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152 posts from June 2012

Belden Namah says Australia ‘interfered’ in election


PAPUA NEW GUINEA'S deputy prime minister Belden Namah has accused Australian officials of interfering in the national elections.

He also criticised prime minister Peter O'Neill for allowing the elections to go ahead despite the electoral roll not being ready.

Mr Namah had previously demanded the elections be deferred for six months because of his concerns about the electoral rolls.

He received the support of cabinet and the parliament, but Mr O'Neill sided with electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen and the elections went ahead a week ago.

Mr Namah says the election is a disaster and Mr O'Neill should be ashamed of having listened to the electoral commissioner and his Australian advisers.

The head of Australia's aid agency AusAID in PNG, Stuart Shafer, says there are 22 Australian advisers helping with the election.

"An update of the roll is PNG led and we have been very active in just providing the tools for Papua New Guineans to provide that update," he said.

Andrew Trawen admits there are big problems with the electoral roll.

"We have found evidence of deliberate actions by some to remove names, add names and modify the status of persons on the roll," he said.

"Once we have completed our enquiries I will refer these matters to the police."

The way forward for the Motu-Koitabuans


AFTER BEING SERIOUSLY MARGINALIZED since Papua New Guinea got its independence in 1975, a practical way forward must now be found for the Motu-Koita including the people of Koiari from the Sogeri Plateau in the Central Province.

There is now a very pressing development need for the Motu-Koitabu to have a good road map for the future.

After this general election, it is most imperative for all Motu-Koitabu communities together with their community leaders to rise up and offer their own future agenda of what they see as the most critical issues affecting their community, within which the city of Port Moresby is situated.

It is also most important for the Motu-Koitabu Assembly and the National Capital District administration to work with the national government and synergistically improve the Motu-Koitabu (and Koiari) people’s quality of life.

It is now more imperative than ever for the national government to immediately put in place a good independent political structure to encompass all Motu-Koitabu (and Koiari) communities within the Central Province.

Its key goal must be to effectively promote the aspirations including the future wellbeing and welfare of the Motu-Koitabuan (including the Koiaris) society within Central Province.

In view of what has happened in recent years, I now call on the relevant authorities to critically address the ongoing plight of the Motu-Koitabu (and Koiari) communities in the following key areas:

Review the Motu-Koita Act and make the current Motu-Koita Assembly more effective, efficient, transparent and accountable.

The national government must in the next five-years create a strong political structure for either a new Motu-Koitabu Open Electorate within NCD, or a separate new Motu-Koitabu (to also include Koiari) Electorate within Central Province.

Through joint efforts of the MKA, NCDC administration and the Central Provincial Government demand the national government to place an immediate ‘Moratorium’ on all NCD land sales, while at the same time; a comprehensive social mapping of the total Motu-Koitabu and Koiari landowner clans genealogy surveys to be conducted in Port Moresby and throughout Central Province.

A special capital city development package should be negotiated with the national government to fairly compensate (for the loss of their traditional land) the peoples of the Motu-Koitabu and Koiari, and be backdated to self-government in 1973.

The new PNG government after the national election must make it one of its number one considerations to address the longstanding plight of the Motu-Koitabu and the Koiari people; only then they can start transforming their lives.

Time for constitutional reform – let’s move on…


SO NAMAH’S PARTY (aka the PNG Party) claims to be the party for change.

Sadly, as we saw in his latest press release, Namah himself hasn’t changed.

Activist Effrey Dademo has called for constitutional reforms as a way forward. She joins outgoing Opposition Leader Dame Carol Kidu and numerous voices nationwide.

It wasn't the right time to raise the postponement of the election.

Belden Namah had his entire term as an MP in the last parliament to raise the issue. He never did so.

He had the chance to sack the Executive Council, and he didn't.

In fact he, along with others, renewed the EC's contract. He chose to raise it at time when there was power struggle!

Bottom line, he and others could not be trusted at the time, period!

What happened here was bound to happen anyway. It's an issue that has never been sold.

It's time for constitutional reform - a re-look at the systems and procedures we've "adopted"...not ours, not even tailor made to our circumstances, but "adopted"

Politics aside, people got screwed by the Electoral Commission, and Mr Trawen must step down immediately after the elections.

The new government must then work on creating a new system of democratic government that is more responsive to the needs of the people.

Women candidates "hugely disadvantaged" in election


A LOBBYIST FOR FEMALE REPRESENTATION in Papua New Guinea’s parliament says women candidates standing in elections are hugely disadvantaged.

A record 135 women are standing in this year’s general election, although that figure makes up around only 4% of the total candidates.

Legislation to create 22 reserved seats for women failed to pass through the last parliament.

Betha Somare said many men are against creating reserved seats because they believe it’s currently a level playing field, something she rejects.

“Say up in certain areas of the Highlands and it’s been documented, women candidates that have stood, their supporters have been threatened,” Ms Somare said.

“They’re threatened in that, if you stand, then your whole hauslain will suffer. So in order to stop unrest and things like that in your area, they back off.”

Betha Somare says that being under-resourced compared with men, it’s also harder for women to campaign.

Namah polling complaint dismissed by Greens leader


A CANDIDATE STANDING AGAINST Papua New Guinea’s deputy prime minister, Belden Namah, has dismissed his complaints about the electoral roll.

Mr Namah has criticised prime minister Peter O’Neill and electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen over the poor state of the roll where there have been claims there are many names missing.

Mr Namah said they should have listened to his call for a deferral of elections in order to properly prepare for polling.

The Green Party’s Dorothy Tekwie said if anyone should complain, it’s her and other candidates standing against Mr Namah in Vanimo Green.

“Belden Namah actually is complaining because the people that he has paid, or bought, that he has given money to are not able to vote because they basically are people who are looking for money and are not on the common roll,” Ms Tekwie said.

“He should have done his homework to check that they are on the common roll before he gave them the money.”

Dorothy Tekwie said that while there are issues with delays and voters being unable to vote, overall polling has been satisfactory.

PNG elections fall behind as security stretched


ELECTIONS ARE FALLING BEHIND SCHEDULE across the densely populated highlands of Papua New Guinea as poor preparations cause angry scenes and security forces battle to keep ballot boxes safe.

At the polling boothVoting in the country's eighth elections since independence in 1975 has been staggered over a week to allow thousands of soldiers and police to focus on polling security in the highland provinces, where the most feverish and violent campaigning has been expected.

The opening day in Southern Highlands and Hela provinces was extended by an extra day on Sunday as polling stations were not set up on time, and Wednesday's vote in Enga province was stretched to yesterday.

In Hela province on Wednesday, supporters of the 81 candidates contesting the elections there went on a rampage through the town of Tari after a radio station reported ballot boxes would be shifted to a bigger centre such as Mount Hagen for counting because of mounting tensions over ballot stuffing and voter intimidation.

Local media said crowds felled trees and pushed large rocks onto the road out of Tari, while others drove a vehicle onto Tari's airport runway, to prevent ballot boxes full of votes being taken out by land or air.

Police and Defence Force soldiers fired warning shots to stop a stone-throwing crowd approaching the Tari police station where the ballot boxes are stored.

The country's electoral commissioner, Andrew Trawen, later announced counting would be held within the province, once a secure place, such as the Tari courthouse, was decided.

''Options were Port Moresby and Mount Hagen but it was considered that the people of Hela province need to embrace the elections and take responsibility for their own destiny,'' he told the Post-Courier.

Elsewhere in Papua New Guinea's coastal regions and island provinces, voting had been mostly peaceful, said Jerry Bagita, operations manager of the corruption watchdog Transparency International, which is monitoring the election.

However, there have been widespread discrepancies in the electoral rolls, with many intending voters finding their names missing.

Read more:

The migration of the Wanigela to Tufi in Oro


LONG AGO MY VILLAGE PEOPLE of Wanigela in the Central Province lived harmoniously.  They shared common bonds by living, cooperating and working together in everyday life.  But one day something happened which separated some people from my village.

Altogether there are 17 clans in my village.  One day some people from the Marugai clan went to the bush - hunting and gathering food.  On their way they came across some dead trunks from some fallen mangrove trees. 

They stopped to cut up the trunks for firewood and also to extract the edible worms.  Worms from dead mangrove tree trunks are good and tasty, either cooked or eaten raw when they have been washed and cleaned properly.

The people collected plenty of edible worms and firewood from the dead mangrove trunks and returned to the village.  They planned to return to their find and get more worms and firewood the next day.

But the news of the discovery reached some other people from the same clan and they went out very early the next day and collected the worms and returned to the village before they were discovered.

When the people who had discovered the dead mangrove trunks returned to the spot later in the morning, they discovered that the worms had been stolen and none were left.  This upset them and made them uneasy and they went home after cutting some firewood and hunting birds and animals.

Back in the village they found out who the culprits were, and a fight arose among the people within the Marugai clan.

After the fight, the original victims vowed to leave the clan and the village of Wanigela.  They began to build a lakatoi, or double hulled canoe.  It took them several months to build it and, upon its completion, they loaded the lakatoi with food, water and their wives and children and sailed eastwards, after bidding farewell to the village people. 

The village people were very sad as they watched their own people sailing away.

And so they sailed eastward towards Milne Bay Province.  When they ran out of food and water, they made stopovers at coastal villages.  They sailed close to the mainland in case the lakatoi was blown off course.

After sailing for weeks and months they arrived at Samarai in Milne Bay and, after restocking with food and water, sailed northward to Oro and Collingwood Bay.

They found this area was very beautiful with long sandy beaches and swaying palm trees and friendly locals so they decided to settle near Tufi.  The locals gave them land to settle on and they built a settlement.

The local people were very sad when they told them the story of why they left their own village and sailed away in search of a new land.

From that time the settlement has grown to become a village and the name given to it was Tufi Wanigela.

The Tufi Wanigela people intermarried with the local people and slowly the culture and language of the old Wanigela disappeared as the new culture and language was adopted.

Today the Tufi Wanigela people still look similar in appearance to those people of Wanigela village in Central Province and, wherever both Wanigelas meet in life, we call ourselves brothers and sisters.

This is how the second village of Wanigela came into existence in Oro Province in Papua New Guinea.

