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98 posts from February 2011

Killers on the roads


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Roads like vines that embrace a tree
Grasping and climbing
Then in snaky moves wind
And meander along its stem
To connect a thousand
Tribes of Highlanders
To Lowlanders to Islanders
Our roads were built but woke
Many from prolonged slumbers
Of neglect and abuse
To days of bumpy rides
Then some stamped the ground
Dispersing dust into odd craters and
Splashed creeks into deceptive puddles
And gathered warriors of grass and pitpit
Then roared evil chants:
"We lie in wait!
You who travel,
To far and from near,
We will kill and kill and kill!”
So they wait! And killed!
Kill they will! Oh they will!

Attacks on Aussies linked to corruption

AAP - PNG POLICE are investigating 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 given rise to a climate of fear among some Australian officials, so much so Australia's High Commissioner, Ian Kemish, last week met with police chiefs to discuss their concerns.

Metropolitan Police Commander Joseph Tondop said he is aware of Australian concerns.

"Police are looking into the carjackings and if there is something to do with corruption then we will pursue this," he said.

Australia's Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said the incidents were "extremely damaging" for Australia's efforts in PNG.

"If the allegations are correct it raises very serious concern about the safety of our aid workers and the issue of corruption within the aid system.

"The Australian Government must call on the PNG government to assure our aid workers can operate in a safe environment and are safe to report any issue they have with the aid program," she said.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd said: "there is currently no evidence to confirm such allegations."

Source: ‘Aussie aid workers under attack in PNG’, AAP, 15 February 2011.   Spotter: Paul Oates

The parable of the mango tree


MANY, MANY years ago we got together, a group of us, and we planted a mango seed. It was a special seed brought to us from Australia. It was called the Westminster Party Mango. We were told by our Aussie friends that its fruit would be very sweet and that by its nature it would provide equal shares of ripe fruit for all of us.

For years my friends and I watered and sprayed and fertilised the growing tree, sacrificing money which we might have spent on our families or on ourselves. But we rejoiced in our anticipation of the day when our tree would bless us with the large, sweet fruit which we expected from it. The fruit which our Australian friends had promised us we would harvest. The tree grew ever so slowly, but we remained optimistic and happy.

After a number of years had passed the tree flowered. The flowers set, and small, green mangoes began to develop. We were overjoyed and sent word to our Aussie friends to let them know that all was going well.

Then, one evening when the fruit had reached a fair size we saw several groups of big flying-foxes converging on the tree. Those bilakbokises circled the tree screaming and making lunges at it, one group fighting the other for ownership of the tree. They fought and settled, screeched, clawed each other and ripped the fruit, and in their fighting and flapping they spoiled large numbers of our beautiful fruit, even though the mangos were still green and very hard and much too sour to eat.

As the mango season went on my friends and I came each evening with sticks and stones, and even an old, rusty shotgun which belonged to someone’s uncle who had been a kiap’s hausboi. All to no avail. In between their fighting and screaming at each other the bilakbokises chewed and clawed our fruit, and sad to say, even defecated upon us as we stood sadly, looking up at our fast-vanishing fruit.

And so it went on, day after day, until the few fruit which survived to ripen were all gone, eaten by the rascally bilakbokises which seemed never to be satisfied. All our hopes, all our sacrifice, all had gone for nothing, it seemed, and we were very sad.

One evening towards the end of the mango season when our tree was completely bare, we sat talking amongst ourselves, talking about what might have been, and as we talked an old friend came along and sat down with us. He was a whiteman, one of those Aussies who took citizenship in ’75 so that he could remain to live out his days with us. Our friend shook his old grey head sadly as he looked at the mess of spoiled fruit and seeds on the ground.

“I’m sorry,”  he said, “I should have warned you. My countrymen were generous to PNG in many ways, and it was kind of them to send you the Westminster mango seed.” He stared up into the ragged branches of our tree as he spoke.

“But they are a strange people, the Aussies,” he went on, “for all that they hated being ruled by the English in the same way that later they came to rule you, they followed English customs as if they were the slaves of the King, not citizens of a free, self-ruling nation. And one of the silliest things they did was to bring the King and his Westminster party system to rule them instead of starting afresh.

"Yes, they brought those pesky Westminster Party flying foxes out to Australia and then in 1964 they brought them up here and let them loose in the House of Assembly, and of course they breed like rats, and now you’ve lost the wonderful harvest you were expecting to get from your mango tree. All because of those damned party foxes which, sadly, now go with the Westminster mango tree as an inseparable component of the deal.”

Continue reading "The parable of the mango tree" »

PNG's birth mortality rate is under fire


SMH - IN A CLINIC attached to Port Moresby General Hospital, a dedicated band of women led by Australian Colleen Westaway tends to the needs of pregnant and child-rearing Papua New Guinea women.

It is a task that for 36 years has consumed the organisation known as Susu Mamas (mother's milk), started by a group of expatriate Australian women who wanted to help the local women with antenatal and postnatal care.

Susu Mamas has been at the forefront of care for mothers in a country where women continue to struggle for social equality and a fair share of the public health dollar, and continue to die in childbirth at an alarming rate.

With help over the years from funding bodies such as AusAID, the Australian government's overseas aid arm, Susu Mamas has flourished and also has clinics in the provinces of Mt Hagen and Lae. Its ambitious vision for the next decade is to set up shop in another 19 provinces.

Five paid nurses and Westaway, a trained nurse who is the unpaid driving force of the organisation, minister to between 100 and 150 women a day in the Port Moresby clinic alone. In the 18 years that Westaway has run the capital city clinic, it has seen 1.5 million women.

In a country where patriarchy dominates and polygamy is still widely practised, wives and mothers trail decades behind their Western sisters. "Nothing has changed on that front in the 18 years I've been here," Westaway says.

For every thousand babies born, 70 die before their fifth birthday. Five women die in childbirth daily but the figures vary. The official figure from the United Nations is 253 per 100,000 live births but it is as high as 733 in some areas. Consider Australia's maternal mortality rate: 8.4 per 100,000 live births, meaning PNG's rate is about 30 times that.

Australia, less than 40 minutes away by plane, pours one-third of its overseas aid budget into improving the lives of people in a country it once managed.

The persistently high maternal mortality rate arises from a complex web of factors: male ignorance and dominance; lack of health infrastructure in remote villages and provinces; high rates of HIV and AIDS and domestic violence; and a shortage of trained midwives.

This uphill battle to save the mothers and babies is mainly left to national organisations, dedicated voluntary bodies and philanthropists, international aid bodies such as AusAID, and churches.

Read the full story here

Source: ‘Uphill battle for young lives’ by Kerry-Anne Walsh, Sydney Morning Herald, 12 February 2011.   Spotter: Terry Shelley

Eliminating corruption in aid (a modest way)


ONCE AGAIN the issue of aid and corruption is front and centre in the media. And, once again, serious types are asking what can be done to eliminate the risk of Australian aid being captured by the corrupt and unscrupulous.

This is a perennial issue; one which has plagued aid for decades. Yet it is also an issue that has defied solutions. People have bemoaned the problem, but no one has actually managed to come up with a way of solving it.

Until now, that is. Because I have a solution: a means of finally eliminating the risk that Australian aid might be put to corrupt purposes. My solution is this: All official Australian development assistance should be given to New Zealand.

Our antipodean neighbour ranks near the top in just about every international anti-corruption index. In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index it scored first equal with Denmark. If keeping your aid money out of the hands of wretches and knaves is your goal, then New Zealand is the place to send it.

It’s a near perfect solution. It is also completely ridiculous, of course.

The reason why it’s ridiculous is because, at the end of the day, eliminating the risk of Australian aid being misappropriated really isn’t the reason why aid is given. The actual reason is to eliminate poverty and promote development.

But I have some thoughts about how we should think about the issue of aid and corruption.

First, if we’re going to give aid we’re going to have to get used to the idea that some of it will get siphoned off by the corrupt. This is just inevitable given the governance environment in places such as PNG and Indonesia.

Second, everyone likes a good scandal, but media frenzies really aren’t that helpful. For a start, as the recent Global Fund controversy illustrated, they are often disproportionate to the scope of the problem.

Fraud plagues global health fund

GENEVA (AP) — A $21.7 billion development fund backed by celebrities and hailed as an alternative to the bureaucracy of the United Nations sees as much as two-thirds of some grants eaten up by corruption, The Associated Press has learned.

As Bill Savedoff, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, with more than 20 years of experience working on economic and social development issues, points out: the two-thirds of ‘some grants’ is $10m, which is hardly a plague. Oh, and AP ‘learned’ about it because the Global Fund released the information – last year.

Sensationalist reporting also tends to punish those agencies that are the most transparent. In the Global Fund’s case it’s unlikely the media would have found out about the problem had the Global Fund not been open about it in the first place.

Think about the incentives here. If donor transparency is rewarded by perennial controversy, do you think there will be more or less transparency? Just to be clear, I’m not saying newspapers shouldn’t report these issues. I’m just asking that, when they do, they keep things in perspective, and aim for accuracy. And maybe balance the negative reports with the positive too.

Third, trade offs are involved. Aid agencies could dramatically reduce the corruption of aid spending if they delivered and monitored every dollar themselves. But if they did this, all their staff would ever be doing would be delivering and monitoring aid. Which would raise overheads and curtail substantive work. So when you consider the cost of corruption you need to weigh this up against the cost of curtailing it.

None of which is to say that we should simply shrug our shoulders and do nothing about the misappropriation of aid. Far from it.

And there is one form of corruption that we should have absolutely zero tolerance for. This is the corruption of aid spending that occurs in donor countries; the so-called boomerang aid that is awarded to contractors because of their political connections. We can, and should, put an end to this sort of corruption.

And, of course, we shouldn’t give up on corruption in developing countries where it’s harder to tackle. There is still a lot we can do, ranging from careful design of aid agency monitoring systems, to choosing appropriate aid modalities, to empowering communities in recipient countries to let donors know when aid isn’t reaching them.

But, as I said, we’re never going to be 100% successful with this. There will always be bad news to be broken. But we (taxpayers, aid workers, politicians and the media) need to keep it in perspective. If we don’t, the sad paradox is, we may actually make our aid less effective in helping the poor, rather than more.

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

Source: Development Policy Newsletter, February 2011

It's time Somare allegations were addressed


THE STATEMENT by PNG’s Attorney General, Sir Arnold Amet, that the public should not demand swift decision-making from the Chief Justice as to the appointment of a Leadership Tribunal is as offensive as it is clearly wrong.

The Chief Justice, like the Attorney General, is a public servant and should be answerable and accountable to the people of PNG at all times.

Serious allegations have been made against the most senior public servant in PNG, the Prime Minister. These allegations remain unanswered three years later. This is bringing the integrity of the office of Prime Minister into question and it is in the interests of the country as a whole that these allegations are resolved quickly, one way or another.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

The Public Prosecutor was satisfied that the Prime Minister was guilty of misconduct in office, which resulted in his referral of the matter to the Chief Justice for the appointment of a Leadership Tribunal pursuant to Section 27(2) of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership.

When a Tribunal is to be appointed to inquire in the case of alleged misconduct in office by the Prime Minister – a special provision applies as to the make-up of the Tribunal.

