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87 posts from January 2011

Govt loses control of highlands: report


I am currently working in Tari and these are my observations

The government has lost control of the Highlands. The Highlands Highway is blocked every second day with people asking for ‘gate money’ to let you through.

The police operate through private enterprise. They get paid K80 per day per man and have their fuel paid, so the people think the Police are employed by private companies.

The hospital cannot operate; it has no water because the landowners demand compensation for the water pump on the side of the Tebi River as well as payment for water out of the river.

Several buildings have been torched, and nurses and patients raped because the security comes from the landowners where the haus sik is situated and, due to custom, they are not going to stop their wantoks or report them to the Police.

I could go on but I don’t have the time.

The author’s name was provided but not used at his request as his employment could be jeopardized by publication

Broken arrows and smelly cassowary claws


Wenner-Gren Report PAPUA NEW GUINEA is the resting place of many dreams.

During the halcyon days of the Australian administration, in the 1950s and 60s, one of those dreams involved the existence of a remote highland valley that was a veritable Shangri-la, where a benign sun shone all year, food was plentiful and a laughing, happy people wore flowers in their hair.

This particular dream caught the imagination of many men and women.  One of those was Norman Tindale, the ethnologist at the South Australian Museum. 

Tindale laboured long and hard to convince the Museum Board to fund a collecting expedition to the highlands.  Now was the time to get in there and record it all before it disappeared forever he argued.  Alas, he was unsuccessful; in those penny-pinching years of austerity the gentlemen of the board remained unmoved.

Tindale reluctantly let the idea slip by and went back to his study of the Aborigines that would eventually make him famous.  When he retired from the Museum and went off to America to write his magnum opus, a young and zealous Museum archaeologist called Graeme Pretty took over his job.  Graeme knew about Tindale’s fruitless quest and decided to take up the cudgel again.

The particular Shangri-la Graeme had in mind lay at the head of two beautiful valleys in the Southern Highlands ruled over by a benign dictator called Des Clancy, who had his headquarters in the small township of Mendi. 

Crawford_Tony Des had originally suggested the idea of a museum expedition to the collector, Tony Crawford [left, with friends], and he, in turn, sowed the idea in Graeme’s head.

Graeme and Tony mustered some big guns for their assault on the Museum Board, not the least being TPNG Chief Justice Alan Mann, who was a sometime collector and was president of the trustees of the fledgling museum that had been set up by legislation in Port Moresby in 1954.

With Mann's help, Graeme secured a generous grant from the prestigious Wenner-Gren Foundation of New York and again took the proposition to the misers on the Museum Board. 

Pretty_Graeme Where Tindale had failed, Graeme Pretty [right, buying artefacts], with a bag of American money, had success.  It was thus that the South Australian Museum Expedition to the Southern Highlands District was born in late 1968.

In many ways the expedition was timely.  The astute Southern Highlanders had been quick to grasp the new economy brought by the colonialists and were abandoning their own material culture hand-over-fist. 

With the help of Des Clancy and his kiaps, Graeme and Tony set up shop in several settlements from December 1968 through to the end of January 1969.  In those two months they haggled and bought an impressive collection of over 900 items, ranging from the commonplace to the unusual.

At the end of their stay Graeme assiduously divided the collection between the two museums, with the greater part going to Port Moresby.  From what both men had seen and bought they were agreed upon one thing, they had to come back again. For this purpose they turned to the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, but unfortunately events greater than either of them were in train.

Tony managed to get back to the Western District and begin his research into the Gogodala carvers, which culminated in the revival of a dying tradition and the production of his monumental book Aida.  Although Graeme managed to get up to visit Tony he was fighting a rear guard action in Australia. 

In 1971 Gough Whitlam and Nugget Coombs conspired and ordered the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board to re-direct research funding away from Papua New Guinea and the Pacific towards Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.  Graeme protested but eventually succumbed to the inevitable.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.  Alan Mann died in 1969; Tony has become a successful publisher and Graeme, worn down by constant battles against the bureaucracy, much of it of his own making, passed away a few years ago.  In the meantime the divided collection has languished.

When Barry Craig, the Curator of Foreign Ethnology at the South Australian Museum and former Curator of Anthropology at the National Museum in Port Moresby suggested I might like to work on the collections, I discovered a literal treasure trove of Southern Highland’s material culture.

In Adelaide the collection had been well stored, although I did encounter a few smelly cassowary claw necklaces and other deteriorating pieces.  I haven’t yet seen the rest of the collection in Port Moresby; we’re still trying to figure out how to tackle that one.

My hopes are not high, what with the game of musical directors that has gone on over the years (the current director can’t get into the building because his chagrined predecessor has barricaded himself inside and won’t give up the keys), and the constant power failures, cut off phones and broken down air conditioners; it could be in any state.

Michael Somare was an early and enthusiastic patron of the National Museum but he seems to have forgotten all about it.  These days only the odd and intrepid tourist hikes out past the Parliament's haus tambaran, itself falling into disrepair, to stare at the remnants of a glorious cultural past in exhibits slowly being consumed by dust and mould and a floor littered with old handwritten labels.

One wonders what the old men and women of Bela, near Mendi, and Wabia, near Tari, long passed on but who embraced Graeme and Tony’s vision and generously sold or presented them with this valuable collection would think.

Papua New Guinea: getting the Attitude right


I HAVE READ PNG Attitude with great interest since May 2009, when I first became aware of its existence.

I admire the writings of editor Keith Jackson and many contributors like Paul Oates, Philip Fitzpatrick, Reginald Renagi, John Fowke, Peter & Lydia Kailap, Ilya Gridneff and so many others, all concerned about one thing – the growing train wreck that is Papua New Guinea.

Article after article has chronicled the growing problems of graft and corruption in government and administration and the subsequent collapse of service delivery to village level. Growing levels of poverty and malnutrition flow from the decline in village gardens and cash cropping.

Then there is the failure of Australian aid to effectively provide assistance where it is needed; and the Australian government’s continuing failure to publicly recognise that PNG has a corruption problem.

We read of the growing frustration of PNG correspondents – disillusioned with the level of corruption and lack of village services. One can feel for their growing cry of needing something done.

What we read appears negative, but writers and readers have one thing in common.  We all have a deep and enduring love for this hugely complex, diverse and fascinating country. There is a continuing underlying feeling throughout – what can we do, where do we go?

There is obviously no simple solution.

Most of us would have a fair idea of what needs to be done to fix the problem. Having worked in PNG we have all at one time had to fix problems. That obviously is not about to happen.

In fact the only way there can be a “fix” is if both the PNG and Australian governments genuinely recognise that there are huge problems and work cooperatively together to resolve them effectively.

This might all be wishful thinking but I believe we can make a difference and bring about change.

We need PNG Attitude to continue to expose the problems; we need contributors continuing to voice their experiences and views; we need more PNG contributors. As Keith Jackson has continued to encourage, we need to get this voice heard more widely.

Talk about it with friends, contribute yourself, encourage more subscribers, bring this publication to the attention of your local Federal member.

The more people who knock on their doors and bang on about the problems to the north, the more chance we have of making PNG a real issue and finding solutions.

Dieter Idzikowsky, 72, community stalwart


TO MANY PEOPLE he was just Dieter. Perhaps most did not know his surname; but some loved, most were fond of and all respected him and acknowledged his helpful ways and engineering skills. We are the richer for having known him; the poorer for his passing.

Dieter was my very good friend for over 30 years. His sudden and totally unexpected death has been devastating. It is certain that last Saturday Dieter had no intimation that his time was running out.

He died mercifully quickly and painlessly after collapsing whilst playing on the Wewak golf course. As his friend Steve Taylor said, “He was where he liked to be, and doing what he liked best to do!”

Dieter Erich Paul Idzikowsky was born on 23 February 1938 at Grunberg-Schlesien, Germany, shortly before the outbreak of WWII. After leaving school he served an apprenticeship as a toolmaker and motor mechanic. He then served for a brief period in the army.

Life was not easy for the Idzikowsky family in Russian occupied East Germany, and in 1956 Dieter, moved to West Germany where he worked as a motor mechanic. Then, in 1963, Dieter, with his younger brothers, Klaus and Peter, emigrated to find a new and more rewarding life in Australia.

Dieter In 1970 Dieter came to PNG to help his brother Klaus, who had established Pedford Constructions, a civil engineering company engaged in road building and maintenance in the Lumi/Nuku area of the Sepik District.

Following the sale of Pedford Construction and departure of Klaus from PNG, Dieter worked for the Sepik Coffee Producers Association, managing the large workshop at Maprik, then for Sepik Coffee/Sepik Construction in Wewak.

It was Dieter’s great desire to become a PNG citizen and he held a glowing recommendation from Sir Michael Somare, a friend and golfing partner. Unfortunately the timing was wrong and no citizenship committee meetings took place for some years, so Dieter decided reluctantly to leave New Guinea to meet the residency requirements for Australian citizenship.

Dieter married his bride and long-time partner, Priscilla, in Cairns in 2003. And awaiting naturalisation, he worked in Cairns for English Engineering from 2004-06 as training manager. Mr English constantly tried to lure Dieter back to his job in Cairns.

Immediately following his naturalisation, Dieter volunteered for work as manager of the Bishop of Wewak’s mechanical workshop which he has brought from chaos to good order.

Dieter in his day was a fine sportsman, playing top grade soccer with Perth United and boxing to Commonwealth Games standard. He showed his sporting endurance by twice appearing at the Sepik Ironman Challenge as a swimmer and oldest competitor. 

Dieter not only took part in events, but also took major responsibility for organising and promoting them. He was a founder member and life member of the golf and yacht clubs, vice-president of the former and commodore of the latter for eleven years. He was deeply distressed at the alien and deceitful manner in which this position was usurped – the long term result of which is only too obvious today!

Dieter was a genuinely honourable man who spoke his mind, and spoke the truth. (He also spoke four languages.) He disliked falsehood and sophistry. To declare a false golf score or engage in shonky business deals would be complete anathema to him. He deplored such traits in others.

Dieter was a humble, decent, hard-working and life-loving man, a good friend to many; a wonderful friend to me, for which I give thanks.

I offer sincere condolences to his young widow, Priscilla, to all his relatives and friends and to the people of the East and West Sepik Provinces whose lives he touched in some greater or lesser way.

Dieter Erich Paul Idzikowsky:   23 February 1938 – 22 January 2011

Main photo: Dieter [left] with Peter Johnson, Sepik Iron Man Contest 2009

Researching the Kainantu Golf Club history


I LIVED in PNG from 1985-2000, working in the highlands with the Summer Institute of Linguistics and often played at the Kainantu Golf Club. I'm now in the midst of writing the history of the club.  

I'd love to hear from people who played at the club or who have photos of the course, clubhouse and players. I'm especially interested in the history of how the Kainantu course was built and how the club was started. 

I'd love to also get in touch with Muriel Laner and or her friend Hollie Smith Kershaw who wrote the only book (Kainantu, Gateway to the Highlands) that I know of about the history of Kainantu. I know Muriel from my time in PNG and have Hollie's book, but she doesn't mention the golf course at all and I don't have their contact information.  
My email address is [email protected]

Thanks for any help you might be able to give me. (Note spelling of my last name which is also the way I spell my name in the email address.)

A workable PNG - Australia partnership


PNG’S 35 YEAR HISTORY as an independent state gives some cause for optimism about its minimum coping mechanisms. With all its problems and failings, PNG has worked.

Having completed seven post-independence national elections, the nation ‘retains its position as one of the few post-colonial states to have maintained an unbroken record of democratic government.’

The history that preceded independence points to the need for a certain Australian modesty in preaching to its former colony and nearest neighbour. Australia did a reasonable job in running PNG but until almost the last moment paid little attention to preparing it for nationhood. ‘Australia’s aim in PNG was not to build a state but to develop administrative machinery to facilitate continued Australian rule by replicating Australian institutions.’

Advice or urgings from Canberra will often be discounted in Port Moresby, precisely because they come from Canberra. Australia must always be among PNG’s closest friends, but proximity and friendship don’t always translate into an ability to influence the decisions made in Port Moresby. History and geography can both repel and attract.

The bilateral interests involved may be relatively constant, but the past decade saw significant changes in the shape, quality and intensity of Australia’s interactions with PNG and the Pacific islands.

Australia’s aid spending in the Pacific and PNG over the decade reflected a heavy emphasis on security and governance. In 1998–99, education ($103 million) and governance ($102 million) were the two top categories; by 2007–08, governance spending nearly quadrupled to $395 million. Education spending ended the period where it started, while health tripled to end at $118 million. For Australia in the Pacific, this was the decade of governance….

Australia’s geopolitical instinct in PNG and the South Pacific has always been one of strategic denial: the … nub of this bipartisan policy is that no other power must ever gain any military foothold or control in the countries of the Australian Arc. This is the Australian historical instinct at its most basic.

And, as in the past, Australia might be able to deny other players military bases in the region, but it can’t deny the influence, access and economic power that external powers are always able to exert on PNG and the islands.

The members of the Arc obviously don’t like being grouped together in this way. Because of its size, PNG is especially resentful of being nominated for membership. But from the Australian perspective, a range of similar, Melanesian-style problems run through the countries of the Arc….

Having long argued that Australia can’t have an exit strategy from its own region, Canberra has adopted the approach of melding historical and modern sensibilities, even if the Pacific policy produced isn’t necessarily consistent or coherent. In this, it shares some traits with our earlier role in PNG.

PNG’s golden era: political and security challenges in PNG and their implications for Australia Australia’s activist sentiments—as interventionist or partner—come from its own deepest strategic instincts but also from a genuine effort to make a difference, not to depart.

PNG will always be central to Australia’s Pacific policy. For the Australia–PNG partnership to work, it requires PNG’s understanding of Australian interests as well as acceptance of Australia’s help.

Just as importantly, it needs an Australia that understands the limits of what it can do in PNG, while always seeking to appreciate what PNG is saying about what it needs and wants.

Graeme Dobell, a journalist for 40 years, writes on Australian and international politics, foreign affairs, defence and the Asia Pacific

Source: ‘PNG’s golden era: political and security challenges in PNG and their implications for Australia’ in Policy Analysis, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Limited, 2011

Spotter: Bill McGrath

There’s no serial killer in the Purari Delta


THIRTEEN BODIES found in the Purari Delta are not Purari Pawaias but people of the Eastern Highlands originating from an area below Okapa.

Perhaps they are Kukukukus from the extreme western boundary of the region occupied by the various Kukukukuk groups.

These 13 bodies, and possibly others, were apparently killed and thrown in the Lamari River or a tributary, which flows into the Subu River and then joins the Purari River just below InterOil's staging base camp on the Middle Purari River.

The bodies were discovered by the coastal Gulf people at the mouth of the Purari River, who were said to have buried them before the Police at Kerema were informed.

