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175 posts from May 2012

Anti-violence group seeks Australian support


SOME PNG ATTITUDE READERS may be aware of the very active group called Papua New Guineans Against Domestic Violence (PNGADV) set up by Lydia Kailap and others.

Of the original group, only Lydia is still involved in a big way and she is doing extraordinary work on several fronts.

If you have looked at the PNGADV Facebook page recently, you'll have seen how the numbers are exploding, to the point that we are about to appoint a committee so we can become incorporated and begin to lobby and apply for grants.

The reason I'm writing is to ask if you could encourage the ex-Kiaps group to donate to PNGADV, and/or to join our page and help give comfort to the victims of domestic violence.

For people in Australia, we are about to set up a special centre for donations and in the meantime we can send money to Lydia for current projects. We have some pretty amazing people on board now and it's starting to get exciting.

We would love to be able to train Papua New Guineans in the skills of community recovery and reconciliation by way of scholarships, for instance, and I was thinking that if the ex-Kiap group could be persuaded to donate even just $2 each, that would amount to a tidy sum.

Lydia and Peter Kailap have started the Ricochet Cafe, which sells good quality, huge hamburgers at an affordable price. They got a bunch of street teenagers and trained them in cooking, cleanliness, customer relations and so on, and only in the ninth week were they able to pay them a partial wage.

The kids get fed, of course, and sleep at the cafe, partly to protect it and partly so they have a safe place to sleep. Once Ricochet is fully on its feet they hope to spread into clubs, so more kids can be trained and hopefully kept off the streets.

When you add this to the petitions, street demos and emergency responses the group has organised, you will see how it is gaining momentum.

I'll leave this request with you, to do what you can with. I'm the ex-wife of an ex-Kiap and my first son was born in Mt Hagen in 1969. I grieve at what has happened to this lovely country since independence.

Peace ceremony - PNG's equitable code of justice


THE TRADITIONAL CODE OF CONFLICT SOLUTION known as the peace ceremony is PNG's most equitable and timeless alternative justice system.

In peace ceremonies, the aggrieved parties come together in a public gathering to a neutral location with money and goods like animals, food stuffs etc. The money and goods are exchanged between the aggrieved parties preluded by heart-moving words of remorse, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration and friendship from the chiefs and leaders of both sides witnessed by church and community leaders including officials of the law and justice.

The amount they give each other is dependent on the degree of damage or suffering one incurs or endures as a result of the conflict. Naturally the party that suffers the most or incurs the worse damage is given more and vice versa.

 The peace agreement is profoundly binding and lasting because the amount of money and goods that are exchanged hands are have being negotiated and mutually agreed on by both parties in peace mediation. Negotiations continue if and when there is a disagreement until a final agreement is reached. Then the peace ceremony is equitably and amicably executed.

The money and the goods add substance and value to the whole peace making. Without either a peace agreement would deem vain and unbinding vulnerable to collapse sooner or later.

Tears and/or hugs are instant signs of total remorse, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, friendship, peace and harmony. They are the first indicators of a true and lasting peace.

Moreover, there is no loser in a peace ceremony. Both parties are winners.

In contrast, in a modern court of law, there is only one winner and it is either the complainant or the defendant depending on how one convinces the court with his or her evidence regardless of the veracity of the affidavits. The worst villain can bluff his or her way out making the innocent unjustifiably bear the brunt of the law.

On many occasions the victims of such legal blunders take the law into their own hands because they lose faith in the modern legal justice system. They seek justice themselves.

 For this and other reasons, many Papua New Guineans prefer peace ceremony than a court of law to solve their conflicts even in this advancing modern society.

A classic example is the recent peace ceremony that was held between the Highlands Police Mobile Squads 05, 06 and 07 and their colleagues in the National Capital District on Friday 11 May, 2012 at the McGregor Police Barracks in Port Moresby.

Continue reading "Peace ceremony - PNG's equitable code of justice" »

Plesman's postscript to the political impasse


YESTERDAY I GOT A TWEET from PNG's most prolific anonymous blogger, a man named Tavurvur who runs the Garamut blog: "The Supreme Court passed its decision 3 - 0 in favour of Somare. Two judges abstained. Unheard of #PNG"

It was a bombshell no doubt. And one that will throw the political impasse into a new, unpredictable direction. But we'll try do some preliminary assessment. 

So at approximately 7:30 last night, the Supreme Court in a 3-0 decision upheld the prime-ministership of Grand-Chief Michael Somare. They did so after Parliament dissolved itself on Tuesday 15 May and writs were issued on Friday 18th.

We have to mention the dates because the dates are important to highlight the next bit of information. Parliamentarians are both representatives of the people and makers of laws.

On Tuesday Parliament invoked s105(c) of the Constitution to dissolve Parliament. Parliament unanimously moved to dissolve itself. In PNG, the last law that Parliament makes, at the end of its tenure, is the law to dissolve itself.

This, it did on Tuesday. When it did this, Parliament placed the law-making powers of the people in suspended animation... this simply means the power is there, but it is not active.

On Friday the Governor-General issued 111 writs for the 111 seats of Parliament to be contested. By doing this, the suspension of the law-making powers of Parliament was affirmed, and further, the mandate of Parliamentarians to represent their people in the Tambaran Haus was taken back to the people.

So if Parliament meets, it will be illegal and those occupying the seats of the Legislative Chamber will not be protected by parliamentary privilege and will open themselves up to contempt of court and, when they are charged, will forfeit their chances of running for election. Shiit!

Another tweet from Tavurvur last night: "O'Neill-Namah faction has refused to recognise the SC ruling & have recalled Parliament for a special session 10am tomorrow! #PNG #pngpol".

So would a sitting of Parliament be lawful? I think not.

It is like in the film The Terminator II, the Terminator has to destroy himself after his mission is complete... Well, in the same gist, Parliament has to end itself at the end of its tenure. It did this on Tuesday, and the decision was consolidated on Friday.

Let us now look at the Supreme Court. What will the Supreme Court's decision ultimately mean for the future of the country... nothing really!

The only ones getting an adrenaline rush are those of us at law school who now have a lot of good stuff to write about in our final major research papers. But really nothing big is at stake....

Suppose today Team Somare, dressed as The Avengers, storm into Morauta Haus and Parliament, the only group of people who are gonna suffer are members of the O'Neill camp, and to some extent their stellar legal advisors.

The rest of us will go to the polls and in a few swift weeks the Somare faction forming the caretaker government will reduce themselves to a bare minimum as everyone will be lobbying and meeting at March Girls Resort trying to form coalitions to form the new government.

We will go to elections. Not even Somare can stop the elections... and if he does, I will gladly take to the streets again to remind them that it is my right to vote.

The truth is, it is business as usual for we, the 99% of Papua New Guineans who struggle daily but don’t complain too loudly about it. We want to vote...

As a wise man by the name of Poin Caspar once told me, MPs and nappies are full of the same thing.

My message to politicians of both factions is as stated in the Facebook Song: Yupla bungim ass na pekpek!

I want a free, fair and safe election.... and afterwards a hard push for reform.

Law student, blogger and writer Nou Vada describes himself as Chief Interpreter of Bullshit

No easy solutions for PNG, says Namorong


Take the Truth to AustraliaMARTYN NAMORONG PROVIDED a clear indication of the core of his message to the Australian people at a forum in Sydney yesterday when he told participants that there were no simple, easily classified solutions to the challenges facing Papua New Guinea.

In the first public engagement of his Take the Truth to Australia tour, Martyn canvassed issues ranging from land ownership (“too much part of our soul to be called an issue,” he said), urban dispossession, development (“I prefer the term bagarapment”), corruption, environmental despoliation, education (he pulled a face when asked about the quality of teaching in PNG), the failure of Australian aid, and the impact of the social media.

“I’m not here to provide answers,” he said, “I’m here to let you know who we are and how we feel about things.”

He said PNG was caught somewhere between tradition and modernity. “We are a hybrid nation.”

Sydney forum sceneThe genuine warmth of the audience yesterday was match by its willingness to ask questions and join in discussion.

Asked whether people in cities who couldn’t earn a living should “return to the village”, a commonly proposed nostrum, he said: “They could not survive on the land – and the clan would not want them.”

Martyn said sometimes felt he “must be insane” to do what he was doing, “although I haven’t had any death threats,” he said.

He said many people didn’t believe that his main source of income was selling buai – “they think I’m lying and that I’ve got a government job somewhere” – and that he would not accept advertisements for his popular blog The Namorong Report because he wanted it to be authentic and uncompromised.

The forum was filmed by a crew that will now follow Martyn’s progression through Sydney and Canberra. It is hoped that clips will be soon be made available for the internet.

Meanwhile, media requests to interview Martyn have started to escalate to a point where they are being rationed to provide him with enough time to experience some of the other, less stressful, pleasures of Australia.

Australia's Pacific diplomacy needs recalibrating


DISMISSING the current diplomatic standoff between Australia and Vanuatu as a case of "the mouse that roared" is a bad idea.

Neither does it help to view Pacific island countries solely as beneficiaries of Australia's $1 billion aid program. Their strategic significance is only growing.

As the axis of power moves eastward, emerging Asian powers including China, Indonesia and India are demonstrating increasing strategic interest in Australia's backyard.

Within days of expelling the Australian Federal Police, Vanuatu's Prime Minister Sato Kilman welcomed a delegation from Indonesia and offers to provide police and paramilitary training. Within 24 hours of that meeting, a Hercules aircraft loaded with equipment had arrived from Jakarta.

To resolve the current impasse and retain its strong footprint in the region, Australia would do well to recalibrate its relationships in the Pacific.

Australia's Melanesian neighbours Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have more than 1,000 living languages, a cultural make-up more diverse than anywhere else in the world.

Rules of engagement vary greatly from island to island. Islanders know that the way one person says something is not necessarily the way the other person hears it. Its not just what you say, its how you say it. Actions often speak louder than words, and both are always carefully examined. Getting language and approach right is no mean feat.

So it must be a source of great frustration that well-meaning Australian politicians, diplomats and aid workers find themselves labelled "big brother" or "bully".

Equally importantly, it frustrates Pacific leaders and policymakers not to be afforded the same degree of respect bestowed on their international colleagues. No matter how small the country, the prime minister is still the prime minister.

The Pacific is a region in the process of redefining its own identity. Most countries are led by the same ageing generation that won independence. As the biggest donor, Australia has played a significant role in charting the region's development path over the last 30 years.

Yet the discourse on foreign aid remains haunted by guilt, greed, and good intentions. Donors are accused of interference, neo-colonialism and aid conditionality. In some cases, such accusations have been warranted.

