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79 posts from December 2010

ANU ensures that axe hangs over the forests


A RECENT MEDIA article claimed that an independent review by the Australian National University into a report by the PNG Forest Industries Association on the REDD scheme has come up trumps for the loggers.

REDD stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries. It’s a United Nations program.

In a blow to environmentalists, and to those who want to see PNG preserve its rainforest cover, the review apparently supports the further reduction of PNG forests.

Emeritus Professor Ron Duncan and Associate Professor Tim Curtin reportedly said that to preserve the health and wellbeing of a growing population, the forests must go to provide agricultural land. Further land must also be made available for commercial crops such as coffee, cocoa and oil palm.

The professors targeted the 2.5% annual increase in PNG's population as a major driver justifying the further destruction of timber resources. They also said that if the REDD scheme eventuates, it could create a ‘handout mentality’ whereby forest owners just sit and expect to receive money for their trees.

I'm surprised that the ANU should lend its name to such a report. The continual destruction of forests has in no way assisted the PNG people over the years.

Similarly, to suggest that oil palm plantations will help land owners has been proven to be false when those who accepted money for their land became economic refugees to the very industry they sold to.

Unable to farm the land they had owned, they had to work for the plantations and spend their small salaries plantation run trade stores.

On a positive note however, the PNG Forest Industries will no doubt be very appreciative of the ANU review however. I wonder who funded who to do what?

Extraordinary events become a fine history

Not a Poor Mans Field MICHAEL WATERHOUSE’s Not a Poor Man’s Field explores Australia's colonial experience in New Guinea before World War II - a unique but little known period in Australia’s and PNG’s history.

This is a dramatic account of small miners, an extraordinarily rich gold discovery, visionaries and the construction of giant dredges, power stations and townships in a remote jungle area.

It is also the story of how risk-taking pilots, flying aeroplanes ranging from single engine plywood biplanes to large Junkers G31 freighters, opened up an otherwise impenetrable country. New Guinea led the world in commercial aviation throughout the 1930s; world records were often set and as often broken.

In an innovative approach, Michael Waterhouse uses the New Guinea goldfields as a prism through which to analyse Australia’s colonial experience from economic, social, ethnographic and political/administrative perspectives.

The book discusses early encounters between villagers and Europeans from both white and black perspectives, as well as the indentured labour system which drew New Guineans to the goldfields from all over the country.

Other themes include the camaraderie of white settlers in an alien environment, race relations in a colonial society, the ineffectiveness of Australia’s administration of New Guinea under a League of Nations mandate and the Japanese invasion and its consequences.

The book takes a multi-disciplinary approach, analysing the colonial experience from economic, social, ethnographic and political/administrative perspectives. It also conveys a compelling sense of time and place by extensively quoting participants, both black and white, and through the judicious selection of old photographs.

The book conveys a compelling sense of time and place through the use of many first hand accounts. This is not simply a white man’s story, with many of the events, including first encounters, being viewed through the eyes of both black and white participants.

The result is a portrait of unforgettable contrasts.

Michael says: “Getting the book published has been a struggle, though ultimately successful because a number of people including Ross Garnaut got behind it. Several companies in PNG agreed to sponsor its production by committing to buying copies, thereby reducing risk for the publisher, Halstead Press.”

Historian Prof Hank Nelson has said of Not a Poor Man’s Field: “With broad and exacting research, clear prose and a perspective that includes battling prospectors, international companies, government officers, black labourers and villagers, Michael Waterhouse has turned extraordinary events into fine history.”


Michael Waterhouse has been a senior adviser in the Commonwealth Treasury and, later, Chief Manager of Retail Banking Strategy in Westpac. He has close family ties to the pre-war goldfields, his grandfather Les Waterhouse having been a pivotal player in their development, as a director of the largest gold-mining company, Bulolo Gold Dredging and the largest air transport company, Guinea Airways.

You can find out more about the book and its underpinning research here.

Thoughts on the future of PNG education


I WANT TO offer my observations on the serious academic shortcomings of the present PNG education system as highlighted by Bev and Vic Romanyshyn’s report [PNG Attitude, 30 November 2010].

Firstly, it has always been my belief that the introduction, a little over a decade ago, of the Tokples preschool curriculum (schooling in local vernacular) – which is compulsory for any child’s first two years of education - was a monumental tragedy. The resultant Grades 9 to 12 academic standards are proof of this.

Some university students cannot converse coherently in English, let alone write an essay up to the expected standard. Of course the politicians and well-off are not overly concerned, as their children go to school in western countries.

My heartfelt desire is for the Tokples preschool program to be abolished immediately and for children to be educated in English. There is a great disparity between children in our primary schools and those in international schools, especially in English language skills.

There is nothing wrong with our mother tongues, however teaching them should only be a subject and not the total curriculum. My parents and I and most of the Constitutional fathers of our nation were products of a curriculum taught in English by highly qualified European teachers in the not too distant past. Why did this recent quantum leap happen for the worst?

The shocking revelations in the Romanyshyn’s report are a strong indictment on those responsible for changes in the curriculum. Educating the human resource should always be of paramount interest and educating our children in English at a tender age is a ‘must’. A child’s future should never be compromised to accommodate some misguided patriotic notion.

The PNG people must be made aware of this problem in education as they hold the key to the 2012 general election and they need to elect responsible people who will make changes for the better.

In this country it is a fact that it is the politicians who hold sway and whether this is good or not is a moot point. All PNGian children should be capable of not just speaking but also writing short essays by Grade 9 in a concise English.

Secondly, I appreciate the fact that the Outcome-Based Education curriculum is a recent introduction but I venture to ask the obvious … why this paradigm shift? What happened to the core subjects of English, Maths, Science and Social Science?

The current leaders and educated citizens of PNG have passed through this curriculum. What was wrong with it? Is this nation prepared to take OBE on board? What has been OBE’s success rate in Australia, the US and the UK? Was it properly researched by PNGians before being implemented in this country or was it rammed down some subservient national educationist’s throat by some western wonderboy consultant?

The writing is on the wall, if PNGians continue to be naïve and gullible, and blindly accept anything dished out to them, we will reap what we are sowing in the not too distant future … an educationally retarded generation!

I don’t want to sound like the Grim Reaper but I love my country too much to not want it to slide down a slippery precipice brought on by the advent of OBE.

Thirdly, we obviously cannot bring back corporal punishment to schools because it is frowned upon as being politically incorrect by some nations in the global community, so perhaps a re introduction of the cadetship course to high schools will install the customary norms and ideals and discipline that formed the fabrics of our Melanesian society in our youth, something which is being eroded away by the ever changing society we live in today.  

Furthermore, students today are more militant and with this aforementioned reintroduction of cadetships, their energies, aggression or militancy, call it what you like, could be funnelled into a more profitable avenue and thus create a more responsible generation.

Fourthly, all parents and aspiring parents of this nation must be made to be more responsible in the upbringing of the fruits of their labours of love. The child that walks out the family door into the community should be a responsible and law abiding citizen.

However, if the child has not been schooled properly at home, due to negligent parents, then these irresponsible parents should also pay the price and not just the child. Laws should be made criminalising the actions of negligent parents. Children must be nurtured to be assets and not liabilities to nation building and that is the will of God!

The pig’s stomach: a tradition dishonoured


Mangi Moresby I

THIS LIKLIK STORI is told with respect to traditional kastom. I think it shows something important about the strength and persistence of local customs and the problems that can arise when they are not respected.

My brother-in-law recently graduated from PNG Defence Force training at Goldie. The recruits took part in strenuous training exercises and had to pass various tests and trials.

His platoon came first in several of these and the chief instructor, impressed with their performance, awarded them pride of place at the head of the passing out parade, where they were congratulated by the Brigadier-General in charge of proceedings.

This made the family very proud and happy, so they planned a big mumu in my brother's honour at the local settlement. Many people contributed to the feast. Three pigs were slaughtered (including Mangi Mosbi The First), many chickens donated and much kaukau, taro, bananas, greens and corn provided.

Traditionally the donor of a pig for such a celebration is honoured by being presented with the pig’s stuffed stomach. This may seem strange to western eyes, but should not be. The stomach is cleaned, washed, then stuffed with herbs, ground meat, breadcrumbs and spices, the ends tied with string. It is cooked separately. It is delicious and rather like a big sausage or, more properly, haggis.

At my brother’s mumu, the largest pig's stomach was prepared and cooked in this manner and was due to be presented to the pig’s donor, an uncle).

However the self-proclaimed leader of the community, who happened to be the local pastor, not a member of the family, muscled in and demanded that he be given the stomach as a mark of honour.

The women in charge of the division of food were intimidated by him and he was allowed to take it away. When the original donor's family found out about this, all hell broke loose. Honour had not been done, and tradition had been hijacked.

The community and family wisely did not resort to violence or attempts to recover the stomach, but instead decided to boycott the pastor's church. This has been very effective. To this day just a handful of people attend services which in the past had attracted hundreds.

A telling example of the power of community action, but also the importance of observing traditions and giving honour where it is due.

There is a lesson here for all of us.

PS, Mangi Mosbi The First performed his conjugal duties admirably before his noble sacrifice and 16 piglets have ensued.

Poetry of the beauty, grandeur & darkness

Entries in The Crocodile Prize

Highlands Highway


From sparkling seas I saw it emerge,

And hurries onto Ramu and Markham too

Warmth gathers from the sun for strength;

Then clambers Kassam Pass in snaky moves

And marvel at waters of the Yonki Dam;

And then gently ascends to Daulo Pass,

And carefully crawls up to descending

Clouds; puffing and coughing, while heavily

Breathes in winding and grinding ways;

Then zigzags across pearly rocks and into

The Waghi Valley and swiftly meanders

In smooth strides past bearded Kange,

And at Togoba a thoughtful sigh it utters:

To part into two of a road and still be one,

That majestically traverses New Guinea

With a name known in far flung islands.


Waiting for Kadesh


Kadesh, we are waiting for you

Your first breath will be our sweetest memory

Your first footsteps will be an adventure into our life

We will give to you everything that we are

Our hopes will be your certainty

Our dreams will become your reality

Your aspirations will be our fantasy

Your life will become our eternity

When your hands reach to touch

You will first have us to hold

When you cry at night, we will hear you

When you awaken, we will be watching

We will comfort you when the thunder rolls

We will succor you when the night falls

We will love you with the passion from which you were born

Will you be bold? Are you not already in our hearts?

Will you be beautiful? Are you not already so?

You are for us, fulfillment in a hollow world

Where peace is more oft lost than found

And so much hatred and fear abounds

All we ever have against this is love

Our love, which you will evidence

Kadesh, we are waiting for you.


I was lowered into solitary


I was lowered into solitary;

Perfumed and robed in fine linen

Though my journey has ended,

And the sun ran from me;

Still, who'd my perfume like

And my attire admire;

When only I would inhabit?

Darkness here would be imprisoned,

And silence would be without life!

Perhaps, to decay I'd plead

For time, that I may in my attire

Rest well before I yield my identity.

O maggots! Maggots! Must I,

Remind you all to spare my brain;

Even in this dark lonesome,

Beauty, I’d still want to perceive.

Somare family in crisis at shooting allegation


THE ALLEGED attempted shooting of East Sepik Governor Peter Wararu Waranaka by Michael Somare Jr – son of Sir Michael Somare - has caused serious political ramifications in PNG and is a personal crisis for Sir Michael.

Wewak police are said to have charged Michael Somare Jr with the attempted murder of Mr Waranaka and released him on a surety of K1000.

Police refused to officially comment on the matter as it was “too sensitive and political in nature".

Michael Jr, the last of five children, runs the family’s Wewak construction and engineering business, SBA Engineering, originally started by elder brother Sana who now lives in Singapore.

Oldest sister Betha is the Prime Minister’s media director, Arthur is MP for Angoram and Minister for State Enterprises, and Dulcie resides in Cairns, Australia.

During an argument, Michael Jr is said to have pointed a pump-action shotgun at Mr Waranaka, but, as he was about to pull the trigger, a bystander hit his arm and the bullet missed the Governor.

Sir Michael is said to have offered Mr Waranaka two pigs and K30,000 in cash and urged the supporters of both sides not to take the law into their own hands, He also assured the people that his son would be dealt with under the law like any other person.

Meanwhile, a group of government MPs, who say they are disaffected from Sir Michael - who has stepped aside from the prime ministership while he faces a Leadership Tribunal - have said they will support any move to oust the National Alliance-led government.

The politicians, who refused to be named, told the PNG Post-Courier they are ready to support an Opposition no-confidence motion.

The MPs, courageous in their anonymity, say, while they had respect for Sir Michael, he left them with no choice but to join forces with the Opposition.

“Who says the Government is stable?” one of the phantom MPs asked. “We kept our allegiance with faith but we believe it’s about time we come out honestly to inform our people of our positions. It’s not too late." Unfortunately not one of them came out honestly.

“We are not running away from the problems we have created while being part of this government but we feel we have a point to make,” the nameless MPs said, running away from the problems.

Sources: PNG Post-Courier and The National

Papua: Maybe old Percy was right after all


Day I Have Loved I NEVER MET Percy Chatterton but I think, if the opportunity had presented itself, I might have walked away richer for the experience.

In the closing pages of his memoir, Day That I Loved, Chatterton says he had a temperamental liking for small things.  Among these he counted small cars that didn’t hog the road, small nations which didn’t become arrogant and small villages in which people didn’t become anonymous.

With respect to people, he avowed a preference for simple people who were not ostentatious, self assertive or pompous.  In short, he deplored the cult of bigness.

