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91 posts from November 2010

An education system on the brink of collapse


IN 1972, we were science teachers at Keravat National High School. The school was in excellent condition and well run. The NSW syllabus was used resulting in standards of educational achievement running parallel to those of that state.

As we departed at the end of 1973, we were optimistic that PNG was on track to establish a total educational program appropriate to the needs of its young people and of an internationally acceptable standard. Such a program would continue to allow the top PNG students access to any international post secondary institution they might aspire to attend.

Our recent five month volunteer teaching assignments at Keravat National High School provided us opportunity to observe the education process in action at the same school 38 years later. Our hearts were saddened as we realised that students are now experiencing the results of an education system in failure.

These students were survivors of an education system rife with government corruption and plagued by inadequate funding, poor English skills of teachers, low curriculum standards, inappropriate assessment practices and a lack of teacher competence and professionalism.

Instead of graduating with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to become solid, contributing citizens in PNG they are short changed in their educational experience. Our comments reflect our experience teaching at Keravat National High School but such experiences are not an isolated case. They represent challenges administrators, teachers and students face in schools across PNG. The various obstacles to education we identify demand local, regional and national attention.

Inadequate funding

The young people of PNG are its greatest resource. Their education is the best investment PNG can make. Well educated students become astute and capable leaders, professionals, business people and citizens; the foundation required for a secure and prosperous society in PNG. Education in PNG has not received the financial support required to function properly leading to the deterioration we witnessed. Sadly, money allocated to education is too often short circuited into the pockets of corrupt politicians and their friends.

Lack of teaching & learning resources

Teacher and student access to computers, internet, textbooks, reference materials and audio-visual aids is essential for effective teaching and learning. The Keravat library was sadly lacking in recent and relevant resources for every subject. The books available were old and in poor condition with little if any direct syllabus linkage. The student computer lab had only seven computers with teachers having access to an additional four computers all of which were outdated and slow. No internet access and no hope of establishing such was a huge handicap to teachers and students. Chronic lack of resources contributes strongly to the lack of teacher motivation and teacher apathy that was so clearly visible at Keravat.

Poor English skills

In the 1970’s and 80’s PNG education was moving strongly toward English because English was the official language of the country. As we returned to PNG in July 2010, we expected the population to be speaking good English assuming that over the last 38 years two generations or more of students would have learned English well during their schooling. We were surprised to find that instead Pidgin continues as the language of choice.

Pidgin is even being used in high school by teachers in the course of daily instruction English skills are sadly lacking throughout the population. Such practices put students facing grade 12 final examinations requiring the skilled use of English at a great disadvantage. This problem must be addressed and remedied or the standard of English speaking and comprehension will continue to deteriorate bringing the whole standard of education in PNG down with it.

Syllabuses fall short of international standards

In 1972 science education standards were equivalent to those of Australia and were acceptable internationally. Now content and outcomes of the grade eleven and twelve PNG chemistry and biology programs fall approximately two years behind those of our home province of Alberta in Canada.

Such a “watered down” syllabus poses problems for PNG graduates seeking entrance to post secondary institutions overseas. They cannot compete successfully because of the low level of achievement the PNG school leavers’ certificate represents. PNG graduates face outright denial of entry or one year or more years of upgrading before admission to a first year program becomes possible.

Mark boosting

At Keravat National High School it was school policy that teachers submitted student marks in all subjects which were adjusted so predetermined percentages of students fell into each of the A, B, C, D and E grading categories. This was done with no regard to the actual marks students attained for their classroom performance. As a consequence, marks awarded to each student at the end of each term did not reflect their true knowledge and understanding of the course content. Students demonstrated far less competence than their awarded term mark would imply.

Marks on the national examinations are adjusted so the final reported marks reach normal acceptable standards and fall neatly into the prescribed letter grades with no regard to actual student performance. How does PNG hope to educate and train the leaders and professionals it needs when such assessment practices paint a false picture of what students actually know and can do?

Examination security compromised

Students and teachers told us that final examination questions have been bought and sold and even appeared on the internet before such final examinations were written. These allegations may or may not be true but steps that absolutely guarantee examination security must be in place to preserve the integrity of the examination process.

Teacher expertise and professionalism

Currently PNG requires a strong cohort of capable, well qualified and highly motivated teachers at all levels and in all subjects. In their daily classroom practice PNG teachers face the results of chronic underfunding and corruption at every level. Within this ailing education system some teachers carry on as best they can, others become discouraged and apathetic and some give up as they face huge obstacles to effective classroom practice.

The lack of teaching and learning resources, poor teacher housing and pay, unheeded teacher grievances, school buildings falling apart and health and safety threats loom as maintenance and upgrading are non-existent.

Lack of accountability

Within the mark boosting system previously described teachers fall into an endless cycle of mark adjustment. They are no longer accountable for teaching course content to a level where students’ unadjusted marks fall close to an acceptable average of near 60%. Teachers lose sight of that professional obligation, secure in the knowledge that whatever the classroom results, marks are adjusted to mask poor student performance.

In reality standards have slipped to low and unacceptable levels and continue to remain there. Lack of accountability coupled with mark boosting produces a vicious cycle holding PNG’s education system firmly in its grip.

Teachers as models

Teachers at Keravat cited students’ low ability, lack of punctuality, lack of interest in their studies, poor attitudes, non-participation in work parade, betel nut and alcohol use and cult activities as reasons for poor student performance. The Keravat grade 12 students were referred to as simply “a bad lot”. Unfortunately a large proportion of teachers displayed a lack of professionalism by exhibiting many of the very behaviors they abhorred in students.

Teachers arrived late or simply did not show up for classes, assemblies, examination invigilation, work parades or dormitory and sports supervision. Betel nut chewing was common with teachers chewing throughout the school day. Teacher alcohol abuse was not uncommon and very visible to students. In some cases alcohol was supplied to students by teachers or support staff. Alcohol abuse by teachers in the school compound had lead to huge problems between teachers and those problems polarised the staff to a degree so little if any collaboration or cooperation to solve problems was possible.

Instead of adapting their teaching methods to meet the student needs, teachers continued to blame poor student performance on the general low ability of the student body. The school limped along with poor classroom practice, few extracurricular outlets for students and virtually no school maintenance. Teachers lacked the motivation and professionalism to do the jobs they were being paid to do. Students followed the model of unprofessional behavior provided by teachers and they took advantage of opportunities to get into trouble. Empathy and concern for students was sadly missing in many of the teachers.

We observed no enforcement of school rules against betel nut or alcohol use by teachers. No tangible assistance to abusers or consequence for repeated abuse was evident even though a fair proportion of Keravat staff regularly chewed betel nut on the job and school grounds, showed up for duty under the influence of alcohol or suffering from the effects of alcohol or simply did not show up for duty. Accountability for such unprofessional conduct was virtually nil sending a strong negative message to students who observed teachers chewing and drinking with impunity.


Our observations identify obstacles contributing to the decline in educational quality in PNG and recommendations for remedial action. All these obstacles need urgent attention if a marked improvement is to be expected in the foreseeable future. The political stability of PNG will ultimately be affected if the government fails to respond appropriately.

PNG must make swift changes to the educational system if the country is to remain a stable democracy with a healthy economy. Without a strong cohort of citizens educated to acceptable international standards to provide leadership and expertise for development and management of the country’s infrastructure and public services the standard of living for the average citizen will not improve. This would be a tragedy as PNG has the potential to do so much better.

Bev and Vic Romanyshyn were Canadian volunteer teachers at Keravat National High School from June  to October this year. You can read their full report here

Readers nominate China as month’s big issue


NOVEMBER HAS provided another good month of reader commentary, with the question of China’s influence in the region - and the ramifications of this – being the major issue.

I have to note here, and with admiration, that the commentary that each day accompanies PNG Attitude in the right hand column, and which is entirely driven by readers, is often authoritative, frequently provocative and mostly entertaining.

It’s also great for contributors to be able to generate discussion, receive feedback or, as is increasingly the case, make useful connections with readers who can provide some assistance to them – whether through offering information or even more material help.

As for the November comments, here are the top ten articles that triggered readers into offering a riposte…..

88 - Ramu Nico threatened us say landowners (Malum Nalu). Malum’s piece on the Ramu nickel development moved strongly through its second month and has now received more than 220 comments from readers.

27 - Some tough questions about China's intent (Robert Palmer). This article began life as a comment which was so well framed and argued it got promoted to the main page. PNG Attitude occasionally converts commentary into articles, especially where they offer a new or substantial taken on things.

18 - Nationalism and Confucianism are China's keys (Fr John Koran). Fr John wrote this piece after a Bougainville delegation visited China. It presented a useful counterpoint to much of the critical commentary on China (some of it quite extreme) and attempted, not entirely convincingly, to present the Chinese experience in a way that was relevant to Melanesia.

18 - Great movie challenge: PNG filmography (Peter Kranz). You never know what PNG Attitude readers are likely to come up with next, nor how other readers are likely to respond. In this case it was movies involving PNG in some way – and readers responded with gusto to add many new titles to Peter’s impressive initial list.

17 - So what is the story that I should tell? (Scott Waide). Scott took his camera to some schools out of Madang and ended up with some great pictures and a great article about how tough the education system is doing it at present. The story certainly resonated with readers.

14 - Marriage PNG style: respecting the traditions (Peter Kranz). Peter is married to Rose Bemu from Simbu and their wedding brought them together in a ceremony that gave great emphasis to tradition. The resultant story proved popular with readers and also generated a lively exchange on the difficulties that such blended relationships can bring.

14 - Defence changes: budget considerations (Reginald Renagi). This was the final episode of Reg’s four-part series on how to revitalise the PNG Defence Force. More resources, and better use of resources by PNGDF heads, were the main themes.

12 - Corney steps up pressure in schools' debate (Keith Jackson). In its third month and after more than 170 comments from readers, the Outcome-Based Education debate has (for now) run out of steam. But then everything was said at least five times….

12 - Why is it so hard? Can it really be that hard? (Philip Fitzpatrick) Phil’s plea for better governance (both from the PNG government and within AusAID) articulated the feelings of frustration and disappointment widespread amongst readers.

11 - Commit to good governance, says Clinton (Keith Jackson). The US Secretary of State briefly visited Port Moresby as part of her and President Obama’s charm offensive in the south-west Pacific. We don’t know what happened behind closed doors but imagine that the word China came up and didn’t refer to the tea cups.

AusAID in PNG: simple-minded neglect


FROM HIGH SECURITY offices within the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, AusAID gives more than $400 million in aid to PNG each year.

Wanting to know where the money was spent to try to find out exactly what AusAID does in PNG, we went to the AusAID website. Basically since 2007 (in some cases since 2004) its achievements for an expenditure of over $1.2 billion are:

Education - 539,000 textbooks; 176 double classrooms, 47 teachers’ houses, 13 other school buildings.

Health - 900,000 children immunised against measles and other childhood disease; support acquisition of medical supplies; assist develop clean water plan and Cholera Command Centre.

HIV/AIDs - fund 60% of HIV response; increase number of people receiving antiretroviral therapy from 2,250 to 6,342; provide 108 million condoms.

Infrastructure - help maintain and rehabilitate 2,034 km of roads including Highlands Highway from Lae to Goroka.

Security & stability – work with PNG on projects to increase village courts; assist to train Bougainville police force.

Economic reform - support PNG to change the way funding is provided for provincial and local service delivery.

Yumi Lukautim Mosbi - rugby and netball programs; help city youth to volunteer to work with police.

That is basically the AusAID input to the life threatening problems that face the vast majority of Papua New Guineans.

Keith Jackson has asked us to assess the AusAID response from a grassroots perspective and we will to do this with the knowledge and experience of living in one of the worst communities in all PNG, the Kaugere Settlement.

Kaugere is one of the oldest settlements in PNG, having started in the 1960s, and is home to the notorious raskol gang, Koboni. Even other raskol gangs will not tangle with these boys.

These are the boys we live and work with; they are the boys who built our school, teach our children and take care of CUMA – the Chilren’s University of Music and Art, which we established. They have renamed themselves the “Fox Tribe Youth Development Program”.

We must point out that Kaugere is not a geographically isolated community: it is part of Port Moresby, less than 3 km from the centre of town. We can see the town from our school.

Every man, woman and child in this community lives in a state of abject poverty. Home is a makeshift canvas tent or a tin box built in the dust. There are at best just two hours in each day when water is available; and this has to be collected from a broken pipe in the street and carried long distances. There is little electricity and no proper kitchens or bathrooms.

Over 80 percent of school-age children do not attend school because they are unable to pay school fees. Starvation is common. There is no clinic or police presence. This community fends for itself as best it can.

It is estimated that, of a population of some 10,000 in Kaugere, only 300 people are employed. This community has a nationwide reputation of being the breeding ground for the worst criminals – and that is true.

The whole of PNG complains about the raskols and expresses disgust and dismay at their activities and calls them violent and useless.

The whole country is wrong! These are our loved children. They are intelligent, talented, resourceful, resilient, loyal and caring. They are hard-working, helpful and tough. Very few, if any, would be involved in criminal activities if they were not the victims of the most extreme poverty you can imagine. It is not the life they chose and it is not the life they want.

These raskols are the result of an uncaring society that has neglected its poverty stricken families, especially the children.

The AusAID program called Yumi Lukautim Mosbi is implemented under the guidance of AusAID advisor Steve Sims, also known as ‘Showbag’ Sims.

The program aims to reduce law and order problems in Port Moresby by finding an alternative for crime for settlement youth. As such it was the perfect place to go when we were setting up CUMA.

At CUMA we believe that educating settlement children is the answer to reducing the number of raskols on the streets. We have proved that when you take a raskol and provide him with something to eat every day and a purpose in his life, he will gladly leave his life of crime.

During a meeting with Steve Sims in 2007, we were told our plans for CUMA did not fit AusAID's criteria and, while they had “plenty of money”, they could not assist us.

After questioning Steve on the criteria, we were able to ascertain a few answers. We were not impressed.

AusAID could not assist with buildings; there had to be a clear connection between the program and a reduction in raskol activities; it could assist with sporting programs and equipment; it may be able to provide some gardening tools and ‘experts’ to teach the boys how to garden, but only if the gardening equipment was securely locked away in a sturdy building when not in use (but it could not help us with the building).

This essentially negative discussion went on for over an hour and we gave up and left.

It was as if we had to squash our real needs to fit academic criteria; no doubt devised by someone who had never been to a PNG Settlement.

Here’s an example of the Kaugere Community’s contact with Yumi Lukautim Mosbi. Late in 2008 about a dozen of our street boys came to us wearing brand new white and red Lukautim Mosbi tee-shirts.

They reported they had volunteered for the program to clean up the streets and reduce crime. We asked them about the deal and they confirmed they would not receive any food or money for their efforts and were expected to apprehend thieves and take them to the police station to be charged. But they did get a new tee-shirt.

That was the end of that. The boys wore their shirts for a few days and went about their normal business.

The program was simplistic. These kids are criminals because they are hungry; not because they are bored. You can spend as much money as you like on sports and run them around from sunup to sundown; at the end of the day they will be hungrier than ever and the need to steal will be greater.

We know that our meagre efforts at CUMA have really made a difference. We have proof that, without a single toea of the $1.2 billion funding, we have removed dozens of raskols from the street and turned them into productive and caring members of their community.

It costs us a meal of rice and tinfish for each of them every day, a lot of love and encouragement, and our personal belief in these kids. Our only help has come from the PNG business community and social clubs; not a single toea from the PNG government or any aid organisation or church group.

The other area where we have experience is the AusAID response to HIV/AIDS in PNG.

The funding for this through the National AIDS Council has become one of the most lucrative scams in PNG history.

While researching funding for a musical drama to generate AIDS awareness, we were advised that we could go to the National AIDS Council and get an immediate grant of K70,000, provided we returned K30,000 to the person as a ‘gift’! We decided to find the funding elsewhere!