In other, the best of intents have been thwarted, often due to the failure to communicate a good idea. But unilaterally imposed solutions rarely gain traction, and for good reason.

Most of us don't like to be told what to do, and we certainly don't like to see our faults paraded in front of others. In a region where pre-independence memories remain fresh, such sentiments are particularly powerful. Stop focusing on corrupt governments, and start thinking about the people who need support fixing things.

In the Pacific, development is a process, not a product. Development partnerships may be forged between countries and institutions, but the interaction and engagement occurs between people. Person-to-person relationships come first and they extend far beyond government offices.

One of the greatest collateral effects of the Pacific seasonal workers scheme is that Pacific islanders not only gain access to temporary job opportunities in Australia, they return home enriched with new friends and exposed to new ideas.

Personal relationships can have far-reaching consequences. The battle for supremacy between China and the US is now playing out on the Pacific stage. As both powers boost their presence across the region, Australia's position is coming under closer scrutiny. Australia may have the deepest pockets now, but new donors are gaining traction.

Pacific leaders who have quietly bemoaned the imbalance in the relationship with Australia are embracing these new opportunities. Chequebook diplomacy it may be, but it comes with lashings of respect.

Kilman was politically compromised and embarrassed when his delegation was diverted and an adviser arrested at Sydney airport. An angry reaction was inevitable, and its fallout threatens to shake the foundation of the relationship between the two countries.

Both sides claim the high moral ground, making a face-saving resolution all the more important. Saving face is integral to the Pacific way and many across the region are watching in anticipation.

A new era of understanding is possible. A little effort and a lot of empathy could reset the relationship from the prevailing lop-sided, aid-centric approach towards mutually beneficial closer integration. Staying on the same track is in no one's interest.

Derek Brien is the executive director of the Pacific Institute of Public Policy, an independent regional think tank based in Vanuatu

Departing Morauta attacks Somare record


ON THE EVE OF HIS RETIREMENT from politics, Papua New Guinea’s former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta has taken a parting shot at his longtime adversary, Sir Michael Somare.

Sir Mekere says he’s satisfied with the reforms he put in place while he was prime minister between 1999 and 2002.

He’s credited with having stabilised government finances, a number of key public institutions and the economy from the verge of bankruptcy.

Sir Mekere says that subsequently, Sir Michael’s last tenure as Prime Minister did little for the country.

“At a time when oil and gold and copper revenues (flowed), in eight years he appropriated through the budget nearly K60 billion,” he said.

“One government for eight years - the result can’t be seen.”

Belden Namah could be Gold Coast Titans saviour

THE SUNDAY MAIL (Queensland)

Belden NamahBELDEN NAMAH, PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S CONTROVERSIAL deputy prime minister, has emerged as a possible white knight in Gold Coast boss Michael Searle's last-ditch plan to save the financially-stricken Titans rugby league team.

The development comes as Searle broke a two-month silence on the club's fiscal crisis yesterday, apologising to fans and revealing his and the Titans' future may hinge on securing fresh funds from a mystery backer.

Insolvency firm KordaMentha issued a creditors' report on the Titans' property arm on Friday, revealing the company, of which Searle is sole director, has operated at a loss since 2008 with debts as high as $26 million.

The report also questions whether the company traded while insolvent, an assessment Searle vehemently rejected yesterday.

Searle would not disclose the identity of any backers, but The Sunday Mail understands leading PNG political powerbroker Namah has been approached to personally fund a Titans rescue package.

The NRL has been notified of the development. Namah is one of PNG's richest individuals, having outlaid K30 million ($14.3 million) in his campaign to unseat Peter O'Neill as his country's prime minister in upcoming elections.

According to well-placed sources, Namah is considering an initial $2 million investment and could provide as much as $10 million to purchase a stake in the Titans.

Namah caused a political stir when he was ejected from Sydney's Star City Casino on April 16 last year after being accused of sexually harassing a male blackjack dealer in the high-rollers room.

Namah has vigorously denied any wrongdoing, with his lawyer Greg Sheppard saying the reports were "mistaken".

Australia riding a wave of Pacific culture


BANANA TREES IN THE GARDEN, leafy greens for lunch, the childhood of Lisa Hilli [pictured] was like many others in the Pacific. Only she grew up in the Queensland capital Brisbane, hundreds of kilometres from her ancestral home in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea.

“It was just like a little jungle,” the 32-year old artist says. “My mum pretty much transplanted PNG to our suburban backyard.”

Hilli was born to a PNG father and an Australian mother, and migrated to Australia aged two.

It was only when she got older that she began to feel uncomfortable with her place in Australian society as a child of mixed heritage.

“I’m neither completely PNG or completely Australian. I have always been made aware growing up that I never fitted in as well. I’ve always felt as though I’m struggling [between] two cultures.”

It’s a struggle many Pacific Islanders experience living in Australia. But increasingly there are more places for Pacific Islanders to “connect” in Australia. Some have dubbed it the ‘Pacific Wave’.

Hilli has played an influential role in fostering this burgeoning community. Two years ago she co-founded the Pacific Women’s Weaving Circle, a group that gathers each month in Melbourne’s west.

The women weave baskets, mats and fans that they sell at markets around Melbourne. But the group is about much more than weaving, Hilli says.

“It’s also about sharing culture, sharing food, sharing laughter and stories. The group was created out of a desire to connect with other Pacific Islander women, particularly because we don’t live near our families so we were feeling quite isolated.”

And while they might not use the traditional pandanus, their wares are made in the Pacific tradition—using what’s available. “We use anything we can get our hands on, ribbons, raffia, wire.”

Wantok StoriHilli has also taken a lead role in the Wantok Stori project, a filmmaking collaboration between Australia’s Pacific communities and young people living in Solomon Islands.

In April, she went to the capital Honiara with Melbourne-based documentary filmmaker Amie Batalibasi to facilitate the project.

Over two weeks they helped five young Solomon Islanders produce a short film on the theme ‘Culture in Harmony with Nature’ that will premiere at the Pacific Arts Festival in Honiara in July.

Those selected to participate in the project had contributed to an online discussion group ( about issues affecting young Solomon Islanders, which was later used as inspiration for the film. 

Continue reading "Australia riding a wave of Pacific culture" »

Street vendors are a burden on modernisation


Street vendor from WabagSTREET VENDORS, THE BOTTOM END RETAILERS of our nation, are a burden to the modernisation of Papua New Guinea.

People hate the sight of them but use them a one-stop shop for the ever popular betel nuts and simuk.  Street vending is an issue that has made its way into the national media, an indication of the disturbance it causes.

It is hard to go into a single street in Lae, as with most of PNG, without seeing these street crawlers. The popularisation of betel nut and homemade cigarettes, along with the introduction of Digicel flex cards (notably phone credit vouchers) have paved the way for the establishment of these retailers.

I have seen as many as four vendors crammed into one street, which clearly shows the extent to which these micro-businesses are overpopulating our society.

Public opinion about street vending, with the minor exception of those that do it for a living, has reached an all-time level of disturbance. One example is the distribution of betel nut. Betel nut, though having a highly valued role in our society, is really “pollution in a shell”.

While vendors aren’t responsible for chewing betel nut, they are high contributors to the distribution of these nuts into almost every location in this country.

What I’m trying to say is that street vendors are just another of many ways of distributing corruptive goods, while along the way creating adverse effects such as pollution, halting modernisation and destroying our national reputation.

Street vending, convenient as it seems, has no future in our country. Markets can distribute betel nut and its what not; supermarkets and retailers can sell cigarettes and phone credits.  The convenience of street vending is outweighed by its negative aspects.

Some street vendors are now even beginning to upgrade to small tradestores – selling products ranging from buai to items such as bread.  The legality of this transitional phase is questionable and is eating away at the sense of what is legal in our country; once again corruption at full throttle.

It is up to the government to start acting and making wise decisions, even in terms of a compromise to create a sense of satisfaction for the various groups affected. A striving nation is a healthy nation.

Axel Rice (15) was born in Lae of mixed Australian and Papua New Guinean parentage.  He is a Year 10 student at Coronation College in Lae and has lived in Papua New Guinea most of his life

New evidence of eco-damage from nickel mine


THE CONTROVERSIAL RAMU NICKEL MINE near Madang in Papua New Guinea has come under fire for new claims of environmental damage.

The mine has been the subject of a long-running battle with locals over plans to pump 100 million tonnes of mine waste into Basamuk Bay over 20 years. The dumping threatens the pristine ecosystem of the area as well as the livelihoods of local people.

Locals who opposed the mine faced harassment from company and government representatives, including a number of violent attacks and threats on those involved in a legal challenge to the mine. People were forced from their homes to make way for mine construction and culturally significant sites were destroyed.

The mine is majority-owned by Chinese company MCC. Australian company Highlands Pacific owns a minority stake.

A Supreme Court appeal against a decision to allow production to go ahead was rejected in December. Highlands Pacific said in a report that the mine “has been commissioned and is now in production and nearing first sales in coming months”, the PNG National said on April 20.

As the mine prepared to come online, locals reported that several ships supplying the Ramu mine processing plant spilled chemicals into Basamuk bay, bleaching the coral reefs, PNG Mine Watch said on April 27. It was unclear whether the spills were accidents or intentional discharges.

MCC admitted to a “minor” spill of sodium hydroxide at its processing plant on April 18, but denied claims by locals that sulphuric acid had spilled from ships.

PNG environment minister Thompson Harokaqueh also recommended the mine stop using its 135 kilometre slurry pipe ― which carries waste from the mine to the sea ― due to its poor construction and closeness to roads, the National said on April 5.

Harokaqueh told parliament the mine owners had failed to develop a monitoring system for the pipeline or erect warning signs after sections of pipe had been pushed onto the road after a landslide.

Highlands Pacific denied reports the pipeline had shut, the National said on April 18.

A controversial meeting between the state, the Madang provincial government, landowner groups and mine owners began on April 23 to finalise an agreement covering “business spinoffs, royalties and infrastructure development projects,” the National said the next day.

The venue was mysteriously changed from Madang to Mt Hagen, almost 200 kilometres away. Media were banned from covering the meeting, The National said on 27 April.

Continue reading "New evidence of eco-damage from nickel mine" »

The Panguna Mine


Panguna mineNo one knew for years
But history can tell in advance
There was gold and copper at Panguna
Multiplied with millions of copper ore deposit
All over the Emperor Ranges.

Copper copper and gold in every edge of rocks
So precious and valuable you are
Never say you are worthless
For the entire world depend on you
For their economy and development.

