The last year of John Garia’s childhood
Reflections on Bougainville’s 7 years of autonomy

Development & anti-development: what's in a word?


ONE OF THE MOST SHOCKING THINGS for me was being labelled ‘anti-development’ during a recent phone interview I did for an Australian radio station from Parliament House in Canberra.

I've been contemplating that label and after much meditation on the mysteries of development, I've come to the conclusion that 'development' is perhaps a word that is open to interpretation.

If you are a Chinese miner about to dump millions of tonnes of toxic waste into the Bismarck Sea and threaten the web of life with heavy metals and carcinogenic substances, those who want to prevent a humanitarian disaster may be labelled 'anti-development'.

One of the 'benefits' of Ok Tedi mine's tailings discharge has been the 'improvement' in the waterways that drain the East Transfly region.

The current flooding of this area, which is where I come from, is largely linked to developments in the Fly River due to increased sedimentation due to mine tailings being discharged from Ok Tedi. Some call it development, I call it bagarapment.

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, government is "for the people and by the people". The American revolution stemmed from the belief amongst Americans that the British Crown was not acting in their best interests.

Now I for one am not suggesting overthrowing the State, but one should not expect the people to be indifferent to the State if the State continues to fail them.

To suggest that Papua New Guineans work within the existing mechanisms is like telling the Jews to appeal to the moral values of Hitler in order to free themselves from concentration camps.

Our Gestapo elite who flaunt their ill-gotten wealth and status are toasted by those whom they work with to bring 'real development' to PNG.

Millions of Papua New Guineans will die, now and in the future, due to the destruction of their traditional livelihoods and the contamination of their natural food sources. I guess that is development. Genocide must then be called development.

Following this general election, just about to start, there has to be a general reorganization of social, economic and political order in PNG.

I trust that a general consultative process that is inclusive and along the lines of the first Constitutional Planning Committee meetings will be beneficial for the country. There is a need for redistribution of power and national wealth.

Unless this happens, the elite will continue to be totally unaccountable and self-serving thus undermining the viability and integrity of the nation state.

Bougainville is soon to gain independence from PNG and, as power struggles continue in Waigani due to the fact that all power is vested in Waigani, it is foreseeable that separatist movements could emerge.

There is a limit to the patience of human beings. It took 20 years of patience until the Bougainvilleans became totally fed up with a system that was basically screwing their lives and giving them peanuts. How long will the patience of the rest of Papua New Guinea be tested? Now here's a development we all don't want to see!


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Paul Oates

David - Amen to that last thought bro.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks for your concerns Barbara.

I think instead of dismissing Donigi's proposal as something that scares away investors, we should embrace his courage to think outside the box and discuss his ideas a bit more.

At least we have someone who is prepared to worry less about other people and is more concerned about Papua New Guineans.

The status quo has failed us and there is no guarantee things will improve unless we stand up and challenge it. I'm sure we can find a structure that is fair to all if we dig a bit deeper.

Public discourse in PNG so far has merely been in the area of identifying the problem. There is enough literature around to pin point what the problems are. Fine, we know what the problems are. Now let’s stop bitching and start dealing with them.

Mrs Barbara Short

David, the Mama Papa Graun Party's radical proposals may sound good to the land owners but they probably don't to the investors with the billions needed to set up the mines.
Tread carefully!

Bernard Yegiora

Roka, I agree with you. The elite ruling class needs to get the act together and stopping raping the country. If it continues, this country will be torn apart.

David Kitchnoge

I have been sceptical about Peter Donigi's Mama Papa Graun Party's radical proposal to have indigenous land owners directly holding substantial equity interest in resource projects in our country as opposed to the State holding that interest.

After having heard Donigi explain his party's policies (albeit briefly) on Kundu 2 last night, I moved from the "no" corner to the "let's talk" corner.

Leonard Roka

Mr Elite, relax and wait for the moment of truth.

Leonard Roka

Good piece, Martyn.

I often wonder why PNGeans in power could not learn from the recent experience on Bougainville?

Every investment in PNG yields benefits that are are few. Recently, Belden Namah boasted of K30 million from his backyard. Did his people know how he got that? Is his province to benefit from that?

As Martyn says, separatist movements are to come. The proof is the number of guns your tribesman are caressing and the continous hunt for guns in Bougainville, Indonesia and the Torres Strait by New Guineans.

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