He came to Papua in 1924 as a missionary with the London Missionary Society and he died there sixty years later.  His preference for the small and the simple was, he says, fulfilled in his life in Papua.

In those closing pages he also lamented the fact that the Papua he came to love had been swallowed up by the dinosaur that became Papua New Guinea. 

He said he was quite sure that the amalgamation of the territories of Papua and New Guinea after the war in 1945 did more harm than good to Papua.

He saw what happened in 1945 as not so much a merger of two territories as a takeover of Papua by New Guinea. 

He also pointed to the politics of the World Bank, that Australia so slavishly followed, which neglected areas of low economic potential like Papua in favour of go-ahead places like New Guinea.

Chatterton thought it would have been much better if each territory had been brought separately to independence.  Once independent, they could have negotiated with each other on equal terms for a merger if they wanted one.

He believed that if this had been done the relationship between the peoples of Papua and New Guinea would have been very much happier than it has been in a partnership imposed on them willy-nilly by Australian colonialism.

He continued by explaining that the only unity worth having is the unity of people who come together because they want to come together, and stay together because they want to stay together. 

A unity imposed by the arrogant on the unwilling is all too likely to end in disaster and misery for the people upon whom it is imposed.

While he was a supporter of Josephine Abaijah and Papua Besena (“the Papuan tribe”) he thought that by the 1970s Papua and New Guinea had been united too long to be successfully prised apart.

Instead, he suggested to the Constitutional Planning Committee the setting up of five popularly elected provincial assemblies: Papua, Highlands, New Guinea Mainland, New Guinea Islands and Bougainville. 

He was alarmed when the committee came up with the idea of nineteen separate provincial governments.  He saw this as unnecessary fragmentation reinforcing difference rather than unity.

Percy was a very astute bloke and it might be that he was also prescient.  We now have an autonomous Bougainville and a Papua agitating for the same thing.  Time will tell.  It’s a pity no one listened to old Percy in the first place.

A warm heart in a cold park


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

THE BRIGHT RED AND ORANGE backdrop created by the setting sun blended graciously with the blue sky and looked beautiful.  Tom smiled, but only for a moment.  As the sun started to disappear so did her warm embrace, he started to feel the pinch of the chilly breeze as night set in.

He sat on the bench park and looked out toward the city lights, longing for warmth and companionship. Cold Park was a cold place, which was a blessing in disguise for him; there was no one else there to harass or disturb him. None of the other homeless people liked to sleep there.

He reached into his haversack, and pulled out a blanket, one of his most prized possessions – one of his only possessions. He covered himself and started singing an old Motuan tune, one he had heard as a boy somewhere in the city. It started a flood of memories from his past, when there was always a hot meal, where laughter filled the air, of bygone days that now seemed but a figment of his imagination.

 “Excuse me natuna,” a raspy voice interrupted his thoughts, “may I share this bench with you?” Tom looked up and saw an old man, neatly dressed with a tired looking face. The old man had grey hair, and looked strong and healthy, but there was weariness in his eyes. It revealed the long and hard years he had endured, and the deep desire for repose.

He stood tall with a straight posture, almost a regal poise, and his manner symbolized a well-to-do lifestyle. It was a strange sight to Tom, most of the people living in the streets and parks were dirty, and wore three or four layers of clothing – he had only one.

Tom smiled and moved to one side of the bench, making space for the old man. “Thank you, natuna”, the old man said as he sat down, giving Tom a warm appreciative smile.

But the cold came with full ferocity, biting at everything that it would touch; even the air became hard to breathe. The old man curled up and tried vainly to cover himself with his coat. But the cold invaded every available space, occupying the air between his body and the coat lining; the park was living up to its name.

The old man started to shiver. Tom reached into his haversack and pulled out an old army coat and a Mars chocolate bar, one that had been given by the Salvos. He took his blanket and offered it to the old man.

 “It’s cold, my son.” The old man protested, “You will catch a cold.” Tom shrugged his shoulders. “Bada, you need it more, and besides I’ve got a thick coat” he replied, tugging on his coat collar.

He broke the chocolate in half and shared it with the old man. Then he proceeded to light a fire with twigs and branches amassed earlier. The park was his kitchen, his bedroom, his bathroom – his home – and though it was cold, he was thankful. It was more peaceful compared with other spots in the city. It was ironic, he thought, some of the warmest parts of the city could be the coldest places on Earth.

As the fire kindled, its warmth came as a welcome relief. Tom signalled the old man near. The old man sat beside the fire and started warming his hands. Tom looked up and smiled, but there were tears in the old man’s eyes. “Is everything alright?”

Tom asked, but the old man smiled and said nothing.

Tom did not pursue it any further. Though he was curious, he knew when to respect a man’s privacy. He lay beside the fire and was soon dreaming of things that he would never have.

As the first ray of light seeped through the cracks of dawn, Tom felt a gentle shove on his shoulders. “I’m sorry to disturb you but before I leave I would like to thank you, Mr…?” the old man’s voice trailed off seeking an answer.

“Tom Kuti, sir” Tom mumbled half opening his eyes then closing them again. The old man placed the blanket beside him. Tom opened one eye and then closed it again. “Please keep the blanket, bada.”

There were a few seconds of silence then the old man thanked Tom again and tucked the blanket neatly under his left arm. The old man walked away, as silently as he had arrived.

Three weeks later as Tom was preparing to sleep a policeman came by. “Tom Kuti of Cold Park!’ he bellowed in an intimidating authoritarian tone. Tom quivered. “Yes, officer” he answered in a slightly trembling voice. “Come with me, you are wanted at the station” the officer ordered.

Ten minutes later Tom arrived at the station with the policeman where a man was waiting for him. The man was short and very portly, and somewhat resembled an oversized egg, like Humpty Dumpty. He had a cleanly shaven face with a neat moustache like Clark Gable and a nose that might have been stolen from Julius Caesar. But his hair seemed to have too much gel; it looked like someone had poured engine oil all over his head.

The short man introduced himself as James Kurumambu, a lawyer. “Have you heard the name Harold Fugu?” he asked. Tom’s face went blank. “He owns the largest hotel empire in the Pacific, Fugu Hotels. He died yesterday…and apparently left everything to you in his will.”

“Th – th – there must be a mistake.” Tom managed to utter. His mind was in chaos.

“There is no mistake” the lawyer retorted. “Now if you will just sign here”, he said pointing to a dotted line in some sort of document, “a limousine will take you to your hotel penthouse where you can rest until tomorrow.”

“What – what happens tomorrow?” Tom inquired, still stunned.

“You meet the world, Mr Kuti, you meet the world,” the short man answered.

Tom looked around suspiciously, it must be one of those reality TV shows with hidden cameras – it was a joke, he thought. “Well, I’ll just play along for the fun of it” he muttered under his breath as he signed the document.

“Oh, I almost forgot. There is something else” the short lawyer said and reached into the left pocket of his coat. He took out a Christmas card and gave it to Tom. Tom opened the card and for the first time understood what was happening.

The card read, Dear Tom, Thank you for the blanket and chocolate. It was signed, Your cold friend.

Cultural paradox: Cash & the sovereign fund


ALONG WITH 16 September 1975, 8 December 2009 has gone down as a significant date in the short modern history of our country.

The months leading up to December 2009 were some of the most exciting times I’ve had in my life. After a long and frustrating wait and a number of false starts along the way, the PNG liquefied natural gas project was finally coming to fruition.

The excitement brought optimism to Papua New Guineans that the economic gods had finally heard our cries. Well not exactly.

Had the demon not emerged from the abyss and tempted us to steal and plunder from us over the last three decades, we probably wouldn’t have been that much excited. But that’s another matter.

As it is now, our LNG project presents us the best possible hope of turning things around for the better.

But our excitement must be grounded in reality. An independent study of the economic impacts of this project by Acil Tasman has contributed considerably in setting us on the right footing.

As well as modelling the vast positive impacts of this project on government finances, the report cautions us to be wary of economic shocks that could lead us to destruction if appropriate actions are not taken to address downside risks.

The phenomenon of Dutch Disease, or the so called ‘resource curse’, has been central to the sounding of warning bells and has fortunately been recognised as an important issue that needs addressing as part of our strategy in capitalising fully from the project.

Discussions on this last year led to our leaders calling for the establishment of a sovereign fund to cushion possible shocks to our economy. While agreeing that there are compelling economic arguments for such a fund, I think it should also be considered in light of some age-old cultural practices and the conflicting understanding of the notion of wealth in the distinct cultural settings we find ourselves in.

As a keen follower of our development agenda, I conclude that some of the reasons for our lack of progress lie in the differences in understanding wealth in our adopted western culture against the backdrop of our traditional Melanesian culture.

Since the idea of a sovereign fund is essentially about the protection of wealth in the modern western sense, we need to understand how wealth is defined and protected in our own cultural setting so as to enhance our chances of effectively accumulating, protecting and deploying it for the optimum benefit of our people.

To do this, we need to go back to our roots and seek answers to the question of where our values lie; for the notion of wealth is inherently linked to our values.

What is it that a typical traditional Papua New Guinean society values the most? Any Papua New Guinean, or Melanesian for that matter, will tell you without even thinking that it is land.

Like westerners, we have a keen understanding of how land gives rise to wealth. Land, therefore, is the most priced possession in our society.

Beyond land sit our traditional symbols of wealth such as pigs and gardens. And they are followed closely by kinship - our social security. We can analyse each factor that gives rise to traditional value systems and cash is never one of them.

Cash was never an element of traditional value systems and most Papua New Guineans view it in a very different light than people from other cultures, particularly westerners.

The individualistic western view of cash is as an important commodity that can determine the level of one’s happiness and security. But a more communalist Papua New Guinean does not necessarily see it that way. We see cash as an interesting here-today-gone-tomorrow craze that can buy us some of the things some of the time but not all things all the time.

Stories abound in PNG about serious and sometimes fatal confrontations among people on matters such as land, pigs, gardens, tribal relations and so on. Without trying to advocate the acceptance of some of the barbaric acts that arise out of trying to defend wealth as we understand it, I would like to point out that most such actions are a strong indication of where our value systems lie.

People are willing to put their lives on the line for what they truly value and hold near and dear to them.

Likewise, we hear about seemingly massive compensation claims by people for whatever it may be and think them unreasonable. But are they really unreasonable? How do you put a monetary value on a garden patch, for instance, when there are such extremely different value propositions in the minds of a typical Papua New Guinean who thinks food, survival and security and a typical westerner who thinks cash?

In the same vein, how do you get a typical Papua New Guinean to think about cash in the same way he does land, pigs, gardens and rivers? The difficulty with getting a savings culture going among our people in the cash economy today can reasonably be traced to an absence of such a culture in our traditional settings.

We need not save anything in our villages because of a strong presence of our social security found in our kinship. We give in our good days and take in our bad days. Ours has been a beautiful give-and-take culture, essentially a barter economy.

So why is it important to understand our own traditional value systems and our notion of wealth? Because it explains, to some extent, our failure over the years in enforcing our accountability mechanisms that are supposed to protect and promote the modern cash economy.

Until very recently, cash had never been part of our value system and so no one saw it important enough to go to the trouble of protecting it from abuse and misuse.

To this day, cash as a measure of wealth is an abstract subject that is poorly understood by the majority of our people who live mostly off their land and natural environments during much of the year in rural settings.

Therefore, unless we get a sizeable number of Papua New Guineans to value and appreciate cash as a source of wealth, we will continue to struggle to effectively hold those who control our national purse accountable.

And unless our law enforcing agencies start applying our laws without fear or favour, I predict that the wastage and pilferage of our collective cash wealth will continue unabated for some time yet. For cultural reasons, we are handicapped in invoking people power to cause things to be done properly to guard our cash economy.

Such a scenario only adds more weight to the case for the set up of a sovereign fund to lock away our excess cash earnings until such time when Papua New Guineans appreciate its value and begin to fully embrace it as wealth.

This should inevitably lead to better scrutiny of how our cash economy is managed for optimum national gains. Until this happens, we are better off keeping any surplus cash at a safe distance from corrupt and unscrupulous hands.

Kumbit Aivi is the pseudonym of a Papua New Guinean financial services executive working in Port Moresby

Who got custody of Dorigi’s soul?


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

THE APPOINTMENT WITH DEATH will happen for each human sooner or later, and for Dorigi his was scheduled for one stormy night. That fateful night approached from the east on the wings of the thunder storm forcing the last rays of sun to concede a fast retreat across the sea and over the horizon.

In his small hut beside the main family dwelling, Dorigi was drifting in and out of restless sleep. Beside him, his 250 watt battery powered lamp valiantly kept the fingers of the dark at bay.  For Dorigi, the day was over, he was doing his home run after 83 long years of living and after ten offspring from the vigor of his youth, 30 grand offspring and an increasing number of great grand offspring.

By the local standard, Dorigi had done well, he had been successful in multiplying his superior genes, but importantly, he had accomplished the mission of his life.   

But the home run was a solitary journey.  Just like in his mother’s womb 83 years ago, his world was once again dimly cocooned in his mosquito net in his little hut, his world already grey from the losing battle with cataracts in both eyes; his ears uninterested in the muffled conversations from the family hearth. His dehydrated skin was cool and dry like moulted snake skin hanging limp from his bony frame. His awareness of life was measured by the pain in his bones; pain even his mattress could not cushion.

