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177 posts from February 2012

One hand clapping is not really genuine applause


WHEN JULIE BISHOP IS SWORN IN as Australia’s foreign minister after the next federal election – the Labor Party having ignored the lifeline offered by Kevin Rudd – let’s hope she and her staff show some real enthusiasm for PNG-Australia relationships at the level of us rank and file citizens.

As readers of PNG Attitude will know, we are in the throes of organising an extended visit to Australia for Martyn Namorong following his appearance at a PNG conference at Deakin University in Melbourne.

Readers have been enthusiastic in their support of what we have termed Martyn’s Take the Truth to Australia tour.

But not so the federal government, from which we have sought a small amount of funding, despite the fact that in the past parliamentary secretary Richard Marles has told me this is just the sort of thing he’d like to encourage – greater interchange between PNG and Australia, that is.

Let me illustrate with this email quote from a factotum in Marles’ parliamentary office:

Your idea certainly sounds interesting - a good opportunity to maximise Martyn's visit to Australia.

But I suspect there may be complications in sourcing extra funds for this proposal, given the AusAID funding being considered for Martyn's presentation at the PNG Symposium is part of a larger AusAID allocation for the PNG Symposium…

Also, securing ad-hoc funding from AusAID in the order of $3,000-4,000 would be difficult, given the much larger amounts the agency normally deals with and the processes involved in allocating AusAID funds.

In saying that, assuming Martyn receives financial support to attend the Symposium, your supplementary program could be added to his existing commitments with Deakin on 12-13 April.

For administrative simplicity, as long as it starts and ends in Melbourne, we could look into delaying his return flight to Port Moresby to enable Martyn to do some extra activities funded by donations.

This could at least de-fray some of the costs of flying him to Australia in the first place.

In other words, the most that can be expected from this arrangement is that Martyn will be permitted to extend his visit to Australia beyond the conference – maybe.

It will be a public relations disaster if he isn’t, I think I can add from the safe position of long professional experience.

Meanwhile Linda Koerner and Jo Chandler in Melbourne, Murray Bladwell in Brisbane and I in Sydney will be organising Martyn’s visits to those cities – and his public and media engagements.

And, if you’re in a position to contribute financially to Martyn’s tour, email me here for further details.

Neo-colonisation, AusAID and 'sustainable mining'


NO FOLKS THIS AIN’T NO PRANK. AusAID actually think you’re fools - but hopefully you’re not.

AusAID pays millions to consultants who come up with the term “sustainable mining”.

Actually, maybe they didn’t have to pay millions, because BHP Billiton, the Australian [outfit] who destroyed the Fly River after “sustainably mining” Ok Tedi, created the PNG Sustainable Development Company.

I bet they must have secretly wished to call it “PNG Sustainable Mining Company”, since it is the largest shareholder of Ok Tedi Mine.

Here is a quote from the AusAID webpage regarding “sustainable mining”:

Many of Australia's developing partner countries have substantial natural resources and are engaged in mining. Australia can provide these countries with the expertise they need to build a sustainable mining sector, making better use of revenues, improving socially and environmentally sustainable development, and growing the economy.

Those of us in Papua New Guinea who aren’t colonised by AusAID mining consultants keep looking at the Watut disaster, the Fly River disaster, the Panguna disaster and laugh at the AUSAID’s bullshit about “socially and environmentally sustainable development.”

But this is no laughing matter coz AusAID seems to be in control of the mostly AusAID-trained Papua New Guinean so-called elite who run this country.

Australia says it can provide expertise to build a “sustainable mining” sector.

I bet we should ask the Bougainvilleans how the Australians were “real experts” at Panguna.

The Australians certainly provided assistance to the PNG government to crush the rebellion on Bougainville so that Panguna could be “sustainably mined” by Anglo-Australian miner, Rio Tinto.

The page also states that one of the ten objectives of the Australian government is to:

…improve incomes, employment and enterprise opportunities for poor people in both rural and urban areas, including the development of sustainable mining industries to boost overall economic development.

Well we all know whose incomes will be improved, and by that we mean the Australian mining companies and AusAID consultants.

By now we all should realise the obvious: AusAID represents a separate legal entity called the Commonwealth of Australia while its “development partner countries” are separate legal entities.

AusAID consultants, including those involved in so called “sustainable mining”, are paid to represent the interests of a separate legal entity called Australia and therefore cannot give independent advice to any foreign government.

It’s like a lawyer representing the miners giving legal advice to a landowner company (a separate legal entity) about the mining contract that same lawyer drew up for the miners.

That lawyer cannot possibly give independent legal advice to landowners if the miner is paying the bills.

There is inevitably a conflict of interest situation that therefore arises when AusAID consultants provide so called “sustainable mining” technical assistance.

The Australian government is known to act in Australian mining companies’ interests as they did on Bougainville.

I hope the Papua New Guinean sheeple who work under AusAID “sustainable mining” consultants are proud of their patriotic selves. AusAID “sustainable mining” consultants just “help” provide:

….technical assistance for the establishment of a sovereign wealth fund to receive and manage anticipated revenues from the LNG project…

You can read more about AusAID’s “sustainable mining” here… but please don’t buy this Aussie crap!

Belden trumped? Trawen says election must proceed

THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA electoral commissioner, Andrew Trawen, says the national election is constitutionally bound to be held in June as scheduled.

Mr Trawen said the date of the national election was fixed and could not be changed.

On Sunday, deputy prime minister Belden Namah said there should be a six-month delay in the elections because the government wanted to install an Indian-built biometric voting system to ensure they were “free and fair”.

There was an immediate negative outcry.

Transparency International said it viewed “with the greatest concern” any attempt to delay the election.

Spokesperson Lawrence Stephens said this could not be justified, saying the people got one chance in five years to choose who should govern them and this process should not be stopped by people unwilling to face the electorate.

Opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu said she was uncomfortable with the idea of suspending the elections.

"It is not the political precedent we should be setting, and we have set a lot of new precedents lately," Dame Carol said. "I get nervous (it) will go on longer than six months."

But Andrew Trawen delivered the clinching argument when he said that "to delay or defer the 2012 elections will be unconstitutional."

Referring to Section 105 (1)(a) of the PNG constitution, he said the government had no room to move when it came to suspending elections.

"The 2012 elections program as approved by the Governor-General, Sir Michael Ogio, will proceed as scheduled," he said.

"I will advise the Governor-General to issue the election writs on April 27 for polling to commence on June 23.

"Staff of the commission are professionals in planning, preparing and conducting elections in PNG since 1977 and let's give them the necessary support they need to provide a service called elections," he said.

"I am confident the 2012 elections will not fail and will maintain that the elections will go ahead as planned in accordance with the constitution.”

There’s a place in heaven for Kevin 07


KEVIN RUDD MAY HAVE LOST the headcount as the Labor Party tribe went to war, but one support group he can always count on is in a remote Papua New Guinea village.

A family in the isolated Eastern Highlands village of Degi is forever barracking for Rudd - especially because they named their first-born son after the former PM.

Kevin Rudd Junior was born in Goroka base hospital minutes after then PM Rudd visited during a whirlwind tour in March 2007.

Esau and Lina Kitgi were so impressed by Rudd’s visit they named their baby in his honour and have never given up being a true Rudd believer.

''We will always stand with him, we are diehards for Kevin,'' Kevin Rudd junior's Port Moresby-based uncle, Loven Forapi, said.

''Namesakes mean very big thing to us in PNG.”

Interestingly, another Eastern Highlands family, inspired under similar circumstances to Kevin Junior, named their daughter Julia Junior when Ms Gillard became Australia's first female prime minister in June 2010.

But Mr Forapi pointed out Mr Rudd had been to PNG three times - once to trek the Kokoda Track when in opposition, once after being elected PM and most recently as foreign minister. Prime Minister Gillard has never been to PNG.

''Rudd is a PNG man, when you ask any ordinary person on PNG's streets and in villages they will say K-E-V-I-N, not Julia. He is a household name here,'' he said.

Mr Forapi said despite Australia's political machinations the family was excitedly preparing for Kevin Junior’s fifth birthday celebrations on 7 March. Julia Junior's family was uncontactable.

The Phillips’ memoirs 3 - A chance at journalism


I WOULD BE POSTED BACK TO KIETA in Bougainville as an assistant radio station manager and journalist. By now the copper mine had completely changed the landscape.

By the late 1960s, the small, quiet town I’d known less than two years earlier, had become a seething locus of industrial activity. Eventually the mine in the mountains would grow to a gaping red hole nearly a mile and a half across and half a mile deep, one of the largest in the world.

I was the assistant manager at Radio Bougainville. The manager had worked in commercial radio in newsrooms in Australia, and he typed one-hundred words a minute. I was very impressed.

He was intelligent, knowledgeable, generous and encouraging and it did not take long before I found myself back in the District Office - but this time asking the questions and reporting answers in simple English news broadcasts I wrote for broadcast.

I was treated with some disdain by the patrol officers, with whom I’d worked. I was seen as a turncoat and an outsider. But I revelled in my new role and held no animosity toward my former colleagues.

I knew I’d made the right decision and that their days were numbered. I was carving a new career, capitalizing on my local knowledge, which was unique amongst my expatriate radio colleagues.

Our small radio stations were independent from the District Administration and answerable to the District Commissioner only in declared emergencies. The model of broadcasting was similar to that of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which in turn was based on the British BBC model.

We saw ourselves as independent and adversarial to the government. I was proud of this position. We were far more than propagandists though propaganda of a productive kind, broadcasting health and local government messages, was part of our modus operandi.

Now there were thousands of workers on Bougainville, living in air-conditioned trailers and much of my job involved reporting on the activities of the mine.

The track I’d driven from Kieta to the Panguna mine site when I’d arrived on the island two years earlier, was now a four lane highway wide enough for dump trucks with tires twelve-feet high and it sliced through the landscape climbing up the steep Crown Prince mountain range to Panguna. Each time I visited, the site was bigger and the open cut deeper.

And it was not just the mine itself that had obliterated the landscape I’d come to know and love. Where once had been a curving beach and coconut trees at Loloho, was now a wharf stretching far out to sea ready to receive the ships that would carry the ore to market.

Rows of prefabricated boxes, housing offices and personnel, sprouted along the beachfront and the roads buzzed with activity while the natives watched with sad resignation.

Their gardens were gone. No longer did they paddle into the bay to fish. Some now worked as laborers for the mining companies. The canteens were crowded with redskins, highlanders whose skin was lighter with a red tinge, unlike the inky black Bougainvillians who resented these interlopers who stole their woman and were known as “rascals”, the pidgin English term for trouble- makers.

Things in Bougainville were changing rapidly. Arawa plantation where Barry Middlemiss had worked tending the copra plantation and Kip McKillop’s magnificent orchid collection, had been flattened and it was now the base of coastal operations for the mining venture and the port would grow to be the third largest in the country. A huge pipe designed to carry a slurry of copper and water from Panguna now speared through the jungle down from mountains to the wharf.

