Previous month:
October 2011
Next month:
December 2011

159 posts from November 2011

Most commented upon articles in November


... as Malum Nalu's blog presented it when it was still acknowledging it...ALTHOUGH IN THE MARKET for information from all sources, PNG Attitude’s strong preference is to publish original articles from its own sources, that is, its readers.

And, when we do publish material from other sources, it is usually not gleaned from the obvious channels like the PNG daily press or the more popular PNG blogs; we try to go off the beaten track.

We do make exceptions depending on the story, but that regulation stuff is so easy to come by we feel it would be redundant for us to republish it.

And when you look at the list of the top ten commented upon pieces, a league table we produce at the end of each month, in general the articles most commented upon are … you guessed it, pieces written expressly for PNG Attitude.

This month, just in case you missed reading one of these articles the first time, or if you’d like to read it again, we’ve provided a link.

15 comments – The kiap as philosopher, and grump  (Phil Fitzpatrick).  What are fighting words?  To say disapprovingly of ex-kiaps that “one of [their] recurring themes is how the Papua New Guinean people have stuffed up their country since 1975.”  Certainly lit the blue touch paper of debate….

15 – Peter O’Neill, you’ve got it wrong on this one (Keith Jackson).  Dragging the PNG Supreme Court into the political maelstrom by taking a poke at the Chief Justice was always a lousy idea.  Admittedly the PM was overseas but, in these days of instant communication, that’s never an excuse.

14 – RH must dissociate itself from this sleazy campaign  (Keith Jackson).  A thoroughly despicable anonymous internet campaign against people (mainly women) expressing opposition to some of the practices of the RH company should have been condemned by RH and its subsidiary, The National.  It wasn’t.

12 – Neighbours: Changing mindsets on Australia and PNG  (Keith Jackson).  My meeting with Sam Riordan, Julie Bishop’s adviser on PNG affairs, canvassed many issues and showed the Australian Federal Opposition will take a fresh approach to PNG if elected to office.

11 – If only I knew: A tribute to my beautiful wife  (Reg Renagi).  This heart-rending tribute to loss and love captured the hearts of many readers, a number of whom offered stories their own experiences of dealing with profound personal tragedy.

10 – Tok Pisin should be taught in our schools  (Paul Oates).  Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best – and this one was a good one.  How better to inculcate an understanding of our nearest neighbour than to teach its lingua franca in schools?  Is anyone listening?

9 – Introducing The Review (Keith Jackson). When the PNG Attitude magazine morphed into The Review in early November, it represented more than a name change.  The new look publication promoted the role of good, original writing above trying to be a journal of record.

7 – Mama’s bilum  (Erick Kowa).  It’s rare in the Attitude annals that a poem sparks controversy.  This one did, but only because one ungracious reader decided to use it as a platform for a gratuitous swipe at the poet.  Erick was mellow in his response; but two or three Australian defenders cut to the chase in forthright Aussie fashion.

7 – What is development? Our source; the sacred land  (Martyn Namorong).  “There is no honour in not fighting to protect one’s land.”  In Melanesia, land is not a mere commodity, it is the core of spirituality and an indivisible part of the soul - “the source of everything,”  as Martyn put it.

7 – Now we’re taking PNG literature to the world  (Phil Fitzpatrick).  An initial foray into raising the Australian consciousness of PNG literature was martialled by Phil in an article for the December issue of Good Reading magazine

A story of hardship addressed and challenge met


Night Dreams of Passing MemoriesNight Dreams of Passing Memories, by John Kadiba

AS THE DUST JACKET of this autobiography points out, this is a unique life’s history of a Papua New Guinean man, John Kadiba; born on the Sogeri Plateau of the Central Province just after World War II and now a resident of Darwin in northern Australia.

The book tells of John’s village childhood, his schooling, his western education and his subsequent life experiences, including family tragedies and serious issues with employers in his former church.

It is an extremely well written autobiography with a simple elegance that is captivating. Certain passages of the book are allegorical and the author has used a number of literary devices which one doesn’t normally associate with autobiographies.

In moving from the autobiographical “fact” into the magical realm of the imagination, he uses soliloquy, flashback and juxtaposition very effectively. The imagery of the narrative is enhanced because of these techniques.

This is very much a bicultural story. The writer’s use of vernacular language clearly illustrates his connection with his own PNG people. He discusses in detail the challenges he faced trying to adapt to the intrusive western influences that confronted him over a number of decades.

Some of these, particularly in the author’s former church, were very confronting. But John Kadiba prevailed.  He is a “self-made man”, clearly not the “half-baked bean” as some colonial skeptics labelled him in 1970.

As one of the first graduates of the University of Papua New Guinea, he and others were viewed with great suspicion by many white people residing in PNG in the colonial era.

I recommend John Kadiba’s book to anyone who appreciates a story that depicts triumph over adversity.

John KadibaIt is a story told with quiet pride and which places great emphasis on the value of family. It is a story that could have been told with rancour – but there is no evidence of this.

Hopefully many young people in PNG will gain access to this fine autobiography.

They could learn a lot from it, as could their young Australian counterparts.

Night Dreams of Passing Memories, by John Kadiba, July 2011, ISBN: 9781462849123, available from for $29.99

For you I will....


The maskI’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
I'll forget he kicked me around and ripped my blouse apart
Put it all behind me, for it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
I’ll put a bandage on the wound he gave me with the kitchen knife
Put it all behind me, for it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
Fill in the holes he made, as he drove the shaft through my skin
Put it all behind me, for it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so you I can see you smile
Wear a scarf over my head; hide away to bruises he left me
Put it all behind me, for it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
I’ll swallow the pain, so my broken body won’t bring you a tear
Put it all behind me, for its my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
I’ll force the food down my throat, so you can eat yours too
Put it all behind me, of it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today; just so I can see you smile
Yes, I’ll play with you today and I'll laugh out loud too
Behind the mask - need for love; fear of lossPut it all behind me, for it’s my duty and your right to be happy

I’ll put on my mask for you today, like I do every other day
I’ll be your mother, your father and your friend
Put it all behind us, for we deserve to be happy.

Pigeon DD43T139 - an on song hero of WW2


Pigeon DD43T139 with its Dickin MedalTHE DICKIN MEDAL was instituted in 1943 in the United Kingdom by Maria Dickin to honour the courage and dedication of animals in wartime.

It is a bronze medallion, bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" within a laurel wreath, carried on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown and pale blue.

It’s awarded to animals that have displayed "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the armed forces or civil defence units" and is commonly referred to as "the animals' Victoria Cross".

The medal was awarded 54 times between 1943 and 1949 to 32 pigeons, 18 dogs, three horses and a cat to acknowledge actions of gallantry or devotion during World War II.

Perhaps less well known is that one of the recipients of this award was a pigeon which served in Papua New Guinea - known only as Australian Pigeon DD43T139.

The notes on the award say:

This certificate accompanied the Dickin Medal awarded to Australian Army Blue Bar cock pigeon DD43T139 for gallantry as a result of a flight he undertook through a severe tropical storm near Madang, New Guinea, on 12 July 1945. At the time the bird was located at 10 Pigeon Section (Type B) attached to Detachment 55 Port Craft Company, Madang.

On that day he carried the following message, from a foundering boat to Madang, flying 40 miles in 50 minutes: “To: Detachment 55 Australian Port Craft Company, MADANG. From: AB 1402. Date: 12.7.45. Engine Failed. Wash on to beach at WADAU owing very heavy seas. Send help immediately. Am rapidly filling with sand. TOO: 0800 - Senders signature - HOLLAND Cpl. TO Liberation 0805 - No. of copies 2. TOR at Loft – 0855”.

As a result of the successful delivery of the message the boat, together with valuable stores, ammunition and equipment was salvaged.

The bird had previously completed 23 operational flights over a distance of 1,004 miles.

The citation for the award reads:

Awarded to Pigeon DD43T139 for gallantry carrying a message through a severe tropical storm thereby bringing help to an army boat with a vital cargo, in danger of foundering.

The bird had been donated to the army in 1943 as a patriotic gesture by a civilian pigeon fancier, George Adams of 11 Vigo Street, Footscray, Victoria, for use in signals units in New Guinea.

Mr Adams was not the bird's breeder but had approached members of pigeon clubs in Melbourne seeking the donation of birds for wartime duties.

After he approached the Yarraville Pigeon Club, one of its members, Gordon Whittle, whose family had bred and raced pigeons for many years, donated a number of birds. One of the pigeons he bred was DD43T139.

Source: Australian War Memorial

A poet’s quest


If humans were formed from dust, & poetry is our meager attempt to reveal the beautiful or sublime; the beauty of this dust from which we originated from is unsurpassed -jmf

Words and meaningsOnce a man in his quest to be poetic,
Twisted and mingled words to find
Subtle beauty in meager arrangements.

At birth of day;
When the day was ripe;
At death of day;
Even when the night’s eye
Was sleeping, he searched

His dreams. Reaped them apart;
Turned them upside down and
Scribbled their charms on memory.

Only to find hosts of
Re-arranged cliches.
Exhausted, out loud he cried.

'Give me a drink of thesaurus, and
Cigars rolled in pages of a dictionary.
I'd be drunk with beautiful metaphors,
And be high with unusual rhymes that

Sing and dance. I’d sing along and
Sprightly dance that our voices may
Reach over vales and hills
Till my mind’s ink is drawn.

Yes! O yes, an echo on shelf
Lonely and dusty continues to sing.
On platforms or from behind silent corners,
I'd care not because, time …;
Would’ve dealt with me”.

‘Ell plates: Learning to drive in New Guinea


Land Rover Series IIAUNTIL JUST RECENTLY I spent many enjoyable years thundering around outback Australia in great big Toyota Landcruisers; most often off the beaten track and accompanied by wizened old wati tjilpi or Aboriginal lawmen.

These days I potter carefully along the esplanade in Hervey Bay in a miniscule red Suzuki Jimny, which, incidentally, will go places a Landcruiser can’t.  I reckon the little bugger would climb a tree if I pointed it in the right direction.

However I learnt to drive in New Guinea.

‘Learnt’ is probably not the best description.  I have never actually been taught to drive.  I sort of picked it up as I went along.