The home run was also a waiting game, waiting for the darkness to close in, waiting for his heart to cease beating. The wait was also a time of reckoning. As a young man in his time, Dorigi was tall and solidly built and fearless like leaders of old who commanded attention through their physical presence at tribal councils.  Dorigi was touted to be one such leader and was mentored accordingly to carry on the secrets of his clan; secrets of hunting, secrets of sorcery - secrets zealously guarded by the headman of his clan. 

At that point in Dorigi’s life, a new influence was also infiltrating his tribal land. A carpenter from the tribe of Judah was recruiting men to become fishermen. The carpenter was giving men power over the spoken word and was sending them out as fishermen - not for fish but for human souls. 

Dorigi turned down the offer of the seat in the tribal council, and chose to follow the Jewish carpenter whose reward for collecting human souls was a promise – a promise of eternal life and a big house in an undetermined location.  It was a challenging life trawling for souls, but the alluring promise of life everlasting and a big house kept Dorigi going and that was how he spent the prime of his life. 

Fast forward in time and here he was, cocooned in his darkened hut, a frail bag of bones but a proud one. His bony chest lined with invisible medals collected from the many human souls he had caught. His hope was now on the promise of a big house and a new lease on life, where his bones and muscles would be made vibrant again.   Visions of dramatic exits on chariots of fire flashed before his eyes, dreams of vanishing into thin air, like in the stories of the faithful gone before him filled his imagination. The pain in his bones brought him back to reality, robbing him of the escape of his fantasy.

Words from his tribal mentors could not stop playing in his head. Under the cover of darkness, he had been told, the spirits of those gone ahead come to get the souls of those made unwary by old age or illness and to entice those undecided between the world of the living and the dead. Every soul must then stand before the tribal council to be judged for a place in the big village.

The beginning of the end for Dorigi started early that evening. That evening air was motionless yet charged with electricity from the approaching thunder storm. Anxious mothers gathered their family together and prepared for an early night.  After the evening meal while younger people crawled to bed, the older folks, who had lived through numerous births and deaths, stared into the dying embers of the fire and wondered if the approaching storm was a thousand warriors coming to take their reluctant souls to the tribal council.

The storm flashed lightning after lightning, painting flickering paths over the sea, paving the way for the accompanying rumbles of thunder. After a while, the storm reached land, lightning flashed and thunder boomed and the wind mercilessly shook fragile shacks at their wooden foundations.  Meanwhile, back in his hut, Dorigi ran a high fever, his body parched; his whole being craving water - delicious, cooling, thirst quenching water so abundantly flowing all around his little hut. He tossed and turned and squirmed as much as his stiff joints would allow. He rasped out indistinct words through cracked lips, pleading release from his burning carcass, pleading for merciful water to carry him to blessed rest. 

After a while he calmed into an erratic sleep, and as the vestiges of the storm accompanied the night in its last lap into dawn, the end happened for Dorigi - he exhaled his last breath from his dehydrated lips.

The rain had petered out, the wind had calmed down and the electricity of the storm discharged, when the rooster crowed its first watch. The death wail shortly after that from Dorigi’s hut confirmed that a passing over had taken place during the storm.

Older people who survived the night swore on the graves of their fathers that they heard the echo of conch shell in the early hours of the morning. Was it a conch shell summoning the prodigal son to appear before the tribal council? It could also have been a welcome trumpet into a new life. It remains a secret of the night as to who finally got custody of Dorigi’s soul.


TANYA ZERIGA-ALONE writes: I am a granddaughter of early PNG missionaries (from the 1960s)who moved from the Morobe Province to the Eastern Highlands Province. My upbringing was in the Eastern Highlands, but I am gradually getting to know my Morobe roots after my late grandfather retired and moved back home. But I like to think of myself as Papua New Guinean as I have visited and worked in most provinces.

I have a post-graduate degree in environmental science and work with an NGO as an environment conservation planner/researcher. I am married to a patriotic Papua New Guinean. In my free time I like taking photographs and sewing meri blouses. I like music and reading biographies and fiction with good storylines. I am interested in politics.

Me, Tiger and the excitable village pigs


NOT LONG after I returned to Kabwum from working on the Yalumet-Derim road, we received word that a mature age Assistant Patrol Officer would soon be arriving from Lae.

Jim Soul and his wife and teenage son arrived on the next government charter, and I was directed to take him on his first patrol.

Jim had been in the Australian Army - a member of the Armoured Corps, a ‘Tankie’. He swore by his crepe soled tank boots that he intended to wear on patrol. He could, he said, walk up the side of a tank with them.

I wasn’t so sure, having made the same mistake with rubber soled boots two years previously on a patrol between Mindik and the Ogeranang airstrip site.

The patrol was returning to the Timbe Valley to see how the road was progressing. We flew from Kabwum to Derim airstrip and unloaded our gear. As we descended down the track from Derim airstrip, I pointed out to Jim how one could look at but not see things.

We were gazing at a fully functioning vegetable garden yet, until I pointed out the individual banana trees, kaukau vines and taro plants, it just looked like a patch of lush, green bush.

Inevitably Jim, who was well over six feet tall, began to have difficulty in staying on his feet as his rubber soled boots filled up with greasy wet clay. I suggested he cut a stout stick to help keep himself upright.

Walking through the forest can be pleasant in the early morning before the sun gets too high and the humidity becomes oppressive. The local people had cleared the jungle on either side of the bridle track. The small trees (kurung) gave off a pungent, sweet perfume as they dried. From the smell of the bark curling around the thin dead trunks, I felt sure they were wild cinnamon.

My dog, Tiger, was by this time almost full grown and had a very deep bark for a medium sized canine. I was in front of the patrol with Jim behind me, then our cook and a long line of carriers. Along the track, the forest occasionally gave way to patches of kunai. As we entered a large clearing approaching the village of Longmon, Tiger suddenly raced ahead and disappeared around a bend in the track 50 yards away.

Loud excited barks were followed by a cacophony of grunting. Back around the bend in the track erupted Tiger and, not far behind, a herd of semi feral village pigs.

Village pigs aren’t the docile animals you see at country shows. They are mostly dirty black with stiff spines and led by a large male tusker of aggressive disposition. We could plainly hear the tusker gnashing his tusks in a series of clicks as he sharpened protruding lower pointed teeth against the upper ones.

It’s fair to say that Tiger was having a great time. The look on his face was plainly saying ‘see what I’ve found for you’ as he disappeared past me at a rapid pace of knots with his tongue lolling out.

This left me in a pickle. I was facing a herd of agitated and semi feral porkers pouring down the track at a fast run. At the forefront was a large boar with tusks that could do nasty damage if he got to me.

I turned to look at which tree I could climb and to my dismay, saw behind me just one small sapling that was even now starting to bend as Jim shinnied up it.

In the grass along the track behind the sapling, there was a long winding line of cargo that had obviously had been jettisoned by the carriers who were nowhere in sight.

Propped up on the waving sapling was Jim’s walking stick. Grabbing its stout 6-foot length, I turned to face the herd that was now about 20 feet away and closing fast. I hoped I might slow the onslaught by hurling the stick as a spear. My luck was in, for the implement struck the boar end on at the most vulnerable part of his anatomy, his snout.

Letting out a high pitched squeal, the boar stopped in his tracks, spun around and hurtled back the way he had come, together with accompanying sows and piglets, their tails in the air.

Trying to look nonchalant, and to give the impression this sort of thing often happened on patrol, I retrieved Jim’s stick and gave it to him as he climbed down the sapling. Little by little the carriers appeared gingerly from their various hiding places and took up the cargo boxes.

Tiger returned, panting and wagging his tale. ‘That was a good game, wasn’t it?’

Longmon was an interesting village. Trees laden with ripe oranges, their skins still green.

Ah, Papua New Guinea, what a sweet and unexpected place you are.

The pains of love


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

I found someone to love and to hold
That special one stays close to my heart
Nay the moon fades and sun grows cold
She will still be that rhythm in my heart

But my fondness for the fruit of the vine
Has made me hurt that one close to my heart
And outside she acts like all is fine
But inside she is I know she is torn apart

What can I do to make it up, my love?
What do I do to make you forgive me?
What can I do to make you whole again?
What can I say to make it right?

My heart yearns to be near you
Absence from you makes my heartache
But I bring pain every time I’m near you
So I will keep my distance for love sake

PNG protesters assert claim to Oz citizenship


AAP - MORE THAN 110 Papua New Guineans protesting for Australian citizenship have been intercepted in Australian waters and will be detained before they are sent packing back to PNG, the Australian Immigration Department says.

The people had set off in 12 dinghies from Daru on a 150km journey to the Australian mainland.

They are from Papua Australia Plaintiff United Affiliates (PAPUA), who want Australia to recognise that Papuans were not given a choice to remain Australians when PNG gained independence in 1975.

They claim they are still Australian citizens because there has never been a referendum to legally sever ties with Australia.

A Department of Immigration spokesman said a group of nine PNG nationals were intercepted late yesterday near Cape York where they were refused entry to Australia and detained.

"A second group of up to 110 people was intercepted at Warrior Reef and is currently being escorted to Horn Island," the spokesman said.

A PAPUA spokesman yesterday said another 20 boats would make the journey in coming days.

The majority of the group remained in Daru after Australian and PNG authorities, including immigration officials, sought to dissuade them from making the journey.

"The Australian government's message to these people is clear, they have shown blatant disregard for our laws by trying to enter the country despite being told on numerous occasions the correct procedures to follow when applying for citizenship and we will be resolving this situation expeditiously," the immigration spokesman said.

The people detained will have their boats confiscated and the department will conduct a quick assessment of any claims presented before they are returned home at the first available opportunity.

Spotter - Paul Oates

'Chief Warrior' Hargesheimer dead at 94


Hargesheimer ASSOCIATED PRESS - FRED HARGESHEIMER, a World War II Army pilot whose rescue by New Britain villagers led to a life of giving back as a builder of schools and teacher of children, died yesterday. He was 94.



 On 5 June 1943, Hargesheimer, a P-38 pilot with the 8th Photographic Reconnaissance Squadron, was shot down by a Japanese fighter while on a mission over the Japanese-held island.

He parachuted into the trackless jungle, where he survived for 31 days until found by local hunters.

They took him to their coastal village and for seven months hid him from Japanese patrols, fed him and nursed him back to health from two illnesses. In February 1944, with the help of Australian Coastwatchers working behind Japanese lines, he was picked up by a US submarine.

After returning to the US following the war, Hargesheimer married and began a sales career with a Minnesota forerunner of computer maker Sperry Rand, his lifelong employer. But he said he couldn't forget the Nakanai people, who he considered his saviours.

The more he thought about it, he later said, "the more I realised what a debt I had to try to repay."

After revisiting the village of Ea Ea in 1960, he came home, raised $15,000 over three years, "most of it $5 and $10 gifts," and then returned with 17-year-old son Richard in 1963 to contract for the building of the villagers' first school.

In the decades to come, Hargesheimer's fundraising and determination built a clinic, another school and libraries in Ea Ea, renamed Nantabu, and surrounding villages.

In 1970, their three children grown, Hargesheimer and his late wife, Dorothy, moved to New Britain and taught the village children themselves for four years. The Nantabu school's experimental plot of oil palm even helped create a local economy, a large plantation with jobs for villagers.

On his last visit, in 2006, Hargesheimer was helicoptered into the jungle and carried in a chair by Nakanai men to view the newly found wreckage of his World War II plane. Six years earlier, on another visit, he was proclaimed Suara Auru, ‘Chief Warrior’ of the Nakanai.

"The people were very happy. They'll always remember what Fred Hargesheimer has done for our people," said Ismael Saua, 69, a former teacher at the Nantabu school.

"These people were responsible for saving my life," Hargesheimer told Associated Press in a 2008 interview. "How could I ever repay it?"

Besides Richard, of Lincoln, Hargesheimer, a Rochester, Minnesota, native, is survived by another son, Eric, of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, and a daughter, Carol, of Woodbury, Minnesota; by a sister, Mary Louise Gibson of Grass Valley, California; and by eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Spotter: Bill McGrath

The perils of a democracy gone off the boil


THE PRACTICAL DILEMMA of how to achieve a responsible and responsive government has puzzled societies since human populations first evolved. What's the answer?

'Pay peanuts and you get monkeys' is often trotted out as an excuse why politicians need huge pay packets. Apparently today's politicians usually expect to be members for only a limited time and then need huge superannuation payouts and ongoing perks in case they can't find highly paid employment when they leave office.

Ancient Rome held elections based on each of the original tribes who formed the Roman population.

Until recent times, the British view was that if you owned land you could be a voter, as you had a stake in the country and would be prepared to defend your property. This concept excluded the landless.

Over time, the growth of a merchant and middle class proved you didn't need to own land to be rich and therefore eligible to vote or to be elected.

In the late 19th Century, the Labour movement grew from dissatisfaction with the available political alternatives.

The US often refers to itself as the leading world democracy yet its system seems to be based on how much contenders can promise those who are prepared to contribute millions of dollars to run political campaigns.

In the case of PNG, the problems of regionalism, ineffective communications and a recent history of disruption and delayed justice at the highest levels appear to further complicate electoral integrity.

The PNG Constitution, unlike that of Australia, had to be cobbled together in a rush and seemed until recently to be ineffective in preventing fraud and corruption in high places.

In pre Independence times the PNG electoral role was based on the continually updated annual census books but this process has lapsed. The PNG Electoral Commissioner says it will requires K250 million to update the roll.

Previous elections have revealed irregularities with the roll and have led to contested results. Battles and fights have erupted over candidates either not happy with losing or whose supporters tried to alter results by making off with ballot boxes.

Constant claims have been made about how the incumbent government can manipulate a power base using government money and facilities. It has been claimed that funding from foreign sources has been used to buy support for the current regime.