Section 27(7)(d) of the Organic Law on the Duties and Responsibilities of Leadership provides that the Chief Justice must appoint a Tribunal consisting of a Chairman and two other members, all of whom must be:

(i) Judges or former Judges of the National Court; or

(ii) Former Judges of the pre-Independence Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea; or

(iii) Judges or former Judges of an equivalent court of a country that has a legal system similar to that of Papua New Guinea;

The Chief Justice does not have discretion as to whether or not he should appoint a Tribunal under the Organic Law, once the matter is referred to him by the Public Prosecutor, he must appoint a Tribunal.

This performance of this duty cannot be delayed. It is not a difficult or time-consuming task as there is only a limited pool of persons from which the Chief Justice may appoint the Tribunal.

It is in the interests of justice that this task is performed as quickly as possible so that these allegations may be resolved so that the integrity of the office of Prime Minister is not further destroyed.

It is therefore entirely appropriate that the people demand that the Tribunal be appointed within a reasonable time and that means as soon as possible in these circumstances.

For the Attorney General to suggest that the people have no rights to demand quick action, it is not only in breach of the basic principles of democracy but he is clearly playing politics and trying to delay the determination of the allegations of misconduct against the Prime Minister, which all of PNG has been waiting for.

We should also remind ourselves that the Attorney General and the Governor of Madang, Sir Arnold Amet, is also a member of the National Alliance Party of which the Prime Minister is a leader, and delivering such statements can only bring the integrity of his office into question.

There should be a law in the future to make the office of the Attorney General occupied by public servants only and not politicians. It would be also proper for future Chief Justices not to enter politics because the respect they carry from this high profile office can be easily tainted when they start playing petty politics

Sam Basil MP is the Member for the Bulolo Open Electorate in PNG’s National Parliament

Source: PNG Exposed Blog, 13 February 2011

Lamington memorial is badly neglected


THE MT LAMINGTON Memorial in Popondetta is in a very neglected state and the Australian Government should be taking some responsibility for it.

Recently I attended the sixtieth anniversary of the eruption of Mt Lamington, where my brother, Kevin Woiwod, was one of the victims.

Accompanying me were my grandson David Woiwod and my nephew and niece Antony and Kathleen Hirst from Melbourne.  Due to the state of the memorial site the only service held was at Hohorita Village.

Prior to our departure, we had been advised that there would not be a service at the Popondetta Memorial as the grass was long and the Local Authority had no control over the area as it was National Government property.

The area is in fact a cemetery and was consecrated such in November 1952 at a memorial service conducted by Bishop Strong and Rev Father Conlen.

In recent months I have instigated research to find the official status of the Mt Lamington Memorial site – and was not successful.

But it is well recorded that remains of the bodies of the expatriates and Papuan Constabulary members recovered from the Government Station and villages were interred and the site was consecrated as a cemetery.

At the time of the memorial service in November 1952 there were 34 white crosses marking the location of each grave.  A plaque on each cross identified the grave.

Apparently in the late 1960’s those crosses were removed and the plaques fixed to the large concrete memorial cross. This was done under instructions of District Commissioner David Marsh, the reason being that the site was overgrown.

The Memorial site at Popondetta is a cemetery. If indeed it is a gazetted cemetery then every effort should be made to maintain the site and identify the graves with a suitable stone or plaque.

Adjacent to the Mt Lamington  Memorial is the Australian Governments WW2 memorial and it is very well presented.  It is a shame that the same cannot be said about the Mt Lamington Memorial.

I have asked the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby to seriously look at this matter so it can be attended to.

PNG resource boom can deliver better health


INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE has shown that public-private partnerships in the resources sector can realise substantial health benefits not only for the company but also for its public sector partners and communities.

The extractive industries in PNG are already actively involved in health service delivery and improving health conditions in the areas where they operate.

With the prospect of major economic growth in PNG comes an opportunity to apply industry expertise to create lasting development in the health sector.

In this paper we discuss some of the challenges in harnessing the private sector as a partner in PNG development.

Source: Development Policy Newsletter, February 2011

Memafu Kapera talks of NBC challenges

Kapera_Memafu ON A RECENT visit to Australia, Memafu Kapera [pictured], acting managing director of the National Broadcasting Corporation, talked with Bruce Hill of Radio Australia

KAPERA: We've gone through a process of change, that will take some time. We've got a new corporate plan. Previously we did not have one and there was no focus on where we were going. I think we've transformed in the last two years. We have got listeners interacting on a daily basis on radio, a lot of issues are being discussed and for that we're getting a lot of input from the public in relation to some of the big issues that are breaking in the news.

HILL: That can be very sensitive, can't it, especially in a place like PNG, where there's a lot political influence everywhere. Discussing issues can lead to some of the politicians getting a bit nervous?

KAPERA: Well, that's the challenge. Sensitive issues we normally record and play back on air… We want to make sure that there is balance in what we put to air. If we put the other side of the story, we must always have a balance on the other side as well.

HILL: Because there is always an automatic built in suspicion of a state-funded broadcaster. People say, oh, you’re the government radio, so you do what the government tells you?

KAPERA: At the end of the day we ensure there is editorial independence for the NBC, that is very important if we are to be relevant to our listeners.

HILL: Physically, how difficult is it to broadcast in a country like PNG, which has just a mountainous terrain, deep valleys, I mean physically getting a radio signal to everyone is not easy?

KAPERA: In the past, we did not have satellite feeds going down into our provincial capital and into rural areas. Now we have that access. We have our satellite system that is operating [and] open to roll out into our 89 districts as well. So satellite communication has come into play compared to the past and for us that is the way forward for the NBC. But of course government funding is a priority with the introduction of television in 2008, a very expensive medium to run. We need to get funding for radio and funding for television as well, that's the challenge for me in the future.

HILL: Well, I could ask you if you have enough money, but no state-funded broadcaster will ever say yes to that question.

KAPERA: More funding is what I'm asking for.

HILL: What about the cultural role of broadcasting, because broadcasting, which language you choose to broadcast in, English, or Tok Pisin or Motu or some of the other languages.

KAPERA: Times have changed. Pidgin is now becoming the language of business in PNG. Those are some of the challenges that NBC faces in the future.

Source: Radio Australia

Taking a bit of retail therapy in Irian Jaya


Wutung THE DIRECT FLIGHT from Port Moresby to Wewak takes just under two hours with another 45 minutes to Vanimo.

On 20 January, with my hired 4 x 4 double cab Ford utility loaded with relatives, I drove for three hours into the mountain range to Imonda. My sister married a man from there.

In the colonial days Imonda was only accessible by MAF plane from Maprik or Vanimo. The airstrip is now overgrown with grass and there is a well maintained gravel road built by the logging company.

From the highest point on the range, you can see hundred of miles of forest extending all the way to Indonesia. Awesome! My nephew owns a vast area of this. In fact, the logging company will start logging his area in March.

We stayed in Imonda for over an hour, during which time I visited and paid homage to my brother in-law’s grave.

Coming down was easy. We stopped over at a waterfall where we had a drink of ice cold fresh water, and later visited one of the many roadside markets where we bought ripe bananas and a whole lot of fresh vegetables at a very low prices. It took just under three hours to get back to Vanimo and on to Lido village where I stayed with my niece and her family.

On 21 January I drove around Vanimo and into the main Lido village where I saw the construction of accommodation for the Asia Pacific Surf Championships which will be held in November. The surf and the beaches are really beautiful! My niece and family live within walking distance of the main road to the beach. The only disturbing sound in the night is the crashing waves.

On 22 January, we drove the 45 minutes to the border area, past Wutung village [pictured]. I left the car on the PNG side of the border and took a five minute walk over to the shopping mall on the Irian Jaya side, no passport or visa required.

This mall is open for business on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and 15-seater and 25-seater PMVs operate from the town to the border, K10 each way. PMV owners make a fortune in one day as hundreds of people go there to shop. At the mall, all prices are bargained.

I even saw some people who flew from Port Moresby just to go and buy goods from this mall. The only check point is on our side, where PNG Customs prevent the importation of certain live animal products and vegetable stuff, otherwise there are no hassles.

I flew back to Port Moresby on 23 January. I might go back there again next year.

Aussie soccer coach heads for Moresby

Frank-farina FORMER SOCCEROOS and Brisbane Roar football coach, Frank Farina, has been appointed to mentor the PNG squad.

Farina, 46, has inked a 12-week agreement, broken into segments, to coach PNG with a term that ends in September at the conclusion of the South Pacific Games in New Caledonia.

Having spent part of his childhood in Port Moresby, Farina is highly regarded in PNG, with his appointment seen as a major boost for the code.

Farina, who hasn't coached since being sacked by the Roar in October 2009 following a drink-driving offence, said he was looking forward to the challenge of lifting the standard of football in PNG.

A top-three finish in the South Pacific Games' football tournament will ensure PNG qualifies for the next stage of the Oceania qualifying tournaments leading up to the 2014 World Cup.

"It's a good fit for me in that I can still live in Brisbane but get my hand back into coaching," said Farina.

David Brand, Oceania's consultant for PNG football, said it was a major coup to have secured Farina's services.

"We're looking to him to help our national team have some better performances," he said.

Source: Fox Sports.   Spotter: Peter Kranz

Crocodile Prize attracts PNG writing talent


THE CROCODILE PRIZE contest for Papua New Guinean writers launched late last year by the PNG Post-Courier and PNG Attitude has already attracted more than 100 entries.

The contest, named after the first novel written by a Papua New Guinean and published in 1970, has three categories - for short stories, poetry and journalism.

A first prize of K2,500 will be awarded in each category and the best entries will be published in the Post-Courier and in a special anthology that will be distributed widely throughout PNG.

“We started the contest to provide an opportunity for PNG writers to publish their work, and for readers to access those works,” says organiser, author Phil Fitzpatrick.

“Eligible contributions must be written by citizens of Papua New Guinea and will be judged by a panel of PNG and Australian writers.

Mr Fitzpatrick says a number of PNG companies and private individuals have committed financial support to the project, and he hoped it will attract more.

“We want to encourage writers to write and readers to read,” he says.

“This means more than just receiving contributions. It also means disseminating winning entries to a much bigger audience throughout PNG.

The winners will be announced on PNG Independence Day on Friday 16 September this year.

At present, few writers in PNG are able to be published. Some resort to journals in other countries, most notably Africa, to find outlets.

“The reality is that PNG has failed to nurture a national literature, one of the bedrocks of national identity,” says Mr Fitzpatrick.

“How on earth can you unite a country without the blood of its writers and thinkers flowing in its veins?”

Examining urban drift solutions for PNG


THE PROBLEMS associated with urban drift have been around since the Industrial Revolution began a few hundred years ago. There is nothing new about the phenomenon.

Most emigrants from rural areas travel to the cities looking for a better life. The central issue is not what to do with these people but how to retrain them to help themselves.

Most are unskilled and ill equipped for the work opportunities available in an increasingly complex and technological world. Also, the service industry requires completely different skills to those acquired in a rural farming economy.

Language and people skills, maths and computer skills, smart and clean clothing, and the rest, are essential to be able to aspire to a career in the service industry.

PNG rural people are hit by a double whammy. Their opportunity to acquire language, maths and computing skills is fast evaporating due to the atrophied PNG education system and the cost of higher education.

Any training that might be available, once rural people arrive in the towns and cities, is also financially out of reach. They are essentially stuck betwixt and between, and it’s no wonder many turn to crime in order to survive.

The essence of dealing with the problem is to think laterally and not vertically. The service industry needs to combine with government funding and provide appropriate training courses for those who want to work.

The problem is always to ensure those who apply are not ripped off by charlatans who offer false training and hopes but actually provide nothing.