I arrived in Mount Hagen as a Cadet Patrol Officer in 1967 as a very green 19 year old who had never before sat behind the wheel of a moving car.

At ASOPA a fellow cadet, Gordon Findlay, who was a dedicated petrol head, showed us a photograph he had personally taken of the speedo of the car that he had been driving which read something like 250 miles per hour; perhaps it wasn’t that high but I was very impressed and made to feel inadequate in a strange male way.

The magnificent red beastMy first driving experience was on two wheels, rather than four.  I was at the Hagen Park Motel and one of the Patrol Officers, Rob Kelvin, tossed me the keys of the Sub-District Office Honda 90 and said, ‘Can you take that back to the office please?’  ‘Sure’, I said and wandered outside to look at the magnificent red beast.

Everything was going well until I turned out of the driveway.  I had been secretly watching the machinations related to the beast and was relatively pleased to have made it that far.

Then, for some reason, an unexpected bump in the road perhaps, terror took hold.  For some inexplicable reason I turned the accelerator up while trying to jam on the brakes.  I was lucky that the bike was wide enough to straddle the barat that I landed in or it would have been on top of me.

Later, when I was beginning to get cocky, I ran into a patch of river gravel on the Kagamuga Road and went sailing over the handlebars.  An outstretched hand collected a big cobble.

A concerned old man in arse gras who had been walking along the road came over to see if I was all right and to offer technical advice.  Have you ever badly bruised the palm of your hand?  It’s not pleasant.

Continue reading "‘Ell plates: Learning to drive in New Guinea" »

Knee-jerk response Gavman


Driving home along Lawes Road and - this is Port Moresby [Ilya Gridneff]When you’ve lost everything
And you choose not to think
About the future
Because those thoughts
Drive you mad
You sit down
Contemplate suicide
And  decide to Act

Initially you pick pockets at Koki
Then you break and enter at Manu
Followed by an armed robbery
And when you kill someone
The Gavman responds

When you got nothing to live for
And all you see is greed
What do you care
About change
Or Social order
When life is tough
And All you think of
Is survival

Finally you write a petition
Then you make a call
Followed by more threats
And when you do the damage
The Gavman responds

Image: Ilya Gridneff

Wedding bilas & the muruk in the backyard


Peter in full bilasWHEN ROSE AND I GOT MARRIED in 2007 we decided - on the advice of tambus - to get dressed in Simbu bilas.

But to find the right bilas was another story.  We had Simbu relatives living down the road at Two Mile, so we went to their place one night in search of suitable items.

We found a half-complete set of bilas at one aunty’s, some feathers at another's, and a cousin-brother loaned us some lovely kina shells.

But we were missing the big black headdress plumes from the sickletail bird of paradise - kua sine mige - which is so distinctive of Simbu bilas.

We were told to visit one Simbu family a bit further down the road. So off we went in search of authentic ornamentation to our costumes.

Sure enough they had some for hire - carefully stored in bamboo and tissue paper. But they were 'out the back' in the shed.  To examine them involved going through the house and into the garden.

Unfortunately they forgot to mention that that had a tame muruk (cassowary) roaming the backyard.

MurukMuruks are not very friendly creatures, and are rather forbidding.  A bit like an emu on steroids.

We carefully made our way through the back door only to meet full-face with this forbidding creature staring down at us.

Uncle said – “Don't worry about him, he just wants to get to know you”.  That's all very well, but this bird was six feet high, and his sharp beak was inches from my face as he inspected us.  They are known to be bad-tempered, and have even been known to kill people.

Luckily we had just been to the market and I had a bag of bananas.  Thinking quickly, I offered him one, which kept him occupied while we found the bilas and made a hasty exit.

All ended well - but not for the muruk.

He ended up in the pot at our wedding feast.

Tasted a bit like turkey.

UN welcomes reserved seats for women in PNG

THE INTRODUCTION OF HISTORIC new laws that aim to give women a greater say in the Papua New Guinea parliament has been welcomed by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Changes to PNG’s constitution should allow for the creation of 22 reserved seats for women in the country’s 109 seat legislature.

 “In a country where women are severely underrepresented at the national political decision making level and where they are widely discriminated against in many facets of life, dedicated seats in parliament for women are a step in the right direction for women's political participation,” said Matilda Bogner, regional representative of OHCHR in the Pacific.

“A stronger voice for women in parliament is vital for progressing gender equality in PNG. Moving from having only one woman in parliament to having a guarantee of 22 women will be crucial in shifting attitudes and should help to strengthen women's voices in national policies and legislation.

“This is a historic development, which – quite appropriately – comes during the 16 days of activism against gender violence. Gender based violence is an important issue facing PNG. It is hoped that more women in parliament will help to speed up the urgently needed progress on this issue.

“OHCHR looks forward to seeing these seats in place before the upcoming general election in 2012. It is crucial for the women of PNG to have their representation in the national parliament set up before the next elections, as any delay would again deny these women their political voice at the national level,” said Ms Bogner.

Source: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 28 November

Do indigenous peoples benefit from development?


WHAT'S DEVELOPMENT FOR? That may be straightforward to people who don't have water or food, or sewerage in urban areas (faecal contamination is the biggest, easily preventable, manmade killer).

But, although millions still lack such basics, they form only a tiny part of what passes for development these days. The duplicity of politics and business ensures much else – arms, for example – is shoehorned into the same category.

What should development mean for those who are largely self-sufficient, getting their own food and building their dwellings where the water is still clean – like many of the world's 150 million tribal people? Has development got anything helpful for them, or has it simply got it in for them?

It's easy to see where it has led. Leaving aside the millions who succumbed to the colonial invasion, in some of the world's most "developed" countries (Australia, Canada and the US) development has turned most of the survivors into dispossessed paupers.

Take any measure of what it ought to mean: high income, longevity, employment, health; low rates of addiction, suicide, imprisonment and domestic violence, and you find that indigenous people in the US, Canada and Australia are by far the worst off on every count – but no one seems to heed the lesson.

These are the consequences of a dispossession more total in North America and Australia than almost anywhere on Earth. The colonists were determined to steal tribal lands, and unquestioning about their own superiority. They espoused politico-economic models in which workers produced for distant markets, and had to pay for the privilege.

The natives, using no money, paying no taxes, contributing little to the marketplace until forced to, were "backward". At best, they were to be integrated to serve colonist society.

Colonialism set out to take away their self-sufficiency, on their own territory, and lead them to glorious productivity, as menials, on someone else's. There's little point in calling for retroactive apologies for this because it's not confined to the past: most development schemes foisted on tribal peoples today point in exactly the same direction.

Continue reading "Do indigenous peoples benefit from development?" »

Tok Pisin should be taught in our schools


AUSTRALIA’s DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER Julie Bishop yesterday came out and championed the proposal that all Australian school children should learn an Asian language.

"It would be brilliant form of soft diplomacy if we had a large body of people in Australia who were able to speak an Asian language," Ms Bishop said.

“Such a policy would help Australia engage with its increasingly important region.”

While any clear thinking Australian would no doubt agree with Ms Bishop, her words do beg the question of why our nearest neighbour Papua New Guinea appears to be excluded from this initiative.

Look at who was informed about the increased US presence in Australia prior to a public announcement: China, India and Indonesia.  Like a northern Tasmania, have PNG and the South Pacific fallen off the map again?

If we continue to ignore our closest friends and allies, they might understandably decide to look elsewhere. Remonstrations over the inclusion in the new national schools syllabus of PNG’s shared history with Australia seem to have evaporated into the proverbial thin air.

Come on Canberra.  Start looking over the front fence.

Our national border don’t start in Queanbeyan or Yass or Goulburn. You might even find that there are quite a few Australians who can already communicate with our friends across the Torres Strait.

Trying to focus the telescope on distant horizons might well cause you to trip over something directly in front of you.

A guide for writers entering the Crocodile Prize 2012


Anthology Cover 2011WITH THE HOLIDAY SEASON nearly upon us, it may be that (with the help of this little aide memoire) that your thoughts will turn in the direction of creative writing.

The current 2012 Crocodile Prize literary contest is a much more elaborate project than in 2011.  There are more categories in which prizes are awarded and, at K5,000 each, the prizes are substantially more attractive.

We know writers don’t need money to motivate their creative process (although it helps), but it’s a nice reward for a great idea that transforms into a wonderful piece of prose or poetry.

The first important thing you need to know about The Crocodile Prize is that you must be a Papua New Guinean citizen to enter.

And the second is that your entries must be submitted by Thursday 31 May 2012. (After judging and the production of an anthology of the best PNG writing in 2012, the winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in Port Moresby on Friday 14 September).

You will also need to send in an official entry form with your first entry – you can download it here.

Now for a brief description of each of the seven awards on offer.

We’d like writers to submit around 1,500 words on a fictional theme of interest to a general readership.  As with the other categories, we won’t penalise longer entries but we’d rather 300 beautifully crafted words than 3,000 going nowhere very much.

The guideline here is for about 300 words on a theme of interest to a general readership.  In practice, you can submit on any theme or subject of your choosing.  (Naming rights for this award are still available: contact me here.)

Around 1,000 words on a theme of current interest to a general readership.  Contributions may range from essays on subjects of national cultural or policy importance to articles about people, places or on other factual themes.

A story or article of about 1,500 words on a theme that delves into traditional customs, beliefs and stories, and discovers and promotes Papua New Guinea's cultural heritage.  This award is sponsored by Bob Cleland (who was a kiap from 1953-76) and honours the names and contributions to PNG of Sir Donald Cleland (Administrator 1951-66) and Dame Rachel Cleland (friend and supporter of PNG and its culture 1951-79).

Not more than 500 words on a theme of interest to a general readership.  The award was initiated by former editor of the PNG School Paper, Ed Brumby, and is supported by expatriate teachers who served in PNG.  Students who are at primary or high school in 2012 are eligible to enter.

To be awarded from the judges’ consideration of all entries from female writers.  No special applications are required, the judges will select the winner from all the entries received.

To be awarded by the judges after consideration of the contributions to national literature that PNG’s leading writers have made down the years.  No nominations are required.

