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ASOPA: School died while still under review

25 Years of ASOPA Long-time registrar of the Australian School of Pacific Administration, VIC PARKINSON, who died this week, wrote this article to mark the 25th anniversary of ASOPA's foundation in 1972

THE CONCEPT OF the Australian School of Pacific Administration was the brainchild of Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Conlon.

As Director of the Australian Army Land Headquarters Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs, he convinced the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Thomas Blamey, of the need for a school to train officers to undertake civil government functions in the areas of Papua and New Guinea recaptured from the Japanese.

Early in 1945, with General Blamey's approval, Colonel Conlon proceeded to establish what was known as the Land Headquarters School of Civil Affairs, in building in the grounds of the Royal Military College, Duntroon.

Colonel JK Murray, who later became the first postwar Administrator of Papua and New Guinea, was appointed Chief Instructor and a highly qualified academic staff was quickly assembled.

Dr HIP Hogbin MA PhD, Dr RO Piddington and the Honorable Camilla Wedgwood MA - three anthropologists with established reputations for scholarship in this field - were appointed to the full time staff with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

Dr John Andrews, Professor of Geography at the University of Melbourne, also joined the staff as a Lieutenant Colonel to lecture in geography. Dr Lucy Mair, Reader in Colonial Administration at London University, was brought out from England under contract to lecture at the School.

Lecturing in law was done by Lieutenant Colonel JP Fry MA BCL SjurD, who later compiled the first ten volumes of the Annotated Laws of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea.

In addition to this highly qualified staff of lecturers, six full time tutors were appointed, one of whom was Captain JP McAuley, now Professor of English at the University of Tasmania and one of Australia's outstanding poets.

In those early days the school's training program was designed on the basis of each lecture being followed by a tutorial.

Students were selected to attend the School from the ranks of the Australian Army and Air Force and included the following officers still serving with the Administration of Papua New Guinea: Harry West, Director, Division of District Administration within the Department of the Administrator; Kingsley Jackson, District Commissioner; Bill Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Civil Defence; Don Grove, Director of Lands; Keith Dyer, Principal Projects Officer, Department of the Administrator; Des Clifton Bassett, District Commissioner at Madang; Eric Flower, Works Coordinator, Department of the Treasury; and Fred Kaad, former District Commissioner, and now on the staff of the School.

In May 1945, General Blamey approved an amount of £10,000 being allocated for the construction of permanent premises for the School in the ACT. This was further evidence of Colonel Conlon's influence on General Blamey.

Colonel Conlon clearly perceived an important post-war role for the School as a centre of training and research for the whole South Pacific area, and gained General Blamey's support for his long-range plan.

Although a site for the School was selected within the grounds of the proposed Australian National University, events were to conspire against the project proceeding.

The School was moved to Holsworthy at the end of 1945, and it was not until the early 1950s that the proposal to establish the school in Canberra was again seriously sponsored by the then Minister for Territories, Mr Paul Hasluck.

When the school's military role came to an end with the defeat of Japan, Alfred Conlon set about the task of persuading Mr Eddie Ward, the first post-war Minister for Territories, to ensure its continuance as a civil institution to train administrative officers for the Administration of Papua and New Guinea.

Largely as a result of his efforts, in March 1946, the School became a civil institution under the name of The Australian School of Pacific Administration, and was transferred to Georges Heights, Mosman.

There, and later at Middle Head, the School operated provisionally until 12 April 1947, when the Federal Cabinet approved its permanent establishment.

ASOPA was given statutory recognition in 1949 by the Papua and New Guinea Act 1919-1971.

Mr JR Kerr, the present Chief Justice of New South Wales, was appointed the first Principal of the newly constituted School. He was followed by Mr AA Conlon (August 1948 – September 1949), Mr CD Rowley (November 1950 - March 1964), Mr JR Mattes (March 1964-December 1971), and the present Principal, Mr JP Reynolds.

In the post-war years the School's training responsibilities were extended to include the training of welfare officers for the Northern Territory and teacher-training, as well as its original commitment to train patrol officers for Papua and New Guinea.

Conceived in the prevailing uncertainty of the war years, ASOPA has battled on hopefully through the post war years, to an assured future that has so far eluded it.

When its epitaph is finally written it will surely contain the words - "to the memory of an institution that passed away while its future role was under periodic review."

Source: ‘ASOPA in war and peace’ in ’25 Years of ASOPA’. Geoff Leaver (editor), Australian School of Pacific Administration, 1972

Vic Parkinson, ASOPA registrar, dies at 93


Parkinson_VicSMH - IT WAS AN awful thing for Mosman Council when a group of visiting New Guineans became a bit raskolish on Friday nights in the early 1960s and started tearing up shrubs on the nature strips.

The council could have come down very heavily but decided to call on someone who had real insight into the people, Victor Parkinson.

At the end of World War II, Parkinson had joined the Australian School of Pacific Administration, run from Middle Head, to train teachers and patrol officers, including one Michael Somare.

He had started as a law tutor and taken over the position of registrar. Parkinson found the riotous lads were students at the school. He packed them into a vehicle, took them off and settled them down.

Parkinson took his civic spirit with him when he became the mayor of Mosman from 1965 until 1970, making him the council's second-longest serving mayor.

In World War II, Parkinson had joined the army education unit and served in Queensland and the Northern Territory. At the end of the war he joined the School of Pacific Administration.

In the early 1960s, Parkinson became interested in local government and was elected to Mosman Council in December, 1962. He became the mayor in 1965 and also joined the council of the National Trust.

He was committed to preserving historic buildings and extended that interest to trying to regulate development in the area, though powerful interests were arrayed against him.

In 1975 Parkinson and his wife retired and bought a property, Gowan Green, near Wellington in central western NSW.

Victor Parkinson is survived by Marjorie, his children John and Lindy, daughter-in-law Karen, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Read the full obituary here

Source: ‘A thorough gentleman with a dedication to preserving history’ by Malcolm Brown, Sydney Morning Herald, 30 September 2010

German painter captured images of Rabaul


EMIL NOLDE (1867-1956) is probably a name unknown to most readers of PNG Attitude.

Indeed his name was unknown to me until I saw one of his paintings, created in Rabaul, on Sunday at Melbourne’s National Art Gallery.

Nolde was a famed German expressionist painter, son of peasant farmers, who grew up making models and covering boards and barn doors with chalk drawings.

In the years before World War I, he had become a well known and controversial figure in the German art world.

The relevance of Nolde to PNG Attitude lies in the time he spent in the New Guinea Islands in 1913-14.

Self Portrait 1907 In 1913, Nolde was invited by the German Colonial Office to take part in an expedition to the German territories in the South Pacific – one of which was German New Guinea, with headquarters in Rabaul.

The object of the expedition was to search for the causes of epidemics and high mortality among the indigenous population of the German colony. Nolde joined as ‘ethnographic artist’.

He and his wife Ada travelled through Asia to Palau and Rabaul, where he remained for half a year. In 1914 he made trips to Neu Mecklenburg (New Ireland) and the Admiralty Islands (Manus) before heading back to Germany.

He was particularly struck by the people of Rabaul, saying: “These people are at one with nature, and a part of the whole universe. I sometimes feel as if only they are still real people, we but kind of warped mannequins, artificial and full of conceit.”

Nolde_Islander Nolde noted the damage done by Europeans in Asia and the Pacific. “We live in an evil era,” he wrote, “in which the white man brings the whole earth into servitude.”

Before they arrived back in Germany, in fact they were in Egypt, Nolde and his wife were surprised by the outbreak of World War I.

Although they convinced the local British authorities that they were Danish, Nolde’s luggage, including his paintings from the expedition, were seized. He was eventually reunited with the confiscated works in 1921 at a London junk dealer’s shop.

When the Nazis took over Germany in the 1930s, Nolde was not effected immediately, but eventually his art was declared “degenerate” and more than a thousand of his works were removed from German galleries.

He gave up his apartment in Berlin and retreated to the countryside where he began to produce what he called his 'unpainted pictures' - hundreds of small watercolours which he hid in a secret cache in his isolated house.

Nolde Aged After the war, as the grand old man of German art, Nolde enjoyed a new lease of life. In 1948, Ada having died two years previously, at the age of 81 he married a 28-year old woman, the daughter of a friend.

In 1952 he was awarded the German Order of Merit, his country's highest civilian decoration and continued to work with tremendous energy until late in 1955. Nolde died in April 1956, aged 88.

Images: Poster featuring one of the Rabaul paintings; Self Portrait, 1907; Islander, 1913; Nolde in later life

A 'win-win' that yielded very many losers


IN A PLEASING demonstration of understanding, equanimity and selflessness, the acting prime minister of PNG has commended the judiciary for lifting the injunction on the Ramu mine and commended the plaintiffs for apparently changing their minds and withdrawing their legal action.

Yep! It’s official. Acting PM Don Polye has created a 'win-win' for everyone. He's just told everyone so.

“People are twisting the facts,” says Mr Poyle. “There has been a lot of misinformation about this project. Certain people took advantage of this by trying to portray the government as being corrupt in pushing this project.”

So the guillotining of changes to the Environment Protection Act without proper debate in Parliament was clearly an aberration.

So too the failure to officially release a study on the mine's waste disposal system. A mere oversight.

Likewise the physical threats and intimidation by thugs of landowners and their legal representative.

The police weren't needed to protect them at all. Clearly those people who looked like they were threatening the plaintiffs were merely trying to help the landowners understand the 'facts' about the mine's operations.

Orchestrated personal intimidation was really support to help them make the right decision.

What looked like the abduction of the plaintiffs and removing them from contact with their lawyer was purely in their own interests.

To get them behind locked doors in Moresby and away from their legal representative was obviously in their own and the country's best interests. The end result demonstrates this.

Statements by PNG public servants working on the Ramu mine development that they were told to 'give the Chinese what they want' are obviously just bad reporting by the media.

Isn't it a good thing we have an acting PM who can keep PNG on track while the boss, Sir Michael, is away overseas.

Australian military assistance in Asia-Pacific


THE ADVISING OF foreign armed forces has a long and varied history, ranging from the French in Egypt in the 1800s, to Lawrence of Arabia and to more recent examples in Vietnam and Afghanistan.

Historically, however, these missions have received little analytical attention, being overshadowed by a historical focus on conventional wars and more easily definable activities. The Australian case is no exception.

As part of my history PhD at the Australian National University, I am researching Australian military assistance in the Asia-Pacific during the post-war period to 1990.

For more than 45 years, Australian troops have participated in a wide variety of military assistance efforts, the most well-known being the ten year service of the Australian Army Training Team Vietnam.

There are many more examples however, such as the deployment of advisors and loan officers to Malaysia in the 1960s, the joint mapping of Indonesia in the 1970s, and the hundreds of Australian personnel posted to PNG both before and after independence.

Additionally, Australia sent personnel to the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Burma as well as a host of island nations in the South Pacific.

The personnel involved in providing military assistance represented the sharp end not just of Australia’s defence forces, but of Australia’s diplomatic efforts as well. Yet, little is known about their attitudes, their experiences and more significantly their role.

Too often the focus of historical studies during this period has been on the decision making level, rather than the level of implementation; that is, ground-level.

Consequently, we know that three Australians commanded the Royal Malaysian Navy between 1960 and 1967, but we know little of what these officers experienced, changed or were challenged by.

The case of Australians posted to PNG is a similar, but much larger, example. In 1977 alone there were 306 Australian personnel in PNG. What were their experiences? How did they see their role? Were they effective and efficient in achieving their goals?

As part of my research, I am keenly interested in answering these questions, as well as many more.

I believe that by looking at the experiences of individuals involved in military assistance throughout the Asia-Pacific, we can gain a clearer understanding of Australia’s military and diplomatic history.

I would be very interested in talking to anyone who has had experience in these areas. Some of the interviews collected in the course of my research will be placed in the collection of the Australian War Memorial, which will then be preserved for use by others. Please contact me if you are interested in sharing your experiences.

Tristan Moss is in the School of Cultural Inquiry, 1st Floor, AD Hope Building (Building 14), Australian National University, ACT 2600.

His email address is

Em mauswara bilong husat, prime minister?


ON AN EXTENDED overseas tour at present, Sir Michael Somare has lashed out at developed countries for their 'failure' to honour climate change funding commitments.

Sir Michael and his two friends from Gabon in Africa and Guyana in South America have described the World Bank and the United Nations as confusing the issues.

They believe developed countries should pay for countries like PNG to keep their trees in the ground, Sir Michael inferred, presumably prevent the sale of PNG's trees for short term gain.

But is the prime minister able to claim the high moral ground on this issue?

There are many media reports that suggest that current and previous PNG governments have been only too happy to sanction the sale of timber rights to externally owned timber companies who make no attempts at reforestation and only make limited contribution to the local economy.

Over felling of PNG's native forests by foreign timber companies have been allowed to happen for many years in many areas.

Quoted in the PNG media, Sir Michael said: "And as developing countries move closer to implementing our plans, we can contribute to the battle against climate change.

"We must realise the dreams for a sustainable future that we had for our children when we first embarked on this journey."

So exactly how has Sir Michael demonstrated his zeal to provide a sustainable future for PNG children?

Approving the felling and extraction of his country's rain forests seems to be diametrically at odds with his recent quoted sentiments.

Even if funds become available to pay for forests to be left alone, exactly how will this be policed and by whom and for how long?

PNG Isa Wantoks win union comp in Aussie


Wantoks Team Pic GOOD MORNING olgeta wantok. I just got carried away celebrating couple of achievements in Mount Isa rugby union history and totally forgot about keeping you guys informed.

I am so happy to tell you all that the PNG community of Mount Isa in Queensland has set a record that will be hard to beat or no one will ever beat and which will remain in the history of Mount Isa Rugby Union’s Seven’s competition.

PNG Isa Wantoks set the record in the Mount Isa rugby union competition to be the first club to win the first ever Xstrata PICAM 7’s championship. The PNG team went through from game one to the grand final against Fiji undefeated.

The team was the first PNG club to record a grand final victory on Australian soil in the history of rugby union.

PNG Isa Wantoks won the Cup and $2,000 in cash. Our slogan now is "the Kumul has landed on the (Mt Isa) Stacker" ( the tallest tower in town).

Note: left click the pic on your mouse for a larger shot

Seeking goal compatibility in a risky climate


KEITH SUGGESTED I give an account of my own interest in the Ramu nickel case as I seem to be taking a quite different line to most people here.

