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162 posts from July 2011

Greens want crackdown on overseas miners

AUSTRALIA'S GREENS PARTY will push for legislation to prevent Australian mining companies from engaging in environmental practices overseas that would be illegal in Australia.

This is a response to the recent legal decision in Papua New Guinea to allow the Chinese owned Ramu nickel mine to dump up to five million tonnes of toxic waste into Astrolabe and Basamuk bays off Madang.

The Greens Party holds the balance of power in Australia's Senate.

Party leader, Senator Bob Brown visited Madang recently to see the affected area and says Australia needs to take action because this legal decision is not just an internal matter for PNG.

“It's a global issue because all our oceans are interlinked,” Senator Brown said.  “The marine heritage, [including] some of the richest eco-systems in the world, belongs to everybody, as well as the unfortunate locals who have tried so hard in the courts to stop five million tonnes of toxic waste being dumped into the ocean eco-system.”

He said last week’s PNG national court decision “simply would not happen in an Australian court and one has to doubt it would happen in a Chinese court. It's a Chinese company of course working on the back of an Australian company which first opened up this venture.

“They're both very happy with the outcome, because they can see the profits coming from the development of the Ramu nickel mine. [But] it's an appalling indictment of modern technology being brought to PNG without the safeguards that you would get in the home countries against this sort of destruction….

“It points again to the need for Australian laws which require corporations from Australia to behave overseas in exactly the same way they would be required to if they were operating here in Australia under Australian law.”

Senator Brown said the Australian government should be legislating to prevent Australian companies operating overseas from treating the environment in other peoples countries in a way that would be illegal in Australia.

“What we have to do set a lead in Australia and not put ourselves at the back of the row and not act in a way which the modern world requires…. We should be setting the pace.”

Senator Brown said when he spoke to government officials in Port Moresby about this particular mine in May, “they seemed very relaxed about the fact that five million tonnes of toxic waste were going to be dumped into the sea canyon to the north of this mine as if somehow or other it was out of sight out of mind, but, of course, it's not going to be.”

Source: Radio Australia

And now to establish a landowners' union


THE RECENT DECISION by Justice Cannings to remove the interim injunction on the Ramu deep sea tailings placement system triggered a mixture of reactions. Anger and frustration predominate.

But over in Waigani, Madam Luo Sho and Mining Minister Pundari are popping champagne corks. Other companies such as ExxonMobil are also glad that ‘sense has prevailed’ so that landowners in Hela and other regions won’t get clever ideas about injunctions and court cases.

Mining, gas and oil companies are complacent, overly-complacent perhaps, for two reasons.

First, the national government is encircled by a network of corrupt elite – personalities in this network chop and change, but their allegiance to money remains. Public funds regularly drift into the night, assisted by irregular accounting practices that have been tirelessly exposed by the Auditor-General.

These funds (and we are talking in the billions of kina) end up being used by this national elite to speculate on property, hotels, casinos, construction companies, short term industries that will ride the resource boom wave and leave PNG within nothing in 20 years.

These dynasties controlling the national government can, therefore, be relied upon to play ball with the mining industry, in which they have a political and economic interest.

The second cause of the mining industry’s complacency is the fragmented nature of the landowners.

The industry believes landowner communities are too parochial, isolated and self-interested to unite – indeed can you imagine their fear if landowners from Madang, the Southern Highlands, Bougainville, Porgera, etc, formed a united landowners front, a union of sorts for ensuring all landowners, in all regions of PNG have their interests defended.

Such a threat to mining interests seems fictional at present. So mining companies only have to worry about isolated pockets of resistance in Ramu or Porgera finding a courageous lawyer or two.

In the case of Ramu nickel, any anxiety was temporarily ended by Justice Cannings’ decision. The landowners’ appeal might succeed, it might not. We know that the national government and the mining companies will use dirty tricks – even hire goons to threaten landowners and their legal representatives.

That is why we need a united landowners front, a union, whatever you want to call it – one which can defend all communities regardless of their economic circumstances and education levels. A group that is built on landowner’s solidarity.

If brothers and sisters in Madang are being thrown under the carriage of MCC, then action will be taken across all mine communities in PNG in protest.

Can you imagine that, MCC receiving phone calls from Exxon, Barrick Gold or Newcrest because their operations have been shut down by landowners standing in solidarity with their friends in Madang.

At present the mining companies and the national government are united, and they have their own unions (like. the Chamber of Mines and Petroleum) – landowners are not united.

Until they are we can only run isolated campaigns against injustice, when what we need is a united front strong enough to stand up to the bullies, thugs and corrupt cronies who dictate the rhythms of PNG’s development.

PNG is made up of a thousand simmering communities.  We must turn this into a boiling pot!

Landowners to appeal Ramu mine decision

Ramu nickel mine A GROUP OF landowners in Papua New Guinea say they will appeal against a court's decision not to ban a nickel mine from dumping waste into the sea.

The national court has refused an application by a group of landowners to prevent the Ramu nickel mining dumping tailings into the sea off Madang.

The judge said it is likely the dumping would cause "serious environmental harm" but it isn't illegal and banning it at this late stage would have an adverse affect on the mine, its workers and investor confidence in PNG.

The landowners' lawyer, Tiffany Nongorr, says her clients will appeal. "I guess there's a belief some people's livelihoods can be sacrificed for the greater good," she said.

Australian mining company Highlands Pacific is a minority shareholder in the mine and it welcomed the decision and urged the landowners not to appeal.

An environmental scientist says thousands of marine species in PNG could be threatened by the court's decision.

Dr Amanda Reichelt-Brushett, from Australia's Southern Cross University, is a scientist who gave evidence in the case.

She said the disposal of tailings from the mine could damage coral reefs and also pollute coastal waters, which people depend on for their food security.

"It is a very high-risk operation and unlike on land tailings, where you can have management in place and management reaction to spills and incidents, there is not much that can be done," she said.

PNG Mining Minister John Pundari says the government is aware of locals' concerns that the toxic waste could pollute the sea and marine life along the Astrolabe and Basamuk bays.

Mr Pundari assured them the government will monitor any pollution and inform locals of likely impacts every three months.

Source: Australia Network News

Musings: vexatious litigation and Al Capone


Vexatious litigation = Legal action which is brought, regardless of its merits, solely to harass or subdue an adversary

DURING THE LIFE of this current Papua New Guinea parliament, a number of high profile leaders have been referred to the Leadership Tribunal by the Ombudsman Commission.

Continual legal argument has, however, delayed the courts from determining an outcome on many occasions.

Often it seems like there is a never-ending stream of legal obstacles raised by highly paid lawyers that continually delay proceedings.

In the case put to the Leadership Tribunal about prime minister Somare, the facts were eventually revealed in court and the case proven.

However, could the subsequent findings in the prime minister’s case give rise to speculation that all previous legal action to defer, delay or overturn the Ombudsman’s referral seemed rather pointless.

It would have been unlikely that the Ombudsman Commission would have referred the case to the public prosecutor had the facts not already been established.

Further speculation might arise that a similar situation exists with other cases of the same nature currently continually being deferred on various legal grounds.

There could be questions asked about who pays for the high priced legal expertise initiating the blocking action aimed at delaying, deferring or dismissing the referrals. Where has the funding for this legal assistance come from? Surely, the PNG taxpayers haven’t funding such personal and private legal defence.

On a totally different subject, it is interesting to note in the US in the 1930’s that the only way Special Investigator Elliot Ness was finally able to ‘nail’ big time criminal Al Capone was to charge him with tax evasion.

Capone’s other criminal activities proved impossible to pin down.

Ness and his small team realised that, until they were able to remove Capone’s official protection, they would never be able to gain a conviction. So they first reduced his source of income by shutting down illicit alcohol production.

With Capone’s alcohol production waning, Capone had no money to pay the government people who protected him from being convicted. By removing this source of revenue, Ness decided to go after Capone’s Achilles heel and Capone’s empire collapsed.

The brown tree snake: a ‘world worst invader’

Brown tree snake BOIGA IRREGULARIS – also known as the brown tree snake - is rear-fanged, mildly venomous and has been nominated as among 100 of the “world’s worst” invaders.

The snake can reach three metres in length, but is usually one to two metres. In Papua New Guinea, where it is native, it occupies a wide variety of habitats at elevations up to 1,200 meters, being most commonly found in trees, caves and near limestone cliffs.

The snakes frequently come to the ground to forage at night but hides during the day in the crowns of palms, hollow logs, rock crevices, caves and even dark corners near the roof of thatched houses. They spend most days coiled in a cool and dark location, such as a treetop or a rotted log; it often takes refuge in pandanus trees.

Based on frequent mention of it in relation to buildings, domestic poultry and caged birds, the brown tree snake is common in human-disturbed habitats and second-growth forests.

It will eat frogs, lizards, small mammals, birds and birds’ eggs. In PNG, eggs and chicks are regularly consumed, but mammals are more frequently taken. Having nearly depleted the bird populations on Guam, larger snakes have been found scavenging garbage and even sneaking in to steal a hamburger off the barbeque.

Native island species are predisposed and vulnerable to local extinction by invaders. When the brown tree snake was accidentally introduced to Guam, it caused the local extinction of most of the island’s native bird and lizard species. It also caused the subsequent decline of native plant species.

The snake is an excellent climber, using minute irregularities to ascend almost any structure, is extremely efficient at entering small openings and hiding in them for protracted periods and can survive for months without food. This allows it to be accidentally transported in both sea and air cargo. For example, brown tree snakes can hide in the wheel-wells of aircraft.

The rapid spread of the snake in Guam after 1960 is unexplained. It is plausible that some people might have intentionally spread the snake to suppress rat populations, which were very high on Guam before the snakes became established.

Source: Invasive Species Specialist Group

Parliament must elect a new prime minister


THE POLITICAL STABILITY that Papua New Guinea has enjoyed under prime minister Michael Somare since 2002 is becoming unravelled.

Now we see that the government and the National Alliance Party do not have a good succession plan for this critical situation. So what options are available for PNG at this time?

Option 1: Maintain the status quo

This will confirm Sam Abal as the prime minister as he is not doing too bad a job.  He’s an experienced former bureaucrat, level-headed and a cool guy under pressure.  But Mr Abal needs to further fine-tune his team as the last reshuffle has some flaws.  He needs to ensure the government immediately lifts its game to improve the quality of life of the people.

Option 2: A vote of no-confidence

This has failed a few times due to ineffective strategies to garner majority support.  The opposition still does not have the numbers and its agreed choice of an alternative is not generally supported.  The majority of MPs would want to serve under a credible leader who will make a real difference in the short time that parliament has before the 2012 polls.

Option 3: A unity government

There are many good quality MPs in both the opposition and cross benches who can offer much to enhance the government’s performance.  Hence, it might be a good idea for a grand coalition or “unity government” to take PNG on a path of righteousness.  With the Mr Abal under pressure from within his own party, the opposition and middle-benches must offer him full support for a unity government to work for the good of PNG.  Good governance, rule of law and a strong anti-corruption action is the way to go in 2011 and beyond.

Option 4: An absolute majority

Should a grand coalition be rejected, then parliament should be working hard to secure an absolute majority by building its coalition numbers.  This may be possible by grouping like-minded government front and backbenchers, cross-benches along with opposition MPs.  The aim here is to ensure that parliament practices good governance, accountability, transparency and the rule of law.  A credible and a strong leader with a caring heart and a champion of the people must be elected as prime minister.

