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98 posts from February 2011

Mine's devastating impact on people's lives


For two years, brothers Peter and John Kepma resisted attempts by the Chinese owned nickel mine to force them from their clan’s land. Last September, armed police and mine workers forcefully evicted them [photo]. The brothers documented how their lives were destroyed. Carrying a detailed report and photographs, John travelled to Port Moresby and met with government representatives. The clan is still awaiting a response.

ON THE MORNING of 8 September 2010, John Kepma was suddenly awakened by noise outside his hut . He peered through the cracks in the wall and saw several policemen who had begun pulling down his dwelling.

Emerging from his hut he was confronted with a sight he had long dreaded. Armed police had begun an eviction of remnant members of the Maure clan who had refused to move to a temporary relocation site.

The clan members included John’s father, his uncles, his older brother Peter, and several children.

“One of the officers of the state told us we weren’t landowners and that he would get three other clans to burn down our houses and chase us off the land,” John recalls. “He said: ‘All of you come out and pack your things and leave’, then [the police and mine workers] began breaking down the houses.”

Since January last year, John and older brother Peter had become the face of a people’s resistance against the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine’s push to evict them from their own land.

On eight occasions last year, older brother Peter was confronted by heavily armed police who demanded that he pack up and leave. But each time he refused.

“They came armed and dressed in their uniforms. They wanted me to leave,” he said.

“But I told them: this is my land and I will stay here. This is an issue between me and MCC. You all are not from China. You’re all Papua New Guinean like me. You own land as well.”

The Maure of Kurumbukare is a small clan that controls a small land area. For Peter Kepma, the success of this resistance is crucial. His clan’s survival depends on the land on which they live.

But this large scale mining development has taken away their very means of survival – their ancestral land.

“Our entire clan land will be mined for nickel,” Peter says. “We’ve been forced to move to a temporary relocation site but that too will be mined later.

“They’ve told us that we’ll be moved to a permanent site but that land belongs to another clan and we won’t be allowed to plant gardens or hunt.”

Like the majority of rural Papua New Guineans, becoming landless is unthinkable. It simply doesn’t happen.

But for Peter, John and members of the clan, it has become a shocking reality.

Members of their family now reside on the fringes of what was their customary land. Their huts perched on a small mountain ridge overlooking the mine site. They’ve been living there for the last two years despite talk of relocation.

When the eviction began, John documented it all using a digital still camera. He took pictures of his village being demolished and of his displaced family. He even took pictures of a Chinese company worker who told him not to go to the media.

John and Peter say they want the world to know about the things that are being done to them and how they are being treated on their own land.

Kiap system was dismantled too quickly


DR ROY SCRAGG [Attitude, 26 February] is, I suspect, simply stirring for the sake of stirring in saying "Kiaps never prepared for the change that mattered" in PNG, that is the attainment of national independence in 1975.

As Director of Health, Dr Scragg always seemed happy to have Kiaps help build aid posts, hospitals and the roads needed to connect them with the villages.

There was a rush to convert the public service of the newly independent nation from a colonial style to a metropolitan style in 1975, encouraged by first Andrew Peacock and then by Gough Whitlam, as I recall.

That meant that there would no longer be a place for a generalist public servant with very wide powers, as the nature of the new work of government would (theoretically) need specialists with narrow powers and training, who were easier to train and would demand lower pay rates.

Professor Hal Colebatch made a long study of the Kiap system in TPNG and came to the conclusion that it was the only effective method of administering the country, until it became a replica of the former colonial power, with a settled economy, established service delivery, a unified social structure and easy access to the protection of the legal system for all persons.

As both Paul Oates and Michael Somare have observed, the Kiap system was dismantled far too quickly without being able to integrate PNG nationals fast enough to be effective.

History is being repeated in PNG because those who made critical decisions in the 1950's, 1960's and 1970's did not pay attention to what had already happened to the colonies that were shed post the World War I and World War II.

Consider the way that India and Pakistan suffered post partition as well as the former African colonies and Indonesia.

AusAID review moves in the right direction


TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE is any aid given for the purpose of transferring skills from donor countries to aid recipients.

It can take various forms, including scholarships and volunteer placements, but for Australia the most contentious issue has been technical assistance given through the employment of advisers: contractors or secondees paid with aid funds to work in recipient countries, often in government departments and ministries.

There is an obvious appeal to giving technical assistance in this form: in the short-term, when needs are pressing, advisers – already experts in their relevant field – can be inserted and are potentially capable of bringing about improvements in relatively short time frames.

While in the medium to long term, advisers can, in theory at least, train local staff and set in place durable systems which will provide benefits long after their departure. Advisers also have the potential advantage of existing outside the political economy and informal institutions of the locations where they are working, which means they are less likely to be corrupt and more likely to be able to put a stop to corrupt use of aid funds.

And they can serve as conduits for knowledge transfer. The right adviser at the right place at the right time can have significant impacts.

Advisers have their advantages. And presumably it’s these advantages, along with the good-governance focus of much Australian aid over the last two decades, that led to advisers becoming such a major component of Australian aid. At times under the Howard government, adviser contracts and salaries comprised nearly half of all Australian development aid.

The trouble is, using advisers as a form of aid also has its disadvantages.  Significant ones. First and foremost being the costs. Advisers are normally paid very well. In the past some advisers have been paid up to $500,000 a year tax free.

Good salaries are needed to recruit good advisers. But employing advisers is extremely costly when compared to some of the alternative means of spending aid money in developing countries (working through civil society, for example, or employing local staff, or paying the salaries of local bureaucrats).

The fact that advisers are costly isn’t reason on its own not to use them. A well placed adviser in the right government department could potentially bring about development benefits well in excess of their costs. But the magnitude of these costs does bring with it an onus to use advisers only when it is likely they will work.

And, unfortunately, sustained success is by no means guaranteed. Often the impact of advisers isn’t maintained after they leave their roles, even when those roles have a capacity development component. And often the governance and capacity issues that advisers are brought in to tackle are systemic, or a product of domestic political economy issues, and not easily resolved by the placement of a few key staff.

The decline in technical assistance started in 2005, was given increased impetus by the change of government in 2007 and became more rapid still in the wake of critical media coverage last year.

The AusAID adviser review report and the new remuneration guidelines are encouraging documents. Similarly the new principles for use of advisers — that they are no longer to be the ‘default response’; that their use will be dependent on the presence of a clear need that they can realistically meet; and that they will be used as part of a stronger partnership approach with aid recipient countries — is also good news.

Taken together these changes are evidence of AusAID moving towards a more transparent and better balanced approach to the use of advisers. All that remains now is to see how the changes play out on the ground.

Such challenges are inherent in all development work, though. They are why it’s almost never easy. And the main point for now remains that, at a policy level, the Australian aid program is moving in the right direction when it comes to technical assistance delivered through advisers.

And for this, the journalists who covered the scandals, the NGOs who lobbied and campaigned, the politicians who mandated the change, and the aid agency staff who have enacted it, all deserve credit.

Source: Extracted from ‘TA or not TA?’ by Terence Wood, Development Policy Newsletter, Australian National University, 27 February 2011

* Terence Wood is a PhD student at ANU. Prior to commencing study he worked for the New Zealand government aid program

After 36 years: Mama graun bilong mi

It’s been a long-awaited return to the land where she was born, and ALEX HARRIS records her impressions

TO BE HONEST, I didn’t want to go back. My memories of Moresby were colourful and shiny childhood renditions of reality that I still loved to explore and share. Would returning to the country of my birth ruin or refurbish those memories?

And so it was with equal parts trepidation and curiosity in my suitcase, I ventured in early February to Port Moresby and Madang. It was a journey 36 years in the making.

She is in many ways, as I remember her: a country of breathtaking natural beauty draped in a sparkling jewelled sea, whose natives are friendly.

But PNG is an ageing starlet, guilty of letting herself go. Her infrastructure is frayed, her services slowed, her once bright future...fading. Yet still she is pimped by politicians to the highest bidders; whored for a few pieces of silver.

It was a very timely visit given her state of affairs, albeit bitter sweet. Mama graun bilong mi. I was moved.

For all the stories of dangers lurking in every corner, I found the two roadblocks and near mugging I encountered to be more interesting than terrifying.

But don’t mistake that observation for flippancy. I was lucky. Lucky to have locals with me in the car when driving and to have my wits about me when walking.

Walk I did through Madang, more the PNG of my childhood with its majestic trees, beautiful butterflies and pristine seas. Snorkelled too, with scientists in Madang for the Ramu Nickel court hearing.

The highlights truly were the people I met, both intentionally and accidentally, some of whom I had met previously in the pages of PNG Attitude.

I owe a great deal to such meetings, as they helped navigate some of the trickier situations and obtain perspective on information garnered, or simply proved great company. I accepted every invitation, took all opportunities. All added richly to the adventure that was my visit to PNG.

But I owe special thanks to Peter Kailap, for ensuring that adventure was safe, and to Ilya Gridneff for entertainment, and to a long list of others for their generous hospitality, insights and good humour. Thank you tumas.

And now I have new memories to add to the vault; new friendships too. And a certainty I won’t leave it so long until I am back.

Reporting PNG: culture and visa control


AUSTRALIA IS THE ONLY COUNTRY that has permanent foreign correspondents based in PNG, and the journalists employed by AAP and the ABC are confronted by a particularly unique set of workplace conditions. They also have a reasonably high level of interaction with local journalists.

ABC correspondent Liam Fox describes Port Moresby as a tough place to live and work.

We live behind a big razor wire fence, we’ve got big television cameras, [and] security guards. When you drive you’re always winding your window up, you’re looking out for car-jackings or for something to happen. There’s definitely an edge to the place, living here.

Port Moresby is not connected by road to the rest of the country, so all stories outside of the capital require journalists to fly there. This operation can be both costly and time-consuming, as journalists wait for the approval of funds from their employers.

The state of under-communication in PNG has significant impacts on local journalists and on the ability of foreign journalists to work there. Liam Fox explains that, unlike many other foreign postings such as the US or Europe, PNG does not have national news feeds.

The limited media infrastructure outside Port Moresby means that, when news breaks outside the capital, covering it can be difficult. These circumstances have led to the establishment of close dialogue between local journalists and Australian reporters based in PNG. Former ABC correspondent Sean Dorney says that he worked with local journalists “a hell of a lot”:

If you don’t work with the local journalists and give them a bit of respect then you’re really limiting your capacity to work. […] And one of the good things about PNG is that there really are a lot of good local journalists up there.

The Australian journalists agree that there is an ‘openness’ in Melanesian culture that makes it easy to work with local journalists. However, Ilya Gridneff, the current correspondent for AAP, points out that journalists in PNG encounter just as many, if not more, logistical problems than Australian reporters working there:

They don’t have enough resources, they’re hardly paid enough, and then there’s a lot of them who won’t ask questions, partly out of a culture of, you know, respecting the big man.

The practical consequences of this are that, while Australian journalists might rely on local journalists to a certain extent, many stories reported in the local media need to be treated with a healthy amount of cynicism.

Gridneff said, “You quickly learn that there’s three sides to every coin and you need to ring around yourself and check with the people involved”.

Liam Fox argues that, while this is often the case for a journalist working anywhere, in other locations with high intensity global news coverage there is usually a more established news network which can be accessed to verify reports of breaking news.

