Previous month:
September 2012
Next month:
November 2012

105 posts from October 2012

Today’s PNG is tomorrow’s history: let’s make it good

JOE WASIA | Supported by the Bob Cleland Writing Fellowship

RECENT ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, political and constitutional developments in Papua New Guinea will, for sure, bring back some memories in later years.

While we have been travelling our journey, the global community has at many times thrown criticisms on the conduct and state of affairs of this nation.

Different surveys conducted by different countries and organisations have posited so many negative perceptions of our country. The people thought that they could hardly see light while the rest of the world lived the glorious life out there.

A cry from deep within the heart of this poor nation continues to flow like the small creek at the base of Mt Sugalop on the border of Hela and Enga provinces in the heart of PNG.

The cry is always constant: Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

In the last 37 years since political independence, the nation has sailed through rough seas, climbed rugged mountains, walked deep valleys and crossed fast flowing rivers.

Every one has seen the negative perceptions of the future of this nation. It has never travelled any easy journey as yet. It continues to cry and cry.

For sure, the country has much to regret and little to commemorate on its failure and success.

Future generations will learn through written and oral history about the journey this young nation has gone through in this era.

The three arms of government, judiciary, legislature and executive, have been strangled by their spelled responsibilities in recent years. It gave serious indication that the nation was heading for destruction.

The executive arm overruling the other arms of government nearly brought constitutional democracy and the separation of powers to their knees. The nation may live to regret this.

The constitution is the fabric that holds together 800 or more different cultures in this diverse nation. It’s utter nonsense on the part of uncaring and self-centred leaders to destroy this fabric.

Amendment after amendment; alteration after alteration. Whose interests are the elected MPs pursuing? They take all sorts of action just to cling on to power.

The practice of stressing and disrespecting the constitution has been seen in successive governments. It has been the practice for many years.

But if this O’Neill-Dion government comes out of this period of political uncertainty, PNG will see the light in the next five years and onwards.

It’s hoped that compilations in books and on websites like PNG Attitude will give future generations the clear picture of every economic, social and political development in this nation in this era.

Some questions about Australia’s foreign aid budget


AN AUDIT OF A HUGE, publicly funded scheme like Australia's aid program it is fairly useless unless the auditors examine previously set benchmarks and achievements against these benchmarks and targets.

Any audit report should be transparent and available to the public of Australia and the developing country the aid is supposed to be assisting.

That's why I've developed some relevant questions of our aid budget that ought to be on the agenda of the Australian National Audit Office.

The table here is derived from the Development Policy Blog (Country and regional programs with a published, final strategy: Jonathan Pryke)


Here are a few questions that the Australian National Audit Office should be asking:


Continue reading "Some questions about Australia’s foreign aid budget" »

The publisher is in hospital for minor carpentry & joinery so there may be some delay in posting comments for a while. Bear with us, as the hunter yelled to his companion....

Publication not so easy: The dilemma of a bush writer

FRANCIS NII | Supported by the South Pacific Strategic Solutions Writing Fellowship

Francis NiiBUSHMAN LIKES READING AND WRITING. Whenever he finds time, he collects half used scrap paper, writes on it and stacks it away.

One day, Bushman retrieves one of his stories from the stacks of scrap. He starts reading it. There is not much sense there. It’s not a complete story; only a brainstorming.

‘I must complete the story‘, says Bushman to himself. He finds some scrap paper and starts writing.

As he progresses, the story becomes interesting. He suspends his other activities for the time being. He gets stuck into writing.

By the time he finishes, he’s covered a good amount of scrap paper. He is amazed. He smiles to himself. He has a complete story. Bushman stacks the scrap paper in the middle of a Air Niugini Paradise magazine and puts it away. He goes about his usual businesses.

Some days later, Bushman returns home from the buai market. He finds scrap paper lying all over the floor. His youngest daughter sits with her friends outside, all their eyes on Paradise.

They are arguing which one of them is that pretty air hostess. Bushman shakes his head. He picks up the paper and goes to his bed. Lying down, Bushman reads his story.

It is full of mistakes. He makes corrections as he reads.

When he finishes, the scrap paper is full of crossings, asterisks and arrows pointing here and there. The whole is a mess. Only Bushman can make sense out of it. He is sick. He looks around and finds a plastic shopping bag. He puts his scrap paper in the bag and hides it in that place Bushman calls bedroom.

One morning, a friend of Bushman comes along. He tells him about PNG Attitude and the Crocodile Prize. Bushman goes to town and buys a writing pad and some biros. He goes back to his bed and painstakingly starts rewriting the whole story on the pad.

After two hours, Bushman completes the rewrite. He is happy. He burns the scrap paper. The pad takes their place in the plastic bag.

Typing is Bushman’s next dilemma. On the following day, Bushman goes to town looking for a place to have his story typed. One typing shop charges K2.50 per page. The rest charge K3. He chooses the cheaper one.

After two hours of waiting, his typing is ready - three pages in all. Bushman checks the typed story. As far as Bushman is concerned, he is the Microsoft Word 2007 proof checker. He is the grammar, the vocabulary, the tense and the punctuation.

He finds mistakes. He gives the story back to the typist to incorporate corrections. The typist demands an extra K1 a page for the corrections and reprints. Bushman pays.

Scanning and sending the story to PNG Attitude is Bushman’s next double headache. He doesn’t give up. He searches and asks around.

His good friend who introduced PNG Attitude to him helps. He sends Bushman’s first story to PNG Attitude from his work place. Thanks Mero.

Bushman’s story gets published; his greatest delight and satisfaction.

He is happy that he shares a piece of mind his with others. He wishes to write more stories. But how is Bushman is going to overcome the obstacles, or at least alleviate them?

Francis Nii will offer the second part of this story in November

They die of tuberculosis – disease on rampage in PNG


AT THE HEALTH CENTRE in the township of Tapini there were more than a dozen patients suffering from tuberculosis waiting for treatment: that's a long queue for a small town.

Kope, two months old, surveyed a world that was still new to him.  This beautiful baby boy with eyes so big that you could melt into them had, in his short life, only known suffering.  He has TB.  His mother died of it.

Tapini is the main town of the district of Goilala in Papua New Guinea's Central Province.  It's just 124 kilometres from the capital city of Port Moresby, as the crow flies, but the journey takes over six hours by road – a four-wheel drive is an absolute necessity -The road is often blocked by avalanches.

One can also fly into Tapini - but that's not for the faint-hearted either.  Nestled in a small valley, take offs and landings from the grass airstrip that bisects the town are fraught owing to the mountains rising up from the end of the runway between which the pilot must steer a treacherous path. 

Nevertheless, it's a trip well worth taking if only to witness the breathtaking scenery of this beautiful remote region.  In Goilala life is lived in much the same manner that it has been lived for centuries. To all intents and purposes Goilala is a land that time forgot.

But it’s not only time that has forgotten Goilala. 

Goilala is hardly on the radar of the PNG government either - especially when it comes to basic services.  There is no central electricity supply in the district for instance.

And while there were up to 15 government aid posts  – all but one have been closed due to lack of funding and the fate of the last remaining one hangs by a thread

There are no roads. Public transport is non existent. The government administration offices in Tapini are unmanned.

In Tapini, the Catholic Mission runs the district's school and sole health centre.

The Central Province has just one medical doctor to service 200,000 people.

But if PNG is described as a gold mine floating on a sea of gas and oil, the Goilala district also has its share of mineral wealth.  Goilala is host to the Tokuluma gold mine that produces 80,000 ounces of gold a year.

The mine is owned by Petromin - a PNG state owned enterprise and the mine is a handy source of government revenue – not that much trickles down to Goilalans.

However, Goilalans do reap the adverse consequences - The mine discharges 230,000 tonnes of its toxic detritus (known as tailings) into the river system.  There is also substantial toxic run off from its waste dumps. 

These riverine tailings have poisoned the river system - previously a source of drinking water. Discharged heavy metals such as Arsenic has also killed off a valuable source of protein for the villagers - fish.

Toxic run off has also seeped into the soil polluting the surrounding land and finding its way into underground water supplies – accessed by the people from wells. Now, in some affected villages women need to walk for 4 hours to collect drinking water.

Ironically, 25% of the land area where the Tokuluma mine operates has been declared an area of ecological fragility.

Goilalans are in the unenviable position where their traditional life has been compromised by modernity in the form of industry but they receive scant benefits. 

Poverty is rife.  The diseases of poverty thrive, unchecked – another legacy of the modern world.

Continue reading "They die of tuberculosis – disease on rampage in PNG" »

PNG pilots earn wings after 2 years in Coffs Harbour

BRAD GREENSHIELDS | Coffs Coast Advocate

Trainee PNG pilots at Coffs HarbourFOR EIGHT PAPUA NEW GUINEAN airline pilot cadets, earning their golden wings at last week's graduation in Coffs Harbour was the culmination 18 months of intense theoretical and practical training.

But the tireless days, long nights and early morning starts while at professional pilot training were a small price to pay in comparison to what they have achieved.

Of the thousands who applied for the cadet training course, only the creme de la creme were chosen. Some even had to choose between their studies in university and pilot school.

Cadet Philip Polum left an Applied Physics course in the final year to pursue this career.

"It was always my dream to be a pilot and I have always worked towards that my whole life," Philip said.

Under the sponsorship of Papua New Guinea's airline, Air Niugini, the cadets were able to fulfil their dream.

Upon their return to PNG, they'll undergo further training to become first officers on Dash 8 aircraft.

Fellow cadet Alwas Popo said the opportunity to fly over the Coffs Coast has been a truly magnificent experience but the friendships forged has been a greater reward.

"We haven't only enjoyed your skies and the weather here, we've made heaps of friends and I don't think we'll ever forget the memories we've made here," Alwas said.

Australia's leaders remain lax in recognition of PNG


Murray McCullyTHERE IS AN ANTIPODEAN foreign minister visiting Papua New Guinea over the next few days but he is not from Australia and his name is not Bob Carr

New Zealand foreign affairs minister Murray McCully (pictured) travelled to PNG yesterday to meet members of the new government including prime minister Peter O'Neill and foreign minister Rimbink Pato.

His meetings will include wide-ranging discussions on Asia-Pacific regional issues, trade and investment, aid and political and economic developments in PNG and Bougainville.

In addition to his meetings in Port Moresby, Mr McCully will travel to the Highlands with Mr Pato for a first-hand look at economic development, agriculture and energy opportunities.

"This visit comes at an important juncture in the relationship between Papua New Guinea and New Zealand," Mr McCully said.

"I will be meeting with a new PNG government, formed after elections in July for which New Zealand provided vital logistical support."

Mr McCully will be accompanied by a small business delegation.

Mr Carr, like his prime minister Julia Gillard, has not visited PNG since his appointment despite the country’s great strategic and commercial significance to Australia.

Ms Gillard, visiting New Delhi last week, felt able to announce that India will now be ranked in the same category of strategic importance for Australia as the United States, Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia.

If the league table is being expanded, you’d think that perhaps Australia’s backyard – the South Pacific – might score a guernsey. Alas no.

PNG Attitude is funded by Jackson PR Associates Pty Ltd which has strong linkages into the Asia-Pacific-Australia region

Turning point? Papua New Guinea's next five years

NEIL ASHDOWN | Janes | Global Insight

THIS YEAR’S ELECTION was important for Papua New Guinea and the outcome appears to have been as positive as could be expected given the country's circumstances.

Security preparations paid off in an election that was peaceful by the country's standards.

A new government has been formed with the backing of the majority of parliament and with a clear, if ambitious, policy program.

One of the leading destabilising actors in Papua New Guinean politics, Belden Namah, has been excluded from government.

Yet at the same time, given the number of new MPs in parliament, and the obvious lure that being elected ahead of the LNG project start date, it is likely that more than a few of the new MPs regard their victory as a ticket to personal wealth.

These MPs – aware that the odds are not in their favour come 2017 – will be looking to get what they can in the meantime.

O'Neill may be intent on implementing real reforms for PNG but the realities of governance in the PNG political system could defeat this aim.

Moreover, the Namah-led opposition will at best be noisy and potentially disruptive as the new government goes ahead with its program.

It is unlikely that the election will resolve the underlying problems that have led to the deterioration in the rule of law and service provision in PNG since independence in 1975.

