Previous month:
April 2011
Next month:
June 2011

177 posts from May 2011

The soldiers who taught soldiers democracy


Education sergeants 

IT WAS THE Queensland Teachers’ Journal that included, amongst many learned articles, an advertisement that implored former national servicemen who served in the then Territory of Papua and New Guinea to contact a Mr Ian Ogston for the purpose of collecting stories of the time.

Stories, that is, of each soldier who had spent time as part of the Royal Australian Army Educational Corps (RAAEC) in conscripted national service from 1965-72.

I was at first reluctant to participate but prodding from my associate at work finally saw me contact Ian some time in mid 2003.

A subsequent email from Ian Ogston set out the format for a meeting on 25 October 2003 at Kedron Wavell Services Club at Chermside in Brisbane.

Ian was anxious that attendees tell of their experiences and provide memorabilia, if it was available for exhibiting. A social side to the gathering was also emphasised.

What was planned by Ian and his associate, Ian Colwell (Principal of Somerset Hills State School), did eventuate.

Former Nasho “chalkies” gathered at the appointed time and recited their memories into a Dictaphone guided by a string of questions posed by the organising committee. This took the best part of the morning as each person recalled the memories of 30 years or more previously.

Most of the ex-servicemen present had a varied career in the Australian Army prior to their TPNG experience.

Those who were conscripted early in the national service program, upon completion of recruit training, undertook corps training in their chosen specialty in Artillery, Infantry, Transport, Engineers, Medical, Signals etc.

Following this, interviews were undertaken by a panel appointed to select candidates for transfer to the Education Corps. Teacher training with some classroom experience was mandatory. A willingness to serve with indigenous soldiers was also a prerequisite.

The time between this interview and appointment to RAAEC varied from several weeks to several months, with successful candidates finding out only when movement papers detailed TPNG or Townsville as their destination.

In my own case, five months after a Sydney interview I was taken from my pre-embarkation leave for Vietnam and placed on a Port Moresby bound aircraft, 12 hours after receiving my movement papers. I arrived unannounced and unexpected.

Those selected during the final years of the national service scheme were chosen during recruit training and the Education Corps was their only corps posting. Soldiers selected this way did induction training for a week or so in Townsville prior to being deployed in TPNG.

Training in Pidgin English was undertaken by some appointees, but most of the earlier education sergeants picked up the language from the mess or the soldiers themselves in the battalion to which they were appointed. A select few were given an Army Manual outlining words, phrases and pronunciations in Pidgin.

The group of about a dozen ex-servicemen at that initial get-together in October 2003 told their story which later became the basis of a book Armi Wantoks, a Record of Conscript Teachers in TPNG.

In the years following this event, the “chalkies” have met regularly to share experiences, listen to guest speakers and write accounts of the various aspects of army life in PNG and the duties each battalion undertook between 1966 and 1972.

Goldie River education sergeants specialised in recruit training and the induction of recruits into the army way of life.

Taurama Barracks (1PIR) in Port Moresby and Moem Barracks (2PIR) in Wewak were infantry battalions, where education sergeants undertook battalion duties such as guard, patrol and company activities as well as regular classroom duties teaching soldiers in English, Maths, Science and Civics, with an emphasis on democratic institutions. (This was prior to PNG Independence in 1975.)

Murray Barracks HQ contained a more senior group of soldiers so the education sergeants undertook lessons and testing more befitting the needs of this select group.

In all cases, the sergeants identified gifted students who were suitable for officer training in Lae then at Portsea in Victoria.

A select group of conscript teachers was also to be found at the Military Cadet School in Lae, the initial officer training school for PNG officer cadets.

These events are recorded in the Armi Wantoks journal which is published bi-annually and expands on the stories first published in the original book.

It is believed that about 300 conscript teachers from all parts of Australia served in the RAAEC in PNG in that time prior to Independence.

A more academic approach to Australia’s roll in the formation of the PNG Defence Force prior to and following Independence has been undertaken by a PhD student from the Australian National University.

The Brisbane chalkies group of Armi Wantoks has been instrumental in providing audio and written histories of their national service time spent teaching the soldiers of the Pacific Islands Regiments and their contribution to the education and preparation for the imminent arrival of PNG Independence in 1975.

A small group of retired RAAEC soldiers hope to visit Port Moresby in mid 2011 to see the progress made by their former students and visit the barracks where democratic principles were first taught over 40 years ago.

Terry Edwinsmith was a Sergeant in the RAAEC, 1PIR at Taurama Barracks from 1967-68

Photo: 1960-70s TPNG RAAEC sergeants 40 years on in October 2010

Beaches’ doctors link with New Ireland


Peter MacDonald A TEAM OF DOCTORS from Sydney’s northern beaches has delivered life-saving cardiac defibrillators to two hospitals in NewIreland.

Members of the Manly-based Australian Doctors International recently travelled to New Ireland to deliver the equipment and ensure hospital staff could use it correctly.

ADI president Peter Macdonald, a Manly councillor and former NSW State MP, said PNG endured standards of living comparable to Kenya and Bangladesh, despite being Australia’s closest neighbour.

“These defibrillators will be used by the two hospitals in New Ireland, an isolated island region and tourist surfing destination, which has just 10 local doctors for 160,000 people,” Dr Macdonald said.

“Almost half of the population is infected with malaria and many others have tuberculosis, whilst to make matters worse, heart disease is becoming increasingly common due to the availability of fatty, sugary Western foods.”

Although the cardiac defibrillators were delivered by the charity, they were donated by medical supply company Device Technologies.

Managing director Kevin Ryan said the company had a special interest in providing critical care. “Device Technologies recognises the efforts of Australian Doctors International in PNG and is proud to be able to support this very worthy cause,” he said.

Photo: Peter MacDonald  hands over a cardiac defibrillator

Source: Manly Daily, Sydney

Broadband network extends to rural areas

THE PNG GOVERNMENT is working with the developers of the Liquefied Natural Gas project to expand the broadband network into rural areas.

The announcement comes as mobile phone company Digicel launches a new broadband service, making the internet more accessible to anyone with a 3G-enabled handset.

Digicel broadband will initially be available only in the highly populated centres.

Secretary for Communication and Information, Henao Iduhu, says efforts to bring broadband internet to rural areas will be based on the construction of a 750-kilometre fibre optic cable.

“LNG developers have also applied to secure broadband access in its own community through the LNG corridor and townships where the developers are located. So there is an effort to bring broadband access on internet to the community,” Mr Iduhu said.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Struggle as NA seeks to elect new leader

THERE IS NOW considerable doubt that Sir Michael Somare will resume the prime minister’s role in PNG after he underwent two operations in Singapore recently.

The seriousness of his condition had not been revealed until parliament met in Port Moresby this week.

And this afternoon AAP is reporting that the National Alliance is meeting to decide on a replacement for Sir Michael Somare as leader of the group.The appointee would be expected to take over the prime minister’s role should Sir Michael step down.

There is talk of a leadership struggle and reports that a cabinet split has delayed a decision on the Manus Island detention centre.

A leadership contest is expected between acting prime minister Sam Abal, Treasurer Patrick Pruaitch and Foreign Affairs Minister Don Polye.

Three weeks ago Sir Michael flew to Singapore for heart-valve replacement surgery. After post-operative complications, he had to undergo a further round of corrective surgery.

Mr Abal said Sir Michael is now recovering in Singapore. Earlier statements that Sir Michael was not seriously ill and that he would appear in parliament this week proved to be wrong.

PNG cabinet still split on Manus plan

PNG'S CABINET is divided over Australia's proposal to set up a refugee processing centre on Manus, reports today’s Sydney Morning Herald.

While Foreign Affairs Minister Don Polye has pressed the case for Australia's offer, describing it as an ''important initiative'', he has conceded that the matter will need to be decided by cabinet.

There is resistance among some PNG politicians to Australia's approach, which the Herald says does not include a detailed economic package or a time limit for the centre's operation. There is also concern that the proposal echoes the Howard government's ''Pacific solution''.

The cabinet has postponed a decision and a proposed statement to parliament by Mr Polye was also postponed again yesterday.

Meanwhile The Australian has named Planning Minister Paul Tiensten as the first cabinet member to break his silence on negotiations with Australia, saying a deal with Canberra is likely. But he said PNG required more information on the proposal.

Oz Manus diplomacy is seriously flawed


LAST WEEK Australia’s Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe and Pacific parliamentary secretary Richard Marles quietly travelled to Port Moresby to revisit the Manus detention centre issue.

This has generated heated controversy in Australia and PNG. But, whilst ‘Manus detention diplomacy’ may be driving dissension in PNG’s Cabinet, it can also be used as an opportunity to maximise the national interest.

It appears obvious now that Australia’s struggling Labor government is contradicting its own manifesto and perhaps compromising Australia’s national interest by returning to Howard’s ‘hands on’ policy in the region – a slap in the face to a number of its constituencies.

Prime minister Julia Gillard tripped herself up during her election campaign last year by nominating East Timor as the ‘place’ for boat people headed to Australia.

Now it’s Malaysia – and Manus. The latter was previously part of the so-called ‘Pacific solution’ under Howard’s regime and was dismantled by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in helping settle down frayed relations with PNG.

Since the end of colonisation, Australia continues its “hands on” diplomacy with PNG. Canberra still assumes PNG as its colonial periphery, apparently to exploit and impose on as it sees fit.

Australia has an attitude problem in dealing not only with PNG but with the rest of the Pacific – she has not learned from her mistakes, for instance with Fiji.

Several political issues remain unresolved between PNG and Australia. Bilateral relations under Howard were a mess, a repeat of this will not be in the best interests of Australia or PNG.

Revisiting the Manus detention centre has advantages and disadvantages. Manus will certainly benefit from investment in the local economy.

At a national level, the PNG government may expect incentives if it accepts the proposal. It may think of employing Manus as leverage to influence policy outcomes on outstanding bilateral issues. It  may use the proposal as an important opportunity to push for better regional trade agreements including issues like the temporary workers scheme.

Australia is slowly losing PNG – this is a great concern and conundrum. PNG is growing more assertive in its regional approach and has enough economic power to influence policy outcomes.

Treating PNG as a colonial backyard will not work for Australia, which should pay more respect to PNG as the leader of the Pacific islands nations. One may argue the Pacific archipelago is no longer Canberra’s playground. With the changing pattern of Pacific politics, the Pacific is a contestable theatre.

Dealing with refugees from Asia and the Middle East, especially boat people, has been a problem in Australia. Australia has had a hard time managing it. But it seems this trend will continue and Gillard will have to deal with it effectively. This will be a test for her and the Labor party. Australia’s taxpayers are counting on her leadership.

