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177 posts from May 2011

Pacific Partnership team arrives in PNG


Pacific partnership AMPHIBIOUS TRANSPORT dock ship USS Cleveland, the flagship for Pacific Partnership 2011, anchored off Lae on 19 May to begin a mission involving Australia, Canada, Spain, France and the United States.

Cleveland houses the command staff, representatives from non-governmental organisations as well as sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen from partner nations.

“The Pacific Partnership team is very excited to begin the mission in PNG,” said Capt. Jesse A Wilson, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 23 and mission commander of Pacific Partnership 2011.

“Working together we will provide engineering, dental, medical and veterinary civic action projects and subject matter expert exchanges designed to increase interoperability between partner nations and PNG.

“As a result, we’ll improve the quality of life of the people of PNG, and enhance our collective capability to respond to natural disasters in the region.”

Commander Wilson was greeted with a traditional spear dance, where tribal warriors demonstrate their willingness to defend their villages from invaders. They then welcome them once it is evident they come in peace.

“It's truly a pleasure to be working together with so many different cultures building partnerships that will provide a great deal of help for people in the Pacific,” said Commander Bruce Greig, senior medical officer of the Australian contingent.

Uss_cleveland Along with the medical, dental, engineering and veterinary civic action programs, there will be a humanitarian assistance and disaster response conference, preventive medical outreach programs to mitigate local issues like tuberculosis and dengue, and members of the Pacific Partnership 2011 team will attend the South Pacific Women’s Empowerment Policy Dialogue sponsored by the US embassy.

Pacific Partnership is an annual humanitarian assistance initiative sponsored by the US Pacific Fleet, aimed at improving interoperability between host and partner nations. Now in its sixth year, Pacific Partnership 2011 will continue to Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia following their mission in Papua New Guinea.

“Different cultures partnering together to make a difference is what Pacific Partnership is all about,” said Teddy Taylor, US ambassador to PNG. “The mission reflects the United States strong commitment to the Pacific region and is providing sustainable projects that will provide improved quality of life for the people in the area.

During the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational, and preventive medicine services to more than 210,000 people and completed more than 140 engineering projects in 15 countries.

Photos: [top] An MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopter approaches the flight deck during a downpour aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland off the coast of Lae; [lower] USS Cleveland. (Main photo by: Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Russell)

Source: US Department of Defense

High-speed internet introduced to PNG

WOULD YOU EXPECT to get 3G access in one of the most rural and least explored countries in the world? In PNG this is possible thanks to a contract between Digicel Pacific and Ericsson.

Papua New Guineans now get mobile broadband services for the first time. By using a hybrid power solution, combining solar panels, rechargeable batteries and diesel generators, Digicel has made the jump from 2G to 3G while greatly reducing fuel and manpower costs. In turn, subscribers enjoy faster internet speeds at an affordable price.

John Mangos, CEO of Digicel PNG, says: “Since launching our 2G network in 2007, Ericsson has built more than 600 sites for us. Introducing the RBS 6000 radio base station convinced us to go ahead and launch 3G. It's an important move, not only for us, but moreso for our subscribers.”

 “The solar hybrid power solution is specifically suited to extremely isolated areas outside the power grid, where the materials and manpower can only be delivered by helicopter,” says Rajendra Pangrekar, President and Head of Ericsson Philippines and Pacific Islands.

“In PNG, which is one of the most rural countries in the world - with only 18% of the population living in urban areas - this solution is optimal. We see a great interest from operators in the entire region for these solutions as more focus is put on saving operation costs and moving to more environmentally friendliness.”

The rechargeable batteries used last longer than standard batteries, and combining them with solar panels results in large reductions in fuel and manpower costs for the operator.

As part of the agreement, Ericsson will provide network rollout, support and technology-consulting services.

Source: Ericsson

PNG pioneers exploiting the ocean's riches


IN THE 1970s, the oil and natural gas industry decided to take a leap into the deep. With many of the biggest and cheapest petroleum deposits on land already discovered, the search for new finds went offshore into ever-deeper waters.

The move has transformed the energy business. About one-third of the world's oil and gas now comes from beneath the seabed, although some accidents and spills have caused extensive damage to the environment and been costly to clean up.

No one has yet attempted full-scale commercial mining to exploit the trove of seabed mineral riches. But earlier this year, the PNG government granted the world's first deep-sea mining lease to Nautilus Minerals Inc, a Canadian-based firm backed by several multinational and Russian mining groups.

Nautilus is assembling a combination of technologies from different industries - among them mining, oil and gas, and dredging - to create what it says will be a cost-efficient system for deep-sea mining.

In 2013, it plans to start mining a high-grade copper-gold resource about 1,600 metres below the surface of the Bismarck Sea in Papua New Guinea waters.

The company says it will use remotely operated undersea vehicles and machines to cut ore from the sea floor and pump it up to a production support vessel on the surface as seawater slurry. The water will then be removed and the ore shipped to shore for smelting into ingots.

After investing about $400 million, Nautilus aims to produce ore at an annual rate of more than 1.3 million tonnes, containing approximately 80,000 tonnes of copper and up to 200,000 ounces of gold for a number of years before shifting its moveable production system to other nearby deposits it has found.

Exploiting these deposits in national waters is controversial. After returning from a recent visit to PNG, Australia's Greens party leader, Senator Bob Brown, said he would seek a Senate inquire into the environmental impact of undersea mining.

Other critics say that the Asia-Pacific rim is being made a test bed for a potentially damaging new form of mining as technology races ahead of regulation.

Michael Richardson is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore

Source: Japan Times

Sir Michael remains in intensive care

DESPITE REPORTS earlier this week that Sir Michael Somare would be returning to PNG within days, and even resuming his role as prime minister, there are growing concerns that he might have to be replaced because of continuing health problems.

Sir Michael remains in a Singapore hospital after undergoing heart surgery a month ago.

Constitutional lawyer John Nongorr says if Sir Michael can't resume his duties soon the Governor-General must suspend him from office. Under PNG law two doctors must be appointed to examine the prime minister if he's disabled by illness.

"There should not be a vacuum, there should not be an acting person performing those important functions during a prolonged period,” said Dr Nonggorr.

The government says Sir Michael is on extended medical leave and will resume office.

Source: Radio Australia

The under-recognised artists of PNG



WHEN YOU TRAVEL around Papua New Guinea you come across art in unexpected places.

As you step off your aeroplane at Jacksons Airport and enter the terminal the art confronts you as murals above the stairs, continuing on along the walls in the custom’s hall.

Meri + Bilum It’s something to admire while you wait in the long queue to get your passport stamped.

Outside there are concrete reliefs holding up the veranda and across the way the hotels display it too.

The art, particularly the paintings, are an old tradition adapted to a new format which is both innovative and exciting and receives very little recognition outside PNG.

When we were casting about for images for the cover of Sil Bolkin’s new book The Flight of Galkope, which is set in the Simbu Province, Sil suggested we look at the art of Simon Tagai from Kundiawa’s Gembogl district.

Some of Simon’s work, called Simbu True Life Tales, adorns the walls of the Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel in downtown Kundiawa.  Look at this wonderful impression here. And check out the website at

Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel 

Simon attended the Creative Arts Faculty at the University of Papua New Guinea in the early 1990s but left in his third year when he ran out of money to pay his tuition fees.  Since then he has been a freelance painter.

We reckon he’s in his late 30s but can’t ask him because he has just disappeared into the mountains with his brushes and palette.

Meris + Ceremony 

The curse of paranoia


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

EVEN A SERENE NIGHT, softly illuminated by the glowing moon, gently caressed by the cool breeze with cicada serenades, could not draw Eware out of his house; night time was a prison for Eware, until the first light of dawn.

Even then, the light of day had its own restrictions on Eware’s life. He was very careful with his habits - his food scraps, he put away carefully, his rubbish thrown away immediately into the sea. He ensured he got his betel nut and mustard himself. His lime he shared with no one.

When he chewed betel nut, he would spray the spittle into fine droplets that got blown away with the wind. Spitting was just too dangerous. In his waking hours, his bilum would hang around his neck; at night his bilum became his pillow in case someone sneaked something into it or removed anything from it. Eware trusted no one.

Eware had all the reasons to be very careful. The quality of his life had deteriorated since he got rid of Sapa, his first wife and married Dona his second wife. The downward spiraling did not stop after Dona died and he acquired a third woman. Moe, his third wife deserted him at the same time that the village people disowned him. Even his sons turned their backs on him.

Eware had an idea about the source of all his problems. At the time when Dona was pregnant with his fifth child, he had caught Sapa lurking in his back yard. When confronted, Eware was sure he saw a sly smirk on Sapa’s face when she responded that she was only checking out some betel nut palms she had planted previously.

Eware had shamed Sapa’s family when he sent Sapa back to her father’s house. But he had only practiced his rights because Sapa had failed to give him any children. It seemed that Sapa was out to make him pay for his action. He believed she had put a curse on him.

Dona was a spinster, a distant cousin from his father’s side – such a marriage arrangement was possible within Eware’s matrilineal customs. Despite her homeliness, Dona had the virtues of a prized wife; she made big gardens and tended Eware’s pigs and, most importantly, she bore Eware children. The children had come as a flood as if to compensate Eware for the childless years gone by.

At the same time, the floodgate of misfortune was unleashed on Eware’s life.  Dona died after the bloody and painful ordeal of birthing his fifth offspring – a breech birth. Eware lost the person who could make gardens to feed his brood and his pigs. Dona had not even borne him a girl child. The value of daughters was in the dowry from their marriage - a good marriage would also bring Eware status and rights to new garden land. A daughter would look after him in his old age.