Nevertheless, there has been a tendency in the past for the depth of corruption to vary over time and between governments. Or to put it another way: while all governments in PNG are corrupt, some are more corrupt than others.

Looking ahead, PNG has come out of a period of political uncertainty with a new, unified, broad-based government. O'Neill and his partners have the potential to push the country in the right direction over the next five years.

Whether this will happen will depend primarily on the stability of O'Neill's coalition. Some observers are positive: blogger Tavurvur told us: "this coalition looks like it will be here for the long-haul", while a taxi driver in Moresby thought less than 18 months.

The basic problem is that the inability of the law to constrain the actions of politicians in Papua New Guinea mean that stability cannot be taken for granted.

A decisive shift in the balance of power could see a change of government take place even within the 18-month grace period. When this ends in February 2014 the risk of a challenge to O'Neill's position will escalate further.

O'Neill could well be the leader to overcome his country's fractious and self-interested politics and drive a genuine improvement in the quality of governance in PNG – but he would be bucking the historical trend if he did.

PNG nurses say health care system failing patients

Radio Australia

PAPUA NEW GUINEA's NURSES say the country's health system is failing to attend to basic patient needs.

These concerns have been raised as PNG hosted a week long nurses symposium to discuss the various pressures on the country's healthcare sector.

PNG Nurses Association President Emi Kaptigau told Radio Australia the situation seems dire.

"We're encountering so many problems, I don't know how we're going to address them," she said.

She says PNG's health care system is understaffed and under-equipped to such a degree it can't treat patients properly.

"The basic services of attending to patients as they come and go, there is lack of manpower and there is lack of supplies, medical supplies, drugs, equipment and this has affected us so much that we are not able to effectively meet the need of the people," she said.

"It's just too much for us to bear at this point in time."

Ms Kaptigau says the best nurses in the government system have left for the private sector and overseas because of the poor working and pay conditions.

"The pay that we are getting is good enough to survive but because of the livings standards that is so high the pay is gone by the time we get it so the next week or two we're living on borrowed money," she said.

She says the nurses have petitioned PNG's secretary for health about their concerns.

"He's reassured us that he'll look into it but we need to do a proper paper for him to present to the O'Neill government," she says.

Earlier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also raised concerns about PNG's healthcare system, saying it needed "urgent attention".

A tale of two loos; and pigs and poultry and pine trees


ONE OF THE GREATEST PLEASURES of my time as a kiap was sitting on a box of hand-planed planks over a well-constructed long drop with a good book and an uninterrupted view over a pristine valley.

I think I first experienced the phenomena at Tambul. Taken all together, such boxes had an ambience seldom found elsewhere. Perhaps even unmatched.

That reminiscence, and Michael Dom’s recent comment about pigs and poultry, got the old brain cells moving. Michael has a thing about pigs and pig farmers, he even writes poems about them.

Anyway, back to the long drops. Consider Sub-Saharan Africa, or indeed the western deserts of Australia not so long ago. 

In those places water is a precious and life-sustaining commodity. And, yet, if you stay in any hotel there, you are provided with a flushing toilet and sometimes a bidet.

To the uninitiated a bidet is a French contraption for washing your bum after you’ve done your business. It’s also handy for washing dirty feet.

How appalling to your average Kalahari bushman must be this waste of precious water.

Long drops, on the other hand, have distinct advantages. I once was told that a Catholic priest in Maprik had his loo built on wooden rails so that, as over time he moved it along, he could grow vegetables behind – excuse the pun.

Fill in a long drop, plant a tree and see what happens if you don’t believe this works. Grows beautiful tomatoes too.

Long drops not only fertilise the soil from solid waste but the liquid waste eventually permeates into the water table and becomes potable. How’s that for recycling?

Clearly, flushing toilets and bidets are out of place in deserts. My wife tends to disagree with me, but let’s push on anyway. To my mind flushing loos can be an inappropriate thing in an inappropriate place. Bit like fish and bicycles.

In Papua New Guinea you can see the remains of many inappropriate grassroots enterprises: cattle projects that never worked (the locals ate the bull); tea plantations that dwindled away; rubber plantations long gone back to forest; and sorry looking cocoa trees littering the ground with their unused pods.

In some few places these things worked, but by and large they have been failures.

A while ago there was a spirited debate in PNG Attitude about the possibilities of the industrial exploitation of buai (does buia spet fertilise concrete, I wonder?).

In retrospect buai probably does a good enough economic job as a cottage industry and doesn’t need any smart entrepreneurs to jazz it up.  It does point the way forward for other products though.

As Michael points out, pigs and poultry are known Papua New Guinean naturals. Commercialising and improving their quality and productivity seems a logical way to go; far better than exotic sheep and cattle. 

If it can be done at Zenag why can’t it be replicated elsewhere at village level?

Australia imports pork from New Zealand and Canada. Why couldn’t it import good quality pork from PNG?  Think what a booming pork export industry could do for bride price!

Other natural Papua New Guinean products that could be better marketed and commercialised spring to mind.

Didn’t the pineapples in Hawaii and Queensland originally come from Papua New Guinean stock? Why doesn’t PNG export pineapples?

What about kaukau?  That strange orange stuff (a Kiwi joke I suspect) they sell in Australian supermarkets doesn’t measure up to a piece of good highland sweet potato.  Neither does the wan pawpaw and mango.

Why isn’t there a bigger plantation timber industry in Papua New Guinea?  Loggers are good at clear felling and leaving orange clay behind but why isn’t anyone planting behind them?

They pay into a fund for this purpose, don’t they? And pine trees grow twice as fast in the highlands as in Australia.

What else is there Michael? And why isn’t anyone else thinking like you?

The disaster of failed decentralisation in PNG


DECENTRALISATION IS NOT ONLY about provincial governments, it is about giving power back to the villages.

If we can break the hold of the centralised bureaucratic machinery, as in the case of the provincial administrator, decentralisation will help provincial and local level governments move towards making decisions that are in reference to PNG’s Organic Laws on Provincial and Local Governments.

In law, the administrative powers focused on the provincial administrator do not really restrict the specified powers of provincial and local governments.

The powers given to the provincial administrator do not restrict the powers of provincial and Local Level government by the provisions of Organic Law.

The law gives provincial governments and LLGs powers and, according to law, they should act accordingly.

These powers are wide: financial powers, autonomy in providing certain basic services like health and infrastructure, and the ability to undertake certain business ventures that contribute to the national and provincial purse.

In other words, the provincial administrator could delegate certain powers to provincial governments within the provisions of the Organic Law.

This might improve cooperation between the national, provincial and local level governments.

The Organic Laws on Provincial and Local Governments also enable local and provincial governments to make decisions beneficial for the people economically, socially, provincially and nationally.

However, in practice, the ability to plan and implement decentralised activity-requires skills in project design and implementation, which are lacking at provincial and local level. In many provinces, local governments operate poorly even where district administrations score well on their performance.

There is a lack of political strategy to mobilise resources for the construction and maintenance of infrastructure for projects in agricultural development and internal trade.

Because provincial administrators have more influence, they decide where to spend and what the priorities are for spending.

This is a huge hindrance to provincial governments and LLGs because of the lack of merit in the bureaucratic machinery to implement their objectives.

Provincial governments are part of a system, which is a total disaster for this country. It is very destructive of the true philosophy of decentralisation and a grassroots system of government.

Policies of devolution in PNG have ideological, political and bureaucratic dimensions which intersect in a range of complex ways.

Provincial and local governments lack the necessary skills and political and administrative leadership are unstable due to cultural differences, and therefore service delivery is derailed.

The ideological dimensions relate to issues of who has the right to participate in decision-making, at what level and the extent to which people have the confidence and relevant expertise to make decisions which affect lives.

The political dimensions revolve around issues of power concentrated in the apparatus of the provincial administrator, of how power is expressed through policies and is exercised by people occupying particular positions.

The bureaucratic dimensions are linked to issues of resources and resource allocation; of the extent to which administrative arrangements are responsive and sensitive to the wishes of the people; and of how these arrangements permit or inhibit the initiation, implementation, and evaluation of particular development initiatives.

Thorny dilemmas: The diplomacy of decolonisation


THE SUCCESSFUL BID for a rotating seat on the UN Security Council places Australia in an interesting place.

Over the next few years, we’ll be in the spotlight as the United Nations addresses hot-button international issues: maritime disputes between China and its Asia-Pacific neighbours; the prospects for Palestinian statehood; negotiations for a global climate treaty and a new compact to replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

But closer engagement with the United Nations will also create a few thorny dilemmas on issues that receive less international attention.

One often ignored issue is the future of the UN Special Committee on Decolonisation and the lack of international action to complete the UN agenda on self-determination and political independence.

Decolonisation was a major achievement for the UN in the twentieth century, but international attention on the issue faded after the independence of most African colonies on the UN list of non-self-governing territories (with the remaining exception of Western Sahara)….

For Australia, however, the issue is not going away. Just as East Timor’s political transition has engaged Canberra for decades, so the issue of self-determination in neighbouring island territories remains on the regional agenda.

This is made more complex by the varying status of self-determination struggles in our region under international law.

Firstly, there are cases of nineteenth century "blue-water" colonialism by Western powers, such as France (New Caledonia, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna), the United States (Guam and American Samoa), Britain (Pitcairn) and New Zealand (Tokelau).

There are also independence struggles inside post-colonial nations which fall outside the existing UN mandate, such as the long-running campaign by West Papuan nationalists in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua, or Bougainville’s movement for independence from Papua New Guinea.

The issue of nationalism and statehood across Melanesia will soon be bumped up the regional agenda by a coincidence of events.

New Caledonia is scheduled to hold a referendum on its political status between 2014-18 and Bougainville is coming to the end of its 10-year autonomy transition in 2015. New Caledonia, Fiji and Indonesia are all scheduled to hold elections in 2014.

Indonesian human rights abuses will keep the pot boiling in Jayapura, and there are plenty of flashpoints that could cause heartburn for relations between Canberra, Jakarta and Port Moresby.

For example, what would happen if a boatload of West Papuan asylum seekers arrived in Australian waters in the midst of the 2014 Indonesian election campaign? Will they be towed back to Indonesia or end up in Nauru or Manus?

Continue reading "Thorny dilemmas: The diplomacy of decolonisation" »

BHP urged to hand over control of development firm

Radio Australia

Peter O'NeillPETER O’NEILL, THE PRIME MINISTER of Papua New Guinea, has demanded that BHP Billiton give his government control over board appointments to the PNG Sustainable Development Program Ltd.

It is ten years since the mining and petroleum company left the country and gave its shareholding in the giant Ok Tedi gold and copper mine to the people of PNG.

But BHP retained the right to appoint three of the seven board members of PNGSDP - the vehicle for the PNG people's shareholding.

PNGSDP, a Singapore-based company, is independent of the PNG government and has assets worth $1.4 billion.

Its development program includes everything from roads, wharves and airstrips through to health and education programs, as well as providing help for small business.

Peter O'Neill told Radio Australia it is time for BHP Billiton to take a step backwards.

"I think BHP should take its leave at some stage. I'd rather it be sooner than later. BHP has to learn that it has to move on," he said.

"Papua New Guineans are now capable of managing their own affairs. We don't need affairs to be managed on our behalf from Melbourne.

"We believe it is time that after 10 or 12 years of Sustainable being in operation they relinquish the management to a Papua New Guinean-based, Papua New Guinean-run organisation."

BHP Billiton has not responded to Mr O'Neill's comments but in a statement it said the results achieved by PNGSDP to date reflect very well on the board and all directors in the past 10 years.

It said any changes to the governance arrangements should ensure the ongoing sustainable performance of the company.

PNG-based writer Martyn Namorong is one of many Papua New Guineans who agree with Mr O'Neill that it is time for BHP Billiton to hand over control of its PNGSDP board positions.

"There are enough skills and experience in PNG for Papua New Guineans to be greater involved. And that's sort of a natural follow on from the fact that the mine and the shareholding is now PNG-focused," he said.

"There are some very decent people around and they can take up those roles. They are just not given the opportunity to do that."

Kairu Laho: journalist & public relations director


IT WAS WITH SADNESS that I read of the death of Kairu Laho.

