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95 posts from November 2012

Scared out of my wits: A redskin on Small Buka

KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN | Supported by the Phil Fitzpatrick Writing Fellowship

Sil BolkinTHIS MONTH I WAS ABOUT to make my maiden trip to the Autonomous Region of Bougainville.  I entered the airport boarding lounge and found a seat beside some young men from Divine Word University who were on their way back home for holidays.

In the midst of the students was Bougainville’s most creative writer, Leonard Fong Roka. He greeted me and asked where I was going. ‘Bougainville, with you,’ I said.

He was surprised upon hearing this. ‘What are you doing there?’ he asked.  I said ‘I am going with UNFPA for a HIV prevention and sexuality education program for out-of-school youths.

The boarding call disturbed the rest of our conversation and we joined the queue.

At Buka Passage, Leonard hopped on a dingy and was off to his village. I wanted to meet him and chat with him at the Kuri Guest House and quench our thirst with a few stubbies but that was unlikely.

He said land and sea transport fares were sky high so he couldn’t come back and forth. He went his way and I told him we might meet again at the 2013 Crocodile Prize literature awards.

I settled into the Malabolo Guest House run by one of Bougainville’s renowned leaders, Martin Miriori.  The rest of the team slept at the Kuri Guest House.

Malabolo Guest House is just above Hutjena Secondary School on Small Buka. At Malabolo one has a good view of the entrance to the Buka Passage to the east. The sunrise from Malabolo is a breathtaking experience.

The waves crashing on the coral reefs and limestone walls to the north-east were awesome as well.

Martin Miriori from Kavarongnau in South Bougainville has settled amicably at Malabolo and consistently provides guests with absolute comfort and tranquillity while away from home.

He was formerly secretary of the Bougainville Interim Government, based in the Solomon Islands and later in the Netherlands, during the crisis. He was also once the secretary and international representative of the Bougainville People’s Congress.

Brothers Martin and Kabui have been actively involved in Panguna landowners’ issues against the mining giant Rio Tinto since 1982. That is the reason I decided to sleep at his guest house, so I could have the opportunity to chat with him.

During the crisis, PNG politicians called for the Miriori brothers to be hanged or shot.

Martin told me about his dreams for Bougainville and about the late Joseph Kabui, who he said succumbed to lifestyle diseases.

Martin, as wise as he is, did not tell me directly that Bougainville will one day be independent from PNG but I could decipher from our conversation that one day they will not be part of PNG.

Continue reading "Scared out of my wits: A redskin on Small Buka" »

In Canberra for the Walkleys & some PNG links


Walkley Awards logoTHIS MORNING I WRITE FROM Canberra where, tonight, I’ll be attending the Walkley Awards which recognise the best journalism in Australia over the past year.

It’s not just the mercury that’s been soaring in the nation’s capital this week; the politics also have been absolutely red hot. But this blog’s PNG Attitude not Political Attitude, so I’m not going there.

That made clear, this year’s Walkleys are being held in the grand precincts of Parliament House but with any luck it’ll be the wine not the whine that's doing the talking.

Ingrid and I are attending as guests of Queensland University, of which I have the honour, along with eminent Pacific journalist Sean Dorney, of being an adjunct professor in the School of Journalism and Communication.

And Queensland University is at the Walkleys because it sponsors the Award for International Journalism.

I’ll be sitting with the head of school-designate, Prof Libby Lester, leaving the University of Tasmania for warmer climes, and the acting head of school, Dr Rhonda Breit.

And I’ll certainly be wanting to talk about how Sean and I might be able to work with the university to build a stronger connection with Papua New Guinea.

That is a great opportunity and one well worth pursuing, especially given the school’s pioneering Centre for Communication and Social Change, which specialises in the study, research and practical application of communication in sustainable development.

Back to the Awards. Each year, more than 1,300 entries are submitted and my old mate Laurie Oakes, who has a strong PNG connection and who is chairman of the Walkleys, says it’s never been more important to promote excellence in journalism.

"Given the challenges now facing the media in this country, it has never been more necessary to recognise, reward and showcase excellence in our industry,” Laurie says.

And what is his PNG association? Well, he’s the late Tom Cole’s son-in-law.

Tom, who was to become an eminent author (The Last Paradise, Spears and Smoke Signals, Hell West and Crooked) spent 30 years in PNG as the first professional crocodile shooter, later establishing a coffee plantation in the Highlands.

Small world, isn’t it?

The 57th annual Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism will be broadcast on SBS 1 from 9.30pm (AEDT) tonight

Francis Nii – author, wise man, mate – battles illness


Francis Nii, Kundiawa Hospital, 2012FRANCIS NII HAS BEEN A STRONG supporter of the Crocodile Prize awards since their inception.

He has also contributed many thought-provoking articles and short stories to PNG Attitude.

With a degree in economics from UPNG, Francis was a banker with a bright future with the National Development Bank until an accident left him paraplegic.

He is now a permanent patient at the Kundiawa General Hospital.

But the accident has not deterred him from following his interest in writing and he currently acts as the Administration Officer for the successful and valuable Simbu Children Foundation.

He has also completed a very interesting novel which is currently being edited with a view to publication.

Francis is a man of outstanding courage. Many of us were humbled and impressed when he managed to get himself and his battered old wheelchair to Port Moresby for both the 2011 and 2012 Crocodile awards.

Being in a wheelchair has its problems. One of these is the ever present bane of pressure sores.

These sores can be extremely painful and dangerous, particularly in a climate like Papua New Guinea’s where infection is a real risk to life.

Francis is currently taking time out to tackle a particularly bad episode of pressure sores.

We at PNG Attitude express our support for him in this time of stress and wish him a speedy recovery.

Francis is a strong Christian and as we move towards Christmas our prayers are with him.

You can read two of Francis’s recent articles here and here

O’Neill talk impresses; & comes with a dash of Attitude


Peter O'Neill at the Lowy InstitutePETER O’NEILL IS NOT a tall man but, by the end of his address at the Lowy Institute in Sydney this afternoon, he was standing head and shoulders above his Australian political counterparts.

In his quiet, understated way he showed not only a firm grasp of the demands of political leadership and how they must be met, but also a sophisticated understanding of the geo-strategic position of Papua New Guinea and what it will take to steer a steady course towards the nation’s goals.

Peter O’Neill has a clear view of the country he wants PNG to be and a solid appreciation of what he needs to do to get it there.

That was impressive – a leader with vision and a practical approach to breathing life into it.

As Ben Jackson remarked to me later, “What've we got to do to get a prime minister like that?"

Mr O’Neill also admitted to being a regular reader of PNG Attitude and thanked me and our contributors for their interest and support of PNG. It’s moments like these when I feel like a very proud old publisher…

There were at least four or five good news stories that could be derived from Mr O’Neill’s speech.

But perhaps the most significant was his creative thinking around the regional processing of refugees and illegal immigrants, an issue Australia has been wrestling with unsuccessfully for years.

He said PNG proposes to establish a permanent regional refugee processing centre in Manus and open it up to other nations in the Pacific.

In doing so he reminded Australia that it was not the only country that has a problem with illegal immigrants – “it is also a problem for us,” he said.

I was given the opportunity to ask Mr O’Neill a question and decided I’d seek a response on the role he saw for the Melanesian Spearhead Group in the south-west Pacific.

As part of a discursive reply he mentioned that he looked forward to seeing Australia and New Zealand re-engaging with Fiji as it travels the tortuous road back to democracy.

“We must know,” he said, giving the ANZAC alliance some sage advice, “that, if relationships are not built with Melanesians, we tend to lose interest.”

Mr O’Neill also made reference, in a soft jocular fashion, to the recent Australia in the Asian Century statement by Julia Gillard making no mention of PNG.

“The bilateral relationship is in very good shape,” he said, “but it must not be taken for granted.”


PETER O'NEILL said today that Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea should not be affected by PNG-China relations.

O’Neill was speaking at the Lowy Institute in Sydney and addressed the topic of ‘Papua New Guinea in the Asian Century’ and was optimistic about the role PNG will play in regional relations.

The prime minister expressed the ongoing gratitude to Australia for its foreign aid to PNG, but also praised the People’s Republic of China for their development assistance.

“PNG will always appreciate the support of Australia, but the responsibility of our government is to its people,” Mr O’Neill said.

O’Neill also pointed out that although China is important to PNG for trade and investment, Australia and the USA are the only nations that PNG has a security relationship with.

One point that was revisited several times during the seminar was the allocation of Australian foreign aid, which O’Neill suggested does not necessarily go to areas that the PNG government sees as priorities, such as roads and transport infrastructure.

China is now the second largest contributor of aid after Australia, however it seems that Chinese aid is more likely to be diverted to projects that are important to the PNG government.

O’Neill was statesmanlike in his speech and in the way he handled questions, and also showed pragmatism and a connection to the realities of the region.

Footnote: Ben Jackson tweeted live from the Lowy Institute issuing 20 tweets in 25 minutes as Mr O'Neill spoke giving Jackson PR's Twitter readers a blow by blow account of the prime minister's speech

Missionary turns detective in a ‘curiously satisfying’ novel


The Samana IncidentThe Samana Incident: A Crime Novel of Papua New Guinea’ by Keith Dahlberg, iUniverse Inc, New York & Bloomington, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-4502-6311-5. $14.95 from Amazon. Also available as an eBook

SOME YEARS AGO I had the pleasure of working with the late August Paul Harold Freund.  Harold, as he liked to be known, was a pioneering Lutheran missionary who wrote a book called Missionary Turns Spy.

It was about his wartime exploits rescuing survivors from the Rabaul garrison and as a coast watcher in the Vitiaz Strait and on the New Guinea mainland.

My relationship with Harold did a lot to broaden my appreciation of the role and aspirations of the missionaries in Papua New Guinea.

Keith Dahlberg’s novel suggests that these aspirations may be wider and more bizarre than we realise.  The Samana Incident could easily be called ‘Missionary Turns Detective’.

The novel is set in modern day Papua New Guinea and deals with the problems of illicit drugs and gun running.  It is a sequel to an earlier novel based in South East Asia called Flame Tree.

The “Samana” in the book sounds very much like the Summer Institute of Linguistics headquarters at Ukarumpa in the Eastern Highlands.

One of the key characters is a medical doctor sent undercover to help solve a puzzling crime.  One thing leads to another and he becomes caught up investigating a scheme to import ais (ice) or methamphetamine and high powered guns into the country.

I know for sure the guns are going in but I’m not sure about the ice.

