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93 posts from September 2012

Best of the best: The Crocodile Prize winners for 2012


Croc TrophiesSteamships Prize for Short Stories - Charlotte Vada
PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers Prize for Poetry - Michael Dom
PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Prize for Essays & Journalism - Emma Wakpi
Cleland Family Prize for Heritage Literature - Lorraine Basse
Ex PNG Chalkies' Yokomo Prize for Student Writing -Angeline Low
Ok Tedi Mining Prize for Women's Literature - Imelda Yabara
British American Tobacco (PNG) Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Literature - Russell Soaba

Prize winners who were not at the awards can collect their prizes at the Australian High Commission or contact Ruth Moiam at the AHC to send your prize money and trophy to you - KJ

THIS YEAR THERE WERE NEARLY 600 ENTRIES in the Crocodile Prize national literary competition, all vying for 10 prizes on offer in seven categories.

Among the entries there were many accomplished and well written pieces of creative writing. This made the judges’ task most difficult but they put their minds to it and have come up with the prize winners.

Vada-CharlotteThe winner of the Steamships Prize for Short Stories (Russell Soaba Award) is Charlotte Vada for her story The Fan.

Commenting on this story one of the judges said, “It’s assured, with a strong narrative arc, a good build-up of tension, well resolved and surprisingly so, with the return to the fan. Very neat indeed.

“I also liked the balance of points of view between the two boys, and I found both of them very believable. Good dialogue, I liked her confidence in using tok pisin without feeling the need to translate.

“Charlotte’s prose style is confident, economical and relaxed. A very accomplished piece of work by a writer in control of her craft”.

Dom_MichaelThe winner of the PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers Prize for Poetry (John Kasaipwalova Award) is Michael Dom for his poem Sonnet 3: I met a pig farmer the other day.

This poem has a number of outstanding aspects. Firstly, it successfully conveys both the traditional and contemporary in Papua New Guinea. Secondly it is technically accomplished; the sonnet is an old but not easily mastered poetic form, but Michael has not only achieved mastery but has given it a distinctly Papua New Guinean flavour.

Finally, the poem comes from a body of submitted work which is singularly outstanding, particularly for its mix of innovative, quirky and traditional styles.

Michael is on assignment in Honiara and was represented at the awards ceremony by his mother, Ruth Maldoa Dom, and niece, Illeana Maldoa II Dom. Michael has dedicated his first collection of poems to both of them.

Wakpi_EmmaThe winner of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum Prize for Essays & Journalism (Sean Dorney Award) is Emma Wakpi for her essay The Haunting.

Emma demonstrated an easy-to-read and incisive style in this essay and in her other entries as well as a positive and encouraging outlook, something that Papua New Guinea really needs at the moment.

Her work stands in stark contrast to entries which dwell so much on the negative aspects of Papua New Guinean society or are written in a deliberately provocative manner.

Provocation, as distinct from sensationalism, has a place in journalism but it does not work so well when it overwhelms its subject matter. Emma’s essay is also refreshingly free of any technical obfuscation.

The winner of the Cleland Family Prize for Heritage Literature is Lorraine Basse for her story Barasi - The Manam Way.

The judges had a difficult time with this category because so many entries offered a mix of heritage, history and modern themes.

In contrast, Lorraine’s entry is a well researched and readable account of an age-old tradition which has survived, largely intact, the perilous journey into modern times.

It is differentiated from many of the other entries by resonating with factual authority, not least because of its rendering of traditional song. The piece also highlights the place of women in tradition, something that is often overlooked in favour of men.

The winner of the Ex PNG Chalkies' Yokomo Prize for Student Writing is Angeline Low for her short story Going through the Unimaginable.

The story is outstanding for several reasons. Firstly, the subject matter is extremely sensitive and one which would test the talents of someone much older than Angeline’s 16 years.

It also has a ring of authenticity which is helped tremendously by Angeline’s confident control of dialogue and narrative as the tension builds up to its shocking culmination.

Lastly it is a bold attempt to expose an element of society that is often shamefully hidden.

One of the judges said the story “is a reflection of the social conscience, not only of what happens in PNG but all around the world”.

One of the major sponsors, and a judge of the Yokomo Prize, made the following observation: “Given the breast beating about the decline of educational standards, the quality of the English language expression was rather good, better than I'd expected … and comforting”.

With this in mind and a desire to encourage young writers in PNG a late decision was made to extend the award to three runners-up in the student category. The three winners in the AustAsia Pacific Health Services Encouragement Awards for Student Writers are Axel Rice, Jeremiah Toni and Kayla Reimann.

Space does not permit a detailed account of these writer’s work suffice to say that Axel impressed the judges with his choice of ‘adventure’ genre and journalistic flavour, Jeremiah with his surprising poetic imagery and Kayla for her maturity and breadth of subject matter.

As readers will see, this year’s winners are dominated by women writers. This made the choice in the Ok Tedi Mining Prize for Women's Literature (Dame Carol Kidu Award) extra difficult but the judges agreed the winner is Imelda Yabara for her short story, My Name is Sandy and her poems In Bed with Me and Way Out of Reach.

In making this judgement particular attention was made to the relevance of the subject matter to women and, of course, excellence in writing. Imelda had impressed the judges in 2011 and they were further impressed by how her work has maintained a consistently high standard into 2012.

The final award in the competition and perhaps the easiest to judge is the British American Tobacco (PNG) Prize for Lifetime Contribution to Literature (Sir Paulias Matane Award).

Book signingThe judges had no hesitation in agreeing that the award should go to Russell Soaba. Russell was there at the beginning with Vincent Eri and the other founders of the modern PNG literary movement and he is still advancing the cause of Papua New Guinea literature.

Along the way he has produced an impressive list of publications, including the novels Wanpis (1977) and Maiba (1985), the poetry collections Naked Thoughts: Poems and Illustrations (1978), Ondobondo Poster Poems (1979) and Kwamra, A Season of Harvest: Poems (2000).

His newspaper column Soaba’s Storyboard has given many new Papua New Guinean writers their first taste of published success. His courses at UPNG are legendary and people line up to get into them.

Steven Winduo, himself a great writer, says of Russell: “He is the portrait of the odd man out, an individual, and a great thinker.

Maiba“Russell Soaba is also one of the greatest, if not the greatest, writer in Papua New Guinea. His works, particularly novels Maiba and Wanpis, are studied in universities around the world by students of literature and philosophy.

“Followers of the existentialism philosophy around the world dote on the writings of Russell Soaba.”

Russell was born in Tototo, Milne Bay in 1950. He was educated in Papua New Guinea, Australia and at Brown University, Rhode Island. He currently teaches at the University of Papua New Guinea and works as an editor for a local publisher. He has been a strong supporter of the Crocodile Prize since its inception.

In memory of Kure Whan & all the manki mastas of PNG


The following might be politically incorrect but I don’t really care….

On patrol, Murray Valley,1970WE WERE IN A BAD WAY when we walked out of the Murray Valley in late 1970.  The valley is high up in the rugged Star Mountains in Western Province and we still had to get over the icy pass in the Dap Range before we were home free.

1970 was a strange year in more ways than one.  Gurias were knocking houses off their stilts in Tari and Wewak and a savage outbreak of influenza, which killed thousands of people in the Southern Highlands in 1968, was still lingering on in the high valleys.  It was the latter which nearly brought our patrol to its knees.

Ours was the second administration patrol to visit the valley and the days were necessarily tense – if anything nasty was going to happen in a newly contacted area it generally happened on the second patrol when the people had got the kiap’s measure. 

Then when we got to the end of the valley we ran into the raggedy end of the 1968 flu outbreak.  We did all we could for the people but when we ran out of medicines and started to come down with the flu ourselves we decided it was time to leave.

We avoided the villages on the return trip as much as possible so as to lessen the chances of infection and staggered on our way.  When we got to the bottom of the Dap Pass we had two people on stretchers and a line of walking wounded.

Constables Womi, Heaoa and even jovial Arau could barely put one foot in front of the other.  Imbum, the rotund interpreter had lost his bounce and Simoki the medic was running himself ragged trying to keep both himself and the carriers upright.

Kure WhanIt was because of the efforts of two special men that we got safely over the pass and into the welcoming arms of the Catholic Mission at Bolobip.  The first was Fiamnok, the pixie-like mamusi (village constable) and sorcerer extraordinaire from Loubip.  The other was Kure Whan, my cook and aide de camp.

Fiamnok had the powerful legs of the mountain Min but Kure was a lowland Awin from Kiunga, unused to steep country and gut-busting tracks up almost vertical mountain sides.

Both men ranged up and down the patrol line, taking over from the sick carriers where needed, tending to the men in the stretchers and generally chivvying and cajoling everyone along.  At night they set up the tents, cooked for everyone and tucked the sick up in bed in front of warm fires.

Continue reading "In memory of Kure Whan & all the manki mastas of PNG" »

Little change in 20 years, so where is Development?


Porebada Primary kidsANOTHER TOYOTA LANDCRUISER ROLLS UP. “Wei do-aia’gui” (Wei, can we get on?), Sepe calls. “Ehonu”! (It’s full) replies an offsider, releasing an empty Big-Rooster lunch pack.

Small Sepe runs across the road, only to find chicken bones and wasted tissues crushed together in a pink greasy plastic.

He’s happy, though, humming aloud, Mokai’s Oh Lau Mickey  while rescuing the plastic for his half-ripe mangoes.

His sister Geua peeps in anticipation of the contents of the pink plastic, but even from a few meters away she can already tell.

The day is almost gone, a dark-crusted island of billowing clouds delaying the last of the setting rays.  Geua and Sepe pack their loads and hike towards the crooked hill leading to Boera village,.

Day in, day out, morning till noon, Geua and Sepe - like most of the average villagers - practice this lifestyle just minutes away from the money tank.  It’s a ten minute walk to the LNG plant site at Portion 152 Boera. It used to be a hunting place, especially at this time of the year. Not now

But a practice still innate in the lives of the impacted villages of Porebada, Boera, Papa, Rea and Lealea in the Hiri-western peripheries of Port Moresby is looking for water. Fetching water is like breathing. A phenomenon that, if it were stopped, would slow down all related line of duties required for basic survival.

Porebada villageMany people thought that the development of LNG Portion 152 operations would bring great prosperity and better living standards. However reality is constructed otherwise as described in the corporate plans.

Though mining brings positive impacts to the economy of a country, this scenario does not paint every picture. The government does not have the right policies in place to address and deal with land ownership, waste management and disposal and other related social aspects of industry.

The Motu Koitabu people, who live in the vicinity of the US-based ExxonMobil’s proposed LNG plant at Portion 152 in Port Moresby are feeling the pressure of such a huge development as you are reading this.

The impacted villages have always had their internal problems such as clan owners’ rights and etc. Porebada, the most densely populated among the four, is by far the singlemost village which has not seen any form of infrastructure development such as aid posts and recreational centres for youths, though they were promised.

Continue reading "Little change in 20 years, so where is Development?" »

Top team heralds a renaissance in PNG writing


PNG Society of Writers - Committee

THE CAUSE OF WRITING AND READING home-grown literature in Papua New Guinea was advanced significantly last night with the election of the first leadership team of the PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers.

Amanda Donigi, 32, a professional publisher and editor of the new Stella women’s magazine has been elected as the inaugural president and Jimmy Drekore, who celebrates his 36th birthday this week, is vice-president.

Jimmy, who is a chemist with Newcrest Mining, founded the Simbu Children Foundation in 2005. He won the Crocodile Prize poetry award in 2011.

The other officers of the Society are:

Ruth Moiam (Secretary). Ruth, Public Diplomacy Coordinator, Australian High Commission, is a communication & journalism graduate. She won the 2007 Divine Word University poetry prize.

Gina Samar (Treasurer). Gina is an accountant who writes as a hobby. She lives in Wewak and works on Lihir Island assisting landowner companies.

David Gonol (Committee Member). David is a lawyer with the National Court and author of I’ve Grown to Love Jesus (2011) and is now writing a book on ‘underlying law’.

David Kitchnoge (Committee Member). David is an accountant who is also a talented essayist and poet.

Regina Dorum (Committee Member). Regina is a laboratory technician. She is an aspiring novelist who would like to enhance her writing skills to become a full time writer.

