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181 posts from April 2011

The horrors, absurdities & rage of war


OnwardsTowardOurNobleDeaths_500 Onward towards our noble deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki. Translated by Jocelyne Allen. Drawn & Quarterly, 372 pp, $24.95

SHIGERU MIZUKI was barely into his 20s when he got drafted by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II and was deployed to Rabaul. There, he lost an arm.

But he survived. Despite having only one hand with which to draw and write, Mizuki eventually became one of Japan's most famous mangaka [comic artist]. Gegege no Kitaro and Akuma-kun are among his most popular creations.

In 1973 he also wrote a graphic novel based on his war experiences, published as Soin Gyokusai Seyo! This week it became the first of Mizuki's works to be published in English, as Onward towards our noble deaths.

In an afterword to the English edition, Mizuki describes the story of Japanese soldiers in Rabaul as "90 percent fact."

It is noted in the introduction that, if not for his injuries, Mizuki would have been part of a unit that was sent on a suicide charge. Amazingly, they survived.

But their commanding officers did not welcome this news. "Since the men's 'glorious death' had already been reported to headquarters, [they were] sent back to the front with orders not to return alive."

This helps explain why even today Mizuki states, "Whenever I write a story about the war, I can't help the blind rage that surges up in me."

Mizuki's artwork in this book is a mix of styles. His realistic depictions of Rabaul's lush tropical vegetation and his stippled images of gigantic cloud formations must have taken many hours of work per frame.

But the characters who populate these scenes are drawn in a very simple, undetailed and cartoony way.

This technique is effective in the case of Major Tadokoro, who makes the decision for the suicide charge. His wall-eyed stare emphasises that he is out of touch with reality. He seems to think of himself more as a figure from an epic poem than as a man responsible for the lives of fellow humans in the real world.

Unfortunately, the highly simplified portraiture often makes other characters hard to tell apart - and the story has a large cast. Moreover, when one man is killed by an explosion, his minimally sketched head flies away like a rapidly deflating balloon. I should have been horrified, but instead I just thought it looked silly.

Although someone dies every few pages, the book doesn't build up much emotional power until near the end, when two men who have been manipulated into committing ritual suicide tearfully wonder what their families in Japan will be told about them.

Otherwise, references to the outside world are few, and the characters themselves display little emotion even when one of their comrades is, for example, eaten by a crocodile.

The most interesting character interactions involve officers discussing the problem of men surviving a suicide mission. Their comments and decisions are perfectly logical - but they build on the insane premise that mass suicide missions should be a standard practice.

Nearly the only sane voice in these discussions belongs to an army doctor who asks, "What's so strategic about losing men with bright futures in a suicide charge?"

"Bright futures" may be a cliché, but in real life hundreds of young men died while their wounded comrade Mizuki, who is now 89 years old, went on to become a popular and highly influential manga artist.

What would those other men have gone on to do, had they not been ordered to die?

Source: Daily Yomiuri

The new land grab dominates the news


THERE IS ONE ISSUE that has dominated the Act Now! blog over the last month - land! And in particular, the government's attempts to take control of 20% of the country from customary landholders.

PNG is almost unique in its Constitutional recognition and protection of customary land and, until recently, about 97% of land in PNG was controlled by local people under customary title.

But it has been revealed that over the last few years the government has been systematically taking control of land away from local people and issuing companies with 99-year leases that now cover more than 5 million hectares.

These 'Special Purpose Business and Agriculture Leases' (SABLs) give corporations the right to exclude local people from their land for three generations and, using Forest Clearance Authorities, the companies can clear-fell any forests in the lease area.

There has been widespread condemnation of the leases from many different landowner groups around the country, and NGOs, opposition MPs, the oil palm industry, media, academics and scientists from PNG and overseas.

The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has even written to the PNG government to express its concern and demand answers

But the Lands Minister has this week revealed the government's intention to issue even more leases. The government says it wants to see 20% of PNGs total land mass given away in leases and a belligerent Minister for Planning has warned NGO's not to interfere with the government plans.

But the SABLs are a disaster for local people who face losing vital access to land to support their subsistence lifestyles and cash incomes through small-scale farming. The leases are also a disaster for the environment with millions of hectares of land set to be deforested.

And the leases are a human rights and governance disaster as they are being granted without the informed consent of local people and in defiance of Constitutional and legal protections.

Act Now! has joined other groups in calling for an immediate moratorium on new leases, a Commission of Inquiry to investigate how the leases have been issued in contravention of the law and the cancellation of all Forest Clearance Authorities.

You can follow the latest news on SABLs and the government's land grab in a dedicated section of the ACT NOW! website

Greens Bob Brown makes first visit to PNG

162898-bob-brown AUSTRALIAN GREENS Leader Bob Brown will travel to Port Moresby tomorrow for a  trip to "better understand the issues facing Australia’s closest neighbour".

During the four-day visit, Senator Brown will meet with Hon Benny Allan MP, Minister for Environment and Conservation, as well as business representatives and community and environment organisations.

He will spend three days in Port Moresby and one day in Madang. Senator Brown will also give a speech to a PNG Greens convention.

Senator Brown will discuss developments such as the proposed Purari River Dam and the Ramu nickel mine, both of which involve Australian business interests. He says he is also keen to learn more about forestry issues in a nation so important to global biodiversity.

Source: The Australian Greens

A night to remember


H&S Dedicated to my former colleagues from Med School who are graduating today ... especially to Alois, Wilma, Oliver and Erikson. Congratulations!

THE LABOUR WARD at Port Moresby General Hospital was busy as usual that night. Women arrived, women waited and women delivered.

The pungent odour of amniotic fluid mixed with the cold air-conditioned air sending a chill through the infants born that night. There was the usual sound tract of mothers and babies crying. The white walls and floor tiles glowed in the brightly lit room.

The medical student dressed in a white coat with a stethoscope hanging from his neck, paused as he looked at the women sitting on a single bench in the cold labour ward. Many held their backs and abdomen, their faces expressing the distressful events that were occurring internally.

Each woman looked at him pleadingly, wanting to be admitted into the ward. “Ol mama, sampela, wara buruk o nogat?” he asked in Pidgin. They all shook their heads. He couldn’t admit them. All the beds were occupied. Only women about to deliver or presenting with complications were given priority.

He turned and walked to bed thirty-six. The young mother there kept screaming, “Dokta plis helpim mi! Ayo, baby bai kamaut nau! Helpim me...” He examined her and noted his findings on her chart. She was primigravid – a first time mum, and the baby wasn’t coming anytime soon. He reassured her and left the cubicle.

As he walked past bed thirty-five, the nurse called him in to examine the mother. The nurse looked distressed and informed him of the mother’s condition. She was grand-multi-parous; she had five children and was in labour for the sixth.

Her blood pressure had shot through the roof and her consciousness was altered. She seemed stable according to his assessment, but they both decided they should consult the Resident Medical Officer on duty.

As he was chatting with the nurse, another voice wailed from the other end of the ward. “Dokta! Plis helpim mi, het b’lo baby kamaut nau!” He rushed over to the other end and arrived just in time.

He delivered the head, shoulders and the rest of this beautiful baby girl. He placed the crying neonate on her mum’s abdomen, clipped the umbilical cord and cut it. “Welcome to the cruel world, baby” he smiled as he spoke to her. He wrapped her in some clean cloth and handed her to her mum.

A couple of minutes later the placenta was delivered.

He then took the baby to the examination room. It was warm compared to the rest of the labour ward. It did not have the typical odour of aromatic compounds that was prevalent outside. The baby weighed 2.9 kg. He administered a shot of Hepatitis B vaccine followed by Vitamin K. “I told you it was a harsh world,” he laughed as she shrieked in his arms.

He took her to her mum, who seemed remarkably well composed compared to the past half an hour. This was what impressed him about all the women who came to deliver.

They would progress from the extreme of pain during labour to total calmness after delivery. If there ever was a symbol for the power of the human spirit, it was the face of a woman during and after labour.

He looked at the clock on the wall, it was 12 am. He decided it was time to go back and have some rest at the student dormitory. He recorded the details of the delivery in the register and collected all his gear. He packed his stethoscope, pregnancy wheel, tape measure, thermometer and blood pressure cuff into his bag.

He removed his white coat and washed his hands in the basin. As he began walking out the back door he could see mothers in agony, looking at him from the bench in front. There by the corridor to the back door lay women with their babies on the cold white floor, waiting to be discharged the next morning.

He smiled and said goodnight to the night duty nurses. It was to be his last night at the labour ward.

A great way to support a great cause


Card portfolio colour THE CHILDREN'S UNIVERSITY of Music & Art was started by Peter and Lydia Kailap in 2007. It is a registered charity and is predominantly self-funding.

As regular readers will know, CUMA was established in the rough and tumble of the Kaugere squatter settlement in Port Moresby to give kids an education and divert them from a life of street crime into the fulfilling journey we all wish for ourselves.

In four short years CUMA has done some tremendous work.  “There have been glorious times when we were fortunate enough to receive modest donations,” says Lydia, “but for 3 years now we have personally funded CUMA and its programs through the sale of greeting cards featuring Peter's unique tribal art.

“We print the all-purpose cards and sell them in packs of 10 different drawings.  They are blank inside so they can be used for any purpose - birthday, invitation, thank you note, short letter, basically any purpose.”

Bilum Meri Lydia has had 200 packs of 10 cards printed and is on a mission to sell them before commencing a hectic schedule in PNG.

This involves flying to Moresby next Wednesday to facilitate a youth workshop in Kaugere and then moving to the Gulf Province to build CUMA’s second school.

Croc & BOP Each pack costs just $23 for 10 cards (with envelopes); or $20 per pack for sales of 10 packs or more.

“If there is any way that you could let the PNG Attitude family know about this, it would be greatly appreciated,” says Lydia.

Well we have.  I’ve shot off an immediate order for four packs. And I’m sure that many of our reader will want to do likewise.

You can place your order by contacting Lydia here and payment and delivery arrangements can then be made.  Do it now.

Forget black, give PNG ASEAN membership


Mitton PNG IS CLEARLY part of the south-east Asian region and, frankly, it should also be politically and economically.

That was acknowledged when it was given observer status in ASEAN back in 1976.  Since then, it has languished in a 35-year-long purgatory awaiting permission to become a full member.

As I discovered during a recent two-week swing through PNG, the reasons for its continued exclusion are complex and unsavoury. The principle one is racism.

The people of PNG are black. And despite a half-hearted tolerance of the region’s small Indian community, most south-east Asians do not like black people. But, hush, hush, do not say that. For the denials will be shrill and people will point to a black minister in Singapore or a black business tycoon in Malaysia.

They are the exceptions, however, and the truth is closer to the situation in the United States half a century ago. African-Americans found the door had been opened, but when they applied for a job or sought a nice apartment, they were often rejected.

The reasons were always valid on paper: You are not educated or economically mature enough for us just yet. So it is with PNG, and that is bad enough in itself, but what is worse is that PNG is actually more qualified than several existing members of ASEAN.