But how can one see your precious image
When you are hiding seven hundred feet under
Where it is impossible to dig you out
Only when there is monster equipment.

And here they come with a white tag
Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia
With a team of technical experts and labour
Building camps and fire everywhere
Ready to overthrow the secrets of Panguna.

Never say the team can’t make it
For within days the Java River and sister rivers
All turned dark brown from natural white
For the fish and eels disappearing
And the trees standing naked
While the plants are gone for good.

And no more happiness for the landowner
For she comes home empty handed
And he comes with anger and frustration
For heaven’s sake everything is gone
With the use of poisonous chemicals
They cannot bear the hardship no more.

Bougainville rebel looks down on the mineStanding over the Guava Hill
Overlooking the huge Panguna Mine
Francis Ona the true landowner
He sees Panguna disappearing fast
Then says no word
And takes up arms to shoot and kill.

No more days of dreaming
Total darkness over Loloho Arawa Panguna
Power pylons lay on the ground
Soon the mining town running empty
For their safety was critical.

Hiding in thick jungle of Panguna
Never say Joseph Kabui is a fighter
For he is a peacemaker
Who fought for peace on Bougainville.

Gone are the BCL regimes
Today ABG is negotiating
For a better deal
For the landowners to enjoy the benefits
With Bougainville as a whole.

Simon Garana (59) was born at Lemankoa on Buka in Bougainville.  He is a former Chief Executive Officer of the Division of Information, Culture and Tourism with the Bougainville Administration.  He is now retired

Guns and Viagra at the Wutung border

Sil Bolkin at the Indonesian borderBY KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN

THE PNG INDONESIA BORDER is a long stretch of land from the tip of Sandaun Province right down through Western Province and almost to Australia. Villages can be spotted in pockets along both sides of the border. The largest and most used entry point from either Papua New Guinea or Indonesia is the border at Wutung.

The PNG side of the border at Wutung is filthy with mountains of empty plastics, cans, and containers that are sprayed with betel nut stains. A lone colourless building houses the PNG customs office. Visitors to the Wutung border find shelters under trees or huts that fry bananas, lamb flaps and sausages. Visitors must answer the call of nature in the forests nearby.

A big tall monument which stands on the Indonesian side dwarfs a short and small one on the PNG side near Bougainville Bay. The Indonesian monument proudly flies the Indonesian flag above a mountain forest which seems to remind PNG not to muddle around with Indonesia.

As you look into PNG from the Indonesian side you see the fearfully scribbled inscription “Jesus Christ is Lord over this land”. The eagle in the Indonesian sculpture, looking like Uncle Sam, stares fiercely down on the inscription.

The Indonesian side of the no man’s land is called Batas and is well polished with pavement, four lanes for cars and properly fenced. All the different Indonesian government departments like Customs and Foreign affairs, Defence, Trade, etc. are housed within well designed Asian-style buildings.

Their soldiers are well polished with smart military attire and guns, unlike the mixture of pot- bellied and betel nut stained soldiers wondering around individually showing no signs of camaraderie and preparedness on the PNG side.

A kilometre into the Indonesian side is the famous Gordon Market-type stalls called Batas. Batas is a ghetto that gives the impression of a new refugee camp. In Batas they sell all sorts of Asian made goods, clothing, electronic equipment, Harley Davidson motorbikes and even sex appetisers like Viagra, Spanish fly, King Cobra, etc.

A digital camera sold in Papua New Guinea for K999 is only K300 in Batas. A Toshiba laptop is only K800 in Batas whilst in Port Moresby it is K4,000 plus.

The official days for Papua New Guineans to go shopping in Batas are Tuesdays and Thursdays but PNG and Indonesian authorities at the border both allow Papua New Guineans to shop at any time of the week as well. People rarely shop in Vanimo.

Most forest owners, some public servants and even visitors travel to Batas or Jayapura to do their shopping for goods as well as for sex. Therefore there much fewer super markets and stores in Vanimo town and these close at around 4 pm.

The PNG government loses millions on import duty and PNG entrepreneurs in Vanimo have lost business opportunities as well with the competition from Batas and Jayapura.

Vanimo market does not have the mountains of garden crops we see in Port Moresby, Goroka or the Mt Hagen markets. The timber royalty money it seems has made people lose their gardening skills.

We went shopping on Friday and Saturday last week.  Yes, PNG kina is spent in Batas on the Indonesian side of the border and it is estimated that half a million untaxed kina is going to Indonesia via Batas per week.

We were told that Indonesian soldiers sell guns to Papua New Guineans for up-front cash payment.  Asian and West Papuan sex workers prey on innocent PNG men who cross the border to Batas or Jayapura to shop. All the goods and fees for sex are very cheap.

The distance from Batas to Jayapura is just the same as from Batas to Vanimo so Papua New Guineans can travel with locals from the border area to Jayapura without any proper visas.

Caveat! The PNG government has to overhaul the facilities at Wutung and screen people moving in and out of Wutung smuggling and escaping import duties.

Otherwise, PNG will keep losing economically and will also be filled to the brim with imported social ills that include HIV as part of the package.

A pendulum plays a well-known rhythm


IT HAS BEEN A VERY GOOD Crocodile Prize year and I feel it’s ending on a high note for my own experiments into poetry. Here is another ‘final’ poem submission.

You can blame Peter Kranz this time because I was satisfied to let this particular project, a villanelle, sit until next year. Well, I think the momentum is good to continue with the title ‘A pendulum plays a well-known rhythm’.

To Peter – I’m sorry that the only ‘local’ characteristic about this villanelle is that it was written by one - Michael Dom (impenitent poet)

Movements between a left and a right swing
A pendulum plays a well-known rhythm
Moments between the ticking and tocking

An empty park-bench on a quiet lawn
A lonely figure bracing in the storm
Movements between a left and a right swing

Out at large, on and on the world races
Sometimes life is spent in little spaces
Moments between the ticking and tocking

Hearing bright laughter thru the gloomy fog
The distant baying of a hunting dog
Movements between a left and a right swing

Like a long lost memory towards dawn
In the absence of a shadow once known
Moments between the ticking and tocking

Life, long or short, fines a nominal sum
At the door to an unknown room knocking
Movements between a left and a right swing
Moments between the ticking and tocking

A villanelle started on 03/05/2012, finished on 19/05/2012, at Labu Station

Highs and lows of Brisbane await Martyn Namorong


Take the Truth to AustraliaDETAILS OF THE BRISBANE LEG of Martyn Namorong’s Take the Truth to Australia tour, which begins later today, have been announced by organiser Murray Bladwell – and the outspoken Papua New Guinean writer is in for a busy time in the Sunshine State.

Martyn arrives in Brisbane on Wednesday 30 May and that night will address the Toowong Rotary Club.

On Thursday he will have separate meetings with journalism students at the University of Queensland and PNG post-graduate students at the University of Technology.

Late that night, to introduce him to a darker side of Australian life, Martyn will tour Brisbane’s back streets with the Police drug-arm support vehicle and its crew.

On Friday 1 June he will be interviewed by presenter Steve Austin at ABC Radio’s Southbank studios before meeting with PNG Attitude bloggers, wantoks and friends of PNG, followed by casual drinks and snacks, at the Sherwood Services Club, Corinda.

The following day will be slightly more relaxed but include a visit to Donations-in-Kind, a Rotary Distribution Centre, where he will meet with volunteers and assist to pack shipping containers loaded with donated goods for PNG hospitals and schools.

Martyn returns to Port Moresby on Sunday 3 June.

If you want to meet Martyn at the Sherwood Services Club contact Murray Bladwell on [email protected]

Rabaul Queen: Lost in a sea of apathy


THE RABAUL QUEEN was a vessel doomed to die. When it finally turned turtle, it took with it more than 200 people - mostly children and students - most trapped in overcrowded cabins, down to the 3000m depths where it now lies.

Its story, and that of the ships that sail between Papua New Guinea's hundreds of islands, tell much about the sorry state of the nation: of hopes dashed, of good intentions and poor implementation, of apparent venality.

But the openness and persistence of an inquiry into the sinking also hint at the possibility - held out by elections approaching next month - of better prospects for the battered country of seven million.

Dozens of survivors and others affected by the tragedy have been testifying at a dramatic and horrifying commission of inquiry chaired by Australian judge Warwick Andrew into PNG's worst peacetime disaster except for earthquakes and tsunamis.

The Rabaul Queen, buffeted by heavy seas and high winds, capsized and sank soon after 5am on February 2, 17km off Finschhafen in Morobe province, near Lae.

The number who drowned is still not known because the number of passengers on the boat remains uncertain, but those already certified place the disaster as worse in such terms than Victoria's Black Saturday in 2009 and the Christchurch earthquake last year.

Children under three did not need tickets, so it is not known how many toddlers drowned.

Patilias Gamato, the deputy provincial administrator for Morobe, in whose waters the ferry sank, says he calculates there were 453 people on board, including crew - about 100 above the licensed number - and that 219 went missing.

Following the sinking, the Rabaul shipping office in Kimbe was attacked and staff were stoned, and three small boats owned by the company were seized and burned by angry people at Buka in Bougainville, where the ill-fated voyage first departed. Arson charges were laid 10 days ago.

The story has been carefully pieced together by questions from the two counsel assisting the inquiry, Brisbane barrister Mal Varitimos and his PNG colleague Emmanuel Asigau, through the hearings in Port Moresby, Lae, Kokopo, Buka and Kimbe, the final stop before the fateful voyage to Lae. Further hearings will follow in Port Moresby.

What has been uncovered in the inquiry is not merely tragic. It reveals a chain of causality from ship survey requirements that were not obeyed, overcrowding so severe that passengers stood for hours crammed into toilets, life jackets in padlocked boxes, unqualified crew to weather forecasts that went unheard.

The inquiry decided at the outset that it would cost too much - about $5.8 million - to locate and photograph the sunken ship.

George Turme, a 20-year-old university student, who paid $170 for his ticket to travel from Rabaul to Lae on the Rabaul Queen, described how the boat was packed: "The floor was full, no space for us to walk. They were lying down, squished up, head to head and shoulder to shoulder, you could not turn around."

Some male passengers were standing inside the men's toilets during the whole 17-hour voyage.

As the wind strengthened overnight, an unidentified man asked male passengers to shift to the right of the vessel, because it was listing to the left. More than 20 responded but it made no difference.

Two large waves hit the ship and turned it sideways, exposing it to the force of a third wave that caused it to start sinking. The crew pulled out life rafts, but the life jackets were kept in padlocked cupboards, according to all the passengers who have testified to the inquiry. Crew members deny they were locked. There were no life jackets for children.