Steven llave Sr (Committee Member). Steven is a development economist with over 20 years experience working with the PNG government, UN, World Bank, ADB, AusAID and World Vision. He writes poetry and songs and comes from the same language group as the late Sir Albert Maore Kiki. He has started work on his first book.

“We have a lot to do from here on,” Jimmy Drekore commented, thanking the members of the Society who had “entrusted us with the mandate to take this Society forward.”

The Society was incorporated at the end of 2011 and is taking over responsibility for the administration of the Crocodile Prize and its associated educational and publishing programs.

The 2012 winners of the seven categories in the national literary awards will be announced in a ceremony at the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby tonight.

An anthology of literature coloured by national events


Anthology Cover 2012This is the Foreword to the Crocodile Prize Anthology 2012 which will be launched tonight at the ceremony announcing this year’s seven award winners in the Crocodile Prize national literary contest.  Phil Fitzpatrick edited the Anthology

2012 WILL BE REMEMBERED as a tumultuous year in Papua New Guinea.  It was a year of political upheaval and uncertainty where the very fabric of parliament, the courts and even the constitution were tested. 

This was followed by a frustrating election dogged by disorganisation, faulty electoral rolls, corruption and vote buying. 

Many Papua New Guineans were hoping that, at election end, a new batch of younger, better educated and ethically sound politicians would emerge to haul Papua New Guinea out of the political, social and economic morass in which it seems to be mired.  Whether this eventuates has yet to be seen.

The year since the last Anthology was published was also a time characterised by tragic events, both in the airline and shipping industries. 

There was unrest in several towns with riots and demonstrations related to migration and the relentless pressures of development.  There were also individual and horrific tragedies like the beheading of a woman in broad daylight at Koki Market.

If you read this Anthology you will see how many of these events have coloured the stories, poems and articles written in 2012.  What also differentiated many of these events was the growing impact and immediacy of social media.  In many cases news was broadcast on Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of blogs well before it appeared in the traditional media.

Not only that but it was raw news without the spin added by vested interests.  2012 may well be remembered as the year when social media came into its own in Papua New Guinea.  In so doing it has cast a whole new light over politics and life in general.  Where it is going is anyone’s guess.

The Crocodile Prize, now in its second year, has been a beneficiary of this digital revolution.  This is demonstrated both in the fourfold leap in the number of entrants and entries and also in the subject matter.  The competition now seems to be inexplicably linked to digital media in Papua New Guinea.

Keith Jackson and Friends’ PNG Attitude blog is a co-founder of the Crocodile Prize and a significant number of stories and articles published on the blog during 2012 were derived from the contest.

Many new writers, seeing their work published for the first time, were motivated to continue submitting material to the blog to the extent where Keith could happily claim that well over 50% of its content originated in Papua New Guinea - truly reflecting PNG Attitude’s aim of being a forum for the exchange of ideas between Australians and Papua New Guineans.

One of the other spin-offs of the combined success of the competition and the blog has been the exponential growth of readership to include not only the general public but also relevant movers and shakers in both countries.

Continue reading "An anthology of literature coloured by national events" »

The real, inspiring & frustrating story behind the Croc Prize


Keith Jackson and Wen-cheng SungTHIS IS ONE OF THOSE PICTURES that ought to speak a thousand words – but I’ll give you a thousand words anyway, as well as telling the story behind the picture.

The story began about this time two years ago, when author, anthropologist and ex-kiap Phil Fitzpatrick proposed – half joking – that this website, PNG Attitude, should initiate a national literary contest in Papua New Guinea.

The idea made sense. Papua New Guinea had a flourishing written literature around independence in 1975. In fact, it was the then newly emergent Papua New Guinean writers who did much to define and explain the cultural significance of those momentous times.

But, as the years passed, that literary tradition – based as it was on the oral traditions that had been a cultural bedrock for millennia – began to wane.

You see, there was much money to be gained from coffee and copper and aid, but creative literature seemed, well, a bit of an indulgence.

Little thought was given to, and certainly no value attributed to, the role of literature in delineating, reinforcing and guiding the new nation

And so the writers, essayists and poets languished. There were efforts made by individuals and, to give it some due, The National. But this was a puny effort in comparison to what was required to both develop the latent literary talent in Papua New Guinea and, just as important, enable the people to read their own literature.

Under aid programs, eventually, thousands and thousands of books were distributed throughout the land. But a mere handful were written by Papua New Guineans about their own society, culture, issues and feelings; and most of them were self-published.

And so the thought of a national literary contest that would encourage people to write, bring out writers of high talent and, through a publishing program, allow the people to read their own literature was dreamed up.

The first institution to support the initiative was the Post-Courier. The second was the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby. Without Blaise Nangoi, Patrick Levo and Ian Kemish, the idea would have been dead in the water.

Since those days in late 2010, there’s a lot that’s gone right with the Crocodile Prize (named after Vincent Eri’s famous first Papua New Guinean novel, a landmark creation), and a bit that’s gone wrong, as you’d expect with any human endeavour.

Continue reading "The real, inspiring & frustrating story behind the Croc Prize" »

The Manus factor: Lombrum base & the China connection

Samuel RothSAMUEL ROTH | Foreign Affairs Commentary

EARLY LAST WEEK, THE OUTSPOKEN African clergyman Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for George Bush and Tony Blair to be put on trial in the International Criminal Court for lying about weapons of mass destruction.

Millions of people believe that the war in Iraq was not fully justified by the evidences. Bush and Blair’s so-called preemptive strike on Iraq, not only left many intriguing questions but challenged stability and undermined respect for international bodies such as the UN and numerous treaties.

Tutu is a no nonsense preacher, both inside the church and elsewhere. The Nobel Peace Prize winner refused to share a platform with Tony Blair last week at a leadership summit in Johannesburg. His action sent shockwaves throughout Africa and the rest of the world.

Here in Papua New Guinea, the Gillard-O’Neill Manus collaboration emerged as a truly Pacific solution to Australia’s asylum seeker (‘boat people’) problem.

Many people in PNG are asking why a new prime minister, who promises to fight corruption head-on, decided to put a ban on international media covering this story on Manus.

Is there anything sinister to hide? Of course not! Then what is the fuss all about?

The issue of re-opening the Lombrum Naval Base on Manus, a suggestion by Hillary Clinton at the recent South Pacific conference in Rarotonga, is highly controversial and would probably contradict PNG’s commitment to the ‘Look North Policy’, designed to balance its foreign relations between China and the West.

The United States is strengthening its troop presence in northern Australia (Darwin) and, of course, Lombrum would be a step little closer to Beijing.

The preponderance of power held and enjoyed by the US after the Cold War is under threat as power politics takes a new shape in a rapidly globalising world. The rise of China is dominant. The world is no longer uni-polar with the US as the sole “international policeman".

Does China matter for PNG? Yes, because, as Hillary Clinton has said, "Wherever we go, China is at it, above it and under it".

Clinton was referring to the PNG-China resource deals. The US accuses China of ‘creeping’ into the PNG LNG project. It demonstrates that our region has now become the playground for power-balancing games.

Now, if Australia is the US deputy sheriff in the Pacific and responsible for the so-called Arc of Instability, where does this leave PNG?

Is the Manus asylum centre deal part of a solution or part of a problem? It does challenge the PNG-China relationship in a big way. Beijing will not let this go unchallenged, mind you, as the region awaits its next move.

Beggars cannot be choosers, it is said, and PNG chose to agree with Australia’s desired arrangement on keeping asylum seekers fenced in on Manus. There are power-plays implications.

Our dependency on foreign aid does hurt at times but Papua New Guineans do need to be assured of two things, both with asylum seekers and the US aspirations for Lombrum.

Firstly, what is at stake for Governor Charlie Benjamin and his Manus islanders?

Secondly, how will O’Neill play his cards rationally when he is sandwiched between two regional giants seeking global dominance?

National security and state sovereignty are fundamental to any country’s national interest and PNG must uphold these at all times.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu proved to the rest of the world that he does not compromise his values with short-term diplomatic talk that suits only the elites.

Samuel Roth is a lecturer of international relations and politics at Divine Word University. He has taught for 10 years in PNG and in Japan where he did his Masters degree. Samuel will provide PNG Attitude readers with a regular commentary on foreign affairs

The Flight of Galkope – stories from the men’s house


Flight of GalkopeThe Flight of Galkope’ by Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, Crawford House Publishing, Adelaide, 2012.  Contact to pre-order a copy

THE TRIBES AND CLANS OF THE GALKOPE have occupied the steep mountain slopes and valleys of the southern part of the Simbu Province in Papua New Guinea for countless generations.  But this was not always so.

A son of the Galkope, Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin, spent several years trekking through his traditional homeland talking to people about their origins.

The primary forums for his enquiries were the traditional men’s huts, where the elders and sages of the Galkope recounted, interpreted and handed down their stories from the past.

Through these old men, it has been possible to delve back several hundred years into the mists of time to the very moments of the inception of the Galkope as a distinct people and nation.

From that time, when Luis Vaez Torres was first touching the southern shores of Papua New Guinea and when mythical beings and legendary warriors touched shoulders in the high mountainous interior, the story is brought slowly and carefully forward to the near present when the Galkope began their flight to the four corners of Papua New Guinea to form a great diaspora.

The journey includes the exploits of the legendary explorer and founder, Alai Bia, and his quest for new lands; the story of Warmil and his spirit-wife and Sipa, the munificent half-man, half-raptor; through to the arrival of the first Christian missionaries and the eventual disintegration of the Galkope under the incessant plague of inter-tribal warfare and the bane of the new politics and economic imperatives of an independent Papua New Guinea.

Today over half the Galkope live outside the Simbu.  The importance of the men’s huts and their sages has diminished.  The magnificent valleys and mountains now sit in the aura of a silent sun and the rivers and streams flow over the pebbles of a lost time. Soon there may be no memories at all.

The Flight of Galkope is an attempt to salvage those memories and render them in a form for the modern age so that those Galkope, no matter where they now live, will be able to understand where they come from and what made them.

It is a well-worn cliché that to understand the present one must understand the past.  For the Galkope this may now be possible through Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin’s meticulously researched and distinctly Papua New Guinean historical account.  It is something that other people in Papua New Guinea might consider and reflect upon too.

Sil will be familiar to PNG Attitude readers for his thoughtful and sometimes provocative articles.  He has also been a regular contributor to the Crocodile Prize and his work appears in both the 2011 and 2012 Anthologies.  He is also a member of the Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers.

He was born in the Galkope of the Simbu Province. He studied to become a Catholic priest but quit soon after completing his philosophical studies and attended the University of Papua New Guinea. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Social Development and Anthropology.

Added to his credentials is a certificate of Leadership in Strategic Health Communication from the Johns Hopkins University (USA). He is now the senior policy analyst at the PNG National AIDS Council Secretariat.

This book is a significant contribution to both Papua New Guinean literature and history and should stand as a shining example for Papua New Guinean writers to come.

This afternoon the PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers has its inaugural annual general meeting, adopts a constitution and elects its first office bearers. Sil Bolkin will be there. The announcement of the publication of his significant work is a very proud moment for all PNG writers

Christianity a problem for us: it drives people off the plot


IN THIS DAY AND AGE, CHRISTIANITY is an impediment to any form of human development in Bougainville, apart from the spiritual.

From the simple exaggerated Bible-based teachings, Christianity creates a senseless fear in the minds of our population on our economically-struggling island.

I was born and brought up in a hardcore Catholic family. In my life was nothing secular, just religion and its ways.

Reflecting, it is obvious I’ve lost so many opportunities that would have made me someone to make a positive contribution to society much earlier. It could have been different if my parents had brought me up in a balanced life culture—secular and religious.

My life was a struggle for the unknown good things in Heaven. My father was an auto-mechanic with the gone Bougainville Copper Limited. He never bothered to teach me how to dismantle and reset the injector pump of a diesel Toyota Hilux. But I knew Christianity.

Translating this into nation building, Christianity is a serious problem because it is leading the Bougainville people in the wrong direction.

I say this because, if you read the Christianity’s book of principles, the Bible, it is a book of contradictions. It needs an educated Bougainvillean to read between the lines; not the poor illiterate of society.

Getting the population of Bougainville educated is our goal to realise our ambition for nationhood.