Kairu was an effective and talented public relations director at the University of Papua New Guinea for 10 years and I remember her as a creative person with a great sense of humour who worked hard to promote the public image of the university and its many interests.

These ranged trough art exhibitions, theatre and music productions, fund raising events, promotion of research and organising social activities.

I am sure many people associated with UPNG will have worked with Kairu and share my feelings.

That her young and promising life should be cut so prematurely short by cancer is a great tragedy, but hopefully may lead to a greater awareness of breast cancer as a threat to the women of PNG.

Vale Kairu.


From an obituary in The National -

Journalist Kairu Sandra Laho died from cancer a day before she was to fly overseas for medical treatment, according to a colleague.

The funds for the trip had been raised by her friends and relatives.

She was employed at the University of Papua New Guinea’s public relations and marketing unit when she died on 20 October.

A colleague said they had been raising funds to fly her out the next day to Manila, Philippines, for the medical treatment.

She joined UPNG in 2002 as a public relations officer and later coordinated the marketing unit.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer in April this year. She went for regular checks.

Her colleague said her friends and family took the initiative to raise the K100,000 needed for the trip to Manila.

The university management and students would truly miss Laho for her dedication.

Laho, a single mother, is survived by her two sons Ayrton and Trevor Yagas.

Storytelling is in the blood for PNG’s writers

Modjeska_Drusilla [Antonia Hayessmall]DRUSILLA MODJESKA | The Australian

THERE'S NOT OFTEN GOOD NEWS in our papers about Papua New Guinea, and when it comes to local writing there's no news at all. PNG writing flourished in the years leading to independence in 1975, part of the process of decolonisation, but in the decades that followed it dwindled and waned.

By 2000 it was said to be dead, which it wasn't. A few brave souls had kept writing, but for the most part literature hasn't been part of the nation's creative character. Dance, performance, oral narrative, but not fiction or poetry.

Well, until now, that is, with a new generation of writers flushed out, encouraged and made visible by the Crocodile Awards, which celebrated their second year last month.

Named after the first novel by a Papua New Guinean, Vincent Eri's The Crocodile (1971), the awards were founded in 2010 by Australians Phil Fitzpatrick and Keith Jackson for the best writing by Papua New Guineans in fiction, poetry and the essay.

The start was slow: no one knew what was out there, but by the first closing date in the middle of last year there were 160 entries from 80 writers, 34 of whom made it into the Crocodile Anthology that is published as part of the awards.

This year there were almost 600 entries from 135 writers. Prizes were given in seven categories and the 2012 Crocodile Anthology published 63 of the writers. With ongoing sponsorship secured, the running of the awards has been handed over to PNG's new Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers. Quite a revival.

In September, during Independence Week, the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby, as one of the sponsors, hosted the awards. The mood among the writers gathered for the day-long Crocodile Forum was celebratory and determined.

The constitutional crisis of earlier this year was resolved. The recent elections had returned the first of a new generation of younger parliamentarians, with some of the worst of the old guard voted out.

The writers, most of them in their 20s or 30s, spoke of themselves as part of a generational shift to redefine the potential and direction of the country. Older guests at the reception that evening were hopeful. "Cautious optimism" was how retired politician Dame Carol Kidu expressed it.

Eri's The Crocodile told the story of a young man torn between two cultures, with magic and sorcery tugging him in one direction, and the new white ways making demands in the other. It was a theme common in those years. Eri's crocodile was literal and an image of all that was submerged and threatening.

There are still submerged, and not-so submerged, threats - "hauntings" is the word used by Emma Wakpi, the winner of this year's essay award - but this next generation of writers no longer looks back to colonial baggage.

We must find a way, Wakpi says, to confront the hauntings within our own culture. The modern reality of PNG is to be met on its own terms.

Other essays in the anthology confront the failure of leadership, corruption and the gross inequities of wealth that have come with the misuse of government power and money. Some are pessimistic, a grim catalogue; others a rallying cry.

Michael Dom's defence of buai (betel nut) market vendors is about a great deal more than buai and the red stains on the pavement where the chewers spit.

Dom, an agricultural scientist and advocate for small-scale agricultural production and "attainable development the PNG way", won the poetry prize for his sonnet, I met a pig farmer the other day, which, similarly, is about more than meeting a pig farmer. To him, poetry is a "powerful means of expression of the collective conscience of people".

For bloggers Martyn Namorong and Emmanuel Narokobi, it's not poetry but social networking that will bring about change. Narokobi says he went into social media hoping to make money and found instead that he could promote social change.

Continue reading "Storytelling is in the blood for PNG’s writers" »

Why does mining always end up like this?


THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN traditional landowners and mining and petroleum companies in Papua New Guinea, whether Australian, American or Asian, usually starts out well but inevitably and inexplicably deteriorates as time goes by.

Here are two interesting scenarios.

In the first a very large multinational mining company develops and begins to operate a large copper and gold mine on an outer island of Papua New Guinea.  Everything appears to be going well until the local people start fighting over the distribution of benefits.

The dispute escalates and the focus turns towards the mine.  Sabotage ensues, the situation escalates out of control and the mine closes down.  The island descends into anarchy and civil war.

In the second scenario a small mining company secures an exploration licence in the foothills of a province on mainland Papua New Guinea.  They approach the local landowners and explain what they plan to do. 

The area has been neglected by the government for untold years and social and economic infrastructures are almost non-existent.  The local people see a chance to improve their lives.

All goes well for a while and then opportunists from outside the area show up.  They convince the landowners to make escalating demands on the company.  The company tries to be accommodating but the more they do the more that is demanded from them.

Eventually the landowners start fighting among themselves over the perceived spoils.  The company decides it has all become too hard and packs up and leaves.  The landowners are left with nothing.

If you take into account the different scales of magnitude in these two scenarios there are interesting similarities.  There is also much to be learned by both miners and landholders.  Whether either group is prepared to take on board these lessons is a moot point.

The first similarity relates to the landowner’s attitude to their land and the minerals underneath.  In both cases there is a belief that is considered incontrovertible; this is that the minerals belong to the community and are a shared resource. 

No amount of explanation of a nation state’s legal ownership of mineral resources washes with traditional landowners.  If such wealth is to be exploited they believe that the benefits must flow to the community and that everyone is entitled to their fair share.

The second similarity is that the slightest scent of mineral wealth and profit will bring out the carpetbaggers and conmen.  Conversely, it also attracts entrepreneurs who see opportunities to do business with the mining company. 

The company, in its capitalist frame of mind, tends to encourage the latter because it sees it as a benefit to the community, not realising that the local businesses have no intention of sharing their spoils.

At the same time spokespeople for the community arise and gain traction with the company.  These people tend to be the better educated and literate and they monopolise the benefits from the company.

Continue reading "Why does mining always end up like this?" »

Take funds out of health & education says minister


Richard MaruJUST WHAT IS Papua New Guinea trade minister Richard Maru (pictured) on about?

He’s just given some gratuitous advice to the New Zealand government that less of its aid should be directed to education and health in PNG and more to economic development.

Does Mr Maru, until recently chief of PNG’s National Development Bank, which has been rated by the Asian Development Bank as one of the worst in the Pacific, believe that education and health have nothing to do with economic development?

Radio New Zealand International reports Mr Maru, elected at this year’s national polls and shoehorned straight into the ministry, saying that if New Zealand geared more of its aid assistance toward economic development it would earn greater recognition.

“So people would start to say, ‘Oh, now we know what New Zealand is donating to Papua New Guinea. It’s been helping us with these sectors which will have a major economic impact on this country.’ So you generate goodwill that way,” he offered by way of advice.

New Zealand, which has economic problems of its own, provides $US22 million in aid to PNG, much of it going into the health and education sectors.

But Mr Maru says that, given the big spending from Australia, Japan and China, this contribution is not noticed by Papua New Guineans.

He says New Zealand would gain more notice if it put the money into geothermal power development or the dairy and sheep farming sectors.

And this in a country where child mortality, far from declining, is on the increase and significant health problems abound.

Mr Maru ought to get his priorities right.

Democracy may be detrimental to Melanesian society


THE FIRST AND MOST COMMON misconception prevalent among international critics of leadership in Papua New Guinea is the attempt to analyse the prevalent behaviour using existing comparative models, the favourites being Africa, South America or Asia.

This is a pitfall as academia will continue to be disappointed because PNG leaders notoriously defy existing patterns used in analysing their political affiliations and behaviour.

A unique model for a society in transition proves evasive as the model must suffice to incorporate the remarkable differences in the leadership style between regions; i.e., Highlander, Sepik, Coastal or Papuan-Southern societies, and also accommodate for the differences within: for example, Samarai and Hula or Sepik and Morobe.

Therefore it is a futile venture to attempt to describe a pattern, as there can be no satisfactory average or typical Melanesian mini-society that can be studied to extract a successful model.

One has to agree that it would trying, especially for a young nation like ours, to achieve the ideal 'thriving western democracy' as Susan Merrell has put it.

PNG should realise that the capitalist based and engineered western democracy which our founding fathers chose with the 'appropriate urging' of our colonial masters may be detrimental to our unique society.

The best way forward will be for Papua New Guineans to forge their own path that will work for our people without compromising our unique heritage and identity.

This is a very important point in the Melanesian context considering the increasing number of cultures becoming bastardised by the globalisation tsunami.

Only when we have lost our cultural heritage and identity either traditional or adopted (Christian principles) can we understand the lamentations of the west which has already either lost or forsaken its heritage in a rush to develop and integrate into a bastardised culture.

The sadly deteriorated roads of Murray Barracks

ROBIN SUANG | Picture and Story

Murray Barracks road - has been betterMURRAY BARRACKS HAS BEEN the headquarters of the Papua New Guinea Defence Force for a very long time since the days of colonial rule.

For far too long, its roads have deteriorated are silently rotting away, even small cars cannot drive through, only four wheel drives or large trucks.

The PNGDF has always been the pride of Papua New Guinea, yet government after government has neglected the soldiers’ living conditions.

Former NCD governors and former Moresby North-West MPs have never given priority to the barracks’ roads. As a result many taxi drivers are scared to go into the barracks.

The roads are a mess, with potholes everywhere, and they are deteriorating at a fast rate. Most of the tar has eroded and massive holes are everywhere in the streets of the nation’s military headquarters.

Politicians and Defence Ministers over the last 15 years have turned a blind eye to this problem, which is bound to continue as long as no one shows their concern.

If NCD Governor Powes Parkop could allocate millions to Port Moresby’s roads, why has he not fixed up the barracks roads?

New North-West MP Michael Malabag should allocate something. Former prime minister and Moresby North-West MP (now retired) Sir Mekere Morauta has failed in his three terms of parliament to address this issue.

If only people can start to fix things when problems start small, they can be prevented, money could have been saved.

My suggestion: That the PNGDF engineers battalion be given the responsibility to fix the roads.

Preventable illnesses push up child mortality rate

Radio New Zealand International

AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER of Papua New Guinean children dying from preventable illnesses is being attributed to an historical failure to invest in health services.

The country director of the charity organisation CARE International says on average 58 children out of every 1,000 die before the age of five from illnesses such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.

Peter Raynes says this compares with six deaths out of every 1,000 in New Zealand.

Furthermore, he says, in rural parts of PNG, the number is likely to be as high as one child in 10.

“There has been an increase in population over the last few decades, PNG currently estimated at about seven million people,” Mr Raynes said.

“And basically the investment in health services that was required to keep up with that increase hasn’t been there and as a result some of these basic services are not in place.”

Jackson PR Associates consults to PNG, Asia, Australia

JPRA Home PageTHERE ARE MANY NAMES well known to PNG Attitude readers in a company recently established to provide public relations services in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the Asia-Pacific region.

Jackson PR Associates offers an unusual – perhaps unique - focus in public relations, specialising in communications within Asia-Pacific and staffed by people with on-the-ground experience in the region.

In a number of ways, it continues the 20-year legacy of Jackson Wells, which became one of Australia's leading public relations companies before being wound up earlier this year.

“But unlike its predecessor,” says managing director Keith Jackson, “Jackson PR Associates has great expertise in social media and has expanded its horizons to include Papua New Guinea and the Pacific, as well as Australia and Asia.”

The company’s team of professional associates is drawn from a range of countries in the region to provide a broad spectrum of public relations skills across one of the fastest growing parts of the world.