Continue reading "Rabaul Queen: Lost in a sea of apathy" »

Powes Parkop should be our next prime minister


Powes ParkopHUMAN RIGHTS LAWYER and first-term member of parliament, Powes Parkop, has done a lot for his National Capital District constituents; and gone beyond what any former NCD governor has done.

Indeed, Governor Parkop has achieved more for his constituents than the prime minister and cabinet members put together.

His many achievements in social obligation programs and related development initiatives these past five years makes this MP a very valued political asset for the Central people and for parliament as a whole.

A list of his achievements will be highlighted on all PNG-related FaceBook pages in the next few weeks before the June national elections.

In this way many FaceBook readers will see that Parkop is very good prime minister material.

Governor Parkop nominated for the 2012 national elections yesterday at Jack Piddick Park.

Namorong: Hitting Australia with running shoes on fire


Take the Truth to Australia"OMG the people I'm meeting a pretty high profile. Just beginning to realize the enormity of Take the Truth to Oz" [Awayang [email protected] on Twitter]

THE TAKE THE TRUTH TO AUSTRALIA tour (with a program largely put together by Ben Jackson from Jackson Wells) is truly looking like a tour de force.

Tomorrow night blogger, writer and activist Martyn Namorong will hit Australia with his running shoes on fire.

He’ll have an intense two weeks of discussions, forums, media interviews and political meetings that will reach to the highest levels of the Australian government.

And the whole enterprise has been facilitated by PNG Attitude readers, especially Twivey Lawyers in PNG, who provided the funding to make the tour possible.

Australian politicians and journalists have responded splendidly to the opportunity to talk with a man who himself is not of high political, diplomatic, academic or commercial office and who represents nobody but his own people and nothing but their aspirations.

They are meeting with him because they want to hear, perhaps for the first time in their lives, from a young Papua New Guinean intellectual who seeks the best for his country and has shown himself ready to incur personal risk and hardship in doing so.

Martyn Namorong will meet with the man who advises Australian foreign minister Carr on PNG affairs (and may even touch fingers with the great man himself) and he will meet with Carr’s shadow, Julie Bishop, already signalled by PNG Attitude readers as a credible and formidable force in the Australia-PNG relationship.

It is instructive to note that parliamentary secretary for Pacific Island affairs, Richard Marles, has shown no interest in the visit.

Namorong will also meet with high profile journalists who write about PNG – people like Jo Chandler, Jemima Garrett and Rowan Callick – as well as media personalities like Phillip Adams, John Faine and John Highfield.

He will lead a seminar at the Australian National University and meet Rotary scholars at the University of Queensland. And so much more.

As I’ve remarked to anyone who will listen in recent days, this is the kind of interchange that the Australian government should be encouraging between our two countries – and which it has lamentably failed to achieve.

There have been some disappointments along the way – but none of them terminal.

The initial tour was postponed because of passport problems, but allowed the organisers to develop a richer itinerary – including an action-packed visit to Canberra.

Victoria University (which bills itself as an “international university”) shamefully reneged on its commitment of funding for the tour – a pretty disgraceful act – but we found a private donor to take up the slack.

You’ll be reading a lot about Martyn Namorong’s progress around Australia in the next couple of weeks. And whether you can make it to one of his gigs or not, we look forward to your participation through this blog.

Amid the uncertainty, hopes for a new dawn


Polling booth warriorTIGHT SECURITY AND HIGH ANXIETY underwrote the final sitting of Papua New Guinea's outgoing Parliament this week, with rumours running hot that an 11th-hour power play would derail the looming national election and plunge the troubled nation deeper into uncharted straits.

Despite Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's efforts to douse claims that MPs seeking a delay of the poll were plotting against him, conspiracy theories electrified city-dwelling citizens anxious to use their votes to end the crippling political impasse of the past nine months. (How far such concerns resonate out in the landscape of the rural majority, where many long ago gave up on services or governance, is another story.)

As MPs gathered for the showdown on Tuesday, beefed-up security and the mysterious absence of the Speaker, Jeffrey Nape, fanned suspicion that something was up. For almost two hours the burgeoning online gallery of PNG's switched-on citizenry tweeted, posted and sweated on his non-appearance.

Exploding social media has emerged as a potent force in PNG's recent crisis, informing and recruiting grassroots networks and mobilising huge street protests last month.

Now it demanded to know whether the reviled Nape - whose autocratic and erratic style has long stirred controversy - was holed up somewhere cutting a deal. Or might he have been swept up by Task Force Sweep, the anti-corruption agency that had drawn a warrant for his arrest over allegations about missing development funds? (He has been quoted denying ever getting the money.)

According to the Post-Courier the next day, the Speaker had indeed been hoping to muster numbers to delay the poll even as the bells were ringing. He took his seat after the Prime Minister and others confronted him.

''In a rare show of unity, MPs on both sides of the House put their differences aside and unanimously agreed that the writs must be issued on Friday for the polls to be held now,'' the paper reported. Parliament was dissolved.

''Despite the political challenges and the constant uncertainty PNG has done it! We're going to elections,'' tweeted ''Tavurvur'', one of PNG's leading (albeit anonymous) political bloggers. Relief swept the digital airwaves. ''That's sweet news.'' ''Thank God, now we can move forward.''

Read more:

A villanelle for the people of Paga Hill


The devastation of Paga HillMy tambus gone away,
The hut is lost and chill,
There is nothing more to say.

Through broken house and way
The winds blow bleak and shrill.
Tambus forced away.

Nor is there friend today
To speak them gud or ill:
There is nothing more to say.

Why is it we are then waylaid
Around the smashed-up shell?
They all are gone away,

And our poor wantok-way
For them is giaman still:
There is nothing more to say.

There is ruin and decay
In our House upon the Hill:
They all are gone away,
There is nothing more to say.

Football: Farina’s PNG aiming to defy the odds


PNG football team - hands on, er, hearts

PAPUA NEW GUINEA MAY BE Oceania’s largest and most populace nation, but they face a massive challenge if they are to make an impression in Oceania’s FIFA World Cup qualifiers next month.

The national team hase played just three matches since 2007, although their return to the international stage under Frank Farina suggests brighter times ahead.

The second stage of Oceania qualifiers for Brazil 2014, which commence on 1 June, could prove to be a case of too much too soon for PNG. Farina’s squad has a youthful look, and even the older crop suffer from a relative lack of significant experience at club and national team level.

A tough draw dealt to the Kapuls merely adds to what is already a momentous task. PNG will enter Group B alongside regional kings New Zealand, tournament hosts Solomon Islands, and perennial Pacific contenders Fiji. 

The other group features French-speaking trio New Caledonia, Tahiti and Vanuatu, plus Round 1 qualifiers Samoa, with the four semi-finalists advancing to the third and final stage of continental qualifying. On offer to the victor of the eight-nation Round 2, which doubles as the OFC Nations Cup, will be a berth at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

Football in Papua New Guinea is finally building some momentum after years of relative inactivity at international level. Leading the charge have been Port Moresby club Hekari United, who completed a stunning rise by being crowned 2010 OFC O-League champions, before competing in the FIFA Club World Cup later that same year.

The nation’s football authorities, with further international growth in mind, last year showed their intentions with the appointment of former Australia coach Frank Farina to the national team post.

Farina’s success and extensive experience with the Socceroos aside, the appointment was, in many ways, an inspired choice, with the former Club Brugge, Bari and Lille striker having spent ten years during his childhood living in the country's capital, Port Moresby.

Continue reading "Football: Farina’s PNG aiming to defy the odds" »

PNG elections. Same old, same old…..


CAN ANYONE PLEASE TELL ME what the chances are of the new PNG Parliament being any different from the old? With an average of nearly 40 candidates vying for each of the 109 electorates, what possibility is there that there will be any consistency of vision and purpose evolving from the 2012 general election results?

Certainly, the PNG Constitution hasn’t been effectively altered and the jury is still out on the debate as to whether it is the best model for PNG to follow?

If one was to take a proverbial ‘helicopter view’, the build up to the 2012 general elections is in essence, a classic example of Melanesian politics. A veritable plethora of political parties that are each promising much the same to their supporters.

That central promise is one of ‘change, get rid of corruption and start to enjoy some of the riches the country earns from exporting its resources.’

Yet under this common facade, regionalism and ethnic solidarity still seem to be paramount. The notion of a common cause and national unity often appears to be on closer inspection, constantly submerged into the murky depths of rivalry for available resources and personal power.

With no commonality of purpose, can PNG ever become a viable nation or will regionalism continue to threaten the fabric of the nation and assist those who wish to divide and conquer?

How can any one politician effectively enunciate a campaign for national unity when that very notion may fly in the face of the local aspirations of his electorate? Political parties appear to be more about juggling and jostling for power and influence and the ability to gain access to financial advantage.

Much the same problem appears when the leadership of the largest political parties are currently trying to attract the greatest number of aspirants in order for their leaders to become Prime Minister.

Some current and aspiring MP’s are changing horses before the election or saying they’ll wait until after the election results to see who they might join. In other words, it’s an auction to see what personal advantage can be gained after the election rather than achieving something for the electorate.

So what chance do ordinary PNG voters therefore have to vote for any real certainty of future change and accountability?

Las momo kani, Nogat tru, Arita yamboma, …

Fears election violence could hit LNG project


THE HEAD OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S $15 billion dollar ExxonMobil-led liquefied natural gas project says he is concerned about the potential for violence during next month's elections.

PNG LNG Managing Director Peter Graham has told a business forum in Brisbane that exports are set to begin as planned in 2014.

But he says he's concerned about the impact of electoral violence, and they have been planning for the risk of election violence for 12 months.

"We put a lot of effort with our contractors into preparing our camp sites, security around the campsites, ensuring that if the Highlands Highway were cut off by some protest or other, that we have stockpiled sufficient food and fuel and medical supplies and we have arrangements in place to fly stuff in if we need it," he said.

Much of the PNG LNG Project is located in volatile highlands provinces where a rapidly growing population and easy mobile phone communications is exacerbating the risk of conflicts escalating into large scale fights.

Mr Graham says with 16,000 staff in the field he cannot afford to have them unable to work.

"We can't afford to have people standing around for a day, or two days or a week if something should go wrong," he said.

"So we're pretty confident all of those plans will help us get through.

There's been speculation about the expansion of the PNG LNG plant at the plant just outside Port Moresby to double capacity.

With recent good exploration results, Mr Graham is no longer ruling that out.