I accept the fact that development comes into society through a man’s understanding and learning of the basics of economics and politics. These are not spiritual aspects of life. They are the fundamental bases to drive Bougainville forward.

Christianity can come into play when all loopholes are sealed and the island’s governing machinery is steaming forward. An educated population is the only group which can navigate a beneficial way between secularism and Christianity.

Christianity’s ritual of conversion has created fanatics across Bougainville. These converts have, with the unprecedented power of spirituality, condemned education, money and everything secular not worthy for the good of Man and Earth.

This is a sting to positive progress, for it is freely setting people off-track from Bougainville’s national goals.

In late 1999, a bunch of my schoolmates at Arawa High School quit school because of the Christianity-promoted 2000 supposed end of the world!

Every afternoon after school I saw them preaching the Bible in the public places in town when Bougainville needed them in the classrooms.

Christianity can distract us from pursuing a path of personal, family, community and national development through education.

Our future is on the streets & the challenge confronts us


Children of the streetIT COULD BE A SIGHT FOR SORE EYES but also a cry for immediate response: the cosmic amount of youths, let alone children, begging and making ends meet through directing traffic, caretaking parked vehicles and lending a helping hand….

A recent encounter with one little boy, who looked to be less than eight years old, was an experience that had me contemplating. The image he portrayed was of a mature self, a mouthful of betelnut and a lighted cigarette.

But it was an occurrence that is becoming all too familiar with more and more children taking up the same role. Itinerant begging on the street has become a way of life for these distressed children.

It brings about a string of questions. Why are these children on the streets? Where are their parents? Are they aware their children are doing these things? What is the city council doing? Why is this issue being ignored?

It seems that the problem of child begging is present in many underdeveloped countries. There are children of all ages, as young as four, begging on our streets. Are we all just plain ignorant about this or rather not meddle with it. But it is an immediate concern for our whole nation.

“If a child is given love, he becomes loving,” says Dr Joyce Brothers. “If he's helped when he needs help, he becomes helpful. And if he has been truly valued at home ... he grows up secure enough to look beyond himself to the welfare of others.”

Our future, the future of Papua New Guinea, is these children. While the ones more likely to run the country are in the academic institutions across the nation, those that loaf on the streets are equally as important.

They make up a larger population most likely to become vendors, bus drivers, rangers and bandits. If we wish to see the fruits of the seeds we plant, we have to weed and prune and nurture. If we become oblivious to them, they become barren and wild.

These children need to be given a sense of hope and a sense of dignity - a chance. There need to be lured into education and self help. Our country must find a way to alleviating poverty and hopelessness.

Continue reading "Our future is on the streets & the challenge confronts us" »

John Howard’s values & a deliberate Melanesian people


"When modern man goes to extrinsic sources to understand his own existence and his own past, we Melanesians reach deep within to find and know ourselves..."

THE AUSTRALIAN NEWSPAPER on the Australia Day weekend of 26 January 2007 had an insightful cartoon of the unmistakably short, bespectacled and bushy-browed John Howard, prime minister of Australia, head slightly tilted to the left, looking up to a fluttering American flag, counting its many a spangled stars and singing “Twinkle twinkle little star / How I wonder who we are…”. 

It was a telling caricature of not only the times we lived in post-Nine Eleven. In just a few wiggly lines, the cartoonist cleverly opened our eyes to take a rare glimpse of the heart and soul of a nation, its people and its destiny as perceived by its leaders.

It was a weekend that saw flags raised in almost every town in Australia extolling the virtues of Australian society and its values.  Equally in just about every pub, many schooners and stubbies of beer were raised.

In city halls and malls, politicians and local government aldermen handed out Australia Day awards and medals in elevation of certain individuals in society as model citizens of that year.  Some even became new citizens that day swearing to abide by Australian values.

A curious Melanesian visitor passing through Australia that weekend would have been excused for pondering about what exactly were Australian values.  What exactly were those national values Howard was talking about as differentiated from private or individual values?

There is a prevailing view today that a nation has no values of its own; it merely reflects the common values shared and practiced by its citizens; some shaped by history with ancient origins while others by modern contemporary culture or religion. 

Writers like Steven Covey of the school of effective leadership, take a more incremental approach and argue that values are more like mission statements, each deliberately laid out by leaders or chief executives of entities to guide policy or shape organizational behaviour.

Be that it may, we cannot deny the critical role values play in defining a nation and its people.  They can set a people apart and gives them meaning, purpose and direction.  It is the sacred place of noble design, the deepest well from which a people’s hopes aspirations and their loftiest dreams are drawn and crafted into attainable goals for the kind of future and society they envisage for themselves and their children. 

They shape, drive and guide policy and lawmakers.  As such, the contrary is true of a nation without values: it is bared of substance and soul and, like a rudderless ship, is cast upon the vagaries of internal politics, social expediency and economic self-interest.  Without values a nation can have neither soul nor the substance of a vision for the future.

Continue reading "John Howard’s values & a deliberate Melanesian people" »

Mining threatens the fresh, healing waters of Kairiru

MICHAEL FRENCH SMITH | Earth Island Journal

Kragur village, Kairiru islandI’VE BEEN VISITING Kragur Village on Kairiru Island in Papua New Guinea as a cultural anthropologist since 1975.

Kragur villagers have always been poor in money, but they have land to cultivate, the sea to fish in, and the forest from which to harvest innumerable useful things.

They also have a remarkable supply of fresh water of a kind that money can’t buy. Man-made threats to this extraordinary resource, however, are growing.

Kairiru Island enjoys annual average precipitation of about 124 inches, making it among the wettest places in the world. Despite its steep volcanic slopes, it appears that the island’s geological structure catches and concentrates rainwater and channels it to numerous springs, which feed mountain streams large and small. And the water is clean.

The government paramedic who staffs Kragur’s tiny thatched-roof medical clinic tells me that water-borne disease is “very rare” among Kragur villagers. That’s a stark contrast to many other PNG communities; water-borne diseases account for about a third of childhood deaths and much malnutrition in the country.

The streams’ clear, cool torrents also provide excellent places to bathe. Soaking in the stream nearest Kragur soothes the aches and pains in muscles and joints, and Kragur residents says the water is “like medicine.”

Kragur people who travel to other villages often come home complaining there were no decent places to bathe and that they had to drink and cook with liquids no better than “swamp water.”

Kragur’s water is not only unusually clean, it is unusually reliable. PNG had one of the worst droughts in recorded history in 1997 and 1998, an effect of the El Niño climate phenomenon. Kragur taro, yam, and sweet potato gardens dried up, leaving villagers short of food. But they were not short of water, for their main stream continued to flow.

Unfortunately, Kragur people have reasons to worry about their water. Population growth may soon pose a problem, but the most dramatic potential danger is gold mining.

Mining companies dug exploratory trenches on the mountain high above Kragur many years ago. They have proceeded no further, but they still have an eye on Kairiru gold.

Villagers told me that prospecting teams left trenches lying open and that erosion is cutting them deeper and wider. They also told me that waste from the exploration fouled one of the island’s streams and that the prospectors told people to wait a year before using its water again.

Many villagers are rightly concerned that any further exploration, let alone actual mining, could do more serious damage.

Kragur villagers almost invariably tell me that they are opposed to mining. Some also tell me, however, that not a few villagers are greatly tempted by the considerable money mining would probably bring, but they are reluctant to openly advocate mining. I know that some Kragur people who have settled in PNG’s towns are at least keeping their minds open.

Continue reading "Mining threatens the fresh, healing waters of Kairiru" »

Manus processing centre agreed by O’Neill, Gillard


AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER Julia Gillard has left the APEC summit in Vladivostok prematurely because of her father's death, but not before completing some important diplomatic business.

Ms Gillard and Papua New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill this morning signed the formal agreement that will allow Australia to send asylum seekers to Manus for processing.

Kokoda demons were a struggle for the 'Angels'

CATHERINE ARMITAGE | Sydney Morning Herald

Deveni Temu (Andrew Meares, SMH)DEVENI TEMU'S FATHER NEVER SPOKE of his devastating experience as a carrier on the Kokoda Track.

The only references he ever made to the war were the names he gave around their Central Province village commemorating places he had been - his nephew Warisota; the family dog Buna; the pet pig Higaturu; a new banana variety, Koitakini.

The father, Temu Purikei, stayed silent until his death in 1990, not just because it was painful to speak of but because he also did not want to bring the Australian soldiers into disrepute.

Mistreatment of forced carriers is now established as fact, says Mr Temu, a librarian at the Australian National University.

As a lone Papuan voice at the Australian War Memorial's conference this week to mark the 70th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign, he says the ''so-called fuzzy wuzzy angel'' was a myth.

His father, like many of the Papuan carrier/labourers, was third or fourth-generation Christian, educated in a Christian school and an emerging leading man of the village, Mr Temu said. He was from the middle class of Papuan society. ''These were the pastors, deacons, elders and mission teachers.''

When recruited by army officers who came looking for young, fit-looking men, they went because the village pastor, whose orders it was customary to obey, told them the London Missionary Society headquarters would appreciate their contribution to the war effort.

Some made their escape but his father was tracked down. The village pastor told Mr Temu's mother that her husband lost most of the flesh from his back during the bitter fighting around the beachhead at Buna and only survived because his cousin refused to accept the doctor's pronouncement of death and cared for him in a hideout.

Eventually Mr Purikei was taken to the Gemo Island Native Hospital, where he composed a traditional lament in the Hula language, part of which translates as ''Longing to come out of my mountain hideout/Feeling overwhelmed, bereft of my kinsfolk/Self pity and loneliness/This is not a job of my own choice''.

Mr Temu says it is hard to describe his feelings about his father's experiences. ''It is difficult for me to imagine what he went through. Obviously it was not done in a humane way,'' he said.

His father returned a changed man in 1945, determined to devote his life to developing the village church and working for the welfare of the people.

He taught them skills he learnt, including how to construct pit latrines and open-air showers, cook rice and bake damper. He had six children who became engineers, medics and MPs.

Relive the nostalgia & bore the pants off your grandkids


Port Moresby Taim Bipo‘Port Moresby: Taim Bipo’ by Stuart Hawthorne, Boolarong Press, 2011.  310 pages.  Available for $45, postage included, from the author at

RUMMAGING THROUGH DR PETER CAHILL’S wonderful collection of Papua New Guinea colonial memorabilia in the Fryer Library of the University of Queensland a while ago I came across some old postcards of Port Moresby by ‘Chin H Meen: Photographer, Port Moresby and Rabaul’ – all printed in the USA.

One of the postcards showed a view of Ela Beach circa 1967.  It must have been a weekend or public holiday because the beach was quite crowded.

What struck me as strange about the scene was that there wasn’t one Papua New Guinean in view.  It then occurred to me that even as late as 1967 Port Moresby was very much a European town.  The scene could have been re-enacted anywhere on the Australian coast.

Stuart Hawthorne, in his book, Port Moresby: Taim Bipo confirms this impression.  As a frequent visitor to Port Moresby these days, I had somehow conflated what I see today with what I saw way back then.  Not so, I realised – it’s like two completely different towns.

Towards the end of his book, Stuart has a crack at explaining what went wrong with Papua New Guinea in general and the sleepy old town that many Australians remember in particular. 

While he points out that his analysis is merely a personal opinion, he puts it down to the rapid change of pace after the careful administrator, Donald Cleland, retired in 1966 coupled with pressure from the United Nations on Australia and the culpable stupidity of the mandarins in Canberra who took control.

This part of the book doesn’t come across in a particularly convincing way; the whole subject is problematic and it is doubtful whether there will ever be a definitive answer.  That aside, it is the rest of the book that will interest readers on both sides of Torres Strait.

Stuart arrived in Port Moresby in 1957 when he was eight years old and stayed there for 20 years – arguably during the heyday of the old colonial town.  His father worked for John Stubbs and Sons (Papua) Limited, which was a building and construction company.

It is his reminiscences of ordinary life in Port Moresby and the large and eclectic collection of photographs, advertisements, maps and newspaper clippings that go with them that are the real attraction of the book.

The latter appear to have been culled from his family collection and those of his friends and acquaintances.  They are represented by the occasional stunning shot as well as much that is fuzzy and faded. 

