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79 posts from December 2010

Croc Report 2: Seeking a unique PNG voice


THE GOOD NEWS is that the prize money is in the bank, thanks to all our generous donors.  Any other funds we can squeeze out of sponsors can go towards the publication of The Crocodile Prize anthology showcasing the work of the winners and the next best.

I noted in the first report about The Crocodile Prize literary contest that the whole process has been a learning experience both for organisers and entrants.  This has continued and evolved even further.

The competition is a new experience for many writers and they are understandably unsure about the process.  Quite a few have contacted us. 

The questions range from simply things like how many times can I enter (as many times as you like) to, I’m thinking of submitting a story about such and such, is that a suitable subject for the competition?

Generally the answer to the latter question is yes, but once or twice we’ve replied by saying send us the story and we’ll have a look and let you know.  So far we haven’t knocked anything back; we’re very broad minded and confidently expect our readers to be the same.

In providing advice we have been careful not to influence the creative processes of writers to the detriment of others.

Some of the stories that Keith has published on PNG Attitude have necessarily been lightly edited.  This has gone no further than correcting spelling mistakes and obviously unintended grammatical errors.  Encouragingly, suppressing the urge to go any further has not been difficult.

 There is no way we wish to interfere with the flavour of the stories and poems.  We have embarked on a quest seeking to showcase and encourage PNG writers, not some pale PNG imitation of European literature.

That stance has not only forced us to examine our motives for launching the competition but also to consider the nature of PNG literature in general.

One of the interesting things we discovered is that a few writers in PNG and the Pacific area in general have, in their endeavours to be published, resorted to journals and publishers in the so-called developing countries, most notably in Africa.  Russell Soaba’s Portrait of a Parable was originally published in the African journal Wasafiri for instance.

African literature has some interesting parallels with the situation in PNG that are worth noting.  The most obvious similarity is a relatively recent transition from an oral literary tradition to a written one.

In his novel, Elizabeth Costello, the South African writer and Nobel prize winner, J M Coetzee, who now lives in Australia, has one of his characters, an African writer ask the question, ‘Did we in Africa have a novel before our friends the colonisers appeared on our doorstep?’  One might ask the same question about PNG.  The answer, of course, is yes but they weren’t made of paper and ink.

The character goes on to note that reading books is essentially a solitary experience, a bit like eating alone or talking to yourself; it is not an African way.  Similarly I suspect it is not a PNG way either.

He also describes how literature has been part of the colonising process and describes how European literature has been complicit in the destruction of oral traditions and even languages.

He concludes that the time has come, in Africa at least, for this to stop.  It is time for those special intangibles in African culture, like the way people live, speak and dance and which are not easily expressed in the written word to come to the forefront.

He maintains that this can only be done by African writers and that the European style and rhythm of writing may not be, in fact, suited to this end.  It is a point worth considering in PNG too.

If the entries so far are any indication, poetry is the medium in which many PNG writers are most comfortable.  Entries in the poetry section are currently running at four times the short story entries.  Perhaps it is the imagery, rhythm and cadence of the singsing that is the parallel oral equivalent to the poem.  We’ll keep an eye on it.

On a couple of occasions we have encouraged the poets to try short stories and the results have been extremely good – PNG poets make good short story writers.

Of course the more authentic the PNG writer is to the tenor of his or her culture, the more exotic their work will appear to someone used to a European style of literature.  It might be that the work of an authentic PNG writer is, in fact, too exotic for those readers and this may limit the avenues for publication.

This is why it is important not only to encourage authentic PNG writers but to also to think about a local market for their work, hence the anthology.

Might it not also create a problem for our Australian judges you ask?  They might have to ask themselves ‘who am I to judge these stories and poems?’  That is why we have ensured that we have a fair proportion of PNG judges to whom we can refer things when we are unsure.

So what is the point of this yarn?  Well, in the main, it is a circuitous way of saying to our entrants that they should not be constrained in their expression by European literary rules of writing because we won’t be constrained in our judgements.

In that sense I am eagerly awaiting our first tok pisin short story (we’ve already had a couple of poems).  Does anyone remember the Simbu yarn of kela man and maus gras rendered in tok pisin

I have happy memories of the late Joe Nombri standing on a chair in the ADC’s office in Kiunga reciting it to an enthralled audience - a tad risqué, unfortunately.

The Crocodile Prize is a literary contest for Papua New Guinean writers. There are three categories, each offering a first prize of K2,500: for short stories, poetry and journalism. More details 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?

Threatened Somare seeks to cling to power

ROWAN CALLICK reports in The Australian  this morning that Michael Somare has pushed through a radical reshuffle of his cabinet in “a desperate move to shore up his control as he faces being forced to stand down by the [PNG] Supreme Court.”

Callick recounts that Sir Michael has been accused of failing, since 1995, to file annual returns listing his assets and business dealings, as required by law. The Ombudsman Commission has also asked him to explain holidays he has taken overseas, including to Malaysia, in order to track who paid for them and why.

Sir Michael lost a final appeal last week and the case will now be referred to the public prosecutor. Callick says he is trying to ensure that the person acting as prime minister during his enforced period out of office - likely to last two or three months at least, according to Callick - will act in his best interests.

“He sacked as deputy prime minister Don Polye in a pre-emptive measure in case he entrenched himself in the top job and made it tough for Mr Somare to return,” Callick writes. “Mr Polye is the leader a Highlands bloc of MPs, who hold 40 per cent of all seats in the parliament.

“Mr Somare was also anxious to ensure his son Arthur, long considered a potential successor, retains his position as Public Enterprise Minister, which has given him substantial carriage of the multi-billion-dollar gas projects transforming the country," Callick reports.

Source: ‘Michael Somare makes sure PNG's top job remains his’ by Rowan Callick, The Australian, 9 December 2010

PNG opts to keep sovereign funds onshore


Papua New Guinea’s Treasurer, Peter O’Neill, says PNG is looking at establishing its sovereign wealth funds onshore, rather than overseas as originally planned.

The funds are to be the main mechanism to ensure the windfall revenues from PNG’s mining and gas boom are saved for future generations, and that the money that is spent immediately is not lost to corruption or mismanagement.

The change of heart comes after a visit to PNG by the chairman of Australia’s Future Fund, David Murray.

Mr Murray is a former chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank and has strong credentials in corporate governance.

Treasurer O’Neill says Mr Murray’s advice was very valuable.

Source: Radio Australia

Confusion reigns over PNG cabinet reshuffle

THE ABC reports that PNG's former Deputy Prime Minister, Don Polye, is maintaining that he has not been sacked in a cabinet reshuffle.