The team includes regular contributors to PNG Attitude: Keith Jackson, Emmanuel Narokobi, Bernard Yegiora, Phil Fitzpatrick and Martyn Namorong (the picture from the website shows him with director Ben Jackson).

Other associates include Martin Hadlow, just appointed secretary-general of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre; documentary film-maker and Pacific specialist Phil Donnison; long-time journalists Bob Lawrence and David Ransom; financial communications and China guru Ed Brumby; health communications professional Andrew Greig; and organisation and change communications expert Ingrid Jackson

“I believe we’ve selected the right people to work with clients, develop plans that match their requirements, create the right messages and package them in creative action,” said director Ben Jackson.

“Jackson PR Associates has assembled a multinational team of communications professionals, covering the full galaxy of public relations skills.”

For further information, visit the Jackson PR Associates website here

Past times: How the Bougainville psyche was subverted

 LEONARD ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

 ‘Deprive a people of their ethnicity, their culture, and you deprive them of their sense of direction or purpose’ — Francis M Deng

IN RECENT TIMES the Solomon archipelago encountered two major conflicts and both had in play ethnicity and people’s internationally-promoted freedom of movement.

In 1988 erupted the Bougainville conflict. It was the fruit of the long influx of New Guineans since before World War II and a result of colonial demarcation and separating the island from its rightful place.

Then came the Malaitans versus the Guadalcanal islanders down south in the Solomons that came about because of the Malaitans’ occupation of Guadalcanal customary land around Honiara, recklessly denying the Guadalcanal natives the ability to develop.

These are the negative lessons of not fostering a development approach that people must have harmony with their own environment and humanity and society has to correct this, for ignoring it is denying positive progress.

A man can be progressive in an environment that is conducive and this has something to do with the protection of peoples’ ethnicity.

According to Francis M Deng, ethnicity is more than skin colour or physical characteristics, more than language, song, and dance. It is the embodiment of values, institutions and patterns of behaviour.

Ethnicity is a composite whole representing a people’s historical experience, aspirations and world view. Deprive a people of their ethnicity and you deprive them of their sense of direction or purpose.

This was the issue Bougainvilleans were subjected to by colonialism and later by the PNG government that led to the problems they are now suffering.

One could argue that the Bougainville conflict was the result of unequal distribution of Panguna mine benefits amongst landowners. The facts are that the roots of the crisis are found in the ill-treatment of the Bougainvillean people by colonialism and later by Papua New Guineans and their government.

Psychology and other sciences claim that people’s characteristics are the work of their environment. A Bougainvillean is a real Bougainvillean in a Bougainville that is free from foreign influences.

Papua New Guinean labourers in Bougainville plantations from the early colonial era the influx of Papua New Guineans seeking a fortune at the Panguna mine created turmoil in the native psyche.

Without them, Bougainville would have been a nation in the bliss of glory in the Pacific.

But that right to be a nation state was denied for the Solomon people by the Anglo-German Declaration of 1886.

Continue reading "Past times: How the Bougainville psyche was subverted" »

Transparency applauds Speaker for revealing abuse

Radio New Zealand International

Theo ZurenuocTRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL in Papua New Guinea has applauded the Speaker Theo Zurenuoc for revealing that senior officers of parliament have been mismanaging large amounts of public money.

Mr Zurenuoc (pictured) says an audit is underway into parliament’s operations and an initial report has already uncovered serious fraud over the past 10 years.

He also called for the integrity of parliament to be restored.

The acting chair of Transparency in PNG, Gail Edoni, says this sets the tone for a good term of office.

“My understanding is he’s really going to push for things like proper debate in the House which has been sorely lacking probably over the last six to eight years,” she said.

“And now with our new speaker this is really going to make a big change and I think a change for the better.”

Gail Edoni says the perpetrators of the abuse of the funds must be disciplined and prosecuted accordingly.

New vocation: ‘boi blo Minister’ or ‘boi blo Secretary’


PAPUA NEW GUINEA AS A NATION is changing at a rapid pace. One can see all this changes through careful observation.

A more interesting change is the rise of political cronies and how they have altered the political environment in the name of survival.

I was quite amazed to see one departmental head attending a grand occasion with his entourage. The entourage had two Land Cruiser ten seaters and a Land Cruiser ute.

One of the Land Cruisers, silver in colour, drove around keeping an eye on the departmental head as he moved from one location to another on foot.

It was like a movie where you have all these secret service agents in their suits driving around in big American-sized Chevrolets.

But these guys were not wearing suits. And the Land Cruiser was both a Cadillac limousine and a Chevrolet. It transported the departmental head and acted as a security and surveillance vehicle.

Before this experience I had the perception that only state ministers and the prime minister travelled around with such large entourages when on official duty. It is protocol to see these security agents around such very important people.

This was evident a week ago when the prime minister visited Divine Word University.

The campus was infested to certain degree with ‘blue flies’. This strange name literally refers to the Blue Bottle Fly or Bottlebee (Calliphora vomitoria), but is a slang used by people caught up in the modern drug culture to refer to the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

From my observation, some of the people in the entourage were public servants working for this department, while others were obviously his political cronies providing security for the departmental head.

These casual security officers also offered other services - like being his errand boy.

Political cronies in Papua New Guinea can be divided into two separate groups. Both operate in different domains: one in the political arena, the other in the bureaucratic arena. Regardless of the domain, their jobs overlap.

The first group is known as ‘boi blo minister’ or ‘boi blo member’, also ‘wokman blo member’.

This group consists of those who work with a member of parliament or a cabinet minister. Some are employed formally, meaning they are public servants, executive officers, first secretaries or administrative officers.

Others are outside the formal. Failed politicians with close connections ot friends and relatives who have a patron-client relationship with the ‘big man’.

The second group is made up of people known as ‘boi blo secretary’ or ‘wok man blo secretary’.

Continue reading "New vocation: ‘boi blo Minister’ or ‘boi blo Secretary’" »

The blackbird era: Queensland labour trade, 1863-1906


THE PRACTICE OF RECRUITING Islander labour for the Queensland’s nascent sugar industry has come into focus in PNG Attitude recently.

The trade has always been regarded as controversial, at first because of feeling running high against the importation of low-paid foreign labour from the islands or from China and Asia.

Later, condemnation in Australia and elsewhere turned on the presumption that much brutality had accompanied the recruitment of Islander men and women.

Semantics play a part here. In the days of the labour-trade, the use of the word “blackbird” or ‘blackbirding” was not pejorative.

Of course, in recent decades the terms have assumed a pejorative and even highly-emotional resonance, where the whole issue is deplored and stated as having been both illegal and “shameful.”

This view has been intensified over the years by various pulp-history writers of the “bushrangers, pirates and shipwrecks” variety. Hector Holthouse’s Cannibal Cargoes is an example.

There certainly were abuses in the early days before the recruitment trade was brought under control.

Men and women were forcefully removed from their homes; many were tricked; and island “bigmen” who became involved with the traders connived in raiding known enemy and weakened groups, capturing these people and passing them on to the traders for a fee paid in guns, ammunition, rum and trade-goods.

From around 1873, however, the trade came under Queensland State government control.

Officers under the Inspector of Pacific Islanders travelled on board licensed recruiting boats. The trade and the conditions of assignment, pay, work, housing and entitlements were subject to the same sort of control as applied to rural contract workers signed on and employed under the Highland Labour Scheme and the Native Labour Ordinance of the TP&NG Administration in decades prior to independence.

Continue reading "The blackbird era: Queensland labour trade, 1863-1906" »

Martin Hadlow appointed new AMIC secretary–general

Martin HadlowMARTIN HADLOW, LATELY ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR and foundation Director of the Centre for Communication and Social Change in the School of Journalism and Communication at The University of Queensland, has been appointed Secretary-General of the Singapore-based Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC).

Mr Hadlow has worked in media development in 40 countries, especially in Asia and the Pacific, and has a career background in journalism, broadcasting, training and media management in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Australia and New Zealand.

Announcing the appointment, Board chairman Professor Ang Peng Hwa said Mr Hadlow will take over in January, joining the organisation at a critical time.

Prior to his career at the University of Queensland, Mr Hadlow held senior executive roles within UNESCO, including Director of Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace at headquarters in Paris, and Regional Communication Adviser in Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East.

He has been a member of AMIC for a number of years and was elected to the Board of Directors in 2010. He says he is "heartened by the vote of confidence given by the Board and the pledge of support from many of AMIC’s partners and supporters."

Mr Hadlow has also just been appointed to the new firm, Jackson PR Associates, which specialises in communications and public relations in the Australia-PNG-Pacific region.

Bye-bye Belden & Jeffrey, welcome to brave new PNG


SOMETIMES IN LIFE you get a distinct impression that the tide has changed and things will never be the same again.  The more perceptive baby boomers who lived through the 1960s will know what I am talking about.

I was in the East Sepik Province last week working with some Provincial Lands Officers setting up a couple of Incorporated Land Groups under a new piece of legislation designed to deter and wrinkle out the potential for corruption.

The idea is to give traditional landowners a legal entity through which they can negotiate the terms of mineral exploration in their areas.

The officers with whom I worked are fine, honest men pursuing the betterment of the people in their province in a very professional manner.

There were a few hiccups with the usual fly-in carpetbaggers but by and large I flew back to Port Moresby feeling good about the whole experience.

Looking around outside Jacksons for my missing pickup, I was accosted by a man in smart slacks and a neat mustard-coloured shirt.  He said, ‘Excuse me sir, I noticed you waiting, would you like a lift into the city?’

Thereupon a very smart black air-conditioned minibus emblazoned with the new Grand Papua Hotel gold logo pulled up and I was whisked to the gate of the house in which I was staying gratis and with a friendly smile. 

On the way I learned about the special K499 weekend tariff at the hotel.  Where else but Papua New Guinea would that happen I thought?

And while I’m talking about hotels, I’d better give the In-Wewak Boutique Hotel a plug.  A delightful place in a very pretty and safe town with exquisite old-modern décor, attentive staff and gigantic meals of exceptional quality; all delivered at a very reasonable cost.

In Port Moresby we ducked into the supermarket in Harbour City for supplies.  This new development on the waterfront has the air and layout of an upmarket Myer or David Jones food court. 

Wide aisles, immaculately clean and a sumptuous range of reasonably priced fresh and packaged food.  They even had that day’s copy of The Australian and the second issue of Stella magazine on sale. 

In the adjacent mall elite and not-so-elite denizens of Moresby town were window shopping or sipping lattes in the coffee shop.  I haven’t been there yet but they tell me that Vision City in the burbs is even bigger and better – there is even a Brumby’s Bakery.

There remains that self-induced migrant poverty in Port Moresby and the settlements are still pretty rough.  However some of them are morphing into more permanent fixtures.  I got a brief look at a couple as we wended through the back streets on the way from the airport.

Continue reading "Bye-bye Belden & Jeffrey, welcome to brave new PNG" »

Yobawandaruanem: the tall tree of our cultural heritage


MY ESSAY YESTERDAY on education in poetry (about which Radio Australia will interview me later this week) put me in a contemplative mood about my lack of knowledge of my own people’s language.

I can understand the language reasonably well, but I cannot speak it. I think that’s a condition shared by many of us neo-tribal city kids, a.k.a. coconuts.

That means of course that while I am able to translate the words of Tokples Sinsine into their English equivalents when spoken to me, I am unable to think in my language and therefore unable to gather the words to form sentence structures and convey ideas.

I regret the poetry I may never deliver because of my inability to think in my native tongue.

Almost 20 years ago I participated in a singsing organized at Gordon Secondary School, where I was actually the lead dancer. (Hah! Figure that one out.)

One of the songs we learned has haunted me for a very long time and the poem below is a rendering of what the song meant to me.

The song was in Kuman language, so perhaps Sil Bolkin, Jimmy Drekore or Peter Krantz would recognize or confirm what this poem is about.


A poem adapted from a singsing chant, one part recalled, three parts forgotten. It is metaphorical verse about how a people saw their leader to be their pride, their provider and their protector

I come to you–I come to you
You are the Tall Tree
Of the name my father’s had respected
Your name gives us strength
You call to me and I must come
I will come
Surely I come to you.