Over the coming months we'll be publishing as many entries as we can in PNG Attitude and in The Review magazine (and from early next year on the Prize’s dedicated website).  But to be published in The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012, as the best entries will be, well, that’s something very special to every writer.

We plan to print 10,000 copies of next year's anthology (budget willing) - a huge publishing effort.  This will link the top Papua New Guinean writers with a large audience of Papua New Guinean readers.

We will also be staging AustAsia Pacific Writers' Forums for the best emerging writers.  These will be held in Port Moresby and, we hope (again subject to budget), Goroka and Madang.

Being able to read literature from your own country should be the right of every citizen.  A homegrown literature can certainly make a huge contribution to national culture, identity and understanding.  The Crocodile Prize is all about developing an sustainable national written literature in Papua New Guinea.

You can be part of that.

Decolonising the mind


Today education poisons minds
The young are made to feel inferior
When their ancestors
Were some of the first:
Traders and Bankers
Naval architects
Sailors and Navigators
Obsidian miners
Pottery experts
And Environmental scientists

Today the white-man’s system fails you
In Grade 6
In Grade 8
In Grade 10
In Grade 12
And at tertiary level
So by the time you leave
Your mind’s messed up
Your life is screwed
And your government screws you

Defamation threats used to impede news reporting


ANOTHER DEFAMATION SUIT filed against a Papua New Guinean media organisation has raised questions on why public complaints are not being taken up with the national media complaints committee.

Major logging, trading and media interest Rimbunan Hijau (RH) has filed for defamation against the Post Courier newspaper over its coverage of an official investigation into logging interests by an RH company in the Pomio district of the West New Britain Province.

The Post Courier reported several stories of police brutality on landowners unhappy with logging operations in the area. It was alleged the police were sent there by Rimbunan Hijau.

Defamation threats were also levelled at reporters covering the sale of the former prime minister's official jet. The threats were made by Air Niugini's CEO Wasanthra Kumarasiri when pressed to explain what the sale plans were and the cost involved.

And in August, a provincial governor named The National (which is owned by RH) in his defamation suit over stories he was unhappy with.

"The spate of defamation suits is a worrying trend,” said PFF chair Titi Gabi, of Papua New Guinea. “Using legal offices and language against journalists reporting the facts can lead to self-censorship by PNG media at a time when their investigative journalism is badly needed.”

"The national Media Council manages a complaints process on behalf of news organisations who are its members who follow a code of ethics which members of the public are able to call on in their complaints," says Gabi.

"It's a model of self-regulation which has worked in the past and should be strengthened because it works. We encourage the current claimants, and the public - especially leaders and companies with grievances over reportage, to take up the media council complaints process.”

Under the PNG Constitution, freedom of speech, press, and information are guaranteed and defamation is not a criminal offence. However, journalists can be sued for defamation in civil cases but complaints are usually settled out of court before proceeding to hearings.

I am a man


Papuan warrior, 1928I am a man, indeed I am the man
Come here woman, look not into my eyes
I am a man, indeed I am the man
Take away these hungers that madden me

I am a man, I am the man
Refine my spear and tauten my skirt
I am a man, I am the man
Run this wood- made comb through this fuzz

I am a man, I am the man
Gather the crops for days ahead
I am a man, I am the man
Sit outside, for it concerns none of you

I am a man, I am the man
Connect with the soil; yes tend it for my seeds
I am a man, I am the man
Walk a different path, away a way

I am a man, I am the man
You take my forte, my masculinity
I am a man, I am the man
You are a woman, belittle yourself before thee

I am a man, I am the man

A few hurdles before women MPs hit the hustings

PAPUA NEW GUINEA's only female MP, Dame Carol Kidu, says she is cautiously optimistic women will run in the 2012 election, but fears the move could be swamped by the Supreme Court's upcoming verdict on the government's legitimacy.

Dame Carol says Mr O'Neill told her the law would be introduced on 6 December, although the potential political fallout from the court decision on 9 December could come at the expense of the women's electorates.

"The political dynamics are going to become quite strange over the next few weeks with the court decision, and it needs two passages," she told AAP on Sunday.

"I was expecting it to happen this week. I asked the PM, he said he would put it through on the sixth.  I am cautiously optimistic."

Dame Carol said passing the bill required a first and second reading on separate days.

Source: AAP / Business Spectator, 27 November

Second guessing the Mining Act


EARLIER IN THE YEAR, Mines Minister Byron Chan peremptorily announced that the government planned to hand state-owned mineral rights back to traditional landowners.

Amid the uproar, prime minister Peter O’Neill managed to reassure the miners that this was not the case and apologised for the sudden dents in their shareholder’s wallets.

It was the first of several cases of government ministers jumping the gun.  Hopefully, after the last instance involving the Supreme Court, the message has got through and O’Neill’s stress levels have returned to normal.

There is no doubt that the Mining Act will either be rewritten or amended.  The current one goes back to 1992 and is not really up to dealing with the massive resource development and all the associated problems that are going on in Papua New Guinea at the moment.

If the Act is amended or re-written there are a number of key elements that need to be addressed.

Social mapping and landowner identification studies, just like those required under the Oil and Gas Act, need to be introduced. Under the latter Act preliminary studies are conducted before a company is allowed entry onto an exploration tenement and in detail if the project proceeds to the production stage. 

These studies provide the company with an appreciation of the people in the area of a tenement and allow landowners to have an input into the exploration and development process.  At the moment the inconsistency between the two Acts simply serves to confuse people.

Despite the earlier announcement it is very unlikely that landowners will get ownership of the minerals under their land.  It is unfortunate that their expectations were unnecessarily raised but in reality the complications, legalities and inequities inherent in such a system are too great to be practical.

This doesn’t mean that there should not be provision for landholders to have greater equity in mining projects over and above any proportional royalties they might normally receive. 

The way to do this would be to legislate so that they can negotiate deals over equity directly with the mining companies.  It would also be good if the provinces, and even local level government, could get a cut of that action too. 

The money would still have to be controlled  through a trust arrangement but it would be a great way to get kinas out to the people.

Something should also be done to improve the process of dispute resolution between companies and landowners.  At the moment the companies are being accused of bully boy tactics and the landowners of making spurious claims.

Continue reading "Second guessing the Mining Act" »

We were not savages


Pastel WarriorI feel strongly connected
To A land and A language
A culture and A custom
A tradition and A tribe
A race and A place
That’s why I protest
This exploitation

I protest against miners
Who exploit the descendants
Of obsidian miners
We were not savages

I protest against fishing companies
Who exploit the descendants
Of ancient fishermen
We were not savages

I protest against agriculturalists
Who exploit the descendants
Of Kuk valley farmers
We were not savages

I protest against the traders
Who exploit the descendants
Of Bilbil, Hiri, Kula and Lapita traders
We were not savages

I protest against historians
Who do not recognise
Forty thousand years
Of genuine independence
We were not savages

They were not savages
We are now savages
We’ve done more damage
Than our ancestors ever did

Illustration: Hal Holman

Prying and spying: the Great Game of spookery


Archetypal SpyTHE TERM ‘GREAT GAME’ was made famous by Rudyard Kipling in his celebrated novel Kim. Well worth reading - but you will have to forgive the 19th century preconceptions and language.

It is the game played by national intelligence agencies across borders, allegiances and countries.

And it is being played in Papua New Guinea right now by PNG, Australia, Indonesia, China, the USA and others.

They will of course all deny this.

But the spooks are active.  If you are careful, you can check them out - watching PNG ministers and officials, prominent expats and foreign dignitaries in private conversations around the clubs, pubs and hotels of Moresby.

They usually sit in the background - trying to overhear conversations. They observe who meets whom, and note their time spent together.

I suspected one once, and approached him after I had been talking quite innocently to a PNG minister.

I said "Hello, I'm from Australia, where are you from?"  He was a white man and it was clear where he was from.

He refused to answer me, and promptly disappeared.  At the same time three other people quickly left the club.

Spooks are alive and well and still doing business in PNG.

But I wonder what information they are gathering?  The price of Copra in Rabaul?  What does Minister X think about Minister Y?  Are buai sales buoyant in Mosbi?  Where is the Bishop of Kainantu off to tonight?

ASIO and NIO and the rest, I think you have better things to do.

And don't talk about the CIA and MI5, they're not interested.

WHO warns of PNG’s untreatable tuberculosis


THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION is warning of the potential for an untreatable form of tuberculosis to develop on Australia's doorstep.

It says infections of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) in Papua New Guinea's remote south-west have reached crisis levels.

The country's health minister, Jamie Maxtone-Graham, says tuberculosis is now a greater health emergency than HIV/AIDS.

Dr Catharina Van Weezenbeek, from the World Health Organisation, says it is now clear the problem is in a state of emergency.

"If you just look at the numbers of MDR TB cases, it's clear that we're dealing with a crisis," she said.

"Children 14-years-old infected with MDR TB in a family with already five patients dying."

A research team from WHO found the rural health centres are rundown with very limited or no medical supplies.

There is no TB coordinator in the region so no one is monitoring patients to ensure they stick to the lengthy treatment of drugs required to beat the disease, meaning many do not.

WHO's Dr Donald Enarson says that has led to the emergence of MDR TB.

"Multi-drug resistance has passed from being created from bad treatment to now being established in a community by itself and spreading among community members," he said.

Local medical records show 94 people have contracted MDR TB in Western Province since 2005.

But the records are incomplete and WHO suspects those cases are just the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

The organisation's MDR TB expert, Dr Ernesto Jaramillo, says the situation has the potential to get much worse.

"When treatment is delivered under the current conditions which many patients are having, then it's a matter of months or years before we have forms of TB that cannot be cured," she said.

Half the identified cases of MDR TB were treated at tuberculosis clinics in the Torres Strait which is just a short boat ride across the maritime border with Australia.

Earlier this year Queensland's Department of Health said it would close the clinics because of a funding dispute with the Federal Health Department.

Australian tuberculosis experts have criticised the move as irresponsible.

But Dr Van Weezenbeek says despite the best of intentions, the treatment of PNG nationals across the border has contributed to the emergence of MDR TB.