Mr Polye was axed as deputy prime minister at a hastily convened ceremony overseen by Governor-General, Sir Paulias Matane, at a tourist resort near Rabaul yesterday.

But Mr Polye says he spoke to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare this morning who said media reports of his sacking were “just speculation”.

But the Governor-General's official secretary, Tipo Vuatha, has confirmed former Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal was installed as the new deputy PM.

There is still no official confirmation or explanation from the Prime Minister or his office about the reshuffle.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, PNG correspondent Liam Fox

Human rights in PNG 'disturbing': Greens


THE AUSTRALIAN GREENS say they find the human rights situation in PNG "very disturbing” and are helping the PNG Greens in their efforts to run for Parliament.

Daniel Patman, a spokesman for Greens leader, Senator Bob Brown, says that “we understand that PNG's governance system needs a great deal of new energy and reform so that the interests of people and the environment are better protected.”

Mr Patman was responding to a representation from PNG Attitude reader Trevor Freestone, who expressed concern about the policies of mining companies in PNG.

“Currently many of them are using or considering using deep sea tailings disposal,” Mr Freestone wrote. “These sites are going to cause major problems. They will eventually poison Australian waters. The PNG government is supporting these plans.”

Mr Freestone also said that “corruption appears to be a major concern and the local people whose lands and rivers are affected don’t have a say on these mining projects.”

Daniel Patman said the Greens “will continue to support the development of a participatory democracy in PNG that can strengthen social cohesion and foster the active participation of disenfranchised communities.”

He also revealed that his party is lobbying for the PNG Government to legislate for to a quota for 22 seats reserved for women in Parliament.

“We are also helping the PNG Greens in their efforts to run for Parliament,” he said.

Expert panel to review Watut River system


FOLLOWING REPRESENTATIONS to the Hidden Valley Joint Venture by Bulolo Member of Parliament, Sam Basil, who raised landowner community concerns, an expert technical advisory panel will review sediment and pollution issues affecting the Watut River.

The panel will complement the existing regulatory processes and scrutiny of mining operations conducted by the PNG government. It will include international specialists with best practice experience relevant to the PNG natural environment

In recent discussions with Mr Basil it was agreed that terms of reference and membership of the expert technical advisory panel will be determined at a meeting in January.

It is envisaged the panel will be briefed on historic and current studies and will visit the mine site.

The Joint Venture has provided Mr Basil with a briefing on the environmental management and monitoring of sediment run-off from the mine along with background information and a number of studies.

The Joint Venturers said that the expert technical advisory panel will be a vehicle for the constructive resolution of sediment related issues in a transparent and cooperative forum.

The Hidden Valley Mine is operated by the Hidden Valley Mine Joint Venture between Harmony Gold of South Africa and Newcrest Mining of Australia.

The Hidden Valley Mine is located near Wau and Bulolo in Morobe Province.  It was officially opened in September and has a workforce of more than 2,000 people.

David Wissink is General Manager Sustainability and External Relations of the Hidden Valley Joint Venture


Effrey Dademo writes from Port Moresby: Last week we launched an email action calling on Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining to come clean about their pollution of the Watut river - and the companies have responded. This shows, once again, that we can make change happen if we make our voices heard.

The two companies have announced steps to seek a 'constructive resolution' of the pollution problem in consultation with local people and the setting up of an independent expert technical committee to review the scientific data.

This is a significant step forward in the campaign to ensure that foreign companies operating in PNG adhere to the same high standards that apply in their home countries. 

PNG warned on gas projects: act or miss out


PNG MUST ACCELERATE the development of its natural gas projects and lock in customers or risk competition from overseas producers and unconventional coal seam and shale gas projects, according to an oil and gas expert.

Independent researcher and chairman of FACTS Global Energy, Fereidun Fesharaki, made the comments at the 11th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney.

The Canberra Times quoting an AAP report says the three-day conference which finished today has focused on the $15 billion LNG project under development by ExonMobil in the Southern Highlands.

The joint-venture project with Santos, Oil Search and the PNG government is on track to deliver its first shipment of liquefied natural gas in 2014.

Dr Fesharaki says PNG must act quickly to secure Asian markets for the project and other LNG developments, or face competition from the cheaper Qatar LNG now being sold into the United States market.

“It is not possible to compete with Qatari LNG on economics.  The only way to compete is to tie up the market”, he said.

PNG Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, told the conference his government anticipated that LNG revenues would propel the economy to new heights and significantly improve PNG’s social indicators which had remained stagnant for too long.

He said PNG was expecting growth of 7.1 per cent in 2010 and 8 per cent in 2011.

Sir Michael said he hoped to witness the reopening of the Bougainville copper mine, closed 20 years ago amid secessionist violence.

“Our darkest hour came with the Bougainville conflict.  It was a setback from which Bougainville and the nation has not fully recovered.  Work is well underway to restore the damage,” he said.

The Prime Minister pledged his government to continue focussing on providing a stable political environment and transparent mining regime.

How a lone voice can be the voice of many


TOMORROW, PNG ATTITUDE will publish an article that reveals how the Australian Greens are getting involved in PNG politics.

It also discloses that the Greens are very concerned about human rights issues in PNG.

The article is based on an exchange of letters between reader Trevor Freestone and the Australian Greens.

And it shows just what citizens can do with a bit of initiative.

Trevor wrote to Greens leader, Bob Brown (just as he had earlier written to Foreign Affairs Minister, Steven Smith), expressing concern about mining and other issues in PNG.

The responses to both of these letters have given grist to the PNG Attitude mill, as well as making Trevor’s views known in Canberra.

I’d encourage other readers to do likewise.  And to share your correspondence with PNG Attitude.

It’s another way in which you can ensure your voice is heard.

Email action against Harmony & Newcrest


OUR COMMUNITY BASED campaign organisation, ACT NOW! has launched an email action against Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining, owners of the Hidden Valley mine in PNG.

ACT NOW is asking the general public to send messages to the two companies through its website, calling on them to ‘come clean’ about their acidification of the Watut river system.

For too long foreign resource companies operating in PNG have been able to take advantage of our lax environmental monitoring and enforcement and ignore or cover up the problems they cause.

The email action is part of ACT NOW’s wider campaign on corporate responsibility and the need to ensure all persons and organisations follow the PNG Constitution.

If the government cannot, or will not, police these companies operations, then it falls on ordinary citizen’s to make their voices heard.