"In order to install another train, similar to the trains we have today, we probably need about four or four and a half trillion cubit feet of gas," he said.

"That's about half of what we have today for the existing project ... our focus today is on delivering this project first.

"We are looking for additional gas to accumulate. It's going to take some time and some further drilling and a lot of expenditure to prove up gas for another one or two trains."

Bishop to meet Namorong as Take the Truth takes off


Taking the Truth to AustraliaAUSTRALIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER AND deputy Liberal Party leader, Julie Bishop, is to meet Martyn Namorong as part of his Australian tour beginning Sunday.

Martyn will arrive in Sydney on Sunday night and, after a planning meeting at Jackson Wells Monday morning, will immediately move into a flurry of media interviews, seminars, political meetings and informal events in which he will meet and speak with many Australians interested in PNG affairs.

On Monday afternoon, he will host a public forum at Jackson Wells, which will be filmed for a documentary, and later attend a reception at the Kokoda Track Foundation in the Sydney CBD.

On Tuesday he will visit the headquarters of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Ultimo before a private engagement with a PNG interest group. In the evening he is expected to feature on Phillip Adams’ nationally-syndicated radio show, Late Night Live together with commentator Alex Rheeney.

On Wednesday, Martyn flies to Melbourne where the tour will be managed by Linda Koerner. Here he will visit Jo Chandler at The Age newspaper and be interviewed by Rowan Callick, Asia Pacific Editor of The Australian newspaper.

He will be a guest of John Faine on his Conversation Hour on the ABC and also be interviewed for Radio Australia.

While in Melbourne, Martyn will talk with university students and members of the PNG Wantoks Group.

On the Sunday, Martyn will drive with Linda from Melbourne to Canberra to prepare for a busy two days in the national capital.

First thing on Monday 28th he will visit the new Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial at the Australian War Memorial before being interviewed by Alex Sloane on ABC Canberra’s morning program.

Later in the afternoon Martyn will lead a seminar for the State, Society & Governance in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University. During the evening he will meet with Senator Bob Brown, who stepped down recently as leader of the Australian Greens.

On Tuesday 29th Martyn will meet Ms Bishop and former Labor ministers Laurie Ferguson MP and Alan Griffin MP as well as Senator Anne McEwen, who has a long-standing association with PNG. In the afternoon he will meet with PNG and other residents of Canberra at the historic Hotel Kurrajong.

We're still awaiting confirmation for a meeting with foreign minister Bob Carr.

In Brisbane, where Martyn will be from Wednesday 30th, Murray Bladwell is managing a series of public appearances, media interviews and informal social events.

Martyn will be guest speaker at a function for Rotary members responsible for PNG clubs, he will meet Rotary peace scholars and journalism students at the University of Queensland and also PNG post-graduate students from Queensland University of Technology.

By the time the tour concludes on Sunday fortnight, Martyn and Australia will have a much better knowledge of each other: the trip will be a sound model, perhaps, for reinforcing bonds between the two countries in the future.

Sonnet 3: I met a pig farmer the other day


At the foot of Mount Giluwe we met
A place where they say ice falls from the sky
We spoke of pork and the lack of good vets
As we toil’d in his village piggery
Each planning how his stock would reach market
Did we both share a wish that pigs could fly?

Agriculture is our backbone we say
(Rhetorical ruse on farmers always)
Yet in our grand plans for development
We have forgotten what that really meant
From the highlands to the coastal islands

The struggle to feed ourselves never ends

If you met those who’s unheard voices cry
You too would join me in questioning, why?

Penned at Labu Station at 3:15am on 17/05/2012.

Male initiation in Orokolo culture


PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS SAID to have over 800 different languages, stemming from its colourful collection of diverse cultures.

I want to write about a significant part of my own culture which is fascinating in both its concept and methodology.

Unfortunately, though, the topic here - the male initiation process - has died out in practice from the Orokolo culture due to various factors.

But I believe a revisit into what was this practice will be educational and helpful for today’s young people.

The male initiation played a vital and major role in how effectively the traditional society functioned. In fact, it provided the foundation in which our traditional society took its roots.

To begin, it’s worth mentioning that in the days of our forefathers, the family unit did not live together under one roof as is the case today. This is because while the women and children lived in the family house, the men mostly dwelt in an elavo or mans-house.

The elavo, a towering structure with its pointed thatch roof jutting out menacingly at the fore, was a men-only zone. Females were strictly forbidden from entering it or even loitering about within its perimeter.

The elavo was more than a house of assembly for men. It was the arena for the male initiation endeavour.

The initiation process, or the rite of passage into manhood for a young male child, began when he was taken to the elavo at an age of between 10 and 12 years old. Upon entering the elavo, the boy was wholly entrusted into the care of his kinsmen and elders within.

This meant that he would not see his mother, nor would she see him, for the duration of his stay in the elavo. This would not be significant but for the fact that the initiation process would last over the next 15-20 years of the boy’s life.

It is for this reason that I use the term initiation ‘process’ and not initiation  ceremony as this was not a ceremony or ritual that lasted a couple of days or months but, as stated, took years to complete.

The boy who entered the elavo would have to get accustomed to growing up with the men. Having had all relations with his mother severed, he quickly learned that he had entered into the next phase of life, wherein he had to abandon any childish behaviour or mindset which he may have displayed prior to entering the elavo.

While the boys remained in the elavo, the elders decided what, how and when things would be done for them. Even the meals they took were monitored. For instance, whenever a boys’ mother brought him food, an elder would receive it and taste-test the food before giving it to the boy concerned.

A woman knew that if the elders didn’t approve of the food she brought it would be rejected. Therefore, she made sure to prepare and deliver the best meal for her son in the elavo.

Continue reading "Male initiation in Orokolo culture" »

My song I sing


With the sun rising and enticing the
vulnerable body of the ocean
the gentle hand of the Creator was painting
the body of the ocean with the golden ink
The songs I sang to Him last night,
A song that switched stars to sleep
And blink moon to provide the path for my voice
New born babies waiting to be delivered to earth
smiled in their deep sleep
My soul was making music
My voice producing it
Angels have gone off duty
My voice only moving down the streets of gold
My Maker wants to hear me more
Wedding bells ringing on earth
Roses in heaven bloom
Love was everywhere
The presence of God was riding in the songs I sing
I sang more intimately I was in love with my God
He paused and wrapt a gift for me,
I opened this gift to find that
A brand new day He delivers to me
to sing again to Him.

Dorothy Tekwie pressured to quit electoral race


DOROTHY TEKWIE, THE PNG GREEN PARTY candidate for the Vanimo electorate, says she’s been pressured not to run in this year’s election by associates of rival candidate, deputy prime minister Belden Namah.

Dorothy Tekwie says she cannot submit to such pressure because the consequences of letting Mr Namah win a seat again would be disastrous not just for Vanimo but the country as well.

Ms Tekwie accused Mr Namah of abusing his power as an MP for personal gain.

She says she’d been offered six-figure sums to not run in the elections, which she has refused.

“I’ve also been threatened at times and intimidated by certain people that are associated with him,” Ms Tekwie said.

“I’m not going to step down because people ask me not to, because I’ve seen what is happening with my people in the inland where he comes from.

“People virtually have nothing. Women have one skirt for the whole year and nothing else while money that comes from their forest is being squandered to pay for political survival of certain people.”

Martyn Namorong will talk to Australians about PNG

Taking the Truth to AustraliaMARTYN NAMORONG, Papua New Guinean political activist, award winning writer and much quoted blogger, will begin a two week lecture tour of Australia next week.

The privately-funded Take the Truth to Australia tour will enable one of Papua New Guinea’s new generation of writers and thinkers to speak about the issues afflicting his country – one of which he says is Australia itself.

Namorong, 25, who sells betel nut in Port Moresby’s markets to earn money to support his writing, is well known for his gritty and accurate portrayals of the struggling and increasingly depressed society that is today’s PNG

“I don’t dream anymore,” he says. “I am grounded in reality. I grapple with the facts as they are.”

In 2011 Namorong was recognised for his writing when he won the inaugural Crocodile Prize, PNG’s national literary award.

As a medical student at the University of Papua New Guinea, Namorong witnessed the troubles of PNG at first hand and now chooses to live a lifestyle no different from that of the vast majority of his compatriots.

“The system of education in this country [Papua New Guinea] is a failure trap,” Mr Namorong says.

“It is supposed to groom Papua New Guineans, but all it does is produce a lot of failures.”

Namorong has been acclaimed as the foremost of a growing group of Papua New Guinean writers unafraid to speak boldly on issues of corruption and public waste and who are using social media to stimulate pressure for social change.

In Australia he will meet with politicians, journalists and people interested in PNG affairs.


Martyn will be in Sydney (21-22 May), Melbourne (23-26 May), Canberra (27-29 May) and Brisbane (30 May-2 June). He is available for media interviews

Media contact: Ben Jackson: 0417 407 565 | (02) 9904 4333 | [email protected]

Catholic church attitude on condoms promotes misery


READERS MIGHT FIND IT INFORMATIVE to learn that, with 1.28 percent of its adult population estimated by the UN to be HIV -positive in 2006, Papua New Guinea has one of the most serious HIV/AIDS epidemics in the Asia-Pacific subregion.

The figure is substantially higher six years down the track, with PNG leaders' history of promiscuity and polygamy substantially worsening the problem, as mentioned by Dame Carol Kidu in her closing address to Parliament this week.

As if the Catholic Church’s medieval prohibitions against any birth control (apart from abstinence) were not bad enough, it has again condemned the use of public sexual education promoting condom use as 'anti-Christian'.

The PNG Education Department's new HIV/AIDS policy calls for condoms to be supplied to fight a high rate of infection among students.

But the Secretary for Education with the Catholic Bishops Conference of PNG and Solomon Islands, says the new requirement clashes with Catholic teaching on sexuality, and the church will not obey it.

The head of the Vanimo Catholic diocese, Bishop Cesare Bonivento, has said the use of condoms is like “a gun that instead of killing the enemy, very often exploded in the hands of the one who wanted to use it for personal defence.” He said in reality the condom was not protection but a killer.

Bishop Paul Marx of the Diocese of Kerema insists that an Australian National AIDS Council campaign "is sending out the wrong message that promiscuity is the normal, ordinary way of life.… By distributing condoms all over the place it will facilitate even further that promiscuity, which is the main breeding ground of HIV/AIDS."

Then there was the laughable argument promoted by a senior Catholic official of the Department of Health a few years ago that condoms have holes which actually promote the spread of the HIV/AIDS virus - which received prominent attention in the national media, and misled thousands.