I have no doubt that if Governor Parkop was able to gather Moresby’s service industry leaders together and organise ethical training courses for genuine and guaranteed job opportunities they would be creating a win/win for many.

RAN ships to conduct surveys at Caution Bay

HMAS Leeuwin 
’S Caution Bay will host three Royal Australian Navy hydrographic ships over the next two months.

HMAS Leeuwin (pictured) is the first to arrive today, entering Port Moresby harbour for routine immigrations and customs clearance. It will then head out to the waters off Caution Bay, where later next week it will be joined by sister ships, Melville and Shepparton.

The ships are in PNG at the invitation of the Chief of Hydrography, Joseph Kunda, to survey the sea floor approaches to the LNG plant being built nearby.

The Caution Bay survey is a high priority due to the importance of the PNG LNG project to the country.

Colonel Mark Shephard, head of Australian Defence Staff in PNG, said that large LNG ships will navigate through Caution Bay in order to dock at the LNG plant.

Accurate charting will ensure the safety of the ships as they approach the plant and depart PNG with their valuable cargo,” he said.

“The survey work being undertaken by these three ships is fundamental to the success and safety of the project.”


The Crocodile Prize (ol sitori bilong yumi hia) is a writing competition for Papua New Guineans. It is supported by PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier and the winners will be announced on Independence Day this year.

There is a K2,500 first prize and other prizes in each of three categories: short story, poetry and journalism. Closing date: Thursday 30 June.  The best entries will be published in the Post-Courier and PNG Attitude.

Link here for details

Where the Prince Alexanders meet the sea


Sil Beach DURING THE SCHOOL holidays in April 1973, I decided to take a small group of girls on a trip to the village of Kaup in Somare country - the Murik Lakes region near the mouth of the Sepik River.

We packed plenty of rations, including rice, tin fish and hard biscuits, and I arranged transport along the coast as far as Turubu, where the road stopped. We then proceeded on foot past the coastal villages of Taul, Munjun, Suanam, Sigan and finally to the magnificent coconut-lined beach of Sil [right].

I had not been past Sil before, but the track was well marked and followed the coast most of the way. It wove its way through rainforest carpeted with soft leaves.

Beyond Sil, the Prince Alexander Ranges come down to the sea and are cut by numerous creeks flowing through steep-sided valleys.  The track required us to walk along numerous cliff tops then down to a creek then up the other side: thirteen creeks and thirteen hills, some over 100 metres high, not a big deal for a kiap but it was for me.

There were many fine viewing places where we could look down on waves breaking at the base of the cliff. Offshore there were stacks of high detached rocks. Often we came across small hamlets where we would be given kulau to drink.

Towards late afternoon, when we descended to yet another creek emptying into a small bay, we walked straight into the sea in our dresses, to cool off. We were a bedraggled lot by the time we reached Samap where we decided to stay the night. It had looked much easier on the map.

We cooked our evening meal and the village people were thrilled to have visitors and built a huge bonfire on the beach and we sat around it and talked. It was a lovely night and we soon recovered from our ordeal. That night we slept together in the hut kept for visiting kiaps.

Next morning the men of the village told us we would find the next section of the track to Kaup too difficult. It was much steeper and there had been heavy rain and parts of the track had been washed away. They decided to get their biggest canoe and paddle us to Kaup.

Our Canoe So we were all loaded onto a huge dug-out canoe, without an outrigger, and the strong men of the village paddled for all they were worth out to sea and along the rugged coast. It was known as the Hansemann Coast, and the Kaup Bluffs rose to over 300 metres. The canoe leaked but we were provided with numerous empty tins and took turns to bale out.

Eventually we reached Kravel Bay and landed at Kaup. The village people said they knew there were visitors at Samap the previous night as they had seen the big bonfire. We thanked the Samap men and they headed back home across the rough Bismarck Sea.

We were made very welcome at Kaup and given a bush material house to sleep in. We washed in a nearby swamp in lovely clear water. We cooked our meals in a large saucepan that we carried with us.

We were told the village had a large canoe that would be going to Wewak the next day, but it had to wait for the wind to calm as there was quite a large surf running. Well, the wind kept blowing and the surf was strong so we did not set off as planned.

On our third day at Kaup I was a bit apprehensive. We had hoped to return to Brandi that day but the wind came up again. I’d just cooked lunch, a big pot full of rice and tin fish, when suddenly the call came out, “Get ready, we’re going!”

I grabbed the pot off the fire and called the girls together and we headed to the beach. There were 14 in our group and 25 on the boat. Between each wave they loaded us on to a large outrigger canoe powered by an outboard motor.

A large platform, with railings at the side, had been built over the two canoes. It was a bit rough at first but once we got beyond the surf the sea became quite smooth, except for a large swell which made our canoe gently roll.

It was time to serve our lunch so, as we sailed up this magnificent coast, with its huge offshore stacks, we ate our meal. We sailed quite close to one and I could see a large cave near sea level. What a ride, watching the huge swell coming down from the Equator and the canoe, gently rising and falling, taking it all in her stride.

It was 25 April, my birthday, and I knew I would never forget that one. In the late afternoon we reached Wewak and I rang the school for someone to collect us.

Many years later I read a report on Transport in PNG and it mentioned how these canoes brought people from the Murik Lakes area to Wewak and how dangerous it was and how they did not have any lifejackets!

I realise now that if we had overturned near the Kaup Bluffs we would have been in trouble, as there was nowhere to land. But God was watching over us and the people from Kaup were experienced sailors and knew the sea well.

At no time did the Brandi girls show any apprehension as they were used to this type of life, and we had a great time.

How to manage a perm (Melanesian style)


Melanesian I HAVE NOTICED an interesting change in PNG women's hairstyle fashions over the last decade.

Ten years ago, Big Hair (Papuan-style) was out and short locks were all the rage - even crew cuts.

Then came dreadlocks and braids. Now there are special PNG-style perms - short tight curls, which to the disappointment of PNG women in Australia, Aussie hair stylists are ignorant of. (My wife is thinking of starting a specialist business, but we need to find an importer for the right preparations).

Now Big Hair is making a comeback! I have persuaded my wife to let it grow and comb it out naturally- à la a 1940's style fuzzy wuzzy look. She has met with many appreciative comments at the local shopping centre and many women have asked how she does her hair. Fijians know all about this.

But to get the right treatment is not easy. Being a man I am woefully ignorant of such matters.

Here is a PNG-style perm recipe from Vanuatu, but pretty close to the original. This is for the tight curls style (1990's fashion). However, for the original Big Hair look you just need to let it grow, comb and wash regularly.

How to do a hair perm

1. Shampoo hair

2. Apply perm creme (wave Nouveau) Phase 1 Shape Release

3. Leave it for ten minutes then rinse out

4. Apply the Shape Transformer (wave Nouveau) Phase 2 Shape Transformer which is the lotion and start to roll the hair by using perm paper rollers. Leave it out by covering with a plastic cap for 30 minutes

5. Rinse out then dry the hair, then continue with (wave Nouveau) Phase 3 which is the Neutraliser. Cover hair with a plastic cap and leave for 15 minutes

6. Take the rollers out and rinse the hair, then trim the split ends and apply moisturiser and style products as desired

7. Dry and comb

8. Wow!

Australia Week film competition announced

Movie Camera THE AUSTRALIAN High Commission in Port Moresby is hosting a short film competition to celebrate Australia Week in March.

Papua New Guinean film makers can enter their own films of no longer than ten minutes that have been produced in the last two years.

The top three entries will be selected for screening and the winner announced at the Australia Week Short Film Night.

Films will be screened at the UPNG’s main lecture theatre at 7pm on Tuesday 8 and Wednesday 9 March.

The best film will win a video camera valued at K2,500.

Potential entrants can obtain more information from Natasha Bodger at the High Commission here or download the flier here.

Minister must take action on Deloitte claims


COMMUNITY BASED ADVOCACY group Act Now! is calling on the Minister for the Environment Benny Allen to investigate claims of serious financial mismanagement and misuse of trust funds in his department.

Four reports from international consultancy firm Deloitte have been published on the internet that are highly critical of financial management within the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

The Deloitte reports claim DEC’s finance branch complies with ‘almost none’ of the procedural requirements of the Public Finance Management Act, has seriously misused donor funds in its biodiversity trust fund and compliance with procedures is ‘at a very low level’.

The reports claim most biodiversity trust fund monies are used for unauthorised expenditure and large sums of money are unaccounted for.

The minister needs to tell the people of PNG what he is doing about these serious allegations.

The PNG government is calling on the international community to give billions of kina for avoided deforestation measures, yet the evidence suggests DEC cannot be trusted with donor funds.

The reports are also very critical of the Office of the Secretary, Wari Iamo, which it found to be largely ineffectual and suffering from inconsistent management, low standards and high absenteeism.

Effrey Dademo is the Program Manager for the Port Moresby-based advocacy group, Act Now!


COMMUNICATIONS Minister Patrick Tammur and National Planning and Monitoring Secretary Joseph Lelang were understood to have been suspended yesterday over separate cases of alleged forgery and funds misuse.

Mr Tammur bore the brunt of the Prime Minister’s wrath over the use of his name, office and signature in a press release, issued by his staff, and published as an advertisement on page 14 of the Post-Courier on Monday.

The statement was delivered under the PM’s official letterhead and purportedly signed by Sir Michael Somare. It announced the establishment of a “Sovereign Community Infrastructure Treasury Bill” under which K125m was obtained by the Government from Nasfund to finance community projects in Kokopo electorate. Mr Tammur is Member for Kokopo Open.

And in Mr Lelang’s case, has been made a sacrificial lamb for releasing K112m for various projects under political directives from Finance and Treasury Minister Mr Peter O’Neill in the presence of Planning Minister Mr Paul Tiensten and former Treasurer Mr Patrick Pruaitch.

When Mr Lelang learnt that certain Ministers were conspiring to have him removed as Secretary, he wrote a letter of explanation to his Minister (Tiensten) saying he was directed by Mr O’Neill to release funds to shore up government support in the face of an impending no-confidence motion against the PM.

Mr Lelang said he was also directed by State Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare to release K28m for Hela Province and a further K14m for provincial governors. [PNG Post-Courier, today]


Trying to manage conflict in Port Moresby


ARRIVING BACK IN Port Moresby recently, I put my sim card back into my phone and was greeted immediately by two messages warning to avoid areas where large crowds had gathered.

The next bit of news was that one of the main markets had been closed due to recent ethnic clashes between Engans and Hulis. I was back in Moresby all right.

The trouble started with a small scuffle between drunken youths. This escalated into four days of fighting between Huli people from Tari basin, and people from Enga. Gordons market was turned into a battlefield and had to be closed. Five people were confirmed dead, and many others seriously wounded.

Police worked with community leaders to stop the violence from spreading to other areas in the city, and to work towards reconciliation. This involved getting the immediate relatives of the deceased to renounce retribution killings two days after the violence.

This undertaking was made publicly at the police station in Boroko under the supervision of the Mayor, the Foreign Affairs Minister and high-ranking police officers. Police Commissioner Yasaka expressed surprise at the swift settlement, which was aided by the work of mediators.

This clash followed earlier fighting this year near Koki market, where there are often clashes between the Goilala people of the Central Province and Hulis. Although such clashes are triggered by small incidents, they are grounded in competition over locations to sell goods at the markets in Port Moresby, and occur regularly.