Former ABC correspondent Steve Marshall says that while a lot of news is misreported, this is not the fault of local journalists: “Most local reporters are based in Port Moresby, so it’s very difficult for anyone to ascertain the exact truth as to what’s gone on at an event elsewhere [in PNG]”.

The country has two daily newspapers, The National and the Post-Courier, both based in Port Moresby. The Post-Courier is the oldest and largest-selling newspaper in PNG, with a circulation of 29,819. It is a subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited. There is one television station in PNG, Em-TV, owned by the Australian Nine Network.

Em-TV generates little of its coverage locally, and is not available across all of PNG. The state-owned National Broadcasting Commission provides the five national radio stations, and works closely with the ABC to deliver content.

Unlike other nations in the Pacific region, PNG enjoys a relatively free media. There are no limits on foreign ownership. Under these circumstances, Australian media enterprises have been able to flourish in PNG.

Although Australian organisations may dominate ownership of the PNG media, the same legal freedoms do not extend to foreign correspondents working there.

According to Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific Editor for The Australian, the visa application procedure for foreign journalists wanting to report on PNG is among the most difficult in the Asia-Pacific region.

He says that getting a journalist’s visa for PNG is similarly complicated to getting one for North Korea, a country he has also reported on:

The Prime Minister’s older daughter decides who gets in and who doesn’t. Sean Dorney says that on a visit in 2010, he was unable to do any reporting because he did not have time to go through the tedious process of getting a journalist’s visa, which can take “a couple of weeks”.

In addition, Dorney points out that the complicated visa process is one of the reasons that few foreign journalists travel to PNG.

Source: Extracted from ‘An examination of Australian news coverage of PNG’ by Jessica Carter, University of Sydney, 2010.  Read the full thesis here.  Spotter: Robin Hide

Warmil’s bride from another cosmos


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

A KIND HEARTED BARI YOUTH named Warmil, who had lost his father during the warfare with the Gena, settled with his mother and three small brothers at Morua Kaupa Nil Awil. His mother was called Kokil Gup Ku. His three brothers were Kipir, Kulkan and Arkal Ku.

Warmil grew up and soon filled the vacuum left by his father. He was strong and had already matured by his teens. At sixteen he built a hut and made a couple of gardens with the help of his three brothers for their mother. Kokil Gup Ku was very fond of them all. One dawn the sun emerged with its splendour in the east. Mt. Elimbari and the red burning ball of the sun rubbed shoulders. The horizon in the east sent out yellow reddish rays to the Galkope land.

The early red burning ball of the sun in the horizon foretold yet another hot day even though a long streak of white cloud covered Porol, Woti, Bakl, Willa and Dinima. Young Warmil took his hunting weapons and strolled down to the river delta. Half way down he felt trickles of sweat on his forehead.

“It is very hot and humid. Where shall I go?” He had yet to decide between Kel Au Suna, Kel Gar and Sin Kaula. “I must keep a vigil in the hut beside the water drop at Kel Au Suna. It’s quite hot and the birds will frequent the hollow for water. The last time I killed birds that equalled all the fingers on both my hands.  I’ll try and go beyond that now and include my toes,” thought Warmil.

The delta sieved the Wara Simbu, which snaked its way down from the north and the Wahgi River, which pushed its way east. At the Y‐junction he saw the different coloured rivers blend with ease as they in unison squeezed through the basalt rocks to the south east.

In the evening Warmil said, “There is a good full moon. I will go and check the ul tree for possums.”

He strolled down to Kel Au Suna. However his mind was occupied with the images of drowned men and women that were killed when they were cast out during the fighting at of Kel Au Suna. Pictures of dead men facing up and women facing down floating at Kel Au Suna filled his mind. Fear gripped him and he flinched at every sound produced by the creatures of the land as well as the rustling sound of the river. He cursed and knocked his head with his right hand. The scary pictures in his head vanished. He took a deep breath and walked with care following the Wahgi River towards the ul tree.

Out of the blue he saw a figure in the evening light picking the fruits of the ul tree and he felt his adrenalin set in motion. He rubbed his eyes with his right hand. The figure didn’t look like a possum or that of any other animal. He swayed his head left and then right to make sense of what he saw.

When he got his bearing right he didn’t believe what he saw. It was a young girl with a fur roped skirt and a band on each on her biceps. She also wore a necklace made of possum testes and had a light coloured bilum over her frizzy hair. The rays of the moon were reflected on her oiled breasts and goblet navel.

“Yal Kane!” winked Warmil to himself. He shivered and his pores bulged with goose bumps. At the same time he perspired in the full moon as if the sun was right above. “She is only human. I can jump forward, grab and tame her. Should she struggle to free herself I can wrestle her to the ground and hold her firmly until she gives in. I am a man,” he assured himself under his breath.

While the girl was still busy picking the fruits, Warmil left his weapons and crawled forward. When he was close enough he leapt forward and grabbed her. He firmly wrapped his hands around the trunk of her bare upper body just as she flinched. He clamped her in a vice-like grip.

She struggled but to no avail. Then she changed herself into all the many animals found in the area, including snakes and lizards. In this way she thought Warmil would be afraid and  let her go. However Warmil held on to the being he held previously with conviction despite the changes of shape. In the end she succumbed to the grip of Warmil and returned to her previous being; a beautiful young girl.

Warmil held her for a couple of minutes to make sure she didn’t change her being again. He smelt the natural aroma of the wilderness in the girl. That fragrance was what Adam smelt when he first met Eve in the Garden of Eden. The struggle came to an end and Warmil eased his grip and pulled his hands off with utmost reverence for the young girl. She took some time to regain her composure and then looked at Warmil with eyes sparkling  like the moon above.

“I am a gil ap who used to live in the wilderness and fed on the fruits. Your night is my day; hence, I came to harvest. If you were a lesser man you would have panicked and let me go. But you were truly courageous. For this reason, I am at your mercy.”

Warmil’s heart beat doubled. He had never seen such a beautiful girl before. “You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life. Who am I to let you go? I will make you my bride.”

As they stood and looked into each other’s eyes the full moon just above them was bulging with envy. It shone with such splendour that a rat running into the dry leaves below or an owl sitting on the branches of these huge trees above could be easily spotted. Warmil lead the gil ap to his home with joy and pride. His mother and his three brothers were already fast asleep. He removed the logs piled across the doorway and they entered the family hut.

At dawn his mother took the gil ap to Morua Kaupa Nil Awil. The Bari men in the men’s hut exited and shouted euphorically when they saw the girl. She was then officially made a woman and wife of Warmil. A feast was made at Morua Kaupa Nil Awil that afternoon. Kokil Gup Ku and the men at Morua Kaupa Nil Awil didn’t know that she was a gil ap.

Warmil and the gil ap lived with joy as a couple. Never once did Warmil beat her, as was the custom of his clansmen with their wives. In the years that followed she had these children; Mor, Alauro, Bale, Dama Kuri and Daral.

In later decades animosity brewed as Warmil added a couple of women to his household as second and third wives. In one such quarrel she made known to her children that part of her being was from another cosmos. To this day the gil ap’s descendants and their legacy are called the Warmil Gauma. They make up the bulk of the Bari ΙΙ sub tribe.

This is an extract from the novel ‘The flight of Galkope’. Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin was born in the Simbu Province. He studied to become a Catholic priest but quit soon after completing his philosophical studies and attended the University of PNG. He is the Senior Policy Analyst at the National AIDS Council Secretariat.

Sickening threats against PNG political icon

POLITICS IN PNG entered a dangerous new phase yesterday when crusading parliamentarian Sam Basil revealed he had received a number of emails threatening his wife will be raped and children strangled if he continues to speak out.

Mr Basil has been a vociferous critic of the government on corruption and governance issues and has assisted landowners take legal action against the Hidden Valley mine over the pollution of the Watut River.

The sickening emails were sent from an anonymous yahoo address created under the name ‘Borit Yaken’.

Mr Basil is widely admired by Papua New Guineans for his refusal to stay silent on the tough issues - something most MPs seem afraid to address.

In July last year Prime Minister Somare threatened to kill Mr Basil over his criticism of government tactics of continually adjourning Parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence.

Here is the text of one of the emails received by Mr Basil in all of its ugly malice:

Wed, 16 February, 2011 11:45:57 AM

RE: Playing with fire!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Borit Yaken <[email protected]>    

Add to Contacts


Sam Basil




DONT THINK THEY ARE SAFE AT 14 MILE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Was present 'disaster' the fault of kiaps?


THE ARTICLE [in Memento] The kiaps in a time of change by Donald Denoon enhances the role of kiaps in public health matters and detracts from the role of all doctors and medical assistants in particular.

Denoon’s short paragraph on health continues his hypercritical attack on the public health service that pervades his historical review Public Health in Papua New Guinea (Cambridge University Press, 1989).

His derogatory use of “stretcher bearers” denigrates both the army private with dedication but no medical training and medical assistants who came from the Australian Army and ANGAU, with medical experience and/or training.

The “quasi-military campaigns” were never “escorted by kiaps”. This comment implies improved safety for the medical assistant but this is far from the actual scene.

The Sinclair/Speer patrol into the Southern Highlands and other patrols into uncontrolled areas were joint ventures to determine the future administration and current health of the people.

Medical assistants were often required to accompany kiap patrols whenever they were available to provide care for the patrol carriers and provide village care, which in turn acted as a bait for village cooperation.

The disease eradication and control campaigns were not “over-ambitious” as through these Public Health Department endeavours the expectation life increased over 25 years from 32 to 52 years – no mean achievement.

His only criticism of kiaps is that “the Administration began to recruit indigenous kiaps precisely when the career itself was becoming obsolete” is a measure of the kiaps understanding of the future.

Kiaps fought a rear guard action to preserve their domain at the same time as all major departments and many sections had operating training programs and educational plans for the future from the late 1950’s.

It is possible to speculate that there is a link between this failure and the disasters that mar the present scene.

Corruption might have been avoided if significant national men and women had been brought into the kiap system before independence to understand that the most important role of community leaders is the community good rather than the demands of wantoks.

Kiaps never prepared for the change that mattered.

Dr Roy Scragg is a former Director of Health in Papua New Guinea

Source: First published in Memento 39, National Archives of Australia. Reprinted in Una Voce, March 2011

When their eloquence escapes you


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

To some this poem may be offensive. Take offence at the ballot box in 2012

You are taken for a proverbial ride, Penge
One too many times, ‘tis sad but true
So sweetly they would croon to you
Like star-crossed lovers swoon for you
Come crawling to your private rooms
with candid comic cunning covers
Falling for you all over again
with scented promises and sweetened lies
solwara’s and somare’s packed in piles
They bestow every hearts whim ‘n’ desires
on pent-annual spending spreescaspasms.
They will rape you Penge, repeatedly.
As they have always done.
And leave you naked under a midday sun.

Others, still more and merrily
surrender their lives in unholy hastity
with evangelico-political creeds
and incredibly passionate wengen bawls
Beseech you even as they betray
each other, in their self-righteous pathway
Stuff you with gifts and money,
milky-SP and seedy honey
Plug your greedy self-consuming orifices
Enter your government office/rs
to lay bare those honored places.
They will rape you Penge, repeatedly.
As always has been their hidden agenda.
And expose the bush kanaka still listed as absent.

Upon your rich heritage they will call
Songans, songsters, Sukundumi’s all
Challenge those who once were warriors?
Whatever. Same war, same death
Same kith, same kin, same-same bargain sale
What judge, what cop, what crim/e, what jury
All stand alike, equal, above n’ beyond the law
On a tall white pole they impaled your Kumul
in blood red tatters and bruised black scars
While you were still counting the stars
they were –coming; down under with all your gold.
They will rape you Penge, repeatedly.
As always has been their wicked disposition.
And leave you stripped of pride and possession.