When the Provincial Police Commander from Kerema visited the base camp later, I happened to overhear his comments on this matter. I have no knowledge whether the District Manager at Okapa undertook a foot patrol into the killing fields to conduct a detailed and thorough investigation as would have happened in colonial times.

The entire investigation into the matter - and other discoveries of floating bodies - seems to have been shelved.

On Friday the PNG Institute of National Affaitrs was to present a public seminar by Dr Joshua Bell of the Smithsonian Institute entitled 'Serial Killer in the Purari Delta: Violence, Resource Extraction and their Networks'.

InterOil Limited is developing the Elkand Antelope gas project at Wabo, in the hinterland of Gulf.

The February PNG Attitude emagazine was emailed to 1,100 subscribers yesterday. If you're a subscriber and haven't received yours, it's because your email address did not respond. You will need to resubscribe here.  If you're not a subscriber and want to be, email the editor here and secure your monthly free issue.

Another word on a man to be ignored


I AM SORRY to pester loyal readers with more Bruce Copeland. But allow me this extra opportunity – since yesterday was a busy day in which I kept trying to make inroads for PNG Attitude that were constantly betrayed by the rest of my life.

And the only PNG stuff I can report (which is not to say it is the only PNG stuff I happened upon) was Copeland stuff.

After I posted yesterday’s missive on the serial spammer and homophobe etc, I (and other members of Attitude who emailed me, if not for publication) expected that Copeland would spit and spat and revile and trash and abuse – since that is the man’s usual manner of dealing with setback.

But this other boot did not drop. I waited all day and the boot did not so much as teeter.

For me, that is, because Copeland continued to oafishly, crudely and persistently defame Dr Clement Malau, PNG’s Secretary for Health, in an outpouring of emails sent to an increasingly unwilling group of recipients.

Indeed, Dame Carol Kidu (is there a more revered politician in PNG), irritated by the treatment of Dr Malau, advised the sad Copeland: “You are very lucky that we are all too busy to take out a defamation case against you.”

Which shows how tolerant this lady is because, busy as I am, I think I could find room (and coin) for a little defamation proceeding.

“You have never directly defamed me (just by innuendo),” Dame Carol remarked graciously, “[but] your defamation of Dr Malau is unacceptable.”

Copeland chose to respond to Dame Carol with his usual incoherent bluster: “Don't let that stop you. But in any defamation case stands the gay/lesbian/paedophile agenda, who started it and who lets it run and why? Dr Malau is in the agenda up to his neck. Never forget that my family was the victim. We will start from there too.”

Copeland, you see, always portrays himself as the victim even when he perpetrates. He does not seem to understand that he has become that which he reviles.

Well, Copeland’s latest disingenuous email flurry was more than enough for Dr Malau, the man who was the subject of my main post yesterday.

“I ask you immediately to take Lady Carol and me off the [email] list right now,” wrote the indignant Secretary for Health. “Failure to do this I will request my lawyers to look at charging you for stalking.

“You also must address Lady Carol respectfully. She is one of our most respected leaders and does not deserve the sort of treatment you have given me and others who have supported PNG in a positive way to address the HIV epidemic.

“Your continued stalking will not do any good to any one. This is my last email to you and expect nothing from me in future.”

Then, and what a gentleman is Dr Malau: “All the best with your endeavours.” I could never bring myself to write that.

If you are with me this far, I will deal with the question of why Copeland is an issue for PNG Attitude.

Two things.

First, because he seeks to trash the reputation of any person who disagrees with him – and he does this in the most crude, defamatory and insulting way. The man seems incapable of reasoned and civilised argument. PNG Attitude dislikes that. Intensely.

Secondly, and more importantly, Copeland preaches snake oil wrapped in hate. If there is a Papua New Guinean taking notice of this man, it is time for this person to pause and reconsider. Copeland is not a doctor or a health professional, he is a zealot. He has no solutions for HIV/AIDS that any respectable health operative will lend their name to. He is a distraction.

Dr Clement Malau represents the voice of reason and hope. Listen to him and his dedicated staff.

In my opinion, the sooner PNG boots out Copeland, the better.

And tomorrow in PNG Attitude, we move on to more savoury things.

Now Copeland attacks PNG’s head of health


SELF-PROCLAIMED HIV/AIDS guru, email spammer, reputation trasher and PNG visa overstayer Bruce Copeland is up to his old tricks.

You’d think a person in his precarious position would be pulling his head in instead of lashing out with defamatory abuse at people who are working hard for PNG and ought to be treated with some respect.

But Copeland is nothing if not reckless, so, while PNG authorities contemplate taking action against him and legal proceedings for defamation against him personally are looming in Australia, he continues to harangue an unwilling collection of people with obnoxious emails they don’t want and don’t deserve to get.

He also continues to promulgate arrant nonsense containing his own loopy and potentially harmful ‘remedies’ for fighting AIDS – forcing a strong  jet of water into the vagina being one of them.

Having trashed his way through the scientists and doctors of Melbourne’s prestigious Burnet Institute (Australia's largest virology and communicable disease research organisation), Copeland has now turned his unwanted attention to PNG’s Secretary for Health, Clement Malau.

Dr Malau had the audacity to tell Copeland, who has no medical training: “Please take me off this email list. I have so much to do in the health sector and cannot possibly read the MAD and ABSURD statements…”

So what does the Secretary for Health get from Copeland after this plaintive plea to be left alone – yes, the usual tirade of abuse.

“Are you on the side of the AusAID gays and lesbians?” rants Copeland. “You worked for Burnet in Melbourne. Do you still have any pecuniary involvement with them? Did you know that the Australians would have terminated/not renewed your contract if you had gone against the gay-lesbian-paedophile agenda?

“You would have never been employed in Melbourne. Nor ever be employed again after your contract as Secretary finishes. Any superannuation payments would have ceased," he typically fantasises.

“Again the Australians would never employ you again. As an old man, you will not ever go back to medical practice. You have confused the PNG medical world with your acceptance of the gay/lesbian/paedophile agenda.”

The sooner the PNG government turfs out this man, so he can face the music in Australia, the better.

PNG Attitude only hopes the ‘disciples’ that Copeland claims to have in PNG are, like much else in his world, total figments of his imagination.

Otherwise some innocent people are being subjected to a stream of absolute garbage about how to deal with HIV/AIDS which, if they give it credence, is likely to cause them harm.

It's also about time Copeland's Port Moresby-based internet service provider shut him out. That would be a responsible thing to do.

Not your normal headline: PNG destroys USA

THE PNG CRICKET team has rolled the United States of America by seven wickets with 44 overs to spare in one of the most one-sided games at the Hong Kong Cricket Club.

PNG won the toss and had their opponents on the mat immediately, with Hitolo Areni sending Lennox Cush back for a duck and soon reducing the US to 3 for 25.

With six of the remaining eight batsmen failing to score, the US crumbled to be bowled out for 44 in the 21st over of the 50 over game.

Seamer and captain Rarva Dikana finished with the dream figures of 4 for 1 from just 4.2 overs.

PNG were in a rush to end the game, and Christopher Kent hit two sixes to seal PNG's third win in three games.

"We didn't expect to bowl the USA out so cheaply this morning and all credit has to go to our bowlers and the way they performed today," Rarva Dikana said.

"I think they didn't know how to read our bowlers and our fielding was particularly strong.

“We can't rest on our laurels though, we've got to focus on our game and be ready for the next challenge."

In other results, Oman authored a major recovery to overhaul the target of 241 set by Italy, and Hong Kong's bowlers sparked a dramatic collapse to set up a comfortable seven-wicket victory against Denmark.

New evidence on our greatest maritime loss


Rod Miller is the author of ‘Lost Women of Rabaul’, the inspiration for the recent ABC-TV drama ‘Sisters of War’.  For those interested in the latest Montevideo Maru research, Rod will give a public lecture at the National Maritime Museum, in Sydney's Darling Harbour, on Sunday 20 February, 3 - 5 pm.

IN 1941, WITH WAR against Japan threatening, the Menzies government dispatched Lark Force (nearly 1,500 men) to garrison Rabaul in what was then the Australian Protectorate of New Guinea.

On 1 July 1942, around 800 of these soldiers, along with 250 Australian civilian internees, died when the 7,000-ton Japanese vessel Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by the American submarine Sturgeon.

The currently-accepted historical explanation of what happened to the men of Rabaul can be summarised as:

The garrison of Rabaul was abandoned to their fate by the Australian government.  Those captured were removed on the Montevideo Maru on 22/6/42, later sunk by friendly fire.  Some of the Japanese crew saved themselves, but none of the prisoners. (Most of the surviving Japanese were later murdered by Philippine guerrillas.)  The Japanese POW Information Bureau [PWIB] did not respond to enquiries about the fate of the prisoners.  The Allies had intelligence which indicated the true story, but kept it secret.  The scale of the disaster, and the desire of the Australian government not to rake over their original military mistakes, led to later bureaucratic corner-cutting.

The terse news released post-war by the Australian government drove an unfortunate contagion of rumour and innuendo amongst the grieving families (often amplified by publications pushing massacre conspiracies).  Many people were unable to accept their loss.

The only official investigation was compiled by a lone Australian officer, Major Harold Williams, relying (officially) on only one source, the Japanese PWIB.  In 1946, this drove calls for a further inquiry in the Australian Parliament, but Prime Minister Chifley staunchly refused.  This fed suspicions of a cover-up.

Although today there is no doubt that more than 1,000 Australians died when the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed, there is still scope for researchers to add to the history.  Possibly, the Japanese were sending the Rabaul civilians to Hainan Island in China for exchange with Japanese citizens then held in Australia.  Also our National Archives reveal that individuals in the Australian government knew much more about the fate of the Rabaul men than was ever admitted in the official investigation process.

In 2009, Harumi Sakaguchi was the first historian in 68 years to view the single extant Japanese file on this tragedy.  It contains a memo noting that the Japanese advised International Red Cross delegate, Dr Fritz Paravicini, of the sinking in August 1942.....

Continue reading "New evidence on our greatest maritime loss" »

Trying to get a fix on PNG’s creative arts


I AM INTERESTED in some of the creative arts initiatives that blossomed in PNG after independence, and there were many of them.

They included the Arts Faculty at the University of PNG, so strongly influenced by Ulli Beier (after whom the creative arts complex at UPNG is named), the National Museum, National Archives, the Raun Raun Theatre, the National Cultural Council, and the National Broadcasting Corporation.

They attracted some leading figures in the world of creative arts, in music, painting, theatre, dance and sound recording.

So what happened to the vision of these ground-breaking institutions? Here's information on some of them. Readers may br able to assist with others.

Maggi Sietsma AM (born 1951) is the founding artistic director of the multiple-award winning Brisbane contemporary dance company, the Expressions Dance Company, and is regarded as one of Australia's leading choreographers.

Maggi has choreographed multiple international dance works during her career and has contributed extensively to dance and dance education in Australia. She was affiliated with the Raun Raun Theatre Company, PNG and performed with them many times.

The Life Drama Research Team (QUT) and the Life Drama participants are engaged in practice-led research, as they collaboratively create, test, and report on new forms of educational drama.

Practice-led research requires that the researchers first practice, and then rigorously investigate their practice. The results of this investigation are shared, not only through conventional text reporting, but through further practice which is documented through digital photography, video and sound recording.

A specific example of practice-led research is the two-week Theatre Exchange Laboratory held in Madang in January-February 2010. Practice included the performance of traditional songs and dances by ex-members of Raun Raun Theatre and current members of the National Performing Arts Troupe; excerpts from “folk operas” and “village plays“devised by Raun Raun Theatre and performed by members; and examples of Life Drama forms.

The Raun Raun Theatre came into existence in 1975 at the suggestion of Professor Ulli Beier from the Institute of PNG Studies. The project architects were Paul Frame and Rex Addison.

"In early April, 1975, the Raun Raun Traveling Theatre was formed in Goroka with a grant from the National Cultural Council. A theatre truck was purchased with some help from the Goroka Rotary Club and housing was granted by District Authorities to accommodate drama students on the one hand and director/office on the other.

“The Theatre’s original function was to travel with maket raun, a suggested scheme for taking public services, private sector activities and entertainment to a circuit of large village centres around the area."

Greg Murphy was the Director of Raun Raun Theatre and there was a close working relationship between the School of Art and Design at Goroka Technical College and his company. I believe Greg still works at the Madang centre or UPNG, but the Raun Raun has gone into something of a decline.

There is a new generation of PNG creative artists who have made their name in the field of music (check out my cousin-sis-in law Emi Maria!), but the older vision of an inclusive artistic impetus for a new country seems to have fallen by the wayside.

Sitrong bilong waitpela misis


SO WHAT WAS I supposed to do just before the athletics carnival when one of my best runners, aged about 12, had a very sore leg and believed the village sorcerer had worked magic on her?

I placed the poor girl in Wewak Hospital and the lady European doctor began a course of antibiotics to cure the poisoned leg. But her family came and took her back to the village and told her the sickness was because she had sent a bead necklace to a boy from the village, who was studying at Madang Technical College.

The boy’s family did not want her to interfere with his studies, their ticket to future wealth, so they had asked the village sorcerer to work magic on her. Which, for a price, he did. And the girls’ family believed the poisoned leg was due to the sorcery.

The doctor knew the poisoned leg probably came from swimming in the polluted waters of nearby Brandi River. She had seen it before in Africa, and knew which antibiotic would effect a cure.

For a few weeks, life took on a circularity. I would put the girl into hospital and the parents would remove her. This happened a number of times. The doctor grew fed up with this, and told me to forget about the girl. But I was determined she should run in the forthcoming athletics carnival. I had my own selfish motives!

One day she came to see me after again running away from the hospital. I told her if she believed it was sorcery and went home to the village she would surely die. She sank down to the ground in some sort of strange state.

I said if she put her faith in the doctor who knew what was wrong with her, and went back to the hospital and took the medicines, then she would live. On hearing that, she rose to her full height and looked at me with hope. I then repeated what I’d said, finding that with the tone of my voice and choice of words, I could made her go up and down like a yo-yo!

Well, sorcery won and she went back to the village. But I wasn’t to be outdone. By now I was angry.

On the Saturday a few girls and I drove to her village. Someone pointed to a house and we went in. We found the poor girl lying on a table with the villagers gathered around while the sorcerer was working his magic. They had a half coconut shell of murky water and were pretending to exttract sticks and stones by sleight of hand.

Well I let fly, and told the village know in dramatic Tok Pisin that it was all giamin, trickery. I did my best to let them all know what the doctor had said and demanded the girl be taken back to hospital otherwise she would die of septicaemia.