PNG desperately needs every cent of AusAID funding, but the money needs it to be spent in an accountable way to fix the problems within PNG communities. That $1.2 billion could make a huge difference if it ever got to the grassroots.

In our assessment, AusAID is trying to fill a bucket that is full of holes. Unless corruption and waste are addressed, the aid will never achieve its objectives. And we have seen from the response from AusAID PNG to questions raised by PNG Attitude that it is not willing to confront the demon of corruption.

Meanwhile the children of PNG - 40% of the population of 6.6 million are under the age of 15 - continue to suffer and die every day.

They die the way they were born, in an environment of poverty and hopelessness, often as a direct result of violence or starvation. Often, their bodies are left to rot in a mortuary because there is no money to bury them.

Rabbie: do more to curb corruption


PNG’s FORMER Prime Minister, Sir Rabbie Namaliu, has called on the Australian government to put more aid money into training and education to help PNG cope with the enormous brain drain being created by PNG's resources boom.

The former Prime Minister, now chairman of Kina Asset Management, says money currently being paid to high-cost Australia aid advisors would be better spent on training Papua New Guineans. He was interviewed by Radio Australia’s Pacific Business reporter, Jemima Garrett…

RABBIE NAMALIU: The budget has obviously grown quite significantly this year to 9.3 billion kina from just over 8 billion kina last year. There is obviously more revenue availabl, not only for recurrent expenditure but more importantly for the development component of the budget….

JEMIMA GARRETT: How much of these new revenues that the PNG government will be spending are from the construction of the PNG LNG project?

NAMALIU: The LNG project will obviously contribute quite a bit but most will come from existing projects; from gold, from existing mines, from gold and copper mainly and a large part of it is to do with very high commodity prices that are obviously being experienced in Australia as well. So that is having a positive impact on our export earnings year….

GARRETT: As well as the PNG LNG project there are other new LNG projects and new mining projects in the pipeline. Just what sort of impact do you see them having over the next few years?

NAMALIU: They will have enormous impact assuming all of them get off the ground. The Interoil LNG project, although slightly smaller than the ExxonMobil-led one, will be another significant LNG project, and that will also contribute substantially to the economy. There are mines that are in the process of being explored or likely to be developed over the next few years including Frieda River. That's a copper mine. And then Yanderra, which is Marengo Mining. That is copper-molybdenum. Hidden Valley has just gone into production. That is gold, mainly. And, of course, Ramu Nickel, which was supposed to go into production this year is delayed but, once it gets into production, that is nickel and cobalt. So all of those will have a positive impact in terms of increased revenues, and though employment numbers won't be as big as in the non-mining sector areas, nonetheless, it will provide opportunities for employment and a whole range of infrastructure developments that otherwise would not have been made possible.

GARRETT: Just how well prepared is the PNG government to manage all this increase in revenue?

NAMALIU: I think, obviously the biggest problem and the Minister for Treasury, obviously said this in so many words in his budget when he handed it down and that is that the biggest problem is to do with the capacity to deliver, you know to implement, in other words, the budget. And so we have a huge challenge ahead of us to build up our capacity and building capacity is not something that happens overnight. It will take time and take years to do because the mining and petroleum sectors, for instance, both need geologists, both need engineers, both need the whole range of technical personnel, which we have a scarcity of. We just haven't rained enough people to go into employment in that sector. And for the LNG project, we won't be able to supply them with the numbers from within in the short term, because that will require about 6-7000 people, so most of these people are most likely to be recruited offshore.

GARRETT: These projects pay very good wages. To what extent are they sucking qualified people out of the Papua New Guinea public service and jobs like teaching, into the resources industry?

NAMALIU :They are in fact doing that so you see more and more people are leaving existing positions for more lucrative opportunities with the LNG or the other projects, not just in PNG but elsewhere as well. We've been losing professionals overseas to Australia and the United States and elsewhere, especially in the petroleum and mining engineering and geology areas. And that will obviously continue but it will be made even more acute with these projects that are underway now in Papua New Guinea. So we have a huge catch-up task ahead of us to train more Papua New Guineans into these positions and, at the same time, fill in the gaps that are being left behind from non-traditional areas, like teaching.

GARRETT: Australia's Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, has announced a review of the effectiveness of Australian aid. How could Australian aid be used more effectively to see that Papua New Guineans see the benefits of the resources boom?

NAMALIU: Well, capacity building is obviously one area and in that area I know AusAID has already got various programs in the area of training and education but I think that may need to be increased, especially into priority areas. So, if the Australian government, through that program could provide additional opportunities for Papua New Guineans to be trained in those areas, otherwise we won't be in a position to implement programs that are being targeted in the field of education and health and those are just two because they received significant increases in the budget just handed down.

GARRETT: The Australian government has announced a cut-back in the number of high-paid Australian technical advisors. Are Australian consultancy companies that manage many of Australia's aid projects still getting too much of the aid pie in PNG?

NAMALIU: That is obviously what is being said publicly and I think the Minister himself has said so and our own Minister has said the same thing so it's obvious that from both sides of the Torres Strait, I think there is a common view that, perhaps, that is the situation and it needs to be changed.

GARRETT: Would you like to see some of that money that is now going to consultants going to training Papua New Guineans to take part in the resources boom?

NAMALIU: Absolutely, if more of that money can be directed towards training and other opportunities in the education sector that would go a long way to making sure that we train more of our people to fill technical and professional people that are required and trades people as well.

GARRETT: The other issue for Australian aid in PNG is its vulnerability to corruption. Just how vulnerable is Australian aid to corruption?

NAMALIU: Well I think because most of that money is basically controlled through the Australian government through AusAID I don't know that there is that much room for corruption at least in Australian, AusAID funded projects. But certainly as far as the PNG component of the budget which is the main part of the budget is concerned, there continues to be strong evidence of that happening and that is a huge challenge that we have to continue to address. In fact, I think there is some disappointment that the efforts that are being made are not enough to try and curb it and we need to do a lot more at the national level, as well as at other levels of government, to make sure that we minimise the seepage of funds that are allocated for development as well as for services that the national, provincial and local level governments are responsible for.

GARRETT: The PNG government has had difficulty getting services down to the people. To what extent would a bigger effort on anti-corruption help get those services out to the grassroots level?

NAMALIU: I think it could go a long way that a bigger effort is made in that direction especially when it gets down to the district level where large amounts of money or significant resources are being deployed to the district level in particular where the member of parliament is the head of the committee that determines where and how it should be spent, in terms of priorities. So that is a challenge that it has to better address in the years ahead and at the national level as well and, you know, I think we've had several enquires now into various areas where quite clearly, corruption has grown and grown significantly to the point where we are losing millions through stealing as well as through misappropriation. These are real problems and it is important when we have reports of enquires that are submitted that they be acted upon, b because that is the problem with these reports. We set up enquires, spend large amounts of money on them, reports are submitted but very little action is actually taken on the recommendations. That is one of the key things the national government must start doing, must implement and be seen to implement recommendations that have quite clearly been put together as a result of long painstaking enquires into areas where large amounts of money is being misappropriated, or being stolen or being diverted to things that they were not meant for.

Source: Radio Australia, 23 November 2010

Pacific v South Pacific; blood v Bloody Mary


The_pacific I HAVE JUST ENDURED watching all the episodes of The Pacific - the US/Australian mini-series about World War II in the Pacific theatre.

It is bloody, violent, sad and heroic. But I think it bears little resemblance to the reality of the Pacific campaigns, except perhaps from the perspective of the US marines. It also features gratuitous sex scenes which serve no useful purpose.

It features no local people (except for one Japanese boy on Okinawa, a few civilians getting shot, and lots of Japanese corpses). It has no one else doing the fighting except US soldiers. And it does not attempt to portray the political or wider context of the war.

The Pacific features 1940's Melbourne in one episode (quite well done thanks to computer effects) but only to provide love interest.

One episode is supposed to be on the Gazelle Peninsular in East New Britain, but there is little historical accuracy. It was filmed around Port Douglas in Queensland.

My opinion of the mini-series is that it is a gut-wrenching vindication of the actions of the US Marines in the Pacific theatre - all well and good, but not a history in any sense of the word.

It does portray the horror of war - but too much. I don't really recommend it.

Southpacific_large However you can view the musical South Pacific and have a better movie experience - albeit through the eyes and ears of Rogers and Hammerstein.

Bloody Mary is a great creation and the music is one of the best scores ever written - although it has nothing to do with PNG. But neither does The Pacific.

I remember my Auntie taking me to see South Pacific in 1959, and it has been with me ever since. There's a great scene when a man parachutes out of a plane, and a boat lands on top of him. "It's not my day!" he says.

I might add that The Pacific bears no comparison to The Thin Red Line, Terence Malik's masterpiece about the Guadalcanal campaign and, in my opinion, one of the best films ever made, not least because of the haunting use of Melanesian music and the spiritual nature of the story.

PNGns turned away from entering Australia

MORE THAN 300 Papua New Guineans travelling without visas have been turned away from Australia's northern borders in the past fortnight, to help stop the spread of a cholera outbreak into Northern Australia.

Over 30 people have died from cholera in Daru and neighbouring communities, and there are unconfirmed reports more than 100 villagers have died in other parts of the country.

Authorities have banned travel between PNG and the Torres Strait, which is usually allowed under a treaty.

While health authorities believe the situation has stabilised in Daru, concern has shifted to the spread of the disease to Australia's mainland.

Source: Radio Australia Pacific Beat, 26 November 2010

LNG: Chilean success or Nigerian disaster?


In 2014, ExxonMobil is scheduled to start shipping natural gas through a 450-mile pipeline, then on to Japan, China and other markets in East Asia. But the flood of revenue, which is expected to bring PNG $30 billion over three decades and to more than double its gross domestic product, will force a country already beset by state corruption and bedevilled by a complex land tenure system to grapple with the kind of windfall that has paradoxically entrenched other poor, resource-rich nations in deeper poverty [The New York Times].

WILL PNG’s SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS harness these revenues to grow economically and reduce poverty, joining the ranks of natural resource success stories like Chile and Botswana?

Or will it instead follow in the path of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, where frustration over lost livelihoods and environmental devastation flares up into kidnappings, oil theft and sabotage?

Or the Chad-Cameroon pipeline, a failed World Bank project that has become a cautionary tale against investing in extractive industries in a weak institutional environment?

The New York Times article doesn’t provide much cause for optimism:

While the West’s richest companies are used to seeking natural resources in the world’s poorest corners, few places on earth seem as ill prepared as the Southern Highlands to rub shoulders with ExxonMobil. The most impoverished region in one of the world’s poorest countries, it went unexplored by Westerners until the 1930s…

Local leaders worry about the continuing inflow of guns into an area with almost no government presence, and no paved roads, electricity, running water, banks or post offices. They worry that the benefits of the gas project will fall short of expectations, begetting a generation of young men who will train their anger on ExxonMobil.

PNG’s finance minister says that gas revenues will be invested in sovereign wealth funds, a strategy advocated by the OECD and used by Norway and Abu Dhabi to guard their oil revenues for the future, smooth volatility, and protect against Dutch Disease.

If there were a template for a country that could beat the odds and defeat the resource curse, it might look something like this:

Strong institutions. A functioning democracy. An independent judiciary and a free press. A demographically homogenous society. A diversified economy, with some strong, non-resource constituency that will fight to protect itself against resource distortions.

Unfortunately, this isn’t PNG. The largely rural, fantastically diverse island nation, home to hundreds of different ethnic groups and one-tenth of the world’s languages, is saddled with a weak, ineffective and corrupt government.

Comparing perceptions of corruption, ease of doing business, and measures of freedom, PNG ranks a lot closer to Chad and Nigeria than it does to Botswana and Chile.

Source: Aid Watch


Why is it so hard? Can it really be that hard?


Phil I’VE BEEN FOLLOWING all the doom and gloom in PNG as reported on PNG Attitude of late with a strange sense of misgiving.

There’s something fundamentally wrong here but I can’t put my finger on it.  The closest I get to crystallisation is when I read about the shenanigans of AusAID (what a silly looking acronym).  What on earth are they doing I wonder.

Isn’t it simple?  There are basic things that human beings in this modern age need to survive with some sense of dignity.  Why is it so hard?  Why do we need all the meetings, the research, the overpaid consultants?

Isn’t it fundamental?  Isn’t that what AusAID and their cronies in government, both in PNG and Australia, need to be addressing?

People need a basic home which is secure, clean and functional.  Nothing fancy, just something that works and is reasonably pleasant to live in.

Their kids need access to a reasonably well equipped school and the possibility, if they are bright enough, to go on to higher education.

The whole family needs access to basic health services and, if they need it, specialised help not too far away.

Everyone needs to feel personally secure and not be subject to violence, intimidation or discrimination.

They need to have their basic food requirements met, either from their own gardens or from a store at reasonable cost.  They need a clean water supply.

There has to be the opportunity to develop intellectually with access to basic media and literature.  They need to have pride in their culture and to know it will survive.

They need to be able to make or buy themselves and their kids adequate and appropriate clothing at a reasonable cost.

They need the right to work if they so desire and the resources that make that possible.

They need a healthy environment, not one that is degraded through careless use of natural resources.

There must be things that I’ve missed but you get the idea.

What’s so hard about all that?  Surely even a half competent government in a land as rich in resources as PNG should be able to deliver those things with ease.

Why don’t they?  Don’t tell me; I know already, I read the blog.

Microfinance to the rescue on Manam Island


FOLLOWING DEVASTATING volcanic eruptions on Manam Island in 2004, and the complete evacuation to the mainland of the island’s 10,000 inhabitants, many of the islanders, including the Baliau people, have returned home to rebuild their lives.

But what cash-generating crop could possibly be grown here? Peter Muriki thinks he’s got the answer. “Devastated as it is, Manam can still sell copra, some cocoa and fish as a means of survival,” he says.

A Manam Islander, Mr Muriki is also the executive director of the Bogia Cooperative Society, which has been canvassing for community saving schemes, called community development centres, in isolated rural places like Manam..

In houses made of woven coconut leaves, with support from the Cooperative, men and women from Baliau formed themselves into cash saving groups. By July this year, there were five groups each comprising 70-100 members.

“At the end of each week, two weeks or month, members come together in their groups to deposit their savings with the group’s teller,” explained Michael Rupunae, a member of the savings scheme on Manam Island. “It is then the teller’s job to deposit the savings with the bank at Madang.”

Mr Rupunae makes it sound simple, but banking at Madang requires an hour’s open boat travel from Manam to Bogia on across rough channel. Then the teller takes a three-hour mini-bus ride to Madang, 200 km of road that used to be paved but is now dotted with pot holes.

According to Mr Rupunae, it is worth it. “No more should we rely on others,” he said. “This is one way we can help ourselves.”

Mr Rupunae and his members admit that finding money to save is a struggle. “It is hard to save here on the island, but after what we have gone through over the past 5 or 6 years, we know that this savings scheme could offer us some economic independence,” he said.

The development of good financial services is a key component of the government’s strategy emphasising the importance of financial services for economic and social development, particularly the need to improve access to financial services in rural areas.

“Better access to financial services will assist the poor to create micro-enterprises and generate broad-based income,” says Eugenue Zhukov, regional director of the Asian Development Bank. “This will lead to new employment opportunities, a key development objective of PNG.”

However, saving is only part of the solution. “Very limited access to credit continues to be a serious impediment to private sector development and sustainable growth in PNG,” says Mr Zhukov.

The Bogia Cooperative Society is planning to make the transition from savings to lending, according to Mr Muriki. “We would really like to get into micro-loans. Some people are giving up savings because they are not seeing the other side of micro-finance.” The next step will be finding a lending partner, or, failing that, going into lending on its own.

Once the Cooperative moves from savings to lending, the opportunity private enterprise offers to economically-deprived areas like Manam Island could be substantial.

Managed well, it could even lead to a small economic revolution in the development of small but viable cottage industries in Madang’s rural and remote communities.

Source: Asian Development Bank

US gives PNG a bad mark on trafficking

PNG IS A SOURCE, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to trafficking in persons, specifically forced prostitution and forced labour, says a US State Department report.