Church groups address issues in Indonesia & PNG


THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (WCC) and the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) have highlighted initiatives on the islands of New Guinea.

WCC is addressing the human rights crisis as the Papuan people of Indonesia seek greater self-determination and WACC said it is supporting a communications project to benefit PNG villagers seeking to protect their river environment from mining activities.

On the province of Tanah Papua, WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, said "we urge an end to the ongoing violence and impunity. We support the call for social and economic justice through serious dialogue and a concrete political process that seeks to address root causes of the present problems."

The Papuan people have been demanding freedom of expression and the right to self-determination, but their demands have been suppressed by Indonesian authorities, sometimes violently.

During his visit to Tanah Papua earlier this month, Tveit met with Indonesian and Papuan church leaders.

Tanah Papua has a prominent Christian presence, with more than 45 diverse denominations. The province has remained the focus of tensions between the authorities and the Papuan people. In February, the WCC's executive committee expressed concern over continuing violence and urged a peaceful resolution.

"The Indonesian government must consider the realities of Papuan people and ensure a secure future for them," said Tveit.

The Toronto-based WACC announced in late June that it is involved in a project in Papua New Guinea that will help Sepik River villagers identify communications tools as they assess the effect of a nearby copper and gold mine on their environment.

The project is intended to help indigenous people living in 50 small villages who have been fighting to have their voices heard by the government and the management of a new mine.

WACC said the villagers rely heavily on the Sepik River for water, food and transport and they are worried about sedimentation of the water and heavy metal pollution from mining operations.

The Sepik Wetlands Management Initiative, a local wetlands management and community development organization, found an increase in silt in the river after test drilling. "The people anticipate environmental, social and cultural disruptions," said chairman Jerry Wana.

Death of long time PNG resident, Cec Russell


I HAVE JUST RECEIVED NEWS that Cec Russell passed on to the great Singsing last week.

He was a contemporary in Moresby in the late 1960s and stayed on, apart from a short return to Australia, until his passing.

He worked in the public solicitor's office for quite a few years and, in more recent times, was lecturing at the Administrative College.

He was, according to the brief report I received, marking exam papers when called away….

(He would say, of course, that exam marking could be a very hazardous exercise.)

I'd write a more complete obituary but, despite being a regular drinking and dinner partner of his back then, I know little about the detail of his life.

Many people will remember him for his considerable eccentricity, erudition and compassion.

He will be remembered for many things, not least of all his ridiculous wit and eccentricities and some will recall that he was the initiator of the inaugural Law Ball.

Transparency keen to improve electoral process


TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL in Papua New Guinea says it hopes to partner with the new government immediately after the election to improve the process for future polls.

In the first week of two weeks of voting many of the faults anticipated in the electoral rolls have shown up.

Lawrence Stephens of TI PNG said, in his personal experience of Kairuku-Hiri in Central Province, there are double entries and names missing from the roll, while there is evidence of electoral officials not following the proper process.

He said, like many things, PNG doesn’t pay enough attention to the state of the electoral roll.

“And the view of TI is that immediately the dust settles we would like to work with government, work with interested people, to find a way to stop this stupidity which ends up with so much confusion at each election,” he said.

Belden Namah proves his critics wrong, by Belden

Emperor in his own mindBELDEN NAMAH

IT IS A SHAME THAT THE PRIME MINISTER Peter O’Neil [sic] is crying foul when all along he was collaborating with the PNG Electoral Commissioner, Mr Andrew Trawen, and the so-called Australian expert advisors advising through Australian High Commissioner, Mr Ian Kemish, for opposing the deferral of the 2012 elections.

Cries have been received from all parts of PNG echoing and demonstrating that our country was and is not ready to proceed with elections this last week. What a disaster. We have more than two hundred (200) plus Australian advisors working for the PNG Electoral Commission who have assisted orchestrate this disaster. What a shame???

I speak with the weight of facts. In my own Vanimo town urban wards, the electoral rolls there were in shambles. More than 5,000 to 6,000 eligible voters’ names were not on the electoral rolls. This is an urban/town ward. You can expect worse going into the rural districts in the electorates.

The Organic Law on National and Local Level Government Elections envisages under sections 71 and 72 that Electoral Rolls in all its three forms i.e. ‘Preliminary Rolls, Primary Rolls & Certified Rolls’ must be ready three (3) months prior to the Issuance of Writs.

All along I have maintained the fact that PNG Electoral Commission was not ready for the National Elections as provisions under sections 71 and 72 had not been met or complied with. The PNG Electoral Commission is required to prepare and finalise the Electoral Rolls three (3) months prior to elections. However, this issue and concern was overlooked by the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill and his cohorts.

Peter O’Neill denied supporting the deferral of the elections when he had physically participated and voted for the deferral in Parliament (63 FOR and 11 AGAINSTS).

We had on numerous occasions held lengthy discussions on this issue and made couple of propositions. One that the caucus agreed to adopt was the proposition by Hon. Dr. Sir Puka Temu. Sir Puka actually proposed to work three (3) months back from the date of the return of writs. Which should I believe have given PNG Electoral Commission sufficient time to adequately prepare the Electoral Rolls in their certified forms.

O’Neill openly criticized me during his election campaign on my initial call to defer the elections to allow PNG Electoral Commission time to prepare properly. This move was to give all eligible voters a fair and equal opportunity to each exercise their democratic rights to vote and elect their leaders.

Peter O’Neill should be ashamed for listening to the PNG Electoral Commissioner and its Australian Advisors. The Unionist turned Politician and wannabe musician Michael Malabag should be ashamed of himself as-well for pushing for elections using the UPNG students and innocent citizens in his capacity as President of Trade Union Congress with his so-called General Secretary John Paska.

If we continue the trend of forever listening to and following foreign advice we will continue face more problems in the future. I have total confidence in our own home grown Papua New Guinean advisors and I am prepared to listen to them. The sad fact is that half of the Papua New Guinean eligible voting population will likely and have unfairly been deprived casting their votes and exercising their democratic right.

We MUST be patriotic and nationalistic in our approach towards decision making for the future of our country. This is a duty we owe to ourselves and our children.

This entire situation could have been avoided had Peter O’Neill stood by his cabinet and parliament resolutions. Peter O’Neill and Andrew Trawen should both be held responsible and accountable for the ill-prepared Electoral Roll and National Elections which are in disarray.

I challenge Peter O’Neill to stop crying over spilt milk. You have done injustice to this country. You have failed the people of Papua New Guinea.

I have always emphasized; “People will criticize me for decisions I make now, but in the future they will look back while they relax in the comforts of their homes and say, “THANK YOU or WE SALUTE YOU Belden Namah”.

Elections in Papua New Guinea are just different



THE WHOLE COUNTRY doesn't vote at once. Elections take place over two weeks: one area voting the day after another.

The paraphernalia of the election – ballot boxes, voting slips, police and security officers – moves around the country like a series of travelling circuses of democracy. 

Parties don't really exist in the way that they're understood elsewhere either.

They're brands rather than platforms. Characters count more than policies.

All of which leaves the question of who might become Papua New Guinea's next prime minister very much in the air. 

It could be one of the two men already claiming to have the top job: Sir Michael Somare and Peter O’Neill have been tussling over who is the rightful prime minister since last year.

It may that another winning candidate emerges altogether.

Whoever ends up in the top job has big tasks ahead: on just about every social indicator, PNG ranks low. In fact, appallingly low given the potential of the country and its recent history – on paper - of economic growth.

Mining natural resources has brought billions of dollars into the state coffers. And yet little has filtered down to schools, hospitals or infrastructure projects. 

Political campaigning in PNG takes place by air – not because it's glamorous, but because that's the only way between the big towns. The rugged country has precious few roads.

The biggest financial boon of all – in fact – is right around the corner. A massive Liquefied Natural Gas Project is due to come on stream in 2014. It should bring $16bn into the country. 

How that money is managed will be critical to PNG's future.

So who is in power to manage it – who wins this election - matters more than ever.

Improvement funds have not been spent properly


THE MP FOR DEI OPEN, Puri Ruing, has rebutted as baseless a number of allegations raised by councillors in his electorate relating to K50m in improvement (DSIP) grants given to the electorate over the last five years.

However, we know that according to the Provincial and Local Level Government Act, every elected MP is entitled to K10 million DSIP fund annually.

Puri Ruing claimed that all 109 MPs were given a total of less than K20m a year. That’s baseless and does not make any sense.

If he didn’t make use of this K50 million in funding during his five year term in parliament, that’s his problem.

Some MPs have been using these funds to bring much needed services to their people. One example is Sam Basil, the MP for Wau Bulolo.

Other MPs have never used these funds to the maximum as required by law. One good example is Miki Kaeok, the MP for my own Wapenamanda electorate.

Elected MPs have no reasons for poor service delivery in their electorates. If they haven’t make use of this legally guaranteed funds, why should they stand again in this election?

Just leave it to others who can do it. People suffer enough when elected MPs enter parliament as ordinary men and come out as millionaires.

We have billions of kina budgeted every year by the government but there is so little transferred to the real world.

What this country needs is transparency, accountability and good governance which will drive this nation forward.

Currently there are high levels of corruption in all offices from national level right down to local level. And that’s very dangerous.

None of the current and former MPs and bureaucrats has been transparent in their dealing with the people’s money. Some of them pretend to be honest but they are worse thieves in the night.

In these elections we have to be selective in choosing good leaders.

Only if we elect honest and transparent leaders will PNG will be rescued. A transparent heart is what PNG needs.

Australia should show 'true leadership', says Bishop


Bishop_JulieSHADOW FOREIGN MINISTER, Julie Bishop, has painted a new vision of Australia’s relations with the Pacific, calling on Australia to “show the leadership and vision that is expected of us in the Pacific” and backing “the forging of true economic partnerships with our great friends” of the Pacific and PNG.

The deputy opposition leader was speaking at the ANU’s Crawford School at a public lecture hosted by the Development Policy Centre.

Highlights of her speech included an endorsement of the Pacific seasonal worker program and PACER Plus, elevation of the relationship with PNG in particular, support for relaxing visa requirements to make it easier for Papua New Guineans to visit Australia, and increased focus on aid effectiveness.