In my view, Australia’s approach to the Manus detention centre suggests a lack of coherence and even pure ignorance in the way Australian foreign officials behave towards PNG officials. Australia’s push to have PNG provide a regional facility is a slap in the face. PNG should refuse such scheme as a manifestation of a conventional interventionist (neocolonial) approach.

The Gillard proposal is not in the best of interests of PNG. This is an internal problem which Canberra has the capacity to deal with. PNG should not be used as a dumping ground. However, should PNG approve this proposal, it must strongly push for Australia to accommodate PNG’s national interest.

SABLs: Namah should say if he has conflict


COMMUNITY ADVOCACY group, Act Now! has called on PNG opposition MPs to publicly state their position on the Commission of Inquiry into Special Agriculture and Business Leases.

We have heard from Opposition leader Belden Namah that he opposes the inquiry, but do leading opposition MPs like Sam Basil, Mekere Morauta, Bart Philemon and Jamie Maxton-Grahem support that position?

There has been widespread community anger about the SABL land grab and civil society has welcomed the acting prime minister's announcement of a Commission of Inquiry.

This is an issue about good governance. It is about our model of development. It is about defending our Constitution and customary land rights.

The Opposition leader is misleading the public by wrongly claiming existing leases have been suspended when the prime minister has only suspended the issuing of new leases.

It is common knowledge that Mr Namah is closely associated with the Bewani SABL. If he has a conflict of interest he should make that clear when he speaks on this issue.

But the public also needs to hear from other senior opposition figures on this issue; MPs who have previously taken a stand on corruption and defended the rights of ordinary people. Do they oppose a Commission of Inquiry?

Morauta – a great reformer of our time


Late last week, Opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta stepped aside in favour of Belden Namah to trigger a significant generational shift in PNG politics. Here, Reginald Renagi looks at his substantial legacy….

Morauta & Namah WHILE HE DID NOT remain long in office, former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta will long be remembered as a great political reformer.

Among important policy changes he instituted as prime minister, fundamental reforms in the financial sector loom large.

Unlike previous prime ministers, who lacked the political will to make a difference, Sir Mekere inherited his predecessor’s liability and immediately cleaned up remaining problem areas in the country’s financial sector.

Minerals Resources Development Corporation. Key actions involved protecting landowner interest groups, pushing for legislation to remove political interference by MPs, outsourcing investment management, Central Bank oversight and a ‘fit and proper persons’ test.

Workers Mutual Insurance. To protect many thousands of contributors, Sir Mekere re-established Worker’s Mutual Insurance at a cost of K19 million, outsourcing investment management and conducted a major inquiry into its collapse as prelude to reforms of the existing Insurance Act.

Pacific Balanced Fund. He acted on major Inquiry recommendations and resolved an impasse by appointing new trustees and an investment manager.

Securities Commission. The commission was revamped to strengthen its weak and ineffective status. This gave it stronger powers and independence to pursue white-collar criminal activity.

Rural Development Bank (now the National Development Bank). The NDB was continually undercapitalised and suffered much political interference. A review of the Act protected the interests of small rural-based entrepreneurs.

These financial reforms greatly improved the efficiency of the economy. Furthermore, the phasing out of the former Telikom monopoly by increasing competition in telecommunications achieved positive job, service and tax revenue outcomes.

There was also a full review and reform of the Electoral Commission including an audit of existing roles, the registration of eligible voters and more voter awareness education.

To further boost the national economy, his plans to phase in competition in the airlines and establish an Independent Commission against Corruption with sweeping powers were mooted widely, but Sir Mekere had not finished what he started when he had to hand over to a new administration after the 2002 national elections.

The two political regimes since have consistently demonstrated an inability to initiate much-needed reforms from where this great reformist prime minister left off.

Papua New Guineans are hoping and praying that our country gets another reformist leader like Sir Mekere Morauta after the 2012 national elections to make the required political reforms we so desperately need.

Photo: Sir Mekere Morauta [left] and Belden Namah

Pacific fantasy and a diplomatic bloody nose


THE AUSTRALIAN foreign policy establishment has been plunged into an agonising debate with the gradual realisation that Canberra’s long-standing hardline approach to events in Fiji has failed.

The bipartisan consensus between Labor and the Coalition that the diplomatic cold shoulder and targeted sanctions would eventually bring the Bainimarama regime to heel has been shattered.

And now a high-level public split has emerged that would have once been unthinkable between Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and the most prestigious Australian think-tank on Melanesian affairs – the Lowy Institute.

The head of the institute’s Myer Foundation Melanesian program, Jenny Hayward-Jones, is a former diplomat who once shared Rudd’s enthusiasm to use every means, short of withdrawing humanitarian assistance, to bludgeon Frank Bainimarama into an immediate restoration of democracy.

But while Rudd is sticking to his guns – testily arguing that it is Bainimarama who has to change, not him – Haywood-Jones now accepts publicly that the tough love approach hasn’t worked.

In The Australian and elsewhere, she’s been calling for a new policy of engagement to help Fiji comply with Bainimarama’s long-stated intention to hold elections in 2014. It’s a humiliating about-face that has arguably come far too late.

Fiji has new friends and – judging from its recent criticism of Rudd’s alleged intransigence – doesn’t seem to care as much about re-engaging with Australia as some Canberra beltway insiders imagine.

Jenny Hayward-Jones is now calling on Australia to “build and lead a new coalition with traditional partners ( New Zealand, Japan, the US and EU) and non-traditional partners ( such as Indonesia, India, South Korea and Papua New Guinea) to work with Fiji on a package of assistance for electoral and constitutional reform consistent with Fiji’s 2014 election timetable”.

In other words, let’s help Bainimarama achieve what he’s consistently said he would do all along. And let’s lead a coalition that includes a number of countries already working with Fiji quite happily without Australian “leadership”.

This is the bankrupt nature of Australian policy towards Fiji. First the moralising and hectoring, the overt attempts to damage the country and its economy, the dawning realisation of failure, the inevitable rollback, capitulation and the fantasy of leading from the front when events have long overtaken you.

Fijians of all races are entitled to wonder what on earth the last four and a half years have been all about when it comes to Australia. Except that the regional bully, not the local dictator, ended up with the bloody nose.

Graham Davis is an independent Fiji-born journalist and publisher of the political blog Grubsheet.

Read the full article here

West Sydney suburbs help Sandaun schools


Liverpool Champion TUCKED away in the steamy tropical villages of PNG, children are using school and sports supplies sent with love from Fairfield and Liverpool.

Brother Thomas Rice received pens, pencils, erasers, exercise books and reading materials in 2009 to take back to 12 schools run by Christian missionaries in Sandaun Province.

As he visits Australia for a few weeks between time at the schools, Br Thomas has brought back stories of his students to thank the teachers, pupils and families at Mary Immaculate Primary School, Bossley Park.

He also brought gratitude to staff and students at Fairfield Patrician Brothers who rallied to supply sporting equipment and soccer shirts, shorts, boots and balls.

"We presented packages to some 12 remote schools on a regular basis as long as supplies lasted," Brother Thomas said.

"This way the students appreciate the generosity and not simply expect the gravy train to continue to flow without some effort on their part!"

Brother Thomas has worked in PNG for eight years. He said the generosity of the community has sustained his efforts.

"Thank you for your support and encouragement for those who are less fortunate and disadvantaged by corrupt government agencies which fail to deliver basic services at the grassroots level, depriving their own brothers and sisters of many basic essentials," he said.

Source: Fairfield City Champion

Opposition supports women in politics bill

NEW OPPOSITION LEADER, Belden Namah, says his coalition will support a bill to have more women elected to parliament.

The bill proposing 22 reserved seats for women is now before parliament for debate and approval. Mr Namah told Radio Australia he supports the bill.

"With respect to women’s seats. I believe women should have representation in the country so the voice of women can be heard," he said. "I've already made a commitment to support the bill so we can have women representation on the floor."

Source: Radio Australia

Australia pledges half a billion in aid


AUSTRALIA WILL PROVIDE $520 million in aid to PNG next year, making it the second largest Australian aid recipient after Indonesia.

Treasurer, Wayne Swan, delivered prime minister Julia Gillard's first budget last night.

The Australian government says PNG still faces serious challenges despite the longest period of economic growth in history from its resources sector.

It says PNG is unlikely to meet any of its millenium development goals by 2015, and aid will be repositioned to focus on PNG's struggling health and education sectors.

It says the importance of aid to PNG's revenue is declining as its mining sector grows.

Source: Australia Network News

Manus approach ‘not ideally managed’

THE AUSTRALIAN newspaper is reporting this morning that Australia’s approach to process refugees in PNG “has not been ideally managed”.

The PNG Cabinet is said to be seeking more details from Canberra about the asylum-seeker assessment centre Australia wants to establish on Manus Island.

“From PNG's perspective, the number of questions left unresolved indicates the process has not been ideally managed,” The Australian reports.

“While there is no strong opposition in PNG to the Australian proposal, the manner in which Canberra approached Port Moresby was widely perceived as too low-level, and presumptuous.”

Apparently, although the PNG cabinet met on Monday, the asylum-seekers proposal was not considered because “[the cabinet] agenda was so crammed”.

A joint statement about establishing a centre may be issued during the next few days. The Australian says that “how the proposal is to be implemented in detail will then require further negotiations, which could take some weeks.”

Footnote: Yesterday, the PNG parliament was told that Sir Michael Somare had undergone two operations in Singapore, the second following complications encountered in the first.

Read the full story here:

Has PNG always been a colony?


FROM ABOUT THE seventeenth century through to the twentieth the European powers were very clear about what having colonies meant.  They were places to be exploited.

It might have been the spices, fertiliser, cotton, tobacco, copra, rubber or minerals or simply a location of strategic value.  Whatever the reason, it involved taking something without paying for it and making a huge profit.

The colonists were usually commercial or quasi-commercial outfits.  The Dutch East Indies Company, British Phosphate, Burns Philp and the New Guinea Company come to mind.  Sometimes it was hard to distinguish them from their respective governments.

Running a colony involved establishing settlements and infrastructure to make the exploitation easier.  I can’t think of anything built in PNG that didn’t ultimately fit into this criteria.

Often it was necessary to pacify the locals and bend them to the will of the enterprise if they were to be used as cheap and handy sources of labour.  It might have been necessary to train them in some limited way to make them more tractable. 

Missionaries imbued with a strong Protestant work ethic were handy in this respect. If that didn’t work shooting a few usually brought about the desired result. 

At the end of the day, however, the basic aim remained to extract as much valuable material as possible out of the place with the least inconvenience and the lowest possible cost.

Australia went into Papua and then New Guinea largely for strategic reasons but there was always that keen eye on the lookout for the main chance, those things that could be cheaply exploited and carted away.

The strategic hunch turned out to be very useful.  We managed to fight World War II offshore and pretty much confined the carnage and destruction there too.  The locals, as usual, came in handy to carry and dig for us.  If we ever have to do it again someday no doubt they’ll come in handy then.