I responded that I'm not a particularly interesting person as an individual but as my background is quite different it may be interesting to some to get a different perspective.

I am a self-directed investor, not a wealthy or institutional one. Just a working stiff who likes to do my own research in what I invest.

I am originally from PNG and maintain an interest in the country. I believe the increased interest in resources presents a great opportunity for PNG. But I also consider myself an ethical investor and have no interest in plunder and pillage.

At one point I held shares in Highland Pacific (HPL), which discovered Ramu and maintains a small interest. When I first heard the complaints about deep sea tailings placement (DSTP), I was initially concerned. It did sound like a dodgy practice.

But I asked for the company’s side of the argument and was somewhat reassured by information I received. I also read the Lutheran-sponsored report and tried to understand the discrepancies between the two versions.

To me, the SAMS (Scottish Association of Marine Science) report answers a lot of these questions positively, especially around the likelihood of upwelling, and the possibility of bio-accumulation of toxins.

The report does point out some research gaps in understanding the oceanological system, and the deep-sea ecosystem, but my reading is that this is, at most, a case for delay while more information is gathered, rather than a case for halting the development.

I no longer hold shares in HPL, so my interest isn't direct, but I do hold shares in other PNG companies, which tend to be exploration companies, so no environmental issues - yet.

The issue for investors generally is sovereign risk, which is a bit of a catch-all for country-specific issues that pose an investment risk. Resource projects can be blocked or delayed due to environmental issues or indigenous landowner objections anywhere in the world (including Australia).

This is reality in the modern day, and miners and investors accept this and "price it in" while the project is in its early exploration and resource definition stages.

For various reasons, PNG has always been considered a high risk destination, but what stands out about this particular case is that the injunction was made after approvals and permits had been granted and the construction was nearly complete.

That's almost unheard of. It calls into question the government's sovereignty. Are they empowered to grant a permit for a development, or can this be nullified at any point by a third party complaint?

Almost immediately we heard of copycat lawsuits being brought against the LNG project, which had only just been given the go-ahead by its financiers.

The government responded with the Environment Act amendments, which seemed draconian but were trying to reassure investors that the government did have the power to grant approvals and would take responsibility for decisions.

I don't believe that passing laws and winning court battles will reduce investment risk in PNG over the long term, and large scale mines are long life assets.

Governments can change, laws can be challenged in court. In extreme cases (e.g., Bougainville) there is the possibility of violent revolt.

The only way for resource companies to feel secure for the longer term is to win hearts and minds by demonstrating that they can provide a lasting benefit to local communities, as well as the broader population, with minimal cost to the environment.

People like Ross Garnaut, and the new management at Ok Tedi Mining, have been leading the way in these areas and I was baffled by the recent attacks on Garnaut.

As for Ramu, I think its importance is symbolic. Others here have described it as a defining moment - I hope it can be.

I hope the result is a clearer understanding by all sides of the others' point of view, and a rewritten "pact" between all parties, government, miners and landowners.

There is certainly room for miners to lift their game, to contribute more, and to reduce their environmental impact.

And there is room for the government to monitor, tax and police miners more effectively on behalf of their citizens.

In exchange the miners want more security for their investments.

These goals aren't incompatible.

PNG cricketers in Canberra competition


Vala TWO TOP PNG cricketers have accepted invitations to play in Canberra this coming season, and both are expected to win places in the ACT Comets team.

The Comets are part of a high level competition involving promising young players from the various Australian states and territories.

Former Comets include Michael Bevan and present Australian wicket keeper Brad Haddin.

The two PNG players are hard-hitting top order batsman Assadollah (Assad) Vala [above] and wicket keeper Jack Vera.

They were recommended Andy Bichel, the former Australian fast bowler appointed last year as head coach of PNG cricket. 

Vala had already attracted the attention of Cricket ACT last season with his performances in the East Asia-Pacific championships. He was the tournament’s second highest run scorer.

According to the Canberra Times, Cricket ACT has “stumbled across an almost untapped gold mine brimming with talented (cricket) riches”.

Cricket was introduced to PNG about 120 years ago by London Mission Society missionary, Charles William Abel, at Kwato Island near Samarai. 

His passion for cricket, which he believed it could promote racial harmony and national unity, became an element of his educational program.

Today, PNG is an associate member of the International Cricket Council and is ranked 23rd in the world cricket league.

But according to Jack Vera, PNG is on the way up and will increase its international standing under coach Andy Bichel.

The true story of the Ramu nickel court case


IT IS GOOD to see these issues [concerning litigation around the Ramu nickel project] being debated on PNG Attitude.

I enter this discussion for the sole purpose of correcting the false information concerning both the existing plaintiffs and the parties who attempted to be joined to the now discontinued proceedings.

Mr ‘Dexter Bland’ uses a false name to defame me often on the Ramu Nickel Mine Watch website, to which I generally do not respond. But spreading incorrect information about the people I represent is another matter.

He alleges that instead of acceding to clients wishes I went in search of another landowner to be the face of rich international environmental purists.

These are complete and utter lies.

The parties seeking to be joined as additional plaintiffs were Mr Louis Medaing and the Tong and Ongeg clans. They approached me at the Madang National Court on 7 September, after Mr Mellambo had pulled out the day before and after it was reported in the newspapers that I had been threatened.

Mr Medaing stated he and his clans wished to join the proceedings and asked me to represent them and gave me many documents to set out his position. I discussed the matter with the plaintiffs and, on 13 September, the existing plaintiffs filed a motion to join Mr Medaing and his clans.

That motion was to be heard on 15 September 2010 but was adjourned to 21 September on the grounds of short service.

Last week I wrote to the Provincial Police Commander seeking a police escort for the plaintiffs to come from the Rai Coast to Madang as there had been numerous threats against them.

On Saturday 18 September we sent a boat to collect the plaintiffs, who I was in mobile phone contact with, and who were in hiding in the bush on the Rai Coast due to the numerous threats to force them to stop the proceedings. 

When the boat neared the coast it was ambushed by two other boats carrying men with guns and knives who then threatened the occupants of the boat and told them they could not get the plaintiffs and they must return to Madang. 

On their return to Madang, they contacted me and told me what happened and I rang the Provincial Police Commander who provided Task Force Police members to accompany three boats back to the Rai Coast to collect the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs came out of hiding and boarded the boats, and they arrived in Madang on Saturday night at about 7 pm. All this is in affidavit material that was filed in court.

The next day, Sunday 19 September, the plaintiffs attended a meeting, that went from 11 am to 2 pm, with elders from the Minderi area (near Basamuk) who had travelled to Madang to hear the plaintiffs' position on the court case as they had heard rumours of the threats and did not know whether the plaintiffs would continue or not. 

The plaintiffs at the meeting told the elders that they were 100% going ahead with the court case which was to start on Tuesday. An affidavit by Terry Kunning, one of the elders present at the meeting, was filed in the court proceedings confirming this.

That was the last we heard from the plaintiffs until Tuesday morning at court, when a fax was sent from Stevens Lawyers in Port Moresby stating that they had instructions to represent the plaintiffs and the plaintiffs wished to discontinue. 

I had arrived in Madang only on Monday and had previously tried to contact the plaintiffs from Sunday night to Monday evening, but their phones were switched off and, as I was concerned for their safety, I reported them missing to the Provincial Police Commander at 6.20 pm Monday evening.

Apparently in the 36 hours between Sunday afternoon 19 September and Tuesday morning 21 September, someone had flown the three plaintiffs to Moresby, had hired them new lawyers, and they had decided to discontinue.

In their brief affidavits filed later on Tuesday as ordered by the court, they stated that they had been happy with the case, that they did not want DSTP and that they were concerned about the trouble that the case had caused and they were concerned for their safety so they wanted the case to discontinue.

Mr Medaing and his clans’ applications were due to be heard - so the judge adjourned the applications until Wednesday afternoon to be heard, as well as ordering the plaintiffs to appear.

Mr Medaing and the clans' applications were heard, and on Friday the judge determined, as a result of affidavit material filed by Louis Medaing and intensive cross examination by the miner's QC, that Mr Medaing was a genuine claimant in nuisance with sufficient standing to sue, but that he would not join Louis Medaing and the clans to the current proceedings because there were no proceedings left as the plaintiffs had discontinued.

His Honour said of course Mr Medaing and the clans could file fresh proceedings, which they did at 9.40 am on Friday morning 24 September, along with a motion for an injunction to prevent the construction of the DSTP system. That motion will be heard on Friday 1 October 2010.

For Mr Bland to state that I go looking for landowner plaintiffs to be puppets for some unnamed rich environmentalist is not only completely false but it is offensive to Mr Medaing and the clans and also racist in the extreme. 

Mr Bland fails to understand that PNGeans are capable of thinking for themselves and are capable of determining that they want the mine but they do not want their marine environment destroyed, particularly when there are safer land based tailings alternatives.

Yes there was an affidavit from a mine waste expert (not a mine paid for consultant) which set out alternatives and further that no nickel laterite project in any tropical area in the world used riverine or deep dea tailings disposal systems.

PNGeans run many court proceedings with or without lawyers and can hire lawyers if they determine to.

Mr Louis Medaing and his clans successfully completed a judicial review proceedings in February this year wherein they had sought to quash the decision of the Minister for Lands to award the title over the land at the refinery when the land was subject to a dispute in the Lands Title Commission.

Mr Medaing conducted the case by himself all the way to the final hearing and then hired a lawyer to do the trial.

Mr Bland owes Mr Louis Medaing and his clans an apology.

Mr Bland chooses to make his false statements under cover of anonymity and takes aim at those that seek to protect their land through proper court processes and those who are not so cowardly to have their true names revealed on PNG Attitude.

It seems on PNG Attitude most people choose to make comments in good faith and sign their name as a measure of proof of that integrity.

It is one thing to have a point of view under an anonymous name; it is a whole other situation to make false and defamatory statements under the cloak of anonymity.

It smacks of bad faith and maliciousness.

Country road, take me home....


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

“COUNTRY ROAD, take me home to a place I belong, west coast Nyada…”

These are not the original words of John Denver’s country hit, but a made up one by John Silas, an old singer in my village.

My village Nyada is located on the western coast of Manus Province. So it would be fitting to mention ‘Nyada’ to convey a bit of pride among eager young listeners who flocked the beach to listen to John Silas sing.

He was an old, lean man with bushy eyebrows and moustache. He always tied a grey dusty laplap around his waist, wore a red cap and carried his small handmade ukulele in his worn out basket wherever he went.

My granddad once told me that he made his name up because his real name meant excreta in the local language. I refused to accept that story because as far as I was concerned John Silas was a singing legend.

He had a fluent English accent, a gentle voice and loved singing old country songs from Slim Dusty, Lobo, Kenny Rogers and John Denver.

Every Sunday evening children and young men gathered around on the beachfront and listen to him sing his heart away. He would nod his head and shake his knees under his dusty laplap and sing with his eyes closed until the song ended.

He usually refused the offer of a guitar; he preferred his old rugged ukulele. He plucked, picked and strummed the ukulele like a pro singer in the old country movies we watched, which would be greeted with hearty laughter and applause from the audience.

At the end of his singing he would play some local songs and everyone joined him in different harmonies. Small boys would protest ari jah (one more) but he’d tell us to go home because our mothers might chase him and burn his ukulele.

Although he was a great singer he spent most of his time alone in his small kitchen on the beach crafting canoe paddles, wooden bowls and ukuleles.

One legend had it that, in his young days in Australia, he used to sing with Slim Dusty. And the other was that he was an Aborigine who ran away and settled in Nyada. There were many tales about this wonderful, gentle singer.

My grandma told me that they all grew up together and he later moved to Rabaul and worked on the plantations there.

After several years he returned home with a Tolai lady, but due to ill luck, his wife died during child birth and his son died a week later. Ever since then he lived alone and his only company was his ukulele.

He talked little and rarely participated in community meetings and social events. Old women would gossip amongst themselves, at the back of their husbands during village gatherings, that he would contribute better if he talked just like his singing.

I remembered him quite well because he referred to me as Nadu Misis, meaning ‘small white girl’, whenever he saw me around the village, as I’m light in skin colour, different from the other children.

Four years back I went for holiday in Nyada and met him. The singer had grown smaller and I noticed old age was catching up.

He glanced at me and said, “Oh the small white girl had returned”. He was still wearing his cap which had gone pink in colour and his laplap was cleaner.

I was overwhelmed with sadness when I saw that he was not carrying his only company, the ukulele.

“So you think I would sing forever?” he laughed.

I tried not to answer the question because I already knew the answer. He was old now and could barely hold his ukulele, or project his voice as he used to, or shake his knees and nod his head.

In those years growing up in the village, I developed the taste for country and old time music because of John Silas’s singing. We never owned radios or MP3 or CD players, and were kept in the dark about the latest music, but his magical singing exposed us to country music.

I still love old country songs and I’m not really into all the crazy hip hop music and rap and rock and roll of today.

He passed away a week ago and I was saddened by his death because he was truly a great singer. He will surely sing with Slim Dusty now in the pub up in the clouds where there is no beer.

The country road has now taken him home to a place where he truly belongs. Heaven.


‘Country road, take me home’ is the first published entry in PNG’s new literary contest, The Crocodile Prize, supported by the PNG Post-Courier and PNG Attitude. You can find details, including an entry form, in Attitude Extra at left. We will regularly publish a selection of entries – stories, poems and journalism – before the first Prizes are awarded on PNG Independence Day 2011.

Miners secure victory in Ramu court case


AAP - JUDGE David Cannings has lifted a court injunction that blocked a Chinese nickel mine from dumping waste into the sea off the country's northeast coast.

The battle between Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and local Rai Coast villagers, who did not want waste from the mine piped into their bay, came to an end yesterdayafternoon.

Judge Cannings lifted the injunction that would have prevented MCC from building a deep-sea tailings pipe from the proposed $1.9 billion Ramu nickel mine in Madang.

The costly halt in construction had threatened the entire project.

The case was due to resume last Tuesday in Madang's National Court, but the three villagers bringing the action failed to appear and sent a fax message asking the court to drop the proceedings.

They also sacked their lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr.

After being ordered to appear at Wednesday's court session, the three villagers confirmed they no longer wanted to proceed with the case despite months of campaigning against MCC.

Ms Nonggorr urged the court to allow a fourth plaintiff to be added so the action could continue. The request was denied, although the judge said a new action may be brought.

During tense proceedings, Judge Cannings repeatedly warned the public to keep quiet in the courtroom and refrain from shouting matches and pushing outside.

