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161 posts from March 2011

Clouds & crew contributed to Kokoda crash

AAP - INADEQUATE PILOT experience and cloudy conditions are believed to have contributed to the 2009 Kokoda plane crash. PNG’s transport investigator released its final report into the incident today.

All 13 people aboard the Airlines PNG flight, including nine Australians, were killed when the small passenger plane slammed into the side of a hill as it made its way to Kokoda on 11 August 2009.

The PNG Accident Investigation Commission said the plane crashed while in controlled flight, meaning there had been nothing wrong with the plane itself.

Although the day had been very cloudy, the crew had attempted a descent using visuals only and it did enter a stage where instruments needed to be used. The co-pilot had not been qualified to fly using instruments.

"When the crew commenced the descent through the Kokoda Gap in the reported rapidly changing weather conditions, they committed themselves to a course of action that they could not be assured of completing safely," the report said.

"It was probable that during the descent, the crew were required to manoeuvre the aircraft to remain clear of cloud, or regain that status, and in so doing, impacted terrain," the report concluded.

Read the full story here


Horizon wins legal battle for energy acreage


HORIZON OIL today won its battle to regain its interest in PRL5, which holds the Elevala and Ketu finds, off Papua New Guinea.

Horizon said it had been awarded a 70% stake in the disputed acreage following an ongoing legal battle with the PNG government.

Last year PNG Minister of Petroleum and Energy, William Duma, refused an application to extend PRL5, in which Horizon held a 50% stake, arguing the Australian company and its partners had failed to fulfil the licence conditions.

However Horizon argued it had satisfied the conditions and commenced legal proceedings in the PNG courts, seeking leave for a judicial review of the decision not to renew the licence.

The company also obtained a legal injunction to prevent any further dealings in regard to the acreage while its appeal against the government's decision was being reviewed.

In an announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange today, Horizon said the legal proceedings had now been settled and a new five year licence issued over the disputed acreage, now re-named PRL21.

Horizon has previously estimated PRL 21 to hold recoverable probable reserves of 380 billion cubic feet of gas and 25 million barrels of condensate.

Source: Upstream Online

PNG’s strategic position in global contest


IN RECENT WEEKS a collage of events in international politics has moved the spotlight directly on to PNG. The tag of being classed as a minnow in international politics is slowly fading as the global competition between two of the world’s most influential nations gain momentum.

Three different events occurred in succession that share in essence the message of competition: Hilary Clinton’s words about PNG involving China; Julia Gillard’s historical address to the US Congress which included the topic of China; and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi’s media session during the annual Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.

Competition for influence is one main motive in international politics, if a country can gain influence it means it can have easieraccess to scarce resources like energy and markets for manufactured goods.

The US feels that China is pushing them out of the LNG Project because of Chinese influence in the country in the form of increased aid and investments. Both are attributes of Chinese soft power according to Joshua Kurlantzick.

The President of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, John Momis, added emphasis to this when he highlighted the lack of American investment in PNG. The presence of Chinese companies supported by their government’s ‘Going Global’ policy is evident not only in PNG but also in other parts of the world.

In PNG, Chinese companies like China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), Chinese Overseas Engineering Group Company (COVEC), China Railway Construction Company (CRCC), Business Solutions Best Material (BNBM) Public Limited Company, Guangdong Foreign Construction Company, and others manifest the presence of China in PNG.  This explains why Clinton argued that China is in PNG every day in every way.

This intricate web of interdependence and the continued growth of China is a worrying sign for the US. But in her speech Gillard assured the US that, regardless of the good trade relations Australia has with China, when push comes to shove Australia will be at America’s back.

The Prime Minister used words constructively to play with the emotions of her listeners causing some to cry patriotically and give a standing ovation when she blurted out the boot licking praise that Americans can do anything.

Her speech outlined Australia’s support of American dominance. This affirmation came after she called on America not to fear China, and called on China to be “a good global citizen”.

Continue reading "PNG’s strategic position in global contest" »

Melanesia group to expand Pacific influence


Don Polye

PNG's FOREIGN MINISTER, Don Polye, in Suva for Melanesian Spearhead Group talks, says it’s important that Fiji remains fully involved in regional trade and economic discussions despite its political scrap with Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Polye says from what he sees in Fiji, people are happy, tourism is thriving and investment is growing.

He believes excluding Fiji from discussions around trade frameworks is counter-productive in efforts for growth.

“PNG cannot be influenced by Australia or New Zealand or any other countries,” he said. “Melanesian people, we make decisions based on our own values and traditions and its the councils that influence that decision making.”

Mr Polye also said that  larger Pacific economies like PNG and Fiji should negotiate agreements with the European Union.

He said the MSG meeting discussed issues that will promote the influence of the five-nation bloc in the Pacific region.

Apart from trade and investment, the leaders also discussed labour mobility as well as strengthening traditions, cultures and values through social activities, including a revival of the Melanesian Games.

Sources: The Fiji Times and Radio New Zealand International

It’s happening! LNG pipeline works underway

AN INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM is ready to bring PNG’s vast onshore petroleum resources to market, with the construction of an 850 km, large-diameter pipeline.

Construction activities are ramping up on the LNG Project. Pipe for the onshore gas pipeline has been arriving at the shore base at Kopi.

The project involves a processing facility and the integrated development of the Hides, Angore and Juha gas fields, as well as associated gas from the Kutubu, Agogo, Gobe and Moran fields.

The gas will be transported to the LNG plant near Port Moresby through 850 km of onshore and offshore large diameter pipeline.

The onshore pipeline and affiliated infrastructure will be built by French company Spiecapag. The onshore section will consist of a buried pipeline overland from the Hides gas plant to the Omati River landfall, a distance of 300 km.

Construction of the offshore pipeline will be undertaken by Italian company Saipem. The scope of work includes installation of a 407 km subsea pipeline from the Omati River landfall to Port Moresby.

Due to PNG’s extreme undulating terrain, an airport is being constructed to ensure materials are delivered to the site on time.

A joint venture between McConnell Dowell and Consolidated Contractors has been awarded the contract to procure and construct the Komo Airfield, 10 km southeast of the Hides Plant.

The runway will be 3.2 km long, which compares with the length of major international airports – Heathrow’s longest runway is 3.9 km.

Antonov AN-124 aircraft will bring in materials over a six-month period. In the long term, Dash-8 aircraft will be the most frequent users of the airport.

The LNG Project is expected to deliver its first LNG shipments by late 2013 or early 2014.

Source: Pipelines International & LNG World News

Cabinet approves sea floor mining in PNG

THE PNG CABINET has approved the arrangement for the government to take up equity in the Solwara1 Project to mine the seafloor.

The project, by Canadian developer Nautilus Minerals, involves mining for gold and copper found in high concentrations over a 59 sq km section of the Bismarck Sea, at depths of about 1,600 metres, 50 km north of Rabaul.

Cabinet approval followed an announcement last month by Mining Minister John Pundari that the government will take its full 30% stake in the venture – at a cost of more than $100 million.

The project will mine rich seafloor deposits and generate over $140 million directly into the economy

The approval of the arrangement has preserved the right of the state to acquire up to 30% equity in the project

This is the first time the government has taken an equity position in a medium scale mining project that will be developed under a mining lease

This now sets a precedent that the state will take equity participation in future mineral projects.

Nautilus Minerals capital investment in the project will be about $387 million over the lifetime of the mine.

Early this year, the government granted a 20-year mine lease for the project as well as set certain conditions in the mining lease to guide and control development.

Source: Papua New Guineas Mine Watch

Cholera outbreak reaches Bougainville


THE CONFIRMATION that cholera has spread from the mainland and is established in some areas of the Autonomous Region of Bougainville is causing great concern in the province.

Chairman of the Bougainville Cholera Task Force, Patrick Koles, said the disease has been confirmed in the Haku, Hagogohe and Tsitalato areas.

Reports reaching New Dawn FM say a 19 year old girl from Suhin Village is the latest victim.

Health Authorities and the Bougainville Cholera Task Force are appealing to people to wash their hands while preparing food and before taking their meals. There is a special appeal for mothers to look after their children.

Elementary and primary schools in the Hagogohe area were empty as many students stayed home following the cholera outbreak.

The task force says it needs half a million kina to fight the outbreak. Mr Koles told a media conference in Buka that AusAID has given K10,000 and the ABG has deployed K50,000 to help the task force carry out planned programs.

He said that the task force has already started awareness in schools in the affected areas.

Source: New Dawn FM

Sir Julius wants people to control resources

FORMER PRIME MINISTER and governor of New Ireland, Sir Julius Chan, says it’s vital the people control the country’s resources.

Sir Julius has been pushing for autonomy for his province along the lines of what is currently in force in Bougainville.

He also wants the Land Act of 1992, which gives the government sole ownership of whatever is under the ground, re-written.

Sir Julius says one aspect of autonomy is to control the resources and this will also ensure stability and help the people flourish once the mines close.

“I actually want to see the ownership of all these resources in the hands of the people, because I really believe if the people own them there won’t be too many of these disputes happening in these mining areas.

