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169 posts from September 2011

Trading on our strengths in a changing world

Abel_Charles In a candid appraisal of the task ahead, Papua New Guinea’s new Trade Minister CHARLES ABEL outlines his strategy to reform the national economy through a greater focus on its inherent strengths

OUR RELATIONSHIP with Australia is fundamentally important in all respects and it will continue to be so into the future.

The trade balance with Australia favours Papua New Guinea to the tune of some one billion kina a year and our trade with Australia represents 50% of our total trade.

The bulk of our exports to Australia are gold and petroleum, and our imports from Australia comprise a wide range of manufactured goods.

PNG faces a similar dilemma to that which Australia is grappling with: an economy heavily reliant on the export of raw non-renewable mineral resources.

We also face a similar situation with other resources like tuna and timber where huge value is lost because the value-added processing happens in other countries.

Much of the value that is derived is squandered through an inefficient bureaucracy and 'leakages'.

Our discourse with friends such as Australia and the packaging of their assistance programs should be (and is) about improving governance to better translate our natural wealth into infrastructure, services, and law and order, removing bureaucratic impediments.

By achieving this we can lower the cost of conducting business in PNG.

Trade starts with producing goods at internationally-competitive prices, but right now we can't add value competitively onshore.

My concern, though, is that we have other 'impediments', cultural and otherwise, that mean we will always struggle to compete with countries like China, India and even Australia in terms of manufactured goods, so need to build a sustainable economy based on other competitive factors.

And what are these?  Well, they are a strong blend of a small population, an intact and wonderfully diverse environment and culture, and huge - if finite -natural wealth.

Global circumstances such as climate change, food shortages and overpopulation are telling us that things have changed.

Accordingly, we should not attempt to follow the traditional industrial path because we will not be competitive, and the global environment is telling us this is not sustainable anyway.

We must also be wary not to fall for the same old rhetoric that has led to much of the third world being a source of cheap resources for the first world.

Rather we should be asking friends such as Australia to help us build a new economy based on carbon credits, clean water, ecotourism, biomedicine, environmental research, and clean energy.

With our tuna stocks, investment in rice production and cheap hydro and gas, we have sustainable sources of food and energy.

This offers us the prospect both of self sufficiency and the ability to sell the vast surplus to the rest of the world.

If this is combined with population control, we have the basis of a sustainable, environmentally friendly, competitive economy.

Our economic and trade policies must all come from this clear and deliberate perspective otherwise we will be forever responding to symptoms rather than cause with an outcome of unacceptable poverty levels despite our huge wealth.

Charles Abel is Papua New Guinea’s Minister for Trade, Commerce and Industry

Aussie & PNG troops combine in Exercise Night Naip

Night Naip AN AUSTRALIAN Commando Platoon Group and Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) soldiers recently conducted Exercise Night Naip at the Goldie River Training Depot, near Port Moresby.

The exercise involved the deployment of soldiers from the Australian 2nd Commando Regiment to conduct a range of combined activities with the PNGDF over three weeks.

The focus of the exercise was to provide advanced individual infantry skills training for non commissioned officers from the First Royal Pacific Islands Regiment (1RPIR).

The training consisted of a series of advanced dry and live fire, close combat activities using the range facilities at Goldie River Training Depot. The Commandos also mentored PNGDF participants in medical, signals and amphibious skills training.

Deputy Special Operations Commander Australia, Brigadier Mark Smethurst, visited Exercise Night Naip along with PNGDF Commander, Brigadier General Francis Agwi, and both were impressed by the training, skill and commitment of the soldiers involved.

A team of 12 commandos and five PNGDF personnel also walked the Kokoda Track from Kokoda to Owers Corner. Over the 96 km of the trail, the commandos, all with recent Afghanistan combat experience, took time out to reflect on the deeds of their forebears.

The team carried all of their own rations and equipment for the duration, completing the trek in five days.

A further highlight of the exercise involved the Commando Tactical Trauma Team, consisting of a doctor and two medics, being deployed with the field team.

Led by the 2nd Commando Regiment medical officer, the team visited a number of villages surrounding Goldie River Training Depot and provided medical assistance at Port Moresby General Hospital Emergency Department.

The practical experience gained in the trauma ward proved to be excellent continuation training for the medical team, prior to their forthcoming deployment to Afghanistan.

Source: Australian High Commission

Naval aviation anecdotes from old PNG

On a recent visit to Queensland, I asked former naval aviator BRYAN MATTHEWS, who lives on the Sunshine Coast, to recall for PNG Attitude readers some stories from his experiences in PNG waters

Bryan 80th Bryan Small IN 1956 I was one of two helicopter pilots aboard HMAS Melbourne operating in Papua New Guinea waters. At this time there were no helicopters at all operating in PNG.

The helicopters were used to transport personnel and mail to ports in PNG. At each landing place there was always a circle of police personnel (if I recall correctly, they were known as polisbois but were men) dressed in their standard uniforms of laplaps.

As the helicopter approached it was obvious that the police were scared stiff as one could see their knees and laplaps shaking, but they did not run away.

After the helicopter had landed and the rotors came to a stop, the police, a few at a time, were allowed to come up to the helicopter to get a close look and touch these weird machines.

The choppers were 'poked and stroked' by the police amid much chatter and laughter. When we were ready to leave, the police formed into a full circle again and, once the rotors started turning, the knees and laplaps resumed shaking.


A decade later, in 1966-67, I was serving on board the fleet tanker HMAS Supply. On one occasion, the ship called in at Port Moresby to refill the naval fuel oil tanks there.

Whilst alongside the wharf, I saw a 25-foot container being lifted by hand by labourers. They surrounded the container and placed their fingers under the lower edge. Then at the command of one of them, they lifted this huge container off the ground and marched it down the wharf. I had never seen anything like that before in my life.


It had been some years since the fuel oil pipes had been used, so they were all visually checked prior to pumping the oil from the ship to the tanks on shore.

Notwithstanding the checks, after about 40 minutes pumping one of the joints parted and oil fuel spilled into the water. Pumping was stopped immediately and clean-up operations begun using oil dispersant and large floating sponge-like hoses to contain the fuel.

The ship was unaware that a representative of the oil dispersant manufacturer was in Port Moresby at that time, attempting to sell the product to the Port Authority.

These negotiations were getting nowhere until the Port Authority personnel saw a wonderful display of the effectiveness of the dispersant provided by HMAS Supply.

An order for a large amount of dispersant was placed and several of the ship's officers were shouted dinner that night by the representative of the manufacturer.

Bryan Matthews was an aviator with the Royal Australian Navy for which he flew both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters

Inflation remains high throughout the Pacific

INFLATION REMAINS high and is rising in most Pacific countries says the ANZ Pacific Monthly economic update.

Both Timor-Leste's and Fiji's inflation readings remained above 10%. while Papua New Guinea's approached double-digits, driven by food and fuel prices combined with strong domestic demand.

In response to the pressure from inflation, Papua New Guinea hiked its policy interest rate to 7.75%, up 0.75% this year.

The report said trade flows generally deteriorated in the region, although Papua New Guinea was the stand-out, recording export growth of 18.3% in the first quarter of this year. Imports to PNG were up 3.3%.

Source: The Fiji Times, 17 September

Oil Search makes new find adjacent to Kutubu

OIL SEARCH has said it has made a satellite oil discovery near its producing Kutubu field in the Southern Highlands.

The Hedinia-10 exploration well has been drilled to a depth of 3,850 metres and work is underway to evaluate the primary target Toro sandstone.

Oil Search said elevated gas readings and oil shows were observed and preliminary interpretation indicates that an oil column of 20 metres is developed in the upper Toro sandstone.

The plan is to complete the evaluation to confirm fluid content in the sandstone.

Subject to results, a sidetrack will be drilled to establish the potential of the discovery.

Source: Upstream Online, 16 September

Bougainville’s myopic politics harming development


AS A YOUNGSTER, back in the 1980s, I knew that taking up arms to deal with Papua New Guinea and its financier, Bougainville Copper Limited, was the best thing for us to do since we had no other hope.

Our life—a Bougainvillean lifestyle—was fatally compromised. Shamelessly, non-Bougainvilleans flooded our land, whilst the Panguna mine meant the media painted us as the better-offs.  But the copper and gold did nothing good for us Solomons’ Bougainvilleans.

But sadly, even after all we’ve been through, even after successfully showing the world we are human beings and need to be respected, we are still struggling with bad politics and lies.

Politicking and lies have for too long been our cornerstones. In the early 1990s, men waited for non-existent German or American submarines to deliver weapons at Marau beach in Banoni, South Bougainville.

Then Noah Musingku came in, with his UV-Stract scam that has affected our people so badly and saw him walking away with their hard-earned money.

These two examples are well-known to us but there have been numerous lesser known small-scale politicking and lies that deny us progress in economic and other forms of development.

In Bougainville, all people know that economic development is a must for the island. People need jobs to keep occupied and contribute responsibly to our common good. But our culture of politics is something I consider to be an impediment to progress.

BCL’s Peter Taylor told the Australia-PNG business meeting in Madang that:

There is a very wide consensus on Bougainville today that peace and continuing good order will be best achieved by economic means. That the normal aspirations of the people for a good life and a fulfilling future for their children will be delivered by employment, training, regular and income, infrastructure and business activity.

History tells us that the mine wasn’t opened in the best of circumstances. It was opened on the eve of Papua New Guinea becoming independent. There wasn't a province of Bougainville at the time, constitutionally at least, so neither the province nor the landowners were consulted to any great degree. And there was some resistance to the mine being opened.

Economic self-sufficiency is an important goal for Bougainville, particularly when its people are endeavouring to become highly autonomous within PNG, and also to address the question of independence, which requires revenue developed by major projects such as a re-opened Panguna.

Peter Taylor’s views are exactly what most Bougainvilleans have in mind. But the problem is that, in Bougainville today, just coming out of the 10-year crisis and recent (pre crisis) history of Panguna - still fresh in the hearts and minds of the people - we have a politically fluid atmosphere and liars take opportunity to lure people to their cause.

Some people are supporting a cause directed against the Autonomous Bougainville Government or a for the various Meekamui factions’ doctrines.  It is quite hard to bring these tactics into the full light of day.

Also it takes time for people to change after seeing no good. People have been hardened by the recent past.

Continue reading "Bougainville’s myopic politics harming development" »

O’Neill readies for first official visit to Canberra

ON WEDNESDAY 12 October Peter O’Neill will make his first formal visit to Canberra as prime minister of Papua New Guinea.

The topics O'Neill and Julia Gillard will discuss will range further than aid, now rebadged as a "development partnership".

They are likely to talk about PNG's plans for sovereign wealth funds to quarantine its windfall mineral earnings, Torres Strait health issues, a proposal to pipe hydro-electric power from PNG to Queensland and, of course, processing asylum-seekers on Manus Island, which O'Neill supports.