Catholics of PNG - it's time to stand up for human rights and the lives of women and children, not the blind support of ancient religious dogma (written and promoted by men 1,000 years ago seeking to retain their power).

It is time to work to save living souls instead of condemning thousands to an early grave, and tens of thousands to a repeated cycle of poverty and misery through lack of family planning.

Further reading at the Radio Australia website here

The Mountain: articulating the enigma that is PNG


The MountainWHEN I WAS LOOKING FOR a copy of Drusilla Modjeska’s novel, The Mountain, I found it on the “new releases” shelf of our local department store. 

It was surrounded by lots of those glossy novels about feisty (mostly beautiful blonde) ladies tackling the rough and tumble of the outback, showing the blokes a thing or two and ending up finding true love. 

There were also a couple of the latest doomsday titles for the guys and the usual vampire / fantasy for the teens.  All of them heavily discounted because of the buying power of the chain store.

For a literary novel I thought it was an odd place for it to be displayed; normally you have to go to a real bookshop and rummage through the shelves for such things and then pay a premium price to boot.  That, or buy it on the Internet.

It is a sad fact, for men at least, that most general readers in the developed world are women and a lot of the people who write for them are also women. 

So why would a complex novel set in an obscure place like Papua New Guinea be sitting on that shelf?  Did the store buyers see the cover and make an incorrect assumption?

Having read the book it dawned on me that the reason it was there is because it operates at two levels.  On the one hand it can be read as a straight novel about “love, loss, grief and betrayal” as the blurb proclaims, but on another level, especially to those in the know, it is a complex analysis of the grappling relationship between two vastly different cultures brought together in a crucial moment of time in Papua New Guinea.

It is here that the novel excels and demonstrates that fiction leaves anthropology and history well in its wake when it comes to understanding what really happens in people’s lives.

The book is written in two sections, pre and post-independence.  It concerns the people, both black and white, involved in the halcyon and ideologically driven days of the University of Papua New Guinea and then, years later, the spillages involving them and their children.

I think this might be the first time that anyone has written about those sandal-shod, Hawaiian-shirted, mini-skirted, kaftan-clad and bearded and beaded, convention defying black and white denizens of outer-Waigani in anything other than derogatory terms. 

In that sense it is a refreshing change; the novel paints a wonderful picture of those days, especially around Hohola, including all the colour and angst.

At the beginning of the book two of the pivotal characters are standing on a hill overlooking the new university under construction and the student asks the newly arrived wife of one of the lecturers whether what they can see is, in fact, real.

The question of reality seems to be at the heart of the novel.  As the narrative progresses you begin to realise that in such circumstances what might be reality to one person may not necessarily be reality to another. 

When a white academic and a kiap, for instance, look at something they see different things, just as an educated Papua New Guinean and a bush kanaka might have done and, unfortunately, still do.

It is the student who asked the question on the hill that turns out to have the firmest fix on reality.  He becomes a smooth-talking and rich lawyer representing developers, miners and loggers and the reason he’s successful is because he’s worked out what’s going on in Papua New Guinean minds.  Whether he likes it is another matter; he can’t fix it, he’s already tried, and anyway, it butters his bread.

He knows that Papua New Guinea is a mess and was always going to be a mess and there is nothing that can be done about it.  The plunderers will continue to plunder and the locals will continue to be their own worst enemies.

One of the hapkas offspring of those early days comes back to Papua New Guinea from Europe to solve the puzzle of his identity and travels to the isolated mountain village to which the title of the novel refers. 

He is the mystical prodigal son but even those untouched people see him as a bisnis opportunity.  In a vain attempt at integrity he tries to help but as the novel ends the jealousy has begun and the scheme is falling apart even before it really begins.

One of the characters in the novel (with a vague resemblance to someone familiar to PNG Attitude readers) is puzzled by white people always needing a reason for why things happen.

And that, I guess is the enigma of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea farewells a great dame


Dame Carol Kidu and friends in Pari villageAS DAME CAROL KIDU - the long-serving and lonely female of the 109 member Papua New Guinea Parliament - gave her farewell speech at Tuesday’s final sitting ahead of next month's scheduled election, the nation's burgeoning social media commentariat lit up with tributes.

''Kidu gets applause! Sir Buri Kidu would have been proud of you Dame,'' tweeted Tarurvur - one of PNG's most influential (albeit anonymous) political bloggers - summoning up the revered memory of Dame Carol's long-dead husband, the nation's first national Chief Justice.

''Who would have thought a white woman from QLD would impact PNG as you have?''

Mind you, other tweeters observed that the applause from fellow MPs was a bit muted - perhaps as a result of her passing swipe at some of them having one or two wives too many. The feisty Dame is rarely accused of failing to speak her mind.

Dame Carol was one of two lauded figures on the PNG political landscape farewelled as the Parliament dissolved yesterday - the other was former Prime Minister and noted political reformer Sir Mekere Morauta, who said he was moving aside to make way for a new generation.

Dame Carol's impact on PNG politics goes back 15 years as the Member for Moresby South and a minister under the Somare Government, and includes a raft of social development policy, from provisions recognising the rights of the street traders who make up the informal economy; to laws protecting vulnerable children; to a determined and ultimately thwarted campaign to introduce special measures to usher more women into the Parliament.

With her Women's Bill - which would have introduced 22 reserved seats for women - failing to complete its journey into law in time for this election, the odds are stacked high against a single woman taking a seat when the Haus Tambaran in the capital of Waigani next convenes. Social and political culture - and the money politics which underwrites campaigns - remain formidable obstacles to womens' candidacy.

PNG politics is the poorer for the lack of female influence, Dame Carol argues, with the agendas of critical social indicators - maternal deaths, child health, violence against women - failing to achieve the priority they deserve in the Haus.

Though she has lived in PNG for more than 40 years, arriving as a bride and raising her family according to her husband's tribal tradition, Dame Carol once told the Parliament in championing her Bill that ''I don't pretend to understand the complexities [of PNG culture]. The men were the warriors. But remember, the women were the peacemakers.''

Dame Carol's voice and influence has amplified through the past nine months of volatile political power plays. Distancing herself from the Somare camp to take on the role of Leader of the Opposition (for a while there, the only member of the Opposition), she has repeatedly urged the warring Big Men of PNG politics to be accountable to the Constitution and the citizens as the manouevreing for power deteriorated into dirty and dangerous tactics.

This past week, her fearlessness and commitment were captured on a piece of footage widely shared across PNG.

It shows the 63-year-old grandmother - on Mother's Day - confronting heavily armed police and bulldozers at Paga Hill, a site above Port Moresby where a shanty settlement was being razed in preparation for a controversial hotel development, one where questions loom over process and legitimacy.

''This is not an eviction, it's a demolition,'' she snaps at the police, instructing them to stop the bulldozers and allow the settlers to dismantle their homes themselves. ''I feel sorry for you. You're in the middle of this,'' she says to one officer. ''One day it might be your houses being bulldozed.''

Continue reading "Papua New Guinea farewells a great dame" »

Coalition to offer freed up trade & visas for PNG


FEW COUNTRIES ARE MORE IMPORTANT to Australia than Papua New Guinea and I believe that our relationship with Papua New Guinea must be one of Australia’s highest foreign policy priorities.

It is a fact that much has been said over many years about the relationship and I think it is fair for us to be judged not on what we say but on what we do, not on just our words but on our actions.

And in that regard, should the Coalition form the next government of Australia I am committed to injecting the necessary energy and leadership to ensure that the relationship continues to be a strong, continues to be one not just of the closest of neighbours but the closest of friends – the absolute best friends – for we are like family. And indeed like all families we are well aware of each others strengths and weaknesses.

And if it is anything like my family we are be each other's strongest critics but also each other's greatest supporters!

As brothers and sisters in the Pacific region it is time for us to broaden and deepen and diversify our relationship and take it to another level to better reflect the contemporary reality of where we stand in the 21st century.

It is way past time that we move on from outdated stereotypes and our aid donor and aid recipient relationship, and it is time for us to embrace each other as full economic partners.

It should be as easy to do business between Australia and Papua New Guinea as it is between Australia and New Zealand. While I welcome an Economic Cooperation Treaty, we should be aiming for a high quality, full blown free trade agreement between Australia and Papua New Guinea.

If we are honoured to be the next government of this country, I most certainly commit to ensuring that we can free up the visa arrangements between Australian business people and PNG business people in particular so that we can have much easier means of doing business and investing in each other's country.

It is simply unacceptable for there to be so many bureaucratic hurdles in the way of trade and investment and doing business across the Coral Sea, and I most certainly commit to working with the PNG government to ensure that it can be the most cooperative economic relationship that we are able to achieve.

We need to see greater mobility in the labour force between PNG and Australia. I envisage some form of mobile workforce that could be supporting projects in Queensland, in Western Australia, and in PNG, and it will take some considerable will on the part of governments in both countries to achieve it but I am sure we can do it, for our mutual benefit.

Continue reading "Coalition to offer freed up trade & visas for PNG" »

Some reflections on political conflict and chaos

WE THINK YOU’LL ENJOY this short introduction to a speech made by Australia’s shadow foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, to the 28th Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo held in Brisbane recently.

I had planned today to begin my speech with some observations about the political landscape, and from here it all looks pretty chaotic.

The government is struggling to claim legitimacy because of the way it came to power.

The conflict between the current Prime Minister and the former Prime Minister doesn’t appear to be going away, particularly because of the nature by which the current Prime Minister came to power.

And of course there is a lot of volatility in the Parliament. The Speaker is under a cloud in relation to expenses and is concerned with his self preservation.

The Parliament is just holding together but there have been some pretty questionable deals done with some of the Members of Parliament and there is increasing concern that it could all fall apart.

But hey! That is enough on Canberra for one day!

Is 'The National' playing dirty with my reputation?


YESTERDAY I RECEIVED an interesting email from an outfit called the Barracuda Central Reputation System.

It was electronically generated and it said: “Sorry, your email was blocked based on its originating IP address having a poor reputation.”

The originating address was that of my personal email. My reaction was ‘who’d accuse me of that?’

And then the light bulb went on. The person I’d been trying to contact was a colleague at The National newspaper; a journalist who I will not name so as to protect his well-being in what seems like a pretty toxic organisation.

I protested to Barracuda (I mean, who wants to be known as a person of poor repute). And Barracuda immediately removed me from its blocklist for 30 days, while it ‘reevaluates’.

Here’s an extract from what I wrote to Barracuda:

It seems The National newspaper in Papua New Guinea has placed me on your list for a political, not for any ethical, reason.  I am dismayed that you should so list me without any attempt to ascertain my credentials.