So what has changed?  What of these neo-colonialists, the oil and gas companies, the logging companies, the copper, nickel and gold miners?  How are they different from those old free-booting colonists of yesteryear?

To tell you the truth, it’s hard to tell the difference.  The only thing that stands out is their multinational origin.

It’s been necessary to placate the locals a bit more than last time; hand them a cut price, tradestore-quality brand of democracy; make sure they don’t invent their own style of government just in case, heaven forbid, they actually make it work and really do become independent.  That would never do; how can you make a profit out of that?

No, PNG has been a colony for a long time now and it’s best if it stays that way, even if we have to kid everyone and call it something else.  How can we make a profit otherwise?

Was PNG ever really independent?  Probably not; there was about five years after 1975 and before the big hydrocarbon and mineral developments when it looked a bit that way. But, then again, it was still stuck on the Australian aid teat.  Nope, a colony she was and a colony she’ll be!

A military coup: Just around the corner?


"Truckloads of fully armed soldiers from the Taurama barracks, in Port Moresby, last Saturday ransacked a service station, destroying property worth more than K5 million during a drunken brawl with civilians" – The National, Monday

IN PORT MORESBY last Saturday night, armed soldiers from Taurama Barracks travelled in convoy from their barracks to a service station and, after discharging their weapons, ransacked the servo and tried to set fire to 80,000 litres of fuel.

The amount of damage and loss of property has been estimated at more than K5 million.

This comes on top of the recent public demonstration of soldiers in Lae after a reportedly drunken officer was refused service and ejected from a store by security personnel.

Armed PNGDF personnel left their barracks and patrolled the town in full view of the public. The local police commander was eventually able to get the soldiers to return to barracks, however there have been no reports of any disciplinary action.

The lack of disciplinary action can only encourage further escalation of such illegal and undisciplined activity.

Nothing less than immediate action by the commander of the PNGDF and an investigation by an independent authority can possibly stop further escalation of this dangerous level of mutiny.

It is a worrying feature that the people's Defence Force is showing utter contempt for civilian rule. Those PNGDF soldiers responsible must be immediately stood down and all weapons and ammunition throughout the country impounded and placed under proper control.

Failure to act decisively can only result in a similar situation to the one in Wewak some years ago where it was reported soldiers broke into and raided their armoury and stole weapons and ammunition, some never recovered.

Either the PNG government, through the PNGDF commander, gains proper control of the Defence Force or the next step could well be a military coup.

It's happened in Fiji and it can happen in PNG. Given the 'solidarity' being expressed by prime minister Somare for the Fijian coup leader, it wouldn't take much for some PNG soldiers see a parallel window of opportunity.

John Herbert – policeman & advocate


EDWARD JOHN HERBERT, who has died at the age of 85, was a popular policeman, and latterly industrial advocate in PNG and Queensland.

A former rear gunner in an RAF Lancaster bomber flying sorties over Europe in World War II, he was appointed to the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary in Port Moresby in 1949 as an assistant sub-inspector of police.

Later transferred to Rabaul as sub-inspector and later inspector, he undertook sensitive special duties.

After serving briefly in Lae, Wau and Kundiawa he studied at the University of Queensland and earned a BA and a Diploma of Public Administration. He returned to Port Moresby as Licensing Inspector with the Liquor Licensing Commission before joining the Department of Labour as an Industrial Relations Officer.

John represented PNG, and also mentored trainee local officers, at an International Labour organisation conference in Switzerland in 1970. After training his local successor, he retired as Chief of Division (Industrial Relations) in 1976 and left PNG. 

In Australia he was appointed Industrial Officer for the West Australian Colleges of Advanced Education, and later to a similar position in Brisbane where he became Industrial Advocate for Queensland Colleges of Advanced Education.

Retiring again, he joined  a writers’ group in Brisbane and entertained members with thinly-disguised tales of his life in pre-World War II London and post-war Rabaul.

He is survived by his wife, Kath, daughters Carla and Cherry and their families, son Tony and his family, and son Kieran. He had six grandchildren and one great-grand-child.

John was unique, a one-off, respected and trusted by friends, colleagues and villains, always willing to help and advise.

“Novice coppers could not have had a truer friend” a colleague wrote; nor could the Papua New Guineans he guided into their pre-and post-Independence careers.

Boluminski: the eccentric road builder



THE BOLUMINSKI HIGHWAY is the main land transportation route in New Ireland. It runs from Kavieng for 193 km down the east coast to Namatanai.

From Kavieng it is a sealed road for around 120 km until Bol village, and from there it has a crushed white coral road surface.

Originally named Kaiser-Wilhelm-Chaussee during the German protectorate, it was prosaically renamed the ‘East Coast Road’ in 1921.

After PNG gained independence it was renamed again, this time after Franz Boluminski who was the German District Officer from 1910 until World War I.

Boluminski was one of those weird ground-breaking heroes and eccentrics of colonial times. He was born in Graudenz, Prussia - and may be a distant relative of mine.

He served in the German Army in German East Africa and in 1894 went to work for the German New Guinea Company at Astrolabe Bay near modern-day Madang.

In March 1899 he transferred to the German colonial service and was posted to the new station of Kavieng. In 1910 he was promoted to district officer.

Buluminsky 3 His major feat was the construction of the road along the north-east coast of the island. He made each village along the coast build and maintain a section. This eventually became known as the Boluminski Highway But, while he realised a grand vision, he was guilty of using virtual slave labour to build the road.

He built the highway in sections and forced individual villages along the coast to construct and maintain them. If a section fell into disrepair, the village responsible would be punished by having to carry his sulky (with him in it) over the substandard road, then his horse was reharnessed and he continued.

At the same time he established copra plantations connected to the highway and this made New Ireland one of the most profitable parts of German New Guinea.

Franz Boluminski died of heat-stroke and is now buried in Bagail Cemetery in Kavieng.

Photo: Scene from the highway (Barbara Short)

‘Lost’ loggers home in Sarawak at last

THREE LOGGERS, who were cheated by their employer in PNG, have been rescued and brought home to Malaysia.

Rimban anak Mawang, 49, his brother-in-law, Jeri anak Ebet, 47, and Richi anak Jeri, 23, all from Kapit, Sarawak, were brought home by the Umno Youth Community Complaints Bureau.

Bureau chairman Datuk Muhd Khairun Aseh told reporters he attributed the success of the rescue effort to cooperation between the bureau and Malaysian High Commissioner to PNG Nur Azman Rahim.

"After countless phone calls for six days, we managed to seek the release of the victims from the employer, who agreed to fly the victims to Singapore on Saturday," he added.

Source: Bernama News Agency

I want to be patriotic, nationalistic: Namah

NEW OPPOSITION LEADER Belden Namah spoke today with Radio Australia’s Firmin Nanol. This is a transcript of the interview.

NAMAH: I salute the outgoing party leader for the PNG party and the opposition leader Sir Mekere Morauta for a very wise, and what I call a decisive, decision that he has taken in relinquishing the leadership of the PNG Party to me and also in stepping down as the opposition leader and making the position vacant. As of yesterday the opposition caucus elected me unopposed.

And I also want to thank the Honourable Bart Philemon, the outgoing deputy opposition leader. He also put his position on the table for the caucus to decide, and the caucus has decided. And they've also elected another young and vibrant leader like myself, Honourable Sam Basil, the member for Bulolo, to be my deputy.

The PNG Party also has two deputies, Honourable Jamie Maxtone-Graham, the member for Anglimb-South Wahgi, is one of my deputies, and Honourable Sam Basil, the member for Bulolo is the other deputy.

The reason why I have decided to have only two deputies is that I do not want to have four deputies like many other political parties have in PNG. I do not want to promote regionalism in PNG.

I want to be patriotic, I want to be nationalist. I want to promote Papua New Guinea instead of promoting regionalism as is done by other political parties.

NANOL: Are there any other issues you're looking at taking up when parliament resumes?

NAMAH: The issues that we want to look at in this country, which are enshrined in the PNG Party policies, is that we will provide free education for every Papua New Guinean from elementary school all the way to vocational school. We believe that education is not a privilege but a right under the Constitution for every Papua New Guinean.

We will provide free basic health from the urban settings all the way to the rural settings.

And I believe I'm the best guy to address this security issue because without guaranteeing an environment that is conducive for local and foreign investment, that is supposed to be guaranteed to the people for free movement of the people, I want to fix the law and order problem in this country.

NANOL: One contentious issue is the creation of the two new provinces of Hela and Jiwaka. The bills are yet to be passed. And any women’s seats in Parliament? As the new leader of the opposition what is your stance?

NAMAH: I have no problem with the creation of the new provinces, but when is the government going to table this so that these two new provincial seats can be contested in next year's election? The way I see it is you couldn't do it properly, [you need] land boundary surveys for those two new provinces.

I don't know how we're going to have the election on those two provincial seats in 2012. If they can do it quickly, all the better; if they don't, then we'll have a problem.

With respect to women’s seats, I believe there should be women’s representation in the country so that the voices of women can be heard. I've already made a commitment in my convention to support the bill so that we can have women representation on the floor.

NANOL: There’s been a long adjournment of Parliament since last November to May this year. The Speaker said there would be renovation work done to improve Parliament. Have you seen any physical changes, are we going to see any changes?

NAMAH: If you go to Parliament today, it's worse. There's never been any renovation. Those adjournments were basically a political ploy to avert a possible vote of no confidence by the Opposition. That was the only reason, there is no other reason.

So much money has been given to the Office of the Speaker for renovation and maintenance work to be done to Parliament. If you go now, there is no air conditioning, the lift is not working, the carpets are stinking, the toilets are worse; you name it the list just goes on.

So everybody has been telling lies to their people: the Speaker, the Prime Minister, the ministers have continuously told lies to the people of PNG that they should be representing.

God help this country, and I believe God will help this country through the PNG Party.

Source: Radio Australia

Gary Scully – foreign correspondent

FORMER FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT and long time reporter at ABC-TV News, Gary Scully has died at his home on the Gold Coast.

His wife Lorrie said her old love and mate died on Friday at about 7.30pm, possibly of a stroke, at the age of 77.

It was a gentle passing. He had been having a few breathing problems and had a hospital visit that day. They went home and Gary had half a beer and, when Lorrie came back into the room, Gary had passed away.

After a long and distinguished career in journalism, Gary had retired to the Gold Coast. He first went overseas to Singapore in 1963, later reporting other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

Once asked about the work of a correspondent, he replied “Accuracy is so important, and that I think sums, more than adequately the work of a foreign correspondent, because their stories very often are the history of tomorrow. Well sometimes you're lucky enough to meet people that make history themselves.”