Women and children are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and involuntary domestic servitude; trafficked men are forced to provide labour in logging and mining camps. Children, especially young girls from tribal areas, are most vulnerable to being pushed into commercial sexual exploitation or forced labour by members of their immediate family or tribe….

Migrant women and teenage girls from Malaysia, Thailand, China, and the Philippines are subjected to forced prostitution and men from China are transported to the country for forced labor.

Asian crime rings, foreign logging companies, and foreign businessmen arrange for some women to voluntarily enter PNG with fraudulently issued tourist or business visas. Subsequent to their arrival, the smugglers turn many of the women over to traffickers who transport them to logging and mining camps, fisheries, and entertainment sites where they are exploited in forced prostitution and involuntary domestic servitude.

Foreign and local men are exploited for labour at mines and logging camps, where some receive almost no pay and are compelled to continue working for the company indefinitely through debt bondage schemes….

Government officials facilitate trafficking by accepting bribes to allow illegal migrants to enter the country or to ignore victims forced into prostitution or labor, by receiving female trafficking victims in return for political favors, and by providing female victims in return for votes.

The Government of PNG does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and is not making significant efforts to do so….

The Government showed negligible progress in its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. No trafficking offenders were arrested or prosecuted. PNG does not have a comprehensive anti-trafficking law, and the penal code does not prohibit all forms of trafficking….

Wealthy business people, politicians, and police officials who benefit financially from the operation of commercial sex establishments where trafficking victims are reportedly exploited were not prosecuted.

Most law enforcement offices and government offices remained weak as the result of corruption, cronyism, a lack of accountability, and a promotion system based on patronage…

During the past year, the Papua New Guinean government made few efforts of its own to prevent trafficking during the reporting period.

Source: United States Department of State, Trafficking in Persons Report 2010 - Papua New Guinea

I don’t remember that, was it really that bad?


The Wire Classroom WE TEND to view the past with rose tinted glasses.  The bad experiences fade away and the good ones remain.  It’s part of the natural human inclination to be happy.

Sometimes something comes along to remind us of those less than pleasant experiences.  In the case of PNG a re-reading of John Bailey’s 1972 book The Wire Classroom will do the trick.  In many ways it’s a revelation, albeit not a pleasant one.

The story follows the progression of a young teacher straight out of ASOPA through a year at the mythical outstation of Wendi in the Gulf District.

Remember the interminable boredom of outstation life? Remember the booze ridden days and nights, the heat, the constant damp and the unfathomable ways of the locals? It’s all in Bailey’s book.

Remember the faint suspicion that you and your friends were there because you couldn’t make a go of it in Oz; that you were somehow second rate?

Remember the universally held belief that the locals, especially your hausboi, were useless and could break almost anything? Remember the story about the highlander who came back to his boss with the broken anvil?

Remember the counter balance? The intelligent and educated local who was not lauded for those qualities but feared for what he or she could do with them.

What about the illicit sex where people away from their customary environment behaved in all sorts of scandalous ways?  Where PNG women became objects of white male longing and the constant ogling of bare breasts was a regular pastime.

Remember the longing to be home in Oz among the familiar?  When being able to buy something as simple as a strawberry milkshake at the local deli became an obsession.

Remember the urge to be out of the debilitating heat and humidity and to be back to cold winters and warm fires?

Not your experience you say; I enjoyed my time up there, but for sure I knew people like that.

Bailey’s chalkie anti-hero who finally realises he was not cut out for teaching and outstation life and eventually skulks off home was certainly that way inclined.

Remember Kenneth Cook’s 1961 novel Wake in Fright?  This is the PNG version.  Have a drink mate?  Have a fight mate?  Have a taste of dust and sweat mate?  There’s nothing else out here mate reads the poster for the successful 1971 film version now being deified as an Australian classic.

There is no doubt where Bailey got his inspiration.  The descent of outback teacher John Grant into his own personal hell is beautifully paralleled in Bailey’s book by the chalkie Charlie Cummins.

This was John Bailey’s first novel.  He went on to write a snappy and funny sci-fi novel in 1978 called The Moon Baby and then disappeared off the scene until The White Divers of Broome in 2001, The Lost German Slave Girl in 2003 and then the much acclaimed Mr Stuart’s Track in 2006.

Read The Wire Classroom if you dare.  It will make you laugh and it will depress you but it will also make you think, was it really as good as I remember?

Search Abe Books on the net for a copy.

Yumi giamanim ol pipol istap


YEAR IN YEAR OUT, Papua New Guineans have been crying out for delivery of basic services in health, education, roads, bridges, wharves, airstrips and more but, their wishes have always been that.

There isn’t much that this government can show for the large sums of money it has purported to have spent over the years since it took office. All our public infrastructure and services have fallen into disarray.

Our hospitals, health centers and clinics continue to struggle for the basic of drugs while people, especially the mothers, young and old, continue to die of curable illnesses whilst this government watches.

Most of Papua New Guinea’s schools, universities and colleges have fallen into disrepair despite the allocation of large sums of money over the years.

Mr Speaker, our coastal and maritime provinces continue to be neglected in terms of proper wharves, jetties and the like. Those that are usable are almost collapsing preventing our rural people from bringing their produce safely to the markets.

There are so many other deficiencies in the performance of this government to effectively manage and implement a lot of its money plans which I can continue to talk about but I do believe you all are familiar with.

We strongly believe that this government has failed miserably to implement its past budgets and we believe the 2011 money plan will be no different. It is our strongest conviction that this government lacks the capacity, the willpower and know-how to successfully implement the 2011 money plan.

Mr Speaker, our biggest fear is that a lot of the money that is intended for projects in the 2011 budget will be squandered as was always the case in the past. It is therefore important that all sectors of government be overhauled and this government quickly put in place proper management strategies for this budget to ensure that the people of PNG really benefit from this money plan.

This budget is framed so much around the LNG project but not everyone in PNG will benefit directly from the LNG windfalls. It will only be the landowners around or within the project areas, the pipeline and the processing facility. All Papua New Guineans will however feel the negative impact of this project on their lives through high cost of goods and services brought about by the LNG project.

The people  of PNG are already expressing their concerns about the increased prices of basic store goods. The sad story is that it will get worse. For majority of Papua New Guineans, life will get harder.

In its current form, the Papua New Guinea labor market is competently unable to supply all the labor requirements not only for the PNG LNG project but, also to fill in the vacuum created by movement of people into the resource sector and new jobs created as a result of the resource boom.

Do we always have to play catch up while our people suffer?

The Government doesn’t care Mr Speaker; maybe we all should buy houses in Cairns, catch an early flight into Port Moresby for Parliament Session and afternoon flight back into Cairns.

Yumi giamanim ol pipol istap.

Finally Mr Speaker, it has been alleged that over K5 billion of public funds has been stashed away into trust accounts which have yet to be audited.

This government owes it to its people that a thorough audit must be done quickly and made public so that the people can see how their money has been managed.

PNG has been listed as one of the corrupted countries in the world, unsafe to take a holiday and Member of Parliament are almost immune to prosecution.

This is an edited version of yesterday’s Budget reply speech by Bulolo MP,  Sam Basil, courtesy of the PNG Exposed Blog

New women's health deal desperately needed

PREGNANT WOMEN living in PNG are struggling, CEO of World Vision, Tim Costello, has said after visiting the overcrowded, understaffed maternity ward at Port Moresby General Hospital.

Rev Costello was deeply concerned by what he saw. Women who had just given birth were unable to be accommodated in beds or rooms but lay on the floor in reception. Lack of security at the hospital facilitated the recent theft of badly needed medicines and expensive medical equipment.

Rev Costello travelled to PNG to gain a better understanding of the issues experienced by women and children and to find ways to increase the effectiveness of World Vision's programs there.

He visited health and sanitation projects in the Madang Province, where he heard the incredible story of Susie.

Heavily pregnant Susie started walking to hospital when she felt labour pains begin. She walked for several hours and then paddled across a lake in a canoe. Vulnerable and alone she then spent the night at a dangerous junction.

The following day Susie caught a bus to hospital. What is remarkable about Susie's story is that she and her baby survived. Many women and newborns do not. In fact, in the past 14 years PNG’s maternal and child mortality rates have nearly doubled.

Australia is taking steps to support its near neighbour. Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has announced Australia's pledge of $85 million as part of the UN Global Strategy for Women's and Children's Health.

World Vision is also working to improve the health of women and children through projects focused on health service delivery, nutrition and water and sanitation.

Source: World Vision Action News

Muralitharan is a cricketing coup for PNG

CRICKET PNG has pulled off a coup after confirming that Sri Lankan super star Muttiah Muralitharan will play in the annual Twenty20 Legends Bash in December.

Murali will be part of a group of eight personalities who have agreed to help promote Cricket PNG's annual "Don't Drink and Drive" awareness campaign which is tied into cricket clinics and matches.

The other stars due to appear are PNG's national coaching director Andy Bichel along with fellow former Australian international players Brad Hogg, Michael Di Venuto, Craig McDermott, Greg Ritchie and Steve Rixon, and former England one-day captain, Adam Hollioake.

Meanwhile, a delegation from PNG has been on a fact finding mission to Melbourne ahead of the 2015 Pacific Games.

As the host country, PNG is anxious to provide the best venues and the delegation took the opportunity to attend a three-day workshop on the management of sports facilities at Melbourne's aquatic centre, which was upgraded for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

The PNG delegation included government advisor on sport, Steven Damien, legal advisor to the Pacific Games venues committee, Michael Henao, and Mel Donald from the PNG Sports Federation.

Source: Radio Australia

Other side of the field is not always greener


ACCORDING TO the Minister for Planning and Monitoring and District Development, Paul Tiensten, “PNG can become the China of the Pacific”.

Exactly what was the Minister referring to?

“Past PNG governments had only looked at their survival,” he said, making the point that the country must align itself with short and long term government strategies and, if it does, “that this may well result in PNG becoming the China of the Pacific.”

With a booming economy and aspirations of becoming the leading world power, China is an easy example to laud when so called developing countries wish to align and emulate their own development strategies.

But exactly what would it mean if PNG did adopt Chinese methods and strategies? If one were to look beneath the rhetoric and hyperbole, might not this concept create some problems for Mr Tiensten's own government?

What methodologies for example, does the Chinese government use to curb corruption? Is Chinese culture readily able to be assimilated by the PNG people? Do they want to emulate the Chinese way of doing things?

Those with some experience of PNG culture and customs might point out that a similar notion used to be bandied around some decades ago about PNG adopting western culture and ethics.

How successful was that concept in creating a society and government that eradicated corruption and enabled PNG to use its resources to build up a modern nation and allow its people to prosper?

It seems that the idea of further fields always being greener hasn't changed in four decades.

Why not start looking at the mirror and working out what is going wrong at home rather than chasing the illusion of a rainbow elsewhere?

Tuberculosis: an emerging health emergency

PNG IS LOSING its struggle to control tuberculosis three years into a five-year, $20 million plan to reach 80 percent of the country.

“In comparison with other countries, PNG is lagging behind," said Marcela Rojo, spokeswoman for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

With 16,000 new cases a year, PNG has the highest TB prevalence rate in the Pacific - and someone dies from TB every two hours, according to the Department of Health.

Health officials blame the country’s disorganised and ill-equipped health system. “Unless the national government provides funding and resources to deal with this issue, we are faced with a serious health problem,” said head of the National TB Task Force, Paul Aia,

When asked if the $20 million grant is enough to fight TB in an endemic country of 6.9 million people, Ms Rojo explained that countries request funds according to their assessed need.

But PNG’s 80 percent coverage goal by the end of 2012 excludes some of its most remote and sparsely populated areas.

This places PNG behind other high TB countries like Vietnam and the Philippines, even though the Global Fund has paid out $15 and $53 for every 100 people in Vietnam and Philippines against $118 in PNG.

About two percent of newly diagnosed TB cases are drug resistant in PNG.

Mr Aia and World Health Organization representative in PNG, Egil Sorensen, characterised multiple drug resistant tuberculosis TB as an emerging “health emergency” in PNG.

Mr Aia blames drug resistance not only on patients who do not keep to their treatment regimes, but also on drug shortages.

“The situation is so bad, even our health workers fear for their lives,” he said.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

The budget speech that never was – until now


THIS IS THE BUDGET speech by PNG Opposition Leader the Rt Hon Sir Mekere Morauta that was not allowed to be delivered in Parliament yesterday. Speaker Jeffrey Nape did not give reasons. Sir Mekere asks questions that the PNG Government should address and the Australian Government should contemplate.

Mr Speaker, the 2011 Budget may set a record in terms of revenue raised and money to be spent, but it may also set a record of money wasted.

The public sector lacks capacity, capacity to convert the billions of kina appropriated every year into public goods and services for our people and for the nation’s future. We all know that the public sector is beset with problems: problems of inefficiency, of abuse, theft, wastage and lack of accountability – lack of accountability of resources that belong to the public.

What does this record budget do to address these problems, the very problems that negate the Government’s ability to deliver decent affordable services to people? Not one thing Mr Speaker; not one thing. Throwing billions of kina at Departments and Statutory Authorities will not solve the host of problems the public sector increasingly faces.

These problems are eating away the heart of state institutions, and the Government is doing nothing to solve them. The 2011 Budget fails to address the capacity problem. It fails to address the overarching problem of waste and corruption. Control of corruption has deteriorated sharply over the last eight years of Somare National Alliance governments. According to one international measure of corruption tracked by Transparency International, PNG is now in the bottom 10% of countries in the world.

Mr Speaker we may have billions of kina to spend, but given our very poor development indicators, especially in health and education, given the huge gaps we need to fill to meet the basic needs and rights of people, and given the real cost of delivering decent services, there is no room for waste or leakage.

Misuse of funds means less money for services. As one budget commentator noted: “If only 10 toea in each kina went missing over the next five years, that would still be a massive K3.6 billion – enough to rehabilitate and maintain the priority national roads.  And every toea is enough to education 30,000 children per year.”

That is the cost of corruption and waste Mr Speaker. A cost met by every man, woman and child. It is the people who are the victims of corruption and who suffer its effects in lack of decent health services, lack of decent schools or well-trained teachers, and roads full of pot-holes. Corruption is a parasite: it is truly feasting on the blood and flesh of its host, the people of Papua New Guinea.

What safeguards are being put in place to reduce corruption and to make sure money does not go missing? Not one, Mr Speaker; not one. With our experience of successive so-called “record budgets” over the last few years, Mr Speaker, we should all know by now that money alone will not provide the answers. In the last eight years this National Alliance-led government has appropriated well over K50 billion kina. What have those budgets produced?

Almost nothing that we can be proud of, or satisfied with:  a doubling of maternal mortality, an increase in infant mortality and closure of half the country’s health facilities; a sharp reduction in the quality of education,  as detailed in the recent report on universities commissioned by Prime Ministers Somare and Rudd; deteriorating roads – national, inter and intra–provincial roads. The level of deterioration is reaching the stage where many of these roads now require not just repair and resealing, but rebuilding.

In the last eight years we have had one government, led by the National Alliance. We can no longer blame political instability or frequent changes of government for the failure in performance. During the same period we have also experienced and benefited from the record prices of mineral resources. This “record” budget mirrors that fact and is built on it.

Mr Speaker, record appropriations totaling over 50 billion kina in eight years under one government. What do the nation and people have to show for such a large sum of money? Not much. And until and unless corruption is addressed; until and unless the capacity, management and accountability issues of the public sector are addressed; until and unless the waste and leakage of public monies are stopped, the “record” expenditure of the government will continue to have little positive benefit for the nation and for people.

Record appropriations, one Government in eight years, poor services, the majority of people living in poverty. Why? What is it we are lacking? The answer to that question, Mr Speaker is good government, led by a good leader.

Mr Speaker, before I offer a few comments on particular aspects of the Budget, I wish to make a few general comments concerning the 2010 and 2011 Budgets.

