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PNG: the land of the disenfranchised

Namorong_Martyn1 BY MARTYN NAMORONG

“There’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed” - Gandhi

THIS NATION OF Papua New Guinea is the land of the disenfranchised.

Father John Glynn OL recently touched a raw nerve in Dame Carol Kidu with a comment regarding the plight of Goilalas and Taris in Port Moresby.

Father John said these people are refugees of circumstance - forced to leave their isolated rural communities in search of government services.

Dame Carol, on the other hand, argues that the plight of the Motu-Koitabuans should not be taken lightly. They are the traditional landowners of Port Moresby whom, she argues, have been marginalised due to urbanisation.

The plight of the Motu-Koitabuans should be a warning to all traditional landowners not to lease their land to the State. The State and its greedy agents have on various occasions proven to fall short their fiduciary duty regarding the management of this country’s natural resources.

A recent example is the acquisition of a State lease by Oil Search of a camp in Kutubu. Essentially Oil Search acquired the lease and bought out the camp from its operator – a local camp management company, Kawaso Ltd (owned by the Morosoro people of Kutubu).

According to a newspaper report, Mr Sosoro of Kawaso claimed Oil Search did what it did so that it could lease the camp to Exxon-Mobil for a higher rate. Today Motu-Koitabuans are spectators while foreigners make fat profits off their land. State leases are tools that greedy foreigners use to rip-off locals.

With regards to the Taris and Goilalas it is a simple cause and effect correlation. Vote in greedy politicians; add to that greedy public servants; and you don’t get government services.

Father John has intervened in the Goilala community at Two Mile by providing K20,000 in school fees for their children. He is however wrong in classifying them as refugees. They aren’t internally displaced persons; they are economic migrants. That also refers to the Taris.

Papua New Guineans have seen glowing bits of modernity and many aspire to join the modern economy.

There are, however, a growing group of internally displaced persons. I belong to this group of young Papua New Guineans who have been detached from so-called traditional roots.

We belong to new generic tribes defined by province, suburb, sporting code, school, school cult and settlement. Many of us would not survive in the villages where our parents were brought up.

The only connection we have may be a line in a form stating Village and Home Province or in taking part in an Independence Day provincial singsing group. Our true traditional foods are rice, Ox & Palm, flour and coca cola and our true traditional singsing is PARTYING. Our mother tongue may be English or Pidgin. We are the neotribalists.

The demographic segment of neotribalists continues to grow as more and more marriages are cross-cultural and families live away from their home provinces and villages.

For the neotribalist home is a constantly shifting concept. It flows with the migration of family and, sadly, with the breakup of family. Likewise, relationships are fluid and evolve with every change in circumstance. Our uncles and aunties are the friends of our parents and our tambus are the partners of our friends.

Our tribal fights are ‘school fights’ and our communion services are called testim bros, kisim wara and spinim baket. We have expressions such as when we like-like someone we say sis mi gat laik lo u or bats mi gat laik lo u and if we appreciate something we say ‘original’.

We, the neotribalists, are also called by various names including mangi blo block, mangi blo street, settlement mangi, bro, bats, sis, mums, paps, father, son, etc… Ever heard a kid say em son blo mi when referring to a friend or brother.

The neotribalists are so detached from their ethnic origins that it is not practical to argue for them to ‘go home’ if they are unable to further their studies or get employment. They are insecure and gullible, thus more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation as seen in taped confessions of a high profile criminal.

Neotribalism is the embryonic development of a truly Papua New Guinean national identity.

Neotribalists are more loyal to post-independence institutions, societal structures and a hybrid multicultural identity, than to the tribes of their parents or grandparents. They are creating a new identity of what it means to be Papua New Guinean in the 21st Century.

These may be bold claims given that neotribalism is just as variant as the traditional cultural landscape of PNG. The opposite of a neotribalist is one who is referred to as hanua or ples tingting - usually someone phenotypically, aesthetically and culturally monolithic.

It is these ples tingting economic migrants causing ethnic clashes at Badili, Gordons and elsewhere in PNG.

The identity of many urban dwellers is based on generic tags like Papua, Tari, Highlands, Goilalala, Sepik….  This results in innocent people being caught up in vendetta just because they are profiled according to the generic tag.

A ‘Sepik’ that gets attacked by Bulolo landowners is likely to be more Morobean than a ‘Morobean’ at the Morobe block at Nine Mile in Port Moresby.

The violence at university campuses, at settlements and inter-school fights around the country arise from these neotribalist characteristics of people identifying themselves and their enemies under these generic tags.

This demographic shift poses new questions of identity, and with identity the right to a home village and customary land rights.

The potential for conflict arises when natural resources are commercialised and social mapping is done as landowners try to organise into incorporated land groups.

How do neotribalists who are seen as being detached from customary land by their village relatives, claim legitimacy of their right to the land?

We currently witness frustrations in relation to the LNG project regarding so called ‘paper landowners’ in Port Moresby.

Paper landowners.