I come to you–I come to you
You stand above men
High above me stretch your mighty arms
Your shadow is my resting place
You shelter me and I live
I will live
Safely I live under you.

You are the Tall Tree
Of the name my father’s had respected
You stand above men
High above me stretch your mighty arms

I come to you–I come to you
You are the Tall Tree that calls me home
I come to you–I come to you.

Toowoomba warms to 'passionate' PNG cricket team

NEV MADSEN | Toowoomba Chronicle

Charles Amini, Norman Vanua, Peter Anderson (coach), and Toua TomCRICKETERS IN THE QUEENSLAND town of Toowoomba got a special treat on Sunday when Peter Anderson and his team of Papua New Guinean cricketers turned up for their first representative game in the Garden City.

According to Mr Anderson, Toowoomba might well be seeing a bit more of the cricketers now they are playing as part of the Queensland Webb Shield series for the first time.

He said the entire team grew up in circumstances fairly unimaginable to most of us pampered Aussies and their enthusiasm was an inspiration.

And if local cricket enthusiasts get a chance to see the team in action, he recommends they take it.

"Nearly all of these players came from the same village in PNG, a third world country where 20 people will live in a little hut," Mr Anderson said.

"They're a fantastic, well-mannered and humble group of people and they have so much passion.

"They just love the game and I don't over-coach them.

"There are three or four who are easily world-class."

He said the enthusiastic group has been following a gruelling schedule and in the past week have played two 50-over games and two T-20 matches.

‘Buai-spet’ as a metaphor in today’s Papua New Guinea


Grand Papua Hotel.jpg; no more 'Top Pub'I AM INDEBTED FOR THESE PHOTOS to my old friend and workmate, Malum Nalu. The big building is the new, luxurious Grand Papua Hotel, of 20 storeys, recently opened upon the site of what was once known as Port Moresby’s “Top Pub”.

The other photo is of a recently-erected and quickly ‘spet upon’ anti-spitting sign, part of a city-wide campaign for urban cleanliness and order.

Use your brain, don't spitIt was placed upon the city-side slope of the freeway that crosses from the massive Harbour City complex on the waterfront over to Four Mile where prime minister Peter O’Neill’s popular Paddy’s Bar & Hotel has replaced the colonial-era Boroko Hotel.

Once a part of the Steamships-Collins & Leahy joint venture empire, the onetime Boroko Hotel is at least owned and controlled by a citizen.

Not so the widely-spread STC wholesale-retail empire. It no longer exists, having been absorbed and digested within that amorphous commercial leviathan, the Asian wholesale-retail business invasion of the past two decades.

Whilst unlikely to emulate the gold-rush cities of San Francisco or Johannesburg in their early years, good old POM demonstrates a gamut of rash optimism, great greed, opportunism and corruption all enclosed, like the living seed of a rotten fruit, within the encircling, deteriorating flesh comprising the abode of ‘The Other’.

‘The Other’ are the low-paid, under-employed and often-destitute second-and-third-generation squatters live in varied circumstances or gradations of poverty, malnourishment, lacking proper sanitation and water-supply.

The squatters and the unemployed are largely denied rights of access to justice, basic health services and education for their children. Their young know well that they are bereft of lifetime opportunities.

Bedevilled by crime and affected by deeply-felt resentment, even hatred, these humans rightly consider they are intrinsically equal to all, but remain unequal in what they are told is a land of great wealth and promise.

Unable or unwilling to fulfil social obligations in the far-off places which they stubbornly call asples blo mi  they know that they are condemned to remain unequal. Condemned by the system to languish forever in poverty and discomfort, without sight, sound or smell even of the clean green grass and clear water of what many still  fondly call home.

The erection of numbers of large and luxurious hotels and blocks of residential units in Port Moresby, the result of a Viagra-like infusion of optimism, greed and rapacity driven by the rising tide of the liquefied-gas-export era, together with continuing rumblings of ever-more mineral and forest-timber extraction projects, is not invisible to these people.

But they are reduced in some cases to combing the Six-Mile dump for food scraps and items for resale, namely bottles, old car batteries, non-ferrous metals, repairable shoes, clean sacks and bags.

Continue reading "‘Buai-spet’ as a metaphor in today’s Papua New Guinea" »

A poet’s journey 7: Poetry as an educational tool


POETRY INSPIRES AN APPRECIATION of written and recited words; words which convey emotions and experiences, words which provide insights, inspire us and provide cause for introspection – soul searching – words which help us to come to terms with who we are and what we are doing here.

‘Free education? Huh, never heard of it!’

Education requires commitment. Education requires sacrifice. Education requires patience. Education requires diligence. Education requires humility. Education requires respect. Education requires care.

Education comes with inherent costs. None of it comes freely. And that’s excluding the logistics!

Even if tuition fees are subsidized, pupils, teachers and parents have to be prepared to pay these other ‘real costs’ of education.

In fact, the above requirements are precisely what some schools strive to provide as part of the higher standards of educational services and life skills training that they offer, thereby making them more costly for pupils to attend than other schools.

And most likely these schools are delivering a better prepared graduate into the world.

So it really is the non-material aspects of education that some parents end up paying for. (If you don’t believe me then read up on overseas school prospectus and look at their school mottos.)

In some of the more ‘advanced’ schools poetry is taught as part of their Literature curriculum. At these schools building an appreciation of poetry is actually seen as a worthwhile and even fundamental educational experience for their pupils.

And what about us in PNG, do we really have to cough up large sums of money or wait for a government subsidy in order to teach poetry, and thereby language and literature, at our schools?

Poetry is an exploration using language and literature; it is a search for better understanding, better expression; it is an emancipation of emotion; it is an appreciation of the human condition; it is meant for the education of our hearts.

Continue reading "A poet’s journey 7: Poetry as an educational tool" »

UPNG Press & the virtues of charging for publications

Dr Alex GolubALEX GOLUB | Savage Minds Blog

I SPEND A LOT OF TIME on Savage Minds extolling the virtues of open access publishing, so I thought I should take a minute to extol the virtues of for-profit publishing and the role they play in the scholarly endeavour.

As scholars, we anthropologists subscribe to the idea that knowledge should be free and spread as widely as possible. Of course, there are important qualifications to this: we understand that anonymity and confidentiality are important when we right and do research, and so forth. But overall, the goal is to make our work universally available.

The problem with contemporary publishing, we claim, is that too many people put profits ahead of accessibility; costs are high because production methods are outdated and publishers can’t or won’t innovate, and the social system of prestige and career advancement tied to publishing disincentives open access.

Publishing, we argue, needs to be done for a wider audience, for the right reasons, and in a way that gets the information out there. The successful open access projects in anthropology today demonstrate that this can be done. But it can’t be done all the time.

I was absolutely delighted to meet the people behind the University of Papua New Guinea Press when I visited Port Moresby recently. The Press has done absolutely fantastic work bringing back into print important work from the independence era of Papua New Guinea, such as the Pocket Poets series.

It is republishing work in the public domain — one small piece I saw was a missionary-produced ethnography. A staff member told me there was four of the original print run left, mostly in libraries.

The university press is not only making the piece available to modern readers, they’re saving it from extinction. They are publishing new books, aggressively seeking subventions to support new authors and scholarship.

Their authors are academics and amateur scholars, priests and activists. I was incredibly impressed by the quality and amount of work they were bringing out.

All of this work is valuable, but none of it is free. The press is very smart about outsourcing publishing to companies in Singapore and India (PNG doesn’t have a publishing industry to print their stuff), balancing their list to include textbooks (which sell) and rarer works (which don’t), making their works available on Amazon.

But there’s no way around that fact that, for them, for-profit is the only way to go. They simply don’t have the resources to go open access.

Sometimes people like to pummel a straw man version of open access which holds that any attempt to ever make money is an evil obsession with filthy lucre. Clearly, few actual people take such an uncompromising stance. There are many situations when the right business model is to charge money to keep your head above water.

Now, perhaps I don’t understand the UPNG Press’s business model and history — I was only there for a weekend. But it seems to me that the example of this successful, small, boot-strapped press should make us think: just how much like the UPNG Press are closed-access publishers?

If a third-world university with few resources can get things off the ground, then what does it say about first-world publishers who claim there is no cheaper way to get their works available than to charge US$100 for a monograph? If Papua New Guineans can do it well and on the cheap, we ought to be able to do so as well.

Alex Golub is an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He studies mining and petroleum development in Papua New Guinea, as well as American culture in to the online game World of Warcraft. You can contact him at

Poetry should be elevated in PNG schools, says top writer


MICHAEL DOM, ONE OF Papua New Guinea’s most eminent poets and winner of the 2012 Crocodile Prize for Poetry, says educationists should ensure poetry becomes a serious part of the PNG school curriculum.

In an essay, Poetry as an educational tool, to be published in PNG Attitude tomorrow, Michael Dom writes that PNG, with over 800 languages and a predominantly oral tradition, should be able to generate a significant amount of poetry and literature.

“We still have not even bothered to scratch the surface of this pool of traditional knowledge,” he says.

“This is one of the reasons why the Crocodile Prize, PNG Attitude and the Anthologies of PNG writing are such a great leap forward in sharing and promoting PNG literature.

“It’s our own stuff!

“Literature exists in many written languages but poetry is found in every language known to mankind, because it is primarily an aural tradition, it is meant to be recited to an audience.

“PNG’s languages are a precious gift from our ancestors,” he says. “Speaking those languages is a privilege, for it is the language in which our forbearers communicated their thoughts and emotions, and defined the lives that they came to lead, enabling them to survive for millennia.”

Michael Dom says appreciation of poetry adds quality to a person’s life – “for poetry is of the soul”.

“Reading and writing poetry is an expression of our fundamental beliefs and desires and our experiences in life.

“As such a precious gift, I believe it is neither appropriate nor practicable, nor even preferable, to leave the responsibility of maintaining these ancient languages in the hands of the government education system of the day.

“It is a fundamental responsibility of all the people of particular language group to encourage and foster the continuation of their language, through the arts and cultural activities they organise for themselves.”

Augustine Karuvi: an epic journey of a Bougainville rebel

LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

Augustine KaruviWE BOUGAINVILLEANS STARTED the civil war that killed thousands and it is we who must now lead the younger generation to attain a better life in a Bougainville that is free from all forms of suppression and exploitation.

In 1988, the young men who initiated the anti-Bougainville Copper and anti-Papua New Guinea militancy in central Bougainville were mostly those who had hardly reached high school.

A good number of these men were involved in criminal activities thus when Panguna erupted, they were there.

One such youngster was Augustine Karuvi (pictured) of Koiano in the Kokoda constituency of Kieta.

Karuvi was a student who decided to walk out of the classroom to join the fight.

The young Augustine Karuvi left school in 1989 at age 17 to fight. At the time his area, which was referred to as Koromira, was a safe-haven for some of the pre-crisis rascals.

His fighting career was halted by the 1990 ceasefire between the PNG security forces and the militants. 

In 1991 he returned to attend a school operated by the weakened North Solomons provincial administration, but it closed in early 1992.

Also in 1991 the reckless Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) arrogance caught up with his extended family, which included a cousin serving in the Papua New Guinea Defence Force. The BRA claimed the family was still communicating with him.

Hence Augustine was tortured along with some of his male family members.

In that same period, his next cousin, a defected police officer, Joseph Miarama Kasika, was killed by locals at Rotokas in Wakunai when he arrived on the scene where a band of BRA men had been stirring up trouble.

Augustine was a lost youngster for whom there was no hope. He was trapped.

Then in 1992, the Papua New Guinea Defence Force landed at his home on the Toimanapu plantation.

Augustine says the PNGDF captured this location as strategic position to try and quell the BRA boats that darted into the Solomon’s Choiseul province for humanitarian help in the midst of the Australia-backed total blockade of Bougainville.

After this event, and out of loyalty to the Bougainville cause, despite his previous treatment Augustine joined the BRA group of his home, Koiano.

His first action in the BRA was at the Toimanapu PNGDF camp. This camp hosted some local families who surrendered to get medical assistance. This operation saw an early dawn raid on the PNGDF and it resulted in the death of a popular BRA fighter, Eperi, from the Kongara area.

After many other operations, Augustine’s next major engagement was against the PNGDF’s operation to clear Bougainville of all rebel areas, code named as Operation High Speed, around 1996.