The tailings, from the mine site, the toxic residue of mud and chemicals extracted from the gigantic hole, spilled down into the headwater valley of the Kawerong River and thence into the Jaba valley, where they spread out across the valley floor, destroying large areas of rain forest and killing fish in the rivers.

The Jaba discharged about 150,000 tonnes of rock waste and tailings daily. A tonne is more than 2,000 pounds weight and 2,000 pounds is one ton so there was lot of it! At its mouth the Jaba River built a delta of poisonous mud out into Empress Augusta Bay, and sand and gravel spread northwards along the shore. No longer did the rivers and the valleys teem with fish and wildlife. It was a dead zone. And the lives of those who lived there were irrevocably changed.

Before the mine opened I had walked those valleys and crossed the pristine rivers on patrols. I saw it in its original state, as the native had for centuries. But now everything had changed and it was with heavy heart I watched as gigantic yellow machines lumbered across the landscape ripping huge chunks off the mountainside searching for copper and gold.

Past political ills must not dominate the future


I WANT TO THANK MARTYN NAMORONG for raising the issues he has and having the ‘guts, gumption and get up and go’ to actually confront head on, some of the problems affecting Papua New Guinea.

We all know corruption, nepotism, malfeasance and political connivance are not exclusively PNG’s problem. You only have to look at Transparency International’s global corruption index.

However before we can find an effective solution to a problem, you must first effectively define the problem.

With the benefits of hindsight, no one could claim that there weren’t mistakes made during PNG’s nation building. Depending on your point of view, with another 10 years of gradual preparation, education, better communications and experience prior to Independence, PNG might well have been a different place than it is now. On the other hand, it may not.

Those in PNG who pushed for independence as soon as possible were very much like yourself. Young, energetic and well intentioned and hoping to ‘set the world on fire’.

The young PNG politicians then were very eager to get on with the job at hand but with the benefit of hindsight, maybe they were just a tad too inexperienced to appreciate the enormous responsibility they were demanding to be quickly given them. To those that were there at the time and knew them, these young politicians started out with the very best of intentions.

In many ways Martyn is correct in pointing out the somewhat naïve attempts at fast tracking political awareness by those in Canberra who had very little idea of what the implications of fast tracking independence would be.

To infer however that this was an intentional error on Australia’s behalf is not true. Certainly, if a plebiscite had been conducted, the vast majority of PNG people in the early 1970s would have wanted Australia to stay for many years and only gradually withdraw.

There was real pressure from the recently independent African states through the UN who were pressing Australia to leave PNG as quickly as possible. New Guinea was a UN mandated territory as you know. Many of those same African states now have serious internal troubles and PNG could learn from these examples.

Australia’s Constitution was put together by some very learned people over a period of at least 10 years. Those who helped assemble this document were experienced leaders and politicians who knew what would work and what wouldn’t.

It was not an easy task. At the time, areas like Western Australia and Northern Queensland were not sure they wanted to Federate and help create our Commonwealth. Even today, Tasmania has to rightly point out when it’s occasionally left off the nation’s map.

This long period of debate and serious contemplation by veteran leaders was never afforded PNG when her Constitution was drafted. To infer however that Australia intentionally has produced ‘monsters and psychopaths’ is drawing a long bow.

Was it the training that produced your problems or the home grown, weakening of the systems that has now been allowed to develop? There is no shortage of charlatans in every society who will always seek to gain advantage and power.

So might you be demonising the system rather than the bad apples that have floated to the top like garbage in the harbour?

PNG’s system of checks and balances has been allowed to atrophy. The Ombudsman Commission, that body created to keep government in check, has not been properly funded or staffed.

The RPNGC has not been properly funded and has the lowest pro rata numbers in our region. Education and Health have been allowed to whither on the vine. Agriculture has not been encouraged to produce the nation’s food requirements and enable self sufficiency as a nation.

Resource extraction has been allowed to run out of control. The public service is reportedly notorious for not turning up for work or demanding bribes before anything is done. All these were not Australia's doing or intention.

The real problem, as I have attempted to illustrate, is that the checks and balances put in place in the government systems at Independence to prevent current problems from happening, were not designed by those who understood PNG as it would develop after independence.

Naivety? Certainly with hindsight, I agree with you. Intentional, ‘supremacy through surrogacy’? Sorry, where is the proof?

There is a real danger that if we try to pin the present ills on the lack of foresight of those in the past, we tend to absolve ourselves of any responsibility and motivation to fix today’s situation and find better ways of doing things.

Outrage as government says it will monitor dissent


THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA GOVERNMENT has launched a crackdown on "subversive" activity on the internet.

It has begun monitoring the internet and is urging citizens to dob in anyone spreading "malicious and misleading" anti-state information online and via text messages.

Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, Ben Micah, announced the initiative in the Port Moresby-based The National newspaper yesterday.

"The military, police and the National intelligence Organisation and other pro-government civilian networks are monitoring all attempts to destabilise the government's firm control of the country," Mr Micah said.

"All patriots and law-abiding citizens are required to be vigilant.

"Such misinformation includes any information which you consider to be illegal and detrimental to the peace and good order of your community and subversive to the overall security of the nation."

Mr Micah also referred to anti-government information sent via text message and email, and comments posted on Facebook.

Mr Micah has yet to respond to queries from AAP.

Six telephone numbers have been listed for citizens to call and report so-called suspicious activity.

AAP tried to call all six, but they were either disconnected or rang out.

A police spokesman, who declined to be named, told AAP that no orders had been issued by the government for the monitoring of social networking sites.

"No orders have trickled down at this time and so far the police have no involvement," he said.

Both the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Pacific Media Centre (PMC) say the announcement raises deep concerns over free speech and the rights of individual privacy.

"The statement threatens unspecified punishment for those found to be using personal communications technology in a manner deemed illegal and detrimental," the groups said in a joint statement.

"It appears to criminalise the personal use of phones, email and social networking websites without a clear legal mandate.

"Policies and laws which attempt to censor or punish those expressing themselves online, or via other communications technologies, violate this core principle of democracy."

On the popular PNG Facebook group, Sharp Talk, reactions were similar to those of the IFJ and the PMC.

"Is Ben Micah forgetting that freedom of speech is one of the fundamental pillars of democracy," wrote Samson Metofa.

Australian schools neglect Pacific cultures


FOR MANY OF US, studying geography may be just a distant memory of pouring over maps of ''mountains and rivers''. Of course, today geography curriculum is a key part of preparing students for the increasingly globalised world of the 21st century.

It's why the draft Australian Geography curriculum from the Australian Curriculum Assessment Reporting Authority (ACARA) is so important.

It was released in October last year and consultation closes this month. It is scheduled to be introduced into schools next year.

While the draft curriculum is to be commended for having a global focus, there are some rather glaring omissions. The new draft geography curriculum fails to include any study of our own Pacific region.

Despite our important trade, aid, migration, sporting, military and tourism links with countries like Papua New Guinea, Fiji, New Zealand and the Solomon Islands, the region is never explicitly mentioned.

Australian school students and families with a national or cultural background in the Pacific may justifiably feel ignored and overlooked.

The Pacific has often looked like Asia's poor cousin in the Australian education system. Critics have argued there is a failure to teach about Pacific cultures in our schools and nothing to give us hope that Australia may move beyond the ''us and them'' mentality in thinking about Pacific policy.

Unfortunately, the new draft geography curriculum may do little to change this.

At a recent Social Educators Conference in Melbourne, when asked why the Pacific was omitted, Peter Hill, the chief executive of ACARA, suggested that the Pacific was in fact part of Asia.

How can Australia be a good international neighbour if we are not teaching our young people about the issues facing our own neighbourhood?

Read more:

Tim Costello is chief executive officer of World Vision Australia and patron of the Australian Geography Teachers' Association.

PNG, Australia sign zero-tolerance agreement on aid


PAPUA NEW GUINEA AND AUSTRALIA have signed an agreement of zero tolerance to fraud in the multi-million dollar AusAID program.

Australia's international aid agency AusAID provides more than $480 million in aid each year to improve PNG health and education.

But the program has been plagued by fraud and corruption on both sides, affecting the delivery of services.

PNG National Planning Minister Sam Basil has told Radio Australia the zero tolerance initiative aims to address those concerns.

"Some people have termed it corrupt, or even boomerang aid," he said. "So I think we are now stepping into the right direction."

Mr Basil is confident the new agreement will ensure corrupt officials from both governments are held responsible and prosecuted.

"I know that it will build confidence of PNG citizens and the recipients of the aid money and expatriates of Australia that we are doing something about corruption, to address the claims that have been made by the public of both countries," he said.

PNG considers pushing back general election


PAPUA NEW GUINEAN PARLIAMENTARIANS have raised the prospect of delaying the June 2012 elections.

The government has questioned figures in the electoral commissioner's report, tabled in parliament last week.

The report by Electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen on poll preparations says the electoral roll is about 60% complete, covering 2.4 million of four million eligible voters.

However, leader of government business Moses Maladina told parliament some of the figures were incomplete.

"I have since received independent reports that this is not correct," Mr Maladina said, reading a statement by Waka Goi, an MP charged with reporting to Prime Minister Peter O'Neill on preparedness for the elections.

"The electoral commissioner admitted that there were some pockets within [the Southern, New Guinea Islands and Momase] regions, which were still incomplete."

Mr Maladina also said he had received independent reports that electoral rolls for the nation's 89 open electorates had not been returned to many electorates. Mr Trawen could not be reached for comment.

Former Attorney General Sir Arnold Amet told the chamber he would consider supporting a temporary suspension of the elections if it meant they would be free and fair.

A non-government MP, Sir Arnold told parliament he would support a bipartisan push to suspend the election.

"Forty percent at this point is grossly unacceptable," he said. "It may be in the whole nation's interest that the elections be deferred for an appointed time."

First past post system took choice out of elections


IN THE 1964 HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY elections, I was a returning officer in the North Fly Electorate when the first-time ever voters were introduced to, and capably used, the optional preferential system of voting.

In 1968, I was elected as a member of the House of Assembly for North Fly, defeated in 1972 and re-elected in 1977 by the same voting system.

I will state categorically that the large majority of members elected to those three Houses of Assembly and the first National Parliament by that system of voting were, because of it, people who were elected, not to represent only their own clans, but to represent their whole electorates.

Most of them tried diligently to do so, and were by natural consequence nascent Papua New Guinean nationalists and responsible members, ministerial members, and then national ministers.

When the first past the post system of voting was introduced it inevitably took away from all voters the ability to exercise their judgement when choosing whom to vote for. 

Very few villagers can be fairly expected to give their vote, or their first preference, to anybody but to their own clansman.

Unfortunately, the corollary is that they will tend to vote for the biggest thief in their clan, in the vain hope that he will steal more from the government for them than he keeps for himself.