A concerned citizen wrote to the Post-Courier newspaper asking where the leaders were when the first incidents took place, so that this kind of escalation could be prevented, referring to the past, when leaders and senior police officers took the lead to quickly step into such situations to calm matters down.

Others pointed to the cultural bonds between the Engans and Taris, who are traditionally seen as brothers from one ancestor. A Tari community leader explained that this bond went back generations, when the groups used to trade and barter in the Highlands.

Mediation, appeal to cultural bonds, the role of community leaders in cooperation with police, support from MPs - these are all pieces of what, in my jargon, is called conflict management capacity. What are the ways in which such mechanisms can be supported and strengthened?

The incentive to do so was clear from another letter to the editor of the Post-Courier, in which 'Fed up No 3' wrote: “to law abiding highlanders, we are sorry but enough is enough and I am calling on all the Papuans from the Northern Province to Western Province to rise up and support the's about time you get regional autonomy to look after yourselves”.

Source: Asperands – Iris Wielders’ place on the internet for writing and photography about aid, development, Papua New Guinea, art, and other assorted bits. You can contact Iris here

The intrepid Deni Mark – a true PNG hero


DENI MARK WAS A Seventh Day Adventist teacher and missionary from the Solomon Islands. He was to become a true, if under-acknowledged, PNG hero of World War II.

After become an SDA convert, Deni worked at Mussau before moving with Pastor Steed to Rugen Harbour on New Britain to assist develop the Put Put Training School.

Later, with the blessing of principal Aubrey Hiscox, Deni reached out to local villagers, who in 1938 asked Hiscox and Deni to send a missionary to the area. In a contemporary article for the Australasian Record, Deni told of leading a group into the Baining area, inland from the school. He commented on God’s protection from murderers, storms and flooded rivers as they travelled to the village of Laikatoki and placed a teacher there.

Early on the morning of 23 January 1942, invading Japanese forces landed in Rabaul. Pastor Malcolm Abbott, superintendent of the Adventist Church in New Guinea, told the Australian missionaries to leave their stations and attempt to escape to Australia.

Life became difficult and dangerous for Deni and his family, who moved to the hills inland from Kambubu where the school had been located. He was visited frequently by Japanese soldiers. We know little of Deni’s daily life during this time, but he showed great loyalty to his Australian friends, their countrymen and American allies.

A letter from Major B Fairfax-Ross of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), written to the chairman of the Australasian Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists shortly after the war told of some of his activities that helped the Allied war effort.

At the beginning of the Japanese occupation, he had given food to Australian soldiers and civilians as they escaped from Rabaul. Among the Rabaul civilians helped were many Chinese including businessman, Chin H Meen, who claimed him as a personal friend.

Deni later risked his life gathering intelligence to pass on to AIB agents, and on two occasions in 1944 he sent out maps of Japanese positions and equipment. He was also instrumental in hiding and feeding several Allied airmen whose planes had been shot down, and in arranging their rescue.

While doing this he continued his mission work. Although forbidden by the Japanese to hold church services, he made a clearing in the bush where, up to the time of his death, he held lotu.

Lieutenant Gordon Manuel, an American pilot whose plane crashed into the sea off the mouth of the Kambubu River, was found by villagers who hid him for nine months until he made contact with Coastwatchers who arranged for his rescue by an Allied submarine.

Deni helped him in many ways, including conducting a dangerous reconnaissance of Japanese-controlled Rabaul.

Over time, the Japanese – who knew someone was passing on information about their activities - became suspicious of Deni’s movements. They tried him several times and had him flogged, but he was able to hide his pro-Allied activities.

Later, however, he was imprisoned in a water tank, leading to health complications that hastened his death from malaria on 15 September 1944.

Deni Mark was buried on the banks of the Kambubu River, over the hills from Rugen Harbour. His grave is honoured by the Baining people to whom he brought Christianity.

Pastor Eric Oronga wrote: “We, the Baining people, owe this dedicated worker of God so much for the contribution he played in opening up the church work amongst the Baining on the south coast of East New Britain.”

Source: An abridged version of an original story by Ken Boehm published in ‘Adventist Connect’ magazine, which you can link to here

Love & concern: My attitude to PNG


THIRTY-FIVE YEARS on my overriding feeling is that we Australians gave Papua New Guineans independence from our rule and we can still help them, but they have to run their own lives.

We were teachers but not parents. Their parents taught them the traditional culture and the ways of the subsistence farmer, fisherman, hunter and gatherer. They taught them traditional beliefs and customs, and passed on many personal attributes.

But their parents could not help Papua New Guineans understand the new culture that we brought to their country.

We were there to help during those years when they were moved from a very old traditional economy into the modern commercial world.

Those of us who have kept up our friendships can see the progress, which has been dramatic. We love to see them in Australia as they are wonderful people and they can help us in so many ways. They have much to offer our materialistic society.

But I feel it is the duty of educated Papua New Guineans to stay in or return to their country and help others who have not yet been educated. This is something that has been failing. Educational standards have been falling.

Maybe more children now get some education and that is good, but if the professionals that we Australians trained, who are now old, are not being replaced, the country will go backwards.

The PNG children of today need to be taught the history of their country over the last 150 years so they can understand the huge changes that have taken place.

The PNG people today face many problems. We want to help them. We can’t solve the problems. They have to do it themselves. They need leaders willing to work at solutions, who do not think about themselves all the time. This requires self-sacrifice and such people are hard to find anywhere, in any country.

I see my role as an encourager. I encourage those working on the 2050 vision. I am upset when I hear other Papua New Guineans criticising the people who work on the 2050 vision. They must all work together on improving PNG.

I have heard that some of my past students who were given important roles in PNG have been accused of corruption and lost their jobs. But when I inquire about their wealth, I find that all they have is a nice house in their home village or the home village of their wife.

Many of my former students have worked hard for their country and for the support and welfare of their wife and children. They must be commended.

It is a pity that most young Australians know nothing about PNG and are not really interested in the country, although it is good that the Kokoda Track is becoming well known.

We see very little on our television channels about PNG and its people. A series of investigative programs on PNG would do a lot of good arousing the interest of younger Australians.

PNG needs our support. It is our nearest neighbour and those of us who gave many years of our lives there feel very sorry to see the things that are happening today. We are very upset when our PNG friends and their children, who have been working hard for their country, are robbed and their family killed.

We want to help. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them. PNG Attitude provides a public space where we can show our love and concern for PNG and offer ideas that might help them to overcome their problems.

Ten ideas for improving the relationship


IN AN EMAIL to me yesterday, reader Trevor Freestone posed the question of what Australia can do to leverage better outcomes in PNG without impairing national sovereignty; that is without interfering in PNG’s domestic affairs.

It’s a fair question, because it’s easy to whinge that something ought to be done and more difficult to propose what that something might be.

So I sat down at a small round table overlooking a twinkling Sydney Harbour to conjure up a few suggestions. I reckoned if I could do it, the people paid to do it probably ought to be able to do it better.

Half an hour later, here’s what I’d scrawled.

1 - First, and possibly most crucial, do away with budget aid. Tie Australian aid to specific projects and make the lot accountable to a joint and independent panel of Australian and PNG monitors. The PNG government will scream, but this is Australian taxpayers’ money and we need to know it’s being spent effectively. Moreover, we’re not alone. Papua New Guineans also want it spent effectively.

2 - Give far more support to civil organisations, churches and NGOs working in PNG. Encourage them both rhetorically and by providing adequate funding for their projects. Giving higher priority to projects in the field will get resources to the grassroots. Let’s face it, trickle down doesn’t work. It never worked. We must encourage trickle-up. (Remember the cash handout that helped Australia avoid the global financial crisis? That was trickle up.)

3 - Identify target low cost, high impact projects (like Terry Shelley’s village midwives). AusAID tends to go for the big licks, presumably because it’s an easier way to administer the spending. But we should be interested in outcomes, not process. Get rid of this sloth.

4 - Train and educate many more Papua New Guineans in Australia. Rebuild the personal bridges between our countries while at the same time educating more people. Presumably the thickheads who did away with the International Training Institute in the late eighties are too old to be tried for treason. So let’s do the next best thing and reestablish ITI and the universalism it signified.

5 - Ensure Australian Federal politicians have greater first-hand knowledge and experience of PNG by sponsoring annual visits by MPs. This was de rigueur before PNG independence and it should be reinstated. We have a generation of politicians in Canberra who don't know PNG is, and don't care about its strategic importance.

6 - Be more conscientious in ensuring that PNG-based Australian government personnel are better equipped for their roles and more responsive to local initiatives (like the Children’s University for Music and Art and The Crocodile Prize). Get people such as John Fowke to talk with people about to be parachuted into PNG. An hour with John will be worth a month with files in an air conditioned office.

7 - As opportunities arise, publicly articulate Australia’s concern for the interests and welfare of ordinary Papua New Guineans and do this in Parliament, at official functions and in speeches and media releases. Australia should show people (Papua New Guineans and Australians alike) that it gives a damn.

8 - Emphasise the establishment of more effective relationships between Australia and PNG at political, local government, professional and NGO level. And do something to create these relationships. Business relations, strongly driven by the profit motive, flourish. It's time for the range of other connections to be elevated in importance.

9 - Fund Australian media tours of PNG (and vice versa) which will stimulate greater media interest in PNG and stronger relationships between Papua New Guinean and Australian journalists and broadcasters.

10 - Establish a fully-fledged Minister for the South Pacific and PNG with clear responsibility for improving regional relationships. Time to stop stuffing around with an on again – off again Parliamentary Secretary and get serious about Australia’s backyard.

Well, that’s half an hour’s work with the pen. Not even enough to get the first spasms of writer’s cramp in these poor arthritic fingers.

Now your opportunity to offer your ideas.

Bad start makes people's voice urgent


IT HAS NOT BEEN a great start to the year in Papua New Guinea.

When Parliament was recalled on the orders of the Supreme Court to elect a new Governor-General, MPs voted in former Forest Minister, Michael Ogio, who has been involved in a number of illegal and unsustainable forestry deals.

After the election, Parliament was immediately adjourned again until May to avoid a vote of no confidence against the government. This means Parliament will once again fail to meet for its mandated minimum number of sitting days and MPs will not be fulfilling their important governance role.

It also means the new Governor-General cannot be sworn in for another four-months. Meantime Speaker - Jeremy Nape - heavily criticised by the Supreme Court for his role in last years annulled GG election - will be acting GG.

To rub salt in these wounds, Prime Minister Michael Somare is back in his job, five-weeks after stepping aside to face a Leadership Tribunal. Although the tribunal has not yet met to hear the charges, Somare now claims he was only ever 'on holiday'.

It seems these men are a law unto themselves. They do not respect the people of PNG and have even issued a blanket ban on protest marches. Where does that leave this country?

Meanwhile, as retired judge Graham Ellis has pointed out, there are a number of important constitutional cases that seem stuck in the legal system. Is this a simple oversight, a lack of effective case management or is there undue political influence on our judiciary?

By failing to reappoint Judge Mark Sevua, who has reached the age of 60, the government has ensured a number of outstanding decisions, including one on the injunction over the Finance Commission of Inquiry findings will never he handed down. The injunction is preventing prosecution of lawyers and senior public servants for their role in the theft of over K700 million of public money.

Meanwhile, a leaked memo from the Planning Department alleges the government handed out K98 million in unbudgeted expenditure in 2010 to shore-up support among MPs against a possible vote of no-confidence.

On 17 January the government granted a mining lease to Nautilus Minerals for the world's first undersea mine. Prof Rick Steiner, who has studied the mine’s environmental impact assessment, says the project poses a grave risk to people and to marine life and the assessment is inadequate.