Gary's funeral is at 2pm on Thursday 12 May at St Monica's Catholic Church, 485 Golden Four Drive, Tugun, on the Gold Coast.

From Ian Macintosh and Bob Wurth

PNG support waning for asylum centre deal

THE PNG GOVERNMENT has indicated it might not accept Australia's proposal to set up a refugee processing centre in its current form, the Melbourne Age is reporting this morning.

PNG’s cabinet met yesterday to consider the proposal for a centre to process asylum seekers who reach Australian waters. A formal statement is expected today.

A government source last night described the proposal put by Julia Gillard's special envoy Richard Marles as a revisitation of the Pacific Solution of the Howard government.

Acting PNG prime minister Sam Abal is believed to support the regional approach to handling refugees agreed to at an international forum in Bali in March. It is likely the Australian government will be asked to restructure the deal to reflect this, the source said.

PNG's position follows a ''broadly positive'' reception by the United Nations refugee agency of Australia's deal to swap asylum seekers with Malaysia, saying it could discourage unsafe boat journeys.

Read more:

We are being overwhelmed by corruption


I HAVE SEEN THE BEST MINDS I met at university destroyed by corruption. I smell corruption in the breath of those I share buai (betel nut) with on the streets. And I sense the lurking presence of corruption hovering in my dreams.

In the public service machinery, the huge formless and shapeless sculpture of corruption casts a dark shadow over PNG.

State corporations embrace corruption in its most deceptive forms. Many individuals brag openly about their adventures of theft and con deals involving government departments. Pastors and church elders, overwhelmed by corruption’s mystique, have opted to trade their sanity for its charms. Even womenfolk give their hearts to this madness.

Many make a decent living from it and think and talk about it almost every day – it is their way of life, it is their culture. The same people joyously ridicule those who do not steal to live decent lives and call them names such as pipia or rabis (rubbish).

Corruption’s unhindered growth, and consequent incorporation into our way of life, mocks our Melanesian culture we are so proud of. It effortlessly strolls our streets, enters homes and kitchens and bedrooms; clothes and feeds innocent children; and pays school fees, compensation, bride price and for guns used in tribal fights and other evil deeds.

I cannot see a hill or a valley not covered by its darkening cloud. It is difficult to see clearly! It is hard to breathe easily. We languish in the shadow of corruption while we turn and twist restlessly in its filth.

Is there still any place untouched by it? How many are out there, who have not yet caught its fever? Who can redeem us? Tell me, any brave one! Sing out loud before hope is lost.

Corruption is entrenched in our way of life. It appears many generations must pass before its suffocating tentacles are burnt to ashes in the bonfires of PNG’s faithful sons and daughters.

Jeffrey Febi (34) comes from Eastern Highlands Province.  He is a geologist working in the oil and gas industry and lives with his wife and child in Port Moresby.  Writing and reading are his favourite hobbies and he has had some success in publishing his work locally. Visit his blog here and read his poems here and here

Parsing the PNG special land leases


The PNG government has suspended its controversial Special Agricultural and Business Leases program which gave logging and plantation development concessions to mostly foreign corporations across 5.2M ha of community land

ALIENATING LAND is a serious – sometimes a life and death - matter in PNG at any time. But when it occurs on a massive scale and under cover of government leaseholds lasting two generations, it seems to represent to many landowners a fundamental betrayal of trust.

There are perhaps five decision points that should be considered in relation to where the whole special purpose lease affair heads to from here.

Thankfully Step 1 already has been achieved. After an escalating crescendo of public concern, the acting prime minister Sam Abal agreed to halt the process until the schemes are further investigated.

Now for Step 2, which must be to properly examine what has taken place and determine if it is lawful, ethical and justifiable in the best interests of the PNG people.

Step 3 must determine that, if the special purpose agriculture leases (known as SABLs) are not in the people’s best interests, then they should be overturned and extinguished.

What the government has allowed it can also disallow and undo. If it is not within this present government’s capacity to effect a proper response because the Parliament has been effectively silenced, then this is something a future government must deal with.

Let us hear unequivocal statements from political parties and candidates on what they stand for and will be prepared to do after 2012 election?

Step 4 must be to examine if anyone has unfairly or illegally benefitted from such a scheme and if so, restitution must be sought and secured for the affected people.

Step 5 is to comprehensively legislate to ensure this scandal does not occur again.

Sections 53 and 54 of the PNG Constitution contain precepts about property rights. If the rights to communally held property have been transgressed, this should be investigated. Sections 218 and 219 of the Constitution seem to permit the Ombudsman Commission to investigate and report on such matters.

These special purpose leases raise other questions. For example, isn’t a contract made under duress not legally binding? Could those who were desperate to achieve what their government was not providing - namely health, education and effective rural services - be determined as being under duress.

It is an interesting conjecture as to why these leases were dreamed up in the first place. Was it corruption, ineptitude or just blind stupidity?

Continue reading "Parsing the PNG special land leases" »

Economy surges on strong commodities

IN 2010, PNG’S ECONOMY expanded by a remarkable eight percent, consolidating five years of strengthening growth.

The health of PNG’s economy in 2011 contrasts sharply with the successive crises it experienced a decade ago. In early 2011, commodity prices were reaching record highs, attracting more new investment to PNG’s rich natural resources and lifting incomes for cash crop growers.

The turnaround in PNG’s economic performance, with successive years of relatively high growth over the past half-decade, has lifted average incomes to their highest levels since the mid-1990s, said World Bank Economist for PNG, Tim Bulman.

Mr Bulman said PNG’s policy makers have taken a more prudent approach to managing the current strength in the economy, and this adds to the optimism around the outlook.

“If policy makers can maintain moderate growth in government spending on vital infrastructure and public services, and can limit the pressures from capacity constraints on prices, PNG can sustain its recent strong growth into the future.

“The 2011 budget takes important steps in this regard, by returning the budget to surplus during an upswing.

“PNG’s experience in the early 1990s, when the economy expanded by half in a few years but then had a decade of crises and falling incomes, shows that strong growth needs to be carefully managed if it is to be sustained.

“This year’s budget takes other important steps to achieve this. It pays down the government’s superannuation liabilities, and lays the groundwork for a system of funds that will manage PNG’s volatile and uncertain resource revenues and ensure that future generations will share in PNG’s wealth.”

Paul Barker, Executive Director of the Institute of National Affairs, pointed out the issue of rising inequality. “While the strong growth of recent years has lifted average incomes above the levels at Independence, today that wealth is distributed far less equally,” he said.

Thomas Viot, Economist at the EU Delegation, said PNG had enjoyed an unprecedented ten years of solid economic growth and is on track to become a significant gas producer.

“However there are important challenges to materialise this strong macro-economic performance into actual improvement of living standards for the people of PNG, mainly related to the efficiency of public spending to improve service delivery," he said.

Source: World Bank, Papua New Guinea Office

Music and change in the Highlands

B-thumb-steep “THE DUNA LIVE in a physical environment of steep slopes (mei konenia) that are sometimes difficult to traverse. A stick of bamboo (sola) used as a prop goes a long way in assisting a struggling traveller.”

So writes ethnologist Dr Kirsty Gillespie in her recent book, Steep Slopes, a musical ethnography of the Duna people of the Kopiago area. She continues:

Similarly, the Duna live in a social and cultural environment of steep slopes, where the path on which they walk can be precarious and unpredictable. Songs, like the stick of bamboo, assist the Duna in picking their way over this terrain by providing a forum for them to process change as it is experienced, in relation to what is already known.

This book is about a people who have experienced extraordinary social change in recent history. Likewise, their musical traditions have also radically changed during this time.

New forms of music have been introduced, while ancestral traditions have been altered or abandoned. Steep Slopes shows how, through musical creativity, the Duna people maintain a connection with their past, and their identity, whilst simultaneously embracing the challenges of the present.

The change that the Duna have experienced, and continue to experience, is enormous, with colonisation occurring relatively recently—less than 50 years ago—followed by an intense period of missionisation, then a rapid move to independence and the subsequent departure of Europeans almost as quickly as they came.

If social change is expressed and experienced through music then there should be little wonder that such change for the Duna would be manifest in an outpouring of song.

Dr Gillespie’s book provides a wide-ranging account of Duna musical practice, describing song, instrumental music and music accompanied by dance.

Steep Slopes: Music and change in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea by Kirsty Gillespie, ANU Press, December 2010.  $24.95 (GST inclusive).  Can also be purchased online.  ISBN 9781921666421.  ISBN 9781921666438 (Online)

Fr George Tami is elected new Provincial

THE MEMBERS OF the PNP.-george-tami-msc---png---may-5-2011G chapter of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart have elected Fr George Tami MSC as new provincial superior for a period of three years from next December.

Fr Tami is a Tolai from Matupit, which lies in the shadow of Tavuvur volcano near Rabaul. Matupit is the island where the MSC Missionaries first arrived in New Guinea on 28 September 1883.

He is currently doing his masters degree on comparative religion at Gajah Madah State University in Jogyakarta, Indonesia.

He is writing his thesis on the issue of violence and will return to Jogayakarta to complete his studies prior to taking up his new appointment.

Revisiting Manus is an act of desperation


THE GILLARD GOVERNMENT'S back-to-the-future solution to process asylum-seekers on Manus Island is bound to fail, and highlights a paucity of policy from a desperate government.

It is always difficult to transition from one world to the next. I too am a refugee of sorts, having recently returned to Sydney after three years living in Port Moresby, PNG's capital, which The Economist magazine ranks among the five worst places in the world to live in because of its high crime, corruption and the lack of fine pastry.

But despite being our nearest neighbour, one of our biggest aid recipients of nearly half a billion dollars every year, Australia meeting its enemy for the first time there in both World Wars, and running the place until PNG's independence in 1975, PNG does not figure in Australia's consciousness.

Such is the discord and gap in understanding of this ''dark other'' to our north that a government bereft of ideas would blindly seek to adopt this pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey policy.

On many occasions, often in response to my inquiries, the Governor of Manus, Michael Sapau, called for the Manus Island detention centre to be reopened. There were obviously financial benefits in it for Manus.

When the issue was then raised with Australian Government media flaks in various ministries and departments in Canberra, a resounding ''no way'' was the response, with a litany of reasons being proffered.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and the ALP, when in Opposition, were scathing of John Howard's Pacific Solution and Rudd tore it up after becoming prime minister in 2007.

Yes, Minister, of course policy can change and ideas evolve but the Manus option is so problematic that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island affairs, Richard Marles, are risking their own hides with these recent flirtations.

Australia's problem in the Pacific is that it does not listen, is quite insouciant about the region's geo-politics and has a trumped-up arrogance that does not like dealing with the vicissitudes of the ''fuzzy wuzzys''.

As such, PNG's political and public service elite has a great distrust of Australia and a dislike for becoming its ''dumping ground''. Even more so the people of PNG, who have a great disconnect with their elected leaders.