"Asylum-seekers are a regional issue," he says. "We, too, have illegal immigrants entering our country, particularly from Asia."

The new leader brings to the position a different style from Sir Michael Somare.  He is also different from the extrovert "big man" leaders who have previously emerged from the Highlands.

O'Neill has already impressed by rapidly introducing bills to make education free up to Grade 10 and to create a seat dedicated for women in each province, guaranteeing that the new parliament will have at least 22 women MPs where now it has just one.

"Women deserve to participate in the decision-making process and in the management of our country," he says.

His next urgent legislation is to create a new province for his home area, the Southern Highlands, where PNG's first liquefied natural gas project is being built by ExxonMobil, and which Southern Highlanders have threatened to destroy if they do not get their own provincial government in time for next year's national election.

Read the complete version of Rowan Callick’s excellent feature article here

Source: ‘Highlander with big shoes to fill’, by Rowan Callick, The Australian, 16 September

Decision on Somare removal tomorrow

A decision will be made just before the PNG parliament sits tomorrow on whether correct procedure was followed in removing Sir Michael Somare from his East Sepik regional seat.

The decision could affect the legality of the O’Neill government, which was established in early August after a controversial parliamentary vote declaring the prime minister’s position vacant.

Sir Michael is challenging this in the Supreme Court.

Tomorrow, Sir Michael wants the court to declare null and void his removal as the member for East Sepik on the grounds he’d missed three consecutive sessions of parliament without approval.

“If Somare is reinstated and he attends that means he has not missed three consecutive sessions of parliament,” said political observer Oseah Philemon.

“That means there is no vacancy in the office of the prime minister, so that is going to have a very, very big bearing on the decision of the Supreme Court.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International, 16 September

Less unity than at independence, says police chief

ACCORDING TO Papua New Guinea’s police commissioner, Anthony Wagambie, the country has become less unified since independence from Australia in 1975.

Mr Wagambie said PNG is slowly but surely advancing in all sectors but law and order remains a challenge.

He said since independence people have withdrawn into their ethnic clans, which is the cause of many of the problems the country experiences.

Mr Wagambie says Independence Day was not only a time to celebrate, but also to reflect and evaluate.

He called on Papua New Guineans to do the right thing for the country.

Source: Radio New Zealand International, 16 September

Novocastrians celebrate I-Day in formidable style


Little Pink Shoes THE NEWCASTLE Papua New Guinea Association and the PNG Newcastle Students had a great Independence Day party at Mayfield Diggers Club on Saturday night.

There were over 80 attendees and we had a great night of wonderful food, PNG items, traditional dancing, presentations and speeches, ending with a disco.

Don't underestimate the PNG-Australian relationship as it is celebrated by many communities around Australia come Independence Day, 16 September.

This was a family affair with many kids taking part in dancing, dressing in bilas and chasing red, yellow and black balloons all around the club.

We had traditional grace and a prayer from Pastor Rumbrawer, and a blessing from the local Aboriginal community elder, who said we were all brothers and sisters, and of course many PNG songs and anthems from everyone present.

We enjoyed the Pate Pate dance from the PNG ladies of Newcastle as well as New Guinea Islands cultural dances by the Hunter Valley PNG ladies, then PNG DJ's playing local favourites into the small hours. Some lucky people won airline tickets to Port Moresby in the raffle.

Group Dance I met many friends as well as some new guests from the latest students to come to Newcastle, including three nursing sisters and a doctor from Port Moresby General Hospital here on update training courses. This is an important example of how good can come from our relationships.

We also heard a presentation from Rod Ingersoll about his work for Rotary in re-equipping schools at Pogera and in the Eastern Highlands and re-establishing the nature reserve first established by Sir Edward Hallstrom at Baliem near Nondugl in the Wahgi Valley.

I suppose it was a small thing in the broad world of PNG-Australia relationships, but it was moving and powerful. We are just one example of what is repeated around the country each year.

Dance The depth of the relationships between PNG and Australia blooms around our two countries. I talked to one old expat didiman who said, "I say to my wife, never forget your PNG heritage, family and friends. It is part of what makes you so special."

His wife said, "I came to Australia 20 years ago, but I will never forget that I am a Simbu ambai. I love both countries."

I second those comments.

Lepani praises voluntary Australian assistance


HIGH COMMISSIONER to Australia, Charles Lepani, has used an Independence Day reception in Canberra to thank several Australians for help they are giving to PNG.

He said they represented charities and non-government organisations, and there was an Army colonel who paid her own way to PNG to distribute relief supplies to villagers.

People mentioned by the High Commissioner were:

Christopher Adams, of Cooma Rotary Club, and David Bryson, of Cooma’s Monaro High School, for promoting strong links with PNG students

Dr Genevieve Nelson, executive director of the Kokoda Track Foundation, and Anne Sophie Hermann, of Buk Bilong Pikinini.

John and Janis Kleinig of the Oro Community Development Project

Colonel Linda Reynolds of the Australian Defence Force

Mr Lepani and guests at Friday’s Independence Day reception at the Papua New Guinea High Commission also mentioned the Crocodile Prize Awards.

Somare apologises to PNG for prolonged absence

FOUNDING FATHER, Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare paid homage to PNG’s 36 years of independence late last week as he again left for Singapore for a medical check.

He also apologised to his East Sepik people and the rest of the country for his prolonged absence.

According to the PNG National Broadcasting Commission, Sir Michael’s political career appears far from over.

He is said to have “found strength in his hospitalisation and sacking as a member of parliament” and has vowed to continue serving Papua New Guinea.

Source: National Broadcasting Commission, 16 September

InterOil LNG changes put government offside

THE GAS developments by InterOil in Papua New Guinea are well positioned to profit from the booming Asian liquefied natural gas market.

However, a recent newspaper article suggested there is discord between InterOil and PNG officials.

Govt warns InterOil Ltd [PNG Post-Courier]

THE Government has warned that InterOil Limited, the developer of Papua New Guinea’s second liquefied natural gas project, that it was not carrying out the project as agreed to in the Project Agreement.

Minister for Petroleum and Energy William Duma yesterday issued the warning to InterOil Limited and its associate company, Liquid Niugini Gas Limited, the developer of the LNG project in the Gulf Province.

In a press release, Minister said: “LNGL was not proceeding with the project which was agreed to between the State and the LNGL in the Project Agreement on 23 December 2009.

“LNGL continues to misunderstand fundamentally the nature of the contractual obligations that it has under the Project Agreement, and is moving closer to repudiatory breach of the Project Agreement by proceeding with the Gulf Project.

“At this point, the State will have no option but to accept that breach and seriously consider terminating the Project Agreement.”

Mr Duma said he is to meet with the InterOil officials in the next few days to iron out the matter.

This sounds serious and, yes, Mr Duma does have something of a point. The agreement InterOil and the PNG government signed in December 2009 contains a plan for monetising InterOil's Elk-Antelope that has been subsequently changed somewhat.

InterOil's original plan was to build a large, traditional LNG plant next to its refinery at Napa Napa.

This plan shifted when Henry Aldorf came aboard (previously working at Marathon where he was responsible for building its LNG plant in Equatorial Guinea in record time).

The new plan involves a modular (expandable) LNG plant and a floating LNG plant, both in a different location (the Gulf province).

The new plan is at least a year and a half in existence and involves many advantages (faster monetisation, no re-injection of condensates, much shorter pipeline, shared infrastructure, cheaper pre-built LNG plants).

Contacts between InterOil and the government are continuing (the InterOil project is one of the largest prospective tax revenue generating projects in PNG), so it is simply unfathomable that the government was unaware of the strategy change.

Source: Seeking Alpha, 15 September

Port Moresby and that great writers’ workshop


TO SAY THAT Port Moresby is, by and large, a bit of a mess is a proposition I believe to be beyond contention.

That the city presents such an ugly gateway to the beauty of Papua New Guinea and the wonder of its people is more than a contradiction.  It is a shame.  But, even 40 years ago, when I knew the place so well, it was rather that way.

Whether it’s the shambles of the “members lounge” at Moresby International with beer cans overflowing from bins and an American sports channel blaring from the wall or the hit and miss nature of what happens when you order a meal or a coffee at the multiple-starred Crowne Plaza hotel overlooking Fairfax harbour, PNG’s national capital is a place of acquired seediness.

The traffic is dense, the vehicles ramshackle, the roads inadequate, pedestrian safety an oxymoron, the streets dotted with mounds of beer cans and coconut debris, the footpaths streaked with thin red trails of buai spittle.

In short, Port Moresby could be a most unprepossessing place.  Except for the people.  And they are the exception that proves the rule.  The rule that says it's not as bad as it looks.

Before my arrival, as I planned the trip, I thought it might be like this.  A city I didn’t hanker to visit (on my last trip to PNG I avoided it altogether) but with people I yearned to meet.  Which is what this essay is about.

The Australian High Commission – located in a walled compound with an impressive security gate and enough AusAID SUVs (40 I was told) to mount a plausible attack on Tripoli – is known by wags as ‘Fort Shit Scared’.

But the epithet is unjustified.  The seven or eight embassy staff I spoke with on the day I spent there, including high commissioner Ian Kemish, were anything but shit scared.  They were on top of their jobs, solidly addressing the challenge, and engaged realistically and productively with the country and its people.  They induced in me a high level of optimism and confidence.

Earlier in the day, in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza awaiting my transport, I observed various mining types maumauing the front desk, exhibiting the uncivilised manners of the worst type of colonial (I know of what I write, I was once president of an association that had more than its fair share of these).  The expressions on the faces of the traduced employees told the story: downcast eyes, frozen faces, shame on the lips. 

Continue reading "Port Moresby and that great writers’ workshop" »

Finessing the writing talent of Papua New Guinea


BEHOLD! The conscience of PNG speaks from the shadows no more!

I was most privileged and honored to take part in the inaugural launch of The Crocodile Prize Awards, which took place on Thursday at the Australian High Commission.

No-one would have known that on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, taking place behind closed doors was a birthing of the PNG writers’ collective resolve: to make writing as prominent as the eye can see, the nose can smell, the ear can hear and the mouth can spread the news, that PNG writers are not a dying breed. Far from it!

I found myself holding back my emotions as I gazed into the happy expectant faces of upcoming contemporary PNG writing pioneers and the assurance of the future of PNG literature.

A group united in spirit to make their mark on PNG’s future and its destiny. I felt an overwhelming sense of oneness with this eclectic group of vibrant and perceptive writers whose country is the bedrock of the content of their literary expressions.

PNG writing has come of age, olgeta! The new generation has discovered its own ‘wave of motivation and inspiration’ to drive their literary talent into the public domain.