"The cross border is, in fact, is complicating the situation. In fact most of those patients are being lost," she said.

Continue reading "WHO warns of PNG’s untreatable tuberculosis" »

She wakes with the Agegena


THE MOUNTAINS THAT MORNING looked spectacular with the blanket of thick white cloud that came in like an envelope enclosing all the beauty that the people of Masumave had ever seen.  It was just one of those mornings.

Masumave was a village that lay in the heart of the Ungaii valley, surrounded by icy unending streams and river ways that paved paths to beautiful caves and hollows, a place that Mehere was all too familiar with - the spaces that brought a history of warfare, migration, marriage and cannibalism and always lingered as reminders for her to contemplate the times of her life and sing songs about.

Mehere was out doing the ordinary; sitting outside all she’d ever come to know, the walls of an old church, quite withered from the continuous rainfall, with receding paint and echo’s produced by the heavy morning winds that swept through the emptiness of its frame.

Weeding away in silence, she contemplated how her journey had brought her this close to having such an intimate bond with this other world. The world of the Whiteman’s God in which she had invested as her own.

Within the scope of her eyes came the frame of a rather petite but strong being, one whose company she enjoyed so dearly. Wearing nothing more than a hand-me-down dress much lengthier than suited her, was Nei Mena, her impaired companion, her loyal and witty friend. To Mehere, she was no different, she was a child of her new found God and though disabled in speech and hearing, her other abilities were far beyond compare. She was special.

A smile was always her way of greeting, as it not only portrayed reception, but the appreciation of their friendship over time.

“Come, my friend, sit here beside me and let us weed this quickly”, she waved her hands swiftly gesturing her instructions.

Nei Mena smiled in consent.

As their hands scurried through the soil, so did Mehere’s mind; of her youth in the garden in which she and her mother had worked to tend. She remembered the great burden of waking with the chirping of the agegena as the morning sun took its time to rise. The smell of the barely surviving smoke meeting the woven kunai roof-top seeping through her nostrils and the rattling of her mother’s digging sticks.

“Mehere, Mena we, get up, get up, the morning is upon us. Let’s begin early while the earth is cold and the sun is still asleep”, insisted her mother in a mellow voice.

Menanido, Mehere’s mother, was quite a fierce woman for her time. The people of Masumave held much respect for her endurance; they perceived her as a woman with the mind and make of a man. Her make was immeasurably tested in those fields of war where women dare go and in the excessive intimacy with her duties; all that mattered or confined her being was whether she thought she should be there or not. She was the wife of Chief Kake, a man of great fortitude who fearlessly led the Hepowe clan out of their trials.

Continue reading "She wakes with the Agegena" »

Grass-skirts revolution


Buri and Carol Kidu on their wedding day"I INVITE ALL Honourable Gentlemen to rise in their places," booms Jeffrey Nape, the Speaker of Papua New Guinea's National Parliament.

Despite her apparent invisibility the sole woman in the chamber also rises dutifully. After almost 15 years in politics, the past 10 as the only woman in the 109-seat PNG National Parliament, she is long-since inured to such oversights. Dame Carol Kidu knows to save her breath for bigger battles, and there's a humdinger brewing.

She is about to single-handedly, sweetly, but emphatically challenge this assembly of the Big Men of PNG politics. A head count of the chamber for this historic session — the first sitting of the new government of Prime Minister Peter O'Neill — finds 59 of them versus this single white female. The odds are not unnoticed.

"I want to take my hat off to the Member for Moresby South, Dame Carol Kidu, for being present today," declares controversial Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah.

Her adored father Basil Millwater was one of the Rats of Tobruk, coming home from the war minus a leg but soldiering on, so perhaps she is channelling some of his gumption. "Point of order," Kidu responds crisply. "I don't need [you] to praise my virtues on the floor." She is smiling and just a bit sassy, playing her cards.

This Dame is an unlikely political fighter — a widow in spectacles, a tidy nana coif and a floral blouse. If not for that mouth and the traditional clan tattoos her mother-in-law inked above one pale wrist long ago, she could slip back to her home town of Shorncliffe in suburban Brisbane, indistinguishable from the 60-somethings enjoying comfortable dowager status and a spritzer at the local golf club.

But a teenage romance that turned into a 25-year marriage to one of Papua New Guinea's most respected figures, and endures as a 40-year love affair with the nation she came to as a bride, mother and teacher, jolted her into an alternate reality.

Carol Millwater was seduced first by a man and then by a rich culture of communal care and spirit. She grieves the loss of both. The man's death was swift and sudden, while the society slowly fractures and diminishes under the thousand cuts of abrupt modernity, corruption, poverty and population growth.

And so Kidu, 63, today finds herself a Pacific suffragette, spearheading an urgent agenda for political recognition and basic rights for the women of PNG — by any measure among the most marginalised, brutalised and desperate in the world — and for the welfare of their children.

Read more:

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November

'Taim blong ol meri': Time for women in PNG


Namatanai womenTHIS WEEK PNG DID AWAY with the dubious distinction of holding one of the worst records in the world for female representation in parliament.

Seizing what may have been the last chance for PNG's women to politically weigh in on an uncertain future, parliament passed Dame Carol Kidu's longstanding Equality and Participation Bill, by a majority of 72 votes to 2.

The decision can be taken as a generally positive indicator of things to come in PNG.

Saddled with a resource curse, instability, crumbling social services and a mass of ethno-linguistic divisions that make nation-building at times a near-impossible task, PNG's challenges are far from over.

But it is better equipped than ever to tackle them. Gender-equitable leadership will contribute to more productive, balanced and representative policymaking, and quotas will serve as a powerful way of achieving this.

Kidu's bill has been around in one form or another since as early as 2005, but it enjoyed little support under previous Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

That his successor was able in a matter of months to move many of those who had rejected the bill is also a positive indicator of the powerful change that current PM Peter O'Neill is capable of instigating in a political system long dismissed as too corrupt, patriarchal and dysfunctional to be capable of progress.

Kidu's bill has not been without its detractors. Quotas like PNG's are often dismissed as anti-meritocratic, unwelcome, counter-productive, expensive and unfair.

Her detractors have held that any woman who succeeds in a system with quotas will have aspersions cast on her success; that colleagues will resent her, and children will grow up thinking that women need special treatment to succeed.

Kidu's bill will rectify a longstanding imbalance in PNG politics by creating 22 additional provincial seats to be contested exclusively by women but voted on equally by both genders.

From mid-2012, women in PNG will begin to fight at the highest level a socio-institutional apparatus that enforces and legitimises the often violent subordination of women.

This is what quotas have achieved in Rwanda, where women now make up 55.6% of government (thereby exceeding the mandated level of female representation). The legal apparatus that enabled them to do so may have been unmeritocratic, but the ends it served abound with merit.

Continue reading "'Taim blong ol meri': Time for women in PNG" »

Trails of the Yellow Man


Bipo bipo tru. In dream time. In the jungles of New Guinea. There lives a man. His sons. His daughters. His wives. His dogs... father and sons, back. From a day trip. Finds. Trails of the Yellow search for wood. And fire. For Light. That never dies. This is. Their story. This is. His story....

[Crickets creaking, waterfall crackles, the cover of dusk, as canopy mist befell the forest floor. There is no light on the forest floor. There never is...]

Shhhhhhhh! The Yellow Man....

There he comes... his strides, can you hear?

A conspiracy from within. Of darkness. From darkness.

Shhhhhhh! Listen now.

Look. Closer. His swagman, can you see?

The tattoos! On his forehead. On his back. Could he be.  Your own?

Shhhhhhh! Don’t move....

Wait. Quiet. Listen. Lest he hears, the sound of your bow strings.

[...Gentle whispers. From spirits within...]

Oh wild mortal, when will you learn, if ever you will?

The battle is within. In the hour of sweet sleep. In the recess of your mind

The battle is within. On the comforts of your bed. Where your head rests

The battle is within. At banquets of foreign kings. Where your tummy rumbles

Arise! Oh you mighty man. Awake now! You daughters of hope

Keep watch. Like your fathers did. In Days of Old

Hide the fire. Like your mothers did. When time began

Arise! Oh you sons of this land. Defend. Trails to your sanctuary

Lest you make love to morning- lose your soul, lose your head, lose your hand

Lest you slumber- a generation gone

Watch now, the sleeping child. Guard now, the virgin woman.

[The yellow man lays down his basket, take out his dinner from his swag, and eats, looking innocent to the uninitiated eyes. He takes out his bamboo flutes, and makes music to welcome the night. He then takes out; his last coconut fronds, and set it alight. For light on the forest floor. There is no light on the forest floor. There never is...Is this really, a gesture of friendship?...]

Shhhhhhh! Sniff..... Smell that?

The aroma from his basket.

Shhhhhhh! Listen.... Catch that?

The music from his drum

Shhhhhhh!... Pause. Take your time

            Could be poison. A conspiracy. Of darkness. From darkness

Shhhhh! Hold yourself. Be calm now, lest your mouth water. Stay a bit longer

            Watch. Listen. Wait. See. Hear. Judge. The Yellow Man

[...Gentle whispers. From spirits within...]

Oh hairy wild man, it’s only a bowl of beans! Red beans!.              

Your pedigree, needs food of a different kind.

The kind that comes in whispers, father to son, mother to daughter

Oh great warrior! Hear now and see today!

Oh, daughters of zion! Look out, lest you moan, for your babies

Sniff the air, and tell me what you smell. I don’t smell meat anymore.

Search the sky, and show me what you see. The aves. Were here before

Climb the hills, where your fathers walked, and show me the kwilas.

The ancient of them, are distant memories

Fish the waters, where your mothers fished, show me the catch

I see baskets. Empty baskets. No fish. No clams. Empty shells. Dead corals.

Oh great warrior, endure now, this final hour

Don’t you know? Can’t you see? This is war! The yellow man. Is never your friend. Never was. Never is. Never will be. Your friend

I hear wailing. I smell blood. I hear a mother’s moan. Defend. This Land!

[Morning birds sing, waterfall crackles, the cock crows, the sight of twilight, the smell of morning dews. A new day. Light has finally arrived. To the forest floor. This is. Their story. This is His story....]