The events of the past ten years have clearly demonstrated this fact, and it is the ordinary people's belated recognition of it, that has caused the Police, the Defence Force, the unions and even the raskols, to say ‘enough is enough, a pox upon all politicians and their parasites, we will not support any of them’!

It is not the Westminster system that is PNG's problem.  It is the effective disenfranchisement of our voters by the introduction of the first past the post system.

Ironically the Australian Administration probably introduced the (optional) preferential system without too much thought, because that is what they were used to, and did so in the blind confidence that Papua New Guineans would quickly adapt to it, as they had to everything else new they were introduced to.

It was our elite, educated Papua New Guineans, and their elite, academic advisors, who also helped in the drafting of our overblown Constitution, who looked down on our bush villagers, and believed that they didn't have the intelligence to continue using the preferential system - which they had clearly mastered for the previous four elections - and so imposed on them something that they thought their bushy relatives could handle.

Oh, they of little faith in their own parents!

Unparliamentary behaviour needs appropriate response


WHEN SIR WILLIAM GILBERT wrote his satirical operetta Iolanthe about the British Parliament and the House of Lords, he clearly evidenced his contempt for those who were selected as members of Parliament on a basis other than merit.

In the song Britain really ruled the waves the following lines seem strangely apposite.

The House of Peers made no pretence, to interlectual eminence or scholarship sublime.
The House of Peers throughout the war, did nothing of particular and did it very well.
The House of Peers withholds it’s legislative hand, and noble statesmen do not itch, to interfere with matters which, they do not understand…”

Coming on top of last week’s fisticuffs between PNG Housing Minister Ken Fairweather and Middle Ramu MP Ben Semri outside the main chamber of Parliament arrives a report from the British House of Commons of a similar incident in the Parliamentary bar on the same day.

British Conservative MP Stuart Andrew is planning on pressing charges after Eric Joyce, a Labour MP, allegedly head-butted and punched him.

One wonders if Mr Fairweather will follow suit with his British colleague and press charges as well. It certainly seemed like common assault in the news reports, and clearly this sort of thing isn’t covered under ‘Parliamentary privilege’.

Physical confrontation is not the example that should be being set by elected representatives for the nation to follow.

In a verbal confrontation in the PNG Parliament last year, a threat of physical violence was made on the floor of Parliament by no less a person than then prime minister Michael Somare, when he was reported to have threatened to kill MP (and now deputy prime minister) Sam Basil.

What these actions reveal is a distinct inability to conduct intelligent and objective debate amongst the nation’s elected law makers.

Yet so far there appears to be a deafening silence from other MPs including the prime minister and speaker about the matter.

Nothing also appears to be forthcoming from any public body, law enforcement agency or church leader. One can only wonder why?

PNG vastly under-explored, says Petroleum Minister


WILLIAM DUMAH, PNG’s Minister of Petroleum and Energy, says the full extent of the country’s resources is still largely unknown.

His comment comes amid increasing investment in PNG’s energy sector by major global players.

Mitsubishi has just entered into a joint venture to develop leases held by Canada’s Talisman Energy in Western Province for potential gas exports.

Exxon Mobil is already leading a major liquefied natural gas project in PNG.

And this month, Shell announced it’s setting up an office in Port Moresby to further its alliance with the state energy company, Petromin.

Mr Duma says PNG welcomes more major players.

“Compared to other countries in the region, we are relatively under-explored,” he said, “there’s a lot of areas that still need to be explored.

“There’s a lot of seismic work that needs to be done. We are all now concentrating on onshore acreages. We have not moved even to offshore acreages. So we are virgin territory in terms of exploration.”

Commission must listen to Pacific on seabed mining


THE PACIFIC’S TECHNICAL ADVISORY BODY, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, is being urged to listen to the views of the region’s communities on seabed mining, reports Radio New Zealand.

The SPC has drafted a legislation on deep sea mining intended as a guide for Pacific countries with ocean floor mineral resources.

The national coordinator of Papua New Guinea’s marine conservation group, Mas Kagin Tapani, has joined others in criticising the European Union-funded framework for its lack of protection of those likely to be affected by extractive work.

PNG is the first Pacific country to have granted a commercial mining licence, with a Bismarck Sea project scheduled to start in 2013.

Mr Tapani says 85% of Papua New Guineans, and especially those in the vicinity of the project, rely on marine life.

“SPC… have to come out, get out of their air-conditioned offices there in Fiji, come to Papua New Guinea, visit the local communities, call for the views of the people themselves, not please the European Union who is funding their operations in Fiji,” he said.

My first PNG posting – struggle on Bougainville

In this second part of his PNG memoirs from the 1970s, ANDREW LESLIE PHILLIPS, now a radio station manager in the USA, recounts his first experience of being a patrol officer in Bougainville

THE BOUGAINVILLE DISTRICT OFFICE was close to the sea; a flimsy two story building overlooking Kieta’s harbor.

The air was infused with the musky smell of copra, dried coconut kernels from which coconut oil is squeezed, stacked along the shore in brown hemp sacks ready for the small boats that carried them to trading vessels anchored in the harbor for delivery to Rabaul and the world market.

The dust from the road that serviced the harbor, floated through the louvered windows of the office and most days the sun beat down on this small coastal town.

Kieta was perched on a narrow ribbon of land skirting the harbor. Pok Pok Island loomed off shore, protecting the harbor from the squalls and storms that sometimes tore in from the east with great ferocity.

Pok Pok [crocodile in pidgin English] had the shape of a huge crocodile lying flat on its belly on top of the sea, its huge head jutting to the south, its tail tapering to the north. It was inhabited by local natives who paddled their small canoes loaded with copra, fish and vegetables for sale in Kieta.

Jimmy Wong’s Chinese trade store was at one end and of the settlement and Kieta’s hospital, a series of grass huts with tin roofs, was at the other. Between were administrative buildings huddled under the ubiquitous coconut trees that curved and swayed against the cloudless sky providing dappled shade from the tropic sun.

Houses with enclosed verandahs protecting the inhabitants from the teeming malarial anopheles mosquitoes, crept back from the shoreline and climbed steeply up the mountains offering a fine view of the picturesque harbor.

A thick green blanket of jungle, a carpet of dense undergrowth and a profusion of tropical forest trees swathed in creepers and vines and screeching wildlife, accelerated rapidly into the clouds toward the inland spine of the island.

The Kieta Club, a white’s only club where the local expatriates drank too much, took pride of place at the center of the small community and near the shoreline was the Kieta hotel where I stayed when I first arrived.

It was run by a small jolly Aussie fellow who wore colorful sarongs and recruited natives from the Mortlock Islands over the horizon, an idyllic group of small islands on a single atoll, north east of Bougainville and part of the Solomons.

The Mortlock islanders are Polynesians with straight hair and slim bodies who fitted the stereotype created by the French artist, Paul Gauguin who’d lived in Polynesian Tahiti in the latter part of his life. They were unlike the Negroid, stocky, blue-black Bougainville natives.

This was my first posting in Papua New Guinea. I was 23 and far from my former life in Australia. It was almost my dream come true. Almost because I was acting as district clerk, tied to a desk and a formidable row of file cabinets, answering directly to the District Commissioner.

The adventures I sought in the jungle would have to wait for the return of the regular clerk who was on furlough for six months and I was his replacement.

I bunked in a back room at the Kieta hotel with three other patrol officers who were new inductees to the Bougainville District administration. There’d been an influx of officers because copper and gold had been discovered in Bougainville’s central highlands.

Soon landsmen and surveyors would arrive to negotiate purchase of large tracts of beach front for a massive port to export the minerals. And thousands of acres of virgin jungle high in the mountains to mine the minerals.

It would be patrol officers who’d accompany the land surveyors, magistrates and land wardens, to negotiate land exchanges to begin one of the world’s largest mining ventures.

Continue reading "My first PNG posting – struggle on Bougainville" »

Marles says Australia treats PNG with respect


AUSTRALIA'S PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles says Australia has been treating PNG's own long-drawn leadership crisis with a lot of respect.

Mr Marles said this in response to accusation by Andrew Kumbakor, the defence spokesman for the Somare faction that Australia has been ignoring the country's political crisis.

“What I would say is the situation in Papua New Guinea has obviously been very difficult,” Mr Marles said.

“We've been trying to treat this with the outmost respect as a very close friend and a close neighbour and obviously we've been watching very carefully how events have panned out in PNG.

“We have been advocating for those events to pan out in a peaceful way and almost exclusively that is what's occurred, which is a real credit to PNG,” he said. “And we have also been advocating that that occur in the context of the Constitution.

“I think we've all got to understand it's a difficult time in PNG's history, but they to have elections coming up in the middle of this year.

“I think the whole region looks forward to those elections as an opportunity for PNG to move beyond what has been a very difficult period and obviously we will continue to work with the government of the day.”

Mr Marles also told Radio Australia that the government has been “working with Peter O'Neill, but there's also been contact kept with all the players in PNG”.

“Our view has been to relate to PNG in a respectful way as possible as a close neighbour and a close friend and what we want to see is that government happens in an orderly way and I think that is occurring.”

Alarm among media over monitoring plans


A MEDIA ADVOCATE in Papua New Guinea says journalists are shocked and nervous after an official in the office of prime minister, Peter O’Neill, announced that people expressing what he called subversive views would be dealt with.

The official, Ben Micah, said a monitoring committee will be set up to look at the spreading of malicious and misleading information through social media, which he says would be regarded as a serious crime.

The Pacific Freedom Forum’s PNG-based spokesperson, Titi Gabi, says if someone offends under the new edict it is not clear what punishment they would face.

“Well what they have said is anyone that they feel or think is going to say something against them they are going to take action but they don’t specify exactly what action they will take.”

The International Federation of Journalists has also raised concerns about the government’s move.

But an official in the Prime Minister’s office says it is Mr Micah’s personal view and that Mr O’Neill supports a free and open media.

In the past two weeks, several journalists in PNG have been muffled by restraining orders issued at the behest of the government or people closely linked to it.

Women vow to fight on despite loss on seats


WOMEN'S GROUPS IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA have pledged to fight on and contest the June 2012 elections after the government of Peter O'Neill failed for the third time to pass a law giving women 22 seats in the nation's male-dominated parliament.

The bill failed to pass parliament 58-1 last week after 21 MPs opposed to the historic law quit the chamber.

A failed third attempt to pass the bill means it has to be reintroduced to parliament.

With campaigning for the June 2012 soon to begin, women may not have a strong voice in parliament until the 2017 election.

Advocates of the bill say they will contest electorates despite the absence of the enabling laws.

"We have waited 36 years. Are we going to wait another five? We need to mobilise and we need to take the coming election on as our challenge," said Dorothy Tekwie, founder of the PNG Women in Politics.

"Absence of women has been part of the problem of why this country has been going down the drain and sold to the dogs, where no-one cares about our children, about social services, about human rights issues, and environmental destruction.”