Thanks in no small measure to Keith Jackson and Phil Fitzpatrick and the great support received through Keith’s PNG Attitude blog that saw yesterday happen. It was a labour of love that was not in vain.

I could hear and feel in my spirit that for each of these writers their literary journey has truly begun. It was a long time coming. This is a journey that they most certainly will not travel alone.

Wherever we are these are our voices too. We must lend them our strong support so that they can continue to give us, through their writing, the checks and balances we need to maintain, in how we relate to each other as Papua New Guineans and how we should deal with the challenges that we advertently or inadvertently have brought upon ourselves and from which we are struggling to free ourselves.

Read the full version of Mari’s article here, and see some neat photos, on the My Magic Moments blog.

New Australian visa centres to open

IN A MOVE foreshadowed in PNG Attitude late last year by High Commissioner Ian Kemish, the Australian Government has announced the establishment of two new visa application centres in Port Moresby and Lae.

The centres will provide more convenient access to immigration and citizenship services for clients in PNG.

From Monday 26 September, all clients who wish to lodge Australian visa and citizenship applications in PNG will do so at the centre located in Port Moresby. The second centre in Lae will be operational from the end of October.

The centres will offer extended operating hours and convenient and comfortable offices for clients. Opening hours will be 8.30 am - 4.30 pm, Monday to Friday, with phone lines operating until 7 pm.

The centres will also offer additional service options including SMS notifications, an internet kiosk and photocopying.

The Port Moresby centre will be located at Steamships Building at the corner of Hunters Street and Champion Parade.

Contact details --

Postal and courier applications: TT Services, PO Box 4444, Boroko NCD

Phone: (675) 321 1113

Email: [email protected]


Source: Australian High Commission, 15 September

PNG should not be proud of its record, says PM


AFTER 36 YEARS of independence from Australia, Papua New Guinea does not have a record it can be proud of, prime minister Peter O'Neill says.

As Papua New Guineans turned out in their thousands to celebrate Independence Day in Port Moresby yesterday, Mr O'Neill took the opportunity to declare the nation had fallen short of its goals and principles.

"As a nation we have come a long way in 36 years, but our record is one we cannot be very proud of" he said during a speech at the University Of Papua New Guinea.

"Regardless of where you are, look around you. Our infrastructure, like roads and bridges, airports and wharves are in a shamble.

"We have fallen short of our national goals and principles enshrined in our constitution."

The 46-year-old prime minister, who has been in the job just under two months, reiterated his promise to provide free education up to grade 10 as part of the 2012 budget.

He has also promised to fix the nation's roads and highways, currently in dire need of repair after decades of neglect.

Papua New Guineans flocked in their thousands to parks and stadiums on Friday to commemorate in sing sings, or tribal gatherings, the September 16, 1975 handover from Australian to self rule.

Dancers decked out in traditional tribal dress representing PNG's diverse cultures gathered in Port Moresby's Ugani Oval with about 8000 people to declare pride in their homeland. And vent a few spleens about the nation's leaders.

"PNG is not developing. I am suffering financially," Port Moresby resident Mik Pani, 42, told AAP.  A highlander, he said he was currently unemployed and living in the broken-down settlement of 8 Mile on the margins of Port Moresby.

"Our leaders give us nothing. We are slaves," he said.

Port Moresby police officer John Minato, also 42, sees it differently. He says the nation has developed over the past 36 years, and he is optimistic about the next 36.

"We will be OK" he said. "We have resources, we have mining, we have coffee and coconut plantations and the fish in the sea. This country has developed very fast."

But he says PNG still needs Australia's roughly $355 million a year in aid to build schools, bolster its fragile health sector and build the roads that have yet to connect across the rugged, mountainous countryside. "That is why we still like Australia," he said.

Source: AAP, 16 September

Sports unillustrated: The missing box


IN THE LATE 1960s I had a short and inglorious career as a local government advisor.

The financial health of the council was a bit dodgy.  To make matters worse things kept turning up for which there were no ordering records and no apparent provisions in the budget.  Things like tipper trucks and Land Rovers.

I began to dread opening the mail and going into town.

One day two large cardboard boxes turned up at our local freight company.

They’d come from Australia.  I had them placed in a corner in the office and sat down.  The council clerk came in and followed my gaze.  He sighed deeply and said, “Oh dear!”

We walked past them for about three days.  Then one day the driver of our clapped-out Toyota Stout came into the office with his wife.  She let out a delighted yelp and pounced on the boxes.

Turns out they were sports uniforms for the women’s club and had already been paid for by the good ladies.  The clerk and I both sighed with relief.

The driver’s wife popped the boxes open and examined the contents.  “Where is the other box?” she asked.

I shook my head.  “There were only two boxes; I can check when I go back into town next week.”

“We’ve got a big softball match on Saturday and a netball game on Sunday after church,” she replied.  “The ladies will want to wear their new uniforms when they find out they’ve arrived; we’ve been waiting months for them.”

“That’s okay,” I said without enthusiasm.  “If there’s another box I’ll make sure I get it as soon as possible.”

She looked a bit dubious and then shrugged.  She loaded the clerk and her husband up with the boxes and pushed them through the door.

That Saturday morning the village ladies turned up at the school oval and retired to the principal’s office to swap their grass skirts for the new uniforms.

They looked very smart when they emerged.  Their blouses were a bright green with their team name and numbers emblazoned on the back in bright yellow.  Below, they had beautifully contrasting short skirts in dark green.

They looked very professional.  Their visiting opponents looked dull by comparison.

When I left the game was in full swing.  The usual thirty or so faithful spectators were strung out around the edge of the pitch.

When the clerk and I checked a bit later the crowd of spectators had grown appreciably.

“Shows what a well turned out team can do for the sport,” I said to the clerk.  He nodded sagely.

The next day the netball match attracted an even bigger audience.  I was duly impressed.  Even the men were out in force.

The clerk and I wandered over for a look.  We had to elbow our way through the crowd.

After a particular spectacular goal the clerk turned to me and said, “I think I know what’s in the missing box sir.”

I nodded.  “A dozen pairs of dark green underpants.”

But the clerk didn’t reply; he was trying to manoeuvre closer to the game.

The Crocodile prizewinners: the best of the best


Crocodile Prize Awards 
Photo: Winners Martyn Namorong, Lapieh Landu, Jimmy Drekore and Jeffrey Febi [William Natera]

THIS MORNING Independence Day has dawned in Port Moresby – the 36th anniversary of the birth of Papua New Guinea as a nation.

It’s a fine day, with just a little early morning cloud, as it was back then in 1975 when I was a pup, albeit a privileged pup, at the National Broadcasting Commission.  I was allotted a box seat at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium to witness that pivotal moment when Australia's colonial rule ended and PNG's statehood began.

Yesterday evening, the winners of the inaugural Crocodile Prize literary contest were announced at a ceremony at the Australian High Commission.

Speaking at the ceremony, amongst other notable people, was Lady Margaret Eri - wife of the late Sir Vincent Eri, after whose novel, The Crocodile, the prize is named.

It was a great day - a writers workshop, followed by the awards ceremony and book launch, all capped by a function where writers, media, diplomats and others socialised in an event hosted by the High Commission.

Now, PNG Attitude is proud to announce the four winners – and offer extracts from their work….

The Short Story Award was won by Jeffrey Febi, 34, from the Eastern Highlands Province.  Jeff is a geologist working in the oil and gas industry and lives with his wife and child in Port Moresby.  Writing and reading are his favourite hobbies and he has had some success in publishing his work locally.

The Poetry Award was won by Jimmy Drekore, 35, from the Sinasina area of Simbu Province.  He works on Lihir Island as an analytical chemist.  During field breaks at home he spends time helping sick and disadvantaged children through the Simbu Children Foundation.  In his quiet moments, Jimmy says, he likes to “paint using words”.

The Essay Award was won by Martyn Namorong, 25, born at Baimuru in the Gulf Province.  Martyn grew up in a logging camp at Kamusi on the border of Western and Gulf.  He was a medical student at UPNG until 2009 but is now a street vendor, blogger and a prolific chronicler of the PNG condition.

The Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women’s Literature was won by Lapieh Landu, 22, born in Port Moresby of mixed Eastern Highlands, Milne Bay and Sandaun parentage.  Lapieh is a student at Divine Word University in Madang studying international relations and has been writing poetry since Year 8.

 And now, extracts from the winning entries ....


Continue reading "The Crocodile prizewinners: the best of the best" »

One people, one country, one god


ON THE OCCASION of the 36th Independence anniversary of our country, I would like to pay tribute to some people who are not my relations, not even wantoks, but who helped me and my family not only appreciate but share in their generosity and basic human fellowship, the true meaning of “One People, One Country, One God”.

Pursuing a life as a self-employed consultant in the social and community development sector has its ups and downs.

In my historical graph as a freelance consultant, the latter has mostly very long bars. The year 2008 was an annus horibilus for me and my family of six: the peak of my selfish self-employment idealism.

I lost the tenancy on our accommodation due to prolonged non-payment of rental. I was faced with a very long delay in securing any contracts during the first quarter of 2008. No contract or job ever came for me until June 2009.

My family and I were evicted after incurring massive rentals that are still haunting me to this date. My social responsibilities to my family remained high with four dependants still going to school.

One, who was attending a technical college, decided to start a family under cover of his schooling. Well, he brought about a beautiful little girl in this year. This little angel created a milestone for me and my wife as grandparents. But the joy of welcoming this little beauty was overshadowed by our predicament.

It is difficult to say it, but I began indefinite and numerous rounds of begging from friends, contacts and people who were friends of our friends and even acquaintances.

And this was when I came upon one of these acquaintances. His name - Wai Havoame from Olunguti, Lufa District, Eastern Highlands Province.

He and his family lived in a settlement up on the ridges that run above the National Broadcasting Commission premises towards Port Moresby International School.

Wai and his family have a very close family friend, John Khalalale, an accountant by profession, from Simbu Province. Wai informed John Khalalale of our predicament.

John and his family owned a big two story house at Boroko. They occupied the top floor with the ground floor vacant. They generously allowed us to move with all our household items and boxes of my work records into this vacant ground floor. At least there was a roof over our head and safe place to hide. We stayed at John’s house for the whole of 2008.

We did not even given much consideration as to how we were going to eat and survive even under the roof and safety of John Khalalale’s house.

This was where and how these two families, unknown to us and from other provinces, conscientiously demonstrated in all the remaining days of 2008 what is meant to be Papua New Guinean.

They fed us. They protected us. Wai worked as a chef with a catering company in Port Moresby. He would bring leftovers from his kitchen to us every evening. John Khalalale would give some money to us regularly.

These two families are from the Highlands region and they are Seventh Day Adventist Church members. My family and I are from the New Guinea Islands Region. We are Catholics.

Wai Havoame and his family and John Khalalale and his family did not consider any of these tags. We are all Papua New Guineans under One Flag and One God.