First, there is very little analysis of the 2010 budget outcome or outturn, that is, how actual spending or performance in 2010 compared to what was planned. Without this analysis, it is difficult to judge how the Government might perform in 2011. It seems, Mr Speaker, we are travelling blindfolded.

Secondly, there is very little medium-term analysis. A lot is said about the spending plans for 2011, but very little about the forward context of these plans. We know that service delivery is a multi-year undertaking. Investments take time to be delivered, whether they are capital works programs, text books or essential drugs; recruiting new staff is an ongoing commitment that also often requires new training.

For example, the budget provides for 1,333 new positions in hospitals. No-one would contest that those positions are not needed. The question is:  where is the trained staff to fill them? To be effective the budget must guarantee a commitment of resources year-after-year, over say a five year period. A one year commitment, year to year, is not likely to lead to the outcomes planned to be achieved.

Thirdly, the budget is scarce in details. The budget tables show headline budget numbers for planned 2011 spending, but there is scarce information on how this funding will be managed effectively, how it will reach service delivery units, and how it will be translated into goods and services.

Take the increased budget for drugs as an example. Yes, the government does need to spend more on drugs and essential medical supplies. But those that are currently procured are not reaching hospitals or health facilities. Theft is common.

There seems to be a merry-go-round of the very same drugs being purchased not once, but two, three times or more from the same suppliers, after “going missing” from medical stores or dispensaries. This results not only in the cost of drugs per unit becoming extortionately high, but also renders many of the drugs to be out of date by the time they ever reach the intended destination.

What will the Government do Mr Speaker to ensure that the money allocated for drugs is spent efficiently and honestly, and that the people who need that medicine actually receive it?

The only conclusion that any informed or aware observer might reach is that it is not possible to form an accurate assessment of the likelihood that the record spending under this budget will translate into services and into better outcomes for people. But if we go on past performance of the Somare Government, we have good reason to be doubtful.

I will now turn to the revenue side of the Budget.

Total Domestic Revenue is projected to yield 7.7 billion kina in 2011, compared to 6.9 billion and 5.7 billion kina in 2010 and 2009 respectively. Fine, no problems. However, when the Total Revenue is broken down into Tax and Non-tax revenue, a disturbing trend emerges. In 2009, non-tax revenue totalled 766 million kina (actual). The revised estimate for 2010 is 410 million kina, 356 million kina less than the previous year. A similar result is expected for 2011, with 411 million kina budgeted.

Mr Speaker, these figures represent a 46% reduction for both 2010 and 2011 over actual revenue received in 2009. Total domestic revenue in 2011 is expected to be 35% higher than in 2009, in line with growth in the economy, so why at the same time is there a reduction in non-tax revenue? It makes no logical sense.

When one examines the components of non-tax revenue in 2011, one sees two glaring facts: a significant reduction in revenue collected by government departments and agencies, and no contribution to the budget from commercial statutory authorities. Why? Can the Treasurer explain this?

Are we all so besotted with the prospect of LNG revenue that we no longer both to collect other legitimate charges for goods and services? Take as an example land lease rental revenue to be collected by the Department of Lands and Physical Planning. In 2009, K38.3 million was collected in land rent. In 2010, K22.1 million was collected, a reduction of K16.2 million or 42%. In 2011, only K24.8 million is budgeted. Why is it that we are not collecting at least the same as the amount collected in 2009?

Is PNG’s land mass shrinking? Or is it a reflection of the incapacity of the Department to collect? Treasurer, please explain.

It is not just the Department of Lands that is asked to collect less in 2010 and 2011 than it did in 2009. Another example is the Department of Foreign Affairs and revenue from passport and migration service fees. In 2009, K37.1 million was collected. In 2010, only K11 million. In 2011, a meagre K2.5 million is budgetted. Why the massive reduction?

Are there less people coming to work in PNG? I thought that with Ramu Nickel and LNG many more foreigners were coming to our shores to work. Are they paying no visa fees? Or is this revenue just being spent, perhaps by overseas missions on visiting politicians, and never recorded or accounted for?

Mr Speaker, the other area of potential revenue which is of great concern is dividend income, dividends payable by government-owned commercial statutory bodies and from State shares in businesses like banks and oil companies.

In 2009, no dividends were paid. In 2010, K55 million was budgeted, but only K38.5 million was received. K36.5 million of this was paid by Bank South Pacific, with K2million coming from Petromin. Where are other monies received by IPBC? Why are they not being paid to consolidated revenue?

The Minister constantly reminds us that all the commercial statutory authorities, Telikom, Air Niugini, PNG Power, PNG Ports, etc, are making heaps of profit. Where is it?

Apart from not tabling the accounts of these entities for Parliament and the people to see the true picture, Minister Somare is returning none of the profit to the people. This year, 2010, Bank South Pacific paid 42.8 million kina to IPBC in July and 11.55 million kina in November, a total of 54.4 million kina. Why was only 36.5 million of this paid to Treasury? What happened to the other 17.9 million kina?

What is happening to the revenue from the state’s shares in Oil Search? In 2009 Oil Search paid AUD15.4 million dividend to IPBC, but not one toea of this money (approximately K40 million) found its way to Treasury. In 2010 Oil Search paid AUD8.5 million, around K22 million to IPBC.  Where is this money? What has it been spent on? Why is none of it being paid to the legal custodian of monies of the people of Papua New Guinea?

Mr Speaker, the amounts of money that have been paid to IPBC in recent years are very large, with zero reporting, zero public scrutiny, and zero accountability. But these amounts pale in comparison with the gigantic sums of money IPBC will receive in the future. How many of us are aware of the fact that IPBC, under the stewardship of Minister Somare, will receive all the dividends payable by PNG LNG from 2015.

In the first five years that the project is expected to return dividend, IPBC will receive K1.3 billion kina. Between 2015 and 2049, a period of 34 years, IPBC will receive from PNG LNG dividend income totaling K12.5 billion at an average rate of K366 million per year. Why IPBC? Revenue to do what?

Apart from the money being available to satisfy the whims of IPBC’s political leaders, perhaps Mr Speaker there is a hint of things to come in the 2011 Budget. On top of the dividend income directly received by IPBC, the Government is allocating large amounts of money to its bureaucratic brother, also headed by Arthur Somare.

The Budget papers note that K30 million of the additional money allocated to the Police will be for “LNG support, to be paid through the Department of Public Enterprises”. Since when did democratic governments channel funding for police forces through companies and through totally unrelated government departments? Mr Speaker, why is IPBC allowed to control such large dividend monies? Should not the monies be paid directly to the Treasury? Should not IPBC be allocated an amount for its operational expenditure through the Budget, just like every other Government institution?

Mr Speaker, my conclusion is that we, Papua New Guinea have one Government but two Prime Ministers: one elected, the other appointed by the elected. Not only do we have two Prime Ministers, we also now have two Treasurers, two collectors of revenue and two overseers of expenditure: one treasury headed by Hon Peter O’Neill and the other by Arthur Somare. Why is this being tolerated? It is not just totally unacceptable; it is frightening.

I repeat Mr Speaker: in 2011, IPBC will pay no dividend at all to the State. Why? Why is IPBC allowed to retain all it will receive from Bank South Pacific, from Oil Search, PNG Ports, Air Niugini and Telikom? I ask again, what is IPBC going to do with all the dividend income that it will retain?

Mr Speaker, answers to these questions are just as important to the public as the intoxicated boasting by the Government of its record budget. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, not in the ingredients.

Source: PNG Exposed Blog

Marriage PNG style: respecting the traditions

PNG Attitude values contributors who speak with authority about PNG, and PETER KRANZ is certainly one of them. Here we reprise the story of his marriage to ROSE BEMU

PETER WAS WORKING at the University of Papua New Guinea when he met Rose, who was visiting friends at the university.

"We immediately hit it off and I asked Rose if she would like to have dinner that evening," says Peter, who hails from the NSW Central Coast. "She said yes, and things took off from there. What brought us together? Serendipity."

Two years later, Rose and Peter were staying in a diving resort near Port Moresby when Peter asked her to marry him.

"I got down on my knees in the old fashioned way and asked her in front of everyone," he says. "By this time everyone else wondered what was happening and gathered around us."

Kranz_Peter & Rose Bemu More than 200 guests attended their wedding, including members of Rose's family who travelled from the PNG highlands and Bougainville.

Rose and Peter wore traditional Simbu ceremonial costumes - called bilas kanaka in Tok Pisin - which comprise layers of feathers mostly from birds of paradise and parrots, shells, animal teeth, cuscus fur, leaves, flowers and grasses.

Peter says he was at first taken aback at the suggestion they wear traditional costumes for the ceremony, feeling that as a "whitepela" it might be disrespectful.

But Rose's family was adamant it would be a great honour to their customs if both bride and groom wore Simbu bilas.

Peter says getting dressed took several hours and was supervised by Rose's aunties who were meticulous about getting the details correct.

"As many of the components are now rare and valuable, the bilas is highly treasured and handed down from one generation to the next," Peter says.

"It is a major part of the cultural tradition of all PNG provinces and everyone in PNG is very proud of their area's bilas, songs and dances."

Wedding Some of Rose's female relatives played kundu drums and sang customary chants as she entered the garden. Peter's group was "hiding" behind some trees and a member of the bride's party had to find them, lead them forward and formally present Rose to Peter. The couple then went to the wedding garden where the formal ceremony took place.

Peter says the traditional part of the marriage is not yet complete, and he and Rose will be returning to her village in the coming months to have a formal "bride price" ceremony and feast.

"Many pigs are already being fattened for the feast," he says.

The food: Guests enjoyed a feast of whole roasted pigs, chicken and fish, plenty of sweet potatoes, yams, taro and tapioca flavoured with coconut milk, ginger and garlic, and a variety of local greens and tropical fruit - much of it cooked in a mumu, or earthen oven.

The flowers: The wedding garden was decorated with tropical flowers - bougainvillea, frangipani and bromeliads - collected and arranged by the Simbu Spiders, a university female soccer team.

The wedding party: Rose's 10-year-old niece Margaret was her bridesmaid. Auntie Mary Bemu led the bride's party - "sort of like a best lady for the bride", Peter says. Peter's best man was Rose's brother-in-law, Pastor Moses Kaupa.

What was the highlight?

Peter: "Having such a wonderful group of family and friends come to the wedding and give us so much support and goodwill. PNG people are extremely generous, open and sincere when they become your friends and family."

Mangi Moresby What do you love most about your partner?

Peter: "Rose is the most loving and beautiful woman I have met both on the outside, but more importantly on the inside. She has saved my life and given me a future."

Rose: "Peter has stood by me through good times and bad times and I know he loves me with all his heart. He has given me trust and love like no one else I have known."

Source: ‘Union of cultures in PNG’, Sun-Herald / The Age, 1 October 2007

Pig photo: Peter's pride and joy, Mangi Moresby, now "being fattened on good kaukau"

Kiaps History Day was a first for Australia


Sen Kate Lundy

LAST SATURDAY some 300 people gathered at the Offices of the National Archives of Australia in East Block, Parkes, Canberra.

The objective of this remarkable get-together was to publicise a three month public display of the work of TPNG Kiaps, Sharing Histories, Kiap Tribute Event.

The National Archives became involved in actively seeking out information about TPNG Kiaps after years of work by Chris Viner-Smith. Chris has been working on trying to get successive Australian governments to recognise the work Kiaps did in PNG prior to Independence.

This work resulted in a meeting between Chris, Keith Jackson and the senior staff of then Special Minister of State, John Faulkner. After that meeting, the Minister directed that the National Archives organise a public display featuring the work of TPNG Kiaps.

Chris Viner-Smith

The National Archives have promised to provide a list of all those who attended the event. They have also implored anyone with any historical document or written information about Australia's role in TPNG to send it to them.

Previously, some former Kiaps were unsure about any effort to have their work recognised as it might look like personally seeking some form of aggrandisement, a trait Australians are not usually noted for.

While everyone can form their own view as to whether they would want any personal recognition were it to ever be offered, it is very evident to those who turned up on Saturday that many, many people do want the work of TPNG Kiaps recognised for what it was.

Michael Jeffery & Jim Sinclair But what was it that provides the central core of what should be recognised and how should it be recognised?

Kiaps were by their very nature, highly individualistic characters. No two would probably do things the same way yet the essence of what Kiaps were was to get things done despite at times, seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But how did we, as mere individuals, achieve anything at all? Clearly it was a collaborative effort by all concerned.

While some may refer to the authority given to us through official channels, that authority meant very little to the people who lived in rural PNG.

Mostly, these people then had very little concept of the outside world apart from what they saw happening at a local level. It was the acceptance of the Kiap role; together with way that system operated that seemed to mesh very neatly into the PNG concept of leadership and so ensured practical achievements.

Within the space of one person's lifetime, large parts of PNG emerged into a modern world without a revolution or serious civil war and loss of life. That surely is a remarkable achievement when compared to contemporary world history.

Sharing histories What makes it more remarkable is that the majority of pre Independent PNG still had essentially a highly diverse, rural population and that was administered by a centralised Kiap system?

By the early 1970's, there were no more than a total of a few hundred Kiaps in the then 18 Districts in PNG. Each District had on average, no more than 25 Kiaps stationed in isolated rural outstations and yet responsible for over 90% of a population of over three million people.

Another remarkable factor is that most of the population of the administrating authority, Australia, knew very little about her next door neighbour and this abysmal situation continues to this very day.

Imagine if Britain just ignored Ireland or Germany or France and knew very little about Spain? Imagine if Greece knew nothing about Turkey or Japan virtually forgot about Korea and China? Yet when asked, most Australians would probably say our closest neighbour was Indonesia or even New Zealand.

National Archives Director Ross Gibbs and his staff pulled out all stops to make the Kiap tribute day a huge success and they achieved their goal.

There were so many who turned up that the speeches and discussions in the main auditorium had to be broadcast to other rooms in East Block by CCTV. Archive staff are very keen to promote the opportunity to advertise the displays and to encourage everyone who has any information about this period in Australia and PNG's history to record it and send the information to Archives before that history is lost forever. It is suggested is that former Kiaps and their families contact their local members, (both Federal and State), and make them aware of the display and the Kiap story.

An example of how easily information could be lost was presented by former District Commissioner Jim Sinclair who described how just prior to Independence; he heard that all the confidential records of PNG Kiaps were being burnt in Port Moresby along with many other records.

PNG Dancers He related how he was able to rescue these records just before they were burnt and on return to Australia, brought with him four patrol boxes full of these paper files. These are the confidential staff records that National Archives in Brisbane now has preserved for those who want to access them.

PNG High Commissioner Charles Lepani amazed some during his speech when he related how the current PNG PM, Grand Chief, Sir Michael Somare had a few years after Independence, confessed that many areas the new PNG government was administering, were apparently not operating all that well.

According to Mr. Lepani, Somare suggested that perhaps they should bring back the kiaps to fix the problem?

Led by Deveni Temu, a PNG song and dance group with kundu, plumes and grass skirts provided traditional PNG entertainment to enjoyment of everyone and as a wind up for the occasion. They even performed 'Raisi', as a personal request from former DC Fred Kaad.

Those who attended the day were very pleased to meet up with old friends, many of who had not seen each other in over 35 years. We all swapped email addresses and telephone numbers and many continued the reunion afterwards.

The NAA Address is: P.O. Box 7425, Canberra Business Centre, ACT 2610 There are also an e mail contact:


Oates Johnston Sinclair 


(1)   Senator Kate Lundy launches the Day at the National Archives
(2)   Chris Viner-Smith, whose commitment saw the commemoration realised
(3)   Former Governor-General Michael Jeffery and Kiap and author Jim Sinclair
(4)   Sharing histories; sharing a happy moment
(5)   Papua New Guinean dancers at Kiaps History Day
(6)   Panelists Paul Oates, Nancy Johnston and Jim Sinclair

Tupela: A memoir of passion & humour


Tupela MY WIFE, MARIE, and I met Libby Bowen (whom we knew by her married name, Libby Phillips) in Goroka in 1971.