Other Rai Coast landowners have dropped away from the case, and Ms Nonggorr said the remaining three villagers had come under pressure before they changed their minds.

The three were under police escort after their boat had been attacked by men armed with knives and guns, she said.

Earlier this month, Ms Nonggorr alleged she had been intimidated by a former Madang politician and convicted rapist, James Yali, who has been lobbying for the PNG government and MCC in relation to the proposed nickel development.

The Rai Coast landowners have claimed they were never consulted on MCC's construction plan and MCC's plan to pump 100 million tonnes of slurry waste into the sea over 20 years will destroy their environment.

The planned Ramu nickel mine has been plagued by problems and violent protests since PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare personally gave it the go-ahead in 2005.

PNG makes real progress in infant survival


IN 1996, 93 of every 1000 Papua New Guinean children died before they reached the age of five.

With a mortality rate so high, PNG was at the time one of only four countries worldwide with stalled progress in child survival.

However a recent medical study has revealed that PNG has now developed a framework and the necessary experience for a significant improvement in child health over the next ten years.

There were reductions in under-five and infant mortality rates of 19% and 17% respectively in the ten years from 1996 to 2006.

During this period PNG adopted an integrated and coordinated approach to child health including all essential interventions outlined in The Lancet's child survival framework.

The changes were associated with significant improvements in leadership and coordination of child health services by paediatricians at provincial and national level.

The study concludes that a systematic approach to improving child survival, training paediatricians, better vaccine coverage, the introduction of new interventions including vitamin A, vaccines and bednets, and improved (although still inadequate) education for girls are likely to explain the substantial reductions in child mortality.

These have been boosted by improved leadership and coordination.

The report states that these gains have occurred in an environment of inadequate funding for child health, and that they are all fragile and incomplete.

It recommends that serious investment in neonatal, child and maternal health, human resources, education and welfare, district health services, population control and healthy community environments are all necessary to build on the improvements.

Spotter: Robin Hide

Source: Lagani, WD. Mokela, W. Saweri, M. Kiromat, P. Ripa, J. Vince, W. Pameh, N. Tefuarani, I et al (2010). “Papua New Guinea: real progress towards MDG 4 and real challenges” International Health 2(3): 186-196.

Reputation under threat in mine waste war


AT THE OUTSET let me be clear – I have no vested interest in the outcome of the dispute between the Rai Coast landowners versus the Metallurgical Corporation of China, the Mineral Resources Authority of PNG, the Director of Environment, and the Independent State of PNG.

But the Ramu landowners case brings to light a significant issue not just for PNG but for the extractive industries worldwide.

If mining, oil and gas companies are to be welcome in developing nations the most basic logic suggests lots of practices have to change.

It is not good enough to claim they have already changed; it is not enough to present sustainability reports with pretty pictures of smiling indigenous children and rainforests and talk of contributions to the environment and community, not while using riverine or marine mine waste disposal.

It is a matter of reputational risk to an entire industry, damaging even those companies who use more responsible and sustainable waste disposal methods.

Reputation is built on trust, relationship, values and on people’s expectations of corporate behaviour. The prettier the pictures, the more damage done.

The Scottish Association for Marine Science produced a report on Deep Sea Tailings Disposal (DSTP) for the PNG government. It was delivered in May, 2010.

The report was funded by the European Union with the clear intent of supporting DSTP as a means of mine waste disposal. Its survey was to assess impacts only at Misima and Lihir.

The baseline study at Basamuk Bay (pertaining to the Ramu nickel mine) was added to the brief later.

Do not misunderstand this document.

It was commissioned to help establish guidelines for managing DSTP, to create legitimacy for the mining industry’s use of DSTP, and to attract more mining companies to invest in PNG.

Given this report was intended to support DSTP projects in PNG (and it does indeed attempt to do so at various points) there are perhaps some very good reasons why the government has seen fit not to make it widely available.

I wonder, is the SAMS report included as defence evidence in the Ramu case?

There is a very simple and quick resolution to this case. The mining company could commit to a sustainable land-based tailings disposal method.

One would think MCC’s Australian joint venture partner in this project, Highlands Pacific, would have the sense to insist it do so and move on, given the reported delays and cost over runs.

There is one company that states implicitly it does not and will not use riverine or submarine tailings disposal at any of its projects anywhere.

That company is BHP Billiton. It is rather foolish of an entire industry to ignore the history of why that is, don’t you think?

You can read the full version of the article here.

Alex Harris is an author, consultant, speaker, freelance writer and editor of ‘Reputation Report’. Alex was born in PNG and lived there until she was a late teenager. She has long experience, continuing to the present, with the resources and extractive industry.

Locals ‘know nothing’ about Purari scheme

AN AUSTRALIAN newspaper report says that people of the Purari River region in PNG, which could be dammed to provide hydroelectricity to Queensland, know nothing about the proposal and have not been contacted by its proponents.

The report quotes Dr Laevai Neuendorf, who says he is “chief” of the Hamora Ipi clan but who is a resident of Queensland, saying the local people do not want the project to be built on “sacred ancestral lands”.

He said the scheme would marginalise his people, whose land covers about 25,000 hectares, and will make them even poorer.

Last week Queensland Premier Anna Bligh announced plans for Origin Energy to partner a PNG company to produce 1800 megawatts of power from the Purari River.

Queensland would be the major customer, with electricity brought by undersea cable to Weipa, Mt Isa and Townsville.

Dr Neuendorf, originally from PNG, said he feared for the economic impacts in the Purari area and said the local people had no idea of what was going on.

“They were quite shocked about it,” he said. “It really annoys me. They wouldn’t be allowed to dam a river like that in Queensland.”

Origin project manager Charles Nieuwoudt said the dam would impact on few people and bring many positives. Studies had started and locals at the nearby village of Wabo supported it, he claimed.

“He can’t have a balanced opinion until he hears about the project. It’s a bit disappointing,” he said.

But Dr Neuendorf said about 50,000 people lived in the coastal and delta regions of the Purari, and only 800-900 at the project site. “If the hydro plan goes ahead without due diligence the Purari will die, “ he said.

Spotter: Murray Bladwell

Source: ‘Cold water on hydro plan’ by Brian Williams, Brisbane Courier-Mail, 23 September 2010

Garnaut TV response ‘disproportionate’


THE MINERAL Policy Institute commends the ABC and journalist Greg Hoy for his investigative report into submarine tailings disposal [STD] in PNG entitled Price of Gold.

Despite the controversial response to the program, it was not the first report or analysis of controversial mining practices being used in PNG, nor was it the first media report to link Lihir Gold to an environmentally destructive waste disposal practice.

Indeed, the Mineral Policy Institute has been raising concerns about Lihir and the use of submarine tailings disposal in PNG for over ten years.

The Institute is willing to acknowledge the value of Professor Garnaut’s work in areas such as mining taxation and climate change. Further we acknowledge that Lihir Gold has a reasonable reputation within PNG.

This does not, however, change the facts about submarine tailings disposal, which remains a controversial and damaging practice.

The Institute sees the rise of STD, especially in countries with poor regulatory regimes, as a direct result of the failure to properly evaluate the impacts of mining on people or the environment.

Furthermore, we do not believe that companies should benefit financially from using lower cost but harmful waste management practices.

The response to the Price of Gold should be examined in light of events earlier this year, where the politically and economically dominant mining industry initiated an advertising campaign in response to the super profits tax.

What we learned from that was just how powerful the mining industry has become. Seeking to introduce a new tax or daring to criticise a mining company is a very brave act, especially when the company, through its chair, has the ear of the Australian government and media.

In this case, the response to the Price of Gold was disproportionate, with a press conference called to defend reputation and the practice of submarine tailings disposal.

Outside major industry and political figures it is rare that an individual would be afforded such an opportunity.

It is obvious that not only did Professor Garnaut’s involvement add an extra dimension to the story, it was through his significant public profile that he was able to publicly criticise a television program he had declined to be involved in.

It is unfortunate that Professor Garnaut declined the opportunity to be part of the Price of Gold, which would have allowed a more thorough examination of Lihir’s mine waste management practices.

The Mineral Policy Institute will continue to keep an eye on mining by holding to account the boards and management of Australian companies involved in social and environmentally destructive practices in developing countries.

Charles Roche is Executive Director of the Mineral Policy Institute:

Breaking news: Missing men appear in court


THE THREE MISSING plaintiffs in the Ramu nickel mine case appeared in Madang National Court this afternoon.

A summons was issued by Justice David Cannings to explain why they are withdrawing proceedings.

The three arrived at the court under police escort.

Once proceedings started, the application of the new plaintiff, Louis Medaing, was argued against in court by the lawyer representing the defendants.

The three plaintiffs were represented by Port Moresby-based Stevens Lawyers who also argued that the court not include Mr Medaing as a new plaintiff and discontinue the case previously pursued by the three other plaintiffs.

The lawyer representing Mr Medaing, Tiffany Nonggorr made an application for a fresh motion to be filed.

Justice Cannings granted the application on the grounds that the new plaintiff has the same interest as the previous three and the joinder will cause no prejudice to the defendants.

As this story was filed, Mr Medaing had taken the witness box to be cross examined.

The other three plaintiffs are yet to explain to the court why they had to withdraw from the proceedings.

Chinese miner desperate to stop new plaintiff


MCC, THE CHINESE mining company at the centre of a controversy over its plans to dump 100 million tons of mine waste into the sea in PNG, seems desperate to stop a new plaintiff joining the court case challenging the legality of its environmental permit.

While the original three plaintiffs are still missing with no word on their whereabouts, landowner Louis Medaing will today, Wednesday, ask the court to allow him to join the proceedings as a new plaintiff.

But he is under huge pressure from threats and intimidation from MCC.

After court yesterday, MCC representatives rushed to Mr Medaing’s village and gathered leaders from around the area to persuade him to not proceed with the court case.

From that meeting MCC selected certain leaders who they have now brought to Madang to meet with Mr Medaing before today’s court hearing to tell him to withdraw his application.

MCC have also told Mr Medaing’s brothers that if the marine dumping of the mine waste is stopped because of the court case there will be ‘serious consequences’ for Mr Medaing. He has taken that as a threat to his personal safety and that of his family.

Mr Medaing, from Tugyay village in Basamuk, has been concerned about the planned dumping of waste into the sea for over ten years.

After being ignored by the authorities and MCC, earlier this month he approached the lawyers representing landowners opposed to the dumping of waste by MCC and asked if he could join the case as a plaintiff.

His original application was presented to the court two weeks ago but was adjourned by the judge to be heard in Madang yesterday.

But in a dramatic day the original three plaintiffs failed to appear and MCC produced a fax alleging they had changed their allegiance.

Judge Cannings has summoned the three to appear in court today at 1:30 pm to explain their decision and deferred any consideration of Mr Medaing’s application until then.

In the meantime, Mr Medaing’s has informed his brothers to tell MCC not to waste their time. He has no intention of talking to them or withdrawing his application.

He said he’s been trying to talk to MCC for years and he’s been ignored – and now all of a sudden they want to talk.

Some burning questions about the nation


THE RAMU landowners’ case is an important moment in defining with some precision what kind of a nation PNG has become.

Is it a nation in which its people can still have faith that its government is willing to commit to their interests as well as its own?

Or is it a nation where privileged individuals, able to accrue great personal prosperity because PNG is “an island of gold in a sea of oil”, allow the mass of the people to be neglected and, increasingly of late including by Sir Michael Somare himself, derided?

Has PNG become a nation where the rule of law and the justice system and the apparatus of government and the notion of accountability to the people have been suborned by personal and commercial aggrandisement?

Is it a nation where expatriate companies and lawyers and businessmen feel they can behave differently and without regard to a proper ethical code simply because they can get away with it?

Is PNG a nation in which politicians and senior public servants have, in large part, given up on their obligation to the people?

Has PNG, in short, become one of those sleazy countries open to pillage by their leaders, that condone the abuse of accepted conventions of governance and responsibility, and then inexorably slide into public impoverishment and chaos?

And what of the so-called ‘friends’ of PNG?

Ross Garnaut was quick to defend his own reputation as he sat next to PNG High Commissioner Lepani at a Canberra media conference. Will he be as quick to defend the rights of the people by exercising his great influence on their behalf?

Can the Australia-PNG Business Council, which typically behaves as though PNG’s buoyant economy exists for the purpose of trade alone, look beyond commerce to the broader interests and needs of the PNG people?

Does the Australian Government care?

Well, we know the answer to that.

Activist warns government of trouble to come


ACTIVIST NOEL ANJO is planning a ‘portfolio protest’ later this week against a range of controversial moves by the PNG government that have angered people throughout the country.

Mr Anjo wants an investigation into anti-Asian rioting last year and he also wants people to protest over issues like attacks on the authority of the Ombudsman, abuse of parliamentary process and limits on the rights of landowners to seek redress over environmental damage.

Despite government claims, Mr Anjo has denied involvement in recent anti-Asian riots in Eastern Highlands, but says people are very concerned by the issues.

He says the government can’t ignore the anger: “You know, do something about it.”

“The tension is still very high and the government must do something. I am warning the government that there are signs of bigger things to come.”

Source: Radio New Zealand

Worries that PNG economy is overheated


PNG’S NATIONAL superannuation fund, Nasfund, over the last 12 months has been warning of overheating in the PNG economy.

The economy is now facing serious bottlenecks fuelled by a construction boom centred in Port Moresby as well as work related to the huge LNG project.

There is also excess liquidity in the market partially contributed to by the dissipation of Trust account moneys. Similarly, while Government revenues have significantly fallen, government outlays have increased. Fiscal discipline is required at government level.

Recently Central Bank Governor Loi Bakani stated that if inflation surpassed double digit figures he would not hesitate to intervene to create stability. The problem with this statement is that while the official inflation rate is around about 7% in 2010 and expected to climb to just under 8% in 2011, the reality is much worse than this.

The inflation rate is measured by a basket of goods and services that does not reflect the average household. For example, rental accommodation reflects less than 4% of the basket and worse, the National Statistics Office has not collected rental dwelling data for nearly two decades.

If we had a more representative basket of goods and services, Nasfund believes inflation would be well and truly in double digits.

Taking the view that the current nominal inflation rate is significantly above the official recorded CPI, prudent rate raises now may save more drastic rate rises in 2011.

Govt control of Defence Force weakens


THERE ARE A number of worrying signs emerging from reports that the PNG Defence Force personnel apparently took the law into their own hands in Lae last Friday.