[About this piece –Trails of the Yellow Man appeals to readers, friends, sons and daughters of  a nation of a thousand years, to draw from their hunting abilities, passed down from old. To watch over mother land. To be gate keepers. Sharpness. Patience. Resilience. Victory. From Within]

Weave of splendour


BilumsThis weave of splendour that lay before me
Is all I have now of my mama
This weave of splendour that lay before me
My bilum that bring me drama

Mama, you take with you my bilum
The food that fed me, the wool that clothe me
Mama you take with you my bilum
The water that quench me, the sticks that warm me
Mama you take with you my bilum
My resting place, my bed, my home
Mama you take with you my bilum
Where now do I place my toys
Mama you take with you my bilum,
I now belong among them boys
Mama you take with you my bilum
My strength, my dignity, my pride

This weave of splendour that lay before me
Was all I had of my mama?
This weave of splendour that lay before me
Is now all just a bilum, an instance of emptiness and karma?

A Simbu Christmas turkey or chicken recipe


Simbu ChickenWELL FIRST YOU NEED some Simbu sausages. These are made from chicken guts, thoroughly washed and cleaned and filled with a mixture of chicken mince, breadcrumbs, herbs, garlic, onions, spices, chilli and ginger. And maybe some pork belly grease - fried and poured off.

Add salt and pepper and whatsoever spice you think necessary (chopped green chilli is good if you like hot stuff).

Mash it all up and force it into the chook's backside.

Then put in a pan with onions, carrots, kaukau, and strong banana and transfer to a pot with a pint of water and a Maggi cube.  Cover with foil and simmer for two hours.

Lemon grass is OK to add if you can get it.

And add a glass of sherry halfway-through. Or half a bottle of chardonnay.

If it's too runny, add half a teaspoon of gravy mix and stir thoroughly for five minutes. Or flour - but this is not recommended.  Makes it tasteless.

Better to reduce it by carefully watched boiling.

Black peppercorns are a good addition. And a fresh bay leaf.

Serve with basmati rice and greens.

The most perfect meal ever!

K35,000 in prize money secured for Crocodile Prize

Croc TrophiesWITH THE SIGNING of three new major sponsors, this week has seen a substantial boost to funding for The Crocodile Prize national literary contest.

The Poetry Prize now remains the only award with naming rights on offer, but organisers say the K35,000 prize money required for all seven categories in the competition will be covered.

A Writers’ Forum, held in conjunction with the Prize, has also been sponsored by AustAsia Pacific Health Services and Co-Convenor of the Prize, Keith Jackson, says this may enable the forum for emerging writers to be extended from Port Moresby to Goroka and Madang next year.

Organisers also expect a significant grant to be announced in the next few days that will enable the printing of 10,000 copies of The Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012, a 200-page anthology featuring the best writing submitted to the contest.  This is believed to be a record print run for a creative work published in Papua New Guinea.

The Steamships Short Story Prize, announced this week, will be awarded for the best story submitted on a theme of interest to a general readership.  Steamships Trading Company Ltd is a 93-year old PNG company with interests in transport, manufacturing, property, hotels and information technology.  It employs over 2,000 people.

Announced yesterday was the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Prize for Essays & Journalism, given for the best essay or journalistic feature submitted on a factual theme.  The Chamber is an association representing the interests of the mining and petroleum industry in PNG.

The AustAsia Pacific Health Services Writers Forums provide a one-day creative environment for emerging writers and are led by leading PNG authors, poets and journalists.  The program emphasises the development of creative skills as well as practical matters such as editing and publishing. AustAsia Pacific Health Services is based in Queensland and provides medical and hospital services to individual patients, mining, insurance and other companies, as well as patients referred from overseas medical facilities.

Other naming rights already announced are the Cleland Prize for Heritage Literature, the Chalkies' Yokomo Prize for Student Writing, the Ok Tedi Mining Prize for Women's Literature, and the British American Tobacco (PNG) Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Literature.

A dedicated Crocodile Prize website featuring original Papua New Guinean creative writing is being developed by and will be launched early in 2012.

Organisers further announced that planning is progressing towards the establishment of a PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers in 2012.  It is expected that an application to incorporate the organisation in PNG will be submitted within the next few weeks.  In future years, the Society will administer The Crocodile Prize as well as being a key body in sustaining the role of literature in PNG.

“We are determined that writing, publishing and reading in PNG will be given a huge boost through The Crocodile Prize,” said Keith Jackson.  “Creative writing in PNG must never again be left in the wilderness.”

The Prize and its associated projects are currently managed by a steering committee of Papua New Guineans and Australians.

Tell them my waga


Dedicated to my dear grandfather, Papa Ronnie Ronnie

He carves his scalpel into the wood
To the eye, it is all just but a mark
To him, it tells his story…

Tell them, my waga
Tell them how we came

Tell them who is to blame
He carves, he smiles, he carves some more

Tell them, my waga
Tell them about father
Tell them there is no other
He carves, he smiles, he carves some more

Tell them, my waga
Tell them about the spirit

Tell them how we benefit
He carves, he smiles, he carves some more

Tell them, my waga
Tell them how I am a man

Tell them who I am
He carves, he smiles, he carves some more
Tell them, my waga
Tell them of my home

Tell them of the secret gnome
He carves, he smiles, he carves some more

He carves his scalpel into the wood
To the eye, it is all just but a mark
For him, he’s told his story…


Lapieh Landu won the 2011 Dame Carol Kidu Award for Women’s Literatur.  She was born in Port Moresby of mixed Eastern Highlands, Milne Bay and Sandaun parentage and is a student at Divine Word University in Madang studying international relations

Shredding the spirit of our nation


The Crest on the ConstitutionI’m depressed
I see them shred our Constitution on every side
I turn to the right, to the left, I see they’ve lied
Interpret it selfishly
Apply it abusively
Change it recklessly

I see us constantly using its letter to destroy its spirit
My heart bleeds, as it loses its feet
Oh Narakobi, you must be turning in your grave!
See how we lose ourselves in these ideas the white man gave?
That Melanesian Way you tried to help us see.
It’s drowned out in our modern humanity

I’m confused. Why can’t they see?
It’s right there; look and let it be!
The spirit of our Nation, our Sovereignty
Our guide no longer has a heart
They ripped it out that vital part

How can we who can’t define ourselves,
Expect to stop this rotting mess?
How can we of a thousand tongues,
Claim basic conscience on which all hangs?

That dear House standing on a Hill
Ruled by a master who does not yield
To this dear Mama Lo, our Nation’s Word
He rules by his chair, if only he had his sword...

I see more chairs, carrying worthless bodies
Puppets who love to tickle our ears
They put on a show and the world laughs
I hang my head in my fathers’ house?

I see good men fall, respect tumbles
Integrity sold, no longer humbles
I see good I don’t see them
So now they stake their claim

Momis please make a stand, give us sight
Tell us we’re not doing this right
Tell us we need to talk to the people
Isn’t that what you did when you wrote the fundamental?

Leave that Document alone
Let it guide us, I say
Stand by its spirit
It’ll show the way...

As I write, a nation wails. As I scribble, a nation waits


This is a call to action for PNG by her children and her friends starting today: to administer solutions to current affairs and crises facing the nation.  It begs the reader to metamorphose from the cocoon of philosophy and ideologies to the domains of action for positive change - ek

As I write. This piece. A baby sleeps. In a bilum. Hanging. On a branch. In a garden. In the Sepik. To this baby - Democracy, Capitalism, Socialism. Are Tiny stars. In the Cosmos.

As I pen. These words. A mother cries. Over. A sick child. Alone. On. A hillside.

In. A hut. In the Highlands. To this mother – Politics, AusAID, Services. Are foreign ramblings. Of City Life.

As I type. These words. A generation departs. From. An Island. In Mortlock. Forever. To these souls – Diplomacy, Bureaucracy, Climate change. Are just words. For. A different time. A different place.

As I scribble. This memo. A brother. Is killed. A sister. Is raped. On a street. In a city. In a town. Of this country. To this brother, to this sister – Law, Security, Justice, never come.

As I record. This verse. A nation. Moans. A nation. Wails. A nation. Waits.

A nation. Of many nations. Pleads.

From the East. To the West. From the North. To the South.

From the mountains. To the Rivers. From the rivers. To the sea. From the Coast. To the Islands.

As I write. I can hear. A nation wails. As I write. I can hear. A nation moans.

Louder. And Louder. And Louder.

To this nation – write, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk....Is stale bread.

Stale. Bread. Stale. Bread. Stale. Bread. Of yesterday.

Talk. Stale. Bread. Useless. Nation. Wails. Waits. Pleads. Talk. Useless.

Action. Needed. Here. Now. Action. Today.

Two dozen new beetles discovered in Aseki hotspot


Rainforest in the Aseki districtOVER THE PAST TWO DECADES, at least 24 new beetle species have been discovered in a remote mountainous rainforest region of Papua New Guinea by Swedish entomologist Ulf Nylander.

Described in the new book Biodiversity, Biogeography and Nature Conservation in Wallacea and New Guinea, the new beetles found in the Aseki region are all ecologically linked to rotting wood.

The new beetle species belong to two different families with 15 new jewel beetles, and nine new longicorn beetles. Although new to science, the beetles are already gravely imperilled.

"Logging and palm oil plantations are expanding in Aseki," Nylander told "The unique nature of this montane area is now in danger.

In his research, Nylander has found that the Aseki region is a notable hotspot for unique wood-devouring beetles, including over 50 species of weevils, scarab beetles, and stag beetles found no-where else in the world.

Jewel Beetle [Castiarina shelleybarkerim]Entomologist Dr Dmitry Telnov, who also works in the region, says this part of the world is known for more than beetles.

"PNG’s Oro Province, not far from Aseki, is home to the world's largest butterfly, the majestic Queen Alexandra birdwing, which is a real beauty and is larger than many little birds.

“Queen Alexandra is the national insect of Papua New Guinea (it is found, for example, on coins) and is also locally protected. But the plants they depend on for food, Aristolochia schlecteri, is not protected at all," Telnov says.