I was managing Radio Goroka and Andrew Phillips replaced me when we were posted to Madang.

Libby’s recent book, Tupela, is a highly descriptive, sensitive and personal memoir detailing Libby and Andrew’s married life and experiences in several colourful and some primitive locations in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea during the years leading up to Independence.

Their postings included Kieta, Boku, Rabaul, Goroka and Port Moresby. Some overseas leave travel is also described.

Libby Bowen writes beautifully, with passion, humour and poignancy. She describes some fateful historical incidents, such as the murder in East New Britain of District Commissioner, Jack Emanuel.

She also writes first-hand of the troubles on Bougainville sparked by the establishment of the Panguna copper mine.

Her husband, Andrew, started work in the late 1960s as a Cadet Patrol Officer, eventually changing career to become a Radio Station Manager with the Department of Information, and later still a self-employed film maker.

Libby worked in various secretarial positions at their postings throughout PNG. Her full and interesting life is beautifully detailed, providing a clear insight into the social interaction between Papua New Guineans and expatriates and showing a strong rapport with the traditions and values of this complex society.

I met Andrew and Libby again several years after he took over Radio Goroka. I was stationed in Port Moresby but was invited to return to Goroka for the official opening of the newly renovated station.

There was a large crowd attending and my old “office boy”, Semena, aged around 40, still worked at the station. He was a delightful man who always wore a toy London Bobby’s helmet. In his own right, he was very wealthy, had several wives and owned a productive coffee plantation on a nearby mountainside.

At the appropriate point in the ceremony, Andrew Phillips turned to Semena and commanded: “Semena, yu kisim plag, nau putim igo entap!” [Semena, raise the flag on the flagpole]. Whereupon Semena enthusiastically grabbed the flag, shinnied up the pole, tied the flag to its top, then slid back to earth. There was thunderous applause from the assembly. One of life’s classic PNG moments.

Libby Bowen’s love for Papua New Guinea is palpable throughout Tupela. And the story of the gradual breakdown of her marriage to Andrew is recounted in a moving way.

Tupela is fascinating reading and a highly informative book that held my interest page after page.

“Tupela – A time in an untamed paradise”, self-published by Libby Bowen, 2010 (143 pp). The title is Tok Pisin for “Two People”, or perhaps “We Two” or “The Two Of Us”. Order from Libby Bowen here  ($20 a copy).

Post-China: the way forward for Bougainville


I WANT TO further analyse my reflections on China. I begin by asking this simple question. Like China, how will the Autonomous Government of Bougainville go about economic recovery as she tries to move forward and achieve a better life for all in Bougainville?

On 4 March this year the Autonomous Bougainville Government came up with the “Bougainville Economic Development Policy” and “Investing In Bougainville”.

These two documents are well thought out and written with great insight.

As I skimmed through them, I found out that a fundamental component was missing. The documents only deal with economic development, which I would describe as a body without a head, mind and spirit.

The spirit is the energy that empowers all in Bougainville to work towards achieving a better life. It is a fundamental and foundational part of the way forward in Bougainville.

The Chinese experience shows that all companies and industries begin with spirit and vision - the vision of their province and their nation. This ensures the same spirit energises and empowers them to continue fulfilling that national vision: “To achieve a harmonious society and a peaceful environment”

The danger of dealing with the body only is that there is no energy in reserve to keep moving forward. The vision and spirit ensures that there is continuous growth and development.

My humble appeal to all Bougainvilleans is to discover that Vision of Bougainville.

In order to achieve a better life in Bougainville, we all need to have the same vision, mission and goals. All persons, communities, institutions and all businesses need to own that vision and dream.

We need to go through that kind of transformation. There is a need for paradigm shift and a New World view. There is need for attitudinal change. This will enable us to a new mindset and to come up with the economic recovery needed to achieve that better life for all in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.

Are we able to have that same dream and vision? Are we prepared to commit ourselves and be united in achieving it within a certain period of time? I believe that where there is a will there is way. There is certainly a way that will lead us forward to achieve a better life.

I fully support and endorse the “Bougainville Economic Development Policy” and “Investing In Bougainville” documents. These are fundamental principles in the economic recovery and development program in Bougainville.

Fr John Koran was a member of a recent Bougainville delegation to China. This is an edited version of an article on the New Dawn on Bougainville website

Time for equality for the women of PNG

Taylor_Meg TOMORROW, THE GALLERIES of PNG’s national parliament will be crowded with women hoping to witness the passage of a bill establishing seats reserved exclusively for female MPs.

At present there is only one woman in parliament, Dame Carol Kidu, a situation which another Dame – the esteemed leader Meg Taylor [left] - says is “meagre and unacceptable.”

“The future of our nation was, and is, based on our hopes and aspirations as a people,” Dame Meg says. “At self-government, we clearly articulated the equal participation of women in political, economic and social life and institutions.

“The purpose of this is to ensure the sound and strong development of PNG with women as equal partners in development and nation building.

“We stood as a young nation on a journey of great expectation towards nationhood. We knew that there would be challenges and we believed that we would all share those challenges.

“Women in PNG have worked hard and contributed to the development of our young nation, however, women’s participation at senior levels in government has seriously declined.”

Dame Meg said in parliament, where laws were made and politicians defined the future of the country, there was an obvious absence of women.

Hawke & Friends “In the 35 years of our young nation, there have been four women in parliament. Two have held a ministry. This statistic is shocking and shameful.

“We will not build a nation when the opportunity for women candidates to be elected into parliament is undermined by reason of culture and prejudice, however, that has been the case and that must be changed.”

Dame Meg said that the participation of women through reserved seats will “prepare the ground for more robust democratic institutions for the future.”

“This will be the beginning for a more equal representation through the electoral process,” she said.

Photo: Past & future MPs?  Bob Hawke has been visiting Port Moresby where he managed to meet up with three Pacific beauty contestants [Ilya Gridneff]

Aid review needs to listen to affected people


FOREIGN MINISTER, Kevin Rudd, has launched a comprehensive review of the Australian aid program to ensure that the program learns from its experience and becomes as effective and efficient as possible.

I wholeheartedly support the view that the aid program should provide value for money on every Australian taxpayer dollar that is allocated to the aid budget. My question is who determines what value for money is?

The voices of people living in extreme poverty need to be the loudest voices when the government is determining how effectively Australian aid money is being used and each and every aid dollar should maximise the development outcomes for people living in extreme poverty.

Given that we are working in complex political and social environments this is always going to be difficult to explain to the Australian taxpayer and we all need to get much better at doing this.

For example the real drivers of social change in developing countries tend to be social movements who function in their own unique way and such movements rarely, if ever, comply with the traditional modus operandi of the aid community which is “provide resources, implement activity, monitor output and evaluate outcome.”

This AusAID review would be doing international development a huge service if it were able to unpack these issues and suggest new approaches of enabling people living in poverty to have a loud voice in determining what they want from the aid program.

There are further concerns as the review seems to be based on the flawed notion that economic growth is the main driver of poverty alleviation. Whilst economic growth has been one of the main drivers for millions of people in China and India lifting themselves out of poverty, it has recently been noted that the high levels of economic growth haven’t done much for the bottom 20% in both countries who still live in humiliating poverty.

So maybe we shouldn’t gamble too much on economic growth as the main driver of poverty alleviation and instead focus on other issues that seem to be neglected, such as human rights.

The words human rights are missing from the government’s announcement yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides a clear framework to guide the aid program. Progressive donors use a human rights based approach to poverty alleviation as a key driver of their programming work so maybe this review should have a good look at this as well as getting stuck into the issue of economic growth.

My single biggest fear is that this review team is not going to hear the voices of people living in poverty. Sure I expect it will be talking to all sorts of wise heads from the World Bank, the UN and NGOs. However I don’t expect that the review team will widely seek the views of the very people that the aid dollars are provided to help.

Archie Law is the CEO of ActionAid Australia. A version of this article was published first here. It also appeared on the blog of the Development Policy Centre, an essential source for anyone interested in development aid

On education, China, mining & Attitude


MY PNG FRIENDS include many ladies who are good Christian women holding positions at the top of the PNG Public service.

One met Hillary Clinton to discuss PNG's problems, another gives permission for the Chinese to work in PNG, another is the Planning Minister's offsider, and another is high up in Education.

But they are very shy when it comes to writing.

I remember when it was like this in Australia. There were not many women in Parliament but some of my girlfriends went to the top of the Commonwealth Public Service. We thought that was great. Let's hope that they get a few women into the PNG parliament soon.

Minister for Education James Marape has now honoured his promise to start special selective schools for gifted and talented students. This was a theme of my book on Kerevat national high school, written with the help of many friends. But I know these things are easier said than done.

I hope PNG Attitude doesn't become dominated by the people who seem to be fearmongers who get carried away with what they think might happen in the future.

I live in Epping-Eastwood, which is now the home of many Chinese. I have some very good Chinese friends. I think some writers have a great fear of the Chinese. Many of the Chinese in my area have come from other East Asian countries, but the ones who live opposite came from mainland China. They are very good Australians.

My Chinese friend came from Vietnam and later in life married an American man from our church. She warns me off eating food from mainland China. She poured all my mainland China soya sauce down the sink the other day. We have some good Chinese ministers in the Presbyterian Church and many local doctors are Chinese.

I hope the PNG people will develop relationships with the Chinese people. The Sepik lady who lives near me married a Chinese man from Wewak. His dad used to run the Wewak picture show which I attended regularly in the 1970s.

Mining I really appreciate Alex Harris' understanding on mining. Last weekend I went to the Cadia Gold Mine Open day [see photo]. It was very well organised. Hundreds turned up at Millthorp Museum and buses left every ten minutes with tour guides for a two-hour trip.

We were allowed out of the buses twice and dozens of young Cadia mine employees told us all about the mine. We saw the tailings dams and heard how they plan to turn the mine area back to farmland when they have finished with the mine. They make a great point about being a safe mine.

I spoke to many people and heard about all the good things that the mine has brought to the area. The locals are keeping an eye on the tailings dams and many of them come on these open days every year.

One man asked if the tailings included arsenic and he was told they didn't. Another told me that when the mine closes the tailings will remain as they are. I doubt if they will close down soon. They will keep working while the price for gold is high.

Intriguing story of a well-travelled cheque


ONE OF THE MOST intriguing pieces of memorabilia items I had seen during my years of research into the Japanese invasion of Rabaul in 1942 is a cheque, hand-written by Major Leslie H Lannan of the 2/22nd Battalion.

There seems to be little information about Major Lannan’s escape after the Japanese invasion of Rabaul, but a translated Japanese diary noted his arrival at Vunapope mission after being captured on 5 April 1942.

I assume that along with this group of hungry and tired men he arrived at Induna Seventh Day Adventist Mission on 31 March 1942. Food was a problem for the escaping troops. Although the New Britain natives at first welcomed the troops, offering food and shelter, the sheer numbers passing through soon meant that gardens were depleted and food resources severely strained.

In a note with the cheque Leslie wrote that he had paid Denny, who was probably the boss boy of the mission, for the food including a goat and vegetables. Somehow the natives at the mission had preserved the cheque for the three and a half years of Japanese occupation and then presented it at the Turramurra branch of the Bank of New South Wales on Sydney’s North Shore.

From there it was forwarded to the Melbourne Stock Exchange branch on which it had been written. It is not known how the cheque was returned to Leslie, but such a cheque would have been a curiosity, so it is not unlikely that Leslie received a call from his bank manager and retrieved the cheque as a souvenir.

But how did this cheque get to Australia in 1946? Research into wartime Rabaul often reveals answers to such questions in the most unusual places. The mystery of this cheque’s arrival in Australia was no exception.

Whilst reading Tokyo Calling – the Charles Cousens Case, I was intrigued by the fact that the Australian government had paid for a Niesi Japanese, Hiroshi Niino, to come to Australia to testify against Charles Cousens, who was being tried for treason for broadcasting for the Japanese from Radio Tokyo during the war.

Although it would seem Niino had very little to do with Cousens in Japan, he had acted as a civilian interpreter with the Japanese army in Rabaul. Author Ivan Chapman noted that “At a small town near Sydney, Niino met a former POW who wanted to know the whereabouts of other Australian troops captured by the Japanese at Rabaul.”

This link to a former Rabaul POW intrigued me so I started to research Niino. I discovered that the ex POW who had interviewed Niino was Gordon Thomas, the former editor of The Rabaul Times. Knowing Niino had been in Rabaul, Thomas had suggested to the authorities that he be interviewed in the hope that he might be able to provide further information about the fate of missing civilians.

A hand-written note in Niino’s file reveals that Gordon Thomas also interviewed two indigenous New Guineans who, with four others, had been brought to Australia to sail the Adventist Missions’ new lugger back to Rabaul. These men were staying at the Seventh Day Adventist Mission Union Conference centre in Wahroonga. The nearest Bank of New South Wales was the Turramurra branch.

Leslie noted that, although Denny had died from natural causes in 1943, his wife and children were returned to their former home on Buka Island and were granted a pension by the Australian government in recognition of the help Denny gave to escaping troops after the Japanese invasion.

Leslie noted that although Denny had died from natural causes in 1943, his wife and children were returned to their former home on Buka Island and were granted a pension by the Australian government in recognition of the help Denny gave to escaping troops after the Japanese invasion.

The PNG economy: promising but vulnerable

The World Trade Organisation’s first review of PNG’s trade policies took place late last week. Here’s an abbreviated version of the background paper…

WHILE ECONOMIC GROWTH, earlier reforms and the massive LNG project hold promise, PNG faces many priorities: improving governance, reducing corruption, kick-starting reforms and building public infrastructure, all of which are sizable impediments to investment and development.

PNG’s resource-rich economy remains heavily reliant on subsistence agriculture. Its average GDP per capita was just over $1,000 in 2007. PNG is heavily trade dependent and vulnerable to world commodity price movements.

Since 2000, PNG's relatively steady economic environment has helped sustain growth, but structural reforms have waned, particularly since 2006, and fiscal discipline eased. PNG's robust growth since 2000 peaked at 7.2% in 2007 and remained at 4.5% in 2009, despite the global recession.

A major economic challenge confronting PNG, with wide trade policy implications, is how to manage the effects of the kina's appreciation. Substantial foreign investment in LNG and other projects is accentuating the economy's "two speed" nature.

The government views agriculture as a key sector in promoting export-driven growth, rural development and poverty reduction. Food security, interpreted as self sufficiency, is a priority.

Except for oil palm, agriculture has under-performed because of low productivity, largely reflecting inadequate research and development, poor take-up of technological improvements, and lack of scale economies inherent in smallholder farming.

Other major constraints include inadequate transport facilities, unreliable and expensive utilities, prevalent crime and lawlessness, and insecurity of land tenure.

Logging unsustainability remains a major problem, due largely to permits issued in contravention of the licence moratorium. Concerns persist over lack of sustainability in fishing.

The state-owned, inefficient, monopoly power utility, PPL, supplies unreliable and expensive electricity, thus raising business costs. While PPL was corporatised for privatization, this did not go ahead. It has been under financial pressure, compounded by difficulties in servicing government loans and overseas borrowings.

Competition on air routes to Australia has increased recently, with Pacific Blue entering to compete with Qantas. Improvements in airline access, infrastructure, utilities, and telecommunications are necessary prerequisites for expanding tourism.

While PNG's economic outlook will depend on world commodity prices and other developments, more important will be whether it can successfully meet its domestic economic policy and related challenges.

Revealed – the POW cards Menzies’ rejected


EARLIER THIS YEAR, PNG Attitude revealed that in 1955 the Menzies government refused a Japanese offer to provide documents that might have led to the disclosure of the names of the men who died on the Montevideo Maru.

One of the last remaining great mysteries of Australia’s involvement in World War II involves the precise identities of the estimated 1,053 men who died in Australia’s worst maritime disaster when the Japanese POW ship Montevideo Maru was sunk by the US submarine Sturgeon off the Philippines.