Sometimes it seems like the responsible but responsive bureaucratic dictatorship that existed prior to independence may have not been so bad after all.

I invite Minister to drink from polluted river


The Department of Conservation (DEC) has failed to regulate the mining industry in PNG and ensure its operations are environmentally safe.

DEC has a responsibility on behalf of the nation to ensure that mining operations are safe and will not damage the environment. Yet time after time the mines end up causing massive problems while DEC sits by and watches.

We have already had massive pollution from Bougainville, Ok Tedi, Tolukuma and Porgera mines and, sadly, now it is the same with the Hidden Valley project.

The government through DEC is telling the world that mining with pollution is normal in PNG and the people must accept that fact".

I recently filed legal proceedings against the Hidden Valley mine, which is in my constituency, over its pollution of the Watut River.

It is not good enough for Minister Benny Allen to say DEC received an environmental audit report on the Hidden Valley mine in May this year and will be working on an environmental improvement plan.

If the Minister's audit report says the river is safe then I invite the Minister to Watut River to consume a litre of water to prove to me that is the case.

Where is the report? Why have I not been given a copy? Why don't the landowners who are suffering the impacts of the pollution have a copy? Is DEC trying to cover up for the mining company? The report should be released immediately.

DEC should also explain why it gave the Hidden Valley mine an environmental permit in the first place and how it is the company was able to pollute the Watut River without DEC noticing anything was wrong.

DEC is supposed to be protecting landowners and our environment, not facilitating mining on the cheap.

I have instructed my lawyers to look into whether DEC and the Minister could be legally held liable for the damage the mine has caused.

Graves are storehouses for feeble dreams

Do you hold a dream?


Do you hold a dream;

Which over mountains cold,

And valleys dark dreams;

Then how feeble it appears?

Many a pillow men make

From many a dream feeble;

That kindles, pauses, then

Re-kindles to hope anew.

Do you hold such dream still,

Which in oceans deep live

And on hurrying currents sail;

Thereupon weakly labours

To a glimmer flicker?

O feeble! feeble dream!

Graves are storehouses!

For feeble dreams

Endless rows await!

Do you hold a feeble dream?




He sleeps now, dreamlessly, and I sense

my time has come. Hesitating and uncertain.

He wallows in his siesta and I flicker to life

But everything is strange here

as if I walked in his waking thoughts

and the words and deeds are

a re-enactment and were not mine

a course of action he had envisaged

in a play for my casting.

Yet there are constant reminders

that this is not theatrical

for this script has not yet been written

and this dialogue is present

The roles are here and now, at this moment

this time is mine. Or is it?

Who am I and who is he?

Dare I taste the freedom of his absent conscience?

If his slumber should be broken

but for a minute or a while, will I still exist?

If some stray thought should sire a restless dream

would it be about me?

The thought or the dreaming

and what the passion?

There I stand in tears and still,

this reflection has me dancing

These hands reach to hold, but fend away

An emotion is like the heat of a slap in the face

He would understand this and not speak of it

I must scream while I can

then be drowned in his silence.

He awakens, my respite is over much too soon

I must not let him be I, for he will not let me be.

National disgrace: UPNG in a parlous state


DURING THE early 1960s, when the initial conception and planning occurred for the establishment of the University of Papua New Guinea, two visions were especially prominent.

The first, associated with Territories Minister Paul Hasluck, Administrator Donald Cleland and other liberal developers, including Sir George Currie, Dr John Gunther and Professor OHK Spate, saw the development of a national university as central to the needs of an emerging nation-state.

While there were some differences among top government officials, particularly about whether the institution should be affiliated with an Australian university or autonomous, these men had no doubt about the purposes, goals of and requirements for a university.

Two of them, Cleland and Gunther, were wise enough to walk around, scrutinise and select what would become a major part of UPNG’s valuable inheritance, 1000 acres of land.

The second vision, held by some settler expatriates and others in Papua New Guinea and Australia, was condemnatory and cynical of the first.

At its most extreme, doubt was cast on whether Papua New Guineans were even capable of attending university. Ridicule and abuse often appeared, in what would today be almost universally regarded as utterly offensive language.

Sadly, if some of the cynics were to visit UPNG today and selectively read some of the evidence available in various reports, they would find support for their bigotry.

In important respects, UPNG is a 21st century university in name only. There is an important credit side of the institution, which is discussed below, but for now, the debits.

There is limited internet access at UPNG, little research and publishing, a library with most of its collection utterly outdated and what remains easily stolen or mutilated, inadequate housing for national and expatriate staff, and deteriorating buildings with little basic maintenance carried out.

Read the complete two-part series here and here

Source: ‘Two visions, outcome uncertain - the University of Papua New Guinea’ by Scott MacWilliam, Pacific Media Centre, 20 December, 2010. Spotter: Peter Kranz

Changing notions of Big Man in PNG society

The Crocodile Prize

The big man


The great warrior
The protective barrier
Was my big man

The mighty hunter
The famine buster
Was my big man

 The grand gardener
The feast maker
Was my big man

The powerful orator
The freedom fighter
Was my big man

The magic maker
The awe inspirer
Was my big man

The splendid dancer
The joy bringer
Was my big man

The well dressed
The cash drenched
Is my big man

The pot bellied
The master bully
Is my big man

David Kitchnoge was born in Kainantu in 1978 of mixed Sepik and Morobe parentage and he calls both provinces home. He was mostly educated in his mother's village of Mindik in the Finschhafen area, and went on to tertiary education at the Divine Word University in Madang. He regards himself as "a proud rural product, very passionate about rural development issues".

Cables expose Chinese criminality in PNG


CABLES FROM diplomats in New Zealand released by Wikileaks have exposed US anxieties about rising Chinese influence in the Pacific, and some major concerns about PNG.

A February 2006 cable quote then PM Helen Clark (the cables do not paint a flattering picture of her) as telling US Admiral William Fallon she was increasingly concerned about "unofficial" Chinese activity in the region, such as rising Chinese criminal activity in PNG.

The cable said Ms Clark worried that the perpetrators might have links with people in the Chinese Government.

Another cable says: "Christensen confirmed that the US Government views with seriousness China's military build-up. China is developing forces that could pose challenges to other forward deployed forces, he said. We would like to know much more than we do about these deployments."

The cables appear to express US concern that China is using aid and development funding to foster close relationships with various Pacific countries and trying to use this as a foothold to extend both economic and military influence in the region.

The People's Liberation Army was providing aid defence forces in the region, especially Tonga and Fiji. The PLA was also outspending New Zealand by “wide margins”' in PNG, the cables say.

There were also reports that PNG may transfer its Wellington defence attaché position to Beijing.

In another cable, PNG is described as “deeply dysfunctional” and the belief was expressed that Australia's institution building through AUSAid was “failing”' and that AIDS was reaching crisis proportions.

In other comments, it is stated that the Chinese government had ''real potential to exacerbate poverty'' in the Pacific Island countries.

In a chilling comment, at a meeting in Wellington, the New Zealand Foreign Affiars Ministry was told that it was not ethnic Fijians who introduced methamphetamine to Fiji, but organised crime based in mainland China.

You can read further reports on the cables here and here



An entry in The Crocodile Prize

I LOOKED at the couple again. They looked completely in love, holding hands at the Down Town bus stop without a care in the world. The Port Moresby heat did not seem to bother them. I think they would have stayed there the whole day if they could. To the rest of Port Moresby’s citizens, the heat and sun would have been compared to Hell but to them that spot where they sat was Paradise.

She looked in his eyes and smiled. It was a magical moment.

The guy was tall dark and had a shortly trimmed beard giving that rugged look. He was well built and masculine, and would have easily swept her off her feet with one hand. He looked at her and whispered something in her ear.

The arches of her back and shoulders presented a well defined figure, and from the firmness of her muscle tone; she was definitely athletic, probably played netball or basketball. The edge of her t-shirt revealed a lightly tan creamy brown skin.

She turned and gave a beautiful smile – a smile that looked too familiar.

My heart skipped a beat and then resumed with an intense tempo. I felt my stomach clench and my palms started sweating. The soft gentle melody that had accompanied the image of the lovebirds now turned to an intense pulsating angry beat.

Sure enough, there she was smiling lovingly at someone that I hardly knew. She was giving him the same look she gave me when we first met.

Then, like the sudden illumination from a match stick in a dark room, everything became clear for a second and then faded away into the blackness. My head started to spin and I felt like vomiting as I digested the scene before me. My girlfriend was cheating on me and I had no idea. “That bitch!” I said angrily. She could have had the decency of telling me but instead she decided to treat me like a dog. As I started to think about it, the feeling of humiliation started to set in. How long had this been going on? How long had her friends known about this? And how long have I been playing the fool?

Piece by piece the puzzles started to fit and a picture started to emerge. It was the same guy she had been secretly texting late at night. She always maintained that she was texting a girlfriend or relative and being so gullible, I readily accepted every lie. How could I have been so blind? It was happening right before my eyes, the “working late” routine, “I’m at a friend’s place” and all the other little excuses that she used to give were actually starting to make sense.

I stood up from the seat I was in and started to walk toward the bus door. As soon as I reached the exit, questions started forming in my mind “Why? Why go down there and make a fuss? Is it really worth it?” I turned back and sat right down. It was not worth it. There was no reason for me to go and start a fight - there was nothing worth fighting for. All my reasons for fighting had just walked away from me.

Off course, there was a fear of fighting in me. Everyone has that sometimes but why would I put myself in harm’s way for someone who did not care about me.

Would she have shed a tear if I was beaten? Would she have stayed by my bed if I was hospitalised? I doubt it. She probably would have helped her lover to attack me. I turned and looked at her with a smile. I was angry but at the same overcome with a sense of relief. Destiny had a mind of its own and being together was not a part of that plan and it was better to find out sooner than later. It could have been worse.

She did not see me. In fact, she was so into a world of her own that I doubt she would actually notice me if I stood a few metres away. As the bus started to proceed for 4 Mile, I put my hand out of the window and gave a last goodbye wave.

She saw me this time and looked up trying to figure the man waving to her. Her beau also turned. In an instant, that curious look turned to a frown and she turned away as if I was a stranger – I was already forgotten.

Who now to step up to the leader’s plate


AFTER SO MANY YEARS, things have finally caught up with Prime Minister Michael Somare.

He has avoided this day as long as possible but it’s now arrived. It’s been long time coming. And it’s just under two years before the next national election.

This situation would not have come about now if the Prime Minister had done the right thing in the first place.

The bottom line: Michael should have sent in his financial returns as expected of any public office holder.

Now the PM knows what it's been like for many of his citizens when they also have to wait to have their day in court.

The PM has no excuse. He had all the resources at his disposal but never made good use of them to submit his returns when they fell due.

This is not the time to be making excuses in the media but to take this latest leadership challenge on the chin like any other world leader would do.

He has not done so, hence has lost much credibility with PNGeans including those abroad who have followed Somare's political career over the years.

But something seems not right here. There is another worrying aspect.

Is this another clever tactic the Chief is using as a trump card to get some public sympathy in the twilight stages of his long political career. I suspect the stage is already set for the Chief to go out with a bang when 2012 comes around.

Acting PM Sam Abal is warming the PM's chair for the next 3-4 months before Somare returns more popular with the grassroots to launch his election campaign.

The ignorant grassroots will again applaud a man with no real idea of what he has done in recent years.

They are simple rural folks who are ignorant of the fact that, in other democratic countries and under similar situations, the country's leader would resign from public office. But for a host of reasons, not in PNG.

Today, PNG has a serious leadership crisis. Our country desperately needs a good, tough and visionary leader to take PNG to the next level.

There is no-one in the National Alliance Party or the Coalition who has the strength or conviction to take up this challenge. PNG needs someone strong and uncompromising to lead from the front.

The ideal choice would have been former deputy PM, Sir Puka Temu, but he left for the opposition when he saw there was something seriously wrong within the NA.

Every MP has kept quiet by looking the other way when the PM does things that are not right. They are all guilty by association.

They have all proven themselves incompetent as leaders and must be removed by voters at the 2012 national general elections.

Maybe it is time Parliament made Dame Carol Kidu the first PNG woman Prime Minister.

But the PNG Parliament is very much a male domain and will not support the Bill for 22 reserved seats for women in the Haus Tambaran.

It makes Sam Abal’s job as Acting PM difficult, for he will bear the brunt of PNG women’s wrath in the New Year.

My dream lady


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

HERS WERE THE MOST BEAUTIFUL eyes I have ever seen; deep penetrating hazel eyes that seemed to call out my name with every gaze. It terrified me, yet it excited me at the same time.

Every curve on her sensuous face was a masterpiece that overshadowed the beauty of Mona Lisa’s smile and could make a grown man weak in his knees. A creation comparable to nothing this earth could offer, so sensual and sweet yet raw and untamed. She was more than words would describe. Ballads could not capture her beauty for she was comparable to nothing on Earth.

Her hair was ebony and looked like shiny threads of silk finely fashioned on her head. Her face shone like the sun and her teeth, ivory white perfectly shaped and placed perfectly like a neat picket fence in her sensuous mouth. Her lips were perfectly symmetrical and looked like juicy red apples just ready to a bite.

Her body was perfect. A figure models would kill for. Not too thin like those ultra skinny anaemically unhealthy looking models but a full figure which men dribbled over. The full figure every man secretly desired in a woman. This was complemented by her smooth and delicately tan brown skin.

She was like a steamy hot muffin just ready for a bite. Her perfection would almost make you believe that she came out of a factory. Simply said, she was a doll.