I run a blog, PNG Attitude, in which some writers are occasionally critical of The National, and this probably explains the blocking.

PNG Attitude, is one of the most read blogs on Australia-PNG relations.

The blocking of my emails to colleagues and friends of mine at The National is a malicious act which I hope you will put to rights.

It appears almost certain that someone at The National invoked the ‘poor reputation’ slur; probably a person senior enough to act officially on behalf of the newspaper.

If this be the case, it was a low, sleazy and reprehensible thing to do.

Of course, The National is itself getting a bit of a name - for censorship. It recently banned Russell Soaba and Nou Vada from its pages and won’t even mention the name of Martyn Namorong.

Perhaps we should judge the reputation of The National accordingly.

If tomorrow never comes - for the record


MY LOWLY THOUGHTS. If I was advising Namah on how to overthrow O'Neill I'd put two options.

1. Might is right. Remove O'Neill by a no-confidence vote. It doesn’t matter what the Constitution of PNG says. We did it on 2 August 2011 and we'll do it again today.

2. Declare emergency. Remove O'Neill in the quasi habeas corpus state PNG will be in where he can be dragged out kicking and screaming and into a jail cell where most of his constitutional rights will be put in suspended animation when an emergency is declared.

Invoke section 246 of the Constitution and extend parliament's tenure (in other words, defer elections) by 12 months. Using the emergency powers, lock the city down and block off the court precincts.

Without the right to freedom from arbitrary search and entry and the protection of the law as guaranteed by our Constitution, arrest the judges, the Somare faction, any politicians opposing Namah, and finally all the bloggers and facebookers in this forum as freedom of expression and freedom of information are now subject to the emergency.

Then after a masquerade at Gavman Haus where the governor-general "legitimises" everything, and after a few glasses of champagne, watch the country descend into chaos as disillusioned youth unite to burn down government buildings and loot business houses.

Meanwhile Canberra and Washington will engage in emergency talks, and while their mouthpieces will tell regional media that both countries are "observing" what's happening... the truth is both countries are scared shitless.

The "Obama Doctrine" seeks the shift of US foreign policy from the Middle East to the Pacific in the interest of US energy needs - and one of the biggest investments t date is the PNG LNG.

Now the Igiri at the plant sites may, in the ensuing chaos, ransack them and bring American lives into danger. That is good grounds to initiate entry into the country, and like the Gulf of Tonkin in 'Nam, like Dodgeball's yellowcake uranium in Iraq, they'll come in to 'secure' the country.

Maybe a bit too Tom Clancy here, this is just what I think will happen.

Let's hope elections proceed, and we come back, eager for reform - real constitutional reform.

The banana tale


Dedicated to H Tuka who inspired me to write this story

A LITTLE BOY DOWN THE STREET would watch his mother every day. When the other street kids came out to play, she would ask them about their day. If they told her they had had a bad day she would look at them ever so seriously, shake her head in dismay and ask, “Was it something the teacher had to say or did someone bully you today?”

Every day she would hear their tales when evening came, feed them and send them along their way.

On school days, when morning came she would shake wake him to wake up his friends so they would not be late.

As each child burst out their front door pushing empty SP cans and Diana tuna cans out of the way she would yell, “Child come this way”. When they came over, each one was given a small plastic bag of fried flour and K1. “Just in case,” she would say.

Then, after school, it would start all over again.

“Mum,” he asked. “Why do you always ask about their day? Are you really interested in what they have to say?”

His mother would smile and reply, “It’s our way.  ”

They all grew older yet still not a day would pass without her asking ask if they were okay?

Then one beautiful sunny day he heard her ask his neighbour and best mate if he had ever heard the banana’s tale?

He shook his head and looking up with a black bruise marking his face. “I hate this place!” he raged, “I’m going to run away.”

“Shhh my child, just wait and listen to my little tale,” she said. Then she turned and called them all to gather round, something she always did when she felt an intervention was needed.

Just as they sat down, he heard his father call to him, “Son, we need to be on our way.”

You see, his father was migrating to another place but his mother refused and said she would stay!

Ten years later, the day before her funeral, he came back.  He sat on the veranda, angry with her for not going with them when they went away.

Then he looked around and noticed a difference in the place. Broken houses once filled with holes and yards filled with rubbish now had mansions in their place.  The street was in perfect state!

That night nothing disturbed this peaceful street, laughter had replaced the screams of pain, a far cry from back in the old days when many a mother would cry till daybreak because a father would come home in a drunken rage.

Continue reading "The banana tale" »

Only 8% of nations have an elected female leader


OVER THE PAST FEW DECADES the involvement of women in politics and economics as well as in many of the other professions, such as engineering, law enforcement and marine and naval organisations, originally only occupied by men, has drastically increased.

It is now common in modern day society to see women involved in a larger more respected field of professions.

In the past equality had been greatly underplayed limiting women’s opinions and freedom.

The status of women has improved over the past 70 years as evident in the progressive increase of female role models throughout the world such as multi-millionaire talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey and Australia’s first ever female Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

In earlier days women were only expected and encouraged to build their profiles as a house wife who intended to cook food and take care of house hold chores.

But it is an intriguing fact that only about 8% of the world’s many countries has an elected female leader through three major points; the case of the powerful patriarchy, suffragettes and the historical roles of women.

“What is patriarchy?” Simply put it is an idea or belief in which the male figure is enforced as the primary centre of authority amongst a society labelling women and children as minor beings.

Almost all political, economic and legal organisations of the world’s countries are run under patriarchal influence, which closely hints at the reason why there are only a handful of female leaders in the world.

Take the United States of America. The modern USA has been, over time, shaped by a long list of male presidents starting with George Washington to the most recent, Barrack Obama.

The presence of male authority throughout America’s history has not led to a very diverse functioning nation. The constant appearance of male leaders (otherwise seen as role models) in the USA has ingrained patriarchy in the social, legal and political organizations of the various state cultures and most importantly the people.

This shows that patriarchy was developed over a long period of time creating the universal image that male power is and will be much more superior to that of women folk.

Continue reading "Only 8% of nations have an elected female leader" »

InterOil's LNG project under threat from government


THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA GOVERNMENT has put InterOil Corp on notice that it will cancel its proposed liquefied natural gas project.

A notice from the Department of Petroleum and Energy given to InterOil through an “unofficial channel” said an agreement to build the $6 billion plant will be cancelled.

InterOil will meet with the government this week to discuss the project, its chief executive officer Phil Mulacek said.

Mulacek said the project is caught in a political “silly season” with PNG due to hold parliamentary elections in late June.

“The prime minister’s office has not shown any intention to cancel the project and we intend to fully abide by the terms of the 2009 agreement,” Mulacek said.

The LNG plant is being built adjacent to InterOil’s refinery and is expected to begin liquefaction by 2015. The company has already spent $81 million on its construction.

For some hours now PNG Attitude has been under a spam attack in our Comments zone. This attack takes the form of an automated device pouring down gobbledook comments on 'Martyn Namorong', clearly to try to clog up our operations. Together with our Typepad service provider we are trying to come to grips with this. But should PNG Attitude fail in the next period, you will know why. And you may even work out why...

How Twitter saw the pre-election parliamentary sitting

No move against Peter O'Neill; and a fond farewell to Dame Carol Kidu

Liam Fox ‏ @liamfoxpng - Everyone laughed as Namah paid tribute to Speaker Nape. #PNG

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - Just to make it clear Tweeps - Parliament has rescinded its original deferral motion; moved to dissolve Parliament; #PNG going to Elections!

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - All outgoing statements being made. Dame Carol as Opposition Leader making her outgoing statement now. Retires from a brilliant career #PNG

Nou Vada ‏ @nouvada - Dame Carol thanks Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare #PNG

Nou Vada ‏ @nouvada - Dame Carol thank Sam Abal for being the buscrew in the 2-person Opposition #PNG

Liam Fox ‏ @liamfoxpng - Many heads of diplomatic missions are here to see this final sitting before elections. They must be relieved like most #PNGeans.

Nou Vada ‏ @nouvada - Slight Uproar as Dame Carol observes MPs have more than 1 wife

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - There is still some ambiguity to what will be happening to certain electoral funds. Some MPs still believe they're entitled to use it #PNG

Nou Vada ‏ @nouvada - Reform Reform Reform! On #PNG Parlt's agenda at its last day...

Liam Fox ‏ @liamfoxpng - A bit of applause as Dame Carol gives her final speech as an MP. #PNG

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - Kidu gets applause! Sir Buri Kidu would be proud of you Dame. Who would have thought a white woman from QLD would impact #PNG as you have?

Liam Fox ‏ @liamfoxpng - Well #PNG, there were times when it looked like it wasn't going to happen but you're off to the elections.

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - Your comments of support have provided rays of hope in the past 10 months of what has been a tough time for #PNG. Thank you to all of you!

Tavurvur ‏ @Tavurvur - Despite the political challenges & the constant uncertainty #PNG has done it! We are going to elections. We will elect the 9th Parliament.

Thanks to Nou, Liam and the omnipresent Tavurvur for this blow by blow summary

O’Neill under threat over election timing, says ABC

PORT MORESBY CORRESPONDENT of the ABC, Liam Fox, is reporting renewed uncertainty over whether Papua New Guinea’s general election will proceed as scheduled.

Fox says many members of parliament still want the election deferred and that local media are reporting rumours of a vote of no-confidence against prime minister Peter O'Neill this week.

Australia's parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs, Richard Marles, says Australia is watching to see how events unfold in PNG.

"We've been given commitments from prime minister Peter O'Neill, and indeed many of the other senior political figures in PNG, that they intend to hold the elections on time, and we can take those commitments at face value," he said.

This week is expected to see the final sitting of parliament before the elections.

Paga women screamed as bulldozers destroyed homes


Paga Hill - the wreckers move inDAME CAROL KIDU has issued a statement on the enforced removal of 2,000 settlers from a development site on Paga Hill in Port Moresby after she was injured by police when she tried to intervene.

Dame Carol says she does not oppose the development of Paga Hill, and has previously told the settlers that one day they would have to leave, but “bulldozing a community does not solve any problems”.

“It only complicates things and creates a huge human rights issue.

“The Governor [Powes Parkop] and I are faced with hundreds of displaced families (refugees in their own country) who are now sheltering in tents with candles for lights because their power has been disconnected.”

Dame Carol said she had watched “women being dragged from their homes screaming while bulldozers were ordered to move in.

“There [were] babies, elderly, sick people as well as the fit and some very angry young men who were kicked viciously by police and for many families everything was destroyed.”