The way forward is for parliament to elect a new prime minister using what best option it sees in the national interest. Parliament must be given three credible prime ministerial nominees – Sam Abal, Sir Puka Temu and Governor Powes Pakop would fit the bill.

In the final analysis, I see all three men as good capable and humble leaders to best represent PNG.

But if parliament is to see a real difference in the way PNG is governed, I hope MPs set aside their personal prejudices and elect Governor Pakop as the next prime minister.

Powes Pakop has empathy and humility and would lead PNG well.  He has a kind heart, a spirit for the people and has credibly proven genuine leadership qualities as NCD governor against many odds. 

Pakop is a man of few words, like Abal and Temu, but a good decent man of action to see the better side of tomorrow and to give real hope to our people in future. 

In the past few years, many Papua New Guineans have seen Powes Pakop as a capable leader who has greater potential to lead the nation to the path of prosperity.

We have too many dreams without meaning


SURE, IN THE MINDS of many Papua New Guineans, the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will bring a lot of changes into our country.  Yes, if revenues are managed and used well it will be a pillar of the economy. Or otherwise.

The question is: will our so-called leaders and bureaucrats manage the revenues from this project with the mindset of developing this nation?

PNG gained its independence from Australia in 1975; almost 40 years now. I can feel we are going backwards, fuelled by chronic bad attitudes and systemic corruption. We have a lot of self- interested and power-hungry leaders who do nothing but serve themselves.

I often ask myself whether the much talked of multi-billion kina LNG project in the Southern Highlands will really change the lives of the people. With no change in the attitude of MPs, leaders and ordinary people, I believe we will never get anywhere.  Attitude is a huge problem here in PNG.

Much of the infrastructure we see today was built before independence by the colonial administration. This includes schools, hospitals, health centres, roads, bridges, the list goes on.

These facilities are in a critical condition as they have not been maintained. Most of our people live in remote places where there are no basic services such as aid posts, schools or roads. It’s disgusting.

Goods and services are not distributed equally to the people. About two-thirds of the population is living below poverty level. Another irritating thing is the constant increase in prices of goods and services.

Basic items like rice, tinned fish, and fuel and school fees have spiked dramatically in recent years. I doubt people earning less than K500 a fortnight can survive for that fortnight in such an environment.

The people of PNG definitely know that there is something wrong in this country. However, the government keeps mentioning things like “National Alliance stability”, “kina stability”, “economic growth and boom”, “full of hope” and “PNG on the right track”.

We know for sure that PNG is a nation rich in natural resources compared to Singapore, New Zealand, Japan and many other countries. Yet, they are highly developed, and we are not.

If they can achieve such development status, what is happening in PNG? What are we going to do after non-renewable resources such as gold, copper, nickel and natural gas deplete?

What would we do if major overseas aid contributors stop giving us aid after hearing of so much mismanagement and corrupt practices in the country?

We have too many dreams without meaning. We must not expect miracles from the LNG project. If we can’t manage revenue from the existing resources the same thing will happen with LNG.

It’s about time MPs, leaders and the people of PNG stood up to put an end to systemic corruption and bribery. Otherwise, we have no one but ourselves to blame for ruining our country.

Joe Wasia is president of the Enga Students Association at Divine Word University.  Joe also writes: “I was very busy in the last two weeks organising a major fundraising event for the Enga Students Association which was held last Saturday. Many business houses, leaders, and individuals attended the night and many pledged money, pigs etc to the ESA. It was a great moment for us students.”

Ramu decision was not about justice


WHAT A SAD DAY for Papua New Guinea - 26 July 2011.

For money we have been forced to bow so low to allow for mining companies to breach our laws and degrade our very beautiful environments that make up this country.

For money we boast world class mines that take and take and take and leave nothing behind. For money, we bow to promises that leave us stricken with economic poverty. For money, we beg for others to come and develop our country for us.

The decision to allow MCC to dump mine wastes in the Basamuk Bay is deemed one of the most unthinkable decisions by landowners. They say, “this is not a decision about justice, it is about money.”

Through this same court an injunction was granted in March 2010 and held for more than 16 months. This, the companies, MCC and Highlands Pacific claim has caused loss of revenue for Papua New Guinea.

In our dream to economic prosperity, Papua New Guinea government boasts of world class mines, and bends its own laws so that companies can come onshore and make business.

MCC is not the first mining company to come to Papua New Guinea. There are many lessons but it seems “we have not learnt or we refuse to learn from them.”

For instance, the Bougainville mine was forced to stop with a 10-year bloody war that left 16,000 people, many of whom women and children dead.

The Ok Tedi mine operates out of one of PNG’s poorest provinces and has not managed to place it in the top list of economically prosperous province. The Porgera mine is marked with endless struggles with landowners and Tolukuma continuously denies environmental impacts in the area.

Simberi, which uses the DSTP recently had leakages in its tanks but denies environmental impacts.

The judge in making the decision held that this DSTP case in Madang was a borderline case. He said the plaintiffs have marshalled a compelling body of scientific evidence that the Director of Environment has approved operation of a very risky activity that could have catastrophic consequences for the plaintiffs and the coastal people of Madang Province.

Both the Departments of Environment and Conservation and Mining have welcomed the decision, however, Madang people say they will appeal it.

It is a decision that Papua New Guineans, especially those who will be directly affected, have to live with. It is a decision that will impact on our children’s future when the minerals have run dry and the company has left with the money.

Source: Act Now Blog

Remote village inspired academic research


AS A CULTURAL anthropologist and researcher in the modern discipline of digital ethnography, Michael Wesch likes to ask the big, complex questions, like how technology affects society and culture.

It such a world, Wesch concludes, traditional classrooms are out of place. "It strikes me now that we have to move from knowledgeable--that is just knowing a bunch of stuff-- to being actually knowledge-able--that's being able to find, sort, analyze, criticise, and ultimately create new information and knowledge," he says.

Before turning his attention to the effects of social media and digital technology on global society, Wesch spent two years studying the implications of writing on a remote indigenous culture in Papua New Guinea. He found himself for the first time in a society that was not mediated.

"I was reborn, so to speak," he said. "It was terrible but also wonderful to have that opportunity to grow up again in a different culture. In that process, the thing that struck me the most was just how mediated I had been in my first American life - late '80s, early '90s - the MTV era and the beginning of the info-era.

“All of those things were so important to me as I was shaping my identity, and now here [in PNG], there was none of that. I really got a sense for the first time of what it means to be mediated, and I started studying what it means to live in a mediated world."

Wesch described how the remote village that inspired his future research became mediated right before his eyes.

"New media came in the form of writing - in particular, census books and law books from the government," he explained. "This was the first census ever done in the village."

The results were dramatic, even devastating, he said. Villages were rearranged - essentially destroyed - in neat rows with numbers to match the census book. Disputes that were once handled easily and openly among villagers were now handled in courtrooms.

"We have to recognise in our society that the new media we see in our environment are not just news means of communication, not just tools," he said.

"Media change what can be said, how it can be said, who can say it, who can hear it, and what messages will count as information and knowledge."

Because media ultimately shape how we connect with one another, he said, they're actually mediating relationships.

"When media change, our relationships change, and our culture changes," he said.

John K Waters is a freelance journalist and author based in Palo Alto, California

Source: Campus Technology

Women’s deaths trigger call for sorcery laws

THERE HAS BEEN a strong call for new laws to deal with sorcery-related killings in PNG following the deaths of three women.

Papua New Guinea police say that last week, three women were abducted outside Port Moresby and tortured and strangled by their captors.

It is believed the women were attacked after they were accused of using sorcery to kill a businessman, who died in a car accident.

Police commander Joseph Tondop has called for a review to consider introducing tougher penalties to deal with these crimes.

“In 2008 there were 50 sorcerer related killings just in two provinces,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director.  “In 2009 there was an estimate of 200 alone in one province. So this is an ongoing problem.”

“The three women who were accused of arranging the death of a businessman, who in fact died in a car accident, were killed most brutally and tortured ahead of time.”

Ms Guest said the law needs to be reformed and the police and public prosecution office “need to do much more to prevent and prosecute what is really vigilante violence.”

She said “another concern is that many of the killings have been of women … and this is in the larger pattern of violence against women in PNG, very high rates both sexual and physical violence.

Ms Guest alleged that police themselves sometimes rape women who are in custody.

“The law needs to be reformed, the police need to be reformed and the public prosecutor office needs to be empowered and have more ability to cope with these crimes.”

Source: Radio Australia

Brisbane Broncos give sponsorship the flick


THE BRISBANE BRONCOS will not renew a sponsorship deal with the Papua New Guinea NRL bid team because the club believes it is “politicising” its players and staff.

A 12-month contract with the PNG bid team was signed last year before current chief executive Paul White took the reins at the Broncos.

The deal included Broncos players wearing the bid team's logo on their shorts, signage at the Red Hill training ground and a live game promotion.  In last night’s game against Cronulla, the Broncos wore socks in the PNG national colours of red, yellow and black.

But that disappears next season. Mr White has renegotiated the deal and flew to Port Moresby to explain his reasons.

"We've rejigged the whole deal to make sure it's more about game development," he said.  "We've got a development officer now working with the PNG bid team.

"We know the possibility of an NRL team [in PNG] is a 10-year plan. So in the meantime, we want to genuinely see the growth of rugby league in PNG.

“It's the national game and we've got a large supporter base up there."

Source: The Australian

Australia must shift relationship with PNG

Julie-bishop AUSTRALIA MUST SHIFT its focus from being an aid donor to Papua New Guinea towards becoming an economic partner, the Australian federal opposition says.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney this week, opposition foreign affairs spokesman Julie Bishop [right] outlined the coalition's plans for Australia's relationship with PNG.

During the speech, Resetting the Relationship: The future of Australian engagement with Papua New Guinea, Ms Bishop said that as PNG's economic future brightens, Australia’s relationship with it must change.

"Australia's development assistance to PNG, estimated to be $482 million in 2011-12, has declined as a percentage of PNG's GDP over the years," Ms Bishop said.

"With the revenue from resource projects set to boost its economy, even further, Australian aid will play a comparatively lesser role in PNG's development."

Ms Bishop said a Liberal government would strive to reset Australia and PNG's relationship based on economic and strategic partnership rather than aid donor and recipient.

PNG is facing economic growth but sections of its population continue to battle poor health and education and high unemployment, Ms Bishop said.

"It is on the verge of a mining and resource boom that should generate massive foreign exchange inflows with the potential to radically alter the course of its economic and social development.

"While there has been over 20 years of mineral exploration in the country, the PNG LNG (liquid natural gas) project alone is expected to double the country's gross domestic product and triple its exports."

However, at the same time, unemployment is high and "civil unrest is growing".

"From my perspective, our relationship with PNG must be one of our highest foreign policy priorities."

The speech comes after Ms Bishop's recent visit to PNG where she visited the country's first LNG project under construction in the Southern Highlands.

Source: Nine MSN

Bougainville for the Bougainvilleans...?


HAVING EXPERIENCED the most painful nightmares of armed conflict since the 1980s, Bougainville has the potential to move forward unlike any other province of Papua New Guinea.

So said Bougainville’s president John Momis when he and his delegation made a recent visit to Divine Word University in Madang, where I am studying.

The president stated that we Bougainvilleans are people blessed with the power to change.

He gave the example of New Ireland which has lucrative mining on Lihir but, he said with a chuckle, Kavieng does not show any positive impact from the project.

The president was telling the truth. Walk through the streets of Lae, the so-called industrial heart of PNG, and there you will witness hell on earth.