“People will be quite satisfied. It really is a case of the same sharing except this time the people get more. The people who suffer get more than the government.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

PNG doctors threaten total shut down

THE NATIONAL Doctors Association says it's planning to step up its national strike by withdrawing the few remaining doctors it has on duty providing emergency care at hospitals because of the government's failure to respond to its grievances.

The union began the industrial action on Friday, despite a court order telling doctors not to strike.

The Association says the strike is due to the government's failure to negotiate with them about implementing a new agreement on their pay and conditions, which was reached two years ago, but never introduced.

The matter is scheduled to return to court today.

Meanwhile, health minister Sasa Zibe has blamed his departmental head Dr Clement Malau for the strike action.

Mr Zibe said senior administrators should be held responsible and should consider their purpose of being in the jobs they hold.

He accused senior management of being insensitive and not taking the lead in solving the issues.

Source: Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand International

Time to rethink when bad guy is king


AUSTRALIA'S impotence in influencing events in its own back yard is being demonstrated in dramatic fashion this week as Fijian dictator Frank Bainimarama fulfils his long-held ambition to assume the chairmanship of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

All the other Melanesian leaders - from Papua New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu plus the Kanak FLNKS from New Caledonia - are joining him for the group's summit in Suva tomorrow. It's also being attended by representatives from Indonesia, East Timor and - strangely - the European Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

The humiliation for Australia and New Zealand comes with the authority Bainimarama will now wield as the leader of a virile regional grouping - backed by the Chinese - that's increasingly regarded as more important than the long-established Pacific Islands Forum.

Read the full story on The Australian website here

Australia and NZ are ‘losing the Pacific’


IN EARLY MARCH, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made unusually direct comments to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about America's position in the Pacific.

"Let's just talk straight real politik. We are in competition with China," she said. All over the Pacific, China is trying to "come in behind us and come in under us." And it is working. China's influence in the island nations of the Pacific is growing dramatically, and the repercussions are global.

But the fault does not lie completely with the US, and the win is not completely China's.

The door for China's dramatic increase in influence in the island nations of the Pacific was opened by decades of mismanagement of Pacific affairs by western allies Australia and New Zealand. And if the US and the west want to regain ground, the two Pacific partners are going to have to rethink how they engage with the region.

It should not have come to this. As Clinton noted, the island nations of the Pacific are natural Western allies. "We have a lot of support in the Pacific Ocean region. A lot of those small countries have voted with us in the United Nations, they are stalwart American allies, they embrace our values." The tiny Kingdom of Tonga, population of 100,000, for example, has just sent troops to Afghanistan.

Also, from a real politik point of view, the region has quite a bit to offer. Far from being a bottomless pit of development aid, the Pacific is important economically, politically, and strategically.

Strategically, this vast area is the front line between Asia and the Americas. It is crisscrossed by increasingly important trade routes linking Asia and South America, as well as vitally important transpacific fibre optic cables. It hosts geostrategic military bases. It has safe harbours in allied hands. Especially as China moves down through the South China Sea, keeping the countries of the Pacific safe, stable and friendly is going to be crucial for Western security.

Unfortunately for the west, the challenges to the Pacific partnership are too deep to be solved with a flying visit. The current crop of problems mostly dates back to the end of the Cold War. As the Soviet sphere contracted and imploded, the Pacific seemed to lose its strategic value.

The diplomatic and strategic forward bases of the 'Big Boys', the US and Britain, were scaled back, or shut down, and the security of the region was essentially outsourced to Australia and New Zealand.

On paper, Australia and New Zealand seem up to the job. Their influence is seemingly pervasive [but] part of the problem lies in Australia and New Zealand's confused approach to the Pacific. The main focus seems to have been economics, not security.

Australia and New Zealand's political engagement in the region has been problematic, with American Samoa's member of the US Congress, Eni Faleomavaega, describing it as "inept policies and heavy-handed actions".

In our multi-polar world, when one weakens one's friends, one weakens oneself. And it seems as though for the last little while, Australian and New Zealand policies have weakened the Pacific. The narrow focus on primarily short-term economic benefits to certain nations has to stop. The Pacific is no longer their backyard; it is the new front line.

The Pacific is the west's to lose. And we have been doing a good job of it. It is up to us to say "no more".

Source: Extracted from ‘The World Today’, Volume 67, Number 4, April 2011.  Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow for the Energy, Environment and Resource Governance Programme at Chatham House

Charles Lepani moderates his criticism


Perhaps thinking he’d gone to far in an earlier public statement, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia, Charles Lepani, has said it’s time to stop hammering the Australian aid program over ineffective use of taxpayer money.

Reports of corruption and fraud have dogged the aid program and a review, demanded by Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, will be made public next month.

Mr Lepani admits that half of the $450 million of annual Australian aid to his country has been ineffectively spent.

But he says steps are being taken to rectify the issue.

“There is a review - and also Kevin Rudd and Michael Somare, have agreed that some of these funds should be redirected to private sector and NGOs who can do a better job of delivering services to rural PNG.

“So on both sides there are problems. But right now both sides are working to eliminate those so we should not hammer the effort.”

Australian aid is a strategic investment


The federal government needs to better explain the national security benefits of Australia's aid program to ensure longer-term support for overseas assistance, a new report says.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute report, A better fit: national security and Australia's aid program, also identifies climate change and its impact on neighbouring counties ''as a potential national security problem''.

''Over a period of decades, entire national populations of atoll countries in the Pacific and Indian oceans may need to migrate, and the international community may expect Australia to play its part in accepting them,'' the report said, and went on:.

Some politicians, talkback hosts and commentators find spending to help others beyond our shores an easy target, especially at times of natural disaster in Australia.

Therefore, accounting for what Australia spends on aid matters more than ever, because public support for the program must be maintained not only to alleviate poverty internationally but also to protect Australia's national security and our broader national interest.

Australia's foreign aid should help build regional stability and improve the country's security.

The top four recipients of bilateral Australian aid are Indonesia, PNG, Solomon Islands and Afghanistan, all of which are important to Australia's security, whether by virtue of strategic proximity or terrorist potential.'

The island Pacific is becoming a more contested space. China is fast growing in importance as an aid donor, investor and trade partner… Australia has compelling security interests in remaining predominant in this region.

The report suggested revisiting the seasonal worker pilot scheme, where Pacific Islanders were able to work on farms in Australia, and called for changes to immigration policies that prevented unskilled Pacific islanders from working in Australia.

It also calls for a new federal Minister for development assistance.

Source: The Canberra Times

Aid reporting is misleading, says NGO

THE UMBRELLA ORGANISATION for NGOs in Australia, the Australian Council for International Development, says recent media reports on aid spending are misleading and disappointing.

Australian newspapers have published reports of millions of aid dollars being squandered on non-wage running costs, such as office refurbishments and taxis.

The Herald Sun says AusAID has 175 fraud cases under investigation across 27 countries including 71 in PNG.

AusAID maintains those cases cover a seven year period and the misspending amounts to just 3.4 million dollars out of a total expenditure of 20 billion dollars.

The Council’s Dr Susan Harris Rimmer says AusAID’s systems are robust and its standards rigorous.

“It’s a good thing that there’s 175 reports and the main thing is that their approach to fraud is it takes it very seriously, is dealing with the risk in an appropriate way and this is something that’s of great interest to the not-for-profit sector.

“We’re actually quite confident that AusAID is doing the right thing.”

Dr Harris Rimmer says there are a range of areas in the region, such as maternal and infant health, where aid is making a big difference and the public should not lose faith in aid objectives.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Strong economic performance continues


PNG’s STRONG ECONOMIC performance continued in 2010, supported by resurgent minerals production and investment in new projects.

GDP is expected to have expanded by 7%, following 5.5% growth in 2009. After contracting 1.8% in 2009, minerals output is estimated to have expanded by 5.4% in 2010, despite strikes affecting major mines in the first months of the year.

Activity in the non-minerals sector also accelerated, expanding overall by 8.2% in 2010 following 5.3% growth in 2009. This upturn was led by sectors most linked to minerals production and the growing income streams they are generating. Construction, manufacturing and retail trade all recorded 20-30% increases. Activity in the transportation and communications sector, which benefited from deregulation earlier in the decade, is estimated at have grown by near 16% in 2010.

The large PNG-liquefied natural gas project moved towards full construction phase, but suffered temporary disruptions due to landowner actions. Construction of the $15 billion project’s first phase is scheduled to complete by mid-2014, although there are risks of this slipping.

Local landowners have slowed or temporarily halted construction work at various sites in recent months. These interventions generally relate to alleged grievances regarding payment of land use compensation and business development grants by the central government to landowner groups. The central government has started distributing funds and has announced spending plans in anticipation of the PNG- LNG revenues.

Other announcements include a K157 million plan to build a national broadband network, piggybacking on the LNG fibre-optic cable.

The strong growth in construction and investment activity is creating capacity constraints and inflationary pressures.

Supply limits are being reached in particular sectors, such as property in Port Moresby and Lae, skilled labour, construction equipment and shipping facilities.