The sorcerer stopped what he was doing and sheepishly the parents obeyed me. The girl went back to Wewak Hospital. She complained she could not eat the hospital food, so each day I would take in some school food. I checked her every day and talked the doctor into resuming treament. We saved the leg and she ran in the athletics carnival.

Several months later she thanked me for saving her life and presented me with a beautiful rooster, the sort you see wandering around the villages with magnificent colours in their long tail feathers.

The bird was duly killed and slowly cooked, and I insisted all the girls share some and give thanks for the fact that their friend was now well again. The other girls knew that my reason and the doctor’s skills had won over sorcery.

New Tasmanian Premier is a Goroka girl


LARA GIDDINGS, the new and first woman Premier of Tasmania, is the daughter of Rick Giddings, well-liked Kiap and long-serving District Magistrate in Goroka and Kundiawa.

Lara was born in Goroka in 1972 and grew up there. Later Rick stayed on in Kundiawa, sending his wife and family off to Tassy for the kids' high school years.

He remained in PNG for many years as the Senior Magistrate, serving until the late eighties, as I recall.

Rick is one of the best: a straight shooter; very competent; liked by all. His wife was a Welfare Officer in Goroka.

Rick was a big supporter of the JK McCarthy Museum in Goroka and used to spend weekends travelling from Kundiawa in a battered little blue car to work in the museum, reconditioning articles and organising displays, leaving early Monday to bump and rattle his way back to Simbu siti.

I have a feeling, but may be quite wrong, that The Australian newspaper’s Tasmania correspondent, Mathew Denholm, may well be the son of the sometime headmaster of Goroka International School, who was around in Rick's Goroka years.

Alongside Rick in Kundiawa for many years after independence was Kiap John Corrigan, who served there until the late eighties, both men putting in about 15 years each after the great abandon ship of senior admin men in 1974-75.

Those who are so keen to assemble lists of ex-Kiaps and others should make one of all those who stayed on for many years to the great benefit of the struggling ex-colony.

Graham Tuck, ex-kiap and LLG specialist, is still there although he hasn’t been paid yet for most of last year!

The statistical nonsense coming out of PNG


2010 Human Development Report, The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development, United Nations Development Program

PNG SCARCELY REPORTS a single statistical indicator accurately. This leads to nonsense in PNG’s entries in the Human Development Report (HDR) and a blank against many of the research topics ANU scholars pursue.

For PNG, the topic of food security is well-covered through national nutrition surveys, collaboration between researchers at the ANU, PNG’s National Agricultural Research Institute and elsewhere, and papers in the PNG Medical Journal.

Despite well-documented, localised food shortages, ‘daily calorie supply’, was reported for PNG at around 100% of requirements in HDRs in the 1990s. After 2000, ‘undernourished people as a % of total population’ took its place. This was reported at a belt-tightened 26-29% until 2004, then at a less serious value, and not at all from 2007.

Did Papua New Guineans feast through the 1990s only to starve in the 2000s? No, it is just any attention on the concept of ‘poverty’ in PNG is met with such populist outrage that it is awfully difficult to get empirical data from local reports into international ones.

Income poverty – living on less than $1.25 a day – was last reported in the HDR at 35.8% of the population (in 2009) and is now also missing from the current report…

PNG’s figures for life expectancy in the HDR are made up. The only calculations of life expectancy in PNG from nationally-collected data are those of the demographer Martin Bakker: 49.6 years and 54.2 years in the 1980 and 2000 censuses respectively. With the HIV-AIDS epidemic taking hold in PNG in the last decade, life expectancy might be going down again: we really have no idea.

The ‘decline’ of the maternal mortality ratio (deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes/100,000 live births) is another example of Dr Pangloss at work. The HDRs claim a remarkable fall in PNG, from 900 to 250 over the 20 years.

But with no death registration in PNG, where have the figures come from? They are also made up. Glen Mola of the Port Moresby General Hospital, PNG’s expert in these matters, currently accepts a figure of between 700 and 900, for an appalling lifetime risk for women of dying from pregnancy of 1 in 20. PNG has gone nowhere.

Who cares, or who should care, if a national government will not?

Donors. Their citizens may reasonably hope for some statistical evidence of their largesse, not idleness in the ministries that aid targets or, worse, a trowelling over of inconvenient discoveries. But even as ministers announced the aid priority for a statistical roadmap, the 2010 census was being undermined. The Census Office eventually conceded that the government had not allocated funds and has said it will try again next year.

Scholars. Many in the College of Asia and the Pacific, and their collaborators in national institutions in PNG, work hard in each of the HDR indicator areas. Other poor they have taken an interest in but who don’t feature in the 2010 HDR include refugees and victims of violence. Diana Glazebook could well be cross that the 2791 residents of the East Awin camps in the 2000 census – who haven’t gone anywhere – were reported as “0.0 thousands” in 2010. The contributors to Conflict and resource development in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea will shake their heads to see the missing indicators on ‘conventional arms transfers’, homicide, robbery and assault rates.

International community. Helen Clark says in the foreword this year ‘not all the trends are positive, as we know too well’. She’s not kidding. If PNG had the health profile of Fiji – by no means an HDR saint – something like 8000 excess deaths among under fives and 1000 excess deaths of mothers would be saved in PNG, and with Fiji’s homicide rate, perhaps another 1000 murder victims, each year. These are big numbers – 350,000 avoidable fatalities since Independence, more than the population of Vanuatu, or Oro and New Ireland Provinces combined. But apart from Sweden, the only country to go backwards on the Human Development Index in 2010 was international whipping boy Zimbabwe. For the rest of the backsliders, PNG included, face was saved by simply not reporting bad news.

I like the HDR a good deal, but the international community owes it to the poor, the victimised and the needless dead to do a better job when governments contrive, by omission or commission, to erase them from statistical view.

Source: ‘HDR: a nearest neighbour analysis’ by John Burton, Development Policy Newsletter, January 2011

John Burton is a Research Fellow, Resource Management in Asia-Pacific Program, at the Crawford School, ANU.

The white man's ghost


HE SAID he had never seen a White man's ghost and I told him he was lucky; that a White man's ghost is very bad business. His eyes widened.

It all began earlier that morning when I emerged from the hauskiap and saw the clay figurine glaring up at me through cowrie-shell eyes from the bottom step. Someone was meddling with my karma. I bent down for a closer look and Constable Wagi, who was standing nearby, called out in alarm, "No ken holim, kiap; em samtin nogut tru!" I quickly pulled back; perhaps this voodoo doll was the real thing.

We were on road detail south of Namatanai, New Ireland, with several New Hanover prisoners who had been scraping away at the Muliama Bluff so that the Boluminski Highway could push further down the east coast. It was blood-racing work (I know because my patrol police and I often chipped in just for the youthful hell of it) and some of the prisoners were beginning to think of home and how they might get back there. Was one of them responsible for my malevolent little visitor?

Constable Wagi was anxious that we find the culprit, before nightfall at the latest, and get him to defuse the magic. Nobody in the camp would be safe otherwise. So, more for Wagi's peace of mind than mine, I sleuthed around and discovered that a prisoner (let us call him Bosmaris), disgruntled over his rations, had thought to cast a spell on me so that I would fall sick and return to Kavieng. How this was going to fill his belly, I was not sure. I don't think he was either.

"Salim i go bek long Kavieng," Wagi urged, after he had drawn me aside so that Bosmaris could not hear us discussing his fate. He spat on the ground to seal his judgement of the fellow, and I noticed he looked round first to make sure that Bosmaris wasn't watching. You cannot be too careful when a sorcerer is about! But I was reluctant to send him back to Kavieng because I knew that his mates would quickly catch on and that a whole line of voodoo dolls would be visiting me by the next morning.

So I decided to fight magic with magic and called the man over. He came, looking more surly than hungry, and I asked him to tell me again why he had left his mischievous handiwork outside the hauskiap. He told me.

"And what if your magic works so well that I get sick and die?" I asked.

He didn't answer. Perhaps he was hoping that the magic was already working and that if he said too much its power would be broken. I must be kept in the dark for as long as possible.

So I changed tack and asked him if he had ever seen the ghost of a Black man. I used the Pidgin term maselai which is a nasty kind of ghost, the kind you never want to see.

"No," he said.

"Do you know what a Black man's ghost looks like?"

His eyes widened and the surliness drained out of them. It was time for the strong medicine.

"Have you ever seen a White man's ghost?"

The eyes grew even wider and he shook his head, No.

"Are you sure?"

He said that he was.

"You are lucky. The White man's ghost is very bad business and brings more troubles than there are trees in the forest."

He didn't say anything to this, but looked away from me and stared at the jungle-covered hills. I think he was counting the trees.

I tell him I feel a bit sick, that my head hurts, that I might die in the night and then he will see his first White man's ghost.

Bosmaris swallowed and his face went as ashen as a dark skin allows, his eyes switching between terror and urgent solicitude for my continuing good health. He was very sorry to have troubled me, he said, and assured me that it had all been a big mistake and would never happen again and that I would live long enough to see many grandchildren.

I dismissed him with a wave of forgiveness and for the rest of our stay at Muliama I was his best friend. I probably still am.

And, yes, I now have grandchildren and am looking forward to many more.

PNG link to newest Victoria Cross winner

Ben_Roberts-Smith_VC CORPORAL BEN ROBERTS-SMITH, who on Sunday was awarded the Victoria Cross and became Australia's most highly decorated serving soldier, has a close connection with PNG.

His father, Major General Len Roberts-Smith RFD QC (below), was Chief Crown Prosecutor in PNG in the 1970s and married the daughter of then PNG Police Commissioner, Brian Holloway.

Len Roberts-Smith Ben Roberts-Smith was awarded the VC for most conspicuous gallantry in circumstances of extreme peril on 11 June 2010 during the Shah Wali Kot Offensive in Afghanistan.

He was born in 1978, not long after the family returned to South Australia, where Len Roberts-Smith became a magistrate.

He had joined the Australian Army Reserve in 1964, transferring to the Australian Army Legal Corps in 1970.

From 2001, Justice Roberts-Smith served as Acting Judge Advocate General of the Australian Defence Force, and in 2002 he was promoted to Major General.

Spotter: Bob Lawrence

The VC citation:

On 11 June 2010, a troop of the Special Operations Task Group conducted a helicopter assault into Tizak, Kandahar Province, in order to capture or kill a senior Taliban commander.

Immediately upon the helicopter insertion, the troop was engaged by machine gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire from multiple, dominating positions. Two soldiers were wounded in action and the troop was pinned down by fire from three machine guns in an elevated fortified position to the south of the village. Under the cover of close air support, suppressive small arms and machine gun fire, Roberts-Smith and his patrol manoeuvred to within 70 metres of the enemy position in order to neutralise the enemy machine gun positions and regain the initiative.

Upon commencement of the assault, the patrol drew very heavy, intense, effective and sustained fire from the enemy position. Roberts-Smith and his patrol members fought towards the enemy position until, at a range of 40 metres (44 yd), the weight of fire prevented further movement forward. At this point, he identified the opportunity to exploit some cover provided by a small structure.

As he approached the structure, Roberts-Smith identified an insurgent grenadier in the throes of engaging his patrol. Roberts-Smith engaged the insurgent at point-blank range resulting in the death of the insurgent. With the members of his patrol still pinned down by the three enemy machine gun positions, he exposed his own position in order to draw fire away from his patrol, which enabled them to bring fire to bear against the enemy. His actions enabled his Patrol Commander to throw a grenade and silence one of the machine guns. Seizing the advantage, and demonstrating extreme devotion to duty and the most conspicuous gallantry, Roberts-Smith, with a total disregard for his own safety, stormed the enemy position killing the two remaining machine gunners.

His act of valour enabled his patrol to break-in to the enemy position and to lift the weight of fire from the remainder of the troop who had been pinned down by the machine gun fire. On seizing the fortified gun position, Corporal Roberts Smith then took the initiative again and continued to assault enemy positions in depth during which he and another patrol member engaged and killed further enemy. His acts of selfless valour directly enabled his troop to go on and clear the village of Tizak of Taliban. This decisive engagement subsequently caused the remainder of the Taliban in Shah Woli Kot District to retreat from the area

LNG landowners not part of mediation


PNG LNG project landowner representatives who relied on Section 18(1) of the Constitution to file Supreme Court references will not be part of an alternative dispute resolution process initiated by the Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia and National Court judge Justice Ambang Kandakasi to deal with the LNG-related caseload.

The Registrar of the National Court has advised the reason is because there are no Supreme Court rules that give the trial judge the power to make orders as to mediation unlike the National Court rules which do.

In a statement released late last week, the LNG landowners did not agree with one part of the mediation process which excluded the issues raised in references filed under Section 18(1) of the Constitution.

This is because, at the mediation process before Judge Kandakasi last Wednesday, the judge mentioned that the Chief Justice had decided that all Supreme Court references filed under Section 18(1) of the Constitution challenging the validity of Section 6 of the Oil and Gas Act and other sections should not be included in the mediation process.

The result of this decision is to exclude from mediation the core issues involving the rights of land owners, which are:

1. Whether the State owns the resources under customary land.

2. Whether the government has the power to compulsorily acquire customary land for the benefit of oil and gas companies.

3.Whether the existing benefit sharing system is equitable.

4. Whether the production sharing contracts should be used for the exploitation of all resources in Papua New Guinea.

The landowners and the National Gas Corporation now support the use of Production Sharing Contracts. They say they will not be satisfied with anything less than that outcome.

If these issues are not included in mediation to be coordinated by Judge Kandakasi then they say that there are only two options open for consideration:

1. The suspension of all mediation until such time as the Supreme Court has dealt with the two Supreme Court references SCR No 5 and SCR No. 7 of 2010.

2. Postponement of the hearing of the Supreme Court References No. 5 and No. 7 of 2010 until the completion of the mediation process.

They say that their own preference is for all issues to be included in the mediation process.

There are more than 20 cases in the National Court dealing with landowner issues and issues raised by the National Gas Corporation, the mandated body that is to manage the project areas and the affected provincial and local level governments’ “participating interests”.

The issues outlined here are the key issues that will make or break the LNG project. They say that lessons must be learned from the Bougainville crisis.

Peter Donigi is a barrister with Warner Shand Lawyers in Port Moresby

Secretary fails to persuade on PNG policy


PNG ATTITUDE READERS have been underwhelmed by Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles’ cautiously bureaucratic pronouncements about critical issues facing Australia in its relationship with PNG.

Readers have expressed disappointment and cynicism at Mr Marles’ anodyne responses to a series of astute questions they posed late last year and which, at a meeting with me,  Mr Marles’ agreed to answer.

The Parliamentary Secretary’s statements were clearly cobbled together from that bland porridge that constitutes “information” in the bureaucratic mind.

The kind of euphemistic double-speak that was so successfully counteracted by the pointed, gossip-ridden candour of the Wikileaks Cables, which allowed the world to see what the diplocrats really think behind the cover of those weasel words they expose us to when they don’t want to tell us the truth.