While relations between the PNG Police and the Defence Force have at times erupted into open hostility, there can be no ethical reason why uniformed and armed defence force personnel should be on the streets in numbers and enacting physical violence on members of the public, no matter what the provocation might be.

It appears that common sense prevailed when the police finally took an active role and an official complaint was made. But this complaint was made the next day, after the alleged assault and after other assaults and threatening behaviour has been undertaken by defence force soldiers.

In a democratic country, no Defence Force personnel can be called out unless there has been approval by that country's government.

That approval must come from the government through the Defence Minister. There is no report that the government or Minister directed that this activity be undertaken.

In fact, there is no reported action or comment by the government or the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Defence Force. What does that say about government control over the Defence Force?

Clearly there is none.

Senior officers of Lt Col rank are responsible for the good order and discipline of their soldiers. They should be providing an example to their soldiers about how to conduct themselves.

How would those senior officers react if their soldiers acted in this way without orders? That clearly would be mutiny. To give this example to those who are under command merely sets the standard for future action by any enlisted soldier.

The use of Defence Force weaponry, in a civilian environment is also worrying. Were the weapons loaded? Who gave the order that weapons be removed from the armoury? Was ammunition issued and if so, who ordered this to happen?

What would have happened if there had been an accidental misfire or a fire fight with high powered weapons in a peaceful and generally law abiding community environment. Once firing begins, there is no control other than command and control by senior officers yet these same officers appear to be actually commanding this illegal use of force.

What would happen if these soldiers were involved in some firing or were confronted with other weapons? Were they given orders to discharge their weapons and if so, under what circumstances? What would happen if the soldiers using these high powered weapons that reportedly including at least one medium machine gun were to be overpowered and these weapons stolen?

The PNG government must immediately react to this situation in the strongest possible terms or risk being shown up as 'paper tigers' and having no control over its own defence force.

Landowners still missing in mining mystery


AAP - THREE VILLAGERS are missing after informing a court by fax they want to drop their legal challenge against the construction of a controversial nickel mine near Madang.

The case was to resume today in the National Court but the only three plaintiffs remaining in the long-running action against the proposed $1 billion Chinese-run mine sacked their lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr and asked to discontinue the proceedings in a fax sent to the court.

Judge David Cannings ordered the men appear before him tomorrow to explain their decision in person, before deciding the case's future and the mine's fate.

Ms Nonggorr told AAP she has fears for the three landowners' welfare and has reported them missing to police.

"The judge has summonsed them and wants to determine whether their instructions were freely given or informed," she said.

"It's very unusual, on Sunday at a meeting they said they were 100 per cent for this case. Then, since that meeting, their phones have been off, no contact, no texts, no one could find them."

Ms Nonggorr said police had to escort the men last weekend after their boat was attacked by men carrying guns and knives.

Earlier this month the lawyer told police she had been intimidated by a former Madang politician and a convicted rapist.

The villagers court no-show was the latest twist in the ongoing battle between mining giant Metallurgical Corporation of China (MCC) and local landowners, who are split between those who support the mine and those who do not want its waste dumped into a bay.

The Rai Coast locals claim they were never consulted and fear the mine's plan to pump 100 million tonnes of slurry waste into the sea over 20 years will destroy their environment.

MCC is in this court case fighting an injunction stopping its planned deep-sea tailing pipe construction for pumping the waste.

The project has been a costly learning curve for the Chinese, whose Ramu nickel mine has been plagued by problems and violent protests since PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare personally gave it the go-ahead in 2005.

Ramu plaintiffs go missing as case gets messy


THIS RAMU IMBROGLIO is getting to be a very smelly business indeed.

It seems likely the missing Rai Coast landowners, due to appear in court today as plaintiffs opposing activities of the planned Ramu nickel mine, have been flown to Port Moresby.

It also appears they have been drawn into last ditch discussions by representatives of the mine’s owners in an attempt to get them to drop their litigation. If the plaintiffs withdraw, as may have happened, the case may not proceed.

In March, Rai Coast landowners won a temporary injunction preventing the Ramu nickel mine from building a deep-sea tailings pipeline to dump waste into Astrobale Bay off Madang.

The National Court in Madang was due to begin hearings today to decide whether to lift the ban or make it permanent.

It is understood that just before the court began proceedings, the plaintiff’s lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, was advised they did not want to proceed with the case.

It is further understood that Ms Nonggorr may have identified new plaintiffs who still wish to prosecute the landowners’ case.

Ms Nongorr told the ABC that in the last week tension had escalated into intimidation and violence.

"In the last week or so, I've been threatened, the plaintiffs have been threatened, we've had to get a police escort," she said.

"People that assist me with logistics in Madang - because I live in Mt Hagen - have been attacked and also threatened. It's a bit of a mess, I must say."

The National Court hearing is due to resume tomorrow.

Ramu landowners threatened on eve of court


THE MADANG police commander deployed armed police to the Rai coast on Saturday to protect indigenous landowners who are challenging the marine waste dumping plans of the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine.

The landowners had been unable to travel to Madang to prepare for their court case today because of threats and intimidation from thugs believed to be controlled by ex-Madang Governor, James Yali.

Plaintiffs Eddie Tarsie, Peter Sel and Farima Siga have been under constant threat over the last week by people believed to be associated with Mr Yali, and had been told they should not leave the Sel village area to attend the trial.

A boat sent to collect them on Saturday was stopped by two boatloads of men armed with guns and knives. It returned to Madang without the plaintiffs and a police task force was later provided to escort the landowners to Madang.

Two weeks ago, in a matter reported to police, Mr Yali tried to approach the landowners’ lawyer, Tiffany Nonggorr, in her hotel room to challenge her over the court case.

Mr Yali told reporters he was acting on behalf of the PNG government, which has been aggressively defending the Chinese mine owners, even changing PNG’s environment law to facilitate the mine’s opening.

“I find this very disturbing,” an observer told PNG Attitude. “One of the defendants is a government we directly give half-a-billion dollars of aid. The other defendant is a joint venture between an Australian listed company and a Chinese company that has bought up a dozen resources companies in Australia.”

Mine construction is currently on hold because the landowners obtained a temporary court injunction preventing the construction of the marine mine waste dumping system that plans to pump five million tonnes of mine tailings into the sea every year.

The landowners’ court case challenging the validity of the environmental permit given to MCC, the Chinese mining company developing the mine, is to start today.

In a further development, the National Court in Madang today is likely to be asked by MCC that indigenous landowners be compelled to find K8 million (about $3.2 million) before the court case proceeds.

MCC wants the K8 million as security for the company’s costs in defending the trial.

As one observer said: “It is an interesting comment on the state of governance in Papua New Guinea that a Chinese owned transnational corporation feels no compunction about using its financial muscle to try and block indigenous landowners from exercising their Constitutional rights to challenge executive decisions by their own government.”

The Chinese legal strategy is being orchestrated by Australian lawyers.

Sources: Ramu Nickel Mine Watch, Ilya Gridneff, Alex Harris

Bill Conroy, top agriculturalist, dies at 88


Portrait THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER, struggling for a parochial angle, headlined the story ‘Avalon expert on ticks dies’.

The expert in question was Wilfred Lawrence Conroy CBE, who in fact was far more than a local entomologist.

He was better known to the many people who encountered and respected him as Bill Conroy, a pioneering agriculturalist in PNG during and for many years beyond World War II.

After training as an agricultural scientist, Mr Conroy commanded a malaria control unit in the Australian Army in PNG during the war.

He stayed on after the war, eventually becoming Director of the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries. He remained in PNG until 1978 after training his successor and acting as an adviser to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Four of Mr Conroy’s five children were born in PNG.

While serving in PNG, Bill published many articles including Swampland agriculture, Native agriculture in PNG, Some land use problems in PNG, The evolution of the agricultural environment in PNG, The effect of fire and Tradition and trends in agriculture.

After moving to Avalon many years ago, Mr Conroy and fellow entomologist Bernie Hudson got involved in the Tick-Borne Diseases Research Unit at Royal North Shore Hospital.

I bumped into him in 1983 when, as a Labor party candidate in the election won by Bob Hawke, I door-knocked his home in north Avalon. We spent the afternoon yarning about PNG - electoral matters the furthest things from our minds.

Sydney Morning Herald journalist John Huxley wrote of him in an article a few years ago: “Small, wiry and smelling pungently of a powerful insect repellent, which he has sprayed from the top of his felt hat to the toes of his battered leather boots, 81-year-old Bill Conroy emerges bedraggled from the bushland above Avalon on the northern beaches.

He looks like a long-lost fugitive, or a Civil War soldier, waving what seems to be a large, white flag of surrender.

In fact, Bill is neither lost nor defeated. And his flag - an old, cheesy-smelling towel attached to a long, wooden pole - is not a symbol of surrender, but a weapon in his long-running battle against an almost invisible foe that spreads disease and, in some cases, death.

The paralysis tick, or, to give its scientific name, Ixodes holocylus. Blind and, even in its adult form, no bigger than a watermelon seed, the tick is described by leading Sydney University parasitologist Henry Collins as ‘basically, little more than a balloon attached to a hypodermic syringe’.

Conroy is fascinated by ticks - has been for several years. They can climb. They can jump - "six inches: must be a world record for bugs". And their legs and heads are covered with hundreds of minute sensors. These enable them to identify the animal hosts, including humans, on which they drop, usually from overhanging branches, when questing for the blood that sustains the parasites through the various stages of their life cycle.

What's more, Avalon is the tick capital of the empire," says Conroy proudly, as he sweeps his smelly towel back and forth, hoping to pick up ticks from the bosky under-storey of bushes. "This is ideal habitat," he says, pointing off the path. "Semi-cleared, close to human traffic, on the margins."

Conroy admits that his wife, Marie, who has never forgotten "a particularly nasty time she had with a tick many years ago", tends to attack the ticks with metho. "She likes to hear them die screaming." But, surprisingly, perhaps, he follows almost all of his own advice: covering up well; tucking pants into socks; spraying everywhere on the body, especially round the neck, waistline and ankles, and on hat and clothes; checking after each outing that none of the little buggers has penetrated his defences.

It might be imagined that after so many years of collecting ticks he would have enjoyed immunity from their bites. "Not so. I went through that state a long time ago," he says, before striding back into the bush with his white flag. "I'm now highly sensitised. A tick bite could kill me."

In 2001, Bill Conroy added to his CBE the Centenary Medal for his service to military medical entomology.

One tribute in the local media said: “This scientist was a good man and my heart goes out to his family. He worked- for free - and was a great, decent, honest man who loved animals. Bill I thank you - as I know many others thank you - for your tireless work on trying to make this country a safer place for pets and mankind”.

Former Bougainville District Commissioner, Bill Brown MBE, adds:

Bill Conroy was a lecturer at ASOPA in 1949, on secondment from Papua New Guinea.

Another lecturer and Bill's compatriot, Jim McAuley, was a lifelong friend, and two of Jim's odes, one in song and one in verse, figured largely in the funeral service at Avalon today.

Bill's life had many highlights. One was in Bougainville, in August 1969 - after the Rorovana disaster - when he led the Administration's team in the Arawa land negotiations.

Conroy never lost his cool. He puffed his pipe, and he and [Public Solicitor Peter] Lalor controlled the play.

Research: Robin Hide

China's big plans in, but not for, PNG


NAUTILUS MINERALS has confirmed Chinese interests are planning to take a controlling stake in the Solwara 1 undersea mine as China's expansion into PNG continues.

Solwara will be the world's first undersea mining operation and will produce both copper and gold.

The Chinese are also likely to fund the Yandera copper and gold mine in Madang Province. Like the Ramu nickel mine, Yandera will use marine dumping to dispose of mine waste.

China is also looking to expand its manufacturing capacity in PNG on its own terms.

The PNG government is currently negotiating a loan from the Chinese government for China to build the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone which will be the first Special Economic Zone in PNG.

Within the zone Chinese companies will be able to operate tax free and avoid local wage restrictions and health and safety laws.

This will provide an opportunity for the Chinese to process the gold produced from the Solwara and Yandera mines.

China's interests extend to other resource sectors.

Zhoushan Zhenyang Deep-Sea Fishing, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Hailisheng, is building a $20 million tuna processing factory in Lae. Other Chinese companies hold licences to fish in PNG waters.

China is the biggest consumer of unprocessed logs from PNGs rainforests, importing around 80% of PNG’s annual log production.

Australia’s Lowy Institute has pointed out that large-scale resource projects in PNG do not alleviate poverty as most jobs are taken by foreigners, profits sent off-shore and government revenues not spent on regional development.

Beyond the balus: reflections on the nation


Balus Long Ples ART LOVERS will know the name Mathias Kauage. Hailing from Miugi in the Simbu Province, he produced hundreds of abstract paintings that depicted the changes in our country.

He focussed largely on social changes and his works would normally feature a carving-like figure immersed in the changes before them.

One of his celebrated works resides is at the headquarters of one of PNG’s iconic landmarks, Brian Bell Plaza in Boroko. The name of the piece is Bikpela Balus.

A rich turquoise blue covers the outer part depicting the open skies while, towards the centre of this masterpiece, a colorful Douglas DC 3 aircraft is packed with carving-like figures, obviously passengers aboard the flight. 

Expressions of optimism and fear are apparent, and one senses a general emotion of anxiety. Perhaps it’s to do with defying gravity or the cramped interior of the plane, but I sense it is more to do with what lies at the end of the trip. That is indeed is the great mystery.

For 35 years, our nation has traversed the skies of Statehood and the journey has been tumultuous and fraught with danger and there have been times when it was on the verge of extinction. 

Civil uprisings, ethnic conflicts, natural disasters, environmental catastrophes and the plague of corruption have challenged us. Yes, we are all anxious about what lies beyond the 2010 clouds and, more than ever, we need to be prepared for what is coming.

The greatest irony in our nation’s history is about to take place. PNG, a poor, corrupt and despotic nation with insurmountable resources, is set to reverse this predicament by 2050. The politicians want to make PNG a prosperous, happy and safe place by 2050. 

With a grandiose launch late last year, the masses turned out to witness the fun fair. Words of inspiration, symbols of wealth and commitment littered Sir John Guise Stadium as the nation braced for The 2050 Vision.

What followed has been an unprecedented effort by government to realign every State institution to this plan. Law reform in the public service, public finances, community development, foreign relations, health, education provincial, local level government affairs, and the government machinery is fully engaging in this realignment.