Eware’s third marriage ended when Johnny, Eware’s first son, staggered home and died in his arms from respiratory complications.

Johnny was the first born, he ran away from home because he was stifled by his father’s obsession with the notion that his family was cursed. Johnny and his brothers were forbidden by their father from mingling with the villagers for fear of bad things happening to them.

Johnny ran away from his restricted life to freedom in town. Eventually he got employment at the town forestry nursery - sieving soil all day long. He built himself a cardboard shack at the edge of the nursery and that was where he got acquainted with Julie.

Julie and her friends were always available whenever Johnny and the other nursery boys had money to pay for some frolicking. Apart from sharing their bodies, the girls freely shared the dreaded human immuno-deficiency virus. The virus rapidly reduced Johnny’s immune system, which was already stressed from the chronic bronchitis that he had developed since he started work in the nursery.

When Johnny returned home, as scrawny as a chicken, the village people turned their backs on Eware; so did his third wife. Eware dreaded and loathed what his son had become but still he could not escape the tender feelings he had for his first born. Johnny died in Eware’s arms alone and was buried in a shallow grave next to Dona.

After the passing of his son Eware sank into depression. The feeling of loneliness, hopelessness and worthlessness overwhelmed him. All his family and friends had deserted him - he had nothing to live for. He had no freedom for it was tiring to be constantly on guard for his life. He decided at that point that he would end his tormented life, but not before making Sapa and her family pay for his damned life. So he planned his payback.

That fateful night, Eware could not sleep, so he kept watch until the early hours of the morning. It was the time of the morning that even dogs fall into deep sleep. While humans and dogs slept Eware collected the dried coconut frond torch he had made and silently braved the darkness down to Sapa’s hamlet.

Standing next to the first house in the hamlet he lit the coconut frond and lifted the burning torch to the thatched roof. The flickering flames encouraged by the morning breeze eagerly fed on the dry sago thatch and instantly grew into a hungry, devouring monster.

Within seconds, burning pieces of thatch alighted on a second house and then the next. The whole village awoke to a jumble of confusion as three burning houses became one big inferno.

Meanwhile, Eware had become a possessed man – silhouetted by the light of the burning houses, he danced and celebrated his revenge. He was in his own world, oblivious to the pandemonium he had caused and he did not see the barbed spear hurtling toward him.

The spear made contact with his chest; the force of impact lifted him off his feet and slammed him to the ground. The spear hit him just above his heart, severing a big vein.

The village was in chaos as the sun peeked over the horizon; women loudly mourning the two people taken in the blaze, children howling after their mothers, dogs yowling at the bedlam while men stood around the smoldering houses, shaking their heads and wondering why a recluse like Eware could inflict such violence on his ex-wife’s family. 

Nobody paid any attention to Eware’s gurgled mutterings as he choked on his own blood, but nothing really mattered to Eware – he had avenged the death of his loved ones and he was free, free at last from the curse. 

Tanya Zeriga-Alone (34) was born in Kainantu in the Eastern Highlands. Her grandparents were missionaries with links to Morobe Province.  She currently lives in Goroka working as an environmental scientist and planner/researcher for a non-government organisation.  She is interested in photography, music, reading, politics and sewing

Ex PM justifies joining Bougainville Copper


FORMER PRIME MINISTER Sir Rabbie Namaliu says he accepted a directorship on the board of Bougainville Copper because it’s important the company has a PNG voice.

Sir Rabbie was appointed to the board earlier this year as it became clear that talks on the reopening of the Panguna mine are set to begin.
The mine was closed in 1989 after it had sparked a decade-long civil war on the island.

Sir Rabbie, who led PNG from 1988 to 1992, says he thought long and hard before accepting the directorship and consulted widely on the matter.

He says he took on the post because Bougainville needs all the help it can get to restore services in the lead up to a referendum on independence.

Source: Radio Australia

Govt worked better under Somare: Basil


PNG’s OPPOSITION has criticised the government over it's failure to bring ministers to debate important matters in parliament over the last two weeks.

Deputy Opposition Leader Sam Basil says parliament has been adjourned unnecessarily as the government failed to bring MPs to the floor.

He says the absence of government ministers and MPs shows the government is not performing.

''We, the Opposition, believe that the government has not really performed and the government is not very serious in providing the numbers that there is quorum. The government is not serious in attending sessions," Mr Basil said.

Meanwhile, he has wished Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare a quick recovery from a heart surgery he under-went in Singapore.

He said, during Sir Michael's absence, the government has lacked discipline under acting prime minister Sam Abal.

Source: Australia Network News

Six Sarawakians still missing in PNG


AT LEAST SIX Sarawakians are still missing in PNG after being cheated by an employment agency. Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Richard Riot Jaem said it is most likely that the victims are Dayaks.

“At the moment we can say there are at least six persons still missing in the country, but most probably there could be more which we cannot ascertain for now.

“Whatever it is, the Malaysian High Commission in PNG is working hard to get to the bottom of it,” he told reporters.

Datuk Riot said the High Commission was also trying to trace the employment agency, but added that the effort had been futile so far.

However he was glad to note that three victims who were stranded in PNG had been brought home by Umno.

He strongly advised people, particularly those in villages and remote areas, to be very careful should any employment agency come to the area to offer jobs.

He said people must insist that they show their identity cards and check the authenticity of the agency to prevent being cheated and ending up in the same ordeal faced by victims in the PNG case.

Source: Borneo Post

Appraisal: Sir Michael Somare & PNG politics


GRAND CHIEF Sir Michael Somare has been a member of the PNG National Parliament since 1968, and for 18 of his 43 years in Parliament he has been chief minister/prime minister, as head of a coalition government.

In the country’s most recent general election, held under a recently introduced limited preferential voting system in 2007, Somare was re-elected to his East Sepik Provincial seat, gaining 38% of first preferences and enough second and third preferences to carry him over the line, albeit only after the final elimination.

As leader of the party with the greatest number of MPs (the National Alliance, with 27 of the 109 seats in the National Parliament) he was returned as prime minister by a vote of 86 to 21; he leads a coalition of initially 14 parties.

Under an Organic Law on Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC), introduced in 2001 primarily to prevent constant ‘party hopping’ by MPs, shifts in party coalitions, and recurrent votes of no confidence in the government of the day, a similarly substantial parliamentary majority assisted Somare in becoming the first prime minister since independence in 1975 to survive a full term (5 years) in office — even though the OLIPPAC did not succeed in preventing party splits and attempted votes of no confidence during the 2002–2007 Parliament.

Despite a Supreme Court decision in July 2010, which has ruled that the anti-defection provisions of the OLIPPAC are unconstitutional, the Somare government of 2007 seems likely to survive a full parliamentary term. Elections are due in mid-2012 and governments are protected against votes of no confidence in the final twelve months of a parliamentary term.

As in the 2002–2007 Parliament, the present Somare government has been able to use its majority to fend off challenges by controlling parliamentary procedures and adjourning Parliament. Such tactics may have resulted in greater political stability, but they have also generated widespread complaints of ‘executive dominance’ of Parliament, and a good deal of blogging directed against Somare personally.

Somare has also come under criticism over his attempts to block, and later suppress the report of, a Defence Board of Enquiry into the so-called Moti affair (in which the Solomon Islands Attorney-General, being sought by the Australian Federal Police, was removed from Port Moresby to Solomon Islands in a clandestine operation which violated several domestic and international laws).

The recent charges against the prime minister, relating to his failure to submit financial returns required under the country’s Leadership Code, were pursued against this background — though Somare made light of his resultant two-week suspension from Parliament.

There are also concerns about Somare’s health following complications after heart surgery in Singapore. Somare has taken indefinite medical leave from his prime ministerial duties and there is speculation that he may not return to his parliamentary duties.

Continue reading "Appraisal: Sir Michael Somare & PNG politics" »

Rockwell says it will be first into Bougainville


THE MORUMBI Oil & Gas corporation has said, following its acquisition of Rockwell Exploration, that it's “moving aggressively to partner with landowners in Bougainville”.

The autonomous province is one of the world's best endowed gold and copper regions and has excellent potential for the discovery of additional world class deposits. Bougainville has been under an exploration moratorium since 1974.

The Panguna copper and gold mine, which opened in 1972, was forcibly closed by a landowner uprising in 1989 leading to a protracted civil war between Bougainville and PNG [see video].

The current buoyant global metals market and Bougainville's need for funds to finance its reconstruction are driving political momentum towards lifting the moratorium and recommencing full scale mineral exploration and development.

Rockwell claims "a unique relationships and an established presence on Bougainville" and says it is "at the forefront to be a leading participant in the eventual resumption of mining exploration".


Video: A lesson in eco-anarchism from Bougainville (extract from the documentary film, ‘Coconut Revolution’)

Source: Digital Journal

Initiative to end violence against women

THE UNITED STATES and the World Bank are teaming up on an initiative to improve the lives of women in PNG.

The Women's Empowerment Initiative is supported by Australia and New Zealand and aims to find ways to combat gender-based violence in the Pacific. Australia has committed up to $3 million over three years to support it.

Next week, PNG and the US will co-host talks in Port Moresby with leaders from the Pacific on ways to improve maternal health, increase economic opportunities, and empower women.

US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues, Melanne Verveer, said gender-based violence was a global epidemic and new solutions needed to be considered. She said improving conditions in the Pacific could help end violence.

"Many of these practices are rooted in lack of economic opportunity, lack of status, lack of empowerment."

Ms Verveer said the upcoming talks in PNG would focus on "healthy women, healthy economies".