The doctor is not strictly speaking an ordinary proselytising missionary but he does his fair share of spreading the word as he works towards assisting honest cop, Lieutenant Jason Kerro, nail an Asian and Australian drug cartel.

Coincidentally the author is a medical doctor with long experience working in Thailand and Burma and has briefly spent time in PNG with the Summer Institute of Linguistics.  He is also an avid reader of mysteries, thrillers and biographies.

His brief sojourn in the Eastern Highlands clearly made a lasting impression.  He is currently writing another novel based on the mining industry in PNG.  Most of his information seems to come from his reading and maybe from the internet.

I’ve come across a couple of other novels by writers who have had limited or no actual experience in Papua New Guinea. 

When I contacted the author of the novel Bird of Paradise, which I reviewed for PNG Attitude, she freely admitted to never having visited the place; it was just exotic enough and conveniently located for her purposes.

It is the small things that give these books away and ultimately spoil the reading experience.  The devil is in the detail, as they say, and even though Keith Dahlberg has been in the country briefly and has ongoing friendships there and an obvious abiding and ongoing interest some of the details let him down.

Continue reading "Missionary turns detective in a ‘curiously satisfying’ novel" »

John Cheffers, ex-PNG sports administrator, dies at 76


John CheffersPROFESSOR JOHN CHEFFERS (1936-2012), who coached the Papua New Guinea athletics team at the 1969 South Pacific Games in Port Moresby, has died in his sleep while flying with his son to Sydney from San Francisco.

Cheffers grew up in a battling working class family in Melbourne and became an excellent athlete and Australian Rules footballer. He also became an first rate teacher.

His hopes of competing for Australia in the decathlon were dashed when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament just weeks before the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

So he turned to coaching and, in 1968, was eminent enough to become track and field coach for Rhodesia’s multiracial Olympic squad, only to have Mexico block the team from competing because of the then African colony’s race policies.

The following year I first met this big, ebullient and permanently positive man when he turned up in PNG as coach of the athletics team for the third South Pacific Games in 1969.

Cheffers then took his young family and his passion for teaching and sport to the United States to pursue an academic career. He received a doctorate in education from Temple University in 1973 was appointed to Boston University in 1974.

He soon became known for infusing his teaching with close camaraderie with his colleagues and students. Cheffers would accompany students to a pub after night classes and host tastings of Australian wines.

John Cheffers and John Shava“He practiced what he preached,” said Eileen Crowley Sullivan, who studied under Cheffers. “He taught all of us to really care about what we do and have passion for what we do.”

Another former student, Steven Wright, said Cheffers was a visionary who “thought outside the box.”

“He had a different view of what physical education could and should be that differed from a lot of his contemporaries,” Wright said. “He was all about being humanistic and being the best for kids.”

Cheffers also became an authority on the behaviour of sports fans. “The love-hate relationship which spawns so much violence by fans is often ingrained in our youth by the dubious ethic that finishing first is the most important thing in sports.

“The result is that many fans are frustrated athletes who simultaneously love and hate the heroes they watch in stadiums and arenas,” he said. “When a team wins, a fan shouting, ‘We’re No 1,’ really means, ‘I’m No 1.’”

Cheffers wrote extensively about the science of teaching physical education and his students marvelled at the boomerang he kept in his office.

“John’s passion for first-class teaching has influenced hundreds, if not thousands, of his students worldwide,” said Len Zaichkowsky, a sports psychologist who was his longtime colleague at Boston University.

Cheffers became a professor emeritus in 2002 and lived on a farm at Murrumbateman, near Canberra, with his wife Margaret, whom he married in 1958.

He is also survived by their children Paul, Mark, Leigh and Andrew and 17 grandchildren.

Sources: J M Lawrence (Boston Globe); John Bell (Sydney Morning Herald)

We’ll set up an ICAC, Peter O’Neill tells Oz media


PRIME MINISTER PETER O'NEILL addressed the National Press Club in Canberra today and committed himself to establishing a permanent independent commission against corruption in Papua New Guinea.

Here at PNG Attitude - with the national media focussed firmly on domestic politics - we’re grateful to the ABC’s Liam Fox for posting some of the highlights of Mr O’Neill’s speech on Twitter.

Fox reported that the prime minister began his address by criticising Australian journalists for describing PNG as a failed state.

"This is just simply wrong," he said, describing the claims as "harmful" and "hurtful".

It is indeed a slur that is especially objectionable to Papua New Guineans since it combines a noxious blend of condescension, fiction and plain ignorance.

Addressing the issue of foreign aid, Mr O'Neill said PNG would like to see a greater alignment between AusAID support and his government's own development priorities.

He also said that he would like to see links between young Papua New Guineans and Australians strengthened as well as more emphasis being placed on the trade and economic relationship, particularly Australian investment in PNG construction and agriculture.

During his speech, Mr O'Neill also continued his campaign against BHP Billiton's continuing presence in board roles in the PNG Sustainable Development Program. "There is no reason they should be involved,” Liam Fox quoted him as saying.

AAP diplomatic correspondent Adam Gartrell has just reported that Peter O’Neill asked Australia to rethink its aid spending by putting greater emphasis on infrastructure like roads and ports.

PNG is in "dire need" of better economic infrastructure like roads, ports and airports, he said. "I know there will be some in the aid program who will be horrified by this suggestion.

"But if we are going to make sure your aid genuinely supports our economic and social development and helps us guarantee our security and stability we simply must make sure it is more targeted to align with our priorities."

Australia's aid program in PNG currently focuses more on health, education and governance.

Mr O'Neill said the PNG-Australia relationship is in "good shape" but warned against complacency.

While saying that the Chinese aid footprint in PNG was very small, he would welcome more.

Late this afternoon, Mr O'Neill met with Australian prime minister Julia Gillard for discussions.

‘Get positive on PNG,’ veteran kiaps tell fellow Aussies


Bob ClelandTWO EX-KIAPS WHO RETAIN close associations with Papua New Guinea have told Australians they should be more positive about PNG – and spread the word that good things are happening with Australia’s nearest neighbour.

Bob Cleland (pictured), now a fit 81, who served in PNG from 1953-76 and who was last there two months ago, says he sees positive signs of improvement and that Australians interested in the country should “switch our natural pessimism to, at least, a cautious optimism.”

As a 22-year-old kiap (patrol officer), Cleland  personally supervised the building of the Highlands Highway between Asaro and Watabung through the precipitous Daulo Pass.

Big Road_ClelandHe is author of Big Road, published in 2010, which tells the story of the building of the Highlands Highway.

In a comment to PNG Attitude, Cleland asked rhetorically, “So can we, fellow Australians, do anything about spreading the good news?

“At risk of sounding like some sort of evangelical missionary, we can quietly tell our friends, our associates, our fellow club members and our families.”

Cleland, who also sponsors the Cleland Prize for Heritage Literature in the Crocodile Prize, named for his parents Sir Donald and Dame Rachel Cleland, says he’s going to tackle the task of making Australians more realistically aware of events in PNG by beginning with his own lain.

“I'm going to start with my local Rotary Club,” he said. “Whenever I hear about some good news from an authentic source with numbers to quote, I will take a minute, just a minute, to pass it on at a Rotary meeting.

“In this way, I hope, over time, to update, to modernise, the perception most Australians have about PNG. That perception tends to be stuck on all the worst things we have heard and read about PNG over the last few decades.”

Cleland urged Australian readers of PNG Attitude to do likewise and “spread the word.”

BamahutaFellow ex-kiap and author Phil Fitzpatrick (who wrote the compelling  Bamahuta: Leaving Papua) said there were other positive effects that would spin off from Cleland’s suggested path.

“I've always found in my life as a kiap, working in Aboriginal [Australian] heritage and lately as a social mapper in PNG that positive reinforcement works wonders.

“Once you boost people's morale and self esteem they seem to aspire to much greater heights,” Fitzpatrick said.

He said that “constant harping about how bad things are eventually wears people down and they lose interest. I suspect this may have happened with politics in Papua New Guinea.

“This isn't to say that when someone does the wrong thing it shouldn't be reported but at the same time an equable balance needs to be maintained.”

Phil Fitzpatrick is also a member of the new Australia-PNG-Pacific public relations consortium, Jackson PR Associates

Access to Life photo exhibition at Powerhouse Museum

Camillo and his son HenryA POWERFUL PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION, that has already moved millions of people around the world through its touching images of AIDS-affected communities, opened at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney yesterday.

Access to Life features the work of some of the world's best photographers from the global agency Magnum Photos, world-renowned for interpreting and chronicling people and personalities, global issues and events in a compassionate and meaningful way.

For the first time, a series of new photos from Papua New Guinea will be included in the exhibition, taken by acclaimed British photographer Chris Steele-Perkins.

They join photographic case studies from India, Vietnam, Russia, Swaziland, Haiti, Mali, South Africa, Peru and Rwanda.

More than 250 photographs by nine international Magnum photographers feature people with HIV and AIDS, their families and communities, and the health care workers from 10 countries.

The photos capture the emotional stories of people before and four months after receiving the antiretroviral treatment.

Access to Life is in Sydney for World AIDS Day 2012 and coincides with the 30 year anniversary of the first case of HIV being diagnosed in Australia.

Created by Magnum Photos in partnership with The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Access to Life was launched in Washington DC in 2008.

It has since toured major cities around the world including Rome, Madrid, Olso, Oakland, New York, Tokyo and Seoul.

Let’s hope ti can get to Port Moresby and other PNG cities soon.

Photo: UK Magnum photographer, Chris Steele-Perkins, has produced a prolific body of work and recently shot photographs of AIDS-affected regions in Papua New Guinea. This portrait shows Camillo and his now HIV-free son Henry

'The Tongare love': a new short story from Bougainville

LEONARD ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

YOU KNOW BARAU, down the length and breadth of my home valley, Tumpusiong in Bougainville; I was a popular wild and sexy dancer of the Friday night parties. Drinking was my trade.

People also referred to me as a sex maniac right across Kieta since I did pocket myself some degree of fame with women from Panguna to Arawa and up the Bovong river valley.

My reputation was getting sick every day; wherever I went, people would greet me as: ‘Good morning, bottle,’ or otherwise: ‘Good afternoon, doro’bauko (sex maniac).

Pornography was also an issue. I was known as the master distributor and promoter. Whether this was right or wrong, that was my name and the wind blew it around with it.

But as sanity slowly bloomed in me, right from the core of my loins I developed a tendency to reject such ugly tags and regretted those irresponsible ravings originating from the dark side of my soul.