Lies, damned lies and bureauspeak.

Let’s face it, it would have been better for Mr Marles’ to say nothing than to engage in this pointless exercise of façade building and glossing over that convinced no one, impressed no one and served only to reinforce the impression that the Australian government doesn’t have a clue how to manage its relationship with PNG.

So does this matter?

Perhaps not at the moment, because PNG is not an electoral issue in Australia – although in recent meetings I’ve had with staff of the Shadow Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, it is clear that PNG is only a step away from becoming a political problem.

All it would take is a breakdown in law and order in Australia’s former territory that resulted in significant civil strife, political turmoil and business disruption.  And, as we know, PNG possesses that susceptibility.

Then the Australian media, already showing greater interest in PNG than has typically been the case in recent years, would kick the ball on to the park.

And the deficiencies of Australian policy, and the shabbiness of the politico-bureaucratic response to a group of deeply concerned citizens, would be on display in the glaring sun of the town square at midday.

No answers, no clues, no clothes.

Richard Marles has told me he's interested in improving the Australian conversation about PNG. To achieve even that modest goal, he and his people will have to do a lot better than this.

Let me conclude with a few comments from readers:

Terry Shelley - I have just transferred Richard Marles' reports to my JAW file . That is Just Another Wanker - totally irrelevant to the vast majority of grassroots people in PNG.

Trevor Freestone - Richard Marles gives a glowing impression of PNG. To get the Australian government's true impression go to its Smart Traveller advice on PNG.

Peter Kranz - Another example of Australian government rhetoric being on another planet to reality.

Paul Oates - As someone who has had in the past to write responses to Parliamentary questions, the old phraseology and use of percentages sounds all too familiar. With due respect to those who have to prepare benign yet seemingly positive responses for release by politicians, it's hard not to be a tad cynical.

Phil Fitzpatrick - I've fielded a few parliamentary questions in my day too. As I recall the question comes down the line to the area of responsibility. If it happened to land on your desk the response was usually: (1) What's this crap? (2) Oh hell, why do they want to know that? (3) I'd better cook something up to make them happy; and (4) I hope that will confuse them enough to keep my job. In short, the sort of responses we're seeing from Mr Marles are totally unreliable.

Barbara Short – Getting bureaucrats to feel for the country that they are trying to help is half of the problem.

Key PNG issues 4: Region, defence & China


Late last year, PNG Attitude asked readers to nominate issues you’d like to raise with Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles. This is the last of his responses

THE AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT is working to raise PNG’s public profile in Australia, and during my recent visit to Port Moresby I proposed a number of initiatives to my PNG counterparts with that objective in mind.

Australian and PNG Ministers meet annually to discuss a broad spectrum of bilateral issues, most recently in Alotau in July this year. Following those consultations, Joint Statements are published which clearly outline our agreed priorities, providing a useful guide to the direction of our relationship.  These statements are available on DFAT’s website.

We welcome PNG’s signing of the Pacific Seasonal Workers Pilot Scheme MOU in Alotau this year. I understand the PNG Government is currently developing labour-sending arrangements and working to identify a pool of Papua New Guinean workers to participate in the scheme.  Australia stands ready to assist with this process if required.

Australia greatly values the longstanding and mutually-beneficial relationship with PNG. The posting of Australian Defence Force personnel to PNG, as part of the Defence Cooperation Program, or as participants in exercises and operations, occurs under the auspices of the 1977 Status of Forces Agreement.

Our engagement with the PNG Defence Force (PNGDF) is also subject to range of other agreements including: the 1987 Joint Declaration of Principles, the 1991 Agreed Statement on Security Cooperation, the 1997 New Defence Partnership and the 2004 Joint Statement on Enhancing Our Defence Partnership.

Defence is involved in integrated arrangements in the South-West Pacific, principally by providing fuel and administrative support to the Pacific Patrol Boats of participating nations in multilateral operations and exercises.

Such operations provide a unique opportunity: for Pacific nations to enhance their national capacity in fisheries control and maritime security and to strengthen regional solidarity.

Australia coordinates and synchronises its maritime security activities in the South West Pacific with our strategic partners, including the United States, New Zealand and France.

The 2004 Joint Statement on Enhancing our Defence Partnership re-affirms the guiding principles and mutual objectives of our relationship and focuses on four key outcomes:

regular dialogue on national security perspectives and policies

a streamlined PNGDF that is more affordable, effective and sustainable

greater interoperability between the PNGDF and ADF in the region

cooperative programs to enhance the skills and knowledge of respective defence forces

Australia’s Defence Cooperation Program (DCP) with PNG focuses on a jointly-agreed annual program of training assistance, technical advice, and bilateral exercises and other activities intended to advance these objectives.

Australia has also supported PNG’s Defence Reform Program to downsize the PNGDF to a more sustainable level and rebuild its capability to conduct border and maritime surveillance, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Australia and China share an important and dynamic relationship. Australia, is by far the leading bilateral donor in PNG and seeks to work constructively with China, which is a significant player in the Pacific region. In recent years Chinese support to PNG has grown, as has its support to other Pacific Island countries.

China’s demand for resources has been fundamental to PNG’s recent strong economic growth, much as it helped Australia ride out the Global Financial Crisis.

Hon Richard Marles MP is the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Australian Parliament

PNG Attitude welcomes readers’ comments on the Parliamentary Secretary’s views

The Battle of Rabaul: 23 January 1942


ON 6 NOVEMBER 1941, a month before the attack on Pearl Harbour, the Operational Order of the Japanese South Seas Force directed that, after securing Guam, it would occupy Rabaul.

By mid-December Japanese scout and reconnaissance aircraft were frequently spotted over Rabaul.  And, in early January, the Japanese had reasonable knowledge of Australian troop deployments in and around the town.

The first bombs fell on 4 January 1942 at 10.35 am, killing twelve people and wounding thirty. Most of those who died were from the Trobriand Islands; people having their first meal following rescue after six weeks lost at sea. The bombing continued for the next three weeks until Rabaul was invaded.

On 8 January, Malaita left Rabaul with Japanese internees and a few remaining European women. The last plane from Sydney arrived on 16 January.

2-22-lark-force The commander of Lark Force, Colonel J J Scanlan, had based the defence of Rabaul on the assumption of the availability of a brigade group that never eventuated. He made no plans for retreat or withdrawal.

Indeed, on Christmas Day 1941, he issued the grim order that “there shall be no faint hearts, no thought of surrender, every man shall die in his pit.”

The raid by Japanese carrier-based aircraft on 20 January was the beginning of the end for Lark Force. In an engagement with 80 bombers and 40 fighters lasting less than ten minutes, three of RAAF 24 Squadron's eight remaining Wirraways were shot down, one crashed on take-off and two were damaged in crash-landings.

Wing Commander Lerew had famously signalled RAAF HQ in Melbourne with the motto, Nos Morituri Te Salutamus (‘we who are about to die salute you’), the phrase uttered by gladiators in ancient Rome before entering combat.

“For sheer, cold-blooded heroism I have never seen anything to compare with the pilots of those Wirraways”, Sergeant FS Smith, AIF, said later. “They knew they were doomed but they had all the guts in the world.”

At the end of the attack, Herstein, on which Acting Administrator Harold Page had hoped civilians might be embarked, had been torn from its moorings and lay burning in the harbour. Thirty of the crew, mostly Norwegian, were later captured by the Japanese. Most were lost on Montevideo Maru later in 1942.

The next day - 21 January - reports were received in Rabaul that a large convoy was approaching from the north-west. It was a Japanese naval taskforce of eight cruisers, twelve destroyers, nine submarines and two aircraft carriers with 171 aircraft.

On this day there were also air strikes on Bulolo, Salamaua and Lae, the administrative centre since September when Administrator Sir Walter McNicoll moved there because of volcanic activity in Rabaul.

McNicoll, a very sick man, realised a Japanese invasion was approaching and handed responsibility to the New Guina Volunteer Rifles before leaving for Port Moresby and Australia.

Civil administration of the Mandated Territory effectively ended as the Japanese occupied Rabaul on 23 January and formally ceased in Papua on 14 February 1942. The separate Papuan and New Guinea administrative units were combined in April into the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU).

By the evening of 21 January all Rabaul civilians had either taken shelter in a nearby precinct, called Refuge Gully, to await the Japanese, or had left town by vehicle for distant plantations.

The next day, 22 January, Rabaul was bombed by fighters and dive bombers. No RAAF aircraft were available, the indigenous population was terrified and the troops apprehensive. Rabaul had all but fallen.

The invasion fleet carrying Major-General Tomitaro Horii’s 5300 strong South Seas Force, a brigade group based on the 55th Division that had also taken Guam, arrived off its anchoring points at 11.40 pm.

Jap_Marines_Rabaul Soon after midnight on Friday 23 January, Major Bill Owen’s A Company heard the hum of an approaching aeroplane and watched as a parachute flare illuminated the harbour.

Owen’s 90 AIF and 50 NGVR troops had taken defensive positions along the harbour shoreline north of Vulcan volcano.

The transports launched landing barges, each holding between 50 and 100 men, at six points around the harbour. At 1 am landing craft were seen heading towards Matupit Island.

“The fighting was effectively over within a few hours,” says Australian historian, Emeritus Professor Hank Nelson. “Probably less than 100 Japanese and Australians died in battle.

The Australians were too few to oppose most landings, they were quickly divided, communications between companies and headquarters were lost early. Those Australians who fought stubbornly were bypassed and naval and air-power directed against them.”

By 8 am the main body of the occupation force was mopping-up and Rabaul town was occupied. Soon after 9 am, Lark Force headquarters received reports that the Japanese were coming “in their thousands” and could not be held.

At about 11 am, Colonel Scanlan gave the order “every man for himself”. No further defence was feasible. The Australian forces withdrew and broke into small parties. Men tried to escape to the north and south coasts of New Britain, struggling through unknown country without maps, medicines and stores. In all, only 450 soldiers and civilians managed to escape.

At 11.30 the Japanese naval force moved up the harbour in line. By noon, the Gazelle Peninsula was in the hands of the invading force. Naval combat troops captured Vunakanau airfield at 1.10 pm. The invasion of Rabaul was complete.

Photos:   Upper - 2/22 Battalion on the march.    Lower - Japanese marines invade Rabaul

Key PNG issues 3: Education & training


Late last year, PNG Attitude asked readers to nominate issues you’d raise if you could speak with Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles. We’re publishing his responses in four ‘Key PNG Issues’ segments

AUSTRALIA RECOGNISES the importance of education in achieving development outcomes. In 2010-11 Australia's development assistance for basic and secondary education (up to grade 12) in PNG is $55 million.

It focuses on basic education, with support extending to secondary, technical and vocational education and training, higher education and scholarships.

Over the past few years we have seen basic education enrolment rates in PNG increase, from 52.9 per cent in 2007 to 63.6 per cent in 2009; and basic education completion rates increase from 41.5 per cent in 2006 to 56.9 per cent in 2009.

School fees have been abolished for the first three grades of basic education (elementary school) from 2010, and we hope to see all school fees abolished by 2015.

In 2009-10 193 double classrooms, 47 teacher houses and 13 other school buildings, including libraries and toilets, have been constructed.  539,000 textbooks, selected by the PNG Department of Education, have been procured and delivered to all primary and community schools in PNG.

The DCT review recommended support for education remain a key focus, and we agree that this is an important component of Australia’s aid program in PNG.

In July 2009, Australia and PNG commissioned Professor Ross Garnaut and Sir Rabbie Namaliu to review PNG's university system. While most of their recommendations are for the Government of PNG, and relate to sustained funding, leadership and reform, Australia is considering the recommendations in the context of our broader review of the aid program and in the context of our Partnership for Development.

We see scope to increase our support for the higher education sector, including technical and vocational education.

Hon Richard Marles MP is the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Australian Parliament

PNG Attitude welcomes readers’ comments on the Parliamentary Secretary’s views

Confidence sinks deeper than gas wells


SMH - POLITICIANS often count on the public having a short memory span, but a record was set this week by PNG’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare.

The ''Grand Chief'', as the independence-transition leader is honoured, returned to office explaining he had been away on holiday to use up his accrued leave.

This struck a lot of his countrymen as odd, because when he left work five weeks earlier, they distinctly remember him saying he was standing aside to face a tribunal that would decide if he had violated leadership rules.

Some unkind reporters dug out the press release from his office which said Somare said would ''now voluntarily step aside and allow the Deputy Prime Minister, Sam Abal, to assume full function and responsibility of the Office of the Prime Minister while he attends to clearing his name''.

Somare has been referred to a leadership tribunal to face charges that he didn't submit statements of his income and assets between 1994 and 1997 and that statements he put in between 1998 and 2004 were filed late. This was the culmination of a long skirmish with PNG's official watchdog, the Ombudsman Commission.

His daughter and media officer, Betha Somare, eventually acknowledged the changed story. ''We issued a statement earlier that he had stepped aside but we have been advised by the lawyers that he could not step aside, he just took his leave," she told reporters. Her father would now step down once the chief justice set up a tribunal.

For now, the wily old man of Port Moresby politics seems to have wriggled out of trouble….

Transparency International, the respected monitor of these things, has just issued its latest ''Global Corruption Barometer'', which shows an almost universal feeling around the world that bribery and corruption are getting worse.

PNG almost took the prize for the plummeting faith in honest government - 85 per cent of those surveyed said corruption had got worse, a level beaten only in Venezuela (86 per cent), Romania (87 per cent) and the West African nation of Senegal (88 per cent).

That's quite a vote of no-confidence, whatever may happen when its Parliament is allowed to sit again.

It's important to Australia, because PNG is about to enjoy a bonanza that corrupt politicians could easily squander. The liquefied natural gas project in the Southern Highlands and Gulf of Papua is coming on stream over the next three years, doubling gross domestic product and giving a huge lift to government revenues….

The government has more to spend, but in key social areas such as education it is still well below what it was more than a decade ago. ''Despite large funding increases, service delivery is still chronically inadequate for a large part of the population,'' writes a development economist, Aaron Batten, on the Australian National University's East Asia Forum website.

And corrupt, he might have added. Into this system, Canberra is trying to push $457 million in aid this financial year, just a shade below what we give to Indonesia, such is the priority we attach to stability and development in PNG.

A leadership that shuts down its Parliament as much as it can, and has been officially pulled up for not declaring income, hardly inspires confidence it can spread the new petroleum wealth wisely and fairly.

Read the full story here

Hamish McDonald is the Sydney Morning Herald’s Asia Pacific Editor

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 22 January 2011.   Spotter: Barbara Short

Political elite likes Queensland real estate

WHILE PNG BECOMES “an oil-rich country verging on state failure”, according to The Australian newspaper, “some of its political elite have been building up assets offshore, coinciding with huge development of the country's gold, petroleum and copper riches.”

