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73 posts from August 2010

A grim reminder of Rabaul's war horrors


Rabaul gallows c 1946 - Backhouse SHORTLY AFTER arriving in Rabaul in 1959, I was given a course in firing a .303 bren gun and other weapons.

We had two bren guns in the police armoury, along with several Owen guns and about 200 .303 standard Lee Enfield service rifles.

At that time rifles were on individual issue to native police, who took their guns with them when proceeding on home leave.

Rabaul gallows 1960 - Hayes The native police barracks was located a short distance south of Namanula Hill Road in the area known as Matupi Farm.

At the rear of the barracks was a weapons range and it was there I noticed the skeletal remains of twin gallows: one a wooden structure and the other of wood and steel.

During the 1942-45 war, when Japanese forces captured the New Guinea Islands and much of the mainland, innumerable war crimes were committed against servicemen and civilians.

After the war, the Australian War Crimes Commission sat at Rabaul from December 1945 to August 1947 and on Manus from June 1950 to April 1951 and there were two trials at Wewak in late 1945.

In all, 503 Japanese were tried and 92 were convicted, sentenced to death and, after appeals, executed.

With the war crimes trials impending in Rabaul, two gallows were erected by an Australian Army construction unit, probably on the site of the pre-war native police barracks and gallows which had been destroyed during the war.

There were two means of execution: shooting, which was regarded as being an ‘honourable’ death; and hanging, a ‘dishonourable’ death reserved for the very worst the crimes. Many high ranking Japanese officers came into this latter category.

Most executions were carried out by hanging. For these executions, several experienced pre-war New Guinea police officers and a civilian either volunteered or were required to hang those condemned.

The first execution by hanging was on 20 March 1946 when a warrant officer of the infamous Kempei Tai was executed. In total, 84 men were hanged on the Rabaul gallows and five in Manus.

On one occasion, as a Japanese about to be hanged, on being asked if he had anything to say, he screamed “Banzai” in an apparent attempt to cause a large number of assembled captive Japanese witnesses to riot. His words were quickly cut short.

It seems likely that the last time one of the gallows was used was for the execution of a native policeman in Rabaul in April 1947 for the bayonet murder of a local woman. There were two subsequent executions by hanging in Lae at the police barracks in December 1954 and November 1957, the last in PNG.

Over the years the corrugated galvanized iron that shielded the gallows was pillaged by nearby shanty town dwellers.

The end of the gallows came in April 1960, when Malaguna Technical College principal George Harrington required building materials for his school and removed what remained of these structures.

Photos: Top left – Rabaul gallows 1946 (Captain Joseph Backhouse). Top right – Rabaul gallows 1960 (Inspector Maxwell Hayes)

Sources: The Australian War Crimes Trials and Investigations (1942-51) DCS Sissons. Pacific Islands Monthly (May 1947). Papua New Guinea Gazettes. Uncle Joe’s Story by Kym Osley (2002)

Some thoughts on recovering stolen money


ADDRESSING THE annual conference of the Institute of Internal Auditors in Port Moresby last Friday, PNG Ombudsman John Nero raised the prospect of recovering misappropriated funds.

Mr Nero said leadership tribunals should be empowered to order their restitution.

"As it is, a leader can steal millions of kina and is not be obligated to pay back even though found guilty by the tribunal," he told the conference.

"The public prosecutor, in consultation with the police, [needs to] invoke certain provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act where a guilty verdict is recorded to commence recovery of stolen assets in-country or abroad.

Mr Nero went on to say there was a need for permanent leadership tribunals whose membership could comprise retired judges and magistrates, accountants, lawyers, engineers, business people and the clergy, so members could be drawn at short notice.

This would obviate the strain on judicial and magisterial services in terms of cost and stress on court programs.

He said the chief justice, in consultation with the chief magistrate, should appoint a leadership tribunal within 30 days of receiving a request from the public prosecutor.

Earlier this year the government of the Maldives Republic faced a similar problem of recovering misappropriated government funds that the former Maldives president (who himself had taken over from a kleptomaniac) had reportedly used for personal enrichment.

The previous president, Mr Gayoom, who had held power for 30 years, has now had his extravagant life style audited.

The audit report said in part: "An estimated $9.5 million was spent buying and delivering a luxury yacht from Germany for the president; $17 million was spent on renovations of the presidential palace and family houses. Mr Gayoom built a saltwater swimming pool, a badminton court and a gymnasium, and he bought 11 speed boats and at least 55 cars - including the country's only Mercedes-Benz."

The new Maldives government has asked the World Bank and the UN to help in recovering the funds, said to amount to $US 400 million.

In PNG’s case, misappropriated funds recovered could be available for health, education, law and order or any one of a number of areas that desperately need assistance.

An effective audit of trust funds would be an excellent place to start. Bulolo MP Sam Basil recently highlighted the operations of government trust funds as an area needing to be audited and tightened up.

I wonder what might be revealed by an effective audit of government expenditure. Surely those charged with safeguarding PNG's public monies must urgently give thought to Mr Basil's and Mr Nero's suggestions. Perhaps the PNG Chief Justice may be considering these suggestions even as you read this.

Sir Paulias Matane hospitalised after collapse

PNG’S GOVERNOR-GENERAL Sir Paulias Matane has been rushed to hospital in Port Moresby after collapsing as a result of what was said to be “high blood pressure”.

Sir Paulias is in the intensive care unit of the Pacific International Hospital, a multi-specialty tertiary level medical facility affiliated with Raffles Hospital in Singapore.

The Governor-General, who in his eightieth year maintains a breakneck program of activity, was recently reappointed for a second term in the vice-regal office in what were exceptionally conflicted and stressful circumstances.

Sir Paulias has spoken out strongly against corruption and poor governance and passionately promotes the virtues of education and literacy.

He was born in 1931 at Viviran Village in the Vunadidir area of East New Britain and had a distinguished career as an educator, senior public servant and diplomat as well as being a prolific author.

His motto as Governor-General is ‘Serving with Love from Government House!’

Evidence of mustard gas use in WW2 PNG


ONE OF THE PEOPLE I interviewed for my book about Saipan way back in 1996, was a Roland Fronheizer. He was with the 33rd Coast Artillery there during the war.

He told me that, after Saipan had been secured, the troops were kept on the island in anticipation of the invasion of the Japanese home islands later in the war, an operation that never came to pass as a result of Japan’s capitulation following the dropping of the atomic bombs on two of their cities.

Roland also told me the US military was stockpiling chemical shells for their 155-mm Long Toms for possible use against the Japanese when they invaded. Ever since then, I have been curious about what happened to those shells.

Some years back, I asked the EOD [Explosive Ordnance Demolition] man operating out of Saipan what happened to them, but never received a definitive reply.

Fast forward to this past week. I had just finished the last of my on-cruise Pacific War lectures on 25 August, when an Australian, a retired EOD from the Australian Army, approached me.

He said he had attended all my lectures, and then proceeded to tell me some interesting things about his days in EOD in PNG, the Solomon Islands and other island groups.

He said in the area where the battles of Buna and Gona were fought in New Guinea — probably at Dobadura — they found chemical bombs shoved off into the jungle. He said they contained blister gas. (I am guessing it was a mustard gas.)

In 1989-1990, in the Russell Islands, they found over 150 155-mm chemical shells lying around in the open. The US military was notified, planes and crews from Johnston Island flew in, picked them up and flew them back to Johnston Island, where they were disposed of. Their orders were to not talk about what they had found.

After the battle for Buna-Gona, Australian officers reported that some of the Japanese showed signs of having died from gas poisoning.

I think this is worth further investigation; just one more item to add to my list.

There is also some interesting information coming my way about some Kiwis captured on Tarawa early in the war. The Japanese decapitated them and buried them on the island.

More recently, while looking for the missing graves of US Marines left behind on Tarawa in 1943, the graves of these missing Kiwis were found. I am now waiting some follow-up on that story from individuals I network with on Pacific War issues, and who were involved in finding those graves.

I hope the New Zealand government or military will follow up on this.

And that’s it for this cruise from your nondescript-garden-variety white guy. G’day, mates, and Happy Trails.

A Lark Force track visualisation exercise


RECENTLY I WAS a member of a group of trekkers who completed a trek along the Lark Force wilderness track on the Island of New Britain.

I have done a number of walks in New Guinea, and always have cause to reflect on the last paragraph of the book In the footsteps of Ghosts by Bill Spencer, which traces his war experiences in the Middle East and New Guinea.

“Will the Australian Soldier’s battles in Papua be freshly remembered and never go by from their day till the ending of the World”. Will their legacy – the still young, vibrant and evolving Australian society, embarking on new directions and challenges, be inspired by these Ghosts? I dearly hope their will.”

In the course of walking this track we were retracing the route taken by members of the 2/22 Bn in January-February 1942 after the Japanese invasion of Rabaul on 23 January. After the order “every man for himself” was given by Colonel Scanlan, the force split into small subgroups at Malabunga Mission and made their way to the north or south coast, where they hoped to be picked up by flying boats.

Four hundred soldiers eventually got to Australia. However at least 850 soldiers were rounded up and taken back to Rabaul and another 150-180 executed by the Japanese at Tol and Waitavalo Plantation on 4 February. Most of these men together with 208 civilians later died on the Montevideo Maru.

In the course of our trek, we had a minute’s silence on 1 July to remember the victims of the Montevideo Maru and had another short service at Tol, where there is a small memorial cairn. The area around Tol-Waitavalo is now a logging camp. As you look around it is hard to believe that this area was the scene of a major massacre of Australia soldiers. Seventy years on, we can only imagine the experience of these soldiers.

Prior to trekking the Lark Force track, we were all given a packing list of what to bring and we all packed creature comforts: muesli bars, lollies, Staminade. Imagine what it must have been like to be a soldier in Rabaul during the Japanese invasion. Every man for himself. We are leaving in half and hour. The soldiers may have been able to fill haversacks with bully beef and biscuits. Many didn’t have basic camping equipment, groundsheets, tents or mosquito nets. They didn’t know how long the walk would take.

They were tired, having been waiting in battle positions since 22 January. Consider the impact of a large body of soldiers on the local villagers. During the course of our trek, we visited a number of villages. We all commented on how friendly the people were and how they were prepared to share fruit and vegetables with us.

In our group there were seven trekkers plus a support party with their own food supply. With Lark Force there were small and large groups of soldiers without food walking through various villages. In the accounts by survivors of Lark Force, some groups of soldiers spent too much time resting in villages, killing more chickens and pigs than they needed and taking vegetables and fruit. One can understand why some villagers got tired of groups of Australians continually passing through.

Two other points worth considering. The first is group dynamics. In a modern trekking party, you have a leader and fast and slow walkers. You are dealing with a number of personalities. Consider the group dynamics 70 years ago in a small Lark Force unit. Large groups split into smaller groups; some groups decided to surrender, while others continued walking.

Consider how you feel after walking four days in a jungle environment. You’re tired and dirty but you know there is no more walking to be done. Imagine what is must have been like for a member of Lark Force back in 1942. They had been walking for weeks and even if they got to Tol Plantation prior to the massacre, they were still faced with the prospect of getting to Karlai Mission and a further walk to other points such as Jacquinot Bay. A daunting prospect. Many were hungry and sick. One can understand why some of them made the decision to surrender to the Japanese.

As I looked from Tol across to Karlai Plantation, I was pleased I was going across by boat. I could only imagine the number of days it would take to walk around Wide Bay to get to the plantation let alone what problems would have been faced by the Lark Force soldiers in 1942.