But in Buka or Arawa I have every freedom of expression as a Bougainvillean; amongst my own people.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government must adopt the Japanese concept of ‘Asia for Asians’ to ‘Bougainville for Bougainvilleans’ and work with this philosophy to make Bougainville a better place.

That is, all resources on Bougainville must be used by Bougainvilleans for Bougainvilleans so as not to permit the influx of unwanted non-Bougainvilleans that was the one of the causes of the crisis that led to the civil war.

For this, the Bougainville government must negotiate with the national government a policy to deny all Bougainvillean persons any form of employment outside Bougainville.

This is to make sure that Bougainvilleans are contributing to revive our land. The ethics of this is tha, Bougainvilleans are free in their God given origins to decide their destiny.

I strongly stand for this concept because Bougainvilleans still migrate looking for good income earning opportunities, denying the fact that our homeland is still in chaos and needs her people.

Serving humanity is the greatest job available on earth. Suffer for the good of society and die a proud man.

Furthermore, why did we fight? We fought to defend our land from foreigners like the New Guineans who were relegating us to nobodies. So, as Bougainvilleans, the land is there for us.

As Bougainvilleans we need to eradicate the belief that, after graduating from university, employment should be in the government office or a company. Employment is the land our ancestors left.

Furthermore, the ABG must give a priority to establishing a teachers college and a technical institute in Bougainville’s stable districts like the north or Torokina in the west coast.

This issue has been of long standing concern amongst our people but, due to our economic situation, cannot be realised too early. But, the ABG must prioritise it as a goal.

Besides this, the education system must introduce the serious study of Bougainville history in high schools before we become puppets. Studying our own history in detail will enhance the creation of a true Bougainville populace.

A protectionist approached to ABG policies at the early stage is a must for the good of Bougainville’s future.

Citizens get poorer; politicians steal wealth


Head ORDINARY CITIZENS in Papua New Guinea are getting poorer by the day as their wealth is being stolen from under their noses.

That is the view of former prime minister and current New Ireland governor Sir Julius Chan [right], who believes poverty levels now are much higher than they were in 1990.

And he blames the Somare government for the people getting poorer by the day.

Sir Julius, who was in Lae over the weekend to celebrate New Ireland Day with his people, said the national government had failed to better the lives of the vast majority of Papua New Guineans despite having increased budgets over the past nine years.

He said the medium term development strategy 1997-2002 then 2005-10 and 2011-15 talked about the same thing with no real tangible results.

Sir Julius said all those plans said the same things:

We are going to use mining, petroleum and gas revenues to improve the social and economic condition of our people;

We are going to reduce the level of poverty in Papua New Guinea;

We are going to help Papua new Guineans to help themselves by improving access to basic health services;

We are going to ensure a bright future by providing full access for all Papua new Guineans to quality education services.

“Nice thoughts. But we have to ask ourselves – why are we saying the same things in 2011 that we said in 1997? Why? Very simply, it is because successive governments have not done what they promised,” Sir Julius told his party members.

“We have had huge incomes from mining, oil, agriculture and fisheries; huge growth rates of five percent, six percent, even 8 percent per year and more. But our people have not benefitted. Indeed, our people have gone backwards.

“Today poverty levels in Papua New Guinea are higher than they were in 1990. That is disgraceful. Our people are getting poorer while their wealth is being stolen,” Sir Julius said.

Sir Julius said health services had declined with more aid posts closed and people denied medical services. The government, he said, did not have data to show how many aid posts there were in the country and how many were actually closed.

The former prime minister said the only good thing about having the national strategic plan 2010-2030 and Vision 2050 was those who designed the plans would not be around to see how completely the plans had failed after 40 years.

Oseah Philemon is a former editor of the PNG Post-Courier

Source: Pacific Scoop

Australian army investigates ‘Lost Battlefield’

Troops A FIELD TEAM from the Australian Army’s Unrecovered War Casualties unit has started investigations at a remote site called the ‘Lost Battlefield’ at Eora Creek on the Kokoda Track.

World War II human remains had been found there by members of the Alola Village through the Lost Battlefield Trust.

The Army investigates all notifications relating to the discovery of human remains in areas where Australians of past conflicts may not have been recovered.

The field team - made up of a case manager, case researcher, scenes of crimes officer, archaeologist/bio-anthropologist, forensic dentist and public affairs officer - were inserted by helicopter due to the inaccessible terrain, before making the arduous trek to the site.

Using the skills of all team members, the remains were extracted over a three day period in conjunction with Augustine Wak from the National Museum of Papua New Guinea.

“It was a really exciting opportunity to use the skills of the specialist team members with quite diverse backgrounds, who formed a highly effective team in a short period of time.

“The success of the case is dependent on a range of specialists from within Army, across the services and outside of Army,” said Captain Andrew Bernie, the case researcher.

The team then returned to Port Moresby to continue to investigate the identity of the remains. The investigation includes taking DNA samples to identify ancestry, which can take up to six months.

It is not uncommon for remains to be excavated and put on display in villages along the track and handled by many individuals including trekkers, which makes DNA testing harder. Many of the sites can become contaminated and highly disturbed by individuals looking for artefacts.

 “At the conclusion of an investigation where remains are identified as being Australian, a dignified funeral service with full military honours will be offered to the family and conducted in accordance with their wishes,”  said Captain Bernie.

“Should the remains be identified as being those of a Japanese soldier, they will be respectfully handed over to the Japanese government.”

The field team has now returned to Australia after investigating a number of other sites in Oro Province.


Source: Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Miss Heather Watson at the US tournaments


HEATHER WATSON is playing in the WTA tournament in Washington, DC - the Citi Open at College Park.

Although she officially plays for England, on behalf of PNG Attitude I have formally claimed her for Papua New Guinea, her country of heritage.

Miss Watson won her first round match 6-4, 6-1 against a top player of a few years ago, Eleni Daniilidou of Greece.

Miss Daniilidou represented Greece in the Hopman Cup of 2002.

Miss Watson's next opponent is Stephanie Dubois of Canada.

On rankings Miss Watson is 104 and Miss Dubois is 117.

Mining minister welcomes Ramu decision

MINING MINISTER John Pundari has taken out full page newspaper advertisements welcoming the decision of the National Court that the Ramu nickel mine can proceed with plans to dump millions of tons of toxic tailings into the sea.

But the Minister avoids mentioning the court findings that the government, in allowing the waste dumping, has breached both the Constitution and its duty of trust.

The advertisement also does not say that dumping will cause major environmental damage and that there is a real danger of an environmental catastrophe that could threaten the livelihoods of thousands of people.

In fact the ad is pure spin, a total waste of taxpayers’ money and seems to delight in the trashed hopes of landowners with real concerns about their future.

Source: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

Margaret Olley – artist had a PNG connection

Hagen Woman NUMEROUS AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS travelled to Papua New Guinea following the end of World War II.

Natalie Wilson has written: "William Dobell [previously covered in these columns], travelled with close friends Frank and Thelma Clune and the writer Colin Simpson to Nondugl near Mount Hagen in the Central Highlands in 1949 as guests of the zoologist and philanthropist Sir Edward Hallstrom.

"Margaret Olley [who has just died in Sydney at the age of 88], made her first excursion to PNG in 1954, when she spent time with Cecil Abel at Kwato.

"Later, between 1967 and 1968, she made three further trips to PNG and many of her still life paintings are filled with objects which she collected at that time."[ Natalie Wilson, 'Focus on Oceanic Art', LOOK, AGS, Sydney, October 2009, pg. 32-33]

She also spent some weeks in Angoram, and Peter Johnson, in a letter to former kiap and artist John Pasquarelli, has recalled that visit:

I know you were quite close friends with Margaret, and am sure you are, as I am, saddened by the news today of her death.

I am in your debt for causing me the pleasure of hosting her at Angoram for several weeks, she was a delight to know and a good cook too!

I was really a dumb young bloke then, as I wouldn’t sit for her – in too much of a hurry to get to the late lamented Angoram Club.

I never saw her again, but closely missed her on several occasions when she had left notes for me – it was always just too late!

Angoram Woman Her biographer wrote about her Angoram stay “that she stayed in a riverside house with some patrol officer.”

I took the liberty of writing to her with a bit of a whinge and she sent me a copy of her book with the passage crossed out and the note:“No, I stayed with my friend, Peter Johnson.” Written in, in her own hand. This is now something to treasure!

Images: (top) Mt Hagen Woman, oil on board; (lower) Susana of Angoram, oil on board, 1968

Sports heroes can enhance diplomacy


DURING A RECENT visit to Papua New Guinea I was struck by the overwhelming influence of Queensland's rugby league stars.

It is no exaggeration to say that Mal Meninga has demi-god status for many in PNG.

I met with the manager of a huge construction company who related how his 2,000 workers refused to go back to work on the day of a visit to the site by Meninga, such was their determination to see and hopefully touch their idol.

I was told by astute observers of PNG culture that the rugby league State of Origin Series has the power to unite the nation like no other issue.

A deeply tribal country with over 800 languages, where family and tribe loyalty comes first and last, it seems the people of PNG are at one in their love of rugby league.

It was reported to me that when PNG trialled a preferential voting system, voting slips bearing the faces of Queensland icons, Meninga, Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer, were used as the mock candidates, rather than local politicians, to be sure of a strong voter turnout for the test run.

Some people were reportedly deeply disappointed to find that they had not in fact voted in Meninga as national leader.

Our relationship with PNG should be a foreign policy priority and requires much closer attention.

Surely there is an opportunity to capture their enthusiasm for our sporting stars in a positive way that enhances our bilateral relationship.

Sport has the power to transcend social, cultural and language barriers.

The flag bearers for Australian sport, such as Cadel Evans and Mal Meninga may carry a heavy responsibility, but they have the opportunity to reach out to people across the cultural and geographic divide in a way that is otherwise impossible.

We should seek to leverage the success of our sporting stars in international forums far beyond the sporting field.

I would hope to see a significant sport and diplomacy initiative flourish in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Read more:

Julie Bishop is Deputy Leader of the Opposition in Australia’s federal parliament

Landowners shocked by court decision

RAMU LANDOWNERS have expressed shock at Justice David Cannings’ rejection of their application for a permanent injunction against deep sea waste disposal by the Chinese-owned Ramu nickel mine near Madang.

Justice Cannings’ decision came despite his acknowledgement of the risk of irreversible harm being done to marine resources.

The landowners will appeal against the court decision says their lawyer, Tiffany Nonggor, who spoke with Caroline Tiriman of Radio Australia.

NONGGOR: Justice Cannings found that the landowners had made out their case, had proved their case for private nuisance and public nuisance, which means that they proved to the court that the environmental consequences of the dumping would be catastrophic, causing irreparable damage to the ecology of the bay, and in the judge’s words seriously harming the lives and future of the plaintiffs and thousands of other coastal people in Madang province.

But the judge, although he found that they made out their case, he said that that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should get an injunction. So he looked at factors which determined whether an injunction should be given, and he said that three factors are way in favour of an injunction being given, one that the plaintiffs, the landowners had a genuine interest, two, that they’d actually proven that there was going to be irreparable damage, and three, that it was quite clearly contrary to the national goals and directive principles this dumping.

But he said there were three factors weighing against an injunction and one was the delay, that this dumping had been permitted sort of ten years and the mine had been built in reliance on the permits. Secondly he said that the dumping was lawful because they had a permit and thirdly, he said the economic consequences of the injunction, by forcing the mining company to use another method of tailings disposal would cost the company a lot of money and would also cause a great delay in the project, which may affect the economies nationally of PNG and also Madang province.

