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74 posts from June 2010

Kokoda sparks bizarre political spat in NSW


AAP - ACCUSATIONS OF misguided patriotism and overt chest-beating have been fired in NSW parliament as MPs traded barbs over Kokoda.

Question Time turned ugly Wednesday when Premier Kristina Keneally mocked Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell, who was asked by a radio station earlier in the week what made him a strong opposition leader.

Mr O'Farrell replied by pointing to the fact that he walked the Kokoda Track in 2008.

"Well so did Miss Australia, so congratulations Barry," Ms Keneally told journalists.

"The leader of the opposition has been out there telling people how strong he is, how tough he is," she said, "and what is he using as his example? He is using one of our most sacred institutions - the Kokoda Trail."

The chamber erupted as Mr O'Farrell delivered a scathing response.

"You raised the attack on Kokoda," he told the premier, who moved from the US to Sydney in 1994. "I understand you don't understand our history - some of us do."

MP Charlie Lynn, who has walked the Track 59 times in the past 19 years, later told reporters that Mr O'Farrell hallucinated and needed to lie down when they were ascending Imita Ridge.

"Barry is a big unit - he put in a lot of work to get fit enough for Kokoda - he did it really tough," Mr Lynn said.

“Kokoda is about the ability of the human spirit to conquer adversity and Barry proved that. I've said for years that you don't understand Kokoda until you've trekked Kokoda.

Mr Lynn suffered the loss of 80 percent vision in his right eye and 10 percent vision in his left eye after contracting an infection on his most recent trek.

He has been undergoing treatment to hopefully improve his vision.”

Can’t fix ‘em, scrap ‘em – including defence!


AS THE GOVERNMENT hasn’t been too bothered about PNG’s national security for many years, why doesn’t it scrapping the entire defence and police force together with half the bloated public service.

What a great way to cut costs. The billions saved will allow more money for health, education, infrastructure and other politically attractive programs by local MPs.

Guess what would happen if we took that course? Total chaos and anarchy throughout PNG.

Thirty-five years after independence, we still have primitive people in our society who in no time would hold the country to ransom through increased gun violence and other serious crimes.

So abolishing the PNGDF and the Police may sound easy for a government thinking of making big savings. But the whole exercise would be a big false economy.

That’s a key reason why an economically strong country has a standing military force to protect its national interest.

PNG's first challenge is to enhance its sovereignty and security. The government can achieve this by bridging the gap between declared defence commitments and actual military capabilities.

Integral to a credible defence posture is a vigorous modernisation program over the next 15 years or so, including a sweeping reorganisation of our defence high command.

The second challenge is to improve defence management in all core competency areas: equipment acquisition, careers and planning.

PNG’s task, whether in the military or the whole country, is to become the master of change rather than its servant.

Prime Minister derides PNG's fine journalists


SO NOW Sir Michael Somare has attacked PNG's journalists, saying they’re not good enough to get a job anywhere overseas.

He claims PNG journalists only report bad news about their country and pay too much attention to what NGOs say.

What Sir Michael can't or won't understand is that PNG journalists are simply reporting the facts.

The detrimental effects his own government is having on the people of PNG and their way of life are his responsibility, not that of reporters.

What he doesn't like when he reads the morning news is the big mirror the press is holding up in front of him and his cartel.

The means to change what Sir Michael doesn't like are entirely up to him.

Trying to shift the blame to journalists only highlights and compounds the injustice.

PNG law firm tries to block local websites


A LAW FIRM has been accused of trying to stop PNG websites mentioning matters referred to in a suppressed report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department.

The PNG Exposed blog says “Paul Paraka Lawyers are trying to intimidate internet service providers in PNG into blocking private emails that refer to them” and certain other people.

“They are also trying censor the internet by getting ISPs to block access to websites and blogs including PNG Exposed, PNG Blogs, ACTNOW! PNG and the Nancy Sullivan Blog,” says PNG Exposed.

The website publishes a letter of 4 June to internet provider Global Technology in which Mr Paraka says “the general public are currently accessing and disseminating false and unfounded rumours about our Law Firm”.

This is an “extraordinary attempt to interfere in private communications between individuals and to censor the internet”, according to PNG Exposed.

“Paraka Lawyers claim that there action is justified by a Court Order – but that order makes no mention of blocking email traffic or stopping access to the internet sites and makes no reference to Internet Service Providers,” the website argues.

“Paul Paraka Lawyers are mentioned more than 150 times in the 800-page report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Finance Department that reveals how K780 million was stolen from public funds between 2000 and 2006,” it goes on to say.

'Hear me out': Somare lashes perceived foes


UNDER THE newspaper headline Sir Michael gives judiciary, NGOs and the media a tongue-lashing, PNG's prime minister has tried to find some scapegoats for his recent travails.

His comments hit out at the judiciary over delays in dealing with high profile legal cases and at NGO's and media because of their ‘negative’ response to his government's amendments to the Environment Act.

Sir Michael is quoted as saying he is outraged at the constant delays in processing court cases involving himself, son Arthur and former chief secretary, Isaac Lupari.

But it could be argued that Somare is the author of his own discontent. If his lawyers had not constantly raised objections and delays, these cases would have been dealt with by now.