During my short visit there, I secured interviews with two former prime ministers, one provincial governor and the head of a major mining operation in the Highlands. In contrast, during my two years in Hanoi as bureau chief for the Straits Times of Singapore – a country with close ties to Vietnam – I got precisely zero ministerial interviews.

When I asked former prime minister Julius Chan about the discrepancy, he rolled his eyes and said he had almost given up hope of ever getting into ASEAN. Sharing this view, another former PM, Rabbie Namaliu, told me it was even a moot point whether joining would benefit PNG now.

Both agreed that there are more paramount domestic issues, notably whether outlying provinces should be allowed to secede. One of them, Bougainville, will hold a referendum on independence in 2015 and both Chan and Namaliu believe the vote is likely to be in favour of separation.

Chan’s own province of New Ireland would like to follow suit – with his vigorous support. Pretty soon, if ASEAN is not careful, it may have to put multiple new membership requests into its purgatorial waiting room.

These additional exclusions, like that of East Timor, will not help regional stability, nor help curb the continued hegemonic encroachment of China.

What ASEAN fears to welcome, Beijing happily embraces. Its burgeoning investments in PNG include a multimillion-dollar stake in a nickel mine and a $117-million soft-loan for the fishery industry.

Commerce has also soared and China is now PNG’s second largest trading partner after Australia. ASEAN needs to smarten up and get in on the act by admitting PNG asap.

Source: The Myanmar Times

Three poems by Jimmy Drekore

Entries in The Crocodile Prize

Jimmy Drekore (35) is from the Sinasina area of Simbu Province and works on Lihir Island as an analytical chemist. During field breaks at home he spends time helping sick and disadvantaged children through the Simbu Children Foundation (see website at He says, during quiet moments, he likes to “paint using words”.



Dedicated to the village children

Quick little steps
Closing little gaps
We walked together
Walking bare footed
To be educated

School was far away
We were on our way
Walking bare footed
To be educated

We shared breakfast
We walked really fast
Walking bare footed
To be educated

One time we came late
Strolling through the gate
We were at the door
Eyes on the floor
We stayed together
He looked at us
With a strong voice he told us
We would be punished together
We came bare footed
To be educated

Other time scissors in his hands
We had no chance
Airstrip on our head
We felt really bad
We stood together
We came bare footed
To be educated

One cold morning
It was pouring
We came late again
We couldn’t bargain
Meter ruler in his hands
We had no chance
Hit him on the head
Hit me on my head
Our tears fell together
We came bare footed
To be educated



My father took the shield
I ran beside him
When arrows came I ducked
I looked at him

“Wana elge pikra”
Son don’t go too far
“Ni panamia”,
“Kanre pa”
There’ll be ambush
Careful, don’t push
“Nenma unawa kanre”
“Kuman meklanna”
When your fathers are here
You’ll step closer
“Nene hone pikra”
Never go alone

Son, don’t go too far
They’ll be ambush
Careful, don’t push
When your fathers are here
You’ll step closer
Never go alone

Those words guided me
Those words protected me
Those words saved me
Those words initiated me

I learnt this valuable lesson
Take advice and follow instruction
You’ll become a man



You used to talk to me without fear
You used to share with me the same beer
You used to eat with me when I was near
I thought you were a friend to me
I thought you were a brother to me
But I know now

 I’m losing hair you never came close
I’m losing weight you held your nose
I’m losing color like a fading rose
I thought you would never shy away
I thought you would never run away
But I know now

They stare at me and you hide
They criticize me and you lied
They reject me and you follow the tide
I thought you would stand with me
I thought you would fight with me
But I know now

 They say it’s my fault and you agreed
They say I deserve it and you agreed
They say I was careless and you agreed
I never thought you would leave me
I never thought you would betray me
But I know now

I’m lying alone with only the curtains swaying
I’m lying alone with only my memories flashing
I’m lying alone with only the sun shining
No one is there to lend me ears
Only my pillow soaked with tears
I know now


Sir Michael recovering in Singapore hospital

THE ABC IS reporting that Sir Michael Somare remains in hospital after undergoing surgery.

Spokeswoman and daughter, Betha Somare, said Sir Michael underwent surgery last week and is recovering.

Sir Michael has been in Singapore on medical leave for the past two weeks.

In a short statement, Ms Somare said "he remains a fighter and will be around for many years to come".

No details of the surgery were released.

In a separate statement, deputy chief of staff Leonard Louma said Sir Michael will remain in Singapore until he is fit enough to resume duties as prime minister.

Source: Radio Australia

Could land 'leases' be a trigger for civil war?


Paul-Oates2-small CIVIL WAR has been described by James Fearon of Stanford University as "a violent conflict within a country fought by organised groups that aim to take power at the centre or in a region, or to change government policies" (1)

So could such dangers be escalating in the PNG and especially in the Highlands?

… civil war can be an exogenous shock onto some societies that can activate their invisible networks of grievances and feuds among their individuals.’ (2)

The sudden rise of large scale land leases highlighted in many recent articles in the PNG media goes straight to the core of the average PNG citizen and landowner.

Community Advocacy group Act Now! is supporting calls for the government to impose an immediate moratorium on new Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases. The leases have been used to take control of over 5 million hectares of land away from local people in the last few years. This means more than 10% of Papua New Guinea’s total land mass is now under the control of corporations (3)

The customary and traditional land ownership principles of PNG are under threat from a new methodology which seeks to lease traditionally-owned communal land in order to exploit resources on or under the ground.

Being a pessimist, I do not believe any government will of its own free will amend legislation to have resource ownership rights totally vested in customary landowners. If we all truly want and demand nothing less than this, then we must all be ready for conflict/uprising. But also being a realist, I am hoping some middle ground can be found (4)

The current PNG government, with a history of favouring resources extraction by foreign companies, has been slow to see where this recent trend could lead.

Organisations that favour corrupt, rent-seeking and destructive behaviour will perpetuate dysfunctional economic, social and political relations (5)

The potential for an escalating endogenous conflict could be nearing a trigger point if action is not taken quickly to defuse this alarming development.

The easy availability of firearms multiplied the probability of death or grave violations of human rights in communities around the world (6)

Does the PNG government know that MPs from the Highlands are buying weapons and stockpiling them? AK47s, M16s, SLRs - these are all high-powered assault weapons. Are we on the verge of a struggle (war)? We may be, and the government doesn't know (7)

Recent PNG media articles have raised the inability of the Police to repress or control full-scale tribal warfare in the Highlands.

In some circumstances, particularly when the state is absent, local armed groups may establish social norms and provide public goods and physical security. This symbiotic association between armed groups and populations in combat areas will affect substantially the probability of a conflict starting and its effectiveness thereafter...

Individuals and households in conflict areas provide human and material resources, shelter and information to armed groups because often this is often the only way they have of protecting them and their families from misery and destitution, as well as death, injury and imprisonment (9)

The United Nations has categorised PNG as a country which, with 50% of the population 15-29 years old, registers ‘high’ in ‘demographic stress’. When the results of the current PNG Census are available, it will be interesting to see if this demographic has altered to greater than 50%, to reside in the UN’s ‘extreme’ registration.

Continue reading "Could land 'leases' be a trigger for civil war?" »

Land rights: tough issues & strategic choices


THE DEBATE ON the transfer of land rights from the state to landowners provokes interesting security implications for PNG.

Martin Namarong in his recent article Land: questions of ownership & sovereignty provides us with a logical and critical analysis. I want to expand this to focus on the security dimension and its policy implications.

Some critics observed that land rights, considered a birth right of citizens in Melanesian society, are being politically exploited by competing interests. In the quest for modernisation and economic imperatives, the distribution of wealth has been compromised with external interests provoking suspicion and distrust in society.

The proponents of the transfer of land rights argue that the state, under a social contract to prudently manage the national interest, appears compromised - as witnessed in the unequal benefits-sharing at Panguna, followed by other projects, including LNG.

The issue at hand is equal distribution of resources between state, multinational corporations and landowners. Whilst landowners may welcome this, there can be adverse implications for national security.

First, sovereignty will be compromised and undermined. Sovereignty alludes to the notion of legitimacy, the ‘right to rule’ by the ‘rule of law’ through a social contract. States, on behalf of the mass, are mandated to prudently manage individual interests as a collective interest. On this premise, the major argument is that the state is the only legal entrusted custodian possessing legitimacy to manage natural resources on behalf of landowners.

Second, we expect a most likely rebellion by landowners given prolonged unsatisfactory perceptions of the government’s management of resource distribution. Several mini-scale rebellion against the state and companies (threats of plant closure, clash with security personnel) have already taken place.  This indicates a possibility of near future large-scale rebellion.

Moreover, mining in the Highlands suggests that there may be a mercenary military-like development over time.

Continue reading "Land rights: tough issues & strategic choices" »

Landowners shut Moresby power & water

SOME PARTS OF Port Moresby have been without water for two days and there have been rolling power blackouts after landowners shut down several hydropower stations that supply the city.

The local Koiari landowners are angry at the murder last week of a Koiari man who was allegedly stabbed by a man from the Southern Highlands.

They are claiming financial compensation for his death.

Governor Powes Parkop met landowners today and acting prime minister Sam Abal condemned the action as illegal, so far with no response.

Source: ABC News

Big day planned for PNG writers and writing


Logo DETAILS HAVE BEEN released of the announcement of the first Crocodile Prize for PNG literature in September.

The prize, an initiative of PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier, consists of three K2,500 awards for the best poem, story and essay submitted to the contest, which closes at the end of June [see details in Attitude Extra at left].

On Thursday 15 September – the day before Independence Day – the winners of the inaugural contest will be announced.

This will be the highlight of a day of intense literary activity in Port Moresby.

A full program has been organised, including a writers’ workshop for contributors to the prize, the book launch of The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011, and a reception hosted by the Australian High Commission.

The full-day workshop will be facilitated by the two of us as well as Steven Winduo, Russell Soaba and Patrick Levo.

There will be sessions on stories, poetry and journalism, discussions, readings and a group meeting to talk about the future of The Crocodile Prize and associated publishing activities.

Late afternoon, writers, officials, sponsors, media and members of the public will assemble in the Chancery foyer at the High Commission for the announcement of the winners of the inaugural Crocodile Prize.

This ceremony will be followed by short readings from the winning works and then the launch of the anthology.

At 5 pm, after the book launch, there will be a reception hosted by Australian High Commissioner, Ian Kemish.

All in all, it will be a day packed full of activity. Readers who wish to attend the award ceremony and the reception should contact PNG Attitude here.

Govt must stop ‘land grab’ says Act Now!


COMMUNITY ADVOCACY group Act Now! is supporting calls for the government to impose an immediate moratorium on new Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases.

The leases have been used to take control of over 5 million hectares of land away from local people in the last few years. This means more than 10% of Papua New Guinea’s total land mass is now under the control of corporations.

While Acting Lands Secretary, Romilly Kila Pat, said last week his Department would take action to address the issues, he also said it was going to be a “long process”.

Landholders and PNG as a nation, cannot wait for a long process and there must be immediate action.