Members of the public can send their emails by going to

Papua New Guineans are sick and fed up with having to deal with the appalling environmental problems caused by foreign companies operating on our land.

Last week ACT NOW organised a protest in Brisbane against Australian listed mining company Highlands Pacific, after its members had sent 500 emails to the company in protest at its involvement in the Ramu nickel mine which will dump millions of tons of waste into the sea.

Holman paintings restore sight to the blind

Hal_2009 HE GAVE PNG its unique and stylish national crest, and now using his same artistic talents, wants to restore the sight of as many local people as possible.

Hal Holman [right] now lives in Australia but still has the passion and emotional connection with the country which was his home from the pre-independence period until his return when his job was localised during Independence.

Leading his cause is a group of volunteers in Port Moresby that call themselves the Aviat Painters who are currently selling some of Holman’s most magnificent and valued artwork to raise funds to undertake eye operations.

Artists themselves, the group is led by Christine Wilson, who raises funds so that Dr Amyna Sultan at the Pacific International Hospital can carry out free eye operations and provide glasses for local villagers who cannot afford the normal fees.

Somare The colour paintings by Hal Holman include some of his masterpieces that have been used over the years for PNG stamps and for academic purposes and exhibitions. They depict natural settings and the country’s flora and fauna.

The Aviat Painters describe Mr Holman’s gift as his final act of generosity to the country that he loved, adding that he became emotional when he heard the purpose for selling prints of his paintings was to restore the sight of as many blind people as possible as a free service.

“With any luck, Hal Holman’s wonderful donation will mean many more hundreds of Port Moresby people will soon be able to lead meaningful lives again with such a precious gift as sight,” the committee said.

Pastel Warrior So far Dr Amyna has assisted nearly 100 people after they were referred to her by a quadriplegic from Pari village on the outskirts of Port Moresby, Karaho Domisi, who collects names of people who cannot afford the normal fee for operations.

Other artwork by Hal Holman include the frog, dragonfly and praying mantis at the Port Moresby Botanical Gardens plus bronze statues of PNG’s Prime Ministers in the national Parliament.

His other works include the eight-metre high stainless steel bird of paradise statue at the round about on Sir John Guise Drive in Waigani.

Source: PNG Post-Courier, 6 December 2010

Role of the media in a free-speaking society


IT IS IMPORTANT to note that the role the media plays in society is not for them alone, but all professionals and laity and the civil society can also facilitate transparency and awareness of important issues.

The media has an important role to play. It is also a watchdog to expose corruption and safeguard development and investment.

Media in developing countries like PNG and other Pacific island countries have the same roles, but the conditions under which they exercise their profession may vary due to economical and social factors.

The media has no obligation to publicise any specific issue, and addresses each issue when it arises. Media agencies or companies are in the business of generating revenue, often at the expense of good governance, despite giving rebates such as free plugs or coverage up to a certain point.

However, to prevent such outcomes, those in the front line of reporting should impart factual information, report fairly and in a balance manner – and help open up doors to development and investment.

Whilst the media has demonstrated that it can cover global and governance issues, it neglects the potential to be a responsible partner, especially in developing countries such as Papua New Guinea and to an extent the Pacific.

However, this partnership can be strengthened with the media industry and government departments and agencies working to improve their ability to work with each within their regions and abroad to achieve social, economical and political mileage.

Finally, freedom of information and a free media is about upholding the freedom we currently enjoy in a democratic society, as it is about our freedom to express ourselves and be informed appropriately and responsibly.

But is there a limit to freedom of information? And when can information be controlled and tailored to meet demands and needs?

In my view this would be done only when freedom of information is seen to question or overstep the boundaries of national sovereignty and national interest as provided for under section 51 of the PNG Constitution.

So would it be fair to end with this question? Is a free media all about upholding the freedom we currently enjoy as citizens of our democratic societies or is it about our freedom to express ourselves and be informed in any manner or form whatsoever?

Chronox Manek is PNG’s Chief Ombudsman

Source: Conclusion to ‘Freedom of information – challenges and the way forward’, a paper delivered to the Unesco Global World Press Freedom Day Conference, Brisbane, 2 -3 May 2010

Great PNG community spirit in steel city


2010_08142010JuneRose0011 - Copy THERE IS AN ACTIVE and wonderful PNG community society in Newcastle, NSW, one of Australia’s great industrial cities.

The few permanent Papua New Guinean residents provide support, social activities, cultural events and outings for the surprisingly many PNG students studying in the Newcastle area. There is also a Newcastle Manus dancing group which is often invited to perform at various cultural events.

This year the society has organised barbecues, visits to the Kumuls’ international matches and Independence Day celebrations, and it has provided authentic contributions to multicultural events and valuable support to lonely PNG students and visitors.

I am always amazed by the generosity and kindness that many PNG residents of Australia provide to PNG travellers, students, new arrivals and Australians with PNG connections.

2010_08142010JuneRose0024 - Copy We have just attended a farewell barbecue for PNG students from the Newcastle area who are finishing their studies or returning home to PNG for Christmas.

It was very friendly, enjoyable and great fun. Some people came for the first time, including one Australian woman who had spent 32 year in PNG since childhood and had married a Madang man.

She spoke fluent Tok Pisin, and cried when she met many PNG meris who had connections with her family and whom she had never met before. She hadn't realised there was such a vibrant local community group.

Cake One PNG man we met for the first time had attended the same church as my wife, Rose, 20 years ago, and they exchanged many heartfelt reminiscences. He even knew the pastor who conducted our marriage.

Please give support to your local PNG community group - they are found in many parts of Australia, and you will be pleasant surprised. They are doing great work – unsung, under-recognised and completely voluntary.

Memoir of a doctor soldier who did no harm

Dr NX 22 DR NX22, the memoirs of Dr Tom Selby, is based on two books that Tom wrote about his life for friends and family in the 1980s - A Doctor Leaves Port and How to Treat Your Doctor.

In 2008 Benn A Selby (Tom's youngest brother, then aged 93) began the task of arranging for these manuscripts to be edited and combined into one book. The editing was done by author and military historian, Lex McAulay, who also included a number of informative editor's notes.

For two years Benn and Lex worked on this project to bring Tom's singular life story into a form in which it could be made more widely available.

Tom Selby (1908-96) was a multi-facetted Australian personality, who lived life to the full as an Australian doctor and soldier. He lived through the World War I, the Great Depression, pre-war New Guinea and experienced front line combat in the World War II as a member of the Sixth Division in the 2nd AIF.