And he also said that the injunction might affect negatively investor confidence. So he said that even though there were three factors both ways, reasons why an injunction should be granted and reasons why an injunction shouldn’t be granted, he said it was a borderline case and that it was his decision that an injunction shouldn’t be granted because of the cost and the delay.

So although finding that the plaintiffs had proved their case, found that he wouldn’t however give them the injunction they wanted. He did however make an order that the company and the government have to keep the plaintiffs informed at least every three months for the whole life of the mine as to what’s happening with the tailings and the waste and the reports etc., and the monitoring, and he also held that the parties have to bear their own costs.

So the reasons he put forward was basically costs to the company and economic consequences for the country. One has to ask well what does that mean economic consequences for the people whose livelihoods and lives are going to be affected on the Madang coast now that it’s been proven in court that there will be damage to the people greater than what was predicted by the company. How do you quantify that?

Continue reading "Landowners shocked by court decision" »

InterOil plunges after minister’s comments


THE SHARES OF InterOil Corporation fell 11% in trading in the US yesterday on very high volume.

The plunge occurred after the company gave an update on its operations in Papua New Guinea after the new energy minister, Francis Potape, made sceptical comments about it.

Nevertheless InterOil confirmed it was making progress on its Gulf LNG project.

In other news, the respected hedge fund manager George Soros has said he is returning outside capital in his fund.  Considering that InterOil is one of his top 10 holding, he may be selling a chunk of shares in the company.

Overall, I would be more leery of the long lead-time in the company's LNG project than Soros' investment.

The project, which is supposed to have a capacity of five million tonnes a year in 2014 with a possible expansion, is still years from production, leaving a lot of time for things to change.

Source: Motley Fool

Men top HIV sick list in Pacific


MEN MAKE UP the majority of HIV cases in the Pacific but the number of cases involving women is steadily rising.

The Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation said in a report released last week that the Pacific region reported 33,424 HIV cases as of the end of 2009.

The report said 96% of cases, 32,005 in all, were in Papua New Guinea.

Since 2003, the number of new cases were consistently higher among women, the report said.

For every eight men, one woman was affected.

"Some of the increase among females are likely due to increased HIV testing at antenatal clinics,” the report said.  "Unprotected sex is the primary mode of transmission of HIV in the Pacific Islands region".

High rates of unprotected premarital sex among Pacific youth, high rates of sexually transmitted infections which often go untreated and unprotected male-to-male sex were among contributing factors in the rise in HIV cases.

Women's vulnerability to HIV was heightened where gender inequality, harmful cultural traditions, limited economic choices, violence against women, restrictive gender ideals and sexual double standards prevail.

Source: Fiji Times

Ramu nickel project will start this year

THE RAMU NICKEL court clearance yesterday, reported for PNG Attitude by Martyn Namorong, will put the delayed project back on track, with production targeted to start in the final quarter of this year.

The National Court in Madang refused to grant a permanent injunction and removed the existing injunction placed on the project relating to the potential environmental impact of a purpose built deep-sea tailings placement system, said Highlands Pacific, which holds 8.56% of the $1.5 billion project.

However, "given the judgement is in this National Court, there is potential for the decision to be appealed to the High Court of PNG," Highlands Pacific said in its statement.

“(However) Highlands is confident that production will commence in the 2011 September quarter with a staged ramp up through the year," the company added.

China Metallurgical Group Corporation, a state-owned engineering and construction company, is site operator and an 85% stakeholder in the project.

The judgement dates back to an application over a year ago, with a final substantive hearing held in March 2011 on the efficacy of deep-sea tailings placement system.

The legal action centred on a land claim in the waters of Basamuk Bay and prevented work only on the placement of the tailings plant's displacement systems into that undersea area.

But construction and commissioning works not associated with the tailings plant had continued throughout the injunction period.

Progressive commissioning of the Ramu project started in late 2009. The Ramu project is expected to produce 31,150 million tonnes a/year of nickel and 3,300 million tonnes a/year of of cobalt contained in high grade concentrate over a 20-year mine life, with the potential to extend by another 15-20 years.

Source: Platts

Bougainville people must ask hard questions


BOUGAINVILLE – what have we learned? There are those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.

With sufficient time for everyone to dissect the traumatic 20th century history of Bougainville, let’s examine the outcome.

Like the Roman auguries who determined the future after dismembering a carcass, we should now be able to make some fairly apposite predictions. Yet are we able to glimpse the future by reviewing the past?

It seemed clear to even the Roman augurs that their determinations needed to mindful of popular sentiment lest they lose their appeal to the masses.

So what simple lessons could be learned from Bougainville? Better consultation with the stakeholders averts future violence.  Comprehensive planning might prevent future administrative problems. Imposition of foreign dominance creates local dissatisfaction.

Are any of the above any better understood now than they were in the mid-20th century? If not, then are the people of Bougainville any better off now than they were? Will they be better off in the future after the trauma of the last thirty years? Will they be any better off than any other South Pacific people?

If the answer is not a clear cut ‘yes’, then Bougainville people should ask, ‘Why not?’

So are Bougainville stakeholders now being consulted and informed about their future? Has the threat of foreign dominance actually been banished or is that an illusion? Can those who now offer plans for the future have any guarantee these plans will work?

Isn’t Bougainville really only a microcosm of PNG and many other countries that actually have very little control over their own destiny. Sure the riches that may still lie under the ground, on top of it or in the surrounding oceans could help alleviate poverty and suffering.

Yet who can ensure that the benefit of these riches won’t be snaffled up by corruption and malfeasance? Also, the development of these resources must still rest with foreign capital and therefore foreign control.

So have the people of Bougainville merely swapped one set of problems for yet another? Have the deaths and misery of thousands just been in vain? Are those who are now in control any better to manage than those of the past?

Ol barata na susa. Husat isavi? Brothers and sisters, do you really know?

Somare – don’t heap the blame on one man


SIR MICHAEL SOMARE has done a good job considering the challenges of steering a diverse country to independence.

I think he deserves to be applauded for being brave enough for the task. Is corruption all his fault?  Yes, he is prime minister and was the first prime minister and has been in politics since the birth of this country, but corruption is everyone's concern not just Sir Michael's.

It's easy for everyone to say that it's the government’s fault, or it's the prime minister's fault, but I don't think things will change with that mentality.

We as Papua New Guineans need to see it as our problem collectively, after all we do make up the bulk of the population. 

In no way am I agreeing to all Somare’s decisions or the decisions of his government. However, I believe we should give credit where it's due, focus on the positive outcomes of where we are, and see how we can build on that.

We're all so quick to judge our leaders when we're the ones who put them there. Corruption is not just the government's problem, it's everyone's problem.

My question to my fellow Papua New Guineans is: what are you doing about where the country is at?

One can argue that the best thing Sir Michael ever did was to gain Independence for PNG; however, now that we have independence, what are we doing about it?

When you go out and celebrate independence and wear your country’s colours and sing your national anthem, what are you proud of? What are you celebrating? Corruption and greed? Or an opportunity to make something of yourself and your country.

We are all leaders in our own right.  We can lead by example and lead by serving if we cannot lead with a title. It doesn't hurt to affirm achievements once in a while instead of always criticising our leaders and people who are trying to do something.

I say thumbs up for trying. I salute Sir Michael for his effort and his contribution. I affirm his achievements as a leader.

I challenge you all to think about what you can do for your country and not what your country hasn't done for you or has failed to do for you. God Bless you and God Bless this nation.

A butterfly deciding which way to go


LIKE A CHRYSALIS about to emerge, Papua New Guinea is on the cusp of revealing what she will look like in future and which way she will decide to fly.

However people must now stop asking questions and start working at making a better future.

As the old saying goes 'the place to find a helping hand is to look at the end of your arm'.

We all love to fantasise about there being a middle road where the problems we face are someone else's and we don't have an equal responsibility to do something.

But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Court green light to environment disaster


HIS HONOUR Mr Justice David Cannings, has handed down his decision regarding a permanent injunction to prevent a Deep Sea Tailings Program (DSTP) in the Bismarck Sea.

But, while holding that the project would cause “serious environmental harm”, he has declined to grant a permanent injunction.

Justice Cannings reasoned that there had been some delay by the plaintiffs in commencing proceedings and that Ramu Nico had been led to believe by the State that it had approval to operate a DSTP without the prospect of disruptions.

He also said the interests of the company and livelihoods of people who depend on the mine would be adversely affected and that the defendants were making genuine efforts to put in place effective monitoring protocols.

“Despite the plaintiffs having established a cause of action in private and public nuisance and that the proposed activity is contrary to National Goal No 4,”  Justice Canning said, “the court declined to grant the injunction sought”

In other words, the judge recognised that the grievances brought to the court by the plaintiffs were genuine and that much of the evidence presented by the plaintiffs’ lawyer was satisfactory; and he concurred with the plaintiffs arguments that the DSTP would cause “serious environmental harm.”

There was a sombre tone in the Madang court house and as people emerged after the decision was handed down.

A few landowners from the mine site were visibly relieved along with representatives from the developer MCC. The plaintiffs were distraught and made their way out quickly. No one was available for immediate comment and reaction.

We’re still good mates says Aussie senator

AND Papua New Guinea “will continue to build on our defence activities together in the spirit of mateship,” Australia’s parliamentary secretary for defence, David Feeney, has said in Port Moresby.

Mateship “has been a hallmark of our relationship since the shared sacrifices during World War II,” Senator Feeney said after meeting with PNG government and defence leaders to discuss defence cooperation with the PNG Defence Force.

With a budget of $10.5 million this year, the defence program with PNG is Australia’s largest with any country.

“Australia and PNG have a longstanding close friendship which is reflected in the cooperation between our two countries on a range of defence matters, from strategic planning to joint exercises, “ Senator Feeney said.

Australia works with the PNGDF on activities including infrastructure development and maritime and border security.

The PNGDF and the Australian Defence Force conduct joint training and exercises, including Exercise Wantok Warrior which includes infantry, engineering, helicopter and logistic elements.

Senator Feeney discussed defence cooperation and PNG’s development with Defence Minister Bob Dadae and Planning Minister Paul Tiensten.

During discussions with Brigadier General Francis Agwi and High Commissioner designate to Australia, Lucy Bogari, Senator Feeney expressed Australia’s commitment to support PNG’s efforts to international peacekeeping.

Senator Feeney also laid a wreath during PNG’s Remembrance Day memorial service at Ela Beach and presented commemorative medallions to 13 Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and their families during a ceremony at Bomana War Cemetery.

“The strength and compassion of the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels saved many Australian lives during World War II. The Angels represent the spirit of what we hold so dear in Australia – courage, tenacity and mateship,” he said.

Photo: Senator Feeney inspects a guard of honour in Port Moresby

Source: Australian High Commission, Port Moresby

Schools exacerbate Australia's PNG amnesia

Tonymillner A SENIOR AUSTRALIAN academic has lamented the absence of coverage of the Pacific from school studies and says "we must get the curriculum right".

"Australia's amnesia about our relations with Papua New Guinea is particularly unfortunate" Prof Tony Milner AM [right], professor of Asian history at the Australian National University, told a conference

He said Australian students can undertake the new national history curriculum without seriously studying the region that holds the key to Australia's future.

Prof Milner told the NSW History Teachers Association that the only section of the new school history curriculum to mention Asia a Year 7 introduction to ancient China and India and part of a Year 10 component.

