“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.