Control of land is being taken away from local people, often without them even knowing what has happened.

In addition to an immediate moratorium the government should:

Establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate all existing Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases (SABLs).

Suspend all Forest Clearance Authorities which allow unregulated logging in SABL areas.

What is going on is land theft. The government must act responsibly and protect landholders by reforming the system and, in the meantime, stop any further SABLs being issued.

Sir Julius says resource laws need to change

FORMER PRIME MINISTER and current Governor of New Ireland Sir Julius Chan says PNG’s traditional land owners should own the rights to natural underground resources.

Sir Julius says the Bougainville crisis is an object lesson in what happens when people feel they are not getting the benefits they are entitled to.

He says his experiences as prime minister during that conflict convinced him a change is needed in the law which grants the state the rights to PNG's rich mineral deposits.

Sir Julius told Radio Australia's Bruce Hill that landowners are quite capable of agreeing to mining leases, which would ensure the benefits go directly to local people rather than the government.

"A country like PNG cannot buy what it already owns. The resources under the ground, by virtue of the Act of 1992, make the state the sole owner of anything below, above or in the water and out at sea," he said.

Sir Julius says that looking at the history of PNG for the last 36 years, the legislation "has not proven any development in the lives of the people in PNG".

"For some unknown reason - and I must include myself here because of the infancy of government independence and the haste in which we've acquired that - we legislated to restrict ourselves from ownership of these resources," said Sir Julius.

"Does it make any sense for business to transfer title in property to someone freely like foreign investors for a paltry payment of K10,000 and then when things are discovered, buy back from them for up to K300 million or more?

"Does it make any sense at all for a country to earn billions in income and not be able to improve the lives of the people?"

Sir Julius says if these questions are asked, it is clear why the ownership of resources should be transferred back to the traditional landowners.

"I believe that the wealth of any country should be in the hands of the people, so that when the people are rich then the nation is rich," he said.

Source: Radio Australia

Aid program used to educate Ministers’ kids

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD is reporting this morning that the Australian Auditor-General is investigating an AusAID program which has paid for the children of PNG government ministers to study in Australia.

A confidential evaluation of the scholarships has found they ''are not clearly enough linked to the capacity building objectives” and that the scheme is driven by politics and diplomacy as much as aid.

The Australian government spends millions of overseas aid dollars on scholarships each year with the aim of providing elite students from poorer nations with $25,000 a year and university or college fees in Australia.

But the Herald reports that the Howard, Rudd and Gillard governments have used the program increasingly for diplomatic ends.

Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws reveal the aid agency has struggled for years to measure whether the program works.

The newspaper says that “ministers in poorer countries treasure the awards as a form of patronage, seeing them as rewards that can be granted to chosen candidates.”

Source: ‘Doubt on scholarships’ by Markus Mannheim. Read more here

Airstrip work crucial to Bible translation

Airstrip maintenance MANY AIRSTRIPS in PNG are little more than clearings that cling to the side of a mountain or are surrounded by jungle.

Over time, heavy rains and thick vegetation contribute to the deterioration of the landing sites, which represent a connection to the outside world for Bible translators working in relative isolation.

Translators rely on aircraft for the delivery of food and supplies, as well as transportation for themselves and support staff. An air evacuation during health emergencies and natural disasters can mean the difference between life and death.

Wycliffe Associates, an international organisation that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation efforts, is working to repair and reopen airstrips in some of these areas.

"Air transportation, the lifeblood of support for translators, is at risk," says Bruce Smith, CEO of Wycliffe Associates. "In addition to repairs, we must reopen multiple airstrips this year to begin translation in languages that desperately need God's Word."

Wycliffe Associates needs to raise $50,000 this year to carry out necessary repairs to maintain or reopen crucial airstrips in PNG.

The funds will be used to purchase mowers, shovels, wheelbarrows, airstrip markers and windsocks, and to deliver gravel. In addition, the funding will provide surveys and earth-moving equipment for new airstrips.

At any given time, approximately 1,000 adult volunteers, translators, support personnel, and children are in PNG in connection with the work of Bible translation.

Source: Mission Network News

Pacific must reduce risk of child trafficking

AN AUSTRALIAN Institute of Criminology researcher is encouraging Pacific communities and families to build on cultural strengths to reduce the vulnerability of children to trafficking.

A new Institute study shows the Pacific’s youth population is vulnerable to exploitation for sex tourism, cheap labour, illegal adoption, customary marriage and pornography.

Research manager, Laura Beacroft, says some of the communal safeguards and protections that used to be there, aren’t being utilised.

“So there’s been cases of child trafficking, that have been reported in PNG, Fiji, and Solomon Islands.

“For example, in PNG, in an informal guardianship arrangement, an eight-year old girl was given to another man by her father as partial payment of an outstanding debt.

“It was later reported that the girl was sexual abused and beaten by the man.”

Laura Beacroft says other factors making young people more vulnerable include the need to migrate for work, limited education options, and industries like logging, which occur in poorer rural areas.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

A salute to a great Papuan educationist


Olewale Ebia THE ERA OF the Australian colonial administration held some memorable times for me. For a young impressionable student, life was pleasant growing up in Port Moresby in the 1960s.

During this era, I was educated by good teachers for four years (1966–69) of secondary schooling at Kila Kila High School.

Most of my teachers were Australians with a few from New Zealand together with about half-a-dozen local teachers. These early ‘chalkies’ were skilled educationists who contributed a lot towards student learning their subjects properly and developing their character as good citizens.

The teachers who taught me and my peers prepared us well for higher learning and for a good public service career thereafter.

At Kila Kila, I learnt many interesting topical issues and subjects (as taught in Australian schools) that PNG high schools do not teach these days. We learnt good English expression in our literature classes (my favourites being poetry, novels, book reviews, creative writing, composition) which stood me in good stead in later years.

Apart from expatriate teachers, I also remember to this day an exceptional local English teacher I came to admire. What struck me most was his personnel demeanour which was somewhat different from his peers.

Although he was newly-posted, he spent little time with his peers in the staffroom during recess and lunch breaks.

He would instead interact more with students and liked talking to them to show he was genuinely interested in what they learnt. For this, he was well respected by all who came into contact with him.

He was of quiet disposition and very patient with students. I came to admire this quality. He not only had command of his subject matter, but also was able to clearly explain answers to students’ questions. He was dedicated and wanted his students to understand the subjects he taught.

This great Papuan educationist already saw what was to come later to our country, so told us often how important it was for us to get a good education at that stage of our country’s development.

He was also a strict but fair disciplinarian and corrected students in a firm and caring manner.

This exceptional teacher who taught us English was Ebia Olewale (1940-2009, pictured), who was in time knighted by the Queen.

In later years, the public knew of Sir Ebia as a Pangu Pati stalwart within the inner circles of the PNG government under the leadership of the present prime minister.

Years later, Sir Ebia left the education department and ran for public office, becoming a highly respected Member of Parliament. After politics, and as a private citizen, he assumed many roles; one being a board member to corporate entities.

Ebia Olewale hailed from Western Province and, as an educationist, MP and corporate board member, contributed immensely in many ways to the development of Western Province and PNG.

This humble and soft- spoken English teacher was one of the great educationists PNG has produced since the 1960s. I consider him to be one of a very few and best qualified local teachers who set exceptional standards even by the measure of today.

Nowadays, despite all the resources at hand, teachers still cannot really give students a quality learning experience like those yesteryear teachers we had from the 1960s to the late 1980s.

Today, I often still wonder how many students this great Papuan educationist taught during his distinguished teaching career before taking up public office. They must have been quite a number to tell a good story to today’s younger generations.

I salute a great Papuan educationist. Thank you, Sir Ebia for the English that you taught me.

Could break-up be the real resources curse?


Like a wet blanket amidst the excitement being generated by the resources boom in PNG, Hillary Clinton during her visit to the Pacific last year gloomily warned of an unwanted potential consequence known as ‘the resources curse’.

A well-documented phenomenon, it points to negative possible outcomes for a national economy that is heavily dependent on resources.

Negative consequences of the curse include inflation, revenue volatility and its effects on excessive (good time) borrowings, lack of diversification of the economy, the creation of circumstances conducive to corruption and a draining of human resources away from other areas into the more lucrative resources sector.

And PNG is already experiencing some of the aforementioned negative socio-economic effects—like shortage of teachers—some having been wooed into the resources sector by better wages.

However, the real resources curse for PNG is not necessarily economic in nature. As an immature nation still struggling to achieve modernity, it is possible that the conflict fuelled by competition for the considerable monetary spoils of the resources boom will threaten the very political existence of PNG as a nation.

There’s growing evidence that the socio-economic transformation has been too rapid. For while many tribesmen and women have made the transition, many have not. Indeed, over 80% of the country still subsists and live in their traditional villages clinging to a culture that is often at loggerheads with the goals of a modern state especially when their first loyalty lies, not with their country but, as tradition dictates, with their wantoks.

New Ireland is the host to the world-class gold mine, Lihir. The benefits that flow to PNG from this mine are considerable. Are New Irelanders happy sharing this wealth with other Papua New Guineans? No they’re not.

Many consider they’d be economically better off if they seceded and a significant secessionist movement has grown up. It is said that New Irelanders are tired of ‘their’ money being used to fund other projects that benefit people other than themselves—like the liquefied natural gas project and the rest of the people of PNG.

Just recently, Sir Julius Chan, a former prime minister and now Governor of New Ireland Province, in response to a cyanide spill from the Simberi Mine owned by Australian company Allied Gold, said he wanted the owners of the mine out of the province.

He also made clear his attitude towards the PNG government saying: “Enough is enough. New Ireland does not need Waigani or foreign miners dictating its future.”

The LNG project, an investment by American corporate giant Exxon-Mobil, has been welcomed with an almost messianic fervour in PNG. It is costing upwards of $15 billion and is set, on its own, to double GDP.

In January 2010, a skirmish broke out between a gang of villagers from Erave and a neighbouring clan. Eleven people were fatally shot. A dispute over profits from the LNG project was the cause.

Moreover, earlier this year the LNG plant in Hides in the Southern Highlands was closed when villagers attacked workers over non-payment of their dues under the agreement.

It seems the resources boom is not only pitting the tribes against each other but is pitting the government of PNG against its own people - hardly an ideal nation-building exercise.

In the courts in Madang there is more evidence of this. In an action against the largely Chinese-owned Ramu nickel mine, traditional landowners are litigating to stop the dumping of detritus from the mine, known as tailings, into the sea in a controversial practice known as deep sea tailings placement.

The PNG government, on the other hand, has sought to stymie the court action by legislating it away with a rushed amendment to the Environmental Act that would indemnify any company which had been granted a mining licence from any future litigation for pollution etc.

None of this augurs well for creating the ‘we’ feeling necessary to build a functioning nation—to build PNG.

If each tribe of PNG starts to self-consciously declare itself to be a nation then all paradigms shift - in the main, nations believe they have the right to self-determination. Under these circumstances, will the state of PNG survive the resources boom? Now there’s a question.