Professor Stuart Macintyre, who led the drafting of the curriculum, said: "It has always been a problem that teachers feel less confident about teaching on Asia, but we have gone further towards installing it in the curriculum than previously.”

He said the curriculum for Years 11 and 12, to be released soon, would provide substantially more Asia content than in the past.

Prof Milner said: "A history curriculum for our times must certainly help Australians to think about the task of carving out a specific role for our country in the Asian region."

Source: The Australian

Kiri Vavine’s maiden trip to the highlands


IT IS TRUE the highlanders flood Port Moresby with ease as and when they want. 

When you travel to the highlands provinces you hardly see a filthy Papuan wondering around and yelling abuse or being a nuisance with rapid betel nut sputum. You never see one with a bush knife tucked under his belt.

Some highlanders with bad attitudes have prompted the Papuans to hate the highlanders in Port Moresby.

Well, Kiri Vavine of the beautiful Aroma coast formed a different opinion of hatred between ethnic groups when she made her maiden journey to the heart of the highlands - Simbu.

Last festive season she decided to accompany a Simbu woman, Kokil Gupku, to explore the heart of the highlands.  Before making the decision, Vavine contemplated the risks involved.

Vavine’s mother told her not to look a highlander in the eye let alone going up to the highlands. However, Vavine wanted to prove that fear has no place in the body but is only in the mind. So she did what most Central people fear: she decided to make her maiden voyage to the Simbu Province.

So on 18 December 2010, Kokil Gupku of Neragaima and Kiri Vavine the Aroma girl travelled to the airport to board an Airlines PNG aircraft. In the departure lounge Vavine saw the mad rush of the highlanders and, not seeing one of her own kind, felt the impulse to return to Aroma.

But she resisted the temptation and bravely boarded the plane. An hour later it descended to land at Nadzab airport. From the plane Vavine could see the tail of the Okuk Highway that coiled its way to the highlands.

At dawn the women jumped aboard a 25-seater PMV bus which roared off bound for the highlands.

It took four hours to arrive at Goroka. The Apo men and women wore infinite smiles. Some nodded upon seeing her, and smiled, which lifted her confidence.

They reached at the summit of Daulo Pass at 3 pm and Vavine shivered. She pulled her overcoat from her bag and immersed herself in it. She chewed a betel nut to generate some body heat.

At 5:25 pm Gupku and Vavine arrived safely at Kundiawa, Vavine happy to have travelled the Okuk highway unscathed.

The women jumped in a PMV truck at dawn and travelled to Neragaima on the border of Kerowagi, Gumini and Kundiawa -Gembogl. 

Gupku’s relatives came in numbers to welcome Vavine and shower her with food. People of all ages in the village treated her as if she was Queen Cleopatra.

She saw remarkable landscapes, rivers and waterfalls. She met friendly people and ate delicious food.

She climbed to the top of Pui Yawi and Guramara to gaze the Erula Nauro country. She admired the Goiye Waiye, Kuk Numbun and Tokma landscapes in the north. Looking east she gazed upon the Porol Scarp, Kingstar and Elimbari landscapes which looked like Egyptian pyramids.

She bathed in the fast flowing Kola Kawa, Kui Molma, Urgiai and Kolai rivers. She walked beyond Bolum and Imil to as far as the Kiure Yauro forests and Waure Tepe.

“Kokil Gupku, I have a question?” asked Vavine whilst sucking on some delicious maritas juice towards the end of her four week stay.

“Speak your mind,” said Gupku.

“You have the most delicious food, beautiful plants and animals, vast stretches of uncultivated fertile land, cool fresh water to drink, rivers and waterfalls to bathe in and friendly people to chat with.  So why do some migrate to Port Moresby and try to make ends meet in the scourging sun?”

Before Gupku could answer Vavine added, “I mean people are better off here than those frustrated migrants in NCD.”

Gupku replied, “Should the government improve the rural infrastructure, such migration will be minimal. The lack of basic services here drive us to the bright lights.”

“All these times I heard bias comments from my wantoks about the highlanders but my experience now said otherwise,” said Vavine.  “I came to a paradise that has never been given the elevation it deserves. I have no regrets missing out on the Christmas at Aroma because I have a thrilling experience in the highlands.

“Thanks Gupku for the camaraderie.  I am sure the New Guinea Islands and Momase are beautiful too. I will travel there in my next holiday. Though we are diverse we can work on the dominant ideas that existed among us and thread out a path for prosperity.”

Men shouldn’t feel threatened: Dame Carol

Torso DAME CAROL KIDU, who is campaigning for seats to be set aside for women in Pacific parliaments, says there needs to be more women's voices in government.

Dame Carol, the only female MP in Papua New Guinea, spoke on the subject at the fourth Pacific Women’s Ministerial meeting in Fiji last week.

She believes if Pacific nations don’t kick-start an increase in women’s representation by using temporary special measures, the current situation with typically only one or two women in parliaments will go on for another fifty years.

“I find it very hard to understand because we’re not trying to take space away from them we’re actually creating just extra space for women.

“And in view of the fact that our population has doubled since independence I think we can warrant having more voices on the floor.”

Dame Carol, involved in a push to have 22 reserved seats in PNG, is worried it won’t get through parliament quickly enough in time for next year’s elections.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Dissecting the essence of bad leadership


WE TEND TO LOOK ON our elected leaders as being able to address our every want and need.

In order not to fall out with voters, elected leaders often slide into a role of appearing to hand out benefits to their supporters and ignoring long term practicalities.

Electoral cycles and basic human nature being fairly short term, many political leaders prefer to only be associated with positive spin while keeping a weather eye on the polls.

This could lead to a difficulty in determining who is a good or a bad leader since most politicians these days seem to peddle much the same line.

So maybe good leadership might be better defined and more easily identified as the antithesis of bad leadership. But then what is bad leadership?

In her 2004 book Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters, Barbara Kellerman suggests that toxicity in leadership (or simply, "bad leadership") may be analysed into seven different types:

Incompetent - the leader and at least some followers lack the will or skill (or both) to sustain effective action. With regard to at least one important leadership challenge, they do not create positive change.

Rigid - the leader and at least some followers are stiff and unyielding. Although they may be competent, they are unable or unwilling to adapt to new ideas, new information, or changing times.

Intemperate - the leader lacks self-control and is aided and abetted by followers who are unwilling or unable to effectively intervene.

Callous - the leader and at least some followers are uncaring or unkind. Ignored and discounted are the needs, wants, and wishes of most members of the group or organization, especially subordinates.

Corrupt - the leader and at least some followers lie, cheat, or steal. To a degree that exceeds the norm, they put self-interest ahead of the public interest.

Insular - the leader and at least some followers minimise or disregard the health and welfare of those outside the group or organization for which they are directly responsible.

Evil - the leader and at least some followers commit atrocities. They use pain as an instrument of power. The harm can be physical, psychological or both.

Kellerman's study sheds light on aspects of bad leadership so we can understand, identify and hopefully prevent it.

In the final analysis, how can we ensure we end up voting for good leaders or, more importantly, do not vote for bad leaders? Therein is the dilemma for the PNG voter.

In order to obtain administrative and financial support, many politicians join and represent political parties. Political parties may have party manifestos that set out their goals and aspirations and require budding politicians to adhere to these precepts.

Yet this does not stop some politicians from breaking ranks, after they have been elected and voting as either an independent or joining another political party.

Perhaps there is no such thing as bad leadership but only bad followership. After all, no elected politician can remain in power if their supporters desert them at the polls. That is, unless they resort to undemocratic and unlawful means.

How anarchy trumped a freedom movement


This is an extract of a chapter in my unpublished autobiography. It is based on stories I heard— and saw for myself— around my blood family consisting of the late Autonomous Bougainville Government president Joseph Kabui and Martin Miriori.  These brothers are my grandmother’s small brothers - LFR

BOUGAINVILLE IS PART-AND-PUZZLE of the Solomon chain of islands in the South Pacific, but enslaved by the impacts of colonialism under the rule of Papua New Guinea which is one of the big but unstable democracies in the Oceania region.

Since the 1960s, Bougainvilleans resisted the rule of Papua New Guineans and the development of the Panguna mine in Central Bougainville that, as Bougainvilleans say, was purposely built to finance the then newly independent state of PNG and its ‘redskins’ (Bougainville’s term for Papua New Guineans).

Martin As one of Bougainville’s political icons, Martin Miriori [right] wrote in 1993, that Bougainville and its people were Australia’s independence gift to PNG.

The resistance was there, but the uncreative PNG leadership ignored it by offering the people of Bougainville the provincial government system, that I should refer to as puppet-like in nature. It did not satisfy the Bougainvillean desire for progress; but instead, brought harm and relegation to the natives.

Squatter settlements, crimes against the natives, and denial of access to economic and social benefits pouring out of development projects like Bougainville Copper were unbearable, and I saw them.

Portrait That long history of intimidation by PNG was released from the hearts and minds of Bougainvilleans in late 1988 in the form of armed confrontation. The late Francis Ona [pictured left], as I remember, toured a couple of places in the Kieta district in the early months of that year, telling the people that things were seriously wrong with the Panguna mine and the landowners. One of these meeting places was at Piruana sub-parish east of Arawa which my father attended and later talked about.

Beside Francis Ona’s campaign, there were also various little groups that were holding meetings to find ways to eradicate the threats posed by the redskins and the slums that encircled the town of Arawa and all urban centres. Matau’neri Naving was one my father was in, and the list goes on.

There was a group based at Piruana as well. But its operations were legal, that is it was pressuring the provincial government to address its issues of concern.

All these resistance movements were autonomous in their actions, timing and approach. But, the significant factor behind them was that Bougainville allowed them to happen, though they had no central leadership.  But had common ambition and inspiration from early secessionists like Father John Momis (now ABG President) at the heart.

So, how actually did the crisis start in 1988?  It was sparked and intensified by a number of independent incidents that were not in reality political.

The protest marches and declaration of independence for Bougainville in 1975 was planned and executed by leaders like Moses Havini from Buka, Michael Aite from Paruparu and many others, with the backing of popular figures like John Momis and Leo Hannet from or near the village of Dupanta in Onove just west of the Panguna mine. After this gathering, they marched through the mine and Arawa and ended up declaring independence on 1 September 1975.

Ten years later in 1988, two weeks before Francis Ona’s walkout from the BCL-landowner meeting at Panguna, just below at the Dupanta village the Tumpusiong valley people were protesting against the uncontrolled tailings disposal, even though the pipeline had just been completed. These protesters were led by local politicians Wendelinus Bitanuma and Martin Miriori.

The Tumpusiong protesters brought all the BCL equipment that regularly worked on the tailings river banks from their resting areas along the Kavarong River (Java to Whiteman) and assembled them, blocking the Panguna-South Bougainville highway at Kavarongnau, which was the home of the brothers Martin Miriori and the late Joseph Kabui.

Whilst all this was going on at Panguna, areas around Aropa, Toniva, Kieta and Arawa on the east coast were spontaneously struggling with the squatter settlers. Thus all these uprisings had no common binding factor. Nor central control in terms of leadership.

Francis Ona, after walking out of the Panguna meeting, immediately left for the jungle saying, ‘Well the war has started’ when he heard about the Tumpusiong protesters struggling with police led by Commander Luke Pango.

So the war started, but without any management strategies to guide the whole operation; or to know where to stop. Who to recruit to fight and everything else was not prepared for. Thus, any able man entered, migrating to the Panguna area to join the militant movement. The ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ went in to fight.