Businesses with looser budget constraints—generally the minerals investors themselves—are able to secure supplies and skilled labour by bidding up prices. Established firms, including the public sector, face growing difficulty in retaining staff.

Optimism continues to surround PNG’s medium-term economic outlook, but the risks are significant, as the government recognises. Growth is expected to slow modestly from recent strong rates.

That wonderful PNG sense of humour


THERE ARE THE well-known comedians like Kanagi, but most other Papua New Guineans have a great sense of humour and have a gentle and amusing way of taking the mickey out of stupid waitmen.

One notable example was seen in the so-called Johnson Cult, when in the inaugural 1964 elections people in New Hanover voted for Lyndon Johnson, then the US President.

Most western media were taken in and reported it as some sort of primitive cargo cult, but later the locals showed it for what it was - an elaborate practical joke, designed to poke fun at Australian authorities for their neglect of local representation. Rather like current-day Australians voting for the Free Beer Party.

My first exposure to PNG humour was when I attempted some Tok Pisin on my relatives, who had come around for afternoon tea. I thought I would show off, and when serving coffee asked, "Yupla laikim susu bilong bulmakau?" They fell about laughing and my wife still won't let me forget it. The phrase was taken to mean, 'Would you like some cows’ breasts?'

A bit later at a Christmas party I raised a toast and said “Cheers!”, followed by “how do you say that in Kuman?”  The reply was “you must say tratna!” So I did, and again everyone fell about laughing.Look up tratna in a Kuman dictionary to understand it's true meaning (prepared to be shocked at what I'd said).

Well I my wife, Rose, took me in again last night. I was doing research on the significance of tribal tattoos, and Rose said “mine have special meaning”.

She said Simbu forehead tattoos are a bit like a code. This was getting interesting.

Tattoo Rose Rose has Simbu tribal tattoos on her forehead, which I think look great and add to her identity and beauty. However, she doesn’t like them and is trying various treatments to get rid of them.

Am I wrong to want her to preserve them as marks of her tradition?

The traditional Simbu forehead tattoos are between and above her eyes. There is a large round circle between her eyes and eight smaller dots in decreasing size from right to left above this.

She told me the larger circle is a Simbu tribal mark, being a tradition of her mother's tribe, with her name encoded in some way. The eight marks above this are Manus-style-marks which she does not understand.

On a previous occasion she said the second smaller dots on the line of eight below the circle denote her mother's tribal name or symbol. The others mean she is a beautiful girl (dre dragi - like the orchid).

The last one means she does not belong to the family and can become part of another tribe or province and is a princess. I'm a bit confused now. Is this like the Da Vinci Code? Or am I just the butt of a joke?

But this is not consistent with her first explanation - rather like the Hanover Islanders who voted for Lyndon Johnson in the 1964. They were taking the mickey, and were part of a long tradition of glorious PNG humour and practical jokes.

Now she has a mud-mask on (defoliation and beauty treatment) and tells me she is an Asaro mud-man.

I've been had again. God bless her.

PS, Rose had recently seen The Da Vinci Code, and had had a few beers.

Government needs to review Defence Act


AS A DIRECT RESULT of actions of an errant former general of the PNG Defence Force, the Somare government has a strong case to critically review the Defence Act, including related civil law provisions.

What happened in March 1997, which became the infamous Sandline Crisis, was in fact a total command failure with the PNGDF. The then defence force head, Jerry Singirok, eventually lost his command after challenging the authority of the State.

This was the first time since PNG’s Independence that a military general had, without higher authority, used the military in unauthorised operations.

The general could have avoided all that followed had he properly used his command team and provided suitable options to the government.

This is what happened. In 1997, Prime Minister Julius Chan made a tough judgement call. The government planned to use limited external military support to augment PNGDF operations on Bougainville in response to a protracted defence emergency.

Joint operations against counter-insurgency are always subject to specific rules of engagement. This is standard operating procedure.

Moreover, the military leadership also knew the strategic objective was to achieve a negotiated political settlement with relevant parties.

In this case, however,, the force commander’s intention was kept secret from key senior subordinates within Defence headquarters at Murray Barracks, Port Moresby.

This resulted in the general’s command team playing little or no direct role in engaging Sandline personnel.

It is now 14 years since these dramatic events, so perhaps it is now time for the former commander to reveal all the facts as to why he failed to consult his senior staff to provide advice to government.

The general’s media explanation every year on each anniversary of the crisis does not justify his unilateral actions in taking on the government using military muscle.

No general and commander of the defence force should be allowed to directly take the law into his own hands, no matter how compelling the reason.

This critical incident should be a good lesson for any future PNG government. Never let its military act in such manner again.

After what has happened 14 years ago, PNGDF servicemen must be fully indoctrinated that every officer in command of any unit at all command levels must fully comply with political directions, and without question.

Once the government makes an executive decision to engage the military, a commander is duty-bound to enforce it and see that the mission is undertaken without compromise.

No-one in the PNGDF, let alone the most senior officer, has any absolute right to abuse his power and position of trust, especially during a national security emergency as was the case with Sandline.

The commander’s unpredictable actions proved very disastrous for the government and country. The PNGDF command support system was totally usurped and seriously compromised.

This clearly boosted the Bougainville Revolutionary Army’s confidence to continue its aggression towards PNGDF troops in the armed insurrection.

The actions also triggered a mutiny and civil strife in the capital city and in parts of PNG.

It is now vital that the Defence Act and Code of Military Discipline be reviewed by the government without delay as the country goes to the polls next year.

Strong legislation is needed to provide some measure of protection to the government.

New defence legislation is required to especially deal with serious ‘dereliction of duty’ incidents involving military commanders at all levels.

Big men in PNG: beyond the rational market


“IF THEY SEE ME planting too much cocoa, they’ll do things to my land and my family, and they won’t bear fruit; really bad things; puripuri and other witchcraft.”

This was how Peter explained to me why he had only cultivated half of the three-hectare block the PNG government had given him after he was evacuated from his home during a volcanic eruption eight years earlier.

He was also providing a response to an accusation I had often heard levelled at his fellow villagers by government officials and development workers in the course of my anthropological field research: that the people were lazy or stupid because, like Peter, none had planted the whole of their blocks of land.

Such an avoidance of profit maximisation might have appeared economically irrational. But from the perspective of those villagers, putting in extra work just to make oneself a target for the jealousy of one’s neighbours would be highly irrational behaviour.

Critics of untrammelled free markets have long attacked the assumption that markets are rational, driven by rational self-interested economic actors. Yet, field research clearly shows that the actions of individuals vary massively depending on social context.

Living in PNG, one is struck by the resources expended on gigantic ceremonial gift exchanges. The “big men” running such systems did not call in debts to maximise the number of pigs or modern wealth items such as money or trucks in their possession. But academics continued to assume that the aim was to profit over the long term, with the discrepancy between this assumption and the big men’s actual activities being explained as the result of “selective amnesia”.

It was only when the assumption of economic rationality was dropped that it was possible to understand the big men in their own terms. Their aim was to increase the number of those dependent upon them, and so, like a Mafia godfather, their aim was to create debts that would never be repaid.

Like Mafiosi, their actions were neither the result of what one economist described as “an inferior mentality”, or a lack of rationality. They were entirely rational within a context in which building up an army of followers was at times a more pressing demand than stockpiling wealth objects.

Source: Extract from ‘Magic and the myth of the rational market’, Financial Times, UK (registration required for access).  Keir Martin is a lecturer in social anthropology at Manchester University

MSG nations say they feel for West Papua

THE MELANESIA Spearhead Group feels for their brothers and sisters in West Papua, says MSG Foreign Ministers chairman, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

But he refuted claims that the MSG had received a request for full membership from the Australia West Papua Association.

“We are all Melanesians but I can confirm that the MSG has not received anything in writing calling for West Papua’s inclusion as a full member.

“We will wait for other leaders and should anything come up, the leaders will discuss on it,” Ratu Kubuabola said.

“As far as the MSG is concerned the issue was mere speculation by the media.”

Media reports covered by PNG Attitude said an NGO, the Australia West Papua Association, had written an open letter to the Melanesian Spearhead Group calling for full membership of the agency to be extended to the people of the Papua region of Indonesia.

The MSG includes PNG, Vanuatu, Fiji, Solomon Islands and the Kanak grouping from New Caledonia.

Source: Fiji Ministry of Information

A cool name & great gratitude for education


Zibe_Sasa Jr "THAT'S A COOL NAME," I told Sasa Zibe. He thanked me. We then talked about his journey to Brigham Young University-Hawaii. He told me of his conversion and faith, of his education, and of the opportunities that await him after graduation.

Sasa said, "My dad [also Sasa Zibe, PNG’s minister of health] was always into education. 'Whatever [educational opportunity] you can get, go for it,' he'd say."

It has been said that education opens doors. For Sasa, education was his door to church membership. When a relative introduced the Zibe family to the church and its emphasis on education, they recognized a rare opportunity.

But Sasa was the only member of his family to join the church. He went on to graduate from the church's Liahona High School in Tonga, to serve a full-time mission in PNG and to enroll at BYU-Hawaii. He has been in Laie for three-and-a-half years and will graduate this April.