The tragedy & metaphor of Wawin Farm


Wawin Workshop I OFFER YOU a few images of Wawin Farm, which was a big privately-owned mixed-cropping and chicken-production establishment set up by an energetic Englishman called Chris Boston in the Markham Valley pre-Independence.

Twenty years ago Wawin Farm was bought by the Morobe Provincial Government and redesigned by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock as a broad-acre farming and livestock training centre.

Later Wawin was identified as the site for a major aid-funded investment aimed at increasing national food security by imparting new ideas and skills and introducing improved, high-yielding varieties of traditional food crops.

An experienced PNG agriculturalist who sent me these photos, taken a year ago, commented as follows:

The Wawin experience is the legacy of a United Nations Development Program-funded program of food security for the Markham supervised by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock [DAL] with technical assistance of about twelve Filipino didimen who lived at Erap for two to three years.

The Markham never came up on anyone's radar of being worthy of such a project but Erap was the only place still under DAL ‘control’. It provided some DAL types with lots of overseas trips.

Wawin Eqpt 2 While political reform is at the top of the list for PNG, for the reasons we see here, and in the PNG dailies, there are other huge problems for this society to overcome.

Dishonesty, lack of responsibility and laziness are all endemic in the PNG workforce, both in public and the private sectors.

This handicap is regularly euphemised as "lack of technical training" and addressed continually, deludedly, by ever more donor-endowed "capacity-building programs", which concentrate on technology as opposed to rigorous corporate and worker management.

PNG and all its problems is a huge case of "you can lead a horse to water". Even with a focus upon worker discipline, communal honesty and firm social and industrial management, an honest and focussed national parliament is going to want lots of help for at least two generations to come.

Wawin Warehouse That’s if such a parliament comes to exist. It’s a big ‘if’, and no signs that such may be the case are presently apparent.

May I suggest that if this very worthy blog and its indefatigable creator/moderator are indeed to make a difference, that we trend away from piousness, wishful thinking and the sentimental memories of PNG as perceived by very young men forty years ago.

We need to concentrate not only upon trying to get our own Australian politicians to listen to us, but also to persuade more Papua New Guineans (some, regrettably few, but some, are already on the ball)  to look realistically at the future of their race as the owners of a beautiful home and a very valuable source of income.

Envy and greed combine to seek opportunity. There will never be another paternalistic colonisation of PNG such as began and ended between 1875 and 1975.

There will simply be an alien invasion; slow, insidious, but permanent and ultimately, controlling.

Applicants fail at judicial review – for now


Left to right are Alfred Kaiabe and Daro Avei and Oala Moi and lawyer Peter Donigi and Igo Namona Oala and Simon Ekanda 
THE PNG NATIONAL COURT did not hear an application by Henaos Lawyers that would have admitted fourteen more plaintiffs to a judicial review contesting State ownership of 900 hectares of customary sea and sea bed leased to Esso Highlands Ltd in 2009.

The application was made on behalf of applicants from Boera village in the Central Province led by Sir Moi Avei. Their inclusion would have brought the total number of plaintiffs in National Court proceeding OS 485 of 2009 to eighteen.

Last October, the National Court granted the original plaintiffs - Boera Development Corporation, Apau Besena Company, Igo Namona Oala and Oala Moi - leave to apply for judicial review of an earlier decision by the Minister for Lands and Physical Planning to compulsorily acquire customary land covering the shoreline, sea and seabed.

The original plaintiffs, Igo Namona Oala and Oala Moi, had both welcomed the Sir Moi Avei-led applicants conditional to them agreeing to the orders and declarations sought in the originating process.

In 2009, there were also 13 similar applications from individuals representing clans from Boera and the neighbouring Rearea and Porebada villages. These applications are yet to go before the National Court. Potentially the number of plaintiffs could grow to 31 if all applicants are admitted.

The National Court proceeding has not progressed since last year when Blake Dawson acting on behalf of the State stayed the proceeding pending determination of its Appeal pursuant to a Supreme Court order.

Both Igo Namona Oala and Oala Moi have instructed their lawyers to call upon the State’s legal team to urgently proceed with their appeal after reports surfaced that construction of the desalination plant and export jetty had commenced.

Photo: Left to right - Alfred Kaiabe, Daro Avei, Oala Moi, lawyer Peter Donigi, Igo Namona Oala and Simon Ekanda

Your World


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Body of an old rocky rugged hill

That scales the saltiness of fresh water

Strength of a mountain

You balance flesh and weigh it on your teeth

Four-chambered heart,

that houses anger and not love

You prison preys in your stomach,

a valley with no ending

Muscles that can entertain woman

Hot breath that shows concern

Red looks that provide protectiveness

Your body moves in a snake-like fashion,

curse of the serpent has fallen on you too

So dirty and damn attractive to your world

You slip down muddy river banks

destructing the silence of nature

You make me feel like living in your world

Mizraiim Lapa, 26, born in Ialibu, is employed by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu in Port Moresby as a tax accountant. He says: “I love writing … especially poems. I started writing ten years ago and I am still writing. It makes me feel so good; it’s like dew poured out on my emotions…”

From Pagei to the sea: a trip to remember


Farewell Mr Freestone 
ANYONE WHO SPENT TIME working in PNG had incredible experiences and retains wonderful memories. So much so that no matter where in the world these people now live, PNG is always a special place.

All countries have their problems, and PNG is no exception. But, in spite of the bad news, one can always find something special about this wonderful country.

In 1966-67 I was posted to Pagei Primary School, at a border station established to watch for Indonesian infiltration and refugees.  Pagei was classified as secret because the Australian government did not want Indonesia to know what facilities were there – accommodation, water and food supplies - that might have been invaluable to an invading army.

The only access to Pagei was by plane - it was a fifteen minute flight from Vanimo - and during the wet season there was often no access as the airstrip would be closed for days at a time.

After consulting with the parents, I decided to take the children on an excursion to Vanimo so they could see the ocean and other wonderful things. We had to prepare everything thoroughly. We were to follow a bush track that the villagers used to gain access to their sago palms and, once we left the government, station we would be on our own.

Leaving Pagei The day arrived and we left Pagei early in the morning. Six men had volunteered to be carriers and they bore our rice, tinned meat, cooking pots and a comprehensive first aid kit. The children had a change of clothes and an empty string bag which held food they collected along the way. It was going to be a difficult two day walk.

The start was easy as Roger the Kiap was building a track he hoped would one day reach the isolated villages scattered throughout the forest. After two or three kilometres the track became narrow and almost invisible. But these children were amazing - they knew exactly where to go.

Thru Ilup Village We walked for about four hours following the trail until we came to the first village, Ilup. The children came to a sudden halt and I could see three men blocking the path. I took my houseboy, who could speak the dialect, and we went to talk to them.

One of them turned was the local witchdoctor, who informed my houseboy that, because the children were from his enemies’ villages, he would not allow us to walk through the village. Instead we would need to take a detour which would add another two hours to our journey.

My houseboy had seen some magic tricks I used as an aid to my teaching and he told the men I was a very powerful white witchdoctor and it would be unwise to upset me. The three men immediately shook my hand and guided us into their village where we had a cool drink from some coconuts that were given us.

Oenake Waterfall We continued onto Issi village where we stayed the night.  We cooked our dinner and, as the children had collected much food on the way, we were able to share it with the villagers. Then we treated any scratches that might turn septic and I showed the villagers some magic tricks before we collapsed into a deep sleep in the Haus Kiap.

The next morning we were up early for we had a difficult walk through the swamps and over the 3,000 foot Oenake Mountain Range. We left our remaining food in the village for our return trip, not wanting to carry it over the mountain.

Our first challenge was getting through the swamps, and it was hard work. The villagers had assured us there were no crocodiles but we used a lot of salt removing the giant leeches. Eventually we came to the Oenake range that rose before us like an impenetrable barrier.

We climbed the slippery sides and, as we neared the top, realised it was only the first of three such peaks we had to climb. Eventually we had reached the top of the last mountain and in the distance could see the sea.

We finally arrived in Vanimo and, after changing into school uniforms, proudly marched through the town, where we received a huge welcome.

We stayed at Vanimo school for three days and saw many wonderful things. The children could not believe the sights - the ocean, cars, a ship. They enjoyed meals of fresh fish. We played sport with the Vanimo kids but got beaten at everything as our students were no match for the healthy coastal kids.

After three fabulous days we retraced our tracks. Back in Pagei, the children had many stories to tell their parents. They learnt so much but they taught me even more about survival in the rainforest of PNG.

Standard 4 

Photos: Top - Trevor Freestone and Pagei villagers.  2 - Leaving Pagei for the coast.   3 - Ilup Village.  4 - Oenake Waterfall.  Bottom - Standard 4, Pagei Primary School

Venerable history of the Melanesian church

Pacific Progress IN 1949 THE ANGLICAN CHURCH published a little book entitled Pacific Progress 1849 -1949, “the illustrated centenary book of the Diocese of Melanesia”.

In the Foreword, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, wrote from Lambeth Palace:

"The Church in Melanesia began, continued and ended its first one hundred years with martyrdoms.

"In its beginning was the martyrdom of Bishop Patteson by those to whom he came with the Gospel of Christ. At its close the martyrs were missionary priests of the Church for which Bishop Patteson had given his life.

"This book makes evident how deeply the Church has entered into the life of the Melanesians bringing to it the healing, liberating and creative force of Christ's redemption. Now come fresh problems and fresh opportunities for this generation to meet in the same faith which inspired those who have gone before."

When George Augustus Selwyn was consecrated as First Bishop of New Zealand in 1841, his jurisdiction extended at its northern limit to 34 degrees north of the equator, and so included not only the whole of New Zealand but also the islands now known as Melanesia.

So on 1 August 1849, the small schooner Undine with a crew of four, “glided quietly from Auckland harbour bearing Bishop Selwyn towards the untamed and uncharted islands of the Pacific.”

In this short voyage the Bishop established contact with many islands and initiated the policy followed for many years. He brought back five ‘native boys’ to be educated in New Zealand, the forerunners of the native teachers and clergy of Melanesia.

There were subsequent visits, sometimes in the face of serious opposition, and in 1854 Selwyn returned to London to urge that the growing importance of the work in the islands. In fact, he demanded it be developed as a separate See.

His influence in England was magnetic: he was able to secure approval for the new See, £10,000 was raised for its endowment, and the first Southern Cross was built for the work by enthusiastic subscribers. To this purpose Miss Charlotte M Yonge devoted the profits of her widely read book The Daisy Chain.

It took until 1861 for Bishop Selwyn's hopes and prayers to bear fruit, when John Coleridge Patteson was nominated as First Bishop of the Diocese of Melanesia.

To most people the islands of the Pacific were places of mystery, dread, and yet of enchantment. The few who visited them found them as varied as their inhabitants. In one place were storm-girt mountainous jungle-covered masses, in another were peaceful coral atolls in waters of incredible blues and greens. In still another place a maze of uncharted reefs belied the calm beauty of the peaceful waters.

The islanders themselves varied from the dark uncouth Melanesian type of the New Hebrides to the handsome light-skinned Polynesians of some of the northern islands, At times gay and childlike, but more often victims of fear and suspicion, every other person was for them a potential enemy, and cruelty and treachery had become instinctive.