Besides, I had dreams—whether fruitful or not, I had them—to become the first president of a future nation, the Republic of Bougainville.

Such ambitions forced me to dig down deep and lose some sleep, just to get to know more about myself as a person. Should I remain the beacon of dirty notions? No.

To rid myself from this odious predeliction, I began looking for a girl—a full blooded Tumpusiong girl in the few clans available: the Bompo, Barapaang, and the Bakeraang.

Within my clan, the Basikaang, I was not allowed to forage for sex; exogamy denied what in Pidgin we refer to as wantok kaikai wantok (incest).

My search was met by the most inferior clan across the valley of Tumpusiong, the Bompo. There I found one girl—perfectly shaped by her creative papa, nurtured well by the harsh dictates of the great Kavarong river—our river. It happened this way.

It was a day in August 2006, the year of plenty as I knew it; that, with my head packed with dirty mental graphics, I was leisurely strolling about the Tabarunau trade store grounds with a stupid friend who never hides his emotions.

We knew girls passed through this avenue every afternoon on their way from the goldfields. So we waited, to win one and attract her into the bush, or at least to comment on her ways.

In the course of our aimless sauntering, we stepped aside for a passerby making her way out of the trade store.

E, Muru’ona, where are you off to?’ my escort, Kontemoi, asked her; closely eyeing her every movement of her body.

Osi dei (towards home. Good day to you.’ She passed us with an openness so sweet and a guilty smile.

Kongto bakaang (romantically suitable) e’ra,’ Kontemoi murmured, his eyes fixed on her free-moving buttocks that denied the presence of the plain laplap that covered her.

She was heading to the hamlet Damabori, a place attractive to the local populace of boys since it housed some of the best looking girls in Tumpusiong.

For us the proverb ‘out of sight; out of mind’ was not workable as we stood watching her manoeuvre her way slowly through the open gravel and rock beside the old waste pipe from the dead Panguna mine.

I was thinking about her so much. What would she say if I asked for the thing? How would she respond if I made love to her? But these were illusions, for she was not there. So we settled ourselves to gossiping.

Continue reading "'The Tongare love': a new short story from Bougainville" »

Trevor Freestone - the magic chalkie of Watabung


Teaching in PNG'Teaching in Papua New Guinea' [paperback, 88pp] by Trevor Freestone, Xlibris Corporation 2011, ISBN 10:1456869582, $15.99 from

TREVOR FREESTONE’S MEMOIR of life as a teacher in pre-independence Papua New Guinea is exactly as I expected it to be – modest and a little bit quirky.

He was there from 1963 until 1975; firstly in East and West Sepik and then in the Eastern Highlands. He left when life for many Europeans in outlying areas became more or less untenable because of the rising violence brought about by alcohol abuse.

The account is modest in two senses. Trevor doesn’t make any grandiose claims but he is nevertheless proud of his small achievements. And this is a modestly short book, running to just under 90 pages.

Trevor is quirky because of some of his teaching methods, which included the use of magic.  This developed to such an extent that he was buying magicians supplies while on leave and bringing them back to PNG with him.

He even became a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians so he could get access to their secrets.

After a while he expanded his repertoire to include pyrotechnics and extended these activities to the extramural.  It was no wonder that other Europeans in the area regarded him as weird.

They also thought he was a bit strange because of his preference for integrating into the local community rather than remaining aloof as expected. 

Trevor seems to have decided on this approach at Ambunti in East Sepik and continued with it when he was transferred to Pagei in West Sepik and then Watabung in the Eastern Highlands.

I must admit that, in these present heightened times, I was getting a bit worried about the closeness that he developed with his students.

But at Pagei he courted a local girl and at Watabung married another local lass; three times – once traditionally, once in church and once in front of the District Commissioner. 

He and Anna were well and truly married.  He doesn’t say, but I’m guessing that he and his wife have led a long and happy life together.

The romance at impoverished and low-populated Pagei ran afoul of the complications of the local custom of sister exchange but at Watabung he had no trouble with bride price.

Watabung School Library_FreestoneUnder his guidance, Watabung became a model school which became the envy of many others.  One of the reasons for this can be attributed to Trevor’s personal touch and commitment.

He returned for a visit in 2008 and was pleased to see that the school that he had so lovingly nurtured, despite all its problems, not least being on the Okuk (Highlands) Highway, had survived and maintained its reputation.  As an added fillip the locals renamed the school ‘The Trevor Freestone Primary School Watabung’.

Compared to the prolific kiaps, you don’t see a lot of memoirs by chalkies and, even though this one is short, it is expansive beyond teaching and well worth a read by anyone generally interested in the history of Papua New Guinea.

Trevor has an interesting take on the breakdown of law and order for instance.  He dates it to the time when the kiaps lost much of their legal jurisdiction to the police force.

He says that whereas the kiaps were living out in the communities and had tabs on everything going on around them the police were centrally based in the towns and separated from local people. 

Problems which might have been resolved by a quiet word in the right ear suddenly became the subject of the hard boot of the law.

I can remember the frustration of having to report crimes to the police in Mount Hagen and then waiting days, sometimes weeks, before they got round to attending to it.

It was one of the reasons why I fled to the wilds of the Western District where the kiap still held sway.

Trevor also makes some astute comments about other issues, like the inherent racism among the American missionaries and the failure of both the Australian administration and later the government of Papua New Guinea to capitalise on PNG’s unique tourism assets.

Like a lot of us Trevor went to Papua New Guinea to escape mundane employment in Australia.  By all accounts he was successful.

Trevor self-published his book using a company called Xlibris, which is how I came across it. 

It is well-written in an easy and pleasant style.  The cover photographs are a bit fuzzy and there are a few typos in the text that shouldn’t be there.  They are of the type that authors become blinded to but which the publisher should have picked up.

I got my copy through Amazon but it is available through

PNG child health is improving, & it’s all about the people

Trevor DukeTREVOR DUKE | Centre for International Child Health

I HAVE SEEN MANY IMPROVEMENTS in child health in Papua New Guinea in the 15 years that I have been working with the health system there, led by committed young paediatricians who have designed and implemented a national plan for child health.

As a member of the National Child Health Advisory Committee and the Paediatric Society, I was part of a review held in September to assess whether this plan is on track. At that meeting, leaders in child health presented strong evidence of progress in the most challenging of problems.

Immunisation is one of the most cost-effective ways to save lives. For vaccines to reach every district, the Health Department has identified the 20 lowest-performing and most isolated areas and completed a stocktake of childhood immunisations, services and vaccine supplies.

AusAID has provided $1 million to implement the Reaching Every District initiative in concert with support from WHO and UNICEF. The Health Department is also partnering with AusAID, WHO and UNICEF to provide mass vaccination across the whole country, against measles and polio.

With revitalised services for the hardest to reach, this is already making a difference.

The Haemophilus influenzae vaccine against pneumonia and meningitis was introduced successfully in 2008, and the pneumococcal vaccine is to be introduced in 2014. The Health Department is also active in prevention of pneumonia through improving nutrition (including breastfeeding), reducing indoor air pollution, encouraging hand-washing and early treatment.

Treatment programs that introduced oxygen therapy have seen a 35% reduction in death from pneumonia. Pneumonia, diarrhoea and neonatal conditions are the major causes of hospitalisation and child deaths in PNG.

Neo-natal health is a continuing priority; while child and infant mortality has fallen in the last decade, neonatal mortality remains static at 28-30 per 1,000 live births.

As part of an effort to implement better standards of neo-natal care, the health department has assessed five hospitals in the Highlands district and established a model for quality district-level services.

Malaria is no longer one of the top three causes of hospital admission for children due to the widespread use of insecticide-treated bed nets. The health department acknowledges that maintaining this program beyond the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria will be a challenge.

With support from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, rural clinics are now HIV testing, counselling and treatment centres. Effective programs to prevent transmission of HIV from parents to children have seen the rate of infection to newborns from mothers who have HIV falling from 30% in 2007 to 15% in 2012, meaning many fewer children are born with HIV.

Continue reading "PNG child health is improving, & it’s all about the people" »

Oz mining conference: Industry to meet PNG govt

Business Advantage International

SENIOR PNG FIGURES will come face-to-face with members of Australia’s largest industry for the first time at the Papua New Guinea Mining and Petroleum Conference in Sydney next week.

“It’s the perfect venue for the new O’Neill Government to present itself internationally and to provide the industry with an understanding of the range of new policies and proposals it is considering,” said Greg Anderson, executive director of the PNG Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.

PNG’s prime minister Peter O’Neill is scheduled to address the conference on Monday morning with Mining Minister Byron Chan and Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma also on the program.

While Mr Anderson noted “the Government's attitude to the industry is key”, the conference’s principle function is to act as a showcase for the developments in the industry, with all major producers and exploration companies expected to provide an update on their PNG activities.

“We want to show the investment community how much progress has been made, both in terms of current projects but also the emergence of interesting new prospects. There have been very substantial achievements both in hydrocarbons and mining,” said Mr Anderson.

There should be particular interest among the 1,100-plus delegates in the future of two high profile resources projects—Nautilus Minerals’ deep sea mining project in the Bismarck Sea, which appears to have come into difficulty, and InterOil’s long-anticipated Gulf liquefied natural gas project, which has just received Cabinet approval.

Mr Anderson said he is hoping that both companies will be able to provide ‘more clarity’ on their contrasting situations.

Development: Green shoots set a template for progress

MARTYN NAMORONG | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

Martyn Namarong in BrisbaneHERE ON THE GROUND in the Western Province there is a sense that things have to improve.

There have been open discussions of the appalling state of health as well as education. These are developmental issues that need to be tackled by all parties in the Province.

Instead, over the years the key players have been finger pointing and throwing mud at each other.

With the election of the new Governor and the possible appointment of a new Administrator, there is a renewed sense of cooperation between the provincial government and some of the key stakeholders such as PNG Sustainable Development Program, Ok Tedi Mining Limited and the Ok Tedi Fly River Development Program.

There are also two large logging concessions in the Middle Fly and they need to be brought into the discussions about development in the province.

What has been lacking has been coordination. There have been efforts made to sort this out - for instance, the establishment of the Provincial Health Steering Committee. It is hoped that the Provincial Education Steering Committee will be set up soon.

These sorts of progressive activities obviously need the support of we the people of Western Province.

For me, I could write from the comfort of the city about the decay in the province.