His career in medicine began as a ship’s doctor. He served on the SS Changte, SS Montoro, MV Parrakoola and RMS Orcades and, from his memoirs, it seems to have been a cavalcade of wild parties and comedic episodes.

The sea voyage to New Guinea in the 1930s introduced him to the world of gold miners, patrol officers and the exploration of that exotic and beautiful country at a time when few white tourists had isited.

He was a passenger in some of the small aircraft that opened up a mountainous and dangerous country.

His book is peppered with his views on the practice of medicine and his guiding principle of “Do No Harm”. Occasionally he is critical of modern trends and fads which he saw as being regressive and bad for patients.

Dr NX22: the Memoirs of Lt Col (Ret) Dr Tom Selby. A project initiated and coordinated by Benn A Selby. Published by the Selby Family. Edited by Lex McAulay OAM - $30 plus $6 postage in Australia. Email [email protected]

PNG writers to benefit from advertising


Att_Dec PNG ATTITUDE circulates to a subscription list of more than 1,000 people, mainly in Australia and PNG, and is estimated to have an aggregate readership of 1400-1500.

As subscribers would know from an email I sent yesterday, from January 2011, the magazine will for the first time carry advertising.

Eventually, it is intended to plough the revenue from this initiative to pay Papua New Guinean contributors for their work in writing for the magazine and this website.

But for the first three months of next year - until next March - all revenue received from advertising will be applied to The Crocodile Prize, the literary contest to encourage PNG writing that is sponsored by PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier.

Readers are invited to contact me here if their organisations, or someone they know, may be interested in advertising in one of more issues of the monthly magazine (advertising is not available on this website).

Advertising details:
Full page ads only
Cost $200 an ad
Supply print ready copy, PDF or JPG
Ads can be in colour
Next deadline, Tuesday 4 January 2011
Next issue, Saturday 8 January 2011

Seeking a fundraiser for a truly great cause


Montevideo Maru Capetown,  1926 HERE’S A RATHER unusual request one of our Australian-based readers may be able to assist with.

A recent meeting of the executive committee of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, of which I’m President, agreed it needs to place more emphasis on fundraising for a memorial planned to be established at the Australian War Memorial in 2012.

While the Society is finishing 2010 with more than $160,000 in the bank, thanks to great efforts by its members and a generous federal government grant, a similar result will be required in 2011 and then another $100,000 in 2012 if the memorial is to be constructed.

The committee established the new position of Vice-President (Funding), and it was agreed the occupant will need to be appointed from outside the current committee.

I will be delighted to hear from people, preferably with fundraising experience, who are interested in this vital and rewarding position. You can email me here.

Most committee business is conducted by email as members are located all over Australia. The position will receive substantial support from experienced committee members in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society was established to ensure national recognition and commemoration of the tragedies that ensued after the Japanese invasion of the New Guinea Islands in early 1942, including Australia’s greatest maritime disaster, the sinking of the Montevideo Maru with the loss of more than 1,000 lives.

TV tonight: The amazing birds of paradise

Greater Bird of Paradise SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH takes viewers on a journey through a riot of colour, plumage and exotic behaviour deep within the forests of PNG as we go in search of the ultimate bird of paradise.

PNG has some of the wildest, least explored places on the planet and is covered in tropical forest, with an abundance of fruit and other food supplies.

With no significant predators, the birds of paradise have evolved in a super abundance of colour and plumes found nowhere else on Earth. These birds have long fascinated Sir David and he has made many trips to film them.

This natural history documentary picks up where he left off, following two local experts, Paul Igag and Miriam Sumpa, as they attempt to film as many of these birds as possible.

The birds of paradise form an important part of rituals and festivals. Attending such a gathering, Paul and Miriam attempt to identify the array of feathers found in these tribal adornments, to work out which birds are most threatened by hunting.

The displays are mesmerising – the appropriately named male Superb Bird of Paradise transforms his upper body into a reflective bowl of incandescent black and green feathers, while two bright green false eyes stare at the focus of his desire.

The Lawes’ parotia has a different strategy – he is a master of detail who meticulously moves leaves so that he can dance unimpeded. Rising up, he extends his feathered skirt and performs a dance that is the envy of any ballerina.

As PNG develops, there is an increased pressure on the forests and the birds. Very little is known about birds behaviour, and the research carried out by the team could prove vital when it comes to protecting them.

Birds Of Paradise, ABC-TV1, Tonight 7:30pm

Spotter: Peter Kranz

Image: Hal Holman

Mining development accelerates into 2011


BROUGHT ON STREAM in June of last year, Morobe Mining joint venture's Hidden Valley gold mine brings to seven the number of mines operating in PNG, with several major projects likely to add to that total in the foreseeable future.

After some delays earlier this year, the Ramu nickel-cobalt project now seems set to start production in the first quarter of 2011, with plant commissioning well underway.

Ramu represents a significant diversification for PNG in terms of the country's historical focus on copper and gold, with production of nickel and cobalt.

Nonetheless, copper and gold remain the major targets for most of the nearly 80 companies that have active exploration licences in PNG, with projects ranging in size from grassroots prospecting to the late-stage evaluation of bulk-tonnage porphyry- and epithermal-hosted resources.

As well as its interest in Ramu with China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC), Highlands Pacific is in partnership with Xstrata and Ok Tedi Mining at Frieda River, where last year's exploration resulted in a significant increase in resources.

Nor is it just newcomers that are evaluating known resources. With open-pit mining currently scheduled to end in 2013, Ok Tedi Mining is now assessing the feasibility of extending the life of the operation in the Western Highlands to 2020.

If this proves viable, a combination of open-pit and underground mining will continue to produce copper and gold. An additional benefit, the company says, will be the production of substantial tonnages of limestone that can be used as dump-capping material during minesite remediation after closure.

Ok Tedi Mining is also beginning exploration elsewhere in PNG, having signed two farm-in agreements with Frontier Resources. The first covers Frontier's Bulago gold prospect in the Western Highlands, while under the second, Ok Tedi can earn up to 80% in Frontier's three copper prospects on New Britain.

On the corporate front, this year's most significant event was undoubtedly the merger between PNG-based Lihir Gold and Australia's largest gold producer, Newcrest Mining. With its increased presence in PNG, Newcrest listed its shares on the Port Moresby stock exchange in August, becoming the largest company listed on the exchange.

With its Kainantu mine currently on care-and-maintenance, Barrick Gold Corp has been focusing its exploration effort on Porgera.

In the Tabar Islands, Allied Gold has been carrying out a prefeasibility study on gold resources beneath its Simberi open-pit mine, where a processing-capacity expansion is scheduled for the end of 2011. It is also continuing exploration for both copper and gold on the Tabar and Tatau Islands.