If he had provided sufficient resources to the Ombudsman Commission to allow it to perform its proper role, these irritating delays would not have occurred.

On the issue of amendments to the Environment Act, Somare accused the media of misinforming the public and described NGOs as an unelected group representing no one.

He said the amendments were introduced after getting “the best advice from three best brains”. This will hearten the populous, I’m sure.

Sir Michael went on to explain that he had gone to China four years ago and convinced the Chinese government that they should invest $800 million in developing the Ramu nickel mine.

“The government will lose a lot. No country can come to PNG and put $800 million on the spot,” he said.

Again, Somare has only himself to blame. There wasn't full and open debate on the amendment prior to the vote being rushed through Parliament, and this served to raise suspicions about his motives.

Surely the people of PNG deserve to be protected by robust environment laws. If there was effective legislation already in place, people wouldn't need to take legal action to stop the government and the developer from potentially destroying their environment.

If Sir Michael did indeed convince the Chinese to develop the mine, and not vice versa, why didn't he use those four years to pass proper environmental legislation to protect his people.

Instead the people had to take action themselves and then cop a prime ministerial blast for doing the right thing.

Clearly Somare has been caught out by honourable people and is behaving badly to try to cover his tracks.

“Hear me out,” says Sir Michael.

Maybe that should be, “See me off”.

Gender based violence and HIV in PNG

NUMEROUS STUDIES have established that gender based violence in PNG is a massive problem which severely affects the lives of many women and girls throughout the country.

It is also a major factor in the spread of HIV and AIDS.

Gender based violence refers to the various forms of violence which people, mainly women and girls, experience because of their gender.

It includes wife-beating and other physical violence, unwanted sexual behaviour, sexual abuse & exploitation of both girls and boys, sexual harassment in workplaces and schools, forced prostitution, incest, rape, and the sexual abuse of females by authorities.

International authorities agree that gender based violence is now one of the leading factors in the increased rates of HIV infection among women.

Violence against women and girls increases their vulnerability to HIV and violence is often part of the life of women who disclose their HIV status.

The number of HIV infections in PNG continues to increase with 5,084 newly diagnosed cases in 2008. There are three females for every two males infected, with most infections occurring through unprotected heterosexual sex.

Sexual harassment and abuse of women and girls by males in positions of authority in workplaces and schools and by the police, is common in PNG.

This is the reason why gender based violence is an important issue as it is a cause and a consequence for HIV infection.

Most abusers are male family members and neighbours. Women with a physically abusive partner have higher rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections than women whose partners are not physically abusive.

Women with a sexually abusive partner are twice as likely to be HIV positive as women whose partners are not sexually abusive. It is more common for women to experience forced sex in intimate relationships than to be raped outside of marriage or a relationship.

In its drive towards alleviating gender-based violence in the workplace, the Business Coalition Against HIV and AIDS (BAHA) advocates a compulsory clause in every HIV workplace policy on addressing gender based violence at work.

BAHA also carries out training and awareness sessions on gender-based violence and related topics.

Source: May 2010 newsletter of the Business Coalition Against HIV and AIDS (BAHA)

The hard job of trying to be fair to AusAID


WHEN SOMEONE known only as ‘Peter’ suggested on PNG Attitude that some people might be a trifle unfair when reflecting on AusAID’s manifest flaws, I thought: “Fair enough, let’s look at what is being offered to PNG on Australia’s behalf.”

So, seeking evidence to contradict my opinions, I investigated a website ‘Peter’ identified as presenting more positive stories, which we link to here.

Now I know it’s easy to cherrypick details that align with preconceived notions but, in this case, not only was it easy to select information to support my argument, there appeared to be little available to contradict it.

Quote: Educo has considerable experience in promoting and fostering political processes, in particular strengthening institutions of political accountability and improving government responsiveness. Our firm has successfully implemented large projects such as the five-year $5.7 million Ombudsman Commission Institutional Strengthening Project in PNG.

So if $5.7 million has been spent strengthening the PNG Ombudsman, exactly how has that helped the PNG Ombudsman Commission over the last five years? This is the same Ombudsman Commission that has reportedly been poorly resourced and cash strapped to the extent that is had difficulty in performing its role in PNG.

Then the following information is provided under ‘Educo achievements’ in the $11 million Justice Advisory Group Project to provide “independent advice on the law and justice sector” and “promote sector coordination”:

Quote: Educo has produced a performance monitoring framework for the law and justice sector, as well as studies and reviews covering fraud and corruption, village courts, community-based corrections, restorative justice, police, sector planning and coordination, facilities and infrastructure management and a sustainability strategy for sector performance monitoring.

In May 2006, AusAID assessed Educo's management performance on the project at "an average of 100% against all indicators". That’s pretty good – 100% - but exactly what were the indicators and which ones over achieved and which ones didn't work at all. In other words, what did $11m actually achieve for PNG in the long term. Alas, no details.

So ‘Peter’, unfortunately I am still none the wiser as to which of my criticisms were misconceived.

I am, however, more convinced than ever that my suggestions should be given practical consideration by those in AusAID who are organising this project.

I am also further disenchanted with the apparent ease with which highly paid AusAID consultants are able to justify their claims against Australian taxpayers with extensive ‘goobledegook or, in layman’s terms, sheer and simple ‘bulldust’.