Now PNG Attitude has been given a number of images of the cards that the Australian government has still not asked for – although Veterans’ Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon is on the case.

Angelbeek 2 The card shown above and at right is that of a Dutch prisoner of the Japanese captured in Indonesia. As you can see, it contains much detail – detail that would be of great importance to the relatives of Australians who were captured by the Japanese in the Gazelle peninsula in 1942.

These cars even show details of prisoner transfers - which would be of fundamental importance in discovering exactly who was on the Montevideo Maru.

Eight years after the war, on 15 October 1953, ten Allied governments including Australia received a communication from Japan to exchange POW name cards in accordance with the Geneva conventions.

Angganois The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that, although it did not feel bound by the conventions, it desired to “deliver the records of individual prisoners of war … who were in the hands of Japan during the Second World War”.

The Australian government did not respond to the request for 15 months, and when it did – on 18 January 1955 - it put a dampener on the exercise. It said it didn’t want the cards.

The Australian view was that all the information Australia wanted it had, and concluded with these extraordinary words: “No useful purpose would be served by a further exchange of information..."

Australia was the only one of the ten countries involved not to exchange records.

Anker Now these critical documents have surfaced in Japan after much effort by diligent Japanese researchers.

It just requires the Australian government to request the cards, and the relatives will find out more about the death of their loved ones.

It is past time when this should have been done.

Images of POW cards: Thanks to Keiko Tamura

PNG in the 60s: Mills and Boon in Moresby


Bird of Paradise_Peterswald AFTER PUBLISHING my first short story way back in the 1970s, I was emboldened to experiment with a range of genres.

In those days there was a good market for writers and I managed to crack a range of magazines. Despite trying my hardest, the only genre where I failed miserably was in that curious mix of squeaky clean blandness required by the Readers Digest.

Apart from that august journal, my next least successful foray was into the emotion-centric world of women’s magazines.

To psych myself up for that exercise, I surreptitiously picked up a couple of dog-eared Mills and Boon novels from the local book exchange in Badili. Curiously, and in a strangely unsettling way, I enjoyed both of them thoroughly - but just to be safe had a stiff beer afterwards.

Do you think I could emulate the style? No way. As someone less sensitive reminded me, “you have to have bumps in your jumper to write like that mate”.

Which brings me to Rosemary Esmonde Peterswald’s Bird of Paradise, which the cover explains is a vivid portrait of Papua New Guinea in the 1960s and a compelling story of a betrayed young woman’s courageous search for love and forgiveness.

That isn’t the half of it; the convolutions intrigue, and the hardly believable coincidences surrounding our young heroine are mind boggling.

Funnily enough the book is highly entertaining. Rosemary Peterswald is migratory Irish and so is her heroine. There is a touch of Maeve Binchy mixed with the Mills and Boon. At 359 pages, it’s also longer than most Mills and Boons.

The goings-on mostly occur in Port Moresby. There are references to the politics of the time, feminism, the Vietnam War and the culture in the Pacific Islands Regiment. But it could be anywhere in the world, because place takes a firm back step in this yarn which is centred round the emotional torment of Merryn, the pilot heroine.

There is a dastardly but redeemable white soldier, promiscuous Moresbyites, a grizzled old bipo, pompous officers, and a tall, dark local who hails from up near Vanimo. Another throw-away reference to the Sepik has us believe that Michael Somare might be a passable prime minister come independence.

The book is well presented and is nicely edited until about halfway through when the typos start to appear.

I found the image of a highland woman sitting in the terminal at Jacksons with a baby on one breast and a piglet on the other a bit much, as were the PIR soldiers dressed in penis gourds for their annual singsing. The point about the deliberate diversity in the PIR ranks was well made however.

The other bits tossed in for local colour are a tad more believable. Some of the spelling is a bit strange; Telafomin in one line and then the correct spelling a few lines later; Alotau consistently appears as Alatau; while bilum gets an extra ‘l’.

Besides all that, I must admit I enjoyed the story and was hanging out for all the myriad strings to be pulled together at the end.

Highly recommended for the ladies and those blokes interested in exploring their feminine side – in a completely non-sexist way of course.

Bird of Paradise by Rosemary Esmonde Peterswald was published by Ballynastragh Books this year and is available from [email protected] for $29.95 plus postage and handling.

Govt abdicates role in a lawless PNG


THE ARTICLE WAS entitled A sad day for PNG tourism. It was about local indignation felt over this week’s gunpoint abduction and robbery of Australian volunteer workers, together with the rape of one of their number.

In addition to the terrible trauma for those subject to this criminal action, there was concern about how the attack would affect tourism to PNG.

Yet the issue has even wider implications. Law and order problems have been escalating in PNG for decades and no one seems to be able to do anything about them.

The PNG police are under strength, under-resourced and out-gunned. (Members of Parliament now carry weapons to protect themselves.) Yet it seems the answers elude those who have the power to act.

The issue is two-headed:

1 - Insufficient resources allocated to PNG law enforcement and justice organisations, and

2 - Apparent community acceptance of the perpetrators’ actions.

The first issue is the result of simply ignoring the problem while it continued to grow in intensity: denying resurces where they are required.

The second is a worrying trend that seems to be on the rise. Criminals can be found everywhere, their activities mainly limited by opportunity. Yet frustrated Papua New Guineans see there is little justice and protection, so why bother reporting the criminal activity one sees every day?

The Robin Hood syndrome has also been espoused as a reason why criminals prey on those who can't defend themselves.

So has the situation finally come to a point where everyone accepts the calamitous situation that has developed and merely laments how it will affect tourism?

Why is it that the PNG government has apparently been able to turn a blind eye to the increasing lawlessness that has overtaken its country?

That is the question everyone in PNG should be asking.

Chamber issues crime warning about Lae


AGAIN I TAKE the opportunity to advise members that crime in Lae is on the rise and recommend people to take all the precautions they can.

Please take care when travelling along the “miles” roads, as there have been many incidents with attempted holdups, shootings and stonings.

The city is filling up with more and more people, many of whom are itinerants.

This is normal for this time of the year, as people flock to Lae for shopping, seeking employment or just to see the bright lights.

Many of these people turn to crime as money runs out or they need to get home. Carjacking’s are picking up and this will increase as we get closer to Christmas.

We advise members to be ever vigilant from now to the New Year. If you depart your home, try to leave someone in occupancy or in the absence of anyone, please secure the residence as well as possible.

When driving, keep the car doors locked and be vigilant with regard to people or crowds along the roadside.

Do not drive into areas you are not sure about or along roads leading into less secure areas. Be careful when locking the car in car parks and make sure all doors are locked.

Alan McLay is President of the Lae Chamber of Commerce. This article is taken from the Chamber’s regular newsletter

Activist's bizarre allegations of ‘kidnap’

THE PNG POST-COURIER today publishes further information, and the PNG Exposed blog presents a video, on bizarre allegations of activist Noel Anjo who claims he was “kidnapped” in 2009, allegedly on orders from Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

Earlier this month, at a press conference and flanked by MPs Belden Namah, Sam Basil and Jamie Maxton Graham, Anjo told how he was “kidnapped” at about 5pm on 16 February2009 by persons he claims were plain clothes policemen.

The Post-Courier became aware of the allegations early this month and took the matter up with Anjo, who confirmed the story.

The newspaper has tried to speak to Sir Michael and was advised he would give an interview but so far it has not happened. Two weeks ago, Betha Somare, his daughter, denied the allegations, saying the Somare family would vigorously defend themselves and that Sir Michael’s legal team would respond to Anjo’s allegations.

Anjo is claiming K1.5 million in compensation from the State for malicious prosecution, loss of personal liberty, breach of his constitutional rights and assault.

He alleges that on 16 February 2009 he was taken to Mirigini House, the official residence of the PM where he alleged Sir Michael and his wife Lady Veronica took turns in punching him.

Mr Anjo alleged he heard Sir Michael scolding his kidnappers and saying ‘why did you bring him to me when you could have easily penetrated a bullet through his head and dumped him somewhere”.

In a separate statement, Police have alleged they were also attacked at Mirigini House when they tried to stop the Grand Chief from bashing the NGO activist.

The police claim they were ordered to charge him for threatening to kill the PM, but later changed the charge to spreading false information against the PM. The charge was in relation to the campaigns Mr Anjo was conducting

Mr Anjo appeared at the Boroko District Court on 25 May 2009, but his case was struck out due to insufficient evidence.

Source: PM ordered my ‘kidnap’ – Anjo by Simon Eroro, PNG Post-Courier, 19 November 2010

Now our magazine has over 1,000 subscribers

THE ONE-THOUSANDTH subscriber to the PNG Attitude magazine signed up yesterday – marking a significant milestone for this joint PNG-Australia web-based project.

In early February this year the magazine had 400 subscribers, and it has been adding them at the rate of more than two a day since. (Get your free subscription by emailing here.)

This PNG Attitude website has shown similar spectacular growth. In January, it averaged 250 visitors a day which has now more than doubled to well over 500 a day.

It has been a big year for PNG Attitude with….

The Comment section of the website becoming a hot-bed of debate

The inauguration of The Crocodile Prize literary contest

New PNG readers outgunning new Australian readers three to one

PNG Attitude taking our message to Canberra and the heart of Australian politics

We’ve now produced a detailed account of what this website is about together with policies to guide contributors, commentators and readers.

You can work your way through Stuff you need to know about PNG Attitude, and we suggest you do, in ATTITUDE EXTRA at left or click through here.

Is justice compromised by Aussie largesse?


THE INDEPENDENCE of the judiciary is a paradigm that underpins the rule of law in democratic states.

Another well-accepted paradigm comes from one of the most famous historical judicial rulings: “Justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”…..

When Australian interests are legitimately and legally challenged in Pacific jurisdictions, ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ would be a common phenomenon in the judiciaries considering the massive amounts of Australian aid funding they receive.

Some question whether the judiciaries are prepared to do this, thus compromising their independence.

Peter Pena, a lawyer from PNG, is sceptical. He asked this question in a recently published article: “Has it ever occurred to anyone that this generous aid we receive (in PNG and the rest of the Pacific) could be a fishbone stuck in the judicial oesophagus of our courts, an unnecessary, artificial and improper fettering or corruption of judicial discretion?”

Pena had taken umbrage with the PNG Ombudsman’s report (amongst other things). He pointed out that the Australian government funnels millions of kina into both Transparency International and Ombudsman Commission every year.

“Australia has created so much financial rapport and institutional loyalty within these organisations,” said Pena, “that in desperate times like this, it can be called in.” He is of the belief that this is precisely what happened.

The Chief Ombudsman of PNG is currently Chronox Manek. Before becoming Chief Ombudsman, Manek was the recipient of a generous AusAID scholarship that funded his further education in Australia. Prior to this, he was the DPP that prosecuted the Moti case in PNG.

Subsequently, in the Ombudsman’s Report, he found that Moti should not even have been in that court as his arrest was unlawful. However, at the time, it did not stop him from yelling “belt the shit out of them” - them being Moti’s lawyers - on hearing that Moti was not in court that morning.

His enthusiasm for this task was equally matched by the Australian authority’s enthusiasm to have Moti extradited to Australia (to face criminal charges already heard in Vanuatu) before he could reach the Solomon Islands and take up his new role as Attorney-General in the troublesome (for Australia) Sogavare government.

The PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, commented incredulously in the press at the time of Moti’s arrest: “Police goes and does this, who are they listening to, who is commanding them?”

PNG is a sovereign nation. A prime minister shouldn’t have to ask that question. A reasonable person might wonder whether the scholarship proffered to Manek was a reward for the enthusiastic co-operation with the Australian agenda. And why wouldn’t they?.....

Australian authorities operating in the Pacific forget that the rule of law applies universally and can’t legitimately be applied arbitrarily and/or brushed aside for expediency—and certainly, not used to effect or promote a political agenda.

Stephen Lawrence, a Canberra-based lawyer, is particularly damning of how arbitrarily the rule of law has been used amongst the visiting contingent in the Solomon Islands. He confided to the press that while being a Solomon Islands’ public defender, he felt that RAMSI’s criminal justice response became “an attempt to achieve a form of political cleansing,” and had little to do with the rule of law.

Which brings us full circle—the judiciary must be independent to establish a rule of law. Clearly, in the Pacific, there are powerful forces interfering with that paradigm.

There must be solutions because as the PNG lawyer Pena rightly points out “judicial corruption is subtle and a very real threat to democracy in the region.”

His suggestion is that aid to this sector should cease immediately and he recommends “proper and adequate internal funding of the judiciaries as constitutionally mandated.”

Certainly, with the Pacific judiciaries so dependent on funding from Australia, the mythical ‘reasonable person’ is bound to suspect they would be heavily pregnant with Australian influence.

As for the Australian courts, there’s a need to look more closely at the problem of judicial bias and conflicts of interest questions. If a court in a small African nation can afford to be that rigorous, so must we. Then, justice may not only be done but also seen to be done.

‘Judicial corruption in the Pacific’ was first published on the Islands Business and websites. You can read the complete article here.

Spotter: Peter Kranz


Remains of 22 PI Coastwatchers located


AT 65, I THOUGHT I would be slowing my pace a bit, restricting my travels as much as possible to cruise ship lectures, and the like.

However, I serendipitously entered into a research project that was not on my list just a few months ago. It all started when Daniele and I were on Dawn Princess.

A friend in Wellington sent me a newspaper article going back to 2002. It was innocuous in the sense that it was about a monument to a group of British subjects, mostly New Zealanders, who were posted on islands around the Pacific before Pearl Harbor to act as Coastwatchers.

After Pearl Harbor, for many of these Coastwatchers, their situation became tenuous as the Japanese moved rapidly south, taking one island group after another. In the northern Gilbert Islands - present day Kiribati - seven of these New Zealand Coastwatchers were captured and sent to Zentsuji POW Camp in Japan. They were the lucky ones.

Their colleagues in the southern Gilberts, including Tarawa, were held there and later decapitated by the Japanese. Their remains were never recovered.

In 1943, after the Marines took the island, they erected a memorial to the 22 dead Coastwatchers. Years later, it was replaced; and in 2002 it was in need of replacing.

Simple enough up to this point, but yours truly being an inveterate networker, I forwarded this article to a few hundred people I network with on Pacific War issues. Lo and behold, one of them got back to me, saying he had just returned from Tarawa and knew where the remains of the 22 Coastwatchers were buried, going so far as to say he had the GPS coordinates.

I thought that was not only exciting, but important, so I passed that information on, again to a few hundred I network with.

Now, several governments and an untold number of individuals have picked up the story. They include the civil governments of both Australia and New Zealand and their respective militaries. I have been called by Maori TV, the Auckland Herald, documentary filmmakers, historians and writers.

I am getting 20-30 emails a day and relatives of the Coastwatchers are popping out of the Panga.

Let it suffice to say that this story is not over, and if you want to know more about the Tarawa Coastwatchers, I suggest that you Google the subject. G’day, mates, and Happy Trails…

Education & security winners in PNG budget


PNG’s TREASURER and Finance Minister, Peter O’Neill, has handed down a record K9.3 billion budget for 2011 with the theme “building the foundations for economic growth and prosperity”.

The budget’s highlight was certainly a forecast of strong economic growth through 2011, although cost inflation is clearly worrying the government.

There will be no new taxes; except a tax on locally-brewed liquor (or homebrew), which seems bound to trigger collection problems.

With an election coming up in 2012, public servants’ wages are to be hiked and more funds are promised to high priority development areas like education – which ahs been labelled “the biggest winner”.

The education appropriation represents 14 percent of the budget, with universal access to quality primary and secondary education being targeted for expenditure of nearly a billion kina.

K30 million has been earmarked for curriculum development (it will be interesting to see if OBE survives) and K20 million is available for school for equipment.

The provinces will receive additional funding for 4,000 teachers to bring teacher numbers to 41,400. And while the basic education grant is up by nearly 20 percent, it’s not going to make much impression on the needs of a decaying school system.