On Woodlark Island, Woodlark Mining has begun a feasibility study on its gold project, having completed a scoping study.

Beneath the Bismarck Sea, Nautilus Minerals began its 2010 exploration campaign in October, targeting better knowledge of the resource and geotechnical aspects of its Solwara 1 mine-development site. The company has identified 18 seabed sulphide systems within the Bismarck Sea area, having discovered five new zones in 2009.

At Amazon Bay, MIL Resources has now received an engineering and metallurgical study on its vanadium-rich beach-sands resource. In August, MIL increased its ownership of Titan Metals, the licence-holder at Amazon Bay, from 50% to 100%, thereby gaining access to the other prospects within Titan's exploration portfolio, including the Poi copper-gold prospect - "a major exploration target".

On the Morobe coast, OM Materials Holdings is targeting chromite resources in beach sands at Sachsen and Hessen Bays. Resource Mining Corp recently expanded the drilling program at its Wowo Gap nickel laterite project, while the current focus of Papuan Precious Metals' work is its Doriri Creek platinum-group metals prospect.

PNG has a history of mining that goes back to the late 1800s, often centred on goldfields that are being re-evaluated today. One thing is clear: much of PNG's mineral wealth remains to be discovered and with the present improvements in the regulatory climate they are more attractive than ever.

Magnus Ericsson is senior partner and co-founder of the Swedish-based Raw Materials Group, pioneers in mining data compilation and analysis

Independent aid review gets down to work

THE AUSTRALIAN Government’s independent panel undertaking a review on the future direction of Australia's aid program has started work and is scheduled to report in April 2011.

The review panel is consulting extensively across government, non-government and other key stakeholders in the Australian community to examine whether current systems, policies and procedures maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of the aid program.

Its outcomes will help guide the future policy direction of Australia's aid program.

Hollway_Sandy The review panel members are Sandy Hollway AO [right], Dr Stephen Howes, Margaret Reid AO, Bill Farmer AO and John Denton.

The panel welcomes concise, written public submissions, which will need to be sent to the panel before 2 February 2011. You can find out more about the review and about how to make submissions here.

This is the first independent public review of the aid program commissioned by the Australian Government since 1996. It will draw on international experience and make recommendations regarding program structure and planning, implementation and review arrangements.

In particular the review will focus on the structure and performance of the aid program and lessons learned from Australia's approach to aid delivery. It will also look at the appropriateness of current arrangements.

Spotter: Bill McGrath

December's PNG Attitude magazine, 48 pages of it, was sent to subscribers yesterday.  You can subscribe for free - and join the 1,000+ people who keep up to date with developments in the PNG-Australia relationship - simply by sending your name and email address here.

Portrait of a parable


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

I wrote this short story at a time when there was so much uncertainty in writing and publishing in our part of the world. The PNG as much as the Australian writer in those days felt hesitant somewhat with subject matter. Not many of us, except Trevor Shearston perhaps, succeeded in getting a manuscript through to an Australian publisher, other than what writers like myself and John Kolia could produce through places like the Institute of Papua New Guinea Studies.

We wanted to write novels and short stories, plays and poems. Not research material or dissertations. Hence, the need there was to venture out and publish elsewhere.

But I see positive "attitudes" taking form nowadays. Look at how comfortably Scott Waide writes. He's bound to write a good short story shortly. We want that. In my days it was too much experimentation with the craft of writing instead of producing the art itself. "Portrait of a Parable" is an example of such experimentation with the short story format. I like it because it explores, it endeavours to discover, and what it discovers tends to come back to the writer. It is a shocker, I know. But in my opinion that is what a short story should look like.

- Russell Soaba


I CARRIED the carton of beer.  Sheila carried her bilum of dimdim food, and we came out of the supermarket and walked into the late evening sun.

I suggested that we should catch a cab since it was going to be a long walk for us to the house.  Sheila tried to remind me about the amount of money we had lost that week through such fancy extravagances, but I insisted and would not give in.

She was afraid of that persistence and determination in me.  I wished things and even willed them to be and there was nothing she could do about them.

If I wanted a cab, she would be most unwise to say no.  If I wanted time to stand still, it would; and if it didn’t, I would violently attack anyone who would dare argue that not even time would obey my orders.

Sheila broke into a sweat, sighed, then reluctantly waved a cab over.

When I was six years old I dug an okapi knife into the soil and stood back admiring it.  The sharp blade was pointing towards me.  Someone asked what I was doing with the knife and I replied that I was preparing to kick it with my bare feet.

The person asking the question looked at me for a long time then shook his head.  I waited for him to speak again, for he was an adult, but he only stared at me with his mouth wide open.

Then, as if aware of what I was going to do, the whole of the village populace came and surrounded me.  Everyone stood still and watched.

‘I bet you, you wouldn’t kick the knife,’ teased a boy older than I.  ‘I will kick it,’ was my calm reply.  ‘You will do no such thing,’ bellowed someone in front of me.

‘You will get hurt,’ pleaded someone else from behind me.  ‘I am going to kick the knife,’ was my final reply.

A moment of great silence descended upon the village.  I waited.

When no one else spoke I ran and kicked the knife with my right foot.  The women screamed, some of them burying their faces in their palms and turning away.  The men rushed over to see if I would faint, or drop dead on the spot.  I remained on my feet, calm as ever.

‘He’s mad,’ screeched a girl, a teenager, and fainted at the sight of the blood.  ‘Quick, get a bucket of water,’ ordered a man.  ‘Get some clean bandages,’ said a woman.

‘Boil the water before washing his wound.’  ‘You are hurt,’ said one of my sisters.  ‘No I’m not,’ I shook my head, folded my arms.

‘You are sick,’ said my brothers.  ‘Something’s got inside you.’  ‘I am not sick nor am I possessed, thank you, Gregory and Arthur.’

My mother came and slapped me hard on both cheeks.  ‘Cry!’ she ordered.  I disobeyed her command and smiled.

She fled, screaming and tearing at her hair.  My father caught her before she could throw herself to the ground or begin rolling in the pig ponds.

Afterwards, my father marched up to me, waving a strong fist in the air.  ‘I will kill you, I will murder you, you little devil,’ he shouted.

‘O shame, shame be upon my household,’ I heard my mother wailing in the distance.

My brothers and sisters, armed with a towel, a first-aid kit, and a bucket of hot water, came and tended the wounds of the son.