Head hunting and cannibalism were frequent. Ignorance and disease enslaved mind and body alike, yet such religion as these people possessed was woven closely into the fabric of daily life.

Bishop Selwyn had realised from the start that Melanesians themselves must be the chief missionaries to their own people (he likened the future church in Melanesia to "a black fishing net supported by white corks "). To this end, his main policy was to take young Melanesian men to New Zealand to train as the future priests and teachers.

And so the work of the Anglican Church in Melanesia began.

Visit the website here to find this venerable history and some wonderful period photographs.   Spotter: Paul Oates

Fought by the young; regretted by the old


WHILE PNG's SITUATION may not justify 'bloody' warfare, we are at war. We are at war against corruption in government and throughout the public service system, the very architechs and mechanisms that should make our state function.

But it is the State versus the People every day. And clearly the other side have no rules of engagement.

Moreover, the people have been divided for far too long into warring factions; tribal politics under the rhetoric of 'unity in diversity'.

This is only aggravated by our own over-insistence with maintaining tribal customs that are not conducive to life in a modern Melanesia.

Wake up! PNG tribal politics is simply not working for us as a united country! Is it not obvious in the breaking up of provinces, the drive for autonomy, the continued ethnic violence, cronyism, the wantok system?

Where is the development at the grassroots? How can we all be compensated when we have 800+ tribes to satisfy?

There is a rising tide of resentment stirring among working class people; the commonfolk.

We see our youth, our villagers, our struggling farmers, lay workers and street kids being fooled time and time again to support bogus political candidates with faulty party lines.

To be sure, even the so called educated elite of the universities and professionals fall prey to the insidious tactics of some of these 'bigmen'.

We received our independence while the greater majority of our country was still 'living in the stone age'. That is not so today. Let's turn that first mistake on it's head.

People, need to start talking to each other. In our work places, in our schools, our homes, churches and communities. With colleagues, neighbours, friends and family.

Start talking about it now. Decide what our communities need. What we aspire to, what we believe in.

In my opinion, we need a revolution. A Melanesian revolution. One of thought and conscience. A revolution that enables our pasin [culture] to shine like a beacon into the darkness that overshadows our development.

A revolution that enables us to transcend the lingering bondage of archaic customs that limits our becoming. A revolution that enables us to transpose our Melanesian principals to be more relevant for the times we live in; to write a new song we all can sing with one voice.

Surely our forefathers would be proud of that. They did not have the education, information and technology nor the lifestyles and freedoms that we have today. We are better off, we should try to be better.

We need leaders with the ability and willpower to take up this revolution. More men like Sam Basil. Let them step up to the mark in 2012. If you want to know them, PNG needs to ask - what do we really value?

Or perhaps I'm too much of an idealist.

Direct questions from a persistent citizen


AUSTRALIA’S SHADOW foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, has been tasked by a reader about why the Opposition doesn’t put pressure on the Federal government to take the troubled situation in PNG seriously.

“I have attempted to draw the situation in PNG to the attention of Foreign Affairs Minister Rudd and Opposition Leader Abbott,” wrote Trevor Freestone, in a letter obtained by PNG Attitude.

“Their staff thank me for my communication and things end there.”

Mr Freestone said Australia needs to be aware of what is happening in PNG and develop a plan that will be of benefit both to Papua New Guinea and Australia.

“The main concerns are corruption, mining and logging abuses), lack of effective aid by AusAID, lack of sufficient policing, poor health services to distant rural communities, the list goes on and on,” he said.

Mr Freestone pointed to the problem of deep sea tailings disposal of mine waste into the ocean close to Australian territorial waters and a cited a report stating that half of Australian aid goes to administration with just a small amount reaching its objective.

He also recommended that political staff should refer to websites like PNG Attitude, Act Now! and Mine Watch.

“By searching the web you can find many examples of bad practices in PNG,” he said.

“One has to ask how people were able to get away with this. The question I would like to ask is why do both sides of Parliament choose to ignore most of what is happening in PNG?

“How can a simple person such as myself get you to understand that the people in rural areas just want the nonsense to stop.

“They can see the potential their country has if only the corruption and mismanagement would stop.

“Why doesn't your party put pressure on the government to take the situation seriously?”

They are questions that should reverberate through the corridors and lobbies of the Australia’s Parliament.

January’s most commented upon stories


A BIT LATE IN the day, I admit, but I seemed to be besieged by life at the end of January and this regular feature went missing from the schedules.

For newcomers to PNG Attitude, at the end of each month I have been listing, in order of frequency, the stories readers found most worth commenting on.

Here’s what stimulated readers to head for the keyboard in January…

16 – Michael Ogio is new Governor-General (Keith Jackson). The replacement of Sir Paulias Matane by a serving Minister drew comment from many readers, including a generous contribution from Sir Paulias himself.

11 – Goroka girl new Tasmanian premier (Celebrity Correspondent). Lara Giddens’ ascension to the top job in Tassie thrilled a number of readers. Lara was born in Goroka, the daughter of onetime kiap Rick Giddings.

9 – Secretary fails to persuade (Keith Jackson). Richard Marles’ responses to questions raised by readers drew flack from people who thought he was being too bland and bureaucratic and dodging the hard issues.

9 – Governance and corruption (Richard Marles). The Parliamentary Secretary’s thoughts on these issues generated something of a frisson amongst some readers.

9 – Copeland continues fake blog posts (Keith Jackson). Say no more, Keith, say no more.

8 – Mr and Mrs Grassroots (Phil Fitzpatrick). Phil took a look at the focal points of basic service delivery to ‘Mr and Mrs Grassroots’ in terms of who should bear the greatest responsibility.

6 – Boys will be boys (Phil Fitzpatrick). How to divert all that male aggression into something useful, or at least undamaging, was Phil’s challenge. “Befing up the military and the police might be a useful diversion with positive social spinoffs.”

6 - China threat, PNG opportunity (Francis Hualupmoni). Francis argues that China’s intentions have been misconstrued in some parts of the world and that its peaceful rise has economic benefits for PNG..

6 – The how old are you puzzle (Peter Kranz). Peter explored the sometimes vexing question of determining the age of a Papua New Guinean villager.

6 - The region, defence and China (Richard Marles). There were a few responses to the Parliamentary Secretary’s thoughts on regional strategic issues.

Foreign judges to hear misconduct claims

A PANEL of foreign judges has been appointed to hear allegations of official misconduct against prime minister Sir Michael Somare, the ABC’s Liam Fox reports.

PNG's chief justice, Sir Salamo Injia, has appointed a Leadership Tribunal to hear allegations Sir Michael failed to lodge several years worth of annual returns.

In a statement Sir Salamo says the high office held by Sir Michael prompted him to appoint three eminent judges from outside the country.

Former Australian Federal Court Judge Roger Gyles will chair the tribunal. He will be joined by Sir Bruce Robertson from New Zealand and Sir Robin Auld from the United Kingdom.

Proceedings are due to begin on March 10. Sir Salamo says the tribunal will determine whether or not Sir Michael will be suspended from office during the hearings.

Turning the screw brings the crisis closer


IN TRIPOLI THIS MORNING people are being shot like dogs in the streets as they struggle for their freedoms and for fair governance.

In Kaugere recently, and I quote Lydia Kailap:

The people of the community took over and in their own unique way took on the responsibility of dealing with him. Whilst I would not encourage his son to belt the father, it was done and the community got up and chased him out of Kaugere. Now he is hiding in his house, afraid to come out.

At the end of the day, solutions need to fix the problem that exists. It is impossible to push a Western style of conflict resolution onto some PNG communities because it is simply foreign to them and ineffective. They have their own ‘ways’ to deal with thing.

This was part of a debate on PNG Attitude about means: in this case, the means of bringing under control a brutish ward councillor.

We should not lose the essence of Trevor Shelley Jr’s comments in this debate:

To the vast number of uneducated settlers, actions that deliver immediate results are a far more familiar paradigm they can relate to. The majority of our uneducated people are simple - not intellectually but through the comprehension of cause and effect. An effect that is tangible is rapidly absorbed.

I admit it is an extremely difficult task. Aspects of our ‘Melanesian Way’ are destroying us, yet Western philosophy does not entirely suit. I believe we must move away from the trend of applying Western templates to all issues organic to PNG. We must move away from solely providing concepts both you and I have learnt in the higher echelons of a Western based education system.

We must look internally and start to conceive and develop our own theoretical frameworks based upon a philosophy derived from our own culture and methods. These frameworks must then be applied and enforced to all and sundry, including those in settlements and perhaps more so to those that ply their trade in Waigani.

In New South Wales next month an incompetent and corrupt government will be put to the sword (metaphorically) by a truculent and disaffected electorate.

And this morning I learn from a contact in Port Moresby that “there's a whole lot of ‘mobilising’ going on [in PNG]; it may erupt anytime in the next couple of months”.

There is a connecting influence in these statements – and that is that a people denied and neglected have a breaking point. In a democracy, the crisis is resolved at the polls. In a dictatorship, it is resolved in the streets. Or in the officers’ mess.

It may take time, but it is resolved.

In PNG, there are two big questions that are relevant.

How soon will the breaking point be reached?

By what means will the resolution be enacted?

As the screw is turned on PNG democracy, so that breaking point draws closer. How it is enacted seems likely to define for a long time what will be the form of Trevor’s “philosophy derived from [PNG’s] own culture and methods”.

Australian government ignores tough issues


RECENT ATTACKS on Australian aid workers are a shame for a country that relies on aid money from Australia.

While condemning the attacks, ACT NOW! a PNG advocacy group, says the Australian government has been for a very long time been confused on how to manage its relationship with PNG.

Australian citizens are suffering the consequences of their government’s own short-sightedness.

There are serious governance and security issues with political connections in this country.

Corruption is the biggest single problem facing PNG as it takes vital funds away from the health sector, education and infrastructure maintenance.

Why has Australia always shied away from these issues, calling them “internal issues”.

The Police have a shortage of manpower in the capital city because they are off to protect the LNG site – a project in which Australia has put large sums of money.

It is time Australia stopped the bureaucratic nonsense, faced up to the truth that this country is a big problem waiting to erupt in civil unrest, and stepped up real efforts to help bring about positive change.

Late nights - & mornings - in Moresby


THERE IS A THRIVING night life culture in Moresby. It is sometimes dangerous and always lively, exciting and entertaining.

If you want to experience it for yourself, you could do worse than visit some of the late-night discos, clubs and drinking establishments, some of which manage to stay open until late in the morning - despite licensing restrictions.

Best to go with some local friends. Luckily I had a few ex-Simbu rugby players and a raskol or two to chaperone me on such outings.

The Shady Rest Hotel was close to where I lived, so my wife and I occasionally wandered down there on a Saturday night looking for entertainment.

One such weekend we stumbled across the famous Gay Night - a beauty contest for cross-dressers, aspiring transvestites and gays. Somewhat to my shock, and feeling like a fish out of water, I was asked to be one of the judges.

The contestants paraded in front of the appreciative audience in a variety of gorgeous costumes, performed various dances and acts (quite decent I add) and then waltzed around the judges to be scored.

The variety and creativity of the costumes was amazing, considering they must have been put together on a shoe-string budget but worthy of the Sydney Mardi Gras.

It was difficult to make a judgment based on the various parameters we were given by the organisers: poise, beauty, costume and dance movements were some I remember.