Source: Extracted from an article in Islands Business

When the music stops – the music starts


IN LIFE, EVERYTHING tends to go in a circular motion. John Henry Newman in his moving sermon entitled The Second Spring talked about a law of permanence and though it is ever dying, it is ever coming to life again. The sun sinks to rise again…

Investment markets are no different and certainly property will shortly no longer be the investment flavour that it currently is in Port Moresby. The issue to be addressed is what will the landscape look like when the property boom subsides?

From a PNG perspective, property cycles tend to not to go into price troughs. What occurs is that property prices stabilise at a certain level. That is they do not retreat substantially, they just sit and wait a few years until the market catches up with supply.

Property markets internationally that suffer great falls in price have a common agent that drives forced selling – debt. Properties or businesses with large debt are the ones that tend to suffer in a downturn.

What makes the PNG property market fairly resilient is that the major property developers at present have little, and in some cases no, debt. These investment houses, high net worth individuals and large PNG companies are long term property holders and hence have a ready ability to service debt.

The large bulk of quality properties will not be tradable – in some cases even if a premium over current value is offered. Thus there is a large core of quality property that remains off market no matter what the economic conditions faced.

This would apply to nearly the whole of the CBD, Harbour City and surrounding areas. It also applies to most of the large residential apartment market.

The PNG banks have shown a very responsible attitude to the current property boom, ensuring lower loan to valuation ratios on any new development. With greater equity demanded in new property ventures, this tends to act as a filter for marginal projects and ensures capacity to meet unexpected delays in completion or a small rental demand/rate post completion.

The market differentiates itself into grades of quality. Quality property, which by nature attracts blue chip tenants; tends to be a stable grouping. In a property downturn, this segment of the rental market remains largely unchanged.

Poor quality properties may suffer some vacancy and or reduction in price, but that is because, if there is movement in rental accommodation or commercial space, the tendency is a shift to higher quality.

The next 5 – 7 years will see land owners begin to receive large royalty cheques, meaning that cash will be needing new investment. We anticipate that this increasingly active group will contribute to underpinning property values in the longer term.

Source: Nasfund Newsletter

Angry Watut communities make demands

A WATUT RIVER Forum held at the Sir Ignatus Kilage Stadium in Lae was attended by well over 3,000 participants from mining impacted communities in the Bulolo and Huon Gulf districts.

Participants were angered that, even though invitations were given to various government authorities such as Department of Environment and Conservation, Mineral Resource Authority and the Mining Department, none turned up.

An ever bigger let down was the absence of Morobe Governor Luther Wenge and Huon Gulf MP and Health Minister Sasa Zibe. The only invited guest t present at the forum was Sam Basil, MP for Bulolo Open.

The mining affected communities say they have now seen how the PNG government is turning a blind eye to the citizens it is supposed to serve and is ignoring the problems created by the Hidden Valley gold mine which is owned and operated by Harmony Gold and Newcrest Mining.

A 21-day ultimatum has been given to the national and Morobe provincial governments to act before communities resolve their next course of action in mid-May.

The demands include:

1. That the Morobe Governor meet all his outstanding commitments made to the concerned communities since 2009 which have never been fulfilled;

2. That the Department of Environment and Conservation and Mineral Resource Authority visit the communities to address their outstanding problems;

3. That National Court action taken by the Union of Watut River Communities be continued and include the Huon Gulf mining impacted communities;

4. That the Morobe mining joint venture should not visit the impacted communities outside the Hidden Valley area;

5. Authorities including the PNG government address 471 outstanding garden compensation payments;

6. That all these demands be met no latter than 11 May 2011. Failure will result in further action.

Source: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

Mischief-making in resource debate: Amet

ATTORNEY-GENERAL Sir Arnold Amet says people calling for changes to the law on resource ownership are mischief-making.

There are calls for the state to relinquish the control it has over the minerals and other elements found at six foot or deeper.

But Sir Arnold, a former chief justice, says this has been the law since independence and aimed to ensure the benefits flowed through to the entire country.

He says without such an approach the country would not have developed the way it has.

“And this is the mischief that many of the current political opportunists, including Sir Julius Chan, who was one of our founding leaders, and used these very laws to develop the resources for the benefit of the whole country.

“That is the basis on which continuing governments since independence have adhered to and upheld this law.

“Otherwise the country would not have developed the way it is if every individual group and tribe insisted on owning the resources under the ground.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Relatives who endured still await a memorial


Montevideo Maru-1 THE MEMORIAL NOTICE in the Sydney Morning Herald on 24 November 1945, read: ''Presumed lost at sea.'' Gunner Lloyd Sibraa, last reported on the Japanese prison ship Montevideo Maru, had not made contact with home.

The notice was inserted by Sibraa's mother, Mabel Sibraa, who clung to the hope that Lloyd, who had been in the 1st Independent Company in New Ireland had somehow made it. She kept the army informed of her address, lest Lloyd should have survived.

The Montevideo Maru was torpedoed by an American submarine on July 1, 1942, and sank with the loss of more than 1000 men.

Mabel Sibraa knew that if anyone could get out of it, Lloyd could. He had worked as a drover around Fords Bridge on the Darling River and had come to Sydney to enlist. But on July 1, 1947, five years after the sinking, another notice appeared in which she acknowledged Lloyd would not be coming home. His mother had written a poem:

At night when the shadows are falling
And I am all alone
There comes that longing Lloydie
If you could just come home.

Further notices in Sibraa's memory appeared in 1951 and 1953. In the 1960s, in the last years of Mabel Sibraa's life, a relative spoke to her about it, but it was too painful to discuss.

Betty Muller - then Betty Gascoigne - endured the same agonising wait. She was 21 when she last saw her father and brother.

It was Boxing Day 1941, when she, her mother and brother Stanley, 12, were evacuated to Australia by ship from Rabaul on New Britain, where the Gascoignes had lived since 1924.

A month later, the Japanese invaded New Britain. It was the beginning of an almost unbearable silence that would last years. Ivor, who had just started his first job as an office boy at the island's branch of Amalgamated Wireless, had begged to stay in Rabaul with his father, an auctioneer, and his mother reluctantly agreed.

''It was the most difficult decision my mother ever had to take,'' says Muller, now 91.

Read the full story in the Sydney Morning Herald here

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PNG at war: Great courage of a great people


300px-Aust_soldiers_Wewak_June_1945 THERE ARE MANY stories of how Papua New Guineans helped Australia all over the country, from the Sepik to the Highlands to Kokoda to Milne Bay.

Kokoda is writ large on the Australian consciousness – but the contribution of Papua New Guineans to the war effort was far more than this.

You'd think that this alone might stir the Australian government and our media to be more involved in encouraging PNG, discussing its affairs, refelcting on our relationship and communicating far more news about the good things happening in this wonderful country.  Here are two such stories.

On the Sepik River is a village called Timbunki. It had informed a small Australian force about a garrison of Japanese stationed nearby. Shortly after receiving this information the Australians destroyed the enemy outpost.

This greatly upset the main Japanese force in the Sepik and, when the Australians moved on, the Japanese went to Timbunki and killed 97 men and kidnapped 82 young women. When I visited Timbunki in 1965 this small village was still grieving this loss. Lest we forget.

Further up the Sepik River is a village called Avatip. I was invited to the village to open some new classrooms the people had built. They told me this story.

A large group of Japanese camped in their village was treating everyone terribly and raping the women. So the villagers devised a plan to get rid of them.

They went to the commanding officer and told him they wanted to organise a big feast for them. He gave them permission. Villagers came from nearby and soon a huge amount of food was prepared.

Once the food was cooked they invited the Japanese to sit in a circle where they would be served. At a given signal the villagers attacked the Japanese and killed them all.

The feast went ahead but without the Japanese. Lest we forget.

Photo: Australian light machine gun in action against Japanese positions near Wewak, June 1945

Bita Paka: Slain cast a shadow on the brow


Prop IN 2008 I WAS privileged to be sent by my employers to Kokopo, Rabaul and Kavieng on a business trip for a week.

I can't think of more beautiful or fascinating places to spend some time, even if it was mostly to sort out computer problems. However I did have some hours to myself and indulged a bit of exploration.

Woefully ignorant of the history of these places, I now had a chance to see first hand some of what they offered.

An early reaction was a jolt back in time to realise what a debt we owe to the brave servicemen who went through some of the most harrowing experiences in the New Guinea Islands.

On my first day in Kokopo I was taken to lunch at a small hotel-cum-resort overlooking the bay. If you walk a little way down the beach you can see the rusty remains of landing craft and Japanese one-man tanks.

In the garden was a sad collection of wartime relics, including a small sculpture made of Japanese helmets, rusty rifles and an aircraft propeller. The next day I drove to Rabaul and gazed in awe at the tunnels dug into the hillsides by the Japanese to protect equipment - much of it still there.

Gardens On the third day I had the afternoon to myself, and drove out to Bita Paka war cemetery. This was one of the most inspiring, beautiful yet immensely sad places I have ever been.

Bita Paka was the site of the old German radio station that the Australians were given the task of capturing at the start of World War I. It was not heavily defended and the German's capitulated without too much loss of life.

However this loss of life did include the first Australian casualties of the war, and the loss of Australia's first submarine, AE1, in September 1914. There is a memorial to this action at Bita Paka as well as the graves of some of those first diggers lost in combat fighting for the first time as Australian troops.

Bita Paka is beautifully kept - a strangely peaceful place, looking like a tropical botanical garden. It is a credit to the War Graves Commission.

Cross cu I was the only person there that afternoon, and a warm tropical rain started falling and felt like the tears of a thousand mourners brushing my face as I reverently walked along the corridors of thousands of crosses.

There are of course many graves of unknown soldiers, prisoners dead at the hands of their captors, airman shot down, sailors lost at sea, and those who worked behind enemy lines often under the greatest privation, to bring intelligence reports to allied headquarters.

There is also a sizable part of the cemetery dedicated to the Indian servicemen who were deployed to Singapore and the South Pacific and many of whom died as prisoners in Rabaul. But it is the row after row of Australian servicemen's graves that really hits home to an Aussie.

I wonder how many tourists visiting Rabaul bother to drive down the road to Bita Paka and come face-to-face with those bitter and poignant memories.

I cannot imagine what our fathers, grandfathers and relatives had to suffer (including my Uncle Lyndon who served at Buna), but I do know that we owe them an unrepayable debt of gratitude, and on this Anzac Day, and for every Anzac Day to come, there should be tears of respect and love from every true blue Aussie for what these people did for us.

May we never forget.

Unknown Soldier Plaque In the words of Frederic Manning –

The land lay steeped in peace of silent dreams;
There was no sound amid the sacred boughs.
Nor any mournful music in her streams:
Only I saw the shadow on her brows,
Only I knew her for the yearly slain,
And wept, and weep until she come again.


Moresby: We held out against horrific odds


WW2 pilot JACK BRENNAN [pictured] was only 17 when he joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1941. Within just a few short months he was in a fighter plane, tangling with the enemy in the skies over Port Moresby.