In the higher and technical education sector, the government is focused on addressing the skilled workforce shortages as LNG and other resource projects swing into action. It’s allocating 170 million kina to get training operating at the same speed as resource development.

The budget also noted that the Chinese government will allocate K59 million to the University of Goroka.

Another key sector for funding is security – with big boosts for police, correctional services and the Defence Force (up more than 25 percent), including K1 million for a Beijing defence attaché.

On a sour note, the budget also revealed that this year K700 million has been raided from public trust accounts with no explanation of how the money has been used or where it went. This compared with the K2.4 billion that disappeared in 2009.

The global accountancy firm, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, expressed "serious concern" at the lack of transparency and the continued haemorrhaging in the government's use of trust funds.

While Deloitte noted the significant reduction this year from the "spectacular" amount in 2009, Deloitte says the issue is not going to go away.

Spotter: Reginald Renagi

Claims of workers’ rights violations in PNG

SERIOUS AND CONTINUED violations of fundamental workers’ rights are disclosed in a new report by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) on core labour standards in PNG.

While PNG is a signatory to all eight core International Labour Organisation conventions, the ITUC says determined measures are now needed to comply with the promises PNG has made.

Many legal provisions on the rights of trades unions do not conform with ILO conventions and limit trade union rights. There are also grave violations of workers’ rights, especially in the logging industry.

Female, disabled and homosexual workers suffer from having inadequate protection from discrimination at work. Gender and other types of discrimination in employment occur.

While child labour is outlawed in PNG, the legislative framework has gaps. Child labour occurs on farms, in street vending and in domestic service. Child prostitution is reported as a problem with some children forced into it by their own families.

Forced labour occurs in mines and logging camps, as well as in prostitution and involuntary domestic servitude.

Among the important recommendations are:

The government should implement measures to improve women’s participation in the workforce and women’s participation in high skilled and high paid jobs, and close the gender wage gap.

Sexual harassment at the workplace should be prohibited.

The authorities need to protect Asian workers and entrepreneurs from violence and start positive action campaigns to change societal discrimination against foreigners and immigrants.

Legislation is required to prevent discrimination against homosexuals, including at the workplace.

Primary education should free, compulsory and universal.

The law must be amended to stipulate that the minimum age for admission to work should be 14 years of age.

The government needs to take measures to change societal norms in the tribal areas in order to combat child labour, selling of children and women, and other traditional forms of slavery.

Penalties for serious crimes such as forced labour and forced prostitution should be made more stringent.

Read the full report at

Spotter: Peter Kranz

Nationalism & Confucianism are China’s keys


Yegiora_Bernard THE AUTONOMOUS Bougainville Government is attracted by Chinese soft power because of the experience of President John Momis as the former Ambassador to China.

Elites play a great role in shaping the future of a nation, in PNG’s case, a special administrative region like Bougainville.

In history, American elites during the early years of the Union were attracted by French values after the French revolution. Currently, the US is trying to influence other nations to want what it wants, that is to be democratic.

Western educated elites with their experience of living in a western democratic society have been in the forefront of the democratisation process.

Rapid economic growth has given China the strength to build up its soft power resources. The increase in Confucius Institutes teaching Chinese culture and language around the world and the promotion of the Great Wall as a tourist hotspot, were all made possible because of the "open door policy" mentioned by Fr John Koran.

Fr Koran asks, "Where do they [the Chinese] get the energy to continue developing and changing China?" Well, the simple answer is nationalism.

This has pushed people to work hard to show their former colonisers or other nations that they deserve to be in control of their own destiny, and it is not right for a foreign power to have dominion over them.

With this logic, we can conclude that the concept of nationalism gave its people the motivation and energy to transform China.

Secondly it was asked “what fundamental values enabled [the Chinese] to achieve so much in a short period of time.”

Confucian values of respect for hierarchy (shown in the relationships between king-subject, husband-wife, teacher-student big brother-small brother, old-young) is by far the most influential value that has enabled them to achieve so much.

The rising middle class and low income earners, including the people in rural areas, have great respect for the government and what it is doing.

This is despite reports in the Western media about people being moved from one area to another by the government to create space for new development, low wages for workers in factories, and other criticisms.

People respect the government because of its successful continuing record of changing China from an impoverished nation to one that can adequately feed and clothe its citizens.

In our society we have individual liberty and freedom of expression permitting us to criticise what the government is doing. We also use the media, interest groups and unions to challenge what the government is doing.

But the two important factors I have mentioned will help you to have a fair idea about the answers to questions about what is motivating the Chinese citizenry.

Bernard Yegiora is a Papua New Guinean student studying for a Masters degree in International Relations at the Institute of International Studies in China's Jilin University. His research interest is in Chinese culture and soft power: how China can use culture as an element of soft power to improve its tarnished international image through increased public diplomacy.

Personal reflections on 14 days in China


WE KNOW THAT Chinese belong to Asia and share in the Asian way of life. They are a close-knit society. Family is the fundamental unit and relationships are important in all dimensions of life. Chinese succeed and excel in life not as individuals but as a family, community and society.

Bougainville also has its stories of origin. We have our own cultural background and others can identify us and describe our character and the way we behave and organise. We belong to the Melanesian cultures. The basis of our existence is family and community. Relationships are very important, maintained through tribal and clan ties.

The invasion of China and the revolution it caused arose from a stage of curiosity in the world. Different peoples became explorers, trying to understand the world as a whole. In the process they discovered wealth and resources which they obtained and exploited for their own gain.

The exploitation was done unjustly and the Chinese did not benefit. In the end, the Chinese people revolted against the exploiters to get them out of their country.

After the economic revolution, the cultural revolution began. Tribes and groups with a certain philosophy of life came into confrontation. This divided the nation. China closed its doors to the outside world. In the end there was no development.

Bougainville was colonised by outsiders who indiscriminately exploited its  wealth and resources. The people did not benefit much and the foreign businesses did not make a difference in the lives of the people. In the end the people rebelled and the foreign investors left, but the cultural revolution began soon after.

Thirty years ago China moved into a new level of organising its life. It had a new leader whose dream was to open China to the world. The open-door policy resulted in the economic reformation which continues today. The four pillars of development were high technology industry, modern logistics, finance and service industries, and cultural development.

Bougainville is now in the process of reforming its life: politically, economically, socially and culturally. Bougainville needs a vision, mission and goals to move forward.

In these 14 days the questions that kept on coming into my mind were:

1 - Where do they get this energy to continue developing and changing China?

2 - What are the fundamental values that enable them to achieve so much in a short period of time?

China has a philosophy or spirit that enables the Chinese to be committed to a common purpose. That is, they have a common vision of life. I would describe this as to create a harmonious society and a peaceful environment.

In order to create this harmonious society and peaceful environment there must be respect and trust. The people of China are committed to acquire greater quality of life and improve their standard of living.

I got the impression that they are united to achieve these goals and seem to have the following strategy:

1 - China operates from the solid bases of families and communities that try to share all their resources among themselves. This enables them to economise and use their resources wisely to acquire basic human needs and social services. This enables each family and community to live a better life.

2 - These communities are connected to the districts and then to the counties. The counties are connected to the provinces that are finally connected to the nation as a whole. Each district plans its development according to directives from the counties and the province. Each province has its own approach to achieving goals. So the province determines its own development strategies but is always connected to the national vision, mission and goals.

To acquire the fundamental services, there was a need to have an effective financial strategy. Socialist societies such as China have a social structure which assists them use their wealth and resources to build up each community.

Initially China had a closed-door policy. It chose not to deal with other nations. It looked inward and was not able to move forward and progress.

Thirty years ago China adopted an open-door policy. Entrepreneurs from outside were invited to invest in China. China learnt from them and is now leading the world in economic development.

Fr John Koran was a member of a recent Bougainville delegation to China. This is an edited version of an article on the New Dawn on Bougainville website

AusAID under review: the right way forward

Yesterday, Australia’s Foreign Minister KEVIN RUDD was interviewed by the ABC's Lyndal Curtis about the first independent review of aid agency AusAID since 1996

TONY EASTLEY: Australia's aid program is being put under the microscope as the federal government holds its first full-scale review of the program since 1996. The independent review will be conducted over the next five months. Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd is speaking to chief political correspondent, Lyndal Curtis.

LYNDAL CURTIS: You've launched the first review in nearly 20 years. Has the aid budget lost its way?

KEVIN RUDD: Absolutely not. It's just a timely thing to do. The last time the Australian Government took a root and branch review of the aid budget was in 1996. Now, that's about 15 years ago. The time has come to do it again.

On a normal year-to-year basis, there are multiple audits conducted by the Australian National Audit Office, by other external and internal audit arrangements. This is simply standing back for a moment and looking at the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the aid budget.

In the last five years, we have doubled the aid budget, and we're on track to double the aid budget again over the next five years. This is doing good work for Australia, but we just need to make sure that every dollar is being properly spent. That's why I've commissioned this independent external review.

CURTIS: But in recent weeks you've cut technical advisers, or consultants, in PNG and East Timor, and are looking at two other countries as well. Has the money spent on consultants not been working well?

RUDD: Our judgement is that it's important to keep such a significant investment of taxpayers' dollar under continuing review. We have mechanisms to do that, but every now and then you need to step back from the lot and say, what's the policy framework, are the programs in place best designed to give effect to the policy in terms of poverty reduction, in terms of providing a credible path towards self-generated economic development? Do we have the proper audit mechanisms in place?

These sorts of questions need to be asked from time to time. It's been 15 years since they were asked. We're significantly expanding the budget. I believe it's a prudent course of action at this stage.

CURTIS: Given you are significantly expanding the budget to meet Millennium Development Goals, which themselves have attached to them targets and what you might call key performance indicators, does Australia's aid budget need to make sure that people know where their money is going, that it's being spent properly, and that the programs on which it's being spent are working?

RUDD: Well, let me give you a core example of what we've done in the three years of this government so far. Practically all our individual aid relationships in the South Pacific have now been organised first against the Millennium Development Goals which seek poverty reduction, improvements in education, improvements in health, against defined measures, against defined timelines.

And secondly, it has done so with each of the Pacific island countries, including PNG, in a way which is measurable and reviewable each year.

This is the right way forward. But my responsibility is to look back more - look across the field more broadly, that our aid relationships not just in the Pacific, but across South-East Asia, across South Asia, across to Africa and across Central and Latin America.

This represents some $4.3 billion of investment by the Australian taxpayer each year. Fantastic work is being done, lives are being saved. People are being educated. Mothers and babies are surviving as a result of what we are doing. I just want to make sure that we are driving every dollar as far as it can go.

Source: AM Program, ABC Radio National, 16 November 2010

‘Fantastic’ response for kiap tribute day


THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES says there’s been a “fantastic” response to the Kiap Tribute Day in Canberra this coming Saturday.

Archives spokesperson Elizabeth Masters said more than 200 people plan to attend: about half of them former patrol officers (kiaps).

She said the kiaps will see their contribution to PNG recognised with a display of photographs and memorabilia.

Among special guests will be PNG’s High Commissioner Charles Lepani and Major General Michael Jeffery, former Australian Governor-General, who served with the Pacific Islands Regiment.

A panel comprising Jim Sinclair, Nancy Johnston and Paul Oates will discuss the role of the kiaps in developing PNG.

ABC Radio breakfast presenter in Canberra, Mike Solly, will be compere.

1959-60 ASOPA teachers reunite in Qld


A 50-YEAR REUNION of Australian teachers who taught in PNG and began their training at ASOPA in 1959 and graduated in November 1960 was held early this month at the home of Brian and Sue Davis of Palm Beach in Queensland.

Present were Tino Babao and his wife Sandra from Boondall, Glen Thompson and wife Adrienne from Hervey Bay, Beverley (Withers) and husband Doug Barlow from Brighton in Melbourne, Stuart Woodger and wife Doreen from Geebung, Bob Turner and wife Garda from Southport and Edith (Hatt) Macaulay from Byron Bay.

The group spent many hours happily reminiscing and telling great stories over lunch and throughout the afternoon, with a wonderful evening meal at the Warunee Thai Restaurant in Palm Beach.

A liberal sample of Rum Negrita, the old Buka Meri favourite of so many, completed the day.

The following morning a sumptuous champagne and orange juice breakfast was held at the Turner’s beautiful waterfront property, before the half century Asopians departed for some much-needed recuperation.

Unable to attend were Lynn (Tabart) Giddings of Tasmania, Janet (Golland) Floyd of Orange, Richard Smith from Sydney, Tennyson Lau from Kenmore and Geoff Keena of Glamorganvale along with sister Narelle (Keena) Johnston of Armidale. Sadly, contact has been lost with six others from the class, Peter Swift, Peter Kelley, Graeme Fenton, Jenny Kentwell, Robyn Plank and Margaret Turner.

If you know the whereabouts of any of these people, please ask them to contact the author here. All present lamented the passing of Monty Star and Laurie Stevens from Nauru and, more recently, Jack Busby of Sydney.

What a great weekend, and blessed with perfect Queensland weather, for all involved!

Some tough questions about China's intent


THE NATIONAL newspaper has recently praised John Momis, President of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, for his attitude towards China.

Mr Momis, who was until last year PNG’s ambassador to China, has just returned from an official visit there with a Bougainville delegation.

He says China provides a model that PNG should follow, pointing to China’s dramatic change over the last 30 years to become a world superpower.

Mr Momis said an important part of the success of China was its collaboration and establishment of partnerships with credible foreign investors.

It may well be that Mr Momis went to China with rose tinted glasses and his view of China demands that some tough questions be asked.

As ambassador, did he travel to all parts of China? Did he visit the industrial cities to see the pollution? Did he daily drink clean not polluted water? Did he visit gaols? Did he swim in the Yang-Tse River, or any other river? Did he visit Tibet?

What did he think when he walked through Tianenmen Square? Did he feel the PNG government should treat peaceful demonstrators like that? In China, anti-corruption campaigner Noel Anjo would be serving 12 years in gaol, together with others who criticise the government.

Mr Momis must not think that China started its march to progress just 30 years ago. There was a bureaucracy in China 3,000 years ago. Entry to public service was by competitive exams. China had to fight invaders for its independence and was not given independence on a plate as we saw in PNG.

It is arguable that China is now exploiting the developing countries of the world, adding to the misery of the people through a regime of low wages and harsh standards.

China cares little about the environment either in China or the developing countries lured with infrastructure gifts.

China plans to dominate every nation in years to come through the movement across borders – legally or illegally - of Chinese people.

It could be that PNG is on its way to becoming a vassal state.

Taxes well spent? The 2011 PNG budget


TODAY, THE  PNG government will set out its spending plans for the next year and beyond. There will be a lot of interest at the Budget ‘lock-up’ to hear the details of how the government plans to use taxpayers’ money.

A litmus test for the new plan will be how well it is funded. This doesn’t mean how many new initiatives the government announces, but whether the budget fully funds existing priorities and the basic services that are needed to meet its targets.

PNG has no shortage of plans, visions, strategies and policy papers. Some are good, some are bad. All suffer from poor implementation.

Despite all the plans, and despite PNG’s mineral booms, the sad truth is that Papua New Guinean incomes, adjusted for inflation, have barely risen since independence. We are told that government’s new plan is going to change all that – incomes will increase by one third from K3,430 this year to K4,638 by 2015.

The 2011-15 Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) has not yet been released, but media reports give an indication of what it contains. The government will spend K36 billion over five years on a range of development initiatives to help create 315,200 extra jobs and sustain 8.5% growth per year to 2015.

1. How much does the MTDP cost and is it fully funded?

We don’t yet know what the government’s cost estimates are for the MTDP, but we do know how much elements of it cost because the numbers are in the partnership agreement that PNG and Australia signed in 2008, which already adds up to over K15 billion over the next five years.

How much will the rest of the development plan and ongoing government operations cost? Perhaps today the government will publish its cost estimates for the 16 “missing link” roads and four additional economic corridor national roads; the extra health facilities and personnel; and the expansion of tertiary education. (And these cost estimates will need to be built on top of the cost of existing service delivery.)