Questions & conduct we must not ignore

One thing quickly discerned from the words of ALEX HARRIS: when the lady takes aim, she doesn’t miss. This extract is from a longer article on recent and not so recent issues in PNG mining. We link to Alex’s full piece below.

AT THE SAME TIME as the United Nations Environment Program was checking proofs and preparing press conferences for the launch of its much anticipated report, The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, the PNG government was taking steps to silence its people on the issue of environmental devastation of virgin forests, fresh water sources and important fisheries.

Stripping the rights of citizens to discuss amendments to the Environment Act that had been passed just days earlier with its latest edict, the PNG government hoped to shut down debate on the environmental legislation it had quickly drawn up to accommodate members of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum, and specifically Australia’s publicly listed Highlands Pacific Limited and the Chinese state-owned Metallurgical Corporation of China Limited in joint venture on the Ramu NiCo nickel mine near Madang.

The new legislation seeks to overthrow an injunction won in the Supreme Court by Tiffany Nonggorr of Nonggorr William Lawyers, representing a diverse group of Rai Coast landowners, that prevents Ramu NiCo from working on the placement of the Submarine Tailings Disposal pipeline, a system of mine waste disposal also known as Deep Sea Tailings Placement.

This disposal system would dump hundreds of millions of tonnes of a heavy metal and chemical cocktail of mine waste into Astrolabe and Basamuk Bays, just 150 metres below the water’s surface.

Just days later, amid allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government, the Environment Act Amendment Bill was pushed through with three readings in one sitting of Parliament, ignoring constitutional requirements that it be read and debated in three separate sittings of Parliament.

The resulting law removes the rights of landowners to mount any legal challenge against any mining or development application approved by the government; it infers that environmental damage will happen in the course of doing business as an inevitable consequence of business, and explicitly excuses corporations from damage, removing any responsibility or obligation for clean-up and restoration, and for recompense.

It absolves corporations of any environmental devastation and accompanying social upheaval and detrimental health outcomes, as has already been incurred by tens of thousands of indigenous landowners along the Fly and Ok Tedi rivers, on Misima Island, at Porgera, Panguna and Lihir.

It condones business practices banned in other nations – specifically the home nations of the corporate icons currently dumping their mine tailings directly into the rivers and oceans of PNG and denuding the country of ancient and rare rainforest.

It shuts them out of the country’s legal process and removes all rights of landowners whose previously untouched rivers and coastal waters have been or will be turned into grey sludge dead zones stretching thousands of square kilometres; whose ancestral lands are now or will be uninhabitable and fisheries inedible.

This is not emotive rhetoric – such environmental destruction is the factual documented history of Australian, British, American and Canadian companies, and apparently soon to be that of Chinese corporations, operating in this third world country to our north.

It will be the fate of the entire nation in just a decade if the landowners are indeed silenced, and we [Australians] continue to ignore and not question the conduct of the companies we call our own, and the undemocratic behaviour of a government we tacitly support.

You can read the full article in the Reputation Report blog here.

‘Reputation’ editor with a strong PNG link

Harris_Alex ALEX HARRIS was born in PNG, migrating to Australia in her early teens, and has had a career in the media and public relations industries that took her from Australia to the United States and back.

While in the US, Alex served on the board of the Australian American Chamber of Commerce for four years, was a member of the Chicago Board of Roosevelt University and a member of the American Society of Magazine Editors.

She won the Chicago Women in Publishing award in 1994 and the National Association of Women Business Owners New Venture Award in 1995.

After returning to Australia in 1999 and working for several years as an independent consultant, in 2007 Alex became general manager of Reputation Australia - a Sydney public relations firm specialising in crisis management.

It was here that the blog Reputation Report was born.

Alex is passionate about the issues of corporate social responsibility, business ethics, sustainable capitalism, reputation strategy, leadership and the links between them.

These issues have made her particularly concerned about the impacts of big resource projects and it is in this context that her interest in PNG has been rejuvenated.

Today Alex is an author, public image risk consultant, speaker and editor of the Reputation Report. She is an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, a member of the Queensland Writers Association, and a Trustee of Committee for Economic Development of Australia.

The Asianisation of PNG – is this in prospect?


LET’S THINK THROUGH the current resources boom in PNG. Some interesting scenarios present themselves.

For instance, the influx of Chinese money and of Chinese, Indonesian and Malaysian workers.

It doesn’t stretch the imagination much to envisage PNG, in the not too distant future, becoming part of the Asian economic and cultural sphere.

It is just this prospect that has informed the resistance movement over the border in West Papua.

In Fiji, the multiple coups have been the result of the fear of becoming an Indian country with indigenous Fijians a powerless minority.

Something similar happened in Hawaii. The belief that that island melting pot is a happy society has been dispelled not only in recent years but down the years by protests from indigenous Hawaiians.

Asianisation is a touchy subject, and one that runs the risk of the ‘racist’ label – even to discuss it. But I suspect this is something PNG will have to confront at some stage.

Are the people of PNG ready to cast off their links to the Pacific, cast their lot with the west, and possibly subsume their Melanesian identity in the process?

The Irish had the happy knack of absorbing and subtly converting invaders and immigrants. Australia, which has a large Irish tradition, has managed to do likewise.

Australia was once a country in the hands of its own indigenous population. Then it became a European country. Through migration it became a multicultural country. One day it will become, as the song goes, a happy melting pot of coffee-coloured people.

Australia will be populated not so much by Australians but by global citizens. I don’t see such a prospect as daunting.

If such a transition is inevitable, it might be something PNG needs to start thinking about now.

Multiculturalism, as it has been termed in Australia, will have to be well planned and handled carefully. The anti-Chinese riots, of a few months ago are definitely not the way to go.

We want our democracy back! Please! Now!


PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S democracy is under attack - and we need to act now.

Our Parliament has sat for just 30 days in the last year and has been adjourned, in very controversial circumstances, until November 

Faced with mounting opposition of its amendments to the Environment Act, its failure to stamp out chronic corruption, its waste of public money and a vote of no confidence, the government shut down Parliament and ran off to hide.

The Act Now! organisation is asking you to send an email the Chief Ombudsman asking him to investigate the Prime Minister, Leader of Government Business and Speaker for shutting down Parliament.

This was another attack on our democracy from an increasingly autocratic government.

Legal opinion says the adjournment of Parliament is undemocratic and unlawful. Tgis is because the Constitution makes it mandatory for Parliament to sit for at least 63 days a year.

The penalty for Parliament not sitting for the required number of days could be ten years in prison. But the Ombudsman Commission is doing nothing about this because it says it lacks the resources to investigate all 109 MPs.

We need to tell the Ombudsman Commission this is wrong.

The Ombudsman doesn't need to investigate all 109 MPs. It was the Prime Minister, Leader of the House and Speaker who orchestrated the adjournment - against the wishes of the majority of MPs who were present.

It is these three who should be investigated.

Please email the Chief Ombudsman right now and tell him you want him to investigate the Prime Minister and the Speaker for shutting down Parliament

If there is no accountability for Parliament not sitting then PNG’s democracy is dead.

Sign the petition here.

PNG court approves takeover of Lihir Gold


THE PNG NATIONAL Court has approved the $10 billion takeover of Lihir Gold Ltd by Newcrest Mining, which will be effective on Monday and implemented two weeks later.

The merger, overwhelmingly approved by Lihir shareholders at a meeting in Port Moresby earlier this week, creates a $25 billion company ranked as the world’s fifth-largest gold miner.

In accordance with the court order, Lihir shares will be suspended from trading on the Australian and Port Moresby stock exchanges from close of business on Monday.

The new Newcrest shares to be issued under the scheme will start trading on the two exchanges on a deferred settlement basis on the following day – next Tuesday, 31 August.

Lihir chairman, Dr Ross Garnaut, has said the Lihir gold mine in New Ireland Province has a great future as the jewel in the crown of what will be the region’s pre-eminent gold company.

Earlier this year, Lihir announced it planned to increase the mine’s production by about 50 percent over the next ten years.

Researcher cracks chloroquine’s demise


Lab A YOUNG CANBERRA research scientist has been awarded two prestigious prizes for her research into what was once the malaria wonder drug chloroquine.

Her work has been described as ‘exceptional’, ‘truly ground- breaking’ and ‘a technical tour de force’.

For more than 50 years, chloroquine was widely used in the fight against malaria. It was cheap, safe and highly effective.

But in the late 1990s scientists noticed the drug was losing potency, and it’s now been rendered almost useless by the spread of chloroquine-resistant parasites.

Dr Rowena Martin, principal investigator at the School of Biology of the Australia National University, has revealed how the parasites managed to get the upper hand, and what can be done to redress the situation.

Her research has won her a Eureka Prize worth $10,000, sponsored by Macquarie University for outstanding research, and the $20,000 L’Oreal ‘Australia for Women in Science’ Fellowship.

Judges said Dr Martin had offered a way forward in malaria treatment through excellent research and a breadth of technical skills rare in such a young scientist - just 35 years of age.

At her secondary schools in Tamworth and Newcastle, Rowena Martin’s interests ranged from science to architecture. But during her undergraduate degree at ANU, she was given several opportunities to work in research labs – and she was hooked.

“I really love the problem solving, lateral thinking, and creativity involved in scientific research. And the excitement when you make the big discovery in the small hours of the morning. It’s a greatSoccer feeling.”

It wasn’t until working on her honours project that she learned that the ancient scourge of malaria was on the march again. This year it will infect about 300 million people and kill about one million of them.

“Malaria places an immense economic burden on a country. It isn’t just associated with poverty, it is a cause of poverty.

  “The parasite’s ability to develop resistance to drugs appears to be inexhaustible, so we constantly need to look for novel compounds and new ways to use the existing ones.”

Dr Martin told PNG Attitude she had read a great deal about malaria but had never visited malarial areas.  She is interested in finding out more about malaria in PNG.

Outside the research lab, Rowena is a keen soccer player. She gives her other interests as sewing - and her engineer boyfriend.

Minister to control NGOs? Must be a joke


SO THE PNG mining minister has called for a government agency to control non-government organisations (NGOs) in PNG.

In case you don’t know ‘NGOs’, they are bodies like Médecins Sans Frontières, Transparency International, the Red Cross, the Scouts and Care International.

The minister’s statement appears to be a classic dummy spit from someone who surely cannot claim moral ascendancy.

If the minister has been correctly quoted, his conjecture is that NGOs should be muzzled and kept under the control of the current government.

If that was the case, who would help the people in cases like the current government fiasco over the Ramu mine?

If the minister is just running the flag up the pole to see who salutes, perhaps Opposition should publicly state just how ludicrous this statement is and how it reflects poorly on the minister's integrity.

Clearly the minister is unable to effectively look after his people's interests and is trying to shoot an irritating messenger.

Matane re-election case drags on in courts

THE PNG SUPREME Court has again adjourned its decision on the re-election of Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane.

The case was brought by the Morobe Provincial Government under Section 19 of the Constitution and seeks the court’s interpretation of the legitimacy of the recent election for the Governor-General’s post in parliament.

Three candidates who contested the office lost to Sir Paulias Matane who was voted into a second term by a majority on the floor of parliament.

It has been alleged that the vote was supposed to render Sir Paulias eligible to stand for a second term, whereupon he would have faced a contested ballot, not to elect him to a second term.

It has been claimed that the Prime Minister, Speaker and the clerk of parliament had breached certain provisions of the Governor-General Act in relation to how the elections should be carried out.