"We're not asking to take away space from anybody," said Dame Carol Kidu, a 15-year veteran of parliament. “We are asking to provide extra space in a playing field that is completely uneven, completely uneven.

"It is not a western, foreign agenda being brought here.

"I can tell you the most influential person of the Kidu household of the Vahoi clan of the Tari village was my late mother-in-law. Let us not pretend women do not have a voice in Papua New Guinea. Women do have a voice here."

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said he was disappointed with the members who left the chamber.

"If they didn't like the bill, they should have just remained in the chamber and voted against it," he told the Post Courier newspaper.

"They should have made it clear where they stand, instead of walking out. We cannot continue to deceive our womenfolk if the numbers are just not going to be there to support it."

Somare 'failed to communicate' says Abal


SIR MICHAEL SOMARE LOST CONTROL of his government in part because he failed to communicate with his back bench, Papua New Guinea's former acting prime minister says.

In his first public comments on the inner workings of the Somare government since it fell on 2 August last year following a backbench coup, Sam Abal says the former government concentrated too much power among its economic ministries.

Mr Abal was Sir Michael's deputy and led his government between mid-March and August while the 75-year-old veteran prime minister was in Singapore undergoing multiple heart operations.

"We didn't give enough attention to the back benches," Mr Abal told AAP.

"I saw that there was a lot of pressure building up over the past nine years [when the Somare government was in office].

"When the opportunity came, the backbenches went for it."

That opportunity saw 70 of PNG's 109 MPs form a bloc behind the current prime minister, 46-year-old Peter O'Neill, and his deputy, Belden Namah, sparking a constitutional crisis over how Sir Michael was removed.

Mr Abal said another major fault [was] the Somare government’s concentration of power in economic ministries, such as treasury and planning departments.

Sir Michael's son, Arthur Somare, was public enterprises minister until his suspension in mid 2010 pending a corruption investigation.

Government MPs, led by Mr O'Neill, have frequently attacked the Somare bloc for its concentration of power during its term and for trying to set up a "dynasty" without naming Arthur Somare.

Mr Abal two days ago became the first MP to join Australian-born opposition leader Dame Carol Kidu on the other side of parliament.

With Dame Carol leaving parliament, Mr Abal has offered himself as the alternate prime minister at the next election.

The majority of Sir Michael's supporters currently occupy the middle benches.

Borrowed identity


THE COOL MORNING BREEZE blew against my face as I stood in the village cemetery and read the inscriptions on the memorial plaques we had just laid in memory of the two beloved men, men who in their lives of sorrow, regret, suffering and sacrifice had earned my respect and love.

On my right lay my father who had passed away at 83 years of age and on my left lay my biological brother whom my dad had given up for adoption and who had passed away one month short of his twentieth birthday.

In life they led separate lives and in death they lay side by side.  They came into this world with a known identity and here they both lay behind plaques that told of their borrowed identities.

One Monday morning in mid December 1961, the cries of a baby boy broke the silence to the relief and joy of the eager relatives who were waiting for his arrival.  At the sound of his voice tears rolled down the face of his quiet spoken father, Erik, as he remembered how he had promised this child to a relative regardless of its gender.

His mother, Lena, held him and proudly told her sister, Delia, that this bundle of joy was hers.  This child was going to be the bond between the sisters.  This was the happiest day of Delia and her husband, Wayne’s lives as they were yet to start a family.

On turning three months old little Theo was weaned and taken away by Delia and Wayne when they moved to their new home.  Life was perfect for little Theo as he was the only child at home and had his parent’s undivided attention and love. 

A couple of years later Delia and Wayne welcomed their new daughter.  Theo was delighted with the new arrival and took on the role of the big brother.  Not long after Delia had another child and to Wayne’s joy, a son. 

When Theo was old enough he was enrolled at the community school which was a few minutes’ walk from home.  Life was not the same anymore with two more children at home. 

Delia and Wayne’s attention was diverted and Theo was not receiving the same attention and love anymore.  As he grew older he began to fall in with the wrong crowd at school.  He would spend nights out with his friends on the pretence that he was studying with them and Delia and Wayne failed to keep tabs on him. 

His behavioural change went unnoticed because Delia and Wayne were concentrating on the younger siblings and because they also believed that he went out for the right reasons.

One morning Delia and Wayne opened the door to the knock of a police officer.  He was there to inform them that Theo was in police lock up after he had been caught with his friends the night before in an attempt to rob a shopping centre.

Continue reading "Borrowed identity" »

Thoughts on Martyn’s uncertain road to Melbourne


IT’S RAINING AT THE MOMENT, so I’ve quit my mowing and I’m inside at the computer again. I thought I’d tap up Martyn Namorong’s blog site and read his latest post, The uncertain road to Melbourne [see also PNG Attitude, Friday].

Here are a few thoughts that might help Martyn with ideas for the Melbourne conference.

Martyn wrote: ‘We need to recognise that the current systems of government are inherited from our colonial masters.’

Yep! That’s right, but so what? The current systems of government were in turn inherited from earlier systems that were refined and tweaked for hundreds if not thousands of years. They were developed from systems that had been proven to work elsewhere.

When I was travelling through Greece a couple of years ago, I said to our Greek tour guide: “Thank you for looking after our history”. She got somewhat miffed and said: “No, it’s our history, not yours.”

I explained that it depends on how you look at it.

My history, language and culture comes from Australia but before that it evolved from Britain and before that Europe and Ancient Rome and before that Ancient Greece and before that Egypt and Mesopotamia and before that… etc.

“Oh!” she said.

Papua New Guinea’s history, English usage and culture come in part from that long line of antecedents as well as from traditional Melanesian sources.

Martyn wrote: ‘These systems were created for the purposes of taming so called primitive natives and pacifying them.’

Well I guess it depends on what systems you are referring to. If Martyn was talking about the system of Westminster government, then I would have to in part disagree.

It is true that the Australian system of government was bequeathed to PNG by those who in Canberra seemed to think, mistakenly, that they knew better and refused to listen to those who did have some practical experience at the kunai roots level of rural PNG.

If Martyn was perhaps referring to the kiap system of rural administration, then perhaps he might consider a very detailed discussion I had with some PNG mates about how the kiap system worked and why it worked.

I suggested to them that the only reason kiaps were able to manage rural areas and thousands of people was that those people gave the power to the kiap rather than the kiap taking it from the people.

I did however ask why did the people allow this to happen? Was it what the kiap could offer in the way of change and material goods? Was it the education and business opportunities that came after the area was pacified and law and order introduced? ‘No way’, they said.

It was because the kiap system dovetailed neatly into a fundamental and essential part of the traditional PNG village culture, i.e. the ‘big man’.

The village people recognised the kiap as the ‘big man’ and he became culturally acceptable and was easily fitted into the rural scene. In fact, kiaps did very little to change the village culture apart from ending warfare and other anti social practices. That was part of their success.

Only after the kiap system was dismantled by Somare after Independence did things go awry. Nepotism and corruption became rife.

In western government systems, the legislature is responsible for making laws, not enacting the law. That is the province of the public service.

This is the system PNG was left with. It was however changed by the elites who grasped power at Independence and decided to introduce changes to ‘help themselves’.

The fact that some MP’s want ‘the power’ to both make laws and dole out taxpayer money to obtain personal power and prestige is not the system installed prior to Independence.

So there could be a very convincing argument presented that in fact, the systems now currently in place in PNG and that are clearly not working are a direct result of home grown actions and not those externally imposed.

The term ‘neo colonialism’ may well define the problem but the source might also be closer to home.

TI alarmed at government suspension of CEOs


TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL PAPUA NEW GUINEA has expressed alarm at the recent suspensions of the heads of key public organisations.

It says the O’Neill government must exercise good governance and adhere to properly accountable and transparent processes.

The government has been suspending or removing chief executives of state-owned enterprises, some of whom Transparency International says have been performing quite well.

The watchdog group says if there were failings then these should be made public so the government’s actions are accountable and transparent and not lead to undue speculation.

Palm oil is the leading PNG export to Europe


A NEW REPORT HAS LABELLED PALM OIL as Papua New Guinea’s leading export commodity to the European markets with record figures of $45 million a year.

The report details figures from 2010 economic data that provides a record of the exports and imports for PNG with countries in Europe.

The report also states in 2010 the country recorded a worldwide trade surplus of $4 billion.

The report outlines the main PNG export commodities starting with palm oil then prepared food, vegetable products including coffee and tea, precious/semi precious stones and mineral products.

European Union ambassador Martin Dihm says the free trade agreement which exists with PNG is the only one in the Pacific that is called the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement and is designed to help with development.

MPs fail to set a good example for the nation


A disagreement in parliament ended with a brawl outside the debating chamber, leaving Sumkar MP Ken Fairweather nursing a bloody face. It was sparked off when Fairweather interrupted Middle Ramu MP Ben Semri’s speech to parliament [The National]

IS THIS THE SORT OF EXAMPLE Papua New Guinea’s members of parliament should be setting for the nation.

If it is who can blame those people who resort to tribal fighting to settle disputes.

Sori tumas. Oli no tingting gut long tok piksa igo long ol pipol. [Very sorry. This is a poor example and people to think ill of it]

What a pity Mr Fairweather apparently responded in kind and didn't make a complaint to the police.

But perhaps he was only defending himself from attack and may yet do so.

Mr Semri could be found guilty of assault and there seems to be any number of witnesses.

A new life in Papua New Guinea


Andrew Leslie Phillips is now general manager at radio station KPFA-FM in the USA but as a young man he spent time in Papua New Guinea as patrol officer. Andrew has now written a memoir of those times. We’ll be publishing extracts in six parts....

IN AUSTRALIA I SICKENED OF THE URBAN LIFE, the crowded rush to work in the mornings, the tiresome after-work booze-ups at the pub and the predictability of my future. I’d spent five years in advertising. I was now an account executive doing the bidding of my corporate masters, selling the American dream that had become Australia’s.

My initial fascination had become a curse and no longer was I interested in the shallow search for unique selling points and catchy phrases, the pretty pictures and the jingles, selling capitalism to the masses.

As I observed the careers of my fellow workers grinding relentlessly toward retirement, I felt a dark cloud descending and as it thickened around me I struggled to find a way to escape.

I thought about inland Australia where mining companies paid well and life was rough in the desert. I considered joining the army, something to initiate and toughen me and help me escape the malaise I felt.

But the war in Vietnam was in the headlines every day and Australians were dying in a distant struggle that made no sense to me and I quickly dropped the idea. And then, one day, an old school friend suggested Papua New Guinea.

We were having lunch at a pub when he told me about patrol officers, young men employed by the Australian government taming the wilds of Papua New Guinea. Suddenly the cloud lifted as I realized that perhaps this was the answer, a way out; overseas travel and adventure, all paid for by the Australian government.