Now, I have had the opportunity to interact informally with the provincial administration and all the other parties relevant to the development discourse.

From a distance, it is easy to over simplify complex issues and point fingers. But it is another matter to get into the thick of things and juggle with all competing interests in order to get good outcomes.

Those who are making an effort to make a difference need the support of those of us from the province who have influence in our communities and outside.

The situation has become rather precarious in recent times given the media war that has erupted.

Yes, some situations could have been handled better and there have been monumental failures by all parties.

Down in the South Fly, fresh water tanks have been damaged by villagers due to infighting. Projects delivered have tended to create jealousy and divisions amongst communities.

Some bad decisions have been made. For example the Waria Waria Essential Oil Project near Morehead that has been a waste of millions of kina.

But there are also success stories. Some communities have embraced the opportunities presented to them.

Health service delivery in the North Fly is well above the national average because there is great cooperation amongst all stakeholders. And these are the green shoots that set a template for progress.

There is a risk that, in pursuing our own individual agendas, the leaders and elite of the province may throw away the baby with the bathwater.

The winds of change are upon us. There is a sense amongst the communities that the province needs to move forward.

The challenge for leaders and elite is to be forward-looking rather than dwelling in the past. The future generation’s lives depend on the opportunities we create for them today.

Melanesia free trade group operational next year

Sean DorneySEAN DORNEY | Australia Network News

THE MELANESIAN SPEARHEAD Group's free trade agreement is ready to be implemented between at least three of the group's four members.

This follows a recent breakthrough from Papua New Guinea, which agreed to dramatically scrap duties on almost all of its protected goods.

Merewalesi Falemaka, MSG's director of trade and investment, says with the changes the free trade agreement could be in full effect from next year.

"There were about 50 products that were on that list, so now they have actually gone duty free on all those products," she said, adding that there are three exceptions: mackerel, salt and sugar.

The move came almost seven years after the trade deal between Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and PNG was finalised.

Fiji had been applying duty free status to all MSG products since 2009.

Vanuatu started in 2010 and is expected to eliminate all tariffs by next year, while Solomon Islands began in 2011.

PNG’s local manufacturing is adding value and skills

Business Advantage International

PNG Made logoDESPITE BEING OVERSHADOWED by the resources sector, Papua New Guinea’s manufacturing sector is delivering substantial benefits to the country.

“We employ about 500 people and that number rose by 80 last year,” says Phil Kelly, general manager of diversified food and condiments manufacturer Laga Industries.

With PNG’s rapid recent economic growth, manufacturing employs around 25% of the nation’s formal workforce.

The country’s factories are perhaps the unsung heroes of PNG’s rising wealth and manufacturers are feeling positive about their prospects.

Lae Biscuit Company’s chief executive, Ian Chow, is building his business on the back of its recent K65 million investment in a new factory at Kamkamung. The facility doubled the Lae workforce to 450 people and provides some of the best wages and conditions for manufacturing workers in PNG.

Michael Kingston, managing director of KK Kingston, is another entrepreneur who says manufacturing is making a significant contribution to the lives of ordinary Papua New Guineans.

“After the construction phase, the Exxon LNG project is expected to provide about 800 long-term jobs. We currently employ 800 people, so in terms employment our contribution is not so different.”

Kingston adds that the manufacturing sector’s contribution to PNG goes beyond the immediate economic effects.

“We’ve had a large number of people complete apprenticeships who either stay with us and contribute or go on to bigger and better things. Manufacturing adds to the human capital of the country.”

“If someone orders a specific product from Asia it might take eight weeks to get here while we can do it in two. Local manufacturers also have the ability to tailor-make products for local needs.”

Industry is reinvesting in PNG to ensure it can harness further benefits as the economy grows and becomes more sophisticated. The investment is coming from both local and multinational firms.

“We’ve just opened a production facility in Port Moresby that became fully operational in February,” says Coca Cola Amatil’s PNG general manager Peter Carey.

CC Amatil has more spending in the pipeline with a K230 million redevelopment of its major Lae plant likely in the next five years.

S P Brewery is in the midst of a K150 million expansion that will add 40% to its output. “We’re increasing the size of our factory and upgrading machinery,” says general manager Stan Joyce.

With rising incomes and domestic beer consumption rates currently only half of the south-east Asian average, and 13% of Australia’s, there’s certainly plenty of room for growth.

Jackson PR appoints Alex Harris as new Associate

Alex HarrisTHE RECENTLY ESTABLISHED Asia-Pacific public relations firm Jackson PR Associates has announced the appointment of Alex Harris as its newest Associate.

Alex was born in Lae, Papua New Guinea, and has retained a close association with the Pacific region.

She is a multi-award winning media and public relations industry professional who has worked primarily in the United States and Australia.

However Alex has written extensively on corporate social responsibility issues in PNG, both as a freelance writer and on assignment for private research projects.

For the past 10 years, she has consulted to publicly listed, private and not-for-profit companies mainly in the resources, professional, financial services, retail and environment sectors.

Alex is also a professional writer and communications strategist with expertise in digital strategy and publishing, reputational risk, media skills coaching, media and stakeholder engagement.

She is managing director of Digital Publishing Australia Pty Ltd and editor of the newsletter, Reputation Report.

Up the Sepik: An Ambunti holiday with the Anskars

Barbara with croc skinsBARBARA SHORT

IN SEPTEMBER 1972, during my second year of teaching at Brandi High School near Wewak, Akapina Anskar, one of my Year 8 students, invited me to spend the school holidays with her family at the government station of Ambunti, on the Sepik River.

Some of the teachers had been to Sepik River villages and had stayed with Brandi pupils so I was keen to have a similar experience.

Angela Newman, a new member of staff, was also willing to come, so I guess I felt there was “safety in numbers”.

We thought we might not like the local food and decided to take along some Aussie food which we could share.

I felt it would be a great experience to “live with the natives” but was not sure of the rules of etiquette.

Anyway, I went shopping and bought some food that we could share with the Anskar family.

I still had a lot to learn about Sepik culture and didn’t want to appear rude or arrogant.

Akapina’s father was Anskar Kamal. It was the Sepik custom for the children to take their father’s first name as their second name, hence Akapina was known as Akapina Anskar and not Akapina Kamal, as in Australia.

Beside the riverWe drove to Pagwi where we left my car and Akapina’s uncle, Anton, arrived with his long outboard motor powered dugout canoe to take us up river to Ambunti.

On the way we stopped at the very large village of Avatip, home to many Brandi students, such as Pauline and Joel Luma and Jacob Kasa, who had been head boy in 1971.

I had heard many stories about the Avatip’s past reputation for headhunting and I remember treating them with respect. Here we were able to watch a singsing.

It was a long journey from Pagwi to Ambunti and we arrived towards nightfall and were taken up a hill, a rare sight in the Sepik River valley, and found that the Anskars lived in an old trade store built of permanent materials,. a timber building with a corrugated iron roof, which overlooked the river.

I was amazed to find Akapina’s mother and father sitting together in the kitchen. Her mother was preparing the meal while her father was sitting with her, drinking a bottle of beer and eating some freshly cooked prawns from the river.

It reminded me of home and I realised we were not staying in a traditional village but rather with a westernised family. We were given beds to sleep on!

Continue reading "Up the Sepik: An Ambunti holiday with the Anskars" »

Forum says re-open Panguna mine with BCL


A TWO-DAY PANGUNA NEGOTIATION forum held at Hutjena Secondary School in Buka has strongly recommended that the closed Panguna copper mine be reopened by the former partner, Bougainville Copper Ltd.

The regional forum for the North Bougainville districts of Buka, Atolls and Nissan ended with all three districts supporting the reopening of the mine.

In a seven point recommendation, the three districts said the mine should reopen only after a new deal has been negotiated between all parties.

They called on the Autonomous Bougainville Government to make sure all parties are represented when the new deal is negotiated between BCL, ABG, the PNG government and the landowners.

The Division of Mining organised the meeting to get the views of the leaders and people of North Bougainville, Nissan and the Atolls District that includes the islands of Carteret, Motlock, Tasman and Fead. The forum was hailed a success.

Three more forums will be hosted in Central Bougainville and South Bougainville to get responses from other districts.

My dream for a better Papua New Guinea

Kofi Mangi Tari AssanKOFI MANGI TARI ASSAN | Sharp Talk

PAPUA NEW GUINEANS should be proud that together we are building a democratic state, a PNG governed by the rule of law. We may have our differences, but what joins us together is more important.

We are one and I am totally committed to working to ensure peace and unity for the Better PNG Project.

What I see, hear and read makes me more convinced that we have to change the way we do things and transform our economy into a new one – a new economy that will help us give our children good education, create jobs, provide good healthcare, feed ourselves adequately and give every Papua New Guinean a opportunity for a good life.

Papua New Guineans are clearly unhappy and dissatisfied with the conditions of their lives. And, yet, the town criers of Grand Coalition propaganda tell us we are living in better times.

My goal is to provide transformational leadership and help build a prosperous society, which creates opportunities for all its citizens, rewards creativity and enterprise, honesty and hard work, a society where there is discipline and fairness, where people go about their lives in a free and responsible manner, a society where there are safety nets for the vulnerable and decent retirement for the elderly, an open society protected by well-resourced and motivated security services and where the rule of law works.

For this to happen, PNG needs effective leadership which is honest, competent and determined to deliver. A leadership of conviction – which is committed to fighting corruption and dedicated to the welfare and wellbeing of Papua New Guineans.

It is clear that corruption has become rampant in these last few years, robbing us of much-needed resources for our development. I am determined to fight corruption aggressively, and I can do so.

Fellow citizens, I will revive and restore confidence. I believe that, beyond a competent, incorruptible leadership, the best instrument for achieving economic transformation is the private sector.

I shall vigorously assist all our enterprises to grow, especially small and medium scale, both in the formal and informal sectors, by helping them gain access to credit, technology and markets.

Much greater attention will be paid to indigenous and local businesses to expand and create jobs for our young men and women. Businesses will play the lead role in public procurement. The tax and tariff systems will be restructured to promote growth in the private sector.

Policies will be introduced that will encourage banks to support the transformation agenda. I will look at way's to strengthen the regulatory bodies to do the job of protecting consumers and improving standards.

I will empower Papua New Guineans to do the job of transforming PNG. I will make PNG the place to do business, and make businesses in PNG globally competitive. I shall forge a strong partnership with organised labour to achieve this. This is how I will create the hundreds of thousands of jobs for which the young people of our country are yearning.