Australia and the Pacific

Noting that talk of the Asian century can easily lead to the overlooking of the Pacific, Ms Bishop argued that the Government “has taken its eyes off the region and has failed to show the necessary leadership or long-term vision that is required of it.”

“Australia needs to create a new narrative that encompasses a shared vision for the Pacific.” Aid was important, but the relationship had to go beyond aid to encompass “defence, trade, investment and diplomatic engagement throughout the region” all under a “focused and effective, practical and principled overarching strategic framework.”

In terms of concrete suggestions, Ms Bishop began with public diplomacy, calling for a better effort from Australian Network and better branding of Australian aid.

Importantly, Ms Bishop noted the benefits of labour mobility for the Pacific. She hailed the success of NZ’s Pacific seasonal worker scheme  in terms both in terms of economic welfare and the generation of goodwill.

Within the context of “looking at ways we can use Australia’s domestic market to support private-sector development in the Pacific,” Ms Bishop called for “strengthening Australia’s existing guest worker program to enable greater numbers of Pacific islanders to undertake seasonal work in this country” and committed the Coalition to “examining the case for the expansion of this program.”

Given the opposition of the Howard Government to a seasonal workers program, this is a significant policy shift for the Coalition.

The Deputy Opposition Leader called for “the establishment of a Pacific-wide economic and trade agreement”  and criticized the Government for not including PACER Plus (the free-trade agreement currently under negotiation) in its statement of trade policy.

Papua New Guinea

Ms Bishop paid special attention to PNG, stating that she was firmly committed to “broadening, deepening and diversifying our links and to ensure that in government, our relationship with PNG will be one of the country’s highest foreign policy priorities.”

Continue reading "Australia should show 'true leadership', says Bishop" »

Somare sustains serial attack on O’Neill government

FORMER PRIME MINISTER Sir Michael Somare has maintained his continuing public criticism of the O’Neill government – this time expressing concerns over allegations of vote rigging in the current election.

Sir Michael says he wants the Police and the Ombudsman Commission to investigate his allegations.

Independent election observers have reported incidents of fraud and abuse throughout the highlands region since polling began on Saturday.

"This is the start of a terrible trend in the country and should not be tolerated," said Sir Michael.

"I call on the Ombudsman Commission and the office of Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates to investigate this and immediately disqualify these members of parliament from contesting these elections."

Sir Michael is once more contesting the East Sepik seat he held for 44 years until his ousting from parliament last August.

Xstrata’s exit of no wider concern, says mining head


THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR of Papua New Guinea’s Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (sponsors of the Crocodile Prize) says the departure of Swiss mining giant Xstrata from the Frieda River copper project is not an indication of wider concern among investors.

Mr Anderson says while it is disappointing that Xstrata plans to sell its 80% stake in the West Sepik project, its $200 million dollar investment has moved the project significantly up the pre-development scale.

He says it’s not the first time the project has changed hands and suggestions that PNG’s political situation is making investors jittery are untrue.

“As I say you’ve got to look at the record. The record is at the moment we’re got an enormous exploration sector going, and it’s at record levels.

“We’ve also brought on two major projects in mining in recent years and the other Nautilus project and we’ve got the LNG project. So it’s a pretty impressive record.”

Mr Anderson says everyone, not only those in mining, wants the elections to restore political stability.

A reflection on the election – so far


FROM THE HIGHLANDS TO THE COAST and throughout the atolls and islands, Papua New Guinea goes to the polls in one of the most decisive moments in its short history

At stake is the question, “what is the appropriate model of development and who will bring thousands of rural communities out of the stone age into the 21st century?”

Despite various setbacks and hiccups, that have become more pronounced due to the advent of mobile technology and the explosion of social media, all systems seem relatively normal.

Long queues are being witnessed throughout the nation of 7.5 million Melanesians who live a stone’s throw away from northern tip of Australia.

As was the case with previous elections, some voters have been turned away at the polling stations as their names weren’t on the voter’ register.

David Williams, a regular commentator on ite Facebook, noted this anomaly with the voter figures:

“I am intrigued to see that there are 4.8 million PNGians on the electoral rolls for this election (Post Courier, 18 June). According to the 2000 Census, there were 5,190,786 people in PNG, and the average annual population growth rate was 3.2%, which means that the 2012 PNG population could be as high as 7,575,120.

“Now consider for a moment that 47.98% of the population are under the age of 18 years - and there are ineligible to vote - that's a whopping 3,634,901 children, babies and teenagers. It leaves behind a total of 3,940,219 PNGians who, being older than 18 are eligible to vote in these elections.

So where then, assuming every single person over 18 years of age in this country is indeed properly registered to vote, do the the other 859,781 voters on the electoral rolls come from?”

Former trade union leader, Michael Malabag, who is contesting the seat held by Sir Mekere Morauta (retiring), has described day one of polling in Port Moresby as “a bloody  shambles”.

Confusion reigned in some parts of the city though senior broadcaster Belinda Kora reported having successfully cast her vote in Port Moresby North East electorate.

Paul Barker from the Institute of National Affairs, reported that Port Moresby was supposed to have one day of polling but there is a possibility of voting to continue tomorrow although there is no official word on the matter.

Meanwhile in the rural areas, the folks in Goilala in the Central Province, have gone full swing into polling with the exception of Tapini government station. Voting in Abau in Central Province is also fully underway.

Voting in Madang has been slow but progressing. Reports from the hundred mountains of Josephstaal indicate a very tense situation. Polling was well and truly underway at Rempi village in the SUMKAR open seat currently held by housing minister Ken Fairweather.

In East Sepik there are reports of ballot boxes being destroyed and smashed in Yangoru and Wosera Districts. Otherwise Police are generally in control of the electoral process.

Sir Michael Somare, the founding father of modern Papua New Guinea is contesting the East Sepik Regional seat, a seat he has held since independence during one of the most colourful political careers anywhere on this planet.

Sir Michael is credited with bringing together 700 indigenous nations and driving into them a sense of nationhood and being united under the flag of a modern state.

These elections for Papua New Guinea’s 8th national parliament mark the end of the independence era as it moves into the post independence parliaments fuelled by the $15 billion dollar gas economy.

A lot is at stake as the country’s elite squabble over power and prestige handed to them by the people’s consent written on a white piece of paper stashed inside a clear plastic ballot box.

An address from the shadows


Th light in the darknessI RETURNED ON SUNDAY NIGHT from a weekend in Minj and I’m very sore and tired from sitting back of a land cruiser during a very bumpy, dusty and cold ride (the Chimbu part of the road, oh help!) but had so many thoughts swirling through my head that I just had to spend today writing to sort it all out.

I very nearly didn't accept the invitation from two friends (cousins) from the same village who were to be ordained as pastors.

I’m very glad now that I did go for I met a gem of a man called Peter and another called Pastor Tumal. Both moved me and challenged me and the emotions that they evoked had to be recorded.

Although I had never met either until Friday night, they drew from me immediate respect in the short time I got to know them.


My friends come from a tribe near Minj town (Kondika) and their clan has been in conflict with another clan these last three years resulting in the destruction of home, land and livelihood.

These two friends along with their clan leaders decided to build a small church (bamboo walls, kapa sheets) to try to bring a sense of community back to their clan who had dispersed and also to pursue peace talks.

When they were appointed to be ordained as pastors (both work in Eastern Highlands one with me in Goroka the other at Kassam near Yonki) they asked that it be done in their village church only just completed.

I arrived at dusk at the destination (the car had to be parked some distance away and a "small" climb had to be made up a mountain).

There was only a bush material church that was not burned during the conflict and this was now used to house all the women and children while the men built makeshift shelters outside to sleep. All were busy preparing food for the mumu that was to feed everyone after the ordination service.

Because it was so crowded in the house and I had given my space to another who had worked all day and was bone weary, I now found myself with no place to sit (the women didn't need me to help peel the vegetables in the house due to space) and so decided to roam around and make myself useful.

The sister of one of my friends took me under her wing and decided I should escort her while she was organising things. We made our way to the mumu area where the man were slaughtering and preparing the pigs for the feast and she led me toward a campfire where she had to find another man who together with her had to make a list of all people they estimated would be in attendance on the morrow and ensure that each group would be recognised and given their share of the food.

Continue reading "An address from the shadows" »

Women bring warring clansmen to the polls


Humari and Yowindali clansmen put differences aside to vote (Alexander Nara)THE HUMARI AND YOWINDALI CLANS in the Papua New Guinea Highlands province of Hela are still at war.

The deaths of five men in recent months from clashes between the two clans in Hela’s Tari local level government area attest to the ferocity of these ancient battles.

Last Saturday the Humari and Yowindali clansmen faced their enemies again, though this time separated by blue tapes that cordoned polling tables, PNG electoral officials and a single ballot box that appeared to be at the centre of everyone’s attention.

It was the start of the 2012 general election and Hela was one of two Highlands provinces to conduct polling.

The Humari and Yowindali clansmen have never been this close nor looked into each other’s eyes since the death of the five men. Around the polling booth, women and children from both sides could be seen whispering with looks of uneasiness mixed with fear.

The clansmen appeared alert and seemed to be watching their opponents’ every move as they kept a watchful eye over their womenfolk and siblings, who queued on both sides of the polling circle behind the blue taped lines.

In the background women could be heard screaming in their local language to their playing children in a bid to maintain some order, whilst polling officials and heavily armed security forces struggled to control the long queue of voters which had begun to squeeze into the polling arena.

Three days before the general election, prime minister Peter O’Neill raised the flag of Hela province to mark the entry of PNG’s newest province and its first ever general election. The Humari and Yowindali clans were now playing a part in the province’s own history.

The clash that triggered a full-scale tribal fight between these two isolated communities was the consequence of an infrastructure royalty payment scheme gone wrong.

At the centre of the dispute were royalty payments for the development of Tari airport, which the villagers charged was not distributed equally and led to the Humari killing two Yowindali clansmen.

The Yowindali in response killed two men from the Humari, further escalating the conflict.

With the two clans are technically in a state of war, there were fears that it could impact on the conduct of voting within the two affected communities, and forcing an intervention by an unlikely party – women and mothers.

According to a number of councillors who spoke to the PNG Defence Force team who accompanied electoral officials to the area, it was vocal women and mothers who managed to get their menfolk to restrain themselves and allow voting to be completed peacefully.