My heart stopped for a moment, did a summersault and then resumed its normal rhythm as she turned and looked directly at me. And as she walked towards me, its rhythm doubled pace and my breathing became heavier.

As she grew nearer, the rhythm increased and I felt faint. Then all sounds drowned away leaving me alone in a silent world, as if there was no one else except for me and her.

My head began to spin and everything I saw became blurred. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. This must be how it felt to be smitten by love at first sight, stuck between love and lust, unable to tell which was which or which was true.

My stomach was filled with butterflies in a frenzy to get out. All the strength within me dissolved like ice on fire and my knees became weak like jelly.

I took another deep breath. I opened my eyes and froze in awe. Before me there she stood, even more radiant and beautiful than she was before. I opened my mouth but words seemed to be stuck in my throat and a huge lump formed.

I swallowed all I was going to say. And when our eyes met, a flame of passion burst within me, so intense that it caused my heart to ache. I wanted to hold her in my arms, to dance with her. I wanted to see her smile, to make her happy. I wanted her to be mine.

She smiled at me and slowly without saying a word reached for my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor. I was love struck and mesmerized. All I could do was follow.

The music was slow and romantic, and she graced the floor like a queen. From the corner of my eyes, I noticed that everyone had stopped and were looking at us.

The men were envious of me – or so I thought – dancing with this beautiful Pacific

pearl, holding her close, smelling the sweet fragrance of her perfumed skin as she rested her head on my chest and feeling her arms clinging tightly around my neck and shoulders. Every moment seemed like an eternity for me.

The world I knew had gone into slow motion. If I had the power I would put this moment in repeat mode. I just wanted it to last forever. I was in love.

She raised her head and looked up at me, smiled and gave me a wink. Then she kissed me on the lips and smiled again. I pulled her closer and slowly kissed her then released her. I took a few steps back, held her hands and looked into those beautiful hazel eyes. “I love you”, I uttered dreamily and slowly, stressing on every word.

Everyone on the dance floor burst into a frenzy of wild and intimidating laughter.

What did you say?” she asked, and this time her voice sounded different. It was not her voice. I looked at her face again and this time it was someone different. It was Ms. Lyonni, my science teacher and she had a bewildering look with confusion spelled all over her face.

I turned and looked around only to find the dance floor where I stood had somehow magically transformed into my classroom and all my classmates staring at me.

I realized what I had done and cringed in shame. The whole time I had been day dreaming and now the bubble had burst. I was in for a very long fall with no cushions or padding at the bottom. The sudden push into reality had come without warning, something I was not ready for.

The dream had felt so real. It was a reality where I was always ‘the man’, but reality was not so kind. I snuck a look around the classroom and saw something like a thousand devilish faces laughing and smiling wickedly at my expense. They looked like minions and demons from hell tormenting the poor lost souls.

I stole a quick glance toward Ms. Lyonni and there was a twinkle and a dreamy faraway look in her eyes. The little incident must have stirred ripples in a lake of distant memories.

Steve, the class bully pouted his large orang-utan like lips and teased me, “I love you too.”  Embarrassment swept all over me like a cold, unwanted yet inevitable. I had just made a fool of myself in front of the whole class and there was nothing that I could do to change that.

I lowered my head and smiled, thinking about the dream. At least, I had been with the lady of my dreams, my beautiful Pacific pearl and no one could take that away. If only everyone had felt the way I did - the feeling of finding that perfect someone. I should have known it was too good to be true. Somewhere deep in my mind I knew, but dreams have a habit of revealing secrets buried deep within the heart.

Perhaps the woman of my dream exists somewhere in this world, or the universe, or maybe in another galaxy and maybe someday, I will find my love. But until then, I can only be content with the woman of my dream, my dream lady.

Sam Basil denies Hidden Valley claims

Slide1 SAM BASIL MP, who is increasingly seen as voicing the nation’s conscience in PNG, says a statement issued by the Hidden Valley mine last Thursday claiming he has withdrawn legal proceedings over the pollution of the Watut River is untrue.

"I have not withdrawn the legal proceedings on behalf of 110 landowners who have been seriously impacted by the pollution of the Watut River by sediment and heavy metals from the Hidden Valley mine,” Mr Basil said.

"For the Hidden Valley mine to claim that I had made an announcement to that effect is simply not true.”

Mr Basil said he has been in talks with the mining company, Morobe Mining Joint Venture (MMJV) and representatives of its owners, Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining, to find a satisfactory resolution of the issues without having to go through lengthy and expensive court proceedings.

"To that end I have agreed not to take further steps with litigation until my lawyers and scientists meet with the mine owners in January. But I have not, and I repeat have not, withdrawn the proceedings.

"I am also very disappointed that MMJV have not issued a further media release, as requested by my lawyers, correcting the public record.”

The health perils of a wet Sunday afternoon


THE TEST CRICKET had finished early and I though a quick trawl through the internet might turn up something of interest.

A reference to ‘Strengthening the PNG Health System’ snagged my attention in what was turning out to be a washout of a Sunday afternoon.

Amid the glitz and glamour of a high profile launch in Port Moresby on 25 November, report authors Julienne McKay and Dr Katherine Lepani presented a paper on how to improve PNG’s health delivery system. The audience included Australia’s High Commissioner Ian Kemish and the AusAID head in PNG Stephanie Copus-Campbell.

In a previous PNG Attitude article I had observed: “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.”

The ‘Strengthening the PNG Health System’ conference, I thought, was an example of how this new approach was being ushered in to help our nearest neighbour.

Julienne McKay began by maintaining she was not proposing to throw away the many, many good things that had been achieved over the years with PNG’s health services. This statement seemed to fly in the face of deteriorating health services in the towns and cities and a virtual collapse of rural health facilities. Ms McKay went on to say: “What we are proposing is to build on these achievements.”

To deal with increasing rates of maternal and infant mortality, the presenters offered an alternative strategy of providing “voucher systems and micro health insurance schemes”.

Demand responsive mechanisms were referred to as important drivers of future service delivery. Statistics from Cambodia on the increase in the number of births (‘health facility deliveries’ in the presentation overheads) were quoted as demonstrable evidence that such schemes do work.

It was then observed how it was important not to reduce health delivery services. The confusion some people might have had between ‘health delivery’ and ‘health deliveries’ was rather obvious.

By the time I waded further into the paper and accompanying slides, I started to wonder whether we might have been on different planets. But one of the final points made by the presenters took me back to reality.

They had apparently visited Oil Search, Lihir and Mt Hagen in their quest for knowledge. One of the solutions was to have a voucher system whereby those who wanted treatment could obtain their medicine at Marisin Stoa Kipas (MSPs) who would apparently provide pharmaceuticals upon demand, based on what had been developed by the Oil Search Community Health Program.

Clearly there could be no problem at all in providing health vouchers to consumers throughout PNG.

So one presumes that the new approach to Australia’s AusAID health programs in PNG will now include: Marisin Stoa Kipas and health vouchers coupled with micro health insurance.

I wonder who paid for this research and what it actually cost? Probably many thousands of kina that could have been applied to provide rural health in PNG at a time when many are reportedly dying for want of any service being available at all.

Release of war roll creates more confusion


IN A MOVE made without fanfare, not even an announcement, the Australian Army History Unit has published a direct translation of the Japanese roll that lists the names of soldiers and civilians captured in Rabaul and who died on the prison ship, Montevideo Maru.

We’ve got to thank reader Martin Hadlow for spotting the emergence of the list on the internet, probably last Wednesday.

But perhaps the Army should have consulted the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society before publishing the roll, which is a very significant historical document.

In an introduction on the website – which it says is “a memorial to the Australians lost” – the Army says the roll, originally compiled by Japanese occupation forces in Rabaul and translated after the war, contains the names of 845 Australian soldiers and 113 civilians (including 16 missionaries) together with a further ten names added by Australian Army staff in Tokyo after the war.

By my calculation, that’s 968 names: 855 servicemen, 113 civilians. But the published roll contains 984 names: 818 servicemen, 166 civilians. The Army’s going to have to clear up those discrepancies for starters.

The figures also do not include 30 crew members from the Norwegian freighter, Herstein, captured in Rabaul and aboard the Montevideo Maru when it sank. These men, who should be counted amongst the civilians, would bring the Army's numbers to 998 (Army calculation) or 1,014 (my calculation).  Must do better, Colonel!

The number of prisoners who died on the ship has been estimated at 1,053 for many years, but the new list – if the numbers can be sorted out – should become the definitive record.

It is remarkable that the confusion that has surrounded who exactly was on the ship should be perpetuated nearly 70 years later by an act designed to throw more light on this matter.

The Army History Unit says the roll, retrieved from the Army archives last year and subjected to a process of rigorous authentication, is “the first translation of a Japanese roll that was sent to Australia by Major H S Williams of the Recovered Personnel Division on 3 October 1945.

“Major Williams had been sent to Japan after the surrender as part of the Australian effort to find out exactly what had happened to Australians captured by the Japanese.

“The Japanese Navy provided a roll of POWs in Rabaul which had been made in Japanese by transliterating the sound of European names into Japanese characters. This process was carried out in reverse by Major Williams' team. This gave the Service number of military personnel and a reasonable spelling of the name.”

“Once in Australia, this roll was compared to lists of people known to have been in Rabaul at the time of the Japanese invasion to confirm details of number and spelling of names.”

But the Army still needs to clear up the latest confusion about the number of men on the ship, and exactly who they were.

Kuru film links all humans to cannibalism

SBS 1 TV – TONIGHT 8.30 pm

Kuru DVD Kuru: the science and the sorcery follows Australian scientist, Michael Alpers, into a mysterious world of sorcery, cannibalism and tribal conflict.

This medical detective story looks at kuru (also known as laughing sickness), a degenerative neurological disorder found predominately among the Fore people of PNG.

Research into kuru revealed discoveries which turned scientific understandings upside down. The research linked strange animal diseases to fatal human diseases and it enjoined all humans in a remote past of cannibal practices.

So what prompts a young Australian medical student studying in Adelaide to move his family to a remote part of PNG while he works on finding a solution to a baffling but terrifying brain disease that's killing 200 people a year?

The student was Michael Alpers, now a hero to PNG's Fore people. This incredible medical detective story explains how Michael took on the challenge of kuru 50 years ago and how he solved the mystery - with unexpected ramifications

Filmmakers Rob Bygott and Ben Alpers spent two months with the Fore in the Eastern Highlands. Their film project was supported by the locals who shared their culture and the tragedy of kuru. The film also spends time with leading kuru researchers in London, New York and San Francisco.

Michael Alpers retraces his groundbreaking 1962 pioneering research trip. Stranger than fiction, research into kuru revealed a chain of discoveries, which turned scientific understandings upside down and resulted in two Nobel prizes.

A tribute to the great bombs of Moresby


Luxury! I BOUGHT AN OLD BOMB in Port Moresby four years ago. It cost K5,000 (around $2,000).

It was a Nissan Sunny station wagon, registered and street legal - and I needed transport. The aircon didn't work, so we drove around with all the windows and the rear door open.

We had a few prangs, needed much bush mechanic work to keep it on the road and broke down many times - once to be surrounded by raskols whom belying their reputation, helped me get it going again.

We managed trips to Bomana and Sogeri, down the coast near Loloata, and north of Gerehu to Hanuabada.

We managed to cram in 14 people (babies and dogs excluded) for a trip to church. Not just any church; a Lutheran church up a 30 degree slope on a mountain at Morata (behind the University of PNG).

We got to the top - it was worthy of a hill climb and a tribute to Nissan engineering.

Well that was a few years ago. We gave the car to some relos to make the best use of it when we left, and told them we might have need of it when we returned. Which we just have.

It was located on bricks at Seven Mile, bereft of wheels, and in dubious condition. Strangely, the fog lights still work. And there are great arguments about ownership. Did we leave it with uncle X or brother Y? Where have the wheels gone? Who took the back seats? Who will pay for the repairs to get it back on the road? Is it registered? (I had a good offer for a fake rego certificate).

We drove this car to 17 Mile for a wedding on the banks of the Brown River. It was lovely. But the bridesmaids wore western make-up, which I always thought denigrated their natural Melanesian beauty.

And I took one of my friends home to 19 Mile at night after a Christmas party when he'd had a bit too much too drink. So this is a historic bloody car!

There must be many interesting old vehicles in and around Moresby. At independence the Governor-General was given a Rolls Royce by the UK. Whatever happened to this brave and historical car?

Oh my Penge


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Oh my Penge
What a precious fool you are
to sell yourself so cheaply
Where is your forefather’s legacy?

Your gardens, long unattended
are barren and overgrown in weeds
Our land that sustained
a hundred generations
lies pilfered, plundered and polluted

Grieve now for what you have done
more so what you have not
Give back to your descendants
what your ancestors gave to theirs.

Once upon a time
from a revered hilltop
you raised our beloved Kumul
so highly, proudly
proclaimed: identity and liberty

But you have swapped
our people’s philosophy
for wealth and prosperity
A puffed ego and procured status
adorned with bright trinkets
as your shining vanity
yet stumbling like a clown
because caring less for caution
you have chosen an unenlightened path.

Oh my Penge
What a shameless fool you are
to submit yourself so basely
How many able men will labour for you
and how many proud women
will cradle your babies?