"Where women are healthy and economies are healthier, we are certainly going to see less violence against women," she said.

Ms Verveer said the issues had to be addressed at the top level of government and at the grassroots level. Laws against violence needed to be enforced and perpetrators punished.

"We also need to change mindsets at the grassroots level and we certainly need to see men and boys playing a greater role in addressing these issues. We need more work at a community level in changing ways that people look at these issues."

Ms Verveer announced the Women's Empowerment Initiative in the Pacific Region last year at the end of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton's Asia-Pacific tour.

Source: Australia Network News

Why PNG needs a thousand dreams


A Thousand Coloured Dreams Cover ‘A Thousand Coloured Dreams’ by Josephine Abaijah and Eric Wright. Available from Emporium Books at $A29.65 plus postage and handling

I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT of myself as being reasonably enlightened.  Every so often something crops up to bring home the truth and remind me that this isn’t true.  It is part of the aging process I guess; the more you know the more you realise how much you don’t know.

In retrospect, it would have been useful, for instance, to have been a lot more mature and knowledgeable when I first went to Papua New Guinea.  The Australian administration, however, was looking for resilience and strong legs ahead of independent thought. 

It is now sometimes embarrassing to think about what I inflicted upon those poor buggers who came within my personal and administrative purvey.  Josephine Abaijah’s book is an uncomfortable reminder that our comforts and good memories came at the cost of some considerable discomfort and loss of dignity for many Papua New Guineans.

 Josephine was good at wrinkling this sort of stuff out of the colonial woodwork.  Of course, being Josephine, she often overdid it and exaggerated in her quest to stir the pot; she often saw shadows when they were simply not there.

Despite this unfortunate predilection, she, nevertheless, pointed out many of the absurdities and inequities of colonial rule, especially the cult of the superior and the inferior. 

In those times when an Australian said “G’day” to a Papua New Guinean it was very subtly nuanced and not like the same greeting delivered to a fellow countryman. 

Although the receiver might have accepted it as a bland gesture the implied message, “Listen, I’m prepared to treat you on reasonably equitable terms if you’re prepared to play the game strictly my way” is the undertone they both understood.

And, of course, that attitude hasn’t gone away; you see it in our relationship with PNG all the time, albeit toned down; now it is a more refined form of condescension.  In PNG Attitude it is sometimes apparent in the knowing advice given on how to run the country, well meant but still with those old superior colonial undertones.

When I pointed some of these things out in a book a few years ago I copped some considerable flack from the elder colonials.  Treating your fellow man as an equal was just not done old man. My attempt was fairly subdued; Josephine, on the other hand, was relentless and her book is no different.

Try this description of betel nut: “When chewed with peppermint and lime, it makes the tongue loose and the body warm.  It also causes cancer of the mouth.  It makes the colonials very angry when the rich, red juicy bolus is spat upon their walls and floors. 

“The ubiquitous graffiti of Papua, it enhances nature, defiles the rich and comforts the poor.  As it costs nothing to produce and can be bought, sold or stolen, it is probably the only substantial Papuan industry that does not earn money for foreign business”.

Exposing people to uncomfortable truths doesn’t sell books.  This might explain why A Thousand Coloured Dreams hasn’t had more currency and exposure.

The book was first published in 1991 and then republished in 2001 as part of the Pacific Writers Series.  It is still possible to buy it.  While it predates the inception of PNG Attitude it is well worth revisiting.  It also sits comfortably with earlier works like Michael Somare’s Sana and Albert Maori Kiki’s Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime – books that young people in PNG should still be reading.

But let’s get to the nitty-gritty - was Josephine Abaijah in thrall to the late, left-wing activist Dr Eric Wright, her advisor and mentor?  The answer is patently in the affirmative and is reiterated constantly throughout the book. 

Why this was the case is also made clear, she was in love with him and needed him in her life.  As she constantly points out, she was always just a simple Papuan kekeni (girl) after all.

If you believe that last statement you might also be inclined to believe, as the Australian administration of the time had it, that Eric Wright was a left wing activist. 

Neither assertion is close to the truth.  There was nothing simple about Josephine and Eric was simply an intelligent and eccentric pragmatist.  But he did occasionally wear colourful Hawaiian shirts and sandals, which everyone, especially the Australian administrators, knew was a badge of the leftie.

That Josephine was a sweet innocent from the village is even harder to swallow.  In those days she was driven by her anti-colonial and pro-Papua sentiments and she had a singular agenda that nothing was going to stop come hell or high water.

There is a neat little cluster of her vitriol around page 238 where she gets stuck into a District Commissioner, his wife and a touring VIP for no other reason than the fact that they were in the same place as her. 

“Mr DC was the overlord of all material things emanating from the colonial authority” and his wife was “not a woman to be trifled with, as she could be a source of danger to anyone who circled in her orbit” and “could dispense social justice with Belsen-like efficiency”. 

The hapless VIP was one of those “thick and heavy” on the ground “particularly during southern winters” come to see “the last living museum and the first open zoo” of PNG.

“Mr and Mrs DC had given the best years of their lives to serving Australia’s interests in primitive Papua and New Guinea.  As rewards, they had lived fully, loved conservatively between tours and official duties, entertained important people and looked forward to a generous golden handshake when they left the country”.

These sorts of comments are probably a clue to why she ultimately failed in her political aspirations and why her movement, Papua Besena (Papua family), foundered; she was just too prickly for ordinary folk to cope with; moderation was not a word in her vocabulary. 

The deportation of Eric Wright by the Australian administration on the very cusp of independence, purportedly for organising a guerrilla force to fight for Papuan autonomy, didn’t help either.

That shouldn’t detract from her achievements, however; the world and PNG needs people like her.  She was, at the time, the perfect counterfoil to the deeply conservative politics of the emerging PNG. 

And, of course, the aims of Papua Besena are not dead by any means.  There are many Papuan people who still think Papua would be better off separated from New Guinea. Its new wealth from hydrocarbon discoveries might even make that viable.  Josephine came back in 1997, I wonder if she can do it again?

The book is largely peopled by characters that are claimed to be fictitious.  I suspect this is one of those necessities that writers dealing with recent events in PNG are wont to adopt. 

I think you can safely assume that, apart from the names, they probably represent real people.  It is hard to believe, for instance, that the father of her first child, conceived overnight in a refuge village after their Land Cruiser became bogged on the flooded Rigo Road, would not be able to recognise himself.

Josephine recorded many ‘firsts’ in her lifetime.  She is dismissive of many of them, however, because she sees them as such simple things; being the first Papuan girl to graduate from high school, for instance, was no big deal to her.

One of those ‘firsts’, inherently obvious but not explicitly described in the book, was her emergence as one of the earliest of that new breed of Papua New Guineans existing successfully in the wider world beyond the village.  In this respect she joins historical figures like Michael Somare. 

These sorts of people are too numerous to count nowadays and they are the hope for PNG’s future, but in the 1960s they were few and far between.  In this sense, and particularly because she is a woman, she was a true pioneer.

Josephine maintained that she never took any bribes and remained true to her ideals – although she did become Dame Josephine Abaijah; I’m not sure if that counts but it must mean something, perhaps a mellowing of sorts.

Josephine’s parents had 13 children before her mother’s fallopian tubes were tied, involuntarily as Josephine would have it.  They then adopted four more children. 

She estimated that her parents would eventually have between 50 and 100 grandchildren; the beginnings of a veritable Abaijah tribe.  If they all carry even a hint of Josephine’s acerbic take on life they will, very soon, be a force to be reckoned with indeed.

Manus: PNG wants high level Oz approach

THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper is reporting this morning that the proposed asylum-seeker processing centre on Manus remains in limbo because of political uncertainty in PNG and the Gillard government’s failure to take the issue forward at an acceptably senior level.

That said, Rowan Callick, the newspaper’s Asia-Pacific editor, writes that support in PNG for the centre is broad-based across government and opposition.

Callick says that PNG Foreign Minister, Don Polye, who is strongly placed to become interim leader of the National Alliance if Prime Minister Michael Somare's ill-health continues, has placed an asylum-seeker centre on the cabinet agenda.

Further information on the proposal is being sought by PNG, which also wants contact at a higher level in Canberra.

Australia has been represented in the talks so far by the Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles, who Ms Gillard appointed as her special envoy to PNG on the issue.

Neither Julia Gillard nor Mr Rudd have visited PNG since the election of the Gillard government almost a year ago.

Callick writes that a visit by Mr Rudd -- who gained in-principle approval of the deal when he visited Sir Michael in hospital a few weeks ago -- might clinch a core deal within which details could be added later.

The centenary voyage


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

AKORA WAS A GRADE 11 student at Hutjena Secondary School. His slim build and weakling-like posture had many of his school mates concluding that was an explanation for his easy-going attitude to life. But when he felt like slopping over the brim of his self contained world it was hard to understand the new side of his personality.

Nobody, not even his own folks from Kieta, knew whether he had a Buka girl friend or not. It was hard to squeeze out his secrets—he was too stolid.  But the rumour in the air was hard for him to deny. He was spotted in the dark hours with a certain Haku girl from Grade 9 in that brown classroom next to his own.  He travelled to places that most Kietas feared. For his dreams and him nothing could come between.


The year 2011 was the hundredth year since Catholicism had landed in Bougainville. Jubilee celebration talks infiltrated every conversation in the school. Akora, although a Catholic and often attracted by the jubilee-related radio jingles, kept aloof for his own reasons.