Thank you Wai and John with your respective loving families for sharing with us your meaning and spirit of true Papua New Guineans.

PNG literature today: writing with a cause

Phil In yesterday’s opening session of The Crocodile Prize writers’ workshop, PHIL FITZPATRICK addressed the far from straightforward question of Papua New Guinea writers and their writing and what the literary contest has revealed about them

FIRST OF ALL let me make it quite clear that I am not about to impart any great wisdom about writing.

I’m as mystified as anyone else about what compels people to write.

As far as I know there are no magic formulas.

Some of us are not even very good at it but for some inexplicable reason we persevere.

I guess there is a certain pleasure in a well turned phrase.  It must be similar to a well executed brush stroke in a painting or a particularly well rendered tune on a guitar or piano.

What I do know is that there is rarely money to be made from the habit.

To make money out of writing you usually have to lower your standards, catch a populist wave, write to a tired but tested formula and, last but not least, be extremely lucky.

If you follow this path and somehow crack the big time you might make money but you’ll probably never be famous.

Either way, while that is happening, it is handy to have another job so you can afford to eat and pay the bills.

The alternative is to live in relative but noble poverty.  Trendy lefties call that a lifestyle choice but poverty, no matter how sweetly labelled, is still poverty.

Writing is also a solitary occupation.  Having an understanding wife, husband or partner, not to mention children, is a positive advantage.

It is also useful to have somewhere to publish your work, even if you make very little money, or even nothing, out of it.

Feedback is good too.  It’s nice to know that someone has read what you have written, even if they are overly critical.

So there you go – there’s not much wisdom there at all.  I imagine that if you’ve been writing for some time you know all about it.

Now, what about writing in Papua New Guinea?  After all, this is one of the reasons we are here today.

Again, some clarification is needed.  I wasn’t born here and I don’t live here.  I lived here a long time ago but things were very different then.

These days I only occasionally visit, mostly to earn money to support my writing habit.

I’d like you to keep that in mind when considering the following observations.

I think everyone will agree that the 1970s were a watershed for writing in Papua New Guinea.

Those times gave us books like Ten Thousand Years in a Lifetime, Sana, My Childhood in New Guinea and, of course, The Crocodile; not to mention all the plays and poetry that were performed or appeared in a number of exciting journals.

The visual arts also flourished at this time.

The accepted wisdom is that a lot of this creativity came about through the efforts of Ulli Beier, a lecturer at the University of Papua New Guinea.

I’m not so sure that this is entirely accurate.  While Ulli and others provided the ways and means for creative expression I suspect that the raw material was always there just waiting to be released.  In other words, it had a life of its own and a definite reason for being.

The reason, of course, was colonialism; or to be more specific, anti-colonialism.

It was a simmering, albeit gentle, anger, both at a personal level and at a national level.

This anger and concomitant creativity was directed, not so much inward, as outward towards the Australian administration and the world at large.

While the writers hoped their own people might read what they had written they were more concerned that their colonial masters were aware of what they were saying.

These people were writing for a cause.

This made life for Ulli and his friends just so much easier.

It is also probably why writing in Papua New Guinea went flat after independence had been achieved.  After 1975 there was no cause to inspire writers.  The storm in the colonial teacup had abated.

Since then there has been plenty written about Papua New Guinea but very little within Papua New Guinea.  Most of the post-independence writing about Papua New Guinea has been done by Australians who once lived there.  Their audience has likewise been mainly Australian.

If you look at the meticulous research and detail in the works of people like Jim Sinclair, for instance, you quickly realise that he is writing for a much wider audience than just Papua New Guinea.  Even his commissioned works, like the history of Morobe or the South Pacific Brewery are largely populated by Europeans.

I’m a great fan of Jim Sinclair and I’m not sure if this is a fair comment but hopefully you get my drift.

So what were Papua New Guinean writers doing in this time?  Well, apart from a couple of exceptions, they seem to have been languishing in obscurity.

Was this because those writers lacked a suitable cause, like in the 1970s, or was it because they lacked a suitable venue in which to publish their work?

Was it because people didn’t want to hear what they had to say or was it more sinister; a fiendish government plot to keep dissenters quiet for instance?

I’m not a great fan of conspiracy theories but as for the rest I’m sure it’s been a combination of those reasons; they are, to a great extent, interrelated and inseparable.

So why do I think that many writers in Papua New Guinea need a cause before they put pen to paper?

The simple answer is by reading the many entries in the Crocodile competition.

The causes these writers espouse are many and varied; the sad loss of history and tradition, the treatment of women and children, the damage to the environment that development or greed brings, the list goes on and on.

But don’t get me wrong; there are also some great pieces of pure whimsy among the entries – I just love Bernard Sinai’s story about the grunge queen for instance.

Overall, however, the cause is greed and corruption among Papua New Guinea’s leaders and public servants.  It is a theme which has pervaded the competition from start to finish.

I think, when you see the winners in the three categories, you might agree with me.

My other observation about the competition is that of edification.  Being involved in it has personally been a very great learning curve.  I think it might have been the same for Keith and many of his Australian readers.

One of the things I’ve learned about is the power of the Internet and the way it is being used by people in Papua New Guinea.

I was initially concerned that restricting the competition to PNG Attitude might exclude a great many people in Papua New Guinea. 

While this is still a concern I now feel a lot more comfortable about it.  People in Papua New Guinea are becoming rapidly computer savvy. 

With the future broadband developments flagged by Digicel and others I think that what is now the domain of the relatively well-educated middle class will soon become available to the population at large.  That is, to enough people to really matter.  When that happens, writers in Papua New Guinea will really come into their own.

So where to from here?

This is what the workshop is all about.

Do we now largely have a bunch of fired-up, indignant and angry writers looking for blood or is there something deeper and more rational at work?

What will carry Papua New Guinean literature into the future?

The Kwikila Cup


YOU’VE PROBABLY never heard of the Kwikila Cup.

It was briefly one of the most prestigious boating events in the South Pacific.

It was the predecessor of the mighty Wahgi River Gumi Races.

For a while it was on a par with the Americas Cup.

I had the modest distinction of crewing the runner up in the second race of 1967.

I’m not sure whether it was the invention of Jack Baker, Ernie Sharp or Bruce Dunn; maybe they all had something to do with it.

The craft were standard 12 footers lashed together with bush rope and shaped something like the faggots on a witch’s broom.

The wide stern was normally where the takings from the days gardening sat; along with the odd child, mangy dog and grumpy grandmother.

The pointy bow, the apex of the broom, was the business end where the skipper stood with pole or paddle.

The venue was the mighty Kemp Welch.

The crews comprised two each of specially selected green and pasty Cadet Patrol Officers.

In their utilitarian form these trusty craft were generally deployed strategically somewhere between the gentle ebbs and backflows of the river bank and the edge of the swifter flowing central stream.

For the purposes of the race, however, caution was thrown to the wind and the raging torrent was engaged head on.

This tended to make things very interesting.  Hitting a gravel bar at full tilt tested the very mettle of craft and crew. 

In my particular case I had teamed up with a fellow officer who, through no fault of my own, would eventually become a brother in law.

We were both English-born, he more so than me.  Our immediate competition came from a large South Australian and a diminutive but savage Welshman called, as you’ve no doubt guessed, Taffy.

The Welsh and the English do not get on well; a bit like Bukas and Simbus on a dark night.

All was going well.  We were racing neck and neck.  With only a few hundred metres to the finishing line both our disintegrating craft looked like they’d make the distance.  The rest of the pack was so far behind as to be out of mind.

One bend to go.  I was paddling like mad and yelling in encouragement at my erstwhile brother in law.  He was rapidly losing his temper.

In the flurry of water and angst we made a fatal error.  We tried to tack into the corner of the bend and hit slack water.  No winged keels in those days to help.  The big South Australian and the grinning Welshman surged ahead and took the lead.

Our only satisfaction came when we saw the deluge of flour, kitchen slops and other unmentionables cascading down off the bridge onto the victors.

For a victory snatched so cruelly from our very grasp that was at a least mollifying.

This article was published in today’s Independence Day supplement of the PNG Post-Courier

Happy 17 September, Papua New Guinea!


LAST YEAR I wrote a piece challenging Papua New Guineans to be patriots beyond 16 September, Independence Day. This year I can’t think of anything better than remind us of that message.

It seems, come this month and day, we slap on the colours, dance to the tunes, sing the anthem and share opinions on how great we think our country is. Come 17 September, for most PNGeans, its back to square one.

How many of us are truly nation-conscious? Do we really think every day about how our actions (or inactions) and our words, affect our nation? When we pick up the newspapers and read of State affairs, how long do we rejoice or stay upset?

Public servants, how many times have we reminded ourselves that we work for the very people we pass by on the street or sit next to in a PMV? Do we lovingly embrace all PNGeans instead of just people of our provinces and regions? Does your heart break when you see the unnecessary injustice all around you?

I’m sure many PNGeans have such a PNG-oriented mindset. They don’t stop thinking of solutions that they keep sharing them on every medium, regardless of whether any attention is given.

These are patriots who argue their case or serve tirelessly till sapped of their energy. PNG is forever indebted to people like that.

Gary Juffa once gave a very profound analysis of people in the public service. There are three types he said:

(1)   those just passing through, who leave as soon as they find another job

(2)   those who cannot leave because no one else will employ them

(3)   those truly dedicated to their nation that they stick around no matter how bad it gets for them

The third group are true patriots, embodying John F Kennedy’s “ask not” challenge. I hope you are too. I hope you don’t milk this nation for your own sake but constantly give yourself for it.

When 17 September comes around and the emotion is doused, the flag has fallen out of your hat, the singing has stopped, and the paint on your face and body has faded; will you still love this great nation?

Will you not spit that red spittle on her, nor litter on her streets or pollute her land? Will you not abuse public property? Will you not smoke in the PMV, respecting and loving your fellow PNGeans? Will you serve diligently with few complaints, and lots of heart?

Will you carry our flag honourably if you live in a foreign land? Will you not sell her cheaply to foreign interests, obnoxiously and selfishly? As you drive along Waigani Drive, look to Independence Hill and see that mother of all PNG flags fly high, will you whisper a prayer for PNG?

Will you be a steady and constant patriot; not swayed by the emotions of the moment but forever dedicated to a cause greater than yourself?

I hope you answered affirmatively to these challenges. This nation can be made great only on the backs of truly dedicated patriots and good responsible citizens who start changing in the little things. It starts with you. It starts with me.

36 years on, what is there to celebrate?


IT WAS LESS than 150 years ago when we had first real white-men contact on our shores.  For another 20-30 our natives were shipped to plant sugar cane in northern Australia, “the blackbirder trade”, a dark part of Niugini and Melanesian kago-boi history.