When your sons no longer bring you
your carved walking stick
you will lie in the ruins of your hausman
in cold grey ashes and sackcloth
lamenting your misery and loss

When your daughters have all fled
to foreign tribes, as unpaid brides
or refugees of your savagery
none will return to bake kaukau
at your hearth, nor bring water
to quench your thirst
Thus you will choke
on stale memories of bygone years

At your last and final repose
with no women to wail, nor kin to console
nor chiefs to kill pigs in your honour
your garden lands will be denuded
divided among your rivals
while your untutored children
will enter into bondage
to ignobility and shame

Oh my Penge
What an insufferable fool you are
to sully yourself so ignorantly
How many good people
must endure you?

- October 2010

Speaker Nape must go says union boss

THE PNG Trade Union Congress has called for the resignation of the Speaker and Clerk of Parliament over what was termed the embarrassment of Sir Paulias Matane’s re-election as Governor-General in June.

PNGTUC president Michael Malabag was responding to the Supreme Court ruling that declared the Governor-General's election null and void.

"Speaker Jeffery Nape and Clerk Don Pandan are responsible for this fiasco and it is high time they uphold and protect the integrity of Parliament, otherwise ship out," Mr Malabag said.

He said Parliament had become a circus over the years under the leadership of Sinasina-Yongamul MP Nape.

Mr Malabag said the people of PNG had lost faith in the legislative arm of government and “nobody in his right mind can deny that fact”.

"I am absolutely amazed that the former Attorney-General and Minister for Justice provided legal opinion on the election of the Governor-General which was misleading.

"The very people who came out publicly to support the actions of Parliament should bow their heads in shame and resign if they have any dignity left," he said.

Mr Malabag said it was embarrassing because Parliament had made a mockery of the position of the Queen’s representative.

"What an embarrassment to the Commonwealth when due process was not complied with," he said.

"Sir Paulias is a person beyond reproach, a statesman of the highest degree, and for Parliament to treat this election process with total contempt is a complete mockery to a person of his standing.

"If the government had the numbers, which was plainly obvious on the floor of parliament that day, why did they not simply comply with constitutional requirements?

"Sir Paulias has my undivided support and that of the trade union movement," Mr Malabag said, "and I sincerely hope that commonsense will prevail in the next sitting of Parliament as directed by the Supreme Court

Source: PNG Exposed Blog

Read this story, and understand better...

A day in Facilitator’s life


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

FACILITATOR LOOKED at the time on his cell phone and hastened his pace. He was late for the meeting.

He was sweating profusely. Sweat was dripping from his ears and nose, and he felt it in his eyes too. His handkerchief was already drenched but he used it anyway.

He was close now and looking up he could just make out a familiar figure at the Buai market. A few more steps and he looked up again. Their eyes met, and for a moment the stares were intense and he felt out of place. He approached the figure and greeted him.

“What took you so long?” Opisman demanded. “I’ve waited an hour already,” he groaned.

Facilitator quickly explained that he woke up late and when he arrived at the bus-stop, there was a huge crowd fighting for seats in the busses. He hurried to the next bus-stop only to be disappointed. Then he caught a taxi-cab, which broke down on the way and he had to complete his journey on foot after living through a near miss.

Opisman hissed, and asked impatiently. “Did you come with the goods?”

Facilitator grinned cheekily and without another word walked to a buai vendor, picked up a betel nut, mustard and lime and started chewing.

Opisman didn’t like it. He felt disrespected.

“Facilitator is not educated like me! Why would he treat me like this?” he managed to say between closed teeth.

Opisman wanted to leave but stayed. Thoughts ran through his mind and he knew it was the right thing to do.

He watched Facilitator return chewing and puffing on a loose cigarette. Then apologised for being naïve and they started talking.

“It’s alright. I’d like to catch my breath before we start,” Facilitator responded.

Facilitator reached into his small dirty bag and pulled out a yellow A4 envelope. He passed it over to Opisman who took it firmly without worrying if anyone at the market was watching.

“Those are the papers for the claim. You know what to do,” Facilitator chuckled.

“How about my ….?” Opisman hesitated.

“Meet us at Pokieshaus, our usual hideout in the afternoon. We’ll have a few beers and a game or two of pokies”, Facilitator responded with smile.

Opisman went to work satisfied. He knew his wallet would be adorned with fine colours. It would bulge out from his back pocket and make him feel good and confident. He imagined flashing a few notes at the beautiful bartender he fancied last time at Pokieshaus. He’d buy a few things for the house and use the rest until his payday.

“Hello!” Opisman spoke into his cell phone expectantly.

“Are you coming or not?” his phone’s speaker barked.

He looked at his watch. “It’s only two o’ clock”, he almost whispered.

“We are all here having fun. I’ve just completed building the third SP white-can pyramid and I am the only one staring at these pyramids,” Facilitator growled into the phone.

Opisman immediately rolled into action. With one hand clutching his phone to his ear, his other hand pressed the ‘Shutdown’ button of his desktop computer. Then pulled a few drawers out, shuffled papers, pushed them back, and walked out while smiling into the phone.

He arrived just in time to see Facilitator pull down the top most white-can from the third pyramid.

“Don’t start on it yet!” Facilitator heard a voice called from behind. He turned and saw a smiling Opisman. After a long jovial handshake and a few exchanges of playful obscenities, he took a chair and accepted a white-can offered by Facilitator.

Opisman gulped a mouthful, then another and another. The can was empty. His thirst was ebbing, and it felt good. After rather loud burp, he eyed Facilitator with watery eyes.

“Where are they?” Opisman asked.

Facilitator got off his chair and walked over to a corner. A head turned and then a hand moved. He saw something handed over to Facilitator. His heart heaved and he smiled to himself as Facilitator walked back to him.

Back at the table Facilitator gave Opisman a parcel. It was thick and felt good in his hand. He pushed it into his front left pocket and ensured it settled well in. Then spoke to Facilitator in a slightly excited tone. He tried to hide his elated heart but Facilitator saw it in his eyes. It was gleaming at him.

“Let us drink and make merry tonight,” Facilitator declared.

After long and excited conversations into the night, Opisman stood up to leave. He was pissed and found it difficult to stand up straight. He reached into his pocket and touched the parcel. It felt smaller. His mind couldn’t think straight. Only flashes quickly reminded him giving away some cash to that beautiful bartender, buying beer for people he never met before and sponsoring a couple of pokies games for Facilitator.

Facilitator assisted him out. When Opisman left in a taxi-cab, he returned to the table and continued with the leftovers. He had made a few extra bucks today. His family would have food for a few more days while he waits to strike another deal.

Past errors do not justify today’s mistakes


WHEN I FIRST went to the then Australian Territory of Papua and New Guinea, I was personally put off that anyone should call another Masta.

Funnily enough, however, it wasn't all that long before that, that I used to be referred to in the diminutive as "Master" Oates, as young men in Australian society used to be called.

In Tokpisin that would equate to the expression Mangi. When I first arrived in PNG, I was referred to by some as mangi nating since I was young and knew very little about PNG.

So having made the effort to try my best at learning and using Tokpisin, I didn't invent or determine the vocabulary we had to work with.

One of those words used to be pronounced in the rural areas where I worked as Masa and I used that word rather than emphasising the English “master”.

While everyone these days knows what that word stood for, I believe it was merely an expression that referred to someone who was not necessarily PNGian. There was likewise another term for someone who came from Hong Kong or China that those who originally came from those areas may also have taken exception to in today's society.

These terms are now anachronistic and probably were then in the towns and cities. To judge people who accepted these words into an evolving language by today's norms of society may therefore be somewhat unfair.

It also could be slightly misinterpreting Tokpisin as it was used many years ago in order to justify a conviction. Unfortunately, there will always be some who view others who are different from themselves and refer to them disparagingly.

At our basic training in Anthropology at ASOPA, we were taught that there was only one race in the world and that's the human race. I can only speak for myself but that dictum is what I have always believed and accepted.

Isn't it extraordinary that, in pointing out where Somare might be bending history to suit himself and justify his actions, we seem to have been sidetracked into a debate on racism?

Surely there are always aspects in history that, with the benefit of hindsight, could always have been better.

The essence of what I was originally referring to in Sure PNG has changed, but for the better? was that something that supposedly happened more than 40 years ago or more in no way justifies a series of mistakes today.

China eyes Bougainville gold and copper


AAP - CHINA'S MINERAL hunger could see it take a bite into the massive Bougainville gold and copper mine that has been dormant ever since a decade-long civil war with Papua New Guinea

So far, China's mining pursuits in PNG have been a disaster and Bougainville remains hostile to outsiders.

China's Metallurgical Group Corporation's billion dollar investment in the Ramu nickel mine in PNG's Madang Province has been beset with lengthy court cases, protests, violence and endless difficulties with government departments.

And now, Bougainville President John Momis says China has expressed interest in a potential role in reopening Bougainville's Panguna gold and copper mine.

Rio Tinto, which has a 53 percent stake in Panguna mine owner Bougainville Copper Limited describes China as one of its most important partners.

China's state-owned aluminium company Chinalco currently has a 12 percent interest in Rio Tinto.

Rio declined to comment over possible arrangements for reopening the mine but Mr Momis told AAP there had to be a "paradigm shift" in approaching Panguna.

"We're open to discussion to make sure we get the best and most equitable deal," he said.

One theory, according to Mr Momis - who is the former PNG ambassador to China - is the Chinese could pay for the mine's estimated $4 billion cost to reopen in exchange for an equity stake.

"We are cash strapped as a government, and we are putting this to potential partners that we would be very keen to have some upfront payment even before the deal for the mine is negotiated," he said.

"The Chinese have expressed an interest in the mine, but we are keeping all our options open."

Speculation of Chinese interest in Panguna was sparked after news that former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke met with "old friends" PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare and Mr Momis, in Port Moresby in late November.

Mr Hawke is active in business relations with China and sits on Fortescue Metals Group's China Advisory Board. His consultancy, Robert JL Hawke and Associates, has a Shanghai office.

However, both Mr Hawke and Mr Momis said no specific Chinese interest was being positioned for Panguna.

Mr Hawke, a 'chief' in PNG after he was awarded the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu in 2008, the highest honour available to non-PNG citizens, told AAP the recent meeting covered many items.

"A whole range of things were discussed and in the course of the discussion there was reference to Bougainville," he said.

"There was talk about reopening of Panguna but I can categorically deny I am representing Chinese-state interests.

"Of course, there is an economical and political interest in Bougainville's future, but to say I was representing China is utter crap."

Mr Hawke said he was in PNG working for a Korean company on unrelated matters.

Mr Momis, who has repeatedly asked the PNG government to fulfil the agreement to transfer its 19 per cent mine shareholding to the Bougainville government, said no  undertaking had been made to China.

"Mr Hawke did say it was important to keep the China option open but there was no agenda being pushed," he said.

"We discussed the possibility of reopening the mine. We talked about China and other companies including Rio Tinto."

Landowner groups recently met to discuss reopening central Bougainville's controversial Panguna mine, but the memory of the guerilla war that claimed an estimated 20,000 lives from fighting and disease from 1987 to 1997 still looms large.

Despite talk the mine could reopen as early as December 2011, there are numerous hurdles relating to a series of complex negotiations and the ongoing peace and reconciliation program.

While the original conflict encompassed many divergent politics, the main problem stemmed from anger over the mine's massive revenue going to Australian-owned Bougainville Copper Limited and the PNG government, which at peak rate was about a quarter of PNG's GDP.

The Australian government supported PNG's inept efforts to quash the secessionist insurrection that was also sparked by local rage over the mine causing widespread environmental destruction.

The conflict dissipated when PNG military senior ranks learnt then-prime minister Julius Chan spent tens of millions of dollars hiring mercenaries led by British military man Tim Spicer.

A subsequent PNG military mutiny along with riots in the capital Port Moresby pushed the country to the brink of a coup, in what is now known as 1997's Sandline Crisis.

So now with all this behind them, the economic stability required for Bougainville's Independence referendum - scheduled for 2015 - is seen to be locked in Panguna.

Despite hostility Bougainville Copper Limited has remained in PNG slowly chipping away with gentle efforts to reopen the mine that still contains millions of tonnes of gold and copper.

Only time will tell how Panguna, this sleeping dragon of the Pacific, will awake.

Political elite bogged down in court actions

ACTING PRIME MINISTER Sam Abal says the government will appeal a Supreme Court ruling ordering Parliament to be recalled to elect a new Governor General.

Last week, the Court ruled invalid the June re-election of Sir Paulias Matane and said Parliament should be recalled to elect a new Governor General by secret ballot within 40 days.

But Sam Abal claims says the courts cannot interfere with Parliament and the government will appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, Arthur Somare, the son of Prime Minister Somare is mounting a court battle to avoid appearing before a disciplinary tribunal investigating him over allegations he misused funds and failed to lodge financial statements on time.

Source: Radio Australia

'I feel deceived by Morobe Mining': Basil


On the river LANDOWNERS LIVING along the Watut River have filed a legal action seeking compensation for pollution caused by heavy metals and sediments from the Hidden Valley gold mine.

The legal papers were filed yesterday by lawyers acting for 110 landowners.

The landowners are seeking compensation from the Hidden Valley mine operator, Morobe Mining, jointly owned by Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining.

Morobe Mining and I made a joint announcement last week that the company was setting up an expert technical advisory panel to review sediment and pollution issues affecting the Watut River.

In return, I agreed to delay issuing legal proceedings to see if the issues could be settled cooperatively without involving the courts.

But, in breach of that agreement, Morobe Mining has been attempting to buy off the potential plaintiffs with payments of K1,200 compensation for each plaintiff.

I feel completely deceived. I have tried to negotiate in good faith with the mining company even though they have been covering up the pollution problem for over a year.

As a result of the discussions, I thought we had established a clear road-map to resolve the pollution issues and I was prepared to trust their word.