Colleges, universities and other higher institutions are teaching the future leaders of our country about this plan. Foundation students were given the plan as part of their enrolment packs. Public servants are daily reminded of the outputs and targets of the plan and the wealth of our nation is to fund this vision. So for the now, it seems, what’s beyond the clouds of 2010 is The Vision 2050.

Plans to propel nations and empires to move forward have two things in common. First you need the support of the people. The second is resources. From Adolf Hitler’s Lebensraum, Joseph Stalin’s Collectivization, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, Mao Tse Tung’s Cultural Revolution to the White Australia Policy, the driving force of progress and development has no limits.

Millions of men and women in these countries supported these policies and plans and willingly enlisted to carry them out. Whether through, war, compulsory property acquisition, resource extraction, genocide or famine, the machinery of the State is a powerful tool for change and only history can judge if it was for the betterment for humanity.

In the name of Lebensraum 6 million Jews were annihilated, 40 million souls perished under Collectivization, 5 million Americans starved in the New Deal and millions of Chinese were slaughtered under the Cultural Revolution.

Trillions upon trillions of dollars were spent on these quests and depending on what history book you read, it was either a success or an utter failure. But one thing is for sure, the corridors of the Kremlin, the blue carpet of the Oval Office, the furniture of the Zhongnanhai, and the balcony of Kirribilli House, are all soaked in the blood of the people.

It’s too early to see if the 2050 Vision will cost our people, but there are worrying signs of what happened in these other places at other times on the steps of Mirigni Haus.

Regulating NGOs so that mines can trash the land, permitting high levels of pollution that will poison our fish, funding criminal syndicates to rob banks, hiring mercenaries to kill off rivals, forced relocation due to ethnic violence, thousands of children dying from the lack of medication and neglecting the delivery of basic services were similar signs of Germany, Russia, the US, Australia and China at various stages in their history.

Are these mere random acts or are they consequences of The Vision 2050? Will the Ramu nickel farce bring 10% growth to our economy? Are the BSP bank robberies going educated one million PNGns? Will killing political rivals improve our justice system? Will grand payouts to unscrupulous individuals improve our export capabilities? This is where the challenge for the pilots of the DC3. How do they dodge the jagged mountains of bribery, the head winds of corruption, and the fogs of crime?

I don’t know, wantoks, but when I look outside the DC3 I see the descendants of men and women that sailed the seven seas to reach our land, developed advanced irrigation techniques 6,000 years before the Mesopotamians, constructed towering six storey structures to accommodate produce and created many other great marvels.

They instilled plans, regulations and systems of governance that have lasted thousands of years. From environment conservation, sustainable resource extractions, justice systems, trade, foreign relations and yes even economics.

OK, so it was done through the nations of Ipili, Baluan, Jimi, Koto, Kuanua, Erema, Kiriwina and many others, but the point is this, they all were looking for a safe, secure and happy nation.

Now more than ever, our community of nations must be united under the plumes of the kumul. We need to value our identity as the people of Papua New Guinea because only then, we can collectively bring forth change. 

Together we can work on how to make one million PNGns educated, have 10% growth, fight corruption, kill the bribes, protect the environment and even if the MDG, NSP 2050 Vision collapses, let us aspire to make PNG a prosperous, happy and safe nation.

Image: Balus Long Ples by Mathias Kauage [National Gallery of Australia]

Sir Paulias says ‘write, write, write!'

THE PNG Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, himself a prolific author, has encouraged Papua New Guinean writers to enter the new national writing contest.

The contest is called The Crocodile Prize after the first novel written by a Papua New Guinean, The Crocodile, which was published in 1970.

The contest was launched yesterday by the PNG Post-Courier and PNG Attitude.

“I welcome The Crocodile Prize, as I have been a passionate proponent of Papua New Guinea literature for many years,” Sir Paulias said in Port Moresby.

“We need to have more writers and more readers in our country and this contest, supported by the Post-Courier and PNG Attitude, will encourage both.

“It is most appropriate that it be called The Crocodile Prize, after Vincent Eri's pioneering book, and that it is launched on our Independence Day, as literature lies at the very heart of culture.

“Our own nation has had a rich oral tradition and this has but slowly extended into the written form.

“I note that the contest will carry prizes for stories, poetry and journalism - and this is a wonderful initiative.

“Now I call upon our people to write, write, write - and make The Crocodile Prize an overwhelming success.”

Further information here

New man in the Pacific to get down to work


AUSTRALIA’S NEW Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, says he hopes to visit all or most of the Pacific Island nations before the end of this year.

He said his visits will start as soon as the end of the first sitting of the new Australian Parliament – due to finish in late October.

“I am conscious this is an important job I have been given, especially as I am following in the footsteps of Duncan Kerr who was held in such great respect throughout the Pacific Islands,” he said.

Mr Marles, 43, spoke to PNG Atttitude this afternoon at a reception in Canberra to mark the 35th anniversary of PNG independence.

All Pacific Island nations were represented at the reception by their heads of mission and by senior diplomatic and military staff.

PNG’s High Commissioner Charles Lepani said relations between Australia and PNG had been stable and friendly over the recent past but, at times, had been turbulent as was to be expected between friends.

He said it was as if we were witnessing a transformation at both people to people level and at official level.

“This transformation has been brought about by the resurgence of interest in Kokoda and with the effort of NGOs as well as the efforts of both governments to find new ways to improve and promote our bilateral relations towards greater economic development and less on development cooperation.

“In other words, to recognise our mutual interest are better served by respecting the sovereignty of our nations – with responsibility in managing our bilateral relations”, Mr Lepani said.

Richard Marles is a former assistant secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and has strong links with the trade union movement in PNG.

He has been federal member for the Victorian electorate of Corio since 2007 and has degrees in law and science.

He began his legal career with Julia Gillard’s former employer, the law firm Slater & Gorton, working with indigenous PNG landowners in successful Ok Tedi litigation against BHP’s environmental despoliation.

In 2000, he became assistant secretary of the ACTU and ran the Working Hours Case which for the first time gave workers the right to refuse unreasonable amounts of overtime.

He also led what’s been described as an innovative program of cooperation between the Australian and PNG union movements.

Richard Marles lives in Geelong with his wife Rachel and their four children.

Essay: 35 years on, celebrate & ask questions


Speaking THE RED, BLACK and gold, with a touch of the bird of paradise flew for the first time on Independence Hill, Port Moresby on this day in 1975. I was 6 months old, and had no idea of what had just happened!

PNG celebrates 35 years of Nationhood today. Reflections of how we’ve fared as a nation are the order of discussion at this time of the year, so I pause and join the queue.

I ask a question shared by many in my generation – a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, professionals and citizens, of this beautiful country, I call my island home.

Are we Independent, in the true sense of the word?

Exactly five years before 16 September 1975, 16 Papua New Guinean members of the then House of Assembly developed a vision for a new nation.

The Constitutional Planning Committee (CPC) tabled certain underlying principles as the basis for the development of the National Goals and Directive Principles in our Constitution.

These principles were Nation Building, Development of People, Participation and Decentralisation, Consultation and Consensus, Rights and Freedoms, and Quality of Leadership.

It was from these Principles that the vision of PNG was born. It was a vision to ensure integral human development, equality and participation, national sovereignty for this country and self reliance, wise use of our natural resources and all these through the use of Papua New Guinean ways with the aim of achieving a free and just society.

On the eve of self-government, the CPC declared: “Our Constitution should look towards the future and act as an accelerator in the process of development. It should be related to the national goals that we leaders of this country are enunciating. A clear definition of PNG’s most fundamental national goals, and a statement setting out the implications of their acceptance for the ways in which the Government seeks to achieve those goals, is of great importance to the welfare of our people and to the effectiveness of the Constitution in promoting it…”

Church Marchers It is interesting to note that the very first Goal of our Constitution was for integral human development, a process described as freeing oneself from every form of domination or oppression to have the opportunity to develop as a whole person in relationship with others.

When I ponder on this goal, it seems obvious that the CPC intended people to be the focus of development of the nation. Have we freed ourselves from all forms of domination and discrimination? Have we adequately recognised and put in place statutory mechanisms to uphold the basic social rights of every citizen?

After 35 years of independence, PNG still faces significant development challenges. There is evidence of extreme hardship facing households. Our living standards are on the decline. The rural population remains at a disadvantage. There are insufficient employment opportunities accorded to our youth. There is worsening law and order and disturbing health issues reflected in the rise of HIV/AIDS.

There is no shortage of statistics. Our country is ranked 148 out of 175 countries on what’s known as the UN Human Development Index. Life expectancy for an average Papua New Guinean ranges between 50 and 60 in rural and urban areas respectively. About 30% of people over the age of 15 do not have any cash earning ability and between 33 and 40 infants die each day from diseases that could be prevented. We have managed to educate only half of our women over the age of 15. Half our population does not have access to clean drinking water and we battle with drastically high HIV/AIDS infection rates.

In light of these challenges, I have to ask whether we give our men and women equal opportunity to develop, participate and benefit from the development of PNG?

Has there been an equalisation of services across the country or are the benefits from project-rich provinces concentrated such that only a certain portion of the population benefit from the income generated?

Article 25 of the Convention on Civil and Political Rights promotes the right to participate in public affairs. A rights-based approach should be a means to achieve development. Are all citizens in this country able to equally participate in political, economic, social and religious activities?

Do we recognise and respect the rights of every citizen to have equal excess to legal processes and all services both governmental and non-governmental that each citizen requires fulfilling his or her needs and aspirations?

In consideration of any matter affecting citizens and their communities, is every citizen of this country able to participate in ensuring their voices are heard?

When our forefathers declared the our Third National Goal to be that of National Sovereignty and Self-Reliance, I am pretty sure they foresaw the difficulties that the cash economy would bring such as poverty, social disorientation, environmental degradation and disturbance of Papua New Guinean or Melanesian ways.

Our challenge has been to blend traditional PNG ways with modernity. It hasn’t been easy. Our land has been at the centre of controversy, with differing views of development. Should communal ownership be forgone in favor of individual title? What impact would that have on the communities that depend on their land for their livelihood?

One thing is for certain; we have failed to adopt a bottom-up, participatory planning approach, involving the very people whose interests we should be serving? Is there truly national sovereignty in planning and decision-making?

Tolai Kids Self-Reliance is declared to be a means to an end in National Goal 3. Have we been self-reliant in pursuing, negotiating and developing our resource projects, or are we too dependent on foreign advice especially of multi-national corporations? 

Our environmental sustainability record is one of the worst in the world despite our having the best laws in the world. With logging concessions in operation without a proper National Forest Inventory and National Forest Plan, we don’t even fall close to achieving the International Tropical Timber Organisation’s sustainable yield definitions and targets.

The focus of the CPC was that our natural resources be wisely used for present and future generations of this nation. How can we plan how much to take out and how much to save, when we don’t have proper stocktaking and planning?

What are our “Papua New Guinean ways”, and have we tried to achieve development primarily through the use of our own social political and economic institutions?

This is the ideal moment in history to apply the brakes. We should ask ourselves whether the Spirit of our Constitution and its Goals and Directive Principles, has indeed been our guardian angel. As a resource rich country, have we achieved true economic independence? Are our gold, copper and oil processed onshore? Is the cost of petroleum products in this country reflective of an oil-producing nation?

This country is so rich in resources that, in the words of one senior statesman, we are an “island of gold floating on a sea of oil”.

Our institutions of government, education, commerce, and religion, and most importantly our attitudes, need a complete re-orientation in order that they respond to the needs and aspirations of citizens of this country.

While we celebrate and feel a sense of pride today - an island nation, rich and diverse in cultures, with unique traditional systems - I call on every professional young man and woman to join me in asking these questions. As my daughter turns two today, I also ask these questions on behalf of her generation.

Independence Float Martin Luther King Jr so famously stated “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed…” Although, he was referring to the Emancipation Proclamation signed to end slavery, we also this day, in this nation, have an obligation to ourselves and our children and their children to put an end to a certain “form of slavery”. 

We have to free ourselves from oppression and suppression! We have been slaves to ignorance, greed, self-centredness, cynicism, complacency, corruption and tyranny.

Lets STAND UP and acknowledge that TODAY we dream, that TODAY, this nation will rise up and give meaning to its National Goals and Directive Principles. That tomorrow, we the people of this land will take charge of our destiny. Only then, will there be true Independence!

Effrey Dademo is a lawyer and founder of PNG’s anti-corruption website Act Now. Effrey graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea in 1997 and was admitted to the Bar in 1998, later serving as a lawyer at the Environmental Law Centre. from 2000-05.

Photos: From Independence Day in Rabaul, 1975  [Barbara Short]

Crocodile Prize will encourage PNG writers

Prize Logo A WRITING CONTEST for Papua New Guinean writers was launched today by the PNG Post-Courier and the Australian website, PNG Attitude.

The contest is called THE CROCODILE PRIZE and is named after the first novel written by a Papua New Guinean, The Crocodile by Vincent Eri, which was published in 1970.

The contest has three categories - for short stories, poetry and journalism.

A first prize of K1,000 will be awarded in each category and the Post-Courier will publish the best entries.


“We started the contest to provide an opportunity for PNG writers to publish their work and for readers to have access to that work,” said organiser, author Philip Fitzpatrick.

“Eligible contributions must be written by citizens of Papua New Guinea and they will be judged by a panel of Papua New Guinean and Australian writers.

Mr Fitzpatrick said a number of companies and private individuals had committed funds to support the project, but he hoped it would attract more.

“We want to encourage writers to write and readers to read,” he said.

“This means more than receiving contributions. It means ensuring the winning entries reach a much bigger audience throughout PNG.

“We are working on this with the Post-Courier and the PNG Attitude website.”

The editor-in-chief of the Post-Courier, Blaise Nangoi, said the newspaper was pleased to be involved in the initiative to promote writing among Papua New Guineans and to recognise their skills.

“We know the importance of encouraging writing,” Mr Nangoi said.

“Since the days of Sir Serei Eri, Russel Sorariba, John Kasaipolowa, Nora Vagi Brash and current Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, there has been an evident shortage of writers, poets and dramatists in the country.

“We realise the serious need to encourage and expose a new crop of writers and, in that direction, we continue to support young journalism students in the graduate schools of UPNG and Divine Word universities,” he said.

“The Post-Courier is pleased to be part of this new initiative together with PNG Attitude and we will publish the winning entries.

“One of our top feature writers and storytellers, Patrick 'Big Pat' Levo, will be part of the judging panel for this competition.”