Easterly and sea originating gusts of wind swept through the Hutjena Government Compound continuously harassing his reading. Intermittently, when the wind—with its ingrained cruelty—pitied him and abated, the loud sound of the singing by the practicing student choir in the mess hall took its turn to disturb his concentration.

Hey, Tebu, ol wokim wanem long mess?” he asked his bunk mate making his ingress to Dorm 17.

 “Aung, they are Catholics,” Tebu answered, “practicing the centenary song. They’ll be leaving on Thursday by ship for Tunuru in Kieta. Brother Joe from Hahela is conducting them.”

Akora followed his mate into the dormitory and they sat lost in thought.

Sans, mi lukim peles pinis,”Akora said, boastfully as he turned to a new page in the novel that he was reading, Things Fall Apart by the Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe.

“No. Aung, they are saying that only the ones involved in the rehearsals are going,” a boy grooming himself in his bunk said with a laugh.

Akora, with his mind concentrated on the book, absent-mindedly joked, “Sir, those nice voices and that pes-meri conductor, if they happen to leave me here, they’ll never get into Heaven. As for me, I’ll be there with a carton of beer to party with my Lord. You know; I’ll tell Him, Jesus, let’s go back to the Cana days.” They all laughed at the silly joke.

Days went by like the water in a river that has no resort to holidays. All the Kietas looked forward to a trip home in their centenary attire, if only to regain the smell of their so-missed home. From his distance Akora also shared with them that desire; that longing to be home.

Thursday found Akora very early in the dust and salt scented Buka township. Along the limestone gravel-covered streets Kietas wandered everywhere aimlessly. “So, you see, so many Kietas hiding in different corners of Buka island,” he said to his friend and classmate, Barapa’nung.

Masika’ra, era,” Barapa’nung snuffled in the cloud of dust dragged along by a passing truck. “Many of them have never even felt a fine church pew even once.” He paused to cross the road for the market, and then added, “Tonight, they’ll all pack aboard the MV Sankamap for the joy of being seen in Tunuru as a bunch of faithful Catholics.”

Akora reluctantly chuckled, “Aung, and what about us trying to get on board, have we any desire for fellowship with the church?”

“Always, we are.” They laughed and entered the market.

Across the mighty and tenacious (if you fall into it) Buka Passage, the church chartered vessel was resting idly at Kokopau wharf, patiently waiting for the Tarlena Secondary students and others to embark.

In the background of the growing Kokopau station the coconut palms lining the high ridge above were swaying in the wind with absolute fidelity. Just like Buka, trails of dust were marking the whereabouts of moving vehicles.

At the northern entrance of Buka Passage, just outside Iata village, gulls fished in the glare of the setting sun on a calm sea besmirched by the pure whiteness of the remnants of crushing mighty waves in the area believed to be the spot where the flowing passage water meets the immobile ocean.

The take-off horn of the ship blared at half five toppling those twang-like piercing sounds of the few motor boats ferrying across the passage through its undulations and bulging waves. “Era, otherwise that thing leaves us here,” complained Akora, his eyes staring at the black diesel fumes emanating from the ship’s funnel in the distance.

The boys were intrigued and tucked into the last contents of their food parcels before dashing out of the market. “That ship must be coming here,” Barapa’nung reasoned. As they wondered the school truck appeared in front of them. “There, you see, the students are here. They will be crossing the passage for the ship is coming to this side.”

As they approached the wharf, the ship was there slowly engaging itself to the bridge.

Anangka, de are kuada remang?” a wantok straying near the port gate asked them. “Students are inside the gate, are you two going with them? Will you be on the ship?”

“No, we are only going to the bank’s ATM,” they lied. “Not interested in Kieta girls; the Buka one’s are getting sweeter every day, you know.”

Continue reading "The centenary voyage" »

Brown: miners’ influence is ‘very troubling’


AUSTRALIAN GREENS leader Senator Bob Brown says he's concerned at the growing influence of Australian mining firms in PNG.

A year out from PNG national elections, the United Resources Party (URP) reportedly raised $600,000 at a weekend function in Port Moresby attended by a number of international business leaders including one of Australia's richest men, Clive Palmer.

The URP has six members of parliament including Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allen and Tourism Minister Guma Wau.

Mr Palmer, who owns half the PNG-focused oil and gas company Chinampa Exploration, reportedly told the function PNG was entering "a new era".

"There is a lot of opportunity here and the government must create the right environment," he said

Senator Brown, who visited PNG two weeks ago, told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday that the growing influence of Australian mining companies was troubling.

"It is very, very troubling ... in a marvellous country like PNG where democracy ought to be based on a fair go for everybody," Senator Brown said.

"I'm very concerned about that and ... will be continuing to raise this issue in parliament."

Mr Palmer is the single biggest contributor to the Liberal National Party in Queensland and in 2009-10 donated $500,000 to the federal Liberal Party.

A spokesman for Mr Palmer told AAP he was unavailable for comment as he was in Hong Kong.

Source: Australian Associated Press

Huge new gaol planned for Baisu

THE CORRECTIONAL SERVICES Commission is to build a $34 million super gaol capable of holding 2,000 inmates and with a staff of 1,500 at Baisu outside Mount Hagen.

Commissioner Richard Sikani said it is also planned to turn the Kerevat and Bomana prisons into super gaols.

He says they’ve been forced to upgrade facilities because criminals are using sophisticated means to escape.

Mr Sikani says security cameras, body scanners and metal detectors will be installed at the new prison.

He says funding for the project is from the Australian government through AusAID with additional money from the PNG government.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Copper mine may reopen on Bougainville


BOUGAINVILLE COPPER says it hopes to reopen the Panguna copper mine in as little as three years time.

Chairman Peter Taylor spoke to investors at the PNG - Australia Business Forum for the first time since a civil war closed the mine 20 years ago.

Mr Taylor said his company had learnt from past mistakes and is ready to take a new approach to talks aimed at reopening the mine.

He said he wants landowners and the Autonomous Government of Bougainville to set the agenda and take equity in the project.

Mr Taylor suggested a three to five-year timeframe for the reopening the mine but acknowledged that despite good progress on reconciliation there are still many hurdles.

He said he hopes talks on the Bougainville Copper Agreement will start this year.

Source: Radio Australia

Ramu project faces further court delay


HIGHLANDS PACIFIC has said its Ramu nickel project has been delayed again, as the National Court in Madang postponed its verdict on the project.

The hearing started on 8 February and focused on a claim “seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the operation from committing an alleged nuisance arising from mining activities, in particular constructing and operating a deep‐sea tailings placement system (DSTP)”.

Both parties made closing submissions in March, however, the court has now postponed judgment from 23 May to 22 June.

“We have not been advised why the extension of time is needed, but we hope that this will be the last delay and come 22 June, a decision is forthcoming,” said Highlands Pacific MD John Gooding.

In September, the National Court lifted an interim injunction that prevented the construction of the DSTP system at the project.

The court injunction was first implemented in March, and arose out of a claim by individuals and groups claiming to have an interest in customary land in and around Basamuk bay, where the process plant site for the Ramu project is based.

After the first injunction, the project faced a six-month delay, but was expected to start up during the March quarter of 2011.

Highlands said it is confident that production at the Ramu project will start in the June quarter, with a staged ramp-up through the year.

The project would produce 31,150 tonnes of nickel and 3,300 tonnes of cobalt a year over a 20-year life.

Highlands holds an 8.56% shareholding in the $1.5-billion project, with China’s Ramu NiCo Management retaining the majority shareholding.

Source: Mining Weekly

Manus wants K40 million for asylum seekers


AUSTRALIA COULD be forced to reimburse PNG almost $16 million in compensation to the people of Manus Island if asylum seekers are sent there.

A PNG government source said the compensation claim would have to be factored into a financial agreement in return for accepting asylum seekers. The deal could be reached within a week.

The people of Manus Island want K40 million which is close to $16 million.

"We want some kind of understanding with Australia, if they can factor it in to address it within the economic package to bring to us," the source said. "There must be a package put forward to us."

The source said Australia had been pressuring the government for an agreement.

"They wanted a deadline of last Monday week, so the budget could come out on that Tuesday. That did not happen. We needed more time, it was a rush," he said.

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen declined to comment, saying "when we have something to announce we will be able to say more."

Source: Daily Telegraph, Sydney

Bougainville president seeks new investment


BOUGAINVILLE COPPER CHAIRMAN, Peter Taylor, is to visit Bougainville for the first time since the Panguna copper mine was shut down by a bloody civil war in 1989.

The invitation is part of a strategy by Bougainville's President John Momis to attract new investment.

Mr Momis told investors attending the PNG - Australia Business Forum in Madang that the peace process on Bougainville is well established and the island is open for business.

He said he is keen to attract responsible investors who will create jobs and improve life for rural people in the lead up to a referendum on independence from PNG.

Mr Taylor will be part of a delegation of business leaders to visit the autonomous province tomorrow.

Mr Momis said the return of Bougainville Copper shows there has been a sea-change in attitudes and economic conditions on the island.

Source: Radio Australia

PNG political fundraiser scores K1.5 million


Clive Palmer A FUNDRAISING DINNER for the United Resources Party last weekend, attended by billionaire Mineralogy chairman Clive Palmer [pictured], raised $600,000 (K1.54 million) for the party, which has just six members of parliament

The URP’s MPs include Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma and Environment and Conservation Minister Benny Allen.

Mr Palmer, who owns half the PNG-focused oil and gas company Chinampa Exploration, told people at the dinner that PNG had entered a new frontier, "a start to a new era", according to the Post-Courier newspaper.

"That is why I am here; it's all happening in PNG," he said. "This is the promised land, and with a stable government, and support from the community, it can do anything.