Instead the miners have gone behind my back and tried to buy-off the landowners.

I am disgusted by the two-faced behaviour and therefore the legal action has been filed.

Sam Basil is the Member for Bulolo in the PNG Parliament

Victory! Democracy upheld by Supreme Court


THERE HAVE BEEN two major victories in the last few days in the campaign to defend Papua New Guinea's Constitution and uphold democratic principles.

First, the Supreme Court ruled the appointment of the governor general was unconstitutional and invalid, and second, the Prime Minister, Michael Somare, has been forced to step down to face a Leadership Tribunal for alleged misconduct in office.

These are major victories against a Prime Minister and a government who have tried to place themselves above the law and have abused Parliamentary processes and democratic principles to suit there own agenda and try to avoid any scrutiny.

Governor General

The Supreme Court has ruled the controversial reappointment of the governor-general, in June this year, was unconstitutional and invalid.

The court found there were numerous breaches of parliamentary process and no ballot.

The Supreme Court judges were particularly scathing of the role played by Speaker Jeffery Nape, who has also been criticized for repeatedly failing to allow the Opposition a vote of no-confidence against the government and adjourning Parliament for long periods.

As a result of the court decision, the governor-general ceased to hold office at midday yesterday and there must be a new election for the post held before the end of January.

Prime Minister

The Prime Minister has been trying to avoid a Leadership Tribunal for two years over his failure to make annual declarations of his financial assets and explain who funded some of his overseas trips. (He has also not explained how he has paid for all his costly appeals and applications!)

Two weeks ago the courts struck out one of his appeals against the Ombudsman Commission's referral, opening the door for the Public Prosecutor to ask the Chief Justice to establish a Leadership Tribunal to hear the charges.

Yesterday Somare's lawyers were stilling running around the court houses trying to find someone and someway of avoiding due process, but no judges were prepared to consider any more applications or delays.

As a result the PM has been forced to step down (as was his Finance Minister and Treasurer, Patrick Pruaitch earlier this year).

It is somewhat ironic that the Prime Minister has in recent days been citing his involvement in the drafting of our Constitution as evidence of his good name - it is a shame that he has not been so diligent in ensuring its enforcement!

There are, of course, many actions and decisions that still need to be addressed, such as the Environment Act amendments, Forestry Act amendments and Finance Department Commission of Inquiry findings,.

But it is very significant that both the Prime Minister and governor-general have been removed within a few days of each other and we should pause to celebrate the fact our laws are being upheld by the courts and remind ourselves that as long as lawyers and the courts uphold our Constitution then no-one is above the law.

Effrey Dademo is the program manager of ‘Act Now! for a better PNG’

A ‘gross injustice’, claims sidelined Somare

REFERRING TO YESTERDAY’S court proceedings as a “gross injustice”, Sir Michael Somare has stepped aside as PNG prime minister so a Leadership Tribunal can hear allegations of official misconduct against him.

Sir Michael says he has "voluntarily" stepped aside so the Tribunal can consider allegations that he failed to lodge several annual financial statements in the 1990s.

Earlier yesterday his lawyers failed to obtain an injunction preventing the public prosecutor from moving to appoint a tribunal.

Sam Abal, just fresh in his role as deputy, will step up as prime minister while Sir Michael faces the Tribunal.

Sir Michael said he is the victim of a "gross injustice". He said a challenge filed in the Supreme Court two years ago has not been heard.

The opposition is hoping that a recall of Parliament by 20 January for new nominations for Governor-General will provide an opportunity for another vote of no-confidence after two previous attempts this year were thwarted.

There is speculation that Don Polye, dumped as deputy prime minister last week, may lead his Highlands faction to the opposition ranks in an attempt to topple the government.

Source: 'PNG leader Somare steps down' by the ABC’s Liam Fox and wire services

Sure PNG has changed; but for the better?


“I, THEREFORE, take great exception to the lie that nothing has changed in 35 years,” Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has told the PNG media.

Now some churlish people might point out that I have on a few occasions, disagreed with Sir Michael on the state of PNG. This statement, though, I can truthfully say I agree with - totally.

PNG has changed. But is it for the better?

Unfortunately, Sir Michael’s view of what has changed varies from my own experience of what PNG was like prior to Independence in 1975.

“When I began in politics over 40 years ago we did not win office because we lied to people and misinformed them about the truth,” Sir Michael explained.

He went on to say that in 1967 and 1968 he was dealing with a foreign administration.

“We experienced a life that is different to life today in PNG. Under the former administration our rights were restricted. We were not allowed to move freely as we do today. There were curfews every night in our main towns. We could not hold public rallies.

“Early politicians like myself grouped together to change this. Through political persuasion, we convinced our administrators that we were ready for self rule.”

One of us – either Sir Michael or I - must have a memory problem for, prior to 1975, I don't recall any restriction on freedom of movement.

I don't recall curfews in towns like Moresby and Lae when I lived there. And, as today, legally approved public rallies could and were held.

Is it possible that one of us may have got history wrong? If so, why does it matter?

Well, it matters because it may be of importance to misquote or rewrite history because one wants a distraction from the present.

“By using modern media to tell people lies over and over again, eventually people start to believe these lies,” Sir Michael said.

So, if previous history can be manipulated to conveniently suit one's argument, what can everyone still alive remember about recent history that therefore can't be manipulated?

Well, there's quite a list. Moti Report. Taiwan millions. Unconstitutional behaviour. Change the law at whim. Finance Department Inquiry. Attack on the Ombudsman.

None of these recent examples of PNG's history would have happened prior to 1975 and anyone held responsible would have been quickly and judiciously dealt with.

Yep! I agree with you, Sir Michael. PNG has sure changed in the last 35 years.

Watch this space: Bougainville bounces back


I SPENT A WEEK last month in beautiful Bougainville. Despite the devastation of war, Bougainville is an extremely hospitable place to visit.

The people are nice, the food great, and the scenery simply breathtaking. It is not paradise – not yet. But the potential is there. The challenge for President John Momis and his new administration is in realising this potential.

Bougainville won autonomy from Port Moresby to run all of its affairs except defence and foreign affairs. The Autonomous Bougainville Government now has the tasks of rehabilitating the infrastructure, restoring access to basic services, and reviving trust of its people in their government.

None of these are easily achieved. And resources are limited. Some serious thinking has to be done in prioritising public expenditure. I lend a few thoughts.


Pre-conflict Bougainville was the largest producer of cocoa (and copra) in PNG. As the conflict intensified, the plantations were abandoned.

Farmers are back on their plantations now. Cocoa planting is expanding. I spent a day with James Rutana and his family on their recently acquired cocoa plantation in North Bougainville. This farm, while just six years old, is tangible evidence of Bougainville bouncing back.

The Rutanas provide hundred of jobs to people from the surrounding villages, and support many more indirectly. James is eager to share his knowledge with the community. He supplies seedlings to other growers, lends space on his farm for cocoa research, and hosts aspiring growers to let them learn the ropes of the trade.


Considerable expense is likely to go to the restoration of roads and ports. The province is the domain of four wheel drives. I discovered, to my discomfort, that just a day long bone-jarring journey on the back of a Land Cruiser has its tolls on vehicle and passengers.

At least half a dozen wet-crossings are made on a four hour journey from Arawa to Buka. And wet crossings with pot-holes are the norm for road travel. Upgrading to all weather roads will require considerable effort and expense.

Most schools and healthcare centres that closed during the conflict are open. But more have to be built. The schools and aid posts require professional staff. The University of Papua New Guinea has an open campus in Buka, but will have to expand its courses further south onto the mainland.

Tourism has potential. World War II relics litter the landscape. A group of Japanese tourists arrived the day I departed. Tourism has the potential to become a significant source of export and employment.

Access to mobile telephony in Bougainville is exceptional, but air transportation the opposite. Air fares from Port Moresby to Buka are higher than from Canberra to Port Moresby. Seats on the flight to Buka have to be booked at least a week in advance. And incidentally, my suitcase is still to arrive on its return journey from Buka on Air Niugini.


Bougainville is already debating the recommencement of large scale mining. A number of residents told me that reopening the Panguna mine is only a matter of time. But small scale alluvial mining is booming. I visited one smelter; run from a steel shipping container with the most rudimentary equipment. This operation was smelting up to $86,000 of gold a week.

Mining is an attractive source of income for the people and the government, but considerable care would have to be taken in restarting the Panguna mine. A large mine will impact the whole economy. It will draw labour and capital from non-mining sectors of the economy. Cocoa, copra, and food production are all likely to fall as a consequence.

A large mine will create many skilled jobs, possibly more than the skilled population of Bougainville. This will put upward pressure on wages and to the inflow of workers from outside Bougainville.

Challenges for policymaking

President Momis and his administration are cognisant of the challenges. Policymakers are busy building infrastructure and restoring services. An entourage of 34 officials, led by the President, returned from China last month. The president entered seven memorandums of understandings on issues including, listed in the order of priority, commercial farming; mining; tourism; hydro-electric power; housing; shipping; and airlines.

Satish Chand is Professor of Finance at the University of New South Wales.

Somare steps aside as PM

Sir Michael Somare tonight stepped aside as PNG prime minister. A court-based inquiry known as a Leadership Tribunal will determine whether he is in breach of his obligations as PM, Ilya Gridneff reports. More news as it comes to hand.

2010 may be a turning point for PNG: ABC


LAST WEDNESDAY PNG’s public prosecutor said he would ask the chief justice for a leadership tribunal to hear allegations of official misconduct against prime minister Sir Michael Somare.

Sir Michael has been fending off the charges for two years and, if a tribunal is formed, he'll have to step down until they're dealt with.

Then on Friday afternoon the Supreme Court ruled June’s appointment of the governor-general unconstitutional and invalid.

“It's a part of what some see as a disturbing trend of increasing political instability [in PNG]”, says ABC correspondent, Liam Fox.

“That was when another court ruling threw out laws that had effectively prevented MPs from changing sides. Before they came into effect in 2002 votes of no confidence and changes of government were regular features of PNG's political landscape.

“So far Sir Michael has managed to fend [the opposition] off with the help of a speaker prepared to allow lengthy parliamentary adjournments. Nonetheless many fear the court ruling marks a return to the bad old days when regular changes of government stifled development.”

According to Fox “that would be an incredible shame because the country stands on the cusp of a potentially transformational resource boom. This year the economy grew by around 6 per cent. That's expected to increase to 8 per cent next year largely on the back of increased mining activity.

“So 2010 could end up being something of a turning point for PNG,” says Fox. “It could signal a return to the political instability of the past or it could herald an unprecedented economic boom. But it's hard enough predicting what's going to happen next week, let alone next year in the land of the unexpected.”


Meanwhile, PNG Treasurer Peter O'Neil has called Pauline Hanson a racist after she was reported as saying PNG’s serious problem with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and is putting Australians at risk.

So who cares what Ms Hanson thinks? Presumably only some sections of the Australian media. Why give her any attention at all? She is not an elected public figure nor do the vast majority of Australians have any interest in her.

I'm surprised that any PNG politician can find the time let alone the interest to comment, given the far more important concerns affecting their government and their nation.

The cultural sensitivities of cannibalism


ONE OF OUR more dedicated and prolific contributors, Barbara Short, has commented – with a little distaste, if you'll excuse my use of the word – on cannibalistic references in Jeffrey Febi’s short story which PNG Attitude published yesterday.

Readers may be interested to know that there is a back story to Jeffrey’s The Death of a Warrior, an entry in The Crocodile Prize.

Jeffrey understood his story could generate controversy or upset some people’s sensitivities, so he raised this issue with the contest organisers, saying: “The subject I want to write about might not go well with some readers; it's about cannibalism in the mid to late 60s. What do you think about this?”

The question provoked a fascinating offline email exchange between authors Phil Fitzpatrick, John Fowke and Russell Soaba. I don’t think this discussion should be lost, so here are some extracts.


Phil As a kiap I was involved with a couple of cases of cannibalism among the Biami at Nomad in 1971-72. It is a very complex subject. In the first case the young men who ate part of a corpse during their initiation were charged with “unlawfully interfering with a corpse” because there was no offence of cannibalism under the adopted Queensland criminal code.

They were acquitted after the Customary Recognition Ordinance was invoked, that is, what they did was a customary practice. The man who killed the person they ate was charged and convicted of manslaughter (which I thought was a bit rough because he was only defending himself). A later court reversed the approach and convicted some other men of an offence. Both court cases were long and explored the concept of cannibalism in great detail.

I think cannibalism and head-hunting are part of PNG's cultural past. If this is hidden under the bed, I don't think that does anyone any good. One of the aims of The Crocodile Prize is to encourage PNG people to both write and read. The organisers believe that the written word is a very powerful tool for good if used in the right way.

The short answer to your question is - please write about cannibalism. If it upsets a few people, well and good, that will encourage the debate. Our judges are mature and understanding people who will not be offended by the subject matter.


Fowke_John2 My view is that as cannibalism was practiced in many societies in PNG until relatively recently, it is a valid subject for consideration if you have a storyline which is based on fact, on an event or events, or of a real tradition or tribal legend.

But don’t tell the story in such a way that people from a district, or worse still individuals, will see themselves or their recent ancestors as portrayed. Fifty years ago cannibalism could be discussed in PNG without fear of offending as it was a recognised fact of life (“ol busman tru ia; gunika taudia kara idau inai!”), but this is very far from being the case now.

All of us have a cannibal ancestor in our background - the practice of eating parts of dead friends, relations and enemies so as to absorb and celebrate beauty, strength, intelligence, skills and accomplishments contributing to fame or respect has been part of our evolution as the world's only animal with an imagination.