The contest winner will be announced each PNG Independence Day from 2011, and entries will be published regularly by the Post-Courier and PNG Attitude.

Sir Vincent Serei Eri (1936-93) was born in Moveave in the Gulf Province and later became Director of Education, PNG’s first Consul General in Australia, a Member of Parliament and Governor-General.

His novel The Crocodile is set in PNG before and during World War II and is a coming of age story about Hoiri, whose life poses a continuing contradiction between traditional life and the modern world.

Further information is on PNG Attitude here

Papua New Guinea: A writing heritage


Phil IN THE YEARS leading up to Independence and for a short time afterwards literature flowered in Papua New Guinea.

One of the reasons for this was the need felt by many Papua New Guineans to examine their place in the world in those radical times.

The question for many was: who are we and where do we want to go? Writing about it seemed a logical thing to do.

Impetus was given by the establishment of a creative writers’ course at the embryonic University of Papua New Guinea by the irrepressible Ulli Beier.

The first novel by a Papuan writer, Vincent Eri’s The Crocodile came out of that course and Ulli also had a hand in Albert Maori Kiki’s Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime and Michael Somare’s Sana.

Under Ulli’s benign guidance a journal of Papua New Guinea literature, Kovave, also appeared. In the first volume prose such as Peter Lus’ My Head is as Black as the Soil of our Country, John Kadiba’s Tax and Kumalau Tawali’s Island Life appeared along with John Waiko’s play The Unexpected Hawk.

The Papua Pocket poets, a series of booklets, appeared shortly thereafter and included works like John Kasaipwalova’s Reluctant Flame.

Some of this literature had a distinctly anti-colonialist tone. This was not instigated by Ulli Beier but he didn’t discourage it either.

Some of the more virulent anti-colonialists were, in fact, colonialists themselves, the expatriate academics at the UPNG. They enjoyed nothing better than taunting and baiting the Australian administration. Mind you, there were people in the administration who needed taunting.

Ironically it was the students of these leftie firebrands who took a more balanced and conciliatory view of the march towards nationhood.

Some of the other writers active at this time, in no particular order, were, Peter Lus, Wairu Degoba, Pokwari Kale, Allan Natachee (Avaisa Pinongo), Leo Hannett, Rabbie Namaliu, Arthur Jawodimbari, Turuk Wabei, Bob Giegao, Jacob Simet, Jack Lahui, Clemens Runawery, Peter Wia Paiya, Renagi Lohia, Joseph Saruva, Herman Talingapua and Ikini Yaboyang.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. Prior to 1975 many Papua New Guinean public servants and others in sensitive positions published material anonymously or by using a pseudonym to protect themselves and their jobs.

Some of them should perhaps now stand up and be acknowledged for their contributions.

You can read the complete version of Phil Fitzpatrick’s essay here. The essay was written for the Independence Day supplement of the PNG Post-Courier on 16 September 2010.

Beginning the climb - my PNG education


Oates Paul WHEN I WAS 21 I was lucky enough to be selected as an Assistant Patrol Officer in the then Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea (TPNG).

Not many people in Australia knew much about our northern external territory except those of my father’s generation who had fought there during the Second World War.

My training as an Assistant Patrol Officer commenced in 1969 at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) located in Mosman, Sydney. The lectures included Law, Government, Geography, and Language. Mostly these subjects were taught by those who had some association with PNG, although they had little or no experience in the Territory’s rural areas.

After our time at ASOPA, my Course of 39 trainees was flown to Port Moresby and continued its training at Kwikila, a Sub District Headquarters 100 km east of Moresby in the Rigo area of the Central District.

Here practical experience involved police administration, local government and public works. At the end of this training, we were given our field postings. My posting was to the West Sepik region, however I swapped with a colleague so I could go to the Morobe District to hopefully learn a little about cattle farming.

In the event, I was posted to Pindiu Patrol Post in the Finschhafen Sub District where there were very few cattle. When I arrived at the district headquarters in Lae and visited the District Commissioner’s Office, I was told I was to fly out the next morning to Pindiu and was taken around to open a country order account at Steamships New Guinea company.

An Assistant District Commissioner from another sub-district wanted to snaffle me for his domain and, when he came around the following morning to order me to go with him; I wanted to be loyal to my actual posting and hid until he had to catch his plane.

Later that morning I was loaded into a small Cessna 172 along with a new government clerk and his family and we flew from Lae to Pindiu, where I was expected to complete my two years of field training and after which I might be lucky enough to be promoted to Patrol Officer.

The type of field training offered usually depended on the senior officer at the time. There appeared to be two schools of thought. One was to take the newly posted ‘Cadet’ and lead him through the ropes. The second appeared to be: ‘Toss him in at the deep end and see if he swims?’ The Officer in Charge (OIC) of Pindiu, who had previously served in the Western Highlands, belonged to the second school of thought.

Not long after I arrived, I was told I was to go on patrol. This involved preparing my meagre supplies and rations and flying from Pindiu to Mindik airstrip where the OIC and I walked to where an airstrip was to be built. My role was to supervise the construction of that airstrip at a village called Ogeranang using a plan on a foolscap piece of paper kept at the site. My boss took me to the site, showed me what had to be done and left me there for a fortnight to learn the ropes.

What I didn’t know at the time was that in the future I would be directed to build a Base Camp at Mindik and generally ‘look after’ the whole of the Kua and Bulum river valleys and their people.

I would also regularly walk back and forth to the airstrip construction site at Ogeranang village in the Bulum valley. What I also didn’t know was that my little Base Camp would eventually become a centre of government administration and I would plan schools to be built in Mindik and Ogeranang that would help the people of that area.

But all that was in the future.

I considered myself at 21 to be fairly fit. Outdoor training with the Army Reserve and ‘bush bashing’ as it was called was something I was very keen on. Our patrol started from Mindik and walked for about three hours from the Kua valley over the ridge to the Bulum valley and to a village called Areganang.

Here we met the driving force behind the new airstrip, a councillor called Rukanzinga. Councillor Rukanzinga turned out to be about my father’s age and a man of vision. He was very keen to have an airstrip in his area so that his people didn’t have to carry their coffee all the way to Mindik or down to the coast to sell.

Leaving Areganang, we set off again towards Ogeranang and the airstrip site only this time the climbing was harder going. “Don’t drink anything!” the boss told me, but the cool, clear water in the stream before the final climb was just too tempting.

Up, up, and up we climbed until my breath started to shorten. Stopping and taking ‘a breather’ to look at the scenery didn’t seem to help. My breathing became very laboured and I wondered what on earth was going on.

“Ha!” said my boss, “You drank some water didn’t you? I told you not to?”

What I hadn’t yet worked out is that my body wasn’t yet acclimatised to altitude and at around 5,000 feet about sea level I wasn’t used to the diminished oxygen at that altitude - especially when taking rigorous exercise.

As I gasped and wheezed up the mountain, Councillor Rukanzinga came forward and said gently in Tok Pisin, “Just take little steps, kiap. You’ll be OK.”

Slipping his arm into mine, the councillor helped me forward and showed me how to take little, six inch steps upward. Ever so slowly I continued to climb, leaning on Councillor Rukanzinga.

When we arrived at the top of the ridge where the airstrip was being built, it seemed thousands of people were waiting for us. The experienced PNG councillor had successfully led the inexperienced young Australian up to the camp site.

I realised that my PNG education had only just commenced.

35 years is really just long taim liklik

Yokomo_Poem BY YOKOMO (as told to Keith Jackson)

YOU MIGHT remember me. Yokomo. One taim moa. Yokomo.

The School Paper in the 1960s brought my fine name to national attention.

Every school child knew me in those days. My dog Omokoy too.

Like me, Omokoy old dog now. Like me, still learning tricks, as old saying go.

Omokoy can lie in hole in the dirt all day. That a pretty good trick, laka?

So what have I been doing since 1975, I hear you think.

Well, I am Grand Chief Sir Yokomo, OL Kt CBE BA (UPNG).

More exactly Minister for Bikpela Pik Na Liklik Pik Tu in the Haus Tamberan.

Me and other 97 Ministers run the country. Or we help The Chief run it, as he would say. The Opposition run around wondering how we all got to be Ministers. You should ask Sir Puka that question if you like see major Motuan meltdown.

Opposition need advice from AusAID consultants doing ‘capability building’ and ‘strategic programming’. There’s enough of them in Mosbi to run Oxford University.

Yokomo got 34 konsaltans in my Department telling about building capable pig banises and strategic pig farmer thinking. Hot stuff, my friends, this boomerang aid.

I met that Australian lady prime minister on my monthly trip to inspect pig farms in Cairns. Her boyfriend gave me free haircut. Not that there much work to do.

“Misis Julia Gillard,” I ask. “How do a wimin get to top of politics maunten?”

“My dear old wantok, Yokomo,” the swit Misis Gillett replied, “You got to get more senior portfolio than Minister for Bikpela Pik Na Liklik Pik Tu.”

Me take that seriously and start counting numbers in Haus Tamberan.

That Speaker Nape he no laik this too much though, I can tell you.

‘I numbers man,” he tell me. “I do the count”.

Anyway, Jeff talk to Arthur, the Chief Junior, who say to me, “Yokomo. I think I take your Bikpela Pik portfolio and you now Minister for Liklik Pik tasol.”  Well, what can Yokomo say - Arthur got Planning, Public Enterprise and good connections.

So I think, “Cairns got planti liklik pik, I think I feel study tour coming on.” Hot stuff.

But Yokomo has wandered off Kokoda Track, down ridge and into dense Papuan jungle. Return to subject.

Yes, Independence. Back then we called it Underpants, but that was 35 years and we couldn’t spell because have no Outcomes Based Education.

In those days, Post-Courier was Worst-Guria, that’s how bad we were.

And The National was someone like me. Before then Yokomo had been called The Local, The Indigene, The Native and others which I don’t want to offend myself.

I remember Underpants Day 1975 like it was my clothes line.

Omokoy and me go to Hubert Murray Oval with Omokoy happily sniffing ground. Three months previous oval had been Moresby garbage place. Ol rabis tinmit hia.

At sandaun on 15 September, Australia flag taken down. Sir John Guise say: “We are lowering this flag, not tearing it down”. That because Yokomo not get there first.

Prince Charles, he there too. Thirty-five years ago, he hair to throne because he still got something on top then. Today he still wait to be Queen of England.

Misis Kwin emi lapun tru and Charles sit waiting just like Arthur sit waiting for The Chief to forget to come to work one day.

Yokomo_Astronaut On 16 September – one minute past midnight - Governor-General announce Proklamasin of Independence on radio because NBC still paying elektrisiti (pawa) then.

Next, 101-gun salute by Royal Australian Navy. No sleep that night. Sound like Japan War come back. Except no wari in PNG due to Spes Program (see piksa hia about our Spes Program).

PNG kumul plag go antap at 9.30 morning. Sun must come up late that day.

Prince Charles inspect Royal Guard and flag pass round in circle until PNG Defence Force boss make quick decision to stick it up pole. Good thing too. Hot stuff.

Royal Australian Air Force and PNG Defence Force balus fly over (go to Cairns I think) and Prince Charles unveil plaque, saying one day he be Kwin.

Omokoy dig up old tinmit from Hubert Murray Oval and bark twice. Happy Underpants!

Keith Jackson edited the PNG School Papers in 1966-67 and wrote many Yokomo stories. This article appeared originally in the PNG Post-Courier's Independence Day supplement, 16 September 2010

Images: Yokomo cartoons by John Lucas, 1966-67

35 years on - some reasons for PNG pride


Flag lowering THAT FIRST Independence Day in Papua New Guinea was organised in a heck of a hurry.

Less than three months before 16 September 1975, Chief Minister Michael Somare gave long-serving District Commissioner David Marsh the task of organising events on the day and during the six days of celebration from 14-19 September.

Marsh did a fine job – VIPs, security, transport, accommodation and the proceedings themselves all had to be planned and brought to fruition. And not just in Moresby, of course, but throughout the country.

There were a number of high profile events, like the taking down of the Australian flag at sunset on 15 September (“we are lowering this flag, not tearing it down,” said Sir John Guise, memorably).

And there were also exhibits, church services, sports fixtures, bands, pageants, addresses, dinners, ceremonies, concerts, fireworks, medals, publications, tree plantings and radio broadcasts.

Even the West Indies cricket team played in Port Moresby and Lae.

Then, on the day itself, in the presence of the Prince of Wales, the commander of the PNG Defence Force raised the new Kumul flag on behalf of the people of Papua New Guinea.

Independence Day was a huge success. And its success had been achieved with speed. A bit like Independence itself.

Australia had been in PNG to build a nation. We expatriates played our parts in that grand enterprise. Unfortunately, when Australia pulled out, so did thousands of its citizens who had worked in PNG for many years. And they left quickly.

It was said then, and still is by a lot of people, that Independence had “come too soon”.

But, to me, the main issue was that too much experience and expertise deserted PNG in those few years immediately after Independence.

But that was in the seventies, and nothing can change what happened then.

Today, 35 years on, what can we say about Papua New Guinea?

Well, my website PNG Attitude always has a lot to say – and some of it is very critical.

But, irrespective of what one may think about governance, health and other issues, let me tell you six good reasons why everyone associated with Papua New Guinea should feel a sense of real pride in the country.

1 – PNG is a parliamentary democracy. Forget the skullduggery and tactical trickery that sometimes characterises National Parliament, PNG’s people go to the polls every four years to elect their government. They will do so again in 2012 as they have in the 48 years since 1964. (Yes, 2014 will be the 50th anniversary of representative government in PNG.)

2 – PNG is united. And what a challenge this was. A fragmented tribal society of more than 800 languages and as many cultures has managed to remain together as one nation for 35 years. True, it hasn’t always been plain sailing, but how could it be in such circumstances. Unity alone is a considerable achievement and a positive reflection on PNG’s political leadership.

3 – PNG has retained a viable society. Although periodically threatened by commercial pressures and the waywardness of modern life, the bedrock of PNG society remains the tribe, clan and extended family. The wantok system can be a curse when applied to conventional organisation; but is a real blessing when it comes to providing the baseline security that a nation and its people require.

4 - PNG has retained some strong institutions. It has a Defence Force that understands the primacy of the government of the day. It has an independent and strong judiciary. It has universities that produce thinkers and doers. And it has non-government organisations that, while frequently criticised by some politicians, are growing in robustness and contributing greatly to the maintenance of a strong civil society.

