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182 posts from August 2011

‘We won’t let PNG go down the gurgler’


AUSTRALIA COULD NOT afford to let Papua New Guinea “go down the gurgler” a senior Australian foreign affairs official told his American counterpart soon after a crisis in the relationship in 2005.

A confidential diplomatic cable from the US embassy in Canberra including this blunt statement of Australian strategic interests has just been published on the Wikileaks website.

In May 2005 the Australian government withdrew Australian Federal Police forces deployed in PNG as the result of a PNG Supreme Court decision which overruled the legal immunity given to Australian police and bureaucrats under the Enhanced Cooperation Program (ECP).

The Australian government said it would not return the police to PNG without assurances of legal immunity, which would have required the PNG government to enact legislation or change the constitution.

“According to Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) officials, the PNG Supreme Court ruling basically meant that the AFP had no legal right to exercise police authority in PNG,” the leaked US cable said.

At the time, Australia had already deployed 154 of the 210 police under the proposed five-year, $1.1 billion plan. While then Foreign Minister Alexander Downer stated Australia remained committed to the program, it was never resumed.

In a section of the cable headed ‘A bad season for Australian-PNG ties’, it is stated that the court decision came “on the tail of other setbacks in the Australian-PNG bilateral relationship”, including a “diplomatic storm in March involving Australian Customs officers in Brisbane airport who infuriated PNG PM Michael Somare when they asked him to remove his shoes as part of a routine security inspection”.

The cable said “DFAT officials did not want to speculate about the long-term effects of the ruling, but Australian Defence officials were pessimistic about the survival of the ECP.  Both departments, however, emphasised that the GOA [Australian government] has too much of a stake in PNG to let the ECP fail completely.

“First Assistant Secretary for the South Pacific David Ritchie told visiting [US East Asia Pacific] Assistant Secretary Hill on May 17 that Australia had no choice but to continue to engage with Port Moresby and could not let the country ‘go down the gurgler’ given PNG's proximity and 5.5 million population,” the cable said.

“The withdrawal of AFP forces from PNG marks a dramatic downturn in the bilateral relationship and is a potentially fatal setback for the ECP, especially if new legal assurances cannot be negotiated quickly.

“The GOA has stated their police will not return unless legal immunity is restored.  The constitutional and legal changes required of the PNG government to achieve that end could take a year or more to come to fruition.

“If an agreement cannot be reached and the ECP erodes further, it could have far-ranging effects for Australia's other aid programs in the region, such as the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI).

“Australian press speculation indicated that unsavory political elements in some Pacific nations, who are hampered by the accountability Australian aid mandates, might follow the lead of PNG and rebel in their own way against Australia's presence in their respective countries.”

That wasn’t a bad call.  The subsequent development of the Melanesian Spearhead Group with its more robust diplomacy towards Australia and New Zealand, and Michael Somare’s ‘Look North Policy’, emerged soon after.

And it’s arguable that Australia has been on the back foot in its relations with PNG since.

As recently as July 2009, in another leaked cable on the PNG resources boom, the US embassy reported that Australian “concerns over institutional capacity and transparency are clearly coloring their views on how PNG should and will handle the revenue.

“PNG is Australia’s largest recipient of development assistance, and wasteful spending of windfall profits could undermine further support in Canberra for future increases in assistance.”

It is a given of current day Australia-PNG diplomacy that the former coloniser exhibits varying degrees of uncertainty about how to best manage the relationship.  The Americans know this.


Pacific islands accuse AusAID of coercion


AusAID HAS BEEN ACCUSED of strong-arm tactics in the south Pacific by seeking to unfairly influence tiny island neighbours in a free trade deal, leaked documents reveal.

The confidential documents show Pacific island countries could abandon trade talks at a regional leaders' forum next week unless Australia stops pressuring the funding of Pacific trade negotiators.

Canberra has tried to sell the talks on closer economic relations in the region as a development measure rather than a simple trade deal.

But the documents show Pacific nations believe any deal will not significantly improve their economies ''unless it results in greater integration of labour markets.''

The main sticking point in the talks is funding for an independent chief adviser to guide Pacific island nations in their negotiations - a position Australia and New Zealand agreed to pay for in 2009.

New Zealand has already signed a $NZ1.3 million deal to continue paying its half for the position, known as the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser and based in Vanuatu.

A leaked draft contract between Australia's aid agency, AusAID, and the trade adviser proposes $1 million in funding be split into $125,000 tranches, with the money to be released every three months subject to ''satisfactory progress'' in the trade talks.

In lengthy comments on the draft contract the trade adviser's office told AusAID the clause was ''totally unworkable'' and demanded it be stripped from the contract and earlier plans for two $500,000 payments be reinstated.

Pacific nations are adamant the trade adviser office should be legally independent and not threatened with budget cuts.

Source: The Age, 28 August.  Read more:

Bougainville, my beloved country


Bagana Bougainville…Bougainville
My beloved country
From the cool of Pakia Gap, I felt jealous of you
The fecund green island of the Solomons
My eyes stretch far and wide
And you still there for me, a lonely heart of Panguna.

Sometimes I stoop in sorrow and cry
Cry for the stinging straying sorrow of myopic hearts you carry
In the womb where I was formed, oh Bougainville,
My beloved country.
Under clouds cover, I see you weeping the agony
Inflicted day-by-day
By my fellow countrymen and women
From Buin to Siwai to Kieta
As they kill and con each other in the backyards of civilisation
Oh Bougainville,
My beloved country.

My beloved country
From the virgin peak of Mount Takuang
I felt so an angel of the heavens above that dwelled
On the icy coldness of Loruru waters; so calm
Down rolling hills,
Across deep valleys and plains and islands
I flew and flew and flew
Letting go to rest my feathers of sorrow
For the brother and the sister to glean that I am crying
For the love of the nation
A nation so tangled in anarchy from freedom that went wrong
Oh Bougainville,
My beloved country.

Lying prone
By the crocodile infested swamps of Koi’are
I heard you singing the Banoni folklores of hope
I looked up into the night sky
Of twinkling stars and jetting meteorites
There you were, so jubilant and in perpetual calm
Telling stories with the warrior, Bagana as he smoked its pipe
As the bats raved their ways around you.
 Why were you doing this to me?
Oh Bougainville…Bougainville
My island of sorrow
But you’re still,
My beloved country.

I will die fighting for you
My only island, my life and democracy and justice
Of freedom and hope

Oh Bougainville
My beloved country.

Photo: Mount Bagana, Brian Darcey

Travel Air takes delivery of first aircraft

Travel Air Fokker TRAVEL AIR, Papua New Guinea’s newest airline, has taken delivery of its first aircraft.

On 18 August, Travel Air received its first of six Fokker 50. Four of the aircraft will be based in Madang and used for passengers operations in PNG.

The other two will be mainly operated from Lae and used for cargo operations to towns with short runways.

The first Fokker is shown ready to depart from Masstricht in the Netherlands on its long delivery flight to PNG.

Source: World Airline News

Winning design selected for MvM memorial

Passage THE LATEST ISSUE of Memorial News, the newsletter of the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society, has announced that sculptor James Parrett has submitted the winning design for a national memorial to be constructed at the Australian War memorial next year.

The sculpture, entitled Passage, will mark the horrendous loss of life that ensued from the invasion of the New Guinea Islands in 1942 and the subsequent sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

James Parrett says of his design: “My immediate response was to create a work that would protect the memory of the people who lost their lives as well as the tragedy of the event itself.”

He has sought to provide a timeless abstract design that will also be of appeal to future generations and that has both physical and aesthetic integrity.

The sculpture will be fabricated in stainless steel and stand about 3.5 metres high. The design is based on the manipulation of circular forms, and refers to themes of physical and personal journeys and the ocean.

An explanatory text panel will be placed adjacent to the memorial and provide a brief account of the events it commemorates.

The design was recently approved by the Australian War Memorial Council and will require final works approval from the National Capital Authority.

Commissioning of the sculptural memorial will not occur until it is fully funded.

The Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Society – which is now over halfway to its funding goal of $400,000 – still needs support if the memorial is to be completed next year, the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the Montevideo Maru.

Visit the website here -

We, the Lote speakers, called the Melkoi


WE ARE THE Lote language speaking people, called the Melkoi. We are clan-based people and our geophysical identity is called after one of the three or so big rivers that demarcate and intersperse our land.

The Melkoi people occupy the area that covers the vast south western end of the Pomio District that extends from the south western coast line into the northern foothills of the central Nakanai range that forms the middle range of the New Britain Island.

The Lote language is one of the 800-odd languages spoken in Papua New Guinea and one of the 15 or so spoken in New Britain. There are 2 or 3 sub-languages spoken by groups of our people especially up in the hinterland at the foothills of the Central Nakanai Range.

The 2000 National Census confirmed the population of Lote speaking Melkoi people at 6,805 - 15% of the population of the Pomio District.

We are a matrilineal society with the female members of our clans being custodians of clan lands and traditional intellectual property. This means that inheritance is derived from the mother’s side of the clan. I

n the olden days, this role was strongly respected and adhered to in relation to distribution of resources such as land and inheritances. Nowadays, the male members of the clan tend to usurp it by taking charge of land and resources distribution and usage according to their personal plans and purposes.

Our diets are mostly vegetarian not by culture but by availability and use of types of foods that our people can access. Protein such as fish and meat are occasional treats especially during feasts and times of fishing and hunting. Our people are fisherfolk as much as pig hunters.

Like many parts of the New Britain, our people have had relatively long contact with the outside world though not as long as our compatriots the Tolais in the Gazelle Peninsula in terms of economic development.

Melkoi people have the resources. However these resources cannot be easily converted into liquidity as the people do not have the know-how and technology to do that.

They aspire to acquire modern technology and to transfer know-how that is sensitive to their cultural values and customs, environmentally sustainable, and socially conducive to their participatory involvement as partners in their own development.

These people desire to make sense of their current state as producers of raw materials and upgrade their standard of living to some respectable level. They are always willing and have been rising to the challenges of working the land and carrying agricultural activities to earn their livelihoods.

Our youths, who cannot continue onto higher educational levels or securing jobs in urban or development project sites away from home, often return to the village and like their fathers and mothers till the land for family upkeep and cash crop initiatives.