There was a consensus, following the negotiations led by women and mothers that the clash between the two clans should remain on the battlefield and away from the polling booth.

PNGDF Lt Colonel Tony Aseavu, the commander of the soldiers stationed in the area, said his men were high alert and would work tirelessly to ensure trouble-free polling.

While the battle between the Humari and Yowindali clansmen could be fought another day after voting, the election could have sowed the first seeds of peace with electoral officials simultaneously calling members of the warring clans to walk up together, face each other and then publicly cast their votes in front of the community.

Alexander Nara is the PNGDF public relations officer and is currently on tour of duty with the PNG general election security force in the Highlands

An encomium for governor Powes Parkop


Parkop_PowesIN MY VIEW Powes Parkop is still the best Port Moresby City Lakatoi Kapenana (Captain in Motu dialect) to continue his good works after the 2012 national elections.

There are many good reasons why Port Moresby, as capital city of Papua New Guinea, needs Parkop back as city governor for a second term.

First of all, Parkop has been the most successful governor of the National Capital District in this, his first five-year term at City Hall.

He has a well-proven track record of achievement in many community development initiatives since 2007 and the challenges over his five years as governor stand him in good stead to extend into a second term and further progress his vision of making Port Moresby the best city in the South Pacific.

In Parkop’s first term as governor he has also outperformed his parliamentary peers in most aspects of government services and development: whether in road sealing, improving law and order, or reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

He has also recorded achievements in the technical and economic empowerment of the people, infrastructure development, education, sports, and improving the city’s clean image including many community obligation initiatives.

A look at Parkop’s second term platform shows it covers subsidised housing, more roads and highways to ease traffic, conversion of settlements to proper suburbs ( starting with the awarding of title to those who occupy the land), building a ‘Motu-Koitabu Economy’, planning for future city expansion, and job creation.

The other contenders for the NCD governor’s seat are at a serious disadvantage in this election as most have had no prior experience of administering a big city like Port Moresby.

Over the last five years, Parkop has provided Port Moresby and NCD with credible leadership that is visionary, honest and transformational.

Port Moresby needs Powes Parkop for a second term: it will be a good future investment for city residents.

Francis Nii, September 2011Our readers succeed in getting Francis Nii to Moresby
The disabled Simbu writer Francis Nii, who lives in a ward at Kundiawa Hospital, will travel to Port Moresby in September to participate in the Crocodile Prize and to conduct a seminar on the issues and challenges of being a writer in a regional area of Papua New Guinea.
Donors (with more to come): 
Corney K & Tanya Alone; Michelle Moss; Jim Drekore; Trevor Freestone; Anonymous; Keith Jackson; Robin Lillicrap; Anne Griffin; TM; Ed Brumby; Geoffrey Jones; Peter Kranz; David Wall.  Familiar names in there and heartfelt thanks to you all.

Japanese researcher helps solve 70 year mystery


Detail Rabaul & Montevideo Maru MemorialAN INDEFATIGABLE JAPANESE RESEARCHER, who prefers not to be publicly identified, has been able to confirm the authenticity of the list of men who died in the sinking of the Montevideo Maru prison ship on 1 July 1942.

The men – troops and civilians - were being transported from Rabaul to Hainan, China, when the vessel was torpedoed by a US submarine off the Philippines. All the prisoners and many Japanese sailors and marines died in the incident.

Australia’s worst maritime disaster will be marked at a ceremony in Canberra on Sunday when the Rabaul and Montevideo Maru Memorial [detail from invitation at right] is to be dedicated by Australian governor-general Quentin Bryce exactly 70 years after the ship was sunk.

The Japanese researcher, who once worked in Papua New Guinea, has been a most tenacious and assiduous student of the history of the sinking and has devoted years of research to determining the authenticity of records used to identify who exactly was on board the ship.

Earlier this month, he informed Australian authorities that the list of men on the ship, first assembled by Australian Army Major Harold Williams in Japan late 1945 was largely correct.

However he has also identified additional information, covering both civilians and troops.

The National Archives of Australia will unveil the document at a public viewing in Canberra tomorrow.

The researcher and I have been corresponding on this matter for some years, and – through email - I have been privileged to share his journey of discovery through its twists and turns, breakthroughs and setbacks, including the tragic death of leading Australian researcher Chris Diercke two years ago.

Despite having nailed the list down with admirable precision, the Japanese researcher is now extending his study to PNG, which is where some of our readers may be able to help. He has told me:

“One of my most important findings is that there was a complete nominal roll of the men (servicemen and civilians) sent by the Central Army Records Office (2nd Echelon) to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages in Waigani, NCD [Papua New Guinea] in 1966."

If you may be able to help locate this record, you can get in touch with me at PNG Attitude.

Let’s get this talented writer to the Crocodile Prize


Francis Nii, September 2011THE FRANCIS NII STORY is one of triumph, tragedy, and triumph over tragedy.

And the PNG Attitude readers’ story is one far removed from the languid passivity of the supine web surfer.

Our readers boast a notable track record of action – including medical equipment to Kavieng hospital, treatment for a Papuan villager confronting blindness, support for the Crocodile Prize, practical condolence to Reg Renagi, not to mention the recent successful Australian tour by Martyn Namorong.

And now we’re asking you to stand up, put up and stump up again.

Picture a small room tucked away in the paediatric ward of the Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa, Simbu Province.

There sits a man in a wheelchair. He’s nearing 50 and his faced is etched by time, hardship and the heritage of his Salt-Nomane people in the south Simbu.

This man has a degree in economics and was an agricultural economist and banker with Papua New Guinea’s National Development Bank until a car accident on 9 February 1999 left him paraplegic and laid him low. He’s been in hospital for the 13 years since.

Being thus disabled is a particularly tough gig in PNG, where welfare is self-provided and life with a disability is anything but easy. Most people die early.

But Francis Nii has survived. A tough man from Yobai village, he has adapted to tough times. He writes verse and prose (see the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2011), has published a book on the scourge of AIDS (Paradise In Peril), set up the Simbu Association of Persons With Disability, and, recently, was appointed administrator of the Simbu Children Foundation.

We’ve invited Francis to travel to Port Moresby in September to be present at the Crocodile Prize awards and to participate in a discussion group of regional authors at the associated writers forum.

Francis - who is not flush with funds - has been raising money to pay for his travel and accommodation but still requires another $800 to make the trip.

I’ve assured him I’ll obtain the money by hook and by the book (not by crook, no way), and I’m hopeful you may see fit to contribute a spare $20 or $50 to help out. Bank account details follow, as does one of Francis's poems:

Australia - The Crocodile Prize
Bendigo Bank
Account name: SPSS The Crocodile
BSB: 633 000
Account number: 141 021 527
Reference: Francis

Papua New Guinea - Society of Writers, Editors & Publishers
Westpac, Waigani Branch
Account name: PNG Society of Writers, Editors & Publishers
Account number : 6002358726
Reference: Francis

Peaceful Village

By Francis Nii

Kunai hut, remember-me-ever
Wooden bed, forget-me-not
Roasted kaukau is always sweet.
Flowers keep smiling
Birds sing unchanged jungle melodies
While country kids dance free for joy

Waterfalls like silver crystals
Early rainbow kiss the dewy treetops
Kids hide and seek,
And mum and dad have endless honey moon.
No gang of boars, intrude.
Stay gentle village,
Peaceful promise land.

Change is the law


My Father said
All men must
Cultivate the land

But they say
Wake up at dawn
And stop the first cab to work

My Father said
All men must
Make Sago

But they say
Provide wheat and
Bread for breakfast

My Father said
All men find game
But few are called
For those that sleep in hausman

But they say
Education the discipline to success
For their game

My Father said
Money is evil
And family is important

But they say
Money is good
And budget is tight

Oh, my dear Father
Your times were good times
For mine is their time
Because change is the law
And the new must oust the old

Emmanuel Gumaba (26) comes from Oro Province.  He is a Business Development Officer with the National Superannuation Fund of Papua New Guinea

People problems: postcard from the unexpected


I WORK PART TIME AS A VOLUNTEER for a charity which does development work in many countries, one of which is Papua New Guinea.

One of my colleagues whose role is in the development area is currently doing field work setting up a health facility, in conjunction with the local government in Bougainville.

He sent me some photos yesterday which brought back lots of memories of my time in PNG when I was in business.

PNG is promoted as the "Land of the Unexpected" which it most certainly is – although some surprises might not be of the kind a person might be looking for!

My niece and her husband did medical missionary work there and spent their entire time in a compound behind barbed wire.

PNG is incredibly rich in minerals, stunningly beautiful and has amazing wildlife. It is also under developed and has a number of social and political problems.

The people are astonishingly varied with the highlanders exhibiting cultural traits going back into the mists of time.

Their cultural ceremonies re well documented as presenting a phenomenal picture of human adornment with symbolism that would be meaningless to an outsider but tells a multi-faceted story of the wearers.

The highlands are not places one would wish to be wandering around alone, the colloquially named "raskols" could be a problem.

When I arrived, I hired a driver for the entire time who, as we got to know each other, advised on that aspect and many more of interest. "You are better off not going into the highlands as ‘an accident’ might happen to you" he suggested.

My experience with the taxi driver whom I engaged at the Port Moresby airport decided me in favor of getting a full time local.

On the way to my hotel he pulled over into a secluded spot and said menacingly, "You pay me now" and asked an outlandish price.

I decided it was best not to argue, especially as I could chalk it up to expenses anyway. When we got to the hotel he zoomed off as soon as my feet hit the ground.

My subsequently hired driver soon took me into his confidence "Boss, I have a big problem and would like your advice," he said one day.

It turned out that times were tough and "I have three wives and I have to get rid of one, if I describe them to you, could you let me know which one I should let go?"

I demurred, stating I was not familiar enough with the local customs. PNG is a fascinating country and we are honored to be able to make a contribution to its growth.

It has so much to offer and hopefully a balance can be struck.

Commitments, commitments, commitments….


“IF YOU CHOSE ME you wouldn’t have borrowed that money, if you chose me you wouldn’t have sent that money… I hate you, you always leave me hanging…”

His words kept playing over and over in my mind. I felt hurt, so very hurt, and at the same time so sad.