Not only is the issue of sovereignty in question the same reason why East Timorese opposed Gillard's failed solution there, Papua New Guineans do not want to imprison people it sympathises with and see as deserving of more than a jail cell.

PNG does understand Australia's dilemma and the Gillard Government's motive of political expediency, but Melanesian values of compassion and respect for the plight of asylum-seekers, away from the influence of radio shock jocks, makes them most uneasy and provokes anger that Australia would expect such stretches of the friendship.

On top of these concerns are that conditions at the detention centre are better than those for the residents of Manus Island, villagers who exist on subsistent farming and fishing.

Another thorny issue is that in the past, PNG Foreign Affairs officials have found Australia's immigration department officials to be abrasive, rude and insensitive.

This is a fact that Australian officials in Port Moresby will privately admit, considering the hassles PNG citizens face when wanting to visit Australia as tourists or for trade delegations and conferences.

Tensions were also prevalent when the detention centre was in operation almost a decade ago. ''They [Australian Immigration officials] came in and started telling us what to do and how it would be,'' a senior PNG Foreign Affairs official told me.

''Here we were doing the Aussies a favour and these Canberra types were telling us how to behave on our own soil,'' he said.

''We want to help our Australian friends, those who have and do help us repeatedly, but during the Manus times there was a stress on relations, even simple things like how they spoke to us,'' the official said.

On the other side, PNG's bureaucracy is such a labyrinth of politics and petty feuds that after more than two years of the launch of the Pacific guest workers scheme, it has not been able to organise a handful of workers to send to Australia to pick fruit and send remittances back home.

The Manus Island solution might be a done deal and may even prove to be a short-term money spinner for PNG, earning it a little bit of political leverage and a political favour to call upon later.

But the Manus Island detention centre itself is in a dilapidated state as it has not been used for several years and is in dire need of more than a lick of paint. So too does the Gillard Government for its lack of courage in its immigration policy. PNG is not the solution but a continuation of the politics of desperation.

Ilya Gridneff is an award-winning journalist who was the Australian Associated Press PNG correspondent from 2008 to March this year

Source: Canberra Times

Officials wasting boom money: Paul Barker

PAUL BARKER, the director of PNG’s Institute for National Affairs, says corruption in parts of the country's public service means the nation is not benefiting from the current economic boom.

PNG’s current buoyant growth is being generated by record prices for minerals and agricultural products.

Mr Barker told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat that money earned from these sectors is often misused and squandered.

He also said nepotism meant those appointed to some administrative roles in PNG's public service were not always the most suitable.

"You will have good people who are capable and experienced [and] who are available.

“Yet people get appointed who sometimes the politician just wants to manage activities and manage public funds for his own use.

“Unfortunately that is not often the priority of the public need," Mr Barker said.

Source: Radio Australia

National newspaper was ‘silent’ on land grab

AN AUSTRALIAN ACADEMIC has accused The National newspaper, owned by Malaysian logging giant Rimbunan Hijau, of supporting the controversial Special Agricultural and Business Leases (SABLs) program, suspended on Friday by acting prime minister Sam Abal.

Prof William Laurance, a scientist at James Cook University and a member of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, which has taken a strong stand against SABLs, applauded the decision.

"This is a wise move by acting prime minister Sam Abal," he told "There's a great deal of nervousness in PNG about these SABLs, given their long-term nature and the fact that they're mostly held by foreign corporations. Many PNG residents call them land-grabs."

Prof Laurance added it is now critical that Abal appoint "truly independent people—not industry puppets" for his Commission of Inquiry.

He also highlighted the role of the media in reporting on the SABLs issue.

"Thank goodness for the Post-Courier newspaper, has been investigating this issue thoroughly," he said. "The National newspaper, which is the other major paper in PNG, and is owned by Rimbunan Hijau, has supported the SABLs or been tacitly silent."

Mr Abal said the government would immediately suspend leases and launch an official inquiry. He cited "concern" for the rights and interests of customary landholders.

The program has granted logging and plantation development concessions to mostly foreign corporations across 5.2 million hectares of community forest land.

The move comes after local protest and complaints from prominent scientists, including the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, the world's largest professional society devoted to studying and conserving tropical forests. Last month ATBC urged the government to declare a moratorium on SABLs.

SABLs are a hot political issue in PNG, where 97% of land is communally owned. In some cases they were granted without permission or knowledge of the local community, a direct violation of PNG’s Lands Act. SABLs allow companies to clear forest without complying with existing forestry regulations.

Meanwhile new Opposition leader Belden Namah slammed Mr Abal’s decision in a statement described by one PNG Attitude analyst as “not a good start” to his new role.

Mr Namah said under SABLs, private funds were invested to establish important sustainable agriculture and forestry projects “providing employment and business opportunities for thousands of people in rural parts of the country, where the national government has failed miserably.

"Land owners have power to obtain SABLs to develop resources in their customary land in the absence of government initiated agriculture projects," he said.


What is in the national interest?


Belden-statem-nat This article was originally published as an advertisement in PNG’s two major newspapers in October last year. We reproduce it here as it provides an insight into PNG’s new Opposition leader

I AM NOW CONVINCED that the Somare Government does not consider the interests of local people or the country to be of any importance.

Increasingly, decisions that negatively affect every citizen are being made by this government that are justified because they say they are in the national interest. In fact, these decisions are only in the interest of the political elite and the robber companies that the Somare government is now attracting to steal from PNG’s resources.

Environment Act amendments

The Somare government recently passed amendments to the Environment Act that allow one man, the Secretary of the Department of Environment and Conservation, to exempt any company or developer from abiding by PNG’s environmental protection laws.

This is the same man who the Ombudsman Commission recommended should face expulsion from the public service for his involvement in illegal forestry allocations. Now, when the Secretary or his political masters feel a project is in ‘the national interest’, the developer need not go to the lengths of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement or abiding by our environmental protection regulations – they simply obtain an exemption to our laws!

If the Secretary issues an exemption permit that turns out not to be in the national interest - say for instance, he allows a mining company to put waste into the sea that turns out to be toxic and kills all the fish – no one but the Secretary can cancel the permit. Not even the Prime Minister or the NEC.

If the Secretary does not want to cancel the permit, the only way it could be achieved would be for the NEC to sack the secretary, replace him with someone else, then ask that person to cancel it.

This nonsense is where we have allowed our democracy to go.

It gets worse. The amendments to the Environment Act exempt developers from paying landowners compensation for any ‘unexpected’ environmental damage. All compensation needs to be agreed up-front, prior to a project commencing.

This means that in the case of ‘unexpected’ environmental damage - like what occurred in Bougainville, Ok Tedi, Porgera, Tolokuma, and Hidden Valley - the landowners would have got nothing.

So lets get this straight. A company can tell the government and the Secretary that it will do no environmental harm and that therefore the landowners should get no compensation, and they can be given a permit to operate. If a year or two later, it turns out that it is having a massive impact and people’s lives are destroyed – it was ‘unexpected’, so no compensation will be needed or required. ‘It is amazing that this is also in “the national interest” as was stated by the Environment Minister, the Hon Benny Allan.

Prime Minister Somare thinks that scuttling the Constitutional rights of Papua New Guineans will give investors the certainty they need to invest here. Perhaps he allows himself to believe that the sacrifice is worth it so that we have the money to develop? I think not. We are not going to see any real money and we are certainly not going to develop if this continues to be our mode of operation. In this regard, the ongoing controversy over the Chinese Ramu nickel mine in Madang is instructive.


Continue reading "What is in the national interest?" »

Human capital: economic & strategic choices


HUMAN CAPITAL is one of the most important factors in a world driven by a knowledge-based economy. For PNG to project power in the region given its current economic growth rate, maximising human capital in strategic positions will secure high dividend returns.

The most important factors coinciding with the current economic boom in PNG are human capital development and national security.

Economic and military activities are reciprocating functions of the State.

Military power protects economic wealth and economic wealth builds military power, hence projecting the power of the state. Of course, the police also play an important supporting role in maintaining national security at a domestic level.

Let's focus on economic and strategic (security) scenarios consistent with the current economic boom and the long-term goals of Vision 2050.

PNG is currently experiencing an unprecedented economic boom as a result of minerals development, activity which is augmented by a booming construction industry. This is likely to continue in the next 30-50 years.

The LNG and other mining projects will be the engine of economic growth which will require comprehensive human capital. It is forecast that a supply of 50,000 workers will be required within the next five years to develop and operationalise the high impact projects coming on stream. Specialists are also required to implement these projects.

In a world of complex interdependence, PNG also needs specialised diplomats and strategists to position its national interest.

There is also a need to protect the economic benefits of the LNG and other mining projects. Recently, the Japanese government warned PNG to beef up its internal security to maximize the opportunities of these projects. Protection of economic wealth is necessary to sustain the current continuous rapid growth.

However, the current situation is that there is a deficiency of human capital in these specialised fields. Public and private universities and colleges lack the capacity to meet demand due to inadequate government support in the past.

There is weak security system to protect the economic benefits. A new garden without a fence is vulnerable to wild animals. To project power in the region some strategic choices have to be made by the PNG government:

Economic scenario

Upgrade public universities and technical colleges;

Co-opt private institutions consistent with international quality assurance best practices;

Design specialised science and technological programs as national projects with assistance from external sources;

Establish cross-border training and education partnerships with key institutions;

Increase international scholarships in research, science and technology at prestigious colleges and universities;

Implement an industry– government alliance through the Office of Higher Education coordinating graduate placements in industries;

Establish a diplomatic corps training centre at the University of PNG or Public Administration College or a separate entity managed by Foreign Affairs and Trade; and

Initiate training in diplomacy focusing on countries of strategic importance to PNG.

Strategic & security scenario

Modernise the defence force capacity and capability through an increase in defence personal and modernisation of assets;

Establish an Institute of International Security and International Studies (ISIS) deisgned to provide timely and quality policy advice to government. This could be either situated within UPNG or the National Research Institute or be an independent State entity;

Introduce a military cadet program in secondary schools and existing national high schools;

Establish and continue to maintain security and strategic ties with key regional partners;

Modernise the police force;

Reintroduce police programs in universities;

Reintroduce direct Police Cadet Training focussing on university graduates’ and;

Strengthen and modernise the NIO.

Although it may be an expensive exercise, it will pay a massive dividend in return.

In sum, PNG can project power in the region if it can utilise its economic wealth to increase investment in specialised human capital in science and technology and build strategic and security capacity and capability

Lamb flaps should be banned in PNG


A PRIVATE MEMBER’S BILL introduced by Aglip South Waghi MP, Jamie Maxton Graham, to ban lamb flaps in PNG is stirring debate among Papua New Guineans and importers and dealers in lamb flaps.