Source:, 23 November
Read more:

If only I knew: A tribute to my beautiful wife


For Louise Miria Toto-Renagi.  Died 13 October 2011 in a plane crash in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea

WE LIVE IN A VERY UNCERTAIN WORLD. When we leave home in the morning, we assume we will always return in the evening.

When we say goodbye to loved ones, we take it for granted we will always see them again.

We presume they know we love them, so maybe we don't say the words as often as we should.

Unfortunately, we fail to consider the mortal reality that this may not be the case...until it's too late.

Tomorrow does not always come.

Someone once said that "life is short, so keep short accounts with god".

That is wise advice, but I'd like to add that we should also keep short accounts with every person who is in the circle of our lives.

We never know when life will be dramatically changed... sometimes permanently.

Think about it. Don't allow the regrets of "if only I knew" to be the final marker in your life.

Be swift to love. Hurry to be kind. Take the time to make someone feel special.

Be quick to forgive and realize in relationships there are two people, don't hold back.

Freely give hugs and kisses, and may "I love you" be often on your lips.

This is dedicated to all of the people in my life that I love and hold close in my heart.

And to you the only that holds my heart in a way I never thought imaginable...

Some of you may recognize some of the quotes, all of them are special, just as all of you are special to me...

If only I knew I would never hear your voice again...

I would cherish your every word...every inflection in your voice, with all of my heart.

If only I knew this was our last hug, I would hold you tight and hope to never let you go.

If only I knew this was the last time the very last time I would see you I would take the time to treasure everything about you.

If only I knew that disagreements did not mean a lack of love. I would have been hurt less often,

If only I knew Tomorrow was not coming I would ask you to forgive me for any wrong I may have done to you,

If only I knew this as our final kiss, I would use it to tell you that you are the love of my life...for ever.

If only I knew I could never share another day with you, I would make the most of every second, every minute and every hour.

I wish on that fateful day that I last said goodbye to you, I should have told you I loved you in the living years.


Rest.... In our hearts....


This poem curses the Dash 8 aircraft that crashed in Madang, and the death/graves. It then celebrates life and treasured memories that will live in the hearts of loved ones. Death/graves can never take away precious memories, which are a victory over death/graves – jmf

That eagle in the heaven,
Whose two eyes are crimson;
Sent fathers over boulders!

And children’s mothers,
Into ways have parted; without
Meeting and greeting.

Ye plots of Earth;
Realm of maggots;
Thy scents are a stench!

In days unborn, use your arms;
Open again your doors. I dare!
O ye idle! Like an idol

Weeds must your doors trample!

Earthworms must their gardens be!
Ye’ll be fields that are sealed.

That neither breaths of storm,
Nor wrinkles of love, in their
Vacant rests, will distress.

Thy beds of slumber,
Where darkness is imprisoned;
They lay not; lifeless in silence

O Rest! In our hearts,
Where an eagle dare not fly;
There’ll be butterflies with lullabies

New sponsor will also develop Croc Prize website


Robert WeberTOP PNG WEBSITE designer and developer is the newest company to sponsor the Crocodile Prize – and it will also lead a major project to establish a website for the award.

“This is great; something that we are very proud to be associated with,” says principal, Robert Weber [pictured].

The website was developed by the team from Old Plantation which offers graphic and website design, photography, website content management, and email newsletter campaigns in PNG.

The company also creates and brands social networking accounts like Facebook and Twitter.

“Our mission is to maximise the accessibility of events and activities throughout the city to spread the dynamic image of Port Moresby around the world,” says Robert.

“We are driven by a commitment to reflect the unparalleled energy and diversity of the city.

“We encourage local businesses to embrace the current trends in online & print design, and fusing that with PNG's spectacular cultural background,” he says.

Other projects include websites for the Miss PNG Quest, Port Moresby Cancer Relief Society, Hebou Constructions, Transparency International, the PNG Open 2011, the Grand Papua Hotel and the new Coral Sea Hotel.

The project will develop a modern website featuring the best of Papua New Guinea creative writing as well as plenty of information about the Prize, PNG writers and the award sponsors.

It is planned that the new website go live in the early part of 2012.

Robert Weber will be assisted in his work by Kurt Walther, IT Manager of Jackson Wells Pty Ltd in Sydney, which will work pro bono on this project.

Call for domestic violence education in schools

THE ASSISTANT POLICE COMMISSIONER for Papua New Guinea’s Highlands region wants children to be taught about domestic violence at school.

Simon Kauba’s comment followed a suggestion from another member of the Highlands police force that the bride price system is one of the major contributing factors to the high rate of violence against women.

But Mr Kauba said even if the dowry system could be removed, other more significant factors such as alcohol abuse and socio-economic pressures would remain.

He says there should be more education on why violence against women is unacceptable.

“Particularly it should be introduced in the school syllabus and it can be brought across the nation to the schools and institutions,” Mr Kauba said.

“This may be one way and the other one that I see is that I think the male population has to come down to earth and realise the importance that the woman plays in this country.”

Mr Kauba says violence against women has increased as resource development has accelerated in PNG.

Source: Radio New Zealand International, 23 November

PNG's economy booming – but inflation on the rise

THE UNITED NATION'S bi-annual report on developing East Asian economies predicts Papua New Guinea's economic growth this year will be close to 10%.

World Bank PNG economist, Tim Bulman, said that this is largely because of the country's resources boom.

"Some people are enjoying the direct impact, in terms of higher wages,” Mr Bulman said.

“But for a lot of the population wages are static and the costs of living are rising substantially, particularly the cost of housing.

"This is the real challenge for economies undergoing this sort of boom, how to translate what's initially stronger in some sectors to broad based improvements in people's living conditions".

The UN’s news is not nearly as positive for Australia, however.

It has warned that Europe's debt woes pose a growing threat to some of Australia's key export markets in the region, including China.

Source: Australia Network News, 22 November

Australian trek group finds Kokoda remains


A digger on the TrackAUSTRALIAN DEFENCE DEPARTMENT experts will launch formal identification processes after a Geelong-based trekking group discovered human remains near Papua New Guinea's Kokoda Track.

A PNG porter from a trek group led by Mick O'Malley [pictured below] discovered a skull and thigh bone while fishing in a stream at a village known as 1900, near Menari.

Mr O'Malley said ammunition was also at the site, pointing to World War II battles between Australian and Japanese forces.

"It was a little bit of a shock really to be honest," the veteran of 15 Kokoda treks said. "It certainly puts the war into perspective. They're not just stories or fables, it's real life.

"When you see Bomana War Cemetery at the end of the track you get the sense this is actually real and this was the same feeling. This actually did happen."

He was unsure if the bones were those of a Digger or a Japanese soldier.

Mr O'Malley runs Australian Kokoda Tours and was leading a group from North Ballarat Football Club on a trek which finished last week.

The porter revealed his find privately to avoid causing alarm, the bones were stored at a village and Mr O'Malley alerted authorities on his return to Australia.

He believes the bones might have washed down the stream after torrential rain during previous days.

Mick O'Malley - 'You'd love to put a name to them, put some family at a little bit of ease that you'd found a brother, dad or son'"You'd love to put a name to them, put some family at a little bit of ease that you'd found a brother, dad or son," Mr O'Malley said.

Grenades, ammunition and trenches are readily found in many remote locations beside the Kokoda Track, sites of intense jungle warfare as threadbare and vastly outnumbered Australian forces withstood and defeated invading Japanese forces.

Australian Defence Force experts have mounted an operation this month to find and neutralise unexploded and dangerous World War II munitions in areas on the Kokoda Track, including bombs from an American B-25 Mitchell bomber, mortars and grenades.

Source: Geelong Advertiser, 22 November       Spotter: Richard Jones

Parliament agrees to reserve 22 seats for women

IN A MOVE that provided a sharp contrast to the recent high jinks in Papua New Guinea politics, parliament today passed a law guaranteeing 22 seats for women in the assembly.

After two years of political pressure, and some moments of hesitation in the past, the Equality and Participation Bill passed 72-2 this afternoon.

The seats will be created in time for the next national election.

At present Dame Carol Kidu is only one woman in the 109-seat parliament.

Dame Carol has championed the Bill, and its passage represents a significant personal triumph for her on the eve of her retirement at the 2012 election.

AAP reports that 50 women sang, danced and hugged outside parliament after the bill was passed.

Good reading and writing in Papua New Guinea

This article was written by PHIL FITZPATRICK to explain the Crocodile Prize to Australian writers and readers.  It is featured in the current December issue of GR (Good Reading) magazine....

Good Reading - December 2011FOR THE RELATIVELY FEW tourists who venture there, Papua New Guinea is very aptly marketed as the land of the unexpected.

For many people, Papua New Guinea conjures up images of brightly painted Huli wigmen, languid palm-fringed beaches, friendly and happy people and, of course, the Kokokda Trail.

For others it is a dangerous place with gun-toting raskols, corrupt politicians and an infrastructure on the verge of collapse.

For a select few it is a veritable gold mine, replete with seemingly unlimited and exploitable natural resources.

While none of these things are completely true, the last thing anyone associates with Papua New Guinea is a burgeoning literary scene.

Literature in Papua New Guinea has long been moribund but is now awakening.

In the years prior to independence from Australia in 1975 and for a short time afterwards there was a brief blossoming of activity.  The first novel published by a Papua New Guinean writer was The Crocodile by Vincent Eri in 1970.

While The Crocodile is still in print, there are no publishers in the country actively producing fiction or poetry.  There is no distribution network for books and there are no bookshops available to the general public in the whole of the country. 

You cannot buy a copy of The Crocodile anywhere and ordinary people just can’t afford to buy books.  They don’t generally have access to cheaper online bookstores either.  As a result, the literacy rate in Papua New Guinea has been steadily falling since independence.

Many people in Papua New Guinea are avid readers.  They read books dating back before independence from the few provincial libraries still operating and they read old and remaindered books they occasionally find in the second hand clothes stores.  Few of these books have Papua New Guinean themes.

This doesn’t mean that there are no writers in the country.  They are lurking in the woodwork everywhere.  They tend to have a distinctive style which is influenced by a long history of oral literature and song.