An inadequate force: The strategy unravels


Yesterday, in Part 1 – The Rabaul Strategy, Neville Threlfall wrote how the Menzies Government did not intend Lark Force to defend Rabaul against invasion. It was there mainly to provide protection for the RAAF.

DURING 1941 THE Japanese had moved armed forces into French Indo-China, threatening Malaya, the Philippines and the Dutch East Indies.

It seemed like good sense to develop United States and Australian defence cooperation in the South Pacific and the US service chiefs looked at Rabaul’s superb harbour as a good location for a naval base.

Agreement was reached for the US to supply the necessary equipment, and Australia agreed to upgrade Vunakanau airfield to take US heavy bombers on their way to and from the Philippines.

A team of US officers visited Rabaul in November 1941, and an element of farce entered into their discussions with the head of Lark Force when a heavily sealed envelope, just delivered by air, was brought to him.

Apologising for the interruption, he broke it open, paused, then read the contents aloud: “Upon receipt of this you will proceed with the construction of six pan latrines according to the enclosed specifications.”

By this time, Lark Force had a new Commanding Officer, Colonel JJ Scanlan, a veteran of the trench warfare of World War I. His plan for defence was to hold fixed positions at the likely landing beaches.

When it was suggested that supplies should be placed inland to provide for a fighting withdrawal and bush warfare, he condemned it as a defeatist suggestion, and boasted that “Rabaul will be defended to the last man. There will be no surrender.”

There was no attempt to give the soldiers any knowledge of conditions inland or of bushcraft, nor of relations with the New Guinean people. Nor was there any discussion with Administration officials of preparations for evacuation or of demolition of vital supplies and installations. The civil authorities found this very frustrating.

John Curtin became Prime Minister of Australia on 7 October 1941, inheriting domestic problems and the responsibility for widespread Australian forces in the Middle East, Malaya and the Pacific Islands.

The promise of a US naval base at Rabaul may have seemed an assurance of that area’s safety. But there was no mention of US ground troops being stationed there. By the first week in December Scanlan had taken a more realistic view of the situation. RAAF planes had come at last: four Hudson bombers, later to be joined by ten Wirraways - armed reconnaissance planes which would be no match for modern fighters.

At last Lark Force had an active air base to defend. But Scanlan wrote a review claiming that for adequate defence against an attack on the scale that could be expected, at least 4,000 infantry would be needed, together with trucks to rush them to threatened points; plus field artillery, anti-tank guns, three more coastal batteries and twenty armoured cars.

He dated this review 5 December 1941 and dispatched it to higher authorities; but on that date a Japanese carrier-based strike force was already moving towards the Hawaiian Islands.

The successful Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbour and on the Philippines put an abrupt end to US plans to use Rabaul as a naval base or as a staging point for their aircraft. The Australian War Cabinet was left alone to face a hard decision.

It lacked the troops and weaponry to reinforce Rabaul as Scanlan declared necessary. To withdraw Lark Force and the RAAF planes would make a present to the Japanese of a valuable site for military purposes, and would be bad for morale in Australia and for the Dutch ally in the East Indies.

The choice was made: to leave what was plainly an inadequate force in place, so that if the Japanese wanted Rabaul they would have to fight for it.

Although Curtin is usually held responsible for this decision, it was made on the advice of the Chiefs of Staff of Australia’s armed services, and they too must take their share of the responsibility. And they were responsible for the inadequate equipment of Lark Force, and the failure to respond to the appeals of Carr and Scanlan.

Hasty arrangements were made to evacuate women and children of European race, by sea and later by air. Apart from a few invalids, civilian men were not considered; and Rabaul’s Asian population was left to its own devices. (Ironically, the only Asians sent to safety in Australia were Japanese internees.)

Prior to 8 December 1941, the reconnaissance patrols of the Catalinas and the Hudsons had only gone as far as the Equator, the boundary of the Mandated Territory with Japan’s Micronesian possessions.

But with the outbreak of war with Japan, patrols were extended further, to Kapingamarangi Atoll, over 800 kilometres north of Rabaul, and even further to the major Japanese base of Truk in the Caroline Islands. Installations and supply dumps observed at Kapingamarangi were obviously for war purposes, and the Hudsons bombed them regularly from 15 December onwards.

Truk was too far for the Hudsons to travel with a bomb load, but one raid was launched against Truk by Catalinas. A heavy storm prevented all but one of the planes reaching Truk, but it dropped its bombs there.

These raids stung the Japanese into retaliatory air raids on Rabaul from 4 January 1942 onwards, and may have accelerated the timing of their invasion of New Ireland and New Britain

So, neither reinforced nor withdrawn, an inadequate Lark Force awaited the inevitable onslaught.


PNG govt bids to be ultimate carbon cowboy


WHILE THE ACTIVITIES of unscrupulous 'carbon cowboys' have attracted much attention in PNG over recent years, a confidential proposal shows the PNG government trying to carry off the biggest scam of all.

The government has submitted a proposal to the Norwegian government that would see up to USD1 billion flow into PNG.

The Somare government came into power in 2002 promising to fast-track ten large-scale logging projects. Since then it has also sanctioned more than 2.5 million hectares of forest clearance for spurious 'agriculture projects'.

But now it is claiming it will change its ways and bring this forest rape under control if the Norwegians deposit anything between $750 million and $1 billion in its coffers.

The PNG government's proposal to the Norwegians in truth lacks any meaningful political, social or ecological analysis. This is despite the fact that it was put together at a cost of over $1 million by international consultancy McKinsey and Company.

According to the proposal PNG "subscribes to principles of transparency and equitability" - about as weak a statement about endemic corruption as you could hope to see.

And what will the PNG government do in return for $1 billion?

Well, almost nothing.

It is promising to revoke 50-100 thousand hectares of illegal agroforestry projects (the other 2.4 million hectares will be untouched); introduce reduced impact logging across 500,000 of the 5 million hectares currently allocated for large-scale logging; and establish 30,000 hectares of oil palm on degraded land.

Surely the cash rich Norwegians are not going to be conned by Somare and his American carbon ambassador Kevin Conrad into funding their carbon scam?

You can link to the PNG Exposed website here.

PNG – after 35 years, looking for a captain


SINCE INDEPENDENCE our political leadership has been found wanting.

The MP elected by parliament to become the CEO of PNG Inc represents the people as well as being head of government. As Prime Minister, he alone must take responsibility for the way our country’s national business is conducted.

PNG's early vision was good and noble in its intentions. The national interests clearly stated in our constitution are enduring and still valid today. but unfulfilled by the state and its agencies over the years.

Had we followed our earlier plans diligently, then PNG would be a better country and a just society. This unfortunately is not the case 35 years after becoming independent from Australia.

Many reasons contributed to PNG’s present woes. However, the main factor must be directly attributed to political leaders since independence. 

Successive PMs, as captains of the ship of state, never really stuck to one course. And they failed to ensure the ship’s business was managed by competent crew. They also failed to ensure the officers were fit and up to the task.

The PNG ship was not ready for sea in 1975. The then Australian administration failed to diligently prepare the ship for sea. Australia did not exercise its full duty of care.

Also, the captain was in a hurry to go to sea, so perhaps saw no need for more preparation.

Australia knew our man was in a hurry. It could have delayed the sailing plan until it was confident the ship was ready for sea.

But Australia failed its important duty as colonial administrator of our country.

Sadly, the then and current captain - in his quiet moments - is probably regretful that he has not made a very good job of captaincy as he contemplates life after retirement.

The man at the helm should know what is wrong with our ship. Is he able to fix the problems now, before it is too late? The writer and many other PNG observers have great reservations about this prospect. Father Time waits for no man.

PNG is where it is today because of leadership failure. Many bad things have happened in PNG because of inaction by its many captains over the years.

The passenger’s have been ignored and they are angry, frustrated and rebellious.

The solution is obvious. Activate our leadership succession plan now. The time is right to make a change and it is needed today before the ship runs aground.

PNG needs fresh, new, competent political leadership. The leader must be someone with a heart for PNG who knows what the job entails and can do it well without compromise.

So, in review, PNG had a good vision at independence. But through poor political leadership, the country is not where it planned to be 35 years ago.

In 1975, Australia failed big time to not properly prepare PNG. Due to this grand strategic failure, Australia is now shamelessly spending billions of its taxpayers' dollars trying to buy PNG out of trouble.

Australia should have seen this coming 35 years before, but pretended ignorance at the time. It wanted to see a quick ship's launching and immediate delivery to the new owners with no moral sense of doing the right thing by PNG.

Whether it is Julia or Tony in charge does not really matter to PNG. What matters is how the new Australian leadership will constructively deal with PNG and its errant political leadership and with the country's difficult development challenges.

Reginald Renagi is a former senior PNG naval officer. He also trained and served on many different classes of warship in the Royal Australian Navy and he remains a trainer of seafarers.

Ramu court decision is fault of govt & mine


THERE WILL clearly be significant fallout from the latest decision by the National Court not to lift the injunction on the Ramu Nickel mine.

National Court judge David Canning opted for caution when in refusing to grant Ramu Nickel’s application to lift the interim injunction he granted in March to stop offshore construction of the deep sea tailings system.

The company is now claiming thousands of people will be affected by the delay in the mine's opening.

Government officials are also claiming the delay will affect the national economy and future investment.

Pressure is mounting on the plaintiffs and the magistrate to give in. However both have been resolute in maintaining their strong stance against the tailings system.

The real issue the government and the mine's owners should be addressing is why they themselves didn't initially ensure that the mine's proposed operations were safe for today's and future generations of Papua New Guineans?

To now blame the people who are trying to prevent what is, in the court's view, operations of unproven safety is merely disinformation.

The current whining, er sorry, mining minister's claims that NGO's (who are assisting with the injunction) should be under tighter government control is trying to shoot the messenger and deflect responsibility away from those who should be held accountable.

Ramu fiasco continues: leaders hold fast


VARIOUS LANDOWNER groups yesterday renewed their opposition to the deep sea tailings placement system planned for the waters off Madang.

A group of disgruntled leaders met at the seafront of Coastwatchers Hotel as the National Court was hearing an application by Ramu Nickel seeking a lifting of the interim injunction which had halted its construction of the tailings offshore facility at Basamuk Bay.

In a media statement, the group, backed by plaintiffs Farina Siga, Sama Melambo, Eddie Tarsie and Peter Sel, said that the simple message was "there will be no deep sea tailings placement in Madang".

"We call on mining minister John Pundari, who, a few days ago, visited Bongu village in Rai Coast and made an undertaking of 'looking into things' and who recently deviated from that speech, to stop drawing attention away from the real issue confronting us - listen to the people."

Leader George Ireng said they were not against nickel mining or any other mining activity but wanted the government to find an alternate method of tailings disposal.

He said that deep sea tailings were banned in other countries and PNG should follow suit.

The group noted the failure by the Lands Titles Commission to sit and identify genuine landowners along in the project impact areas.

Bagbag islander John Simoi said the Bismarck and Solomon seas were famous for their unique biodiversity and home to half of the world's coral, leatherback turtles, various seagrass and tuna breeding ground in what is known as the Magado Square.

An inadequate force: The Rabaul strategy


MUCH HAS BEEN written about the fall of Rabaul in January 1942 and the consequent tragic loss of life when over a thousand prisoners went down in the prison ship Montevideo Maru.

These are believed to have included 845 soldier POWs, members of the Rabaul garrison known as Lark Force.

The question has been raised and discussed: why did the Australian Government, under Prime Minister John Curtin, leave Lark Force in Rabaul after Pearl Harbour, when it was manifestly inadequate to withstand an attack of the magnitude which the Japanese were likely to bring against it?