Small bands of men from all over the Kongara area joined in support of the Panguna people and their cause. But, mostly, young men got involved because off the ‘anti-redskinism’ that for so long had kept them imprisoned in their own land.

This was well demonstrated in the killing of redskin settlers at Lake Momau in the Tumpusiong west. Here, a young girl offered herself for sex to be spared, but a shotgun barrel was placed into her vagina and a shot fired by the Bougainville rebels.

Anti-redskinism and the Panguna mine conflicts (actually, family originated) combined and gave birth to nationalism and the fight to attain Bougainville independence.

But, as I saw it, the issue of independence came in because there was widespread support of the militant’s activities and the complete withdrawal of the PNG government in 1990 followed by the blockade of our island.

Leadership was the problem. Francis Ona lacked the charisma to be able to politically influence and control his fighters and the Bougainville people. He denied them by hiding from them in his Guava village.

Immediately after the 1990 ceasefire, his loyalists barricaded the village and kept him guarded. To see him, people had to cross checkpoint after checkpoint. Or witch doctors had to screen you if you had an intention to see the ‘Founder’, as he was called then.

Ona was not allowed, for unknown reasons, to be in the public places. Thus we Bougainvilleans, who thought that freedom was now at our disposal, were lost. Lost because Francis Ona, who the society saw as the liberator of our island, was now hiding for a reason no one knew.

The power to maintain law and order was nowhere to be felt on the streets of Arawa and the Kieta area. Ona remained hidden in his mountain home of Guava. The society descended into chaos during the weeks of the first 1990 ceasefire signed by Sam Kauona and Leo Nuia.

What was happening, in terms of leadership? Immediately, after the ceasefire all the militants were ordered to station at the Pangunat township. They did just that, and ate in the BCL mess facilities under orders to protect all property. Except Ona and certain BRA seniors, who were given ex-BCL cars to use for their operations.

But, after just a few weeks of stabiity, Francis Ona gave orders to move all BCL cars and other things of value to him to his Guava village. Conflict erupted. BRA men from other areas saw these developments and began to grab whatever that was of interest to them, especially cars.

When the possible gains of war were depleted in Kieta, they went on to other districts like Buka Island in the north. Bougainville was now out of control and the leader was not prepared for the outcomes of his own actions.

A period of warlords was born. Each BRA commander ruled his own men based on their respective village areas. No one was in Panguna, for it was deserted as men began to pursue their own interests.

There was also fighting amongst the BRA groupings. A well known incident was the killing of the Bazaar brothers in 1991. Seven brothers from Kongara, the first group to capture police weapons, were rounded up and killed at Camp 5 along the port-mine access highway.

The reason was a power struggle. Ona was not there for the men who had sacrificed themselves to defend his mission.

Each BRA commander was his own decision maker and implementer. And for this innocent Bougainvilleans lost their lives as anarchy spread like fire. The once united Bougainville was gone—divided by greed, terrorism and disorder.

A day in the life of Awi Magret in Sol Nomane


Elizabeth house 155 
ON A WEDNESDAY in early November 2009, I hitched a ride on Uncle Ben’s Land Cruiser for Deri village, 50 kilometres south of Kundiawa Town in Sol Nomane.

I had been invited to attend a marriage party. It was raining as we hit the dirt road at Munuma so I was apprehensive of the newly graded South Simbu roads as we traversed the ever winding bends towards Gumine and further onto Sol Nomane.

However Uncle Ben’s machine was truly trustworthy - the Japanese made these vehicles for the rural roads of Simbu! 

The next day Thursday afternoon, I went down to Deboma. There I sat at the edge of the cliff enjoying the spectacular Wahgi gorge painted beautifully gold by the setting sun over the Digine Mountains.

Beyond the cliff far below me, the canopy of willow trees, their leaves flipped over white simultaneously by the down flowing convectional currents from higher slopes and further at the bottom of the canyon, the spectacular crashes of the mighty Wahgi against the ancient black Maril Shale, all presented a totally different setting to the Waigani polished shoes and neck tie scene which I had roamed amongst in mid-2009.  

Suddenly from the corner of my eyes I saw two figures slowly but surely walking up this threadlike steep track with ease and competence, each carrying huge loads on their backs. It was Awi Magret and her daughter Mary.

It then struck me that in this twenty first century, our mothers are still performing unbelievably very grueling jobs; chores only fit for mules. So I decided to do this story; A day in the life of Awi Magret in Sol Nomane. I wanted the world to know the story of Magret and her people in this part of Papua New Guinea. 

Magret is about 60 years old and Mary in her late twenties. They are each carrying several bundles of kunai grass and had been climbing up from the thin alluvial flats below at Pleme where for centuries tons of soil and organic matter had been deposited by the Wahgi as it snaked its way carrying most of its contents to the swamps of the Papuan Gulf.

These bundles of grass tied together and strapped onto the head and suspended on the back are about 30 kilograms each. Twenty similar loads will be thatched together to roof their new in-law’s house.

The next day Friday 13th was a blue windless morning. There was excitement buzzing through the village of the marriage. Magret’s grandson Hauba will be married to Priscila from Bosila village, two kilometres away.

Today Magret looked cool in her coloured meri blaus and matching laplap. When I imagined the previous day’s encounter, she did not show any sign of it. Yesterday had simply been another day in her life.

We arrived at Bosila to a huge welcome of war cries and singsings. There were over three hundred people here today. Five huge pigs were slaughtered and cooked in a pit oven. There was so much food for everyone. It is an occasion where new friendships are fostered and old ones rekindled and enriched. It is also an opportunity where the “bigman” makes long eloquent speeches to enhance his status.

The last ritual is the eating of the pig lard by the new couple to legalize the marriage. The events of today had been a grand show of Simbus’ rich culture. By 5.00 pm, we came home with our new family member.     

Continue reading "A day in the life of Awi Magret in Sol Nomane" »

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels honoured at Bomana

Medal Photo 
THE FUZZY WUZZY Angels contribution to supporting Australians in Papua New Guinea during World War II was honoured yesterday at a ceremony in Port Moresby.

The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, was represented at the ceremony, held at the Bomana War Cemetery, by Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Senator David Feeney, who presented commemorative medallions to 13 recipients.

Senator Feeney said these medallions are just one way to show Australia’s gratitude to the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.

“We are forever indebted to the kindness and the invaluable assistance they provided to Australians during the World War II.

“Many Australians survived the Kokoda campaign due to the strength and compassion of these brave people. Greater casualties and loss of life among the troops would have occurred if not for the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels,” he said.

Senator Feeney paid tribute to all Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels saying they represent the spirit of what we hold so dear in Australia – courage, tenacity and mateship.

Affectionately known as Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels, an estimated 50,000 Papuan and New Guinean civilians supported Australia by carrying supplies, building bases, airfields and other wartime infrastructure, and evacuating the sick and the wounded from fighting zones.

They also helped Australians soldiers trek through the jungles of the Owen Stanley Ranges, including the Kokoda Track.

More than 600 Australians were killed and over 1,000 wounded during the Kokoda campaign.

Mr Snowdon said the Australian government was pleased that 34 Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels have been presented with the Commemorative Medallion since it was introduced in 2009.

Source: Department of Veterans’ Affairs

Cabinet to discuss refugees; no guarantees

IN AN ANALYSIS of Australia’s refugee dilemma [Asylum partners rocked by troubles], Rowan Callick reports in The Australian today that the PNG government is in an awkward position in trying to reach a deal on refugee processing.

In trying to stabilise its government, Callick reports, Papua New Guinea has failed to resolve the need for a new prime minister in the absence for four months of Michael Somare.

“Two of its most senior ministers, Arthur Somare and Patrick Pruaitch, are facing imminent court appearances, charged with corruption. Its Attorney-General, former chief justice Arnold Amet, is at public loggerheads with the judiciary.

“The Acting Prime Minister, Sam Abal, has been suspended from his own National Alliance Party for two months, while he has in turn replaced as deputy leader for the Highlands in the party the former foreign minister he sacked a few weeks ago, Don Polye.

“The country's administration is faltering in the face of the infighting and indecision at the top.”

Nevertheless, Callick says both the government and opposition generally support an asylum-seeker deal.

“PNG Foreign Minister Ano Pala told Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd in Bali at the weekend that cabinet would discuss it in a fortnight. But there is no guarantee that the same cabinet will be in place then.”

Read  the full story here

Travel to those idyllic surf locations


Surfing PNG WITH ITS TROPICAL climate, uncrowded waves and enticing package deals at remote and picturesque surfing locations, now’s the time to book a surfing trip to Papua New Guinea.

Madang, Milne Bay, Kavieng and New Hanover are favourite PNG locations for surfing, boasting great swells and water temperatures of 26 degrees year round. And with surf management laws in place, surfers are guaranteed to never be battling the crowds on PNG’s waves.

Surf travel options include heading out with a charter company to catch the breaks around off-shore islands, giving surfers the opportunity to explore the waves in various locations on one trip.

Or base yourself at a land surf camp, such as Clem’s Place on Tunnung Island, just north of Kavieng, which is currently offering additional free nights if you book before 31 August.

And locations like Clem’s Place often offer secluded accommodation options for small groups in remote island locations, where the focus is on relaxation and surfing with true PNG hospitality from the land owners.

With six bungalows available and great surf, Clem’s Place has two deals for those wanting to experience the ‘last frontier’ when it comes to surfing: pay for 9 days and stay 10 or, pay for 12 days and stay 14.

Surfing PNG 2 Trips need to be booked before 31 August and travel must be during the 2011-2012 surf season (October-April).

Prices start at $270 a night with packages including reef fees, three meals a day and surf transfers. To book visit


David Ellis spent 20 years as a journalist with ABC radio and television news, including 10 in Rabaul, brief stints in Jakarta and Singapore, and the remainder in Sydney where he rose to position of chief of staff before leaving in 1979 to set up his own public relations business.

Source: Australian Public Service News

PNG languages vanish without a whisper

WHO WILL SPEAK Iniai in 2050? Or Faiwol? Moskona? Wahgi? Probably no-one, as the languages of Papua New Guinea and neighbouring Papua — the world’s greatest linguistic reservoir — are disappearing in a tide of indifference.

Yoseph Wally, an anthropologist at Cendrawasih University in Jayapura keeps his ears open when he visits villages to hear what language the locals are speaking.

“It’s Indonesian more and more. Only the oldest people still speak in the local dialect,” he said.

In some villages he visits, not a single person can understand a word of the traditional language.

“Certain languages disappeared very quickly, like Muris, which was spoken in an area near here until about 15 years ago,” he said.

The island of New Guinea is home to more than 1,000 languages — around 800 in PNG and 200 in Indonesian Papua — but most have fewer than 1,000 speakers, often centred around a village or cluster of hamlets.

Some 80% of the people live in rural areas and many tribes, especially in the isolated mountains, have little contact with one another, let alone with the outside world.

The most widely-spoken language is Enga, with around 200,000 speakers in the PNG highlands, followed by Melpa and Huli.

“Every time someone dies, a little part of the language dies too because only the oldest people still use it,” said Nico, curator of Cendrawasih University’s museum.

In PNG, under the influence of Australia, English has spread, though it has found it hard to penetrate some tribes, particularly those in the highlands.

The authorities are sometimes accused of inaction or even favouring the official language to better integrate the population, particularly in Indonesian Papua.

But according to Hari Untoro Dradjat, an adviser to the Indonesian ministry of culture, no matter what measures are taken to promote traditional languages in schools, “it is almost impossible to preserve a language if it is no longer spoken in everyday life”.