The project is going ahead despite the fact there are no regulations or conservation guidelines in place for deep sea mining.

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch has released a new report on the human rights abuses at the Porgera Mining, including gang-rapes by mine security personnel and the giant Exxon-Mobil LNG project has again been stopped by landowners who says their rights and interests have been bulldozed.

These different events over a few short weeks, together with the heavy handed tactics of PNG security forces against West Papua refugees, and further revelations of severe domestic violence by serving police officers, have left commentators wondering how much more abuse we are prepared to take before we make our voices heard and tell the government that enough is enough and things must change.

Link to the Act Now! website here

This terrible failure will cost Australia dear


THE SHOCKING law and order problems confronting PNG today, and one need only regularly read the online editions of the Post-Courier and The National to be aware of them, are the tangible signs of civil society in serious decline.

The neglect by the PNG government of its citizens is shifting rapidly from being a benign to a malign influence, and it is creating a society of lawlessness, fear and often bizarre and even macabre outcomes.

Traditional PNG society developed mechanisms to deal with such excesses. As in many societies, some of these responses were summarily brutal (payback killing for example) but they were able to be comprehended and did offer some kind of code of conduct.

But now the incompetence and greed of PNG’s leaders is beginning to repercuss in seismic proportions on the ordinary people of PNG.

Where, in times past, the tribe or clan would have exercised a civilising influence, the nation seems increasingly unable to do so.

PNG’s political elite – for too long focussed on itself and not on the people – has failed the first and most important test of leadership: how can we do the best for those people for whom we are responsible and to whom we are accountable.

These people are not only experiencing a growing destruction of government services, they are increasingly terrorised and betrayed by lawlessness that extends to the very core of government: to individual politicians and to institutions such as the Police and the Army.

I sympathise with a PNG Attitude reader, a man with close relationships in PNG society and with a great understanding, compassion and love of the country, who expressed to me that he can no longer bear to read this stuff. It is just too darn depressing.

“I am crying for my brothers and sisters,” he wrote to me yesterday.

As regular readers of PNG Attitude know, since this view has been expressed many times in the past, this is not just a failure of governance on the part of Papua New Guinea.

It is a massive failure in the relationship between PNG and Australia; a failure that – so far as we can discern – has never been acknowledged let alone addressed.

It is a relationship failure because Australia has always walked away from the hard stuff in PNG, or pretended it didn’t exist.

It’s a failure that I’m afraid Australia will live to regret.

More importantly, it’s a failure that the great majority of people in PNG have to live with every day of their lives.

And the cost to Australia? A highly unstable neighbour in an unnecessarily volatile South Pacific.  It has been a substantial failure of policy and diplomacy.

Planning head under pressure to step aside

THE PNG POST-COURIER has revealed that senior Ministers in the Somare government are pressing for the removal of the Secretary of National Planning, Joseph Lelang, following allegations that he misapplied development grants.

Mr Lelang has rejected the allegations as “fabricated and misleading”, saying his accusers “lack extensive knowledge of the theoretical and practical aspects of public finance management”.

“Any release of funds for projects to agencies of government must follow proper processes and procedures under the law, which I follow, but unless the government feels they no longer require my services, I am happy to move on, but I do not like these sorts of deceitful games,” Mr Lelang said.

He said he was annoyed that certain Ministers had directed him to find money from savings to fund certain unbudgeted projects and then later had accused him of misapplication.

The Post-Courier has also alleged that K112 million was paid out by the Department of Planning under political directions to shore up government support in the face of a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

It is reported that this was disclosed in a letter written by Mr Lelang to his Minister Paul Tiensten on 6 December last year.

According to the newspaper, Mr Lelang said political directions were issued to his department to “honour certain government commitments … to shore up coalition numbers in view of the imminent vote of no confidence that was expected in the November session of Parliament.”

“The department was advised to find the money and make necessary payments irrespective of its source”, Mr Lelang wrote.

The Post-Courier says it understood that Mr Lelang wrote the letter upon learning that Finance and Treasury Minister Peter O’Neil and other senior government Ministers were pushing for his suspension.

“In addition, upon direction from yourself [Mr Tiensten] and Minister Arthur Somare, K33 million was raised for presentation by the Prime Minister at the inauguration of Hela Province in the Southern Highlands,” Mr Lelang wrote.

“Therefore, a total of K98m was dished out on unbudgeted projects following directions by Minister for Finance and Treasury and Prime Minister’s office,” he said.

Source: ‘Secretary Leland denies allegations of misuse’ by Simon Eroro and ‘K112m misused’, PNG Post-Courier, 7 February 2010

PNG says it doesn’t trust Forum trade advice


PNG has proposed a major shift to the way trade agreements are negotiated between the Pacific and Europe because it says “the Pacific” has lost trust in trade advisors from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

The PNG move to shift responsibility for negotiations to another body based in Vanuatu has political implications and may open a backdoor for Fiji to rejoin trade negotiations, despite its suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Liam Cochrane of Radio Australia talked with Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator of the Pacific Network of Globalisation.

PENJUELI: It's quite clear that [the Pacific Islands Forum] membership has no confidence in the leadership that PIFS [Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat] is demonstrating at the moment. [A key issue is] the lack of confidence in PIFS, particularly in terms of its legal advice to the Island countries.

The second key issue in the PNG Paper has to do with the lack of trust in PIFS' ability to progress PACP trade interests. In the Paper it talks about conflict of interest, particularly by PIFS personnel who are leading the EPA negotiations… The last thing is the lack of clear direction on key issues that PNG would like to see progress.

COCHRANE: Maureen Penjueli says a key aspect of the breakdown of trust is the role of Australia, which, as the largest regional economy provides the most funding to the Forum Secretariat.

PENJUELI: We've seen commentators in the region talk about the increasing influence by Australia in particular in the running of the Forum Secretariat. And so these people articulate quite clearly that with the lack of confidence in PIFS, the OCTA is really the natural place to move EPA negotiations.

COCHRANE: OCTA, or the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser... is the alternative put forward by the PNG country paper. It's based in Vanuatu's capital Port Vila. But there's more to this than just trade. There's also the stoush between Fiji and its interim military leader Frank Bainimarama... and the opposing perspective of Australia and New Zealand which want to see fresh elections in Fiji.

In 2009, Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum, meaning that technically they are not invited to take part in the trade negotiations with the EU... despite being the Pacific's second largest economy. By shifting the management of the EU trade deals away from the Forum Secretariat and towards the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser... it could allow Fiji to return to the pan-Pacific trade talks table.

PENJUELI: If the OCTA is mandated by the trade ministers to take up EPA negotiations that would free up the Fiji question, because Fiji could be a member of the OCTA, and could report into that. And so it would resolve the conflict in terms of the Forum mandate, which excludes Fiji, and the OCTA would be one way to resolve that particular conflict.

COCHRANE: In a separate but perhaps linked move, Fiji put forward a proposal to rejoin the trade talks; a suggestion backed by almost all the Pacific nations involved - Samoa being the lone dissenter. As well as the size of Fiji's economy, there's another reason many want to see it involved with trade deal negotiations...

Fiji, along with Papua New Guinea have signed interim Economic Partnership Agreements that allow their canned fish and sugar products to be exported to Europe. In fact, fish are a key part of these talks with the EU. Pacific nations want to expand tariff-free status to frozen and fresh fish, a tricky prospect for the EU, which is already under pressure to protect its own tuna industry.

But Maureen Penjueli says the PNG Paper means that for now any real progress on fish, frozen or otherwise, will mostly likely be on ice.

PENJUELI: I think you will find that because the countries have this lack of confidence in the mediation which if PIFS, that a lot of this will be put on hold until the political nature of who is going to lead the EPA negotiations is resolved.

The Parkinson legacy lives on


THEY CAME ON A whaling boat from Samoa with a piano, a parrot and a baby. Even for the adventurous place and time - the Bismarck Archipelago in 1882 – the arrival of Richard and Phebe Parkinson must have been a fascinating sight.

The tall, bearded, distinguished-looking Dane and his exotically beautiful half-American, half-Samoan teenage wife clearly were no ordinary additions to the small, ragtag settlers’ group in the new colonial frontier. And the Parkinsons would go on to play an extraordinary role in one of the most colourful and formative eras of Papua New Guinea’s modern history.

Their legacy endures to this day in both the soil and soul of the land they came to love. Theirs is also a poignant love story – one with an unexpected spiritual reunion nearly a century after they were separated by Richard’s death.

Richard - botanist, scientist, ethnologist and author - established the country’s first coconut plantations for his fabled sister-in-law Queen Emma. He also introduced cocoa and coffee among many other plant and animal species. His classic 1907 book Thirty Years in the South Seas is regarded as the most important anthropological record of the region and his scientific writings and natural history collections reside in some of the world’s great museums.

Richard helped establish both Kokopo (Herbertshohe) and Rabaul which between them served variously as capitals of German New Guinea, Australian-mandated New Guinea, and New Britain Rabaul recently celebrated the 100 years anniversary of its foundation under the Germans and the Parkinsons’ contribution was highlighted.

Little wonder Queen Emma author R W Robson described Richard as “beyond question, New Guinea’s most distinguished pioneer” and that he was tagged “the father of our commercial agriculture” by former PNG Prime Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu.

You can read the full Parkinson Legacy article here.  It brings the family's story up to the present day and includes some wonderful period photos from the heyday of the Parkinsons in the Gazelle Peninsula



An entry in The Crocodile Prize

What kaprisious nature
is criminal behavior
It will turn a snake’s tail
to hear Kapris capricious tale

Will he be our criminal saviour
and by what measure
Accused, Witnessed
Condemned, Betrayed?
What calamitous fates await
What now for those so named
Accomplice, Financer
Conspirator, Leader?

Like knows like
Will it take a thief
to topple top-shot Thieves
Where is The Law?
They’ve been blinded willing puppies
or Toothless Watch Dogs for too long
But when a dog turns wolf
the hand that feeds
will surely bleed
Ahhh! Kaprisiousness
An eye for an eye, say I
Fellow citizens say Aye!
How long must We suffer
for Them to be Chiefs?
Our open hands
must become fists!

Give us our new-age Barabbas
Let us crucify Sukundumi’s Sons
Hang them by their feet
on Independence Hill
Then count the silver coins
fallen from their deepest pockets
Who really was the Master/Grand Thief/Chief?

First published in The National Writers Forum, 7 May 2010

It only happens in fiction


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

IT WAS LUNCH TIME. I was hungry. I walked home dreaming of a nice egg sandwich for lunch.

Our house is a five-minute walk from the office. I found my twenty-five year old nephew and our domestic helper, standing at the bottom of the steps. They both looked disturbed. “What is wrong?” I demanded.

“We heard Uncle’s favourite hymns on the radio in there. He is not home. His office car is not here. The door is still locked. We have just arrived. We both heard the music. The radio was turned off this morning. We know that there is no one is in there. We are spooked,” my nephew explained.

I looked at them and laughed. Then joked “Devil get them!” and walked up the steps.  I unlocked the door with my set of keys and walked into the house. My nephew followed cautiously. I checked the computer, radio and stereo set. They were definitely switched off. I checked the bedroom. I checked the bathroom. My husband was definitely not home.

A few days later, my husband and I were having breakfast. Our daughter, then eight years old, joined us a few minutes later. She seemed disturbed. After a while, she told us, “I had a dream last night.”