But nothing has been raised about the reasons why an earlier Government - that of Robert G Menzies, Prime Minister from 26 April 1939 to 29 August 1941 - originally sent Lark Force to Rabaul, and what was its true reason for being there.

The files in the Australian War Memorial reveal a surprising story, and one in which military blunders of supply and training are ironically mixed with flashes of humour.

The New Guinea Administration and the inhabitants of Rabaul began their own defence measures late in 1939. At that time the main concern was the possibility of German raiding vessels landing armed sailors to destroy communications facilities (as the Australians had done in August 1914), or even bombarding the town.

A volunteer military force, the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles, was quickly formed to oppose any armed landing party, and deep gullies on the slopes of Namanula Hill were cleared and equipped with shelters, water tanks and supply depots, to provide a refuge for townsfolk in case of a bombardment.

In the event, German raiders passed through New Ireland waters in December 1940 but made no attack on Rabaul.

But there was another source of potential danger. Japan was known to have built up military bases in the Micronesian islands to the north of New Guinea, which Japan had received under League of Nations mandate after World War I.

The terms of the mandate forbade military installations except for defence, but in the early 1930s Japan had left the League and annexed the islands, treating them as outright possessions. Both in Australia and in Rabaul, there was concern as to what Japanese intentions might be.

In October 1940 the Commanding Officer of the NGVR and senior military officer in the Mandated Territory was Ross Field, the Director of Public Works in the Administration.

In that month Field wrote to military headquarters in Port Moresby pointing out the unsatisfactory state of affairs in Rabaul. The NGVR had rifles for drill, but no ammunition for practice or combat. The police force had rifles and ammunition, but were legally prohibited from taking part in military activities. He requested ammunition for the NGVR and suggested a defence force be raised among indigenous and Chinese residents of the Territory.

In a further letter Field reviewed the possibility of a large-scale attack on Rabaul. If the military authorities felt this could not be resisted, the Administration should be warned and advised to prepare evacuation plans for civilians and for removing or destroying supplies and records. Depots of food, water and ammunition should be placed inland, for the use of defenders withdrawing from the town. All this was sound advice; but it fell on deaf ears.

Military authorities in Australia took action in 1941, but it was not because of Field’s advice. The Chiefs of Staff of the Australian Armed Forces decided the RAAF should establish a reconnaissance base as far north as possible to monitor any southward movements of Japanese forces in Micronesia.

Rabaul was the chosen site for this, but the RAAF chiefs insisted their planes and personnel must have a military garrison to protect them.

It was decided to send a battalion group (an infantry battalion with supporting specialist units) to protect the RAAF base. A small advance party arrived in Rabaul in early March 1941 to prepare the camp for the main force, which arrived in March and April.

This comprised the 2/22nd Battalion of the 2nd AIF, with units of the Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps  Members of Signals, Engineers and Artillery units came later. The whole group was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel HH Carr and was code-named ‘Lark Force’.

The sight of over a thousand soldiers coming to Rabaul was reassuring to the town’s residents and to the Administration, as they assumed this was for their defence.

But Carr, who was now the senior military officer in the Territory, knew otherwise. He had quickly realised that the force under his command was too small and lacked the equipment to defend Rabaul and the nearby landing beaches against any sizeable attacking force; and said this in a situation report which he sent to Port Moresby in April.

This was passed to the military authorities in Australia, and their reply reached Carr at the end of May. He was told that Lark Force’s role was not to defend the port and town of Rabaul. Its role was to defend “the fixed defences of Rabaul and the RAAF Advanced Operational Base”.

The “fixed defences” comprised only two old 15cm guns which had been sent to Rabaul but were not at that time in position. They were later placed at Praed Point.

No RAAF base had yet been established; an occasional visit by a PBY Catalina flying boat for refuelling during reconnaissance was the only sign of the Air Force’s presence.

The Rabaul townsfolk must therefore be excused for thinking Lark Force was there for their benefit. Military discipline would have prevented Carr from telling them otherwise. But his requests for additional arms and equipment were ignored, or only fulfilled in dribs and drabs months later. He was even refused a supply of blank rifle ammunition, which he requested to enable the troops to practice combat more realistically.

The Menzies Government was now under increasing difficulties in Australia. In August 1941 Arthur Fadden succeeded Menzies as Prime Minister, but only held office for forty days. These distracting moves in Australian politics came at a bad time - just when the US Government was taking an interest in Rabaul’s military potential.

Tomorrow: The strategy unravels

New book vividly tells Coastwatchers' story

Coast Watchers THE INSCRIPTION on the Coastwatchers’ Memorial that soars above the Madang shoreline reads: “They watched and warned and died that we might live”.

The Coastwatchers’ exploits in the south-west Pacific more than validate this succinct tribute to this small group that had a major impact on the conflict in the New Guinea Islands in World War II.

“I’ve been fascinated by the Coastwatchers since I first heard of their legendary deeds while on a TV assignment in Rabaul in 1983,” says Patrick Lindsay, commenting on the publication of his new book, The Coast Watchers.

This tiny band of men - and one woman - stayed behind after the Japanese occupation. Assisted by loyal islanders, they warned of enemy movements while the Japanese hunted them down.

Capture meant death and, before war’s end, more than 30 had been executed, most by beheading.

Patrick Lindsay tells how these Australians - with some British, New Zealand and Americans - hid in the jungle, constantly moving to evade enemy patrols and communicating using cumbersome tele-radios that took a dozen men to carry.

The Coastwatchers reported on Japanese troop movements, warned of sea and air attacks and saved countless civilians and service personnel, including the future US President John F Kennedy.

What made their valour more laudable was that they did all this at a time when there was no certainty that the Allies would prevail against the seemingly unstoppable invaders.

As the tide of the war turned, many took an offensive role, leading guerrilla bands that greatly hampered the Japanese retreat.

They performed extraordinary feats. For example, Paul Mason and Jack Read worked on Bougainville and their warnings played a critical role in the American triumph on Guadalcanal.

After a long career as a journalist, Patrick is now one of Australia's leading non-fiction authors. Among his bestsellers are The Spirit of Kokoda, Back From the Dead and Fromelles.

Publication details: ISBN: 9781741669244. 416 pp. William Heinemann Australia. $34.95

Talks and book signings: Thursday 16 September, 6.30pm, Concord Library 60 Flavelle Street Concord NSW [$7 includes refreshments, 02 9911 6210]. Sunday 19 September, 2pm, Australian National Maritime Museum 2 Murray Street Darling Harbour NSW [$25 includes afternoon tea and Coral Sea wines, 02 9298 3644 or [email protected]]

Lihir shareholders approve Newcrest merger


LIHIR GOLD LTD shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a merger with Newcrest Mining, to create the world’s fourth largest producer of gold.

The shareholder approval was passed by 99.86 percent of the total votes cast at a meeting in Port Moresby yesterday. This exceeded the required majority of 75 percent ordered by a PNG court.

The final hurdle to the merger is approval by the PNG National Court at a hearing scheduled for Friday.

If approved, the merger will become effective on 30 August and is due to be implemented on 13 September.

Lihir chairman, Dr Ross Garnaut, told shareholders the merger would create a $25 billion company with a portfolio of long-life, high margin, tier one gold assets.

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

Earlier this year, Lihir announced it planned to increase the mine’s production by about 50 percent over the next 10 years.

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

‘Guns Germs and Steel’: a retrospective


Diamond_Jared JARED DIAMOND’S Guns Germs and Steel is a thought-provoking and challenging book written by a physiologist and evolutionary biologist.

It is very broad in its scope and for the most part refreshing in its outlook (definitely not Eurocentric!), but marred by an excess of political correctness and almost oblivious to the role of cultural differences and individuals in the shaping of history.

Jared Diamond has done extensive field work in New Guinea. His indigenous politician friend, Yali, asked why whites had been so successful and arrived with so much "cargo" compared to the locals.

Dr Diamond rephrases this question: why did white Eurasians dominate over other cultures by means of superior guns, population-destroying germs, steel, and food-producing capability?

His main thesis is that this occurred not because of racial differences in intelligence etc but rather because of environmental differences. He wishes to play down Eurocentric thinking and racist explanations because they are loathsome and wrong.

Modern stone age peoples "are on the average probably more intelligent, not less intelligent, than industrialised peoples."

New Guineans are "more intelligent, more alert, more expressive, and more interested in things and people around them than the average European or American is", traits which he attributes to survival of the fittest.

Images Proper analysis of the current standing of various human societies must trace developments beginning before the onset of historical record.

The answer to Yali's question is that accidents of geography and environment brought about the domination of whites of Eurasian origin.

In making this argument, Jared Diamond refers to differences in (1) animal and plant domestication, (2) rates of diffusion and migration due to ecological and geographical barriers including between continents, and (3) continental differences in population and areal size.

He acknowledges his view is one of geographical determinism, in which Europeans were favored merely by having more starting materials and more favourable conditions.


After the inquiry – cornering the muruk


THE MURUK, or cassowary, is a powerful creature. It can reach two metres in height and travel long distances. Although unable to fly because of its body weight, this animal has nevertheless adapted well.

With powerful claws and muscular hindquarters, it defends aggressively and effectively overpowers its prey. Even in the presence of a hunting party, it can easily overcome arrows and buckshot. It is indeed a powerful animal.

Meticulous planning and surveillance must be carried out before hunting the cassowary.

The conventional way many PNG tribes hunt them is by chasing a herd into dense scrub and then to burn the forest. The cassowary is left with little option but to hide. But the hunt is virtually over, as the big bird is fully exposed. However, it is still alive, and extreme caution must be taken, and from afar, before the final blow is struck.

The PNG Finance Commission of Inquiry Report is burning through the cyber-forest and has driven the crooked muruks to hide in the dense scrub. The rumours of siphoned resources as a result of institutional corruption at the Finance Department have been confirmed.

From inflammatory deed settlements to ridiculous retainer contracts, the report makes it clear that a bunch of folks stole a whole heap of money.

But, as we sharpen our spears and stalk these crooked muruks, we have to respect their ability to strike first and therefore we must plan with care. The gag orders will be coming and the defamation suits will be prepared as ways of found to try to kill the hounds.

But the great news for PNG is that the muruks are are so busted. You see, the investigation team has the paper trail. That’s right, sufficient evidence to throw the muruks into jail.

Evidence cited in the Inquiry Report indicated fraud, false pretences and misappropriation. As such, the Police Commissioner, Chief Ombudsman and Public Prosecutor have the basis to move into enforcement and indictment mode.

Usually, the muruk would apply a gag order. But here there are two main limitations: time and specificity. The latter is of particular interest. If the muruks want to stop publication, they may do so.

But the evidence derived from the report cannot be stopped. It is out there. It is now essential that the Police Commissioner commences a clandestine operation to commence an investigation and attain evidence.

The following needs to take place. The Police Commissioner needs to instruct the Fraud Squad to consider all evidence from the Inquiry and to  commence building indictments of the people implicated.

The beauty is that the Fraud Squad hardly has to do anything, as the evidence is already catalogued and clearly cited in the report.

The investigative officers than need to liaise with the Ombudsman Commission and the Public Prosecutor to identify the appropriate charge. Once this is determined, the Public Prosecutor can issue a Nolle prosequi to issue indictments. With the evidence in hand, the objective is for the police to immediately issue charges.

The leaders should first be subjected to a Leadership Tribunal. The tribunal will remove them as leaders which, in theory, will deny them the ability to hold any leadership position.