Here are a few more interesting facts and figures from the informative Bertelsmann website (which you can link to here):

PNG aid per person. $50.20 [I wonder what the average PNGian would say if they knew this?]

Basic Administration. The country suffers from an inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy, serious problems with maintaining law and order, weak discipline within the army and police forces, and poor governance. Most analysts consider PNG a weak state in which the state apparatus cannot implement even the most basic policies. The government's most basic operational machinery is either dilapidated or non-existent in many rural areas and the highlands, where tribal conflicts continue. [What is the use of trying to fix governance issues when the 'state apparatus cannot implement even the most basic policies'?]

Rule of Law. The ombudsman office suffers from a lack of capable staff and resources. [So what happened to the $5.7 million for strengthening the Ombudsman spent by Educo and paid for by AusAID?]

Management Performance. Under the Strongim Gavman Program 40 Australian officials will be placed in the PNG bureaucracy to assist with reforms in the areas of economic and public sector governance, border management, transport safety and security, and law and justice. The political leadership will respond with proposed changes to mistakes made and failed policies, but more often than not, policies remain stuck in the same routines. Senior politicians who interfere with the implementation of public policies often block new policies that threaten their personal interests. [So what objectives are to be achieved by the two lawyers recruited by AusAID? What has been achieved after $11 million spent on the Educo Justice Advisory Group?]

Anti-corruption policy. In theory, the government is committed to battling corruption and nurturing good governance. In reality, however, corruption is endemic. It is a problem at all - including the highest - levels of politics, bureaucracy and society. It is almost impossible to carry out an effective anti-corruption policy in practice. The Ombudsman Commission conducts investigations of political leaders suspected of corruption, but once a politician resigns, the Commission can no longer legally investigate the case. [Again, what happened to the $5.7 million?]

The June PNG Attitude newsletter has gone winging your way from Cumbria. Or should that be whingeing. No matter. It's full of the usual provocative commentaries and some good briefing material on PNG. Not to mention the best of the month's feedback. Get your friends and colleagues to sign up for their free monthly infusions here.

Defence at the crossroads: it’s decision time


I BEGIN WITH a simple thesis: unless the PNG Defence Force structure is altered in a fundamental way, PNG’s military will become increasingly inadequate for the burdens placed on it by our foreign and defence policies.

It is almost 35 years since PNG was given its own military; and during this time, the government saw no need to review its capabilities.

Successive governments paid no more than lip-service to defence and national security and the requirement to maintain an efficient military. As a result, the defence force has changed little since independence in 1975.

The changes in PNG’s strategic environment and the need for greater self-reliance in defence are understood. But, for a variety of reasons, the defence organisation has not yet translated these fundamentals into a coherent national security strategy.

Most of PNG’s strategic assessments in the post-independence period have been of a ‘no threat’ character. There are valid reasons, however, why it would be irresponsible to plan on this basis – as PNG cannot rely on a ‘no threat’ future.

This ‘no-threat syndrome’ has clouded successive governments’ thinking and has bred complacency, which has contributed to the present grave security situation PNG finds itself today.

Prime Minister Somare has been in office a long time. But his governments have consistently failed to critically appraise what his predecessor, Sir Mekere Morauta, did in 2001.

It is now time to put the Ministry of Defence on notice before the 2012 elections that it mist come to the rescue of the PNGDF.

Defence is at the crossroads in PNG. It is time for the government to fix the PNGDF and bring it back to its former glory.

The country’s national security situation now demands for the Ministry and Defence department to face up to some real issues, make long term decisions and get on with implementation.

Defending PNG in future calls for a complete re-appraisal of outlook on the capabilities of the PNGDF. Now, not in another three decades.

NBC misused funds says ex-chairman

FORMER CHAIRMAN of the PNG National Broadcasting Commission, Loani Henao, has said the government must investigate NBC accounts and management over the past three years.

Mr Henao, chairman from 2005-07, expressed disappointment at reports that NBC accounts were in the red’.

He said as chairman he had worked hard to put together a five year plan to upgrade rural and provincial radio stations, as a result of which the government allocated K21 million to the NBC.

Mr Henao said there had been reports that the allocated funds had been misused.

“I am disappointed the K21 million has been mismanaged. The money was used on producing expensive TV programs, trips and new vehicles for the management.

“It is proper that the national government orders a full investigation on how the NBC was run in the past three years. It is a shame that NBC has been treated as a government department and not as a corporate entity. ‘‘

Source: ‘Probe urged for NBC’ by Harlyne Joku, PNG Post-Courier, 7 June 2010

Momis will be next Bougainville president


ONE OF THE architects of PNG independence and former PNG Ambassador to China, John Momis, is set to lead Bougainville for the next five years.

In counting for the presidential election, Mr Momis is on 41,778 votes while current president James Tanis is on 17,106.

Other candidates are Reuben Siara [7057], Martin Miriori [5602], Robert Atsir [4357], Magdalen Toroansi [2973] and Sylvester Niu [1663].

Australian lawyers to strengthen governance


THE AUSTRALIAN Government will appoint three senior lawyers to work with the law and justice component of PNG’s Strongim Gavman program.