See, for the last five years, I was always borrowing money for him. Not from the bank or taking from my savings but from the worst kind – money lenders in the street.

At first, it was for things we needed to get us by through to the next fortnight. But as time wore on, he got promoted and I got a couple of promotions too, so our earning power improved.

I thought things would change for us; that we would stop borrowing, but we didn’t. Instead, it got worse. From borrowing amounts of K100 to K200 it went to borrowing amounts of K500 and above.

The reasons for borrowing also changed, we no longer borrowed for our daily essentials, we were borrowing just so he could maintain a social life. I had no capacity to repay these loans, especially with the interest that these informal money lenders charged.

We were both earning relatively good salaries, and had the capacity to last a fortnight but instead, our fridge was always empty. I was constantly thinking about where I would find the money to get our next meal, to buy easipay for the house.

It was ridiculous but I was in constant stress. However, he saw none of this. I tried so many times to tell him; I would say, “We can’t go on like this. First we borrowed to buy food and now it’s to maintain your social life.”

But he would just smile and say to me, “It’s OK, the repayment will come from my pay next fortnight.” And every time he said that, I knew that it would be me that would be stressing over yet another loan repayment come the time next fortnight.

At the next fortnight, it would be as I predicted. He’d tell me that we couldn’t afford to repay the loan in full so he’d tell me to pay just the interest component on the loans until the following fortnight.

So I did that for some, on the others I didn’t pay anything at all. And these are the ones that accumulated such huge interest each fortnight that we defaulted on the repayment.

Five years, this went on.  Five years.  And it took a lot out of me to put on a front that things were good and that we were stable financially. But I could not hold on much longer. My punctuality and attendance at work started to decline; I would turn up late to work or just not turn up at all.

This was only because these loan sharks would turn up to my office and wait either at the gate of my workplace, or sit in the reception waiting for me to turn up. On the days I did attend work, they’d greet me first thing in the morning, demanding that their money be repaid in full.

Continue reading "Commitments, commitments, commitments…." »

Reports of major election failures in Hela Province


EYEWITNESSES REPORT THAT history has repeated itself in the southern highlands elections in the new Hela Province, getting Papua New Guinea’s national election off to a very bad start.

Ballot boxes and voting papers have been hijacked, destroyed or signed by candidates and supporters, who have been filling them out at will.

Security personnel are too thin on the ground, fearful for their own safety and obviously useless.

The new province will now be under the control of crooks and thugs, not properly elected leaders.

This is a disaster for the people of Hela. They must take responsibility for what happened but it is a very sad day for Hela.

The Hela poll must now be declared a failed election and the province prepared for proper by-elections later in the year.

How many other highlands provinces will also be like this? This is the failed 2002 national elections all over again?

People did not vote in Hela and certain candidates and the PNG Electoral Commission must be help responsible for the poor planning and conduct of the election operations.

PNG mobilises for a tech-savvy election


Illustration - Simon LetchON THE KOKODA TRACK, about the point where General Tomitaro Horii's invasion force was halted in September 1942 in sight of the Coral Sea, a mobile phone will now pick up the signal from the Port Moresby network.

As Papua New Guinea starts voting today in its national elections, after much worry about whether they would be held within the constitutional timeframe or even run in a meaningful way, many political players and analysts are watching to see how the mobile phone is changing the game.

The last elections took place in 2007, the same year the government deregulated telecommunications and removed the monopoly of the state telecom agency. Two mobile phone companies, Digicel and BeMobile, jumped into the market, and their networks have since expanded to cover 75 per cent of the nearly 7 million population.

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One study a year ago put mobile phone penetration at 48 per cent of the population. Sarah Logan, at the Australian National University, cites estimates that 30 per cent have a mobile phone. Either way, it dwarfs the number with a fixed line connection.

Last year, the mobile networks added a broadband capability, so wireless technology is doing the same leapfrog for internet connectivity, which had linked up only 2 per cent of the population previously. As well as getting general net access, increasing numbers are using social media.

Facebook has 80,000 members in Papua New Guinea, double the total of a year ago. Most are under 40. The Twitter hashtags #PNG and #OccupyWaigani regularly break news much faster than any other source in PNG, Logan notes in the ANU Pacific Institute's Outrigger blog.

"The advent of mobile phones means PNG now arguably has a national communication network for the very first time, outstripping the relatively limited reach of PNG's relatively free press and TV broadcasters and overtaking its ineffective and expensive fixed line network," Logan says.

"Political blogs and Facebook itself also expand the media landscape considerably. This adds an important element of new possibilities of political communication to the already evident economic benefits of the introduction of new technology."

The political effects have already been felt in the capital, Port Moresby. During the political turmoil of the past 10 months, since the ousting of Sir Michael Somare from government, activists have been able to assemble large crowds to protest when public opinion turned against certain manoeuvres.

Another analyst, Danielle Cave, writing in the Lowy Institute's Interpreter blog, says: "The accessibility of mobile internet allows Papua New Guinea's Facebook users to share texts, articles, photos and video immediately while they are on the move - key ingredients for the co-ordination of a large public event."

Continue reading "PNG mobilises for a tech-savvy election" »

Father of The Man


At the end of this short story there are some useful explanatory notes

THE LAND, THE SEA AND THE SKY are swathed in deep orange. The sun is on its final leg of descent as the boy finds him sitting on the beach - legs crossed, arms folded in front, staring blankly at the  masterwork. He sits down quietly next to him.

They stay like this for long moments; watching the spectacle, not speaking.


“I should have gone with her,” he whispers.

The boy turns to him, then turns back to look over the sea.

“I should never have let go off her hand,”


“I think they’re dancing and singing now; just there, on the water’s edge,” the boy pipes up.


“The angels. They are dancing - right there where the sea meets the sky.”  The boy picks up a small driftwood branch close by and points it at the descending glorious sun.

“Hmmff.”  He scoffs then falls silent, ignoring the boy.

The child continues, unperturbed by the condescending reaction from his companion. “They like beautiful lights, like sunset light, because their bodies are made only of lights.”

They both fall silent, each on his own train of thought.

Minutes go by. Out on the reef’s end, the surf is breaking softly, signalling the changing tide. The scorched reef - a good three quarters of a football field - is caught in the kaleidoscopic lights, bringing momentarily to life its corals and rocks and whatever else that are now exposed. The white-sandy beach is bathed pink as it continues unbroken down the south coast of the island. The minutes go by.

He comes to and shakes his head. “I should never have let go of her hand, should not have, never have…..But everything was happening all at once, so very fast.

 “Three big ones hit us, one upon another too quickly. Suddenly, we were going down into the water – people, cargo, everything! It was very, very rough. She was saying a prayer as I reached for her hand and still saying the prayer when we jumped,” he pauses for breath.

The boy stares at him, daring not to move a muscle, lest he change his mind and stopped talking again.

“The rain was pouring down heavily and the wind …. kept on crashing one huge wave onto another.  She was still in my hand as we surfaced, but not for long; another big wave swallowed us, and when we surfaced again, I realised she wasn’t with me.

A pause.

Continue reading "Father of The Man" »

Add one more day


This I say not here
Nor can it touch my soul
For I am who I am
From this day on declare
So say they who despise
Life’s journey whose fathers told
Only one reckless deed
Into the pit of no return
Strip the blindfold
Father’s son
Let the mind think
Mother’s daughter
Sure as dawn, sure as ever
This precious life
Add one more day

My experiences as a medical student in PNG

Papa and me deep in thoughtPOYAP ROONEY

IN 1995, TOWARDS THE END OF GRADE 12 at Port Moresby International High School, when the time came for us to choose what we wanted to do, I was undecided between engineering and medicine.

I remember asking my then girlfriend weather she’d prefer me coming home with greasy, oil stained hands or sterile hands smelling of some medication or another. Neither sounded particularly appealing to her.

In the end I figured I’d take the Science Foundation year at UPNG Waigani, which is both the pre-admission year and the first year of the Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) program. I would learn more science and at the end of the year could still go either way.

As my freshmen-year went by, I found my interest leaning towards medicine. I was intrigued by the science: human physiology, biochemistry and especially anatomy. I pictured myself as a surgeon as did many of my student peers.

I also revelled in the competition. Only the best students would be chosen to do medicine, and I wanted to prove (to who exactly I don’t know) that I was worthy to be counted amongst them.

I wasn’t a particularly brilliant student and at times was probably a bit lazy, but on the occasions that I sat down to understand the material, I thoroughly enjoyed and was very much intrigued by what I was learning.

I continued to play with the awesome Harlequins Rugby Union Team and got into the usual weekend drink-ups and shenanigans as happens with all rugby clubs. However, towards the end of the year, I had to take the rugby posters off the walls and replace them with charts of the Creb’s cycle, periodic tables and the likes.

Towards the end of 1996 I had well and truly decided and was determined to get into medicine. I saw the challenge and the discipline that was required and which would give my life structure, focus and a pathway I felt I wanted to travel.

Another reason behind my interest in science and medicine were that some of the strongest memories I had of my father, who had been murdered six years previously in 1990, were our many conversations about science.

As I read and learned more about things of science, in a way I felt I was continuing these conversations with him.

Continue reading "My experiences as a medical student in PNG" »

Google throws weight behind endangered languages


ABOUT HALF OF ALL world languages— more than 3,000— are currently on the verge of extinction. And the country with most languages under threat is Papua New Guinea.

The Google organisation hopes to stem the tide with its Endangered Languages Project.

Google has teamed up with the new Alliance for Linguistic Diversity, a coalition of global language groups and associations, to give endangered-language speakers and their supporters a place to upload and share their research and collaboration.

The site is at an early stage of development and is not yet fully functional, but there is useful information about the project available here.

The site currently features posts submitted by the Endangered Languages community, including linguistic fieldwork, projects, audio interviews, and transcriptions.

The country with the largest number of threatened languages is PNG, with 222 identified. This is massively disproportionate to the population and shows the richness of PNG's languages and cultures.

The sheer number of languages facing extinction is cause for great concern.

Currently there seems very little information on the site about PNG languages, and this provides a real opportunity for PNG academics, researchers and community groups to get involved.

For example, the valuable information collected by SIL over many years could be uploaded to kick start the PNG effort.