“What about darling?” I asked.

“I dreamt that Daddy died,” she told us.

“That is not a nice dream darling,” I said and looked across at my husband. He just smiled and continued eating.

Continue reading "It only happens in fiction" »

Random thoughts from a weekend warrior


A FEW RANDOM thoughts for the weekend. I try and keep up with PNG news and here are a few gleanings.

Watch the latest episode of South Pacific if you can on ABC TV. Amazing photography, including the first film of Dingiso tree kangaroos in PNG.

A new James Cameron-produced film has just been released. It’s called Sanctum and was filmed in Australia loosely based on a true-life, horrific cave-diving incident in Esa'ala, near Ferguson Island. Not really about PNG, but nail-biting entertainment nonetheless.

Some AusAID workers were car-jacked in Moresby last week. It made the headlines, maybe because they were AusAID workers because car-jacking is fairly common place. (It happened to me twice, and never made the news.) So take appropriate precautions, and don't expect to be treated as special just because you work for the Australian government. Unfortunately this comes with the territory if you work in PNG. I'm a cynical old bugger and have a broken nose to prove it.

Tribal conflict between Enga and Tari youths caused the deaths of five people and the closure of Gordons market. This is serious stuff compared with the dilettante AusAID workers who had their cars pinched.

The LNG negotiations with landowners are in chaos, despite the LNG2 deal being signed yesterday.

The court case involving RamuNico and tailings dumping off Madang is due back in court next week. TiffanyNonggorr is holding her own, although she has been subject to scurrilous criticism.

Porgera pollution hit the western headlines with a documentary aired last week about the scale of the damage incurred. This is exercising the Canadian press. Likewise the Nautilus seabed mining project and alleged pollution at Hidden Valley. What is it with mining and PNG? Are westerners so greedy they don't give a stuff about the local people?

Mangi Mosbi 2 has fathered two more piglets. So the world hasn't fallen off its axis.

Rhetoric departs from reality in today’s PNG


THE PNG MEDIA continue to paint a depressing picture of a country seemingly incapable of managing its own resources. Article after article raises genuine concerns about mismanagement, graft and corruption.

The investigation into suspended Police Commissioner Gary Baki apparently cleared him of wrongdoing, yet he was still under suspension when his term of office expired on 4 January.

However, it seems the inquiry found that improper tendering processes had been used to purchase transport assets in the Southern Highlands.

In addition to a helicopter, the police apparently needed a Camry, a Highlux, a Prado and a Fortuner, totalling K1.6 million. Why these vehicles were required for police operations is unclear. Perhaps the operation was undercover.

At the same time, it is reported that the Lae fraud squad cannot perform its duties because it doesn’t have a vehicle. Why don’t they take a taxi, or maybe walk through the city to conduct operations.

Concerned citizens of Moresby complain that there have been beheadings and murders near police stations yet police seem totally unaware of what is happening. Journalists point out that if the police in Moresby can’t control ethnic violence, what chance in the rest of the country.

A complaint by a ‘cross health worker’ in one of the dailies raises concerns about funds to upgrade part of the Moresby Hospital’s maternity ward that has apparently disappeared. Nobody seems to know where the money went. Meanwhile mothers are giving birth on the floor in overcrowded conditions.

And while the Ambulance Service was reportedly hosting a lavish dinner to raise funds for the Queensland emergencies, its employees have not been paid.

Media articles raise questions about improper appointment procedures used to appoint teachers. According to the senior education research fellow at National Research Institute, Patricia Paraide, many primary school teachers are appointed through nepotism, bribery and by force.

It doesn’t take much to imagine how easily a small spark might start a large conflagration. Just look at the north African countries at the moment.

Meanwhile the PNG prime minister continues to believe everything is OK.

“More and more businesses are coming to invest in PNG,” he says, “and now especially with the LNG projects coming on stream soon, our country is becoming more attractive for investment.”

What country are you talking about PM?

What is the sentence for the rape of our women and children?


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Here then the place and now the time.

Dare we hesitate, slowly considering our options
at what cost to our collective dignity
and weakening of our communal soul
Is it for us to facilitate corrective actions
or damn this inhumanity
Where do we draw the line
when all fear of retribution has ceased
and the perpetrator walks in our midst

There can be no mercy
when an apology will not suffice.

Here then the place and now the time.

Dare we challenge with trivialities a practical solution
at what cost to our inherent sense of justice
and lessening of our righteousness
Is it for us to sentence for the crime
or commiserate by periodic captivity
How can we face mirror of their eyes
when guilt has been shared through leniency?

There can be no forgiveness
when a horror remains hidden in our soul.

Here then the place and now the time.

Dare we discuss without compassion the victim or the accused
to decide the fate that a community must endure
because of negligence of duty towards justice
Is it for us to condemn the judged
without admitting the failings in our society
Why do we tolerate crimes that tear
at the fabric of our mortal lives?

There can be no fear
when we have the courage to act.

Here then the place and now the time.

As a stone rolls, so the earth is moved
A ripple is felt at the oceans every edge
The wind is tangible only by its effect
What we allow to exist will be.

What then the sentence?



An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Blossom! blossom! in June. Crowds
They stand to proclaim their renewals
And invite bees onto many a pearly stage
Then yellow their limbs with their jewels
As bees in hype and dance engage

Some begin to bow under jovial load
As green gold replace many a pearly stage
This transformation, bees, send to hive
With gentle persuasion to kindly disengage
Then they, a day of colour prepare to revive

Then masses upon masses, more beautiful
Load grey brown branches and between
Weary green leaves paint them shiny red,
O red! pleasant red! signal to convene
Hurry! please hurry! Or they’ll shed!

Aussie kids should be more educated on PNG

THE RABAUL and Montevideo Maru Society has complained to a committee reviewing the Australian school curriculum that the proposed new curriculum lacks and adequate coverage of PNG affairs.

In a submission to committee chair Prof Barry McGaw,the Society says that it is particularly interested in how Australia’s involvement in PNG is covered.

Noting that the Kokoda story is the only PNG topic mentioned in the curriculum, the submission says that “whilst the Kokoda battles were very important for Australia it was a part of a wider New Guinea campaign which started with the invasion of the Australian territories of New Britain and New Ireland by the Japanese Armed Forces on 23 January 1942.

“We believe history students can learn why Australians were in New Ireland and New Britain; what happened to the Australians on these islands who were captured by the Japanese and how the Australian Government was forced to reassess its defence strategy. Rabaul was gone. Port Moresby would be next.”

The submission also suggests that “the total New Guinea campaign should be included” as well as “the contributions of the USA, how the New Guinea campaign fits in the context of WWII, and Australia’s future relationships with other countries.

“The New Guinea campaign in New Britain and New Ireland also involves Australian prisoners of war and Australian nurses serving in the war.

“Next year will be the 70th year anniversary of the beginning of the New Guinea campaign – a very important event in Australia’s history and world history. Lest we forget.”

The true story of the 1st Independent Coy


Here I am, the old dog with a bone! I have come to the conclusion that I must write my version of what happened to the 1st Independent Company in Bougainville. I condensed it as much as I could, got the salient facts on paper and gave myself writer’s cramp….

IN EARLY 1941 a kilted soldier named Freddy Spencer Chapman visited the battalions in Bathurst NSW calling for volunteers to join a hush-hush unit. He had plenty of applications from frustrated 8th Division men.

The first batch of us arrived at Wilson’s Promontory in May 1941 and, after six weeks intensive training, were ready to travel to Guroke to join in the commando raid going on there. Instead we found ourselves on the Zealandia heading for the tropics.

The original plan was to be based in Rabaul. It would have been ideal for our unit, as there was plenty of jungle and mountains for operations. But the Army heads acted as they always do and, when halfway to Rabaul, we got a message to proceed to Kavieng on New Ireland.

When we got there confusion reigned; no-one knew we were coming. Eventually we found accommodation and life got back to normal. Then the powers that be delivered the final kick in the guts to us, and split the unit far and yonder. We were stretched from Manus to Kavieng, Namatanai, Buka Passage, Tulagi, and Vila in the New Hebrides: 273 men spread over thousands of miles!

No 3 Section of No 1 Independent Company finished up on Buka Island, where life was idyllic before Japan came into the war. They attacked us on 23 January 1942 with six planes. We managed to shoot one down and, after the rest went away, we demolished the airstrip and evacuated the unit to Bougainville, which was only separated from Buka by a passage 800 yards wide. Buka Island was too small and had no fresh water for the section to survive. Buka was only 40 miles long and Bougainville about 140 miles.

Lt Jack Mackie, our officer, had made plans for the move and had established supplies at Rugen in the hills of Bougainville. From the coast it took us a day to stagger up to Rugen. A journey that would take us a couple of hours once we got fit after living in the mountains for some time.

The Japs initially only visited the area and, after looting some plantations, they left. Jack Mackie set about covering the island with observation posts. He set three men at Kessa on the north coast of Buka, men at Buka Passage, four at Numa Numa, four at Kieta and four at Buin on the south coast. He had a roving headquarters: himself, a medical sergeant and me.  We travelled a lot on the schooner Malaguna.

With things not looking too bright, the Sergeant diagnosed himself with appendicitis and the Army sent a Catalina flying boat from Tulagi to evacuate him and he was never replaced. As we were low on supplies, Mackie appealed to our platoon at Vila and they sent the schooner Ruana with two of our mates, Shorty Bateman and Les Goodger, to take care of that.

When our headquarters at Kavieng was attacked, they told us they were going off the air and we should take orders from the 2/22nd Battalion in Rabaul, but when we tried to contact them they were off the air too.

Continue reading "The true story of the 1st Independent Coy" »

A night to forget


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Every organ inside shook! His heart was knocking loudly. The lungs were gasping for air, and he opened his mouth. Air rushed in.

‘Aaargh!’ jets of violent pain streaked up his back. He quickly got up but something strong forced him back onto his back.

‘Silip! Silip!’ a harsh and determined voice ordered.

He couldn’t see a face but a huge dark figure was leaning over his slim body. A pair of bulging red eyes and a strong odour that smelled like a failed brewing experiment immediately rang alarm bells. He knew then what he had got himself into.

A cold rough hand began checking his pockets and emptied their contents, then the dark figure left and all was quiet. Except for the knocking - knocking behind his chest.

Stunned! He didn’t quite know what had hit him. Its force was strong enough to have sent him crashing to the ground.

He looked around with hazy eyes. The street was dark under an overcast sky and certainly deserted. An old street-lamp that has survived the harassments of night-dwellers beamed a pale yellow light distantly. He watched the dark figure move leisurely into the light; a high-pitched whistle rang out, and two more figures emerged then all disappeared into the night.

‘Aaaaargh!’ The pain, it was awful. He turned slowly on the ground and caressed his back, and then got up. His head started spinning, and he fell back to the ground. There he remained, motionless. After some time he moved his legs about. The pain was subsiding.

I’ve fallen on something hard, he thought. He pushed his hand underneath and felt around for something solid. He couldn’t find any, and pushed further, ‘aaaaaaargh!’ he pulled his hand out at once. Then supporting his body from the back with his arms, he carefully raised his upper body to sitting position, and rested.

‘Shit! I should have known better’, he hissed through clenched teeth.

Then something warm started dripping down his nose; he wiped it, and it started flowing and dripped down his shirt; ‘damn it!’ He couldn’t see clearly in the dark but he was certain it was blood. He turned his head to the side, away from his body and blood fell to the ground.