In a similar approach, all lawyers cited in the report should be referred to the Lawyers Statutory Committee. This committee of the PNG Law Society is responsible for penalising lawyers for misconduct. After this process has been exhausted, the Public Prosecutor should issue a Nolle as well.

There are several crucial factors. First, the Fraud Squad needs to do this in a clandestine manner. No public announcements, no statements that will attract challenges. You see, unlike previous inquiries, the evidence is not prima facie but substantive.

Expert witnesses in the fields of forensic accounting, cyber crime experts and conventional investigators have done an exceptional job in compiling and cataloguing the evidence.

The second factor is that the Public Prosecutor needs to ensure the evidence is tight. From the looks of things it is. So when the Nolle is issued, charges occur simultaneously. The rest is mere procedure.

However for many muruks, their lawyers will probably tell them to enter verdict of guilty as this will give them some wriggle room for a plea bargain which may mean a lesser conviction and more lenient sentencing. The public should monitor this exercise as the crooks may cut deals to expose other deals.

As we move into the kill zone to catch the muruk, spare a thought for the great men and women who are fighting the fight.

Many have endured assassination attempts, rape, marital problems and whispered damage. In spite of these travesties, they plan to complete the inquiry.

May their passion to do right endure for generations to come. And may God give us leaders who will never emulate these crooked muruks.

* ‘Countryside’ is the nom de plume of a senior Papua New Guinea public servant

Uncertain place for PNG in election outcome


THE INDETERMINATE outcome of yesterday’s Australian general election – with neither major party able to form a government in its own right – means that PNG is likely to remain on the Aussie back burner for some time to come.

Australian politicians will be totally distracted by domestic political issues for some months, and there may even be another election in the first half of next year.

This means that pressing issues in the bilateral relationship – particularly PNG’s slow drift away from Australia towards China, and the need to reinvigorate a creaky, leaky aid program – are unlikely to be addressed in the short term.

Of course, if the Liberal-National Coalition is able to form a government, its views on the bilateral relationship with PNG will take on a new importance.

As will High Commissioner Lepani’s pre-election statement that the Coalition had made little effort to repair relations that had been “severely damaged” in the time of the former Howard government.

Despite these views, the Coalition does recognise the need to improve the relationship with PNG and the Pacific region.

It has said it will appoint a Minister for Aid if it is able to form a government and claims this is a measure of its commitment to the Pacific.

“Our greatest level of engagement with the Pacific islands is in relation to development assistance,” says Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop, who also says the Asia Pacific and the Indian Ocean will be the Coalition's focus.

During a campaign foreign policy debate in Canberra, Ms Bishop linked the approach to the Pacific specifically to her aid policy.

“With the elevation of the [aid] issue to ministerial level, I believe that the Pacific Islands, as well as other countries in the Asia Pacific Indian Ocean, will receive a much greater level of support, focus and foreign policy deliberation than in the past,” she said.

In recent discussions I have had with senior Federal Liberals, the view has also been expressed that corruption in PNG is a big issue for the Coalition. There is a feeling that the Howard government’s concern with this area was one reason for its poor relationship with PNG.

A former Labor Minister also expressed the view to me that the Australian government was anxious about what he termed “the next generation of PNG politicians”.

“They could be good guys, but there are some real bad ones there as well,” I was told.

But policy outcomes of such assessments will need to wait while Australia sorts out its own political dilemma.

With both parties struggling to form what will be a fragile coalition, there will be little attention given to PNG issues – no matter how pressing they may seem to be.

First since Anzac: The Lae landings of 1943

A new and immaculately-researched World War II feature by KEN WRIGHT tells the story of the 2/4 Independent Coy that fought in Timor, New Guinea and Borneo. An extract …

Patch WITH THEIR TRAINING completed at Canungra the Australian troops of 2/4 and 9 Division and Corporal Ralph Coyne now promoted to a Sergeant of Signals joined 26 Brigade and were now ready to go into action.

In August 1943, seven months after returning from Timor we were on our way to New Guinea. We landed at Milne Bay, the scene of fierce fighting and Japans land defeat back in August-September 1942. Although we didn’t know it at the time, we were to take part in an amphibious landing near Lae.

The troops of the Brigade engaged in training exercises, firing and testing weapons, patrols, unloading stores, suffering lectures and physical exercises. For relaxation, the troops packed into the makeshift open air picture theatre and watched the only film available, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers starring Kathryn Grayson.

On 4 September, the day of departure for Lae, Sgt Coyne was attached to ‘A’ Platoon and found his unit divided into three and boarded along with other troops of the Brigade, LST’s officially known as ‘Landing Ship Tank’ but nicknamed ‘Large Slow Targets’ by many of the American crews.

As their ship, the USS LST 471 cleared Milne Bay they joined Rear Admiral Daniel E Barbey’s Task Force 76. Codenamed ‘Operation Postern’ the task force comprised 12 destroyers, 16 LCT’s, 3 minesweepers, 10 APD’s and 24 LST’s with the US Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force undertaking fighter protection and support for the landing.

The Allied planning and preparation for the capture of Lae involved a drive by 9 Australian Division westward along the coastal plains from selected beaches approximately 26 km east of the objective together with a thrust by 7 Australian Division south-east from Nadzab along the Markham Valley to Lae.

The estimated strength of enemy troops in the Lae area was between 6400 and 7250 with a further 7000 believed to be in the Salamaua area.

The men resigned themselves to the heat, humidity and cramped conditions aboard the LST’s ploughing a course around the eastern tip of New Guinea, through the Solomon Sea and on to ‘Red Beach’ and ‘Yellow Beach’ the designated landing points just east of Lae.

The US 503 Parachute Infantry Regiment was to capture and develop the landing strips in the Nadzab area in preparation for airborne operations.

On board the LST’s, some of the Australians soldiers were no doubt aware they were taking part in the first opposed amphibious landing undertaken by Australian troops since their fathers’ WW1 historic landing on Anzac Cove at Gallipoli 28 years earlier.

Download the complete version of Ken Wright’s short history of the 2/4 Independent Company, The Dark Blue Double Diamond ... here

None so blind as those who will not see


IN A RECENT media article [China comes into help when PNG fails], Jason Gima Wuri reports how China is to build a new convention centre for PNG.

The article is of special interest as it seems to convey what may see as a 'big brother' relationship developing between PNG and China.

At the signing of the construction agreement, Jason writes, "China's ambassador to PNG Qiu Bohua said his government would continue the bilateral relationship it shared with PNG.

Mr Bohua said: "The Chinese have been here for 120 years and that speaks of a very long and enduring bilateral relationship that we have shared with PNG."

The Ambassador implied that the Chinese nation has had formal ties with PNG for 120 years.

To speak of the then German administration’s importation of Chinese labourers from the Shan Tung Peninsula (then a virtual German colony) is drawing a long bow. But, if this skewed view of history remains uncorrected, it could become a piece of popularly accepted mythology purportedly demonstrating a long and close relationship.

"In geography, PNG and China are far apart, but we are very close in the heart," the Ambassador went on to say. "If we join hands together, we will make development faster and easier."

Mr Bohua didn't elaborate on whose development this might refer to.

"In the years to come, our connections will become fruitful because we will bring Chinese companies to PNG and contribute meaningfully by following the laws of PNG in making business and providing more job opportunities for the locals," Mr Bohua said.

That statement must be a relief to many Papua New Guineans who may have feared the worst over the latest revelation that the PNG government has reportedly told its public servants to “give the Chinese what they want” in relation to the Ramu nickel mine.

The Ambassador went on to say: "Currently our largest investment in PNG is the Ramu nickel mine in Madang, but we are looking forward for more opportunities to work with the development of PNG as the largest island nation in the Pacific.”

So with China having previously refurbished the Governor-General's residence and now constructing a huge Convention Centre next to the PNG Parliament, I hope the PNG government doesn't discover any binatangs that may have been left behind.

Perhaps the new Convention Centre will end up being the new Parliament House when the old building, reportedly in need of major repairs, is finally condemned.

"There are none so blind as those that will not see" - Attributed to Mao Zedong

Mal Miller – a good guy of PNG education

Miller_Mal MALCOLM ERSKINE (MAL) Miller had a 20-year career in PNG education, during which he contributed greatly to an explosive era which lay the foundations for the careers of many Papua New Guineans.

Mal was born in Leongatha, Victoria, in May 1935 and trained at Toorak Teachers College. His first posting was to a one teacher school in Uanmite South, near Shepparton.

He later applied for a teaching job in PNG and from 1957-59 taught at Daru and Kiunga primary schools, moving to Port Moresby and teacher training in 1960.

By 1962 he was acting principal of Port Moresby Teachers College. But more importantly he had met his future wife, Rosemary, who was teaching nearby. They married in 1963.

Their daughter Jenny was born in Port Moresby in June 1964 and, ten weeks later, the family moved to Wewak where Mal had been appointed District lnspector of Schools.

In 1965 Mal was transferred to Sohano in the Bougainville District as District Inspector. His son, David, was born in Sohano in May 1965.

In 1968, the family moved to Goroka where they spent eight wonderful years. Mal was promoted to District Superintendent Grade 2.

In June 1976, Mal's 20 year career in PNG education came to an end when he took his “golden handshake” and moved back to Australia.

The family initially settled in Armidale, NSW, but soon moved to Brisbane, where Mal worked at the Kelvin Grove College of Advanced Education as Admissions Officer.

When the colleges were being amalgamated with the universities, Mal took the opportunity of early retirement at age 55.

It was fitting that, when he retired on the 4 May 1990, his colleagues awarded him an honorary degree - a ‘Master of Admissions’, with majors in Punning and Malorisms.

The first ten years of retirement were spent travelling around Australia in a Volkswagen campervan, with trips to Poland, Turkey (Gallipoli), China, Bali and Komodo.

Mal's life changed dramatically at the end of October 1999 when he suffered a massive stroke. Fortunately he did not lose his sense of humour and coped remarkably well with his life, now confined to a wheelchair.

During the nearly 11 years Mal spent in a wheelchair, he managed assembled four grandchildren and played a significant part in their lives.

The last six months were more difficult and it was a blessing that Mal passed away quietly in his sleep last Monday.

Sources: Ian Robertson and Murray Bladwell

Don Polye is ready to take over after Somare

THE NATIONAL ALLIANCE party in the highlands has rallied behind Deputy Prime Minister Don Polye to lead PNG.

But there’s a condition - only when Sir Michael Somare steps down.

In a show of solidarity, Highlands’ MPs travelled with Mr Polye to Laiagam to address a huge rural rally where Mr Polye said he was ready to take over the party’s leadership when Sir Michael steps down.

He explained that the sacking of former deputy PM Sir Puka Temu was not designed to change the government, saying it was as an internal leadership issue, adding that the opposition created political instability when it pushed for a vote of no-confidence in the government.

Meanwhile, prime minister Sir Michael Somare has put off his Mt Hagen trip at the eleventh hour for the second time, frustrating organisers and demeaning the leadership of Governor Tom Olga.

It is not known why the Grand Chief changed his mind at the last minute, but it was speculated Sir Michael could have abandoned the trip to attend an in-law’s funeral and for a medical checkup in Singapore.

Local MPs appealed for calm saying “this is not our fault but the PM’s timing”

Tensions surround Chinese in Ramu project

THE PNG GOVERNMENT has stood down two lawyers from the Ramu mine injunction case for refusing to follow orders from the Chinese mine owners.