"You have gas, oil and other resources. There is a lot of opportunity here, and the government must create the right environment."

The event, which brought in money through pledges and the sale of tables, was the biggest political fundraiser of the year so far in PNG.

Mr Palmer has also been the prime backer behind efforts to introduce a PNG team in the National Rugby League competition.

Source: The Australian

Calls for Barrick Gold to act responsibly

BARRICK GOLD, the owner of the Porgera mine, has been asked to do more about pollution and alleged human rights abuses associated with the mine.

Attempts by PNG's environmental and land rights activists to meet with Canadian mining company Barrick Gold to raise their concerns have been unsuccessful.

Porgera  activist Jethro Tulin says traditional owners living in the special mine lease area are worried about their health and safety.

He told Radio Australis that Barrick should be helping them to relocate.

"We are being made to live like squatter settlers on our own land," he said.

"We want a proper resettlement program from Barrick. While they are still active they have to put some money back into resettling the indigenous community living within the special mining lease."

Barrick has been accused of dumping tailing and waste water containing high levels of chemicals including arsenic, mercury and cynanide into a river hundreds of people rely on for fishing and for drinking water.

The Porgera gold mine in Enga Province is 95% owned and operated by a Barrick subsidiary and the remainder is owned by the PNG Government.

Source: Australia Network News

Somare out of hospital, back home soon

SIR MICHAEL SOMARE has been discharged from hospital in Singapore and is expected back in Port Moresby later this week.

The Somare family says that Sir Michael is "OK" and will return home when he has regained his strength.

Acting prime minister Sam Abal has called for respect and prayers for Sir Michael after his heart surgery in Singapore. He was speaking after weekend rumours that Sir Michael had died.

Mr Abal says the ruling National Alliance party will not make any leadership changes. He says the party is not even considering electing an interim leader as that would be disrespectful to Sir Michael.

Source: Radio Australia

Involve more PNGeans in resources: Amet

PNG Attorney General, Sir Arnold Amet told the PNG - Australia Business Forum in Madang yesterday that government agencies and resource companies must do more to include Papua New Guineans in the country's resources boom. JEMIMA GARRETT reported for Radio Australia….

THERE'S BEEN AN upsurge in landowner anger at various projects. Ramu Nickel facing a court action against their tailing disposal, we've seen complaints about the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone and we've seen the landowners for the PNG LNG project getting increasingly upset.

What Sir Arnold was basically saying was that if the government agencies don't deal with this sort of problem, then there's going to be much bigger problems down the track in terms of threats of shutdowns to major projects and so on.

He's also saying the government needs to deal much better with bringing land into projects, in terms of an equity position, so they actually get dividends from the business and to deal much better obviously with social and economic impacts.

He also had something to say to the company bosses, of whom there are many here. He was saying that they have go recognise that this is an industry that is foreign-dominated and they need to do more to bring Papua New Guineans in at the top technical level of managers and senior managers.

Foreign Minister Don Polye spoke about the generally positive state of relations between Australia and PNG and he said both countries are pushing ahead with plans for a more mature economic relationship and that would see the replacement of the current development cooperation treaty with an economic relations agreement.

He told the audience that PNG is conducting an urgent review of its immigration laws to facilitate investment that should be finished by the end of the year and it will look at a number of issues that have been big sticking points for the PNG Business Council and the Australia-PNG Businesss Council.

He also said they'd be looking at dual citizenship. He talked also about a couple of other major reviews in his portfolio area. PNG is drawing up a new trade policy looking very much at trade liberalisation and including a dimension of green growth.

Mr Polye finished by talking about the divide between rich and poor in PNG, which he says is great, and he made a pitch to the bosses of the very many companies here that they should play a role in trying to ameliorate that.

The PNG-Australia Business Council was, to quote them, "extremely disappointed" that Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles wasn't there, which is about as strong as it comes. Generally Richard Marles has been very attentive to PNG Guinea. He's travelled to quite a number of remote areas, including the Southern Highlands.

But in his place Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish had some interesting facts about this economic boom in PNG. He said PNG is now the sixth fastest growing economy in the world, which is really putting it up there almost in China category, and he commented on Australia's role in supporting PNG to start to bring services to the people, because if this boom is to create a long term better future for PNG, obviously it has to do that.

Ian Kemish said there's no doubt that there is a good story to tell here. I think from the business side, Australia is looking at how they can improve the arrangement they have with PNG and make sure that the benefits do get down to the people, because really it's in everyone's interest.

If the people of PNG aren't satisfied with development, there will be trouble and that will mean trouble for business as well.

Source: Radio Australia

Arafura Games over for another 2 years


ABOUT 3,000 athletes, officials and volunteers have celebrated at the closing ceremony of the Arafura Games in Darwin.

To the sounds of Barry Brown and Get Down, athletes from as far afield as the United Arab Emirates joined celebrations at Darwin's amphitheatre.

In seven days of competition athletes from South East Asia and the Pacific competed in sports ranging from surf lifesaving to sepak takraw, a combination of volleyball and soccer.

The Northern Territory led the medal count, but PNG dominated the 20-20 cricket and won gold and silver in men's and women's volleyball.

Aceh scored its only medal, a gold in men’s soccer, on the last day.

Nauru athletes Yukio Peter and Itte Detanamo smashed Commonwealth records on their way to victory in the weightlifting.

Source: ABC Online

A tribute to the great choirs of Melanesia



WHEN I FIRST went to PNG my Dad (who had served there in World War II) said rather cryptically, "Listen to some Melanesian choirs".

I didn't immediately understand what he meant, but he was a skilled Church choral conductor for over half a century so his advice was worth taking.

Well amidst student riots, political turmoil, raskols shooting my neighbours and robbing my house, I did find time to listen some Melanesian choirs.

My neighbour was a member of the local Catholic choir of a Moresby church which often used to practice at his house.

So I had the great privilege of listening to some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard - from my front door. God bless you Vincent.

The video is a tribute to them. It is not their choir (whose recordings I cannot find) but it sounds very similar.

Warning as malaria reported in Torres Strait

LOCAL RESIDENTS of the Saibai and Dauan Islands, the closest islands in the Torres Strait to the PNG border, have been warned to take precautions against mosquitoes after a number of malaria cases were reported.

The outbreak started in late March and there have been nine cases reported on Saibai Island and two on Dauan Island.

Spokesman for Queensland Health, Gavin Broomhead said it was wise to take preventative action.

“We know malaria occurs over the border in PNG but on this occasion, local mosquitoes have bitten an infected person and obviously spread it through that channel,” he said.

Source: National Indigenous Times

Pilot sues for millions over conviction


AN AUSTRALIAN PILOT says he lost tens of millions of dollars in business interests after being wrongfully convicted of child sex tourism. Fred Martens, 62, was sentenced to three years' jail in 2006 after being convicted in Cairns Supreme Court of raping a 14-year-old girl in PNG.

Mr Martens was released in 2009, having spent nearly 1000 days in custody, after supporters obtained PNG flight records, which Australian authorities had said didn't exist, proving he couldn't have been with the girl around the time of the alleged offence.

Lawyers for Mr Martens have lodged a statement of claim against the PNG government in the National Court of Justice, alleging his incarceration in Australia was the result of illegal action on the part of PNG and Australian Federal Police.

The document, obtained by AAP, says PNG authorities breached the nation's constitution by cooperating with the AFP to have him arrested and tried in Australia.

Mr Martens was arrested at Cairns International Airport in 2004 following a joint operation between the AFP and PNG police. As a permanent PNG resident, the statement of claim argues Mr Martens should have been tried in that country.

"He was a permanent resident, he lived there, that's where his businesses were, that's where the offence was alleged to have occurred," his barrister Peter Pena told AAP. "If he had been charged in PNG the evidence would have been available to us to disprove these charges."

The document lists a number of businesses, properties and equipment which were lost to Mr Martens because of his imprisonment in Australia. They include Pioneer Health Services, founded by Mr Martens, as well as engineering and construction firms and a security firm.

Mr Pena said the final claim would run into the "tens of millions of dollars".

"He had a wide range of business interests and properties in PNG, those are now lost as a result of what has taken place," he said.

The document also alleges a senior PNG officer in early 2004 witnessed two AFP officers steal and conceal official PNG immigration records, which would have supported Mr Martens' defence but failed to take action.

The document also claims another officer told Mr Martens' legal team he had evidence which would exonerate their client but would not disclose it without payment.

PNG's government media unit did not respond to a request to comment on the allegations, while an AFP spokeswoman said the organisation could not comment while legal action was under way.

Mr Martens is also suing the Australian government for $45 million over his ordeal.

His legal team is currently preparing to file a second statement of claim in the Queensland Supreme Court. An initial claim was dismissed last month after a judge ruled it had been filed under the wrong legislation.

Source: AAP

PNG pushes to become leading fish processer

PNG IS CONFIDENT it can drive some of the big Asian fish canneries out of business and bring jobs and revenue back to the Pacific. It's part of a plan to make PNG one of the world's leading fish processing nations.

In the past 10 years fish processing has become a major employer in employer in PNG, which now wants other Pacific island nations sending fish to its canneries.

With 60% of the world tuna caught in the Pacific, it should be home to a world beating fish processing industry but that has not been the case. The eight tuna-rich Pacific nations known as the PNA group have had trouble bringing jobs onshore.

PNG National Fisheries Authority boss Sylvester Pokajam wants to change that.

“We want to extend to the Pacific especially the PNA countries, to earn more from their resources rather than just relying on the access fees so we try to develop in that are to see how we can all work together as one group to benefit together,” he said.