Continue reading "Portrait of a parable" »

Those gorgeous & unattainable ladies of PNG


Kapiak Tree I’M AN OLD BLOKE now but I still enjoy going down to the Hervey Bay Esplanade occasionally for a coffee and to watch the pretty girls go by.  With summer coming on the scenery is improving day by day.

My good wife is very tolerant.  She enjoys the coffee, and the dogs like the stroll.  Besides, there are, on my wife’s authority, some good looking guys down there too.  It’s a harmless indulgence for both of us I guess.

Watching the scenery of the female persuasion has been a lifelong hobby and it’s probably the same for most men (getting some of them to admit it is a different matter, however).

I was staying in the TravelLodge in Moresby a few years ago and one evening I inadvertently stepped into a lift full of entrants in that year’s Miss PNG competition.  Talk about palpitations!  And they were all very polite and very smart to boot.

In olden times PNG, the par excellence of the species were the mixed race girls.  That combination of PNG, Europe and Asia produced young women of exceptional beauty.

Most district centres boasted a few, along with their tyrannical fathers - hell bent on keeping them away from the ravenous clutches of young kiaps and chalkies.  Woe betide anyone who transgressed. 

I guess that also increased their allure.  The fame associated with those lucky buggers who wrangled their way past the deadly paternal minders lives on in legend.

Sitting on the sidelines and admiring these exquisite creatures, one was wont to wonder what made them tick and what they thought about it all.  Did they enjoy the cattle market atmosphere or did they abhor it?  Was it all as it seemed or were there hidden undercurrents?

The answers, at least in part, can be found in Anna Chu’s memoir, Kapiak Tree (kapiak = breadfruit, not quite an apple but you see what I mean).  And she names names too.

A certain rotund Assistant District Commissioner ,of my acqaintance, who had been a bit of a tennis star in his youth, is mentioned.

“At the club one night ‘A’ offered to walk me home.  We held hands and all that…..’

“And all that” – how good is that?

And then there was ‘B’, of not too recent ultra conservative political fame in Oz, who pursued Anna relentlessly for many years without apparent success.

Anna says that along the Sepik “in the eyes of the local people there were good kiap(s) and bad kiap(s).  The good ones were those who didn’t play up with the local girls”.

By her own account the latter seemed to be in a minority.  And it wasn’t just the kiaps, every man and his dog seemed to be at it.  Hooray for Mother Nature!

The marriages, liaisons, affairs, divorces, bust-ups and separations detailed in Kapiak Tree are mind boggling, not the least those in which she was personally involved.  Elsewhere she talks about what she calls the three Bs: booze, buai and bonking.

To those of us with prissy minds, Anna’s revelations may appear a bit tawdry.  To some they will just confirm our misconceptions about mixed race people; the misconceptions that ultimately set them up as a race apart.

As I recall the strict social hierarchy went like this: European, Chinese, Mixed Race, Educated Papua New Guinean, Bush Kanaka.

Anna’s father was Chu Leong from Canton, well known to J K McCarthy and eulogised by him in an article in the Post-Courier in 1972.  Her mother was Elekana (Akiria Apotapu) of Banaro on the Keram River, a tributary of the Sepik. 

Elekana came to live with Chu Leong when she was fifteen as a default payment for a suitcase that her father had bought on credit from Chu Leong’s trade store.  When she was nineteen they were formally married in the District Office in Madang.  Anna (Mai Foung Chu) was born at Marienberg on the Sepik in 1942, where her father had become the local trader.

The book is not long at 122 pages; it reads well and has a mix of attention-grabbing photographs and some interesting endnotes.  Its value, I think, is as a record of a largely ignored group of people in PNG.  Many of them now live in places like Cairns and Townsville, comfortable in the climate and the company of their extended families and acquaintances.

If Anna’s story is anything to go by, the past lives of mixed race people in PNG, and even now for all I know, were so vibrant that they make the Bold and the Beautiful positively anaemic by comparison. 

More than that, however, and until something more definitive comes along, Anna’s little book is an important historical document.

‘Kapiak Tree’ by Anna Chu (2008) is published by Maskimedia in Cairns.  It is available through for $28, including postage and handling.  Maskimedia is owned by Martin Kerr, whose exploits along the Sepik are described in his recently republished 1970s ‘New Guinea Patrol’

Aussie aid workers get boots muddy in PNG


AAP - AUSTRALIAN AID to PNG is going back to the future with health patrols to isolated villages retracing steps made more than 60 years ago when Australia brought the New World to locals.

Patrol officers, known as Kiaps, were the young Australian officials who often trekked for days in the harsh PNG environment spreading notions of government and law and order to villagers who had never seen white faces before.

While a product of bygone colonial era, the Kiaps brought much-needed health supplies, new tools, provided basic education and prolonged villagers' life expectancy.

The reality now for the majority of PNG villagers is that consecutive PNG governments since independence in 1975 have failed to deliver in these areas despite huge resource revenues.

Provincial governments and local level governments also struggle to provide the most basic of essentials to PNG's six million people, of which 85% live in rural subsistence farming settings.

With the Kiap now a distant memory and Canberra wanting to avoid any accusation of "paternalism" towards its former territory, PNG is now filled with swarms of highly paid advisers and consultants who rarely get their boots muddy or leave their air-conditioned Port Moresby offices.

The experts have no shortage of goodwill plans, development strategies and policies to get PNG on track, but despite billions of dollars in aid and decades of government 'capacity building', PNG languishes with some of the world's worst social, health and education indicators.

But late last month, in a significant shift of approach, an Australian group comprising a special forces soldier and government doctor and nurse team helped PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) medics treat 206 people for various ailments in the Goilala District, Central Province.

The Australian aid agency, AusAID, sponsored the mission, along with three previous treks.

In pouring rain, the team trekked for a week through the rugged Owen Stanley ranges doing everything from immunising children to treating cuts and blisters and providing medicines for arthritis, malaria and intestinal worms.

Goilala district administrator Titus Girau, who trekked with the team, said it was inspiring not just for local administrators but for villagers who rarely see outsiders.

"When I was a boy going to school in the '70s we had regular Kiap patrols in the district but in the 80s and early 90s much of this stopped because the government just couldn't do it.

"This recent effort really helps to lift morale of the district.

"Health and education is vital in the rural setting and sadly we've failed to provide these basic services but this patrol motivates the district and administrators to get on top of the issue," he said.

Mr Girau said the lack of basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity kept villagers stuck in a time warp.

"How can things improve when the most basic of human rights or living standards don't exist?" he said.