But it is always a “push-start” style of life for rural dwellers. That is why urban drift, law and order, abuse and misuse of substance, HIV/AIDS and other social problems are on the rise even in rural areas.

Unfortunately, the government instruments and programs, as well as private sector services, do not seem to be making positive impact on the rural farmers and communities despite their demonstrated willingness to help themselves in terms of social, economic and commercial development utilising their own resources including land, manpower, time and natural environment.

Our government development policies and programs are not realistically connecting to the efforts and aspirations of our rural dwellers.

You can download 'We the Lote speakers'  here

Basil Peutalo is the founder and director of the Freedom Sustainable Livelihood Foundation, established to assist the development and progress of the Melkoi people.

All these are mine


THIS POEM was penned in 2004, at a time when I had no idea, why I was bothering to write, nor even if there would ever be an avenue for sharing my work. It all seemed so insignificant.

Over the years I had filled the pages of thee old diary books, back-to-back. The books were destroyed some years ago and I wonder now what material was lost, what thoughts, what words.

But I continued to write my sketches after that. Sometimes one feels compelled to write. ‘My thoughts drive unwilling hands’.

This poem is dedicated to the efforts of the team of PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier. With my deep gratitude,


These Thoughts are mine
But for now the Words remain Unspoken
Is it not Good to know the Pleasure and Pain
Of Love and Loss and Life?

These Feelings are mine
And arise besides my Intent and Meaning
Can I have Erred or been Misled
And did I not feel their Rapture?

These Dreams are mine
And Haunt me still
In Silent Pools of Memory
Their Ripples stir Impatiently.

These Wishes are mine
But for now remain as Whispers
Will they Prevail with Time and Tide
And Become my Justification?

These Promises are mine
And for now remain Unbroken
Is it unwise to speak of Hopes and Dreams
And the as yet Untainted Future?

These Mistakes are mine
And I alone have suffered their Griefs
Would that I had lived it Otherwise
And not Withstood their Torture?

These Questions are mine
And for now remain Unanswered
Will answers be Sought or soon Emerge
Will they bring Peace or Madness?

These Truths are mine
And I know them well
‘There is a Light and the Night surrounds it’*
Grief lurks in the Shadow of Laughter

These Paths are mine
And I have yet to Tread them
The Heart may sigh and come to Rest
But the Soul forever Quests.

These Deeds are mine
Who is to judge their Conclusions?
What have I yet to do?
I cannot, must not say

For Silence too is mine
Even as the Ink Speaks from these pages
My Thoughts drive Unwilling Hands
How can they still be mine?

* A line from Ursula Leguin’s novel ‘The Tombs of Atuan’

Isurava: They saved us; so we supported them


George Cops SERGEANT GEORGE Cops, pictured here in November 1942, stood in the rank of ragged bloody heroes listening to one of the great entreaties of Australia's World War II story.

His 39th Battalion was starved, wounded, decimated but defiant after horrific battle with Japanese forces at Isurava on Papua New Guinea's Kokoda Track.

They were young militia men who had stood firm and unbowed in the face of immense odds, relieved on the front line at a literal deathknock by better equipped men of the 2/14th Battalion in August, 1942.

"We were exhausted, utterly exhausted, completely exhausted," Mr Cops said.

Revered Colonel Ralph Honner told them that the ferocity of the battle meant every man would count and that they would need to return to help the boys of the 2/14th.

"The troops were quite happy about that, even though we were exhausted," Mr Cops said at his Ocean Grove home this week.  "They were really our saviours; it was only fair we stay and support them.

"There is no doubt had they not arrived we would not have survived the next day."

So the 39th returned to battle without flinching, such was the mettle and the comradeship that stood for so much when Australia's liberties were at stake.

The site of the four-day Battle of Isurava is sacred in Australian history and the major memorial on the Kokoda Track. Its four stone pillars bear the sentinel words courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.

Mr Cops, 89, the Beeac store keeper for 30 years, lived those ideals as a member of the 39th.  He used words including ‘horrendous’ and ‘horrible’ as he recalled Isurava. He spoke of wave after wave of Japanese soldiers and the brutal jungle conditions, but he also used the term epic heroism to describe the actions of the 2/14th and others.

Tension was constant, death was always near.

After the main battle, he was sitting beside the track when soldiers passed carrying his mother's cousin, Ernie Lindgenberg, mortally wounded in the stomach. He buried Ernie the next day down near Eora Creek.

Mr Cops baulked at suggestion the Kokoda campaign might have saved Australia when so many other battalions were at work across the Pacific.

"But had we not held out and the Japanese got to Port Moresby, they would have had the perfect base," he said.  "There is a school of thought that the Japanese never intended to land on Australia, but I don't believe that for one minute."

Mr Cops rose to the rank of regimental sergeant major but rated himself no hero.

He turned to the words carved in stone to express what the Kokoda campaign stood for to Australians - courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.

"I think the four pillars at Isurava cover it pretty well don't they?" he said

Source: Geelong Advertiser

Never say die: PNG reaffirms NRL intent

RUGBY LEAGUE authorities in Papua New Guinea say they are still committed to their bid for a place in Australia's national competition.

It comes after prime minister Peter O'Neill told local media the bid was unrealistic.

Australian NRL chief David Gallop had earlier announced no new teams would be accepted.

Graham Osborne, from PNG's NRL bid committee, said claims the new government did not support the bid were untrue.

"They're [the government] not going to cancel the bid," he said.

Mr Osborne said the committee had been asked to review its operations and report back to the government.

"The previous government committed a terrible amount of money to this... if there's no outcome we'll wonder if the money is well spent or not."

Mr Osborne said there were eight to 10 teams vying for a place in the competition.

Source: Australia Network News

Urgent bills to include seats for women

RADIO AUSTRALIA is reporting that Papua New Guinea's parliament has been recalled to pass four major laws before next year's general elections.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill says legislation is needed to create the two new provinces of Hela and Jiwaka, provide 22 reserved seats for women, and retain the 20 provincial governors' seats.

Mr O'Neill says finances also need to be appropriated for the 2012 budget, due in November.

Political commentator Alphonse Gelu, quoted by Radio Australia, says the four pieces of legislation were on the previous government's agenda since 2007.

Dr Gelu says the government of former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare failed to pass the legislation because of "too much politicking".

He believes the current government will be hard-pressed to have the legislation enacted in time.

Wikileaks publishes first PNG leaked cables


US-embassy-cables LAST FRIDAY Wikileaks published 27 cables, all of them categorised as ‘unclassified', generated by the US embassy in Port Moresby between April 2006 and February 2010.

These are the first cables from the Port Moresby embassy to be disclosed by Wikileaks, which on 28 November last year released the first of over 250,000 leaked confidential diplomatic cables from 274 US embassies and consulates worldwide.

In this first collection from the American embassy in PNG, the cable of greatest interest - categorised as unclassified but marked “sensitive” - is entitled “Anti-Chinese outbreaks hit Port Moresby and Lae”.

The cable - which was copied to US embassies in Beijing, Canberra, Jakarta, Suva and Wellington – reports on the May 2009 riots in the two major cities which eventually spread to highlands’ and other towns.

The cable comments that “political leaders and police appeared surprised by the incidents” and that “rising anti-Chinese sentiment in PNG comes about at an awkward time for the Government, which is attempting to attract more Chinese investment, most recently during PM Somare's weeklong visit to Beijing in April”.

The cable then details information about how the disturbances began and spread, noting that “PNG residents tend to lump all East Asians together as ‘Chinese’. Chinese businesspersons now dominate the small- and medium-scale business world throughout Papua New Guinea”.

Analysing the riots, the cable observes that “the rising number of legal and illegal Chinese immigrants, most in the small business sector, has fed popular resentment.”

It quotes a ‘rioting youth’ as saying that: "We are frustrated with small Asian shops sprouting unnecessarily, selling cheap items around the city.  Who is allowing these Asians to come into our country and own small businesses which should be owned by Papua New Guineans?”

The cable then notes: "Embassy officers frequently hear similar comments from PNG nationals.”

Continuing its commentary, the cable says: “The government has not yet done much to reconcile its desire for PRC money with growing anti-Chinese sentiment among the public.”

The cable concludes with a section headed ‘The Government's Dilemma’, which is worth citing in full:

The recent outbreaks represent a departure from past violence. PNG violence has tended to be tribal in nature, reflecting the social makeup of the country.  No one tribal group dominates.  As a result, PNG has not seen nationwide violence against any one group.

The atomized tribal nature of the country has also kept strong national sentiment from emerging.  The latest disturbances stand out because protestors phrased their attacks in nationalist rather than tribal language.

The Government has yet to take a stand on the recent incidents beyond [then deputy prime minister] Temu's statements, no doubt because of the dilemma it faces inviting the very sort of PRC investment which stokes growing anti-Chinese sentiment by bringing in more Chinese immigrants and small entrepreneurs.

Unlike other Wikileaks’ cables, the Port Moresby material is not the stuff of scandal – but it does show that the Americans are very interested in what grassroots Papua New Guineans are saying and, as you might expect, that the US Embassy in PNG has a pretty good handle on PNG society and affairs.

You can read all the Port Moresby cables for yourself at

Are Kiwis showing us how to do it - again?


NzaidHeaderImage-2_03 NEW ZEALAND is only a small country but it has a big heart.  It also seems to sit a lot more comfortably in the South Pacific area than Australia. 

Perhaps this is why it seems to get some things right while Australia stumbles.  For instance, the Kiwis have happily hit their stride with a Pacific Workers Scheme while Australia is still bogged down in red tape.

Perhaps we can learn something from their activities in Papua New Guinea.  They seem to get more bang for their buck.

The following is lifted off their modest NZAid website.  They seem to have nailed the problems precisely, worked out what they can do and, in their modest way, got on with it.  Note the lack of spin. Decide for yourself.

Development challenges

Poverty is pervasive and income disparity is growing, despite several years of macro-economic improvement.

The recognised need to achieve broad based economic growth is restricted by deteriorating infrastructure and poor service delivery to rural areas.

Widespread law and order problems pose a threat to locals, constrain investment and inhibit the growth of the private sector.

PNG has the highest rate of HIV prevalence in the Pacific, which carries serious implications for society and could reverse development achievements made in recent years.