In the past ten years PNG has seen strong growth in its fish processing industry - so much that it now employs more than 9000 people. Expansion plans at the IFC cannery in Lae will add another 1,200 jobs and three well-progressed new investments are set to create 12,000 jobs on top of that.

PNG has vast tuna resources - its total allowable catch is 500,000 tonnes a year. The recent growth has been driven by the duty-free and quota-free access PNG gets to the lucrative European market. At the moment much of this tuna is canned in Asia.

Sylvester Pokajam says most of the new investment is in Morobe Province. “The Governor is very supportive and he wants jobs. He does not want anything else just jobs, jobs, jobs and I think that is a very good approach. Lae has everything. It’s got basic infrastructure. Water, power, wharf facilities. People are available to be employed so this is more or less the centre for PNG.”

Source: Radio Australia

Abal moves to quash Somare death rumour

PNG’s ACTING prime minister Sam Abal has been forced to deny a rumour that Sir Michael Somare has died.

At the weekend, a rumour that the prime minister had died spread rapidly throughout PNG.

Sir Michael, 75, is in intensive care in a Singapore hospital after undergoing heart surgery last month.

As the rumour intensified, Mr Abal called a media conference to dispel it as malicious gossip.

“He's still in the ICU and at any time, in a day or so, we expect him to move out of the ICU area,” he said.

Mr Abal also said there should be a decision soon on the Australian government's request to establish a regional processing centre for asylum seekers on Manus Island.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Coming PNG-related events

CESSNOCK PNG NIGHT.  Thursday 9 June.  To raise money for the Teachers Assist Kokoda Project.  Guest speaker: Charles Lepani.  Venue: Potters Tavern, Wine Country Drive, Cessnock.  Time 7 pm. Cost: $20.  Dress: Tropical

2011 WALK AGAINST CORRUPTION.  Sunday 12 June.  Assemble: Jack Pidik Park, 5 Mile, Port Moresby. Time 5 am for 6 am start.  Other walks will be held in Kokopo, Kimbe, Alotau and Madang.  Contact Hane Toua, Event Coordinator on 320 2188 / 320 2188 or email [email protected]

Somare death rumour is a desperate act


I WRITE THIS not because I support Sir Michael Somare, but I think he deserves my respect regardless of what I think of him.

Of late a rumour on the death of Sir Michael has been widely circulated in PNG and overseas. Whoever is responsible for this is hard to determine.

Many of Sir Michael’s sympathisers are fuming over this and have gone out to prove the rumour is what it is – a rumour and does not contain any truth.

I would like to think that many of his political opponents are not happy such a rumour is spreading all over PNG, basically because it is disrespectful and could potentially paint a bad picture of them.

I did not for once think that it was a mere disrespectful gesture towards Sir Michael; rather, it was an act of desperation by the originator(s) of this rumour.

Why is it an act of desperation?

Prior to PNG’s independence Sir Michael won his political fight in East Sepik’s political ring. Then successfully led PNG to independence by holding together a thousand tribes in his web of charismatic leadership; brewed from the mysterious Haus Tambaran.

Ever since he has been the champion of East Sepik and has captured the PNG title several times. Who in PNG has achieved such feat? He is PNG’s current political champion – king of the ring!

If anyone wants him out, Sir Michael must be defeated in the ring and not outside. Inside the ring is where the champion must be dignifiedly defeated so that his opponents can celebrate a meaningful celebration.

When Sir Michael cannot be defeated due to his opponents’ lack of skills and credibility; rumour mongering becomes an easy way out. It is an act that fills the rumour monger(s) with jealous satisfaction over what is essentially a waste of time.

The fact of the matter is Sir Michael’s gigantic and somewhat (recently) disfigured persona continues to haunt his opponents and many find this unbearable.

It is an illusion to believe this rumour will hurt Sir Michael’s chances to regain his rightful place as PNG’s chief executive.

Rumour mongering is an act of desperation because the rumour monger cannot with all he got defeat Sir Michael where it matters most.

If his opponents want him out, they must defeat him in the ring. It is presumably the only place to defeat Sir Michael that can bring about genuine and real satisfaction.

Foreign investment brings some problems

Vision-City-Mega-Mall PNG’s strong growth is pulling in investors from south-east Asia, with Malaysian companies leading the way. This month marks the opening of the Malaysian owned 'Vision City' megamall in Port Moresby. Radio Australia’s Jemima Garrett was at the new shopping centre, and says its is putting on a showy face...

THIS THREE-STOREY megamall wouldn't look out of place on Queensland's Gold Coast and it's the first stage of a much bigger site that will include an international hotel, apartments and office buildings, so this is I guess just the beginning.

You've got every kind of shop you can imagine; lots of phone shops, toy shops, clothes shops, a hypermart, stationery, the whole gamut.

I guess this reflects the company that put the money in and that's PNG's biggest Malaysian company Rimbunan Hijau. At the official opening dinner for the mall, which was attended by acting prime minister Sam Abal, the executive chairman said that the complex is expected to generate K200 million a year.

RH has been in PNG for a long time, a highly diversified company with interest in everything from newspapers to logging, which, of course, has been very controversial. RH has been severely criticised for its logging practices. But we are seeing quite a lot of new Malaysian investment.

Even some of the companies which you might think are British, such as WR Carpenter, are in fact Malaysian owned and they are putting in new plants.

PNG is also seeing a lot of interest in tuna. The Philippines and Thailand are investing in tuna cannery in Lae and, with the PNG-LNG plant ramping up into it most rough period with the construction phase reaching a peak early next year, we're really seeing a lot of action here.

The downside with the new investment is animosity to the Chinese, and it's clear that people don't distinguish between Malaysians and Chinese. There's a lot of ill feeling against Asians directed at the problem of illegal immigrants and also the problem of Asians being so good at business and making a lot of money,

There are also the environmental problems. There's a whole host of issues that come with these investments that really rely on the government to supervise the companies, and if government departments aren't up to the job, which in many cases they aren't, then there's a serious difficulty.

So there is a real issue here in PNG of capacity of government when it comes to enforcing its own laws and every politician is talking about it.  But it's going to be a very big job to pull together the necessary capacity to be able to deal with these issues.

Source: Radio Australia

Pacific people struggle against oppression


AS THE WORLD’S ATTENTION focuses on human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, Amnesty International’s latest report reveals Pacific people are facing the same struggle against oppression and corruption.

On the eve of its 50th anniversary, AI has launched its annual assessment of human rights worldwide, Amnesty International Report 2011: State of the World’s Human Rights, which documents abuses in 157 countries in 2010.

“Away from the international headlines, thousands of people in the Pacific are being denied social and economic opportunity, and human rights defenders have been threatened, imprisoned and tortured,” says Patrick Holmes, chief executive officer of Amnesty International in NZ.

In PNG, violence against women and sorcery-related killings continue to be widespread but the government has done little to address them. Torture and ill-treatment of prisoners remains pervasive.

“Pacific people [are] facing torture and the denial of freedom of expression [and] also social and economic injustice,” says Holmes.

AI is calling on Pacific governments to do more to meet the legitimate aspirations of their people, and to deliver a degree of accountability and transparency.

Source: Pacific Media Watch

Landowners file suit against industrial zone

THE PEOPLE OF Karkar, Rempi and Kananam have filed a legal suit today to challenge the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone in Madang through their lawyer Tiffany Nonggorr.

President of Karkar Local Level Government Bager Wam, Francis Gem (representing himself and 337 other members of Kananam and Iduwad villages) and Frank Kawol Don (on behalf of himself and 95 other members of the Bama clan of Rempi village) filed a suit against the National Fisheries Authority, the Department of Commerce and Industry and the PNG government.

The plaintiffs claim that the PMIZ is being developed contrary to the Free Trade Zone Act of 2000. That means all acts done in the promotion and planning of the PMIZ to date are illegal and void.

Furthermore, they are also seeking a permanent injunction restraining the promotion and planning of the PMIZ as it contradicts section 28 and or section 25 of the Fisheries Management Act.

The plaintiffs are also seeking a permanent injunction to restrain the defendants from committing nuisances and injury to the plaintiffs and the people they represent in the use and enjoyment of their customary land and water rights.

The plaintiffs and the people they represent are also seeking that they be consulted by the defendants and be informed on any matter concerning the promotion, planning or construction of a Free Trade Zone in an area which impacts on their customary land.

Source: pngexposed

Manus Island welcomes detention centre


ON MANUS ISLAND there is overwhelming support from locals for the Australian government's hoped for reopening of a detention centre for asylum seekers.

Australia is no longer pursuing East Timor as part of its regional solution to build an offshore processing centre for asylum seekers.

It has instead asked PNG to host a regional processing centre, and reopening the mothballed Manus facility could be one option.

On Manus, most people are unaware of the war of words over what to do with asylum seekers arriving in Australian waters. But they overwhelmingly want to see the centre reopened.

At the market in Lorengau people are excited about the prospect of the detention centre being reopened and selling more of their produce.

"I have heard that they want to open it. I'm very happy because when the asylum seekers were here in the first place, they bring some changes to the province," said one vendor.

"For the economic aspect for the people, yeah, it would be good," said another.

Across the road a new hotel is under construction. Owner Ken Kuso already owns a guesthouse and he is licking his lips at the business that could be coming his way.

"I think it's good news for me, when they established the asylum seeker centre in Manus last time I benefited. The Australian government planted a lot of money in this small island community and we really benefited from it," he said.

When the centre opened in 2001 as part of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution, it was the biggest thing to have happened on Manus in a long time. The island's two main industries, small scale farming and fishing, suddenly had a big new customer.