Continue reading "My dream for a better Papua New Guinea" »

Mostly magnificent men in their flying machines


Broken bird at Kundiawa airstrip, 1963WHEN TERRITORY AIR LINES’ pilot Garry Honour banked the Cessna 180 prior to landing at Kundiawa on a reasonably fine afternoon in 1964, he could hardly have anticipated the serious problem he was about to confront.

Gulf Kilo India’s touchdown was light enough but, unbeknownst to Honour, who went on to become a senior pilot with Qantas, the undercarriage was ready to fail.

And soon after the aircraft landed and began to slow down on the grass runway, the wheels came off spinning the Cessna around and leaving it propped up on one wing.

The five Simbu passengers on board gathered their belongings and calmly strolled away.

Within minutes I’d arrived at the ples balus to get the news for the ABC, for which I was the Simbu correspondent, and to take the photo that adorns this story.

I asked Honour what had happened to the passengers and he told me they were fine. “They just walked away,” he said.

I asked whether there was any panic on board.

“No,” Honour replied. “I think it was their first flight and they thought that was how aircraft land.”

The tales of air travel in Papua New Guinea during colonial times are legion. Then as now it was a difficult country to fly in.

Qantas would send their cadet pilots for a stint flying light aircraft in the Territory. The terrain and weather gave them plenty of useful experience. Some of them never made it back to Australia.

Flying by the seat of your pants was considered normal in a place where navigation aids were mostly absent.

Brian McCook, then chief pilot for TAL, once told me that, even flying in the highlands, he was always confident he could find a place to touch down in an emergency. But many of his colleagues were not so astute, or so lucky.

Peter (Thirsty Hursty) Hurst flew light aircraft around the highlands with a nonchalance that few of his passengers felt.

After a night’s carousing at the Chimbu Ball I watched him take off early Sunday morning with an overloaded aircraft which clambered into the air and then promptly fell off the end of Kundiawa airstrip.

What seemed like an eternity later, way down the Chimbu Gorge, Hurst had managed to get the plane back to its take off altitude and it came back into view. We all breathed deeply and went to Dick Kelaart’s nearby Kundiawa Hotel to drink a bit of breakfast.

A few years later Hurst was killed in a high speed motor accident on Australia’s Gold Coast.

Then there was Captain Peter Manser who flew for a number of airlines in PNG. A flamboyant character, he was also partial to a jar or two and had the distinction of flying so low over the Kassam Pass that foliage and tree branches stuck in the tail-wheel of his DC3.

“There’s usually an updraft there,” he explained to me later.

Continue reading "Mostly magnificent men in their flying machines" »

Bougainville has economic capability with cocoa, copra

LEONARD ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

BOUGAINVILLE IS SAID TO BE the largest and richest island of the Solomon archipelago. In the dream days, oral history claims that traditional trade goods from as far as Malaita Island ended up in Bougainville.

In fact, this is still a mutual practice today for the people divided between two countries. There are always traders from all over the southern Solomon in many Bougainvillean markets.

This is one indicator that, in economic terms, Bougainville has the potential—without a large scale mining project—to be an economic power house to its citizens and its sister islands.

In Bougainville’s economic history, the year 1989 should be noted as the year that the island economy that was driving the state of Papua New Guinea came to a standstill due to the armed secessionist conflict.

This crisis was the outcome of the systematic denial of Bougainville freedom of decision-making; rather Bougainville was a slave to aliens that exploited her and gave back nothing tangible in economic terms.

To Bougainville and its people, subsistence economic activity was the mainstay through the pre-colonial days until today. Bougainvilleans live by tilling their customary land, growing food crops and domesticating animals for food in the ongoing art of survival.

However, for the sole benefit of PNG, colonialism introduced mining into the Bougainville psyche. This made many Bougainvilleans believe that a massive export-oriented resource extraction industry was the only way for economic progress.

Leaders in the ABG, and even external advisors, want to see the reopening of the Panguna mine as an impact project to kick-start the Bougainville economy.

But what most Bougainvilleans should learn is the massive scale of resource extraction industries in PNG that provide no physical evidence of positive change to the society and the people.

Everywhere one travels in PNG there is urban decay, pothole infested public roads and streets, fearful squatter settlements, massive unemployment, crime and an Asian takeover of cottage businesses.

But to Papua New Guineans this is positive development despite the fact that the economic growth rate is outstripped by population growth.

Bougainville’s future economic success must solely depend on an agricultural base. This is well documented in W W Rostow’s 1960’s book, The 5 Stages of Economic Growth, that emphasises the significance of an agricultural base to kick-start economic growth and development in developing countries.

The Bougainville government and people should invest in any cash crop the land of Bougainville can support. Two such crops that have long economic impacts in Bougainville are cocoa and copra.

In the 2008 research paper by Ian Scales and Raoul Craemer, Market Chain Development in Peace Building, it was noted that Bougainville was the major producer of cocoa for the PNG economy.

The paper noted that production ceased in 1990 with the spread of the crisis. But from 1997, as peace began gaining momentum, cocoa production rose significantly. By 2006 this growth had reached its average pre-crisis mark of 15,000 tonnes per year.

But to Bougainville’s disadvantage this is recorded as East New Britain cocoa since all buyers of Bougainville cocoa are Rabaul based.

Continue reading "Bougainville has economic capability with cocoa, copra" »

Forum move to keep out Fiji prime minister fails


A MOVE TO STOP FIJI’s prime minister Commodore Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama from attending the opening session of the Pacific ACP (Africa/Caribbean/Pacific) leaders meeting in Port Moresby this week failed to get off the ground.

Fijian foreign affairs minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said he had been informed that the Pacific Forum Secretariat had wanted Commodore Bainimarama to stay out of the opening and be invited in later.

Ratu Inoke said he reminded the group that Fiji’s prime minister was invited to the meeting by PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill.

“Why should the prime minister from Fiji be stopped to attend the opening when he was invited by the host country?” Ratu Inoke asked.

He said it unacceptable to Fiji for Commodore Bainimarama to be asked to stay out and be invited in later.

According to Ratu Inoke, his PNG counterpart resolved the matter before the opening.

At the opening Mr O’Neill especially welcomed Commodore Bainimarama.

“I wish to make a special welcome to Fiji’s prime minister. I sincerely hope that his participation will be good for the Pacific community,” Mr O’Neill said.

The chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Cook Islands prime minister, Henry Puna also welcomed Commodore Bainimarama.

He said the meeting was specifically held to discuss Fiji’s participation at Pacific ACP meetings at all levels.

PNG development: We need a coup in the chicken coop

MARTYN NAMORONG | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

Martyn_Awayang_Namorong [The Age]ONE DARK EVENING I was plotting revolution with comrade Nou Vada when he brought up this interesting scenario of the chickens in the coop.

No chickens were harmed in the creation of this metaphor but comrade Nou described a profound condition of the Papua New Guinean psyche - at least amongst chooks.

Basically Nou, or whoever he got the idea from, describes some people as being like chickens that have been kept in a coop for too long.

The chickens are so used to receiving chicken feed so that once you throw the key into the cage, the chickens throw the key back to you and ask for more feed

So I'm adding chicken to the already well known sheeple.

I witnessed these chicken exchanges recently as community leaders here in the Western Province discussed regional development.

Following the presentation of a major development organisation about empowering villagers to make decisions regarding their development needs, one of the leaders got agitated and spoke.

I'm paraphrasing what the village leader said but it went along the lines of: "You (donor) know what our problems are, just deliver on our development needs."

Anyway the donor representative replied diplomatically that the villagers should submit their development needs to have them assessed instead of the donor deciding what the people needed.

In much of the discourse about development, there is talk about empowering communities and ensuring the self sustainability of aid projects.

But what happens when you give communities the opportunities for progress and they fail to make use of them to create better outcomes?

As difficult as it may be for some people to accept, there is a role for so-called handouts.

If the chickens in the coop won't use the key to set themselves free, you have to continue with the chicken feed or else they'll starve to death.

Papua New Guineans love to bash major donors and their boomerang aid, but we need to reflect as to whether we use the keys they sometimes throw into the coop to set ourselves free.

Before a revolution can take place in the communities, we need a coup in the coop.

Fred Reitano dies at 93 – kiap, lawyer & lifelong learner


Fred ReitanoFRED REITANO, who has died at the Cazna Garden nursing home in Brisbane at age 93, joined the Australian Army as a private in 1939 and saw active service in Papua New Guinea.

This included experience in Port Moresby which was at the time being bombed by the Japanese.

In 1943, by this time a sergeant and his potential clearly seen by the military, he underwent officer training at Duntroon Military College and was subsequently posted to a civil affairs unit in Borneo, now Kalimantan and part of Indonesia.

Here he met an Army nurse, Mary Fleming. They married after the war in 1946 and remained together for all of their long lives.

1st ASOPA Long Course 1949. Fred Reitano is middle row, second from rightFred signed on and trained as a patrol officer and was initially posted to Mt Hagen. He also served in the Sepik, Manus and East New Britain.

While in Manus he enrolled in a law degree by correspondence, graduating in 1961, after which he joined the Crown Law Office in Port Moresby.

In 1965 he joined a private law firm before rejoining Crown Law just prior to PNG’s independence in 1975.

He and Mary, by then a welfare officer, left PNG and, in 1976, Fred was appointed as principal legal officer in the Northern Territory’s Attorney-General’s Department before retiring two years later on medical grounds.

The couple then moved to Brisbane and Fred decided to pursue his studies eventually graduating with a BA in 1989 and an MA in 1992 at the age of 73.

Fred also worked as a volunteer for a range of organisations focusing on education, culture and health.

One assignment was as a reader for a sight-impaired law student at Queensland University, who subsequently graduated with first class honours.

Fred was also an active member of the United Services Club in Brisbane and the Sunnybank RSL. He remained a Justice of the Peace until six months before he died.

Fred is survived by Mary, sons Paul and Jeffrey, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Source: The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 22 November 2012

Generational change underpins Pacific's digital future

Danielle CaveDANIELLE CAVE | The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

LED BY BLOGGERS, DIGITAL ENTREPRENEURS and social media groups in Papua New Guinea, a Pacific 'digital generation' is emerging that is increasingly influencing public debates, forming policy ideas, holding institutions accountable and coordinating political protests.

The potential size and influence of the Pacific's emerging 'digital generation' is enhanced by the fact that more than 50% of the regional population is estimated to be below the age of 24.