The program is designed to improve governance, law and policing in PNG.

Two of the lawyers will be senior litigation advisers in the office of the PNG Solicitor-General.

The other will be a senior commercial law adviser in the office of the State Solicitor.

Australia’s Attorney-General’s Department, which manages the law and justice but not the policing component of Strongim Gavman, advertised the three positions in Australian newspapers this weekend.

The two-year appointments - with the possibility of a one-year extension – have a tax free annual salary range of $132,652 to $145,385 plus allowances.

Talk of Momis assassination plot dismissed


RUMOURS OF A PLOT to assassinate Bougainville presidential candidate John Momis by supporters of current president James Tanis, who is facing electoral defeat, have been dismissed as untrue.

Newly elected MP for South Nasioi, John Ken, has assured Bougainvilleans that the people making these statements were not associated with either Mr Tanis or former Bougainville Revolutionary Army commander Ishmael Toroama.

He said the comments had tarnished the reputations of Mr Tanis and Mr Toroama.

The latest counting in the presidential election shows Mr Momis has 32,441 votes and Mr Tanis 15,749. Five other candidates have about 20,000 votes between them.

Mr Ken said the people making the threats against Mr Momis were not genuine about peace on Bougainville. Both Momis and Tanis are signatories to the Bougainville Peace Agreement.

Meanwhile, in the general elections, a total of 32 seats have been declared and one seat remains to be counted.

Newcomer Newton Kauva has ousted former Communication Minister, Jeffrey Nabuai, in Makis and, in North Bougainville, Dr Alexis Sarei has easily won the Peit seat.

Minister for Peace, Reconciliation and Weapons Disposal, Robert Hamal Sawa, has retained his Hagogohe seat with a convincing win.

Reported K15M fraud demands police action


IN WHAT, according to the PNG Finance Commission of Inquiry, appears to be a case of massive fraud, an article in PNG Exposed details how the government has shelled out millions of kina in fraudulent payments.

The Inquiry reported that Pacific Paradise Foods and another were unlawfully paid K14.85 million.

If the investigation is complete and factual evidence i available, the PNG police service must take immediate action to bring this matter to court.

The money that has been reportedly stolen from the state could have built new accommodation for those hard working policemen and their families who live in sub standard accommodation around the country.

Why hasn't the Public Prosecutor taken immediate action on this report and the many other findings from the high level Inquiry?

The money that has reportedly been stolen from the government could have paid for more staff for the Public Prosecutor to take legal action against those who are bleeding PNG dry.

If the PNG authorities cannot act on what appears to be a clear cut illegal activity, perhaps they themselves should be investigated by the PNG Ombudsman Commission to determine why this is so?

Perhaps the Chief Ombudsman could issue a public statement to the effect that any public authority not clearly and energetically carrying out the activities it has been set up to do will be required to publicly state why not.

The Ombudsman Commission could well have used the reported K15m in fraudulent payments to investigate further malpractice and malfeasance.

Maybe the Ombudsman's review should also look at the Solicitor General and any PNG government audit body who have apparently been paid to a job they appear to be unable to carry out.

In business, if you can't perform what you set out to do, your business goes bankrupt and you lose everything. In PNG however, if you are in a government authority that doesn't do what it is paid to do, you continue to get paid.

In many people's eyes, that situation could be another glaring case of fraud.

Environment – parliament betrays the people


THE PNG NEWSPAPERS report conflicting accounts of the government's action to change the PNG Environment Act.

Secretary for Justice and Attorney-General, Prof Lawrence Kalinoe, says the government's action are merely to "clear an ambiguity in the permit issue."

He maintains that people simply do not understand what is really being done by the government through this legislation.

And asserts cavalierly, "Wider consultations were a long and futile process".

Former Deputy Secretary 0f the Environment and Conservation Department, Gunther Joku, also tried to clear up confusion in a double act on a talk back radio show with Prof Kalinoe.

Clearly, both men have no conflict of interest in this matter in any way.

NCD Governor, Powes Parkop, a lawyer and human rights advocate, maintains that the government has taken absolute control to do whatever it wants with the land and environment in PNG [see his letter in Recent Comments].

Among other issues, Governor Parkop says the amendments to the Environment and Conservation Act allow investors to by-pass due process and obtain a certificate that is absolute proof of compliance with all environmental laws, process and standards.

"This, in effect, is absolute power vested in one person and is a big concern as the law also attempts to remove the powers of the court to review the exercise of such powers.

“As a parliamentarian, a lawyer by profession and as a person who has advocated for the rights of landowners and protection of our natural environment for the best part of my professional life prior to entering Parliament, I express my objection and deepest concerns," Governor Parkop says.

This is more than just a difference of professional opinion. Let’s examine the facts.

Fact 1. The local landowners didn't want poisonous mine tailings dumped into the marine environment and took the serious action of obtaining a court injunction to postpone the mining company's actions.

Fact 2. The Deputy Prime Minister and the Environment Minister were personally presented with the landowners’ petition requesting that the mine not dispose of the mining waste into the marine environment.

Fact 3. The landowners gave the Deputy Prime Minister a copy of the same environmental impact study commissioned by the government, which maintains the mining waste disposal system will damage the environment.