Gender inequality and violence restrict the ability of women to participate in economic, social and political life and is a root contributing factor to many development challenges in PNG


Continue reading "Are Kiwis showing us how to do it - again?" »

Kokoda – a bastard of a place to fight a war


Lt Col Campbell THESE DAYS it is considered a major feat just to walk the now peaceful [Kokoda] track, and we have celebrities and politicians grand-standing on TV about their great achievement in making the journey.

But they are not carrying a 70 lb pack and weapon, with poor, inadequate equipment and a dysfunctional supply and medical evacuation system reliant on unreliable air drops and native carriers – as magnificent as those native carriers usually were.  And, of course, no-one is shooting at them either!

But even now, the journey up the Kokoda Track is still measured in gruelling hours rather than distance and is now marked by the places where these men fought.  It remains enervatingly hot by day, bone chillingly cold at night, constantly rainy and enveloped by seemingly endless inhospitable jungle.

Today, we all acknowledge that just surviving the conditions on the track was a titanic struggle against the environment that imposed very great physical penalties on our men for every ignorant, thoughtless mistake made by the inexperienced staffs in Port Moresby and Australia.

There is no good place to fight a war, but New Guinea is indeed, a bastard of a place.   It is a place that our veterans still know well, for the hardships there are engraved in their minds and hearts.  They remember going up the “golden stairs” to Iori-Baiwa, slogging onto Menari, over Brigade Hill, through the searing heat in the kunai grass on the way to Efogi. 

They well remember climbing 3,000 ft in five miles up to Kagi, and clinging to saplings and roots on the way down to Templeton’s Crossing.  Then into Efogi village and two hours more to Isurava – where they were later to turn the tide against the Japanese in a major battle. 

They remember the ups and downs to Deniki and the first glimpse from up there of Kokoda down in the Yodda Valley below.  Gruelling, enervating, exhausting work – and that was just to get up there to fight the Japanese.

The battles these men fought are these days quite well recorded, and we now marvel at how incredulously well they fought with little support and under heart breaking privation - against a well trained and experienced, fanatical, and vastly numerically superior enemy who was previously undefeated.

These were perilous days. Malaya and Singapore had fallen, the Japanese advance through the Pacific seemed invincible, and Australia lay open to invasion. So Australians were uplifted in spirit and admiration when our brave diggers faced the overwhelming odds at Kokoda and acquitted themselves with such honour.

Kokoda then became, and remains today, a blazing symbol of national pride.

Extracts from a speech by Lieutenant Colonel Daryl Campbell at the 8 August Kokoda Day Commemoration on the Gold Coast

Photo: Lt-Col Daryl Campbell, along with his fellow Commonwealth commanding officers, salutes the fallen at the Kranji War Memorial in Singapore

Mineral ownership: lessons from B'ville


THE DEBATE on mineral ownership has resurfaced recently with the speech by Mining Minister Byron Chan regarding transfer of ownership from the state to customary land owners.

If one looks at the Wikipedia entry on mining in Papua New Guinea, its opening line is misleading. It states: “Up until 1970, there was little mineral extraction in PNG, but since the 1970s mineral extraction has dominated the national economy.”

That Wikipedia version of mining history is what most Papua New Guineans are taught to believe. The truth is that Australians were ripping off Papua New Guineans big-time at Bulolo in the late 1920s.

At the height of the Bulolo gold rush it was said to have the busiest airport on planet earth. What did the indigenous people of Bulolo gain from this?

In fact, once people start acknowledging that local landowners should benefit from resources, it is recognition of the legitimacy landowner claims of ownership of the resource.

Of course the Australian colonialists weren’t going to recognize landowner rights and to this day they still mislead their PNG pets via their agents in universities, think-tanks, chambers of commerce and media outlets.

Every red blooded Melanesian who owns land knows that the ownership extends to that which lies below six feet as well.

The biggest challenge to the colonialist view of mineral ownership was mounted by the Bougainvilleans. The Bougainvilleans never recognised the colonialist trespassing on their land for minerals.

In 1965 their objections to mining were rejected by the mining warden and there were confrontations between villagers and geologists throughout the year. In 1966, the Australian Federal Minister for External Territories went to Bougainville to address villagers regarding the mine.

In 1969, they took their case to the High Court in Australia but it was thrown out; in the same year cabinet in Canberra was briefed about the potential for Bougainville causing problems for an independent PNG.

In 1972, the year Bougainville Copper Ltd started production at Panguna, US environmentalist Richard West predicted in his book Rivers of Tears that the disputes on Bougainville would lead to civil war.

In 1987, the old Panguna Landowner Association was replaced by a younger socially, culturally and environmentally conscious team led by Francis Ona. Having being suppressed for over two decades, the younger generation now had to deal with massive social and environmental damage.

The kids had found the matches and the State was adding more fuel with its refusal to negotiate a better deal. The kids were hungry for justice and trouble began brewing in 1988 and exploded in 1989 into a civil war.

Continue reading "Mineral ownership: lessons from B'ville" »

Dev't never faster; benefits need sharing

Mmorris A CONFERENCE in Canberra has heard that the pace of political and economic change in Papua New Guinea has never been faster.

“There's a lot of things coming to a head,” says Matt Morris [pictured], a former economic advisor to the PNG government, now deputy director of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University.

“On the economic front the big issue is the investment in the LNG Project, which is expected to come on stream in 2014 and will bring huge revenues into government. So a key issue now is basically how to put the economic foundations in place now so that those resources are well managed.

“And then obviously with an election coming up next year and a new government, the window of opportunity for getting through some of the key reforms is very narrow indeed.”

Mr Morris said that, while the PNG economy is expected to grow about 9.3% this year, “a lot of these economic benefits are not being shared broadly throughout the population...”

“There [are] lots of stories in the papers and the media about financial abuse, particularly with the development budget and the trust funds, with a lot of secrecy over how state owned enterprises and other assets were being managed for people, and just generally not seeing services getting through.

“I think that's why there needs to be some fairly concerted action now to improve the way that resources are used so they do translate into better services. And the recent announcement of tuition free education is a good way of getting benefits out to ordinary people.”

Mr Morris said that while PNG “is a very complicated country”, there are some positives that give reason for optimism.

“One is the resilience of PNG and the ability of PNG to adapt to very rapid change. I think the other one … is the massive growth in mobile telecommunications across the country.

“From ten years ago when very few people had mobile phones, they were very much a luxury item, there's about 75% coverage across the country.

“It’s a sign that rapid progress can be made.”

Source: Radio Australia

Genia stars as Wallabies triumph at last


Will-genia THE AUSTRALIAN Wallabies have won Rugby’s Tri-Nations Trophy after a decade of being also-rans.

In Brisbane last night the Wallabies defeated the New Zealand All Blacks 25-20 after leading 20-3 at half time.

And once again it was the brilliance of Will Genia making the break with an awesome dummy pass that led to Kurtley Beale scoring the winning try.

Genia, already voted Australian Rugby player of the year, had earlier scored himself, tricking the defence with a dummy from a ruck near the Kiwi try line.

The 23-year-old PNG-born scrum half said later it was not an easy thing to beat the All Blacks.

“We’ve done something that the All Blacks have done so many times, so we’ll enjoy it but be humble.”

Asked about Australia’s chances in the forthcoming World Cup, Genia said: "“We will just enjoy winning the Tri-Nations and the World Cup will take care of itself.”

The Wallabies play Italy in their opening World Cup game in Auckland on Sunday 11 September.  The other teams in Australia’s pool are Ireland, Russia and the United States.

Rural community let down by banks & state


I CALL ON all state and commercial institutions to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to rural development.

In making this plea I will raise issues about discrepancies between political rhetoric and real development assistance on the ground in the Melkoi LLG area of Pomio in the East New Britain Province.

The crux of my issue is that the state and commercial institutions set up to assist and implement national development programs are not responding constructively and conscientiously to rural needs and initiatives.

These include entities like the National Development Bank, the Small Business Development Corporation, Electoral Offices and provincial agricultural advisors.

I am a newcomer to rural development, especially in the agri-business sector. But, having roots in the Melkoi LLG area, I have invested my own money to develop and support initiatives of my clan members and other related clans and sub-clans relations in the Melkoi area.

I have supported and set up several cocoa fermentaries and bought cocoa seedlings in partnership with other operators. In order to effectively manage and coordinate these initiatives by our people (who I have also assisted to set up small businesses in the villages) we have implemented a Memorandum of Agreement for those keen to be part of our program.

After five years, subscribers to the MoA can either continue being part of our program or go on their own. Our MoA has generated so much interest in many parts of the Melkoi area that 45 farmers have signed up while another 75 are waiting to sign.

Since we started late last year our operations have engaged various community groups – youth, women and sporting groups - to undertake work to generate their own income. The interest among rural farmers and the support of my clan and associated clans is very high, and of course expectations are likewise high.

Our investments are not only in cocoa trading. We have also invested in an oil palm block in the Biala District and two blocks of poultry farms at Nadzab on the Okuk Highway. I have more than ten employees in these agri-business initiatives.

These initial investments have exhausted my money.

So I decided to seek outside help. In order to seek a bank loan, I prepared a business plan and other documents with assistance from suitably qualified people.

Continue reading "Rural community let down by banks & state" »

Some ideas on strengthening PNG literature


THE WRITERS’ WORKSHOP in Port Moresby sponsored by PNG Attitude and the PNG Post Courier and hosted by the Australian High Commission is not far off now and the time seems ripe to float a few ideas.

The grand theme of this first workshop is the future of literature in Papua New Guinea.

As one of the organisers of The Crocodile Prize I’ve been pre-occupied with the subject for a while and have evolved, for better or worse, a few ideas which I want to share in the hope of kicking off the debate.

The first and most urgent thing that needs to happen is the establishment of a new Papua New Guinea Literature Board.

If the government cannot be convinced of the value of such a board, the alternative would be a Papua New Guinea Literary Foundation.

The establishment of a board, while allowing for a sound funding base, might be open to political meddling, propaganda and other problems, such as those now bedevilling the National Museum and Art Gallery.

The establishment of a foundation would be dependent upon finding a couple of large sponsors, not an easy task as the quest for sponsors for The Crocodile Prize demonstrated; we got there, but only just.  The risk here would be not so much political as commercial interference.

I reckon K1million would be needed to set up the organisation.  Running costs might be in the vicinity of K300,000 a year.