Is it too much to hope that a coordinated national PNG effort could be made to provide information for this valuable project?

With the resources and tools that Google aims to provide this could be a major advance in using technology for recording, documenting and helping to preserve some of PNG's threatened languages and cultures.

A lot of language and cultural research has already been undertaking by PNG and Australian universities and researchers over many years. This could be integrated, updated and made much more accessible by this exciting project from Google.

Wakai wei diwa!

On video assignment for the PNG elections


SBS correspondent Kathy NovakSBS CORRESPONDENT KATHY NOVAK is reporting from Papua New Guinea on the national elections, which are set to end months of political stalemate during which two men claimed to be prime minister.

Friday 22 June – Peter O'Neill campaigns in PNG central highlands

Incumbent prime minister Peter O'Neill used the last day before the elections to campaign in Tari in the central highlands.


Wednesday 20 June - Security tightens ahead of PNG elections

Officers from the Australian Defence Force arrived to the Papua New Guinea Highlands -- a region notorious for election-related violence -- to help beef up security. 


Tuesday 19 June – Poverty and disease key to PNG elections

For many voters, access to housing, transport and health care remain major challenges. And as PNG struggles with an HIV/AIDS epidemic, there are also concerns the election itself will spread more disease.


Encouraging female candidates in the 2012 elections


Loujaya ToniIN WHAT MIGHT BE a world record, 3,435 candidates will contest 111 parliamentary seats in the Papua New Guinea elections that start today.

To say there is a paucity of female representation in PNG’s parliament is a rather massive understatement. There is just one woman in parliament, Dame Carol Kidu, who is Leader of the Opposition, and she is retiring from politics.

In fact, there have only been three other women elected since independence— Dame Josephine Abaijah, Dame Nahau Runi and Waliata Clowes. Not surprisingly PNG is ranked 119 out of 121 countries on female political participation in parliament.

In the 2007 elections there were 2,759 candidates, of which 103 were women. And while Dame Carol was the only woman who won a seat, 2007 was the first time in history where all twenty PNG provinces had women contesting elections.

A report on the 2007 elections showed women candidates are generally more focused on social welfare, family, good governance and rights issues and policies. The report also indicated that women candidates display good leadership and decision making qualities—qualities desperately needed in PNG’s leaders.

Dr Alphonse Gelu from PNG’s National Research Institute recently gave another rather compelling reason to vote women into parliament. “Many ‘Big Men’ don’t do any work, because they don’t have to”, he told a gathering in Port Moresby a few weeks ago that.

Whether this statement was accurate or not, the feeling that PNG is suffering from poor leadership is pervasive in the country’s newspapers, TV bulletins, blogs and airwaves.

This year there are 676 more candidates than in 2007, but only 32 of this additional number are women. It’s not surprising that women in PNG don’t contest elections in proportion to their overall numbers.

In PNG, compared to male candidates, female candidates have far more limited access to funding to run their campaigns. Women have difficulty attracting good campaign staff, partly because, as history shows, they have almost zero chances of being elected to a position where they can actually pay their staff. All this conspires to deny women a fair go, and there’s a good chance this will happen again in 2012.

Limited preferential voting, introduced in the 2007 election, provided another avenue for cashed-up candidates to improve their chances of election, according to Dr Gelu, by the sale of preferences. Preference one is K50, preference two is K30 and preference K3-10.

Continue reading "Encouraging female candidates in the 2012 elections" »

Copper major Xstrata puts Frieda up for sale

GLOBAL MINING GIANT Xstrata wants to sell all or part of its 81.8% share in the Frieda River copper project. The stake is valued at over $2 billion.

Analysts say Xstrata’s decision is the result of a review of its development projects worldwide reflecting pressure to conserve capital amid uncertainty over global growth, rising costs and falling commodity prices.

But it could also be an indicator of the risks of doing business in the increasingly politically unstable landscape of Papua New Guinea.

One commentator told PNG Attitude that “poor project development decisions” regarding landowner rights had “poisoned the chalice of resource investment” in PNG.

“Resource companies and landowners can strike deals, but political interference and corruption have got in the way of good decision-making,” according to the source.

Meanwhile an Xstrata spokeswoman said the company has not yet decided whether to sell all or part of Frieda River.

"As part of this process we are assessing the interest of other investors," she told Reuters.

A critical concern for buyers would be the $5.3 billion cost of developing the Frieda River project.

Analysts say Chinese companies, possibly including Metallurgical Corp of China (MCC), could be interested in Xstrata's stake.

Frieda River has an estimated resource of 12 million tonnes of copper and 18.5 million ounces of gold, and could produce 246,000 tonnes of copper a year, according to a pre-feasibility study.

How to make PNG a regional middle power by 2050


THIS ARTICLE PROVIDES a simple strategic calculus for the new Papua New Guinea government as a roadmap to navigate or manoeuvre PNG through the uncertain environment of the early 21st century.

It argues that PNG should translate its latent power into national state power by 2050 and the key questions it frames are: What is the current status of PNG given its rich resources? How do we see PNG in future? And how can PNG translate its rich resources into national power?

National state power is a projection of state power expressed in terms of hard (military) and soft (economic) power. A country with national power is one that is strategically located with sufficient economic resources fully guarded by a strong military that is able to influence others in the international system to get what it wants.

As far as national power is concerned, PNG has some of these attributes to project as a middle power but is impaired by external influences and governance issues.

Since independence there has been no concerted effort to conceptualise this strategic thinking, and few people have articulated this.

PNG in a geopolitical sense is very strategic as is cogently expressed in the dictum ‘an island of gold floating on oil and powered by gas’.

Modernization and industrialization driven by complex web of interdependence and globalization is the flag of the 21st century which PNG must embrace by developing new thinking to rationally position itself in the world order.

PNG is not an island on its own – it is internationally connected. What happens in other parts of the world affects us. For instance, US foreign policies in the western Pacific will affect PNG’s foreign policy and strategic interaction in the region.

Our government should balance investment in economic growth and social development, with military power.

A grand strategy suggests achieving middle power status in the region by 2050. The strategy needs to identify and develop four key areas: human capital; economic independence and economic growth; social development; and international relations and security.

The tactic is to develop in each area through political will and support. The logic is simple: national state power is a function of economic power.

Economy and national power play a co-functioning role where wealth is created from economy through the protection of a strong military. A new garden without a fence is highly vulnerable to wild animals. Economic and social development is guaranteed through national state power.

First, the role of human capital is to translate ideas into wealth. PNG has an untapped smart population that needs economizing. The general education, technical and higher education, research science and technology sector have been given inadequate emphasis.

Continue reading "How to make PNG a regional middle power by 2050" »

A myth of leadership: ‘young leaders are better’


WE LIVE IN A DAY AND AGE where many people believe that young leadership is better than old. We hear it everywhere now.

People complain that the time for the elder has gone. We think “old timers” have passed their “best by” or “use by” dates and should no longer be on the scene. We need “fresh, young” leaders to take our nation forward.

We are increasingly seeing a good number of newspaper articles and letters calling for young leadership to take this country forward. Some have even made it their calling card.

Use those words “young and fresh” interchangeably with “vibrant, energetic, passionate and straightshooter” and you can create the perfect salad of leadership. Really?

I may be considered a ‘young leader’, but I’m under no illusion that young equates with best.

History has shown that young leadership has given the world some of its worst atrocities and shameful experiences.

In PNG recent events have proven to us that young is not always best, perhaps not in terms of atrocities but certainly down there amongst the worst of events.

I’m reminded of the Biblical story of Rehoboam son of King Solomon.

When he took office Rehoboam was asked by his people to reduce the tax burdens his father had placed on them. He first listened to his elder advisers who told him to listen to the people and ease their tax burdens.

In their words they said, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them...they will always be your servants.” But then he consulted younger men, his peers who had grown up with him, and they told him to increase the people’s burdens manifold.

They said, “Tell the people ‘my little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. He laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions’.”

So he rejected the old men’s advice and took the young. And his legacy is as the king who split Israel in half.

The young men’s answer illustrates a few shortcomings of young leaders (and here I include myself):

Continue reading "A myth of leadership: ‘young leaders are better’" »

Many of our PNG voters are election whores


PAPUA NEW GUINEA has never really had a bipolar parliament of left and right or progressive and conservative, whichever way you wanna see it.

In the next parliament we see developing now a quasi-polarized political situation of pro-Somare and anti-Somare.

Looks like we haven't seen the end of the political crisis.

I can't imagine O'Neill and Namah allowing Somare back into power. They and their accomplices risk being thrown into prison if they aren't in power.

The disciplinary forces are already compromised and it is difficult to see whether there will be any impartiality on their part.

Papua New Guinean voters can define their own destiny by not returning all 109 sitting MPs. But I have no faith in the gullible PNG voters. Many have become election whores.

In any case I expect record hits on my blog as this nation run by drunks staggers from one crisis to another.

Top week at the polls folks!

The 2005 election in Bougainville’s ‘no go zone’


IN THESE WEEKS OF JUBILATION for Bougainvilleans on the seventh anniversary of the birth of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, I want to look back at the year 2005, when the process of making today’s government was undertaken.

This first ever Bougainville general election in 2005 created the inaugural Bougainville autonomous government under the leadership of the late Joseph Kabui.

Unofficially walking out of the University of Papua New Guinea in 2004, late in that year I ended up supervising an AusAID project on researching crime on the streets of Arawa.

At the same time, I was assisting the Kieta District Manager, Otto Noruka, in his strategising of how the election should be executed in the No Go Zone of Ioro constituency (Panguna).

During this period, with the formation of an autonomous government in the air, the Meekamui was active in undermining democracy and ‘people power’.

The late Francis Ona’s two ‘iron men’, Moses Pipiro and Chris Uma, were often at loggerheads. Both were anti-ABG, but between them there was a wide political divide of who was the rightful boss of the Panguna area.

Thus, out of Bougainville’s 33 constituencies, Ioro (Panguna) was a special case. First and foremost, it was the Francis Ona’s Meekamui stronghold; then it was where most of the people who terrorised the peace process were based and repelled pro-peace government officials.