Journalist Paul Cleary writes that, in the past five years, key political figures have invested $6 million in Cairns and Brisbane property. Some have based their wives and children there and fly regularly between Port Moresby and Cairns.

Cleary says some may have exploited an exemption in Australia's foreign investment laws that allows non-residents to buy new properties.

“PNG is emerging as an extreme case of the two-speed economy,” he writes, “with boom conditions in Port Moresby driven by liquefied natural gas and other resource projects, while the rest of the country sinks deeper into poverty and state dysfunction.

“While proving ineffective at running the country, Sir Michael and his family have shown themselves adept at buying real estate and hanging on to power.”

It seems the Somare family made its first real estate purchase in Cairns in 2007, when Michael Somare bought an apartment in Parramatta Park north of the city for $349,000.

In 2008, his son Arthur, Minister for Public Enterprises, bought a home at Trinity Beach north of Cairns for $685,000. In the same year, Somare's daughter, Dulciana Somare-Brash, also bought a $425,000 Trinity Beach home.

“The purchases by Somare's children followed his return to power in August 2007,” writes Cleary. “Arthur Somare's home is listed under his name in the phone book and he returns there regularly.

“A Somare spokesman declined to respond to questions about how these properties were purchased.”

Now they’ve been joined as a neighbour by Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, whose $585,000 five-bedroom, two-bathroom Cairns home with water views was bought without negotiation.

“I was thinking, where did he get the money from? It was all too quick and easy,”' said real estate agent Shane Trimby, who sold the property.

Duma told The Australian he was “quite well off'” before entering parliament, having been a partner in the Port Moresby office of the law firm Blake Dawson Waldron.

“I purchased a property in Cairns using my personal savings in Port Moresby. I obtained foreign exchange approval from the PNG Central Bank to remit funds to my Australian solicitor's trust account.

“My Australia solicitors also obtained Foreign Investment Review Board approval before I could purchase the property. There is a clear paper trail showing the origin of the funds which I used to purchase the property.”

Duma acknowledges that “there may be a perception that because I am the Minister for Petroleum and Energy, I may have received some form of benefit from ExxonMobil'. All that I can say is that I was a wealthy person before I became a politician. The funds I used were from my savings account.”

He denies any corruption and says ExxonMobil is very rigorous in its running of the LNG project. “They want to do it the ExxonMobil way -- very bureaucratic, very thorough.”

Opposition members are also own property in Australia. Sir Mekere Morauta has built up more assets than Somare from the profits of his fishing business. His Australian wife, Roslyn, bought a $3.6m riverside mansion in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm in 2008. This followed a $910,000 purchase of another New Farm property in 1999.

Source: ‘Papua New Guinea powerbrokers snap up property’ by Paul Cleary, The Australian, 20 January 2011

Spotter: Paul Oates

Key PNG issues 2: Governance & corruption


Late last year, PNG Attitude asked readers to nominate the issues they’d raise if given the opportunity to speak with Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles. We’re publishing his statements in four ‘Key PNG Issues’ segments

THE BASIC RESPONSIBILITY for improving governance and addressing corruption in Papua New Guinea resides with the Government of PNG. That said, Australia is strongly committed to supporting our closest neighbour to address these challenges.

Through the $150 million PNG-Australia Law and Justice Partnership, Australia and PNG are working together to achieve measurable improvements in law and justice services at local and national levels. We are assisting PNG to build accountable and transparent government, and to implement anti-fraud and anti-corruption activities.

At PNG’s request, Australia is also supporting the PNG Ombudsman Commission to strengthen its investigative functions and improve its human resource management, planning and case management.

We also support a twinning program between the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman and the PNG Ombudsman Commission.

Australian support has also resulted in achievements in strengthening aspects of governance in PNG, such as strengthening the anti-money laundering and proceeds of crime capacity of the National Fraud Squad. In 2009, Papua New Guinea’s National Fraud and Anti-Corruption Directorate made 41 arrests for alleged offences totaling a monetary value of K44 million, almost 30 per cent more than in 2008.

On top of this, we are supporting civil society organisations, particularly Transparency International PNG, to improve community knowledge of corruption and build demand for improved governance.

Some of your readers have raised concerns about the impact of foreign investment in PNG. Investment by foreign companies is an important component in building PNG’s economy and can contribute significantly to development outcomes.

Although corporate activities in PNG are governed by PNG legislation, Australia has legislation that governs the activities and reporting of those companies registered in Australia.

Hon Richard Marles MP is the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Australian Parliament

PNG Attitude welcomes readers’ comments on the Parliamentary Secretary’s views

Key PNG issues 1: Development assistance


Marles_Portrait Late last year, PNG Attitude asked readers to nominate the issues you’d raise if you had an opportunity to speak with Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles.  Mr Marles has now responded to each critical issue and we’re publishing his statements in four special Key PNG Issues segments

THANK YOU for the opportunity to respond to some of the key issues raised in the questions provided by PNG Attitude readers.

The Government of Papua New Guinea is ultimately responsible for its own development progress. But Australian aid, although a relatively small part of PNG's revenue, is making a difference.

In 2009, 300,000 more students were enrolled in elementary and primary schools than in 2006. Over the same period, basic education completion rates increased from 41.5 per cent in 2006 to 56.9 per cent.

In 2008, Australia supported the immunisation of over 900,000 children against measles and other childhood illnesses, covering over 95 per cent of children in six provinces in PNG.

During a visit to Australia in 2009, Prime Minister Somare agreed with then Prime Minister Rudd that the PNG Development Cooperation Treaty (DCT), which provides the legal basis for our aid relationship, should be reviewed.

The recently-completed review of the DCT recommends an increased focus in our aid program on service delivery and working with volunteers, churches and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

In recognition of the important role churches and NGOs play in our program in PNG, in July 2010, then Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, announced Australia would provide $50 million over five years to churches in PNG. This funding will help churches continue to deliver crucial health and education services to the poorest and most disadvantaged people in remote areas of PNG.

In addition, there are already 36 Australian government-funded volunteers in PNG working in a range of areas including small business development, health, HIV, education and rural development.

The DCT review also recommends narrowing the focus of Australia’s aid program and reducing an over-reliance on advisers to achieve better outcomes.  Australia agrees with the broad thrust of the review and the Australian and PNG Governments will jointly respond in due course.

A separate recent review of advisers in PNG was conducted jointly by PNG and Australian officials to ensure that each AusAID-funded adviser position is the most effective response in the current context to meeting agreed development needs and priorities.  Advisers are recruited based on their relevant experience, and are highly skilled in their work. The review has confirmed that advisers remain a valued and effective part of Australia’s aid to PNG.

That said, inline with the recommendations of the DCT review, Foreign Ministers Rudd and Abal recently agreed that adviser numbers in PNG will be cut by a third over the next two years. In future, Australia’s aid to PNG will have a greater emphasis on alternatives to advisers, such as training, the provision of equipment or using locally available services.

The DCT review also contains a number of recommendations that can only be addressed by the PNG Government. Improved governance, law and order and reduced corruption are all essential in order for aid to be most effective. Consistent with our partnership approach, the focus of our assistance will continue to be agreed in accordance with PNG government priorities.

I also note that the PNG LNG project represents a significant opportunity for Papua New Guinea to transform its economy and future development. Australia remains committed to helping PNG achieve its objectives for the project, including by supporting the establishment of sovereign wealth funds to manage LNG revenues effectively and transparently.

Hon Richard Marles MP is the Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs in the Australian Parliament

PNG Attitude welcomes readers’ comments on the Parliamentary Secretary’s views

Bolster those national schools, says Barbara


BARBARA SHORT taught in PNG high schools from 1971-83 as part of a 37-year career in which she was an educator in many parts of the world, culminating with eight years at Abbotsleigh, one of the leading girls secondary schools in Sydney.

Despite the many years that have elapsed since leaving PNG, Barbara has maintained close connections with many of her former students and she counts former Governor General Sir Paulias Matane as a friend.

In her submission to Australia’s Independent Review of Foreign Aid, Barbara recalls how, when Sir Paulias launched her history of Keravat National High School in 2009, they both agreed that PNG was no longer catering adequately for its gifted and talented students.

“We recommended that the previous National High Schools, who used to produce the top professional people for the country, should be made into selective Schools of Excellence,” Barbara wrote.

Her submission reveals that the Education Minister and Secretary for Education agreed with this strategy – and that Sir Michael Somare put aside money in the Budget for this purpose.

“Sadly,” Barbara added, “the PNG people have watched these schools slowly deteriorate so much that now the buildings have to be pulled down and rebuilt. They need help with this.

“My suggestion to you is that you offer to help the PNG Education Department set up these Schools of Excellence to train the professionals for the years ahead.

“What I'm suggesting is that the Australian government aim at something concrete that they can do as a form of aid which can be seen by everyone.

“I suggest that the Australian Government offer to rebuild these four National High schools - Sogeri, Keravat, Aiyura and Passam -which are now in a terrible stay of decay.

“I also suggest that the Australian government offer to help them with staff to improve the training of the teachers to teach at these schools.

“If something isn't done soon then there will be few PNG students trained to a level that can cope with university courses and the whole country will suffer.”

Barbara Short is one of a number of PNG Attitude readers and contributors, committed to the PNG-Australia relationship, who have made submission to the Aid Review.

More details on the aid review are at   Submissions must be received by 2 February

The parliamentary secretary speaks....

Late last year, PNG Attitude asked readers to nominate the issues they’d raise if they had an opportunity to speak with Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles.

Readers responded with gusto, posing critical questions related to development assistance; governance & corruption; education & training; and regional relationships, defence arrangements and China.

Now Mr Marles has responded to each issue and we’ll publish his (that is, the government's) views in a Key PNG Issues segment over the next four days.  We invite readers to air their own comments on what he says, and we'll get a conversation (maybe  a debate!) going.

Consultants: first big winners of aid review


THE FIRST BENEFICIARIES of Australia’s Independent Review of Foreign Aid have been identified – the consultants.

And in this case the consultants are members of the team appointed to undertake the review, who will jointly benefit by $660,000 reports Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

According to the Australian government's AusTender website, team leader Sandy Hollway and two other members of the foreign aid review, former Liberal Senator Margaret Reid and former diplomat Bill Farmer, will each be paid $220,000 for about six months work.

Jamie Briggs, Opposition spokesman on government waste, said Mr Hollway "does seem to have benefited more than most from this Federal Labor Government".

Mr Briggs also said that the "cost and ill-defined nature" of the foreign aid review raised questions about value-for-money for taxpayers.

In addition, Mr Hollway has already received about $400,000 in consultancy fees in the past 18 months as the government's “whaling envoy” and “envoy on Kokoda”.

But the former Sydney Olympics' chief rejected suggestions he would earn $220,000 to tell the Foreign Minister how to better spend the $4.5 billion aid budget.

Mr Hollway said he will earn a maximum of $100,000 for six months work. The additional money is for “reimbursement expenses”.

Readers of the Daily Telegraph were scathing at the disclosure: “$4 billion to give away. What a lucky country we are to have such benevolent politicians and Labour lackies,” said Robert Ingle of Moonbah. “You pack of bastards.”

And Don Campbell of Port Macquarie wrote: “You don't need to be a Rhodes Scholar to know how to better invest $4.5 billion, or be paid a six figure sum to provide the advice. Queensland, parts of NSW and Victoria are in urgent need of massive investment to assist with the reconstruction of the flood damaged infrastructure. Foreign aid is great when Australia has no urgent need for the money but now is the time to rethink all projects including foreign aid...”

Source: ‘Aiding the consultant - Rudd's man earns a fortune’ by Steve Lewis, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 19 January 2011

More details on the aid review are at   Submissions must be received by 2 February

PNG to lead the way in deep sea mining

THE PNG GOVERNMENT is said to have “created history” by granting the world’s first deep sea mining lease to Nautilus Minerals of Canada for the development of the Solwara 1 Project in the Bismarck Sea.

“This historic decision to grant a lease over a deep sea deposit is a major step forward for this new frontier,” said Nautilus CEO Stephen Rogers.

“It reflects the fact that the Solwara 1 Project is being recognised as an exciting, commercially valuable undertaking.”

The lease covers an area of about 60 sq km 59km and is 50km north of Rabaul. Nautilus intends to mine 2.2 million tonnes of high grade copper and gold deposits on the sea floor at depths of about 1,600 metres.

The mining lease has been granted for an initial 20 years and the PNG government retains an option, exercisable within one month, to take up to a 30 percent stake.

“We are grateful to the PNG government for its support and welcome its participation in the project,” Mr Rogers said. “We look forward to working closely with the government on Solwara 1, which will generate significant investment for the economies of New Ireland, East New Britain and PNG.

“The successful development of Solwara 1 will pave the way for the expansion of operations to other seafloor deposits in the future, creating an exciting growth industry further benefiting PNG,” he said.

Source: ‘Deep sea mining lease granted’ by Mohammad Bashir, Post-Courier, 19 January 2011

Notes on the background of kuru’s discovery


THE RECENT ABC program about kuru omitted recognition of the role of Vin Zigas in identifying the disease, even though it may have been a minor one.

I had previously known Zigas when we were both stationed in the Goilala. He arrived in the Kainantu sub-district some months after I had been transferred to the Sepik.

But, while I have no first hand knowledge of the origins of the detection of the disease, because of my interest in the subject I tried to stay informed.

Patrol Officer John McArthur was accepted as highlighting the role of Kuru and drawing it to Zigas's attention.

McArthur had been stationed at Taramo, alongside Mount Michael, and relocated the post to Okapa. He and Cadet Patrol Officer Paul Healy opened Okapa in February-March 1953.

Patrol Officer John Colman subsequently took over at Okapa and worked closely with Zigas.

McArthur and Healey have been dead for some time, Colman died last year. His widow, Joan, is still alive, and switched on but he was single in the Okapa era.

My understanding is that Vin Zigas took up the kuru project sometime in 1956, but it may have been later.

Alan Kelly, whose contribution was also not recognised, played some role, possibly in 1958.

As an aside, Tobias Schwoerer, a Swiss PhD student attached to the Kuru Research Unit in Goroka, commented that the first written record of kuru he could find was contained in one of my patrol reports (Kainantu Patrol Report No 8 of 1953/54 (13 Jan - 20 Feb).

I still have one of the carbon copies of that report:

Keru [sic] a form of sorcery. The first sign of impending death is a general debility which is followed by general weakness and inability to stand. The victim retires to her house. She is able to take a little nourishment but suffers from violent shivering. The next stage is that the victim lies down in the house and cannot take nourishment and death eventually ensures.