There is a delightful feel of voyeurism flicking through these personal photographs and the exquisite details accompanying them – a bit like sneaking a peek at someone’s old photograph album.  There is also a liberal sprinkling of historical material to fill in the gaps.

The photographs and details certainly have an historical value but I suspect that the major appeal will be the nostalgia generated for the people who knew the town in those halcyon days.  Even those who made a point of avoiding Port Moresby as much as possible will find the old memory stirring.

And I wonder whether those three young constables on patrol at Koki on the cover are still around.  More than likely they are and, if not, their children will certainly recognise them.

If you’ve got a copy of Ian Stuart’s 1970s Port Moresby: Yesterday and Today this new book will complement it beautifully.

PNG Attitude’s most commented upon stories in August


CRIKEY, IT’S BEEN A HECTIC SIX MONTHS. I was called back from semi-retirement to try to revive an ailing business, then to shut it down, then to create another with Phoenix aspirations, and ended up in hospital for a spinal operation to get me properly mobile and pain-free again.

Throughout all this, though, PNG Attitude continued its remorseless effort to ensure that a good and lively dialogue is maintained between people from Papua New Guinea and Australia who are interested in issues, politics, society and the things that make us a bit better.

Nowhere is this dialogue exemplified more than in the Comments section of this blog, where the debate is often robust but the mood polite.

(I ignore and send to that great virtual shredder in the sky the occasional death threats and sexual abuse I receive; unfortunately that’s all part of a day’s work on the internet. There are some poor, shrivelled souls out there. You can only feel sorry for them.)

But, for the rest of us, onwards and upwards.

So now to the most commented upon stories we ran in August….

23 comments - A long week's journey through nothing very much (Keith Jackson). Ten days in hospital for spinal surgery slowed down your editor a bit and this piece heralded a recovery of sorts, although an anaesthetised brain didn’t make for easy writing.. I remain deeply grateful for the many expressions of support I received at this time.

19 - Affirmative action for our women MPs – I say stuff it! (Ganjiki D Wayne). It was suggested in PNG that a ‘global target’ of at least 30% be set for the number of women MPs. A testy Ganjiki begged to differ – “I say stuff the global target!”

16PNG minister bars foreign media from Manus Island (RNZI). PNG banned foreign journalists from visiting Manus to cover arrangements for processing asylum seekers. Readers were divided on whether this was a good idea or not.

15 - Julie Soso, women’s advocate, elected to parliament (Keith Jackson). There was great delight when a third woman was elected to the PNG parliament in one of the biggest boilovers of the 2012 national election. Julie Soso (Triumph Heritage Empowerment Party) is a community leader in the Eastern Highlands.

15 - Democracy, custom & the elasticity of the Melanesian Way (Susan Merrell). Susan asked “is there a democratic Papua New Guinean nation - or is it merely an arbitrary state built on a shaky, crumbling foundation of disparate traditional customs and the Melanesian Way?” A boisterous debate ensued on whether there is a ‘Melanesian Way’.

11 - Seabed mining: a lot of reasons we don’t need it (Martyn Namorong). Martyn took issue with the former Somare government's decision to allow Nautilus Minerals to mine the Bismarck Sea and current Mining Minister Byron Chan's decision to maintain the status quo.

11 - Don’t just sit there – do something, and do it now! (Phil Fitzpatrick). “Three years ago I wrote an article for the Post Courier’s Independence Day supplement bemoaning the decline of literature in Papua New Guinea. Since then we’ve had two years of the Crocodile Prize literary competition, which conclusively proved I was awry in my assessment.”

10 - ‘Markham Tom’, big-hearted PNG pioneer, dies at 83 (Max Uechtritz). Comments on the death of the remarkable Tom Leahy, Papua New Guinea pioneer, planter and politician.

9 - Origin, black v white, & racism: God has the answers (Ganjiki D Wayne). “Many years ago the Western world, that is, Caucasian man, determined that the black man was not man at all. They believed that the darker race was not a race. The black man was a stage of evolution somewhere between the apes and Caucasian man.” Well that was bound to start an argument.

9 - Melanesian capitalism or capitalist Melanesia? (Phil Fitzpatrick). “I am a great fan of the colour grey, as opposed to black and white, which some people maintain are not colours at all. This is another way of saying there are nuances to everything. Good people and bad people are not necessarily good or bad all the time; good people can do bad things and vice versa. So it is with social and political systems.”

On going back home to the Western Province


Atop Parliament HouseEven by his own standards of gritty engagement and willful confrontation, Martyn Namorong has had a topsy turvy 2012 – from mixing it with the Australian media and political elite in his highly successful 'Take the Truth to Australia' tour to more recently being hunted off the streets of Moresby by anti-buai Nazis. So now he’s on his way home to the Fly Delta and I know he travels with the good wishes of admiring PNG Attitude readers who have enjoyed and been provoked by his great insights into the PNG condition. We trust this is not exile but an opportunity to observe, analyse, write, flourish and recapture energy in an environment that will dilute those dark forces that assail him from time to time - KJ

I AM RETURNING TO MY HOME PROVINCE. I came to Port Moresby in 2002, that's a decade ago, and did Grade 9 at Port Moresby Grammar School.

I continued to Grade 11 at Jubilee Catholic Secondary School and went to do foundation science at the University of Papua New Guinea in 2006.

I was fortunate to continue to medical school but dropped out in 2009. Since 2009 life in Port Moresby has had various twists and turns. Selling betelnut (a public health hazard) and writing kickass blogs (a political hazard) has got me to places I could never have imagined.

But even with the limelight of international recognition, there has been the dark side of living everyday life in Port Moresby.

As many of you may be aware, I have been clinically depressed these past few years.

I know that the depression has been caused by the struggles of everyday life. Many city residents will also note that lately there has been a major crackdown on buai sellers like me.

The prevailing circumstances have made life in the city quite untenable, so I've decided to move on. I'm going back home to the Western Province.

I guess that's what PNG’s middle class would like to see happen to all the 'unemployed' squatter settlers.

In some respects I am disappointed but one has to be pragmatic about life. Life as an idealist has actually been quite painful. Ultimately though, I've realized that there is only so much others can do to help, and the harsh reality is that we all have to fend for ourselves in order to survive.

It is this everyday struggle of life that breaks the human soul at a certain point. For some people, alcoholism, raskolism or suicide are seen as a way out. For others, adaptation is needed to ensure that they survive.

Whilst I have not been a huge fan of social Darwinism, it is a practical reality to a certain extent. Unfortunately, I have had to adapt in order to survive the prevailing circumstances.

I have certainly enjoyed being part of the national discourse and have hopefully inspired a few Papua New Guineans to be independent thinkers.

I look forward to heading back to my home province and lead a more private life. I know I have a lot to offer back home as well.

Western Province has the second lowest standard of education in the country. It also has the highest prevalence of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDRTB). Government services are non existent in some areas and the large complex geographical area presents enormous logistical challenges.

But the current political climate in the province also presents opportunities for constructive dialogue amongst all stakeholders for a way forward. I hope to join the development discourse when I go back home.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has been supportive of my blogging efforts. I wish you all the best in your endeavours.

Yours in service to humanity....

Melanesian values and a different take on well-being

BOB MAKIN | Vanuatu Daily Post

NiVanuatu man and boySURVEYS AND REPORTS are not generally riveting reading. Here is an exception. Alternative indicators for well-being for Melanesia - a Vanuatu pilot study is compulsive reading - and proves a lot of things we have suspected all along.

For example 79% of ni-Vanuatu have access to customary lands (92% of those living in rural areas); 90% of ni-Vanuatu know their customary land boundaries; 88% of people feel they have enough or more than enough customary land to meet their needs; and 95% of people with access to customary lands make their homes and grow food for personal consumption on that land.

And all that is just for a start.

Alternative indicators of well-being for Melanesia was launched at the Chiefs’ Nakamal on Thursday. The study is a joint report of the Malvatumauri National Council of Chiefs, Vanuatu National Statistics Office, and Vanuatu Kaljarol Senta.

It has been greatly assisted by the Christensen Fund and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and endorsed twice by leaders of the Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Jamie Tanguay, coordinator of the project to establish indicators for well-being in Melanesia, started his presentation by explaining the need to change the way progress is measured in Melanesia.

On the one hand, Vanuatu is regarded as a least developed country (LDC). The broad criteria involved in being awarded LDC status are low gross national income: we are down at 141 on the World Bank’s latest listings.

We have “weak human assets”. With a labour force of less than 100,000 and only 30% of the country receiving secondary education, we are definitely weak. And then there is economic vulnerability, and especially for small island developing states.

Earthquakes and natural disasters like cyclones also bring us down to LDC level. That said, LDC countries tend to be typified by war, genocide, disease, starvation, homelessness, pollution and lack of clean water. We have none of those.

Furthermore, the New Economics Foundation and Lonely Planet have seen fit to describe Vanuatu as the ‘Happiest Country in the World’.

Tanguay emphasised that for far too long economists have used income and expenditure patterns to paint a picture of a society’s well-being. “We have failed to develop an international standard for measuring well-being,” he said.

He continued:

Vanuatu is lucky. Because Vanuatu still has a vibrant traditional economy that has served it well for thousands of years. It has supported a population several times larger than the present one with enough healthy organic food for all men, women, and children, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today.

It supported living conditions for extended family units – with housing, cooking and sanitation facilities – supported community organization by providing places for congregation and interaction, and continues to do so for most ni-Vanuatu today.

The traditional economy is culture. It is how society organises itself to provide for the livelihoods of its members.

Continue reading "Melanesian values and a different take on well-being" »

Another review that gives less than the full picture

Raskol Series (Stephen Dupont)Occasionally (not often) in PNG Attitude we republish an article that demonstrates great ignorance about Papua New Guinea – although earlier this week we chose not to reproduce a sleazy London tabloid piece ostensibly on cannibalism, which has led to much comment in the PNG blogs. After all, there’s only so much a man can bear. But it does assist to remind us who are perhaps a little more knowledgeable about PNG of what is being said and written elsewhere in the world - KJ

USING VIVID MONOCHROME PHOTOGRAPHY and interviews with raskol gang members, Stephen Dupont paints a terrifying picture of a society in meltdown, of unemployment, poverty, corruption and killing...

This looks like one to cross off the holiday wish list. Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby is universally regarded as one of the worst places on earth.

Lawlessness to shame the Wild West is in full force; gangs of criminals, known in the local dialect as raskols, roam the streets engaged in bloody warfare with each other.

Fair play to Aussie documentarist Stephen Dupont for going anywhere near the place.

Raskols: The Gangs of Papua New Guinea, soon to be published by powerHouse Books, is Dupont’s study of his time there in 2004.

Normally thought of as a place of exceptional beauty, forests and unmodernised tribal living, the capital was at the time of Dupont’s visit the world’s most unliveable city according to the Economist.

The book’s foreword gives a brief history of the circumstances that led to such a state of affairs, and from then on the images do the talking, occasionally etched with quotes from those he photographed. Powerful stuff.

Massive transport overhaul will add to economic growth

Oxford Business Group

THE $15 BILLION EXXON-MOBIL-LED liquefied natural gas project has provided the catalyst for Papua New Guinea’s transport sector’s first major overhaul since gaining independence 37 years ago.

Guided by the PNG Development Strategic Plan and “Vision 2050”, LNG revenues are already funding an overhaul of national land, sea and air capabilities.

To enable sustainable economic growth – PNG anticipates a six-fold increase in real GDP to K56.71bn by 2050 – a substantial overhaul of the transport sector will be required.

With national attention focused on LNG, priority has shifted to rehabilitating PNG’s fragmented road network and maritime port facilities.

The national road network is largely restricted to main commercial and population centres. While the country is thought to have some 27,000 km of public roads, the exact amount is uncertain.

The World Bank estimates that 52% of the population has restricted or no access to roads. Moreover, just 40% of the national road network is considered to be in a condition that can be maintained in a cost-effective manner, according to the Asian Development Bank.

Leveraging LNG revenues to 2030, the government has in place a number of rehabilitation and construction projects that will triple the national road network, which includes all national routes such as main, district and institutional roads, from 8500 km to 25,000 km, and pave 16 strategically important “missing link” roads throughout the country.

The construction of one missing link, which will connect the Western Highlands to Madang – the site of a new port serving PNG’s industrial heartland in the Highlands – is already underway.