Immediately I began reading to learn as much as I could about this faraway place and applied to become a Cadet Patrol Officer with the Australian Department of External Affairs. It would take six long months before the invitation for an interview arrived.

Rudyard Kipling and Joseph Conrad had nothing on James Sinclair and Jack Hides, Ivan Champion and the other great explorers who wrote of their adventures in Papua New Guinea; who’d disappeared behind the ranges and into the swamps and vast inland valleys deep in unexplored territories on the second largest island on Earth.

These books vibrated with authentic adventure and raw excitement that tantalized and fascinated me. The authors were ordinary Australians in an extraordinary country and I prayed that one day I would join their ranks and see this land and the people about which they wrote.

Their books described journeys into territory never seen by white men, cannibals and crocodiles, exploratory patrols that lasted months and yielded reports of sorcery and magic, unique characters and taim bilng tumbuna, the time in the past which still lived in the present in Papua New Guinea.

It has been called “the land that time forgot”, “the mysterious island”, “the most primitive place on Earth”, but these were European appellations and had no significance to a people who had evolved complex kinship systems and survival techniques of great diversity and complexity unmatched in my white washed culture.

I felt ready for a new life and my desire was strong. My will to make the cut filled my every day. But I was twenty-three years old, at the older end of the spectrum for applicants, and feared my dream might not materialize.

But then the invitation for an interview arrived. Four hundred young men had applied for forty new positions as cadet patrol officers in what appeared to be the last induction, as the colonial period slowly wound down in Papua New Guinea.

My interviewer was a big, bluff former senior patrol officer who spoke softly belying the image I had of hard-bitten veterans of New Guinea. He told of his love of the island and the people and a life very different to mine and I hung on his every word.

Continue reading "A new life in Papua New Guinea" »

Marles, Deakin respond on planned Namorong visit


THERE HAVE BEEN SOME interesting developments in our Take the Truth to Australia project that will see Martyn Namorong visit Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to meet with the media and with Australians interested in PNG affairs.

Overnight (Brazil time) I heard from Damian Hickey, who was at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby when the inaugural Crocodile Prize awards were held and who recently joined the office of parliamentary secretary Richard Marles as his PNG adviser.

I’ve congratulated Damian on his appointment and taken the opportunity to reinforce my proposal to Mr Marles that the Australian government fund an extended visit by Martyn beyond the conference at Deakin University.

The plan is to involve Martyn in forums with people interested in PNG affairs and in media engagements as part of a broader process of assisting raise awareness of PNG issues in Australia.

I’ve also received a letter from Dr Jonathan Ritchie from the Alfred Deakin Research Institute which is hosting the conference at which Martyn will speak.

It clarified a number of matters relating to the funding of Papua New Guinean participants and also invites me to speak.

You can read here the full texts of PNG-born Jon Ritchie’s letter and my reply.

In brief, no substantive news yet but we are in communication.

The uncertain road to Melbourne


ONE DECEMBER AFTERNOON I had suggestions from friends on Facebook about this conference to be held in Melbourne. They said I should write something to present. They thought I had some insights to contribute.

I looked up the conference details and contacted the organisers at Deakin University, Melbourne. Last week I got a response from the university.

If we are to talk about securing a prosperous future for PNG we have to talk about an exit strategy and timetable for all so called development partners to pull out of PNG.

Just as my trip to Melbourne is full of uncertainties, I also do not wish to raise false hopes about me providing answers to what are essentially difficult questions.

What I am certain of this that the current model of development is fundamentally flawed because it is built on the legacy of domination.

Colonisation now has a black face that perpetuates that colonial legacy. You don’t govern your people using a system that was intended to dominate them. You cannot secure a prosperous future unless to address the issue of neo-colonisation.

We need to recognise that the current systems of government are inherited from our colonial masters.

These systems were created for the purposes of taming so called primitive natives and pacifying them.

In other words, they are systems of domination and subjugation and therefore in light of their failure to bring development to the so called primitive natives, continue to serve the original purpose they were created for. 

In Melbourne, in the one paper, I am going to compress as many ideas from my blog as possible.

I hope this to be the most definitive summary of what I believe is right and wrong with PNG and the way forward.

The trials of J J ‘Mangrove’ Murphy, 1914-97


IN EARLY 1946 AT LAE, Captain John Joseph Murphy, a former Papua New Guinea Patrol Officer and Coastwatcher on New Britain was tried by court-martial.

He was charged with having ‘treacherously given intelligence to the Japanese’ and, under section 40 of the Army Act, with ‘conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline’ in that while a prisoner-of-war he gave to the Japanese more than his name, rank and number.

The charges, two of which carried the death penalty, were based on a captured document purportedly a record of Murphy’s interrogation when captured and statements taken by the Allies from Japanese soldiers at the end of the War.

Defended by his cousin, the Sydney QC Eric Miller, Murphy was honourably acquitted of all charges.

Murphy had spent more than a year as a prisoner of the Japanese at Rabaul.  Only seven of the original 63 prisoners in the Tunnel Hill camp survived; Murphy was the only Australian. 

The court-martial arose from information Murphy allegedly gave the Japanese when he was captured in October 1943.  At the court martial the defence argued that Japanese documents had been incorrectly translated and that others had given information to the Japanese under torture.

After the war, Murphy returned to PNG, finishing his career as District Commissioner of the Gulf District, based at Kerema.

A film documentary is now being made on John Murphy’s life.  A radio program on the ABC is imminent. 

Attempts have been made to persuade the [federal] government to posthumously recognise John Murphy’s service as a Coastwatcher and in helping keep fellow prisoners alive in Rabaul.

But not everyone accepts the court-martial verdict.

Murphy was a well-regarded Administration officer.  His actions in the Rabaul POW camps clearly saved lives.  For that alone he deserves recognition.

But how can one explain the captured Japanese documents and testimony of Murphy’s interrogators?  Records now available show the case the defence mounted at the court-martial was in part flawed. The prosecution and conduct of the case, too, was flawed. Today, it is most unlikely the case would get to trial.

John Murphy does deserve public recognition for his time as a POW. But one cannot simply say the court-martial should never have been held.  There were questions to be answered (although they should have been addressed by an inquiry rather than by a court martial.)

I am writing a biography of Eric Miller QC, having written his entry for the Australian Dictionary of Biography.  In the course of my research into Miller QC’s life, I stumbled upon John Murphy’s story, with which I have become fascinated.  (Others use the term ‘obsessed’.)

So I am now trying to juggle my professional and family life with researching and writing two biographies, both about Australians who deserve greater recognition that they have received to date.

Philip Selth is Executive Director of the New South Wales Bar Association and a former President of the Canberra & District Historical Society.  This note was originally published in the CDHS Newsletter from a paper Mr Selth  gave at the National Archives of Australia, Canberra, on 13 July 2010

Mausman and raskols on the Highlands Highway


I THOUGHT IT WAS AN ACCIDENT SCENE when I saw four or five vehicles blocking the road ahead. Then I saw a young man approaching us waving a 2-kina note.

He saw me in the passenger seat and immediately substituted a 5-kina note. Ruben rolled down the window and exchanged words in rapid pidgin. Money changed hands and we drove on.

People had told me about road blocks on the Highlands Highway. In this case there was a good pretext. The young men were filling a particularly deep channel that had been gauged across the road by heavy rains, so road users were being asked to pay an informal toll.

Ruben explained that he was willing to pay something if a public service was really being performed, but too often it was just an attempt to get some easy money. The village elders generally frown on it, but in a spirit of compromise they let the youngsters do it for a couple of hours in the morning.

Wikipedia sums up the Highlands Highway as follows: "For most of its length the Highlands Highway is no more than a single carriageway two-lane road which is often hindered by potholes and land slips. It is also notorious for being the place of numerous armed hold-ups and robberies committed by local bandits called rascals."

We saw no rascals, but everyone has stories of trucks being held up and looted.

Four of us were driving south from Mount Hagen to visit a rural development project, with the rehabilitation of a gravel road as its centrepiece. I was to have a chance to explain my assignment and seek help with periodic surveys to assess the project's effectiveness.

We were taken to a schoolroom to meet about 30 elders and representatives of various interest groups: women, youth, churches. The meeting was conducted by the mausman (spokesman). He was a retired teacher with a voice much bigger than his frame and an even bigger smile.

Everyone was invited to address the meeting, and the women's representative was the last to speak. When she finished, the half-dozen members of her group came forward to present each visitor with a traditional knitted cap.

As we were leaving, the mausman approached me and spoke in English for the first time. "John," he said, "when you are writing your report you must wear your cap so you will remember our village."



The day seems wide with the view so bright
The sun slanting across the sea oh just right
As I watch thin smoke arise from Mt Tavurvur
I knew my heart belong to Vunamurmur
This is what I call home.

From a distance, I see the Bee Hive
Without a doubt, I know this is the life
Such a beautiful landmark
In a place I call mine
This is what I call home.

Below my gaze is Blue Lagoon
At night, she brightens up with the moon
Her waters so deep and so blue
Her beauty will forever stick to me like glue
This is what I call home.

Nothing will ever take your place
No matter where my heart is these days
Rabaul, East New Britain
Your splendour can never pretend
You are what I call home.

Paige Levakia (18) come from a mixed East New Britain - Niu Ireland parentage. She is currently a Year 12 student at Port Moresby International School. “I do not consider poetry as one of my strengths,” Paige says, “so I wrote this one to challenge myself and see if I am any good at it.”

Open ballot; open wallet: campaigning in the Galkope


MY FAMILY AND I departed Port Moresby for Simbu on 4 January 2012 to take our recreational leave.

Kundiawa town was dull and tired under the shadows of Monguma, Tokma, Porol, Dee Pek, Gor and the bulky landscape that surrounds it.

But many men in dirty coats and jeans were seen congregating in lanes and on street corners talking.

I think I know what these men were discussing in their small gatherings. Politics!

Women and children ran in and out of shops to buy goodies like salt, oil and soap. My family and I bought some goodies as well for our village and jumped on a PMV to get home before the usual afternoon showers came.

Upon hearing of our arrival, our tribesman and family members converged at my village home. In the evening, and for the next six weeks we talked about the pandanus kernel season, villages rugby league matches, deaths and burials, bride prices, maternal or fraternal payments (head pay), sanguma, the 2012 national election and many other hot and interesting issues probably are trivial to an outsider.

The 2012 national election discussions were paradoxically tiresome and interesting.

They took us well into the early hours of the morning every time we touched on the subject. Every Galkope I met announced the name of the candidate to whom he or she will give the first preference vote, or even votes two and three.

Then they went on to tell me why the candidate is good leader. The candidate bought them and others boxes of grog, paid school fees, slaughtered pigs during funerals, gave free rides to town, paid bride prices for all his wives, etcetera.

The Galkope tribesmen invited me to campaign houses built for the candidates they supported. I visited a few in the evenings to see what they do at night. To my surprise, these campaign houses were packed to capacity.