The inland of the Niugini Highlands was penetrated only in the 1920s and 1930s.  That is less than 100 years of western contact for most of Highlands.  From 1920s to 1975, from stone-age to modern Independence, with bulk of illiterate, undeveloped natural resources, traditional farmers and gatherers to urban dwellers and office workers in one generation.

That is a huge jump for a people not used to planning and not forward focused.  Our forefathers did not plan to store food for the winter nor into dry spells ahead.  They did not sew clothes to wear.  They did not need to save for the rainy day.  It was here and now from day to day. That was our economy and survival system.

Needless to say PNG has a short history of western contact – just two or three generations in most cases.  It would appear to be a culture shock in many aspects.  A leap from stone-age to computer age in 50 years.

It was 36 years ago on the morning of 16 September 1975 thats we walked the rough dusty road to Wapenamanda from Pausa High School in the early hours with little understanding of what we were celebrating.

We were told that we had to go to the government station as there was going to be a celebration for “receiving Independence”.  How do you receive it?  Form 2 was my high school level and it did not dawn on me to think that the nation of PNG had begun political separation from Australia.  

Little did I understand the implications of self -government and the eventual authority change from the Australian colonial era to a Papua Niugini style of government with Papua New Guineans taking responsibility for the nation’s destiny.

Dressed in my best shirt and shorts, half-tucked without a belt and without footwear, I stood among many Engans, students, staff and the people from the Wapenamanda Local Government Council area.  The lowering of the Australian flag brought an emotional moment as officers and people alike realised an end of an era.   That was 36 years ago.

What is there to show after 36 years? 

Had we fought for Independence with sacrifice of sweat, blood and tears, would we have a more patriotic approach to governing our affairs with national pride?  If we have opted to adopt a socialist or a republic form of government and had cut our relationship from the Australia and the Commonwealth under the Queen, where would we as a nation be now? 

36 years on, what is there to celebrate?  This question baffles my mind as I compare where we are now to what we began with 36 years ago. 

Continue reading "36 years on, what is there to celebrate?" »

A few words to begin: Write, write, write!


Applause Today in Port Moresby, a range of activities will mark the culmination of the inaugural Crocodile Prize for Papua New Guinea literature: a writers’ workshop; the launch of an anthology of PNG writing; the awards ceremony which will honour four emerging writers; and a reception at the Australian High Commission to mark the event.  Former Governor-General and author Sir Paulias Matane penned some words for the occasion….

IN LATE JANUARY 1947, when I was over 16 years old, I went to school for the first time to learn how to read and write.

Toma Village Higher School - Tauran Primary School - was a jungle school, inland and many kilometers from Kokopo.

After completing Grade 4, I was sent to Keravat Central School, which later became Keravat National High School. You may find a lot of information about this in one of my first books, My Childhood in New Guinea.

When I retired from the Public Service at the end of December 1985, on the next day, New Year’s Day, Lady Kaludia Matane and I went back to our jungle village to work in our farms and assist the people in many communities with projects.

I was also very much involved in writing weekly columns in newspapers, producing Chit Chats for EMTV for almost 16 years and travelling to many parts of the world. In December 1995, I went to the last of the seven continents … Antarctica.

MyChildhoodinNewGuinea During these travels, I wrote many books to inform the people of geography, history and other things. I have written and published 45 books. Volume 1 of my 46th book is being edited by Professor Edward Wolfers of Wollongong University. I am still writing Volume 2. The title of these books is From Jungle House to Government House.

Since 1986, I have been encouraging Papua New Guineans to write books on any subject about our country. I have helped them to have their books published here and overseas. So far 49 people have written and published over 70 books. I am very proud of these authors.

Late last year, when I was still Governor-General and this national writing contest was announced, I urged my Papua New Guinean sisters and brothers to “Write, write, write!”

As a much-published author myself, I am pleased to note there has been a marvellous response to The Crocodile Prize: well over 200 entries from 60 writers.

The Prize is named for the first novel written by a Papua New Guinean, The Crocodile, published in 1970.  I knew the author well.  Sir Vincent Eri, as he was to become, was, like me, an educator, and he knew the power and influence of the written word.

So when The Crocodile Prize was established by the Post-Courier and PNG Attitude, as a passionate proponent of Papua New Guinea literature, I welcomed it warmly.

We need to have more writers and more readers in our country and this contest has been a marvellous initiative.

Our nation has a rich oral tradition and this has slowly extended into the written form.  I hope these awards for stories, essays and poetry will strengthen the process of enhancing our national literature.

We want Papua New Guinea to have a flourishing literature, we want creative and bold writers and we want the means to publish their work

In this context, I note that The Crocodile Prize is today launching an anthology of the best works submitted in this first 2011 contest.

I extend my sincere congratulations to the people who organised these awards.  Congratulations to the award winners.  And congratulations to all you writers who are relating the experiences, anxieties and hopes of yourselves, your people and your country.

May the good Lord continue to bless us all.

Three hours & several lifetimes later….


PORT MORESBY is three hours and 35 years away.

In the early eighties I’d had the last word on Tim Bowden’s landmark radio series Taim Bilong Masta when I’d told my story of leaving Moresby for the last time in 1976.

Each other time I’d left on leave or on business (‘best view of Moresby is from the arse end of a south bound 727’), I knew I would return.

But not this time. Colonialism was dead and my next career was just coming alive.

As the jet banked to head towards Australia and the coast;line quickly disappeared from view, I noticed that my son, Simon – then eight, now 43 – had tears in his eyes.

As Taim Bilong Masta records it, I asked ‘What’s up Sime, is it your ears?’ and he replied ‘No, I’m leaving home’. I couldn’t speak because I felt exactly the same way.

And now, for a brief moment, I’m returning to Port Moresby.  Even back in the sixties, we used to say that ‘Moresby’s not PNG’.  Its small town in a big town flavour; its dry season aridity; its population of big timers… my generation of colonials by and large preferred the bush.

It hadn’t been for city living that we’d chosen to go to TPNG.

So now, 35,000 feet above a sparkling Coral Sea, I’m returning.  Not home, there’s no feeling of going home – 35 years is more than enough to put that sentiment to rest.

I’m returning to a place I used to know very well indeed, and that I now know not at all.  A place, let’s face it, with a diabolical reputation.

You don’t travel to Moresby to visit, it’s said, you go there because you have to.

Well, I don’t have to.  Coming back under my own steam because there’s unfinished business for Australians in Papua New Guinea.

When we left in huge numbers in the mid-seventies, we left friends behind.  Papua New Guineans who had believed we were committed to them as well as to ourselves.  But when our flag fell and theirs was raised, with the explicit encouragement of the Australian government we had disappeared.

What a mistake that was.  We should have been prepared to serve under a new flag and to be removed in an orderly, friendly, affirming way.

But it did not happen like that and the bonds that had been created between two neighbours weakened and, on occasion, ruptured altogether.

There were friends we made who we never saw again.

In its own modest way, PNG Attitude seeks to restore some better connection between us rank and file Australians and Papua New Guineans.

And that’s why I’ve headed back, however briefly.  To continue that reconnection.

Stand-off could stall women’s seats’ reform

DAME CAROL KIDU, the only woman in the Papua New Guinea parliament, fears legislation to establish reserved seats for women could be stalled by a lack of numbers.

For years Dame Carol has led the campaign to have parliamentary seats set aside for women.

She says women’s groups are delighted with last week’s first reading of the legislation in parliament, but that the crunch is still to come.

Dame Carol says the legislation will require amendments to the Organic Law, which means an absolute majority of 73 of the 109 MPs supporting it.

But she says last month’s controversial toppling of the Somare administration is causing opposition MPs to boycott parliament.

“They’re boycotting because in the early stages of this whole thing that went to court one judge said by the very fact that some of them stayed on the floor they are basically conceding that the other government is legitimate, and so they are avoiding going on the floor,” Dame Carol said.

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Among the benefits of queuing at an airport


I WAS STANDING, bored, in an airline queue at Brisbane Airport late yesterday morning, waiting for something exciting to happen, like movement, when a tall good looking man travelling with his wife caught my eye and approached me.

“Are you Keith Jackson of PNG Attitude,” he asked, introducing himself as Charles Abel, who I knew to be Papua New Guinea’s Trade Minister, especially as I’d just posted an article about him on the blog earlier in the day.

Charles was returning from the Pacific Forum conference in Auckland where he’d been a member of the PNG delegation.

And so we got into conversation … about governance issues (which I'd just written on for The National and the blog), about the difficulties of drawing the sometimes fine line between corruption and family affiliation in Melanesian cultures (we’re determined to root it out it, he averred; and see Joe Wasia’s comment yesterday about the difficulties involved), about Peter O’Neill’s skills and strengths as a leader and, briefly, before the queue began some sluggish movement, about Charles' interest in the arts.

I provided a quick briefing on The Crocodile Prize (to be awarded for the first time tomorrow night to four outstanding Papua New Guinean writers), which was the reason I was in a holding pattern in an airline queue in Brisbane.

Charles told me he’d thought from time to time about contributing to PNG Attitude but wondered whether this was an appropriate thing to do.

I enthusiastically suggested it was, and we agreed that – when remarks from him would be useful – that I could drop him an email with some pertinent questions.

And so the queue straggled on; somewhere beyond the end of it was Port Moresby.

Forum highlights strategic importance of Pacific


THE ATTENDANCE of a high level US delegation at last week's 40th Pacific Island Forum in Auckland has marked a new engagement in the region – and China’s increasing influence in the Pacific is credited with much of the renewed interest.

Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides led a 50-strong American delegation, which included representatives from the White House, the State Department, Defence, Commerce, and the US Coast Guard.

The delegation followed an earlier visit in June to eight Pacific island states by Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick Walsh, USAID Assistant Administrator Nisha Biswal, and Brigadier General Richard Simcock.

"The President himself has asked us to come to be here to represent the United States," Mr Nide told journalists in Auckland.

Pacific Island forum members also received a high level delegation from China.

Stephen Hoadley, Professor of International Relations and Human Rights at Auckland University, says it is hard to know what China is doing in the region but he believes that with the US bogged down in the Middle East, China is seizing the opportunity to expand its interests in the South Pacific.

Trade between China and the Pacific island nations rose from $180 million in 2001 to $1.5 billion by 2010.  US interest in the South Pacific, however, had waned over the last decade, Professor Hoadley said, as the US began to engage in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The closure of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) regional office in Suva, emphasised that the US had greater priorities in other parts of the globe.

As the US disengaged, Chinese embassies began to appear in most of the island states and visits from high ranking Chinese indicated that China increasingly views the region as a part of its hemisphere of influence, said Professor Hoadley.

According to Australia's Lowy Institute of International Policy by 2008 China had promised aid in the form of soft loans and grants to the value of $206 million to the region. In the same year USAID aid was only $3.6 million.