In a new Lowy Institute Analysis research paper launched on Wednesday, Digital Islands: How the Pacific's ICT Revolution is Transforming the Region, I outline how the Pacific Islands region is in the midst of an information and communication technology (ICT) revolution that could have profound implications for the region's governance and development.

My research, sponsored by the Myer Foundation Melanesia program at the Lowy Institute, reveals that digital technologies are increasingly being used in the Pacific Islands to harness, influence and project political and social change.

About 60% of Pacific Islanders now have access to a mobile phone and this figure continues to climb. This has coincided and fused with another global phenomenon, the rise of social media.

This growth in mobile phone access is extraordinary given that only four years ago, six countries (PNG, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands) had penetration rates of 16% or less, meaning less than just one in five people had access to a mobile phone.

In Tonga, mobile penetration has risen from 3% in 2002 to 53% in 2011. Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu and New Caledonia now enjoy mobile penetration rates of over 80%. In 2006 only 2% of PNG's population had access to a mobile phone; today this figure is fast approaching 40%. 

The mobile growth statistics are impressive, but the region is home to some of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world. For example, only 2% of PNG's population had access to the internet in 2011 and in Solomon Islands, Samoa and Vanuatu, it is less than 10%.

However, web-enabled mobile phones and Facebook phones are enabling the region to leapfrog barriers (such as remoteness, cost and availability) to computer-enabled internet access.

Decreasing costs for handsets and calls, and better reception, has facilitated more widespread access, far beyond affluent urban dwellers.

There are now almost 700,000 Facebook users in the Pacific Islands, dispersed across the region's population of 10 million people.

PNG is leading the region's growth in social media use with Facebook membership nearing 150,000, a figure which has tripled since mid-2011. Fiji and Samoa, also experiencing high growth in Facebook membership, are not far behind.

Continue reading "Generational change underpins Pacific's digital future" »

Bush Writer's dilemma continues: Internet not so easy

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

Francis NiiTHE DILEMMA OF BUSH WRITER, which I wrote of in an earlier article in PNG Attitude, is not an isolated issue of publication difficulty but it is a holistic problem of accessibility and affordability of modern communication technology.

I’m talking about a town like Kundiawa in the middle of the Papua New Guinea highlands – still struggling in this time of communication revolution.

Communication in general - like accessing, transmitting and receiving information and messages or conducting commercial transactions with using the internet - is a nightmare in Kundiawa, the main town, forget the rest of Simbu.

Accessibility to internet communication is a privilege enjoyed by the wealthy minority, particularly private companies and key state entities that have Vsats.

For the common grassroots, the hardship in using internet to access information or conduct business is a never-ending hurdle.

To get connected to internet via a modem stick, the only accessible technology, is infested with seemingly insurmountable limitations.

Adding to the woe of cost, it is very slow and has very limited capacity. To log on to net can take one hour if one is lucky. Otherwise, one can scramble a whole day in vain.

Even if one gets connected, the capacity is so low that only a limited amount of information can be transmitted or retrieved.

There are only three internet cafes in town that provide paid internet service and they also use modem sticks.

Whether one uses a PC and modem at workplace, home or cafe, the problems are the same. For those who do not have PCs, the paid internet cafe is the only option for them.

The denouement is that internet use is frustrating, time wasting and expensive; so much so that many people are not interested in anything that involves its frequent use. Sadly, among these people are writers and potential writers.

Simbu writers residing in big centres like Port Moresby, Lae or Mt Hagen where internet services are more reliable are able to get their works published while their comrades in Simbu are trammeled by the compounded woes of communication.

But regardless of the stumbling blocks in everything that one does, if the person has passion and persistence, they will prevail and find ways for getting around the problems. Bush Writer, for example, sent this article from his mobile phone.

Nokia-5310It comes with its perils. Three months ago Bush Writer burned out the keyboard of his Nokia XpressMusic 5310 mobile phone, which he calls it internet smuk balus.

Bush Writer is now thumb-pushing the keys of the replaced board at windmill speed. He maintains the internet smuk balus because of speed and cost effectiveness. What will go idle next, only Nokia 5310 knows.

Peter O’Neill: Assessing the first three months

Paul BarkerPAUL BARKER | Business Advantage International

SINCE ITS ELECTION in August 2012, the Papua New Guinea government led by prime minister Peter O’Neill has sent a mixed bag of messages to business, while its policy positions are being consolidated.

However, the prime minister, together with minister for national planning, Charles Abel, has been sending the right signals on investment priorities, transparency and law and order.

While being generally accepting of the long-term national development goals documented by the previous government, the new government has indicated it wants to review them.

National budget

Tuesday’s US$6.5 billion 2013 National Budget focuses on restoring and upgrading infrastructure, extending basic education and primary health services, with an emphasis on decentralising funding to the sub-national levels.

It also provides substantial funding for small-to-medium enterprises, and the reinforcing of nationally-owned businesses which have been marginalised over recent years.

A concern is the level of (domestic) public borrowing to finance this major increase in expenditure, with a planned deficit and a weak capacity at the sub-national level to implement projects and services, regardless of the funding provided.

There seems to be inadequate support for capacity building, strengthening governance and oversight at the provincial, district and local levels.

The Budget is perhaps somewhat optimistic over commodity prices and revenue. Despite the forecast increase in the ratio of debt to GDP (to 34% in 2014), it envisages that this will be brought back down to the current 25% (approx) by 2017, largely as a result of GDP growth.

Nevertheless, these are more uncertain global economic times, and despite major new resource projects, many of PNG’s current projects are in late maturity, and PNG cannot expect to be relatively immune from the global financial and economic forces, as it was during the 2008 crisis.

Local business

A positive signal was also sent earlier this month when cabinet for a third time rejected the proposed commercial rice project in PNG’s Central Province, initiated by Naima Investments Ltd, which many considered a rice trading monopoly.

On the other hand, commerce minister Maru has been looking at increased import tariffs to protect local businesses such as poultry farmers. Encouraging the development of local business is sound if it’s done in the right way. If it’s done with undue 1960s-style protectionism, it would concern some players in the private sector.

In any case, markedly greater attention is needed than over recent years to safeguard and improve the prospects of domestic agriculture.

Continue reading "Peter O’Neill: Assessing the first three months" »

More resources needed to promote PNG literature

HON BOKA KONDRA | Minister for Tourism, Arts & Culture

A DEEP AND ABIDING RELATIONSHIP exists between a nation and its literature.

There are two interconnected aspects to this relationship. The first uses literacy as a basis to talk about the educational and intellectual development of a nation. The assumption is that a literate population must also be one that is able to make informed and better judgments about issues and questions that are affecting their lives.

This aspect of the relationship between a nation and the need for raising the levels of literacy amongst our people has policy and budgetary implications. When cast in this light then we would have seen that so much time and money have been committed to the basic objective of making our population literate.

A combination of both methods and policies has been used to achieve such an objective including the introduction of vernacular education into our school systems around the country. All in all, literacy has been identified as an index that measures our general sense of economic growth and development.

The second aspect of the relationship between a nation and its literature comes from the assumption that the style, the themes, and the narratives that are canonized in its literature will come to define a country’s national character.

Thus for example, in the United Kingdom we find how Shakespeare’s volume of works has become such a pantheon of highly valorized and legitimated texts which has since, their appearance, have come to inspire a life time of scholarship and reflections.

The experiences of a country, of a nation, are marked by distinctive set of values, tensions, myths and aspirations, or psychological foci that are then inscribed in various forms of national literatures including novels, plays, short stories, poetry, and sometimes in other media such as films too.

In America and Australia, for example, the kind of national character that is revealed in a variety of its literature is the idea of rugged and self-reliant individuals who work hard to bring both individual and national prosperity.

These kinds of literature capture and portray certain cultural values that define a nation’s sense of national culture and morality.  But this is not all that is to the relations between a nation and its distinctive literature.

As for Papua New Guinea, one can argue that the peculiar relationship between the nation and its literature become crystalised in the early 1960s when the spirit of nationalism was in ferment.

Literature was credited with the ‘power of a pen that is mightier than a sword’ because of its ability to inspire and generate cultural and therefore national consciousness.

Continue reading "More resources needed to promote PNG literature" »

K2.2 billion into the red to pay for new infrastructure


Don PolyeTREASURER DON POLYE YESTERDAY handed down a $6.8 billion budget for 2013, plunging Papua New Guinea more than $1 billion into the red in a bid to improve its failing infrastructure.

Mr Polye announced increased spending for health, education, infrastructure and law and order as well as a plan to shift control of some state monies away from Port Moresby to provincial governments.

PNG's economy is expected to grow by 4% over the next year, substantially slower than the plus 9%  growth in 2012.

Mr Polye said the next budget surplus was expected in 2017.

Inflation, which dipped to 4% this year, is expected to climb to 8% in 2013.

"The 2013 budget is set against assumptions of a modest acceleration of activity in the global economy in 2013 compared to 2012," Mr Polye told parliament.

"Real growth is expected to slow down ... before rebounding to 5.5% in 2014.

"The slowdown in growth is largely due to the PNG liquefied natural gas project having already reached its peak levels of investment."

The government will spend $365 million on improving primary and secondary education, with the vast majority of that money going into boosting teacher's salaries.

Many of PNG's roads, including vital but heavily dilapidated links such as the Highlands Highway, can expect an upgrade and maintenance as well.

PNG's strained police force can expect a pay rise and some new colleagues, with the government announcing 400 officers are to be hired a year for the next five years.

In a move labelled historic by Mr Polye, the national government will also relinquish some control of state money to give PNG's 22 provinces and districts K5 million K10 million respectively.

"The O'Neill-Dion government believes key services can be better delivered by the parts of government that are closest to its people," Mr Polye said.

Institute of National Affairs director Paul Barker says the plan to hand money to the districts comes with considerable risks.

"It's a large amount of money going out to the local governments, but a lot of them don't have any professional skills," he told AAP.

"As someone in treasury said to me, the national government level has little capacity and the local level is worse.

"A lot of it could end up in Cairns real estate, so there should be some good parties there."

Mr Barker was referring to recent media reports that some PNG politicians and bureaucrats had made substantial property deals in Cairns with public monies.

Reflections: DC David Marsh & a chain of irrelevancies



FOUR SCHOOL BOYS - two Foi, two Huli - and I walk from Lake Kutubu to Mendi via Paguare, Ewari, Augu, Halalinja, Nipa, Egenda and Iore.

Before I leave my school, Murray Rule of the Unevangelised Fields Mission in Inu, who has also walked this route, gives me a letter for District Commissioner David Marsh in which he offers his opinion regarding the suitability of the route as a future vehicular road.