Despite his pessimism about the future, Wally the anthropologist believes art and culture can stop Papuan languages being forgotten.

People love to sing and celebrate and they must do these things in their traditional languages, Wally says — this way young people “will want to discover the language to understand the meaning of the songs”.

More than 200 languages have become extinct around the world over the last three generations and 2,500 others are under threat, according to a UNESCO list of endangered languages, out of a total of 6,000.

Source: Dawn, Karachi (AFP)

Bert Kienzle: the architect of Kokoda

A QUIETLY DIGNIFIED and modest man, Bert Kienzle’s mammoth contribution to Kokoda and Papua New Guinea, before, during and after World War II, has gone largely unnoticed.

While Bert was alive, several historians approached him offering to help him tell his remarkable story but he refused and after he passed away in 1988 his children rued that his remarkable story had not been written.

Time passed with great intentions but no action until in 2006 when Robyn Kienzle’s husband took their two daughters to walk the Kokoda Trail and was dismayed at the state of Bert’s old home and of the Kokoda Track tourism industry.

The trail being walked was not the original war trail, places were incorrectly named and Bert was barely acknowledged at all. The time had come to set the record straight.

Robyn is not and has never claimed to be a military historian. She tells Bert Kienzle’s amazing story through recollection of his family, interviews, personal papers and army archives and in The Architect of Kokoda reveals many previously unstated facts.

This is the story of a man who had an extraordinary life from start to finish. It attempts to portray who he was, how he became who he was and what he achieved during his life.

During Bert’s time at Kokoda it was a thriving outstation of Papua. Before the war he developed a successful gold mining industry there. After the war he provided the lifeblood for Kokoda with his rubber and cattle estates that covered 10,000 acres in the fertile Yodda Valley.

During the World War II he earned accolades like “the man who blazed the Kokoda Trail” and “the King of the Angels”.

The pre World War II chapters try to paint the picture of a man who grew up to be resilient, to be philosophical about the vagaries of life and to understand people of different cultures.

The World War II chapters try to give a detailed account of Bert’s experiences and massive contribution to the success of the Kokoda Campaign.

The post war chapters show that he never stopped. Despite tragedies, setbacks and seemingly insurmountable odds, he soldiered on.

Robyn Kienzle says: “My five years of research and resolve have paid off and my biography of my father-in-law, Bert Kienzle, has been published. I am told by the publishers I have done him justice. I hope if you read it you will agree.”

‘The Architect of Kokoda’ by Robyn Kienzle is published by Hachette Australia on 26 July - $35

On wings of hope fly the birds of metal


MAF Airvan THE RURAL AREAS of Papua New Guinea are the forgotten lands; where the lack of government presence and the consequent high illiteracy and high maternal and infant mortality is a tragedy.

In such places, many people only hear exaggerated stories of the outside world and then conjure up mental pictures to charm their imaginations.  But there’s only one way out to the world they dream of.  This is the way of the metal birds.

These birds come in different shapes and sizes and are the wings of hope that grace the skies of remote rural PNG: Mission Aviation Fellowship, Seventh Day Adventist Aviation and Airlines PNG to name a few.

These birds are the wings of hope for the very ill; they are the transporters of coffee; they are the only connection through which a glimpse of the outside world can be manifested.

For decades, through thick and thin, they have faithfully served remote rural PNG.  Many of those who have piloted these birds over rugged terrain and into deep valleys are very brave.

Some have lost their lives while others continue to fly, not because there’s a fortune to be made but because their hearts are burdened by the tragedy they witness.

This poem celebrates these wings of hope and the men who fly them over PNG’s rugged mountains and valleys.

Wings of hope

On their gentle wings,
Women and children fly.
And sickman eventually finds
Peace, healing and more.

O how they grace the skies,
And hope they bring to many
A forgotten soul who, under
Cloud cover and thick jungles
Speak of dreams of hope.

And gather in enthusiastic crowds,
With smiles the sun and the moon,
Can only hope for in their brightest.

Then their dreams fly,
Into clouds to sing to others who
Can hear and let their hearts beat.

To a disharmony that pervades
Many a fine land on cruel ridges,
In deep valleys and on lonely islands,
Where the sun and the moon
Mock day and night.

O these birds, sounds of technology
That grace our skies thru thick and thin;
Aren’t they our wings of hope?

Thousands have benefitted and thousands more will benefit. Let us all together thank them for the things they have done. Thank you Wings of Hope.

Radio in PNG is really on the move


FM logos ONE OF THE MOST fascinating countries for international shortwave radio listeners continues to be Papua New Guinea, mainly because it has some 20 locally operating shortwave stations and also because they seem to operate in a kind of information black hole.

But PNG is much more than shortwave radio.  Let’s start with a radio station that began broadcasting around ten years ago, so it’s a relative newcomer, Wantok Radio Light, sometimes known as the Christian Broadcasting Network.

In late 2010 they completed a full upgrade of satellite receivers for their existing network of FM stations, and in 2011 they’re adding around ten more FM outlets as part of their radio licence conditions.

A new radio licensing authority has been increasing the pace of change recently. The two main mobile phone operators have to expand their services, first on a regional basis, then through a series of ever smaller geographical markets until even the smallest rural village has full coverage including broadband technology.

This is creating a major change for radio services. Firstly, it’s building the infrastructure from which FM radio signals can be broadcast, and many of the high mountainous tower locations allow coverage of between 100 and 200 kilometres.

Secondly, the young people buy subsidised mobile phones with built-in FM receivers, and these are now the primary way of listening to local radio. In Port Moresby for example, which has a population of 350,000, there are now some 15 different FM brands competing for an audience.

Thirdly, new FM licences are being issued to replace older ones, and these have specific dates by which planned network expansion must be completed. They often follow the expansion of the mobile phone tower infrastructure rollout, which in turn is being done at the same time as the national power authority upgrades its power supply systems.

What’s causing this boom in infrastructure investment? Mining, oil and natural gas are being developed by Australian, Chinese and North American companies, and highways are being built across the rugged landscape as much as superhighways are being built across the skies using satellites, broadband and new FM radio services.

FM100 poster Telikom, one of the mobile phone companies, operates FM100, the former commercial Kalang FM network of the national broadcaster NBC, which it took over for non-payment of bills. Now it’s known as ‘Reaching You 100% - FM100’ and is embarking on a remarkable FM rollout designed to reach 100% of the population across the country.

The FM100 website is You’ll find photos of the DJ’s such as Patric Patu who handles Breakfast, Roger Hao’fa who’s been taking talkback radio for over 25 years and Willie G who hosts the Boroko Motors drive show every afternoon...

...Yes, there’s a drive show in Port Moresby... and there’s a freeway system and an ever growing number of modern high rise office buildings leading back from the waterfront and harbour...

Continue reading "Radio in PNG is really on the move" »

Development aid: Cause and effectiveness


IT’S BEEN A FORTNIGHT since the report of the Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness was finally released to the public, together with the federal government’s response. The review managed to be strong yet cautious, an amazing balancing act of political tact for which the panel should be commended.

This is an aptly timed review, with the aid program facing a massive scale up to a heady 0.5 percent of gross national income by 2015–16 from 0.35 percent this financial year. While 0.5 percent is still well short of the 0.7 percent adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1970 – a figure with obscure current relevance except as a useful advocacy tool – it is certainly heading in the right direction.

The massive expansion in Australia’s aid program enjoys bipartisan support, a rarity in the current political climate. Both political parties realise that Australians can and should be more generous to those far less fortunate than us.

And Australia is generous. Despite falling short of the 0.7 percent target, Australia is the twelfth biggest donor of official development, punching above its weight as the world’s seventeenth biggest economy (according to purchasing parity).

The debate continues to rage as to whether aid has done any real good in the countries in which it is spent. Critics of Australian efforts often point to the continuing and widespread poverty that prevails in our second-biggest recipient country, PNG, despite over $15 billion in aid since independence.

But most indicators are moving in the right direction. For example, World Bank data shows that life expectancy – a critical measure in anyone’s eyes – has increased from 47 years in 1975 to just over 61 years in 2009. While the picture in PNG and other recipient countries may not be all rosy, we suffer from a lack of a counterfactual – that is, what would have happened if those millions of dollars were not spent? The situation could well be far worse.

But Australia does need to do a better job in making sure our money is spent wisely and is improving the lives of the impoverished as best it can.

Sceptical commentators like Hugh White are right to argue that economic growth is the key to bringing people out of poverty, but in doing so they mix up cause and effect. Economic growth is the combined and measurable effect of a country’s many complex social and economic interactions, of which aid is merely one of many factors.

Continue reading "Development aid: Cause and effectiveness" »

The scandal of Operation Sunset Merona


IN JANUARY THIS YEAR, Special Operation Sunset Merona (led by the Papua New Guinea police and army) burned down villages and camps of West Papuan refugees in and around Vanimo.

Most of these refugees had residency papers and had been legally in PNG for many years.  They had fled persecution in West Papua at the hands of the Indonesians.

This is very much still a relevant story. Though my film footage was taken earlier in 2011, our contacts have informed us that Sunset Merona still has a presence in Vanimo.

All of the refugees (men, women and children) who fled into the bush are – six months later - still hiding to avoid capture and beating, and possible risk of being turned over the Indonesian government, where they would face certain death.

It goes against every element of the UN Charter for Refugees or which PNG is legally bound.

I am attempting to get this footage to as wide an audience as possible - to raise awareness of how these West Papuan refugees are being treated by PNG.

The footage was taken on Wednesday 16 February in the jungle near Vanimo - less than 50 km from the West Papua border.

It shows West Papuan refugees returning to their village for the first time since it was burnt three weeks earlier by special operation Sunset Merona.

The men came out of hiding in the bush to talk to me, and the women were able to leave for only a couple of hours where they were being held, as they told their captors they were looking for food from the garden.

After I left the men went back into the bush to hide, and the women returned to where they were being held.

This footage is clear evidence of contravention of the UN Charter for Refugees by Papua New Guinea, and also raises major questions about the legality of special operation Sunset Merona and the alleged involvement of the Indonesian government in pressuring the Papua New Guinea authorities to undertake these raids.

Govt resigns to improve malaria fight

AS PAPUA NEW GUINEA continues its battle to contain and prevent malaria, officials say the government's decision to resign as the principal recipient of monies from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, will improve its response.

"Stepping down as a principal recipient was a difficult decision to make," said Leo Sora Makita, principal technical adviser for malaria and vector-borne disease for the Department of Health. "We actually had to step down because we need a principal recipient that can effectively manage the funds and report back to Global Fund."

The decision followed a Global Fund audit in September and October 2010, when it found the Department of Health had not complied with grant guidelines and some $7 million had been misdirected.

Makita agreed there were some weaknesses in the system and the funds were not managed effectively. Since April, when the Department of Health announced it would no longer shoulder the management of the $50 million in Global Fund grants, discussions on how to keep the money flowing to this South Pacific island nation have taken place behind closed doors with the Global Fund's country coordinating mechanism.

"In general, when changes of principal recipients occur in countries, there are certain delays and disruptions in program implementation. However, life-saving treatment is never affected," said Marcela Rojo, spokeswoman for the Global Fund in Geneva.

Oil Search, one of PNG's biggest and oldest companies, was appointed the new principal recipient at end-June. In addition to producing oil and gas in PNG, Oil Search has run several successful anti-malarial programs since the 1990s and says it has an expertise that can be tapped for its new role.