“I've learned a lot about the church organisation since being here,” Sasa told me. “I've learned how to look after the church, how to be an organised leader and why home teaching is important. I'm excited to go back and help build the church.”

Already Sasa has three job opportunities in PNG. “I've juggled work, school and church, and when I go back home, I'll do the same.”

Many people in PNG have an annual income that is less than one month's rent in the United States. If it were not for the donor-supported I-WORK program, a BYU-Hawaii education would be unobtainable for many of the university's international students.

“I'm just grateful that I got an education, Sasa said. “And I will always owe a lot to those who made a difference for me by paying for my education for the past three-and-a-half years.”

Source: Mormon Times. Brad Olsen is one of four bloggers for “Of One Heart,” which appears in each Wednesday.  Email: [email protected]

New book was inspired by trip to PNG


Fiction is fun CHILDREN’S AUTHOR Libby Hathorn launched her latest publication, I Love You Book, inspired by a trip to PNG, in Sydney on Friday.

The picture book, with illustrations by Heath McKenzie, was inspired by a trip to PNG where Hathorn watched parents, who had only just learnt to read, tell stories to their children.

“It brought home to me the power of reading itself, as it opens you up to the world, and the potential of literacy to open minds and hearts simply through books being placed in someone’s hands,” Hathorn said.

St Catherine’s Junior School head, Sarah Guy, said her students were excited about being read to by a well-known author such as Ms Hathorn.

“She’s a prolific writer, but she certainly doesn’t sacrifice quality for quantity,” Ms Guy said.

Photo: Author Libby Hathorn with St Catherine’s students [John Appleyard}.   Source: The Wentworth Courier, Sydney

Ilya 'Scoop' Gridneff says bamahuta PNG


Bilas THE BIRTH of a baby boy outside Goroka, Eastern Highlands, named Kevin Rudd Jr rates among the highlights of the three-year career of Australian Associated Press Papua New Guinea correspondent Ilya Gridneff [pictured].

Gridneff was mistaken for Rudd when he visited Degi village, outside Goroka, that he was feted like royalty and carried on the shoulders of singing villagers when he went to visit the birthplace of Kevin Rudd Jr.

The boy was given the name five minutes after the then Australian prime minister visited a local hospital on 7 March 2008. Kevin Jr has become somewhat of minor celebrity in PNG, with media attention and international tourists visiting.

Gridneff, 31, leaves today after three memorable years in PNG covering the good, bad and ugly from the ‘land of the unexpected’. His success is Eoin (pronounced Owen) Blackwell.

Friends and colleagues gathered at the botanical gardens in Port Moresby on Saturday to say farewell to a good mate.

“I’ve covered many memorable things,” Gridneff told me. “It’s hard to pick one which stands out, however, the hospitality of Eastern Highlands people when visiting Kevin Rudd Jr, and them thinking I was the prime minister, stands out.

“And also of an all-in brawl with hundreds of angry Sepik pukpuks, in the car park of Wewak yacht Club, at the Sepik Iron Man in 2009 – it’s something I will never forget.

“But it’s also some of the small things like a night out with local journos, ending up at Baret Club or Club 22, and coming home when the sun is shining are some of the things I’ll never be able to forget.

“I’ll just go bek to village blo mi, Sydney, and just malolo. Mi no klia what I’m going to do, maybe write a book about PNG, or enter into politics for Moresby South in 2012,” Gridneff says with a laugh.”

Gridneff’s last words: “PNG, you deserve much, much more, and taim blo yu to question ol lida bilong yu, because you’ve got all the talent, resources, cash flow and ability but are being let down by all the conmen who call themselves leaders and bikman.”

Source: Malum Nalu


Keith Jackson writes:  I thank Ilya for his regular reports published in PNG Attitude and for his comradeship. Over the last couple of years we’ve shared a lot of information and, during his visits to Sydney, a quiet and reflective drink or two.

Ilya has always shown a good journalist’s commitment to and respect of his subject – in this case a nation and its people – while never shying away from the hard reporting. He is also a photographer of rare ability.

In his time in PNG he was threatened by the guilty, shunned by diplomats and fought a constant battle with his AAP superiors in Sydney to get a better run for PNG stories.

It seems hard to believe that PNG has heard the last of Ilya. But AAP probably has. One of the news organisations final messages to him sought the return of $61.32 because of “0.7631 days (of leave) which needs to be recovered”.

When you think of the hundreds of unpaid hours that journalists like Ilya put into their job each year, not to mention the dangers and discomforts they face, this final act of bureaucracy seemed unnecessarily ungenerous and insensitive.

I can't believe that AAP let him go. He should be up there on the shiny bum floor helping run the show. Be prepared to see this talented young journalist go places.

What is needed to be different in 2012


ELECTORALLY, WHAT will make a difference in PNG in 2012? To produce a different result, you have to change the equation.

If the same circumstances exist in 2012 as at the last general election, why should we expect a different result?

After the last election, the government jet was used to fly successful candidates to a meeting with the PM to where he used his resources to convince them to support his government.

Will there be any change in this situation? Sorry, unlikely.

Are the voters now more informed about their candidates? Many voters claim they see their elected leaders only just before an election and then to hand out incentives to vote for them.

Has there been any successful initiative to inform voters of their rights and responsibilities? No, so what will change?

During the life of the current parliament, the opportunities for members to pursue the rights of the people they represent have been dismissed three times in an unconstitutional manner by the current government.

The Speaker is and has been biased and in collusion with the current government. Any change to this situation? Nope!

Has any significant legal action either been undertaken by responsible authorities or if started, carried through to charge and convict any political figure except the PM who has just been given a ludicrous penalty by overseas and not PNG judges?

Legal irrelevancies have been used to stall or obfuscate any official legal proceedings and public funds used to pay for the legal advisors. Any change to this situation? Not that one can see.

Has the PNG Opposition been able or competent to keep the government honest and accountable? Sorry, no contest.

So can anyone expect any change (tanim) in 2012? No way. Las momo kani. Nogat tru. Arita yamboma. Meyegayeh. Nyet. Nada. Etc, etc.

Science: making a buck in the Bismarck Sea

THE DUMPING OF MINE tailings waste into the shallow coastal marine environment is currently before the National Court of PNG, in a case that will have far-reaching implications. A decision is due as soon as this week.

At stake are the pristine waters of the Bismarck Sea and the livelihoods of thousands of coastal inhabitants on one hand, and the future of mine waste disposal on the other: a number of other mine operators are reportedly waiting on the result before announcing their own plans for waste disposal.

The newly-constructed Chinese nickel cobalt mine, coastal treatment facility, and submarine waste pipeline are fully constructed. The only thing standing in the way of operation is a temporary injunction, brought on behalf of 1,081 local landowners, who fear that the proposed dumping threatens their livelihoods.

They seek a permanent injunction against dumping, which would require the mining company to use some form of on-land waste disposal. Specifically, they fear that the pipe will leak waste into the local reef lagoon; that upwelling will carry a suspended fraction back up into the upper mixed layer and thence into the lagoon; or that the local fishery will be impacted by the discharges.

The PNG Department of Environment and Conservation, by its own admission, is short on capacity to either critically review environmental plans or to monitor the environmental performance of the mining industry.

Indeed the department has been treated somewhat as a ‘rubber-stamping’ agency by the small number of environmental consulting firms that monopolise the sector.

Despite warnings as far back as 1999 from the Department of Fisheries and the Department of Mining about the problems relating to adverse currents and the toxicity of tailings, and despite several peer reviews and external assessments calling for substantial modifications and new data (mostly unheeded), the project remains essentially unchanged from that proposed a decade ago.

In a rather sad indictment of the parliamentary government response, the Environmental Act of Papua New Guinea was then revised implicitly to facilitate the dumping.

The case took a dramatic twist when Dr Tracy Shimmield, of the Scottish Academy of Marine Sciences (SAMS), took the stand on behalf of the mine owners, to testify that the best way to test for upwelling would be to start dumping as soon as instruments could be placed in the field to observe the effect.

This, she suggested, would proceed for some months, after which instruments would be retrieved and upwelling and tailings dispersion assessed. It emerged that SAMS itself had been contracted to perform the fieldwork and analysis.

Dr Shimmield revealed under cross-examination that SAMS will also be paid by the World Bank to produce a set of guidelines to assist governments in setting conditions for marine dumping of mine waste.

The situation as it currently stands is that a state-funded European institution (SAMS) is being paid by a foreign mining company and/or a foreign national government agency to not just monitor but to actively advocate in Court marine pollution on a massive scale, a practice which almost certainly would not be tolerated in their home country, while at the same time being paid by the World Bank to produce guidelines to govern when and how the dumping should be done – guidelines which (if followed) would have disallowed the particular mine outfall they hope to monitor.

While scientific institutions increasingly have to chase the dollar to survive, as scientists we have to be able to say no when profitable consultancies become ethically questionable, or when our actions in faraway places can leave a poisonous legacy for generations to come.