5. PNG has a free press. While not numerous in terms of autonomous outlets, the PNG press has a tradition of independence that was first entrenched by those forcefully unfettered journalists who gave real backbone to the country’s media organisations in the 1960s and 1970s. This feisty press tradition has more recently managed to migrate successfully to the internet, especially through blogs. It will continue to flourish.

6 – PNG has a people who will prevail. Over many hundreds of years a thousand societies developed in relative isolation from the world and from each other. But that proved no fatal constraint, because these societies also produced an enviable toughness, an acute intuition, a richness of culture and a great capacity to change. No more needs to be said.

All Australians who have affection for Papua New Guinea and its people, and there are very many of us, congratulate our close neighbour on this auspicious day and want to communicate to you the continuing warmth of our friendship.

Photo: Flag lowering ceremony, Port Moresby, 15 September 1975

This article appeared in the Independence Day supplement of The National, 16 September 2010

National Archives pays tribute to PNG kiaps

THIRTY-FIVE YEARS after PNG gained independence on 16 September 1975, the National Archives of Australia is  paying tribute to the 2000 Australians who served there as patrol officers (kiaps) between 1949 and 1974.

The kiaps, now living across Australia and elsewhere, will see their contribution recognised with a display of photographs from the Archives collection on its Flickr site.

The Archives is also hoping former kiaps, or people who knew them, will help identify those in the photographs and share their memories and their own photos online.

The pidgin term ‘kiap’ is derived from the German ‘kapitan’. Young men who took up the challenge enjoyed autonomy and the opportunity to make a difference.

Kiaps shouldered a diverse range of roles from ambassador, policeman, judge and administrator to explorer, farmer, engineer and anthropologist.

One former kiap Tom Webster, who now lives at Nimmitabel, near Canberra, has posted photographs from his own collection, and offered personal items from his kiap days for display at the Archives.

“In 1969, at the age of 20, Tom left his job in Canberra to became a cadet patrol officer in Port Moresby,” said National Archives curator Jane Macknight. “His belongings and photographs add a personal touch to the larger picture.”

After completing his training course, Tom Webster was posted to Laiagam, in the Western Highlands. Within days of arriving, he supervised the extension of the airstrip, investigated a fatal fire in a nearby school, and set off on his first census patrol.

The National Archives has also mounted displays on the kiaps in its Canberra galleries and is organising a tribute event in November for kiaps from around Australia to attend. Further information is available at

National Archives' links:

1 - Tom Webster: a kiap in Papua New Guinea

2 - On patrol in Papua New Guinea

Tomorrow in a special PNG Attitude Independence Day issue:
         -- PNG: a writing heritage, Phil Fitzpatrick
         -- Beginning the climb, Paul Oates
         -- 1975-2010 – tough, but can be proud, Keith Jackson
         -- 35 years is really just long taim liklik, Yokomo (sic)
          -- And a major announcement for PNG writers

Applying a stats theory to PNG politics


PARETO’S PRINCIPLE, also known as the 80-20 rule, states that in most activities, a small percentage (around 20%) of total activity accounts for a large percentage (around 80%) of the result.

One has only to read the reports and articles from PNG to realise the country has significant social problems. Essentially they seem to be grouped into two main areas: (1) PNG as a rich country where most people are poor, and (2) pleas to political leaders to generate greater equity falling on deaf ears.

For wealth to develop, there must be opportunity. If everyone is busy searching or farming for food and there is no way of preserving what is produced, wealth is difficult to accumulate.

As a society develops agriculturally and is able to accumulate wealth, whether through domestic animals or stored food or valued materials (like axes), there is opportunity for a more privileged class to evolve.

So what happens when this balance of wealth tilts one way or the other? At some point, people become dissatisfied creating a mood for change. Revolutions are historically generated by severe imbalances in the distribution of a society’s wealth.

Traditionally, wealth in PNG societies was measured in terms of social obligation. Ceremonies where large quantities of perishable food were given away created great obligation to the giver.

When PNG was administered by other countries, new sets of rules were introduced. These rules were entirely unknown to the large majority of hundreds of distinctly different communities.

After the Second World War, a common administration was set up for Papua and New Guinea. This administrative process imposed rule by law but allowed traditional laws and customs to exist where they did not conflict with Western law.

Therein lay the seeds of a dilemma. Traditional social capital could be significantly magnified by obtaining paid employment and then using income to buy large amounts of desirable consumables and give them away in a traditional manner.

Traditional social capital was deflated. Long hours of gardening, making traditional artefacts and looking after animals could be undermined instantly by someone arrived back in the village with huge amounts of desirable objects to give away.

In reality, the current political system in PNG is working very well. It just depends on what benchmark you use. Most PNG politicians are using traditional Melanesian means of achieving wealth. They are simply applying traditional PNG culture in a modern setting. How the wealth is obtained is irrelevant.

What some people find hard to accept is that, in order to obtain a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and resources, the traditional method of wealth creation and distribution has to be changed. But cultural change is a very hard thing to initiate and needs large amounts of good will to overturn centuries of inertia.

The impetus for changing the traditional PNG concept of wealth distribution does not seem to be there. When the available wealth is held by less than a small percentage of the PNG population and the vast majority are poor, this impetus may arise. When the curve of misdistribution increases past the point of no real returns to the PNG poor it may well prove Pareto’s Principle.

Better prosperity pathways than mining


MINING IS AN unsustainable industry globally, but it is especially unsustainable in a developing nation like PNG.

Mines have a limited life - in most cases between 10 and 20 years. Commodity prices are subject to boom and bust cycles. Wealth from mining is concentrated in the hands of a very small group of multinational corporations. Skilled employees are imported, jobs for locals are only temporary and lowly paid. Toxic waste - and resulting wasteland - is left behind.

With an economic life of only a decade or two at best, what happens then? The resources are dug up, taken out of the country, gone. And that’s if the mine lasts the distance.

Scars puncture the earth on every continent from mining ventures that were strategically shut down or went broke due to a plunge in commodity prices, a credit crunch or a stockmarket crash, and the gaping holes are left abandoned, perhaps until such time as prices and markets return in the next cycle, or perhaps not.

While this IS a global phenomenon, the consequences for a developing country dependent upon a handful of projects can be devastating. When a single industry represents so great a percentage of the national revenue, it reveals an unsustainable economy. This is the case for PNG.

In contrast, there are many regions and more than a few nations that have or are building economic prosperity on the their wildlife and environmental conservation efforts.

South Africa, a country rich in and dependent upon its resources industry, and still with major social issues of crime and poverty, is reporting new records in tourism arrivals. Tourism has been identified by the government of South Africa as a key economic sector, growing faster than any other.

It is developing niche tourism sectors under the banner of nature-based tourism such as photographic safaris, eco-tourism, paleo-tourism, adventure and cultural tourism. Already, nature-based tourism “contributes as much to the economies of all southern African countries as agriculture, forestry, and fisheries combined.” [Dr Laurel Neme, The Wildlife radio program, USA, 1/3/2010]

Costa Rica, in severe poverty and unable to pay its foreign debt thirty years ago, is experiencing the greatest surge of its “new primary industry, tourism”. Its sales pitch is: "Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints and waste nothing but time." Services industries (led by tourism) now contribute 68% of GDP.

While global tourism, worth more than US$700 billion and employing 8% of the global workforce, is one of the fastest growing industries and nature-based tourism the fastest growing sector, it is matched in pace and potential by the growth of Fairtrade.

Fairtrade is a market-based system of ethical consumption, where consumers choose to buy products sourced from farmers and manufacturers who have been fairly paid, who produce in a sustainable fashion, and whose working conditions and economic outcomes are better than those traditionally available to workers in developing nations.

Globally, an estimated 5 million people – farmers, workers and their families – are already benefiting from the Fairtrade system. Fairtrade is currently working in 58 developing countries, with 464 producer organizations and 515 registered traders who commit to agreed trading standards (including payment of minimum Fairtrade prices and social premiums) and independent audit of sales.

The European Commission has committed to halt losses of wildlife biodiversity across the EU, which José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, concedes have been extensive.

“Europe’s agriculture, water supplies, and fisheries all rely on a healthy environment and the wellbeing of the more than 500 million European citizens relies on a healthy environment… EU institutions and member states must realise that investing in wildlife is investing in citizens’ wellbeing,” he said.

In June of this year, the European Green Week conference put forward solutions to not just save what is left, but restore what has been degraded through unsustainable land and water use.

Economist Pavan Sukhdev, lead author of The Economics of Ecosystems & Biodiversity, a study of the real financial value of the environment, shows that the ecosystem services provided by coral reefs contribute USD$170 billion per year to the global economy. A quarter of all marine fish species are dependent on coral reefs for survival and half-a-billion people depend on them for their livelihoods.

Other ecosystem services on which we depend include seed dispersal, pollination of crops, pest control, weed management, soil formation and regeneration, and clean water - all created by, maintained and served by worthless little bugs, bees and birds. Logging of old growth forests, unsustainable fisheries and mining, removes substantial components of this most important of supply chains at our peril.

An investment of $45 billion in protected areas worldwide could save nature-based services worth $4.5-$5.2 trillion a year - more than the value of the car, steel and information technology sectors together.

The core issue remains the opportunity cost of utilising an environment as extraordinary as PNG’s for mining versus preserving it’s primordial state as best the country can. Maintaining the environment rather than destroying it provides for a diversity of activities, industries and economic cycles, for a variety of income streams and requires a range of skills. It is in every sense sustainable and therefore theoretically timeless, and inestimable in value.

Yes, there are indeed options to mining as a path to prosperity for PNG. More importantly, there are options to using deep sea tailings, and it is imperative that this practice be stopped immediately.

To suggest that environmental impacts of mining can be minimised by deep sea tailings is to assume that there is little life, or little life of value on the sea floor. This equates to a ‘flat earth’ assumption on the part of the esteemed environmental consultants.

Citizens need to take back control of PNG


SINCE INDEPENDENCE, Papuans New Guineans have taken their country for granted. The people are tolerant of the way PNG is being cleverly manipulated and controlled.

I hope this will soon change for the better. It is very important that citizens be concerned at the direction PNG has been heading over three decades.

As a sovereign country, we are fast losing the ability to control our own destiny, freedoms and national interests guaranteed by our national constitution. 

Since Independence we have blindly trusted politicians, bureaucrats and those in positions of authority to apply fairness in our system of politics and government. 

The system has for too long being manipulated, and no longer guarantees the people’s rights and freedoms. 

This must now be addressed by citizens. Failure to do this may see the total demise of PNG.

When we elect government officials, we give them the job of providing a political, social, economic and judicial framework that allows our society to function in our best interests.

The fact is that our politicians and bureaucrats have miserably failed us. As each month goes by, we are losing control of our country. It is only a matter of time before we lose total control in the way PNG is governed, and lose control of its rich resources.

Fortunately, there is a way forward. It is time for change with PNGeans taking back full control. It is time the people took full responsibility by telling the politicians and bureaucrats exactly how things are going to be in future.

As citizens, we will remind them that they are public servants. We must keep reminding those in authority from the Prime Minister down that it is time to start serving the public interest.

PNGeans, not public servants, politicians and big global business interests, should now set the national agenda.

Few can fail to be aware of government waste. But the true extent of this waste is astonishing; waste is actually built into the system!

It doesn’t matter which political party is in power. The candidates on both sides tell the same tired lies year after year, and many voters still believe them and elect the same sort of people come voting time.

The real problem is deeper than the mediocre quality of our elected officials. I believe these are for the most part not evil men, intent on worsening the lot of citizens who put them into office.

Rather, they are marginally competent men, unable to understand the larger issues, lost in the mass of detail and trying to find a compromise between conflicting needs.

We have all heard the rhetoric of politicians, but they are not answers. We also read, listen and watch the media, but they do not provide answers, just more questions.

What of the future? Where are we heading? What are we leaving our children?

Are our laws just and fair? Does the judicial system provide justice or a job just for the law industry?

The average citizen today must start asking themselves these questions, and more. When I think about the manner our people have been constantly lied to since Independence, I become worried, angry and depressed, but motivated at the same time.

We as a nation should not just accept what we are given or allowed, because we need to enlighten ourselves to what is happening. If we do not set things right, there will be mass protest before the next political regime takes up office.

I hope what I am saying causes some serious debate on key issues of national importance, and provokes readers to enter the debate, and possibly come up with solutions.

In the final analysis, it is about educating our whole country and adopting a point of view shared by the majority of PNGeans. From this, a constructive discussion should follow that hopefully will subsequently result in a better future outcome for PNG.

35 years & hoping - an LLG based polity


IN A PREVIOUS ARTICLE I proposed a pathway that might be established to the early restoration of citizen-equity in PNG's national resources.

It was based on each Local Level Government (LLG or local council) constituency, or group of constituencies within an electorate, selecting as their representative an individual who promised to be fully supportive of the councils, as differentiated from adhering to a personal and selfish agenda if elected, as is so often the case at present.

An intending candidate or sitting MP seeking re-election might be required to make a formal agreement with relevant LLGs, thus ensuring his devotion to the needs and objectives of the councils and their constituents.

In such a case, this would be history-in-the-making, being the first time a genuinely representative link between citizens and parliament had been established in PNG.

As I explained in previous contributions, the adoption of an opaque party-system manipulated by a small elite group, as opposed to a regional or as ples based representative system, has deprived PNG’s citizens of a voice in public affairs and of a level of control over the affairs of their home districts and nation.

An LLG-based political system fits naturally in PNG, whereas the social-class-based party concept does not. Social disparity which drove the establishment of party systems in Europe have not existed in egalitarian PNG. Parties are largely meaningless and exist for the benefit of their organisational hierarchies and MPs.

You might say that most MPs and candidates will not be keen to abandon the status quo and enter into commitments depriving them of much of their power base, which is derived largely from being able to spend large amounts of the nation’s resources with very little control or measurement of effect.

However it will become clear to politicians of more than modest intelligence that creating a base within the LLG system is a better path to political success: a path to a political career surviving for more than one election.

Here is a career, approbation of his people, lasting influence and position in the social hierarchy. And here is continuation of a generous parliamentary salary from one term to another.

The onset of such a change in national politics may be slow but it will grow national politics with a strong regional base, an embryonic situation may be seen in Bougainville.

There are people who will see this as a breakdown of a unified nation. However Papua New Guineans have had their eyes opened. Secessionist activists are seen as proposing a retrograde status that will leave a nation of no critical mass. A unified, stable and well-governed PNG is a settled and progressive PNG; a fully-paid-up, participating world citizen.