Coincidentally, the same report has another section headed ‘Cannibalism’. The details differ from Alper's recital:

A dead body may be eaten soon after death or some months after. If it is not eaten soon after death it is buried and disinterred after approximately one month. Care is taken when the body is interred and when it is disinterred it is shovelled with great care onto pandanus mats.

The maggots are also treated with care as they are regarded as an integral part of the body as they have consumed the bodies [sic] juices and they too are consumed. All parties [sic] of the body are consumed, the flesh being mixed with green vegetables and roasted in bamboos.

‘Your dad’s a hero’ - Bill Harry & Rabaul


In the space of a week around the turn of this year, three veterans of the 2/22 Battalion died, including Bill Harry. This leaves just ten men of the military group deployed to Rabaul which fought the Japanese invasion of 23 January 1942. Many members of Lark Force were captured and later lost in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru. Bill not only escaped the onslaught, he assisted many other men to do so.

C 1940 BILL WAS CHRISTENED Cuthbert Oswald. His mother Annie had asked each of her two young nieces what their favourite name was. Not surprisingly, from the word go Cuthbert Oswald was called “Bill” - and his mother never ceased apologising.

Bill’s father, Henry Harry, has four sons. Over the years he expanded the farming operation he had established at Yallook about 30 miles out of Bendigo and acquired numerous new properties. For a time they were the largest wheat growers in Victoria, and largest Clydesdale Horse breeders in Australia.

But when the Great Depression hit after several years of drought and over-development, Henry was unable to service his debt and (like many others) in the early 1930s lost the lot. Difficult times indeed, but the family stayed loyally together.

They then relocated to the Mallee where they battled and just made a living, never really getting ahead. They moved on - from Natya, to Piangil, and then Murrabit. Wherever they were, the family was always actively involved in community, church and sporting activity.

This early life gave Bill a lasting love of the Murray River and Mallee region - particularly Murrabit.

In the mid 1930’s the family wisely decided to move operations to Gippsland, on the Bass River, where they finally found more success on the land.

Then war came - and Bill travelled to Melbourne. On 28 May 1940, he enlisted in the AIF.  The 2/22 Infantry Battalion was formed, and in February 1941, its 1,300 men were transferred to Rabaul.

The story of the 2/22 Battalion and what it went through is long and tragic. When the Japanese invaded Rabaul, they attacked in force: up to 20,000 troops and 40 warships including two aircraft carriers against 1,300 infantry men with a meagre six Wirraway planes.

Bill’s role prior to the invasion was to survey the surrounding area. He became friendly with some of the Methodist missionaries and went on many patrols with them into the mountains, gaining a greater understanding of the jungle, its tracks and villages.

Lark Force was overwhelmed by the invasion and retreat became inevitable within hours. OIC Colonel Scanlon soon declared “every man for himself”.

Bill’s knowledge of the land was invaluable and after the invasion he was summoned by Colonel Scanlon to work with him and Command HQ to assist in very belatedly planning a retreat into the jungle – which ultimately saved many lives.

When Scanlon and some other officers decided to surrender, Bill travelled down to the south coast looking for his mates. Unfortunately many had surrendered and were lost on the Montevideo Maru.

Bill spent the next few months in the bush - sometimes by himself, sometimes in a small group - dodging the enemy. His survival skills as a self professed “boy from the bush” served him well, even though he was registered as “missing” for months.

At one stage, the party Bill was with needed to get word to another group of soldiers back up the coast regarding planning of their escape from New Britain. Bill was the one nominated for this task.  He was given four days to get there and return, otherwise he’d be left behind. 

He made it and returned in less than two days – travelling day and night, and hardly resting or sleeping the whole time.  It was a remarkable effort, later referred to by some of his battalion mates as “Bill Harry’s March”.

Tragically only 300-400 or so of the battalion of 1,300 odd made it home. Of Bill’s team in the Intelligence Section, he was the only survivor.

C 2000 Bill retained a lifelong bond with his battalion mates, and after the war, was instrumental in forming the 2/22 Battalion Lark Force Association, being its President, and later its Secretary, from the 1950s until 2002, when Norm Furness took up the reins.

It is difficult to comprehend the time and effort that Bill put into this, and it was truly appreciated by the men and their families – as evidenced by this tribute presented to him by the battalion in 1980, which he treasured greatly.

I can still clearly remember, when at a Battalion reunion when I was a kid of about 12 or 13, listening to a group of Bill’s battalion mates talking. Then Jock Woods, one of Dad’s great mates turned to Frazer and me and said “You know fellas, to all of us blokes, your Dad’s a hero.”

Photos of Bill Harry circa 1940 and circa 2000 - Frazer Harry

Ineffectual aid program needs total rethink

Oates Paul This is an edited version of PAUL OATES’ submission to the independent panel currently conducting a review of AusAID for the Federal government

TRADITIONALLY Australia’s overseas aid program seems to have been evaluated on the basis of inputs without apparent regard for achievement of purpose and micro objectives.

Aid effectiveness is in the eye of the beholder. Viewed by rural PNG people the many hundreds of millions of dollars in overseas aid since independence in 1975 has proven totally ineffective.

The easiest and simple benchmark to assess the effectiveness of AusAID programs is one that already existed in 1975, when there was a system of providing law and order, justice, communications, education and health to rural PNG people.

Today the system of providing government services to the rural PNG people is so fragmented, underfunded or non existent as to be almost totally ineffectual. In essence, rural services in many areas are no longer available.

Yet there are only two basic changes in the circumstances between today and 1975. The first change is that PNG is now a sovereign country with its own government and public service. The second is that the population of the country has doubled and is set to double again in less than another 30 years.

Certain recent initiatives by AusAID have been very well received. For example, the funding of primary school students; the provision of school text books; and the initial medical patrol into rural areas of the Central Province.

But why have people with expertise and experience not been offered involvement in any aid program, possibly in a voluntary capacity? There are many who have had PNG experience and those with practical experience should be canvassed when programs are designed.

My submission to the review highlights these points:

AusAID has not been getting down to an operational level that is actually helping the average PNG person.

Before any aid future program is commenced, publicly reported benchmarks for evaluating program achievement must be established.

AusAID programs must detail what ongoing skills transfer has been achieved by each program and how this has been assessed.

Existing expertise is to be canvassed and utilised in program design and operational implementation.

Non government organisations should be included in service delivery projects.

Local stakeholders need to be established and incorporated into any aid program implementation phase to ensure ongoing ownership and value adding.

Before any workable solution can be designed, the problem must be defined. It has been established that the current AusAID distribution system has not been effective in delivering services to the majority of rural PNG people commensurate with the amount of funding provided. What went wrong?

The current distribution of services is controlled by the PNG government, including the responsible public servants. Yet the PNG public service is not held accountable for service delivery. Even the PNG Prime Minister is on record as saying his PNG Public Service is corrupt. Inefficiency is also a significant problem.

Clearly the wrong people are involved in the process. Actual stakeholders must be involved in all levels of service delivery to ensure ownership.

More details on the Independent Review of AusAID are at Submissions must be received by 2 February. The Review’s Report will be available in April.

A global discourse on kuru & cannibalism


PNG ATTITUDE frequently receives communications from researchers, authors and other seekers of information who are pondering this question or that and wondering if people can help.

It probably won’t surprise you that - our readers being a pretty savvy lot - more often than not the searcher for wisdom is provided with facts, anecdotes, references and further referrals – and moves on replete with new learning and new contacts.

Information sourcing has become a distinct if lesser recognised benefit of this website.

Recently, biologist Dr Douglas Allchin of the University of Minnesota in the USA sought information on the history of kuru and the work of controversial Nobel prize winning scientist Carleton Gajdusek, whose research into kuru led to important insights into brain disease.

I put Doug, who is developing a case study on kuru for use in science classes, in touch with Des Martin, and I thought you might like to eavesdrop on the conversation….


I served as a Patrol Officer/District Officer in PNG for some twenty years post WW2 where I had served in the Australian army fighting against the Japs. Most of my time was on outstations and I belong to that band of PNG Patrol Officer brothers of my vintage who on occasions faced spears an arrows. A bygone era that was virtually unknown in Australia let alone the USA. I also served in a diplomatic post in Washington DC in the late 70's and early 80's and still retain an interest in the American scene and news.

Cannibalism was not endemic throughout PNG and where it occurred it took various forms. In the upper Sepik River area it was traditional to eat all your enemies and a typical case in the early 50's was where people from an area called Yellow River invited a mixed group of about thirty from the nearby May River area to visit and promptly killed and ate them all.

In other areas it was more of the ritual kind, e.g. eat parts of your enemy in order to gain his strength. In the swampy areas of the lands bordering on the Sepik River delta it was traditional to partake of your clan relatives when they died.

Patrol Officers like me working in the districts recently under government control and our superiors were consciously aware of cannibalism as a way of life in some districts but it was more of interest as an exotic sphere of research or whatever to anthropologists seeking a PhD. We normally never highlighted the practice in our routine reports. It was a local fact of life.

Jack Baker who was the PO in the area was probably aware that Kuru (laughing disease) was caused by the ritual eating of brain matter without of course understanding the physiology of what caused the resultant disease The then district medical officer Dr Vin Zegas reports on the disease came to the notice of Gadjusek who came to PNG and made the first serious medical study of Kuru. A Dr Alpers later came into the picture but it was Jack Baker and Vin Zigas who first surfaced the matter but never got the recognition afforded to Gadjusek and Alpers.


I am aware that the Fore form of ritual cannibalism of dead relatives was in some ways quite different from other PNG cultures. The challenge of interpreting kuru was that although it was transmitted from one individual to another, it did not affect its victim immediately, but lingered between 4 and 40 years before becoming active. There is no immune response (as there is for bacterial or virus infections) -- and that would puzzle physicians such as Gajdusek and Zigas. So they did not immediately "see" or conclude that the consumption of dead relatives among the Fore was responsible for spreading the disease. The cannibalism was based on kinship, so kuru appeared in families, indicating it was perhaps genetic.

It is widely appreciated now that Zigas and Gajdusek coauthored the initial scientific papers that brought kuru to international attention, but it was Gajdusek (and Alpers) who had the ambition (and resources!) to do the lengthy and tedious experiments that later indicated the disease could be transmitted by inoculations of contaminated brain matter.

To this we may also add the work of anthropologists Robert and Shirley  Glass and PNG medical officer John Matthews, who helped to demonstrate the role of the ritual cannibalism. And veterinarian William Hadlow, who linked kuru to scrapie in sheep.And, as highlighted in the conference in London in 2007, many of the Fore people contributed as assistants -- in securing tissue samples, in helping with autopsies, in surveying the distribution of the disease. Science is certainly a wide collaborative enterprise and we hope our case study for science classrooms helps to convey that.

Although the cannibalism stopped by 1960, the last known case of kuru emerged in 2006.

Looking after Mr and Mrs Grassroots


With a comment by John Fowke

THERE ARE THREE levels of government in Papua New Guinea; national, provincial and local.  The provinces are not separate states but branches of the national government, with the governors having seats in the national parliament.

Each province is divided into districts and each district into local level government (LLG) areas.  The LLGs are divided into wards with councillors each representing several villages.

The district boundaries correspond to open electoral boundaries, so that each district has a representative in the national parliament.  Until 2006 the presidents of the LLGs also had seats in the provincial assemblies.

The three tiers of government were ratified under the Provincial and Local Level Governments Act of 1995.  Under that Act, LLGs are supposed to be the focal points for much of the basic service delivery for Mr and Mrs Grassroots, including electricity and water supply.

The National Government has an ambitious plan to directly fund the districts under its District Support Improvement Plan. Unfortunately many districts lack the capacity to absorb these funds and to implement development programs. 

The District Administrators (DAs), their districts are aligned with the open electorates, are usually politicised, resulting in a high turnover of staff at senior level. 

There is also a lack of sufficiently trained personnel in the districts, particularly in the areas of program management, procurement, monitoring and evaluation.  At the moment the most politically compliant sit in these jobs rather than the most qualified.

Even though the funding is directed to the district, the largesse has to be seen to have come from the efforts of the local member, i.e., the bikman syndrome at work.  Coupled with this is the nexus between the local member and the District Administrator; the latter is dependent, in most cases, on the former for his job.

Therefore, if you have a corrupt local member, you are more than likely to have a corrupt and colluding DA; together they can divert district funds where they please.

My experience from Western, Gulf and Central Provinces is that the local member tells the DA what to do; if you want to find the DA find out where the local member is; the DA will be trotting two steps behind.

DAs, in turn, lord it over the LLG presidents and councillors. So if someone wants the school in their village fixed, they have to kowtow to the local member, who, more than likely, has an entirely different agenda.

If as John Fowke suggests, you set up a nexus between the local member and the LLG for funding, you might cut out the middleman (the District Administrator) but the net result might be the same, with the avenues for corruption still there.

One could also incorrectly assume that the LLGs, because they are closer to Mr and Mrs Grassroots, might have their interests at heart. My experience is that there are some very ambitious LLG presidents and councillors aspiring to become local members one day and they can be as corrupt as anyone else.

There are notable exceptions of course.  There are, I think, many, many more good men and women in Papua New Guinea than bad.  Unfortunately the latter are currently in the ascendancy and they have some very good teachers in the national capital.

The policy is also good.  What is crook is the delivery.  The provincial governors weren’t very happy about the District Support Improvement Plan; they saw it as a money-grab by the local members. 

And Mr and Mrs Grassroots are blithely unaware of the plan.  If you take out the influence of the local member, the ructions will be even louder; but that is precisely what needs to happen.

The funds need to go directly to either the district administration or, as John Fowke suggests, the LLG administrations, with no sticky political fingers, from whatever level, within cooee. 

The LLGs also need their seats back on the provincial assemblies because that is the door through which the money enters; either that or the door needs to be slammed shut and the focus entirely shifted to the districts.

I’m inclined to favour funding going to the districts.  You can’t expect the national government, except in a scattergun sense, to know which schools need a new roof or which roads need grading but the district administration, if it is honest and in touch, should be able to prioritise and equitably distribute needed funds.



"If you take out the influence of the local member the ructions will be even louder; but that is precisely what needs to happen"

I have laboured for long to show that PNG is a crooked hegemony, and not a democracy at all, because the people are not accepting nor aware of the nature and role of political parties.

PNG should never have been allowed to grow its own adversarial party system as per Westminster.

The old system of appointed district-level representation in the District Advisory Counsils, in turn sending representatives to the appointed Legislative Council, which fell naturally into the PNG imagination and socio-political ethos, should have been democratised by statute and allowed to continue - with the involvement of the Local Level Governments as the basic electoral convenor-forum and basic service-provision overseer.

In the 1960s, there was a rather childish fear around generated by the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya. Such tribal rebellion was the theme of Ian Downs' novel The Stolen Land written in 1967.