The lawyers had been representing the Department of Conservation but were removed after they insisted that the Department’s interests as a regulator were not the same as those of the Chinese government and its mining company.

The issue came to a head when the lawyers refused to agree to modify an affidavit they were preparing on behalf of the PNG government.

Their replacement, a junior lawyer, has since briefed an Australian barrister who until now has been representing the Chinese in the court case!

It was been known for some weeks that the original lawyers were unhappy with what was described as “Chinese bullying” in the court case. They were strongly defending the Department’s interests.

Observers believe the two men were removed with the knowledge of the Somare government.

Meanwhile, it is alleged that public servants have been told by the government to “give the Chinese whatever they want” in respect of the Ramu nickel mine, an instruction which is causing resentment at the Mineral Resource Authority.

The Authority was established to keep the mining regulation independent from political interference!

Authority and Department of Conservation employees say they are “sick and tired of being told what to do by the Chinese.”

One officer said: “It is bad enough being told to do what these people say, but the manner in which the Chinese just boss us around and the obvious lack of respect for us is making more and more of us angry. It can’t continue.

“There is no attempt by either the government or the Chinese to hide what is going on or who is in control. Everyone in the public service is talking about it. To say PNG is an independent country at the moment is a joke – and we all know it.”

“There is a resentment building, not just in the public service, but all across the country – and why shouldn’t there be,” said one higher ranking official. “The Chinese are furious with what is happening up in Madang. They have no idea of customary land tenure in PNG nor of the PNG legal system.

“All they are doing is demanding that PNG ‘get their nickel mine going’. They are issuing threats – including pulling the plug on other projects if the Ramu Nickel issue is not taken care of quickly.”

Another official said: “The Chinese simply do not care about anything except their agenda. Any suggestion or any criticism is seen as being ‘anti-Chinese’. There is simply no dialogue with them – and this is partly because so few speak English, Tok Pisin or Motu, nor do they make any attempt.”

Spotter: Charles Roche, Executive Director, Mineral Policy Institute

Cheap Indon goods flood across the border

THE PNG-INDONESIA land border in the West Sepik Province is so porous that illegal trade has forced the bank at Vanimo to limit withdrawals so it doesn’t run out of cash.

It is estimated that each day about K1.8 million is transacted between Indonesian vendors and PNG buyers around the border town of Wutung and the trading post of Skoow in Indonesia.

Many people from Vanimo and surrounding villages flock to Wuting to buy cheap Indonesian food and household goods, clothes and electrical items.

The trading has resulted in many Vanimo businesses closing because they cannot compete with cheap Indonesian products.

The local branch of Bank South Pacific is permitting a maximum withdrawal of only K100 a day so it doesn’t run out of cash.

Government officers say they need more resources to better monitor the border.

Meanwhile, the people of West Sepik reject government statements that K170 million has been allocated for infrastructure and service delivery in border areas.

Community leaders say this was a 'smokescreen' for money diverted elsewhere.

“We have not seen that money,” one leader said, and Vanimo MP Belden Namah also said he had no knowledge of the funds.

He said he would ask the Ombudsman Commission and Transparency International to visit Vanimo to find out where the money went to.

Source: ‘Millions ‘lost’ in cross border trade’ and ‘Border authority a joke, says Namah’ by Jeffrey Elapa, Post-Courier, 16 August 2010

China shows flag while PNG is on the slide


TWO RED FLAGS were raised in PNG recently: one with much pomp and ceremony and the other that barely managed to register on the radar.

Two Chinese warships visited PNG on a goodwill visit on what the media explained as "a three-day intensive exchange program between technical naval staff of the two countries".

Rear Admiral Leng Zhenging, deputy chief of staff of the Chinese Navy commented that “this was a milestone not only in military cooperation but also economically and socially."

The visit by the warships came soon after comments by Fijian leader Frank Bainimarama who publicly announced he would be seeking closer ties with China and dispensing with his country's traditional links with Australia and New Zealand.

The second red flag was metaphorical and received considerably less publicity.

Dr Israel Sembajwe of the National Research Institute spoke of  concerns about the population drift to urban centres in PNG.

He said the growth rate of settlements in Port Moresby is more than double the national average of 2.2%. This is creating an enormous burden on already over stretched infrastructure.

The search for employment and income were forcing men to move to urban areas, Dr Sembajwe said.

"The human development index suggests that PNG is gradually sliding from middle-income countries to low-income countries."

Qantas entry puts pressure on PNG airlines


AAP - THERE ARE concerns in PNG that Qantas flights to Port Moresby are threatening the survival of PNG's second biggest carrier Airlines PNG.

Qantas entered into the PNG market in July hoping to capitalise on the country's $16 billion Exxon Mobil-led liquefied natural gas project.

A subsequent price war resulted and Airlines PNG has reduced its daily Cairns-Port Moresby service to two a week.

Qantas, which has a codeshare agreement with national airline Air Niugini on flights to Sydney and Brisbane, declined to comment on how this has affected APNG.

But a government letter sighted by AAP, said there is “grave concern” about Qantas, which is “forcing both national carriers out of the market and there could be removal of competition and higher prices as a result".

Meanwhile, government sources have told AAP that APNG is seeking a merger with Air Niugini.

Airlines PNG CEO, Geoff Toomey declined to comment and a spokeswoman said the airline would not discuss "speculation and rumour".

Air Niugini CEO, Wasantha Kumarasiri, said a merger was not under consideration. "(Sir Michael Somare) and our minister (Arthur Somare) have assured us they are dedicated to Air Niugini," he said.

A spokesman from the Prime Minister's Office also played down the merger talk. "We hope sense will prevail," he said.

In 2008, the Cairns-based Wild family sold a 50 per cent stake in Airlines PNG through a public float on the Port Moresby stock exchange for an estimated $40 million.

John Wild remains the largest APNG shareholder with 47 percent. Since the float the shares have dropped from one kina (40c) to 63 toea (25c).

In the APNG 2009 annual report Mr Wild blamed the company's $9.8 million loss on the global economic downturn, the Kokoda crash and even the Icelandic volcanic eruption that grounded planes in the northern hemisphere.

For the same period Air Niugini declared a profit of $27.2 million.

Somare’s vision – have people let him down?


WHILE RESEARCHING A recent writing assignment I have had to re-read a number of books published by Papua New Guinean writers just before and just after Independence. One of these was Sana: An Autobiography by Michael Somare.

Sana was written on the cusp of PNG’s giant leap into the unknown of self-determination and nationhood in 1975.

Among other things it describes Michael Somare’s vision for melding the myriad cultures and interests of PNG into something new and unique.

Like most other third world countries that have thrown off colonial rule and been faced with the problem of forging numerous language groups and cultural traditions into one nation state we are faced with two options.

We could create an all-powerful central government and force dissident groups to fall into line, using force if necessary. Our other option is to adopt a tolerant attitude towards local interests and to recognise the existing variety of patterns.

The first alternative is relatively easy for a government willing to rely on force. But it is highly undesirable because it means imposing on the people a way of life based on some abstract ideology that is alien to them. The government would necessarily remain remote from the people.

The second alternative is far more difficult, but it is the only possible way for this country. It is a difficult way because the central government may often appear weak.

It puts the central government into the awkward position of having to arbitrate constantly between different local interest groups and between different regions of the country. It involves the danger that, if the government cannot resolve the issues and local pressure groups become too strong, the country could fall apart.

However, it is the wise way to take and the one congenial to our traditions.  It allows the government to decentralise many of its powers. It enables people in the villages to make decisions on issues that are going to affect their lives directly.

It allows for a good deal of experimentation with local government structures, and the government is in a position to accept and support patterns of village government alternative to the Australian-introduced council system…

I believe that the pragmatism displayed by our village elders and leaders in the past will also allow us to solve the problems of the future.

Our country must, of course, change. But many of the values our varied communities shared in the past will remain with us as guiding principles in the future.

Despite the pressures on us from the outside world, Papua New Guineans will succeed, in the end, in building a society believing in the sharing of wealth rather than possessed by the mad spirit of competition characteristic of the Western world.

Upon reflecting upon these wise words a thought occurred to me. In some ways it turns around the vociferous outcry that the government has let the people down.

I wonder, perhaps, have the people of PNG let down Michael Somare?

Cheap Indon goods flood across the border

THE PNG-INDONESIA land border in the West Sepik is so porous illegal trade has forced the Vanimo bank to limit withdrawals so it doesn’t run out of cash.

The government estimates that about K1.8 million is transacted between Indonesian vendors and PNG buyers every day around the border town of Wutung and the trading post of Skoow in Indonesia.

Many people from Vanimo and surrounding villages flock to Wutung to buy cheap Indonesian food and household goods, clothes and electrical items.

The trading has resulted in Vanimo running low on cash and many businesses are closing because they cannot compete with the cheap Indonesian products.

The local branch of Bank South Pacific BSP is allowing a maximum withdrawal of K100 a day so they won’t run out of cash.

Government officers say the border could be better monitored if they had more manpower and improved living and working conditions.

Meanwhile, the people of West Sepik have rejected suggestions by the government that they have been allocated K170 million for infrastructure and service delivery in border areas.

Community leaders say the province’s name was used as a smokescreen, so the money would be diverted elsewhere.

“We have not seen that money,” one leader said. Vanimo MP Belden Namah also said he had no knowledge of the funds.

He said he would ask the Ombudsman Commission and Transparency International to visit Vanimo to find out where this money went to.

Source: ‘Millions ‘lost’ in cross border trade’ and ‘Border authority a joke, says Namah’ by Jeffrey Elapa, Post-Courier, 16 August 2010

Polye ready to take over after Somare

THE NATIONAL ALLIANCE party in the highlands has rallied behind Deputy Prime Minister Don Polye to lead PNG.

But only when Sir Michael Somare steps down.

In a show of solidarity, Highlands’ MPs travelled with Mr Polye to Laiagam on Friday to address a huge rural rally.

Mr Polye said he was ready to take over the party’s leadership when Sir Michael steps down.

He explained that the sacking of former deputy PM Sir Puka Temu was not designed to change the government, saying it was as an internal leadership issue.

He said the opposition created political instability when it pushed for a vote of no-confidence in the government.

Source: ‘Polye: I am ready to be PM’ by Isaac Nicholas, Post-Courier, 16 August 2010

100 years on, Westpac proud of women’s role

THIS YEAR MARKS the centenary of Westpac’s involvement in PNG and, in 2010, 95 percent of its staff are Papua New Guineans.

In the early days, the then Bank of New South Wales in PNG had an all-male staff. Now more than 60 percent of Westpac employees are women.

Recently, Radio Australia’s Jemima Garrett spoke with Jane Kittel, Westpac's General Manager of Pacific Banking. Here’s an edited version…

KITTEL: In PNG more and more we're seeing the importance of having women take roles in business. I think we've certainly seen that women have the capability, and given the opportunity to develop really do well in business.

GARRETT: Women are not doing so well in PNG politics. Do you think that makes banking and the private sector all the more important for women?

KITTEL: In banking we've already seen much larger numbers of women. So there's already a path that's been trodden. But in other areas we've just got to work all that much harder to try and make those opportunities available to women.

GARRETT: When Westpac first went to PNG it had a two-room shop and it issued its own bank notes. Now you're a multinational finance institution with links from the grassroots to the huge resource companies. What are the bank's priorities for the future in PNG?

KITTEL: We remain absolutely committed to PNG and our priority in the more recent years and continuing is really about bringing the best of banking to PNG so it continues to have a world class banking sector and finance system. We’re looking at how we can leverage the advance of the mobile phone in PNG and also how we can leverage the use of our EFTPOS merchant network.