He touched his nose gently; an awkward curved hump confirmed his fears. ‘Oh nooo!’ In desperation, he pulled his nose. Moved it from side to side. And pulled! He had seen somebody do it before. He knew he could do it. He tried hard despite discomforting pain. And moved his nose to its original position; at least he thought so.

Speechless and exhausted, an empty gut feeling engulfed him and dried up his throat. Then tears gathered and rolled down his cheeks. He wiped his eyes gently and fought back more tears, but self-pitying didn’t help.

He was hurt, alone in a dark street, and missed his child’s sweet voice.

“Daa-dyy! Daa-dyy!” and ran into Ram’s wide opened arms; in warm embrace, kissed his child on the forehead then touched the tiny beaming nose and kissed it too, and ...

‘Ram!’ a loud urgent voice interrupted. He heard dampened footsteps rapping out a fast tempo and he looked up; ‘yye-e!’ he cleared his throat and swallowed. ‘Is that you, Tamata?’

The moon started shining through thin clouds, casting a dull glow and weak shadows. Tamata saw Ram sprawled on the ground. He slowed down and approached Ram anxiously, then froze at the sight of blood.

Earlier, Tamata had asked Ram to accompany him to a fundraiser at a night club. Ram didn’t like the idea but he didn’t want to upset his good friend. After making Tamata promised that they’d be there for only two hours, they took a shortcut through the dark street.

Tamata squatted in front and studied Ram’s face worryingly; his laboured breathing, thundering into his ears and the smell of thick fresh sweat mercilessly harassing his nostrils.

Ram sustained a broken nose where the bone and cartilage meet on the bridge; the resulting bend skewed the lower part of his nose leftward.

Ram looked different. When more light revealed swelling and blackening eyes, Tamata realized how bad Ram’s face had changed.

Tamata slipped into a long worried silence. After what seemed like eternity, Tamata expressed his utmost regret and disgust, and started cursing.

A slight breeze started blowing and cold diffused across Ram’s face. Litter nearby moved. Oblivious to Tamata’s talk, Ram watched the litter shuffle and scrape, then, one by one roll, and somersault lazily into the dark.

His thoughts had rolled away too: watching his son sleeping on his little bed as his bosom heaved up and down in a pleasant rhythm.

Then Ram’s cheeks shivered mildly. He rubbed his hands and gently pressed them against his cold face. It felt good. He moved his legs from side to side, and rotated his ankles in a circular motion.

“...two thugs wielding iron rods chased me down the street, but gave up when I out ran them.” Ram heard Tamata finish.

Ram struggled to get up. Tamata held out his hands, but Ram pushed them away, and almost tumbled forward. He regained his balance and stepped forward, and began walking slowly up the street from whence they came.

Tamata followed from behind, silently pondering. What must I do to appease my friend? Maybe I’ll take him to the hospital. Maybe I’ll pay his taxi fare.

They reached the main street and Ram stole a quick glance.

There was much light. It was swarming with people. Cars with loud music filed past, bumpers end-to-end. Horns honking impatiently shrieked louder. And indiscernible voices of loud talking drunkards on the sidewalk further fuelled his anxiety.

This unpleasant cacophony didn’t help. Ram set off immediately in the direction of his home; robbed, bloodied and cold.

Koboing, kindling and ipadding in the bush


I’M NOT SURE about how information technology savvy are the many readers of PNG Attitude.  I know for me, at least, it is sometimes a struggle.

Unfortunately, in my line of work as a sometime-writer and anthropologist-of-sorts, a working knowledge of the latest information technology is absolutely necessary.  I don’t like it much, but the choice is not there.

One of the technical marvels I’ve recently invested in is an ebook reader.  The particular model I bought is called a Kobo.  So far I haven’t been especially impressed.

The range of available books, unless you like potboilers, is limited; they are not a hell of a lot cheaper than their paper equivalents; the time it takes to flip pages is maddingly slow; you have to turn it off every time your plane takes off or lands; and reading PDF files, which is the main reason I bought it, is nigh on impossible because you can only get up about a quarter of a page with a readable size of text.

Apparently the uptake in Australia is fairly slow, but in the USA ebook sales are galloping past conventional books.  Everything you read says it is the way of the future.

If this is true it may not be the death knell of the traditional book entirely, but it is going to eventually impact on the availability of these wonderful things.

This may be terrific if you’re a denizen of the first world but where does it leave those in third world countries like PNG?

Only a small proportion of people in PNG have access to a computer and the internet.  A lot of those people don’t even have electricity.  Both of these things are integral to running an ebook.  The Papua New Guinean readers of PNG Attitude are indeed a privileged lot.

With the production of paper books declining, the prospects for readers (and writers) in PNG and other third world countries like Africa look grim.

Of course, there is another side to this coin because it could open up opportunities in these places for traditional book distributors and publishers.

How is that, you might ask?  Well, let’s look at another first world product that is rapidly diminishing in sales – tobacco.  When the first-worlders began to abandon the habit the tobacco companies flooded places like PNG with their toxic products.

A packet of cigarettes in Australia that costs around $15-20 can be bought in Port Moresby for a few kina.

Wouldn’t it be good if PNG is flooded with cheap books as ebooks take over everywhere else?  Would that not be poetic justice?

Reforms to allow PNG to benefit from boom

THE BANK OF PNG has indicated support for a proposal by Nambawan Super to set up a Task Force to review the Superannuation Act, says Leon Buskens, managing director of Nambawan Super Limited.

The committee will review the Act, which is umbrella legislation covering the operations of all super funds in PNG.

The Act was introduced by the Mekere Government in 2000 resulting in major reforms in the superannuation industry and other financial institutions.

Nambawan Super has been in the forefront of lobbying to enact key changes to the Act to achieve more benefits for members, especially in light of the economic boom expected from the PNG LNG projects.

Mr Buskens said among the changes proposed by Nambawan Super are:

Increasing the compulsory contribution rates by 2% moving the current employee portion of 6% to 8% and the employer portion from 8.4% to 10.4%.

Changing current legislation that prevents the funding of members’ life insurance premiums from profits

Allow payments to a member on compassionate grounds, such as where the member’s immediate family is critically ill and life can be prolonged with medical treatment

Allowing fund members to have sub-accounts for family members

Instituting a formula to enable members to make withdrawals from employee contributions for housing

Nambawan Super recommend taking steps to give all PNG employees access to superannuation by removing the minimum number of employees contributions threshold. Currently, superannuation contribution is compulsory for employers with 15 or more staff.

“Last year, we wrote to the regulator proposing a comprehensive review of the Superannuation Act,” said Mr Buskens. “We are pleased to report that the Bank of PNG has been receptive to this.

“The Act was introduced in 2000 and brought with it a number of very important reforms to improve the ability of Papua New Guineans to provide for their retirement.

“Time has since marched on, bringing with it changing needs and a more sophisticated market.

“Nambawan Super is confident that the proposed measures will encourage long term savings and enable people to build a financially secure lifestyle, whilst tapping into the expected economic boom,” he said.

Reminiscence: The last voyage of MV Bulolo


BULOLO WITHIN A FEW MONTHS of my arrival at Taurama Barracks near Port Moresby in 1967, as part of Australia’s commitment to educate Pacific Islands Regiment servicemen, Christmas vacation was imminent and what better way to see the country as a new arrival than to go on a cruise around TPNG’s coastline.

Advertisements in the South Pacific Post invited readers to make a passage on the Burns Philp & Co Ltd-owned MV Bulolo for a New Year’s Eve trip from Port Moresby to Madang via Samarai and Lae and then on to Rabaul before returning to Port Moresby.

The voyage had originated in Sydney before proceeding to Brisbane and Port Moresby as part of Burn Philp’s mail steamer service, run on behalf of the Australian government, to islands in the Pacific.

MV Bulolo was built in Glasgow in 1938 and commenced trade between Australia and PNG ports the same year as a cargo-passenger ship making about eight voyages a year. When World War II intervened, the ship was converted to an armed merchant cruiser boasting seven six-inch guns, two anti-aircraft guns as well as depth charges and small arms.

HMAS Bulolo commenced convoy escort duties to the United Kingdom and the next two years were spent almost entirely in the Atlantic Ocean. She was then converted to a Landing Ship Headquarters, employing extensive communications equipment, and she saw service in North Africa as the flag ship of Commodore Douglas Pennant, Naval Commander of Force G.

On Empire Day, 24 May 1944, King George VI visited the ship to review the assault craft of Force G from her bridge as preparations for the D-Day landings on the Normandy coast were made.

Bulolo returned to South East Asia in 1945 as a headquarters ship for reoccupation duties. The ship’s battle honours were impressive and many Burns Philp merchant navy personnel remained with her throughout the war.

She recommenced civilian cargo-passenger duties in 1948 and the mail steamer service became a vital link between Australia and its Pacific territories. The regular sailings brought news, passengers, parcels, presents and social activity at island ports.

All manner of people came to the wharf to witness the comings and goings, unloading machinery, loading copra, as Bulolo made her contribution to commerce.

After Christmas in 1967, I embarked on the ship, which was flying the red, white and blue tri colour Burns Philp flag with a black and purple scotch thistle emblem super imposed on the central white colour. In charge was Captain Brett Hilder, newly married in Brisbane prior to the voyage and as famous as his ship.

I didn’t know it, but this was to be the Bulolo’s last voyage.

Read Terry Edwinsmith’s full tribute here: The last voyage of MV Bulolo

It's official: aid program pretty well stuffed


THE SO-CALLED Office of Development Effectiveness, AusAID's internal watchdog, has praised the aid program's “impressive reach and effectiveness”, but says the aid agency has significant structural problems.

“AusAID does not have an overarching strategy on implementing the aid effectiveness agenda and has not clarified how to report against aid effectiveness principles,” the Office has reported.

And, echoing the much-repeated plea of PNG Attitude contributor Paul Oates, it says: “[AusAID] needs a strategy for reporting that sets out benchmarks and targets for country and regional programs in terms of aid effectiveness principles.”

Overall, the report says that Australia's overseas aid is fragmented, poorly directed and difficult to evaluate. Short of alleging fraud and corruption, could there be a greater condemnation?

The Office of Development Effectiveness report covers 2009 but was only recently made public in the context of the current review of the aid program instigated by Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.

The Office says there is a tendency to funnel aid money through recipient governments, ignoring grassroots organisations, another long-standing complaint of PNG Attitude contributors such as John Fowke.

“Much of the aid program's knowledge of governance and the public sector is at the national level, and there is little understanding of the complex system that determines whether services are actually delivered,” the report says.

In other words, AusAID doesn't know whether aid gets to the people who most need it.

I have just two questions.

Why have such basic elements of any effectively-managed system been allowed – by politicians and bureaucrats - to languish unrecognised for so long?

And how was the grandly-titled Office of Development Effectiveness spending its time before Kevin Rudd belatedly decided to light a fire under it?

Source: ‘Aid goes in too many directions, says report’ by Dan Oakes, Sydney Morning Herald, 31 January 2011

Boys will be boys; but what about old men?


WHEN I FIRST MARRIED into my wife’s clan, it became apparent that my young male brothers-in-law and my wife’s cousins were often required to sort out various clan problems along the south coast of New Ireland.

This would normally end with a few of them sent to jail for short terms, as they were sons of subsistence farmers and had no money to pay a cash fine.

Until along came a ‘rich’ white tambu – me - problem solved.  As a non-violent person and holding a bank account with very strict limits, one day I sat down with my closest male tambus and told them enough was enough. The time for settling problems by fighting was over; in future we must resort to lawful means.