Source: Drawn from a report by John Luick, Gregg Brunskill, Gavin Mudd, Amanda Reichelt-Brushett and Philip Shearman. The authors were asked by landowners to provide unpaid expert witness testimony in their case to get a permanent injunction against the shallow marine dumping at Astrolabe Bay

Best breasts depend on where you live


WHEN A GROUP of scientists got together to research the theory that men’s choice of a mate may have influenced the evolution of women’s breast morphology, there was probably no shortage of volunteers.

Six scientists from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand conduct a questionnaire [based on images] to find out the preferences of men from PNG, Samoa and New Zealand for images of women’s breast size, breast symmetry, and areola size and pigmentation.

The results showed that men from PNG prefer larger breasts to a greater extent than men from Samoa and NZ.

Symmetrical breasts were most attractive to men in each culture. However, preferences were highest among NZ men, followed by men from Samoa and were lowest among men from PNG.

Large areolae were preferred among men from PNG, and to a lesser extent Samoa, while NZ men preferred medium-sized areolae. Thus, men’s preferences for women’s areolar size appear to be highly culturally specific.

Darkly pigmented areolae were most attractive to men from Samoa and PNG, whereas men from NZ preferred areolae with medium pigmentation.

From this titillating study, it’s possible to conclude that there are clear cultural differences in men’s appreciation of what makes the perfect breast.

Source: ‘Men’s Preferences for Women’s Breast Morphology in New Zealand, Samoa, and Papua New Guinea’ by B J Dixson, P L Vasey, K Sagata, N Sibanda, W L Linklater and A F Dixson, School of Biological Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand, Archives of Sexual Behavior, September 2010

Flannery: Big ideas from the jungles of PNG

Here-on-Earth AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALIST Aldo Leopold wrote that to understand ecology is to "live alone in a world of wounds", since "much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen".

In his new book, the Australian scientist Tim Flannery uses Leopold's words to express the agonising sense of being aware of a terrible threat while all around are blithely unconcerned. His ambition in this sweeping survey of the planet's damaged past and its endangered future is to make every one of us see those wounds in all their grim detail. It is an educational project worthy of Flannery's great talents.

Flannery is a wonderful writer, an original scientist, and a gifted populariser. He emerged fully formed, as it were, from the jungles of New Guinea, where he did major research as a biologist some 25 years ago. An extraordinary adventurer cum intellectual, he was to radically transform Australia's understanding of itself and its history.

He did this by situating that history in geological time, showing how the continent was formed, how it was reshaped by man – first aboriginal man, then white man – and how its life systems, none too secure to begin with, had been impoverished and made more fragile by human intervention.

His discovery of new species, some alive in the mountains of Papua New Guinea, some long extinct, available but unrecognised in the paleontological record, was like something from the annals of 19th-century exploration, and his account of the role of fire in Australian history was one of those ideas which illuminate and enliven debate even as it is questioned.

The political impact of Flannery's work was great, since his view of the Australian past undermined the proponents of "Big Australia", who imagined for the country an American future of more great cities, widespread agriculture, intensive industrialisation and a burgeoning population.

That future had always been illusory, but the possibilities to which people could look forward, in Australia as elsewhere, were shrinking even as he wrote. The title of his book on Australia, The Future Eaters, told the story in three words.

Tim Flannery Although Flannery was not the first by any means to question the mistaken vision of "Big Australia", he undoubtedly drove one of the final nails into its coffin. Nobody, after reading Flannery, could retain it. There was not, and could never be, enough water. There was not, and never would be, enough energy. There were not, and never could be, enough nutrients in the soil. The continent's deterioration could be checked, by good management, but it could not be made into something other than it was.

Australia, he announced to a still incredulous Australian public, had probably reached its carrying capacity at around 20 million people, and might already have exceeded it. Flannery went to the United States, where he offered a parallel, if not so dramatically striking, interpretation of the American ecology.

Read the full review here

Source: Review by Martin Woollacott, The Guardian, 26 March 2011 - ‘Here on Earth: A New Beginning’by Tim Flannery

Landowners threaten to shut water supply

THE OWNERS OF the land that includes Kavieng Airport are now threatening to shut off the town’s water supply if the government doesn’t pay compensation for acquiring the land.

Landowners from Omo forced the closure of the airport last week and are refusing to allow it to reopen until they are paid for the use of the land.

Principal landowner, Epel Tito, says the government has not paid anything since it acquired the airport in 1991 and says further action will be taken if there’s no response within a month.

“I’m going to close down the water supply because it’s on my land, my people’s land. I’m standing up for my people’s rights here. I’m standing for justice. It’s not a question of money. Money is secondary.”

Epel Tito says as part of a separate land issue, he claims the government owes landowners more than $1.7 million for the acquisition of 440 hectares of land more than 20 years ago.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Kumul marine terminal contract awarded

ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION company Clough has announced its 50-50 joint venture with AMEC has been awarded a contract valued at approximately $25 million to provide construction management services for the rejuvenation of Oil Search’s Kumul Marine Terminal.

The terminal is located approximately 40 km off the south coast of PNG and exports crude oil through tanker offloading facilities.

The scope of work includes construction management, pre-mobilisation preparation and project materials staging prior to offshore implementation.

Onshore preparation has commenced and will run until the end of 2011. The offshore work will last approximately four months with project completion planned for April 2012.

“We are delighted to be selected by Oil Search to assist with this important rejuvenation project,” Clough CEO John Smith said.

“The award recognises the investment we have made in strengthening the management team and project delivery systems in the business. We will work diligently with AMEC to deliver safe and successful project outcomes for Oil Search.”

AMEC’s director for Australia and South East Asia, Steve Ciccone said the venture looked forward to working alongside Oil Search to further develop an important asset.

Extending the life of the Kumul Marine Terminal is an important requirement for the LNG project, in which Oil Search has a 29% stake. The project will produce additional associated liquids which will be exported through the terminal.

Dadae: Partnerships needed for new threats


AT A FORUM in Jakarta government representatives from around the world have called for military transparency to maintain peace and stability in the face of increasingly diverse sources of threats.

One of the speakers, PNG Defence Minister, Bob Dadae, said partnerships with bordering countries was a solution to preventing trans-boundary crime.

He also said governments need to look first at internal threats - such as conflicts between faiths, communities, cultures and customs - to find solutions at the international level.

“Threats should be managed personally, internally, across borders and globally. We can do research to identify what we can do together to bring peace to the world,” he said.

Timor Leste Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, said he believed exchanging intelligence data and information was one way to maintain security and stability.

“Let’s collaborate in the effective exchange of data and information. There must be honesty when exchanging information to prevent vulnerability. There is the need for transparency and accountability to make change,” said Gusmao.

But Bangladeshi adviser to the prime minister on defense affairs, Tariq Ahmed Siddique, said, “Mutual mistrust and suspicion among states results in reluctance to share information.”

Source: The Jakarta Post

TI’s each way bet on Somare suspension

THE CHAIR OF Transparency International PNG, Lawrence Stevens, says the suspension of Sir Michael Somare on misconduct charges shows the law has taken its course.

Mr Stevens said that while there were many legal delays before the case was referred, it’s pleasing there has been a result.

“It is very sad that the prime minister of PNG has received a sentence like this.

“There will be many people who say that it’s insufficient and there will be others who feel he’s been treated in an undignified manner.

“But overall most people are pleased to see that the law has been applied and that leaders are reminded that they do have responsibilities.”

Lawrence Stevens says the tribunal does not seem to have established whether the Prime Minister’s failure to file returns was deliberate or an inadvertent mistake.

The chairman of the Leadership Tribunal, judge Roger Gyles, is also chairman of Transparency International in Australia.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Home at last – air crew buried at Arlington


Arlington air crew 
20 NOVEMBER 1943 - the Army Air Forces B-24D Liberator bomber with a crew of 11 is on a night radar mission over the northern coast of New Guinea. It is under instructions to establish radio contact every hour.

Staff Sergeant Roy Surabian, 24, is the radio operator. The only radio check came at 2145 hours, less than an hour after takeoff from Jackson Field in Port Moresby.

The plane never returned. The crew was declared missing in action. They were among thousands of American servicemen lost in the South Pacific during World War II.

But the Pentagon announced last month that the crew’s recovered remains will be laid to rest, 68 years after they were lost in the PNG jungle.

A group burial will was held late last week at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. “It’s long overdue, you might say,’’ said Charles Surabian, 83, Roy’s younger brother and only surviving sibling.

Seven of the 11 crew members were positively identified. Surabian was among the four whose individual remains could not be verified. Some bone fragments found were too small to yield DNA results.

The search had begun as soon as the plane disappeared over high mountainous terrain. After a year, when no wreckage or human remains were found, the government declared the crew dead.

But in 1984, government officials in PNG notified the US Army that they had discovered a World War II crash site. Airplane wreckage and human bones were found in a ravine deep in the jungle, southwest of Lae.

A team of Army scientists from Hawaii was dispatched to investigate. The team recovered plane wreckage and some human remains, but was unable to complete the mission due to threat of landslides.

Nor could the team determine what caused the plane to crash, but it was not likely caused by enemy fire.