Augustine was at the former Aropa International airport defending his land from invaders in an engagement that took nearly a week until the PNGDF was driven back to Arawa where they caused the death of two Bougainvilleans—a BRA man and an innocent Kongara child who was fishing.

Continue reading "Augustine Karuvi: an epic journey of a Bougainville rebel" »

Bougainville stories come flooding back in new play

BRIAN KARLOVSKY | Hornsby Advocate (Sydney)

Robert CockburnIT'S 20 YEARS SINCE former London Times journalist Robert Cockburn, who was covering the Bougainville conflict, reported for his newspaper and the BBC on the murder of a young Bougainvillean bus driver.

But the chilling scene and the saga of a mining company's activities prompting civil war in Bougainville, is set to be brought to life in a fictional drama, Hotel Hibiscus, at the Zenith Theatre this month.

"There was the murder of a young village bus driver, who I found in the mortuary," Mr Cockburn, 59, said. "I felt so moved because it was an innocent who was caught up and shot and that's where the play began. It was very immediate and very personal."

Set on fictional Hibiscus Island in Papua New Guinea, Hotel Hibiscus is a brutally revealing account of Australian involvement in the six year "dirty war" on Bougainville.

Mr Cockburn, who also covered the Maralinga Royal Commission while Australian correspondent for The Times, said there were still a lot of questions to be answered.

"There was a recent announcement in the US Supreme Court where it had given them permission to bring a case on genocide and war crimes against the miners operating at Bougainville at that time," he said.

"That case is on going and brings the story right up to date and throws it into the future. I will be watching with a professional eye what happens in the court case."

Hotel Hibiscus is an Australian political thriller that questions our complicity and silence in war crimes carried out just 20 years ago. Thornleigh resident Robert Cockburn wrote it while he reported on the Bougainville conflict in the 1990s.

Photo: Kristi Miller

Head of the Anglican church is visiting Papua New Guinea

Anglican Communion News Service

Rowan WilliamsTHE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, Dr Rowan Williams, is visiting Papua New Guinea. He arrived today and will remain in the country until Wednesday.

Archbishop Williams and his wife, Dr Jane Williams, made courtesy calls on the Governor-General and political leaders and met and prayed with church families from the diocese.

Tomorrow, the Archbishop will be the preacher and principal concelebrant at a Holy Eucharist and provincial celebration at the cathedral in Popondetta.

Later the Archbishop and Dr Jane Williams will address a youth gathering where they will meet with youth leaders to hear their hopes and concerns and talk about the gifts that young people bring to their church and communities in a time of cultural change.

On M onday he will formally open a newly refurbished Anglican hospital in Oro Bay, and participate in a service of dedication of the hospital’s work, serving the coastal population.

In the afternoon he will meet with members of PNG’s Anglican religious communities which include the Melanesian Brotherhood, The Society of Saint Francis, and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Visitation of our Lady.

The Archbishop will participate in a ground-breaking ceremony for a new teacher training college, an institution which will help address the serious shortage of qualified teacher trainers while strengthening the Church’s own ministry in education.

A visit to a Theological College later on the same day will see the Archbishop and Dr Jane Williams speak with the trainee priests on their vision for theological education.

On Tuesday Dr Williams will visit Dogura, where the first Anglican missionaries landed in 1891.  He will visit the renowned Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul where he will celebrate and preach at a Eucharist with the local community, including the primary and secondary school students and staff.

Back in Port Moresby for the final day of the visit on Wedndesday, the Archbishop will meet with members of the Anglican/Roman Catholic Commission to share perspectives on ecumenical relations and affirm the nature of this longstanding dialogue.

During a visit to an elementary school run by the Anglican Church in a poor urban settlement, he will plant a modawa tree, symbolic to the local church. The Archbishop and Dr Jane Williams will then meet staff and patients at the Anglicare HIV Centre. The visit will conclude with a formal dinner hosted by the PNG government.

“I am delighted to be visiting Papua New Guinea and to be able to experience at first-hand the remarkable life of the church in this nation and its contribution to the wider community,” the Archbishop said speaking in advance of his visit:

“We also look forward to experiencing how the enduring assets of the country’s rich culture and strong social fabric allow a confident response to the challenges of the day. There is so much in the life of the church and nation which is a gift for the wider church and for the world.

“I look forward to discussions with church leaders from the different churches and with national leaders over the nation’s priorities for its people.  I am very grateful to the government of Papua New Guinea for its hospitality and its support.”

The hypocrisy of mateship, fair go & human rights in Oz


I HAVE DISCUSSED PREVIOUSLY and at length the merits of the Australian values of ‘mateship’ and ‘fair go’ from a Melanesian perspective.

I described their humble nautical origins and essential veracity from a convict mariner’s perspective, and how then prime minister John Howard attempted to squeeze from the survival catchcries of convicts in cramped, crowded and disease infested convict ships, a set of values that would become the rite of passage for a modern state and its people.

What has become increasingly clear about these egalitarian notions of “mateship” and “fair go” is the underlying admission that everybody is not having a fair go in Australian post-convict society.

This is certainly true in the case of Aborigines, Torres Strait Islanders, refugees and other minority groups in terms of health, education, social services, social justice, criminal justice, human rights, and social equity. They are not treated like mates and accorded the basic minimum of a fair go.

Australia has one of the worst social justice and human rights records of any country in the developed world in its treatment of indigenous citizens, and the magnitude of oppression meted out to them is right up there with history’s hand on Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Tibetans and, closer to home the East Timorese and West Papuans.

A dismal human rights record has been exacerbated by successive governments, both Liberal and Labor, who treat boat people cum refugees with contempt and brand them as “illegals”.

The treatment meted out to boat people who are fleeing injustice and turmoil in their own countries is nothing short of criminal. I don’t know of any instance in history where it has been made a criminal act for an individual or a family of oppressed persons, fleeing persecution, and in some cases possible death, to seek a better life in another land.

This is particularly so if, for instance, where these are people from war ravaged areas like Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka.

In the case of Afghanistan and Iraq, Australia parades itself as the liberator, a beacon of freedom, bringing the hope of democracy to these countries by waging war against them, ostensibly to liberate them.

In what appeared to be a noble quest, which started in Iraq, to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, Australia is partly responsible for slaughtering, or causing to be slaughtered, half a million people in under ten years, bombed to rubble the cities and villages of Iraq and destroyed the way of life of millions.

The WMD basis for the invasion of Iraq has now been discredited as a huge lie perpetrated by the US government and its Coalition of the Willing (to lie and cover up). There were no WMDs, and the US knew this, but chose to lie to the whole world.

Continue reading "The hypocrisy of mateship, fair go & human rights in Oz" »

'Waiting': a poem of dedication to the people of W Papua


THIS POEM IS A SPECIAL dedication to the Melanesians who are still waiting for freedom in West Papua. It has been a long wait and struggle for the West Papuans who have suffered, cried, died and been buried for their efforts to achieve what they long for - freedom, autonomy and independence….

Free_west_papua_from_uwipLife has gone from bad to worse
As tears in our eyes, as now we realise
Extortion and exploitation
Whispers out words of courage and strength

But where is the smell of the one they desire
Many have cried for generations
Many have died for the love to be a nation
Many have left for refuge in other nations

They cry out to us, yet we ignore their unending plea
The sufferings are of a distorted heart
Imploring the world to see their struggles unrewarding
Where’s their human right? Where’s the Justice?
Their equality and the freedom

Many have asked no one as answered.
Over a million decades, over so many arrangements
Yet no one has tried to ask the commander.
Yet no one has sought a bonding.
Yet many say it’s a sensitive mishap.
Yet many are afraid of the Second richest commander

So what is left for my West Papua?
Breaking storms and tribulations.
A Melanesian Princess waits for her Prince
to come and rescue her from the wicked dragon
Who will be her Prince?

Rancour and unjust treatment has driven hell to the Garden of Eden
A curse of hatred and racism has flowed across the land
Ethnicity is wanting to win
But a burden when you immigrate to the Garden of Eden

The cultures so diverse, the dances are a swing
The traditions are unique, telling the one what we can bring
Motions we glance, artistic we view
Mystical traces, as they come in few

So desperate they beg their wantoks
Please let us in; let us be your own

Though in someone’s house
They still long to have their own home free from the commanders’ rule

Yet rallies have come, rallies have gone
Support this struggle, support us strive
Yet big guns, big shots and bigmen
Close their ears for they don’t want

To carry the Prince’s crown, to have it on a throne
As the commander looks on, big boys keep silent
Now everyone is waiting for the Prince
Because the commander is dangerous
The second richest across the land,

But not too clever, not too fit, but yet he is feared by everyone
The perception is, when the commander is angry
He has the general, who both are cousins
What could happen, they will dictate the land
So please the Princess is waiting, who will be her Prince?

Written on 7 May 2011 during my time at the University of Papua New Guinea. This poem is a plea of help for the people of West Papua

A tribute to my dad, the Rev Martin Luther Wayne

Wayne_Ganjiki DGANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

To mark the occasion of my recent wedding, I give this tribute to my dad. I write it as a lesson to fellow preachers' kids, and to any kid who wishes to honour their fathers whilst they live...whilst we all live.

I LOVE FUNERALS, BUT I ALSO HATE THEM. I love funerals because you get to see the life of the departed through the eyes of people who knew them differently. And you can learn a lot of life's lessons from the words shared.

But I hate funerals for the same reason: those words. Because the one person who needed to hear those words can no longer hear them. Those words are of no benefit to him. He may have died thinking no one appreciated him.

I intend not to let my father leave this earth without knowing how much he is appreciated, by me at least. And so with these words, I pay him tribute whilst he lives.

Wedding Day - Rev Martin Luther Wayne and Patenama WayneThis will not compare to the grand applause he will receive when he enters his eternal home. And my highest opinion, as his son, cannot compare to the opinion of his Maker and heavenly Father.

But that same heavenly Father demands that we, the earthly children of our earthly parents, honour them sincerely. And so with these few words I attempt to honour my dad.

My dad, Rev Martin Wayne (seen here with my mum Patenama on their own wedding day), is a simple man. He is as simple as simple can get.

Dad isn't earthly rich. He has hardly owned a brand new car. He's got no permanent house. Nor some small business to sustain him and his family.

His wardrobe is rather small. He's got no financial security. His bank account hardly exceeds four figures on any month. Yet I can't recall any day being with dad that he would not utter the words, "Thank you, Lord." He knew he had more than enough. He was content.

How did he sustain his family all these years? Pure faith and God's amazing Grace.

Dad didn't live in this world. So he didn't have a care for the things of this world, except his family. And the souls of every man, woman and child.

Dad lived in a place where souls mattered most. Ever since he received God's call to serve, dad has never taken a step back. Whether he did it officially as a serving missionary and minister of the Word or as an unemployed house-husband, he would diligently seek ways to serve his master.

Dad has taught countless young people in Religious Education. He loves doing it. We can never know what impact he has had on this nation through his ministry. We don't know how many hours he has spent talking to young people, sowing seeds of hope and faith in their souls.

Countless hours he spends counselling people who are humble enough to seek his help. Countless hours spent preparing and delivering sermons. Now he serves that Master in a time that people who have not heard God's call as clearly as he has, think they can serve better than pastors like him.

Continue reading "A tribute to my dad, the Rev Martin Luther Wayne" »

Male circumcision for AIDS prevention should be prioritised

Wasia_JoeJOE WASIA | Supported by the Bob Cleland Writing Fellowship

LIKE MANY DEVELOPING COUNTRIES, Papua New Guinea is greatly susceptible to HIV/AIDS.

Research and studies have done by many countries but there is no cure identified for the deadly disease. Thousands of people are dying every year.

Daily newspapers, radio, television and social media report the deaths of so many people without specifying the disease. But no reports of deaths from AIDS appear in any media in PNG. But AIDS is a major cause of many deaths.

Preventive measures like using of condoms, avoiding exposure to blood, being faithful to one partner, and male circumcision are tools used in many countries.

These preventive measures are recommended by the World Health Organisations and many other global institutions.

In Uganda from 1991-2001, there was a great decrease (from 15% to 6%) in the prevalence of HIV as a result of effective implementation of these preventive measures.