I pointed out that it was nearly always lapun pupu or lapun kandere who sent the word to come and bakim some apparent or actual affront to the clan.  “Iet,” I asked them, “Husat igo kalabus bihain long pait?”  [Who's in gaol after the fight?]  They knew the answer: it was almost always the young men while pupu and kandere remained comfortable by their fires and slept happily with their lapun meri.

For my immediate family, the pep talk mostly worked and I didn’t spend quite as much on bail money and court fines as previously.

I even helped a few beat the rap following poor police work. As a Kiap I’d seen people boarding boats to be brought to justice at Taskul Local Court. In the dinghies would be the Councillor, witnesses and the accused, who almost always seemed to have no one to support his side of the dispute.

Later, when Father Francis was knifed to death at the door of his home in Lavongai, the police picked up a suspect along with several friendsand they were detained for months before being released. Eventually the real culprits from a village several miles away were brought to trial and sentenced.

Even then the talk in my community was that the lapun who had initiated that dreadful night at the Mission had never appeared before the court. He was also suspected of being a sorcerer.

I often think of the old sending the young to do the dirty work when reading today’s newspapers. Grizzled fellows with an old-fashioned mindset sending the young men to attack another hamlet.  Senile Earl Haig sent thousands of lads to a dreadful fate in World War I.

Another thought that goes through my mind when reading of some of these mass attacks in PNG is that, surely, most of these men would have been in church the previous Sunday or Saturday.

When I was a United Church lay preacher, on a Palm Sunday at the hilltop bush church we had sung lots of heart lifting gospel choruses. Then, just as Pastor stepped up to the pulpit, utter mayhem broke out.

It had been planned, as many of my fellow worshippers stripped off their Sunday best white shirts and grabbed bush knives from around the church lawn, with womenfolk screaming and children crying and relatives yelling and gesturing at each other.

I was still an Assembly Member at the time and someone shouted, “Yu no gat sem long Memba Arta?” Back came the beautiful response that really put authority and government in its place, “F..k the Memba!”

Indonesia must change attitude to W Papua

AN EDITORIAL in The Jakarta Post has said that, if Indonesia cannot change its “haughty attitude” towards its province of Papua, then it “should never expect peace and stability to reign”.

“There are two conventions in this country that obstinately evade a resolution,” the Post says. “The first involves questions of narrow-mindedness when honestly dealing with the right of autonomy and justice for certain regions. The second deals with justice in offences committed by those in uniform.

“Despite vigorously clamoring for justice and democracy, we continually tiptoe around the judiciary’s record of handing out justice with kid gloves for felonies committed by members of the military.

“When the two conventions combine, we have a situation like that of Papua. Our easternmost province is one of the most beautiful, bountiful and yet so tragic.”

The newspaper argues that the “plentiful, long and unresolved” problems of Papua are complicated by Papuan leaders, who “must find greater unity and political purpose, forsaking their individual and tribal gain”.

But is also calls “culpable … the nation’s treatment of issues in Papua.”

“Too many unpunished violations have been committed in Papua to believe that culpability will ever be assured,” it says. “To further say that these violations were not ordered by their superiors gives no sense of ease. It only means that the commanders, and the President as the commander-in-chief, cannot control or discipline their subordinates.”

The editorial goes on to say that the “only thing more fearful than an invading foreign army, is one’s own undisciplined military.”

Commenting on the issue of fair treatment, The Jakarta Post remarks that “Justice should be sought because Papuans are equal citizens with equal values and common rights as any child or elder across this archipelago.

“In fact, the parameters of justice are not bound by citizenship or race. It is a moral obligation for any civilized society … Every member of society — be they civilian, military or civil servant — must fear legal consequences when committing these offences.”

Source: ‘Papua Justice’, Editorial, The Jakarta Post, 24 January 2011.    Spotter: John Highfield

Revealed. The truth behind Australia’s worst disaster at sea.

At the National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour,  Sydney

Sunday 20 February |  3 pm -5 pm |  $25  |  Includes wine & cheese

Moments after midnight on 1 July 1942, the Montevideo Maru was torpedoed and sunk while carrying over 1,000 Australian soldiers and civilians who had been captured in Rabaul. All died in the worst maritime disaster in Australia's history. Why did it take until 2010 for the sacrifice to be publicly acknowledged? ROD MILLER, who has researched the subject for 16 years, relates this tragic story and its shocking aftermath.

Bookings  Phone 02 9298 3644          Email [email protected]            Book online

I thought I had a son at last....


I HAD WALKED to Lavongai from my home seven miles down the coast to buy some basic groceries.

Striding past the mission hospital, which in the eighties was the best place to attend on the island if you were sick (still is), I was stopped by Sister Veronica, a German nursing nun.

“Willy (my Catholic name, the United and Seventh Day Adventist folk call me Arthur) come and see your tambu. She’s very ill!”

The nun took me into the maternity ward and showed me a woman who looked too old and frail to have just given birth and so occupy one of these beds. I stared for a moment and realised it indeed was one of my wife’s cousins; a teacher married to a New Zealand engineer.

I took the very weak hand of my tambu and tried not to exert any pressure on it. “What’s wrong with her Sister?” I gasped.

“She had a beautiful baby boy a few days ago, Willy (all Veronica’s babies were miracles and each was beautiful), but she has got weaker and look at her now she is very, very sick.”

I could see my tambu’s eyes were very jaundiced and she had lost any flesh she had had on her lithe young body. It was impossible to make any really understandable conversation with the young woman, so I went outside with Veronica by my side. We chatted.

“Willy she is surely going to die very soon and I am worried about the little boy. Would you be able to care for him?”

I only had four daughters at that time and knew my wife would be thrilled if we had a son to look after. I spoke for us both. Yes we could help my wife’s cousin if she really was so ill. But Sister must get permission from her and contact the husband, who was far away over the seas, somewhere in Bougainville. In any event we would do all we could to help the little boy.

Next day I returned with Lynette and we were given the little fella, who we decided to call Wilson after his daddy.  My wife saw her cousin and all of us were of the opinion she could not survive many more days.

After bidding farewell to tambu the mission gave us a lift home in Columbana, the fast speedboat that the nurses used for emergencies and maternal health patrols. We were excited as we started a new life with a new child and were pleased, despite the circumstances, that the baby was a boy.

A few weeks went by and I was back at Lavongai. This time I had to cross the river to see my tambu, who Sister told me had been sent home, as there was nothing the hospital could do for her.

I found her lying on a bed with a window open to the sound of the waves lapping just thirty feet from the small hut that, unusually for those times, was built not on the healthier tall posts or stumps but straight onto the ground.

There was a small cooking area at the other end of the hut and a blue smoky haze surrounded us as I bent down to speak to my tambu. She could hardly speak and looked worse than ever. I told her that her son was feeding well and seemed to have put on weight. She nodded her head. I think we both shed a little tear or two or more.

A few weeks later I heard that a well-known magician had been called to see if he could help her. I just did the whitey thing of smiling condescendingly at this information; after all we know better, and I wasn’t I a Christian too.

It was perhaps three even four months later that I received information that Wilson’s daddy was coming to fetch his son. We were sad to lose the little boy we had grown to love, but certainly his daddy had first call on his placement and upbringing.

The day dawned and we heard an outboard slow down as it entered the small channel through the mangroves that the canoes used to anchor at our place among my 3,000 coconuts.

We sadly walked down to meet the father with his bouncing baby son cuddled, perhaps for the last time, in my wife’s arms. Then it hit us, standing by his side was my tambu, looking fit and well and once again looking young and beautiful.

Yes, she had survived. Enough to take possession of her son who she hardly could remember after being parted from him so soon after birth.  So the snapping of our bond with baby Wilson was tempered with the wonderful knowledge of his being with his real mummy and daddy.

We have kept in touch over the years and when I was last in Kavieng I saw Wilson and his parents several times. The last time was when he was temporarily running an island cocoa and copra plantation they had bought. The father was undergoing treatment in Kavieng hospital.

Wilson had grown into a lovely, strong, healthy man who turned many Tigak girls’ heads and eyes.

How did his mother recover? I know you’ll tell me it was her mum’s loving care or perhaps sago. After all I’m white - so can’t -sorry don’t believe in magic, or do I?

Arthur describes himself as a Taffy but also a Lavongai

After Fenbury: still practice without policy


MY FATHER, REG, Director of Child Welfare in the former TPNG Administration, considered David Fenbury a friend and colleague. He spoke often of David's views and insights on local government.

As I came to consider these matters in my later role as AusAID Counsellor responsible for governance activities, I read Fenbury’s monograph, Practice Without Policy, and found in it an incisive critique of Australian colonial policy toward local government.

The failures of the Organic Law on Provincial and Local Level Government are manifold, and they manifest themselves differently from province to province.

In this context I took a snapshot of New Ireland in 2000. What follows is an excerpt from my overview:


During the years of the colonial administration government planning became increasingly centralised. The processes of government happened in isolation from the large majority of the population. People had little say in decision-making and remained largely disengaged from and unaffected by the formal sector.

The devolution of powers under the first ‘Organic Law’ on provincial and local government was an attempt to redress the colonial situation.  Although a decentralised ‘superstructure’ was put in place, centralised decision making processes were retained and a complex and unwieldy three-tiered financial management system was installed.

The system lacked a mechanism to monitor plan implementation and progress. It was essentially a ‘top-down’ planning model with limited participation by local representative bodies and communities.

However, elements of the first organic law were an advance on the colonial system.  A regulatory and legal framework was established to govern the administration of public sector monies and other resources at the local level.  A management system for the delivery of public sector services such as health and education at the provincial level was established.

Unfortunately, insufficient attention was paid to planning and resource management, personnel development, monitoring of service delivery and other quality controls.

The machinery of government became increasingly dysfunctional - poor resource utilisation; lack of user group consultation; poor communication between the various planning levels; little extension work done in rural areas; financial shortages; and lack of incentives to stimulate productivity at all levels.

Continue reading "After Fenbury: still practice without policy" »

Big kiap reunion on again in 2011

Kawana IT HAS REALLY become the one day of the year for ex-kiaps and their fellow travellers, and remains a great credit to organisers Denys and Helen Faithful and Bob and Heather Fayle.

Most years, well over 200 kiaps make it to Buddina on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for an informal get-together that offers no speeches but much comradeship and recollection.

This year the reunion is planned for the usual spot – the Kawana Waters Hotel on Nicklin Way at Buddina, on the main road between Mooloolaba and Caloundra.

The event kicks off at 11 am and traverses the day and now extends to breakfast on the Monday morning for those who still have something left to say.

Get in touch with Denys/Helen or Bob/Heather confirming your intention to attend. Apologies will also be noted and recorded.

Download here for further information.

Exotic Aore Island beckons the chalkies

Aore FOR THEIR 2011 reunion, the ASOPA education officers’ Class of 1964-65 have gone for a location that is very hard to beat - Aore Island off Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu.

And a very good deal they’ve negotiated too.

For nine glorious days from Tuesday 30 August to Thursday 04 September, the organisers are hoping the Class and their buddies from other years may be able to fill 18 bungalows at various price points ranging from $95-125 per person per night.

Air Vanuatu has direct services from Brisbane to Espiritu Santo while Sydney and Melbourne are serviced through Port Vila. Transfers to the island are being arranged free of charge.

It sounds like a great place for a seriously relaxing reunion and you can link to all the details at ASOPA Aore 2011.