2. Will funds get to where they’re needed?

While allocating resources to development priorities is a necessary for success service delivery, it is not sufficient. Money needs to get to the frontline of service delivery: to schools, health centres, and local governments.

Yet sub-national levels of government that are responsible for delivery of basic services are not getting the funding that they need. And based on budget documents, recurrent funding for provincial governments has barely increased in real terms since 2005, stagnating at about K1 billion (or K150 per person).

The funding shortfalls are similar for the sectors. While funding for provinces has stagnated and funding for schools has fallen far behind need, the funding managed by the Department of Planning has shot up in recent years, reaching over K1 billion in the last budget. What guarantee does the government provide that these resources will reach front line service providers?

3. What safeguards are in place to prevent misuse of funds?

Given the ambitions of the government’s targets and the funding gaps that need to be filled, there isn’t room for funds to go missing. Funding needs to reach service providers so that they can hire teachers, build roads, train doctors etc. There isn’t room for waste or leakage.

Yet the past performance isn’t very comforting. The Commission of Inquiry into Finance estimated that K500 million went missing between 2000 and 2006 – and that was just from the Department of Finance. The Inquiry highlighted a catalogue of system failures, and unless these are being addressed, we should assume that similar leakage will exist in future.

Control of corruption has deteriorated sharply over the last decade, leaving PNG in the bottom 10% of countries in the world. Misuse of funds means less money for service delivery. If only 10 toea in each kina went missing over the next five years, that would still be a massive K3.6 billion – enough to rehabilitate and maintain priority national roads. And every toea is enough to education 30,000 children per year. What safeguards are being put in place to make sure money doesn’t go missing?

The coming few weeks will be exciting. The government will unveil both its development plan and how it will fund it. Today’s budget lock-up will be the first opportunity to ask Planning and Treasury about the efficacy of both the new plan and the budget. I hope there are some good answers. After all, the PNG public and businesses have a right to know how well their taxes are being spent.

Matthew Morris is a Research Fellow at the Crawford School and Deputy Director of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University.

Source: Papua New Guinea: Questions for the budget lock-up’ by Matthew Morris, Development Policy Blog, 13 November 2010

The CIA view: richly endowed; big challenges

The CIA WORLD FACTBOOK is a source of hard-nosed information on the state of the globe. So how does PNG look  to the US intelligence community….

PAPUA NEW GUINEA is richly endowed with natural resources, but exploitation has been hampered by rugged terrain and the high cost of developing infrastructure.

Agriculture provides a subsistence livelihood for 75% of the population. Mineral deposits, including copper, gold, and oil, account for nearly two-thirds of export earnings.

The government of Prime Minister Somare has expended much of its energy remaining in power. He was the first prime minister ever to serve a full five-year term.

The government has brought stability to the national budget, largely through expenditure control; however, it relaxed spending constraints in 2006 and 2007 as elections approached.

Numerous challenges still face the government including regaining investor confidence, restoring integrity to state institutions, promoting economic efficiency by privatizing moribund state institutions, and balancing relations with Australia, its former colonial ruler.

Other socio-cultural challenges could upend the economy including an HIV/AIDS epidemic, with the highest infection rate in all of East Asia and the Pacific, and chronic law and order and land tenure issues.

The global financial crisis had little impact because of continued high demand for Papua New Guinea's commodities exports.

A consortium led by a major American oil company plans to begin the commercialisation of the country's estimated 227 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserves through the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility that could begin exporting in 2013 or 2014.

This, the largest investment project in the country's history, received a green light in December 2009 and has the potential to double GDP in the near-term and triple PNG’s export revenue.

The government faces the challenge of ensuring transparency and accountability for revenues flowing from this and other large LNG projects.

Moti papers show Oz interference in politics

DOCUMENTS CONTAINED in previously unreported submissions to the Queensland Supreme Court last year - uncovered by Hong Kong based-journalist Michael Wray - reveal how Australia tried to use the Moti affair to control events in the Solomon Islands.

And they provide an insight into covert Australian operations in the region, albeit in this case badly botched.

The declassified documents show a deliberate effort to discredit Julian Moti as Solomon Islands Attorney-General in 2004 after Australian officials became aware of plans to appoint him as the Solomons' top legal officer.

Australia sought to sink the appointment by getting the fFederal police to revive child sex allegations against him.

The documents back support claims that Australia engaged in a calculated strategy to derail Mr Moti's political career because of concern he would damage Australia's interests in the Solomons.

The saga surrounding Mr Moti soured Australia's ties, especially with PNG.

A diplomatic cable marked ''secret sensitive'' from Patrick Cole, Australia's then high commissioner in the Solomons, warned that Mr Moti had a reputation for questionable dealings, held ''anti-Australian'' attitudes and ''would likely be a very difficult proposition for us in steering SI [Solomon Islands] and bilateral legal matters''.

Mr Cole had earlier warned of the plan to appoint Mr Moti as Attorney-General and said, ''Naturally I am trying to block it,'' before seeking further information about sex charges against Mr Moti in Vanuatu.

A court in Vanuatu had dismissed the charges but Mr Cole reported ''scuttlebutt'' in the Solomons legal fraternity that Mr Moti had escaped after making payments to the girl's family. He went on to urge the Australian Federal Police to shed further light on the case.

Mr Moti was also said to oppose the Australian-led peacekeeping force that landed in the Solomons in 2003 to restore law and order.

The revelations will reverberate around Pacific islands nations, which will see them as showing a clumsy attempt by Australia to interfere in the internal affairs of the Solomons.

Writing in the Melbourne Age, Michael Wray details payments made by the Australian government to the alleged victim in the case and her claim to an AFP officer ''all this was to put in the government of your choice in the Solomons.''

Source: ‘Australia tried to stifle Moti career’ by Daniel Flitton, The Age, 13 November 2010

Spotter: Ilya Gridneff

Morauta: Somare behaving like a dictator

OPPOSITION LEADER Sir Mekere Morauta said in a statement yesterday afternoon that Michael Somare is turning Papua New Guinea into “Mugabeland”.

“Somare has all the ingredients and recipes in place,” he said. “The two most-important disciplinary forces, the Defence Force and the Police have been tribalised and converted into instruments at his disposal and for his use.

“Papua New Guineans should be extremely worried about these developments and must not allow these tribal roots to take hold.

“These moves are fraught with danger and set sickening precedents for others to follow in the future. Michael Somare has to be blamed squarely for these atrocious, self-serving acts.

“This is why this Government has to be changed – to save our country and our future.

“The alleged capture by Somare’s bodyguards and bashing of NGO activist Noel Anjo by the Prime Minister and his wife, demonstrate Somare’s preparedness to silence any critic, by any means, including violence and use of the institutions of state.

“I remind Papua New Guineans of the Prime Minister walking across the floor of Parliament to the Opposition front bench, in spitting distance, saying to the Member for Bulolo [Sam Basil], ‘I will kill you’.

“This again demonstrates Somare’s willingness to stop at nothing to silence any sign of criticism or threat, in ways most inappropriate for a leader. Shameful. Why do we put up with this?

“This Government has so much to protect that it will stop at nothing to stay in power, even if it destroys the Constitution and people’s freedom,” Sir Mekere concluded. “Wake up Papua New Guineans.”

Source: Statement by Sir Mekere Morauta KCMG MP, Leader of the Opposition and Member for Moresby North-West, Sunday 14 November. PNG Exposed.

PNG rugby league rift overshadows the game

THE RELEASE OF $4 million of Australian taxpayer funding to the PNG Rugby Football League is on indefinite hold while a bitter power struggle for leadership of the game persists.

The game’s administration in Port Moresby has been crippled by a dispute between rival factions that has moved between boardroom and courtroom and back again.

Uncertainty over the future stewardship of the PNGRFL has prompted AusAID, a partner in the lucrative package to assist PNG league, to continue to delay delivery of the funding 14 months after it was allocated and announced by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

There are hopes that the year-long dispute between former chairman Albert Veratau and PNG customs commissioner Gary Juffa will be resolved at the PNGRFL's annual general meeting this month. If not, the freeze in funding - to be directed towards school and junior rugby league - may continue.

An AusAID spokeswoman confirmed the package of $4 million over four years had been held up since last December.

''A stable administration will be critical to the partnership achieving its rugby league and social development outcomes,'' she said.

''The PNGRFL's internal leadership dispute is a matter for them, and not a matter for the Australian government.

''The Australian partners await the outcome of the PNGRFL board election before determining the next steps in progressing Australian assistance.''

The PNGRFL has been in turmoil since last November when Veratau challenged Juffa's election as chairman as unconstitutional in the PNG National Court.

The in-fighting led Colin Love, the ARL and Rugby League International Federation chairman, to convene talks between the rival parties in July, with Veratau agreeing to drop legal action while an interim chairman was installed until the AGM. But the truce has done little to cool tensions.

Ultimately it will be the responsibility of the ARL to be accountable for the funding - intended to pay for equipment, infrastructure and insurance at the grassroots level - reaching its desired destination, if and when its delivery is given the green light.

Source: ‘Australian money to sit on sideline until PNG power struggle is tackled’ by Chris Barrett, Brisbane Times, 29 October 2010

Oz emergency medical aid reaches Daru


AUSTRALIA HAS SENT emergency medical aid to Daru, the headquarters of PNG’s Western Province, to help contain the cholera outbreak on the island.

At least 16 people are known to have died and more than 300 have been treated for cholera-like symptoms during the past three weeks.

The emergency shipment includes 50,000 water purification tablets, 8,000 litres of clean water, and 1,200 doses of oral rehydration salts.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says containing the outbreak is important.

“We will continue to monitor the situation very closely and stand ready to provide additional assistance to PNG if needed,” he said.

Mr Rudd said the Australian medical aid is additional to emergency medical supplies delivered through a joint PNG-Australia-World Health Organisation mission that had already arrived in Daru to assess the situation.

Travel between PNG and the Australian Torres Strait islands has been restricted because of the cholera outbreak.

Tokis, masalais & other mysterious creatures


ONE OF THE CHARACTERS in Carolus Ketsimur’s short story, The Blackbirders, is a small, imperturbable man who is actually a Toki.

What on earth is a Toki? And has anyone really seen one?

Beatrice Blackwood, in her 1933 book, Both Sides of Buka Passage, describes Tokis as a sort of goblin.

On Buka and Bougainville there is also another, similar creature called a Pinari.

According to Charles Barrett, in his 1954 Isles of the Sun, Pinaris have white skin and very long legs while the Tokis are very dark skinned with shorter legs.

While Pinaris and Tokis are supposed to kill and eat people if they get the chance, they are more renowned for their mischief making; and people regard them with a mixture of fear and affection.

The belief in little people is widespread. It is common all over Papua New Guinea. And Aboriginal people in Australia have similar beliefs and, of course, my own mob [D’Oirish] has leprechauns.

We know they probably don’t exist, but wouldn’t it be great if they did?

Margaret Mead thought that Tokis and Pinaris were similar to Masalais, especially in their ability to change shape and form.

I had some personal experience with a troublesome Masalai when I was OIC Olsobip and had to enlist the help of the local Mamusi (village constable), Fiamnok, to deal with it.

But even with the venerable Fiamnok on side, the Masalai eventually beat us. My advice; don’t mess with a Masalai.

On Bougainville during the troubles there was a Toki Movement that preached a strange mixture of Christianity and mysticism. Ben Bohane talks about them in his master’s thesis, Blackfella armies – kastom and conflict in contemporary Melanesia 1994-2007.

I find the idea of a Toki inadvertently picked up by unsuspecting blackbirders and carted off to Queensland’s cane fields intriguing, and I am looking forward to reading Carolus’ full scale novel.

In the meantime, if anyone has regular contact with a friendly Toki or Masalai, there is a certain tall building in Waigani that could do with a bit beneficent mischief making.

Answer to war puzzle may be on the cards


Lovell_Grace “I CAN’T UNDERSTAND IT,” says Grace Lovell, indignantly. “I want the government to get the cards, very much so.”

The plucky 89-year-old has just learned that Japanese record cards for more than 21,000 Australian soldiers taken prisoner during World War Two have surfaced in Tokyo.

And that Japan offered the same cards to Australia in October 1953 in a proposed, reciprocal exchange of information – only to have Australia refuse after two years of secret deliberations.

The offer has been revealed in official documents that only recently became accessible in the Australian National Archives.

Japan made an identical offer to the United States, Britain, Canada, the Netherlands and New Zealand and all agreed to the exchange.

“If these cards were available, they should have taken them,” adds Mrs Lovell, who was born in Victoria (Horsham) but has spent most of her adult life in Perth.

She hopes that a POW card for her late brother, Frank Vale, is among those stored in a government department in Tokyo and contains information that could end her decades of wondering about his precise fate.

Frank was 27 years old when he was one of 1053 captured Australians presumed drowned when a U.S. submarine sank a Japanese ship - the Montevideo Maru – taking them to Hainan in Japanese-occupied China in July 1942.

The submarine’s crew did not know the ship was carrying the 845 Australian soldiers and 208 civilians who had been captured in Rabaul, New Britain. None of them survived. It was Australia’s worst sea disaster.

Born in Ararat and one of five siblings (their father was a railwayman whose job moved the family a lot), Frank was an engineer in the army’s Lark Force.

Mostly comprised of Victorians, the small force had the hopeless task of trying to defend Rabaul, New Britain, with inadequate weaponry, no sea support and only small and antiquated air support against a massively superior Japanese force..

Many family members of those presumed lost with the Montevideo Maru have, like Mrs Lovell, lacked confidence in the officially-accepted version of events. Some doubt the Australians ever made it on board.

The president of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, Keith Jackson AM,  said yesterday the POW cards in Japan could end the doubt if, as he understood, they contain details of prisoner transfers from camp to camp.

 “This would establish whether men had died with the ship, or on land; and precisely who was on board the ship when it sank – their names,” he said.

Mr Jackson met recently with the Minister for Veterans Affairs, Warren Snowdon, and won an assurance that Mr Snowdon would look into the matter of the POW cards and a lingering mystery surrounding the Montevideo Maru’s “nominal roll” of all who were on board.

The roll was given to an Australian army investigator in Tokyo immediately after the 1939-45 war but was lost after being brought to Australia.

Mrs Lovell, who receives regular newsletters from the society, and studies them closely, is pleased with the late flurry of action on the matter.

“It’s a little confusing, all this information coming out now, so long after … 68 years I think,” she said.

“But I think they owe it to those men to see what’s on the cards.

“Many people have died in between times without knowing for sure what happened.

“It’s still a bit of an open book, so if these cards have all the names and the details of where and when the men were being taken, that could finalise it.”

The newly available, national archive documents show that cards were created and kept by Japan’s Prisoner of War information Bureau.

And, that Australia declined the Japanese offer because the Department of the Army and Department of External Affairs questioned the “value and reliability” of any of the records of Australian POWs that might have become available.

A  March 18, 1955 Department of Army memorandum noted there had  already been about five years of post-war information gathering on Australian and Allied POW servicemen and civilians. Any attempt to re-open investigations would be unnecessary and possibly “confusing and misleading”.

“How could they know that there was nothing new that until they had seen the POW cards?” said one respected Japanese researcher, Mr Harumi Sakaguchi, yesterday.

The national president of the Ex-Prisoners-of-War Association of Australia, Cyril Gilbert, said from Brisbane said he was “very surprised” to hear that Australia rejected the offer of the POW cards.

“If all the other Allied countries approved, Australia should have approved,” said Mr Gilbert, 90, and a former army sergeant, who was captured in Singapore in February 1942 and later suffered badly on the Burma-Thailand railroad.

He said the cards were important for ex-POWs and their families and for the Australian historical record.

Returned Services League (RSL) national secretary, Derek Robson said he would have thought the cards automatically fell under an existing Australia-Japan relationship with the Australian War Memorial for exchange of research information.

Canberra should “absolutely” request possession of the cards or copies of them, he said.