PNG estimates that the upgraded road network, which is expected to cost K21.35bn, will facilitate 12.6% economic growth and a 13.1% increase in gross national income, provide more than 154,000 jobs and a K1.16bn rise in tax revenues.

Notably, while donor-driven investment and aid remains an important contribution, the government intends to fund $9.5bn of the estimated cost through direct financing, tax credits, grants and other fiscal commitments.

Large tracts of PNG’s 5,100-km coastline, however, remain solely accessible by ship. As a result, plans have been laid to expand 16 key mainland maritime ports, four of which should be done by 2015.

The government expects this will help fuel 3.7% GDP growth by 2030 and reduce chronic congestion at the key gateway ports, Port Moresby and Lae, both of which experienced 30% growth in twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) throughput since 2007.

Lae is at the centre of urgent modernisation efforts. State-owned operator PNG Ports is already pursuing an overhaul and modernisation of Lae’s terminal operations and has invested in rubber-tired gantry cranes at both Lae and Port Moresby, which have tripled container movements and quayside storage capacities, according to port officials.

Continue reading "Massive transport overhaul will add to economic growth" »

Gun violence being accepted as ‘a normal part of life’

CATHERINE WILSON | Inter Press Service [extracts]

Raskol Series (Stephen Dupont)IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA, where more than 60% of major crimes involve guns, a burgeoning illegal arms trade is associated with lack of employment growth and low human security, with vulnerable communities suffering the consequences.

This is the case in the autonomous region of Bougainville, where disarmament remains elusive more than 10 years after a civil war.

“Guns are now being used in domestic violence and armed robberies, and to settle land issues,” said Helen Hakena, director of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency in Bougainville.

“Recently there have also been armed hold-ups and shoot-outs between gun owners and police. Many people in Bougainville now accept guns as a normal part of life.”

Development and economic recovery in Bougainville have been slow over the past decade, and many issues from the civil war have not been resolved.

“We also see that guns are being traded between Bougainville and other parts of PNG and across borders. People from the Highlands often come here to buy guns,” Hakena said.

In the Bougainville civil war, 20,000 people were killed and more than 60,000 displaced, while a “lost generation” of children were denied education and infrastructure was decimated.

Gun violence is a serious issue in PNG. Port Moresby, with a population of 450,000, has a murder rate of 54 per 100,000 people, compared to an average global rate of less than 7 per 100,000 people.

And in the Southern Highlands, where an estimated 90% of firearms are illegally owned, 23% of households have been victimised by guns.

In 2005, PNG’s Guns Control Committee produced a report which made numerous recommendations for gun reforms. But these have never been acted upon.

There is a known link between the trade in guns and drugs. The illicit commercial cultivation of marijuana has been identified in PNG, where it is regularly traded for firearms.

Papua New Guinea: the almost broken country

Ryan PeterPETER RYAN | Quadrant

SOMBRE … YES: I THINK SOMBRE is the best single word to describe the brownish mood pervading my study tonight.

It could hardly be otherwise, for I am writing about Papua New Guinea—that beautiful but almost broken country, squandering its potential to be rich, happy, vibrant, achieving and respected.

I shall not mention the bizarre parliamentary elections now nearly complete; this article is being written for Quadrant of 1 September, and readers will long have known how all that turned out, including the routine PNG electoral statistic of how many people were murdered in the course of the poll.

I speak from ancient memory, without support of document or diary, but today could be precisely the seventieth anniversary of the start of a curious three-day navigation northwards from the Gulf of Papua, up the broad waters of the Lakekamu River, there to change from boats to boots for a land journey of some ten days, through the high and rugged jungles and grasslands of PNG’s central mountain ranges.

In the early stages we traversed the territory of the deadly Kukukuku cannibals; later, it was all downhill to the old mining town of Wau, on the famous Morobe goldfields of the former Mandated Territory of New Guinea.

We thus exchanged the hazards of the Kukukuku for the different dangers of tens of thousands of invading Japanese soldiers in their new and nearby coastal bases at Salamaua and Lae.

If, seven decades ago, one of the hundreds of huge saltwater crocodiles basking on the Lakekamu’s marshy banks had chanced to raise a languid eyelid at the right moment, he would have glimpsed an immense canoe moving slowly upstream.

A vessel less handy than the light and nimble outrigger canoes which skip about the PNG coasts cannot be imagined. Our craft was a single hull, hollowed out from the trunk of one stupendous hardwood tree.

When I stood amidships in the well, I had to stretch upward to grasp the gunwale. Some tree!

She was powered by a big petrol outboard motor, thrust obliquely into the water from the port side near the stern. A spare motor, primed and ready, lay handy in the well, against the ever-possible emergency of the present propeller shearing off on the floating logs and flood-wrack of the river.

Our very self-same crocodile might still be there today—the brutes can live to well over a century; perhaps he would recall that our ship’s company comprised three skilled black crewmen from the river villages nearby, each wearing nothing but a light and quickly dried-out loincloth.

Next, there was one barefoot black policeman, hand never more than inches from his .303 army rifle; perched atop his pile of fuzzy hair was the regulation khaki peaked cap, with its shiny brass police badge of the old Mandated Territory.

Then came the passengers—four of them. All were fresh-faced young Australian warrant officers. From various Australian army units then serving in or near Port Moresby, they and others like them had volunteered to become cadet patrol officers in a newly-formed unit called ANGAU (Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit).

Continue reading "Papua New Guinea: the almost broken country" »

'Benign' malaria drove human evolution in Pacific

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute | PLoS Medicine

THE MALARIA SPECIES RAMPANT in the Asia-Pacific region has been a significant driver of evolution of the human genome, a new study has shown.

An international team of researchers has shown that Plasmodium vivax malaria, the most prevalent malaria species in the Asia-Pacific, is a significant cause of genetic evolution that provides protection against malaria.

Their finding challenges the widely-accepted theory that Plasmodium falciparum, which causes the most lethal form of malaria, is the only malaria parasite capable of driving genome evolution in humans. The study was published this week in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Professor Ivo Mueller from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB) led the study, with colleagues from the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Centre of Global Health and Diseases, US, and the University of Western Australia.

Malaria is a devastating parasitic disease that kills up to one million people a year. It is a major cause of poverty and a barrier to economic development. Approximately half of the world's population is at risk of malaria infection.

"Humans and malaria parasites have been co-evolving for thousands of years," Professor Mueller said. "Malaria has been a major force in the evolution of the human genome, with gene mutations that provide humans with some protection against the disease being preserved through natural selection because they aid in survival."

Professor Mueller said the study has challenged the perception that P. falciparum malaria is the only malaria species that affects human genome evolution.

"It has long been assumed that Plasmodium falciparum, the species that causes the most severe disease and most deaths from malaria, is the most important driver of this gene selection in humans," Professor Mueller said.

"Our results suggest that P. vivax malaria, though until recently widely considered to be a 'benign' form of malaria, actually causes severe enough disease to provide evolutionary selection pressures in the Asia-Pacific."

Professor Mueller said that the research team was interested in whether P. vivax malaria might be the cause of the unusually high rates of Southeast Asian ovalocytosis (SAO), a hereditary red blood cell disorder, in the Asia-Pacific region.

"SAO occurs in approximately 10-15% of the population in parts of the South West Pacific and is caused by a hereditary mutation in a single copy of a gene that makes a red blood cell membrane protein.

“This is almost an absurdly high frequency when you consider that inheriting two copies of the mutation is invariably fatal, so we figured it must confer a strong advantage to the carriers," he said.

The research team looked at the incidence of P. vivax and P. falciparum infections in three studies that included a total of 1,975 children in Papua New Guinea aged 0-14 years.

"We found that SAO-positive children were significantly protected against P. vivax infection, with 46% reduction of clinical disease in infants with little or no immunity, and 52-55% reduction in the risk of infection in older children.

“We also saw a significant decrease in parasite numbers in infants and older children, which is linked to a decrease in risk of clinical disease," Professor Mueller said.

The finding could have dramatic implications for future malaria vaccine design and development, Professor Mueller said.

"Studying the mechanisms that cause SAO-positive people to be protected against P. vivax malaria could help us to better understand the mechanics of infection and help us to identify better targets for a malaria vaccine," he said.

Corruption is "single biggest threat" to PNG's future

Radio Australia | ABC

IN A STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS yesterday, prime minister Peter O'Neill outlined an anti-corruption strategy and promised to rebuild the country's public institutions and infrastructure.

However, at least one public figure, the former member for Lae Open Bart Philemon, says more needs to be done to address the problem.

Mr Philemon called for urgent action to fight corruption, saying the problem is the biggest threat to the nation's future.

On Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program, Lawrence Stephens, the president of Transparency International PNG, agreed with Mr Philemon.

Papua New Guinea ranks 154th out of 180 nations in Transparency International's 2011 Corruption Perception Index, which lists countries according to their perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.

"When you listen to statements like the former member, like those of the prime minister, and like those of many other leaders, the ranking appears to be warranted and we are in serious trouble as a nation plagued by corruption," Mr Stephens said.

"People are far too accepting of the reality of corruption, far too ready to participate in corrupt activities, even down to the extent of bribing police officers and corrupt officials," Mr Stephens added.

Earlier this week an anti-corruption team appointed by the country's government arrested four people for allegedly misusing more than $US1.5 million in school funds.

It followed an investigation by Task Force Sweep, which was set up by the government last year to investigate the alleged misuse of public funds.

In an open canoe for the Pacific’s past & future


Climate Challenger

THIS IS A HEART WARMING STORY of an adventurous open canoe voyage designed to draw people’s attention to climate change and sea levels – two related issues of significant environmental and humanitarian impact worldwide and, even more immediately, in the Pacific.

To raise awareness of these issues, the 48' open canoe Climate Challenger will leave Manus today on a challenging voyage which is emulating some of the great traditional seafaring exploits of the past.

The people of Manus and guests gathered at Lorengau last weekend to wish the vessel well before its long and risky journey around the Pacific.

During the speeches, although the rain poured down, support for the crew did not waver and the people gave their blessings before Governor Charlie Benjamin officially cut the ribbon signifying the beginning of the voyage.

Capt Manuai MatawaiThe great Pacific canoe voyage is an initiative of Manuai Matawai [pictured] of Pere village who works with The Nature Conservancy and Selarn Kaluwin of Mbuke who work with the World Wildlife Fund in Manus, Papua New Guinea.

They are passionate about raising awareness of climate change, clean oceans, a clean atmosphere and, as a curious extra, connecting the people of Mbuke on Manus Island with the lost Titan tribe on Yap Island in Micronesia.

The canoe voyage is partly funded by AusAID under its ‘building the resilience of communities and their ecosystems to the impact of climate change’ program.

The voyagers write:

Climate change is here to stay. Science has blamed human induced activities for causing these changes [to which] we must respond individually, provincially, nationally and globally to adapt and mitigate [them].

In Manus Province, the people of Mbuke, at their own initiative, had responded by planting yams and water security. They are also planting mangroves to protect the shoreline. The people of Pere also planted mangroves for coastal protection and planted sago on higher ground.

Both Pere and Mbuke set aside marine protected areas to protect and manage reef fish, coral and other commercial invertebrates as part of their effort in building the resilience of their community and ecosystem to the impact of climate change helped by The Nature Conservancy and WWF respectively.

Deep in history, the Mbuke and Pere people hailed from a Titan tribe known as Mwanus. They are sea people and dependent on the sea for their livelihood. Part of the great voyage will be an attempt to connect with this lost tribe.

On board Climate Challenger are 10 local navigators, dancers and musicians to share the Manus culture throughout the island destinations to be visited: Kavieng, Lihir, Buka, Shortland Island, Taro (Choiseul), Honiara, Nauru, Kiribati (Tarawa), Marshall Islands (Majuro and atolls), Kosraie, Ponape, Truk, Puluwat, Soral, Yap, Palau, Wuvulu, Aua (Manus), Ninigo Group, Hermit and finally back to Lorengau.

The trip is expected to take 70 days and cover more than 3,200 km of the Pacific.

Continue reading "In an open canoe for the Pacific’s past & future" »

Cultural protection: a big win for the honest citizens


Julius, flanked by Minister Boka Kondra, and Andrew MoutuON 6 NOVEMBER LAST YEAR, Julius Violaris, the owner of Nawae Constructions and President of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum and Art Gallery in Port Moresby, gave a speech.