Now 87, Mr Brennan recalled how he had only a few hours of training flying Wirraway planes at airfields in NSW and Victoria when he was told to head north to Townsville to become part of a new squadron.

This outfit, the now legendary 75 Squadron, was to fly Kittyhawk fighter planes - an aircraft Mr Brennan and many of the others had never been in before. “It was like going from a rocking horse onto a steed that wanted to race,” Mr Brennan said.

Within only 17 days of forming, the squadron was deployed to defend Port Moresby - arriving in the middle of a Japanese bombing raid.

“For the next 46 days, we held out against horrific odds ... going up and down two to three times a day,” Mr Brennan said. Twelve Australian pilots were killed and 17 aircraft lost during the battles.

“They’d been flying for three years, the Japanese, and we had kids going up,” Mr Brennan said. “Then we started to get the hang of how to treat them. After the 46 days, we started to get on top and then they ceased flying into there because they didn’t have the men to do it.”

But this was not the end of the war for Mr Brennan, who was sent back to Australia to have a shattered hip repaired. Upon recovering, he and five other squadron pilots became part of the American 345 Pursuit Squadron, “island hopping” on their way to Japan.

Today, Mr Brennan volunteers every Wednesday at Point Cook’s RAAF Museum, passing on his knowledge and experiences to the younger generations. “They treat me like the prodigal son down there,” he said. “It’s a very tight brotherhood, the airforce.”

One of only two pilots still remaining from the original 75 Squadron, Mr Brennan said Anzac Day was particularly important to him. He said it was important that young people understood the sacrifices that made it possible for them “to be in such a wonderful land today”.

Source: Hobsons Bay Leader, Melbourne

Vietnam vet retraces dad's Kokoda ordeal


Emu Plains veteran TO SAY THAT Vietnam War veteran Eric Easterbrook [pictured] will soon be following in his father’s foot steps may sound cliched, but it’s actually true.

In June the retired airman, from Emu Plains, will trek the Kokoda Trail where his father Owen was a bren gunner as part of the 2/3rd Battalion in World War II.

“They went through a lot worse than we ever did,” Mr Easterbrook said. ” I know when he was going over the Kokoda Trail the bren gun was 15kg, he would have been carrying ammunition, a pack with some rations and protective gear. I’ll be walking the Kokoda Trail with just a 5kg pack.

“In the time that they were going across I can imagine the weather conditions being absolutely horrific, the Japanese firing at them - hot lead whistling around their ears; and imagine the fear in them if the Japanese took them prisoner because by that stage, it was known what the Japanese were doing through Malaysia and the other islands.”

Mr Easterbrook’s father also served in the Middle East during World War II, while five uncles served in the navy, army and air force - some of them in Tobruk.

His own foray into the defence force, though, did not come out of a desire to emulate his father or uncles. “I was always interested in aircraft and I wanted to fly,” he said. “One of my uncles served in the air force in the European campaign. He was a wireless operator gunner and had been shot at a couple of times.

“Because I had left school early I didn’t have the education qualifications to go into flying ... so I joined up as an apprentice and became an armament fitter, went through as a trooper and then was commissioned in later years.”

From November 1970 to November 1971 he was an armament fitter with 9th squadron, which provided insertion, evacuation and gun ship support to the ground forces in Vietnam.

He said while he was proud to have served his country and proud of his father and uncles he was “happy neither of my sons are involved. If you’ve ever been to war you don’t want your family to go,” he said.

Source: Penrith Press, Sydney

Safety pins and faith saved Kokoda veteran


Safety pins and faith NINETY-YEAR-OLD Kokoda Trail veteran Colin Richardson of St Lucia in Brisbane never got to thank the army chaplain who anointed him as he lay bleeding from a massive chest wound partly held together with safety pins.

But Mr Richardson [pictured] believes he had an extraordinary communication, one which "made my neck hairs stand up", from the priest - Monsignor James Lynch - when he visited his grave in the priests' section of Nudgee Cemetery about 45 years later.

On 17 October 1942, Colin Richardson, then a lieutenant with the Third Infantry Battalion, was shot with a Japanese dum-dum bullet during a seesawing and bloody battle around Templeton's Crossing in the Owen Stanley Ranges and left to die.

The injury, close to his heart, shattered many of his ribs and destroyed his left lung. He would eventually discover during a "fortuitous meeting" at an army reunion many years later that he owed his life to Dr Geoff ‘Pa’ Mutton who he would eventually track down in Orange NSW.

After that meeting in the early 1990s, Dr Mutton was moved to say: "There's only two people who have come back to life, Jesus Christ and Colin Richardson".

Meanwhile Mr Richardson, having lost the use of one lung as a result of the injury, would never again have the endurance to walk the Kokoda Trail, such a central and nearly fatal part of his young life.

However, the determined veteran became the driving force behind a program at his old college - the University of Sydney's St Paul's - to encourage young men to walk the trail and connect to the sacrifice of their forebears.

When The Catholic Leader visited him, Mr Richardson opened his remarkable story by saying "I never did get to meet Fr Lynch because I was 'dead' by the time he arrived". The priest had arrived with Dr Mutton from the nearby 2/33rd to offer assistance, having been alerted by men from the battalion that their officer was badly wounded.

The veteran doesn't know to this day what had become of the doctor and padre from his own battalion. "Things were pretty sticky," he said. "Maybe they had been lost in action. The doctor and priest didn't arrive until six hours after I'd been hit - by then I didn't have a pulse, probably because I'd lost so much blood."

Then 22-year-old Lieutenant Richardson had a wound the size of a fist in his chest and a bigger one in his back. His mates had given him up for dead.

Mr Richardson has a letter he received from Dr Mutton in 1995 which fleshes out the story. The doctor wrote: "You had a bloody great hole in your chest. I found some cat gut in the bottom of my haversack and closed the hole.

“I then rolled you over and to my horror found a bigger bloody hole coming out of your back. I had run out of gut! I found a few safety pins in my haversack and was successful in closing the wound."

After the makeshift operation, Mr Richardson was carried by Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels for two days to Myola, then a forward supply depot along the Kokoda Trail back to Port Moresby.

Next stop was Sydney's Concord Hospital and a long and painful rehabilitation, dealing with drainage tubes from the lung "which had been shredded by the bullet". It would take Mr Richardson until 1946 to completely recover from the wound.

He studied at St Paul's College from 1944 to 1948 to become a chemical engineer and resettled in Brisbane in 1951, having been advised to do so due to the detrimental impact of the southern smog and cold on his damaged lung.

It was at a reunion of his old battalion in the early 1990s that Mr Richardson got the lead which would help him track down the doctor who saved his life. "I went on a search for the doctor and finally found him through a surgeon friend in Sydney. Geoff and I spent three days together reminiscing about our war experiences.

"Our conversation came to the priest. I said when I find out what happened to Fr Jim Lynch I'll let you know. I discovered Fr Lynch had died and was buried in a grave at Nudgee."

Mr Richardson, with one of his wife's friends, decided to visit the priests' section of the cemetery and find the monsignor's grave "to thank him for having anointed me in my hour of need".

"It didn't take me long to find the grave and I decided to photograph it to send Dr Mutton," he said. "It was a beautiful sunny day although there was a slight shadow. I looked up and noticed a very small blackish cloud directly above. I took a couple of pictures.

"I then said: 'Well, Jim, I just want to say thank you and if you hear me can you give me a sign?' Well, bless my soul, at this precise moment the little dark cloud dropped a downpour around us - probably in a circle of fifteen metres or so. The hairs on both our necks stood up - it was the first time in my life I'd been scared stiff.

"We were so stunned at this quick response to my request, neither of us could say anything. When we reached the car parked nearby it was completely dry."

Mr Richardson finished his reminiscences by outlining the success of his project to drive the development of a program to encourage young men at St Paul's, his old college to walk the Kokoda Trail.

"My motivation was to help them towards manhood by appreciating the courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice that Australian soldiers underwent on this trail so their descendants could be free.

"These are the tenets that we as Australians should always strive to live by. In fact they are the ideals which have kept me going through what's been a pretty tough life at times."

Source: The Catholic Leader

We knew what we had to do, and did it


Quirk of fate BILL Goggins of Bexley joined the army in 1940 after he and a friend tried unsuccessfully to join the police.

"We went to Redfern to join the police but they told us we were too skinny, so we walked up to Victoria Barracks and joined the 9th Field Brigade," Mr Goggins [pictured] said with a chuckle.

The Kogarah RSL vice-president said he was glad he did because he went on a journey that changed his life. Mr Goggins was 19 when he was asked to join the Royal Australian Air Force 75 Squadron because of his mechanical background.

He sailed from Townsville on a Dutch ship and arrived at Milne Bay in August 1942 to help maintain aircraft, including Kitty Hawks. He was there for the battle of Milne Bay — the first time the Allied troops defeated the Japanese in the Pacific campaign.

"There was no feeling of going back, we just knew what we had to do and that's what we did," Mr Goggins said.

He recalls his first or second night sleeping in a tent with two others and hearing bombs drop from planes flying at about 15,000 feet. He yelled at his mates to get into a trench. "They said 'don't be so bloody silly, the trenches are full of snakes'," he said. "So we just stayed there. I couldn't believe it."

He said he missed his mother's cooking and soon tired of eating bully beef and beans. Soldiers passed time by playing mouth organs and cards or talking. "There was no entertainment, we were camped out in the middle of a coconut plantation," he said.

After a year in PNG, he returned to Richmond air base near Sydney and then sailed to England. The war ended shortly after. "I was one of the lucky ones," he said. After marrying, he and his wife, Toni, moved to PNG for 10 years to work.

Mr Goggins said this Anzac Day he would remember his mates and father, who served in World War I. "I think I would be the same as most people. You remember what happened and then you say, 'let's get on with it' and have a beer," Mr Goggins said.

Source: St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, Sydney

Police sergeant will get the track pumping


Broadmeadows sergeant RUGBY BALLS AND bike pumps may not be what many people consider to be essential supplies for an eight-day trek in tough terrain.

But for Broadmeadows Police Senior Sergeant George Buchhorn [pictured], it’s precious cargo to bring some help and happiness to villages along the Kokoda Track.

Sen-Sgt Buchhorn will tackle the track in July to deliver a specialised backpack worth $700, bought with the help of the Keilor East RSL, which he hopes to fill with medical supplies and deliver to health nurse, Jerry Dimuda, whom he met on his first visit to the Kokoda Track last year.

Mr Dimuda visits villages to immunise children, perform medical examinations, record illnesses and respond to medical emergencies, but struggled with equipment and supplies, sometimes using a wheelbarrow to transport them to villages.

On his visit last August, Sen-Sgt Buchhorn took rugby balls and bike pumps for residents of the villages. “They were pretty well received,” he said. “There are some pretty sports-mad villages there.”

Sen-Sgt Buchhorn, who hopes to become a guide on treks of the Kokoda Track, said he felt people were starting to understand the significance of the track in Australia’s history during the World War II campaign.