Upon arrival, I give the letter to Marsh, who seems a very pleasant man.

“What do you think?” he asks.

I naively give an opinion: “If there is a great need for a road into that area, no doubt it will be built; otherwise the route is far too difficult.”


When I step out of the aeroplane on my return to Mendi in February 1967, David Marsh and District Education Inspector Albert Baglee greet me.

This is most unusual and the reason quickly becomes apparent when Baglee tells me I am to be in charge of the Primary ‘A’ School.

“But I’m not qualified to teach European children!” I protest.

“You are experienced in multi-class teaching and will be quite capable of teaching in the school,” Baglee maintains.

His comment also explains Marsh’s presence. He has two young daughters, Susan and Dianne, who attend the school.

During the year I marry the new Primary ‘A’ School teacher.


I meet Ida St Roche Kent, a friend of my wife’s family, who had been a Church of England missionary in Papua before World War II. She was fortunate to have been evacuated.

The ‘heroic’ Bishop Philip Strong (like the equally heroic General 'Dugout Doug' MacArthur, the ‘Hero of Bataan’) fled to escape the all-conquering Japanese after exhorting his field staff to remain to help the villagers during the coming difficult times.

David Marsh, who went to TPNG in pre-war days as a mining engineer, is closely associated with the Anglican Mission and, I am told, gives Sunday School lessons.

Ida St Roche Kent very likely knows of David Marsh. She certainly knows the other missionaries.


Now back in Australia, I am appointed to the staff at Woodridge State School in Queensland. One of the female pupils is a mixed-race ex-TPNG girl, Louise Artango. I teach her brother the following year; he is a promising boxer.


It is now many years later. I chance to read, Alan Powell’s book, The third force: ANGAU’s New Guinea war 1942-46 (Oxford University Press). David Marsh had been in ANGAU.

The author mentions Marsh as being one of the first to reach the site where Strong’s Anglican missionaries were last known to be. He found their graves. The mission party had been massacred by the Japanese.

War correspondent Raymond Paull wrote of the Buna massacre:

The rapid [Japanese] advance inland trapped many of the Europeans at the hospitals, missions and plantations on the Buna coast [of east Papua]. Few succeeded in eluding the enemy and crossing the [Owen Stanley] mountains to the south coast.

Lt Louis Austin and an Anglican mission party travelling from Ioma to Tufi were betrayed to the Japanese by the natives of Perembata village. [The group consisted of] Miss Margaret Branchley, Miss Lillian Lashman, the Rev Henry Holland, the Rev Vivian Hedlich, Mr John Duffill, two half-caste mission workers, Louise Artango and Anthony Gore, and Gore's six-year-old son.

A surviving Japanese POW described how the youngest victim, the adolescent mixed race girl, Louise Artango, had been murdered.

I immediately think of that girl in my 1976 class who was a few years younger than the bayonetted girl. I ring Dale Artango, the brother of the girl I had taught.

He tells me his sister, Louise, had been named after an aunt killed by the Japanese in Papua.


So it was that the Artangos had a long, close, emotion-filled if unknown connection with David Marsh.

This is the end of my chain of Marshian irrelevancies.

Population pressures will demand land tenure changes


PNG ATTITUDE RECENTLY republished a timely statement from Australia’s CSIRO on the rapid population increase in Papua New Guinea.

It’s an issue which raises many more questions worth thinking about and discussing.

To be frank since we in PNG came up with the census statistics ourselves we don't need the Asian Development Bank or CSIRO to tell us that we have a potential problem with too many people and not enough resources sooner than we think. But thanks for the heads up anyway.

Population planning has not (in my recollection) ever been on PNG’s political agenda. Although family planning has, as well as the related needs for improved child and maternal health, especially for rural mothers who are more likely to die in childbirth.

A colleague of mine once suggested that we need more people in PNG to make the country stronger.

I replied that was fine, provided they all had a source of gainful employment - otherwise we'd end up with too many people having nothing to do.

That's a potential danger right through from household to national and international level.

At our current growth rate of 3.2% per annum, PNG may have a population of well over 15 million people by 2050.

What will this mean to our country, our resources, our livelihoods and our way of life?

It is unrealistic to assume that the traditional Melanesian safety net of village life and subsistence agriculture will continue to provide sufficiently for both household income and food security needs of these future Papua New Guineans.

There will not be sufficient land to feed so many people unless of course we completely reverse our traditional land tenure system.

Indeed, our urban municipalities are already staggering under the burden of an ever increasing population due to migration from rural villages and growth rates even higher than the national average.

Is it enough to tell people to 'go back home and work the land' when there are limited options provided for people to be able to do this?

Is agricultural production going to continue to be paraded around as the proverbial 'backbone of PNG' while we fail to act responsibly to take control of our resources, humans included?

The government is working according to PNG Vision 2050, but we need to know how the targets that have been established and phased into the sector plans for each government agency can be made a reality, given the real and inevitable increase of human pressure on the country's limited physical resources.

Continue reading "Population pressures will demand land tenure changes" »

EU says illegal fishing in Pacific may trigger sanctions

Fish Information & Services

European Commissioner Maria DamanakiThe European Commissioner Maria Damanaki (pictured) has warned eight Pacific countries that the Commission thinks they have not done enough to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the region.

A recent independent review by European Union consultants scored the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea as posing a low-risk to illegal fishers, and said Kiribati and Fiji were medium-risk. The warning was also addressed to Vanuatu.

"We want these countries as partners but we also want to signal to the world that the EU will not tolerate illegal fishing — a criminal activity which undermines the livelihood of fishing communities and depletes fish stocks," Damanaki said.

The Commission’s decision has not entailed any measures affecting trade, but it could.

The eight countries have been notified and offered a “reasonable” time to respond and to “rectify” the situation.

The Commission also proposed an action plan for each country and informed that, should the situation not improve, the EU would include them in a blacklist and may take further steps.

These may involve trade measures such as a ban on selling fisheries products to the EU.

PNG, AusAID & reality – not always marching in lockstep


Aid PostYOU'LL BE AWARE, I think, that Australia has been increasing its involvement across the Pacific with AusAID.

Our church is in two minds about AusAID – we see it is well intentioned, but on the other hand what happens is not always appropriate.

For instance they are trying to help the 11 community health worker schools across the nation and we had a consulting team here.

We call this boomerang aid because a lot of the money is spent on the people who come. And we may not get the right assistance then anyway.

One thing they want to do is increase community health workers in training by 100% - but how could that number be employed when many of the government health centres and aid posts are non-functioning?

And even those centres under our church management would have no extra accommodation or places for them. You just end up with disappointed young people.

Also, we definitely need quality nurses rather than nurses in quantity. What we need are courses to upgrade present staff.

AusAID also tends to run with a project for a few years then pulls out.

An example would be the new community health worker curriculum, which is fine, but to keep it running a lot of material has to be photocopied.

Next year our principal estimates this will cost K8,000. But, as AusAID has pulled out from curriculum work, there’s no money, so what they set up may not be sustainable.

We feel people from the outside, who don’t know us or PNG, are making decisions.

Our students go out on practice to learn how to manage in a normal aid post which won't have all the prescribed medicines, whereas AusAID says the aid post accommodating students must be fully stocked.  But for us that's not the real world.

AusAID recently provided Provincial Health with a sea ambulance.  Again the intention was good, but it is an aluminium runabout powered by two 200 hp outboards – all very good for a Gold Coast lake, but try it in the sort of seas we have here!

Pioneering PR company announces its who's who

The AssociateJACKSON PR ASSOCIATES has announced a 15-strong professional team of Associates - and the launch of a newsletter to keep them informed about the company.

The firm is the first PR company to provide services focusing on a footprint covering Australia, Papua New Guinea and the south-west Pacific.

“This region is an area of increasing importance in terms of global resources,” said managing director Keith Jackson.

“And Jackson PR has brought together a group of 15 communicators with vast experience in the region.”

They include a range of skills from conventional public relations practice, through development communications and radio and TV production, to humour therapy.

“That’s for when the going gets tough,” quipped Jackson.

The company includes three Papua New Guinean professionals based in strategic parts of the country – Port Moresby, Madang and the Highlands - where a number of resource projects are underway.

“All of our people have had boots on the ground in Asia-Pacific,” said Jackson.

“In addition to the PNG locations, we also have representation in Singapore and Honiara as well as in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.”

The group is able to deliver a wide range of PR and communications services, including communications planning and strategy, issues and crisis management, and media and government relations.

In a sneak preview, PNG Attitude readers can also access the latest issue of the group’s internal newsletter here - Download The Associate 2.

The full list of Jackson PR Associates:




Main skill sets

Andrew Greig


Contractor to range of Australian government agencies

Radio & TV production, health, science & environment communications

Ben Jackson


Director, Jackson PR Associates

Media & government relations, event management, social media

Bernard Yegiora


Lecturer in PNG Studies, Divine Word University

Media & government relations

Bob Lawrence


MD, Lawrence Media Services

Media & government relations, freelance writing, speechwriting, mining, rural and regional communications

David Leeming


ICT development specialist

Rural networking, community access, media and educational technology

David Ransom


Journalist & Documentary Producer

Film, TV & radio production, journalism

Ed Brumby


Retiring GM International, ANZIIF

Corporate relations, educational media

Emmanuel Narokobi

Port Moresby

Publisher, Masalai Blog

Social media, journalism, internet technology

Ingrid Jackson


Director, Executive Management Solutions

Organisational communications, cross-cultural communications

Keith Jackson AM


MD, Jackson PR Associates

Communications strategy & planning, development communications, issues & crisis management

Marsali Mackinnon


Public Affairs Consultant

Public diplomacy, media and government relations

Martin Hadlow


Secretary-General elect, Asian Media Information Centre

Communications planning, communications training, development communications

Martyn Namorong


Publisher, The Namorong Report

Social media, journalism

Phil Donnison


Film Maker, Musician & Humour Therapist

Video & audio production, music composition & production

Phil Fitzpatrick

Hervey Bay

Author & Anthropologist

Social mapping, authorship

Here biodiversity abounds: hunting new species in PNG


Philippe Bouchet and Olivier PascalARMED WITH THOUSANDS OF test tubes, flasks, microscopes, mouth aspirators, gillnets and compressors, Philippe Bouchet and Olivier Pascal [pictured] have arrived in Madang, their departure point for their new expedition in Papua New Guinea.