I would envisage a small group of trustees, a director and deputy director, and a small staff.  The trustees and staff would be gender even.

Given the limited opportunities for publishing in PNG, the organisation would have a small publishing arm. 

This is not a difficult thing to organise these days.  Small publishers in Australia often operate from home offices.  My publisher has an office on a yacht moored in a marina in Cairns.

The publishing arm should aim to produce about six books a year, probably Papua New Guinea’s capacity at the moment.

Given the paucity of bookshops in PNG, I think the organisation should be equipped with an online store to market its products.  This would include the ability to provide both print-on-demand hardcopy books as well as e-books.

The capacity to produce this sort of material already exists in PNG through companies like the Birdwing Group and Moores.

Continue reading "Some ideas on strengthening PNG literature" »

Mineral archipelago: Bougainville revisited?


TERRY KUNNING is from the Sibiag clan at Mindre village on the Rai coast. His community, and the people who depend on the Bismarck Sea for their livelihood, will be affected by the Chinese dumping their mine wastes into the sea.

Terry was recently quoted by Papua New Guinea Minewatch as saying : “The court has throw out our case so there’s no more thing to do. Maybe we take physical action… just like what Bougainville have done. That may be the last option.”

The other night I received a text message from Dupain Balim, who is a relative of Terry. Recently I featured her in my article The Matriarch of Mindre. Her message read (I’ve translated it from Tok Pisin):

Martin, goodnight to you and everyone. I arrived at home (Mindre) yesterday and when I went to the creek to bathe I saw trees being felled. Then I went to the river to fetch drinking water but I discovered that the well I had dug by the bank had been covered by an excavator. I am very frustrated and angry. Martin, I just wanted to let you know of my concerns regarding the destruction of trees and water sources.

Mama Dupain and the women of Mindre are some of the strongest opponents of the Basamuk deep sea tailings dump. They now have to travel long distances to fetch drinking water and do the laundry.

The nearby creek that once used to be their water source is dying due to the destruction of its catchment to make way for a Chinese township. Their gardens have been taken over by mine related activities. They do not want to see the sea destroyed as well.

Terry’s warnings should not be taken lightly. He is an ex public servant who was in Bougainville before and during the crisis. There are striking similarities between Bougainville and Basamuk.

In March 2000, The National newspaper reported that Cabinet documents released by the Australian Archives revealed that in 1969 the Australian External Affairs minister Charles Barnes warned that Panguna would produce problems for PNG.

Two decades later, in 1988, landowners demanded compensation for damage to the environment caused by Panguna. In 1989, Francis Ona declared war against the mining company.

Dr Kristian Lasslett of the University of Ulster and a Fellow of the International State Crime Initiative, has been researching state crime in PNG. Dr Lasslett says Francis Ona never wanted war against PNG nor did he wish to fight Papua New Guineans.

Continue reading "Mineral archipelago: Bougainville revisited?" »

Weaver ants – a natural traditional medicine


Weaver ant IN MY GARDEN in Waigani I noticed a strange ball – a bit like a football - hanging from a tree in the front garden.

The leaves on the tree looked deformed. They were bound together into ball-shapes, a bit like birds nests. Then the leaves died and it looked unsightly.

A week or so later the leaf-balls had grown much larger and spread further. On closer investigation, I found there were thousands of small reddish-yellow ants inside each one.

Another week passed and the balls had grown larger still, and there were more of them appearing on nearby trees.

Bemused I took a closer look and poked one of the leaf balls with a stick. Some ants fell on my face and started to bite me enthusiastically: quite painful - worse than a mosquito but not as bad as a wasp (refer to the Schmidt Sting Pain Index.).

One managed to get into my mouth and I inadvertently crunched on it. It tasted of lemon juice.

This is a species of weaver ant that lives in PNG and which is both very annoying and has a painful bite.  But it has some interesting properties. Colonies can be extremely large, consisting of more than a hundred nests spanning numerous trees and containing more than half a million workers.

A week later my cousin-brother came to visit.  He had a very bad cold - maybe the flu - and I offered to get him some medicine from the chemist.  But he looked through the window and said ‘no need, my medicine is in your trees’.

He stood underneath one of the leaf-ball nests and whacked it with a stick - whereupon thousands of furious weaver ants dropped on his head and started biting him.  He bravely stayed the course and let them do their work for some minutes, then washed his face.

He said, "That's out traditional PNG medicine for colds and flu".

Apparently you can also put them in boiling water and breath in the vapour, or drink the juice.

Sure enough he got better in a day or two.

It is known in medicine that weaver ants can fight infection and people who live near them do sometimes use them as a medicine. The ants have a strong chemical, formic acid, in their bodies which they use to protect their nests.  In humans it can help to fight infections.

Heather Watson limbers up for the US Open


Watson_Heather THE UNITED STATES tennis open starts tomorrow and young Miss Heather Watson, Papua New Guinea’s sweetheart and presently ranked 104 in the world, has got a direct entry into the main draw.

Unfortunately the “tennis gods” were not favourable to Heather in the draw.

Her first opponent is none other than a previous title holder (2006) and a former world number one, Miss Maria Sharapova of Russia, who is seeded 3.

Nevertheless, Heather can gain more experience from this draw and she can be assured of playing on centre court at Flushing Meadows, New York.

If this is a night match, then the crowds will be there. Yes, a big learning experience.

Ireland defeats PNG in AFL world cup


IRELAND CAME from four goals down to win the 2011 International Cup, defeating Papua New Guinea by 18 points at the MCG.

It is the Warriors' second major title on the world stage and an unforgettable performance enjoyed by all spectators at the home of football.

It was a fitting end to the International Cup, claimed in spectacular fashion by the never-say-die attitude of the Irish.

For Papua New Guinea, they'll be ruing their missed opportunities in front of goal and the chance to be the first side to win back to back titles.

Unfortunately for the Mosquitoes, it wasn't meant to be, despite dominating the first half and having their chance to build a match-winning lead at the main break.

In the end Ireland was simply too determined and too good, claiming their second International Cup by 18 points over the team they defeated in their golden year, 2002.

It was a highly entertaining match where there were huge pack marks, crunching tackles and clutch goals from the boundary. All in all, an excellent exhibition of the quality and style of international footballers playing the great game.

The opening quarter was riddled by turnovers as both teams tried desperately to get over their opponents' defensive walls and settle some early nerves.

PNG struck the first blow through Ali Pinda (No.13) and player of the tournament Stanis Susuve (No.21) followed up with another major before the Warriors could register a goal.

Ireland had plenty of chances in the term but couldn't find a target in their forward-50. When Fergal McManus (No.4) stepped up for the Warriors and kicked an all important settling goal before the Mosquitoes hit back as David Meli (No.7) took advantage of a free kick just before the quarter-time siren to push his team's lead out to 14 points.

PNG picked up where they left off in the second term as Brisbane Lions scholarship holder Brendon Beno (No.1) showed the reason why he's got the potential to have a long and successful AFL career with a classy goal to extend his side's lead to four straight kicks.

Ireland emerged from the long break determined to get off to a good start and that's exactly what they did. McManus kicked his team's first for the term, and second of the match, then he followed it up moments later with another goal to get his side within five points of PNG.

The stage was set for a cracking final term and the star of the match Michael Finn (No.9) showed his class by kicking a crucial goal from outside-50 on the boundary, his third for the match, to put his team into the lead for the first time.

With 12 minutes to go on the clock, PNG was not going to let this match slip but despite having their chances they couldn't put pressure on the scoreboard.

Ireland was two goals in front when Purcell kicked truly and with one hand on this year's International Cup, the Warriors fought until the end to claim the title by 18 points for the second time.

Ireland 8.5 (53) def Papua New Guinea 5.5 (35)


The originals: The first of the post-war kiaps


ANGAU 1944
Thanks to that great kiap, Bill Brown MBE, a District Commissioner of Bougainville
in truly burdensome times, for sharing this historic photograph

SYDNEY - The passing of the years dulls the memory. Sometimes the name of a man who everyone knew so well back then has receded to some murky cavern of the mind, proving nigh impossible to retrieve. 

PNG Attitude’s contributors have sought to reconstruct this group of stalwart men, the first of Papua New Guinea's post-war kiaps – and this is where they have got to so far:

Back Row, left to right: 1 - Michael Conroy; 2, 3,4 -Unknown; 5 – Hitchcock; 6,7 - Unknown; 8 - Watson; 9 - Geoff Herkes; 10,11 - Unknown; 12 - Kingsley Jackson (District Commissioner, retired 1973); 13 – Unknown;14 - Cassidey

Middle Row, left to right: 1 - George Tuckey (kiap, died Kundiawa, c 1946): 2 -McKinnon; 3 - Unknown; 4 - Dudley Young-Whitford (Patrol Officer and Assistant District Officer, died 1958); 5 - Des Clifton-Bassett (District Commissioner, retired 1973); 6 - Breakespear; 7 - Grainger 'Blue' Morris (possibly Registrar of Cooperatives); 8 - Unknown; 9 - Doug Parrish (kiap, later Secretary for Labour); 10 - Harry West OAM (District Commissioner, later Secretary, Department of Native Affairs); 12 - Brian Connelley; 13 - Eric Flower (kiap, later Executive Officer Department of Administrator); 14 -Russ Crooks

Front Row, left to right: 1 - TEH Strehlow (anthropologist); 2 - Jim McCauley (lecturer in history, ASOPA luminary, celebrated Australian poet); 3 - Unknown; 4 - Dudley Jones (later a solicitor in Rabaul); 5 - John Black (1946-1948 Assistant Director, District Services and Native Affairs); 6 - Colonel JK Murray (PNG Administrator prior to Sir Donald Cleland); 7 - Ralph Piddington (anthropologist); 8 - John Andrews (lecturer and later Professor of Geography, University of Melbourne); 9 - John Legge  (later Professor of History, University of Melbourne); 10 – Lieutenant Peter Ryan MM, kiap, author, publisher and commentator); 11 - Sgt Major Stead  (later at ASOPA)

That breed of men known as kiaps – call them what you will, assistant resident magistrates, patrol officers, whatever – made their presence felt on the island of New Guinea from the late 19th century.

Now, even the most recent era of the kiap - that reconstructed after World War II - is steeped in history.