Last year's visit by Hillary Clinton to Papua New Guinea and the APEC meeting in New Zealand, and US promises of assistance for security and developmental aid in the region, have signalled a turnaround in America’s geo-political stance.

With China emerging as a power in the Pacific it was not the time for the US to be withdrawing suddenly from the region, Ms Clinton said.

Professor Hoadley believes Beijing has serious intentions in the region and has been “very active in inviting leaders—Bainimarana is a great beneficiary—to Beijing where they get head of state welcome and get to meet high ranking Chinese”.

With the US reopening a USAID office in Port Moresby later this year, Hoadley anticipates an increase in US aid to governments in the South Pacific.

He is concerned that China is playing a “cunning” strategic game in the region.  “My concern is that Chinese are offering what looks like very generous aid gifts and they are not too worried about democracy and human rights,” he said.

“As a consequence Pacific island leaders are being a bit beguiled, dazzled by China, but I personally don't think it will prove to be substantial and China will want something in return in the future”.

Source: Epoch Times, 12 September

Poor governance poses great risks for PNG


EARLIER THIS YEAR Laura Bailey, the World Bank’s country manager for Papua New Guinea, nailed it.

At a Port Moresby workshop organised by the Institute of National Affairs she stated forthrightly that corruption and bad governance in PNG are feeding off the mining sector.

Of course it’s not only PNG’s abundance of exploitable resources which is responsible for the country’s governance woes – sheer incompetence makes a noteworthy contribution, as it does at present in Australian national politics.

But the enormous scale of PNG’s future wealth has the capacity to make a big difference: properly managed, it will provide an opportunity to create a prosperous nation; poorly managed, it will greatly enrich a few people and send the bulk of the population to hell in a handcart.

The pivotal point is governance, pithily defined by the World Bank as “the exercise of political authority and the use of institutional resources to manage society's problems and affairs”.

The burning question is how PNG’s national governance will deal with corruption’s deliberate intent to advantage the few at the expense of the many with resources that are the rightful property of the people.

Let’s not mince words, in simple terms poor governance manifested through corruption is complicity in theft.

“Because of corruption, we cannot expect the police to protect us, nor the courts to punish the criminals,” a frustrated Dr Thomas Webster, Director of the National Research Institute, said a few months back.

“If you or any of your family members are sick … you may find that the drugs needed to cure the illness [are] not available because of corruption.  This cancer is now threatening the very essence of good governance and how we make decisions at the highest levels.

“The administrative framework for good governance in managing and using resources for the benefit of all Papua New Guineans are not being adhered to.”  Succinctly and accurately phrased.

The Australian government’s response to this situation – given that it provides PNG with upwards of half a billion dollars a year in development funds – is bland.

The official position is that “the basic responsibility for improving governance and addressing corruption in PNG resides with the government of PNG,” as parliamentary secretary Richard Marles expressed it in an article for PNG Attitude.

“That said,” he added, “Australia is strongly committed to supporting our closest neighbour to address these challenges.

In other words, it’s none of our business but we’ll deal with it under the covers.  Sure, no nation likes megaphone diplomacy but when it comes to serious moral issues like poor governance and corruption, surely at least a Simbu yodel would be in order.

In fact more assertive Australian support might encourage leaders like new prime minister Peter O’Neill to take a more forthright stand for good governance and to start rooting out corruption.

While O’Neill has a reputation as being a clever deal maker and a hard-headed businessman, he now needs to step up to the plate and apply that inside knowledge and undoubted creative skills in the broader interests of the people of Papua New Guinea. 

Continue reading "Poor governance poses great risks for PNG" »

Wikileaks: When the past comes back to haunt

Merrell_Susan The Moti Affair isn’t over for PNG warns SUSAN MERRELL, it’s just lying in wait in a jungle of legal complexity and political controversy....

LEGEND HAS IT that Italian courtier Damocles was awarded a much-coveted throne that brought with it great power and wealth. 

But also inherent in the acquisition was a sword, suspended by a single horse’s hair over the throne - the proverbial ‘Sword of Damocles’.

Considering the threat intolerable, Damocles relinquished the throne (although I’ve never quite understood why he didn’t just remove the sword).

There are outstanding issues, precariously suspended, like the Sword of Damocles, over the Papua New Guinea government.

The Moti Affair, for instance – while an unresolved legacy of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare - has now been passed on to the new government and, in its current state, will dog any subsequent government.

Recent Wikileaks cables emanating from the US embassy in Port Moresby are a reminder.

In one cable, headed ‘Papua New Guinea Prime Minister on Moti and Bilateral,’ Somare is said to have stated that the PNG government “knows who the culprits are [in the Moti affair].”

He criticised the Australian Federal Police for bypassing the office of the foreign minister and of the prime minister by going directly to the PNG police who cooperated with the Australians in an arrest that was without a warrant and with extradition papers “not properly authenticated.”

“I can’t put up with this type of nonsense, “said Somare. “ If I’m wrong on questions of law, I admit it.  I was not wrong.”

At the time, then and current attorney-general, Dr Allan Marat, and Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, a former acting judge, went further, adding that PNG should take Australia to task in the International Court of Justice.

Two subsequent government inquiries, the Defence Inquiry and the Ombudsman’s Report, drew similar conclusions on the matter of Moti’s arrest.

However, the Reports also found that Somare had a case to answer in the matter of Moti’s clandestine Defence Force flight out of PNG.  These findings threatened Somare’s tenure as Prime Minister after the reports were finalised.

Influential commentators such as Professor John Nonggorr, a leading constitutional lawyer, suggested that Somare should have stepped aside over the affair.  Like Damocles he should have relinquished the throne.

Conversely, Somare chose to negate the effects of the reports by challenging their legitimacy.  He was successful. The Ombudsman’s report was rejected in parliament and the Defence Inquiry was discredited factually and legally.


Continue reading "Wikileaks: When the past comes back to haunt" »

Investors need have no fear, says Peter O’Neill


PRIME MINISTER Peter O’Neill has moved to ease investor concern about proposals to tip the balance of mineral ownership more decisively in the direction of landowners.

Speaking in Brisbane last Friday, Mr O’Neill said “there is no need at the present time to destabilise mining and petroleum industry developers and investors with a law designed to compromise or reduce their present respective equity position.”

He added that “changes … will occur in the future but they will have to be driven by a win-win formula for all stakeholders.

“These changes – when they are desired and when they do occur – will take place with and after comprehensive dialogue and discussion with you [business people] and with all other affected parties including landowners in Papua New Guinea.

“My government respects the principle of finders keep and finders share. That is the spirit within which we will, and we shall all operate under my watch.”

Mr O’Neill also said he had cautioned his ministers and State-owned corporations involved in mining “to desist promptly from giving misleading signals to the foreign investment sector.

“It is not my government’s position to create insecurity, political risk or threaten foreign investment with expropriation. Some of these negative signals have been made since my government took office.”

Mr O’Neill said he would “vigorously investigate” what he termed “deception” targeting the LNG projects and would “take corrective action in the coming days.

“In the first few days of coming into office, a number of statements pertaining to the various equity and ownership positions were made by a number of my ministers.

“Let me reassure you that the goal-posts have not been shifted and relocated.

“The playing field remains the same and shall be maintained that way for the foreseeable future.

‘Let me reiterate in the strongest terms that I lead an inclusive and consultative government that will not fall back on the bad habits of governments that have been in power previously in PNG.”

Mr O’Neill did not directly mention whether future investors in PNG may face a different landholder regime but his comments make it clear there will be no precipitate changes to the law.

It seems that strong negative investor reaction to Byron Chan’s earlier remarks about landowners taking a big slice of resources ownership has caused the new government to think again.

Charles Abel confident that Somare era is over

PNG TRADE MINISTER Charles Abel says he is confident the new government can withstand court challenges over leadership changes and the decision that cost Sir Michael Somare his seat in parliament.

Speaker Jeffrey Nape claimed constitutional provisions allowed him to disqualify Sir Michael Somare from parliament because he had missed three consecutive sessions while on extended medical leave in Singapore.

Mr Abel said questions will be asked but he believes the spirit of the law has been followed.

“We had a situation where we had a long period of time without a properly mandated Prime Minister, in the absence of the properly mandated Prime Minister,” Mr Abel said.

“The circumstances were not properly explained to Parliament. And in the good of the country we felt we had to have a properly mandated Prime Minister, to get on with the business of running PNG.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International

Solomon Airlines looks at a Port Moresby link

Solomons Airlines SOLOMON AIRLINES has concluded a series of proving flights to neighboring Melanesian countries.

The first of the series was flown to Port Moresby on Friday and a similar flight was made to Nadi and Port Vila on Saturday.

Commercial General Manager Gus Kraus said the proving flights were to introduce Solomon Airlines pilots and cabin crew to possible new routes.

The flights were also to enable the Solomons to promote itself to neighbouring countries that could see the airline re-enter the Port Moresby route.

Solomon Airlines had in the past flown with its own aircraft, a Boeing 737 but is currently flying under a code sharing arrangement.

But with the introduction of its new Airbus 320, Solomon Airlines is confident it can re-enter these markets under its own flag.

CEO Ron Sumsum said the airline had undertaken initial discussions with Air New Guinea, and he is hopeful an arrangement will be finalised in the next few weeks.

Solomon Airlines currently flies Brisbane-Honiara-Brisbane four times a week.

Source: Solomon Times, 12 September

The New Guinea Border


Bougainville-warrior - Simon Wolley Toronu went before me, o’er the line;
Before I was shot, she went
O’er the New Guinean greed, or colonialist net
Laid for them by they masters
In Australia.

When I was shot, on the Buka Passage…
Mighty Buka Passage, fighting for my rights,
Comrades, love ones and family
Got me across the foreigners’ lines
In the peak of the night
To save me, from da

The boat of freedom,
Glided with bounces through the night
In the mercy of twinkling stars and the pacifying moon; and,
Flying fish that made we cry.
Made we moan,
To those who fought and died for freedom
In the dark blockade by, da

In da middle of the calm sea and salt spray,
And the blessing from the smiling moon
I see no net or line by da New Guinea army
Drawn across the sea of my progeny
Who had freedom
Eloping from Koromira to Poroporo, or
Olava to Ovau or Kariki; and,
New Guinean say there is net to catch me.

Cry-bougainville I see no line. No fishing net to trap me
In my own beloved, but divided islands of Solomon.
Kama-kiki and Koma-rara,
Where is the New Guinean electric fence
To electrify me?
My ancestors traded, married, feasted and fought
From island to island.
This was they country.
They freedom, hope and justice
Til the evils arrived to kill and steal.

I asked and asked, in a stream of tears:
“Where is da New Guinean line?”…
And Poroporo,
Welcomes me, home:
“Come my child, this is still your country.”