A literary competition cobbled together on a shoe string budget by the PNG Attitude blog and helped along by the Papua New Guinea Post Courier and a few other generous sponsors recently culminated in a writer’s workshop, an awards ceremony and the launch of an anthology in Port Moresby at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby during the Independence Day celebrations this year.

The competition and awards were appropriately named The Crocodile Prize after Vincent Eri’s pioneering novel.  Sir Vincent Serei Eri passed away in 1993 but his widow, Lady Margaret Eri, was able to attend the awards ceremony along with the many talented writers who contributed to the competition and the anthology.

Prizes of K2,500 were presented to the winners in the three categories of short story, poem and essay  while a special K1,000 prize was presented in the Dame Carol Kidu Prize for a woman writer.

The competition will be run again in 2012 and promises to be even bigger and better.  With any luck it will be a new dawn for writers in Papua New Guinea.

Barefoot New Guineans showed ‘em how!

From the Pacific Island Monthly archives of 45 years ago, JIM HUXLEY reports on the forgotten ‘barefoot Test’

PIM Oct 1966 - the barefoot Test

THE YOUNGSTERS FROM Papua-New Guinea, playing rugby league barefoot, thrilled crowds in Brisbane, Sydney and NSW country centres, and the tour was such an overwhelming success that other territory schoolboy teams will be invited on similar visits.

The highlight of the recent tour came at the Sydney Cricket Ground when more than 62,000 spectators saw the New Guineans play a curtain raiser to the third and deciding Test match between Great Britain and Australia.

It was also the third and deciding Test between the under eight stone schoolboys from New Guinea and a team from NSW.

New Guinea won the game 13-5 and then Australia went on the complete a satisfying day for the Sydney fans with a convincing 19-14 victory over the British visitors.

The New Guineans lost only two of the 10 games they played in Australia – and the scoring was often something remarkable.  They crushed a combined Brisbane side 31-0.  At Tamworth they beat north-west NSW 21-8.  They accounted for a Newcastle combination 14-8. At Wollongong they won 13-5.  And at Forbes they thrashed the locals 19-0.

Everywhere they gave an outstanding display of clean, entertaining football, running and handling intelligently, kicking with good results and tackling round the legs in copybook manner.

The young New Guineans were selected after a series of trial matches in Port Moresby among teams from Goroka, Rabaul, Lae and Moresby.

Source: Pacific Islands Monthly, vol 37 no 10, October 1966

Study casts doubt on seabed mining prospects


WITH NAUTILIS MINERALS now licensed to open the world's first undersea mine off the coast of Papua New Guinea, a new Canadian-led study of whether ocean-floor extraction of copper, gold and other metals is "worth the risk" concludes that accessible supplies of deep-sea resources are not nearly as plentiful as previously believed.

The fresh assessment of offshore mining potential — published in the journal Geology— notes that the copper-gold project proposed by Canada's Nautilus Minerals on the floor of the Bismarck Sea is "adding urgency to the debate about deep-sea mining" at a time when easy-to-reach metal deposits on land have been in extraordinarily high demand.

"The possibility of mining sea floor (deposits) has stirred debate about the sustainable use of this new resource and whether commercial development is worth the risk," the research team states in Geology.

And the scientists conclude that although the vast ocean bottom may well hold massive mineral deposits, the most easily identifiable and accessible seams of copper and zinc along the Earth's "neo-volcanic" ridges, for example, are "insufficient to satisfy a growing global demand for these metals."

Co-author Mark Hannington, the University of Ottawa's Goldcorp Chair in Economic Geology and lead author of the study, told Postmedia News on Monday that while undersea metals are very challenging to obtain, the world's nations "may need (them) someday."

And he said the work Nautilus is doing in PNG is "fantastic, because we've learned so much already about these deposits (from company research) that we as scientists could never have hoped to have learned" given limited university budgets.

But Hannington sounded a note of caution about the overall economic prospects for undersea mining.

"I think the bottom line that the world needs to understand is that the oceans — at least on the neo-volcanic zones where people are presently exploring — are not going to make a major impact on the total availability of metals," he said.

Still, "some companies, like Nautilus, will make a few bucks if they can recover the metals at a cost which is less than that associated with mining on land." 

Continue reading "Study casts doubt on seabed mining prospects" »

World’s first night flowering orchid discovered

New Britain night flowering orchidBOTANISTS FROM THE Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity Naturalis have described the first night-flowering orchid known to science.

The discovery, which was made in New Britain, is published in the Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society.

The new night flowering species, Bulbophyllum nocturnum, is the first known example of an orchid species with flowers that consistently open after dark and close in the morning. Its flowers last one night only.

A relatively small number of plant species have flowers that open at night and close during the day. Until now, no orchids were known among them.

This in spite of the fact that many orchids are pollinated by moths. But these moth-pollinated orchids all have flowers that remain open during the day, even if they are mainly pollinated after dark.

Bulbophyllum nocturnum was discovered by Dutch orchid specialist Ed de Vogel on a field trip to New Britain, where he was allowed to collect some orchids in a logging area for cultivation in the Netherlands.

Under the care of garden manager Art Vogel one of these plant soon produced buds. Their opening was eagerly anticipated as de Vogel and his colleagues had already established that this plant was a member of the Epicrianthes group of orchids that contains many rare and bizarre species, most of which have only been discovered recently as they occur in some of the remotest jungle habitats on earth.

Frustratingly, however, the buds all withered once they had seemingly reached the size at which they should open. Wanting to get to the bottom of this, de Vogel took the plant home with him one evening in order to find out exactly what happened to the buds.

To his surprise, the bud that was then present opened up at ten in the evening, long after dark, revealing the flower of an undescribed species.

Observations on subsequent buds confirmed that they all opened around 10pm, and closed the next morning around 10am. The flowers lasted only one night, which explained why the buds were seemingly about to open one day and withered the next.

Why Bulbophyllum nocturnum has adopted a night flowering habit is unknown and requires further investigation however it is believed that its pollinators are midges that forage at night.

Source: Garden News, 21 November

Titans will not play RL home games in PNG

THE GOLD COAST TITANS rugby league club has clarified its position in relation to a Papua New Guinea connection.

The club said that whilst there have been discussions about PNG becoming aligned to the Titans in a number of different ways, the club has not entered into 'sell-off talks' with the PNG consortium and will not be transferring home games to PNG as reported in media outlets.

Titans managing director Michael Searle said the club had been approached by the PNG consortium earlier this year to seek advice on various aspects of their push to join the NRL but no formal agreement had been reached.

"The reality is some nine months ago we were approached by a PNG consortium who identified the Titans as a dynamic and successful best-practice model for PNG's aspirations of eventually entering the NRL,'' said Searle.

"They felt they could learn from our experience about successful player recruitment, performance and commercial viability whilst continuing to achieve our objectives in the community around Health, Education, Training and Employment.

"They have since put forward various proposals on the table for discussion, including talent exchange programmes, social delivery of key messages around education and employment and a potential equity investment but we have not yet determined how best we can assist PNG's goals.

"One thing is for sure, the Titans are a Gold Coast team, and will always remain that, regardless of whether we agree to any link to PNG.

"We'll definitely continue to encourage and assist any initiative to involve PNG in the NRL, however, the club's stakeholders will not be selling any of their equity in the club."

Source: Titans Press Release, 17 November

It's a new era for PNG Sisters of Mercy

Sisters of Mercy in PNGAUSTRALIAN CONGREGATIONS and their sisters in Papua New Guinea will form a new Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and PNG on the 180th anniversary of the founding of the order next month.

The Institute, which includes 14 of the 17 Mercy congregations, is to take effect on 12 December, the anniversary of the founding of the Sisters of Mercy by Venerable Catherine McAuley in Ireland.

Since 2005, the 17 Australian congregations and the Autonomous Region of PNG, which has been federated within the present Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia since 1981, have been searching for the best way to nurture their unity and to strengthen their capacity.

Sister Nerida Tinkler, President of the Institute said: "This search has involved much prayer, frequent theological reflection on the social needs of our time, careful study of the life and ministry of our founder, Catherine McAuley and her vision for religious life, and several comprehensive consultations in which all sisters were encouraged to participate.

"Eventually it led us to the point where 14 of the congregations, as well as the Autonomous Region of PNG, decided to petition the Holy See for permission to relinquish their independence and to come together as one new congregation."

In July, the Holy See approved the proposal and on 12 December each of the 15 groups will cease to be a separate canonical and legal entity and its sisters will become members of the new Institute.

The 15 uniting groups, comprising some 930 sisters, are: Adelaide, Ballarat East, Bathurst, Cairns, Goulburn, Grafton, Gunnedah, Melbourne, Papua New Guinea, Perth, Rockhampton, Singleton, Townsville, West Perth and Wilcannia-Forbes.

The foundation of the new Institute will be celebrated with a Eucharist in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, on 18 December at 2pm.

Source: Catholic News, 21 November

‘We want a flourishing literature’, says Matane

THE FORMER GOVERNOR-GENERAL of Papua New Guinea and prolific author, Sir Paulias Matane, has come out with a ringing endorsement of the Crocodile Prize literary contest.

The contest was initiated a year ago by PNG Attitude and the PNG Post-Courier with the first awards being made in September this year.

The Prize has also spun off an annual anthology of the best PNG writing, a series of forums for emerging PNG writers and, next year, a Society for Writers, Editors and Publishers to embed a creative writing sector in PNG.

“When the Crocodile Prize was established, as a passionate proponent of PNG literature, I welcomed it warmly,” Sir Paulias told PNG Attitude.

“I was Governor-General at the time and urged my Papua New Guinean sisters and brothers to ‘Write, write, write!’  I am pleased to note the marvellous response to the contest.”

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

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

“Our nation has a rich oral tradition which has slowly extended into the written form.  I hope these awards will strengthen and enhance our national literature.

“We want PNG to have a flourishing literature; we want creative and bold writers; and we want the means to publish their work,” Sir Paulias said.

“I hope donors and businesses throughout Papua New Guinea will get behind this important project.”