In what is now Papua New Guinea, these young men served Australia to build a nation for the Melanesian people of 800 fragmented tribes who spoke as many languages.

In less than 30 years, they brought those tribes together and made them ready to govern themselves as a nation state.

It was a mission they accomplished with great effectiveness and minimal disorder.

Some among these now old men continue to deny their achievement or the political circumstances in which it took place. 

They should not.  I was there back then. I saw what they did.  I have had no reason to change my mind on their outstanding if sometimes unorthodox contribution to creating a democratic state. 

Without them Papua New Guinea could not possibly have been created.

The vivid photograph above, taken in 1944, is a telling image, of particular note because of the identities of many of those young men, some of whom rose to great heights in their administration of the colony and thereafter, some of whom died in service or were afflicted by lifelong illness or hardship.

When this photograph was taken, a number of these men were serving as wartime soldiers and knew well the terrain and challenges of the colony. Many went on to become significant figures in the pre-independence story of Papua New Guinea. 

Their names and their  personal stories are honoured.

In the front row are their instructors; some great names there also.

Harry West OAM (middle row, fourth from right), one of the great kiaps, wrote in PNG Attitude some years ago:

Then in 1944, Army routine orders sought applicants to attend a School of Civil Affairs for aspirant patrol officers.

I was interviewed in Cairns by Colonel Murray, later the first Administrator of Papua New Guinea, Les Haylen, the Secretary of the Department of Territories and a Federal MP, along with numerous others and 40 ended up at Duntroon.

After five gruelling months, 18 of the 40 were returned to their units, six were sent to Borneo and the remaining 16, including me, to PNG.

Australia took Papua New Guinea very seriously in those days.  It expected much of its administrators. It selected only the best.

Of the 40 men who attended this first kiaps’ course in 1944, only 22 graduated.


Australia is improving its visa services

Visa THE OPENING of two Australian visa application centres in Port Moresby and Lae will result in faster processing of applications.

Australian High Commissioner Ian Kemish has announced changes that will see visa lodgement hours extended from 8.30am-4.30pm on weekdays, almost double existing access times.

Phone lines will also be open to handle questions and enquiries from 8.30am until 7pm on weekdays.

“We’ve listened to the feedback from our clients, and I am pleased to announce the establishment of two Australian visa application centres in PNG,” Mr Kemish said.

“I am especially happy to say that travellers in Lae will now find it considerably easier to gain access to visa services.

“As Australia’s closest neighbour and the largest Pacific Island country, it is only right that it is here that Australia looks to improve our visa processing systems in the Pacific,” he said.

Work on opening the new shopfronts is underway, and the offices will be open to the public between September and October. Staff will be trained to a professional standard and applicants’ personal information will be protected in line with Australia’s privacy rules.

Applications will continue to be assessed by the visa and immigration office at the Australian High Commission.

Source: Australian High Commission

Mobile phones a double-edged sword

A STUDY BY Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Amanda Watson has explored how new mobile technology has been changing people’s lives, social structures and relationships in Papua New Guinea.

“We are talking about rural areas which had little or no access to modern communication technologies and in many instances were still using traditional forms of communication such as the drum,” Ms Watson said.

Ms Watson, who is completing her PhD, said the study of almost 750 people from 10 villages found that while most people were generally positive about the communication benefits of mobile phones, it was how they were using the technology that was most surprising.

“Instead of using mobile phones for business or to improve their economic status, people related the benefits mostly to the enhanced communications they could have with family and friends who were living away from home villages,” she said.

“It suggests that social uses of the technology, rather than functional uses such as searching for jobs or coordinating logistics, mark the key benefit felt by rural villagers in PNG.”

But Ms Watson said there were also concerns that mobile phone technology was leading to marriage breakdowns.

“For example we were hearing stories about someone seeing their partner engage in a private conversation using a mobile phone, either talking quietly or text messaging, and this was causing jealously and tension within the marriage,” she said.

“So there was definitely this feeling that mobile phones were leading to more instances of marriages falling apart.”

Ms Watson said there were also difficulties associated with owning mobile phones such as the cost of the calls and the logistical challenges of charging a handset battery without easy access to mains power.

Source: Pacific Media Watch

PNG not supported for NRL expansion

PAPUA NEW GUINEA has more public relations work to do in Australia if it is to qualify for entry to the National Rugby League.

PNG received just 7 percent of votes in a poll asking which teams should be included in a possible NRL expansion in 2013.

The NSW Central Coast polled best with a decisive 46% followed by Perth 23%, Central Queensland 10% with PNG in fourth place just ahead of the Brisbane Bombers.

Despite the poll results, the general feeling is the Brisbane Bombers and Perth remain the favourites to be added to the competition.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

The realities of climate change


A poem for the sinking Carterets islanders

Right before me, I see my island sinking;
My very own island- birth place- Carterets

My source of drinking water is inundated by the rising sea level.
Inch by inch, day by day, the beautiful shoreline erodes and disappears
Together with my rich island traditions
Bewildered and confused, I watch my island being claimed by the sea.
My very own island, my birth place
How do I explain all these to the future generations?

Hopelessness sets in
I will lose my island lifestyle
My source of provider -the sea,
The coconut-hatch house styles and patterns
The mangrove seeds and swamp taros
The care free island living without security concerns
Now all that I will leave behind

Will I maintain my diving and sea ferrying skills?
Will I ever wake each morning to see the horizon again?
Will I ever continue to build coconut hatch houses?
No more, they become useless on land
So how do I survive on new land with my island skills?

Will I have the same status and respect in a new land?
Will the respect and feeling of oneness be maintained?

I am now asked to relocate to a new land in Bougainville:
There, I will lose my culture and my tradition;
I will lose my identity and status;
I will lose my island lifestyle;
I will lose my birthplace;
Clans divided and families separated
The well embedded chieftain system;
The respect and feeling of oneness;

Who am I in a new land?”
My future hangs on uncertainties
Carteret beach Please assure me it’s all a bad dream
For I don’t want to lose my very own island
My birth place
My Carterets Island

Beatrice (29) is a Bougainvillean who works as a Port Moresby-based program coordinator with one of the Australian Catholic agencies for international aid and development.  She studied at Divine Word University in Madang and ahs since worked as a development officer with a number of non-government organisations



See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are ever before me - Isaiah 49:16 (NIV)

Engraved on the palms of God
You are the art of His heart
Bounded in His love
And dear parents you make us bounce in laughter of joy
Pounds of peace we gained from your supportiveness

We walk with patience
On the path of your kindness
The shower of goodness
 Being raining on us faithfully

The gentleness of your care
Took us through a lane
Where we are driving with self-control
And it’s written all over the pages of this song
That God has engraved you to reflect his glory
To this dark world.

ABC program on Day of Repentance ‘puzzle’

TONY EASTLEY, ABC AM host: Papua New Guinea is marking its newest public holiday - Repentance Day, but the holiday was announced with little explanation and it's left many people confused. PNG correspondent Liam Fox explains.

LIAM FOX [PNG correspondent]: Like a religious vision the announcement came out of the blue. Eleven days ago a government press release declared 26 August to be the National Day of Repentance and it would be marked with a public holiday. The statement was two sentences long with no explanation of the purpose or significance of this new public holiday.

JACK EDWARD: Basically a time when we ask the people of our nation to come together and pray and ask the Lord to forgive us for the wrongs that are happening in our nation.

LIAM FOX: Pastor Jack Edward from the Shema Evangelism Ministry is the Repentance Day coordinator. He says it used to be an annual, informal day of prayer but two months ago a group of churches asked the then acting prime minister Sam Abal to turn it into a public holiday. Pastor Edward says Mr Abal agreed and hey presto, PNG has a new state-sanctioned day off.

JACK EDWARD: So everybody can find time to go to a church and pray or if they cannot able to, then stay back in their house and also pray for the country.

LIAM FOX: What do you think non-Christians will feel about this holiday?

JACK EDWARD: Well, I think they will, some of them will have questions about it. Most of them will think why are we doing anything, what is the reasons behind that but we feel this is a national issue.

LIAM FOX: It is a predominantly Christian country but there are other religions here. There are thought to be more than 4,000 practising Muslims in PNG and their spiritual leader is Imam Mikail Abdul Aziz. He's not against the idea of Repentance Day but says it could send the wrong message that reflecting on one's wrongdoings can be done just once a year.

MIKAIL ABDUL AZIZ: No, not only one day. We need to repent every time we do wrong, we must repent and will not commit it again.

LIAM FOX: Businesses in particular have been left confused by the sudden creation of a new public holiday.

DAVID CONN: We've suddenly been told a couple of weeks out that, you know, Friday is not a working day and you just close down or if you keep operating, it means you have got to pay double pay.

LIAM FOX: David Conn is the CEO of the Port Moresby Chamber of Commerce. He's says there's been so few details about Repentance Day he had to get a copy of the Government Gazette to confirm today is a holiday.

DAVID CONN: I think we've finally convinced our members that it is actually a public holiday. A lot of people thought it wasn't, a lot of people have been arguing the toss with us that it’s not.

LIAM FOX: Prayer ceremonies are due to be held across the country to mark Repentance Day. But it remains to be seen whether Papua New Guineans turn out en masse to atone for the sins or just relax and enjoy a long weekend.

Source: ABC AM Program

Canberra deckchairs: new envoy canned


LUCY BOGARI, the woman named in June as Papua New Guinea's next high commissioner to Australia, has had her appointment revoked.

Charles Lepani, the current high commissioner who has lived in Canberra with his family since early 2005, has also had his appointment as PNG's next ambassador to the Americas scrapped. Both postings were due to have taken effect last month.

Sources have said Ms Bogari would have been the first female PNG high commissioner in Canberra. Senior PNG bureaucrats have been quoted as saying it is was "unprecedented'' for such appointments to be changed once public announcements had been made.

The about-face is said to be a source of embarassment for Mr Lepani whose promotion to Washington was common knowledge in Canberra's diplomatic circles early last month.  Neither Mr Lepani or Ms Bogari could be reached for comment.

The confusion over who would be representing PNG diplomatically in Canberra has come at a sensitive time in the relationship between the two countries.  Preliminary negotiations over the reopening of the asylum-seeker detention centre on PNG's Manus Island were only resolved in a memorandum of understanding signed in Port Moresby last Friday.