“It is a sad fact that the Museum has been on a downhill slide for the last decade or more,” he said. “The people that were running it did not care about it and its functions. They were more interested in what they could get out of it, steal the money and some of the artifacts and sell them.

“They have no shame, no compassion for the customs and traditions of this country and its future generations. For a few kina, they allow the export of national treasures, irreplaceable artifacts that will never be made again”.

The minister responsible for the museum, Charles Abel, had earlier joined with Julius and the other board members to try to remedy this appalling situation.

It was a hard road. “At every step of the way, we have been blocked by the crooks and thieves both inside and outside the Museum,” Julius explained. “They use the legal system to tie the hands of honest people and they have succeeded in stopping us from appointing a decent director, to manage the NMAG”. 

“We as trustees have been threatened with arrest, jail and all sorts of things, and this from very senior policemen,” he added.

It all looked pretty bleak but the board never gave up. “We will prevail. We have taken on the task and we aim to complete it” Julius said last November.

And last week the Board achieved its aim and appointed a “good and honest man” as the new director.

Dr Andrew Moutu is from a village located on the mountains along the west coast of Wewak and received his education at the University of Papua New Guinea and completed his Masters and PhD Degrees in Social Anthropology at Cambridge University.

For his doctorate, Andrew carried out field research in Kanganamun village on the Sepik River during which time he was also inducted into the men's initiation ritual.

PNG Attitude and its readers followed the drama at the museum last year with a mixture of incredulity, anger and disappointment. 

However some stories have a happy ending.

Confronting the inequality between PNG and Australia

Rev Tim CostelloTIM COSTELLO | The Australian

JULIA GILLARD HAS JUST RETURNED from a meeting with Pacific Island leaders where she announced a major aid initiative to tackle gender inequality.

We know that promoting gender equity can increase economic prosperity and transform community well-being so the prime minister’s announcement is a great step forward.

But having just visited the Pacific region, I am also struck by the immense challenge that lies ahead for our island neighbours, and the responsibility that Australia must face up to.

On the flight over to Papua New Guinea last month, I realised that the patch of water below me carried with it a moral significance. At one shoreline, state-of-the-art healthcare for all; at the other end, complications at birth carry with them a death sentence.

Papua New Guinea is our nearest neighbour, just a stone's throw from our own coast, and yet the two nations sit 151 places apart on the Human Development Index. There is a profound challenge here.

While other countries are fast making ground to achieve the Millennium Development Goals - the world's blueprint for tackling poverty - PNG is losing ground. About 50% of children don't attend primary school and there are only 0.6 health workers per 1,000 people.

Goal Five aims to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, but the rate of women dying in childbirth in PNG has been rising. This is a shocking state of affairs given the promises made by world leaders in 2000 when the MDG framework was agreed upon.

At one remote health clinic in Madang province, I met Sister Grace; a woman with a beautiful, shy demeanour. Not wanting to push her own needs, it took some time to draw out her story.

Finally, she explained that she worked in that tiny outpost far away from her own family, without a doctor, desperately trying to serve the needs of a vast catchment area. She worked without electricity, delivering babies by torch light.

The sacrifices she made to serve her community overwhelmed me. Not once did she complain, but in her eyes I sensed a determination. The sort of determination that says, "This isn't good enough".

Continue reading "Confronting the inequality between PNG and Australia" »

Clinton urges autonomy not independence for W Papua


HILLARY CLINTON HAS TOLD INDONESIA that the United States wants autonomy for Papua but made it clear it does not support independence.

Clinton rattled nerves in Indonesia last year by voicing concern over human rights and yesterday praised the Indonesian government even as she urged more efforts to resolve the long-running conflict.

"We believe strongly that dialogue between Papuan representatives and the Indonesian government would help address concerns the Papuans have and assist in resolving conflicts peacefully," Clinton said in Jakarta.

Clinton urged implementation of Indonesia's 2001 declaration of autonomy for the troubled region. Local activists charge that the autonomy has never been carried out and that their rights have not improved.

"We think that there has been an enormous amount of good work done by the Indonesian government and we're going to continue to work with them and raise issues as that becomes necessary," she said.

Human rights groups have accused Indonesian authorities of arbitrary arrests and attacks on civilians in Papua, which is shut off to foreign media.

Australia should put women at heart of foreign policy

Dr Meredith BurgmannMEREDITH BURGMANN | Canberra Times

THE DARK CLOUDS THAT HANG OVER the lives of many women and girls in the developing world have been witnessing recent bursts of sunshine from Australia.

In recent months, the Australian government has made a series of major announcements to support and promote equality for women and girls in developing countries such as Afghanistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia and Ethiopia.

Australia has doubled its family planning commitment to assist safe births to $50 million a year by 2016. Our aid is supporting more programs to prevent violence against women. And we're redoubling our efforts to ensure that all girls receive a quality education.

These positive steps forward are due, in part, to the government's acceptance of an independent aid review finding last year that Australia should make gender equality ''mission critical'' in order to achieve development outcomes in the region and beyond.

But last week in the Cook Islands at the Pacific Islands Forum, prime minister Julia Gillard went one big step further. She announced a $320 million initiative phased over a decade to promote women's rights in the Pacific by getting more women in parliament, increasing economic opportunities and reducing violence. The Australian aid sector has uttered a collective shout of ''hooray''.

Despite the overwhelming evidence that investing in women and girls is an essential requirement for effective development, the Pacific remains one of the least progressive regions in the world in terms of gender equality.

The Pacific comprises a diverse and proud set of complex cultures. But it has the lowest proportion of women in parliament in the world at just 3.5%. The recent elections in Papua New Guinea saw 135 women stand but just three elected - Dellilah Gore, Loujaya Toni and Julie Soso, the first woman to ever win a Highlands seat.

Women in the Solomon Islands and PNG experience some of the worst economic conditions in the world. According to the International Labour Organisation, the Asia-Pacific region loses up to $45.6 billion annually as a result of women's lack of access to employment opportunities.

Moreover, 60-70% of women in four Pacific countries - PNG, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Vanuatu - report physical and sexual abuse.

Australians probably think of Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo as some of the worst places in the world to be a woman. Aid workers know that the PNG Highlands, so close to Australia, is just as bad, especially in terms of violence.

Continue reading "Australia should put women at heart of foreign policy" »

Property prices soar in world's second least liveable city

ALISTAIR WALSH | Property Observer

Korobosea home - $1.1MACCORDING TO SOME SURVEYS, Port Moresby is the second least liveable city in the world.

An Economist review, for example, attributed this to lack of stability, healthcare poor and infrastructure lacking, though education, culture and environment weren't badly rated.

But still, it ranks 139th out of the magazine's list of the world's 140 most liveable cities (Melbourne ranks first, Sydney seventh).

Strong growth in the mining sector in PNG has led to an influx in foreign investment, especially from Chinese interests.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability survey assesses the locations around the world that provide the best or the worst living conditions.

The survey doesn’t include the absolute worst of the worst, just cities or business centres that people might feasibly want to live in or visit.

So it does not include cities like Kabul in Afghanistan or Baghdad in Iraq, both in the grip of conflict.

Conflict is generally found to be the primary reason for the position of the bottom ranked cities.

“Threat of armed conflict will not just cause disruption in its own right, it will also damage infrastructure, overburden hospitals, and undermine the availability of goods, services and recreational activities,” the report says.

Australia’s Smart Traveller website, published by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, advises that PNG is in the grip of civil unrest and political tension, especially following the release of election results, which it says could fuel potentially violent, armed confrontations.

The site warns that ethnic disputes continue to flare up around the country and can quickly escalate into violent clashes.

“The clashes not only create danger within the immediate area but also promote a general atmosphere of lawlessness, with an associated increase in opportunistic crime,” the site says.

“Car-jacking is an ever-present threat, particularly in Port Moresby and Lae. Car doors should be locked with windows up at all times, and caution should be taken when travelling after dark. In the evening or at night, we recommend you travel in a convoy.”

Travellers are also warned about potential kidnappings and a heightened risk of robbery and attack even at well attended shopping centres in Port Moresby.

So what happens if you get posted to a gold mine in Papua and you end up having to buy a property?

Perhaps because it’s a former Australian territory there seems to be a number of Australian-based real estate agents in the city.

The recently approved liquefied natural gas project has sent property prices soaring, according to 2011 reports, and local agent Andrew Henry from Century 21 agrees.

“The market has changed since 2011, there’s a lot of new buildings, new houses new apartments, all this has happened in the last couple of years.”

He says the median price for houses is around $670,000 and for apartments it’s around $200,000.

He says the security situation in the country is much better than it has been in the past.

“In security terms it’s good, not nearly as bad as before. Before it was a bit scary and it was hard to move around. But at this stage there’s more freedom of movement, you can go wherever you want to go.”

Henry says there’s an increasing number of foreigners buying in Port Moresby as more and more projects are improved and expects the price to go up.

More stars than cars: US pivots on the Pacific periphery

The Economist

Peter O'Neill and Hillary ClintonRARELY CAN RAROTONGA HAVE SEEN such a stellar cast of world leaders as the one that last week descended on the most populous of the tiny Cook Islands for the annual summit of the Pacific Islands Forum.

It normally accommodates just 13,000 inhabitants and some beach-basking tourists. But alongside the leaders of other island states, the forum drew delegates from well over 50 countries.

They included the prime ministers of Australia and New Zealand, and Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state (pictured with Peter O’Neill), who struggled to borrow enough four-wheel drive cars for her motorcade.

The international enthusiasm for the gathering seems puzzling. One commentator uncharitably but accurately called the forum’s members “impoverished, strategically unimportant island states”.

Leaving aside Papua New Guinea, with seven million people, each of the Pacific Island states has a population of fewer than one million. Niue has a mere 1,500.

Apart, again, from mineral-rich PNG, none has many natural resources. The Pacific Rim may be the dynamo of the world economy, but most Pacific shipping passes well north of the island states, which are clustered in the south-west of the ocean.

One reason for the new attention paid to the islands is Barack Obama’s “rebalancing” of America’s strategic posture towards Asia and the Pacific, an undeclared aim of which is to push back against expanding Chinese influence.

Chinese soft loans to Tonga, Vanuatu, the Cook Islands and, more controversially, to the military regime in Fiji, have raised American eyebrows. So too has Chinese involvement in mining in PNG, although Mrs Clinton’s claim last year that China was trying to unpick Exxon Mobil’s $16 billion gas project in PNG was unfounded.

Australia is also concerned, but its main grievance is Chinese reluctance to sign a compact on coordinating development aid that was agreed at the forum’s 2009 summit in Cairns.

The competition for influence in the Pacific islands recalls the days when they were more significant, both economically and strategically. Two centuries ago, sailing ships from Britain, France and America ruthlessly hunted whales among the islands.

In the 1840s Australian and American traders flocked in search of sandalwood, sea cucumbers and other Pacific delicacies to trade for tea in China. With the arrival of the steamship, Pacific deepwater harbours were briefly eyed as coaling stations, until design improvements made possible non-stop travel from San Francisco to Australia.

After Japan bombed Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in December 1941, ferocious fighting on Guadalcanal and Bougainville brought Americans in large numbers to the islands. After the war America took charge of formerly Japanese territories, most of which still have “compacts of free association” with the United States.

So far, however, American “rebalancing” has brought the Pacific Islands little of substance, aside from a few extra grants and the opening of an office in Port Moresby, PNG’s capital, by USAID, the American development agency.

America’s realignment has mainly affected South-East Asia and Australia itself, with last year’s announcement of what amounts to a marine base in Darwin, North Australia.

Even now, despite this week’s diplomatic carpet-bombing of Rarotonga, the Pacific Islands are unlikely to play more than a symbolic role in America’s Pacific diplomacy.

Galling as it must be for the islands, their main function for America may be as a way to stress the interests it shares with Australia and New Zealand.

Reports of lifting of journalists' ban are premature

PNG-BASED ABC CORRESPONDENT LIAM FOX has queried reports that the PNG government has lifted a ban on foreign journalists entering the country to cover the Manus Island asylum centre story.

Journalists from the Fairfax Group have also said that they have yet to receive confirmation of their visa applications to visit PNG to cover the issue.