Roy Surabian wrote home often. One letter, dated 25 October 1943, began: “Hello everybody. Just a note to let you know that I am well and living an exciting life ... the time is going fast for our crew.’’

He asked his family to send razor blades “sometime in the next two years,’’ and told them that he was safe. “If you are reading up on the war news ... don’t worry, as everything is under control,’’ he wrote. “See you later, Roy.’’

Less than one month later, a telegram arrived at his father’s grocery store, stating that he was missing in action.

“I was just a kid when the news came,’’ Charles said, his voice breaking. “I didn’t know what to think. My mother, she couldn’t speak English that well. It took her some time to understand ... To tell you the truth, I’m not sure she ever really did understand.’’

Photo: Army Staff Sergeant Roy Surabian (left rear) and the crew of the Liberator

Source: The Boston Globe, US

Defence not good at handling change


A DEFENCE ORGANISATION without a built-in means of managing rapid change is without the means of its own preservation.

Experience over the years has revealed that the PNG defense organisation is not good at adeptly handling change.

Whilst the PNG Defence Force has come a long way since independence, major events in recent times have placed the professionalism of the force into doubt.

Serious cracks have shown in terms of way Defence does its business and the way it handles its people.

The pulse of endeavour in our country’s military is wavering as we face an undeniably serious personnel wastage problem.

Defence is confronted with the problem of revamping the whole organisation.

The truth is that the declining level of experience continues because good people do not feel strongly committed to this once proud and professional state security agency.

Unless Defense streamlines its processes to reduce frustration, people will continue to leave the services.

The PNGDF is becoming uncompetitive because it is not placing its people in an environment where they feel like winners.

Many service personnel perceive that the PNGDF is misunderstood by an uninterested public and increasingly cowed by a government which fails to recognise the uniqueness of the military and make allowance for it.

The first priority must be to reshape and refocus the whole defence structure and processes to better serve the aspirations of the kind of people it needs in future.

Defence needs a professional team of men and women – a highly educated, trained, motivated elite force endowed with social prestige.

PNG’s forests being destroyed: expert group


SOME OF THE world’s most intact rainforest are being threatened by exploitative logging which is not benefitting the people of PNG but “ending up in the hands of foreign corporations and political elites”.

This month 26 experts met in Cairns and issued a statement calling on the PNG government to stop granting Special Agricultural and Business Leases.

According to the group, these leases, or SABLs as they are known, circumvent PNG’s strong community land rights laws and imperil some of the world's most intact rainforests. Over 5 million hectares of forests have been leased under SABLs.

"PNG is among the most biologically and culturally diverse nations on Earth. Its remarkable diversity of cultural groups rely intimately on their traditional lands and forests in order to meet their needs for farming plots, forest goods, wild game, traditional and religious sites, and many other goods and services," reads the statement, dubbed the Cairns Declaration.

Daniel Ase, executive director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights said the leases represented "massive land grabbing basically for large scale industrial logging" adding that "most of these areas are located in areas of high biodiversity in the country."

The SABLs undercut indigenous communities by handing land over to largely foreign and multinational big corporations for leases that last 99 years, severing indigenous people from their land for generations. Local communities have often not consented to the deals and in some cases weren't even notified.

"Virtually all of Papua New Guinea is owned by one communal group or another,” explained William Laurance, a leading conservation biologist. “At least in theory these groups have to approve any development on their land. This is one of the key reasons for the SABLs—it’s a way for the government to carve off large chunks of land for major logging and other developments, and to greatly diminish the role of local communities."

According to Laurance, the revenue made from these deals is not aiding poverty alleviation efforts, instead the profits are "mostly ending up in the hands of foreign corporations and political elites in PNG."

Unlike Southeast Asia, PNG had long been thought to have avoided massive deforestation, thereby retaining one of the last great rainforests outside of the Congo and the Amazon. However, a 2009 study found that from 1972-2002, nearly a quarter of the country's forests were lost or degraded by logging.

The Cairns Declaration urges the PNG government to place a moratorium on granting new SABLs and handing out approvals to clear forests. An independent review should then be conducted on the legality of the leases.

Laurance says people can "write to Papua New Guinea's National Executive Council ([email protected]), which includes the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, and express your serious concerns about the rampant increase in SABLs and their social and environmental costs. You could also send a brief letter to the editor of the Post-Courier Newspaper ([email protected])," adding that "these things unquestionably help."

Source:  With a million visitors a month, is one of the world's most popular environmental science and conservation news sites

Reps committee reports on PNG health

THE AUSTRALIAN House of Representatives health committee has tabled its report into regional health issues affecting Australia and the South Pacific.

The report details the committee’s inquiry activities and delegation visits to PNG and the Solomon Islands to discuss cross-border health issues.

“This important report refers to a variety of health challenges that we face in the region and the ways in which we as close neighbours can continue to support each other to find solutions,” said committee chair, Steve Georganas MP.

The report contains seven recommendations which focus on strengthening Australia’s health partnership with PNG.

Recommendation 6 – That the Australian government encourage and support further institutional partnerships and/or reciprocal exchanges between the School of Medical and Health Sciences at the University of PNG and Australian universities.

Recommendation 7 – That the Australian government make efforts to link Igat Hope with counterpart organisations in Australia to strengthen their advocacy potential.

Recommendation 8 – That the Australian government consider establishing a contact point within DFAT or AusAID to provide community organisations in Australia with basic information on the suitability of their intended donations to countries in our region.

Recommendation 9 – That the Australian government support additional health communications officer positions in the Torres Strait and treaty villages of the Western Province of Papua New Guinea.

Recommendation 10 – That the Australian government install additional rainwater tanks in treaty villages in the Western Province.

Recommendation 11 – That any new health facility that the Australian government helps construct should provide for staff accommodation and ongoing maintenance, in consultation and partnership with the local community.

Recommendation 12 – That the Australian government, in conjunction with the PNG government, facilitate more creative and inclusive forums in which locals on both sides of the treaty zone border can engage on health and other treaty related issues with each other and with government officials of both nations.

You can read the entire report by linking here

Spotter: Trevor Freestone

Kokoda Track Foundation expands presence


WE WERE DEEPLY disappointed at recent ill-informed remarks made by ‘Disappointed Track Dweller’ in the Post-Courier about the use of the Kokoda Track Foundation’s funds and our decision to expand our programs to benefit the wider PNG community.

We normally don’t respond to people who do not give their name with their comments but these anonymous claims are so misguided we must set the record straight.

First, the writer has confused the Kokoda Track Foundation with the Kokoda Track Authority.

The Kokoda Track Foundation is an Australian-based not-for-profit organisation that has been helping communities along the Kokoda Track since 2003. All funding for our projects comes from donations raised entirely from the Australian public: individuals, corporations, trek operators, and philanthropists who all want to lend a hand to our nearest neighbour. We don’t receive any funds from trekking fees.

On the other hand, the Kokoda Track Authority is a PNG local government Special Purpose Authority, charged with administering trekking operations along the Track. Its funding comes from fees paid by trekkers.

Second, the writer has failed to do his homework.

This year our Foundation will have 300 students on scholarships, all of whom come from families from the Kokoda Track catchment area. We award these primary, secondary and tertiary scholarships on the basis of the following strict selection criteria: (1) academic merit; (2) gender equality; (3) family need; and (4) residence in the Koiari/Orokaiva catchment area.

The Foundation also supports 35 elementary, primary, and secondary schools with textbooks, library books and stationary. We are currently delivering classroom furniture to many of these schools, as well as hospital beds to aid posts, health centres and hospitals. We fund teacher and health worker training, provide medicines to aid posts and hospitals and we underwrote the Northern Province Seed Restoration Program in response to Cyclone Guba. All of these schools and activities are in the Kokoda catchment area.

Late last year our Foundation won a grant from The Trust Company, a leading Australian trustee company administering the estate of the late Fred P. Archer, that allowed us to establish the Archer Leadership Scholars Program, our first program available to students throughout PNG.

Under the scholarships, each year six outstanding students in their final year of tertiary studies will receive a year-long program of intensive leadership and mentoring activities in PNG and Australia. The program aims to develop leadership skills and abilities through mentoring, community development placements, work experience, tuition and boarding support, resource support, and an exchange program to Australia.

Fred Archer was an Australian who spent 54 years in PNG, a planter, businessman, WWII Coast Watcher and philanthropist. It was his dream to help PNG find its next generation of leaders. Our Foundation has always shared this goal.

As our Foundation grows, we look to expand our programs throughout the Track catchment area and to other needy communities across the country so we can make real differences in the lives of Papua New Guineans.

Patrick Lindsay is Chairman of the Kokoda Track Foundation

The Kokoda Track Foundation welcomes enquiries about any of its programs in education, health, community development, and microbusiness in PNG. Please contact the Foundation’s executive director, Dr Genevieve Nelson on +61 2 9252 2992 or [email protected]

Panguna reopening no foregone conclusion


Expect PNG’s name to become more prominent in Western circles, due to the possibility that the long-shuttered Panguna copper mine on Bougainville may finally be reopening.