This occupied the minds of the few thinkers at the head of the Australian Administration, to the exclusion of experience and observation. The only senior voice of sense came from the late David Fenbury.

I have repeated this theme many times in PNG Attitude, and in all four of the PNG papers:  Post-Courier,  National, Wantok and Sunday Observer.

PNG's woes may to a major extent be laid at the door, not of Australian policy - for the party system grew from within the matrix of the House of Assembly - but are the result of Australian blindness and lack of imagination in allowing a theoretically class-based system of representation to arise in a classless society.

This gave birth to PNG’s first social class - the exploitative, usually manipulative and often corrupt MPs operating in a party system.

Granted that all the negative aspects of a multi-tribal society are ipso facto embodied in the LLG/District/MP system, as Phil points out.

But the people of PNG are entirely voiceless in the affairs both of their own locality and of the State - simply because no-one has ever shown them a naturally and culturally meaningful, adoptable way of forming themselves into a national electorate and thus into a Nation, with all that this implies.

A song for camels


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

THERE WAS an abrupt scream. And Mihi stopped in his track. He turned slowly with his heavy load and there was no one in sight.

His heart jumped! And beat faster. Then his body started shaking in panic. The sudden rush of blood forced out sweat and compelled him to do something.

He quickly but carefully lowered his sun-dried coffee beans in the tightly packed, used white 20kg flour bag on the ground and ran downhill calling loudly.

“Somolieeeeee! Somolieeeee!” He didn’t hear his quivered voice echoed across the jungle yonder.

Somolie, a short and thin but tough guy with really strong arms hanging from broad shoulders that defined his physique, could easily be hidden from his view by tall grasses; but he was not certain.

He stopped at a spot where some Kunai grasses have been bent under the weight of something. He stepped forward, carefully, and called out.

A desperate voice responded and he moved closer to the edge of a cliff. Then peered over and saw Somolie hanging desperately onto some vines and small branches.

Mihi breathed a deep sigh. And for the first time ever saw Somolie’s bald head. It was smooth and shiny, even under the cliff’s shadow. Mihi called down and asked if Somolie was alright. The response was positive.

Somolie’s cap was missing and he dreaded the thought of losing it. He looked down and spotted his coffee bag. Fortunately, it had landed on a cluster of wild tiny species of bamboo that were growing there. And realised it was safer where it had landed than he was.

Somolie carefully climbed down, then retrieved his coffee bag. He managed to drag his bag back up to where a vine which Mihi threw down had landed.

When Somolie and his coffee bag were safely up on the track, they sat down to rest.

It wasn’t the first time for such to have occurred. Many others have lost stuff including store goods such as cartons of SP Brown beer to the fast flowing river below. Men, women and children had all had their share of experiences on this steep stretch of Kuipi track; a shortcut over the Kuipi Mountain which constituted one half of a rather unforgiving gorge.

It is a major track and its users call it their highway. Upon it tonnes of garden food, coffee beans, store goods, building materials, and even coffins with corpses have been transported for years - after their only road became impassable to vehicles due to continuing neglect.

Mihi broke the silence. “You’re lucky!” And pointed to a spot further down and remarked. “If it had been there; it’s a plummet to certain death”.

Somolie agreed with a weary nod as a vivid recollection of a recent fatal fall he had witnessed flashed across his mind.

Then he slowly stood up and caressed his bottom. “It hurts”, he groaned. “Something has scratched my bottom”, he continued, then jokingly checked his private parts to ensure their wellbeing. “All intact!” he declared with a grin, and ensured his cap sat well on his head.

Mihi let out a stifled laugh. He didn’t want to offend Somolie, but he really wanted to laugh. The sight of Somolie hanging like a bald cuscus was funny. He bowed his head to conceal his beaming face.

Then Somolie started laughing. Mihi burst into laughter and they laughed together. Somolie managed to explain between laughs that he stepped aside to urinate and lost his balance. Then he threw his coffee bag and jumped after it.

After a good long laugh, Somolie shouldered his bag and followed Mihi up the track. They had to reach the top, which seemed further still, before the sun gathered all its strength.

As he was slowly climbing, Somolie began to sing a song; with a voice that seemed devoid of shock.

They call us camels. They call us white horses.
They call us semi-trailers. They call us many names.
Names of things we don’t know much of.

We’re they who walk with the strength of our fathers.
Those bygone men who had tamed angry rivers,
Appeased bellowing clouds and walked with mists.

Our coffee beans shall not go to waste!
Our coffee beans shall not go to waste!
O no – no - no; shall not go to waste!

Mihi joined and they sang with a certain pride that sent the song speeding downhill on the wings of a determined breeze.

Far below, an army of white bags in a long and winding line resembling a herd of camels on a journey came into view. When the song reached them, hearts were touched and moved. Many repeated the chorus and the gorge reverberated with their inspiration.

It is their song and they loved it. It inspires strength which they need in order to climb Kuipi; and confidence to walk shamelessly with their loads through villages (whose inhabitants ridicule and call them names) along the road.

And they continued singing their hearts out - husbands, wives and their children.

Mount Lamington erupts: sixty years on


Mount_Lamington_1951 19 JANUARY 1951 - MOUNT LAMINGTON, eight miles from Higaturu, erupted at 11 o’clock yesterday morning.

The District Commissioner Mr C F Cowley, reports that there has been no loss of life, nor is there any immediate danger.

The last reported eruption in the Territory was in 1945, when a mountain near Collingwood Bay on the North-East Coast became active.

A stream of matter is running down the slopes of Lamington, but it is not known whether this is lava, water or a landslide. Black smoke is billowing from the northern side.

The Deputy Administrator Mr Justice Phillips will fly to Higaturu early today by Charter Aviation Service to inspect the affected area.

The Higaturu eruption was preceded by a number of slight earth tremors from 4 pm on Tuesday and 9 am on Wednesday.

A Government official who was in Higaturu on Tuesday and Wednesday last night described the earth tremors as “slight.” He said that he had noticed about 40. Others who were in the area say there were between 60 and 70 a day.

Mount Lamington, which is about 80 air miles from Port Moresby, rises up in a series of four sharp peaks which are known locally as the “Marx Brothers.” There are about 32 Europeans living in the area.

Assistant Government Secretary Claude Champion said last night, Mr Cowley would maintain emergency contact with Port Moresby through the DCA radio network.

Mr Champion said there are no native villages in the immediate vicinity of Lamington but that many lived around the foothills.

“This eruption may upset some natives,” he said, “and Mr Cowley may need to take steps to reassure them.

“In 1932 I tried to take a patrol into the mountain area but could not get a guide. Natives said Lamington was a ‘spirit mountain.’

“They said their forefathers had seen smoke billowing from the peaks. This, however, is the first known eruption of the mountain.”

Spotter: Anne Griffin

On Sunday 21 January 1951 Mt Lamington exploded, killing more than 3,500 Orokaivan people in 29 villages and 35 expatriates stationed at Martyrs' Memorial School, Sangara Anglican Mission and Higaturu Government Station.

The Orokaivans included policemen and medical orderlies who worked at Higaturu and prisoners who were serving their sentences there. The expatriates who lost their lives included District Commissioner Cowley, whose earlier report had been so reassuring:

Women of PNG, do not take this advice


SELF-PROCLAIMED HIV/AIDS and sexuality campaigner, Bruce Copeland, may have gone too far this time.

He has proffered advice, labelled by medical experts as “dangerous”, that women who are raped should “remove semen/viral particles [using water] under pressure.

“This may be achieved,” he proclaimed to his email network yesterday, “by speedy insertion of a hose in the vagina with a blast of water to remove all floating semen.”

This reckless communication was quickly addressed by Wendy Holmes, Principal Technical Advisor at the Centre for International Health at the Burney Institute in Melbourne.

“I have to reply, because it is not just that your [Copeland’s] advice for women who have been raped will not work, but that it may cause serious harm,” Ms Holmes said.

“We must be careful not to promote harmful practices…..

“We already know that practices such as hosing and freezing are harmful, so it would not be ethical to conduct a trial…..

“It is very important not to promote the idea that it is safe to insert a hose and blast water into the vagina,” she said

Copeland also proposed that lemon juice may do the trick, suggesting that the reason it is not available commercially is that “it may be that drug companies squashed the report to ensure maximum drug sales.

“A pressure pack container of lemon may be just what is needed,” Copeland said.

Wendy Holmes responds to this claim saying: “As you know, lemon juice was promoted as a natural microbicide.

“A few years ago I wrote a paper outlining the strategy that would need to be followed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of lemon juice as a microbicide to protect against HIV.

"Since then initial safety studies have been conducted which indicated that larger scale safety and efficacy studies should not be conducted.”

Copeland’s response? “Dr Wendy Holmes …. she has a track record of advice that seems not professional….”

How much longer will the PNG government tolerate this man offering spurious, ill informed and potentially dangerous advice to Papua New Guineans?

He’s back! Just on a spot of leave: Somare


AAP - SIR MICHAEL Somare, who stood down as prime minister in December to face a leadership tribunal, has resumed office claiming he has “been away on holidays”.

On 13 December Sir Michael issued a press statement explaining he would "voluntarily step aside" due to a pending leadership tribunal investigating allegations he failed to lodge financial returns.

But tonight Sir Michael's chief-of-staff, Paul Bengo, said in a statement the PM had resumed office after being on a break, with no mention of the leadership tribunal.

"After more than 40 years in office, Sir Michael has outstanding accrued leave. However he has taken a break of approximately five weeks leave.

"This is to advise that, upon advice from his lawyer, Sir Michael today resumed office.”

But the 13 December press release did not mention any “holiday break” and stated the PM was standing aside to face a tribunal based on an Ombudsman Commission's investigation.

Sir Michael's press officer, daughter Betha, did not respond to questions about this rewriting of history.

Firebrand opposition MP, Sam Basil, told AAP it was another example of how bad things had become in PNG.

"The PM thinks he is above the law," he said. "The opposition predicted Somare would come back. He's ruthless. He controls the police, the army, his men are everywhere. He said he went on holiday, but before that he said he had stepped down.”

"Somare has lost his mind, he is too old. MPs are using him because they can do what they like, the people behind the scenes are looting the country with corruption, and they need him at the helm, and use him like a puppet.

"I actually feel sorry for him," Mr Basil said.

Ern Schubert: visionary & teacher educator

Schubert_Ern ERNEST SCHUBERT, who died in Melbourne last July at the age of 87, arrived in PNG as a teacher in September 1960.

By the time he undertook the orientation course at ASOPA earlier in 1960, Ern had already spent six years teaching in Queensland followed by a posting to Pitcairn Island as Education Officer and Government Adviser under the then British Colonial Office in Fiji.

After a brief posting to Idubada Technical College, Ern, accompanied by wife Betty and two young sons, spent 1961 as headmaster at Sohano on Bougainville.  Then from 1962, Ern lectured and trained primary school teachers at Port Moresby Teachers College for the rest of his time in PNG.

During these 13 years, he not only influenced a generation of teachers, he encouraged Papua New Guineans to become writers, lawyers and - to his occasional embarrassment in later years - political leaders. He strongly encouraged them to become whatever they were best inclined to be and, in doing it, to be the best they could possibly be.

Ern had contributed to the Pacific linguistic text The Pitcairnese Language and written for Pacific Islands Monthly and educational plays for ABC Radio in Queensland. So it was almost natural that he produce his own reading books for PNG school children, Peoples of the Pacific.

This series was about PNG and other Pacific Island peoples and their cultures and was compiled and edited from material provided by colleagues, friends and other contacts in PNG and the Pacific.

In an era where there was little (often no) relevant material for PNG students, these books enabled them to become aware of other people’s lives: vital for the great nation building task in PNG.

Ern was active in the Papua New Guinea Society, one of the few places in the 1960s where expatriates and Papuan New Guineans met to discuss issues vital to an emerging nation.

He edited the Society’s journal for a couple of editions in the early 1970s and was forever encouraging, with modest success, Papua New Guineans to contribute to its pages.

In this same spirit, Ern helped his student teachers organise themselves into their cultural groups to host fellow students, staff and the community to experience their respective cultures.

He also helped the trainee teachers organise themselves to raise money and, with the help of the Australian Union of Students and community groups along Australia’s east coast, to travel from Canberra to Brisbane by bus so they could begin to grasp some of the world outside PNG looked like.

Beyond teaching, Ern was very concerned that student teachers had the capacity to deal with problems that the Western part of their lives increasingly threw at them. He recognised very early that “my job in this country is to do myself out of a job; and the better I do my job, the quicker I won’t have one.”

In December 1975 after Independence Ern and Betty returned to Australia. It was a migration they never really adjusted to. Ern never returned to the classroom.

In the late 1970s, he began working as a business migration consultant, his particular focus being Taiwan.

In more recent years, until his death, he and Betty worked hard to find ways for PNG landowners to raise money to use their forest resources without feeling the need to have them logged.

It was very a difficult endeavour, confronting corporations with concern only for forests as logs and with no concern for the people who have lived in those forests. 

Ernest Schubert died on Saturday, 24 July 2010 after a three year battle with cancer, something he thought, in his typically determined manner and with his positive attitude, he could and would overcome to live for another 15 years. 

He is survived by his wife Betty, sons Paul and Mark, and three grandchildren Dominique, Adam and Sabrina.

PNG’s great plunder – stolen but protected


MUSEUMS AND GALLERIES around the world have massive collections of art works and traditional items from PNG - many plundered during nineteenth century colonial expeditions.

French and German museums have collections of many thousands of items, as does the British Museum. The Oceanic Ethnography collection in London used to be housed at the Museum of Mankind off Piccadilly, which I often visited on my way to and from university.

It has now closed but the collection is housed in the British Museum. Worth a look if you are visiting the UK.

I would suggest a more fitting place for such collections is the PNG National Museum at Waigani, but sadly it is run-down and underfunded.

Perhaps an aid project could be established to rejuvenate this important institution, or better still amalgamate it with the UPNG New Guinea Collection, the NBC sound and film archives, the remains of the Lae Archives and an other collections that are presently moldering away to create a really world-class national institution.

Until that time, at least collections like this one from Senta Taft-Henry will be properly looked after in appropriate conditions. I report on an item in the NSW Newcastle Herald, an excellent local newspaper.


Now 83, the tribal art collector is embarking on another phase in her fascinating life and Newcastle is set to benefit. Taft-Hendry is donating 200 pieces of her large collection to establish a tribal art gallery at the University of Newcastle.

The gallery, stocked mainly from her collection in Sydney, will be the first of its kind in Newcastle and is scheduled to open on March 7.

Taft-Hendry said she had been drawn to the art and spirit life of tribal people since she was a child.

"I can't explain what it was," Taft-Hendry said. "I have had a very vivid imagination since I was a child. I had dreams of elephants, animals.

"I had a spiritual affinity with tribal art because with tribal art, I understood people's culture."