Download Leonard Roka's complete Bougainville Poetry Anthology here

AusAID spent $3M pursuing football world cup


ON FOUR CORNERS tonight, ABC reporter Quentin McDermott investigated the strategy employed by Football Federation Australia in its failed effort to win the right to host the 2018 or 2022 world football cup for Australia.

Amongst other matters, the program raised serious questions about the role played by AusAID in the World Cup bid.

Four Corners claimed that around $3 million of AusAID money was paid to Pacific countries to pursue a single vote in Australia’s favour, which didn’t eventuate.

In an early response to the program, AusAID denied that this money had been spent to prop up the bid.

But Four Corners produced documentary evidence contradicting AusAID’s denial.

The expenditure seems to have been endorsed by former prime minister Kevin Rudd.

That aid and development funds can be applied to such tawdry ends poses issues that the Australian government, and Kevin Rudd in particular, should be called upon to address.

Reprieve on TB fails to ease disaster fears


THE AUSTRALIAN and Queensland governments have buckled to demands from top medics to delay the closure of vital tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait.

But health professionals are still warning of an impending health disaster if the reprieve is not long enough for Papua New Guinea to bring its TB treatment services in the impoverished Western Province up to scratch.

After a financial dispute between the two governments, the Australian-funded clinics on Saibai and Boigu islands were due to shut on 30 June, forcing more than 50 seriously ill PNG patients to rely on PNG's failing health system for treatment of the deadly disease.

But after warnings from clinicians that people would die, the federal government has agreed to spend $631,000 to keep the clinics open until February, allowing a more thorough patient handover.

However, Cairns-based respiratory physician Stephen Vincent - one of two Queensland doctors who run the remote clinics - still fears for the future of his patients, some as young as four.

"It's good to see we've increased the ability to transition the care (of our patients back to PNG)," Dr Vincent told The Australian, speaking in his capacity as a private physician.

"The ideal situation is that PNG could manage its own TB. But there's a concern that if we fully hand over our clinics prematurely and the PNG TB program, which is in its infancy, fails, it could be a disaster."

The World Health Organisation will launch an independent investigation into TB treatment services in the Western Province next month.

Read the full story here.

Source: The Australian, 12 September

It is your house first and the nation next


WE OFTEN talk of the family being the most basic unit in society, and that we need to protect it in order to protect our society.

So how do we do that? How do we even begin to restore the family unit when almost every home in our society (especially urban but increasingly in rural areas) seems broken and dysfunctional?

Spouses cheating on each other; abusing each other; parents abusing their children; children growing up in single-parent families lacking proper guidance from a father or love from a mother.

We see people deserting their families and their responsibilities. Go to any family court and watch aggrieved mothers trying to seek justice for their children; children whose father’s most substantial contribution to their existence was a cell from his body.

Young women falling pregnant before getting married and finding themselves at loss because the men have no intention of sticking around.

Or a young man finding himself with a baby, the mother of whom, having no intention of raising the baby, dumps it with him and his parents.

I think in many cases the parents are not more emotionally mature than the babies they make.

Kids these days are unrestrained, having had no discipline and guidance from their parents. They get their idea of morality and ethics (or lack of) and about the world from the countless movies they watch, the songs they listen to, their peers and, for many, on the streets, not forgetting the internet. I doubt they read books at all.

Walk down the street any morning or afternoon and watch school children unashamedly letting out obscenities. One can only conclude it is everyday language for them at home.

Watch the constant infighting and inter-school fighting. Watch them smoke and chew and head to school looking scruffy, with little or no sense of decency.

At school they disrespect their teachers. My cousin, who went for teacher training at a public school, spoke of how the students would walk in and out of the classroom without any respect.

At 8:30 am many high school students are still at the markets chewing or smoking time away. (Interestingly school only lasts until 1 pm these days and the students are back out again).

Mothers publicly abuse their children at the market for being disobedient. But you wonder where the kid picked up that disobedience, since the mother defy the authorities by sitting in an undesignated selling spot.

Fathers introduce their babies to the sweet aroma of cigarettes and alcohol; yet at some point they would probably tell their children that smoking and drinking is bad for them. Cheating parents cannot expect their children to be honest to them about anything. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

What shall we make of our society and its future if this is the way the family is disintegrating? If these are the types of “future leaders” we are breeding?

Continue reading "It is your house first and the nation next" »

Pacific Islands Forum shuns West Papua issue


THE MOST ASTONISHING unreported story at last week’s Pacific Island Forum in Auckland was a remarkable shift by the United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon over West Papua.

And the local media barely noticed. For all the hoo-ha about “converting potential into opportunity” at the predictable annual political talkfest, this was the most dramatic moment.

It was thanks to the probing of a young Papua New Guinean journalist studying in New Zealand who knew the right question to ask. But the significance was lost on local journalists – and even the Pacific and international journalists present.

Secretary-General Moon suggested that the West Papuan issue should be discussed by the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly.

What? Coming in the wake of the Indonesian repression in West Papua throughout August in the face of a wave of unrest by Papuans more determined than ever for self-determination, this was almost unbelievable.

Question: [unclear] With regards to human rights - for more than 42 years, there’s a struggle in West Papua as people seeking their [own] government in the province of West Papua. What is the United Nations stand on that?

BKM: This issue should also be discussed at the Decolonisation Committee of the United Nations General Assembly. And when it comes again, whether you are an independent state or a non-self-governing territory or whatever, the human rights is inalienable and a fundamental principle of the United Nations. We will do all to ensure that people in West Papua, their human rights will be respected.

Question: Does a human rights fact-finding mission has be dispatched to West Papua at some time?

BKM: That is the same answer [to a previous question on Fiji] that should be discussed at the Human Rights Council amongst the member states.
Normally the Secretary General acts on the basis of a mandate given by inter-governmental bodies.

Because journalist Henry Yamo’s question was overshadowed by queries about Fiji, it probably slipped below the media radar. Was it a slip-up that officials were keen to brush aside?

However, NGOs such as the Auckland-based Indonesia Human Rights Committee were quick to seize on the moment. Overnight a media declaration was produced by 15 Australian and NZ NGO signatories with the help of four West Papuans.

They called for the UN Secretary-General to:

appoint a Special Representative to investigate the situation in West Papua – to review the circumstances and outcome of the 1969 ‘Act of Free Choice’, as well as the contemporary situation; and

use his good offices to persuade the Indonesian government to allow free access to West Papua for media representatives from the international community and for non-governmental human rights organisations.


Continue reading "Pacific Islands Forum shuns West Papua issue" »

Mystery of war: where exactly is Feature 1410?


1410 climb Dagua 
OVER THE PAST YEAR I have been researching my mother’s family and recently I’ve been trying to work out where one of her cousins, Noel Park, won his Distinguished Service Order in 1945.

Back in 1975 one of the Sydney newspapers said the medal had been hard earned during the capture of Wewak Hill. I spent 1971-74 at Brandi High School near Wewak, and felt sure it must have been on Mission Hill, Wewak, as I had seen the old Japanese guns there. In fact I took a Japanese visitor there to see them and she took photos that later appeared in a Japanese newspaper.

But Noel’s son-in-law, Barry McGregor, who has been helping me research my book, felt that the newspaper report was wrong, which left me determined to find out exactly where Feature 1410 was located.

I was able to refer to a small book, Return to Wewak, that I had picked up during my stay at Wewak.  It had been compiled by Kerry Leen in 1970 for the 25th anniversary of the official cessation of hostilities between the Japanese and the Australians on 13 September 1945, at Cape Wom, Wewak.

Here’s what it said about Feature 1410:

A little south of Dagua near Tokoku Pass the Japanese had their main lines of communication to their inland forces- bitter fighting occurred in this spot, but the 2/3rd Battalion fought right into the headquarters of Lieut General Nakai, commanding the 20th Division, which was near Woginara Mission.

Flame throwers were used in the area for the first time. It was in fighting around Dagua that Lieut. Albert Chowne, MM was killed (25th March 1945) leading a charge on Feature 1410 afterwards known as "Chowne's Knoll". He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, for this action.

In the fighting for Tokoku Pass, Woginara Mission and Dagua itself, there was heavy artillery and Beaufort bombing support. Tokoko Pass was taken on the 3rd April by the 2/2nd Battalion.

Woginara Mission area where Lieut General Nakai had his HQ was taken by the 2/3rd Battalion the previous day, and Dagua had been taken by the 2/2nd Battalion on the 31st March. Supplies were brought from Aitape to But and preparations were made for the assault on Wewak. Divisional H.Q. was set up at But.

Continue reading "Mystery of war: where exactly is Feature 1410?" »

Australia supports fight against tuberculosis

The Australian government has said it is boosting support to Papua New Guinea to help it respond more effectively to tuberculosis, particularly in the Western Province.

Minister for Health and Ageing Nicola Roxon and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles have committed a further $1.1 million dollars to help improve health services in the South Fly area of the Western Province.

“Australian support has already seen PNG make headway, and this additional funding is designed to further ramp up their capacity to treat TB cases in PNG,” said Nicola Roxon.

Australian support is enabling the recruiting of health staff to improve TB services at Daru Hospital and outreach services to villages along the South Fly coast. The purchase of a boat is currently underway to support these outreach services.

Other initiatives include:

construction of an isolation ward at Daru Hospital

a pilot incentive scheme to improve patient compliance in completing TB medication

training for community members to support TB treatment compliance in communities

training for laboratory staff in Daru in diagnosis of TB

continuing support to increase laboratory diagnostic capacity.

The Minister said that a further $631,000 would be used to temporarily support Queensland Government TB clinics in the Torres Strait while PNG’s TB capabilities in Western Province are improved, and for the continued support of the Queensland Mycobacterium Reference Laboratory.

Richard Marles said this work means the PNG nationals currently being treated for TB in Queensland’s Torres Strait clinics will be able to complete their treatment in PNG.

“The Government is working with the PNG Government to more effectively treat the number of people with TB in the South Fly District of PNG, rather than only treating those patients that can cross the Torres Strait into Queensland,” said Mr Marles.

“This will provide better longer term health outcomes for PNG residents.”

The World Health Organisation is working with the PNG government, and will conduct an independent assessment of TB services in Western Province next month.

Source: Australian government media release Hon Nicola Roxon MP, Minister for Health and Ageing, and Hon Richard Marles MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, 9 September

Lonely nights


Bougainville Night Little hamlet, Mako’sii
Brawling water, Tanoro
Weir lights of Dutu’mami in the clouds
Gets my shadow on the gravel lawns
Paved for me by Panguna pit
As I stooped on
So many years ago.