Eighty to ninety people frequent these campaign houses each night. All they do is gamble, chew betel nut, watch videos, freely charge mobile phones, have free dinners and occasional sex at the back.

People also congregate and talk politics at the market places and even after Sunday church service.

Once in a while some henchman of the candidate will announce that the candidate is in Australia and will return soon to see them all, when in fact he is in Port Moresby or Lae.

Almost everyone in the Galkope knows who will vote for which candidate. The candidates also know who in the Galkope will vote for them as well as those who will not.

It is no longer a secret - and so frustration and pressure are building in the candidates and, before long, the lid will burst and they will run for the caves and foreign lands again.

I realise that the Galkope seem to forget the immediate past. Such open ballots in previous elections brought fire and brimstone during the post election and people have experienced losing homes, loved ones, property and coffee gardens, but they refuse to accept the PNG constitution, which calls for secret ballots.

The 2012 intending candidates have got it wrong as well. They started campaigning and erected campaign houses three or four years ago. They have handed out cash and free goodies each time they went home and, in so doing, gave bud to a neo-cargo cult.

The people refuse to go to the gardens with their spades anymore. All they want to do is come to the feast, dine and be merry in the campaign houses in the nights and sleep during the day.

Henchman, supporters and even church workers that I talked to did not mention anything about candidates’ character, civic virtue, good governance, party policies, honesty and trustworthiness, educational background, experience or commitment to development.

I conclude that the contemporary Galkope culture will not vote on good character, civic virtue, party policies or qualifications and experience in the coming election.

All the Galkope ask for is enough moneys and bags of goodies. Furthermore, they regard the source of the money that the candidates spew around as a triviality.

To take the truth to Oz is a longish journey


SO WHERE ARE WE UP TO with Martyn Namorong’s Take the Truth to Australia tour?

The story so far, if you’ve been away….

The precocious and sometimes ferocious Martyn N receives an invitation to speak at a PNG conference at Deakin University.  No offer or intimation of assistance accompanies the invitation.

PNG Attitude – determined to get Martyn to Australia – sets up a fund, while at the same time imploring parliamentary secretary Richard Marles to help him out so our readers don’t need to dip into their pockets for the kind of exchange Mr Marles has put front and centre of his desire to enhance PNG-Oz relationships.

Martyn and I agree that, while he’s in Australia, he should do more than attend a conference. We want there to be meetings with PNG Attitude types (whatever they are) and the media. We decide to add Sydney and Brisbane to the itinerary.

Readers commit funds - $4,350 so far – which I’m loathe to call in until I know for sure no other help is available.

Readers also commit accommodation and organisational assistance to make sure Martyn can get around to meet people and even see a bit of the country.

Why are we doing this?

Because Martyn (26) is one of the more perceptive and articulate young voices to emerge from Papua New Guinea in recent times.  A talented writer, who won the inaugural Crocodile Prize for essays and journalism, he focuses especially on social and political issues with an insight that – when I first read his early material a year ago – blew me away.

Thanks to Martyn, a lot of us know a lot more about contemporary PNG than we knew before.

So where are we up to so far?

As of this moment (and remember I’m writing this from halfway round the globe in Brazil) I haven’t heard from the parliamentary secretary. It’s now 10 Wednesday night Australian time.  Mr Marles has had my email for three full days

I know from long experience in politics that communications to ministers and those of that ilk are often treated tardily but I have never managed to overcome the disappointment that our elected representatives should regard us so poorly.

I’ve even got a distinguished formed federal MP helping out; so far to no avail.

Meanwhile another reader comments: “Jeez you're a case, Jacko -- talk about going off half-cocked! I met with [NAME] from Deakin this morning -- yes, of course they have a funding application in with AusAID for Martyn and others and are confident of approval…”

Maybe so, but no one bothered to tell Martyn that.  And you can’t really plan anything on the sniff of a promise. So without a substantive offer to Martyn, we’ll proceed.

And, in any event, we may still need funding for the rest of his Australian sojourn.

So keep those pledges coming in here.

And what are our readers saying?

Well, most swore me to secrecy about their identity so here are some representative but anonymous comments from donors:

The whole situation [regarding no offer of assistance] demonstrates how Australians have no idea what its like in PNG for the normal villagers. I hope Martyn’s visit creates some interest

I will chip in K1,500 to help tell the truth to all those wankers down there

[We] would be very happy to provide accommodation for Martyn during his visit. As you would expect I am keen to assist with any local organisational issues

It is great that M. Namorong is being recognised

His experience is that of thousands and he gives a voice to those who are finding it hard to be heard. Much appreciate all your efforts with the blog

There’s also been a lot of media interest.

Martyn and I are working on a detailed itinerary for the visit which we’ll get round to publishing in PNG Attitude when it’s in a more developed state.

Somare accuses Australia of ignoring crisis


A REPRESENTATIVE OF FORMER PRIME MINISTER Sir Michael Somare has accused Australia of ignoring the country's political crisis.

In late January, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard officially recognised Peter O'Neill as PNG's leader.

Sir Michael has being trying unsuccessfully to have his claim to power officially endorsed for months.

Now, Sir Michael's Defence spokesman, Andrew Kumbakor, has written an open letter accusing Ms Gillard and her government of ignoring irregularities in the system.

Mr Kumbakor says he believes the situation could soon descend into violence and says Australia has a responsibility to step in before it's too late.

My motherland, my beautiful country, my PNG


It was only yesterday that my motherland was young, healthy and vibrant with life
Every morning I wake to the melodious whistling of the birds and the chirping of crickets
When the sun is up, I walk under the shade of the giant trees, blanketing me from the harmful rays of the sun
Inhaling the aroma of the environment, brings life refreshing oxygen into my lungs, sending the blood seeping through my veins

How I am so privileged to have a mother, who provides abundantly
Slowly, the sun moves towards the horizon and hides its face in shyness, teasing anyone who glimpses its beauty
Scenes like these, was expectant of, yesterday
Now, I sit and stare at the beautiful motherland, trying to heal its wounds of the torture that we inflict

Oh how my heart aches to see you silently pleading helplessly for it to stop
Economic venture and development we say, when we cut down trees like a madman
With blind fury we make you pant and gasp for air without your lungs – trees
Tears flows down your lovely face, flooding the villages and plains

Sweat drifts down your attractive body after the burning of fossil fuels
Oh how it hurts for me to see you suffer in silence
Just when one of your wounds start to heal, another one is done when mining and extraction occurs
Your flesh is being ripped apart and devoured by hungry super powers

If only I have the courage to stand up for you, I would
But how could I when the monsters are too big and ferocious
Now, no more trees to hide from the scorching heat of the sun
You cannot protect me anymore,

‘Please help me’, you breathe heavily
Becoming old too quickly for your age
Please someone help her!

Controversy over LNG expansion plans

THE DOW JONES NEWSWIRE has reported that the $15 billion LNG project in Papua New Guinea operated by ExxonMobil will know by the end of the year if it has enough gas for an expansion that could vastly improve its profitability.

But LNG Watch in PNG is not so sure of the benefits.

PNG LNG is one of the largest and most complex energy projects under construction worldwide. An expansion to three liquefied natural gas production units from the two currently planned is being examined.

Dow Jones says that “an expansion could also benefit the impoverished nation of PNG, whose gross domestic product is already set to more than double if the project's foundation stage is completed in 2014 as planned”.

LNG Watch comments: “Define poverty! Most Papua New Guineans bitterly disagree with western indicators of wealth!

“And who will benefit from this economic growth principally? The company, its shareholders, a small national elite and their political patrons. The people of PNG will only 'own' the pollution, the landslides, the security problems.”

Conference aims to generate positive PNG future


AUSTRALIA'S ALFRED DEAKIN INSTITUTE is to host a conference entitled Papua New Guinea: Securing a prosperous future.

The event announcement says it will be "exploring the opportunities and challenges for a Papua New Guinea seeking security and prosperity."

At this stage the complete program is yet to be finalised, but one person who will be attending the April event is outspoken PNG blogger and commentator Martyn Namorong.

His blog has often been the place where news about what is happening there, which various politicians, corporate groups and others do not want in the public arena, will first appear and he is part of what is a growing force in PNG, and around the region.

Australia & NZ need to prepare for PNG migration


PROFESSOR RICHARD BEDFORD is a specialist in migration studies who has been looking at population movements in the Asia-Pacific region since the 1960s.

He says that between now and 2050, Australia and New Zealand can expect much larger numbers of migrants from Melanesian countries.

He says this new wave of Pacific migration is something both countries need to begin preparing for.

“I think we're going to find that we become more engaged as we have been in the last decade with the western Melanesian countries [like] Vanuatu, Solomons and Papua New Guinea.

“And we're going to see I think a lot more people from those island countries coming to New Zealand and Australia as part of the ongoing development processes in their countries, and maybe also part of our own shortages of labour, particularly in less skilled areas in the economy.

“I think one of the things on the policy front that we will have to be more sympathetic to is the pressure that will build for access to opportunities in our cities from our near neighbours,” Prof Belford said.

“I think we're going to need to see some more thinking like that, how we accommodate the pressure for assistance and support and opportunities for young people in those regions in our particular countries.”

The gilded dove



‘Yes father?’

‘Come here, and get your sister, you lousy boy!’ The angry voice screamed at him. ‘And hurry up!’

Running to drop the huge piece of wood he was carrying to the hearth, the little boy picked up his naked crying baby sister in front of their mother’s room.

The coarse wooden door slammed shut in their faces. Hearing his step-father’s giggling whispers, he backed away, disgusted and outraged. Kossip was old enough to know what that brute was doing to his mother. Swallowing his anger, he walked into the warm midday sun to ease the toddler’s hiccups.

It was never like this when his father had been alive. Nganz, Kossip’s father had been the most feared and respected young man in the village. He had been a warrior in his tribe and was against anything that ‘master man’ brought into their little village.

He had won his bride, Kapil, from the enemies’ tribe. By his valour, the enemy gave him their chief’s daughter to pay for their lives. They left him their land, gardens and homes and migrated.

Nganz knocked down their shaggy homes and built the biggest and the best house in the area. He fenced his area and single-handedly dug drains for gardens and gave them to his beautiful new bride.

Although many girls envied Kapil, she envied the wives of the men who worked for the ‘master man’. They wore dresses made of wool and cotton and made bilums of good nylon string.

Many times she would ask her brave young husband to work for the master so that she could get them too. However, Nganz was adamant, saying, ‘I am not going to be slave for those aliens. I have everything that a man would desire, what more could a man want?’

However on one fateful day, he went hunting and never returned. His young wife and son waited and waited until many days had passed and he was officially pronounced dead. So many rumours of his death came about.

Some said he fell into the mighty Wahgi River, some said he was taken by the wraiths of the jungle because of his strength so that he could fight for them in their world. Some women whispered that he just became tired of his wife’s pestering him about working for the aliens and simply left.