An aid package saw new schools built and pot-holed roads resurfaced. But when the centre closed in 2004 the Manus economy slumped.

Peter Poiou from the Manus Chamber of Commerce and Industry says its reopening would be a godsend. "The spin-off from the centre if its reopened will have great impact on the economy of Manus," he said.

"Particularly, to the hospitality industry, hotels, and the guesthouses, and to stores, to local markets, and generally to the people of Manus."

While the debate rages in Australia about the best way to deal with asylum seekers, most Manus islanders just want a life beyond subsistence farming and fishing.

Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Babies sold for adoption, says orphanage

AN ORPHANAGE in the Highlands says newborn children are being sold for adoption.

The Bible Faith Outreach orphanage says it found a woman, who had bought a baby boy from his mother for less than $40, trying to sell on the child to another woman for three times the price.

Orphanage director Rosa Kepo says the centre intervened and paid the asking price for the infant to stop him being illegally sold.

She says newborns are frequently put up for sale by unmarried mothers, or women who are too poor to support their babies.

Source: Radio Australia

Strong economic growth continues in PNG

PNG HAS EMERGED as the star performer of the Pacific’s developing economies with 7.1% GDP growth in 2010 compared with 5.5% in 2009. The economy benefited from higher commodity prices as a result of a strong demand for its exports of oil, gold, copper, coffee, cocoa and palm oil.

The economy was also boosted by the commencement of the liquefied natural gas project.

At the same time, PNG recorded the highest inflation rate in the Pacific - 6%, attributed to the global economic recovery together with higher food and commodity prices and increasing domestic demand associated with the LNG project.

In 2010, the kina remained stable against the US dollar while it depreciated by 14% against the Australian dollar. In the first nine months of 2010-11, PNG’s total exports increased by 21% and imports by 26%.

Total government expenditure and lending increased by 23% and revenue is forecast to increase by 24%, with tax revenue contributing more than 92% of this. The government projects a balanced budget in 2010 after a small budget deficit in 2009.

The Bank of PNG has kept its main policy interest rate, the kina facility rate, at 7% since December 2009. The Bank is determined to keep the inflation rate in single digits, and is wary of a rise in inflationary pressures owing to the high level of government spending and the development of the LNG project.

A key challenge for PNG is to manage the resource boom well so rapid economic expansion does not translate into continuously high inflation.

PNG is again expected to lead the Pacific with 8% growth in 2011, boosted by rising commodity prices and growth in domestic demand coupled with acceleration in investment in several mining projects.

The ever-present challenge is for PNG to diversify its economy with agriculture offering great potential for diversification.

Source: ESCAP Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2011

SABLs: positive or not, that’s the question


THE PURPOSE of this article is to discuss Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) and to examine whether they are a positive tool for development.

SBALs triggered great interest in PNG after it was revealed that 5.3 million hectares of land had been granted as leases.  Various groups and individuals voiced their concerns and opposition and, after a successful campaign to have the SABLs reviewed, acting prime minister Sam Abal has announced a moratorium and a Commission of Inquiry.

Although the public is supportive of this development, the Opposition - led by new leader Belden Namah - voiced opposition to the inquiry, citing that SABLs are an integral part of provincial and district development and should not be suspended. 

At the time of writing, Mr Abal had not issued the terms of reference for the Inquiry or any detail on the scope of the moratorium.

The term SABL refers to the acquisition of land by the government from customary landowners. A short provision in the Land Act (section 12) identifies that the government may acquire land from customary owners for agriculture and business development.

This same section also states that a lease agreement between government and customary landowners is effective and that the State has title over customary land.  It ends with sub-section 3, which states the government will not pay rent or compensation to landowners.

Once the title has been given, government departments can develop and negotiate projects and investments with prospective partners.  Landowning entities partake in these negotiations and in project formulation.

The system places great reliance on strong government oversight and regulation.  Therefore, at least on paper, it is deemed that all agencies are carrying out due diligence assessments on the project: registration, constitution, social and environmental impact assessments, marketing and production projections, business plans, community service obligations and related issues.

That SBAL is a positive tool for development depends on two main issues.  First, a viable and prudent development plan for the land and, secondly, strong and functional government oversight and regulatory mechanisms. 

Continue reading "SABLs: positive or not, that’s the question" »

PNG on a path of extraordinary transition


PNG’S FOUNDING FATHER Sir Michael Somare, now aged 75, was suspended for 14 days from April 4 for failing to provide annual reports on his assets and business dealings to the Ombudsman Commission as required.

It is Sir Michael’s skills as a leader and player of the PNG political game—at once ornate and brutal—that have held his ruling coalition together for almost 10 years. He has been at the centre of PNG’s parliaments for 42 years.

But this long-anticipated court case ended up appearing more like a part of the passing of the old independence era, rather than a decisive centerpiece of the PNG story.
For regardless of Sir Michael’s fate, PNG is on the cusp of an extraordinary economic, social and political transition, one which the country has not seen since gaining independence from Australia in 1975.

Where this change will take it, remains utterly uncertain. But that it is undergoing a convulsion is clear. A new generation is on the move, one which has been born since independence and appears unburdened by sentiment towards the past.

The election due in mid-2012—for which the manoeuvring is already well under way—will indicate who is likely to win or lose from this transition.

Usually, more than half the MPs lose their seats—and this time, Sir Michael has said he may decide at last to stand down, whatever the leadership tribunal decides.

Within 30 years, PNG’s population may start to overtake that of Australia—20 million—as it stands today. Its capital Port Moresby is already approaching 1 million.

Its economy is likely to grow faster than China’s this year, more than 8 percent. Almost every leading resource company in the world is now scrabbling over prospects there.

Rio Tinto is back after the Bougainville civil war. BHP-Billiton is back exploring there, after the debacle of its withdrawal from Ok Tedi.

The first liquefied natural gas project, costing some $US16.5 billion, is just starting four frenetic years of construction in the Southern Highlands and along a pipeline route down to the liquefaction plant in Port Moresby. Massive mines are being developed elsewhere.

Port Moresby’s burgeoning backstreet lodges are bursting with landowners from the gasfields and mine sites desperately seeking their fortunes from government and corporations, from anyone who might be persuaded to compensate them amply for their lost lands. And life is being transformed especially rapidly by the wild rush into the mobile phone era.

Irish-based company Digicel, which specialises in telecommunications for developing countries, has launched a remarkably cheap service and backed it up by building towers all over PNG, giving its signals a nationwide reach despite its mountainous interior and myriad islands.

Streetside betel nut sellers, and people offering single cigarettes for 60 toea, now also sell simcards.

In bustling Tabari Place in Boroko in the capital, traders have set up booths where they sell mobiles and all the associated paraphernalia, the deals usually being conducted entirely in Tok Pisin—while in the background young preachers try to attract the attention of the milling crowds.

Continue reading "PNG on a path of extraordinary transition" »

Team reviews PNGDF air transport wing

A TEAM OF NINE Australian army and air force personnel and two New Zealand air force engineers are working with their PNGDF counterparts to conduct a review of the PNDF’s Air Transport Wing (ATW).

The review focuses on command and control procedures, flying standards, safety standards, and maintenance arrangements.

PNDF commander, Brigadier General Agwi, ordered the review to ensure the ATW is as ready as possible to meet the government’s expectations for support as well as unanticipated requirements such as a need to provide humanitarian assistance.

The visit by the eleven-person team follows a visit by two senior RAAF officers last month, to help refine the syllabus and select candidates for PNG-funded basic flying training commencing in Australia shortly.

The Australian Defence Department is working with the US State Department to finalise gifting surplus helicopter parts for maintenance of a PNGDF ‘Huey’ helicopter.

Australia is also exploring the possibility of making some places available for ATW technicians to train at RAAF bases in Australia.

Source: Australian High Commission

Work accident tragedy shatters family


PNG tragedy A YOUNG AUSTRALIAN family is reeling in the wake of the tragic death of father-of-two, Kerry Kowitz, who was killed when a tree fell on him in the first week of his new job in PNG.

Mr Kowitz, 31, had followed in his father Peter's footsteps to become an earthworks supervisor for a new road being built at the Wafi Golpu goldmine near Lae.

Peter said his son was working with a tree-clearing crew in dense rainforest late last month when he dropped back to help make the new road wider.

“He had the guys clear around the tree,” Peter said. “Then he walked down to make sure it was okay for the boys to come to cut the tree down and for some unknown reason it fell. The top branches of the tree fell on Kerry.”

Kerry was airlifted to Lae International Hospital but his injuries were so serious he could not be revived.

He has left behind his wife of nearly 10 years Melissa and their children Jack, 4 and Chloe, 3. His mother Lynda said his entire family was devastated by the loss.

“Melissa is a strong lady but she has lost her soul mate,” she said. “They were perfect for each other. We are very proud parents of a young man gone too soon.”

His father, who has worked on and off in PNG since the mid 1960s, said Kerry had left his previous earthmoving job in Toowoomba to further his career. “I didn't lose a son, I lost a mate.”

A fund has been set up for anyone who would like to support Ms Kowitz and her two children. The Suncorp account details are BSB: 484 799 Account Number: 0700 59277.

Photo: Kerry Kowitz relaxes with his wife Melissa and their children Chloe and Jack last year

Source: Toowoomba News

Who will succeed Somare? An analysis


WITH PRIME MINISTER Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare officially declared medically unfit to lead the National Alliance coalition until the next election, the question to be asked is who will supersede his leadership?

It is quite difficult to predict Sir Michael’s successor given the complexity of the National Alliance make-up, however from observation we can construct some scenarios.

