wall, managed from 1964-1971.

I'm researching on Aropa Plantation (south of Kieta) and trying to fill some gaps pre-1947 and earlier.

I’m interested in contacting Nathan Diercke to see what he has on his great-great grandfather's time on Woskawitz at Tinputz, which could tie in with German holdings on Bougainville at that time.

I'm really interested in finding out about life on Bougainville in the German times prior to the expropriation board confiscating properties.

As a child, I remember Mrs Francis Kroening well. She was Dr Bruno Korening's widow and lived on Toboroi Plantation. Helmut, her son, ran the plantation as she was elderly by then.

Mum and dad used to call in on her, as Toberoi was between Aropa and Kieta. She was also part of the Parkinson family, a daughter of Queen Emma's niece. Frances Kroening's mother was born on the Mortlock Islands. Maiden name Calder. She told me lots of stories about the Ralum days and I'm so sorry no story has been written on her.

In any case, if you can steer me in a direction of resources on German times on Bougainville and also pre-1947, I'd be most grateful. Even if Aropa isn't specifically mentioned, it paints a picture of the economic, political, social life at that time.

I have the book Bougainville before the Conflict and am accessing interesting material through libraries and journals.

I'm in touch with past owner, Robin McKay, and managers who took over after Dad died in 1971. I’m also trying to locate information on WM Greer who first tendered for Aropa from the Expropriation Board in 1927.

It was after Greer, that Robin McKay lived there, selling the plantation to the New Guinea Biological Foundation in 1964. Mum moved to Kieta after dad died and was going to take out PNG citizenship. But she had a heart condition and I advised against her giving up her Australian passport.

I return to Bougainville almost each year as have been working on aid projects in PNG since 2006 and volunteering prior to that.

Focusing on plantation history is useful as they were a catalyst for development change in the Pacific. I'm looking forward to your readers’ comments and feedback.