Source: Hume Leader, Melbourne

Funds fight tangles up sick people from PNG


SERIOUSLY ILL PATIENTS from PNG, often with family links to Australians, have become the latest category of boat people facing official rejection from Australia.

The rising number of PNG nationals sailing to nearby Australian islands in the Torres Strait to receive medical treatment has generated a dispute between the federal and Queensland governments over who is ultimately responsible for the cost of their care.

Medical experts have warned that a failure to ensure proper treatment for the PNG patients risks leading to the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis to Australia.

Read the full story here

Source: Sydney Morning Herald


The epic bonding trek that is Kokoda

ABOUT HALFWAY UP the long climb out of the Goldie River valley, a steep hillside devoid of jungle shade, the unexpectedly gruelling finale to a southwards journey on the Kokoda Track, a butterfly kept coming back to settle on my arm.

It was a lustrous thing about eight centimetres across, with velvety wings of purple and brown, one of the hundreds of wonderful species found in Papua New Guinea. It seemed a blessing and farewell.

Up at the top, at the road terminus known as Owens Corner, our group of trekkers turned to look back and pose for photos under the steel arches that frame the view, a memorial with plaques attached listing the Australian and American units that fought over the track in 1942 and then on to the killing grounds of Buna and Gona on Papua's north coast, where the Japanese remnants had dug in for a last stand.

Behind, the Owen Stanley Range receded: fold upon fold of deep green hill and mountain, with not a sign of human settlement. The first clouds of the afternoon bank-up were still wispy; later they'd be a lowering, inky mass. We had walked through this range, trudged up its endless slopes, camped in its clearings eight nights, bathed in its rushing streams, trod its paths for 96 kilometres.

Read the full article here

Source: ‘The Essay: Pathways to Papua’ by Hamish McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 2011

Angels will march in Sydney & Canberra


Angels here

WEARING TRADITIONAL dress he made himself, coordinator of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels in the Oro Province, Benjamin Ijumi [pictured], will march in Canberra tomorrow as a representative of the Angels. ''I am honoured to march,'' he said.

His colleagues Frederick Soka and Father Hannington Dabiyaba will march in Sydney.

Mr Soka and fellow carriers were recognised by the Australian government last July when they were presented with the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels commemorative medallion.

He and his fellow stretcher-bearer and comrade, Fr Dabiyaba, a retired Anglican priest, ''enlisted'' as carriers at the ages of just 12 and 13.

Not only did they guide and carry wounded troops, they assisted the Australians in other ways.

''We cut all of the sticks to put up the tents,'' Father Dabiyaba said. ''We would fetch coconuts to quench their thirst and when they went out for exercises, we would carry their arms.''

As well as providing manual labour, Father Dabiyaba informed the allied troops of Japanese movements.

Source: The Canberra Times

Crawl through Kokoda mud? Not at my age!


No mates left WORLD WAR II veteran John Jennings, 90, always a keen fisherman, recalls a time when the lack of a rod didn't deter him.

In PNG with the 39th Battalion, and tired of the miserable army rations, he and his mates adopted a noisy remedy. "We would toss grenades out into the water where they would sink and explode," he says.

"We'd swim out and grab the stunned fish and, bingo, you'd have a good feed for a change."

"I joined the Light Horse before the war, in 1938. I got sick of where I was working and I saw a man in uniform on a horse in town one day, and I thought, that's the way for me. I put my age up as I was only 17."

Mr Jennings went on to join the 39th Battalion, which was heavily involved in the Kokoda campaign. "Half the time you were crawling or up to your waist in mud. I wouldn't want to do it today - not at my age!"

Today, Mr Jennings remembers his service with mixed feelings. He grew to be great mates with his fellow soldiers, who have all since died. He feels he experienced things that nobody should have to go through.

Mr Jennings believes it's important younger people realise the sacrifices of previous generations. "Anzac Day is when I think of all the ones I was with who are not with me any more."

The great-grandfather will not only honour Anzac Day next Monday but also his wedding anniversary and 91st birthday. "It's really good, I can celebrate with a beer in each hand!"

Source: Brimbank and North West Weekly, Melbourne

A rose for his grandfather’s grave


Kellyville residents EMOTION HAS spurred Andrew McDougall to take on the challenge of the Kokoda Track.

‘‘My grandfather fought in the war in New Guinea,’’ the Kellyville resident said. ‘‘He fought in the Middle East and then he went to Kokoda and was killed there. He was 25.’‘

Mr McDougall left for PNG with a group of ten friends and has spent eight days walking the track. His journey will finish with a dawn stand-to at Bomana tomorrow.

He is the first member of his family to visit the grave of his grandfather, Herbert Arthur Warne [pictured].

His grandmother, Esma Stuart, was very happy when she heard he would be making the trip. “She’s really proud and she’s given me a rose to put on the grave,” Mr McDougall said.

Source: Hills Shire Times, Sydney

Teacher on track for a testing Kokoda lesson


Teacher on track A NOBLE PARK teacher has overcome her hatred of camping, spiders and leeches – by walking the Kokoda Track with a group of Dandenong residents.

Jo Cucchiara [pictured with students], assistant principal at Noble Park Secondary College, wants to discover all she can about Australia's World War II campaign in Kokoda.

This includes writing a blog, taking photos and recording film footage of the trek. When she returns, Ms Cucciara will share the history of Kokoda with her students by incorporating it into the school's curriculum.

“There's room for improvement in terms of bringing Kokoda to the forefront of the Australian history curriculum,” Ms Cucchiara said.

She has been told to expect about 25 centimetres of rain each day on the Track. "We're going in the wet season because we want it to be the same as what the 39th Battalion went through," she said.

"I want to show the students the commitment and sacrifice and those values the soldiers had."

Ms Cucchiara said she was not known for her love of the outdoors. "I've never slept in a sleeping bag. I have a fear of leeches and spiders," she said.

But Ms Cucchiara has trained rigorously for up to 20 hours each week. She has already dealt with another anxiety, even before leaving the country. "I've already overcome my fear of needles - I think I've had about five already."

Source: Greater Dandenong Weekly, Melbourne

Jack was a driving force in the war effort


Jack a driving force JACK BOWMAN’S father owned a bus company, so the army thought the 19-year old would make a good driver.

He reported for training at Woodside on Christmas Day 1941 and, just days later, left Adelaide for PNG to spend two years trucking artillery and supplies around Port Moresby Harbour with the 13th Field Regiment.

The regiment’s guns were positioned about 15 km inland in preparation for a Japanese land invasion. “If they came ashore, we would have had to mow them down,” Mr Bowman says.

It never came to that after the victory of Allied forces in the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1943, which played out before his eyes and was the only time he was truly frightened. “That was the turning point in the war as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr Bowman, now 87, says troops became blase about the endless Japanese air raids of 60 or 70 bombers swooping on the harbour each day. “When you’re there it doesn’t worry you. You’ve got plenty of mates around you.”

After the war Mr Bowman joined his father and brother driving for Bowman’s Bus Company taking over the business in 1950 and expanding it to a fleet of 44 buses.

He treasures Anzac Day for the annual reunion of the 13th Field Regiment. “Only about 50 of the 750 are left. A lot are from the Tea Tree Gully area and Norwood and so on. “You never forget their friendship.”

Source: Leader Messenger, Salisbury, South Australia

Nothing good comes from war, says veteran


Talking tough WORLD WAR II VETERAN Dick Goold [pictured] feels that talking about his harrowing posting to PNG is difficult but necessary.

Readying himself for tomorrow’s Anzac Day ceremonies, Mr Goold, 89, said he speaks about his devastating wartime experiences to ensure future generations are aware of war’s brutal reality.

“For a lot of the fellas, it’s very hard to talk about,” he said. “Some friends of mine were Rats of Tobruk and they can’t talk about it without getting emotional.

“But you do need people to know that nothing good comes from war. There have been so many of them over the years and nobody seems to have learned that yet.”

After enlisting in the Royal Australian Air Force as a mechanic, Mr Goold said he was posted to Port Moresby when he was 19. He remembers vividly the rough and unhygienic living conditions, constant bombings, fear and uncertainty as well as the mateship of fellow troops.

“It stays with you, that,” Mr Goold said. “I was there about nine months and that was more than enough for me. Some of those things you never forget.”

A member of Templestowe RSL since 1962, Mr Goold has been prominent in the club’s Anzac Day services. I’m always there and I do the raising of the flag,” Mr Goold said. “It’s good to keep the spirit going.”

Source: Manningham Leader, Melbourne

Land: questions of ownership & sovereignty


A RECENT PARLIAMENTARY review into mineral resource ownership and management has sparked a debate on transferring ownership from the State to so-called traditional landowners.

Proponents of this shift in ownership include prominent politicians and individuals. Their argument is straightforward: give customary landowners the right to ownership of what is under their land.

For many Papua New Guineans, this seems logical; after all, why should the State have ownership of resources that are under customary land? For millennia, their ancestors have fought to defend those tribal lands and the resources therein. Within their cultural context it seems totally unfair that the State should take away what they regard as their birthright.

The Bougainville crisis that stemmed out of such clash of cultures illustrates the extreme reaction of people towards the State. It is this principle of presumed traditional ownership that plagues the LNG Project in Southern Highlands Province.

The State has not done itself any favours by not effectively articulating this ownership issue and, as a consequence, many illiterate people in remote rural communities still live with the assumption that any gold, copper or oil under their customary land belongs to them.

Many customary landowners in areas where resources are being extracted continue to be frustrated with the realisation that they only get what the State and the developer think is their fair share. To many, it isn’t fair at all.

For the uninitiated, the Constitution of PNG recognises the customary land ownership rights of Papua New Guineans. However various Acts of Parliament covering the management of resources enable the principles of Crown ownership of the British Common Law tradition.

What this means is that, while indigenous communities own their traditional land, the management of certain resources within those customary land holdings are subject to Acts of Parliament which cover forestry, fisheries and mining throughout PNG.

With elections around the corner, many politicians aim to capitalise on this negative public sentiment by making populist comments about resource ownership.

This is a clash of cultures; a battle between the Anglo-Australian colonial view and the traditional Melanesian view of resource ownership. The real issue being drowned out is the question of how national wealth is distributed equitably in a modern democratic state.

This is also a symptom of an identity crisis faced by many Papua New Guineans who still do not identify with the modern state and hold on to their traditional political identity. It is frustrating to them that what they consider their traditional resource should be shared with ‘foreigners’ from distant tribes.

That is not to imply that they are greedy, although some may be, rather the frustration stems from the lack of say they have over how much ‘others’ should receive. That is the Melanesian Way.

The State has not done itself any favours in that its agents have failed miserably in their fiduciary duty to properly manage the natural resources. Forestry and fisheries resources are being over-exploited and mining projects have caused catastrophic environmental damage. This is compounded by the squandering of income from resources, much of it being lost through corruption.

The people have lost faith in the institutions and mechanisms of the State. Instead of serving the interests of the people they are seen to be self-serving and in favour of developers.

However, many communities in resource project areas have also shown how incompetent they are in managing the income they get. These issues were highlighted in the Barnett Inquiry into the forestry sector.