You can contact Martyn at martnon@gmail.com and visit his blog at www.medicmangi.blogspot.com

Comments

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Peter Comerford

I read in total disbelief a headline article in Friday’s Post Courier: ”Island sold to foreigners”.

Evidently the island of New Hanover was sold to a Singaporean based company Palma Hacienda Ltd in 2009 for K4 million.

According to the Post Courier the company who sold the island was Tutuman Development Ltd whose directors included a former premier of the province.

The laughable sale will obviously not be legally binding but I am still staggered that this type of audacious, greedy and corrupt act could go unnoticed and unreported for so long.

No doubt we will hear who the ex premier was and what other activities or positions he still holds.

Icarus

Exciting reading. I feel you.

Neolithic or neotribal ... displaced, disenfranchised or of indistinghuisable origin, land owner or landless, what have you.

We are all Papua New Guineans who have ancestors who were born, lived and died in this country.

That much we all have in common. That alone makes us family.

Peter Kranz

Psst - wanna buy part of PNG?

Amazingly, the 'Post-Courier' reports today that someone has sold the whole of Hanover Island!

I suspect this has the same status as the man who sold the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge. You can also buy plots of land on the moon (really!).

"The entire Island of New Hanover in New Ireland Province has been sold to foreigners for $1.6 million (K4 million) in what has been described as the biggest scandal in the country’s short history.

"Documents obtained by Post-Courier clearly give details of the sale, entered between Tutuman Development Ltd (seller) and a Singaporean Company identified as Palma Hacienda Ltd (buyer) in June 2009.

"The documents are the Sale and Purchase Agreement and a Supplementary Agreement entered between the two parties.

"The deal to sell the island by Tutuman Development Limited whose directors include a former premier of the province and the foreign company was done without the consent of any authority from the landowners".

Martyn Namorong

Hi Lydia - Thanks for the vote of confidence. Many of us on the streets just want the world to understand us better.

Unfortunately our voices are drummed out by people who think they know what's best for us

Hi Paul - Thank you for your response. In fact, I do recognize that their are certain medieval traits.

I do however believe that the opportunity to leapfrog into the age of the photon is being delayed by power hungry oligarchs who control government owned monopolies.

Phil Fitzpatrick

What Martyn is talking about stares you in the face whenever you go to Moresby and some of the other larger towns.

Unfortunately what you are looking at doesn't register. His article is the light bulb that pops over your head. Read what he says and it all makes sense. His assessment is very perceptive.

I'm not sure I agree that it is a natural evolution experienced by all developed and developing nations.

There are some very unique PNG flavours here that probably require some unique PNG solutions.

When and where these solutions might come from is still a mystery.

Lydia Kailap

This is precisely why the old gnarly leaders need to give way to the new breed of Papua New Guineans.

Martyn has a greater understanding of life in PNG than any of the pampered "big men" who live in their insulated luxury.

Please read his blog, that Keith linked at the end of this article.

Honestly, the street boys of PNG have far more to offer than the Fat Cats.

Paul Oates

Martyn - The first and most important step along the road to understanding what you describe is to recognise that these circumstances are not new or unique to PNG.

They have been occurring for hundreds and in some cases thousands of years. Urbanisation is a natural process affecting human society once it evolves past a point of has been termed the ‘hunter/gatherer’.

This process has both good and bad points. Were it not for urbanisation, we humans would not have developed our modern way of life with all its advantages and distractions.

A few hundred years ago, the people of Britain went through the same process when their commonly owned lands were expropriated by the ruling class and they found themselves dispossessed.

This led to a mass migration to towns and cities where many people found employment in the new age of industry and manufacturing. The fact that these urban people were then exploited by the new ruling merchant class was virtually only trading an old boss for a new one.

The difference was that, when people lived in the countr,y they could produce their own food. The opportunity to produce one’s own food was not available to those who then became mine workers and mill workers living in city tenement houses.

These people were to be further exploited by those who distributed food and fuel.

Little by little, social networking and education helped what was called ‘the working class’ to organise themselves into politically active organisations. These organisations eventually achieved the rights and privileges in what is today enjoyed by many in the so called developed world.

The term ‘Sunday School’ was originally applied to the school that workers attended after church to gain some education. That was their only opportunity.

The disconnection of PNG people from their expectations at Independence and the reality of today happened because those making decisions thought they could ‘leap frog’ over this natural process of evolving human societies.

The decision-makers in the newly emerging nations who, as members of the United Nations, thought they knew better, pushed for an early PNG Independence.

The decision-makers in Canberra thought they knew better and bowed to the pressures from the UN and a few of the PNG elite.

The very few elite decision makers in PNG thought they knew better and grabbed the power that was thrust at them.

The everyday people of PNG had no say in the matter. I remember because I was there.

That’s now history, but you can learn from it.

Start organising your friends and people you meet to effect a change in the current situation. Change at the top must start somewhere.

Use your knowledge and education to help yourself and your nation. PNG people need to start organising and planning and become part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

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