Fact 4. The government admitted it was caught flatfooted and it had to agree it had withheld the Environmental Impact Study when it approved the mine's operations.

Fact 5. The government was asked by the landowners to do something about the impasse.

Fact 6. Perversely, the government then introduced and passed legislation preventing any court action over any permit issued by the Secretary of the Department of Environment of Conservation, Dr Wari Iamo, to any mining or other company that wants to develop PNG's natural resources.

Fact 7. This government action was taken without a full debate in Parliament or any proper consideration of the matter by members before the vote. Ten Opposition members did vote against the Bill while 73 members voted for it. No one knows where the 26 other MPs were when the vote was called. Governor Parkop says he wasn't given any opportunity to read the Bill and was doing so outside the chamber when the vote was taken.

Their Parliament has once again most grievously betrayed the people of PNG.

Momis holds handy lead in B’ville poll


FORMER PNG MINISTER and Ambassador to China, John Momis, has moved to a big lead in the Bougainville presidential election.

Late yesterday his 30,265 votes overshadowed current president James Tanis with 15,160 and Reuben Siara (6,366), Martin Miriori (4,524), Robert Atsir (3,903), Magdalen Toroansi (2,684) and Sylvester Niu (1,531) trailing.

In the general election, 27 seats have been declared since counting for began a week ago.

Of the 27, only seven formers members have retained their seats, including two Ministers, Primary Industry Minister Dominic Itta and Works Minister Patrick Nisira.

Draconian law trashes landowner rights


LAST FRIDAY was an extraordinary day in PNG's history as the government rushed through amendments to the Environment Act.

These amendments take away landowners customary and legal rights, give the government unfettered power to approve resource projects, deny anyone the right of challenge through the courts and take away all rights to compensation for environmental damage.

This ground breaking legislation is unprecedented in the free world.

Not only does it take away constitutional rights, it removes basic democratic protection by denying the rights of the courts to review the exercise of executive power.

This legisation was passed by parliament without anybody allowed to see the bill before it was presented. Nobody was allowed to read or comment on it.

There was no scrutiny by a committee and no parliamentary debate.

Parliament was used as a rubber stamp and the citizens of PNG have been treated like fools.

If you are not convinced how bad this legislation is, you just have to read the media headlines: ‘Strong arm tactics’ (PNG Post-Courier), ‘PNG band legal challenges’ (ABC News), ‘Bill will strip rights to land’ (The National), ‘Foreign interests above the law’ (ACT NOW! blog), ‘A low act’ (PNG Post-Courier).

As Michael Malabag said on EMTV News, this law is abhorrent because “people have an inalienable right to their land and this parliament has no right to take that away from them. This country does not belong to multi-national corporations.”

It is ironic that Michael Somare, a man still revered for his role as first prime minister of an independent PNG, should be the one effectively returning our country to colonial rule and taking away our rights to challenge what foreign companies do on our land.

The people of PNG must stand up and protest this undemocratic, unconstitutional and draconian law.

If we do not protest now then there is no limit to what this government may do next.

There are already plans being developed for a National Day of Protest, so please think about how you can help organise or participate in a local march.

Together we can stop this legisation! Link here.

Crook, clean & mean – where are we at?


What have we got so far with our Crook, Clean and Mean project. Put simply, a compost heap that merely smells bad.

I’ve been wending my way through over 100 pages of emails, press clippings, blogs and other sources collected as part of “The Crook, the Clean and the Mean” project.

Let me make it clear at the start, most of it is dross, chaff, hearsay and piffle. The sort of thing that wouldn’t stand up in a light breeze let alone the strong wind of evidence-based inquiry.

It is all rather disappointing. There’s been much ranting and raving by commentators on this blog (and elsewhere) about corruption in PNG, but no one seems to have firm evidence of actual citable cases.

Either that or they are not game to share it with us.

There is a distinct odour of PNG alarmism about the whole thing; the sort of noises you get when there are rumours of sorcerers about.

The maddening thing is that we all know corruption is rife. We’ve all seen the smoke, but no one seems to know where to find the fire.

The usual comment about corruption is that the government must immediately do this or the government must immediately do that.

Government is not going to do this or that when its holding all the cards.

It has to be exposed for the corrupt fraud that it is and forced to make changes.

What can we make of what we’ve got so far?

A large part of the impetus for corruption seems to be coming from outside politics and the public service. That’s a bit of a surprise.

It works in this way. A company or individual seeking special treatment, trying to do something illegal or just avoiding red tape, approaches a public servant or politician and offers a bribe, which is then taken up and the desired effect realised.

The cabals of lawyers working up false compensation claims are a case in point.

While there is corruption initiated by public servants or politicians, it is more likely to be in the form of creaming commissions or selling privileges in the same way Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, tried to do in the UK. 

My impression is that corrupting influences coming from the private sector is the greatest problem. Much of this is initiated by lawyers.

The vast majority of the stories about corruption and the misuse of public funds can be put down to ineptitude and stupidity. 

The constant charge is “we don’t know what has happened to the funds, we don’t know what the government has done with the money”.

When you track back, you find a plethora of stupid decisions made by people who don’t really know what they are doing. 

Sure, there is petty pilfering and nepotism along the way but, by and large, it is idiots who lose the money.