Earlier this afternoon, Radio New Zealand International reported that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Rimbink Pato, had lifted the restriction, which has beencriticised widely within and outside PNG.

West Sepik Governor Amkat Mai was among critics, reminding the prime minister that the previous government was toppled over lack of transparency.

Reporters Without Borders also urged the government to lift this ban so reporters could cover the reopening of the centre.

Fairfax Media reported that two of its journalists submitted visa applications that were denied by the Immigration and Citizenship Service.

“It is vital that journalists should be able to cover this kind of development, especially when it concerns such as sensitive subject as refugees,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Vessel unseaworthy & owner had ‘no respect for people’

Radio New Zealand International

Rabaul QueenA COMMISSION OF INQUIRY into the sinking of the ferry Rabaul Queen has found it was not seaworthy, unsafe and should never have departed on its final voyage.

The commission's report, obtained by Radio New Zealand International, says between 142 and 161 people died when the Rabaul Queen sank between the island of New Britain and the mainland city of Lae on 2 February.

It cannot give an exact number of passengers, because the vessel did not have a clear manifest.

The report says weather and sea conditions at the time of the capsize were gale force and the ship should not have been where it was in the conditions.

The commission found the ship's owner, Captain Peter Sharp, demonstrated that he had little or no respect for people, including those in authority.

It says this "gross disrespect" was reflected in the "appalling and inhumane conditions" in which he was prepared to let Rabaul Queen passengers travel and may explain in part why he was prepared to compromise the safety of passengers on board his ships.

The report also found a number of failures by the Maritime Safety Authority, including that it allowed itself to be intimidated by Mr Sharp.

Leader with a difference: Peter O'Neill's new path for PNG

ROWAN CALLICK |The Australian

ONeill - AustralianAUSTRALIAN politicians and diplomats are discovering in Papua New Guinea's recently re-elected Prime Minister a new kind of regional leader.

Peter Charles Paire O'Neill, whose mandate is such that he looks likely to remain in power for many years, stood out from the crowd in the Pacific Islands Forum in the Cook Islands last week.

The most common pattern among Pacific leaders has been that of the part-time hyper-patriot who bravely tweaks Canberra's tail from a distance when he needs a political boost at home, but then switches to compliance when face-to-face with an Australian counterpart.

Another type is more simply understood -- the sycophant who believes that the best way to lure largesse from the AusAID honeypot that will soon hit $9 billion a year is to follow the briefs from Canberra.

But O'Neill is walking a different path. His inclination is to be friendly with his big neighbour. He observes with considerable interest events Down South, as people in PNG uniquely can -- with direct access to Australian TV, radio and newspapers.

But he has his own thoughts as to how regional and global events might best be managed to suit PNG and Pacific interests.

A former successful accountant -- a great qualification for a leader in a developing country -- and businessman, he naturally leans to pro-private sector policies.

O'Neill points out that PNG is one of Australia's biggest investment destinations, chiefly but not solely in resources and energy.

He noted with approval Canberra's stance during the difficult past year, to stand back and let PNG settle its own problems, while "encouraging us to have some dialogue and resolve our issues in an amicable manner".

He was not among those who instantly attacked Foreign Minister Bob Carr for his warning that PNG would face international sanctions if it postponed its mid-year election.

He let the short-lived controversy evaporate, as he persisted with the electoral schedule.

The relationship with Australia remains "very cordial and friendly", he told The Australian in an exclusive interview. "Very much on track."

And under him the countries appear set to work more closely together on regional issues -- but as a team in which both have a say over strategy, rather than as leader and follower.

He wants to support Canberra by reopening the Manus asylum-seeker processing centre, but insists that this happen "in a humane manner", preferably through allowing the inmates a free run of Manus, and also through processing their claims expeditiously.

Whether and how this might fit the Gillard government's "no-advantage" test could prove an interesting challenge.

At the forum summit, where he made measured contributions, O'Neill also took steps to bring Fiji back into the fold -- but artfully outside the forum, from which he agreed with Julia Gillard it should remain suspended until it holds elections.

He is inviting Fiji to join talks he is hosting next month to help finalise, after eight drifting years of negotiations, a free trade agreement between the island countries and the European Union.

Continue reading "Leader with a difference: Peter O'Neill's new path for PNG " »

Peter O’Neill’s challenge - uplifting the red, gold & black


I do not know Erasmus Baraniak. I have emailed him and he has chosen not to reply. There is a suggestion he lives in Singapore. This contribution under his name was made as a comment to PNG Attitude having been published previously in PNG Blogs. I felt the article was too long, too sweeping in its scope and too fine a piece of writing to restrict to the Comments column. So it is published here; the division into five sections my own doing. I hope you read it, speculative and contrarian though some of it may be, and I look forward to your responses - KJ


OUR MOMENTS OF TRIUMPH on the Olympic stage have not been many, so full marks to Toea Wisil for her recent track and field triumph.

We have had our moments over the last 37 years in more modest sporting events like the Commonwealth, Arafura, South Pacific and Mini South Pacific Games, but Wisil’s qualifying run was something special.

Its significance will be held in our collective memories for a long time, as her personal triumph is part of our history as a nation.

In an Olympic year, we are once again contemplating playing host to the next South Pacific Games and the government (especially the previous O’Neill-Namah political leadership) had not been serious about what ought to have been a matter of priority and pride - to prepare necessary infrastructure for the event.

The nation is about to face its moment of truth on the regional and international stage but we are way behind in our preparations, and have treated this event as a political afterthought.

Our lack of preparation must necessarily be viewed as a measure of our own awareness and pride in ourselves. It is a measure of the way we have gone off-course in terms of focussing our people and our leaders on matters other than that of national interest and national importance.

It is a measure of the way we have lost our way as a nation, preoccupied with politics, the demands of enclave type developments like the LNG, and forgotten about being a country, about nationhood, and about what the national interest requires of us.

It is a measure of the way we have lost our own sovereignty in favour of serving others’ interests, including personal interests.

We are about to reveal once again for all to see what we have been about for the last 37 years, at least since the last time we hosted the Games here. At least we had a Sir Anthony Siaguru to lead us out with a committee of equally talented people, showcased and acquitted well of the nation they represented. 

Oh how the red gold and black fluttered in the steady south-westerly, and our hearts were instantaneously lifted to greater heights of exuberance, as our athletes triumphed. 

We could believe once again in ourselves, and the social contract we signed in 1975 to be one nation, one people and one country. And oh how we triumphed then, hauling in more gold silver and bronze than ever before, or since!

Every Kiwai, Tolai, Highlander, Wopa, Siwai, Orokaiva, Orokolo, Sol and Tasi walked out of that stadium, proud, and rightfully so. We savoured those precious few shared moments of triumph with tears streaming down our faces.

We looked at each other wide eyed and teary faced, and we laughed tears of joy and elation, and gently swayed to the fading strands of John Wong’s voice “Papua New Guinea… one people, one country...”as we walked out, confident and sure of ourselves.

We knew we will always be one people, a people cast together by history, a people held together by our ancient agrarian ways, thrust almost prematurely into the limelight of 21st Century to sink or swim, live or die.

Together we chose life. And but whilst the odds were always staked against us, and some called us stone aged primitives, while others whispered,”… they won’t make it...”, it is in rare moments of sporting triumph like this, pitted against their best, on a clear sky blue days and on level playing fields, we have come together and asserted resoundingly that we have arrived on the world’s centre stage!

We have asserted that we are an ancient people, a strong people, the largest nation in the Pacific Islands and the land link between the tiger economies of Asia and the Pacific.

We are the pre-historic home of Melanesia. We are a serious people, and we shall be taken seriously by our other Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian neighbours. Whether they like it or not, whether they like our way of doing things or not, we are here and we will assert ourselves, and assert we did at that and every other SP Games since.

Who would have predicted how we would turn out as a nation and a people in 1973 when we were granted self government so hurriedly by the Whitlam government of Canberra?

Continue reading "Peter O’Neill’s challenge - uplifting the red, gold & black" »

Clinton: US is committed to security in Asia-Pacific

MATTHEW LEE | Associated Press

Hillary Clinton meets Cook IslandersUS SECRETARY OF STATE Hillary Clinton has pledged renewed American commitment to security in the Asia-Pacific, where tensions are rising between China and its neighbours over territorial disputes and many nations face threats from climate change.

Speaking at a meeting of leaders of South Pacific island nations, Clinton said the US would not abandon its long history of protecting maritime commerce in the region and serving as a counterbalance to domination by any single world power.

However, she played down the idea that the U.S was acting "perhaps as a hedge against particular countries."

She said America wants to cooperate with China in the vast Pacific and encouraged other countries, including those in the region, to do the same.

"The Pacific is big enough for all of us," she told reporters.

Yet she pointed out that China's interests in the region are not necessarily the same as others, contrasting US goals as aimed at adding rather than extracting value.

The comment was a veiled shot at China, which some complain is using its overseas investments to exploit resources at the expense of local populations.

The verdict: PNG election was ‘free but not fair’

CATHERINE WILSON | Inter Press Service

INDEPENDENT OBSERVERS HAVE SUBMITTED reports identifying serious concerns about malpractice and discrepancies in Papua New Guinea’s recent national elections.

“The 2012 elections were generally free, but not fair, as many voters across the country were disenfranchised and did not exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Dr Ray Anere, senior research fellow at the PNG National Research Institute.

The conduct of elections is influenced by the nation’s high cultural, social and linguistic diversity and a much longer history of indigenous clan and community-based governance.

Elections regularly feature large numbers of political parties and candidates fiercely vying for a small number of parliamentary seats.

Conducting the 2012 election, in which 3,443 candidates, including 134 women, contested a total of 111 parliamentary seats, was a complex logistical exercise.

More than 80% of the population live in rural and mountainous areas and the Electoral Commission assigned 30,000 polling officials and 4,700 teams to 9,800 rural polling locations.

During the three-week polling period Transparency International (PNG) deployed 370 independent election observers to monitor approximately 1,000 polling stations.

“It is very concerning that the roll had 4.8 million names on it, many more than the census would suggest, and yet in coastal areas many people could not find their names on it, despite having been on the roll in 2007,” a spokesperson said.

“However, in the Highlands, the ward rolls were largely not used. This was often because communities felt that the ward roll did not have enough names on it, and so not enough ballots were supplied.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat, which sent an international observer team, noted there were “problems with the electoral roll in all provinces visited.

“The proportion of voters turned away varied between areas and there were multiple apparent causes, including the integrity of the electoral roll itself, confusion over names used by voters, lack of clarity in the allocation of voters to specific wards and the limited ability of polling officials to verify enrolment information on polling day.”

Continue reading "The verdict: PNG election was ‘free but not fair’" »

Up the Fly River: dealing with BHP’s destructive legacy

MARTYN NAMORONG | Namorong Report

Ok Tedi aircraftI AM IN TABUBIL, UP THE FLY RIVER. After a long walk to Jackson's airport in Moresby, I'd boarded the aircraft with a ticket and 20 toea in my pocket - such is the life of your itinerant correspondent.

I'm here as a guest of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd (OTML) to cover the launching of its environment monitoring vessel, the MV Fly Explorer, in Kiunga today.

The vessel is worth around 2.3 million US bucks and is paid for by the Ok Tedi Trust Development Fund (OTDF). The vessel will be leased by OTDF to OTML to be used as a scientific research vessel to monitor damages caused along the Fly River by Ok Tedi mine.

OTDF was set up as an arrangement between OTML and PNGSDP. OTDF now receives funding from PNGSDP and the Western Province People's Dividend Trust Fund set up by State under Mining(Ok Tedi) Mine Continuation (Ninth Supplemental) Agreement) Act 2001.

In other words, OTDF has used Western Province people's money to buy a vessel to monitor damages to the Fly. It is expected that the money will be recouped as OTML makes lease payments for the use of the vessel.

Western Province's political elite met Ok Tedi mine Officials yesterday in Tabubil. The new Governor and the three Open Members of Parliament arrived at 10 am for a briefing at the Golf Club. They will witness the launching of MV Fly Explorer today.

Officials from PNG Sustainable Development Limited (PNGSDP) are also present. PNGSDP was created by BHP Billiton as it exited its world class mine in Western Province after creating a world class environmental catastrophe.