Head of AusAID in PNG, Stephanie Copus-Campbell, said Australia's support for foot patrols was part of a "significant shift" in the agency's approach to helping the PNG government provide better services.

"We are sharpening our focus to work more directly on the ground, there is a significant reorientation to work at the sub-national (government) level to see on the ground results," she said.

Ms Copus-Campbell said the shift was part of a gradual policy change but acknowledged it was also in response to this year's independent review recommending Australia focus on where it could make the biggest difference.

The report also found "widespread dissatisfaction" from both sides with Australia's annual $457 million PNG aid program and has since resulted in a third of all advisers being cut.

"We are focused on achieving results, and my job is to ensure we use our resources and expertise to have better outcomes," she said.

"There is no point in having aid posts in remote areas if they are not manned or stocked with drugs, these sort of patrols build capacity in the provincial and local governments to fulfill their role and to revitalise health in the rural setting," she said.

She said four foot patrols had been held in Central Province so far, and there were plans to trial similar approaches in other provinces.

A novel of today’s PNG & impotent Australia


Distrust Territory DONALD DENOON is an historian interested in political development in Papua New Guinea and his novel, Distrust Territory, is set in modern PNG.

The narrative of the novel, while interesting in itself, is primarily a vehicle for exploring the relationship between PNG, Australia and the behemoth to the west, Indonesia.

Donald has a wry sense of humour which made his earlier history of PNG, A Trial Separation, an easy and enjoyable read. He also has other histories to his credit, including Getting Under the Skin, about the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville.

Distrust Territory is, I think, his second novel. The first, Afterlife, was about St Peter calling in a management consultant to reorganise Heaven.  That might give you an idea of the sense of the ridiculous that Donald uses to good effect in this new book.

The story involves a teacher, Allan, who once taught in PNG, and his naive daughter, Rebecca, who manages to get herself beaten up by bird smugglers somewhere near the West Papuan border.

The incident sparks alarm bells in the intelligence communities of all three countries and opens a floodgate of absurdities that these kinds of happenings often generate.

Along the way we also get a view of the parlous state of PNG, its bleak future and Australia’s role in the whole thing.

Australia is depicted as an impotent bystander growing weary of propping up a failed state, and with no desire to take on another basket case like a free West Papua.

The Australian view is that the gradual takeover of PNG by Indonesia is inevitable and the name of the game is not to rock the boat or upset anyone while this happens. This view is a bit dated, given the emergence of China in the Pacific, but the mechanics are the same.

This and other issues are explored largely through monologues spoken by the key characters.  Some of these are quite long, and the author has indented them in paragraphs reminiscent of a work of non-fiction.

I’m not sure that this works that well because it is sometimes difficult to identify who is actually speaking and it’s necessary to re-read passages to get things right.

Some of the monologues involve old cherries, like whether PNG became independent too soon.  I doubt whether the average person in PNG thinks much about this issue. The only people who can’t seem to let it go are the retiring boomers in Australia who once worked in PNG and have reached that reflective state that seems to inevitably afflict the elderly.

Perhaps this geriatric analysis is driven by a sense of guilt, the need for absolution and the laying of blame at someone else’s door.  Whatever the cause, the fact is that in PNG the question is irrelevant.

The vehicle for this particular monologue is a grizzled ex-kiap working in Foreign Affairs. He is delightfully described as a ‘retreaded kiap’.

There is a Papua New Guinean love interest, an exploration of various relationships and a resolution of sorts - which takes a re-reading to get straight (perhaps I’m just dumb?).

It’s a good book, not too long (199 pages) and there is plenty of fodder to make the brain cells work.  Hopefully the author will do it again soon.

The book is a joint publishing venture between the UPNG Press & Bookshop and Masalai Press, curiously based in Oakland, California – maybe it’s a front for the CIA?  In any case, all power to UPNG Press & Bookshop.

Distrust Territory by Donald Denoon (2010) is co-published by UPNG Press & Bookshop and Masalai Press. Available through or at Amazon for about $30 plus postage and handling.

Professor Judy & the power of community


PROFESSOR JUDY ATKINSON is recognised as a world authority on trauma in indigenous cultures and in the healing process required to recover individuals, families and communities from a vicious cycle of violence and abuse.

Indigenous concepts of healing are based on addressing the relationship between the spiritual, emotional and physical. An essential element is recognising the interconnection between violence, social and economic disadvantage, racism, and dispossession from land and culture.

Violence and abuse have become a part of PNG families and communities. Men, women and children suffer from the effects of extreme violence and substance abuse.

At CUMA [the Children’s University of Music and Art] we were appalled at the number of children regularly abused in the home and on the street; and we desperately sought some sort of miracle to rid our community of violence - to save our kids.

Children cannot learn properly when they are victims of abuse; it lowers their self esteem and renders some almost incoherent. It is seen in the way the children interact.

We were so fortunate to meet Professor Judy because her daughter, Dr Carlie, was a friend to CUMA who helped us with many projects within the Kaugere Community.

In October 2009, Professor Judy and two facilitators from Southern Cross University (Carey and Judy K) arrived in Kaugere and conducted a five- day workshop with the CUMA children, parents, street boys and community leaders.

Judy uses the healing power of art (music, painting, writing) as a means of recreating spirit. It changed our community forever.



RECENTLY, in a dusty settlement in Port Moresby, a silent revolution took place. Over 80 residents of Kaugere, considered a notorious breeding ground for raskols, met daily to find ways to heal themselves after generations of trauma and abuse.

A group from Southern Cross University in New South Wales, led by Professor Judy Atkinson, conducted a five day Family Violence Community Recovery workshop with the men, women and children of the community. It was a painful yet uplifting journey as victims and perpetrators alike shared their stories of the past and dreams for the future.

The community asked to be taught about human rights, the rights of the child and the United Nations declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, relative to their lives. They placed human rights in the context of their own behaviour towards their children, violence against women and community violence.

Professor Atkinson said the workshop was highly successful and the community indicated that they would like access to further education to develop deeper skills in the area of family violence.

“I’ve never seen a group of men and women so committed to come together to talk about violence in their community. The community was not only committed to change their own circumstances, but circumstances like theirs across PNG,” she said.

The venue for this ‘revolution’ was the Children’s University of Music and Art, CUMA, a fee-free community school founded by Peter and Lydia Kailap at the beginning of this year. Perched near the top of the hill, commanding million dollar views, the school is for the most part a ramshackle structure of bush timber and tarps, reflecting the style of housing that surrounds it. The gem that stands out is the new, professionally built classroom of finished hewn timber and hardwood decking.