In fact, many of the individual cases of corruption or misuse of public funds are acted upon by the police and other authorities.

To cite just two recent examples, the head of the Southern Highlands Province police has asked the Finance Secretary in Port Moresby to investigate alleged unauthorised processing of about K200,000 by the Provincial Treasurer.

And, in the Simbu Province, a prison commander has been arrested for misusing K27,800 in public funds.

The SHP is a pretty wild and woolly region, and would be the last place you’d expect crooks to be held to account. Maybe zapping the little fish is a ploy to keep the heat off the big predators.

Obfuscation is a method developed to a fine degree in PNG. It starts with half-baked report in the media, usually lacking in useful detail and designed simply for sensation, and ends with the responsible politician or public servant who reacts not because they are necessarily hiding something but because they haven’t got a clue about what’s going on in their area of responsibility.

There is also public cowardice in PNG. People sit by and watch corrupt practises in action but haven’t the guts to do anything about it.

The consistent use of pen names on this blog is a symptom of this malaise.  Until the public generates a bit of moral fibre there is little hope of changing anything.

The best result one gets from the public after the press hints at yet another corruption debacle is outraged indignation. This seems to last a day or so and is then forgotten.

In my experience going red in the face doesn’t do you or anyone else much good.

What we have collected in our project so far clearly demonstrates that corruption is always about money., although sometimes it may not seem like it.

The recent amendment to the Environment Act - so people can’t protest against damaging mining practices - may seem to be about politics, but ultimately it comes down to profit and the politician’s cut.

The government says the legislation is designed to secure PNG’s economic future, but who believes that?

This insidious sort of corruption is the most dangerous because it has ramifications for the future.

What the corrupt cabal in government is doing, as it pulls the strings on the aged puppet that is Michael Somare, is destroying the future of PNG’s children for its own short-term greed.

And it seems to be doing so with the help of an ineffectual and compliant opposition. Their motto is profit now and bugger the future.

PNG desperately needs three things:

A well-resourced and trained police force.

A top-notch training facility for public servants and administrators.

A really independent judiciary, including the Ombudsman’s Office.

An independent media of the kind exemplified by the ABC in Australia might also be handy.

Something also needs to be done about the lawyers. They are experts at bending and subverting the legal system for their own and their client’s benefit.  They do it all over the world.

It doesn’t matter if something is patently immoral, they’ll do it as long as it is at least marginally legal.

It is my observation that the legal fraternity, both public and private, are the biggest threat to PNG, more so than any crooked politician or public servant.

So what have we got in the barrel so far? Not much, just a few names of errant politicians who are in the public domain anyway.

Come on, you complainers and critics, forget the righteous waffle and the rhetoric, give us some real dope we can use!

The problems that aid, & AusAID, can't solve


DID YOU KNOW that the justly-admired frontline medical corps, Medicins Sans Frontieres, has managed and operated Angau Memorial Hospital's medical and emergency services as best they can under difficult circumstances for the past three years as an errand of mercy recommended by the UN?

MSF arrived in Tari late in 2008, and despite harassment from drunks and criminals continues to run this major provincial hospital catering for some 180,000 people- where for five years there has been no full-time, permanent resident PNG national doctor, let alone the five which are needed, and for whom aid-funded fully-furnished three-bedroom houses have long been available.

With all the fully-justified complaint about the overpaid, largely immature and naive consultants being deployed to PNG by the multinational aid industry and their patrons at AusAID and DFAT, it would have been a simple matter, one imagines, and one worthy of praise, to have stepped in, MSF-like, with some practical medical and para-medical people to prop up these and many other needy hospitals in PNG.

I repeat my subsequently-derided statement that money intended to help PNG in the fields of health and education is far and away better handed to the major, established Church Missions - most of which maintain a majority of honest, idealistic and practical trained workers operating in these essential fields.

I am writing this in Goroka where the district hospital was built and opened in 1967, and for many years remained an excellent institution.

Today it is very run-down, facilities for the disposal of general medical and surgical waste, for instance, have deteriorated to where they no longer exist and an open fire is used.

Supplies and operating funds are scarce but, even when there are supplies, they are often sold by staff members to private practitioners, of whom there are a number in town.

This is just a short list of the wrongs existing within the health system - one could go on and on – and, realistically, it is a huge social problem in a society which has fallen hard between two stools in its express-ride transition from the Stone Age to the Toyota Age.

I wrote about this last-mentioned aspect - honesty and ethics in a multi-tribal society - in a piece which also received its small measure of derision- "that’s like saying all Muslims are terrorists!" - but my observations are accurate.

These are problems that any amount of aid will not solve - PNG society just has to work its way around it. Or not.

Unfortunately there are no charismatic and ideological proto-leaders lurking in the bush, although we daily look for such to emerge.

Australia will do well to stop trying to carry out hugely-wasteful "capacity-building" and "produce marketing" programs designed and implemented by major AusAID-linked service-providers like Curtin University, ACIAR, Coffey International, GRM, Price Waterhouse et al, and look at sending well-prepared teams drawn from areas such as the armed forces, ambulance services and the more realistic of NGOs where medical and para-medical people and technicians are used to working in situations of unrest and poor resources.