It was during a visit to Africa in the 1950s that her instincts started to make sense.

"I saw beautiful works of art in Africa and I thought: This is my life."

Since 1959, Taft-Hendry has operated Galleries Primitif in Jersey Road, Paddington.

The gallery has been stocked with works from Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and elsewhere in the Pacific and it will be some of these that will make their way to the new gallery at the university.

Some of her favourite pieces that will be housed in Newcastle are initiation and other sorts of masks, cooking pots, drums, shields and artefacts associated with "bride price", the PNG practice of exchanging valuable goods for women and marriage.

By the way, my dear wife and I never did manage to get our Simbu bilas from PNG. The problem wasn't with customs or quarantine, but the family. They loaned the bilas to a friend for a wedding, who had loaned it to someone else, and so it seems to have disappeared. Well at least I'm sure it's being put to good use.

A new year welcomed by such poor politics


THE MIDDAY news bulletin told Papua New Guineans what their dysfunctional Parliament had done that morning in its first business of the new year.

For 48 hours the media had mooted the government’s first choice nominee of a current sitting MP to be the next Governor-General of our country.

So it was no surprise to learn at noon that Parliament had elected the government’s choice as the new representative of the Queen of PNG.

It had been known and now it was official.

So PNG has a new Vice-Regal amidst very controversial circumstances.

The new Governor-General is the current Member for North Bougainville and Minister for Higher Education, Michael Ogio.

Government and Parliament started off a very rowdy 2011 session at 10 am Friday after the morning’s prayer to start the year’s parliamentary proceedings.

After the election of a still unsuitable Vice-Regal, there will be no parliamentary business until May.

The people’s assembly has gone into forced hibernation at the expense of the people of PNG.

It must also be very frustrating for both the Parliamentary Opposition and the Member for Moresby-South and Minister for Community Development, Dame Carol Kidu.

The government once again used its great numbers to squash any chance of a planned vote of no-confidence against the PM and government.

The government’s also again ignored Dame Carol’s long-awaited Private Member’s Bill on the issue of 22 reserved seats in Parliament for women.

This issue was again put on the back-burner.

What a great shame the PNG Parliament has turned out in such poor form to welcome the new year.

It is a sure sign there will be more funny business to come in the remaining life of this Parliament leading to the 2012 national elections.

Acting Speaker, Francis Maru’s actions have so far being very disappointing. He is displaying similar mistakes as his boss, Jeffrey Nape (missing in action list for several weeks now).

What a bunch of clowns Papua New Guinean politicians have become on PM Somare’s watch.

The public can again expect more legal challenges looming over the horizon for the government when Parliament next sits.

Boys will be boys: ever wondered why?


Gogodala Kids BERNARD SINAI’S short story, The Taming of the Tiger, is about the genesis of violence in young men.  It follows from Russell Soaba’s edgy story, Portrait of a Parable.

Both stories demonstrate the power of literature in social debate.

The logic of male aggression goes something like this: men have to be aggressive to compete for a mate in the relentless drive to perpetuate their genes.  Why that is sometimes manifest in cowardly domestic violence is curious – perhaps a wife or child is simply the nearest available target and the least likely to fight back.

In many societies, especially western ones, male aggression has been diverted into sport and other macho physical activities.  When you see a pile of blokes running around in a paddock vying to force a sperm-like ball through the open legs of the goal posts it is obvious what is going on.

In Papua a number of the early administrators, like Musgrave and Scratchley, observed that a major preoccupation of the people was the extermination of their neighbours through raiding and head hunting.  This, of course, was the channelling of natural male aggression, although some women also showed themselves handy with a bow and arrow.

In 1926 the government anthropologist, Frank Williams, went to Suau to investigate a mysterious decline in population.  He turned over every stone he could find but didn’t really reach a conclusion.  He did observe, however, that since the advent of the missionaries and administrators and the suppression of clan warfare the people’s enthusiasm for life had diminished considerably.

Williams expressed the view that religion, particularly of the austere and colourless variety, was a poor substitute for war and, mindful of Cecil Abel’s introduction of the sport at Kwato, suggested there should be “less Christ and more Cricket”.

Putting people to work has a similar effect.  When you think about it there isn’t much in some parts of Papua New Guinea, particularly the towns, for the more unimaginative men to do other than get drunk and beat up their wives.  

The highlanders have got back into raping and pillaging in a big way, of course, and seem inured to the attractions of rugby and the like.  In places like Port Moresby crime is a good substitute; in this case it is the risky act rather than the proceeds that is the attraction.

What to do?

Papua New Guinea is not really in a position to declare war on anyone but beefing up the military and the police might be a useful diversion with positive social spinoffs.  But one shouldn’t be flippant; for many women and children it is a very serious matter.

And, of course, it’s not a peculiarly Papuan New Guinean problem; try some of Australia’s outback towns and less salubrious (and occasionally wealthy) suburbs for instance.

The taming of the tiger


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

THE PUNCH came at a high speed with force enough to make a hole through a brick wall.

Everyone held their breath, knowing well what would happen to Ruby’s beautiful face when the punch connected. For a moment, all that could be heard was the beating of hearts, drumming wildly with the fear of anticipation.

To everyone’s amazement and relief, Ruby swerved and ducked to the right in such a way that she looked like a coconut swaying to the tune of the ocean breeze. Steve’s mighty punch never connected. He had all his weight banked on this punch, hoping to give it maximum effect. But he never expected to miss, making him lose balance, and fall flat on his face.

In an instant, he stood up and glared at Ruby. His face twisted with shame and his eyes wild with anger. He was now a wild beast with savage thoughts only of brutality and pain. He charged, roaring toward Ruby like a raging bull, placing his shoulder like a battering ram. But in his anger and haste he tripped and fell flat on his face again.

He jumped up reflexively as if he had fallen on glowing embers and shoved the kid next to him. He was now intoxicated with so much anger and shame, that his eyes turned bloodshot and his breath flared heavily like a foghorn warning of unseen danger. The veins on his forehead twitched and throbbed like it was ready to explode at any second.

Looking at his face, Ruby realised the imminent danger she was in and screamed, “Mommy! Mommy!” with all the sound her voicebox would muster. Her mother came out in a flash, an apron around her waist and a broom in her left hand looking like World War Three had just begun.

“Steve! What have you done to your sister now!?” these words came sweeping like an icy tempest, freezing Steve where he stood, unable to move. He looked like an angry, sweating elf that had just been turned into an ice statue by Snow Queen. His clenched fists slowly released but his eyes burned with rage. This burning rage was soon overcome with cold despair. Ruby was now under mother’s protective net. He could not touch her now.

His eyes slowly filled with water. He turned and looked at the other kids with moist eyes. They all smiled. They were now liberated from his reign of terror. He turned and looked away as the water in his eyes overflowed and rolled down his cheeks, sagged on his chin, and then dripped to the ground.

The tiger had been tamed…for today.

Waiting for 2012


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Say what you will
for faded glory
those tales have had their day

Pay homage as you wish
to colleagues and cronies
those mates have gone their way

Days past our dawning
history yet forming
put our eight point plan away

Swayed by the crooning
supporters are swooning
and development is further delayed

Does a child envision
from a mother’s bosom
his own children’s destiny today?

Yet a lifetime has been
and after all one has seen
isn’t another two score too far away?

If we dream of a day
and we hope and we pray
will God grant what we want – less delay?

If we argue of meaning
without rhyme, within reason
the job of government is governing
not dreaming

Wide awake, with eyes open
and minds soberly focused
which is wanting
as we’ve found much too often

One can only hope
the next people we vote
make decisions deserving of note

While most struggle to survive
waiting for 2012 to arrive
we must try to keep that hope alive.

Icarus is the pen name of a senior Papua New Guinean public servant in Port Moresby. This poem was first published in The National newspaper’s writers’ forum on 24 October 2010

The story of Karo Araua, Papuan policeman

Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary [1959-74]

Karo IN 1884, THE CROWN COLONY of Queensland annexed a portion of the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and named it British New Guinea.  In 1888 it formally became a British possession and was named Papua in 1906 when it became an Australian external territory.

As administrative control was gradually extended along the navigable coastline, there was little penetration into the inland regions.  It was obvious there would have to be a mail service. With the creation of the British New Guinea Armed Constabulary in 1890, a facility existed to service coastal and interior government stations, plantations, trading stores  and missions.

The British New Guinea Armed Constabulary, led by white Assistant Resident Magistrates (ARM), participated in many exploratory patrols into the unexplored interior - encountering hostile headhunters, treacherous attacks, cannibal rituals and large primitive groups who had never seen white men or native police before.

With the extension of government influence, inland trading posts and missions were established. In the late 1890’s, gold miners had established a track leading to Yodda-Kokoda which proved a lucrative source of gold. The earliest inland government station was established at Kokoda, 96 km inland from Port Moresby, around 1900. It was staffed by an ARM and armed native police.

In December 1904, a regular weekly overland police mail-runner service commenced to Kokoda government station.  Travelling in pairs, the armed native police, carrying the mail in a strong leather satchel, proceeded barefoot from Port Moresby in arduous tropical conditions with rain falling on most days through the Owen Stanley ranges to Kokoda station.

Outside Port Moresby, the track - later to be known as the Kokoda Track - was not a continuous pathway but a series of ill-defined tortuous paths often of single-file width. They were largely for contact between various villages along the route and had existed since time immemorial for inter village trading, internecine warring and headhunting raids.

Rudimentary rest huts were spaced a day’s walk apart and the journey to Kokoda usually took five to six days.  Some time later, the mail run was extended from to the north coast government station of Buna, a distance of 160km from Port Moresby, a very arduous journey of some nine to ten days in total.

Over the years several policemen making this journey were murdered when carrying the mail, and punitive government patrols retaliated.

Enter a tall Police Motu speaking Papuan from the Gulf region named Karo Araua, born about 1902-03.  Government officials patrolling in this area noted that Karo, as he grew older, was rebellious and resented authority, particularly from his parents and traditional tribal elders.  Nonetheless, at some stage in the early 1920’s, he was appointed as an unarmed Village Constable, a prominent village man having some limited authority in matters of law and order.

Around 1926 Karo used tribal influence to be appointed to the Armed Constabulary (variously known as the Papuan Armed Constabulary and Armed Native Constabulary). He signed an indenture for three years and performed patrol duties in the Central District. In 1928 he was appointed to the prestigious position of carrying and escorting the overland mail from Port Moresby to Buna.

On 5 September 1929, Constable Karo in company with Constable Bili set out from Port Moresby.  Their equipment consisted of a Martini-Enfield rifle, bayonet in scabbard, a cartridge belt, ammunition, a long brass chain (which served as a primitive handcuff until 1964), spare uniform, and a carrying bag with biscuits, rice, tins of meat, coconut meal and sticks of native tobacco for trading for fresh meat and fruit obtained along the track.  They would camp overnight at a government rest hut, if possible.

At one such rest hut an argument ensued between Karo and the older Bili.  Karo accused Bili of not carrying his fair share of the heavy leather mail satchel and shot him in the back, rolling his body off the track.  Karo then proceeded alone to Kokoda. On arrival he informed the ARM of what had occurred and a search was made for the body.  Karo was arrested and returned to Port Moresby in handcuffs.

Continue reading "The story of Karo Araua, Papuan policeman" »

Fiery parliament elects new governor-general


AAP - PNG'S PARLIAMENT today elected a new governor-general - Higher Education Minister Michael Ogio.

The Bougainville MP scored a clear majority with 65 votes in a special sitting of parliament.

Mr Ogio's rival Sir Pato Kakeraya received 23 votes while eight votes were listed as informal.

More than ten senior PNG figures had voiced interest in running for the post but in the end only Mr Ogio and Sir Pato were endorsed by MPs.

Mr Ogio was not available for comment after the vote but the local press speculated that numerous failed governor-general candidates would launch legal action challenging the appointment.

Friday's fiery parliament session included prolonged shouting matches between MPs and a number of points of order by the opposition regarding whether a sitting member could run for the regal post.

The opposition has also raised concerns about Mr Ogio's past as former Forest Minister where he oversaw numerous controversial deals.

Professor Alphonse Gelu of the National Research Institute, who was in parliament for the vote, said that once again the election process was questionable.

"Last time parliament voted by voice, this time they voted by secret ballot. "For the people of PNG they must know what is the right process," he said.

Despite controversy and criticism regarding Mr Ogio, it was not the first time an elected MP has become PNG's Governor-General.

Mr Ogio is expected to stand down from his cabinet position when he is sworn in as Governor-General when parliament resumes on 10 May.

In December, PNG's Supreme Court ruled a vote that re-installed Sir Paulias Matane as Governor-General in June last year was invalid and un-constitutional.

The court ordered MPs to reconvene for another vote before 20 January.

It was another twist in a dramatic end to 2010 that also included the standing down of Prime Minister Michael Somare and a snap cabinet reshuffle replacing the deputy prime minister.

Sir Michael stood aside to face a yet to be established leadership tribunal regarding alleged misconduct in office regarding failing to lodge financial statements from as far back as 20 years.

Good neighbour helps out at time of need

PNG’s PLEDGE of K10 million ($4 million) in support of flood relief in Australia has been reported widely in the Australian media.

The PNG government has also offered military and logistical help.

PNG's Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal, wrote to Australian Prime Minister Gillard expressing sympathy and condolences to victims of the tragedy.

Mr Abal said the donation was the least PNG could do for a neighbour and close friend who had helped PNG in numerous natural disasters.

The money would benefit people suffering severe flooding in Queensland and parts of NSW, he said.

"We are truly sorry and our hearts are with you at this time of great tragedy.

"For up to three weeks now, we in PNG have observed and learnt from the media devastating reports of the flood-induced tragedy including the bushfires our southern neighbours have being experiencing.

"Australia's steadfast generosity and charity must and should be returned whenever the need arises.

"This monetary token is our response to the need our Australian friends face," Mr Abal said.

Michael Ogio is the new Governor-General

Ogio_Michael MINISTER FOR Higher Education and MP for North Bougainville, Michael Ogio, is PNG’s new Governor-General.

He easily won a vote in Parliament from the only other contender, veteran politician Sir Pato Kakaraya, who has been contesting the vice-regal post since 2002.

Mr Ogio was previously Deputy Prime Minister and a controversial Minister for Forests.

“This country is now a circus show run by MPs in clowns clothing,” complained one PNG blog, discussing the result.

Anticipating the outcome, Bulolo MP Sam Basil said yesterday that Mr Ogio was not a fit person to be head of state.

Mr Basil alleged that, as Forest Minister, Mr Ogio ignored legislation to grant access to vast areas of PNG forests by some of the most notorious logging companies.

Mr Ogio will quit his job as minister and also forego the parliamentary leadership of the Peoples Democratic Movement.