Peter, an accomplished musician and artist from the Gulf province, and Lydia, a former chef and accountant from Australia, have lived at Kaugere for the past five years. During that time they have seen the same traumas repeatedly occurring around them: neglected and abused children and women, maltreated at the hands of men, often victims themselves; disengagement from society; hopelessness. They saw a need and a way to help the children and improve their prospects, restore hope.

“This was a community on the edge of change. They grabbed hold of the opportunity to learn and grow with surprising outcomes,” Professor Atkinson said.

The journey of self-discovery that the people of Kaugere have taken this week will surely lead to positive changes in their self image and eventually how others see the people of Kaugere. This coupled with the self-driven community development plan they have implemented sets an example for all of Port Moresby and indeed PNG.

The author is the community liaison officer with the Australian High Commission, Port Moresby.


The funds for this workshop were supplied by Southern Cross University at a budget of only $15,000. The professor and her team were housed and taken care of by Dr Carlie, and the ladies at CUMA did all of the catering, so costs were kept as low as possible.

The beauty of Professor Judy’s workshops is in the “total involvement with the community”. She does not walk in and identify problems and then tell everyone how to fix them.

The community is guided and educated and allowed to identify the problems for themselves, and are then allowed to formulate solutions that are workable and suit their community.

It was a beautiful experience to witness the change it made in the lives of people in our community and the lives of our precious children. Kaugere is now a safer place for men, women and children; a place where human rights are recognized and respected; a place where violence is not accepted as it once was.

It would be wonderful to see communities all across PNG benefit from this simple and effective response to the enormous problem of violence in families and communities.

If only eyes could see and ears could hear!

Babies die while politicians hike their pay


IT WAS 2002 - election year with campaign efforts at their peak - when, after a six hour trek though the jungle, I arrived at a school in the Tekin Valley in remote Oksapin in the Sandaun Province in north-west PNG.

The rain had just stopped when I began an interview with a local teacher, one of the few government representatives in this isolated part of PNG. The only government aid post in his village had closed a few years ago. The orderly left for the provincial capital, Vanimo, and never returned.

I wanted to know about infant and maternal mortality rates. At the time the teacher was the only person who could give me a fair analysis of the situation. Having come from Port Moresby where one relies on accessible and “reliable” statistics, I got straight into asking a series of questions to establish the number of mothers and children who had died in the last 12 months.

“We really don’t know,” he said. “We only know of those who died in this village and the next.”

He counted three infants and one mother who had died in his village in that election month alone. They died of complications that could have been remedied if they had easy access to a sub-health centre or even a medical orderly.

The nearest health center was a day’s walk from where we were. It would take two days to get there. But for pockets of small hamlets in the far off distance, getting to that health centre was an impossible dream.

The teacher couldn’t give me an exact number of children who died in the last 12 months. But he gave me an educated guess. He said between 15 and 30 babies die every year.

“Too many,” he said shaking his head. “Too many.”

He went on to tell me that people had come to accept the deaths of babies as part of their lives. In nearby villages, families would gather for the death of a respected elder. But for a baby who died at birth, only the father and the mother would be at the burial.

The father would take the tiny body to the back of the hut and bury it there. No one mourned. They were just nameless babies who would not even be recorded as statistics.

In the same year, I found myself in another part of Sandaun Province at a small government aid post. Half the concrete floor had collapsed. The medicine cabinet had only malarial tablets and liniment.

The medical orderly told me that a child had died 24 hours ago from dehydration. By the time he had been brought to the aid post, the orderly could not administer treatment. The child’s father came at the aid post a few minutes later and was told by the orderly: “If you want your son to live, run to the health center.”

The orderly said he got word in the afternoon that the father had made it to health centre but the child had died in his arms.

The situation may have improved in those areas but in other places it remains a reality for ordinary Papua New Guineans. What matters most to the ordinary person in the village are roads, bridges schools, good health services and most importantly, the ability to make money.

In 2008, the Treasury released figures which showed how much money was being wasted. The 68-page report outlined how the government more than doubled spending from K202 million to K478 million. The expenses included car purchases, a K12M Canberra residence, K100,000 for pipes and drums for the Correctional Services Band and K65,000 for the Institute of Medical Research’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

In 2009, Members of Parliament paid themselves K10 million in accommodation and motor vehicle allowances. One government backbencher said immediately after the decision that he would “give all the allowances back to parliament.” In contrast, then Public Service Minister (now Treasurer), Peter O’Neill, said allowances which MPs were getting were “far below what was needed to meet the amounts charged by real estate companies.”

Meanwhile hospitals around PNG were experiencing a dire shortage of drugs and medical supplies. It was also a year when several hundred settlers were made homeless in Port Moresby after police raids. A year in which Papua New Guineans struggled with high food costs.

Now Members of Parliament have again just voted to give themselves a 52% pay rise. On average each MP will get about K77,000 annually.

All this against a gloomy backdrop of high infantry mortality and new outbreaks of cholera in the country.

Courageous Tiffany to speak in Melbourne


ALL CONSCIENTIOUS READERS of this website (where are you Dexter Bland?) would know that at present in PNG there is a huge and dirty legal battle being waged in Madang Province between landowners and the Chinese-dominated Ramu nickel mine.

The main bone of contention concerns deep sea tailings waste disposal proposed by the mine. But there are other issues that strike deeper into the social and moral fabric of PNG.

The case before the National Court is high profile and got a lot of media in recent times when the original three landowner plaintiffs failed to appear in court and suddenly dropped the case a day or two later. Coercion and bribery have been alleged.

Fortunately, other landowner plaintiffs stepped into the breach with their own concerns and a new case is set for hearing early in 2011 with over 100 plaintiffs to the case.

Tiffany Nonggorr, the PNG-based Australian lawyer and a woman who is withstood the onslaught of personal threat and public derision, is in Melbourne this week and will talk about the case in a seminar at Victoria University.

Tiffany will also discuss issues such as the accountability of the PNG government, the Department of Environment and Conservation and the Mineral Resource Development Company (“the trustee of the people’s resources of PNG”), and the many implications of the case.

The case has already prompted the PNG government to make major amendments to its own Environment Act, a move which sparked huge public debate, demonstrations and outcry by many Papua New Guineans. The Act is now being challenged on the grounds of contravening people’s constitutional rights.

Tiffany Nonggorr will speak at the Victoria University City Campus, 300 Elizabeth Street, City [Level 11, Room 1107] - Thursday 2 December: 6.30-7.30 pm

RSVP and further information from Deb Chapman on 0401091435 or [email protected]