One of the richest mines in the world in terms of reserves, Panguna closed 22 years ago, amidst a violent conflict between a Bougainville liberation movement and the PNG government.

Now the conflict has simmered down, and key power players on the island seem willing to make peace in exchange for a cut of the mine’s future revenues. Both the US and China are keenly interested in this development as they battle each other to be first in line for the world’s mineral wealth.

But Panguna’s reopening is no foregone conclusion, as there are remnants of Bougainville’s insurgency who are unlikely to get on board with whatever plan emerges.

Musinkgu_Noah Chief among these is Noah Musingku [pictured], who calls himself King David Peii II and claims to rule a royal kingdom on Bougainville.

Though commonly dismissed as a con artist, Musingku strikes me as something more irrational—a man who, though certainly interested in bilking investors out of money, earnestly believes he can reinvent Bougainville as some sort of utopia.

Exhibit A in this lunacy is his ongoing effort to get Bougainville to ditch the Grigorian calendar in favor of one of his own design.

Brendan Koerner is a journalist based in New York. He’s currently a contributing editor for Wired. He is the author of Now the Hell Will Start, the story of an American soldier who went native in the Indo-Burmese jungle


Doctors threaten to strike over pay

THE LARGEST doctors' union in PNG is threatening to go on strike over a pay dispute.

The president of the National Doctors Association, Dr Kauve Pomat, has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program that last minute efforts to resolve the dispute have failed because the country's MPs were too busy with the recent Leadership Tribunal.

"Every minister and every parliamentarian and every bureaucrat has been all at the national courthouse, so we weren't able to get in touch with anyone, and if no one comes around to us today, we will obviously go on strike," Mr Pomat said.

Mr Pomat says members are set to walk off the job because a Memorandum of Agreement on their salaries dating back to 2009 hasn't been implemented.

The memorandum provides for better pay and more flexibility in doctors' benefits.

"The bottom line, which have always placed forward, is that the negotiations that have been going on over the last three years be honoured and that the award be signed, and that funds be made available to implement the award.

"Those are the basic demands."

Source: Australia Network News

Port Moresby wired for change


PNG’S FOUNDING FATHER and Prime Minister Michael Somare, aged 75 next month, was found guilty last Monday of 13 charges of misconduct and on Thursday was suspended from office for 14 days.

Until recently, this would have caused a sensation that would have virtually stopped the nation.

That it hasn't demonstrates how rapidly PNG has changed. It is awash with cash, and corruption. It is wired everywhere, mobiles hanging off every ear, in a way unthinkable under the old government telecommunications corporation. And it is heading to overtake Australia's population this century.

The leadership tribunal, chaired by Australian judge Roger Gyles, found Somare guilty of filing incomplete or late returns on his assets and business dealings to the Ombudsman Commission annually as required.

It is Somare's skills as a leader and a player for 42 years in the PNG political game, which is at once ornate and brutal, that have held together his ruling coalition for almost 10 years.

Click through to Rowan Callick’s full article in today’s Australian

Gimme, gimme, gimme; or stay at home


I HAVE A NUMBER of relatives, mostly on the other half’s side, who think that money makes the world go round.  One sister-in-law thinks it is impossible to live without the stuff and I can’t convince her otherwise.

I suppose in her narrow and insulated little north shore world that might be the case.  However, if you’ve lived in a place like Papua New Guinea you know that people can happily subsist without money.

This week I heard an expert from James Cook University say that someone on the minimum wage in Australia is still reckoned to be in the top 5% of the world’s salary range.  Makes you wonder how the other 95% get by.

I’ll admit that money is a useful medium of exchange.  Among other things it obviates the need to haul around heavy loads of items to trade.

But, like other religions, some appalling things have been done while worshipping it.  When you subvert that convenient means of exchange with greed and avarice, things tend to get nasty.  I believe the phenomenon is called Capitalism.

What Capitalism tends to do is aggregate societies into towns and cities where there is no space to plant the food you need to survive.  In those situations, greedy money comes into its own.  When it struts its stuff, it puts on a dazzling and alluring display and makes people want things they never knew they needed.

I’m being wildly simplistic you might say.  A tad Hobbesian with a touch of Rousseau. Typical baby boomer hippy type. That aside, however, I think the creation of the ever expanding squatter settlements in places like Port Moresby owe a lot to the theory.

Just consider: you live in a village in a comfortable bush material house.  You have a plot of land where you can grow all you need to eat.  The nearby forest with its meandering rivers supplies you with the occasional piece of meat or fish.

If you need to repair or rebuild your house the bush supplies the materials for that too.  If you get sick, you’ve got a closely knit extended family to help you. 

Why on earth would you go to live in a place like Port Moresby?  Because you’re young and bored perhaps?

The answer of course is greed.  And once you get there it becomes such an affliction that you can’t leave.  You see great bloated politicians and businessmen in their flash cars with the grease from chewing up their fellow man dribbling down their chins and you think, I want to be like that!

Stay in your village.  Life is much sweeter there.  You might not have a satellite TV or even a decent school or hospital but the alternative in the town or city is not worth it.

But you’re not listening are you?  You don’t have access to the internet.  You probably don’t even have electricity.

Mood of hopelessness descends on PNG


A FEELING of such hopelessness has taken over PNG since the limp decision of the Leadership Tribunal to punish Sir Michael Somare to a lashing with a wet tissue.

The prime minister has once again out-foxed everyone and is shamelessly gloating in the face of the nation.

By staving off the appointment of a Leadership Tribunal he bought the time necessary to weaken the Office of the Public Prosecutor, the Ombudsmen, the Attorney-General and the Judiciary.

Democracy and justice have yet again been dealt a severe blow in the land of the unexpected; and the people will continue to suffer, die and be denied their constitutional and human rights.

If Australia was genuinely concerned, it could at least provide the freedom fighters with the vast information their intelligence agencies have on the true state of Somare’s financial position.

I applaud the stance the dissenting judge took throughout the proceedings.

Strange that it was the Englishman and not the Aussie or the New Zealander.

The people of PNG now feel bereft of hope.

Yesterday we dreamed


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

It was not so long ago
less even than a lifetime or so
when our nation was so young
and our history had just begun

Then, they stood them all
Forefathers tall
and blessed us
with an anthem song.

We forward went, hither sent
each tribe and clan
in this proud Melanesian land
Every son and daughter born

United we did stand
with transient shackles shorn
as a new day did dawn

Did then we dare to dream
and transcend as one
Have our ancestors been told
how far we have come

What do we tell of
what praise, what glory
that children will hear
as pleasant bedtime stories

Our Guardians now indulge
in self-serving histrionics
while idle sons
and beleaguered daughters
survive on informal economics.

Where now, the integrity of Chiefs
that they may bless us truly
where too, the vigor of youth
that will ensure a victory

How now our mothers and children
bear the brunt of brutality
when we fail to act rightly.

What future lies in our hands
Who will fulfill this people’s destiny

O arise all ye sons of this land
Let us sing of our joy to be free…
Only yesterday we dreamed
Let us sleep no more.

Big kina hole in evidence to Tribunal


WHILE MANY PEOPLE are angry and frustrated at the slap on the wrist given to Michael Somare after he was found guilty on 13 charges of misconduct in office, the media and other commentators seem blind to the glaring hole in the PM's evidence to the Leadership Tribunal.

On Monday 14 March, Somare gave sworn evidence that he had never had any salary other than his parliamentary salary ever since he entered parliament in 1968. The PM also maintained he never received any income from his only business, a plantation he owns in Wewak.

“I have been living on a parliamentary salary from 1968 up until today; I do not have any other extra salary for any other businesses except for transport and travel allowances which are parliamentary benefits.”

If this is true, and the Prime Minister's only income is his Parliamentary salary, then how has he been able to fund a three year legal battle to avoid the Leadership Tribunal and how has he paid for his large and expensive legal team over the last two weeks?

The Prime Ministers base salary was increased last November by 52% to K262,762; it was previously K172, 770.

For the last two weeks the Prime Minister has been represented by an impressive legal team comprising Kerenga Kua, Justin Wohuinangu and Brisbane-based lawyer Ian Molloy.

Estimated cost, around K40,000 a day - a minimum K400,000 for the two weeks of the Tribunal's deliberations.

But the Leadership Tribunal has been only the culmination of a three-year legal battle between the Prime Minister and the Ombudsman Commission.

Since the Ombudsman Commission referred Michael Somare to the Public Prosecutor in 2008, there have been at least three protracted court challenges mounted by the Prime Minister, one in the National Court and two in the Supreme Court.

Each piece of litigation would have cost Michael Somare upwards of K100,000 in legal fees and disbursements.

How has a man who until last November was living on a gross salary of K172,000 been able to afford something over K700,000 in legal costs?

While we wait for Michael Somare to answer this question, we can also wonder about the competency of the Ombudsman Commission and Public Prosecutor who patently failed to put this question to the PM when they had him under oath in the witness box.

Verdict devalues code says Opposition

THE PNG OPPOSITION says the two-week suspension given to Prime Minister Michael Somare sets a precedent for other leaders of the country to hide their incomes.