GARRETT: What are the challenges women face in PNG as the country moves into the gas boom?

KITTEL: There are numerous challenges for women in PNG. I think issues around security and access to medical care are at the forefront. As PNG goes into this next boom period, everybody needs to be focussing on how to address those types of issues.

GARRETT: In 20 years time where do you expect Westpac to be positioned in PNG and how will women figure in that?

KITTEL: Westpac certainly has an aspiration to be the leading bank in PNG and that's where we're aiming. A key plank is to have women in more leadership positions.

GARRETT: Westpac has always had the reputation of being the bank of the corporates, whereas ANZ has had a more grassroots face. Do you expect that to change at all?

KITTEL: I absolutely expect that that will change. There's a perception we need to overcome in PNG and across the Pacific that we’re seen as a bank for business. That is a segment we want to continue to service, but we also need to make sure we bring banking services to the broader community.

Source: Radio Australia Pacific Beat, ‘Women leading charge at Australian-owned PNG bank’

Not just another night at the Weigh Inn


I LIVE AT THE Weigh Inn Hotel in Konedobu, where I am Manager. Last Friday 13 August for me seemed to be aptly ordained.

Invariably I wake at 4 am or thereabouts and have time to have a cup of tea and my tablet before beginning work at 5 am.

Last Friday I had to forego both tablet and tea as I slept in till just after 5.

A quick shower and shave and dressed and down to the front desk by 5.15 where again the two copies of the Post-Courier failed to arrive. Tried to fax complaint but unable to connect. Eventually sent email which I had done the day before and received an assurance that everything had been fixed.

Opened the office and storeroom and began counting the floats and recounting but eventually got them right. Muddled through most of the day with only the usual mild hiccups.

Friday is our busiest evening as we have a raffle, a patron draw and a key draw prize for those members who belong to the Jigsaw Club. Everyone in the bar is invited to put their name into a hat for the patron Draw and one name is plucked out at 7.30 p.m. The patron is given K100 – hopefully to spend here and not take home.

The TV had been turned on in anticipation of the match between the Broncos and the Eels. Just before 7 pm John Young drew my attention to the ceiling over the entrance to the Marsden Room which was getting very damp.

So I raced upstairs to Room 22 to be greeted by Paul Kipau whose wife was busy mopping the flooded floor. Paul apologised and explained that their young son had, turned on the hand basin tap and water from the partially blocked basin had poured on to the floor.

Back downstairs, the water had flooded into the control room behind the TV and spilled on to the 4-socket extension lead, causing everything to short out.

About the same time, Toddy and Doug Booker had turned up and I appealed to them to come to the rescue.

We eventually managed to find a substitute 4 socket extension lead which Toddy and Doug took control of and – bingo! - TV and rugby league match were back in operation.

But there was further strife as Doug and Toddy told me water was still leaking so back to Room 22. Now the toilet cistern had jammed and water was spilling out. We closed the inlet tap and Paul was advised to turn on the tap on, let the cistern fill and turn it off when he wanted to use the toilet.

This half an hour of high stress preceded the usual raffle and patron and key draw. Geoff Balfour’s name was drawn as the winner of K1300 but he had left a couple of days before and you have to be present to win the prize.

All was not lost, however, as yours truly won a leg of ham in the raffle!

The remainder of the evening was uneventful, everyone enjoying a sing along after the other bad happening which was that Broncos lost to the Eels.

Fearful of more trouble I decamped to my room at 9 pm and managed the rest of the night without further ills.

I have just noticed that in 2011 there will be another Friday 13th. I’ll be wary!

Fiji promotes China as Pacific political leader


FIJI'S MILITARY LEADER Frank Bainimarama wants to ditch ties with Australia and New Zealand and align his nation with China.

Speaking to a Fiji news website during a visit to China, the self-appointed prime minister said China was the one country that understood the reforms he is trying to implement.

Since Commodore Bainimarama seized power in 2006, Fiji has been suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth and has been hit with sanctions by Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the European Union.

Bainimarama said he was prepared to trade with Australia and New Zealand but at a political level it made more sense to align with China.

China “is the only nation that can help assist Fiji in its reforms because of the way the Chinese think. They think outside the box. What they want to do they do, they are visionary in what they do,” he told the website.

“I think we need to forget about the Forum, about Australia and New Zealand. Let's maintain the trade but forget about the politics.”

Bainimarama said Fiji needed to take advantage of its “understanding” with China to see how Beijing could assist with Fiji's development.

He said Pacific island nations need to “break the shackles” of their colonial past.

And, as Fiji brazenly promotes China in the Pacific, the Henry Thornton economics website describes an “Australia - alone and friendless in a volatile and dangerous part of the world’.

The highly-regarded website reminds its readers of the “deep matter of our location” - remote from the major metropolitan powers and adjacent to Asia whose main powers are either historically hostile to “white fellas down under” or disinclined to have much consideration for Australia except as buyers of cheap goods, diggers of valuable minerals and wasters of water.

The website reports a Chinese admiral advising an American counterpart: “The US will take Hawaii East and we, China, will take Hawaii West and the Indian Ocean. Then you will not need to come to the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean."

“International investors would need to be confident that Australia could at least put up a very strong fight should an Asian superpower decide to impose its will,” says the website.

On Sister Suli and the new clinic at Kawito


Mrs Suli THE LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS project has kicked off an exploration boom in the Western and Gulf Provinces.

Some big players like South African company, Sasol (they sponsor the Springboks) and Canadian company, Talisman, are moving in and gobbling up the little guys.

Competition is fierce among local PNG-based field service outfits which are bidding to build the camps, run the labour lines and otherwise smooth the way for the new guys on the block.

This sort of work has always been tough and competitive and every kina counts. Local people have seen their expectations dashed when these entrepreneurs get what they want and pack up never to return.

So the help to repair the leaking roof on the local school or get supplies for the local aid post and maybe fix the buggered UHF radio in the Councillor’s house never eventuates. “We’re not the government,” the camp manager says, “contact them - that’s their job.”

The people at Kawito on the Aramia River in the Western Province have been through this sort of scenario before. They had graciously allowed a camp to be set up at Wakali, the very place where their ancestors first crossed the river on their way east, and the company nicked off without even paying the rent it had promised.

When the next lot arrived in 2008 everyone expected the same treatment. What they didn’t know was that in the intervening years a subtle change has been occurring in these big companies. 

Their shareholders have become more socially aware and environmentally conscious. They know that killing people with toxic fumes from your battery factory or dumping tons of crude oil on to pristine beaches from your ruptured bulk oil carrier doesn’t do your share price much good any more.

So when it started building the new camp at Wakali, field service provider, Firewall Logistics, was aware of this change in attitude. It was also interested in running its camps using skilled local people instead of the more expensive imports. It placed a lot of emphasis on establishing good local relationships with the locals as early as possible.

Sister Sagiato Suli didn’t know all this when she decided to have a crack at getting the latest lot of explorers in her area to help build the health clinic her people desperately needed.

Sister Suli and a couple of local unemployed nurses had been running de facto clinics out of their own homes at Kawito ever since the ECPNG missionaries had packed up and left.

The women collected money or paid for medical supplies out of their own pockets and often bought fuel to get snakebite victims and other patients to the hospital at Awaba for treatment.

Sister Suli timed her bid to perfection. She had got a job running the small aid post for the camp when one day a group of exhausted villagers staggered in piggy-backing a man who had been stung by hundreds of wasps while clearing a garden.

Sister Suli’s swift and effective treatment was impressive. When she had him stabilised and under observation, she said to the camp manager, who had come out of his office to see what the fuss was about: “You know, this happens all the time, mostly the patient has a really hard time because we haven’t got the right drugs here, sometimes they can even die.”

She was also a little surprised that the security guards on the camp gate hadn’t turned the man away like had happened on previous occasions.

Later that day she sat down with the camp manager and they drew up a plan for a new village clinic to be located near the village airstrip. 

The idea was that the clinic would service both the men out in the bush on the seismic lines and the people in the villages without compromising the strict occupational, health and safety rules of the camp. 

With the clinic near the airstrip, injured workers coming in on choppers could be assessed quickly and, if needed, quickly evacuated by plane to a pre-designated hospital.

Sasol was a bit wary at first because its management wondered what would happen to the clinic if it left the area. The company hopes it is around for the long haul but, hey, exploration is exploration. 

Sister Suli pointed out that the villagers had met and thought they could take care of that aspect; all they wanted was a decent building to get started.

In the end, with Sasol’s blessing, Firewall negotiated with the ECPNG and renovated one of the old mission buildings near the airstrip and converted it into a permanent clinic.

So far it is working well.  The outlay for the explorers has been small but the goodwill engendered has repaid the effort many times over.

Photo: Sister Suli at the new Kawito clinic [Philip Fitzpatrick]

The Liberals' international development plan


THE TONY ABBOTT-led Coalition plans to create a separate international development department if it wins government on 21 August.

Deputy Opposition Leader Julie Bishop says the new department will be headed by a junior minister and operate within the existing Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

She made the commitment during a televised foreign affairs debate in Canberra with Foreign Minister Stephen Smith.

They were both asked whether they’d replace the retiring parliamentary secretaries for the Pacific Islands (Duncan Kerr) and for International Development Assistance (Bob McMullan).

Ms Bishop said focusing foreign aid within the Asia-Pacific region will require the attention of more than a parliamentary secretary.

“With the elevation of issues to ministerial level, I believe the Pacific Islands as well as other Asia-Pacific countries will receive much greater levels of support, focus and foreign policy deliberation than in the past.”

Mr Smith talked up Labor’s engagement in the Pacific and said both parliamentary secretary positions would be filled after the elections.

“Our structure would generally be a comparable continuation of what we’ve had in this term,” he said.

Lepani goes for Labor in Australian election


THE SYDNEY Morning Herald reports this morning that PNG’s high commissioner to Australia has attacked the Opposition Coalition, which is in a tight struggle with the governing Labor Party to win a Federal election in eight days time.

In an unprecedented intervention into domestic politics, and one that might jeopardise his position in the event of a Coalition victory, Charles Lepani has strongly endorsed the Gillard Labor government.

Mr Lepani told the Herald that relations between his country and the Coalition had been severely damaged by the former Howard government, and that the Opposition had made little effort to repair them since its defeat in 2007.

He was speaking after a debate at the National Press Club between Deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, and Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, in which Ms Bishop committed a Coalition government to repair relations with PNG.

Mr Lepani said the Labor government had reached out to PNG and the Pacific islands in a way that did not make them feel they were being preached to or regarded simply as aid recipients.

''We want to get away from aid to a relationship of sovereign nations equally dealing with each other on trade and investment,'' he said.

His comments come after a year in which the Labor government has been strongly criticised by the Melanesian states including PNG, seen its aid agency AusAID come under sustained attack for not delivering effective outcomes in PNG, and left languishing the key position of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.

Two million kina buys loyalty to Somare


PRIME MINISTER Somare and his son Arthur arranged for members of their government coalition to be paid K2 million each immediately after Speaker Jeffrey Nape adjourned Parliament last month.

The payments were claimed to be District Support Improvement Program grants, yet it is reported that the Finance Department was instructed not to pay Opposition members these funds.

When challenged by MP Sam Basil, sources at the Finance Department confirmed that an unequal disbursement had been made in direct contravention of the PNG Constitution.

The funds were "to keep the government in power”, staff were reported as saying.