Food containing fat, like lamp flaps, play a vital role in our body. Stored fats is used when we do not take enough fatty food in our diet. However, fat becomes injurious to health when we continuously eat fatty foods like lamb flaps as it builds up in the tissues.

The fat content of a lamb flap is about 90% of which 50% is saturated fat. This is five times the daily requirement of our body.

Saturated fat is stored as glycerol in muscle tissue. Excess fat build up under the skin and inside the body and can weaken the normal functions of heart, liver and other organs.

Continuous deposition of fat can lead to many lifestyle diseases such as heart failure, strokes, coronary heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, obesity and many more.

His has become an issue of debate in parliament because many leaders do not understand the low nutritional value of lamb flaps. Many countries overseas regard it as waste food and feed it to domestic cats and dogs because they have the nutritional knowledge.

We must ban it here in PNG and supplement it with other protein. The government should solve the current issues in the Department of Agriculture and Livestock and pump more money into the department so we can raise our own sheep, pigs and poultry as an alternative to lamb flaps. We have enough land to do that.

The government must also support existing piggery companies like Radho and Boroma at 14 Mile and cattle farms like those in the Markham Valley and others.

I think it will help boost the economy. There will be more job opportunities created as government focuses on building up more butcheries and expands its investments in the agriculture sector.

It will circulate money within the country instead of overseas. These products will be cheaper, as they are produced in the country. I believe many poor Papua New Guineans will then be able to afford better meat products.

We must always consider the health of the people. Many people are dying silently of lifestyle and fat related diseases. The death of Kundiawa MP Joe Mek Teine and another Chimbu elite, former Madang Provincial administrator, Joseph Dopor, are two recent examples.

Many countries have regarded lamb flaps as waste food and dump the product here in PNG.

We must ban it and supplement it with locally produced protein.

LNG: First priority should be the unemployed


THE PNG GOVERNMENT has announced that 10, 000 people will be required to work on the giant LNG project – providing significant employment opportunities.

To meet this number, the government has established training facilities in several locations, including a new Port Moresby construction training facility.

But my question is why can't companies involved in the project employ more technical graduates from existing colleges instead of establishing new facilities?

We have a lot of technical colleges in PNG which can provide qualified people for activities such as construction labour, catering, security and transport. In fact, PNG has more than 10,000 unemployed technical people on the streets.

After talks with the government, what the companies should do is provide employment for these people and give them on-site job training in the particular role they're involved in so they can adapt to the work environment.

It is waste of money establishing and operating another technical facility when we already have so many in place.

The government should also look at providing many more employment opportunities for the growing number of graduates from tertiary institutions.

Currently, it is not doing much to provide job opportunities for this ever increasing number of people.

Where will the graduates from the newly established technical facilities and other technical colleges work after the 10,000 employment opportunities provided by LNG project are filled?

We will have even more unemployed university and college graduates on streets. This is a question that government needs to answer.

Seduction at the Hotel Cecil


An entry in The Crocodile Prize

IT WAS FRIDAY the 20th of July 1969. Yalgol was hard at work slicing, cutting and cooking in the kitchen of the Pacific Islands Regiment at Igam Barracks in Lae.

He had landed the job after his experience as a cook, driver and catechist with the Catholic Church missionaries up in the Galkope territory in the Simbu Province. 

His supervisor was Captain Fiona Ryles, who was the Royal Quarter Master (RQM). She was 23 years old and in charge of the food rations distributed to the Officers’ mess, Senior NCO’s and ORS messes and its stock upkeep.

Yalgol cooked and served in the Officers mess. Captain Ryles normally came in to eat at the mess after delegating jobs to the cooks. He had served her on several occasions when she came to dine. He was much taller and more muscular than his Highlands countrymen who had joined the military. He looked more like a well trained soldier than most of the real soldiers at the barracks. 

Captain Ryles admired Yalgol’s tall frame and rippling muscles as he innocently went about doing his job. Yalgol tended to be intimidated by white women and didn’t notice that she lusted after him.

One Friday afternoon as Yalgol was chopping up a large slab of beef the captain entered the kitchen. Yalgol was alone.

“Yalgol! You are working very hard.”

“Yes, Captain! What can I do for you?”

“Will you escort me to town this evening?”

“Yes, Captain, I will,” he replied without thinking.

“I’ll pick you up at the junction of the Laborers’ Compound and the Barracks Headquarters at 5:30 pm. Get yourself dressed up and wait for me there.”

“Yes, Captain.”

 Captain Ryles lived in the European Married Quarters. She entered her apartment at 5:00 pm and unbuttoned her military uniform and dropped it into a bucket. Then she walked into the shower with her towel. She glanced quickly at her naked body in the mirror and smiled.  Then she turned on the taps and ducked under the water.

Water drizzled on her smooth Queensland skin. Her mind was fixed on the young cook at the labourer’s quarters.  “I will teach that young Highland Hercules to make love tonight,” the Toowoomba bred beauty whispered to herself. She was lost in the world of day dreams but finally came back to reality. She turned off the water and grabbed her towel from its hook and gently dried her wet shining body.

Continue reading "Seduction at the Hotel Cecil" »

Are some MPs ineligible for re-election?


DURING THE RECENT investigation and determination that Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare did not reveal his annual financial returns to the PNG Ombudsman as required by the PNG Constitution, one area of concern remains.

It evidently took three overseas judges and a host of legal minds to find Sir Michael did indeed not reveal his income during a number of financial years. For this he was given and accepted a trivial suspension from office.

Sir Michael fought tooth and nail to stop the matter going to court and employed a highly paid legal representative when it did eventually go to before the Tribunal.

For someone who had nothing to hide, this surely begged the question of what it was he didn’t want to reveal.

So some burning questions remain. What was Sir Michael’s monetary income during those periods for which it was determined he did not declare his income? And where did this income come from it?

The Tribunal members apparently stated some misgivings about the standard of legal representation on display before the Tribunal. Could this be a reason why we still don’t know what Sir Michael’s full income was and where it came from?

The Ombudsman Commission has not said if it is now in receipt of this information. The Office of the Chief Prosecutor has apparently not chosen to reveal if it is continuing to enquire into this aspect.

Sir Michael’s son Arthur is apparently under a similar cloud. It was claimed before the Tribunal that Sir Michael’s accountant may have been somewhat lax and this was part of the problem. One wonders if Arthur took note of this and changed his accountant.

Section 130 of the PNG Constitution would appear to provide grounds why anyone who does not provide information about ‘financial assistance’ is ineligible to be elected to the PNG Parliament.

The PNG Opposition has previously claimed that Sir Michael received assistance from overseas interests and this claim has never been officially refuted or, apparently, investigated.

So if anyone has failed to provide the legally required details of their financial returns to the Ombudsman, are they still be eligible to be elected in 2012?

Continue reading "Are some MPs ineligible for re-election?" »

Newcastle PNG students are on the move


There is an active PNG community here in the Newcastle area. With an increasing number of PNG students coming, a PNG students association is being formed.

Many activities are planned, and the formal launch of the association will take place next month.

There are regular barbecues, fund raising parties, outings and sporting events. The association will be able to provide even greater support to PNG students in the Hunter area.

In addition community relationships will be strengthened - for example a picnic for local PNG students and friends of PNG is being organised by Singleton wantoks for 24 May at the beautiful Lake St Clair in the Hunter Valley.

Here is the official notice about the association. Best of luck to them and wakai wei!

Dear Wantoks,

As per announcement during our last PNG community gathering at Jesmond Park, PNG-NSA wish to extend invitation to all the PNG wantoks living in the Hunter region to attend the launching of the Students Association on the 5th June 2011 - 5/06/2011.

The venue will be at Jesmond park and we will start at 11:00am and finish by 1:00pm.

The launching program will be finalised shortly and you will be informed later.

Thank you very much and we look forward to this gathering on the date and venue mentioned above.

Have a blessed weekend.

Jeremy Goro
PNG-NSA President

Newcrest mining going gangbusters


NEWCREST MINING has upgraded its gold and copper resources in PNG at a time when metals prices are reaching record highs.

Newcrest has reworked the numbers on the massive Lihir deposit. Cumulative production from Lihir is expected to deliver 31 million ounces, compared with the previous 21-million-ounce target. After paying $10.5 billion for Lihir Gold last year, investors should be very happy with the outcome.

The company's short-term production has also been affected by weather. At Lihir Island, not enough rain meant the production plant could not operate properly. But if this frayed a few nerves, consider the exciting exploration news emerging from Wafi-Golpu.

Newcrest has a 50-50 joint venture at Wafi-Golpu, where recent drilling is magnifying the potential resource. The latest drilling data indicates the resource might hold 40 million ounces of gold and 15 million tonnes of copper. With gold and copper prices heading higher, it's a propitious time to be finding big chunks of these metals.

As production increases at Lihir, the company will be producing about 3.75 million ounces of gold a year by 2014, making it one of the largest gold producers in the world. The company does not hedge its gold sales, meaning all its production is sold at near spot prices.

The retiring chief executive of Newcrest Mining, Ian Smith, is leaving the company in good shape for his successor, Greg Robinson.

Newcrest's share price is 25% higher than a year ago, at about $40, but it could reach $50 in due course. Investors in need of a good night's sleep should tuck some Newcrest shares under the pillow.

Greg Fraser is an analyst at Fat Prophets

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

2009 games left PNG athletes high and dry

With the biennial Arafura Games in full swing in Darwin this weekend, PETER KRANZ reflects on some of the problems that beset the PNG team in 2009

Boxers train THE TREATMENT of some of the PNG athletes at the 2009 Arafura Games was a scandal.

When I went to greet some team members at their hotel in Darwin, they told me that their managers and coaches had not been to see them or look after them.

They didn't know where to go or what to do; they were just dumped at one of the cheapest hotels in the city.

For many it was their first visit to Australia, so they were apprehensive and lonely. They had been given no money or food - only some bread and tinbif to sustain them.

The local Darwin PNG community provided what support they could, but with no forewarning or requests this was probably too little and too late.

Can you imagine being a contender for a major boxing title, and you’ve been training for three years, but have no decent food for three days, and don’t know when or where the competition is?

To complicate things, the athletes had not been properly registered for various events, so some were turned away from venues.

It was not a good look for PNG and made the Darwin PNG community very angry. I hope things have changed this time.

Photo: Boxers train in Darwin for the 2009 Arafura Games [Peter Kranz]

Development is leaving people behind


THE PEOPLE’S LEADERS have agreed to millions of hectares effectively leased forever to expatriates.

These and future leaders cannot be relied upon to return any developed land to its customary owners. This is because the customary owners will never have the ability to buy back the developed land of this magnitude.

Where the entire operation is a scam for clear felling, the villagers will recover their degraded and exploited land with no payment.

