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A ‘gross injustice’, claims sidelined Somare

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.


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Colin Hayward (who used to try to teach English)

Well, whatever. Somare doesn't have to worry about any of that any more.

Maybe his rellies and wantoks may have a few probs with the property he gave them (all Australian aid money) - but so what Somare was a 'big man tru' and why shouldn't he knock off a few million (or trillion).

And besides that he was a member of the Bully Beef Club when he was at Admin College. He had some very caring teachers at Sogeri.

Great Colin, I've sent that off for interpretation and fact checking. The poor bastard I sent may be some time - KJ

Arthur Williams

It makes me feel ill to see the writhing antics of the once honoured Chief in his attempts to stay justice on his continual breaching of the law on the requirement for leaders to make annual full financial returns.

It seems to me he was trying desperately to stay in office until election time when he could step down and so avoid the penalties of his repeated offences.

His corrupt attitude has filtered down over the years to almost every sector of the public service and today we even read of such evil behaviour in his backyard of the East Sepik. Were there ever any prosecutions, sackings after the detailed report into financial corruption there?

He appears tired as he staggers from courtroom to courtroom trying to delay the final judgement. He went on television and radio to tell ‘his’ people how he had been denied access to a judge; yet today we hear his appeal was accepted by Justice Salika but the Chief declined the offer.

Why - because of Somare’s disgraceful conduct in the Moti Case, which was reported on by that judge.

He has manipulated Parliament and its MPs like ignorant children but the cost of this to PNG runs into many billions of kina unaccounted for, and with luxury overseas homes and flashy lifestyles for many of his cronies.

May God forgive him and perhaps allow PNG to have a better Parliament after he has gone!

Arthur Williams

Too true, Chief! PNG has certainly changed.

But what you failed to tell the people was:

-- millions of cubic meters of logs have left the PNG forest.

--thousands of millions of oil has left PNG ground.

-- thousands of millions of copper, gold, silver and other minerals have left PNG ground.

-- millions of cubic meters of palm oil have left PNG land.

-- millions of tonnes of other primary products too have left PNG land.

-- unknown amounts, because of illegal catching of fish, have also left PNG oceans.

Where did it all go?

Many villagers are still subsistent farmers and/or fisher people. Hospitals lack basic drugs and cancer equipment. Not every province has even one library. Many do not have a fire station. Aid posts have closed since 1975. So have airstrips, wharves and jetties.

Schools are run down and many lack basic libraries, while so called secondary schools have no science or technical classrooms and equipment. The police are living in poor rotting accommodation and lack 21st century technical support even resorting to the old fashioned manual checking of fingerprints for matching details. Never hear of DNA data being available.

Local coastal shipping has almost disappeared from many small islands. Roads are a sorry reflection of infrastructure decay. Even the main Okuk Highway, the lifeline of millions is in a third class state, while off the main routes stranded vehicles daily declare the same lack of interest in the people by Waigani.

Yes Chief PNG has changed! Sadly.

Colin Huggins

Peter Kranz - For God's sake, just take a tablet and relax.
Or maybe a good glass of Australian red (I could be presumptious and suggest various vineyards but will spare you that).

What was, in pre-independence days and before, are things of the past that no-one can change. Isn't there an expression "shit happens"?

And I do wish the best of good fortune to you as you are going to PNG and straighten out the mess. Good luck.

The Finschhafen and Pindiu Kid 1963/69. Oh yes, I am proud of my efforts in the then TPNG.

Peter Kranz

OK Keith, maybe it is a sweeping generalisation to say that Australians in PNG before Independence were racists, so I retract that.

But some were, most definitely. And some still are.

I've met a few of the old dinosaurs who still manage to live there. I was in a shop once in Konedobu and one old expat shopowner who was dissatisfied with his worker pulled out a gun and told a PNG worker "Get this f****** thing right now for this customer or you are fired!".

I was ashamed for my race and my country.

Keith - can I say one last thing. In my experience, PNG people are much less 'racist' (whatever that means) than Australians.

There's something there for Father Christmas to ponder on.

God Bless! I'm off to PNG.

True. Some Australians were racist, some still are, and these people do cause us shame as a nation (and cause me, as an individual, despair).

When I arrived in Kundiawa in 1964, the Chimbu Club was one of only three multi-racial clubs in the Territory. That said, there were contributing factors other than racism that led to this situation.

In the ensuing years, thankfully, there was a significant shift away from this ethnocentric view of living in PNG - KJ

Peter Kranz

KJ - maybe, but I am speaking from the things that I have heard from PNG people - friends and relatives. Local people were not admitted to the Clubs (Aviat, RPYC, RSL etc), were not allowed to own land in POM, live in "white" areas, and were subject to different laws.

Maybe I and they are wrong, but let's check the evidence first.

Peter Kranz

There is even a Tok Pisin phrase for this - "Taim bilong Masta". One of my good PNG friends advised, "Peter, never use this phrase".

Some of my lapun bubus called me 'Masta" once and I told them off for this. "Mi tok nau - no man na meri kan tok 'masta biliong yu'. Yu nokan tok displa tok. Dis nogat."

[I'm telling you, nobody can call me 'your masta'. You can't say that. No! - KJ]

(Sori tru, my Pisin is not up to scratch.)