Insiders have told The Canberra Times PNG's current Ambassador to the Americas, Jeremy Paki, had threatened to take legal action if he was recalled to make way for Mr Lepani. 

The PNG government - already enmeshed in controversy over choosing a successor to the ailing prime minister, Sir Michael Somare - had chosen to run with the status quo. A senior PNG official said yesterday this was not the case.

Stephen Barampataz of the PNG Foreign Affairs and Immigration Department said the decision to retain Mr Paki, a lawyer and a Harvard graduate, as ambassador to the United States, Canada and Mexico, was the result of a July cabinet reshuffle. He did confirm Mr Paki's contract had only been renewed in 2010. Mr Paki has held the prestigious post since 2003.

Mr Barampataz said Ms Bogari, currently PNG's deputy secretary of foreign affairs and trade, had been named High Commissioner to Australia in June at the same time Mr Lepani's posting to Washington was made public.

"(After the July cabinet reshuffle) the government decided to reverse the decision to remove Paki,'' he said. "Charles Lepani was reassigned back to the High Commission in Canberra.''

Mr Barampataz said Mr Lepani was expected to occupy this position for the "foreseeable future''. Ms Bogari was reassigned to her old job.

Earlier this month Sam Abal, the man appointed acting prime minister while Sir Michael Somare was undergoing medical treatment, was dumped.  A new government, headed by Peter O'Neill, is now in office.

A former radio journalist and PNG high commissioner to the Cook Islands and later New Zealand, Ms Bogari has been forced out of top jobs before.  In March, 2007, the PNG Cabinet appointed her secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

This was not acted upon and on April 19, 2007, the incumbent, Gabriel Pepson, had his term extended by another three years.  Ms Bogari, by then a deputy secretary in the department, was suspended by Mr Pepson that August.  The PNG National Court ordered her reinstatement in September 2008; a decision it took another month and the threat of further legal action to enforce.

Ms Bogari, who is widely regarded by PNG observers, was the acting secretary of Foreign Affairs only weeks before the decision to post her to Canberra was announced.

Keith Jackson, a long time PNG watcher who was the first to report Ms Bogari's posting to Canberra on his website, said pragmatism and personal relationships drove much of what happened in government circles in that country.

"They call Papua New Guinea the land of the unexpected,'' he said.  "Few things (of this nature) come as a surprise.''

Source: The Canberra Times

re: For immediate attention of the new govt


SO, THE OPPOSITION, with a bunch of disgruntled (or opportunistic) MPs on the former government benches, moved swiftly and installed a new government for PNG.

It was certainly a piece of high political drama, at which PNG excels, and provided a contrast from the incessant infighting within the ruling party. Whether the process stands up to legal scrutiny will not be discussed in this column, beyond noting that it clearly enjoyed an absolute majority of MPs and that there’d been a disruptive power vacuum hitherto.

Former Acting Prime Minister Abal should be commended for seeking to hold a somewhat unruly team together, and trying to impose standards, including launching an overdue inquiry into abuse of customary land (SABLs), in defiance of some party powerbrokers, and penalising some senior Ministers for apparent abuses (e.g. over licensing).

Ultimately, however, Abal’s extended acting appointment was a poisoned chalice, lacking the universally-accepted mandate over power-hungry colleagues required to impose the discipline necessary for effective administration.

The wider public, and some MPs, were dismayed by the incessant revelations over apparent financial abuse, particularly over the Development Budget and trust funds, and secrecy over the State-Owned Enterprises and how far PNG’s assets had been mortgaged for the LNG development.

The litany of financial transactions seemingly falling outside the budget process, budgeted funds reportedly diverted for unapproved purposes, and untendered, improperly tendered or uncompleted projects, seemed to be cascading, and a clear halt needed to be placed on this, by one means or another.

Even if only a fraction of the reported abuses were valid there seemed adequate justification for intervention to safeguard the public interests from malfeasance and complacent lack of accountability.

With the next Election looming there was wide public anxiety that substantial public funds needed for basic public services, especially at District level, would be squandered to fuel electoral interests or siphoned off for other purposes.

So, what’s the difference now, with a new team, or partially new team in power? The former Ministers controlling the major financial institutions under the former government (widely termed the kitchen cabinet), have now been weaned from their succour, which comes as an immense relief to many concerned over their seeming indifference to public accountability.

But who are the new team in government, especially with control over public funds and resources, and what are their policies and commitments? Will they be any more accountable than their predecessors?

Continue reading "re: For immediate attention of the new govt" »

New govt provides opportunities for Australia


THE APPOINTMENT earlier this month of Peter O’Neill as prime minister of Papua New Guinea will provide much needed stability for the state.

As Mr O’Neill outlines his new agenda for PNG, Australia should seek to re-engage with its troubled neighbour.

Throughout its history, PNG governance has been assured by the strength of coalition governments. Yet, the shift in alliances within the coalition government elected in 2007 produced the change in leadership to Mr O’Neill’s minority Peoples National Congress Party, from ex-prime minister Sir Michael Somare’s, formerly dominant, National Alliance Party.

Currently the stability of this new government is constitutionally assured over the next 12 months until planned national elections in June 2012. However, scepticism remains about the impact of the internal challenges produced by this form of handover on PNG’s relations with Australia.

Crucially then, Australia must position itself to re-engage with the new government on mutually beneficial aspects of Mr O’Neill’s new national agenda. Key policies include Australia’s engagement within the PNG liquefied natural gas project and, negotiations for the reopening of the Manus asylum-seeker detention centre.

Australia must pursue a smooth transition of relations with the new cabinet, while seeking to avoid any repercussions following Mr O’Neill’s promise to establish an independent commission against corruption to investigate public, political and private sector corruption.

Currently the reshuffle of power has ensured relative stability to the PNG LNG project, with former petroleum minister William Duma retaining his position.

The LNG project is a $15 billion dollar investment that is currently set to come online in 2014. Yet proper management of the revenue from the LNG project is crucial for future relations between Australia and PNG.

Previous Australian involvement led to the establishment of sovereign wealth funds, to manage project revenue effectively and ensure re-investment of the resource wealth into the wider PNG economy and to complement foreign aid investment.

Mr O’Neill has further attempted to bolster Australian-PNG relations, by agreeing to preliminary discussions, regarding the future of the Manus asylum seeker detention centre.

Australian use of the Manus facility will provide political and economic “win-win” outcomes for both nations, and strengthen fledging relations between Mr O’Neill’s and Ms Gillard’s governments. 

Continued pursuit of Australian foreign policy objectives in PNG must survive speculation that Mr O’Neill’s new government ‘hijacked’ the Parliament.

Although ratified by Governor-General Michael Oglio, the new government still faces legal objections by ousted former acting Prime Minister Sam Abal.

The next month will see the future success of the new PNG government outlined. It will have limited time to pursue its goals and justify its position, before momentum stalls under the pressure of looming national elections next year. 

Source: Future Directions International

Ten years of peace yields mixed results

ONE OF THE ARCHITECTS of the peace in Bougainville says 10 years after the formal end to the civil war, the results are mixed.

The Bougainville Peace Accords were signed in Arawa in 2001 - four years after a New Zealand initiative brought about a truce in the protracted conflict.

John Hayes, a New Zealand diplomat at the time, says there have been several achievements.

“People are not killing themselves, women are not dying in child birth, people are not being raped in a lawless community,” he says.

“I think our police have done a great job. It’s good that we’ve got economic activity slowly, slowly improving.

“Perhaps on the other side of the ledger it’s a bit disappointing that we haven’t created more jobs around utilising Bougainville’s undenied fish, timber and tourist potential.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Brain operation gives new lease of life


Jacob Gubi ON WEDNESDAY Jacob Gubi had life-saving surgery for free at Monash Medical Centre in Clayton, Victoria

Jacob was booked in for a craniotomy under monitored sedation, where doctors opened his head and remove a tumour while he was awake.

Head of neurosurgery Andrew Danks said he performed this procedure, where patients are put under a local anaesthetic and remain conscious, about six times a year.

“We need to have his cooperation to help us work out which areas of the brain are doing what,” Associate Professor Danks said.

“We can tell which areas of the brain control what by stimulating it during surgery. That gives us a guide to what we can take out and what we can’t.”

Mr Gubi is having the procedure to remove a brain tumour which is causing severe seizures and preventing him from working back home in Mendi in the Southern Highlands.

He had his first seizure in 2007. “I was sitting next to a fire and had a severe seizure, and I burned my right foot,” Mr Gubi said.

He spent the next six months in hospital recovering from serious burns, and had all the toes on his right foot amputated.

His seizures continued, preventing him from doing his job as a health extension officer. He held fundraisers to get enough money to come to Townsville for tests in 2009.

Doctors told him a lesion on his brain was causing the seizures, and quoted him $10,000 for an operation to remove it.

“I just don’t have that sort of money,” Mr Gubi said. “I went back, and I could not do anything.”

But then, this year, the 35-year-old met an old friend, Peter Tumu, from Australia who was visiting PNG, and things changed rapidly.

Mr Tumu approached Scots Church in Australia, which donated $10,000 for the operation. Brighton Grammar also donated flights and travel insurance, and Southern Health will donate all other medical costs.

Mr Gubi said he was very grateful for the donations which would save his life.

“It’s a great big relief and I think in Papua New Guinea these things are not possible,” he said. I am one of the lucky ones. I don’t know how I would thank them.”

Source: Waverley Leader

Court to rule on legality of government

THE FULL BENCH of Papua New Guinea's national court will hear a case challenging the appointment of prime minister Peter O'Neill.

The five-member bench will be asked to consider a petition from the East Sepik Provincial Government, which has asked for a ruling on the legality of the prime minister's appointment.

The petition has called for the court to determine if there was a vacancy when Mr O'Neill took the role, and if parliament needs to declare a vacancy before electing a new prime minister.

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia says the case is legally and politically sensitive. He said he wanted the case heard, and concluded, by early September.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill was elected by 70-24 votes after more than 40 disgruntled government MPs joined the opposition early this month.

Lawyers for the ousted government of acting prime minister Sam Abal say there was no vacancy. Mr O'Neill's lawyers say parliament has the power to elect a prime minister.