This instead of the spoiled graduate pups of Oz suburbia who think that by draping a bilum over their shoulder on arrival they have become recognisably assimilated and will be welcomed and valued in PNG society.

Money spent in this way will be money well-spent, as would money spent in making the National Sports Institute and the PNG League work well.

Ambassadors such as Mal Meninga and his mates do far, far more for the Oz - PNG relationship, and the development of a more modern society, than all the kiddiecrats and bearded-mid-life-crisis-sufferers sent up by the aid mafia.

How about funding a tour of a really good Bougainville Bamboo Band around Oz/NZ and the Pacific, ending up at the Edinburgh Festival?

This embryo nation needs this sort of confidence-building to make it think and act like a nation, not a collection of several hundred jealous tribes who can’t form a bond of common interest and nationality largely because they have achieved nothing at all as a antion!

Lateral thinking and some real knowledge of what makes PNG tick is badly needed at DFAT/AusAID to help strengthen our mutual relationship; a relationship which will remain until the sun finally cooks the earth to the extent that all we mammals starve and die and all the remaining faithful float coolly off to see the Bikpela Man or his gatekeeping representative.

Make less noise & deliver what is real


AS A CONCERNED citizen of PNG, I am saddened to see this nation facing so many problems - politically, economically, socially and constitutionally.

No doubt, the future of this nation is at risk, and I do not know how the next generations will live.

Both Government and Opposition must feel ashamed of themselves.

The noisy people in the parliament are the same people who led the nation from the independence. They must be blamed for the problems we are facing because we are reaping what they have planted in the last 40 years.

What have the so-called chiefs and fathers of this great nation really achieved?

Much of the failing infrastructure we see today is that which was established by the colonial government before independence in 1975. They’ve achieved nothing from what I can see and conclude.

They get knighted and bestowed with chiefly titles for nothing.

It is disgusting to hear these people make a lot of noise. I mean leaders like Sir Mekere, Sir Michael, Sir Julius, Paius Wingti and others. What have they done for the country in the last four decades?

Although PNG is rich in natural resources, we are still poor and live below the poverty line. The people have lost their trust in their leadership.

In 2006, the inflation rate rate was around 3%. Now it has skyrocketed.

The government should quickly step in and take measures to control rising inflation.

The Government and Opposition should not just sitting in parliament attacking each other and making a lot of noise when, in the real world, nothing is happening.

The people are tired of hearing the same noise they made for the last 40 years.

Stop corruption and bring some real change to the long suffering people of PNG.

Lowy poll shows support for Aussie aid


IN A RECENTLY released poll on Australia’s overseas aid program, the Lowy Institute says that AusAID states the aim of the program is to ‘assist developing countries reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development’.

The poll reports the results of a nationally representative opinion survey of 1,001 adults conducted from 6-21 March this year.

So let’s look at this report card on AusAID’s achievements in PNG.

Nearly half the people surveyed (48%) said we should be doing more.

Asked whether the government is currently giving too much, too little or about the right amount of aid to developing countries, 55% said about the right amount while 22% said it was giving too much and 19% said too little.

Australians 45 years old or older were much more likely than younger Australians to say the government is giving too much aid (29% compared with 8%). Men were also more likely to say this than women (26% compared with 17%).

Presented with four possible objectives for Australia's overseas aid program, the highest level of support (those saying it was a top priority) was for reducing poverty (58%) followed by improving the quality of government' (53%), promoting economic development (49%) and promoting Australian interests (42%).

PNG - the largest recipient of Australian aid - continues to suffer from serious development and security problems. Asked whether Australia should be doing more, doing less or about the same as it is doing now in PNG, 48% of people said it should be doing more while 42% said about the same and 6% said less.

The Lowy poll suggests Australians have a streak of altruism when it comes to foreign policy. This year, for example, Australians placed reducing poverty ahead of promoting Australian interests as a top priority for aid.

But how moral do they think Australian foreign policy is compared to other countries? Nearly 60% said it was about average and 14% said it was below average.

Let's stop building crazy castles in the air


PAPUA NEW GUINEANS are dying like flies from preventable lifestyle diseases.

This is the result of our government's negligence in promoting primary health care and its failure to provide medical equipment, drugs and support facilities such as CT scans, pathology services and laboratories.

The late Kundi Pok died from a heart attack. Let me give readers a perspective of a hospital's approach to treating a heart attack victim.

When patients with heart attacks are seen in the emergency department, one of two things happen. The patient either dies or survives.

Prompt effort is made to secure the airways, hook the patient to a defibrillator and to immediately protect the heart with oxygen.

There are lots of pain killers, blood pressure stabilisers, drugs to dissolve blood clots and prevent new blood clots forming, drugs to protect the heart and reduce its workload to the bare minimum without compromising it.

Simultaneously, there’s bedside radiology and blood analysis to ensure the overall body chemistry is OK and any discrepancies corrected promptly.

This is the most critical phase for any patient with a heart attack.

After the patient is stabilised, the next phase is to transport the patient to a tertiary centre equipped with cardiac catheterisation for angiography to determine which heart blood vessels are blocked.

Once that’s determined, a patient can have stent inserted to reopen the blocked blood vessel or unde go open heart surgery.

Thereafter, the patient is on lifelong medication to control blood pressure, and advised to change their lifestyle.