These millions of hectares of our small amount of good agricultural land are being handed over to exploiters. They will not be interested in the major part of PNG that is mountains, swamps and otherwise unproductive.

The claim by our leaders that it is only a small percent of PNG can be easily exposed by our academics.

They can give these leased areas as a percent of the actual area that is recognised as having the potential for farming, grazing and renewable forestry. These percentages can be shown as a percentage of the district involved, for example, New Hanover 90% of the useful land.

Many of our most senior leaders have, in public and in the media, strongly promoted landowners entering into these types of leases with overseas developers. The message is that our own people are quite useless when it comes to developing their own land and should hand it over to someone who can.

Effectively these leaders, especially the long term leaders, are admitting that they have failed since Independence to develop a viable farming community for PNG. Since Independence we have produced executives, pilots, engineers etc who are able to compete successfully against the world. We even have missionaries around the world.

But there is hardly a farmer in PNG who can be said to be able to measure up against a modern farmer in first, second or third world countries.

At a time when millions of hectares have been effectively permanently alienated to non citizens there is a question to be asked.

None of our commentators have asked why this same government has not located a relatively small corner of Madang for the Manam people, a smaller part of Sepik for the refugees of Bulolo, and a bit for the sinking atolls.

Apparently some village leaders can be convinced that their land will not be needed in the foreseeable future and beyond. Why not make resettlement blocks available for our yearning people from over-populated areas.

The local leaders will of course be horrified at the thought of Sepiks, Chimbus, Southern Highlanders and others settling in their area. Have they put a thought as to which provinces are able to supply the labour for the foreign occupiers of these leases?

They will have nothing to say in this matter, the government will be on the side the overseas developer. These labourers will not return home. There will inevitably be intermarriage and settlement of retirees.

There are many more Bulolos in our future. In the long view this mixing will be good for PNG, in the short term it will be hard for the people involved. Ask the displaced Sepiks in Bulolo.

Reopen Panguna? No way, say Mekamui

LOCALS FROM BOUGAINVILLE are keen to correct what they see as pro-mine propaganda regarding the reopening of the Panguna mine, warning against misrepresentation of views and a repeat of the bloody violence of the past.

The proponent, Bougainville Copper Limited, is majority owned by Rio Tinto, whose annual general meeting was held in Perth yesterday.

“The re-opening of the Panguna mine on Bougainville is not-negotiable,” said Phillip Banas, spokesperson for the Mekamui Hardliners. “The people that own the land around the mine site are adamant that they would not allow that to happen immediately or in future.”

Overseas media are contacting people who they say represent the Panguna landowners, but who are not the rightful landowners.

“They live out of Bougainville most of the time, out of touch and in comfort miles away in Port Moresby,” Mr Banas said.

“As a result what they talk about is hearsay, out of context, wishful thinking, and not the thinking of real land owners and Bougainvilleans. This is a volatile and an explosive situation that should be treated delicately and with caution. The real issue of why the mine was closed has not being addressed yet.”

“The real issue is that consultation must happen at grassroots level. Views of ordinary people on the ground must be addressed and taken on board.

“Views of bankers, technocrats and politicians are ploys for rich to get richer and poor to get poorer. So the poor landowners will always be the biggest losers at the end, because of ill conceived decisions made in a hasty mood by people that overlooked real issues.

“Bougainville has gone through a bloody path in the past, and if things go wrong at this stage, history shows that the path can always be repeated.”

However, Dr Tony Regan of the Australian National University believes these threats are not representative of what most Bougainvilleans think.

Dr Regan says the Mekamui faction does represent some landowners, but it's a minority, and most Bougainvillians are in favour of getting the mine operational again.

Sources: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch and Radio Austalia

Deadly TB strain 'will spread' to Oz


SERIOUSLY ILL PNG nationals visiting the Torres Strait have ignited a furious debate over Australia’s broader health responsibilities in the region.

The Australian and Queensland governments are considering closing down tuberculosis clinics on the Outer Islands, a move that experts fear could lead to the spread a strain of the disease described by one Queensland Health officer as “a death sentence”.

Dr Justin Waring of the national tuberculosis advisory committee warns: “In the short term, not treating these people who come across the water to Australia runs the risk of transition and escalation of the drug resistance and ultimately potentially putting Australian residents at risk.’’

In March 2010, Bronwyn Nardi of Queensland Health said it was not unusual for 60 percent of Thursday Island Hospital inpatients to be PNG nationals, with a high number of those being treated for TB.

“We know that in Papua there is an extreme drug resistant tuberculosis which is essentially a death sentence,” Ms Nardi said told a Senate Committee. Medical experts say PNG will not be in a position to manage its TB crisis for at least another decade.

Clinics on islands such as Saibai routinely treat PNG nationials suffering multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB). Limited surveys estimate that between 10 and 20 percent of tuberculosis in PNG could be MDR TB.

Dr Waring said if the disease was poorly treated in PNG there was a risk of escalation. “It’s not just the individual who doesn’t get better, it’s transmission of worsening drug resistance and potentially putting Australian residents at risk,” he said.

Source: Torres News

Somare back on deck after lung surgery

AAP - PRIME MINISTER Sir Michael Somare is expected to make an appearance at the opening of parliament in Port Moresby on Tuesday.

Sir Michael was temporarily suspended from office a month ago after being found guilty of financial misconduct.

He subsequently went to Singapore for medical treatment, and appointed his deputy Sam Abal to act as prime minister in his place. PNG's Post Courier newspaper reported today that Sir Michael is expected to make an appearance on the floor of parliament when it resumes next week.

Information about Sir Michael's health has been scant, leading to speculation the 75-year-old veteran of PNG politics was on death's door. This was denied by his daughter and media adviser Betha Somare t late last week.

"In relation to the malicious rumours circulated by certain media I thank those that have bothered to check and get the accurate feedback on Sir Michael's wellbeing," she wrote.

"Sir Michael was among the first warriors of the united Papua New Guinea that gives us the rights we express so freely today. He remains a fighter and will be around for many years to come."

The Post Courier reported Sir Michael left hospital yesterday after undergoing surgery on one of his lungs. He is recovering at his son Sana's home in Singapore.

Parliament has been suspended for six months since November last year, but was briefly recalled in February for the election of Governor-General Michael Ogio.

The hectic life story of a politician on the rise


In this chronological account, PNG Attitude profiles the colourful career of PNG’s new opposition leader, Belden Namah MP. Readers will detect that this man is both tough and that he has an acute policy orientation

Namah March 1997 – As an Army Captain in the PNG Defence Force, Namah plays a key part in Operation Rausim Kwik - the secret Defence Force operation that saw UK Sandline mercenary Tim Spicer and his hired guns rounded up and disarmed. Ten days later prime minister Julius Chan is forced to resign

July 1997 – Involved with four other officers in an action to obtain amnesty for a cessation of further persecution of soldiers and officers who had carried out Operation Rausim Kwik

1997 – Gaoled with two other officers, Captain Bola Renagi and Second Lieutenant Linus Osoba, for six years in his case, after being found guilty of of mutiny

December 1997 – Spokeswoman for Bougainville Freedom Movement calls for release from gaol of Namah and other officers. "They stopped the murderers, Sandline International. They are heroes with a conscience. The wrong people are behind bars!"

May 2000 – Along with Captain Belden Namah pleads for the mercy of the court

August 2000 –Supreme Court refuses application for bail by lawyers for the officers pending the hearing of the appeal against their conviction and sentencing. Bougainville leader Joseph Kabui says their actions prevented a lot killing on Bougainville

2002 – Released on parole from Bomana Gaol with two fellow officers

September 2005 – Granted a pardon by Governor-General Sir Paulius Matane on the advice of the National Executive Council on the occasion of PNG 30th Independence Day

2007 – Elected to parliament as the Member for Vanimo-Green River in West Sepik (National Alliance Party)

August 2007 – Appointment as Forest Minister causes controversy because of perceived potential for conflict of interest as a forest landowner and principal of a company involved in logging in West Sepik Province

October 2007 – Calls for called for army bases in Wewak and Vanimo to be relocated to better monitor the border with Indonesia

March 2008 – Signals that PNG will stop raw log exports from new timber concessions from 2010 in a bid to make downstream processing the norm

April 2008 – As new Forest Minister tells parliament that logging companies routinely flout laws with the help of corrupt officials. Says "most" of his departmental officers responsible for monitoring forestry operations had ignored the laws and that many were "in the pockets" of logging companies. "I have noticed a lot of corruption going on within the Forest Department"

June 2008 – Says economic development has taken precedence over conservation. "Over the past decades we have imagined that our forests are limitless. If in 50 years, PNG is left only with scraps of forest inside national parks, then we have all failed."

June 2008 – States government is taking steps to review its logging policies. "There's a need for rapid action to replace trees that have been cut. And I believe for every tree that has been cut, we should plant three more new trees. That is one major policy I am looking at"

August 2008 – Heated exchange in parliament with his predecessor as Forest Minister, Patrick Pruaitch, after press reports that a minister had received $40 million in allegedly corrupt payments. Pruaitch had previously rejected claims of corruption in the logging industry

September 2008 – Rejects Greenpeace claims of illegal logging. rejected the Greenpeace claims. "As far as I'm concerned all the logging activities in PNG have been legally sanctioned,"

July 2009 - Samoa Observer reports that he has purchased three properties in the country for a total of $1.5 million. After initially denying the story, he admits making the purchases on behalf of unnamed business associates

July 2009 – Transparency International PNG says if Namah wants to facilitate business for his overseas partners he should stick to business and leave the task of representing the peoples’ interest to persons who will be committed to delivering services to the people.

February 2010 - Describes the Public Accounts Committees statements about the Forest Authority as outdated and misleading. The Committee had said the Authority was a corrupt institution with no financial systems

March 2010 – Says “carbon trade is a cargo cult” and reiterates there is no legal framework for carbon trading in PNG and no guarantee that carbon trade could bring in the tangible development and services. He also says logging will benefit the local people more than carbon trading

July 2010 – Defects from National Alliance Party with former deputy prime minister Sir Puka Temu and former culture and tourism minister Charles Abel. A plot to remove Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare does not succeed. He says later: “I made a very important personal decision in my short political career to break ranks with the National Alliance-led government. The decision was tough but I did so after careful and much consideration. My conscience was absolutely clear when I decided to forego the perks and privileges I was enjoying as minister for forests. I had to make a choice between self-interest and that of PNG as a nation and, to me, PNG’s national interest was paramount and above my own. It is with this firm conviction that I decided to leave the government, which is tainted by scandals and controversy”

October 2010 - Takes over leadership of PNG Party from founder and former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta

October 2010 - Commits to initiate proceedings against the government to challenge the constitutional legality of amendments to the Environment Act. “I am doing so in my own right, as a landowner and member of Parliament”

November 2010 - In an open letter published in PNG’s two major newspapers, he launches a scathing attack on the PNG Government because of amendments to the Environment Act and the Ramu NiCo project, questioning the Somare Government’s commitment to the national interest and good environmental management. He claims amendments to the Environment Act ignore the constitutional rights of Papua New Guineans.