I was offered a discreet bribe by some of the contestants and their fans - which kept me in free beer for the evening!

The music was loud, mostly 80's style disco, and the judges were encouraged to try a few dance moves with the contestants. (I got a few cheers, mostly out of politeness).

It was great fun, and something of an eye-opener. You don't find this in the tourist brochures.

We judges saw all the beauties strutting their stuff most professionally, conferred earnestly and totted up the scores.

Then to rapt silence the winners were announced - the silence immediately replaced by raucous screams, congratulations and a few teary thank-you's.

Then it all melted into a retro disco evening - complete with revolving glitter-ball and some great dancing.

Gay Night is usually frequented by local celebrities - singers, sports stars, politicians and media personalities.

An evening not to be missed.

PNG govt promises Bougainville K500M

FOLLOWING TWO DAYS of discussions in Port Moresby, Bougainville will receive K500 million from the national government to use in key infrastructure projects over the next five years.

The assistance is targeted at reviving the economy of the autonomous province.

The deal was sealed in an agreement between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the PNG government which also covers the transfer of several national government powers to Bougainville, including education, health, lands, forests and agriculture.

The K500 million financial package will be paid to Bougainville from 2012 in annual K100 million instalments.

Projects to will include the reopening of the Aropa airport, Arawa hospital, Buka airport and the relocation of the administration headquarters from Buka to Arawa.

Deputy Prime Minister Sam Abal said the agreement signalled a new chapter for PNG and the ABG.

He said the Bougainville people had suffered a lot during the 15-year crisis and the PNG government was doing what it could to restore peace and harmony through the financial package.

Bougainville President John Momis said the meeting was a success. “Today can be described as a cultural paradigm to mutual understanding. If we can manage the cultural momentum, then we can address the challenges faced by Bougainville. The K500 million financial package is welcome news in Bougainville.”

Source: ‘Whooping K500m for Bougainville’ by Jeffrey Elapa, The National, 18 February 2011

Papua New Guinea: Proud Journalism, Poor Image

The Australian High Commission in Port Moresby will present a lunch with Rowan Callick as part of Australia Week 2011. Rowan is the respected Asia-Pacific Editor of The Australian newspaper and will speak on PNG: Proud Journalism, Poor Image, which will be followed by a panel discussion of senior journalists.

Details:  Friday 11 March.   Kumul Room, Holiday Inn.   12-3pm.   Entry K30.   Ask for more information from [email protected] or phone 325 9333

Independence of judiciary is now in question


THE HOPE OF A NATION is pinned on the strength of its judiciary, and the final defeat of democracy is for the head of the judiciary to bring into question its independence.

The timing and reasons given by the Attorney-General and former Chief Justice, Arnold Amet, in the sacking of the Public Prosecutor implies political influence exists within the judiciary.

Last week, the Attorney General discouraged the public from “putting pressure” on the Chief Justice to appoint a leadership tribunal to hear charges against his boss, the Prime Minister, Michael Somare.

Exactly five days later, the same Attorney General has sacked the Chief Prosecutor, who would have presented the case against the PM, for allegedly “failing to perform” without any further details of how he has failed in his duties.

People are entitled to conclude that this is anything but a coincidence.

Constitutional offices such as the Office of the Public Prosecutor and the Ombudsman Commission have for a long time been starved off vital funds to perform their constitutional responsibilities effectively.

If the Public Prosecutor has been sacked for “non-performance” then he can rightly argue that any non-­-performance, other than mere incompetence, is the doing of the Minister and his government.

The Attorney General will do well if he starts by ensuring these offices are adequately funded otherwise he himself is just as guilty of non-performance”.

Effrey Dademo is the program manager of advocacy group, ACT NOW!

Prosecutor sacked after PM allegations


THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR who launched a case of alleged misconduct against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare has been sacked for "not performing".

PNG's Attorney-General Sir Arnold Ahmet has announced that public prosecutor Jim Tamate will not have his contract renewed.

"Principally in the assessment, it is a matter of performance and leadership of the public prosecutor," Sir Arnold told a press conference. "We were not satisfied with his performance".

The sacking has angered the opposition who last year repeatedly tried to move a vote of no-confidence against the government. Former deputy prime minister Puka Temu said the sacking was highly political.

"Why the revocation at the time when he referred the PM? This office is responsible in prosecuting the PM, if a tribunal is constituted by the chief justice, with this new appointment from East Sepik, everything might be compromised," he said.

Outspoken opposition MP Sam Basil said it was a "sad day" for PNG. "Is it not an attempt to send a message to anybody who will be handling the PM's case to be wary of their own fate?" he said.

Spotter: Bob Lawrence

Stories of roads, bridges & other beasts


STRANGE HOW different people have differing memories of the same place.

In 1970 I made two trips along what is today the Magi Highway. It must have been the dry season because I recall it was the dustiest trip I had ever made.

By the time our Assistant Patrol Officer squad reached the deserted Kwikila Prison, which we would call home for next three or perhaps four weeks, we were well and truly covered in a layer of pale brown dust. It was likewise when we headed back to Konedobu, where we would be reunited with our wives and kids.

The other memory is of riding in the dark blue steel open sided or windowless buses that had little suspension left and so gave us bumpy rides. They looked like the Hollywood prison buses in a Deep South chain gang movie.

Transport in Port Moresby then seemed to be dominated by good old British Landrover but sadly the spare parts backup was said to be a disaster and so Toyota got its wheels on the wharves and so has dominated PNG ever since.

I had only had a short spell in rural Western Australia and was amazed at what the locals called roads. They were merely dirt tracks that had been widened and were occasionally graded; often with a perfectly horizontal blade. The Kiaps took this template with them to PNG despite most of it having 60 to 300 inches or more rain a year.

They should have used the more suitable Roman model of northern Europe: especially incorporating cambers on all of the roads to facilitate run-off. Or perhaps the British way of roads on Fiji which always seemed to look better on documentaries.

District Commissioner Mert Brightwell, District Officer Peter Whitehead and everyone in the command chain were annoyed at a mere Assistant Patrol Officer, and a Pommie at that, criticising their road building skills on Lavongai Island.

But I was vindicated when District Commissioner Ian Holmes came to open the Narimlaua low level ford in 1972. The day before the festivities, the only 4 x 4 on the island had got stuck on the Taskul to Narimlaua road and would not be available for the District Commissioner who accompanied other elites to the event. So Peter Whitehead sent the tractor to help retrieve it, but the Gods were on my side and it too got stuck.

What happened next day was that all the visitors to Narimlaua Bridge opening had to use the dinghies to get there and back. You may ask was that a sly grin on my face when they clambered up the muddy track sorry road to my camping house on the hill overlooking the river.

I was luckier after Independence Day in having an ex-CRA bulldozer driver to work on some roads that Father Miller was building in his Parish. Tambu Tito certainly had been taught how to adjust his blade to get good cambers on the swampy muddy soils.

In the late 1980s I would later irritate a contract driver on the old Narim-Kulingei-Taskul road who was still making roads in the old flat style. He either didn’t know the blade could be adjusted, or maybe it was too much hassle to do so under the tropical sun.

I would love him to have been with me in 2007-08 when several times I walked the Kunai area west of Taskul where we had our chat. The old track has eroded into ruts a metre deep and were obviously avoided by the District Officer’s ute over the ensuing years which had made new ruts on alongside them until they too stretched unused for ten metres or more either side of the original.

For most of its length the South Lavongai road has disappeared yet, some 40 years later the engineer’s bridge remains – just!

The force of the river is tirelessly cutting back and so is undermining the eight concrete pipes because the foundational metal baskets are rusting, losing their stones and soon, in one of those huge floods that the Narim River can produce, it will be ripped apart and once again the people will have to walk up river to find a suitable wet crossing spot.

But why should I even mention tracks and roads cambered or uncambered on Lavongai?  The DO’s vehicle was burnt out in the 1990s along with his house in 2008. There was no other vehicle on Taskul. The Mission’s two tractors at Metekavil have long rusted away.

Perhaps there is no road at all now on the island as the loggers’ vehicles make temporary tracks to get timber, move it out, flog it abroad and leave erosion scars as their legacy before loading on a barge and heading into the sunrise.

At least at Narimlaua, unknowingly at the time, I first saw my wife to be.  She was working for a dollar a day earning school fees by loading small river gravel to finish the last approaches to the bridge as our coronus had been exhausted.

She’s now long departed and perhaps soon the bridge will too.

Ples daun, noken wari tumas!

Could people power be looming in PNG?


‘PEOPLE POWER’ is the label the media has placed on popular grassroots revolutions. The Arab world is currently experiencing this phenomenon – with Egypt already succumbing to the force of the popular will.

While the tag first came to prominence when the Marcos regime in the Philippines was toppled in 1986, it could just as easily have been applied to the French Revolution in the late 18th Century.

A dramatic change in government occurs with ‘People Power’ when the majority of people - disenfranchised from controlling their own destiny and marginalised from a fair share in their country’s wealth and resources – restore democracy by essentially peaceful means.

Initially, those in charge try to resist a rising tide of frustration. They do this by manipulating their country’s law and order system to help keep them in power for as long as possible.

They have come to enjoy the life to which they and their sycophants have become accustomed and don’t want to give it up. Such crackdowns, however, haves the effect of further constraining normal safety valves that might help prevent the gathering storm. Ultimately, there comes a time when the pressure cooker of public sentiment explodes into revolution.

The beginnings of PNG ‘People Power’ emerged recently with significant public demonstrations and marches. Since then silence has reigned as those in power manipulate their country’s law and order system to suit themselves.

Three assiduously avoided parliamentary votes of no confidence; a justice system that seems to dither when determining charges involving the PM and his entourage; and an expose that half their country’s national wealth is being stolen under people’s very noses seeming just to slide away as if of no moment.

The silence from government can only mean one of two things. Either they do not wish to act, or they have no idea how to act. Either way, the government is morally corrupt and should be replaced. Yet apart from a few lone voices, like Sam Basil MP, no one seems to be able to do anything about the problem.

In effect, no one in PNG is being held to account for the country’s current problems. One wonders what might happen, when the election of the new Governor General is rubber stamped, if those MPs who want to discuss they country’s problems meet publicly at another venue, considering they have been effectively denied their right to a full debate under the PNG Constitution in the ‘People’s House’.

Comments by on PNG Attitude by Paulus Ripa about the rural health system being virtually non existent, together with rural education that is fast evaporating, are pertinent and timely. Where are the public statements by responsible government ministers saying they will do something about this disastrous situation?

The origin of recent events in the Arab states should be heeded by the PNG government lest chickens come home to roost in Waigani.

Visit to PNG changes students’ outlook on life


St Clare Students in PNG PNG IS NOT EVERYONE’S ideal holiday destination. The country has a high murder rate, a reputation for lawlessness, and HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are endemic.

But for six students from St Clare’s College in Waverley and their social justice program teachers [right], it was an ideal place to spend 12 days in December.

Year 12 student Lauren Cooper, who lives in Vaucluse, said she’d heard about the dangers of PNG, but that her experience had been overwhelmingly positive.

The students spent most of their time in Vanimo, near the border with Indonesia, and its surrounding villages.

“Everyone is friendly, you can’t go past anyone on the street without someone saying hello,” Lauren said.

“While we were there Oprah was in Sydney - we were like Oprah in Vanimo. Everyone would scream hello, it was quite amazing, it was very humbling.”