Landowners also incurr huge debts in the name of their mineral payments, such that much income is diverted to servicing those debts. Very little, if anything, of substance is achieved by these groups.

This is the awkward dilemma the nation faces. And at the heart of the issue remains the question of who, which or what is the best and most efficient mechanism for distribution of national wealth? Is it the State or will the customary landowners do a better job? Furthermore, are these natural resources national wealth or customary wealth?

One of the risks associated with the move to change ownership rights is that it places the national government and institutions at the mercy of sub-national governments and local tribal interests.

It also weakens the influence of the national government and further undermines its roles. This is the situation in Afghanistan where a weak central government is at the mercy of powerful regional warlords who control the opium trade.

It is therefore not in anyone’s interest that the national government be dancing to the tune of powerful landlords and governors who control its money supply. The moves to curtail the powers and rights of the national government are driven by selfish regional and local interests and are not it the best interest of the people of PNG.

Having powerful landlords and governors undermines the national government and raises the risk of political instability and secession of regions. The transfer of ownership rights is thus akin to transfer of sovereignty and perhaps like the Sarajevo bullet that killed the Archduke of Austria, a trigger for the Balkanization of Papua New Guinea.

Landowner: state has no right to resources

A PNG LANDOWNER says the government has no rights to assume control of something that’s been in customary ownership for thousands of years.

Simon Ekanda represents what he calls the Tuguba Tribes of the Hela Nation, and has been at loggerheads with ExxonMobil after being left out of agreements for the liquefied natural gas project.

He’s one of the principals in a new political party aiming to change legislation that grants the state ownership of all resources at six or more feet underground.

Mr Ekanda says while the law says that, he disputes the right of the government to have made such a decision.

“I want to know how did that happen and who sold it to them? When did that happen?” he said.

“My father didn’t sell anything to them because they came into this country about 40 years ago - in my tribe lands in the Hela land they came in 40 years ago, and I was there 2000 years ago. How did that happen?

“They don’t need to own what belongs to me and my custom and my culture.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Neville Barnes – trader and entrepreneur

Barnes Neville IF ONE WORD could sum up the life of Neville Barnes (1929-2011), who has died in Caloundra, Queensland at the age of 81, that word would be colourful.

At one time he was a big name in pearl production in PNG and his business, N E Barnes Trading Company, which had branches across the country, imported a vast array of products from Wedgwood china to prefabricated bridges.

Although born in Sydney, he spent his youth in Queensland. At the age of 21 he moved to Brisbane, where he spent his spare time at the Broadbeach Surf Lifesaving Club during the birth of the Gold Coast's beach culture.

He later moved to Rabaul and set up the trading company that was to become a well-known name in PNG. At first Neville concentrated on importing goods from Hong Kong, but soon expanded to many other countries.

In the 1960s, when China first opened its doors to western economies, Mr Barnes was one of the first businessmen to attend a trade fair in Canton, securing agencies for Chinese textiles, clothing and light industrial goods.

His company was also importing prefabricated bridges from Japan on behalf of the PNG government, and a wide range of clothing, trade store supplies and luxury items from Europe, Britain and elsewhere.

Before long the family moved to Port Moresby, which became the company headquarters, while Mr Barnes opened additional offices in Lae, Madang, Goroka and Mt Hagen.

His venture into the pearl trade began when he was approached to oversee the establishment of a cultured pearl farm at Idumava Point in Fairfax Harbour. This was a massive task in Port Moresby, which still had limited infrastructure. It involved taking electricity and town water across the harbour, underwater to the farm, and building staff quarters and operating rooms.

It was a highly successful venture for many years before water pollution from shipping and problems with polychaete worms forced its closure. So then Neville turned to marketing pearls and set up offices in Brisbane, Sydney and Singapore. His son Bruce still carries on that business in Hong Kong.

After selling his business to Breckwoldt and Co, Neville moved back to Australia where he retired to Pelican Waters in Caloundra.

He was a gregarious man who was great company and an excellent cook, and he maintained his colourful lifestyle in his new home. Unfortunately, for the last six years he had Alzheimer's disease.

Neville is survived by his wife Jan, sons Bruce and Dominic, and grandchildren Rebecca, Erica, Dominic, Adam, Mallory, Allegra, Conor, Ryan and Daniel.

Source: Brisbane Courier-Mail.     Spotter: Murray Bladwell

Property – homes of the aspiring middle class

OVER THE LAST few years, attention in the property market has turned strongly to Gerehu, 9 Mile and the new subdivision of 8 Mile.

The new housing construction tally of around 500 homes continues to burgeon on the back of 30 - 40 year olds trying to break into the housing market and accepting the relative unaffordability of places like Boroko.

By far the largest driver of this market is private sector housing allowance to quality staff as well employers rewarding key people with long term housing incentives. The employer purchases the house along with the employee, with housing allowances repaying the money owed.

This locks quality personnel into a long-term house ownership scheme and acts as a ‘win-win’ for both employer and employee. It is also clear recognition that housing remains the number one issue for employees and recognition by employers that the most powerful determinant in a stable workforce is a roof over their workers’ heads.

Current house prices at 8 and 9 Mile vary from an entry level of K350-900,000 ($130-340,000) with rents averaging K500-600 ($190-220) per week for two bedrooms and K750–900 ($280-260) for three.

Over the next decade, this market will continue to firm as more and more employers provide staff accommodation and PNG’s expanding middle class begins to translate into a home owning class.

The Erima – Sogeri corridor which encompasses both 8 and 9 Mile offers the most feasible long-term residential area for Port Moresby because there is sub dividable land, road access and water and power following the same line from Sogeri.

Source: Nasfund Newsletter

Consumerism. Where does PNG’s money go?


MANY PEOPLE HAVE commented on the seeming conundrum that, although PNG is rich in resources, many of its people are relatively poor in material goods and services.

So where does the money go? Some feel it’s just a case of national and international theft. Others are amazed at how hard PNG works for just small returns.

Let’s examine some possible causes.

Firstly, PNG’s rich natural resources must be extracted and processed. Mineral deposits in their natural state are not worth anything and must be smelted and turned into consumer products.

The riches of the ocean and soil must first be caught or farmed and then processed before being able to be consumed. Forests must be cut down in order to be made into furniture and other consumable items.

Given the proviso that PNG’s resources must first be processed in order to be turned into saleable products, how much of this processing and manufacturing takes place in PNG? How many PNGians actually own or have a majority ownership of the processing and manufacturing plants?

Secondly, PNG is not alone in exporting her resources. Australia and many other countries also export raw materials and primary products to many countries. The difference seems to be that Australia obtains significant benefits from these exports.

As a very minor primary producer, however, these benefits do not extend to most Australian farmers and the ability of multinational companies and huge retailers to control the price of products is a sore point.

Lastly, given Australia’s relatively small manufacturing base and local markets, many consumer items have to be imported. The virtual selling out of Australian controlled commodity producers has been increasing over the last decade.

One reason given for this asset sale are that we are part of a global economy, yet the undeniable fact is that many iconic Australian companies have been sold to international buyers.

PNG however had no real manufacturing base to begin with and no large industry involving the production of most of the desirable material goods. Motor vehicles, TVs, mobile phones, computers and all the things the younger generation puts an inestimable value on must all be imported and paid for from the currency obtained from the export of natural resources.

So when the next person asks where their country’s riches have gone, have them look at their lifestyle, what they are spending their money on and who owns the company that produced the item.

Easter story: 20 gallons of avgas saves 2 lives

Mother%20&%20baby ON GOOD FRIDAY two years ago, Samaritan Aviation’s crew received a desperate call from a remote Sepik village to help a pregnant mother who was bleeding to death.

Antonia was having complications during birth, had lost a lot of blood, and would not live to make the two day trip by canoe and overland to the only hospital in the province.

Samaritan’s pilots took off in the amphibious Cessna 206, Spirit of Paradise, and headed for Timbunke, a remote health station close to the village.

Because infant mortality rates are so high in the Sepik, babies are often not named until they are two years old. 500,000 people live in this region and there is one hospital at Wewak, just a few minutes away from the airport.

In the air, pilots Bruce Johnson and Mark Palm retracted the wheels and prepared the plane for landing in the Sepik River. After a 25-minute flight the plane was overhead Timbunke where a large crowd of people had gathered on the river bank, motioning for the plane to land.

In a matter of minutes Antonia, close to death, was loaded into the stretcher. The mother of four was unresponsive as Spirit of Paradise took off from the river and headed for Wewak.

When the plane landed at Wewak, an ambulance took Antonia to hospital where she received emergency surgery. Doctors said she would have lived another thirty minutes without intervention.

Today Antonia and her baby boy are doing fine and a village that would have been mourning the death of one of their members has celebrated a new life.

Source: Samaritan Aviation

An independent aid policy for Australia

Peter-phipps BY PETER PHIPPS

AUSTRALIA’s OPPOSITION deputy and foreign affairs spokesperson Julie Bishop's recent comments about the role of Chinese aid in the Pacific has opened a can of worms.

Her proposals are inspired by a Lowy Institute report China in the Pacific, which suggests Australia partner with China on aid delivery projects in the Pacific.

Bishop was quoted as saying, "We're not going to be able to crowd them out with aid, but what we could do is join with them and be part...of their push into places like PNG."

The argument goes something like this: China delivers aid in the region in an apparently haphazard way that undermines internationally coordinated responses to issues such as countering corruption, efforts to strengthen governance and develop local 'capacity'.

In fact, China ignores internationally normative 'governance' questions such as corruption and human rights, delivering aid and malleable 'soft loans' in an effort to advance narrowly defined national interests.

The suggestion that Australia, as the most significant aid provider in the region, should engage the Chinese in established international norms of coordinated aid delivery is consistent with ideals about Australia being a good international and regional citizen.

But the proposal flies in the face of established conventions and practices of Australian foreign policy.

The Australian's guardian of this 'realist' foreign policy mainstream, Greg Sheridan, is appalled by Bishop's statement. He has tarred Bishop's ideas as a 'nonsensical thought-bubble' and laid responsibility for the ideas with the Lowy Institute which, in his view, has no place in the cut and thrust of international politics.

For Sheridan, Australia's only role as a middle-power in the Pacific is to remain firmly and loyally wedded to the American imperium.

While I doubt we'll hear Bishop repeat the Lowy Institute proposal, her contribution should be welcomed for opening a broader discussion about Australia's role in the rapidly-changing region.

Bishop is right to suggest that Australian foreign policy should engage much more actively with the region and avoid the tragic distraction of US wars far away. Where Bishop, the Lowy Institute and the realist mainstream might be wrong, is in understanding what is already going on in PNG.

In particular, it neglects the deep unrest at the grasruts.

One source of grassroots unrest is the $16.5 billion Exxon-Mobil led consortium bringing gas from the Southern Highlands to a processing plant in Port Moresby and on to energy-hungry markets in Asia. This is the big development story in PNG today.