The decrease was multiplied by a multi-sectoral approach with themes such as ‘Love Carefully’, ‘Zero Grazing’, and ‘Be faithful to your Partner’. They managed to make Uganda a paragon of success.

Almost all countries prioritise other measures in preventing, combating and treating HIV/AIDS but very few prioritise male circumcision.

Circumcision is a method of removing the foreskin of a male penis. The soft tissue dries out and becomes normal skin which creates a barrier to prevent the HIV virus and other sexually transmitted illnesses like gonorrhoea and syphilis.

A study conducted by French researcher Bertran Auvert in 2001 revealed, at an international AIDS Society Conference in Brazil, that circumcision in males is far better than AIDS vaccine.

The results of the study showed that circumcised men were 63% less likely than uncircumcised men to be infected through sex with HIV-positive women.

That's a far better rate of protection than the 30% reduction risk set as a target for AIDS vaccine. Similar studies have shown that circumcision in males is a better way of prevention from HIV and other sexually transmitted illnesses.

It therefore seems important for the PNG government and public and private health organisations to introduce male circumcision in hospitals and health centres in our country. I think this could help.

UPNG leadership faces a crisis which could be ‘a tragedy’

Scott MacWilliamIn PNG Attitude in 2011 and in June this year, academic DR SCOTT MacWILLIAM, wrote that it was unclear “whether increased attention from the relevant PNG institutions and international aid donors is too late to rescue the country’s first university, UPNG” which, he said, in some respects “was in a near-terminal condition”. The story continues….

SINCE WRITING THE ARTICLES on UPNG in 2011 and earlier in 2012, there has been a further development regarding the selection process for a Vice-Chancellor at the University of Papua New Guinea.

The worst possible outcome is coming to pass.

The advertising for the position was appalling, limited and guaranteed not to attract high quality candidates with international university management experience.

A final stage has now been reached and there are two candidates still in the race.

Both of them have been at UPNG for years, have been complicit in the recent rapid decline and are now possible Vice-Chancellors.

Neither of the candidates has the necessary experience to rescue and revive what should be Papua New Guinea’s premier university.

Neither has either the academic standing nor the management experience to convince international donors that they should put major funds into the rebuilding of the university.

This is a tragedy for the future of the university and PNG.

Climate Challenger epic voyager arriving in Honiara today


Climate Challenger under full sailTHE CLIMATE CHALLENGER expedition super canoe was scheduled to arrive in Honiara today.

The traditional-style open canoe set off from Manus Province in late August with 10 people on board, and landed in Choiseul in the Solomons last week.

In Choiseul the group conducted environmental awareness programs in Nukiki, Wagina and Arnavon before setting sail to Kia and onwards to Buala in Isabel Province.

An important purpose of the voyage is to raise awareness on climate change and inspire people on community-based adaptation action including conservation and protection of marine resources.

With the theme ‘Bridging gaps between the Pacific-connecting countries’, the voyage was an initiative of the people of Manus inspired by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in PNG and funded by the Australian government.

Speaking about the voyage, TNC Solomon Islands director, Willie Atu, confirmed the team’s arrival, adding that his office is prepared to welcome them to the shores of Honiara.

“We have had our officers welcomed them in the other two provinces, now that they are coming to the shores of the capital of Solomon Islands, we are indeed preparing a big welcome for them,” Mr Atu said.

He called on the general public to also welcome the sailors as they arrive on the shores of Honiara.

The Climate Challenger is expected depart during the weekend.

The voyage continues from the Solomon Islands to Nauru, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Kosrae, Ponape, Truk Islands, Puluwat, Sorol, Yap, Palau, Au Wuvulu, Ninigo and Hermit Islands before returning to Manus in PNG.

Throw away your guns & gain your freedom! Oh yeah?

LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

IF WE WANT TO FAST-TRACK the peaceful settlement of the Bougainville issue once and for all, then we ought to do it in a manner that ordinary people see as right; not from the perspective of the big men of Bougainville, nor of international law.

Imposing upon the people what they just don’t like is the one and only catalyst of the setbacks we are familiar with in the pacification of the Bougainville conflict.

One of the three major pillars that will determine the execution of the Bougainville referendum on independence between 2015 and 2020 is the disposal of our weapons.

This is the design and liking of international law and PNG but not Bougainville.

If the Autonomous Government or our free-riders in the Meekamui all want independence, then they need to throw away the guns.

In the many negotiations held overseas as well as within PNG and Bougainville, PNG leaders are always screaming for a gun-free Bougainville. But what is the logic behind this demand? Does it meet the expectations of all Bougainvilleans?

Many educated Bougainvilleans, of course, will support the pillar of a weapon-free Bougainville; but the see-saw does not favour these few. One has to understand that, the educated and the illiterate majority do not share the same world view.

Thus, as decision makers, we have to remember that Bougainvilleans were treated as cheap prostitutes by colonialism. Their island was forcibly annexed (without their consent) by Germany in a self-glorification chat with Britain.

Since then, they have struggled against this evil in the form of exploitation of their resource rich island, cultural genocide and were laughed at as their old people wept under the sun demonstrating against PNG, Australia and BCL’s ruthlessness.

These things have become the chitchat of everyday Bougainvillean life and yet decision makers ignore it, upholding the imposed sting of international norms that have no place in Bougainville.

The majority has yet to be educated to understand how the globalised world’s political, economic and social mechanisms are operated.

From 1988 on, guns were their means of change. Without the employment of violence on the New Guinean squatter settlements around Bougainville and the attack on Bougainville Copper Limited, by now Bougainville would have being the land of Papua New Guineans.

Guns chased away the squatter settlers who were every day driving the natives further inland. Guns shut down Bougainville Copper Limited which brought them in.

But most Bougainvillean fighters noted that guns reached their hands not from a donor like Australia, but by personal sacrifice. That is, to own a gun you had to kill your enemy, the Papua New Guinean soldier, as he shamelessly pursued you to kill you and rob you in your own land.

But are political decision makers noting this? Leaders are worshipping imposed norms of conflict resolution listening to what the mind speaks and not what the heart speaks.

Politicians did not acknowledge this fact about Bougainville when, in 2001, they signed the terms of the future referendum on independence.

Bougainvilleans know the long struggle for self-determination before 1988 that was ignored by the Papua New Guineans who were using the wealth of Bougainville to build their own country. Yet our leaders gave in and sold us off once again to square an historical nightmare.

And here is where Bougainville is being divided into factions. There was a faction which wanted to end the war with the gun seeing the many successes the BRA was having against the Papua New Guinea army. And there was this other bunch that wanted a solution by peace.

All sides were working through different means to achieve nationhood for Bougainville.

Continue reading "Throw away your guns & gain your freedom! Oh yeah?" »

A poet’s journey 6: Using poetic intuition


INTUITION OR INSTINCT is difficult to describe. It is a sense or impression based on some indefinable certainty, like some secret knowledge that you can’t quite put your finger on, or like a kind of spiritual intelligence.

Sometimes you may start writing a poem with no idea how it is going to get to where it is going, or even where it is going at all!

Very often a poem seems to evolve and find a way all of its own. This is when poetic intuition takes over.

Here is how Merril Moore describes poetic intuition taking over her writing.

Literature: the God, its Ritual

Something strange I do not comprehend
Is this: I start to write a certain verse
But by the time that I come to its end
Another has been written that is worse
Or possibly better than the one I meant,
And certainly not the same, and different.

I cannot understand it –– I begin
A poem and then it changes as I write,
Never have I written the one I thought I might,
Never gone out the door that I came in,
Until I am perplexed by this perverse
Manner and behaviour of my verse.

I’ve never written the poem that I intended;
The poem was always different when it ended.

Source: A Phantom Script – an anthology of poetry, by Keyte and Baines (eds) 1991

As poets we use our intuition a lot of the time, whether we realize it or not, and it is important to allow our poetic intuition to take control of our creative writing.

This is what Peter Kranz was alluding to when he commented that poems should come from the heart and not from the brain. Being in touch with our intuitive side is essential to writing good poetry; poetry which speaks to other people heart to heart.

But note that Moore says that the poems she ends up with may be “…worse / or possibly better than the one I meant”.

So there is a certain skill that’s required and experience in working with our intuition that allows us to get the best writing out of ourselves. The aim is not to take control of intuition; rather it is to know when our intuition is at work and enable it to lead us, to leap beyond logic.

At one time I tried creating poems using the letters of people’s names to see what I could create. This is what I wrote of my own name; ‘My instinct comes heedlessly and ever leadless / Dances over memory’ (a poem of myself).

The poem was written during the time when I made a firm decision to take up writing poetry as a serious pursuit, and you might say that I had seen an image of my poetic intuition.

This kind of written verse is called acrostic poetry, where any word or phrase can be used to create verses which either begin with or contain a spelled out message (hidden) within the stanza.

Continue reading "A poet’s journey 6: Using poetic intuition" »

Papua New Guinea – where there is no word for slavery


SlaveryTHIS MAY BE CONTROVERSIAL - but I ask your advice, my friends.

Rose - my Papua New Guinean wife - discovered a video of Gone with the Wind and watched it. She asked what it was about. I explained the Americans had a war between themselves about 160 years ago. North against South.

She asked, "What was this about?"

I gave a halting explanation that it was something to do with slaves and economic domination.

Rose asked, “What are slaves?"

Have you ever tried to explain this to someone who has no understanding or concept of what is a slave?

I said, "Well European people sailed to West Africa and kidnapped local people at gunpoint and took them in chains to America and made them work on farms.

“This is where the American black people came from - mostly Nigeria and the Congo in Africa."

Rose said, "Why did this happen"?

I tried to explain, saying that white people thought the black people could be captured like animals and taken to America to work on the farms.

I made the point that many died in the process.

I asked Rose to watch some old films, including Amistad and Gone with the Wind.

My wife, being from the Highlands of PNG, has no understanding of slavery, or it's history.

For that I praise her, and Papua New Guinea.

But how do you explain this?

Writers fellowships also provide the magic of connection


OUR WRITERS’ FELLOWSHIP PROJECT is off to a great start (we hope to announce another two tomorrow) and one of the spin-offs is the connection that is created between sponsor and recipient writer.

I thought this exchange between Joe Wasia and Bob Cleland more than adequately expresses the connectedness that PNG Attitude, in its own small way, is seeking to create and they have kindly allowed me to share it with you…

Wasia_JoeEmail from Joe Wasia to Bob Cleland

Waooo! Thanks Bob. I really appreciate you. Great man great sponsor!

I hope Bob knows very well the highland culture and PNG as a whole and what he has decided to do is to promote more PNGeans to be great writers, readers and thinkers.

The great thinkers, writer and readers will do marvelous in the development of PNG one way or the other. Great job Bob.

I could say Bob and your colonial administration in the highlands and PNG have done marvelously in the development of PNG. Most of the infrastructure services that we see today are your footprints.

After your team left PNG in 1970s and 80s our own government has never done much. Failed in many areas. The services that you established have been deteriorating to the state where it would no longer use.

One very good example is a primary school in my village which was established in the 1970s. Classrooms are now no longer classrooms. I feel very sad to see this situation.

Thanks again Bob for the sponsorship and hope to know you more.

Joe Wasia

Bob ClelandEmail from Bob Cleland to Joe Wasia

G'day Joe,

Great to hear from you and congratulations on getting the sponsorship. Keith Jackson has sent me some details of you. It looks as though he has also sent some details of me to you. I hope we get to know each other better from now on.

You probably know I've written a book about being a kiap during 1953 to 1956. The first thing I want to do is send you a copy so please send me your most reliable postal address.

I was a kiap for 23 years and finally left in 1956. In that time, the people and country of PNG got firmly wedged in my heart (as with many Australians). I served in Eastern Highlands, Western, Lae, Kokopo, Chuave, then back to Eastern Highlands. When I revisit Goroka, I have a strong feeling of that being 'my ground'.

I've always been optimistic about PNG's future because I know that you, the people, can work things out in the end. As things began to deteriorate since 1975, and as corruption took hold, I stayed optimistic. Australian media reported most of the bad things happening, seldom the good. But I knew that there were plenty of good things happening, unseen.

In April this year, I joined a small cruise ship at Alotau and resolved to search out those good things. We cruised the islands off the tip of PNG, then the south coast of New Britain, to Rabaul. I didn't need to search for good things - they were all around me wherever we went. It did my heart good. Everywhere, people said they were sick of the government and were looking forward to the elections.