During their trip, students spent time learning to make traditional billum (bags) and observing how many people lived subsistence lives.

Lauren said she had been particularly affected by a visit to a home for young girls who had left their families rather than be forced to marry and leave school, and by visits to a local hospital where they met leprosy and tuberculosis patients.

“The people, they were so inspiring, they literally had nothing, but they were the happiest and most joyful people I’ve ever met,” she said.

“The thing that shocked all of the girls was the fact they have nothing. Their houses are made out of the trees they live next to. They have no supplies, there’s only one supermarket in the whole place.”

She said it had changed her outlook on life.

“I think I’m just thankful for the people who surround me and that I’m able to finish school and go to uni, because the girls (at the school) have nothing.”

Source:   Spotter: Peter Kranz

Massive book program will boost schools

WORK HAS BEGUN to distribute 2.7 million textbooks worth K80 million to PNG primary and community schools

The European Union has funded the massive project which will benefit 3,400 schools. It comes on the back of AusAID’s distribution last year of 54,000 textbooks worth K20 million.

The country’s biggest textbook delivery exercise involves seven local distributors and will take two months to complete.

Handing over the keys to five containers of textbooks in the Enga Province senior education adviser Wesley Lakain said the books should have a great impact. Each school will receive 20, 40 or 60 cartons of textbooks depending on its size.

“The Southern Highlands and Enga provincial governments pour so much money into education but the indicators don’t reflect that. With these books, we hope to change that and there is no reason why we should not,” Mr Lakain said.

The traditional AusAID textbook delivery will be done for secondary schools throughout the country later in the year.

Meanwhile, research has found that about 10 percent of Grade 7 students take marijuana, a symposium on alcohol abuse in Port Moresby has been told.

Secretary for Education, Dr Joseph Pagelio, said the findings also reveal that the number of students taking illegal substances increased as they move up the grades.

The research, conducted by the Department of Education guidance and counselling branch, indicated that 20 percent of students in Grade 9 had taken marijuana while 12 percent admitted drinking alcohol.

Dr Pagelio said addiction to drugs and alcohol often resulted in criminal acts and irrational behaviour, which were further boosted by other drugs and illegal substances sold on the street.

He said the introduction of a new behaviour management policy would change the way schools manage and respond to student behaviour. “It is a whole school approach to promoting positive student behaviour,” Dr Pagelio said.

The strategies included effective discipline techniques and sanctions, fair suspension and expulsion processes, counselling, supporting a healthy learning environment, effective class and school management and teaching life skills.

Sources: PNG Post-Courier and The National

Past perfect: Those were the days my friend


Kwikila 1967 
I WENT TO PNG as a Cadet Patrol Officer in 1967.  We were on six year contracts and had just spent several months at the Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in Sydney learning some of the theory we needed for the job.

This was topped up with a stay at Kwikila, just east of Port Moresby, learning a few of the practical skills, like missing targets with a rifle and revolver and making obsolete A510 radios work just once more.

In 1967 the Assistant District Commissioner at Kwikila was Ernie Sharp.  Jack Karukuru was a Patrol Officer and Roland Kekedo, another PO, dropped in to lend a hand.  Bruce Dunn was the Training Officer and Jack Baker, Deputy District Commissioner, occasionally arrived to take us tuna fishing off Hula.

We were housed barrack-style under mozzie nets and a leaking saksak roof behind the council chambers.  The latrines were holes in a concrete floor out the back.  At night the big white maggots from the dunnies came out and crawled up the legs of our beds.

We lived on rice and other sundry tucker served up in the nearby council chambers.  That’s where I developed my lifelong addiction to salted cooking bananas.  Solace came in the form of the occasional visit to the Kwikila Country Club for a feed and a dip in the pool.  Otherwise we bought goodies at the barn-like trade store over the road.

The culmination of the course came in a raft race down the Kemp Welch River and a pounding with flour, old bananas and other unsavoury items I would rather not mention as we passed under the suspension bridge.  After that we were deemed to be marginally useful and shipped off to various postings.

Last week I was wont to drive out to Kwikila for an entirely different reason.

The old SDO The Sub-District Office is still there, painted a lovely shade of blue.  It is now the Rigo District Headquarters.  The barracks are gone but the concrete floor of the old council chambers and the unholy latrines are still mouldering in the long grass.

The old barn of a trade store is also still there.  I bought some tin fish and bread rolls for lunch.  It’s now owned by a Chinese family.  One of them sits up on a high pedestal directly behind the checkout girls keeping an eagle eye on their every move.

Old and new bridges over the Kemp Welch The suspension bridge over the Kemp Welch has been replaced but it is still hanging alongside its newer neighbour, albeit without decking.  Incidentally, John Kemp Welch was the London Missionary Society treasurer in the 1880s – the real name of the river is Wanigela.

Mine wasn’t the first cadet course and the last to savour the delights of Kwikila.  If you’re ever out that way drop in and say hello.  The people are still mighty friendly and welcoming.

Main photo:  I’m the bloke with the cheesy grin on the left at front, Peter Edwards, rear left, took the photo with a timer.  The lady at the front with the footy is the one responsible for my banana addiction.  Taffy Watkins who later drowned while on patrol is on the far right back row.

Aid to PNG refocuses on health & education


AUSTRALIA SAYS its plan to cut one- third of 487 aid advisors in PNG will free up $40 million.

The Australian government is promising that the money saved will go to the provision of drugs, medicines and educational materials, as the aid program refocusses on these areas.

PNG is a key target of changes announced in Australia's review of the use of aid advisors, released earlier this month.

Globally, more than a quarter of Australia's 952 advisor positions will be phased out or have already finished their contracts.

Many hundreds of other positions will be reviewed and redesigned after increasing criticism that advisors are ineffective and siphon aid money into Australian pockets.

Cholera death toll 500 & 10,000 victims

AAP - NEARLY 500 people have died in PNG’s prolonged cholera outbreak, Health Secretary Dr Clement Malau says.

Dr Malau said 483 people have died while 10,066 have been diagnosed with cholera since the first outbreak in September 2009.

Seven of PNG's 19 provinces, including Port Moresby, have been affected. Dr Malau said Western Province was the worst hit, with 300 deaths.

"I am urging the provinces to sustain the response momentum and widen surveillance and awareness activities," he said.

"I appeal again to local authorities at the district and provincial levels to respond effectively to the cholera outbreaks in their areas".

In December last year, there were grave concerns that cholera would spread across the Torres Strait to Australia when it was detected in Western Province.

Travel between the Torres Strait Islands and neighbouring PNG communities was restricted, with hundreds of people turned away in an effort to contain the potentially deadly outbreak.

The initial poor response and lack of funding by the PNG government have been blamed for cholera spreading throughout the country.

Australia provided $1.7 million in assistance including supplies of intravenous fluids, oral salts and water purification tablets, as well as emergency experts being flown to outbreak centres.

Cholera is transmitted by water or food contaminated by bacteria from an infected person.

Disappearing down the maw of corruption


I REFER YOU to the announcement this week, Thursday, in Port Moresby, by Acting Deputy Commissioner of Police , Fred Yakasa.

It was to the effect that K4 billion of public funds disappears annually down the great maw of corruption - being the Ministries and much of the Public Service.

I wrote here more than a year or ago that, whilst there is a perception commonly held in Australia that PNG politics is a sea of corruption, it is not generally understood just how wide and deep this problem is, nor of its social origins.

My piece attracted a number of tut-tuts, one contributor going so far as to say "John, stating that PNG's social culture encourages universal dishonesty is like saying that all Muslims are terrorists."

Well, we must all speak for ourselves. Being tolerant to a fault, I made no rejoinder at the time. I am the sort of person who unfailingly invites Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness evangelists in for a drink of water and a pee.

Thus I only infrequently indulge in sending what comes round to go round again.

I do hope that a sense of reality may begin to pervade the somewhat sunny views of PNG today, as held by many fellow bloggers.

It doesn’t stop you liking the place, or the people. It makes you more useful in your own tiny way if you realise the depth of the problems in PNG.

It’s an accident about to happen in slow-motion. Bandages and iodine are appropriate; not prayers and lugubrious reflections upon "the old days".

Returning to the situation evoked by Fred Yakasa, I was in discussion with a young AusAID official about 18 months ago. Holding forth about his job, he told me with glee of his cunning and “street-smarts”, where, working with Government Treasury officers in Port Moresby, he had formed a sort of “self-defense posse” against plundering politicians.

These people would enter offices as soon as they were aware of the arrival of funds into certain accounts and demand to see both the bank statements and signed blank cheques giving them access.

My informant was overjoyed with what he described as a “Canberra ploy” where AusAID consultants showed the local finance men how to create so-called “hollow logs” - hidden accounts where sums could be kept at will, unknown to the raiding politicians. Probably interest-bearing savings accounts by arrangement with brothers in the banks.

This latter is a ploy I have experienced myself. Even a lowly 2% on K300,000 for a month will pay for a good Saturday evening out at the nitespots of POM.

I was quite stunned at the level of childish naivety demonstrated. Later I read the term “hollow log” mentioned in a PNG press report dealing with some controversy involving public funds. One must believe that once again the Aussies had triumphed. Sad, isn’t it?

Centropolis? The lost city of PNG....


Poreporena Highway THE QUICKEST WAY into the Port Moresby city centre from the airport and the outer suburbs these days is via the Poreporena Freeway.

The freeway has a sort of “Death Race 500” feel about it, especially on the downhill run.

A more leisurely method is along the old Hubert Murray Highway.

Pottering down the hill through Badili and Matirogo to Koki and then along Healey Parade and Ela Beach Road has a certain charm.  I especially like the first view of the sea and the strong smell of the salt air.

There’s a wall along Healey Parade now, so you can look around without worrying about driving into the ocean.  The ladies are still out there collecting shellfish at low tide.

If you look up the hill to your right, you see all the latest mansions built with money from the shonky logging deals up and down the coast.  You’ll also encounter a curious sign which points to somewhere called Central City.

Follow the sign and the road leads to an abrupt end with nothing but tall grass, scrub and trees.  Now what is all that about you wonder?

A couple of enquiries reveal that Central City is, or was, going to be the capital of Central Province – a sort of city within a city.  What a strange idea.  Why would you do that? 

Talk to a few more people and the reason becomes abundantly clear.

Port Moresby might be smack in the middle of the Central Province but for many of the local people the city doesn’t belong to the province.

Who on earth does it belong to then?  To the people of Papua New Guinea of course!  Port Moresby is a city that belongs to the Sepiks, Keremas, Highlanders, Tolais and everyone else in Papua New Guinea.  Just like Canberra belongs to the people of Australia rather than the people of New South Wales.

New South Wales has got its Sydney; Western Province has got its Daru; Gulf Province has got its Kerema; Milne Bay Province has got its Alotau; but what has Central Province got? 

According to a lot of people it’s got nothing; hence Central City.

Where does it go from here?  For that question I couldn’t find an answer anywhere.

MCC & Highlands Pacific admit sea dumping

THE ENGINEER RESPONSIBLE for the marine mine waste dumping pipeline at the Ramu nickel mine in Papua Guinea, Dr George Shou, has admitted under cross examination, that the pipeline has been used to dump nickel ore in the ocean.

This dumping has occurred despite the fact landowners from along the coast where the dumping occurred had a temporary court injunction preventing MCC and Highlands Pacific, the mine’s owners, from using the pipeline to dump toxic materials into the sea.