Eventually Dame Carol said she got the police to stop the demolition because lawyers were on their way with a stay order on humanitarian grounds.

She also said that most of the police “started to rethink what they were doing, especially when they realised that their own police legacy land was involved.

“Many said ‘Thanks Mum. I hope you would fight as hard for our families if they were in danger’.

Download Statement by Dame Carol Kidu on the Paga Hill scandal

And here's some dramatic video of the incident involving Dame Carol, one real gutsy lady....


Women, diplomacy and the art of relationships


Young Binandere womanMY BINANDERE CULTURE is a warrior culture.  One that once prided itself on conquest, expansion of territory and on the ability of its young warriors.

But the great battles fought over long distances to lay claim to enemy held lands wasn’t the central part of my people’s existence.

Diplomacy was of utmost importance, and the skills to prevent violence through diplomatic means was and still is highly valued.

Such skill didn’t come into play only to prevent war. It was part of everyday life.

Brothers  resolved issues by talking for hours or even days so that their present disagreements didn’t affect their relationship and their children’s relationships in future.

To offend someone physically or verbally was costly.  It was the equivalent of an expensive lawsuit in today’s justice system.  

Resolving the issue involved an apology and compensation, which included payment in the form of a pig and other gifts.

While the men provided protection as warriors of the clan or tribe, their economic power both in peacetime and in times of war rested on the women.  

A man’s wealth and status in his society, and his ability to negotiate the terms of a diplomatic solution on behalf of his family or clan, hinged on his woman’s skill to raise pigs.  The foundation of a man’s success depended on the woman.

Women were highly valued members of our society.  They were our mothers who gave us life. They were key in the man’s economic and political status and they raised the warriors who laid claim to new land and resources.

Traditionally, women were marked to become wives. But that didn’t stop girls from choosing their future husbands if they so wished.  In many instances, a girl would take her possessions and go to the family of the man she wished to marry and be accepted as part of the household.

Hell bound


Darkness seeps into my soul
My heart is fire
A child of mortal woman,
The seed of man's desire

The bitterness of sin is sweet
Full to the brim is my cup
Shunning the goodness of light
For love is not enough

Evil plays on my mind
Its secrets I yearn to uncover
My deeds, my words are foul
Against man, I ran lower

Heaven seems quite afar
Unreachable is righteousness
At least one prayer answered
Nothing more, nothing less

Yet condemnation prevails
Man has deemed me unfit
Come Judgement Day, trial begins
At the Gates of Hell I will sit.

Brigette Wase (26) was born in Kiunga in Western Province of mixed Oro and Central Provinces parentage.  She completed studies at UPNG and works with Papua New Guinea Immigration and Citizenship Services. Her hobbies include reading, mostly fiction and history.  She occasionally writes poetry

My disability. B/ville war led to a hard luck story


SITTING DOWN IN MY HOUSE in the village I decided to write this brief history of my disability, inflicted during the Bougainville Crisis.  Before the injury I was a normal healthy and physically-fit person; a top Soccer and Aussie Rules player in my younger days.

The Bougainville Crisis started in mid-1988 and was fuelled by a frustrated landowner and civil engineer, the late Francis Ona, with a mob of young relatives.

Within months Ona formed the Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) to lay siege to giant company, Conzinc Rio Tinto Australia (CRA) about environmental damage and landowner benefits.

By 1989 the crisis was at its peak and the PNG Defence Force and mobile squad police were sent to Bougainville.  By 1990 the government imposed a total blockade on all services in Bougainville.  The blockade caused severe sufferings to the people. 

At that time I was teaching at Tonu High School in the Siwai District.  In October 1990 we travelled to Kieta to board MV Sankamap to go to Rabaul to do our banking and shopping, as our families were really suffering from the blockade. 

Unfortunately, the BRA chased us with guns at the Kieta wharf so we had to return to Siwai.  It was really frightening.

A car dropped me and four other people at Panguna so we had to walk all the way back to Siwai, about 100 kilometres away.  There were no vehicles as there was no fuel or petrol due to the blockade.  The situation was very tense as anyone could be easily killed by the BRA or the PNGDF.

After walking about 30 km, somewhere in the Nagovis area my legs went dead resulting in my knees becoming totally numb.  On arrival in Siwai, I was in bed for weeks as I could not walk.  There were no health services available and it was very difficult.  I just had to cope with the pain by resting and drinking lots of water.

After the pain eased, I continued teaching in Bougainville high schools until 1994.  In 1995 I took up teaching at the Divine Word University in Madang.  While in Madang two cups of green liquid was sucked out from my knees at the Madang Medical Centre. 

After two years in Madang I returned to Bougainville to take up a senior position with the Bougainville Administration.  Here, for the next ten years, I sat in a comfortable chair with the air conditioner providing cool fresh air.

In mid 2007 I had to stand down from the job as my health was getting worse.  I was admitted to Nonga General Hospital in East New Britain as the Buka General Hospital lacked proper doctors and medical drugs.

I was diagnosed with severe gout coupled with rheumatic arthritis.  Since then I have been travelling to other major hospitals seeking better medical treatment but without much luck.

Continue reading "My disability. B/ville war led to a hard luck story" »

Private Archibald’s spirit returns to his Country


Didge calls Private Frank's soirit to his parents graveON SATURDAY IN ARMIDALE, New South Wales, the Archibald family completed the return of Private Frank Archibald's spirit to his Country.

Eighteen days after the Behiri traditional owners of the land Bomana War Cemetery stands on so carefully dug up soil from Private Frank's grave, and the graves of five of his Aboriginal comrades killed defending Papua New Guinea and Australia, he is at rest.

More than 40 Archibald descendants from four generations joined hands around the graves of Frank and Sarah, the parents of Private Frank.

The Bomana service was read in English and Gumbaynggirr, and the didgeridoo players and dancers performed exactly as they had done in Bomana.

Each relative then took tiny pieces of the soil from Private Frank's grave and scattered it on at least ten Archibald family graves around the Armidale Cemetery.

As we were finishing on a sunny afternoon, a mighty storm blew up, raged briefly, then passed.  We felt that all the spirits called from Bomana and Lae cemeteries, and from the start of the Kokoda Track, had come with Private Frank.

Perhaps they will rest with him until the relatives of the other diggers have received their soil and scatter it on the Country of each of the fallen, to help them find their way back home at last.

We trust this will bring peace to his family - a warrior returned to his Country.

Rod Plant is chairperson of the Kokoda Aboriginal Servicemen's Campaign Committee

SYDNEY: Monday 21 May, 2pm - Jackson Wells Board Room, Level 2, 81-91 Military Road, Neutral Bay (opp Oaks Hotel). Register here
CANBERRA: Tuesday 29 May, 4pm, Hotel Kurrajong, National Circuit, Barton. To register email Ben Jackson here
BRISBANE: Friday 1 June, 3pm, Sherwood Services Club, Corinda [cnr Browne and Clewley Sts, directly opposite Corinda Railway Station]. Email Murray Bladwell here if you’d like to attend

Kidu heavied as she protests destruction of homes


Dame Carol Kidu being heavied by two policemen

DAME CAROL KIDU, the only female MP in Papua New Guinea’s male-dominated rogue parliament, has been accosted by two policemen after she protested at the destruction of the homes of 2,000 people of Paga Hill in Port Moresby.

PNG’s opposition leader and former community development minister was told to “stop interfering” and then was threatened. That was when I took this photograph and told the two officers to back off.

A company claiming a commercial land title of the Paga Hill area had begun to demolish the houses of over 2,000 residents.

The Kikori people were the original Paga settlers who where given permission to reside on the land by the Motu Koita after World War II.

The land also includes war heritage sites, including bunkers and left over bombs, which are a very real part of our history and should be part of a national park.

It is utterly outrageous how this land has been fraudulently obtained. No one in their right mind would allow such historical landmarks to be traded as commercial land.

If we tolerate this kind of forceful action by developers, then we continue to feed this country to the dogs.

The past decade has seen some terribly corrupt events, but I'm afraid this takes my pick as one of the lowest.

The stakes are so high that human beings lose their rights, which are trampled on. Over 2,000 people affected, many of whom have spent their entire lives living in the area.

A sad day for human rights in this country!

Stop making buai traders the scapegoats


The buai sellerTHERE APPEARS TO BE a systematic crackdown on one of Papua New Guinea's most economically and socially integral trades, buai [betel nut].

Assistant Police Commissioner Francis Tokura issued an order last week for policemen to remove all vendors from the streets of Port Moresby. [See also this earlier story in PNG Attitude].

The deep disrespect for the rights of PNG's self-employed was revealed by the heavy-handed, abusive behaviour of the police as they broke up the buai markets.

We do not commend Asst Commr Tokura for his "efforts to clean up Port Moresby".

If you want to clean up Moresby, don't look at the buai traders but at the government.

PNG street traders are scapegoats of a corrupt system.

Think about it. The litter issue arises through inefficient public administration - isn't the government paying someone for garbage disposal?

And if markets are a magnet for crime, it is because too many of our youths are let down by a system that is profit rather than people driven.

The buai sellers and their colleagues in our markets are entrepreneurs, not criminals. If you are making up to K500 a day, you're unlikely to go out and steal handbags afterwards. So why are we treating them as criminals? 

The informal economy appears to be expanding as more Papua New Guineans shake the delusion that being a buai trader is socially unacceptable.

Recent research found urban Papua New Guineans are quitting their 9-5 jobs as they realise the buai trade offers more lucrative prospects and better social security than the so-called formal economy.

As it expands, the market infrastructure struggles to accommodate its growth, resulting in more litter and overcrowded markets.

But oppressing and removing markets is not the answer, because the informal economy is really the People's Economy, and in light of the absence an even slightly superior alternative, it will continue to grow and thrive.

It is also, unlike the formal economy's extractive-obsessed sector, economically and socially sustainable. We know the profits made from using our natural resources stay in our communities.

Forget the hype about the LNG-driven economic boom: the People's Economy offers PNG (and the Pacific) a sustainable future (just as it has sustained our peoples for 50,000 years).

The government and police, and all of us, need to change their attitudes to street markets from one of disdain to support. Only with adequate support for our nation's most vital traders will the social debris be cleaned up.

For one example, look at this example in Durban, South Africa. The result is one of the most successful dual economic and tourism ventures in the country.

Change your attitude. Stop looking at buai traders as a problem.

They are, in reality, one of the few positive examples in a city and country where corporate greed in the formal economy - the driver for our government and therefore our police - really is turning our streets into ghettoes.