Upon my appointment as Assistant Returning Officer for what was my home constituency, I got the pro-peace Bougainville Revolutionary Army ‘A’ company commander, Peter Onabui (the man who had led the seven-man assault on the PNGDF in late 1992 and killed eight soldiers), into my eight election teams. He willingly accepted and helped greatly.

After securing Peter Onabui to the cause, I named every polling booth using my well established knowledge of the constituency. The main problem that remained was the appointment of polling officials to man the booths.

The problem was the culture in Bougainville whereby everybody wanted to be part of the effort despite the fact that the system cannot cater for everyone, especially financially. And most, seeing themselves as being neglected, resorted to a threat of arms. This often demoralised new people.

My eight polling booths (some were to move from one location to another to accommodate voters) were Okoni (mobile), Narinai, Bapong (mobile), Tonanau, Barako (mobile), Toku (mobile), Dapera and Parakake. And so I went about seeking former BRA men to lead.

As I was scavenging the Toio Valley south of the Panguna mine and behind the Guava-Kokore ridge looking for men to work as polling officials, a former BRA man handed me a Colt M1917 .45 revolver. However I encountered nothing negative so it was that the teams were readied and their names forwarded to Returning Officer Noruka for approval.

Then, the teams attended the three day election workshop at the United Church Youth Centre complex and were intellectually and economically geared for the tasks at hand.

The last concern to me and my teams was the transport of the ballot boxes to and back from Panguna.

Continue reading "The 2005 election in Bougainville’s ‘no go zone’" »

Will an election restore a ‘disorderly democracy’?


ALTHOUGH PAPUA NEW GUINEA has something of a reputation as a politically unstable country, it has in fact been one of the few post-colonial states to maintain an unbroken record of democratic government, with national elections held on schedule and governments changing by constitutional means.

Recent events, however, have threatened to undermine its democratic Westminster institutions.

Every government in Papua New Guinea has been a coalition government, and up till 2002 there had been a change of government in mid parliamentary term in every parliament, mostly as a result of votes of no confidence against the prime minister.

Elections are fiercely contested in Papua New Guinea, but they are characterized by numerous political parties which lack mass bases and whose policies are barely differentiated from one another, and large numbers of candidates; electoral outcomes in single-member constituencies are determined largely by local issues and local loyalties.

Up till 2001 it was common for MPs to ‘hop’ from one party to another and for parties to move from one coalition to another seeking political advantage and rewards. In that year an Organic Law on the Integrity of Political Parties and Candidates (OLIPPAC)[i] came into effect with the aim of strengthening parties and addressing the instability which resulted from party hopping and shifting coalitions.

In fact, the OLIPPAC did not prevent parties from splitting nor MPs from moving from one side of the house to the other. Nevertheless, in 2007 Sir Michael Somare became the first prime minister to survive a full parliamentary term.[ii]

He achieved this not so much through the provisions of the OLIPPAC as through the use of his coalition majority, and a compliant speaker, to manipulate parliamentary procedures and adjourn parliament for months on end when threatened with a vote of no confidence.[iii]

In July 2010 the Supreme Court ruled against those provisions restricting the behaviour of MPs, opening the way for a full resumption of party hopping and coalition reshuffling. A number of MPs from Somare’s National Alliance (NA) left the party.

In August 2011, while Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare was on extended absence recuperating from a series of heart operations in Singapore, the National Parliament declared the prime ministership vacant, without acknowledging the constitutional provisions required for such a decision, and elected former finance minister Peter O’Neill as the new prime minister.

O’Neill won the vote by 70 votes to 24. O’Neill appointed as his deputy prime minister Belden Namah, a former member of the NA party, who had initiated what has been described as the ‘political coup’. The East Sepik Provincial government (Somare’s electorate is East Sepik Provincial) promptly challenged the parliament’s actions.

Continue reading "Will an election restore a ‘disorderly democracy’?" »

Could PNG create a truly Melanesian parliament?


OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS there have been some energetic discussions about the form of government Papua New Guinea was bequeathed at independence.

From a PNG perspective, many people lament a perceived lack of traditional Melanesian customs and culture in the current Westminster style national parliament.

The principle of a majority government and a minority opposition does not sit well with the PNG psyche. Calls to end the impasse between Somare and the O’Neill/Namah groups using traditional Melanesian custom have been increasing.

One notable MP voicing this request is the member for Kandep, Don Polye, leader of the THE Party.

In traditional Melanesian debate the denigration of others was not welcomed. Making negative remarks about one another could well give offence and was assiduously avoided.

Grand theatre was the accepted norm and everyone enjoyed the spectacle without anyone feeling slighted and upset. Social cohesion was achieved by gift-giving and reciprocity.

When opposition leader in a previous parliament, Peter O’Neill openly considered joining then prime minister Michael Somare in a government of national unity. He clearly saw nothing wrong with the idea that the PNG parliament would have no opposition to debate government actions.

Some see the continuation of Melanesian kastom (custom) in the current PNG political process as creating a fertile garden where the weeds of corruption are allowed to flourish. Majority decisions reached on the floor of parliament are increasingly expected to be law as soon as they are made. The ability to distribute largesse and material goods was the traditional PNG benchmark denoting status and wealth.

Many still remember then deputy prime minister Iambakey Okuk handing out 96,000 bottles of beer to his electorate just before an election. The voters drank the beer but subsequently elected John Nilkare, a former magistrate and Liquor Licensing Commissioner. Yet while PNG should be moving away from the concept of a ‘big man’, old habits die hard.

So what aspects of the PNG parliament are foreign or ‘unMelanesian’? Let us peel back some of the layers of ‘unMelanesian’ thinking and examine how traditional decision making in PNG took place.

The concept of a government and an opposition is one that developed elsewhere and often provided a forum for vested interests. It is foreign to PNG.

Traditional village life and decision making in PNG involved a clear delineation of gender roles and responsibilities. Men hunted, built houses and defended the family or clan against attack. Women bore children and tended the gardens to produce food.

Each gender had clearly defined roles yet when it came time for important decisions to be made, those decisions might be overtly made by the men but often only after covertly seeking the women’s opinion. This quite possibly was because the ability to produce wealth and power depended on the labours of the women.

Continue reading "Could PNG create a truly Melanesian parliament?" »

Reflections on Bougainville’s 7 years of autonomy


FROM THE SUPPRESSIVE and exploitative claws of Papua New Guinea, violent protests gave Bougainville a provincial government. Ten years of bloodletting gave us autonomy. And what will give us nationhood?

The government of PNG under the leadership of prime minister Sir Michael Somare approved the Constitution Bill in December 2004.

After this, the constitution was adopted by the Bougainville Constituent Assembly on 12 November 2004 in Buin, South Bougainville.

The constitution was presented to people of Bougainville by then Minister for Inter-Government Relations, Sir Peter Barter, at a ceremony in Arawa on 14 January 2005.

On the 16 June 2005, we gathered on the lawns of Hahela Primary School to witness the birth of an infant, the Bougainville Autonomous Government that was and is a wedlock child of Bougainville’s 10 years of conflict.

As Bougainvilleans, we did not nurture or purchase this crisis, rather it was our island’s fate as it attempted to skedaddle out of the noisome way of suppression and exploitation.

This new government was founded on a society of haunting nonconformists that continue to affectd us economically and politically. I refer to the two conflicting want-to-lead setups, the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) and the Meekamui.

To most Bougainvilleans, the ABG fitted the American concept of ‘a government by the people; of the people and for the people’. 

Thus, it functioned well with the people and external forces like the PNG government, aid donors and especially the government of Australia, where most of our development aid is sourced.

But, I am yet to identify where to slot in the Meekamui when considering the sovereignty of PNG and the United Nations-enforced international laws.

Nonetheless, our ABG has survived the nightmare so far, as the Meekamui exposed internal divisions and fragmentation.

In the first ABG parliament (2005-08), led initially by the late Joseph Kabui and continued by James Tanis (2008-10), there were several significant issues for Bougainville that had far reaching impacts on our island.

This first house, in my observation, in terms of decision making was more focussed on creating cordial relationships for our financially zero-balanced government.

This included practical manifestations such as the K95 million Japanese Bakanovi to Rawa bridging project.

However, the stunt of the regime was the Invincible Resources affair with Lindsay Semple, an Australian based in Canada. In this project, Sam Kauona went from rebel army commander to President Kabui's key financial adviser - and was not even on the government payroll.

Kauona, to many, was the man who engineered the Semple project and then coerced his old crony, the late President Kabui (see who as leader was struggling to make ends meet for his government and people.

The deal, according to the ABC’s Steve Marshall, gave Semple 70% of Bougainville’s untapped mineral resources, fishing rights and forestry rights.

This was just one example of a leadership running in a politically conflicted environment in its desperation to provide goods and services for post-conflict Bougainville.

Many leaders, and even ordinary people, condemned the ABG - Invincible Resource ‘deal’. But we were all visionaries without knowledge of what practical steps might clear the then politically hostile air of Bougainville. The leadership then was the most pressured I had ever seen as it sought to find means and ways to empower government.

Continue reading "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!

The last year of John Garia’s childhood


IT WAS THE MID 1960s in the old colonial Territory of Papua New Guinea and the English language was held in reverential awe.

Much of the coastal Papua region had been colonised. There were many primary schools scattered along the coastal villages. Children whose villages did not have a school usually went to live and board with relatives where there was a school.

Manumanu was one such village without a school, so some of the Manumanu children were in villages such as Hisiu to the west, and, Porebada and Hanuabada to the east.

John-Garia, a 13-year old lad at the time, came from a big, affluent family in Hanuabada. Hanuabada – a Port Moresby icon - was a modern village rebuilt after World War II. It had two primary schools: a government school and a Catholic mission school.

Young John-Garia attended the mission school run the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart order. The teaching staff included nuns, Australian volunteers and highly qualified national teachers.

The level of education was high. At 13 and in Grade 5, young John Garia spoke fluent English. He was a bright and promising student.

The end of the 1965 school year had come around. At the school’s speech day in early November, John Garia received first place awards for mathematics, religious instruction and English.

His father was very happy with his results and the family had rewarded him with a Christmas holiday trip to visit relatives at Manumanu, the last Motu speaking village some 100 kilometres west along the coast.

To every schoolboy, a visit to another village was a big deal as it meant going to see a new place and meeting new people. John Garia was going away for six weeks, and his excitement and expectations were enormous.