The untreated nickel ore which dumped into the sea despite the court injunction, contains heavy metals which are toxic to marine life.

The judge hearing the court case granted leave for the landowners to file a motion charging the mine owners with contempt of court over the dumping.

The mine owners are already facing another contempt of court hearing over allegations they threatened and intimidated plaintiffs to give up their court battle.

In other evidence this week, Stuart Jones, a mining consultant who prepared the original environmental plan for the Ramu mine in 1999, admitted under cross examination that other mines in PNG with higher rainfall patterns and similar earthquake vulnerability are operating land-based tailings management systems despite his claims these factors made a land based system for the Ramu mine unfeasible.

Jones admitted he has been involved in planning for the Frieda river mine which will use a land-based system despite having an annual rainfall more than twice as high as that at the Ramu mine site.


For our independence


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

36 years to make our mark
36 years we failed to start
At first glance that’s what we see
except when I look at you I see me
I see children of all ages, children brought here through different stages
I see the children of Papua New Guinea
I see the band aid to soothe and remedy

Serenity is my home
The island in the sun
Sun rising, flowers in bloom, children laughing etc
The Chauka singing to God
Waves crashing, curving, bowing
Yes sir, serenity is my home

I’m sitting on a beach peacefully
While others strive for peace
How can we both be sharing the same lives
Upon this subtle violent earth?
How can we not question
two different extremes from birth?

I’m asking you oh PNG
What is your quest for life?
Because we have a day more to live
while others fight the knife!

I’m asking you oh PNG
How can we not feel pain?
While all brothers and sisters
Ultimately suffer shame

I’m asking you oh PNG
when will you start to learn?
That we are the ones with everything
All that others have only to yearn

I’m asking you oh PNG
Not to give up the fight
For gallant soldiers we may be
When we survive the night

I’m telling you Oh PNG
That I love you too damn much
But you have no clue how tough it is in the exterior out of home
So please grow, learn, succeed and give
So all our seeds can be sown.

Hinelou, 29, was raised in Lae (which she hopes “will revert to the good old days”).  Her parents are from Manus and Australia and she works overseas at present and “returns to PNG whenever I can”.  Hinelou says she comes from a large family “including a lot of successful women I aspire to be like”.

The Secretary responds to our criticisms


ON MONDAY I took a call from the chief of staff to Richard Marles, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs.

Chris Balaam advised me that the Parliamentary Secretary, having just read February’s PNG Attitude magazine, had been taken aback by the universally hostile reaction to his responses to some admittedly tough questions posed by readers.

Richard had agreed to address the questions, which canvassed a broad sweep of the PNG-Australia relationship: corruption, China, development aid, education … I thought it was a good interrogation.

Richard’s responses, though, had met with disdain. In the fashion of modern politics, the written words that he offered eschewed direct and meaningful commentary.

Instead we got bland. B-l-a-n-d. Which PNG Attitude later reckoned stood for ‘bureaucratic language and no disclosure’.

During a long discussion with Chris Balaam, I made the point that – while it would be nigh impossible to disclose with full frankness Australia’s innermost thoughts on PNG – it should be possible to address important issues in a more direct way than had been the case in Richard's articles.

I emphasised that the way the articles were framed was a faithful replication of the non-replies that many of our readers were used to receiving from politicians.  Question: Direct.  Answer: Obfuscatory.  Result:  Crabby voter.

And these people had told us (perhaps they do not tell the politicians or perhaps the polticians do not care) that they find these anodyne replies offensive and doing nothing but damage to the reputation of government.

I further mentioned to Chris that, during my discussions with Richard in Canberra late last year, he had expressed a strong wish for Australians generally to become more interested in PNG affairs.

For this to be the case, I said, the government would have to develop a more straightforward and open approach to addressing the complex issues that at present bedevil the bilateral relationship.

If this means taking some risks by using more direct language to address the tough issues, then it’s the price that has to be paid for greater transparency and better communication, not to mention accountability and credibility.

Otherwise it might be (and I have talked about this previously in PNG Attitude), that - if PNG blows up and the Australian media and political opposition do get seriously interested - there will be a lot of pressure on Australia's government to explain how things got so bad and why people hadn’t been told.

A failure to explain will lead to an electoral caning. It happens.

Julia Gillard doesn't need a meltdown on her own doorstep to further undermine her dubious reputation (to some extent self-generated) as a leader uninterested in foreign affairs. And PNG is a family affair.

Note for Julia:  Announcement of visit to PNG is overdue.

Echoing Trevor Freestone’s excellent observation, I further mentioned to Chris that we get a much more honest appraisal of PNG on the DFAT ‘Smart Traveller’ website than in any other official Australian pronouncements.

It needs to be said that Chris Balaam seemed not disagree with any of these reflections, merely asking whether the good news could also be told.

Well, I said, we do tell the good news when we have it, and we’re always happy for more.

Chris also asked would it be possible for Richard to write another article for PNG Attitude.  Of course.  Many articles, we hope.  After all, the Parliamentary Secretary writes exceedingly well. When it's him doing the writing.

To read Richard's prose, you can link to an article published in 'The Punch' earlier this week ('Some enchanted evening, we'll acknowledge the South Pacific'), written following a visit he recently made to the Northern Marianas (Chris went too!)


Boroko – a new sense of community emerges


WE LIVE IN Boroko, a popular suburb in Port Moresby.

The houses were built in the 1950’s and we live in one of them which now requires a major makeover. However, the floors are still intact, except for the kitchen, toilet and shower.

We moved into our home in 2005 and have been living here ever since. We live a step away from the famous Bisini Sports Grounds which caters for nearly all sporting events such as rugby league, cricket, netball, softball, union and soccer.

When we first moved in, we encountered problems with outsiders who use the sporting fields as their drinking bar or club and played lots of loud music. However, we solved the problem by having a meeting with our neighbours to discuss the best way to tackle the issue of drinking.

We have no problems with break and enter in our home as the people around us and in the neighbouring streets watch over each other. This is something that every neighbour must exercise. We all need to help each other and work together.

Drinking is now the issue. People who drink don’t behave like people who don’t drink and start causing problems. Our meeting agreed to have ‘zero tolerance’ on alcohol or smoking of drugs on the street.

We have communicated with the Police and they are aware of our situation and come right away when we call.

Port Moresby can be a nice place to live, no matter what,  if the people are friendly. And that is our motto.

We have to help one another and care for each other and also for outsiders. We help share water with the players who come around to our house asking for water. In that way, we know that our home is protected.

I hope I have shared a little on the suburb of Boroko.

Did you ever live in Boroko? How do you remember it? Comments welcome....

The price of indifference


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

I heard her cry
She’d lost her child
But I didn’t bother
She wasn’t my child

I saw her begging
She wasn’t educated
But I didn’t bother
She wasn’t my child

I saw her being robbed
She was vulnerable
But I didn’t bother
She wasn’t my child

I heard him swear
She was being abused
But I didn’t bother
She wasn’t my child

I lost her today
She was stabbed
And I made a fuss
She was mine

I pleaded for support
She was precious
But no one bothered
She wasn’t their child

David Kitchnoge, a regular contributor to PNG Attitude, is a manager with Deloitte Corporate Finance in Port Moresby

Change for the better on this stretch of road


Road 1975 HERE ARE A COUPLE of photographs. They are taken roughly in the same spot on the Magi Highway.

The one with the old LandRover was taken in the early 1970’s, before independence.

The other one with the Landcruiser was taken last week.

The road (under the water) was what Australia left when it bailed out in 1975. Should have bailed out the road first!

The more recent photograph is of the road built by PNG.

Isn’t it terrible? The silly buggers have taken a perfectly good swamp and slapped bitumen all over it. No wonder the place is falling apart.

Magi Highway Today 

What to do with a recalcitrant councillor?

Co-founder of the Children’s University of Music and Art, LYDIA KAILAP, seeks advice from readers about a serious problem she’s encountered with a local official....

SINCE WE STARTED the Children’s University of Music and Art (CUMA) in Kaugere Settlement in 2009 we have had one problem after another with one of the ward councillors.

As an Australian, I was horrified when I first went there with my PNG husband and saw the way people lived and especially the hopelessness of the children.

So we decided to start a little school that was free to attend and give the kids at least some education. Then we added lunch for the students when we had enough money to buy food and prepare it for them.

We funded the school from our own pockets and donations in cash or kind that were given; but the majority was our own resources.

Before we started the school we tried to get community leaders involved, including a ward councillor.

His first demand was that the school only be available for children from families of the I’are Clan. We refused and opened it up for all children, regardless of their Province of origin or anything else. CUMA is for all children. This really upset him.

Then he wanted to be part of the financial management of the school and have access to any funding or donations we received. We courteously declined his offer, thus forever putting him offside.

Since then he has done all sorts of things to try to stop us.

He started and circulated malicious rumours that we had received massive funding from AusAID and had bought a house in Australia with it and all sorts of similar nonsense.

Sadly some of the youth believed his stories and went on a drunken rampage, attacking the school and our boys, destroying furniture and equipment, cutting one of our two water tanks, burning a school truck and bashing some of the smaller boys who were there at the time.

The latest tactic has been to threaten the children that he will belt them if they come to school. The same threats have been made to parents. Unfortunately the threats have worked in many cases because the community know how violent this fellow is.

The whole scenario is destructive and detrimental to the kids who desperately need to be educated.

I am calling for suggestions from PNG Attitude readers who have had experience in such matters in PNG communities.

The dead can’t speak for themselves


Mount_Lamington_1951 IN 1951, JUST OVER 60 years ago, my father and brother were killed in the eruption of Mt Lamington.

My father was Cecil Cowley, the District Commissioner, an Australian who died that day in the line of duty.  My brother was Erl Cowley, aged 16, who died alongside him.

My mother and I, the only Europeans from Higaturu who survived, barely escaped with our lives, and the memory lives on, as it does with the other survivors in Papua.  I was 12 at the time.

It took me until 2002 to pluck up sufficient courage to return to Papua.  I knew my father and brother were buried in the cemetery at the Memorial Park in Popondetta, but it was impossible to find their graves, as the crosses bearing their names had been removed by David Marsh.

That left me with a feeling of incompletion, as there was no actual gravesite where I could allow myself to give way to my grief which had been bottled up for more than 50 years.

When my husband and I eventually found the memorial plaques on the ground, it was heavily overgrown and in a shocking state of disrepair.  We paid to have the park cleared for Eruption Day, and at least I was able to pay my respects.

The following year we returned, and it was overgrown again.

This year I was unable to return, due to ill health, but my friend who lost his brother in the eruption, Bernie Woiwod, informed me that a service was impossible at the Memorial Park because again it was so overgrown.

This lack of interest by the Australian government is, to me, a form of desecration, on top of the desecration of the removal of the individual crosses bearing the names of the dead from their actual position of their graves.

Thirty-three expatriates, many of them Australians in government service, died in that disaster, along with an estimated 13,000 Papuans (4,000 officially but that didn’t include children).

Mr Woiwod forwarded me a copy a recent letter from Ian Kemish, Australia’s High Commissioner in PNG, which said the “High Commission is contacted by a number of private groups that wish to support memorials”.

With all due respect, this is not a matter for private groups.  This is a matter for the Australian government to honour its dead.  Immediately adjacent to this dilapidated and abandoned memorial park, the Kokoda Memorial Park is maintained in beautiful condition.

My father, who served with distinction in World War II, died in the line of duty.  He would not leave his post.