Well, the elections have come and gone and I have to say that I think things look pretty good. There's an enormous amount of hard work to be done and I think that's begun already.

Through all this time I've been following 'PNG Attitude' regularly and it became clear to me that posts from so many PNG writers were in fact the voices of the movers and shakers of now and the future. So I sponsored a category of 'Heritage Writing' in the Crocodile Prize. When 600 entries over all categories came in, I knew I wanted to participate in this excitement.

So that, in a nutshell, is how I got involved in Keith's sponsorship idea and how you and I are now writing to each other.

I've seen some of the posts and comments you've offered from time to time. I know now that I can look forward to more.

Big-road-bob-clelandYes, I know a bit about the highlands culture - enough to know that highlanders generally are an intelligent, perceptive, hard working lot and that's a pretty good base from which to start. Just look at all the highlanders in good, often influential jobs all around PNG - like you.

Hey, I ramble on a bit don't I? There's more which will come out from time to time, as I hope it will from you. May I say em tasol wantok.

Lukim yu.


PNG humour: Kon–Templeit; yu yet skelim na tingim


DURING DECEMBER 2011 a few of us contributed the following piece on an online discussion board in what was an extraordinary off-the-cuff fashion.

As the main contributor, I decided to collate the 50 odd “Kon Definitions” and repost them here basically unedited. It’s a play on the tokpisin word kon.

One truth about Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guineans is that while discussing serious matters we also love to joke and have a good laugh to brighten our day.

Many times sarcasm and humour is part of communicating our feelings on important matters.

My apologies in advance for breaking English spelling and grammar rules PNG-stail!

I hope you like our Kon Template!

Kon Ajoin: self-invited bisibodi lain, who love to mauswara; begging for buai is their real motive !

Kon Atis:  disla landowner-wanabe;  lying trickster to be weary of; or could be that favourite uncle ?

Kon Demd: plight of most sitting MPs in 2012 !;

Kon Disen:  your state: good or bad, em yu yet nau !;

Kon Dom: karamap blo baga ya! laif-saver tru tru o bagarapim sindaun blong famili?

Kon Fain : Namah/Marat/Tiensten's bail & 2 minute isolation in the Boroko cells in 2011 !

Kon Ferens : party here, party there, party everywhere to solve the nation's problems by the kon-sultants and hexperts while the victims get zero.

Kon Fes#1 : fes blo memba na intending memba;

Kon Fes#2 :  taim you autim pekato lo paterr;

Kon Fidense (as in votes of no-konfidense) : the belief in the "fee" the membas are paid to "dance" across the floor of the haus tambaran and then back again!

Kon Flikt (of interest) : taim memba interested lo senisim mama blo haus wantem mama blo hotel.

Kon Fusen : current state of affairs in the Land of the Unexpected ?

Kon Eksen #1 : the usual shitifon/digicel problem;

Kon Eksen #2 : Bosmahn blong boifren blong bestie blong kasin sista blong said blong liklik mama blong mi !

Kon Gratuleisens :  Mauswara from supporters of losing candidates for leftovers and handouts after your victory

Kon Kasin : high feelins afta cousin sista whacks you ova da head following one too many white cans @lamana & afta you have dumped her best friend;

Kon Kon : not just taro, but he is allowed to steal our kids’ forests !!

Kon Kod : (aka Kumul/Faulken jet) - disla private balus ya ol Namah/O'Niel lain 'hijackim' na giaman-givim long air-niugini long wokim election campaign blong ol – klostu ol Indonesia jet fighters sutim as blo en;em sindaun yet long ples long Singapore stap !

Continue reading "PNG humour: Kon–Templeit; yu yet skelim na tingim" »

The strangeness of Musingku: money, politics & Papaala

Leonard RokaLEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

PAPAALA IS A STREAM in the village of Aitara just south of the Tonu station in the Siwai area of Bougainville.

To the people of Siwai, Papaala has great significance in their local mythology which was why Noah Musingku named his operation after this stream.

By scrolling through the blog, Papaala Chronicles, one can work out that the said Kingdom of Papaala is a pure fantasy of money, politics and religious fanaticism created for the people of Bougainville by insane Bougainvilleans.

Noah MusingkuNoah Musingku [left] lives the life of a recluse in Tonu protected by heavily armed guards who are trained by the single remaining Fijian. He lives on one meal a day in fasting and prayer to fulfill the covenant he says he has with God to liberate the people of Bougainville.

Despite his isolation, Musingku says he long talked of unity with the late Francis Ona and his Meekamui.  Ona always denied that.

In ABC Foreign Correspondent’s interview with Francis Ona (the reporter was Shane McLeod), Ona claimed he “does not know whatever Noah Musingku is up to”.

Despite Musingku crowning Ona a ‘king’ and Ona having nurtured Musingku in his backyard at Guava village, Panguna, Ona still denied him to the world.

Musingku does not travel from Tonu but remains in his house working on computers connected to the internet. His rare public appearances occur on ceremonial days where he emerges wearing a gold crown. He gives a short speech and hides away.

Recently he is said to sponsor a mini-sports events in Tonu and provide a little philanthropy to some elementary schools. His ‘army’ is paid regularly. They regularly desert but, when rumours of money are in the air, they return. But many leave and never come back.

My informant states that Noah Musingku is always sealed off from the sun, protecting his health with umbrellas. Musingku, as the saviour of Bougainville, has to be protected from direct sunlight. Likewise with his siblings and extended family. Nobody knows why, but that is what they do.

In our world, man must labour to get something on the table.

In post conflict Bougainville the economy is still staggering due to political and economic complexities and people’s unsettled mindsets centered on the Melanesian culture of compensation.

It was in this context that Musingku took advantage of our people in their time of desperation.

With Papaala money, politics, and religion converge as a single realm of activity with Noah Musingku at the centre.

The religious with little formal education are the hardcore followers of Papaala. To the illiterate Musingku is a legend.

Out of nowhere, he has created his own calendar; the Papaala calendar. July, which is the galip-nut season in most of Siwai, is the New Year. Musingku throws a celebration of feasting for his followers.

To the Papaala, the days are not Sunday to Saturday but they are aligned with the Genesis creation myth. Sunday is ‘Light Day’ and Saturday is ‘Rest Day’. Months are not named as January and so on but are called after the many precious minerals referred to in the Bible.

Continue reading "The strangeness of Musingku: money, politics & Papaala" »

First 8 PNG Attitude writers’ fellowships are announced



The first eight of 11 writing fellowships provided by sponsors under the auspices of PNG Attitude have been awarded to selected writers, including some familiar names.

They include Captain Manuai Matawai (pictured), about whom more below.

Other awards will be announced in the near future as the designated writers are signed up.

The $A500 fellowships, which will be tenable for 12 months, were established to encourage freelance writing in Papua New Guinea and to reward writers for their work.

Fellowship recipients are expected to contribute regular articles and other work to PNG Attitude, which will guarantee them publication.

The writers are not prevented from using the material in other ways or having it reproduced elsewhere.

The eight awards made so far are to:

Martyn Namorong | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

Nou Vada | Supported by the Lance Hill Writing Fellowship

Leonard Roka | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

Joe Wasia | Supported by the Bob Cleland Writing Fellowship

Sil Bolkin | Supported by the Phil Fitzpatrick Writing Fellowship

Charlotte Vada | Supported by the Abel Family Writing Fellowship

Ganjiki D Wayne | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

Manuai Matawai | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

Writers and their sponsors are being encouraged to correspond with each other, and this process has already begun.

PNG Attitude will introduce you to the writers and their sponsors over the coming days. But let me start with someone you may not know a lot about – but you should – Manuai Matawai.

Manuai is 42 and was born in Pere village in the Manus Province. He is the community conservation coordinator with The Nature Conservancy, which he joined in 2006. In this role, he works with communities which have an interest in managing their marine and terrestrial resources so they can be more resilient to climate change.

Climate Challenger under full sailManuai is currently skippering the 48-ft open canoe Climate Challenger on an epic 70-day, 3,200 km voyage around PNG and the Solomons and the Pacific atolls of Micronesia.

On board are 10 Manus navigators, dancers and musicians who are sharing their culture and bringing an awareness of climate change and a clean environment to the many islands they are visiting.

Currently they’re nearing Honiara and later they will make their way to 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, where the voyage began.

You can keep in touch with this great endeavour at – and read Manuai’s thoughts in PNG Attitude as the demands of the voyage allow.

For now, here’s his latest dispatch as Climate Challenger approaches Honiara:

We reached the Arnavon Islands yesterday (Sunday 14th Oct) and had a meal of taro, fish and rice before accompanying the rangers on their turtle monitoring followed by our awareness raising performance afterwards.

Today (Monday 15th Oct) will set sail for Kia where we will meet the The Nature Conservancy team including Willie Atu (Solomon Islands Country Director for The Nature Conservancy) and his son who will join the canoe on the trip to Honiara.

The sea has been very calm and very good sailing conditions.

PNG Attitude wishes our writers fellowship recipient Captain Manuai Matawai, and his bold crew, manageable seas, receptive audiences and, of course, good writing.

If you wish to become a sponsor of the PNG Attitude Writers Fellowships, contact Keith Jackson here

Are collectors the key to saving the giant butterfly?

PHILIP BETHGE | Spiegel Online

Queen Alexandra's Birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae)PAPUA NEW GUINEA IS HOME to the world's largest butterfly, but oil palm plantations are threatening the rare species' habitat.

Conservationists and local residents alike would like to save the species by lifting a ban on trade in the butterfly and selling it for thousands of dollars to collectors.

The insect makes a wide circle around Grace Juo's small stilt house and lands on a bright red hibiscus blossom. In Jimun, the language of the indigenous people, the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing butterfly is called dadakul.

It's the world's largest butterfly, with females attaining wingspans in excess of 25 centimeters. "We are proud of our butterfly, and we take good care of it," says Juo, glancing at the insect, which has now inserted its long proboscis into the flower.

Juo lives in Kawowoki, a small village of huts on the Managalas Plateau in eastern PNG. The volcanic soil here is dark and heavy, and the rainforest is an exuberant shade of green. The plateau is the last remaining habitat of any significant size of the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing butterfly, one of the world's rarest insects.

Some butterfly collectors would pay thousands of dollars for a single specimen. Local residents like Juo hope that they will soon benefit from the appetites of trophy-hungry collectors.

But multinational corporations believe that oil and natural gas deposits lie beneath the tropical paradise and the rainforest is threatened. Prospectors have also found copper and gold, and oil palm plantations are proliferating in the region.

The temptations of the modern age are reaching PNG, a country divided into hundreds of ethnic groups. It has a disastrous infrastructure, is wracked by tribal feuds and is at a high risk for disease epidemics.

The history of the Queen Alexandra's Birdwing butterfly isn't just the tale of a rare species. It also revolves around the question of how to go about protecting species in a developing country that is undergoing rapid change.

The search for answers begins behind a barbed-wire fence in Port Moresby, the capital city. Armed guards provide security against the city's criminal gangs, known as "rascals." A rattling air-conditioner helps to stave off the heat and humidity in the office of the organization Partners with Melanesians.

A conservation plan

Kenn Mondiai and Rufus Mahuru are sitting at a dark table, explaining their rescue plan. "For the last seven years, we've been discussing ways to save the Managalas Plateau together with the local people," says Mondiai, a heavy man with a round face and a moustache.

The activist wants to transform the habitat of the giant butterflies into one of the largest conservation areas in Oceania. "The butterfly helps us convince the people to support this cause," he says. "It symbolizes the diversity and value of our nature."

British naturalist Albert Meek was the first European to spot the giant butterfly in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea. Hired by the zoologist Lord Walter Rothschild, Meek explored the region in 1906 to find fresh trophies for Rothschild's private zoological museum in the English town of Tring.

One day, Meek discovered a butterfly flying at a high altitude, and promptly brought it down with a shotgun. The adventurer dissected the butterfly and sent it to England. Rothschild named the animal "Ornithoptera alexandrae," in honor of Queen Alexandra, the wife of King Edward VII.

Continue reading "Are collectors the key to saving the giant butterfly?" »