Over the years the current NA government has had several leadership contests based on regional politics.

The key leadership tussle has been between the Highlands’ regional camp and the Momase camp, whilst the Southern and the Nuigini Islands camps seem moderate.

From this constellation, we can assume a pattern that the Highlands and Momase camps will compete for leadership.

We expect three political factions within Highlands regional bloc - the O’Neill group and a split in Enga between acting PM Sam Abal’s group and former deputy PM leader and Highlands’ hot candidate, Don Polye’s group.

Given the Highlands complex political culture, we expect that a split in the Engan group would most likely shift alliance to Southern Highlands group. In the Southern Highlands, the hottest candidate will be Peter O’Neill. However, should Engan MPs unite, we expect a different scenario. Polye would be more likely to assume leadership than Abal.

On the other side of the coin, the Momase camp may face similar political competition. We expect a split between Patrick Pruaitch and Arthur Somare. Although both leaders are highly competitive, Arthur may assume leadership for three reasons.

First, he will be preferred over Pruaitch to maintain the rand Chief’s legacy. Second, he has played an important role in economic development by bringing onshore many high impact projects such as LNG. Finally, his leadership may attract NA support in honour and recognition of Sir Michael Somare.

In the middle camp, we have the Niugini Islands and Southern (Papua), both of which do not possess potential candidates for the leadership.

In the Niugini Islands, we expect Paul Tiensten to bandwagon with the Momase camp. In the South, there is a vacuum after the defection of former deputy prime minister, Sir Puka Temu, to the Opposition.

Given this situation, we expect two possible scenarios. First, both camps may remain faithful with Momase in fear of losing the leadership to the Highlands region. Secondly, there will be a split within the camps between pro-Somare and pro-Pruaitch factions.

Although there is the possibility of defections of MPs from the coastal bloc to the highlands bloc, this is less likely to occur.

From this analysis, we can draw some conclusions.

First, political instability within NA coalition is inevitable.

Secondly, we expect some leadership shift in the Highlands camp with new faces should there be a stalemate in leadership between Enga and Southern Highlands.

Thirdly, we expect a split in the Momase camp. However, it is most likely that Arthur Somare will assume leadership.

Fourth, we also a split between Niugini Islands and Southern camps; however, it is most likely that both will support Momase.

This leaves us with four most likely possible candidates.

Arthur Somare, Sam Abal, Don Polye and Peter O’Neill.

In projecting a rough prediction, we expect Arthur Somare to reign should there be a stalemate between Highlands MPs. However, should the Highlands regional MPs unite, we expect Don Polye to assume leadership.

New Eden – A poem of love for PNG


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

I have felt a great urge to write a patriotic poem like the poem ‘Jerusalem’ by the English poet William Blake, whom I am most influenced by in almost all my writings. I hope some day in the future this nation will be called NEW EDEN, because it’s the most beautiful, breath-taking and blessed land on earth - MN

In the beginning was the Word
And He flew like Paradise Bird
Through floral forests of New Eden
And gave to us this precious land

Did He breathe the Bismarck Breeze?
Into Adams wide nostrils
Did He carve the Great Sepik?
When He ruled from Wilhelm's peak

In land of Gold that floats on Oil
He pitched His tent into the soil
And gave to Abel sugar cane
Much to Cain's great disdain

Did wise Solomon sail this sea?
Did Christ's tears flow the Fly?
Papua New Guinea
Praise the name of God on High

It’s official – parliament full of hot air


AFTER A CONSIDERABLE period of enforced absence, PNG’s parliament reconvened this week only to find that by Thursday morning, the acting Speaker had to adjourn the sitting yet again due to a lack of a quorum (which is 33 members).

Many government members were elsewhere, debating who might succeed PM Somare as prime minister.

The excuse given by Speaker Jeffery Nape as to why he suspended parliament months ago, was that necessary renovations were needed to parliament. But it begs the question of who or what is more important; Parliament or the prime minister.

Apparently parliament has been without air conditioning since 2007 and, although there are plans to have the unit repaired and K1 million had been allocated for the work, nothing has been done.

The Speaker, whose job it is to manage repairs to parliament, has been unable to effect this work over the months of enforced absence of MP’s due to his own inaction.

What a pity he wasn’t as competent in management as he has been in suspending his country’s Parliament?

One could perhaps observe that, thanks to Mr Nape, the PNG parliament remains be full of hot air.

PNG moves up Arafura medals tally

PNG has moved up from 13th to 7th position at the Arafura Games in Darwin after grabbing medals in athletics long distance events to become the second top Pacific island country at the Games.

Macau has taken over from New Caledonia in the latest medal tally after outstanding performances in track and field events yesterday to progress to 27 gold, 17 silver and 27 bronze – 2 gold medals more than the New Caledonians

New Caledonia athletes won most of their medals in the last four days in swimming as well as table-tennis.

Fiji’s three medals make it the third Pacific Island country in 14th position.

Source: Radio Fiji

Ex-defence chief urges stronger border ties


FORMER DEFENCE FORCE commander Major General Gerry Singirok says Australia's failure to enter into a full defence partnership with PNG is leaving it open to people smugglers and terrorists.

Major General Singirok is calling on Australia take its defence relationship with PNG to a new level and to back a full coast-watch program.

He says the lack of control and surveillance along PNG's border with Indonesia and in its huge exclusive economic zone at sea means PNG is unable to stem an influx of illegal immigrants and presents a haven for terrorists.

He says Australia's P3 Orion surveillance flights and its Pacific patrol boat program are completely inadequate to address regional security needs.

Source: Australia Network News

Cabinet in turmoil as Somare falls ill


THE AUSTRALIAN - PNG has been thrown into political turmoil, with Prime Minister Michael Somare almost certain not to return to the leadership because of a heart condition.

The dramatic events in Port Moresby and the expected bitter succession stoush will push the Gillard government's proposal for an asylum-seeker processing centre on Manus Island to the back of the political queue.

The PNG government learned yesterday that because of the severity of Sir Michael's heart condition, he was almost certain to be unable to resume the prime ministership. This marks the likely passing of an extraordinary era for Australia's closest neighbour and former colony.

Read the full article here

Time to despatch this inferiority complex


UNTIL RECENTLY, most Papua New Guinean societies were characterised by a patronising culture where questioning authority was unheard of.

Our big man culture fostered a deep-seated mentality where no member of the community was bigger than the one individual figurehead.

This person, usually the tribal chief, would generally be a law unto himself, and anyone who was seen not to be acting in accordance with his wishes was made to face drastic consequences - and even death.

Such a culture suited our traditional enclosed societies at that time. I use enclosed for want of a better word to describe social groupings whose political, social and geographical boundaries were relatively limited.

Tribal and clan hostilities, mostly over geographical territory and land ownership, were common occurrences then, and so it made sense to organise ourselves in the manner we did.

There was a great need for an individual figurehead - the big man - who was allowed to rule almost like a dictator for the greater good of individual tribes and clans. Such a system ensured social order prevailed within our little tribal nations at that time.

Then came the intruders with their salt, axe heads, laplaps, firearms and a new belief system.

They used these basic yet powerful tools with great effect and slowly went about creating a new layer of social structure within our traditional cultures and imposed themselves right at the top of the power pyramid.

They assumed our social, political and economic powers and also attained recognition and acceptance of their own status as the new ‘powers’ in our social hierarchy.

And our awestruck ancestors were too naïve to resist this social imposition in a similar fashion to the Maoris of New Zealand.

So we ended up accepting their ways and allowed them to conveniently substitute themselves as the authority in the new social order. The development of derogatory phrases such as yesa masta, bos boi, kanaka and so on in the colonial era are symptoms of this rather arrogant imposition.

Because of our traditional big man social structure, it is in our subconscious mind to be a submissive people and the intruder simply played along this existing cultural reality to impose himself and caused us to submit to him.

The acceptance of this new power has sadly remained in our collective national intuition to this day.

And this is where the problem lies for us in so far as dealing with the neo-colonialists goes.

Most indigenous Papua New Guineas are too scared to challenge their expatriate colleagues in rational debate in many formal work environments in our country. And if a fellow indigenous person is brave and intelligent enough to do so, they turn around and see him or her in a negative light and brand him or her a ‘bighead’. If this isn’t self defeating, then I don’t know what is.

My experience so far is that this problem is deeply rooted among Papua New Guineans, and unless we break free from this repression of inferiority complex we will never get anywhere.

We should respect people’s position and authority but should not be afraid to stand up and hold our own in rational discussions regardless of who we are talking with.

I acknowledge that the yesa masta mentality has its roots in our traditional big man culture. But times have changed and our social hierarchy has also changed.

The new big man in our mindsets today is not the same big man of our forefathers. He is not the great warrior that defeated our enemies and protected our tribes to warrant our unequivocal admiration, respect, trust and submission.

We must move on and move away from this delusion that someone is right simply because he or she has different looks than us and, therefore, appears to us to be the big man.

Our inferiority complex is ironically being reinforced through our education system. We are being taught predominantly about the arrival of aliens as ‘the’ history of our country. And it is not.

All our history textbooks are filled with sketches and photographs of steamships, bearded missionaries and ‘discoverers’ and their flags and maps.

But where are the stories about our true heritage? Why can we not learn our true history about how our ancestors lived for thousands of years before the intruders arrived?

Why can’t we teach our children about how good we have always been as architects, builders, agriculturalists and seafarers before the outsiders arrived?

We are a country of indigenous people and we must know our own indigenous history first before learning about how other people illegally intruded into our lives and caused us to unnecessarily submit to them.