A Leadership Tribunal gave a minor sentence to Sir Michael Somare after finding him guilty of 13 charges of misconduct relating to his failure to lodge financial returns from as far back as 20 years ago.

Deputy Opposition leader Bart Philemon says furnishing returns ensures the transparency and accountability of leaders, and the punishment for failing to do so should have been more severe.

“Two week slap in the wrist opens the door for any other leaders, ministers and leaders that come under the leadership code, will use this opportunity now to you know, I mean the leadership code now means really nothing any more.”

Bart Philemon says the Prime Minister must be squeaky clean as he is the leader of other leaders.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Bermuda should fear PNG, says Bichel


Barramundis PNG IS THROWING everything at next month’s World Cricket League Division 2 tournament in Dubai.

In the past 12 months the PNG Cricket Board contracted 22 players, installed turf wickets and artificial practice facilities, and sent most of their national squad to Australia to play club cricket - all part of a bid to break into the world top 20.

The Hebou Barramundis reached their first target when they qualified from the Division 3 tournament in Hong Kong in January.

Andy Bichel, PNG director of cricket, is targetting a top two finish in Dubai and said Bermuda should fear his side when the two teams meet on the opening day 8 April.

“The draw is kind to us in that we play some teams who we believe are very similar to us in the first few rounds,” said Bichel, “and this, combined with the serious preparation that the team have had should mean a good start to the event.

“The team is fast becoming a team to fear, I have high expectations and so do the players.” The team, according to Bichel, will be ready to go from the first ball, and, the former Australian fast bowler believes his side’s hard work is about to pay off.

As part of the contracts, which were put in place last November, the squad committed to training five days a week, as well as undergoing a rigorous strength and conditioning program.

“We are looking forward to Dubai, hopefully all the work as a group that we have done over the last 12 months repays us,” said Bichel. “Cricket PNG has come a long way in a short space of time, and all the players that are involved with us are improving.”

As well as the step-up in training, the PNG team have been exposed to a large amount of international cricket recently, as well as a large proportion of the squad plying their trade with club sides in Australia.

All that has made the team much better than it might otherwise have been, according to Bichel, as well as creating a healthily competitive atmosphere within the squad.

“Our national team have played more cricket than they have played normally in last 12 months,” said the PNG coach. “This has been good for our players to develop their games as individuals, and really work as a group to develop those partnerships and understanding of each other’s game.

“Most of our team have been on scholarship in Australia playing club cricket week in week out. For me this has really helped all our players with their games and personal development off field, which is such an important part for us at an important tournament like this.

“All the players have earned their spot through performances at club and international level which creates a healthy environment. PNG are ready for this tournament. It will be a big step up as a nation, (but) we have the players, it’s now just about consistent performances.”

PNG will begin their preparations for next month’s tournament with a five-day camp in Singapore. They will play the hosts twice in two 50 over matches, before flying to Dubai.

“Singapore has fantastic first class facilities and geographically allows the trip to Dubai to be broken up into shorter flights which have less impact on the players and keep them fresh,” said Bichel.

“The Hebou Barramundi’s will be using the five days in Singapore to complete preparations for our biggest ever challenge,” said Bichel.

Photo: PNG batsman Jack Vare cuts the ball away for four on his way to making 48 against Hong Kong in the Division 3 tournament in January

Source: Bermuda Royal Gazette

Cowboys' Segeyaro set to add some spark

Segeyaro_James JAMES SEGEYARO [pictured] will become only the third PNG player to represent the North Queensland Cowboys in a National Rugby League match when he makes his debut against the Melbourne Storm on Monday night.

The 20-year-old hooker was named on the interchange bench by coach Neil Henry, in place of Ben Jones.

A former Cairns junior, but born in Goroka, Segeyaro will join Bruce Mamando, who played two games for the Cowboys in 2000 and 2001, and Graham Appo, who made 15 appearances in 2000, as PNG players who have played an NRL game for North Queensland.

Segeyaro has made his way into the Cowboys’ side earlier than he had originally hoped after undergoing a shoulder reconstruction at the end of last season.

He had finished 2010 as the captain of the Cowboys’ Toyota Cup team which made the finals series, and enhanced his prospects for an NRL call-up by scoring two tries in the Intrust Super Cup last weekend.

“I just think that he’ll add a bit of spark,” coach Neil Henry said of Segeyaro. “He’s extremely happy. He’s been in our system a while and he’s a local boy as well.”


Harmony Gold surges on analysts’ comment


SOUTH AFRICAN GOLD-MINER Harmony Gold may become a takeover target on the back of the outstanding exploration results seen at the Wafi-Golpu deposit in PNG.

Analysts Leon Esterhuizen and Arnold van Graan said the PNG assets could add $2 billion to the value of Harmony, which was some 40% of the current market cap of the company.

Shares in the JSE-listed gold miner surged nearly 12% to R98,40 a share after the RBC takeover comment.

Harmony corporate and investor relations executive Marian van der Walt told Mining Weekly Online the company does not comment on speculation, but added that there was no corporate action that it was aware of.

Esterhuizen and Van Graan stated that another gold major could be looking at a strategy of making a bid for Harmony with the aim of stripping out the PNG assets and relisting the rump as a separate vehicle.

Gold Fields, AngloGold Ashanti and Newcrest were cited as possible buyers.

“In Wafi-Golpu, Harmony is sitting on a ‘get out of jail free’ card and we believe this will be played – one way or another,” the analysts said.

Source: Creamer Media’s Mining Weekly

Vive la difference: foodies in the Simbu


Kundiawa market 
There is an enterprising Frenchman living in Kundiawa who owns a string of businesses and an old plane (now defunct and sitting sat the end of the airport. He rides a horse through ‘cowboy
town’. Quite a character.

He had the foresight to establish a French bakery and coffee shop in town, and this has developed into a chain which has spread throughout PNG. There's one at Jacksons airport. Great coffee and pastries!

I happily discovered the bakery on my last day in Kundiawa during a recent visit.

We planned to have a farewell morning tea before our plane left and I volunteered to walk into town and get some nibbles.

I strolled into the French Bakehouse in the middle of a potentially nasty incident when a local man was accused of stealing a bun (resolved peacefully) and came back home loaded with croissants, baguettes, brioche and French pastries. Quite a find for Kundiawa.

Father-in-law took a croissant, said "Nice bun, but it needs vegemite!" and proceeded to ladle a generous helping of the aforementioned Aussie spread onto the chocolate-chip.

I thought it a fitting statement of the union of cultures that you can come across in the most unlikely places.

Photo: Kundiawa Market (Peter Kranz)

For the first time since its inception in 2006, yesterday's PNG Attitude recorded more than 1,500 page views. In those far off days when this website was in nappies, we used to think 50 was huge. Yesterday’s 1,560 was our fourth 1,000 plus day in a row – and follows last week’s four consecutive days of 1,000 plus.

I want to thank all of you – the readers of and contributors to PNG Attitude – for your commitment to our efforts to cast light on – and to strengthen – the PNG-Australia relationship. By the way, I've just done a quick & dirty count of who's contributing to Attitude.  There are 20 regular contributors, whose words you read and enjoy many times a week - 10 from PNG, 10 from Australia.  Like it!

- Keith Jackson


Lepani whacks wasted Australian aid

CHARLES LEPANI, PNG’s High Commissioner to Australia, has claimed that half of the $450 million aid program to PNG is frittered away instead of delivering lasting benefits.

Delivering remarks that a daily newspaper termed “extraordinary”, Mr Lepani’s comments were echoed by the Opposition, which has called for an urgent investigation into apparent "systemic criminal behaviour" in foreign aid.

The Melbourne Herald Sun revealed yesterday that Australia's $4.5 billion foreign aid program was plagued by fraud with 175 cases being investigated, including 71 in PNG.

AusAID director-general Peter Baxter denied the scheme was riddled with fraud.

But Mr Lepani lashed out at spending on Australian-based contractors and consultants, which he said made up about half the $450 million spent each year in PNG.

"Fifty percent of that has not worked," he said.

"It has not built capacity in PNG and a lot of it has to do with Australian management companies getting a lot of money, but not delivering on what they are supposed to do, in terms of building capacity in Papua New Guinea."

He suggested the lack of lasting reform was a factor in the high level of foreign aid fraud in PNG.

Mr Lepani denied fraud was out of control in his homeland. "No, I wouldn't say that," he said.

Much of the problem lay with Australian companies, which were paid handsomely to manage projects, he said.

"Some who are hired - they don't even produce reports."

Source: ‘PNG lashes our foreign aid waste’ by Steve Lewis, Melbourne Herald-Sun, 25 March 2011

The ugly side of morality: exploitation


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

Why did God raise a nation
Out of Abraham
A proven adulterer

Why did God name his nation
After Jacob
A proven adulterer

Why did God reveal himself
Through the line of David
A proven adulterer

Why did God spread his word
Through Mary Magdalene
A proven prostitute

He saw their hearts
He saw their intentions
And they cared for the masses

So my PNG
Don’t be fooled again
For 2012 is nigh

See their hearts and
See their intentions
Do they care for the masses