It (PNGSDP) was created as part of a deal that prevents Western Province people from suing BHP Billiton for damages to the Fly River.

The damages to the Fly River ecosystems and the villages whose livelihoods depend on the Fly have been enormous.

The PNG government has recognized this by granting 5% equity in the mine to affected villages. The problem with equity arrangements like this is that the people only benefit if the miner makes a profit or if they sell their shares.

It would have been much better for them to be given a certain percentage of export value of each copper shipment, fixed at the world market price.

OTML, which is now co-owned by the government of Papua New Guinea and PNGSDP, has since been trying to reduce further damage to the Fly River.

Previously tailings were directly discharged into the Fly River tributaries, resulting in the world’s third largest environmental catastrophe.

This has now been ameliorated by a tailings disposal mechanism, currently being replaced following a flaw in the pipeline that caused a major tailings spill last year.

The legacy lingers on.

Realpolitik, but Clinton is a show-stopper in the Pacific

EVAN OSNOS | The New Yorker

Hillary in the Cook IslandsIT TAKES A LOT OF DOING to get yourself to Rarotonga, the capital of the Cook Islands, a place of windswept palms, crashing surf, and a population of 11,000, scattered across 15 tropical specks in the South Pacific.

It’s a patch of dry land the size of Washington, DC. So, with all eyes in Washington this week on Tampa, and, soon, on Charlotte, why did Hillary Clinton become the first Secretary of State ever to touch down in Rarotonga? Is she dying to catch up with Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa? Is it the body-surfing?

The answer, of course, is China. In the diplomatic equivalent of driving across town to honk at the opposing team’s locker room, Clinton is attending a regional dialogue hosted by the Pacific Islands Forum, usually the domain of island states, as well as Papua New Guinea, Australia, and New Zealand.

The Chinese, who have assiduously courted Pacific Island nations in recent years, are also attending, and when Clinton arrived Friday night (Rarotonga time), it did not escape reporters’ attention that the Chinese delegation had scheduled a press conference for precisely the same hour.

China’s state news service is not subtle about its discontent, saying Clinton’s trip is “aimed at curbing China’s growing influence” and “stirring up disputes.” It called on Washington to “abandon its surreal ambition of ruling the Asia-Pacific and the world.”)

Rarotonga has barely been able to accommodate the attention. A New Zealand reporter predicts that it will be “a much bigger show than when Zac Guildford ran naked from waterfront Trader Jacks.” (Guildford is a rugby star.)

The island has been scrambling to deal with so many dignitaries, reportedly even asking residents to pony up use of their SUVs to fill out Clinton’s motorcade. While the State Department has limited the size of her entourage, the contingent includes some notable attendees, including Admiral Sam Locklear, head of the Pacific Command.

Clinton’s turn in the South Pacific is part of the Administration’s “pivot” towards Asia, which includes establishing a new submarine-corps base in Australia and a rotating military presence in the Philippines.

Earlier this year, Clinton spelled out the challenge. She told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that China had “brought all of the leaders of the South Pacific to Beijing, and wined and dined them.”

As the Los Angeles Times reported, she was blunt: “Let’s just put aside all the moral, humanitarian, do-good side of what we believe in, and let’s just talk, you know, realpolitik. We are in a competition with China.”

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Poet and firebrand finds herself in good company


Loujaya Toni on the election trailLOUJAYA TONI SPENT MUCH of the past few years toiling in the vegetable garden she had inherited from her late mother on the outskirts of Lae, Papua New Guinea's second largest city.

Toni's people are customary landowners. The precious plot of soil bequeathed to her had sustained generations of clan, thanks largely to the sweat of her female forebears, and now it was feeding her four teenage children.

But her time in the garden had also begun to nourish something else - a hunger to improve her family's hard-scrabble existence and that of the rural diaspora crowding into the port city's shanty-town settlements, old and new residents all living cheek-by-jowl without running water, power or sewers.

What she observed working down in the dirt became her motivation. She went back to university to pursue a masters degree in development.

She started talking to political parties and doing preference deals; she sought out training on campaigning; she worked the neighbourhoods, collecting stories and rousing support; she set her sights on gaining a seat in the PNG parliament and, with it, the power to change realities.

Just last month she realised that dream in a seismic political upset in which she defeated her grandfather, the fondly regarded veteran statesman Bart Philemon to become the member for Lae.

She signed up to join the ranks of the new O'Neill government, and the rookie MP was catapulted onto the frontbench, becoming Minister for Community Development.

Late last week Loujaya Toni MP - gardener, teacher, poet, singer, journalist, mother, wife and (judging by a lively phone interview) political firebrand - was in the Cook Islands, where she was to be welcomed into the fold by some rather more experienced female political operators: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Women chief and former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet.

(She was also to have met the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who had to leave the Pacific Islands Forum early because of the deaths of five soldiers in Afghanistan.)

As she scrambled from Port Moresby to Rarotonga this week after getting the message that ''Hillary wants to meet you'', Toni reflected that her break into the male enclave of Pacific power came courtesy of a collusion of factors.

She had the education, the determination, and a restive electorate prepared to vote against old paradigms. Now she hopes the planets are aligning to usher in other women.

Toni's success in the polls coincides with a welling up of momentum, awareness and investment in the gender agenda in the Pacific, as highlighted by the announcement this week by Gillard at the Pacific Islands Forum of a $320 million, 10-year initiative to expand women's leadership and opportunities in the region.

Pacific countries have the lowest proportion of women in parliament of any region in the world, lagging behind even Arab states. Women hold just 5% of Pacific parliamentary seats compared with a global average of 18%. In Australia and the Americas almost one quarter of MPs are women.

Loujaya Toni is one of three women to win seats in the 111-member PNG Parliament in the recent election. The last Parliament had just one female, the Queensland-born PNG political veteran Dame Carol Kidu.

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Hurley Papua photos exhibit opens in western Sydney


Men take a rest during singing contest, Inauaia village, Mekeo area, 1921. (Frank Hurley)THE EVOCATIVE IMAGES of Frank Hurley, one of the greatest Australian photographers of the 20th century, are now showing at the University of Western Sydney’s Parramatta campus.

Frank Hurley: Journeys into Papua is a touring exhibition developed by the Australian Museum (featured in PNG Attitude in 2008) and hosted by the Whitlam Institute within the University of Western Sydney depicts an artistic legacy from a career spanning nearly 60 years.

On display are 82 framed photographs taken on two journeys to Papua in the early 1920s. The photos reflect both an Australian-controlled Papua – a place where government and missionaries exerted a strong influence in the areas they occupied – and a more traditional Papua. The culture clash between the colonial settlers and the Papuan people is clearly captured in the mesmerising images.

Like everything Hurley touched, the Papua photographs were cloaked in controversy. Moral questions were raised about the circumstances in which Hurley took the photographs.

He was accused of theft, bullying, duplicity and unethical behaviour. Although Hurley was largely innocent, he did not mind the accusations. There was always a Barnum and Bailey side to Hurley. And if a bad headline swelled the number of people paying to see his slide shows, Hurley would milk it for all it was worth

The photographs are extraordinary and include scenes of mission life, landscapes and the first aerial photographs taken of Papua. There is a magnificent a four-frame panorama of a Papuan village which has never been seen before. But mostly there are portraits - dozens of haunting photographs of people who had never seen a camera but were persuaded to pose despite their obvious apprehension.

The photographs that caused much controversy were those which Hurley took of his party carrying guns in the remote Lake Murray district. They had been told to carry guns by the Lieutenant-Governor because Lake Murray wasn't under government control. But a missionary saw a photo and drew the conclusion there had been violence.

Hurley’s subsequent slide shows were a huge success, with tours of the US and Britain. His book Pearls And Savages became an international bestseller, encouraging him to return to the region to make two feature films.

By 1927 Hurley was going through difficult times, forced to take a desk job. He decided to sell much of his Papua collection of glass-plate negatives and lantern slides to the Australian Museum.

WHAT: Frank Hurley: Journeys into Papua Photographic Exhibition
WHEN: Until 26 October 2012, 10:00am – 4:00pm Monday to Friday (after hours by appointment)
WHERE: Margaret Whitlam Galleries, Female Orphan School, Parramatta South Campus Corner of James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road, Rydalmere
COST: $5 per person

Don’t just sit there – do something, and do it now!


PhilTHREE YEARS AGO I wrote an article for the Post Courier’s Independence Day supplement bemoaning the decline of literature in Papua New Guinea.

Since then we’ve had two years of the Crocodile Prize literary competition, which conclusively proved I was awry in my assessment. 

There is nothing wrong with literature in Papua New Guinea.  It is very far from being in decline. On the contrary, it is absolutely booming! 

There are hundreds, that’s right, hundreds of talented writers out there scribbling and typing away every hour and every day of the week.

You name it and they are writing about it – love and romance, politics and war, social issues, history, the future, pigs, dogs and everything.

How can that be true, you ask?  And, if it is true, how come we can’t go into a shop and buy their books?  After all, this is what we want to read, it is much more interesting than those second hand and distant books from overseas.

And, of course, that is the nub of the problem - you’ve got it in one.  There are plenty of shops that would sell Papua New Guinean books if they could get them, especially if they came at a reasonable cost.  The trouble is, there are no books being published for the shops to sell.

Why not?  The answer is that there is no money to be made from publishing Papua New Guinean writers and their books.  Production costs are too high, distribution is difficult, the market is too small and people need to buy food and other necessities before they spend money on luxuries like books.

Try this for an example.  It has cost us close to K50,000 to print 3,000 copies of the 2012 Crocodile Prize Anthology.  That’s K17 per copy without the cost of editing, design and distribution.  If we wanted to get our money back we’d have to wholesale it for at least K35.  With the retailer’s profit margin that would take it up to around K50 a copy.  And that would be a really cheap Papua New Guinean book.  You can buy a lot of rice and tinfish for K50.

But books aren’t luxuries, you say. The heart and soul of a nation are defined by its literature; no luxury, surely?  And besides, with declining literacy rates, our kids need good Papua New Guinean books to read.  How else can they learn about their country, its past, its prospects?  Someone needs to do something about it!  What is the government doing, for goodness sake?

And here you would be hitting the nub of the problem on the head.  What is the government doing?

The answer is a very sad ‘absolutely nothing’.  Isn’t that appalling?  Isn’t that shameful?  And to make matters worse, it isn’t just the current government or the one before that or even the one before that; it’s all of them, ever since independence and, to Australia’s shame, even before that. 

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Revisiting ‘Melanesian capitalism or capitalist Melanesia’


It’s a very simple choice. On one hand you may, if circumstances permit, follow a simple, subsistence-farming life (provided that enough of the population also wants this and all individuals bury any ambition to increase personal standing and influence in the community).

But then, any community must inevitably acquire some sort of leadership and follow some sort of code.

Greenie-type subsistence-economy ideals are at best an illusion - even deepest-green hippie communities call the state-funded ambulance and hospital when they overdose on maryjane or choke on a free-range chicken-bone.

Such a Melanesian state/society would have to cultivate some sort of organised defence system allied with transport and communications and foreign affairs facilities to connect with the rest of the world.

This, among other necessities, would cost money. It is not possible to exist in social and cultural and technological isolation in today’s world.

Melanesia must, ipso facto, join and be part of the rest of the modern world. As it is trying hard to do, right now.

It needs help, not sentimental mush in the guise of theories of appropriate social management and development. Goodbye to the faddists’ view of the Melanesian way and the Evils of Capitalism/Globalisation.

Thus, to be frank, it behoves all who want Papua New Guineans to live more fair, more healthy and more secure lives in a fast-changing world, to forget all sentiment and false idealism people tend to talk on this blog and get on with establishing a political regime based upon the Ten Commandments and the rule of established national law.

The old ways condoned, even promoted, much which is inimical to modern society, even though there are good elements which must still prevail in the absence of modern services within most of the nation.

The leadership must give control of their country back to the mass of the people by using the Local Level Government system as the basic common-denominator for the choice of Parliamentary representatives.

They must above all throw out the largely crooked and selfish party-system for good and all. PNG society is a unitary one in levels of wealth and in basic beliefs, aims and ideals.

It is only now, in the era of the emergence of the self-empowered political class, that it has become a class-ridden hegemony. Why? Because no-one predicted this or laid down a suitable course for the formation of electoral representation in the fifties and sixties.

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