The dead can’t speak for themselves.

I trust Mr Kemish will use his good offices to effect a proper program of maintenance for this important memorial so as to show our nation’s respect for these loyal Australians.

Pamela (Cowley) Virtue is also seeking a publisher for a book her mother wrote about the eruption. You can email Pamela here

Photo: Mt Lamington in eruption, 1951 [South Pacific Post]

Symptoms disclosed; now to treat the disease


[PNG] loses about 50 percent of its government budget directly to fraud. That’s about K4 billion a year and on top of that PNG fails to collect more than half of the taxation revenue that is due to it. That’s from acting Deputy Police Commissioner Fred Yakasa yesterday when officially opening a workshop on Proceeds of Crime Act – Post-Courier, 15 February 2011

AT LAST, THE DEFINITIVE answer to where PNG's desperately needed money really goes. Fifty percent of PNG's budget goes in fraud and corruption. In addition, the PNG government fails to collect 50 percent of tax revenue that is owing to it.

Deputy Commissioner Yakasa effectively fingered the problem when officially opening a workshop on the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The next step is to do something about it. That's the real problem. Everyone knows what's happening. No one's doing anything effective to stop it.

Former politicians can now bluff (or otherwise) their way through customs and airport officials. They can enter PNG illegally merely by quoting the Prime Minister's name.

And by using the PM's signature and stationery, K125 million can be released to an MP for community projects. There would appear to be no real control of the PNG government’s activities.

In a recent article by AAP's Ilya Gridneff, the following comments were made:

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said in a written statement: “There is currently no evidence to confirm such allegations. “Australia is strongly committed to supporting PNG to address corruption,”

Australia’s $457 million annual aid program to PNG focuses on tackling widespread corruption, but the realpolitik means little can be done when advisers actually discover wrongdoing. A lack of political will on the PNG side, underfunding for police, the jails and court system means most crimes go unsolved in the country.

Clearly there is no evidence as the Foreign Affairs Minister claims, because investigations are reportedly still at the looking into it stage.

Deputy Commissioner Yakasa is to be congratulated for having the intestinal fortitude to describe the extent of the symptoms.

Will his Commissioner now please address the actual disease?

Aussie aid advisers to lose 25% of salaries


HIGHLY PAID AUSTRALIAN aid advisers working in developing countries are to have their pay and allowances slashed by 25 percent, and many will lose their jobs.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd has confirmed the government will axe more than 250 long-term positions from 11 different programs over two years. PNG and East Timor will be the main targets.

There’s already been a positive reaction from Australia’s main foreign aid group – the Australian Council for International Development.

Council executive director, Marc Purcell, says reducing advisers must be the first step as part of a larger reform and questioning of what made foreign aid effective.

He said the most sustainable way to deliver aid was to work with the citizens of a country to build their own reliance.

“At the end of the day experts will fly in and out but it is the citizens of the country who have the responsibility to take the lead for themselves in the long run,” he said.

“You do need technical assistance experts upon occasions but paying people a quarter of a million dollars – people are rightfully going to ask - is this the most effective way to spend aid money?”

Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson, Julie Bishop, said heads of state and foreign ministers from the region had raised the high level of advisers’ salaries with her.

“This is a matter of concern to them that Australian aid is being absorbed by payments to the officials in charge of the aid program and that it wasn’t reaching the required destination, particularly in the areas of health and education,” she said

Some of the Australian-paid technical advisers were reported to be on $500,000 tax free salaries, more than Kevin Rudd was paid as prime minister when he launched the review into salaries in May last year.


Pacific Islands Art including the work of PNG artist Martin Morububuna and sculptor Jeffry Feeger. Until 27 February at the Global Gallery, Paddington NSW. Tues-Sat 11am-6pm Sun noon-4pm. Free

Campaign to free West Papua political prisoners. Venue: Amnesty International, 79 Myrtle Street, Chippendale NSW. Thu 24 February 6pm–7.30pm. Speakers: Andreas Harsono (Human Rights Watch representative Indonesia) and Hon John Dowd AO QC (Vice President International Commission of Jurists)

PNG police stretched as crimes go unsolved


AAP - PNG POLICE are continuing to investigate allegations that a brutal attack on an Australian aid worker is linked to his work exposing corruption.

A spate of carjackings in Port Moresby has created fear among some Australian officials.

One of the incidents involved an adviser working in the National AIDS Council Secretariat who suffered serious injuries that required him to be flown to Brisbane for treatment.

AAP understands another Australian adviser with NACS ended her contract shortly after her colleague's carjacking. She had suffered repeated violent threats.

Australia's $457 million annual aid program to PNG has a focus on tackling widespread corruption, but realpolitik means little can be done when advisers actually discover wrongdoing.

A lack of political will on the PNG side and underfunding for police, jails and the court system also means most crimes go unsolved.

There are now new concerns that police numbers are being even more depleted bcause units are being sent from the capital to remote parts of PNG for the massive ExxonMobil-led resource project.

Despite Australian Federal Police assistance in Madang, police are yet to arrest anyone in relation to the rape of a young Australian volunteer whose group was carjacked, tied to tree and robbed in November last year.

No one has been charged for the shooting of Queensland businessman John Ramshaw, 61, who was killed during a robbery in June last year.

And police have not arrested anyone for the brutal murder of Victorian transport adviser David Nicholson, 53, who was found dead after two young men accompanied him back to his Port Moresby flat in September 2008.

Crisis talks as cash runs out on B’ville


As the people of Bougainville suffer from their government’s revenue crisis, a delegation led by President John Momis is in Port Moresby seeking funds it says are owed to it by the national government.

For many months the PNG national government has delayed payments of K15 million due to the Autonomous Bougainville Government and this is the most important issue on the agenda at this week’s ‘Joint Supervisory Body Meeting’.

Meanwhile, cash is scarce in Bougainville.

“As the two governments continue playing their politics, people on Bougainville are feeling the pinch of these delays,” reports Radio New Dawn FM on Buka.

Businesses providing services to the autonomous government have tightened credit in the face of huge outstanding bills and schools, having not received subsidies for the last two years, have called on parents to urgently pay their school fees.

Business Association Chairman, Thomas Raban, yesterday called on the Bougainville government to speed up payments..

Source: New Dawn FM

Ethnology: the story of the Binumarien


PNG is home to at least 850 of what have been called “the most interesting and least known” languages in the world. In at least some parts of PNG the main enemy of language survival has been warfare. Here I examine the case of the Binumarien.

The Binumarien are an isolated people, “behind the elbow” as their idiom puts it. In the early 1900s they numbered approximately 3,000*. Revenge killings were common and could escalate quickly.

For example, in one case, a man taunted his rivals from a neighboring village. That village attacked and killed him. Then the first man’s village attacked and killed almost everyone in that village, even though all of them were Binumariens.

There was also frequent warfare between the Binumarien and other groups such as the Gadsup people. Cannibalism was practiced on enemies; the Binumarien told how they used to cut people in half in order to more easily carry them home to eat.

Sorcery was an integral part of the cycle. If a death was thought to be due to sorcery, and the guilty person or village was identified through divination, then that was cause for an attack, and the cycle of killing started again.

Since it was thought that sorcery could be performed against people if someone had their bodily excretions, the Binumarien dug quite deep holes for latrines, unusual for the area. One strategy for exacting revenge on someone was to pretend to be friends, and once the friendship was firmly established, to kill him.

In the early 1900s, the Binumarien had started to decline and were driven as a group from their traditional lands and settled in a lowland area. Many died of malaria, and eventually moved back to a higher elevation.

In 1929, the Australian government outlawed warfare, and arrested violators. This did not stop the fighting altogether, but did drastically reduce it. Over the next few decades, however, the Binumarien continued a steady decline, with few children being born, and many of those dying before they reached their first year.

In their depression, many of the women used a local method of contraception to prevent new births. By the time that Summer Institute of Linguistics’ workers Des and Jenny Oatridge started work among the Binumarien in 1959, their numbers had declined to 111, from the 3,000 of several decades earlier.

The Oatridges’ attempts at medical help were initially accepted with reluctance and suspicion; altruism was completely foreign to Binumarien culture. They decided the Oatridges were learning their language in order to sell it, and secretly decided “not to give them all the language.”

What they did give them was “baby talk”—verbs with no inflectional suffixes. Their paid language helper did the same. Meanwhile, lives were being saved by the Oatridge’s medical help, and the population was steadily starting to climb. And one day, a man with a village-wide reputation for not keeping his mouth shut let slip a full verb form to Des, and this started the breakthrough in language fluency for the Oatridges.

One cultural attitude which in particular influenced many aspects of Binumarien society was the absolute inferiority of women. In the Binumarien mind, anything having to do with femaleness was dirty, shameful, inferior. Sex was something that degraded a man. Wives were beaten as a matter of course.

When a birth was imminent, the woman would go outside of the village to a separate birthing hut to avoid contaminating the village. If smoke from the hut’s fire drifted over the village, people would panic and run, for this smoke was thought to be potentially fatal. This view of women not only had contributed to the low birth rate in the past, but obviously made women’s lives miserable.

The Binumarien had some teaching from a German Lutheran mission in years past; but it was considerably distorted since it came through the medium of the trade language, and the Binumarien adapted much of it to conform to their own culture. They were sure women could not go to heaven, for example. Also, they believed that in the beginning, God created two men. One disobeyed God, and as punishment, God made him into a woman. Thus the very existence of women was thought to be due to evil.

Into this setting came the translation of scripture for the Binumarien. A very talented man named Sisia became Des Oatridge’s regular translation helper. In translating the book of Genesis, they soon encountered the passage which speaks of God creating humans as “male and female.” Sisia flatly rejected this as just plain wrong and refused to translate it.

The next day they came to chapter two, in which the two humans were “naked and not ashamed.” Des asked Sisia why there was a shame issue if there were two men. Sisia wrestled with it and finally accepted that there were male and female from the beginning. Then he told the whole village, which initially also refused to accept it. But he insisted, and the village finally accepted it. The consequences were enormous. Gradually women have been accorded a higher status.

An incident from several years ago illustrates another change in Binumarien society. The Gadsups were traditional enemies, and for decades, perhaps centuries, both groups had killed many of the other side. Now, men from a neighboring Gadsup village came close to attacking the Binumarien over land the Gadsups had planted with crops but was officially Binumarien land.

After the immediate crisis, some Binumarien men realised this group of Gadsups was in serious trouble for lack of food. Astoundingly in light of past offenses, the Binumarien decided to give the Gadsups a contribution of food. Though there were still war-like elements among them, the basic pattern of the Binumarien had changed from killing as a first reaction, to helping.

* Binumarien is now spoken by about 360 people living on the north-eastern boundary of the Kainantu District in the Eastern Highlands Province

Source: Summer Institute of Linguistics.

Kay was here today


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Kay was here today
chin down and brooding, moody

A wordless reply in less than a nod

Sunglasses as a visor
to friendly greetings, ignorant sods

A thin smile in an inverted reality
and sudden mechanical laughter, after
all feigned n’ faked at ease

Just another weekday, workday
all else a calm, not much to say

Nae! Her hands are screaming

Hearken please!

As if to retaliate with ballpoints
ink stains tattoo her diary page
marked in black gloom
scarred leaves stare back in pain.

Working is a saving grace
some things are better not raised
they threaten to drown.

Not for her a pathetic pathos.

Not for her an inept pity.

There is life, there is love.

This is no loss of face
just serendipity.