After the closing of his official funeral, his beautiful wife married the chief’s son Kaman; many said she was the one who killed Nganz using sorcery so that she could marry a working man and have dresses! Although so many stories came about, Kossip still believed in his heart that his father would return one day and kill this evil man that his mother had married.

Coddling and singing to his half-sister, Kossip walked into the bush following the tracks that his father had taken on his many hunting expeditions, hoping against all hopes; that Nganz would come out smiling and laughing at him. Telling him that it had all been a lie and that he was alive!

He gathered wild flowers and berries for his sister and tickled her until she screamed in delight. Their young and vibrant laughter carried throughout the forest as they bathed and played in the crystal-clear stream. They spent the whole evening in the rainforest until Kossip heard his mother calling for them. Running lightly down the narrow track, Kossip clutched his sister steadily on his back as they made their way back home.

‘Kossip, come bring your sister, your father should be coming home now.’ Kapil said and reached out for her daughter.

‘He is not my father.’

‘Sssh, don’t say such things, boy! He is my husband and that makes him your father.’ Kapil stared at her son and said sternly. ‘And you will treat and address him as such!’

‘No way!’ The boy’s stalwart eyes filled with angry tears. Gently handing his sister to his mother, he said, ‘my father will come and kill him for everything that he has done to you and me!’

Unconsciously Kapil reached out to feel the swollen black bags under her eyes and her bruised heavy lips; where her face was once smooth, now it was full of bruises and scars.

Cursing the devil drink that master man had given her husband grief and remorse covered her eyes for a moment. Kaman came home drunk from the devil drink almost every day, demanding sex and food. If they were not available, Kapil and Kossip paid for it with their blood!

Covering her misery quickly, Kapil told her son to fetch water from the nearby stream, hoping that her misery would not be noticed by her son. However, such things never escaped Kossip. He had been old enough when his mother remarried to tell the difference between the way Nganz and Kaman treated her.

As the evening twilight descended on the village, Kapil sang a very beautiful song while Kossip tended the fire; it was their own stolen moment of happiness. It was later in the night that Kaman came home, drunk again.

Continue reading "The gilded dove" »



God made the earth for everyone, not for an individual
The evidences are in the Bible and in our Culture
Every philosopher, leader and wise men that walked upon the face of the earth;
Believed there is a higher deity that shows us our connection to the land.

Genesis 48:4, ‘I will make you a group of peoples and give this country to your descendants after you, to own in perpetuity’
Native American Proverb; ‘We do not inherit the earth… we borrow it from our children…’

Our Culture; ‘In their early years, she must take them out daily and point out where the land is. Usually this is done by her cultivating the land so that her sons know and feel the land they belong to and understand why they must protect it. They understand that their chief responsibility is to use the land in such a way that it CONTINUES to provide for them and their clan. They understand that in distributing the land they must be fair to all’

Our Constitution ‘We declare our fourth goal to be for Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and environment to be conserved and used for the collective benefit of us all, and be replenished for the benefit of future generations’

Above all we are one with the Land
That is where we get our energy and
That is where we will go after all our energy has been expired.

The Land gives and the Land has every right to take away.

And maybe in the future,
The Land will find the time to re-generate
All the harm that humans have inflicted on it,
When that time comes it will not be the end of the world BUT
The end of You and Me as the land was here before we came.

State-owned enterprises face shake-up


A SHAKE UP OF STATE-OWNED ENTERPRISES in Papua New Guinea is likely after revelations the agencies are not meeting obligations to pay a dividend.

The SOEs include the water, power and phone utilities, Air Niugini and Petromin.

The new head of the Independent Public Business Corporation, which oversees the SOEs, Thomas Abe, told the Post Courier the agencies are hampered by political interference.

The executive director of the PNG Institute of National Affairs, Paul Barker, says a former prime minister, Sir Mekere Morauta, was largely unsuccessful in his bid to privatise the SOEs ten years ago.

But he says despite the limited time before the June election, he may try to initiate some reforms.

“Clearly Sir Mekere has that drive and he would like to push through some of the reforms that he started over a decade ago, if only to push for some competition, push for some greater vitality in these organisations,” Mr Barker said.

From resignation to taking the truth to Australia


IN EARLY JANUARY 2008, I quit being president of the Papua New Guinea Association of Australia, a role to which I’d been elected the previous year.

The decision shocked many people, since I had espoused the PNGAA as the prime vehicle by which effective civil linkages could be built between the two countries. At my urging, the members had voted to change the constitution to embody that objective.

But I resigned when I realised that the PNGAA was incapable – without overcoming strident opposition from a dissident minority – of achieving what most of its members wanted. A strong and active relationship between PNG and Australia.

Pity, but the decision to leave saved me a lot of strife and heartache, and I had another idea in mind.

Around this time the social media were really beginning to take off, offering new opportunities for mass, rapid communication and action.

And that’s when PNG Attitude was conceived as a spearhead for trying to build a different kind of relationship between PNG and Australia: one based on the internet which would, over time, hopefully spin off projects of more practical value.

Its first task was to establish a readership from both countries and this essentially meant a patient process of building readers and contributors.  It was a time when one reader unkindly suggested we should call the blog PNG Platitude.

But the readership grew, the contributions from both Australia and PNG flourished, old contacts were restored, politicians were harassed and lobbied (as they should be), small projects were funded by donations from readers.

And then came the Crocodile Prize – organised wholly using the internet – culminating in the first face-to-face meeting or writers in Port Moresby last September.

Since then the PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers has been established – and it will have its formal birth in September – and the Crocodile Prize, with its funding base consolidating, has moved into a second and more expansive year.

This brings us, via the long route, to Martyn Namorong’s Australian tour. This represents a new venture for PNG Attitude and I hope it will be a huge success and be the forerunner of similar visits.

We still need to raise the money – but, given that we do, a thorough program for Martyn’s visit will be executed; tentatively taking him to Melbourne (11-15 April, Sydney (15-18 April) and Brisbane (18-20 April).

I hope that he will be able to speak with many readers in or near those cities (we’ll arrange appropriate functions) and we’ll also make sure he meets with the media and a number of relevant political figures.

Already a number of readers have committed funds to this project and we have accommodation covered in each of the cities. A tremendous early response.

But, in case we cannot secure government funding for the visit, we are relying on you to give us a hand.

We may not need them, but we might. It would be nice to know that, if the government doesn’t come good, our readers will.

Lawyer and writer Nou Vada urged Martyn to ‘take the truth to Australia’ – and that’s what we’ve called the tour.

So let’s get this entire PNG Attitude project on to a new level.

We may just be rank and file citizens, but we can all help build the Papua New Guinea – Australia relationship in a concrete way.

If you can commit some dollars, please contact me here.

The little red book of the chief of staff

It seems Peter O’Neill’s chief of staff BEN MICAH has been reading the wrong books. This press release, issued by Mr Micah, includes sentiments the rest of us don’t like to see emitting from a great democracy like PNG

SPREADING OF MALICIOUS AND MISLEADING INFORMATION is a serious crime and those found to be doing such will be dealt with, says the Prime Minister’s Chief-of-Staff, Ben Micah.

Mr Micah made these comments following recent circulation of anti-government information via text messages on mobile phones, email messages and comments being posted on social network site, Facebook.

“The military, police and the National Intelligence Organisation (NIO) and other pro-government civilian networks are monitoring all attempts to destabilise the Government’s firm control of the country.

“All patriots and law abiding citizens are required to be vigilant. I urge you all to separate rumours from facts and report any suspicious events to the Prime Minister’s office, the deputy PM’s office, police, PNGDF, the Office of the Chief Secretary or your local MP’s office.

“Such misinformation includes any information which you consider to be illegal and detrimental to the peace and good order of your community and subversive to the overall security of our nation,” he said.

A committee has been set up to look into this and to monitor and track down people who have ulterior motives to destabilise the government.

Readers comments, as always, are welcome - KJ

Court decision on PNG leadership put on hold


PAPUA NEW GUINEA HAS TO WAIT another week to find out who is the country's legitimate prime minister after the supreme court adjourned a hearing into the case.

Peter O'Neill and Sir Michael Somare are both claiming to be the rightful prime minister, and Monday's directions hearing was supposed to set a timeline for the court to decide which claim is legitimate.

But the hearing was adjourned after 19 applications were filed by parties from both sides wanting to join the proceedings.

The courtroom was so packed with lawyers they had to move more tables into place so they would all fit.

The two police officers claiming to be PNG's police commissioner are among those who have applied to join the proceedings.

Sir Michael's lawyer asked for more time so he could prepare to agree or object to those applying.

Supreme court judge Bernard Sakora acknowledged that time, cost and delay were well recognised legal tactics.

The court has given all parties until Thursday to serve copies of their applications.

Scientists seek causes of dead fish in river system

Radio New Zealand International

SCIENTISTS HAVE DESCENDED ON Papua New Guinea’s Morobe province to investigate a buildup of dead marine life in local riverways.

The people of Labu last week set up a road block at the Markham bridge near the confluence of the Markham River and the Watut River where they have been protesting about losing their prime source of food and livelihood.

The Labu community has blamed the Hidden Valley Gold Mine operations of the Morobe Mining Joint Venture for the dead fish.

Labu people last week presented dead fish and a petition to Morobe’s Governor demanding an investigation into the issue.

Radio New Zealand International correspondent Oseah Philemon, himself a Labu local, says the community feels very strongly that the build-up of dead marine life is the result of chemicals discharged into the riverways by the mine.

“That was the allegation they made and led to them blocking the Markham Bridge and preventing vehicles either going up to the mine or coming down from passing the Markham Bridge,” he said.

“They also demanded ten million kina compensation, they demanded resettlement, they demanded fresh water, food supplies and whole lot of other things because of that.”

The Morobe Governor, Luther Wenge, says it is premature to blame the mine, especially as the Watut, which the mine discharges into, is one of many tributaries feeding the Markham.

He says he has made pleas to the Labu people for understanding and patience while the issue is investigated.

“And as I say, we don’t know exactly what’s caused that,” Mr Wenge said. “What we have done is to talk to the University of Technology to ask them if they can assist with scientists who can investigate this and tell us what the cause is, what caused the deaths of those river animals.

“So we’ve contacted scientists there and secondly, we’ve engaged the Department of Environment and Conservation, they’ve sent some scientists. We have to make sure that scientists investigate this thoroughly.”

In a press statement, MMJV - a joint venture between Australian company Newcrest and Harmony Gold of South Africa - claims there’s nothing to indicate the mine’s involvement.

The statement said: “The quality of the water discharged from the Hidden Valley mine operations is monitored on a daily basis and is reported to the Department of Environment and Conservation weekly and monthly.

“There are no abnormalities in the Hidden valley water quality data as it is well within compliance parameters. The greatest impact on the river system in the area at the moment is the Kumalu mudslide where cubic kilometres of sediment have entered the river system due to the heavy rain.”