The 30-year project is expected to generate $5.6 billion in royalties, taxes and dividends lifting PNG from its lowly ranking at 148 (out of 182) nations in the UN Human Development Index. The hope is that it will bring quality schools, healthcare and infrastructure to people across the country.

The first indications are not good. Landowner groups are demanding transparency from the agency which distributes their royalties apparently at whim, and provides no accounts or explanations of hefty 'management fees'.

At the local level, royalty disputes have already led to acrimonious community divisions with at least 15 reported shooting deaths at either end of the pipeline, and construction sabotage and stoppages at the well.

The consortium appears to have washed its hands of the royalty distribution issue, preferring instead to talk up its distribution of 14,000 anti-malarial mosquito nets to pipeline communities in glossy 'social and environmental impact statements'.

Meanwhile, the Chinese-run Ramu Nickel mine has led to even deeper resentments. There is deep community unrest over the damage being done to the Ramu river catchment and the authoritarian and contemptuous response at the mine to local concerns.

The regional capital Madang has seen big anti-Chinese riots, as have parts of the highlands where a new wave of small-scale Chinese entrepreneurs are bitterly resented.

As the US-China dynamic becomes more complicated and control of regional resources more crucial, 'middle power' Australia needs to make some principled, long-term choices.

One of those would be recognising that Australia's long-term national interest lies with supporting local communities and emergent civil society organisations which have the resilience to weather the approaching storms and perhaps call their governments to account.

This will mean stepping out of the shadow of whichever great power we habitually attach ourselves to, and having a truly independent foreign policy. I don't think that's a 'thought-bubble' Bishop, Sheridan or the Foreign Minister Rudd can even begin to imagine.

Dr Peter Phipps is a senior lecturer in global studies and a researcher with the Globalism Research Centre at RMIT University

Source: The Drum, ABC

The changing face of Boroko property

BOROKO IS A FAIRLY gentrified suburb 6 km from Port Moresby’s central business district and populated largely by long term public servants and private sector professionals.

Many of the residents have lived in Boroko most of their working life; many being beneficiaries of the National Housing Scheme post independence.

The houses, many built in the colonial era, sit on large allotments. Five years ago you could buy one for K400,000 ($160,000).  Today they tend to range from K1–K1.5 million ($400–600,000) – more than the average house in Australia.

The last few years of rapid price escalation follows the natural resources boom. High mineral prices and expectations of LNG combined with loose monetary policy have allowed for a price explosion.

However, the influx of non-European expatriates, combined with an aging home owner group, are slowly changing the way Boroko is developing.

Firstly, developers are slowly buying up old home sites for demolition. With home sites averaging 600 square metres, five town houses can be constructed to service the rental market.

Second, current Boroko rents of around K1,500-3,000 a week lends this market to a large number of professional Papua New Guineans as well as Indian and Asian expatriates.

The large rental differentiation between town and Boroko (up to four times more expensive in town) suggest a firming middle market over the next year and strengthening prices in Boroko.

Tomorrow: The aspiring middle class – Gerehu, 8 Mile and 9 mile

Source: Nasfund Newsletter

Largest gold producer reins in mine abuses

WHEN HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH exposed rapes and beatings by security personnel at Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold producer, the company had no choice but to take action.

Chris Albin-Lackey, Human Rights Watch senior researcher, investigated and documented reports of horrific abuse taking place at a gold mine in Porgera, a remote part of the highlands.

On the mine’s sprawling dumps of waste rock, security personnel were alleged to have carried out a wide range of crimes, including brutal gang rapes and beatings.

While claims of abuse had long been associated with the Barrick Gold mine, the Canadian corporation that owns it and is the world’s largest gold mining company had denied them as unfounded.

When confronted with the Human Rights Watch findings, Barrick acknowledged for the first time that the allegations had substance and has since taken steps to rein in the abuses uncovered.

Chris Albin-Lackey had presented his findings during a full-day meeting at Barrick’s Toronto headquarters. As a result, Barrick’s vice-president of corporate social responsibility launched a thorough internal investigation at the mine in Porgera, which echoed and confirmed our findings.

Then, days before the findings were released publicly, Barrick announced the arrest of several security guards accused of gang rape and other serious crimes. PNG police are now in the midst of a comprehensive criminal investigation.

Meanwhile, the company has promised to establish new, viable channels that community members can use to complain about abuses without fear of retribution.

Barrick has since committed to taking a broad range of measures to prevent abuses by security personnel at the mine in the future, including much tighter oversight and monitoring by senior officials.

Source: Human Rights Watch

Wantoktok system: fixing the administrators


HERE IS AN excerpt from a media statement put out by the Governor of Gulf Province, Mr Havila Kavo, in response to his recent arrest by Police [The National 20 April 2011, page 25].

The Police are unnecessarily applying heavy handed abuse tactics. If I, as a national leader is mistreated; no doubt, ordinary citizens are treated even worse. Police must be made accountable for abusing human rights and atrocities caused to communities.

The democracy of this country is fast eroding and soon this country will be destroyed. The integrity and impartiality of the Police Force is now compromised. They no longer are protecting the citizens and their properties; instead they are now becoming a mercenary, serving the interest of the Ministers and few rich individuals while honest leaders and hard working citizens are treated, as common criminals and their properties looted.

During my short stint in cell, I chatted with those detained. They said they were picked up by the Police and locked up in the cell. They did not know what the charges were. This now gives me, adequate reasons to believe that this country has become a “police state”.

Police decide on who is guilty and who is not, regardless of citizen’s constitutional rights, like they have done to me. They operate like PNG is in a civil war, acting as mercenary only taking only from certain tyranny styled leader leading this country into social anarchy and degradation (sic).

Welcome to the light Mr Kavo. Every MP should have some sort of baptism of fire like this so they come to their senses about the reality of living in PNG in the 21st Century.

I believe Mr Kavo was just crying foul over his arrest and really had no consideration for the real issue of rogue nature of elements in PNG’s Police Force. I must stress though that the Police Force is not homogenous, and there are indeed hardworking honest members of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary who serve the nation well.

I wonder if Mr Kavo did anything to get his cell mates out or is he just making political capital out of the misery of ol druggie ment bata lo stit [street boys].

Mr Kavo's outburst seems to be the theme amongst so-called leaders these days. They act holier than thou and criticise a system only when it bites them, without seriously proposing concrete solutions.

Take for example the venom that comes out from the former Forest Minister and current PNG Party leader in the Parliamentary Opposition, Mr Belden Namah. What he says does beg the question “what did you do fix the issues you highlight now when you were once a cabinet minister in the government you criticise?”

That’s pretty much what happened when the former Head of Planning was relieved of his position. Once he fell from grace he decided to try and spill the beans on the Planning Department.

The front page of the same paper in which Mr Kavo put out his media statement had a front page story entitled “Ex-PM fights for resources”. Sir Julius Chan was quoted as saying:

Today, I propose to transfer wealth to resource owners, to those simple villagers who are blessed with owning a piece of inherited customary land...

At least Sir Julius was honest enough to admit that, as a former Prime Minister and Finance geek, he held a share of the responsibility. What he did not mention was that he had a conflict of interest in that he is currently fighting for monies from Lihir that are owed by the State to the New Ireland Province where he is currently the Governor.

To top off an interesting newspaper, there was an opinion piece by Dr Samuel Maima, technical adviser to the Boka Kondra Bill that aims to restore ownership of mineral wealth to customary landowners. He said:

As far as the ownership of resources is concerned, the Oil and Gas Act 1998 and Mining Act 1992 are not consistent within the National Constitution section 53 and therefore these acts are deemed unconstitutional.

Well I guess Dr Maima has a Bill to hawk to the public. What he did not tell us is that the Acts he referred to as unconstitutional aren’t unconstitutional until deemed to be so by the Supreme Court and not by the learned doctor.

There are some leaders who do understand the weaknesses of the systems in our country. Today, many benefit from the institutional reforms and policies of former Prime Minister Sir Mekere Morauta.

Dame Carol Kidu’s social reforms are empowering ordinary people. We need leaders like these two, whose actions speak louder than all the rhetoric spewed by every other pretender to the throne.

As Sir Mekere once highlighted, the problems in this country are “systemic and systematic”.

I would like to go further and add that it is not the systems but the system administrators who are the cause of the systemic and systematic failures. Changing the systems without addressing the incompetence of the systems administrators will not address the issues affecting the country.

Papua New Guineans unsupported, not lazy


THE PEOPLE OF PNG are not lazy. We try our hearts out but have not been receiving the recognition and the appropriate support to take us to the next level.

There are people out there in our rural communities who are doing coffee, cocoa and copra but with no government leadership in terms of improving access to markets.

And our commodity price stabilisation mechanisms have been completely corrupted to a stage where they can no longer provide price incentives for our people to remain in their coffee, cocoa and copra plots at times of low world commodity prices.

This is one lot of hard working Papua New Guineans.

The other lot of hard working Papua New Guineans are the very enterprising people who are seen by most as the eye sore of our towns and cities: yes I’m talking about the humble buai sellers and the street vendors who brave the hostile tropical heat 24/7 to make something of themselves.

So if you define laziness as lack of effort, then I will reject that assertion completely.

Modern trade, that includes cash changing hands, is a relatively new concept to us. We have only been introduced to it less than half a century ago.

We need to recognise this and step up and provide proper guidance and support, including financial education and awareness and access to capital and to markets, to our masses to help them properly integrate into the formal economy.

With the entry of mobile phone technology and the various micro finance and financial inclusion schemes that are being rolled out, we are beginning to see Papua New Guineans stepping up.

But more government support and encouragement is still needed in the long term to get us over the line.

So we are not lazy. And micro business activities that are reserved for us by law must not be given away to foreigners under the pretext that “we can’t do it ourselves”.

The laws in respect of this that have been corrupted must be corrected and our people must be given the protection of the State to find our feet in this newly introduced cash economy.

The editor thought this article, first published as a comment in PNG Attitude yesterday, merited more prominent exposure on this main page

Somare opposes proposed airline merger

PNG Public Enterprises Minister Arthur Somare has come out opposing the proposed merger between Air Niugini and Airlines PNG, claiming it is a backward step.

Mr Somare, whose ministry is responsible for Air Niugini, said he believed it was against the national and public interest for the 100% national government-owned airline to merge with Airlines PNG.

He said in a statement that during the past two years, the public had enjoyed big savings in telecommunication charges and airfares following the introduction of competition in these sectors.

“I cannot think of any reason why we would want to go backwards again. Besides the benefits from competition, I can think of seven reasons why this proposal should not be considered,” Mr Somare said.

He said among the reasons included:

Airlines PNG suffered big losses in its two years as a company listed on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange and, if it is now enjoying robust growth, that is good for future competition; and

Publicly available information suggested APNG’s improved performance is due to charters with the PNG LNG project and others, but this has little benefit to wider travelling public.

Mr Somare said Air Niugini had enjoyed an accident-free history since 1974; a merger with APNG would ruin this reputation and result in payment of much higher insurance premiums.

He said the higher insurance premiums would result in higher costs and higher airfares.

Source: My Daily Vanuatu News and