Source Australia Network News.  And a small personal tribute to Ian Carroll, who built Australia Network News - amongst many other media monuments - and who died last week.  Always a staunch man; a person I liked a great deal; and a man whose work I admired, especially when he was doing it tough - KJ

PNG are favourites for Rules grand final


AFL USA V PNG THE MOSQUITOES Australian Rules football team is the first through to this year’s International Cup Grand Final in Melbourne following their convincing 47-point win over a gallant USA Revolution.

Papua New Guinea is now in perfect position to become the first team to win back-to-back Cups after producing another scintillating performance in front of hundreds of supporters at Royal Park.

Credit to USA who gave their all as key forward Bryan Dragus continues to shine in the stars and stripes.

It has been an improved performance by USA in this series and their journey will give the players a lot of confidence heading into the next tournament in three years time.

From the opening bounce of the match, the Mozzies showed their class, style and skill by kicking the first goal through Stanis Susuve (#21) within the opening minute. It was a lead they never let slip.

In a bruising and physical match, the USA threw everything at the Mosquitoes but they were no match in the end.

Trailing by 36 points at halftime, USA hit back in the third quarter but couldn’t curb the rampaging PNG midfielders and forward line.

While USA played gallantly in the loss and had their stars they couldn’t reduce the end margin, falling short by 47 points.

For PNG on the other hand, they continue their undefeated streak in the tournament and will head into the grand final as deserving favourites.

Stanis Susuve was again a standout for the Mosquitoes kicking four goals while Emmaus Wartovo (#12) and Gideon Simon (#4) were also instrumental in the victory.

PNG will now play the winner of the Ireland and New Zealand match for a shot at this year’s title.

Papua New Guinea 9.14 (68) d USA 3.3 (21)


Repentance Day: How then shall we live?


WITH TOMORROW being Papua New Guinea’s first National Repentance Day, let’s take some time on PNG Attitude to reflect on its significance.

During the term of the last government our then acting prime minister, Sam Abal, and the National Executive Council were convinced that such a commemoration was pivotal to national change. I could not agree more.

And so, tomorrow, Friday 26 August, is National Repentance Day for Papua New Guinea.

My humble question is: do Papua New Guineans understand the meaning of repentance? And therefore do we understand the significance of this day?

Perhaps its earliest usage of repentance in the English language (at least in the Bible) was when it appeared in the King James Bible exactly 400 years ago.

It is an expression especially familiar with the Christian faith. “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is at hand!"

Christians proclaim to this lost world, echoing the Lord Jesus and his announcer John the Baptist. I’m not sure if we really know what we are saying. Non-Christians or the irreligious would probably baulk at this concept; concluding confidently that it does not apply to them.

Christians would embrace it ecstatically; believing its high time the whole nation repents or at least appreciates its eternal importance.

In chasing the definition of repentance, the most obvious meaning jumps out: change of mind. The English word repentance comes from the Greek word matenoeo which simply means “change of mind”. It can also refer to “change of conduct” and “change of consciousness”.

Change of mind means changing beliefs and perceptions on a certain subject. If not believing something in the past, repentance means now believing it. In the Christian context, repentance means believing in the Lord Jesus, having previously not believed and turning away from sin. If I did not think a certain way before, I would now embrace that way of thinking.

In the Christian context repentance is associated with sin. True repentance is supposed to mean no longer allowing sin to reign in us. In the ordinary non-religious context repentance generally relates to changing the way we think.

On both notes I think PNG is well overdue for repentance. Never before has changing of the mind been so vital to national progress than it is today. We cannot continue in our way of thinking if we are to see real long-lasting change in our nation.

This is something that Patriots PNG has been campaigning for (changing of mindset) since its inception and which the church has been pushing for since coming to PNG (repentance from sin and faith in God).

Steve Biko, in the movie Cry Freedom, says it clearly: "Change the way people think, and things will never be the same." Change in thinking is supposed to naturally show in the conduct.

I do not know exactly what stifles our progress as a nation. But I have a clue that it has a lot to do with our mindsets: individually and collectively.

Continue reading "Repentance Day: How then shall we live?" »

Mooted mining law poses risk to landowners

A SENIOR Australian academic says Papua New Guinea landowners will need proper legal representation and guidance if the PNG government introduces proposed changes to the country's mining laws.

The government is reviewing existing laws to revert ownership of resources under the land and seabed to the traditional owners.

Professor Spike Boydell from the University of Technology Sydney welcomes the move to make compensation for landowners more equitable.

But he says there's a risk they won't be properly advised when dealing with mining companies and could sign away their property rights for inadequate financial gain.

Asked if the proposed laws would “scare off” some mining companies from investing, Prof Boydell said: “There are a lot of resources in Papua New Guinea. I don't think that those resources are going to diminish if they investors look at other opportunities in the short term.

“What it will potentially mean is that the customary landowners will ensure that they understand what they're getting into much more clearly and they have time to reflect on the opportunity.

“So I don't think investors will go away for a long time, because they know they're dealing with significant mineral wealth, so I think that's just an understandable reaction and potentially an intimidation of the government and the government will have to show a lot of resolve if they're to deal with that sort of perception.”

Source: Radio Australia

Court stymies bid to remove financial powers

THE NATIONAL government has sparked controversy by trying to remove the financial powers of the Morobe and East Sepik provincial administrations.

But Morobe governor, Luther Wenge, has successfully won a court action to stay the government’s move.

The government’s action, which is also being considered for Oro Province, would severely restrict the ability of the provinces to operate.

PNG correspondent, Oseah Philemon, says people are mystified by the government’s action, which has been done without investigations by the Finance Department or the Auditor General.

“Normally these investigations would be carried out first and the reports compiled and presented to the government and then based on the recommendations of the investigators,” Mr Philemon said.

“The government then can take whatever action it sees fit, such as withdrawing the financial powers of those provinces. But that hasn’t happened.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Aust'n crew arrives to set up Manus centre


THE FIRST Australian crews have arrived on Manus Island to begin planning work for the new immigration detention centre.

The Australian has confirmed that a small team of workers from Toll Remote Logistics arrived on Manus Island on Monday.

The three-person team is on the island to begin preliminary scoping work for the centre, expected to accommodate between 400 and 600 asylum-seekers.

The visit came as Australian prime minister Julia Gillard moved to distance herself from suggestions her decision to reopen Manus, which along with Nauru formed the Howard government's Pacific Solution, represented another broken promise.

The Prime Minister said Nauru was a "one-out" arrangement driven by the arrival of the Tampa in 2001. "We will have a bilateral arrangement with PNG now, but we will stay engaged with our region on the question of a regional assessment centre," Ms Gillard said.

Last week the government signed a memorandum of understanding with PNG to reopen the Howard-era detention centre, located at the disused Lombrum naval base. Initially, the role of the Manus centre was to "complement" the government's arrangement with Malaysia.

But with the future of the Malaysia pact in doubt, Manus could take on an elevated significance. It is understood the scale of the project has yet to be determined and negotiations with Port Moresby are continuing.

But project insiders said construction was likely to begin within a few weeks, although The Australian has been told the company has yet to finalise its contract with the government.

Source: The Australian

Chinese legislator meets Pacific politicians

A SENIOR Chinese parliamentarian, Yan Junqi, met with a delegation of politicians from Pacific Islands nations in Xinhua on Tuesday.

Speaking highly of relations between China and Pacific Islands countries, Yan said China will continue to deepen cooperation in all areas and bring bilateral relations to a new high.

Yan is vice chairman of the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China's top legislative body.  He also briefed the guests on China's system of multi-party cooperation and political consultation under the leadership of the Communist Party.

Chief delegate Lord Tuiafitu, deputy speaker of the Parliament of Tonga, said Pacific island countries greatly value their relationship with China and steadily abide by the One-China Policy.

He hailed the achievements made by the Chinese people and expressed hopes for further friendly cooperation with China in all areas.

The delegation, including politicians from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Vanuatu, was invited by the International Department of the Communist Party of China.


Somare discharged; will turbulence ensue?


SIR MICHAEL SOMARE has left hospital in Singapore after a four-month stay during which he came close to death after surgery for a heart condition.

And the new O’Neill government must be contemplating how to deal with his return to Papua New Guinea.

Even a convalescing Sir Michael may prove a catalyst for his demoralised National Alliance Party, now in opposition, to start recontesting the political turf.

Sir Michael, 75, has been in a hospital since April during which time he had three heart operations and experienced post-operative complications.

His son Arthur says Sir Michael was discharged yesterday.

“He is walking; he is eating regular meals,” Somare Jr said. “He's certainly got an appetite to start reading again and (he’s) keeping himself informed.”

But he said it will be some weeks before Sir Michael gets back to PNG.

Somare Jr says Sir Michael will not be taking part in the legal challenge that's currently underway against his removal from office during his absence.

In what has been described as “an unconstitutional act” and a “coup”, a majority of Sir Michael’s governing alliance crossed the floor of parliament to join the opposition, after which Peter O'Neill became the new prime minister.

Sir Michael’s return to PNG in the context of court cases challenging the constitutional propriety of the move against his government could pose a critical moment for the country.

It is possible that his presence back in PNG, which he has served for so long with distinction, could trigger a backlash against the new government.

Much will depend on the attitude that Sir Michael takes to the events that cost him office while he was on his sickbed.

If he responds to them as just part and parcel of the political process, the nation will get on with business as usual.

However, if he reacts adversely, the new government could find itself dealing with an indignant mood in the community, particularly if the new government seems to be failing to implement its ambitious reform agenda.

Joe Mucksing: quiet gentleman; Sepik legend


JOSEPH MUCKSING, 75, a highly respected legend of the West and East Sepik Provinces, died last Thursday and was buried in Aitape yesterday.

Joseph passed away at the Raihu Hospital, Aitape, surrounded by some of his loving family. He had many offspring by three wives and they are spread throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Joe was born at Ali Island in 1936 and his father a Malaysian Wolung died during the war.  His mother Maggie remarried Pat Mucksing and they lived at Wirui in Wewak, and Pat was one of the best mechanics around.

Maggie came and stayed with us when the Aitape Hotel had its opening in 1971. She was a delightful lady and in her young days was very beautiful. She was of mixed parentage, Wuvulu Island & Danish.

She was given a hard time during the war and told us she had to jump into an Aitape east coast river to save her daughter Ann when one of the villagers threw her in.