It seems public funds now clearly and openly are being used as bribes to keep Somare and his family in power.

Nau igat wanpla lida,
I tok, 'Nau mi lukim ples klia,
Bai mi baim ol lain,
Na stap longpla taim,'
Tasol husat igiamon yumi a?

[Now here’s a leader
Who says ‘I see an opportunity
To purchase some loyalty
And stay a long time,’
Who’s kidding us?]

Relatives applaud decision to fund memorial


VETERANS OF THE New Guinea campaign in World War II and relatives of the men who died in New Britain and in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru have expressed delight and excitement at the Australian Opposition’s decision to provide funds for a memorial being planned for Canberra.

The 1942 sinking of the Montevideo Maru – carrying over 1,000 Australian troops and civilians captured by the Japanese in Rabaul, then the capital of New Guinea – remains Australia’s the worst tragedy at sea.

Today Opposition leader, Tony Abbott, and Shadow Veteran's Affairs Minister, Louise Markus, committed $100,000 in the 2011-12 Federal budget to help build the memorial.

“This is a generous offer by the Coalition and it will go a long way to making sure a permanent memorial is built at the Australian War Memorial,” said Keith Jackson, President of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society.

“For nearly 70 years, the relatives of the men who died believed Australia had given up on them and that the nation did not care.

“The sinking of this hellship was a terrible event that most Australians had not heard of.

“In June this year, the Federal Labor Government granted $100,000 to the memorial and the statement that the Coalition will match this if elected to office is great news.

“Also in June, for the first time, Parliament expressed regret and sorrow at the loss.

“After all these years, the relatives and the few remaining veterans who escaped from Rabaul, are overwhelmed that the nation has given them the recognition they have been waiting for.

“They are really feeling a sense of resolution and closure.”

Australians go to the polls at a general election in nine days time. The two main parties - Labor and Liberal/National - are running neck and neck.

Cleaners in Cairns break highlands solidarity


SIR MICHAEL SOMARE’S leadership has been brought to its knees and is in a questionable state after nine years of National Alliance Party rule.

Papua New Guinea is an independent state, governed by its own constitution favouring democracy and the rights of its citizens.

It is neither a family estate nor a family business where a family member has the right to inherit or pass on the leadership.

This is despite the view amongst some people that PNG’s prime ministership is personal business and can be passed down the line.

Sir Michael has promised that he will hand over the NA leadership and the PM prime ministership to someone in the party caucus before 2012.

That said, deputy prime minister, highlander Don Polye, is the right candidate for both posts.

Not Arthur Somare, as he is held by the throat by the National Court and that’s a poor guarantee of his ability hold these posts in future.

The intention of Sir Michael and his cleaners from the highlands - namely Polye's own countrymen Peter Ipatas, Sam Abal, Anderson Angiru, and Peter O’Neil - shows how ill-minded and greedy people can become when they have a meeting in Cairns.

All this served to do was to breach the solidity of the National Alliance in the highlands.

These self-serving leaders need to put away this mentality. After Paius Wingti was hailed as the first prime minister from the highlands region, there has been no other as many highlands cleaners supported the households of successive PMs from Momase, Islands and the Southern regions.

As far as we know, Polye is the right man for the job. He has maintained his integrity through political obstacles and has proven himself a true leader in tough times. Papua New Guineans have seen this.

He is a man of integrity and dignity, unlike the creeds who crawled into Sir Mike's house to oppose Polye’s appointment as PNG’s prime minister.

This is ridiculous and utter nonsense. These people should blow away this mentality and work in union for a better highlands and PNG.

Deeper consideration needed on West Papua


A HELICOPTER VIEW of Australia's near north should give some pause for thought in the debate about West Papua.

While I'm not an apologist for Indonesia, her current President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyo has to cope with perhaps the most populous and the most diverse nation on earth.

His country is situated in a strategic position where it commands transit routes between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, something not lost on the US. The direct flyover routes between Australia, Asia and Europe are also in Indonesian airspace.

People may also have forgotten that Australia and New Zealand once helped defend Malaysia against the aggression of President Sukarno.

To draw parallels between East Timor and West Papua might at first glance be easy. Australia's relations with Indonesia hit a low over East Timor and it has taken some hard work to re establish them.

In East Timor's case, it has been claimed that nearly one in three of the population died as a result of Indonesian rule.

But, having removed the Indonesians, it could be said that a Portuguese speaking elite slid into the power vacuum. This new country hardly seems able to manage and needs massive amounts of overseas assistance.

So what might happen to West Papua? Would the United Nations be prepared to sanction any initiative for self determination? Could the Indonesians be convinced to leave? Would we end up with a far larger problem than East Timor?

And would an independent West Papua be able to manage or be simply taken over by stealth by another dominant power?

So before we gallop down an unmapped road with West Papua, maybe people should take several deep breaths and think about what feasible alternatives might be available.

Robin McKay, planter and coastwatcher

ROBIN MCKAY, who had been a Coastwatcher on New Britain in 1942 and also served in Wewak with Z-Special Force, died last Saturday at the grand age of 93.

He lived in PNG from the mid 1930s to 1964 and was well known in Bougainville. He managed Aropa Plantation after World War II, taking over from the original owner WM Greer.

With his wife Laurie, who died in 1997, Robin established a beautiful home and the couple were known for their great hospitality and keen interest in the RSL and other community activities.

Later, the McKay's home in Alstonville NSW became a popular port of call for many former PNG residents.

Robin McKay had taken over Aropa Plantation fromWM Greer who first tendered for Aropa from the Expropriation Board in 1927.

He eventually sold the plantation to the New Guinea Biological Foundation.

His funeral, with RSL involvement, will be held in Lismore tomorrow.

Good teaching, not fads, is always the answer


I HATE JARGON and gobbledegook and I think OBE (outcomes-based education) or OBC (the outcomes-based curriculum) are full of them.

A good teacher could probably do a good job with OBE if they had a belief in the educational philosophy behind it - but then again, this teacher could probably do a good job under the traditional set curriculum approach as well.

When I was asked to use OBE I realised I would be spending all my time testing and have no time teaching - so I just went ahead with the teaching and when it came to the testing - well, I cheated (made it up!).

My students did very well in their HSC. That was what they and their parents wanted and it was what I wanted. They went on to higher studies and are now happy in their various types of employment.

I was teaching at one of the new small co-educational Christian schools and I'm sure that my pupils learnt many things beyond the set syllabi during their time there.

This school also initiated the integration of handicapped children in the mainstream classes and was a pioneer in ways of seeing that these children would cope with life after school.

These children were happy to be helped by the gifted and talented kids who finished their work early. Some of these have left their mark on Australian society today!

I went on to teach at one of Sydney's older well-known top girls' schools and there was no mention of OBE. Thankfully! Their academic, cultural, sporting and other achievements were fantastic.

I fear that in PNG the OBE outlook will allow standards to fall to the lowest common denominator and that students will not be extended. It will be "education for the masses" - the gifted and talented will not be extended.

That is why PNG needs Schools of Excellence like the future Keravat, where the gifted and talented children can be extended and rise to high academic levels which can be compared to the top levels in Australia.

These students can then go on to university to become the doctors, engineers, teachers, lawyers, economists and other professionals needed in PNG.

I know PNG students are capable of this as I taught there for 13 years and I was always amazed at the ability levels of these young men and women.

PNG might need help from expatriate teachers to get back to these levels of teaching which we had at the National High Schools in the past.

Further reading: ‘Outcomes-Based Education and the Death of Knowledge’ by Richard G Berlach, College of Education, University of Notre Dame, Australia. Download: 'OBE & The Death of Knowledge'

Lawyer attacks AFP role in Moti case


AAP - A LEGAL EXPERT has questioned the Australian Federal Police's use of witness payments in the ongoing child sex case involving one-time Solomon Islands attorney-general Julian Moti.

Director of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns, said the AFP could have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars by using a video link for witness evidence in the case.

Instead, the girl who accused Mr Moti of rape, and her family, have received close to $200,000 in AFP payments and continue to live at AFP expense in both Brisbane and Vanuatu.

Neither the AFP nor Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Conner would confirm whether a review had begun into the payments as promised more than eight months ago by AFP Assistant Commissioner Kevin Zuccato.

"As legal proceedings are ongoing it would not be appropriate for the AFP to comment," a spokeswoman said.

Mr Moti was deported from the Solomons and arrested at Brisbane International Airport in December 2007 and charged with seven counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16.

A key criticism of the AFP case was that the organisation knew about the original charges before 2001 but did not act until 2004 when Australian High Commissioner to the Solomons, Patrick Cole, reported Mr Moti was harming Australian interests in the Pacific.

The political nature of the case damaged diplomatic relations between Australia and the Solomons, Vanuatu and PNG.

Last December, Supreme Court judge Debra Mullins permanently stayed proceedings against Mr Moti saying AFP witness payments were an "affront to the public conscience" and had brought "the administration of justice into disrepute".

In response, Mr Zuccato said the AFP was "conducting an internal review" into witness expenses in this "unusual and complex" case.

But no findings have been released and the AFP continues to pay the Moti witnesses thousands of dollars a month in living expenses.

In July, the Queensland Court of Appeal quashed Justice Mullins' order and found the AFP had not breached its guidelines.

So on 23 July commonwealth prosecutor Glen Rice SC presented a fresh indictment in the Supreme Court in Brisbane charging the 44-year-old with seven counts of engaging in sexual intercourse with a person under the age of 16.

Mr Moti is expected to stand trial early next year.

In June, the family of the girl accusing Moti told AAP they regretted their involvement with the AFP.

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

New Ireland's allure; its people's warmth

FOR TRAVELLERS desperate to find a spot untouched by tourism New Ireland clearly fills the bill.

Writing in last weekend's Melbourne Age, Louise Southerden said while kayaking between remote islands in the Bismarck Archipelago the days had no names.

"We didn't see a single other tourist all week and the only other non-locals we came across were missionaries," she said. "There aren't many places you can say that about these days."

The heat stripped away anything extraneous leaving just what was essential which on the first day of the five-day island journey meant paddling from Kavieng to Kabotteron, the first village campsite.

Snorkelling just offshore and looking through water as clear as glass anemone fish, parrot fish, hard and soft corals and three brown-skinned boys came into view.

A 10-year-old boy, David, showed the visitors how the village lads use their handmade spearguns. David demonstrated to the visitors how fish spearing was done, standing barefoot on a sea-smoothed coral head and spotting his prey.

He dived deep and the watchers heard a clink as David's spear hit a rock, pinning a pretty reef fish to the sea floor.

When he resurfaced David bit it around the gills ("to kill it") before tossing it to one of the other village boys to be placed in one of the canoes.

The Age writer and her companions were met at Kavieng airport by their Australian guide, a 67-year-old former Army SAS commando with a decade of experience as a Kokoda guide.

New Irelanders Wotlom and Levi, who grew up paddling their home waters in dugout canoes, were also among the guides.

Southerden reported a few rough edges on the trip. The paddlers were dependent on villages for lunches and dinners and a few times arrived at spots only to find the 'coconut telegraph' out of order: the villagers hadn't been expecting them.

That was part of the adventure of travelling in PNG they agreed and it was easy for a few people dispatched in canoes to catch the fish for the meals. The fish was supplemented with canned peas and instant noodles, a PNG staple.

The allure of New Ireland was evident. Southerden reported the remoteness of the place and the quiet warmth of its people was touching especially on the last night when guide Levi's family farewelled them on the island of Tsoilik, where they operate a little resort.

Read Louise's full story here