Short Story Prize [Russell Soaba Award] – Naming rights soon to be announced
Ok Tedi Mining Prize for Women’s Literature [Dame Carol Kidu Award]
British American Tobacco (PNG) Prize for Lifetime Literary Achievement [Sir Paulias Matane Award]
Cleland Prize for Heritage Literature
Chalkies’ Yokomo Prize for Student Writing
Poetry Prize [John Kasaipwalova Award] – Seeking a sponsor for naming rights
Essay & Journalism Prize [Sean Dorney Award] – Seeking a sponsor for naming rights
AustAsia Pacific Health Services Writers’ Forums

Premium Sponsorships – K2,000
MRSM Group of Companies
Another soon to be announced

Gold Sponsorships – K1,500
No sponsors yet

Silver Sponsorships– K1,000
Paul A Povey
Star Mountains Institute of Technology
Ed Brumby
Keith Jackson

Bronze Sponsorships – K500
Corney K Alone and Tanya Zeriga-Alone
Stuart Hoare
Dr Lance Hill

Donations – any amount
Murray and Joan Bladwell – K200

You too can support this major initiative in PNG writing and reading.  Contact Keith Jackson here

Still no action on theft of K730m from Finance


Eighteen months ago the PNG Exposed blog was created to publish the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into corruption in the Papua New Guinea Department of Finance.

That inquiry revealed that over K730 million has been stolen from the people of PNG.

The Commission of Inquiry presented its report to then prime minister Michael Somare in October 2009.

The report was presented to Parliament in February 2010.

But the findings have only ever been published in PNG Exposed and there have been no police investigations, prosecutions or convictions against the people responsible for the theft.

The men who stole the K700 million are walking free enjoying the proceeds of their crime, while four women die every day while giving birth because of a lack of health services that don't exist because people – named in the report - have stolen the money that would have paid for them.

Prime minister Peter O'Neill says he is committed to fighting corruption but has done nothing to implement the findings of the Commission of Inquiry.

So, despite the court injunction mysteriously obtained to stop publication of the Finance Department Commission of Inquiry findings, PNG Exposed is again publishing the Commission report and over the next few weeks we will republish a series of articles detailing some of the individual scams and the people involved.

We do this in the hope that one day the people of PNG might see justice done - and we might see better health and education services for all Papua New Guineans and not just those who use stolen funds to fly their relatives to Brisbane and Singapore.

Download the Full Commission of Inquiry Final Report (warning: file size 6MB)

Australia provides K400,000 for victim identification

High Commissioner Ian Kemish and other officialsAUSTRALIA’S HIGH COMMISSIONER in Papua New Guinea, Ian Kemish AM [pictured with other officials], yesterday opened a course on disaster victim identification at Bomana Police Training College.

He also handed over K400,000 in equipment to support DVI efforts.

Through this training the Australian Federal Police is investing in the capacity of PNG agencies to respond to the community impact of natural disasters, transport accidents and other events involving loss of life.

The training has significant value to police and law enforcement authorities in assisting in the proper conduct of investigations.

The training, which is taking place through this week, is being delivered by AFP training team members Steve Sargent, Rod Anderson and Mardi Southwell.

This is a return to PNG for all three. They were each involved with the response to the crash of an Airlines PNG aircraft near Kokoda in August 2009.

AFP and RPNGC have worked in close partnership on a number of other DVI responses in recent times, including in the aftermath of the plane crashes on Misima Island in August 2010 and last month’s crash near Madang.

Australia is also working with the PNG government in beginning to rebuild the RPNGC.

The rebuilding focuses on core police functions, with the RPNGC partnering the AFP in key areas.  The partnership is designed to increase the RPNGC’s level of service to the community.

Source: Australian High Commission, 21 November

One of the big development mysteries of PNG - literacy


LITERACY IS ONE of the biggest development issues in Papua New Guinea. Yet it’s hard to get a precise picture of the national literacy rate and education levels.

More than one-third of the seven million population – most of whom live a traditional subsistence lifestyle in rural villages – are unable to read and write. Among older people, as many as half may be print-illiterate, perhaps not surprising in a country with little history of writing.

Nicholas Nembo, a project manager with PNG’s National Literacy and Awareness Secretariat, spoke about the issue during a visit to Bangkok last week. He and six colleagues visited Thailand for training sessions at UNESCO, which is helping PNG set up a website in a bid to boost literacy levels.

“There has never been a national literacy survey [in PNG],” Mr Nembo said. “Our estimate of 56% [literacy] is based on a question in the national census in 2000: ‘Are you able to both read and write with understanding a short simple statement in your day to day life?’ but there were no follow-up questions to explain about those who voted ‘yes’.

“Therefore it’s really unknown. The 56% may not be the real literacy rate – it may be lower.” Latest literacy surveys carried out in five province supports the supposition that literacy rates are lower.

While the figure of 56% is low in world terms, it’s important to recognise that PNG is a unique society with extraordinary geographic and cultural features.

The challenge of teaching people a common tongue is far more difficult than people in other lands might imagine. The country has well over 800 languages – only half of which have developed written texts. 

PNG joined the path to modern development “late”. Literacy work and non-formal education was started by missionaries over 140 years ago, but PNG only became self-governing in the mid-1970s.

And it faces all the difficulties of a fledgling democracy – a relatively small domestic economy, law and order problems, bureaucratic inertia, political corruption, as well as high HIV, malaria and infant death rates, etc. 

Given this, the thought of achieving literacy rates similar to those in more developed nations is a somewhat daunting prospect.

Aside from UNESCO and the national government, a swag of aid, church and civil society groups are working hard to boost education levels, as well as trying to determine literacy levels.

The rate of participation in primary schooling is improving, but it remains low and below that of most other countries in the region. 

PNG looks unlikely to achieve any of the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN for 2015. But UNESCO is hoping that by focusing on literacy will pay off in the long-term.

Source: UNESCO Bangkok, 21 November

The long & colourful career of John Moresby


John MoresbyONE JOHN MORESBY, late Admiral and sometime Captain-in-Charge of the Royal Navy, has planted, or imposed, the Moresby surname on both New Guinea and Bermuda.

The capital of independent Papua New Guinea remains Port Moresby, while the great playing field at the Bermuda Dockyard retains its appellation as Moresby Plain, sometimes seen in the possessive ‘Moresby’s’, as John Moresby’s creation it was.

Between John and his father, Fairfax. two generations of Moresbys gave a century of service to the Royal Navy, much of it in overseas duty, with John’s including the pleasant position as Captain-in-Charge at the Bermuda Dockyard, flying his pennant on the old warship, HMS Terror, a fixture of Grassy Bay for many years in its dotage.

The old boy was Admiral of the Fleet Sir Fairfax Moresby GCB, KMT, DCL, born in 1786, and slipping his moorings at the good age of 91, about the time son John took up, at Bermuda, one of his last active postings of a long naval career.

During part of his service, Fairfax Moresby was the senior officer in the early 1820s at Mauritius, acting on orders to suppress the trade in slaves in eastern Africa, concluding in 1822 the ‘Moresby Treaty’ restricting the local slave trade and giving British warships the right to search and apprehend vessels that might be so engaged.

Later as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Station at Valparaiso in the early 1850s, he assisted in the moving to Norfolk Island of some of the inhabitants of Pitcairn Island, the latter today, like Bermuda, one of the last of the oceanic islands of what is now Britain’s clutch of ‘Overseas Territories’.

His son John was born in 1830 and entered naval service as a cadet at the age of 12. Yet a teenager, John was on the Mediterranean and American Stations, so it is possibly that he visited Bermuda between 1845 and 1849.

His most significant posting began in 1871, prior to that of Bermuda in 1878, when he was authorised to survey the coast of New Guinea out of the Australian Station.

During the course of that work, he discovered the ‘China Straits’, which promised a shorter route between Australia and the Far East.

John Moresby claimed New Guinea for Britain at the appropriately named ‘Possession Island’, but it is not known if he informed the indigenous population of their transfer to Queen Victoria’s imperial inventory of real estate.

All this work was carried out in HMS Basilisk, named for the king of serpents, but a slow and ageing ‘paddle sloop’, which had earlier served on the North America and West Indies Station, headquartered at Bermuda.

After New Guinea, while hoping for another sea appointment, ‘But here, too, I was doomed to disappointment’, Captain John Fairfax arrived on his first land position, after a period of coastguard work, at Bermuda in April 1878, where he lived in ‘The Cottage’, the official residence of the Captain-in Charge.

On 1 April 1881, Captain John Moresby, later Rear Admiral, left Bermuda after a three-year stint at the Royal Naval Dockyard: ‘I handed over my command to another, when parting kindnesses, warm farewells, and much speechifying, poured in on me from all quarters, together with gratifying official recognition; but I think the Commander-in-Chief Sir Leopold McClintock’s last words were my greatest pleasure, when he simply said: “I hope I shall be regretted as you are when I also give up my command”.’

Edward Cecil Harris MBE, JP, PHD, FSA is Executive Director of the National Museum at Dockyard, Bermuda

Source: The Royal Gazette Online, 19 November

Mr Romantic…. An ode to a politician


Claims he was a victim of gross injusticeToo good to be true, he sounds
Puppet master to the deaf, Choir conductor to the blind
Oh how good he feels! Stroking the armpits of mainstream media
Kissing her with lips that foil the destruction of many
Turning her on with his charms and dirty fingers

His nails, did you get a glimpse?
Thought I saw spots of blood
Filthy and black, as midnight on moon
Reeking of human stance, of generations today, of tomorrow's children

His tents, can't you see?
On the shore front, erected in log ponds, among the company of poachers
A prophet to fools, he voyages through seas of ignorance
Riding waves of mendacious guarantees

His treasure chest, look closer, can you see?
The contents of your purse? Check!
Oh no, don't tell me,..please!
Did you just say he just emptied your purse and broke your heart?
And ride off into the sunset...?

Oh you foolish woman!
How could I have guessed, after all, he is a cowboy
In this great land, his emergence, his departure,
Is where the sun sets

Mr Romantic, is an ode to a politician.  It offers imagery of how gullible rural Papua New Guinea is and appeals to the mainstream media to dig deeper than the face value of feature stories and mediocre news reporting.  I hope readers and the panel of the Crocodile Prize enjoy this piece of poetry as much as I did writing it. God bless PNG.