The night so shrilling and ear piercing
No friend, no love
All hopes jeopardized by the Darenai songs
Down Kavarong way
So I cry, hoping
Over and over again for a nice
Sun o’er Enamira

Before me PNG was hijacked, says O’Neill


Standard headshot “CHAOS WAS NOT too far away,” prime minister Peter O’Neill has told a Brisbane business luncheon, reflecting on the parliamentary coup that grabbed the government of Papua New Guinea from Sir Michael Somare 38 days ago.

Echoing the rhetoric used by Julia Gillard in toppling Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd last year, Mr O’Neill said: “We changed the Somare-led government because it needed to be changed. That government lost focus on assertive and decisive political and government leadership.

“Worse, it lost focus on the nation’s budgeted national development and public investment programs.”

Mr O’Neill said that the “uncertainty” of the leadership of the acting prime minister Sam Abal had meant that “political instability crept in.”

And sounding like malfeasance was very new to PNG he observed “corruption and misappropriation of hundreds of millions of kina for budgeted national development and public investment programs became the order of the day.”

He claimed that “a small group of Ministers closely linked to Sir Michael … became reckless and did as they pleased in the Grand Chief’s prolonged absence on account of his illness.”

And, in an astonishing statement, Mr O’Neill claimed the government of PNG “had effectively been hijacked by this small group of ministers, who used and abused the serious illness of the then prime minister to subvert the parliamentary and cabinet processes and abuse public funds and property.”

We should now expect that these former ministers may face serious legal action in the near future.

Mr O’Neill added that he had to seize the reins of government “to save our nation from becoming the ‘dysfunctional blob’ that our friends from this side of the Coral Sea love to describe us [sic].”

He claimed that, while Sir Michael was away, there had been an “impasse” that was “undoubtedly starting to harm our national integrity, development and services delivery and importantly, investor confidence.”

He also boasted that the current government is “the most experienced and qualified, and broadly based and representative, government in our history as a nation” and that “early indications are that most Papua New Guineans are happy with the change of leadership and government.”

Papua or bust … the Boianai UFO sightings


Boianai Sighting 1959 
I DON'T KNOW what you think of unidentified flying objects – UFOs - but in 1959, Papua was the location of one of the best observed and witnessed UFO encounters on record.

The veracity of Father Gill's testimony has never been questioned and to this day the Boianai sightings are one of the strangest episodes in the annals of UFOlogy.

On 5 April 1959, at the Anglican mission village at Boianai, Papua, one of the most well-documented cases of alien visitation began. The Anglican Church had sent Father William Booth Gill to lead the mission. He would be the main subject of an amazing series of UFO sightings with alien beings.

During the summer of 1959, Gill's assistant Stephen Moi reported to him that he had observed an "inverted saucer-shaped object" which was hovering above the mission. Gill thought nothing of it at the time.

On 26 June, Father Gill again saw a bright light to his northwest. Evidently, rumours of the previous sighting by Moi had spread among the villagers, and soon they were beside Gill, watching the light above.

Gill Sketch Sworn statements of this event listed 38 individual witnesses who saw a disc-shaped UFO the size of 5 full moons strung together. The UFO had four legs, like landing gear, but was high in the sky.

An enormous object was hovering over the mission. Soon, four beings, similar to humans, emerged from the object. They appeared to be working on something on their ship. The beings would go inside the object, and then soon return, as if fetching tools. At regular intervals, a blue light shone up above the UFO. This craft was visible for 45 minutes, vanishing at 7:30 pm.

Forty-five minutes later, many of the witnesses remained, still pondering the sight they had seen. Soon, several objects smaller than the previous UFO appeared in the sky.

About 20 minutes afterward, the first UFO was back in view. The sighting of the larger UFO would last four hours, as witnesses would come and go. Twenty-five witnesses signed their testimony to the sighting. A heavy cloud cover ended the event.

Incredibly, the next night the giant disc-shaped UFO returned at 6 pm. Two of the smaller objects flanked it. Father Gill, with many of the witnesses from the night before, watched the unbelievable sight.


Continue reading "Papua or bust … the Boianai UFO sightings" »

John Middleton & the unique Karkar experience


Life on Karkar My Life on Karkar Island - John Middleton with James Sinclair. ISBN: 978186333320, 367 pages b&w & col photos + maps. Published 2011 by Crawford House, PO Box 50, Belair SA 5052 $39.95 + $11.00 postage

THIS IS A TALE about the intriguing and interesting Middleton family told by its present senior member, Sir John Middleton.

It is a chronicle of the ups and downs of the Middletons and their habitat, Karkar Island, all started by Max, John’s father, last century and continuing with his children and grandchildren.

Sir John’s easy conversational style of writing coloured with the obvious amusement he has with the antics of human behaviour gives the reader rare insights into PNG’s colonial and post-colonial life.

Much of the book is documented oral history and the remarks and comments by James Sinclair create a historical framework that puts the lives of the Middletons in focus in a continually changing social and political situation in Papua New Guinea.

Karkar_island_img_2885 William Maxwell Middleton, known as Max, created the plantation empire on Karkar and it has more or less survived in spite of war and political and social changes.

John, his son, extended the family’s influence beyond the confines of Karkar to the larger sphere of an emerging independent PNG. He’s received the accolades of a grateful nation.

But this book isn’t just a social history but an amusing read written by a gifted raconteur with a twinkle in his eye. Highly recommended.

Source: Deberigny Blog, 7 September

Transparency alarmed at abuse of Constitution

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL in Papua New Guinea says the surprise ousting of Sir Michael Somare from parliament last week shows an increasing abuse of the Constitution by politicians.

Speaker Jeffrey Nape claimed constitutional provisions allowed him to disqualify Sir Michael from parliament because he’d missed three consecutive sessions while having extended medical leave in Singapore.

Sir Michael’s family disputes this and calls the Speaker’s actions deplorable.

Mr Nape has indicated there are wide gaps in the Constitution that allowed his move, but Transparency International spokesperson, Lawrence Stephens, believes the nation’s guiding principles have not been properly followed and he says politicians risk destroying the Constitution.

“I believe that there are many things in the constitution that need interpretation by the National Court - that’s one of the reasons we have a National Court,” Mr Stephens said.

“As for driving trucks through it, no. Driving trucks across it, over it, destroying it, perhaps yes, and perhaps that’s what we have been watching.”

Meanwhile, MP Arthur Somare, says Tuesday’s ousting of his father from parliament was ‘an act of lunacy’.

Mr Somare says people found guilty of murder and rape have survived until dealt with by the courts, but Jeffrey Nape assumed extraordinary powers to oust the only MP who can boast 43 years of continuous parliamentary representation.

He says Mr Nape’s based his move on Sir Michael having undergone three life threatening surgeries while in Singapore for five months and failing to keep him fully informed.

But he says this is despite widespread media coverage of Sir Michael’s health.

In a hard hitting statement, Mr Somare, who’s already promising legal action over the ousting, quoted Martin Luther King and says he’ll follow the lead of Mahatma Gandhi and not cooperate with evil.

Source: Radio New Zealand International, 9 September

Trade Minister says PNG wants active Pacific role

TRADE MINISTER Charles Abel says Papua New Guinea wants to play a more active role in the Pacific region.

While prime minister Peter O’Neill only attended last week’s Pacific Forum leaders summit for a day, minister Charles Abel says that’s not an indication PNG isn’t interested in the Pacific, but was the result of unusual circumstances in domestic politics.

“The prime minister made every effort to come immediately after parliament to come,” Mr Abel said.

“We had our Foreign Affairs Minister representing. It is very, very important to us, and we understand the importance the role PNG plays in this region, being the biggest economy and the biggest country.

“We very much want to raise our profile and to take on the responsibility of that role.”

Source: Radio New Zealand International



Arawa-health-centre-23-jul-00 Rusty and dusty, but still peaceful
My birth place…
My peace and freedom

Rusty and dusty, but still caring
My birth place…
My blood and love

Rusty and dusty, but still empowering
My birth place…
My money and hope

Rusty and dusty, but still young
O birth place…
You still so beautiful.

Landowners and mining – a chance to have your say

Asked to tackle one of the toughest issues facing Papua New Guinea, PHIL FITZPATRICK invites you to join the debate in a practical way....

THE O’NEILL government seems to be very slowly backing away from the earlier announcement by Mining Minister Byron Chan that mineral rights will be handed over to traditional landowners.

While the proposal has merit in terms of social and natural justice, not to mention popularity prior to a rapidly approaching election, the complexities seem intimidating and just about insurmountable.

Added to this is the fact that the announcement has created a high degree of disquiet among the mining and petroleum fraternity.  That group probably views it as just another knee-jerk NA/Somare-style stunt to head off potential problems for the LNG Project in Hela.

At the moment the proposition seems to be in a “hang on guys, not so fast, let’s think about this for a minute” phase.

When that happens, it is usually a precursor to compromise.

Given the raw and unadorned nature of the original proposal, and the accelerated mining and exploration activity in the country of late, the pause may be both timely and sensible.

What the Minister should have announced, of course, was the intention of the government to investigate a range of issues related to mining with a view to extending more equity and control to landowners.

It should then have invited all the interested parties to make submissions.

I suspect this might be the way the proposal now plays out.  The government, for its part, will now go to the elections promising that it will mandate landowner-friendly changes to the Mining Act if it is re-elected.

I could be wrong of course.

I’ve been watching these developments with special interest because I’ve been asked to prepare a paper by a local service provider for a mining conference to be held in Port Moresby on 14 October. 

The topic will be how to successfully engage with traditional landowners through the development and implementation phases of a mining project.

After scratching my head for a few minutes I suddenly recalled the excellent debate on PNG Attitude when Minister Chan’s proposal was first mooted.

Why not mine (excuse the pun) this very informed resource for the paper I thought to myself.  I wonder if Keith would mind.

The question is: “Exactly what is the best way to engage with landowners to maximise their interests and smooth the way for mining projects?

If you have any ideas or opinions, I’d love to hear them.

I will also undertake to incorporate them in the paper and take them to the conference.

There will be representatives at the conference from the mining industry, along with government and departmental representatives.

If you have an opinion this might be an opportunity to express it.

Lodge a comment on PNG Attitude or, if that is a bit too public, email me at [email protected].

Landholders win hearing for Ramu appeal

THE PNG Supreme Court has granted an application by landholders for an expedited hearing of their appeal against a decision of the National Court.

Last month the court decided not to grant a permanent injunction stopping the marine dumping of toxic waste from the Ramu nickel mine.

The appeal will be heard on 3 and 4 October.

The Supreme Court also asked the lawyers representing the mine owners, Chinese State owned MCC and Australian based Highlands Pacific, to seek an undertaking from their clients that no waste will be dumped into the sea until the Supreme Court has made a decision on the appeal.

The matter was listed before the Chief Justice yesterday for lawyers to report back on whether their clients will give the undertaking or whether a temporary injunction application needs to be argued.

Source: Papua New Guinea Mine Watch, 8 September