MMJV has pledged support for efforts to identify the cause, and has provided data on its discharge quality.

However Oseah Philemon says the investigating team may need to rely on more independent data if they are to appease local concerns.

“Just putting my other hat on as a villager from Labu, I said to them Labu people will not believe anything that comes from the mine, so you should actually do independent tests,” he said.

“If it means sending the tests to Australia for independent verification and independent tests, then perhaps you should do that, to reassure the people that everything is okay. Right now, as far as they’re concerned, the mine is responsible.”

Carbon dioxide breaking down marine ecosystems


IF CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS don’t begin to decline soon, the complex fabric of marine ecosystems will begin fraying — and eventually unravel completely, two new studies conclude.

Jason Hall-Spencer of the University of Plymouth, England, and his colleagues have been collecting data from marine sites off Italy, Baja California and Papua New Guinea, where high concentrations of carbon dioxide percolate out of the seabed from volcanic activity below.

Directly above these CO2 seeps, pH plummets to at least 7.8, a value that is expected to occur widely by 2100 and which is substantially lower than the normal level for the area, 8.1. These sites offer a preview of what may happen to seafloor ecosystems as CO2 levels continue to rise, causing ocean water pH to drop.

Compared with nearby normal-pH sites, species richness in low-pH zones was diminished by 30%, Hall-Spencer reported. “Coral and some algae are gone. And the sea urchins are gone,” he said. Fish may be present, but unlike in areas with a normal pH, they won’t deposit their eggs there.  

In Papua New Guinea, Langdon found evidence that the same thing appears to be happening in the wild at CO2 seeps with comparable pH values.

The return of the spirit of Kono Komboni


Kono KomboniMY SON IN LAW, TREVOR, IS A SIMPLE MAN who can relate to my people in the village of Kanangomato.

He can feel the pain in watching how the elderly are treated in rural villages. He shows compassion towards those elderly who are suffering due to the poverty that exists in the Papua New Guinea rural villages.

He is unlike the well educated politicians in the PNG and Australian governments who turn a blind eye to our plight. And unlike the officials in AusAID, who think they have more important problems.

Now that I am a free spirit, I have been able to see the way the elderly are treated in Australia in well-equipped and well-staffed nursing homes.

My nursing home in KanangomatoMy nursing home for the last few years of my life was entirely different.

I had no fresh drinking water, and no sanitation. I would have to wash myself in a dish when the children of the village were able to fetch some water from the nearby river. The children would bring me food and firewood to warm my home during the cold Highland nights.

If I was lucky the villages would have a mumu and they would share some food with me. This only happened occasionally. My bed was an uncomfortable woven mat of bamboo resting on a wooden frame of saplings. I had no staff to care for me and had to rely on other villagers when required.

I am disgusted at the way many politicians believe it is their right to buy expensive mansions overseas and completely ignore the elderly villagers who they should be assisting.

It was in 2008, when Trevor visited me and held me in his arms as I was dying, that I expressed my thanks to him for at least taking two of my grandson’s to live in Australia so that they would not have to endure the poverty that exists at Kanangomato village.

Trevor Freestone writes:

Sadly Kariango, Kono'sr husband, has had to also endure the same level of poverty and, as I write this, he is dying and will join his wife within days. Rest in Peace.

Our attempts to send money to Komboni and Kariango have all failed as the money is unexplainably lost in transit. Of course PNG has no welfare system that helps the aged and infirm.

I hope that the coming elections produce a parliament dedicated to helping the people it’s elected to serve.

Buried in an avalanche of literary talent

Crocodile Prize entrant Regina Dorum asked if there was any possibility of personal feedback from judges to writers in the context of the Prize.  We asked PHIL FITZPATRICK to respond....

OFFERING COMMENTS OR CRITICISM to writers entering the Crocodile Prize literary awards is a tricky business because the judges don't want to be seen to be advantaging one writer over another.

What I do when an entry arrives is read it and sometimes undertake a light edit, that is, correcting spelling mistakes and some grammar.

I realise that, for most Papua New Guineans, English is a second language. Occasionally I see a great piece of writing with terrible spelling and grammar. On those occasions, I offer some advice and suggestions.

The judges are here not only to judge, but to encourage and promote PNG writing in the spirit of the Crocodile Prize.

This tends to pay off because I've seen dramatic improvements in some writers in a short amount of time. I guess not having a healthy literary scene doesn't allow for writers to get much advice on their work.

We get a lot of work from university students and I'm particularly concerned that they don't seem to have access to teachers who can proof read their work and advise them on how to improve it. I suspect that some teacher's literary abilities are also limited.

That said, there are writers who submit work that is absolutely perfect and awe-inspiring. I often think 'I wish I could write like that'. Other writers submit work that is absolutely out of the square and so innovative as to be scary.

So the short answer to your question about advice is that we are happy to offer it as long as it doesn't disadvantage other entrants.

The only problem, and it’s a good one, is that at the moment is that I'm snowed under with entries and still working through a backlog.

So it might take some time to get to each individual writer. I guess I'm buried in a sea of talent.

Perhaps we should ask some of PNG's more established writers in the competition whether they would like to mentor new and aspiring writers.

One think that I have noticed is that PNG writers are not preoccupied with their egos and are happy to take well-intentioned suggestions and criticism. That's something you don't see in many other places.

Regina Dorum is a bright new PNG writing talent. Her first story for PNG Attitude, 'Stevie Rasta', follows...

Stevie Rasta


BENDING OVER, STEVIE RASTA threw up bile from his empty stomach as sweat covered his small dirty face.

‘Urrgh! Yuck! Honest Rasta, you are such a gay!’ His friend Zugu said as he downed another ‘sorry cup’ from the makeshift cup they had made from a container top.

‘Shut up, you moron!’ Steven told his friend as he gulped down water from the 500ml container to wash away the bitter taste in his mouth. ‘It’s because I drank that coffee punch with an empty stomach and we didn’t even mix!’ I bloody hate this, he thought to himself. His head was thumping and his heart beat doubled. With an effort, he stood up and reeled on his feet. If only Zugu will leave him alone!

Zugu made a face and sneered at him. ‘Just admit you are gay, man!’

‘I said shut up!’ Stevie said, pouring water on his short dirty dreadlocks to clear his head. It was already getting late as taxis screeched and sped past, looking for potential customers. Cars lined the freeway, in eager dash to go home for a good dinner and bed. Lights from the freeway lamp post threw orange glow in its path as darkness crept over the city.

The two urchins sat on the 5 mile roundabout, hidden by small brush that the good old governor had planted, downing a twenty ounce coffee punch they had stolen from drunkard boys at 5 mile settlement.

‘Man, the punch is almost done!’ Zugu said as he showed the almost empty bottle to Stevie and downed another shot.

Zugu is the only friend that Stevie Rasta has ever had. They had met two years earlier when Stevie ran away from home at the age of five from his uncle at Sabama settlement, due to constant beating and hunger. Zugu had been nine years old at that time. Stevie had stolen K5 from his uncle and walked to Manu Auto port in the hope of finding something to eat at 11 pm.

Pretending to assist the little boy, Zugu had robbed Stevie’s change and told the boy to leave. Not knowing where to go, Stevie simply followed Zulu around, keeping five meters distance from the bigger boy for two days until Zugu accepted him. Since then, they were always seen everywhere together, eating whatever they could find and sleeping where it was comfortable.

‘Zugu, I want to sleep.’ Stevie muttered with a slur as he sat down heavily and laid on the dry lawn, ‘arrrghh,’ he sighed, feeling light headed.

‘You cannot sleep here, stupid! The police will pick us up and belt us up!’ Zugu thumped Stevie’s head with the empty container. ‘Stop being a psycho!’

Getting no response from his friend, Zugu stood up, looking out for cops, he threw away the empty bottle and sat back down. ‘Honest buddy, get up. We’ll go to Manu and you will sleep at the store.’

Zugu heaved Stevie up as they staggered and walked towards Boroko, using each other’s body as support. Security guards jeered and pointed at them, some shouted and told them that’s what they get for drinking.

‘You feel man enough for a drink? You silly kids!’

‘Bloody little men, go home and sleep!’

‘We have a six-pack beer here, wanna join us?’ The men laughed loudly at them.

Ignoring their jeers Zugu swore under his breath as the two boys sat down to catch their breath under the overhead bridge.

‘Bloody bastards!’ Stevie only nodded in agreement.

Continue reading "Stevie Rasta" »

Cyber zoo to preserve endangered languages


A ''ZOO'' FOR ENDANGERED LANGUAGES has been set up on the internet in a bid to save thousands of ancient tongues from extinction.

Eight new ''talking dictionaries'' have been unveiled by linguists who journeyed to some of the most remote corners of the world in search of vanishing languages.

They feature more than 32,000 written words, 24,000 audio recordings of native speakers pronouncing words and sentences, as well as photos of cultural objects.

One of the dictionaries features Matukar Panau, a Papua New Guinean language which has only 600 surviving speakers.

Before the Enduring Voices team began studying it three years ago, the language had never been recorded or written.

Of the nearly 7,000 tongues spoken on Earth today, more than half may be gone by the end of the century.

The talking dictionaries initiative from National Geographic Society's Enduring Voices project is an attempt to prevent these ancient languages being forgotten.

In some cases, it is the first time a language has been recorded or written down.

Dr David Harrison, from Swarthmore College in Philadelphia, US, one of the linguists creating the dictionary, said: ''Endangered language communities are adopting digital technology to aid their survival and to make their voices heard around the world. This is a positive effect of globalisation.''

PNG squad confirmed for ICC World Twenty20


SOME OF THE VERY BEST CRICKETERS from the ICC's associate and affiliate member countries will assemble in the United Arab Emirates next month when the 16-team ICC World Twenty20 event will be staged across five venues in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

At stake in the UAE will be the two available places in the ICC World Twenty20 championship in Sri Lanka which will be played from 18 September to 7 October.

There will be 72 matches over 12 days and the first qualifier will emerge after the 61st match while the second qualifier will be known after the 71st match.

The winner of the 72nd and final match of the tournament will complete Group B by joining Australia and West Indies while the runner-up will team up with defending champion England and former winner India in Group A.

The event will see in action two international stars of the recent past - Michael Di Venuto and Geraint Jones.

Di Venuto, who will represent Italy, has played nine ODIs for Australia in 1997 while Jones, representing Papua New Guinea, played 34 Tests, 49 ODIs and two T20Is for England between 2004 and 2006. The 35-year-old Jones can play for PNG as he was born in Kundiawa, the capital of Simbu Province.

The PNG squad is: Rarua Dikana (captain), Geraint Jones, Jack Vare-Kevere, Jason Kila, Willie Gavera, Chris Amini, John Boge Reva, Tony Ura, Assadollah Vala, Chris Kent, Mahuru Dai, Vani Vagi Morea, Joel Tom, Hitolo Areni