The practice of eating human meat simply for nourishment and enjoyment was also common in some societies, and we only have to look to Polynesia for stories about feasts featuring delicious "long-pig" to encounter the use of man as a meal in lands where pigs and other large terrestrial animals were unknown and where birds and fish constituted the only source of protein.

Through my mother’s line I am descended from the people of the north-western part of Scotland. My mother's family name was McKee, evolving from the ancient Irish name Magoudh. The clan Magoudh is known to have crossed the relatively narrow bight between Northern Ireland and north-west Scotland some thirteen centuries ago and fought and intermarried with the indigenous tribes occupying Scotland.

These people, collectively named Pictoriae by the Romans who were never able to defeat them, were so called because of their practice of tattooing themselves from head to foot. They were not only ferocious guerilla fighters, but also cannibals. And the Picts, as we know them now, spread all through the Roman Empire from Britain through France, Italy, Northern Africa and the Middle East both because of their warlike nature and their habit of eating those they killed in battle.

Continue reading "The cultural sensitivities of cannibalism" »

Recapping Ramu: SGX, lies and videotapes

In the latest Reputation Report ALEX HARRIS scrutinises the facts, spin and half-truths surrounding the way in which the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) was informed about the implications of the Ramu Nickel deep sea tailings court case. “To have the facts and the behaviour of the miners whitewashed, cleansed, sanitised and sprayed with fragrance for the ASX and Australian investors is a compliance issue to which the ASX refuses to respond,” she writes. You can read Alex’s expose in full here, but first an extract….

IN OCTOBER, opposition Member of Parliament Belden Namah, took a full page advertisement in Papua New Guinea newspapers questioning the economic benefit of the [Ramu Nickel] mine and changes to the law to protect the project.

But ‘the mouse that roared’ moment was on 4 March 2010, when landowners from the Rai Coast filed and ultimately won a motion for injunction against the construction and use of DSTP, on 21 April winning an appeal against the injunction.

The response from Highlands Pacific on 21 April was adamant that the project had support:

However it is important to note that this claim is not supported by the legally recognised landowners at the mine site, on the inland and coastal pipeline route, or at the process plant site. These landowners have recently shown their strong support for the Ramu project by placing full page advertisements in the PNG national newspapers.

The fact is, there are currently no ‘legally recognised landowners’ on any land impacted by this project, only disputing claimants as to the ownership of the land – with 60 registered land disputes sitting at the Land Titles Commission over the mining tenement alone, with 360 landowner groups contesting ownership.

Despite the Mining Act requiring a compensation agreement be signed by the legally recognised owners of customary land prior to any commencement of mine construction, the project has proceeded at full speed. The 360 clans remain with the legal status of ‘disputing claimants’; some have been forcibly removed from their land.

Frustrated by the delays and ongoing public criticism of the project, the miners put pressure on the PNG government to resolve the situation in their favour. The government complied, rewriting the Environment Act to allow these companies to cause serious environmental degradation throughout the country, with impunity.

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

The aim of this new law was specifically to obviate the injunction and pending appeal or any further legal action.

The Environment Act Amendment Bill was read in Parliament but never ratified as Parliament was dissolved almost immediately to avoid a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

When the second appeal was lost in July, Highlands Pacific released the following statement to the market on 16 July:

In June, the PNG Government passed an Environmental Regulation reaffirming the validity of the Ramu project’s permit and how the permits transition from the previous Environment Act to the new Act…

No, actually it does not.

Again, Highlands Pacific stated:

It is important to note that this claim is not supported by the legally recognised landowners at the mine site, on the inland and coastal pipeline route, or at the process plant site. These landowners have consistently shown their strong support for the Ramu project and for the tailings disposal method.

It is important to note that there remains no legally recognised landowners, only 360 clans legally recognised as disputing claimants. It is equally important to note that there has been no show of strong support for the tailings disposal method.

Read the complete article here

What can we say about PNG’s police force?


IN A RECENT article in PNG Attitude, a rhetorical question was asked about whether telling the truth in today's PNG could get you sacked?

It certainly seemed that the former Police Commissioner's speech about corruption in government, which he presented to a law enforcement conference, might have affected his continued employment, which was terminated not long afterwards.

PNG's new acting Police Commissioner, Anthony Wagambie, has now called a three-day conference of his senior police commanders and requested many to deliver presentations on a variety of important subjects affecting the RPNGC today.

It was reported that PNG's Internal Security Minister opened the conference. Minister Maipakai must have wondered what hat he was wearing at the time, since his PM had just announced another Cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Maipakai is no longer Internal Security Minister. He now looks after Industrial Relations.

PNG's police service is in a perilous position with numbers being at an all time low. In fact PNG statistically has the lowest pro rata number of police to population in the South-West Pacific.

Many of the nation's police (25%) are soon eligible for retirement or have actually reached retirement age (50%). Even the current acting Commissioner may be past the official retirement age.

If a large number of experienced police retire in the near future, those limited numbers currently serving will be further reduced. In a country where law enforcement in some areas appears to be problematic at best, this is not good news for PNG.

Acting Deputy Commissioner Fred Yakasa is to address the conference on his vision to revitalise the police force.

Many people will be very interested in what he has to say. One wonders however if his vision may be somewhat impaired by his knowledge of the previous Commissioner's demise?

PNG must address health & sanitation issues


THE AUSTRALIAN government’s aid agency AusAID says there are underlying health and sanitation issues which the PNG and provincial governments must address before cholera can be again eradicated.

In response to questions from PNG Attitude, AusAID says cholera seems to be endemic in PNG at present.

Latest reports from the Western Province say 300 people have died from cholera-like symptoms while 2,700 others were affected in the recent outbreak that began on Daru Island, the administrative headquarters of the province, and moved westward.

The situation on Daru itself appears to have stabilised and the number of people attending the provincial hospital continues to decline.

AusAID says it is working closely with the PNG Department of Health and the Cholera Response Committee, which has been meeting daily to monitor the outbreak and coordinate the response.

Australian government-sponsored aircraft have carried essential supplies to Daru, including medicines, water purification tablets, oral rehydration salts, marquees and health promotion pamphlets.

Australia’s support to the PNG government since cholera outbreaks began in 2009 totals $2.7 million.

Funding also has been provided to the Australian Red Cross to provide an emergency clean drinking supply system for Daru, and to undertake a community health promotion program.

There is further funding for a recently approved project to provide clean water for the future to villages along the coast of PNG adjacent to the Torres Strait.

Dear Honourable Sirs....


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

We are your loyal supporters, remember us

Your fellow Papua New Guineans

the honoured rabble who raised you up to lofty heights

We drink your poisoned brew

while we suffer your misspent fortunes

watch our heritage squandered

and our independence scorned.

In our National Parliament

where once walked wise men, proud and true

where once were just laws, written and defended

Foolishness now rules that house

where the Honourable vie for their own (rabble)

with their educated rhetoric, regurgitated oratory

sanctimonious as wallowing sows and as smelly.

In our Nation's Capital

beggars loiter while wealthy loaded landowners’ loaf

pickpockets, thieves and informal street sellers roam

as mountains crumble and trees topple

littering our rivers and seas

Our ancestral lands and siblings are divided over riches

money for dishonourable dignity in Port Moresby.

There Honourable Sirs you dwell

and celebrate our nations prosperity

which we apparently are yet to receive

There Honourable Sirs you play pernicious politics

you and your rabble, squabble, dribble, grapple

for position, power and prestige, PNG Big Man policies

Your slightest glance is our grace, Dear Honourable Sirs.

In our towns and villages

far, far from freeways, Fairfax and Finance ministry

we hear tales of civilisation, rumours of development

Our aging fathers idly reminisce

while their beloved sons seek other forms of bliss

Mothers and matriarchs do what their daughters should do

excuse what their children have done, and for you.

We are the commoners from those rural towns and villages

those hamlets not seen on Falcon's flight

distant, and remote, you’ve forgotten our vote

Our sweat feeds this nation

Our blood/land bathes/fills your alters/coffers

Our tears are granted no remittance

Our fates are in your hands.

We are the unheard voices

disenchanted, disowned and denied

How long lived is your deception

schemes and dreams and fantasies

where are the promised fruits?

Your majestic visions

leave us in dearth and doom.

We are your people

we gave, glorified and grovelled for you

now disrespected, deceived and destitute

We are the infants you suckle on a flimsy future

the unborn cheated, betrayed and bartered

as your virulent greed robs our womb.

God save Papua New Guinea!


Icarus, of course, is a pseudonym. The poet writes: “It has been my practice to submit sketches by pseudonym through personal email account, by which route a number have been published in The National newspaper’s writer’s forum. I would prefer to remain anonymous. The importance of contributing to my nation’s development through literature outweighs this slightly divergent action. I would like to thank all those involved in establishing The Crocodile Prize. Righteous!”

Books and Beer


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Books and beers, hear em’ cheer
For em’ say beer make em’ head clear
Give em’ more dough, mama dear
Em’ wantem buy more beer

Very soon me hear em’ stutter
Em wantem m-more w-w-w-ine
But em’ m-mekem s-s-s-wine noise
T’sol em’ just fruit blong vine

Nau mama no givem em’ dough
Em go long papa long borrow
But no money, papa say
All for your school I pay

But still em’ wantem more beer
Nau em’ cheer turn to growl
En very soon em’ join in street brawl
All because em’ mixem books and beer

Nau em sindaun long jail na luk sori
Inside long bel blong papa mama tu i wari
School ino finish good but em stap long jail
Na nogat money long payem bail

Nau em sindaun na look outside long jail window
Goodpela tingting i come long em
Freedom stap outside long window
Em coverem face blong em in shame

Why na me mixem books and beer!?

The death of a warrior


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Alone, Ooamie struggled against death’s cold embrace until he died a terrible death in his bed.

A strange spell immobilised Ooamie’s body and only his heart and lungs fought while everything froze. Doses of pain and suffering were slowly administered until he succumbed. What remained of him was a body stiff as a dry wood with a cold stare; and the tip of his tongue vaguely visible from behind the back of a half opened mouth.

It was only three days ago when Ooamie suddenly fell ill. His unusual symptoms could not be connected to any type of sorcery, so he was taken to his haus-pik just outside the village. Hidden from prying eyes and ears, he would to be monitored closely by his wife Onekayai with assistance from Fetapa the orphan.

The haus-pik was typical; round with a low roof and a door barely a metre tall. It was big enough though, and could accommodate both his family and the pigs.

His brothers began seeking people who might have a cure. A couple of days had passed and Ooamie’s condition worsened, observed Onekayai; but she could do nothing, so she did her best to nurse her husband. Fetapa couldn’t care less, and went about doing his daily chores.

Often Fetapa, a pre-teenager, wonders where his parents are, and why they have deserted him. He didn’t know his parents had both died: his mother while giving birth to him and his father from acute dysentery a few months later. No one had talked to him about his parents and he misses them.

Onekayai returned from a garden nearby. Over a huge kaukau bilum on her back, rested a bunch of bananas; and slung around her neck, a brown laplap held her sleeping child. As she jumped over the fence, she saw Fetapa with his small bow and arrows chasing lizards. He didn’t see her until she spoke from behind. Fetapa froze then quickly turned and retort; “He’s sleeping!”

Inside the haus-pik, Onekayai saw her husband’s motionless figure on the bed. It’s been like this for the last two days. She removed her load and breathed deeply; then carefully hung her child’s laplap near her husband and instructed Fetapa to fetch water. She rested a little, and then drank from a bamboo Fetapa brought, and started the fire to bake kaukau for the evening.

Meanwhile, Ooamie’s brothers returned from their journeys. In the haus-man they reported their findings. When finished, a long silence ensued; broken only by an occasional distant bark from a dog. All eyes were set on the fire as its flaming tails danced mockingly. Smoke reluctantly rose from tobacco pipes and no one was heard breathing in the frozen silence that engulfed them. Even the chief’s two dogs lay silent under their master’s bed.

The chief pondered intensely over the inevitable: who is responsible; how many will he order to be killed; who should execute his orders? Everyone realized their chief’s deep concentration and no one dared interrupt him.

Continue reading "The death of a warrior" »

Matane to stand down as Governor-General


PNG GOVERNOR-GENERAL Sir Paulias Matane will stand down on Monday after the Supreme Court found that his re-election to the vice-regal post was unconstitutional.

The court also found that Speaker Jeffrey Nape had acted unlawfully in presiding over the session of Parliament in June at which Sir Paulias was re-elected.  Mr Nape was acting Governor-General at the time.

The case was brought by the Morobe Provincial Government under Section 19 of the Constitution and it sought the court’s interpretation of the legitimacy of the election by Parliament of the Governor-General.

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

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

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

PNG confusion suggests Somare losing touch


I LIKE THE CALCULATION done by the Post Courier editor that Sir Michael Somare is playing the "divide and conquer" card.

That Somare is trying to create a division between the powerful highlands block, so his son will ascend.

The National, on the other hand, assumes that Somare is looking for a loyal person to fill in for him because he does not politically trust Don Polye.

If Polye takes over, he will make it difficult for Somare to return.

Regardless of Somare's intentions and reasons for the change, the fact is the political landscape will never be the same again.

If Abal takes over and eventually become the acting PM, that will not go down well with Polye. But, if he rescinds his decision, Abal will lose face.

Somare is in a win-lose situation. Appointing Abal as his deputy is convenient for him, but is against the party's Constitution.

It seems like the ageing political tactician is losing his touch.