Joe worked for Collier Watson in Madang in the 1950s and later Burns Philp in Wewak. After hours he had his own band and was a very popular person around town.

In about 1970 he went to Vanimo and ran a store there and eventually he purchased a store from John Allen in Aitape and settled there permanently.

I have known Joe for over 50 years and found him to be an honest, humble, kind, trusting and true gentleman.

Unfortunately he was by nature a very trusting person, and many people played on this so he never made a fortune.

I know that many of the most important people of the Province never repaid his kindness.

He was a most loyal friend and I salute the memory of one of the finest sons of East and West Sepik.

The first victim: land move sparks share fall


AS NEWS filtered out of Papua New Guinea that the government wants to move ownership of resources to communities and away from the state, the share price of Harmony Gold tumbled.

PNG Mining Minister Byron Chan’s proposal to hand ownership of resources to landowners has led mining companies and analysts to warn that uncertainty could cut short the mining boom.

"This is playing with fire," Greg Anderson, director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum said. He has asked for an urgent meeting with prime minister Peter O’Neill.

The implications for Harmony are not immediately clear. The firm is in a 50-50 joint venture with Australia’s largest gold miner, Newcrest, at the Hidden Valley mine and Wafi-Golpu exploration project that some analysts have described as a "company maker" for Harmony.

Mr Chan told Radio Australia last week: "The law says the state owns everything six foot under, both on land and under the sea. We’d like to change that, possibly almost immediately, to revert the ownership back to the landowners, and relinquish the state from owning anything."

The government would be a regulator and the landowners would have a direct relationship with mining companies.

"No talks have taken place as yet and we can therefore not comment," a Harmony spokeswoman said.

Harmony closed 5% lower on Friday despite the record high gold price.

Source: Business Day

Who owns PNG’s mineral resources?


I HAVE WRITTEN previously about the contrast between traditional Melanesian concepts of land and resources and those that have developed in the so called Western World.

Ask any former Kiap about traditional Melanesian customary land ownership. They’ll no doubt have plenty of experiences of how difficult it was to gingerly walk through a minefield of previous disputes and conflict.

The essence of any debate over who owns national resources cannot be settled at individual village level since individual ownership of resources is not an accepted concept.

Disputes over clan ownership of land and resources were traditionally settled by clan warfare and then endless debates over compensation for what some had lost in the heat of the moment.

Theatrical performances were also very important to provide entertainment and to give vent to pent up feelings of frustration.

Hundreds of years ago it was resolved that the King (or Crown) owned everything and that the subjects owed their continued existence to the Crown. That got around the problem of joint ownership of resources.

Then a gradual weakening of this concept happened due to a rising merchant class who established that the private ownership of some assets was permitted however even these assets could be resumed in times of national need.

To long for a return to traditional Melanesian ownership customs is a blissful but impossible dream.

Any impasse must be resolved by compensation, but the complex issue remains of who deserves what level of compensation. Results of a successful compensation claim are liable to be disputed and become a matter for the courts.

The managers of resource extraction companies can then get on with the job, however they can be held legally liable for any action.

Another question that hasn’t been successfully addressed is the responsibility for what’s left after the resources have been extracted.

Laws could be passed to ensure that a percentage of any profits from extraction are quarantined so that the land can be returned to future generations in a useable condition.

Yet who will ensure these funds are held inviolate and don’t atrophy due to mismanagement, theft or inflation?

Since mining companies can disappear, clearly responsibility for future restitution must lie with the government. But governments have been known to slip away from their responsibilities.

Perhaps the solution could be summed up by the expression: ‘It ain’t broke, so don’t try and fix it?’

You can read Byron Chan's landmark speech on resources ownership here

Security remains an issue for LNG project

THE HEAD OF Esso Highlands Ltd, Peter Graham, says security remains the developer’s chief concern in its liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea.

Reports from the Hela region, where the project is being constructed, claim some workers are dissatisfied with security provisions and that there is a high turnover of staff.

Mr Graham, admits the recent incident at Komo, where a foreign worker was severely injured in a bushknife attack, is a concern.

“To everyone: to the community, to the supervisors and the workforce and obviously ourselves, our first priority is the safety and security of our people and the community in which they operate,” he said.

“We’re working now in a very vigorous fashion with all parties to try and make sure that we move forward from that incident; take the lessons learnt and apply them.”

Mr Graham denied claims that the LNG project isn’t hiring enough Highlands people, saying that ,1400 of the 1,800-strong workforce at Komo are Papua New Guineans.

He also said that for every equipment operator, there is a national shadow being trained to take up the job.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Trouble in Hela ... and a K20 cry for help


Hela Singsing TARI TOWN, in the Hela lands of the Southern Highlands, is at a time of monumental change associated with the LNG project.

The Huli peoples are promised benefits associated with natural resource extraction. However, reality paints a different picture, as local communities are concerned about the outcomes of the project on their culture and environment

I recently spent 10 days in the area, speaking with as many people as I could, with translation help of a Malua clan chief who walked into Tari town with me on numerous occasions. I attended a Huli funeral and explored the nearby forests of the Tari Gap.

I was upset by the stories I heard from the people and sights I saw both in town and in the forest. It seems the $12 billion ExxonMobil LNG project, commencing extraction in 2014, has negatively influenced social and environmental conditions in the Tari basin.

People are very confused about the project - some show optimism, but most show skepticism and, overwhelmingly, all have declared that their collective clan rights as landowners and promised benefits sharing is not being adhered to.

Rabis Wara Several people complained that parts of their ancestral lands were acquired overnight without prior consent. A road widening project associated with the LNG project has sullied the town’s drinking water and was a visible sight from the Highlands Highway going through the town.

Inundation Much of the soil and mud has been draining down the hill leading into Tari town and entering a wetland area where watercress is still being harvested by local women.

Further uphill towards the Tari Gap, a local Huli chief of 38 clans who runs a small eco-tourism venture has complained it has become harder and harder to spot once plentiful Birds of Paradise species such as the King of Saxony (Pteridophora alberti) and Ribbon-tailed Astrapia (Astrapia mayeri).

Steven Wari says: “Every year I notice fewer sightings of these birds. Someone ought to come and do a count”.

What could be the cause for their decline? One reason might be logging of their forest habitat. Local people are now being paid by the numerous infrastructure projects in the region to provide timber for housing construction on an unprecedented scale.

On the side of the Highlands Highway towards Ambua one can see piles and piles of logs collected from the forest and trails of underbrush destruction in their wake.

Road Scene One late afternoon, I was walking into Tari town looking down at the muddy road to watch where I was stepping when a local landowner stopped and chatted with the chief. When the chief told him that I was a tourist to the region, he came and handed me K20 with tears streaming down his cheeks.

He had lost a large piece of his land from the road building and never received compensation. My friend explained to me that he and the fellow families in his clan would not be able to survive growing sweet potatoes on their remaining land and wanted me to use the money to tell the people of my country what was going on here and to help the Hela peoples.

I refused his money, but his utter despair deserves attention.

There appears to be a disconnect between the $30 billion that is expected to be generated from the project and the perceptions and experiences of this unique culture, the future of their use and access to resources on their land, and the rich and endemic biodiversity found here.

For more information on the impacts of the LNG project, check out

Is Rev Malthus’s theory relevant to PNG?


Essay_on_the_Principle_of_Population MORE THAN 200 years ago, the Rev Thomas Malthus wrote about the dangers of population growth in his famous treatise, An essay on the principle of population (1798). 

Malthus maintained that one need only look at human history to understand that populations will eventually outstrip the means to maintain themselves. "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man", he wrote.

Living at a time of strife and turmoil due to the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution and the American Revolution, Malthus took a pragmatic view of the world and warfare, famine and disease.

Given that one cannot change human nature, as a clergyman Malthus believed the perils of overpopulation were divinely imposed to promote ‘virtuous behaviour’.

The contentious Corn Laws had been introduced to protect British agriculture but had impacted severely on the price of food. There was plenty of labour and wages fell to the point where it was again economical to grow more food, whereupon the cost of food dropped.

However a never ending cycle appeared to be inevitable. Once food prices were reduced, the population increased past the point where food again became scarce. Then the population diminished through misery and hunger.

PNG’s population of nearly seven million has doubled over the last 30 years and is set to double again. Some people are now expressing doubts as to the nation’s ability to sustain future population growth when traditional methods of food production cannot produce large surpluses.

The imminent introduction of profits from the sale of LNG may well be pushing rental prices in Moresby through the proverbial roof. Yet this is another example of local supply and demand.

If the price of food also increases due to demand outstripping supply, one could expect further adverse social pressures on those who can least afford them.

Perhaps the new PNG government should try not to be blinded by the glow from the LNG project. Planning for PNG’s future is now more important than ever.

Claims LNG project could cause Hela unrest

An NGO in the Southern Highlands has warned that the impact of the LNG project on families in the Hela region could cause unrest.

Hela Community Care (HCC) says many families who have been displaced by the construction of roads, airstrips and other infrastructure for the ExxonMobil project have not been resettled or compensated.

Some landowners, particularly in the Hides area which is central to the project, claim they’re enjoying major benefits, including improved services and infrastructure.

However HCC’s John Tamita claims that the project has displaced many people and offered too few of them employment.

“It may be a disaster coming up,” he said.

“They’ve chopped the neck of a couple of Asians who worked on the new airfield in Komo.

“And most likely, its also going to be taking place here (Tari) too.

“A lot of our residences demolished; no payment; we are struggling now; our lives become useless, they didn’t consider us.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Cellphones help reduce health problems

MOBILE PHONE technology is being used to help reduce some of Papua New Guinea’s health problems such as the high infant mortality rate.

Although still struggling with both poor health statistics and rising poverty, PNG is a country which enjoys good cellphone coverage, despite its remote regions.

Ruth Bruce from Kinross Group has been making regular trips to PNG to introduce the health sector to mobile technology which gathers data from remote health outposts.

She says it enables central health officials to find out quicker about medical issues as they happen “rather than the problem getting worse and them finding out two or three months later when it has turned into a pandemic”.

“It’s that immediacy of working with people at the real front of medicine, or medical help, getting the assistance from what we’d call the back office: being able to know what’s going on, and help them,” she said.

Ms Bruce says the system was introduced in June 2010 in Western Province under the Sustainable Development Program and is also used in Bougainville.

Source: Radio New Zealand International