"When the Department of Health was looking at pulling out of managing the money, we put our hand up to take on the responsibility," Peter Botten, managing director of Oil Search, said.

Botten said he foresees a more predictable and effective delivery on the Global Fund grant goals with Oil Search at the helm of money management, but working in conjunction with the Department of Health.

With 90% of the nation's six million people at risk of contracting malaria, combined with a growing resistance to Chloroquine, the first line of treatment, the government of PNG considers malaria among the country's top five health issues.

The country achieved a 26% decrease in malaria cases from 2004-09, from 1.9 million reported cases in 2004 to 1.4 million in 2009, according to the World Health Organisation. But such a reduction does not constitute a success story just yet, said Zaixing Zhang, malarial scientist with WHO in Port Moresby.

"Malaria control is one of the priorities of the country and national health plan. It's not under control, but the number of reported cases is going down," he said.

There is a growing fear that positive gains may be undone due to the increased population mobility following the unprecedented boom in resource development.

"There is a big increase in population mobility, allowing for dispersal of malaria parasites across the country as well as changes in the environment due to resource developments like logging, mining, oil drilling and plantation projects that create more vector breeding sites," said Iraingo Moses of Population Services International.

In a paper to a workshop on malaria in Port Moresby in March, Moses said the general worsening of health services and the breakdown in drug supplies in rural areas had also increased malarial risks.

The recent decision by the Department of Health to turn inward, restructure and bolster its capacity reflected this reality, some say.

In his letter to the Global Fund in which the Department of Health requested to cease its principal recipient obligations, Clement Malau, the head of the Department of Health, said the health and financial systems in PNG were fragile and needed continued support to meet all their obligations.

As Oil Search assumes the principal recipient role in the beginning of 2012, the Department of Health will still implement malaria projects while overhauling its operations.

Source: IRIN News, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Wafi Golpu is now a billion tonne resource


ANNOUNCING HIS company's latest mineral reserves and resources, Harmony Gold CEO, Graham Briggs, has reported a huge 57% expansion of the resource for the Wafi Golpu joint venture with Newcrest.

The latest drilling has expanded the resource to more than an estimated one billion tonnes making it one of the highest grade copper-gold porphyry systems in South East Asia.

Briggs believes the Wafi Golpu stake is a "game changing" asset for Harmony and that it confirms the company's long held belief that Golpu alone is truly a world-class discovery.

"The Golpu deposit benchmarks as one of the highest grade copper-gold deposits in South East Asia,” Briggs said, “and there is potential to improve this further. The ultimate size of the system, including the gold mineralisation, is yet to be realised, but significant potential remains for additional growth.”

He pointed out that the Wafi Golpu resource at this time last year was only 644 million tonnes. He noted that copper grades have gone up, and tonnage has gone up substantially.

Asked whether the resource increase was causing Harmony and Newcrest to revise mine development plans and perhaps bring them forward, Briggs commented, "Yes, we are running basically three the drilling continues, there's a pre-feasibility on the go and we've also indicated to the market that we'll probably do some early access.”

Harmony and Newcrest have a number of other regional exploration projects under way which are considered highly prospective and also have the potential of being very large indeed.

The Wafi Golpu deposit runs quite deep so will need to be mined by underground means as well as a big open pit.

PNG has not always been the easiest place to work for mine developers with the local population sometimes restive and government and national institutions having a sorry record on corruption, so there could yet be pitfalls along the route to development of what is very definitely a world class resource.

Source: Mine Web

13 more Angel medals awarded tomorrow

Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel THE SIXTH commemorative medallion ceremony to honour the Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels will be held at Bomana War Cemetery tomorrow (Sunday).

The Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel Commemorative Medallion is a symbol of Australia’s appreciation for the civilians who helped Australian soldiers during the war. It has been presented since 2009 to eligible Papua New Guineans.

David Feeney, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, representing Veterans’ Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon, will present the medallions to 13 former Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels.  The ceremony will start at 9.30 am.

To receive a medallion, recipients must have assisted Australian servicemen or women in PNG during World War II and been civilians at the time of rendering assistance.

Widows and widowers of Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels are also eligible.

Source: Australian High Commission

Growing wealth divide in Pacific: report


A wealth boom in the Pacific's mineral-rich nations is stretching the regional divide between those with resources and those without, a new report claims.

A paper released this week by the Asian Development Bank has warned that while resource-rich countries like Papua New Guinea and East Timor are booming economically, its neighbours are struggling more than ever.

PNG and East Timor, which both export petroleum, are expected to grow by 8.5% and 10% respectively this year, boosted by the high international petrol prices, and increased investment and employment in the industry.

The Solomon Islands will grow by 7.5%, driven by increased logging and gold mining in the country, according to the latest issue of the bank's Pacific Economic Monitor.

Robert Wihtol, director general of bank's Pacific department, said there were two groups of Pacific economies emerging, one doing well and another struggling.

"The long term growth outlook for the Pacific region as a whole is very modest," Mr Wihtol said.

"If this trend continues, the region risks falling further behind the dynamic economies of developing Asia, resulting in a widening gap in incomes in the two regions."

To avoid this, Pacific governments needed to focus on the core functions of good government - that is investing in infrastructure, improving education and helping businesses - to encourage investment, he said.

The report also raises inflation projections for 2011 thanks to the sharp rise in commodity prices. It warns that high inflation rates in Fiji, PNG, and East Timor were of particular concern.

Mr Wihtol said there was a worry that the smaller, more remote and heavily import-dependent Pacific economies, such as those in the northern Pacific, were going to be hit hard by rising international food and fuel prices, and inflation.

He said these poorest nations needed to diversify their agricultural base and explore alternative energy sources to help protect themselves from rising prices.

Source: AAP South Pacific Correspondent

PNG remembers its wartime dead


TODAY 23 JULY is Remembrance Day in Papua New Guinea.

At ceremonies throughout the country, tributes will be paid to PNG soldiers who died in World War II and in the secessionist conflict on Bougainville in the 1990s.

It is 69 years since the Papua Infantry Battalion fired on the invading Japanese after they landed near Gona on the Papuan north coast in July 1942.

The action was the first resistance the Japanese encountered in what was to become the Kokoda campaign.

In Canberra, there will be a church service at the PNG High Commission in Yarralumla followed by the screening of the film Angels of War and the sharing of wartime stories.

Business Council welcomes AusAID report

PETER TAYLOR, the president of the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council, has said “it is disappointing” that the AusAID review panel recommended a low expansion of the Australian aid program in PNG because aid effectiveness is constrained by poor governance.

“The reasoning is no surprise,” Mr Taylor said, “but without increased resources to meet the governance challenge the problem is likely to persist.”

The so-called ‘Independent Review of Aid Effectiveness’ set out proposals for the Australian aid program which is planned to almost double to $8 billion by 2015-16.

Mr Taylor, who admitted “to having read only the 32 page summary rather than all of the 340 page report”, applauded the panel’s recommendation that “the aid program should increase its emphasis on private sector development”.

He said “a process has now been established where the president of the Council’s PNG Branch, Phil Franklin, and I will have regular meetings with Stephanie Copus-Campbell (who heads AusAID in PNG) to discuss matters of mutual interest to the business community.

“We will be working to have implemented also a greater and better structured role for business in the annual Australia Papua New Guinea Ministerial Forum as well as other proposals we have previously made about formalising business input bilaterally into the aid program.”

Mr Taylor said that, “in general”, he found the report and recommendations very welcome.

“The report is not critical of the current aid program or AusAID which it acknowledges understands many of the issues and is working hard to correct them,” he said.

“The emphasis in the report is on adopting an overall, whole of government strategy, avoiding fragmentation of the aid program and achieving value for money.”

Meanwhile, Steve Lewis reports in today's Sydney Daily Telegraph that AusAID has awarded $400,000 in contracts to an upmarket Canberra furniture store to provide beds and lounges to fit out homes for AusAID staff in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Kenya.

Julie McPhail, a director of Decor Living, confirmed the furniture sent overseas was for the use of AusAID officers. She said AusAID always tried to source furniture from local outlets.

"The only destinations we supply to are destinations where they are unable to source local product," she said. "Most of these places, you just can't get anything."

But staff at a retail outlet in Port Moresby expressed surprise and disappointment that Australian aid money was being spent in Canberra.

A spokesman for PNG's Brian Bell - whose slogan reads it "supplies everything for the home" - said the retailer could "furnish a 20-storey apartment building within a week".

Coalition shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop said it was "outrageous for AusAID to buy furniture in Canberra and ship it at considerable cost to countries where furniture can be bought locally."

ASEAN: Diplomacy & strategic choices


IT APPEARS THAT domestic politics will affect how Papua New Guinea makes rational strategic choices at this month’s regional summits: the annual Australia-PNG ministerial meeting in Australia and the 44th ASEAN Meeting and 18th ASEAN regional meeting to be held in Bali.

At the height of political maneuvering of the current National Alliance leadership, three important issues were raised by sacked former Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister, Don Polye. As far as regional relations are concerned, these issues are strategically important for PNG to confront the changing geopolitical climate in the region.

The first issue concerns the Gillard proposal to revisit Manus detention centre, whilst the other two revolve around the ability of the government to participate in the three summits.

Given the magnitude of PNG’s domestic political tension, it seems clear that the issue of reopening the former asylum centre in Manus may not take shape. The asylum proposal has been controversial due to its failure to produce tangible outcomes. This may have shaped Abal’s position.

However, in the event that this may pop up in the meeting, the rational choice is for the government to maximise the national interest.

On the same lines, the ASEAN meetings are extremely important for PNG given its prominence in the Pacific. ASEAN is now a driving force globally with the Asian tigers and the recent ascendance of China’s economic power.

The puzzling question is how can PNG strategically reposition itself in the reconfigured international order under the framework of ASEAN?

Polye has pulled the string further by precisely arguing that the indifference in domestic politics may affect PNG’s regional relations and positioning in the forum.

Ano Pala, Polye’s successor, has responded with a positive but unclear proposal. The Post-Courier reported that Ano Pala and his chief advisor, Michael Mauve, will attend the meeting with no specific proposals. However, it is expected that all is set for PNG to drive its agenda in the context of national preferences and regional interactions.

The central issue is how PNG will shape up in the forum. With PNG’s elastic wallet, given its recent economic performance, it has the economic power to wield some influence in gaining credibility and recognition.

Within the context of economic power maximisation, it would be a rational choice for PNG to seek permanent status in ASEAN. PNG cannot afford to lose this important opportunity. Polye’s advice to open some embassies in ASEAN will be a strategic choice as far as national interest is concerned.

PNG has caught ASEAN’s eye already as a driving economic force given its material resources. Should PNG raise the voice of its national anthem in the forum under the framework of gaining permanent status; an outcome will be expected.

PNG can wield its economic leverage its current investors, for instance, US and China, to support its proposal to join the forum.

In summary, in the calculus of strategic choice and decision making, it would be wiser for PNG to seize these opportunities in summit diplomacy to exercise its growing influence in regional politics.

The annual Australia-PNG ministerial meeting is a playground in which PNG can opt for better package. In the ASEAN meet, PNG would be better to opt for permanent status – playing the ASEAN card is a strategic choice given the nature and scope of shifting geopolitical geo-economical dynamics.

The author studies a Master of Arts in International Relations at the Institute of International Studies, Jilin University, People’s Republic of China. His core area of interest is in International Security focusing on Geopolitics of Energy, China-US Foreign Policy in Asia-Pacific and Political Economy of East Asia.