His father had arranged with a distant relative, Rabu from Manumanu villag, to come to Hanuabada and pick up a double hull canoe used for fishing. This gift enhanced and strengthened family ties, who would live in his father’s debt until a gift of a similar value was returned sometime in the future.

The relatives from Manumanu arrived in Hanuabada in early November to collect the canoe and sail it down the coast with help of the south-east trade-wind, laurabada. John Garia had met uncle Rabu on numerous occasions and was familiar with him.

For the return trip to Port Moresby in January, his father had reserved passage for him on the MV Kibi, part of a fleet of five diesel engine powered wooden boats owned by Steamships Trading Company.

These boats carried cargo and passengers along the Papuan coastline and were affectionately known as K-Boats as their names stated with the letter “K”; the others in the fleet being MV Kuku, MV Kone, MV Kaia, and MV Koke.

On the day of their departure, uncle Rabu and four other relatives loaded the canoe, made ready the sails and they were off sailing into the wind by mid-day. By the evening, the group arrived at Porebada, a Motuan village some 30 km down the west coast.

Continue reading "The last year of John Garia’s childhood" »



Oh! Kneel at the feet of this son
Of shrouded mountain rages
And deep, misty valleys

Make a pathway for this son
Yodel to mountaintops of faraway tribes
Tell them, He cometh!

O’Kneel at the feet of this man!
Whose blood mixes with white clay
Whose mama is resilient as the earth she was borne to toil

From obscurity to the stages of the world
He places his feet without fear
On his shoulder a thousand tribes he bears
In his palms, seven million souls rest their dreams

Will He endure the turbulent political tides?
Will He fasten the cords of corrupted foes?

Will He be the light in the corridors of the Tambaran?
Will He be the face of sweeping changes?

O’Kneel at the feet of this obscure boy!
Bring plumes to his head
Spread lies in his path
For he cometh! O’Neill!

Trawen calls on candidates to prevent fighting


PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S electoral commissioner Andrew Trawen has called on election candidates to stop their supporters from fighting with supporters of rival candidates.

In the last few weeks, there have been two campaign-related killings and a number of shootings involving supporters of rival candidates in the Highlands.

The bulk of PNG’s security forces have been deployed to the Highlands well ahead of the two week polling period beginning Saturday.

Police have voiced concern about the arms build-up in the region and Mr Trawen says they are doing their best to stem the fighting.

“We did a lot of campaigning, trying to discourage people from taking up arms and accusing each other,” he said.

“But unfortunately it happened and I’d like to appeal to candidates out there to control their supporters and discourage them from fighting amongst themselves.”

Breaking the big man brand – A day with Kenneth Thomson


Kenneth Thomson election flierI CHECKED MY NEWSFEED on facebook and it was the usual; hormonal teenagers and their status updates, chronicling their fallings in and fallings out of love, in emotional and hybrid threads of Tok Pisin and English.

Among the love-sick clutter I found a thread by intending candidate for Moresby North-West Open and my Port Moresby National High School fellow alumni Kenneth Thomson.

The thread read: “Hosting a Fundraising BBQ now at the Gerehu Secondary School Hall. Everyone is welcome....!”

The thread struck me as unusual. Here was a candidate trying to raise funds for his campaign. Being a Moresby North-West native, that struck as extremely unusual and out-of-place with the “scheme of things” we in Papua New Guinea at election time have come to expect.

I have in my 21 years endured three general elections already and a by-election for the National Capital District regional seat in 2006 when Sir William Skate, the incumbent, died of heart failure.

I had never come across a fund-raising drive for a candidate in all these election experiences in the most ethnically diverse and commercialised district in Papua New Guinea.

Elections in Moresby North-West are unique. The urban road networks come to a standstill as noisy convoy competes with noisy convoy; loudspeakers, traditional dancers, messages of reform and all.

It’s the mad cacophony of the season’s carnival; its election fever in Port Moresby; of now or never sentiments and saviours of country and electorate, not foretold by prophets of old, but by posters, tarpaulin banners and rabid legions of supporter on file after dirty file of the noisy convoys.

The candidate is usually represented as the Big Man; he is the alpha-male in Melanesian society. It is hoped the notion of the Big Man will attract the confidence of potential voters.

In elections, this usually means establishing a reputation of material wealth; hence the noisy convoys – the saviour rhetoric is perhaps added for good measure.

The candidate, in order to come across as the Big Man has to be a man with money. His generosity with wealth and his seemingly depthless pockets are hoped to impress on the voters that he is the leader that they deserve.

Just like any Big Man of Melanesian old, the election candidate is an uneasy marriage of truth-telling, myth-making and mauswara. I was pleasantly surprised attending the fundraiser that Kenneth Thomson was none of these things.

At the fundraising barbeque I saw Kenneth’s schoolmates and teachers from Philip Aravure Primary School and Gerehu Primary School and Gerehu Secondary and Port Moresby National High School.

I saw youths and mothers from the Gerehu Stage 1 street where Kenneth grew up. I saw Kenneth’s family and his supporters from UPNG. Inside the Gerehu Secondary Hall, the giant mural of antiquity and modernity being bridged by two kids in school uniforms struck me as moving.

Continue reading "Breaking the big man brand – A day with Kenneth Thomson" »

Former MHA fronts up again for national election


WARREN DUTTON, WHO SERVED in the second House of Assembly from 1968-72, has again nominated for parliament, in the seat of North Fly where he’s lived for 50 years.

“Old but bold,” Mr Dutton says of his candidacy, hoping to resume a political career that, after the first stint, kicked on again from 1977 to 1987 and included periods as Police Minister and then Justice Minister.

He has been the chairman of Ningerum Transport Ltd since 1969 and of North Fly Rubber. since 1992. He has also played a large part in seeking to secure the development and well-being of a region often described as being the poorest in Papua New Guinea.

Mr Dutton’s policies include continuing to promote the rubber industry by building roads and providing affordable river transport where it is more efficient than roads.

With the slogan “help all people to help themselves”, he also intends to cooperate with the Western Province administration, Ok Tedi Mining and other resource development companies to provide improved services to rubber growers, vanilla growers and “all other people who are prepared to work hard for their children’s future.”

Mr Dutton says he will also work with local level government to provide development projects at village level.

Among his more expansive policies is to assist West Papuan refugees become full citizens of PNG and to insist that all outstanding land disputes be mediated as soon as possible, “so that all true landowners can participate in the development of their traditional land.”

Top politicians trade insults in lead up to poll


PAPUA NEW GUINEA’S leading politicians are busy trading insults as campaigning heats up for the general election.

With polling starting this weekend, the current output of PNG’s media outlets is dominated by sound bites from would-be Prime Ministers.

The man who PNG’s Supreme Court ruled was illegally ousted as prime minister last August, Sir Michael Somare, predicts he’ll retain the East Sepik seat, become prime minister again and topple what he describes as the rogue regime of Peter O’Neill and Belden Namah.

Mr Namah, who has made clear his intention to be prime minister, says Sir Michael will be lucky to come fourth in his seat and has told Chimbu voters not to vote for Mr O’Neill’s People’s National Congress Party, alleging they are thieves.

This is despite he and Mr O’Neill having signed a pact to maintain their coalition.

Subsequently, a senior PNC MP, Francis Awesa, declared that neither Mr Namah nor another leading prime ministerial candidate Don Polye are qualified to be prime minister.”

The blight on us that is the Zero Tavern


THE ZERO TAVERN HAS BECOME a breeding ground for prostitution, diseases and social problems in Markham District.

Mipla sta lo Zero na kam ya” [‘we’ve been at Zero’] are the words from the drunkards returning from ‘nightshifts’ at Ngarubaruamp, which has become a hot spot for drivers travelling along the Okuk Highway.

The place is just a few minutes drive from Mutzing, near the district headquarters of Kaiapit in the Markham District.

Situated right next to the local village of Sangan lies the Zero Tavern. The place where people of all shape and sizes come to drink and find that big word ‘sex’.

It comes to life only at night. Young girls and mothers are found in tight jeans with eyes searching for money givers. Wait a minute and you will see them approaching and then off they head for the car.

These immoral activities have been going on for years now and have caused too many problems.

Many Highlanders have settled near the tavern, living in shelters which are not fit to be called houses because they looked abandoned and destroyed. Elderly women who can still make good kaukau gardens and look after pigs live in these so-called houses.

There are cases where the people steal from each other and you see them lining up in front of the Mutzing police station arguing and calling out all sorts of obscene words.

I have witnessed a case where an elderly woman from the Western Highlands was accused of stealing K500 from a man was belted her right in front of the police station, tearing her skirt and exposing the buttocks.

In another incident, the wife of man from Sampubangin, a local village, fought another woman claiming she had an affair with her husband.

Those are just some of the shows put on by the people from the Zero Traven. You see these when you come out of your house trying to catch the rising sun or strolling to the market perhaps to grab a handful of Madang buai and loose cigarettes.

It is a big concern, as students from the Markham Valley secondary school are also seen in front of the tavern enjoying themselves. Teachers have raised concerns because some students have been expelled from school.

After having a good time at Zero Tavern, the drinkers march up and down the station swearing and shouting and disturbing the peace.

My dad works there with the Department of Agriculture and Livestock, so I have been witness to all these nuisance.

The tavern is attracting a lot of people and causing an increase in prostitution and the number of sexually transmitted diseases. Young girls are engaging in sex for money causing problems for married couples and the community as a whole.

Meanwhile domestic violence is a daily activity. According to Wanti Wain, a local welfare officer, the number of women going to the office to seek advice is increasing.

In addition, there are no proper toilets built near the site and this gives rise to diarrhoea and cholera. Rubbish is found everywhere and the cooked food sold is poor and causes health problems.

The number of Highlanders settling here is increasing and the overcrowding might create conflicts between the Markhams and the Highlanders.

It is about time the responsible authorities and the Health Department stepped in and did something for the good of the local people and those living and working in the district. Migration has to be controlled and there has to be a friendly relationship between people of different cultures and traditions.

HIV AIDS is now everyone’s business and people should work together to fight against it. Domestic violence is a crime against women and needs to be addressed. Moreover, we all need respect and a friendly peaceful environment to live in.