PNG implicated in $4 billion foreign aid fraud
The wild dogs of Moresby – 4 legged variety

Of the Admiral, the General ... and Moses


OVER THE LAST couple of days you may have been witness to a little family spat on PNG Attitude.

It occurred between some of our most prolific – and I dare I say, most valued - contributors. The General, the Admiral and Moses.

The General is Bruce Copeland. He never attained such rank in his Army career, Major was as close as he got. When he puts his mind to it, Bruce can write like a dream; but he can bore like a woodworm when he doesn’t put said mind to said it.

As the editor, I never know whether I’m going to be delighted or despairing. Life around Bruce is such a rich tapestry of verbal conflict.

The Admiral is Reginald Renagi – a real family favourite of many of our readers. Reg never got to be an Admiral, of course, but in the PNG Navy he got a lot closer to it than Bruce ever came to being a General.

Reg writes about how things might be. Every society needs its Reg’s. Yes, they can frustrate because the goals they espouse are often beyond us; and because they rarely tell us precisely how to attain them.

But we need people like Reg; people who are willing to write, to let us know what those goals ought to be. Quibble not with the idealist; it is a necessary role.

And who is Moses? My curmudgeonly mate John Fowke is Moses. John had laboured up the mountain and, in doing so, had discovered some profound truths.

And having discovered them, he now labours down the mountain - when he must have thought his labours might have been over - to share those truths and ensure they are heard. Heard just doesn’t mean listened to. It means acknowledged. And acted upon.

Few of our readers would appreciate just how hard John works at this. If all our aid agency workers laboured as conscientiously, as intelligently and as passionately, PNG would be a far better place. So would Australia.

Over these recent days I have had to exercise the editorial axe with a gusto that I profoundly dislike. I much prefer an open debate, untrammelled by some so-called editor. But the conflict was getting a little close to the bone. A little too personal.

What readers may not appreciate is how our contributors go offline – and use emails between each other – to resolve issues that may cause personal offence. I didn’t invent that recourse, but I think it’s a damn good system. However, sometimes it doesn't work. The public forum is too tempting.

Not that readers object to a bit of conflict (after all, the mass media thrive on it and yesterday readership on PNG Attitude surged to 30% higher than average), but there is a fine line in here somewhere – where personal conflict turns us off instead of switching us on.

PNG Attitude is not a physical property. It is information. If you gave PNG Attitude a shovel, it could not dig a hole. If you gave it an SP, it could not drink it. If you gave it a million kina, it would probably waste it. Just like AusAID.

Do not expect PNG Attitude to solve many problems. But expect it to raise them, debate them and espouse solutions to them (which it cannot give effect to, even where they are half sensible).

There is only one issue PNG Attitude, as an entity, ever wanted to – and continues to want to – address. The issue of the long silence that existed for too long between ordinary Papua New Guineans who live in PNG and ordinary Australians who live in Australia. People like us.

[I'll write another time on how Australians let down the relationship after PNG's independence.]

That silence (which denied a truly fraternal friendship and deep knowledge, one of the other) is beginning to recede - a little. Subscriptions to our free newsletter (now numbering well over 600 subscribers) are evenly divided between the people of our two countries. And the readers of this website are representative of our two countries (and also a significant representation beyond).

People who are in jobs where they can effect solutions also read this website and its accompanying PNG Attitude newsletter [free, monthly, email here]. But there are many of us who can only occupy the sidelines and cheer. Or wail.

That said, we’re all vital to the task – as some patriot once said: They also serve who only stand and wait.

But – General, Admiral, Moses – we particularly need you, and are in your debt.

We thank you for your knowledge, strength and passion. And we thank you mostly because you give a damn.


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Robin Mead

Here's to robust and enduring friendships! We all benefit from hearing each other's thoughtful and passionately held views, and these guys in particular. On, on...

Motu Hahenena

These three gentlemen, and Paul Oates and Phil Fitzpatrick, keep the PNG Attitude blog alive and interesting.

I would not want any of them to give up sharing their experiences and views we need to think hard at building good relations between Australia and PNG.

Keep the good comments coming and please do not stop, we all need your interesting insights and analysis of what's happening so we can do better in future.

Bruce Copeland

Keith - It took some time to read your report on the General, Admiral and.Moses before I realised it had my name in it. I hardly recognised myself. You got Reg right.

I have lived in this country for 16 years and greatly miss the Aussie connection. In PNG, I speak in a form of English that is devoid of humour that goes over the head of grassroots people.

That is why I enjoy trekking Kokoda. I spend a week with a group of Aussies with smart-arse take-the-mickey humour. I find myself right in amongst it in about 20 minutes. Once an Aussie always an Aussie.

I train for Kokoda by writing to your column. I enjoy the unique way of talking of Aussies who write to your blog. My humour is sharpened. Many PNG people who have had much to do with the Australians enjoy the Aussie sense of humour.

I use humour as a teacher. There is a PNG approach that if a point is important, it has to be repeated. I take it a step further. If it is important, it needs be the core of a joke. Then people remember.

You will occasionally find humour spliced into my reports to your blog. That is my trademark. But with a flick of the wrist, humour can have a deep bite. I do that too. So much in this country is not funny.

I enjoy writing to your blog. It is amazing how PNG issues have melded into a big picture.

Reginald Renagi

I thank our PNG wantok, Keith Jackson, for those comments. I think KJ sums it up fairly well.

I feel the same way and want to assure our friends and readers of this great forum, PNG Attitude, that the three gentlemen KJ listed are really friends, despite the occasional verbal sparring sessions they have now and then.

It's quiet harmless and healthy, and does bring out some good ideas (I hope) for discussion, and helps find some solutions to how best we can strengthen the mateship between Australians and Papua New Guineans.

Email exchanges do takes place between us if need be; all in good faith. We do this to iron out any misunderstandings behind the scenes, so the online discussion, hopefully, will be a bit more fair and balanced.
And try to cover most relevant angles, no matter how contentious a subject may be.

Personally for me, I enjoy a friendly fight in the ring or the rugby field (reminds me of my military boxing and rugby days). I see these jousts more as a challenge, and a great learning experience for me to broaden my horizon in the pages of PNG Attitude.

I am learning all the time from what I read here from the professional experiences of people like Keith Jackson, John Fowke, Bruce Copeland, Paul Oates, Phil Fitzpatrick, Rosco Williams, Des Martin, Colin Huggiebear, Joe Wasia, to name a few.

So KJ, thanks for the compliments and there's more good stuff coming to the forum in the next few months. As John Fowke says, it comes from the heart as I pen them. Like the General and Moses, I too have been out in the sticks roughing it out with the common people for many years.

This gives me a good chance to present issues from most levels - tactical, operational and strategic - to critically appraise PNG-related issues and to bring them to the pages of the PNG Attitude through the eyes of a pure-bred Papua New Guinean (with nationalist and patriotic flavour, without fear or favour).

I try to present issues from different aspects from someone who has over many years, like Bruce and John, seen, experienced and lived though the trials and tribulations of surviving in PNG away from the so-called ivory towers from both sides of the Coral Sea.

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