'Taim Bilong Masta' was, of course, the title of Tim Bowden's definitive ABC radio series on pre-independence PNG.

I happened to have the last word in this series, at the very end of the final program, and here's what I said in that interview 30 years ago:

"Like a lot of Australians I have a respect verging on love for that country. I will always regard it as having a very important part in my life, perhaps the most important because I was there from when I was 18 until I was 31.

"They were very important years, the years in which I developed my career, married and started a family - the formative years of anybody's life. When they happen in a particular environment like that you can't just walk away from it without feeling a great deal of emotion, and the way I felt was reflected in my son.

"We took off in the jet, and Simon who was sitting beside me in the aeroplane started to cry. I said to him, 'What's wrong? Are you frightened?' He said, 'No, I'm leaving home.' And that's exactly how I felt." - KJ

Peter Kranz

Maybe this is relevant:

Yes, the Australians in PNG before Independence were racist. PNG people couldn't go into certain clubs and areas, were restricted from certain activities, and were prevented from political association.

The first delegation of PNG leaders taken to Australia in the late 1960's to 'learn' about Parliamentary democracy from Canberra were prevented at first from entering Australia, because of the White Australia policy. (Ironic)

I can provide references for this if you want. No point in denying this.

Somare may be inaccurate in his historical references, but the gist of what he says is true.

It's a sweeping generalisation, and untrue, to state that "the Australians in PNG before Independence were racist". But I'm sure readers will have something to say about this - KJ

Ian Robertson

In December 1958, the only sign that I saw at Ela Beach stated "European Swimming Only" and was adjacent to the change shed. Whilst not politically correct it is a long way from the very racist term reported by Peter Kailap.

I have a photograph of the sign (actually an old 35mm slide). The photograph includes very young friends of mine Clarrie Burke and Eric Johns.

Perhaps there were earlier signs of which I am not aware, but I personally believe the reported signs were an urban myth - I had heard the story whilst I lived in PNG but knew of no-one who could actually recall the signs.

P Pronis

Recent long delays to get my relatives issued with visas to come to Oz has prompted me to raise this concern to all Kumuls.

PNG is now classified Category D by Aussie Foreign Services. PNG is in the same category as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran etc. These countries are considered highly dangerous and problematic. Visa processing now takes one week before approval is given.

This is to ensure proper background checks are made, whether people have sufficient funds to travel to Oz, whether their relatives in Oz are able to support them etc.

As PNG is Category D, there will continue to be delay after delay at the Aussie High Commission in Port Moresby. I was saddened to see my birth countryman standing for hours on end like cattle to be loaded on the road trains.

I had tears in my eyes to see them standing in long windy lines. Many stand for days on end only to be told by the PNG locally-engaged persons at the High Commission
to go away and come back later.

Is everyone aware that PNG is now considered not a safe country; that it is a Category D listing country; that it is a volatile and highly dangerous country; that it is unsafe to travel and work in?

Yet Aussie companies are flocking to PNG because there is money to be made; yet Kumuls cannot get free access to Oz!

I recently took a road trip on the Hiritano to my home ples at Orokolo Bay, Gulf Province. I had no problems except for the car jacking in POM, of course. And one would expect that to happen in POM and not at Orokolo Bay.

Why has PNG degenerated into such a mess - mess, did I say - to warrant a Class D Category along with Iraq and Afghanistan?

Why are PNG politicians such wimps that they are not doing much to alter the rating PNG used to enjoy with Oz; a number 1 Category A listing. Who is at fault? Certainly not the ordinary people.

The pollies, the bureaucrats and the government systems that have eaten away the integrity of the people are to blame.

Maybe this is stale nius but the fact remains that Kumuls keep lining up outside the Aussie High Com in POM.

How long is PNG going to remain a class D category country with Oz?

Oa hamora

Ross Wilkinson

Peter - I also remember when the area of beach in front of the Ela Beach RSL, and the pontoon anchored about 50 metres offshore, were also off limits to both white and black if you were not a member of the RSL

Peter Warwick

I know how Peter Kailap feels. Some years ago, there was group of Papua New Guineans in Brisbane who formed a social club (not connected with the more formal and recognised associations).

They met at pubs, had a constitution and meetings. They had reasonable funds.

The aim was a singular one - a social group for Papua New Guineans. When my PNG wife made enquiries that we may meet, we were told coldly 'no whites'. The ban did not extend to dogs or walking along the street.

I have no idea whether it is till functioning.

Paul Oates

You've got me there Peter. I don't remember seeing that sign but I could well understand how you would feel about it.

However, just as Somare doesn't represent how all PNG people think, please don't put us all in the same boat.

Mate, I suggest we are both on the same side of the river.

Peter Kailap

What about the signs on Ela Beach that read "No Natives or Dogs Allowed"?

As a youngster living in Port Moresby, I vividly recall that. In fact I will never forget it.

PNG has changed a lot in the past 35 years; some good changes, mostly bad.

Poverty exists now where it never was before; health care is virtually non-existent; schools are run down or closed down; the list goes on.

On a positive note; we natives are now allowed to go for a walk on the beach and even take our dog for a walk too.

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