November 2010 – Calls on police to investigate alleged role of Michael Somare in the kidnapping of activist Noel Anjo and call upon him to resign [see video clip]


December 2010 - Accuses prime minister Somare of condoning rampant corruption and calls on him to act decisively in dealing with the Treasury and National Planning offices. Says it is common knowledge that corruption is rife in Treasury and National Planning, but Sir Michael continues to pretend that all is well

January 2011 - Says illegal activities along the PNG-Indonesia border are a national security threat. “We have incursions by Indonesian soldiers. We have opium elements and presence. There's an increase in the illegal trade of firearms, drugs, human trafficking"

January 2011 - Expresses grave concern over a directive from acting Prime Minister Sam Abal for his arrest and detention over the Border Rangers issue. “The Border Rangers in Vanimo was merely set up to carry out similar functions of the City Rangers in Port Moresby – to keep the Vanimo town clean and prevent people from selling cheap smuggled goods form Papua province of Indonesia”

March 2011 – Calls Leadership Tribunal’s decision to suspend the prime minister for 14 days “a complete mockery of the laws and the constitution of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea”

April 2011 - Former Morobe provincial government Speaker, Issac Narol, says Namah’s regular and opposing views against Sir Michael Somare are unintelligent personal attacks and that the public at large have had enough of reading and listening to him

May 2011 – Calls on Attorney-General and Justice Minister Sir Arnold Amet to immediately retract “highly inflammatory racial comments” against Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather or resign as a State Minister

5 May 2011 – Takes over from Sir Mekere Morauta as Opposition Leader. “Belden Namah is a strong leader and I have confidence in him and the young leaders around him to form a strong team to carry PNG Party into the future. [The] Party now has stronger foundations to face the next elections,” Sir Mekere said

This chronology has been derived from public sources. We will be grateful to readers who can supply more information or correct any inaccuracies

Govt begins to see good sense on land leases


COULD THIS BE the first major post-Somare policy breakthrough? Acting PNG prime minister, Sam Abal has announced a Commission of Inquiry and immediate moratorium on further Special Purpose Agriculture and Business Leases.

These leases, known as SABLs, have been causing increasing anger in PNG and concern internationally.

They have been used as deceitful means of alienating land - in a nation that relies on clan-based land ownership for commerce, culture and, indeed, for life itself.

“We applaud the acting prime minister for recognising these leases have been abused and the potentially devastating impacts on the lives of so many people,” says Effrey Dademo, program manager of community advocacy group, Act Now!

“The acting prime minister has made a brave decision to take action and we hope this indicates that, under his leadership, the government is going to finally get tough on the fraud and corruption that are crippling our nation”.

SABLs have been used to seize from traditional landowners more than five million hectares of land in the last few years.

More than 10% of PNG’s land mass is now under the control of corporations.

“Control of land has been taken away from local people, often without them even knowing what has happened”, says Ms Dademo. “This is not about development for local people.

“It is gratifying to see the acting prime minister standing up for these people and defending the rule of law.

"What has been happening is land theft. Hopefully the Commission of Inquiry will identify those responsible for abusing our laws and protect landholders by reforming the system for the future."

Thousands benefit from new roads project


THE WORLD BANK has approved a $43 million credit for the PNG road maintenance and rehabilitation project.

This new five-year initiative builds on the success of an earlier project and will continue to support the upgrading of high priority national roads and bridges.

Lack of reliable roads has affected connectivity, disrupted people’s access to essential public services in many parts of the country and hindered economic growth.

The project will rehabilitate roads and bridges in several provinces, beginning with upgrading segments of the Hiritano Highway to complete the full paving of the highway across Central and Gulf provinces.

This initiative follows the first $40 million roads project which started in 2002 and received a further $37.3 million in additional financing in 2007. This first phase was integral in rehabilitating roads and bridges in Central, Gulf, Oro, Morobe, East New Britain, West New Britain, Manus and Western.

“Over the past decade we have seen how good roads can change people’s lives,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank country director for PNG. “Children can get to school on public transport; ambulances can take people to hospitals and businesspeople can send their goods to market.”

“Through this project we will continue to work with the PNG government to rehabilitate roads and transform people’s lives by connecting them to the things they need most”.

The project, which will be implemented by PNG’s Department of Works, will commence in the latter half of this year and will continue until 2016.

Source: World Bank

Arafura Games: PNG volleyers lead the way


Arafura Games PNG WAS THE first team of international athletes competing in the 2011 Arafura Games to arrive in the Northern Territory this week.

With the biennial, week-long sporting event officially starting tomorrow, 11 volleyball players and seven team officials from PNG touched down in Darwin.

"We're very excited about the Games. We've been looking forward to it for quite a while," said team captain Ravu Mahuru. "We've trained very hard for 15 weeks and all the boys are ready. We are out to win."

The PNG team has already played a trial match against the Northern Territory. NT captain John Pattemore said his side always looked forward to playing PNG.

"Their style of play is very quick and dynamic, which not only makes them very effective, but very exciting for spectators to watch," he said.

"We're also looking forward to seeing a rematch between South Adelaide and PNG. Their last match was the best and closest of the tournament at the 2009 Arafura Games."

The 2011 Arafura Games volleyball competition starts on Sunday and will feature eight men's teams including Macau, PNG and Timor-Leste.

Six teams will compete in the women's division.

Photo: Gereana Kila from the PNG volleyball team gets in some practice for the Arafura Games. Picture: Brad Fleet

Source: Northern Territory News

Women want to talk to militant leaders

THE HEAD OF a Bougainville women’s NGO says it’s preparing to talk to people involved in the build-up of arms in the autonomous province, including the leader of the militant Meekamui Defence Force.

This comes after Bougainville’s president, John Momis, said it may be necessary to have peacekeepers return if violence and lawlessness continue in the south of the island.

Leitana Nehan Development Agency’s Helen Hakena says the Meekamui no longer trusts the government but its commander, Damian Koike, will listen to the women of the province.

“The women have a lot of influence because as mothers we do not have enemies. We just want peace and you know our children to grow up in a peaceful environment.

“We do not want to lose any more lives you know, either from the commander’s side or from the civilians. Because they’re killing civilians.”

Ms Hakena says women’s organisations won’t move into Bougainville’s southern area until the government states clearly what it wants them to do.

She said that in Torokina guns from the Second World War are being dug up and used for inter-factional fighting.

“We really would like the UN to come as a peacekeeping body to come and remove all guns on Bougainville so there would be total peace across Bougainville.

“We are entering peace in north Bougainville and [in] south Bougainville there is chaos. There is no trust, there is instability, there is insecurity.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Three men held at logging camp in PNG


A PROMISE OF lucrative logging jobs in PNG has turned into a nightmare for three Sarawakians who are being held there against their will.

Remban Mawang, Jeri Abet and his son Richie Jeri were offered the jobs in December by middlemen who promised to pay their families RM1,500 ($470) a month each.

For the first three months, the company honoured its promise.

“The payments suddenly stopped last month,” said Remban’s wife Josephine Gendang. “I got worried when I didn’t hear from my husband.”

She said Remban used to work as a lorry driver and thought this would a good chance to make more money. Remban’s daughter Rose said she feared for her father’s safety.

“He is illiterate, so there’s no telling what he might have signed,” said the university student. She said her last contact with her father was on 21 April, when he told her that he was being held at the logging camp along with two other Sarawakians.

“He said there were armed guards outside,” said Rose.

Josephine and Jeri’s wife, Jenon Gendang, have sought the help of the Umno Youth community complaints bureau, which in turn got in touch with the Malaysian High Commission in PNG for assistance.

“I doubt if syndicates are involved,” said Bureau chairman Datuk Muhd Khairun Aseh. “It’s more of unscrupulous middlemen taking advantage of low-income communities.”

Source: The Star, Kuala Lumpur

Will PNG let Julia Gillard off the hook?


THE AUSTRALIAN MEDIA are this night alive with the story that a deal is about to be done to send refugees (who are seeking to make a home in Australia) to PNG for processing.

Immigration secretary Andrew Metcalfe and Pacific parliamentary secretary Richard Marles have travelled to Port Moresby for talks, sparking speculation the Australian government may be trying to persuade PNG to reopen the Manus Island detention centre to house asylum seekers picked up in Australian waters.

It seems likely that the mothballed detention centre is the desired location, meaning that the Gillard Labor government is – with great embarrassment to itself – reverting to a John Howard Liberal-National government initiative in an attempt to solve a growing political problem for itself in Australia.

Richard Marles declined to comment on the discussions, as has the PNG government.  Such silent modesty never prevails in the media.  It is taken as a sign of guilt.

The Manus Island detention centre was part of the Howard government's so-called Pacific Solution that was dismantled under former prime minister Kevin Rudd. Last year the then immigration minister Chris Evans ruled out reopening it.

Prior to an Australian election she was engineered to win, Julia Gillard - prematurely and naively - announced that Timor Leste was top of the list for Australia’s growing list of refugees. She did win. But the Timorese government, surprised by the announcement, has since been a less than willing partner.

Now, with about 7,000 refugees crowding Australia’s detention centres, and a prime minister showing a bloodyminded and continuing reluctance to process these people on Australian soil, a struggling Labor government is seeking to dump them on any compliant neighbour that will take them.

It's inhumane and grubby behaviour, and ultimately bad politics.  For Julia Gillard.

But the good news for PNG is that it can make the Aussies pay.

Julia Gillard needs a solution urgently, and with cheque book out, pen poised, and a number with a lot of zeroes after it, someone - and perhaps many people - in PNG will benefit.

Investigation calls for end to police deal

AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION has recommended that a memorandum of understanding between PNG police and Esso Highlands Ltd for security for the LNG project be terminated.

The independent committee was set up to investigate the suspension of former police commissioner Gari Baki, who was alleged to have misled the prime minister into approving a more than four million US dollar allocation for police operations

The, the National, newspaper reports that the committee, in its final report, stated that the MoU had impinged on the independence of the Royal PNG Constabulary.

The investigators found that the MoU was not vetted by the attorney-general and state solicitor’s office.

The report says funding of police personnel’s per diem, accommodation, food and body armour by an organisation other than the constabulary appeared contrary to the constitution and seriously compromised the independence of the police force.

The Esso Highlands project manager Peter Graham told the committee that the company had similar arrangements with two other countries, Nigeria and Angola, with PNG being the third.

However, the committee noted in its report that those two countries were in varying degrees of civil war, expressing grave concern that PNG had been lumped together in the same category.

Source: Radio New Zealand International