In recent years groups like the National Research Institute, the Institute of National Affairs, the Public Service Reform Advisory Group and the Reform Management Unit have spoken about aspects of reform which may have the effect of restoring an effective and cost-efficient national infrastructure.

The paths to reform are tortuous because PNG has allowed a dense, obtuse and convoluted Public Service to grow during the past 35 years. PNG has 77,000 public servants, a ratio of one to every 80 people. The Public Service is a huge ball of string without ends.

My suggestion set out above, could be adopted with a minimum of restructuring and rewriting of statutes. It in no way contravenes the Constitution. It is not a universal cure-all, but it is a people-friendly and productive solution to PNG’s most pressing problem - the failure of a democratic structure to empower the people who own it.

There are between two and 12 LLGs in each District, averaging close to four per District. If Parliament adopts the current recommendations of the Boundaries Commission, District boundaries will change and LLGs will have to be reproclaimed, a large task and one which will show no immediate benefit.

I believe the law as it stands requires there to be between 110 to 120 open electorates in 2012, a big increase from the 89 at the 2007 elections. There are two new provinces and an unknown number of new electorates and administrative districts to be established, each district with staff, buildings and its own treasury office before 2012.

Thus there is a situation looming that may force yet more compromise and more expediency in the face of fast-approaching national elections. Just what the outcome will be is impossible to guess. A battle between administrative convenience and standing decisions may drive conflict and disarray.

Now is the time when citizen-advocates like Reg Renagi should take a firm and outspoken stance, perhaps even considering being candidates themselves with a linkage to LLGs. The continual stating and restating of problems whilst doing little of a practical, active kind is an unfortunate characteristic of PNG's educated elite.

Regardless of the outcome in 2012, I hope the voters of PNG may find for themselves a system which realistically restores full equity in the national estate and thus a confident and prideful sense of nationhood, able to be held without reserve.

PNG government to buy Chinese IT systems


THE PNG GOVERNMENT is to borrow K151 million from a Chinese bank to buy  IT systems from Huawei Technologies, a company the Pentagon says has close ties with the Chinese military.

According to news reports, Huawei was investigated by the US government over a planned merger with a US company which was determined as potentially able to undermine US national security.

So Chinese money is being provided to buy Chinese IT systems for use by the PNG government. What's in this deal for the Middle Kingdom (a term referring to the traditional Chinese view that it is the centre of the world).

There is much reliance on software systems these days - salaries, leave, loan repayments, bank accounts, tax payments, email communications, data storage, the list goes on.

All aspects of professional or personal life are available to anyone who has access to the system. Should the system close down, absolute chaos can result.

Then there's maintenance, archiving, upgrades and operational expenses.

Once a system is installed it’s very difficult to change it for something else.

Gosh! It begins to sound like a monopoly, doesn't it?

Elite fails on corruption: Nasfund head


PNG’s POLITICAL and administrative elite had failed to deal with widespread corruption that is becoming a major killer in the country.

So said Joint CEO of Nasfund, Rod Mitchell, addressing a business ethics symposium at Divine Word University inMadang.

Mr Mitchell accused political leaders and the elite of paying lip service to the fight against endemic corruption.

“Attempts to deal with corruption through the political process and by the elites have been almost non-existent, with paper-thin commitment to meet this serious challenge head on,” Mr Mitchell said.

Six Commissions of Inquiry, costing millions of kina, were held in the last ten years but there had “not been one successful prosecution despite the serious matters being raised.

“The inertia of dealing effectively with white collar and high level corruption has been shown in the recent high profile Taiwan-gate and US$40 million Singapore scandal where matters were simply ignored, with the only moral outrage being that these matters had dare surface.”

Mr Mitchell said similarly, the Ombudsman Commission had come under intense political pressure. He said the attempt to kill Chief Ombudsman Chronox Manek last December was met with embarrassing silence.

He said the abuse of parliamentary democracy was a worrying trend, compounded by the trend to stifle debate in parliament by using the speaker to rule questions out of order.

“Similarly, parliamentary business is too often adjourned for lack of quorum or lack of house business – all very hard to understand in a country that continues to face exceedingly difficult social challenges.”

Mr Mitchell said the recent controversial reappointment of Sir Paulias Matane as governor-general left nothing but further suspicion in the minds of many people.

He said in this case “expediency overrode clear open process.

“And, of course, the recent adjournment of parliament now means that the constitution on the minimum number of sitting days, has been breached for the second time in as many years.”


Disappointment for PNG in Gillard ministry


CONTRARY TO SUGGESTIONS before Australia’s recent Federal election, a Pacific Island Affairs portfolio is not included in the new ministerial line-up announced this afternoon by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The role of Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs - last occupied, and with distinction, by Duncan Kerr - was abolished without explanation in 2009 by the Rudd Government. The portfolio had been expected to be reinstated by Gillard.

Australia had been thought to have been ready to place renewed emphasis on regional relationships as a result of the growing volatility of neighbourhood politics: China’s creeping incursion into the south-west Pacific; the backing of the Melanesian states, including PNG, for renegade Fiji’s aggressive attitude to Australia and New Zealand; and the strategic uncertainties posed by a brittle and morally-challenged government in PNG.

Prior to the Federal election, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia, the respected Charles Lepani, publicly praised Australia’s relationship with PNG under a Labor government and intimated that the ALP, if elected, would do better than the Coalition with its PNG relations.

Well, if the new Gillard ministry was a test of that hopeful attitude, we'd have to so far mark it a 'Fail'.

But there is a chance of redemption provided new Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd is willing to reprise the enthusiasm he showed for the Australia-PNG relationship when he became prime minister in 2007.

Like much of Rudd’s early promise, that initial effervescence was not sustained – as the demise of the Pacific Island Affairs portfolio showed.

We caMarles_Richardn still hope, however, that one of the new Foreign Affairs parliamentary secretaries - Justine Elliot and Richard Marles - may be given the Pacific Affairs gig.

 While Elliot has no link with PNG, Richard Donald Marles, the member for Corio in Victoria [left], has first-hand experience.

The 43-year old, with degrees in Law and Science from Melbourne University, worked with PM Gillard’s old law firm Slater and Gordon for indigenous landowners on the successful Ok Tedi litigation against BHP's environmental despoliation.

Marles later became Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions before being elected to federal parliament in 2007.

The report the PNG govt didn’t want revealed


I HAVE BOTH the final and draft copies of the Scottish Association for Marine Science report for the PNG government of expected impacts of the Ramu Deep Sea Tailings Disposal (DSTP) plan for Basamuk Bay.

In part, it also looks at the impacts of other DSTP sites, like Lihir and Misima.

In short, Lihir mine disposes of approximately 3.5-4.5 million tonnes of tailings to the marine environment each year.

The material being discharged (at a depth of 128 metres) is a mixture of tailing solids (about 5% clay, 93% silt and 2% fine sand), heavy metals, zinc, copper, cadmium, lead and mercury, together with arsenic, all at a temperature of 34 degrees C.

The report states that the tailings contain “a significant amount of heavy metals with the finer particulate material having higher specific concentrations of metals.”

Subsurface plumes of this crap vary in thickness from 10 to 200 metres and occur to depths of 700 metres with deposition of tailings found up to 4.4 km north of the discharge point.

It states “the presence and dispersion of subsurface plumes will increase the tailings deposition area from that initially predicted.”

The report concludes the tailings are contributing a significant amount of material to the immediate marine environment and as far afield as Masahet Island. “The results show clearly that mine tailings deposition east of Lihir has a significant impact on macrofaunal communities at all three sampled depths.”

In addition, approximately 0.5-3 km offshore are two sediment mounds 35 and 55 metres high from barge-dumped waste.

That DSTP is allowed anywhere is shocking. That the majority of DSTP operations occur in PNG is nothing short of a travesty.

Here is a primordial environment - the closest to creation there is.

It is blessed (due to late colonisation) with still pristine, ancient rainforests with a multitude of unique flora and fauna, with the vast bulk yet to be discovered.

PNG is already reputed to have the highest and most valuable biodiversity of marine life in the world, and yet so little research has been done.

The value of this to the PNG people is inestimable in terms of biological and pharmaceutical research, wildlife research, diving and eco-tourism, health and lifestyle.

It is in ecological terms, perhaps the richest nation in the world. Yet it continues to squander this wealth for… for what exactly?

The PNG government can bluster on all it likes about the economic value of these mining projects to PNG, but after decades of such projects operating in the country, PNG remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with the poorest health record in the Pacific, and can boast increasingly and irrevocably damaged environments from end-to-end.

If the Ramu project is allowed to proceed, it will be followed by the Yandera copper mine which will dump it appears, five times the volume of toxic waste into the same bay.

With the environmental disasters of Lihir, Misima, Ok Tedi, Porgera, and Panguna already on record, I sincerely despair for the people of PNG.

What independence means to our people


PNG’S INDEPENDENCE is tantamount to the right of every citizen to govern their own house in village, town or city.

Independence gives our beautiful country the right to govern itself and to own its destiny.

Independence empowers me as a PNG citizen to interact freely with everyone in my own country and in the world. It also mean that, as a citizen of PNG, I can say what I feel and see happening in my country and I can say it without fear or favour.

A lack of independence means that the most important decisions of our country are able to be taken by foreign interests.

This is already present in our country, with parliament and government proving their inability to safeguard the people’s well-being and welfare for many years now.

Independence is the right of Papua New Guineans to be properly governed under a home-grown constitution which sets the framework for our democracy.

Our constitution protects our human rights, language, culture and traditions; and our nationality. Independence means an enjoyment of all things PNG; including fully benefiting from our economic development.

Sovereignty provides our people with power to stimulate national development: agriculture, commerce, industry, immigration, the negotiation of international treaties, expanding markets and promoting foreign relations and investment.

To me, independence means self-government, our own government, ruling ourselves, freedom from all forms of political subjugation, direct control. Not being influenced by any other country.

People agree to be governed so that their rights (life, freedom, happiness) will be safe-guarded. The job of government is to protect the rights of the people. A government is good when it does this.

The government must do what the people say, because the people made it. When the government does what the people say, it is democracy.

In PNG, this does not always happen - making the people suffer, despite many changes of government since Independence in 1975.

Sometimes the government we have acts badly and not in the national interest. On many occasions it has not protected the rights of the people.

When this happens, the people start to think of a new government, a good government, one that will protect their rights.

Sometimes the people of this country are alienated by the many problems the government has not addressed. Sometimes these people want to make their land into a new country.

Many Papua New Guineans have felt this way for many years.

It is easy to see why they do not want to be part of the old, bad PNG.

Papua New Guineans must be free to say what they want of their government, and they must be listened to.

All people in PNG are equal. God wants every person to have rights. Sometimes bad people in our government try to take away these rights (life, freedom, happiness).

It is smart to change things with much caution. People should not cast off an old government for a silly reason. They should do this only when the government does something very bad.

The people should cast off the government when it tries to take away the rights of the people. There has been a betrayal of PNG for many years by politicians and bureaucrats for apparent personal gain.

These same betrayers were earlier defenders of workers and fighters for the poor. But they have since governed for apparent personal gain and promoted corruption and made our people suffer.

These acts of betrayal will eventually destroy PNG.

For the ordinary citizen, Independence and its related annual celebrations has little meaning.

After 35 years they are not impressed in any way with a badly governed PNG.

Independence celebrations have been reduced to a mere show off for government.

A brief excursion from the inability of the political leadership to suppress crime and violence and improve the quality of life for every man, woman and child in our country.

Many, perhaps most, parts of PNG are in abject poverty and cannot change for the better until the country has fresh, new, visionary leadership and a progressive and transformational government.

We seem not to have the political will today. But we pray for the coming of a new dawn with a new crop of young political leaders who our people hope will save our beloved country for tomorrow’s generation. May God bless my country and its people.

Happy 35th birthday, PNG!

Papua New Guinea marks the 35th anniversary of its emergence as an independent nation next Thursday 16 September.

Corney steps up pressure in schools debate


CAMPAIGNER AGAINST outcome-based education (OBE), Corney Alone, has made a public call for a national debate on the merits of the methodology.

Mr Alone has said he will debate the Education Department and anybody who favours this controversial model of teaching.

Writing in the Post-Courier, Mr Alone said, contrary to statements by the Head of English at Port Moresby International School, OBE was an experiment that had failed miserably to live up to its noble intentions for PNG.

“If the good teacher who is the head of the English Department hasn't heard of any countries doing away with OBE, I wish to remind her to look at countries like USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands and South Africa who have tried this system and ditched it,” he said.

Outcome-based education focuses on measuring student outcomes and contrasts with traditional education, which focuses on the resources available to students.

OBE does not focus on particular teaching or learning styles. Instead, it requires that students demonstrate they have learned designated skills and content.

It has been adopted in some education systems but usually amidst great storm about its use.

Earlier, in an article published in PNG Attitude, Mr Alone said: “The OBE story is heartbreaking, alarming and a serious cause for concern.

“Look at it this way. Give a select group of students a decent education for 15 years. You will produce intelligent and potential leaders for industry and government.

“Now, conversely, give another select group of students crap education for 15 years and you will produce mediocre and poor leaders wherever they end up.

“PNG introduced outcome-based education 15 years ago. Soon we expect to see mass production of a mediocre and poorly skilled workforce.”

He has requested that the University of PNG facilitate a debate in Port Moresby next Friday afternoon.

Learning the lesson from the Hurrell story


ONE MUST hope that AusAID understands the real significance of Don Hurrell’s apparent success in reducing the incidence of tribal fighting in the Eastern Highlands.

The correct take-out is not that consultants necessarily deliver good outcomes because they have expertise for which they are highly-paid.

It is that, if carefully selected for their experience and knowledge of the cultural nuances of the people they’re working amongst, they can maximise their chances of success.

In the case of Don Hurrell, featured on last night’s ABC-TV News, he grew up in PNG and became a highly-ranking police officer in Queensland before returning to PNG on an AusAID program as a “justice adviser”.

Don is the son of former kiap, Lloyd Hurrell, and his discourse indicates he has an immaculate grasp of how to deal with the dysfunctionality that has crept into Highlands society in recent years, with land, compensation and other disputes debilitating both society and economy.

The lesson is that experience always counts.

And, astoundingly, AusAID has never used – as, for example, resource companies in PNG have cleverly used – the vast knowledge that still exists in Australia about how best to work with the cultural dynamics of rural Papua New Guineans.