Major hospitals in PNG should by now have these basic lifesaving protocols, drugs and equipment available.

There should at least be one tertiary hospital with a cardiac catheter laboratory and trained staff.

Papua New Guineans should by now be trained to perform open heart surgery, otherwise, innocent young lives will continue to be lost.
This leads me to two recent events that raise concerns about the government's ability to make sound and informed decisions: the government's injection of K20 million to build the Pacific Medical Centre and the PM's announcement to provide aid to smaller Pacific island nations.

These decisions show that Michael Somare has cognition problems.
This is nothing short of somatisation; where the facultative thoughts of the mind are translated into bodily symptoms which are gibberish and nonsensical.

Grandiose ideas are synonymous in PNG with the big man syndrome.
An obsession with the liquefied natural gas project seems so intoxicating to the PM that he has forgotten about basic services to the people.
For Sir Michael’s information, the small Pacific island nations are better off than the people of his Sepik electorate.

The PM's children and grandchildren are living very comfortably in Cairns while the people of his electorate are suffering silently.
So spare a thought for the Sepik, PM.

Dr Kristoffa Ninkama is a medical practitioner resident in Queensland. This is an edited version of a letter that appeared in The National of 31 May 2010

More than the thin edge of the wedge


PNG’s PARLIAMENT introduced new legislation Friday containing this clause: "The Director's decision is final and cannot be challenged in any court of law."

This form of words in effect nullifies any future court action by any PNG landowners who try to protect their environment by way of a court injunction.

If correctly reported, it appears the PNG Parliament voted 73-10 to stop injunctions such as the one preventing the Ramu Nickel mine from pumping millions of tonnes of waste into the sea off Madang.

At least ten MPs had the guts to vote against the new legislation.
It seems that, previously, an adverse environmental study on the Ramu mine had been withheld by the PNG government until after the government had agreed the mine could commence operations.

The implications of the new legislation are important and far reaching.
If the PNG government intends to gag future legal action by concerned PNG citizens relating to the environment, then this is the thin edge of the wedge.

By this action, the PNG government clearly intends to ride roughshod over the rights of its citizens, and their legal system.

I wonder where the Australia government stands on this suppression of rights, choking off of information and environmental despoilation in a country to which it provides nearly half a billion dollars a year.

Australia exploited us, say Moti witnesses


THE FAMILY of a girl who accused one-time Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti of rape, say the Australian Federal Police used them for political purposes and they regret being involved in the matter.

Meanwhile the Australian government continues to give the Vanuatu family thousands of dollars a month despite a Queensland Supreme Court throwing out the Moti charges last December because the AFP's $150,000 worth of payments was an "abuse of process".

The parents of the girl told AAP they were disappointed with the AFP's handling of allegations that the Fijian-born Australia lawyer had sex with their daughter when she was 13.

The father said that, as part of the AFP witness deal, his daughter now lives in Brisbane and the case has torn their family apart.

"I'm finished with this," he said. "As far as I am concerned, I want to see Moti walk out. Simply because of the way the Australians went about all this."

The family, originally from Tahiti, along with Vanuatu officials in the capital Port Vila, confirmed the AFP pays about $1000 a month for the rent, an additional cost not disclosed in court.

For the past three years an Australian High Commission representative has paid the family's yearly immigration visas to be in Vanuatu, worth in total $3000, and Australia continues to pay living expenses.

"I am grateful, to an extent, to the AFP, but they owe us," the father said. "They got what they wanted, but what is this? Justice?

"They destroyed our life. If I had my time again, I would tell them to piss off."

An AFP spokesman said it would not be appropriate to comment as the matter is listed before the Queensland court of criminal appeal.

The mother of the girl said the family suffered business losses and health problems due to stress from the case.

"They told us this was about justice for our daughter, but over time different things came about; it was politics," she said.

"I didn't want to do this at the start, but AFP assured us they had all the proof. They assured my daughter they had the proof. But this was rubbish, a lie, and it screwed up our life."

The Moti saga soured relations between PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Moti, 44, was arrested in Port Moresby in September 2006 but in October he was spirited out to the Solomons on a PNG military plane despite Australia asking for him to be handed over to face criminal charges.

Moti later became the Solomons Attorney General but in December 2007, after the Solomons Government changed, Moti was deported to Brisbane.

He was charged with seven counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person aged under 16 in Vanuatu in 1997.

A Vanuatu court had already dismissed the charges but the AFP raised them again through new child sex tourism laws.

Moti always denied the allegations and argued an Australian political agenda was behind the AFP's case.

Documents in the Queensland Supreme court case show Patrick Cole, then Australian High Commissioner to the Solomons, urged the AFP to pursue Moti because his appointment as Attorney-General would be disastrous to Australian interests.

Other court documents show the AFP sought legal advice on whether the girl could get indemnity from perjury charges because in the Australian case her story had changed and she gave "contrary" statements and previously "may have lied" in the Vanuatu court.

Justice Debbie Mullins said AFP's "subsistence payments" to the girl and her family between 2008 and 2009 "bring the administration of justice into disrepute".

Ilya Gridneff is the Papua New Guinea Correspondent for Australian Associated Press. He went to Vanuatu to research this story