Bouchet, the zoologist specialising in molluscs at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Pascal, the botanist for NGO Pro-Natura International, are old accomplices.

They even have special nicknames for each other:  ‘Seashells’ for Bouchet and ‘Muddy Old Boot’ for Pascal.

Since 2006, they have led a research team, Our Planet Reviewed, that has taken them from Vanuatu to Mozambique and Madagascar.

After two years of preparation, they are finally ready to embark on a new chapter in their inventory of the world's biodiversity, visiting one of the world’s most richly diverse areas, but also one of the least travelled. The expedition will last three months and will include almost 200 scientists of 21 different nationalities.

Papua New Guinea presents a double attraction for the scientists. It is situated at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which stretches between Taiwan, the Philippines, the Malaysian peninsula and Indonesia. This is the world’s most bio-diverse marine environment, where two-thirds of the world's coral reefs are to be found.

On land, the potential is just as appealing. PNG possesses the third-largest expanse of intact tropical rainforest, after the Amazonian basin and the Congo. The team will be based in Madang Province, where the rainforest extends from the coastal plains to the edge of the slopes of Mount Wilhelm, reaching to around 3,800 meters.

"Each new expedition is bound to lead us to the discovery of new species," predicts Bouchet, who will lead the marine mission. This is especially true as the mission will focus on species that have until now been neglected by zoologists: molluscs, crustaceans, polychaeta and algae.

"Molluscs and crustaceans represent around half of marine species; there are eight times more of them than there are fish," says Bouchet. "However, the scientific community suffers from the same problem as the general public. They're only interested in certain species, such as large mammals."

There is also another reason for this professional snub. It takes a considerable amount of time to track down, classify, and sample these small organisms, rarely bigger than a few centimeters. It can take years to declare a new species.

Discoveries are made almost unintentionally; however, they do follow a precise structure. Bouchet, staying with his team at Divine Word University, painstakingly goes through minute details with his team each night before dinner.

"On an expedition of this magnitude and at this level of complexity, I have to devote 100% of my time to management. You have to find the right balance between running a tight ship and one that allows researchers to fully express their creativity."

Continue reading "Here biodiversity abounds: hunting new species in PNG" »

Cairns wants simpler immigration processes for PNG

NICK DALTON | The Cairns Post

THE CAIRNS CHAMBER OF COMMERCE wants customs and immigration processes simplified between Cairns and Papua New Guinea.

Cairns Chamber of Commerce CEO Deb Hancock said several members had called for trade and investment with PNG to be as simple as a domestic transaction between NSW and Queensland.

"We support a single-point customs clearance between Australia and PNG and for trade methods to be simplified," she said.

The marriage bureau that helped build a nation


E Course teachers at MalagunaAUSTRALIAN TERRITORIES MINISTER Paul Hasluck commented ruefully in the 1960s that, as far as Papua New Guinea Administration employees went, it was if he ran a Marriage Bureau.

It was so true. It was the 20th century version of the 19th century ‘fishing fleet’ that carried boatloads of spinsters to the bachelors in India. And the many well-paid young bachelors in the then Territory seeking a spouse were a pretty good catch.

The E Course – the six-month ‘emergency’ teacher training program launched in PNG in 1960 - has been justifiably lauded as delivering great educational outcomes.

The program recruited mature men and some women who had already established careers and transformed them into a potent teaching force, with the men often being despatched to the toughest and most remote locations.

E Course teachers, and E Course lecturers for that matter, married adventurous young women who either worked for the Administration or the missions.  Some of the women were themselves teachers.

In a number of cases, E Course graduates, on completion of the course, immediately returned to Australia, married their sweethearts and promptly returned to PNG as they now had a regular income and there were jobs for Australian women in the Territory.

First E Course, 1960-61But at the time we didn’t know that Hasluck had made his sardonic comment, so the bachelor kiaps, didimen and chalkies couldn’t thank him and the Department of Territories for the blessing of being able to marry a young woman bold enough to seek a life on a new frontier.

Or, for that matter, an equally adventurous, possibly opportunistic but courageous indigenous lass, who then faced the difficulties of integration into the expatriate community.

Life was not always sweet. When we left the Territory, we frequently left behind a trace of tragedy. Our own lay in a small grave at Koroba. A miscarriage had delivered a tiny infant and it was buried in the garden at Koroba together with an identification bracelet bearing my name, date of birth and blood group.

Women experiencing difficulties in pregnancy would move to the maternity ward of the nearest hospital – in our case Goroka - weeks before the baby was due to be born.

Then there were the frantic midnight drives in a four wheel drive along stony mountain roads to the nearest hospital where a baby might be born within minutes of the mother’s arrival in the labour ward.

So all was not a bed of roses.

Continue reading "The marriage bureau that helped build a nation" »

PNG Cabinet conditionally approves InterOil LNG

RICK WILKINSON | Oil & Gas Journal

InterOilTHE PAPUA NEW GUINEA CABINET has approved InterOil Corp’s Gulf LNG project to be supplied by the Elk-Antelope onshore gas fields with conditions including a 50-50 split of the development between the government and InterOil.

The government will acquire an additional 27.5% stake over and above its legal 22.5% entitlement. It is probable that some of this equity will be managed for the benefit of landowners.

Elk and Antelope are carbonate reservoirs, technically part of the same field, but separated by a major fault.

O’Neill said an internationally recognised LNG operator should operate the upstream facilities, meaning the government still wants a major player to buy an operating stake in Gulf LNG.

A Ministerial Gas Committee headed by Petroleum and Gas Minister William Duma has been formed, while a separate bureaucratic negotiation team has been established with representation from the Petroleum Department, Treasury, the Justice Department and the government’s operating company, Petromin.

These teams have been charged with fast-tracking the negotiations leading to commercialisation of the country’s second LNG project.

A number of questions still remain including how the government will finance the acquisition of an additional 27.5% stake.

Ongoing negotiations will also need to decide what form the plants will take—conventional, modular or floating LNG.

Port Moresby’s roads are inching towards gridlock

PNG Reflection

Peak Hour in MoresbyTHE FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEM, amongst many problems, with Port Moresby's roads is a lack of capacity and the congestion that results from this.

Every month the number of cars on the capital’s roads grows with little change in number of kilometers of road.  Congestion is costly because it absorbs the time of those stuck in traffic. 

The fundamental cause of congestion is that an individual in a traffic jam blames all the other drivers around her for slowing her down, not acknowledging that she is also part of the cause of slow traffic. In economist’s-speak this is called an externality. 

Port Moresby's roads are slowly inching towards gridlock (pun intended). There are two approaches to dealing with a capacity problem such as this. 

Firstly, deal with the demand side.  That is reduce road usage by charging drivers per kilometer driven.

Secondly, deal with the supply side, which means building more roads. Some combination of both is probably best. Road pricing means that there is a charge per kilometer depending on the time of day and the road used.

So using a main highway in rush hour incurs a bigger charge per kilometer than using a back road during the off-peak.

This increases in cost of driving a car and encourages people to use public transport during peak hour, and also to rearrange the timing of journeys.

One challenge is an infrastructure to police this. Cars would need transmitters to determine their movements.

The mobile telephony network could be utilized to provide the tracking infrastructure. Credit for driving could be purchased via mobile phone, as electricity credits can be.

On the supply side, there should be a long term (e.g. 50 year) plan for the expansion of Port Moresby, accounting for ongoing population growth and the expansion of population centers around the city.

Based on this there should be an expansion of the capacity of roads, which can in part be funded by the revenue from road pricing. 

If this all sounds easier said than done, it is! But it is necessary. Journey times have increased considerably in the past two years, and this trend will continue.

Get in disguise, Bob Carr, and come see for yourself


Bob Carr incognitoIT IS OBVIOUS TO ME that high ranking politicians expect to be treated as extra special guests attending expensive functions and often making patronising statements without understanding the true situation.

As special guests they visit areas with police and a motorcade of fancy vehicles; waving to the crowd as they pass.

Naturally they fail to see the true picture for they have no time to really investigate issues that they should be concentrating on.

Bob Carr has failed Papua New Guinea for he should have made our friends there his first priority.

Instead of parading around in his fancy roll of foreign minister with a pocketful of AusAID money, he should have donned disguise and secretly visited some of the poor villages who are ignored by the PNG and Australian governments.

The villages I visited in the Eastern Highlands in 2008 had no faith in the governments, which were showing little or no interest in their welfare.

As far as they were concerned, Waigani was a place on the moon and was inaccessible to them.

I have no right to criticize the current PNG politicians as they have still to show the villagers how they are planning to help them.

However in my travels around Goroka and Watabung I never saw a single person who looked as well fed as a politician.

One item that needs major review is the problem of tuberculosis in the Western Province and Torres Strait areas.

To allocate $8 million dollars of AusAID Money over the next four years out of a budget of $1,800,000,000 is irresponsible. Everyone's health could be affected by this new strain of TB.

Abusive priest Fr Denis McAlinden: the PNG link

CATHERINE MASTERS & GREG ANSLEY | New Zealand Herald [extracts]

Former priest Denis McAlindenTHE CATHOLIC CHURCH in Tokomaru Bay, Gisborne, is like many in small-town New Zealand - a picture of safety and innocence.

It's hard to imagine that the pretty little wooden chapel with the blue roof has been caught up in a top-level inquiry into the sexual abuse of children, which was launched in Australia but is likely to extend to New Zealand.

Among the practices to be investigated is that instead of prosecuting paedophile priests, the Catholic church transferred them from diocese to diocese.

One of the worst offenders was Father Denis McAlinden - thought to have abused hundreds of little girls - who turned up in Tokomaru Bay in the 1980s.

The current Bishop of Hamilton, Denis Browne, has confirmed McAlinden was in the remote part of the diocese for six months in 1984, telling radio there was only one known victim who had come forward after 25 years "to unburden her soul".

McAlinden, who also had stints in Papua New Guinea and Western Australia, was eventually defrocked but never prosecuted.

He was hidden by the church in his later years and is now dead…

Long-term institutional abuse has already been confirmed across Australia - a decade ago a Queensland inquiry into institutions run by the Anglican, Methodist and Catholic churches prompted an official State apology for the physical and sexual abuse suffered by their victims.

The Salvation Army is also facing a series of lawsuits, and accusations of cover-ups have been levelled against a number of private schools and the Scouts. Redress and compensation schemes have been set up for victims of abuse in state-run institutions in Tasmania, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia.

The federal Royal Commission also comes as inquiries into child abuse continue in Queensland and Victoria. New South Wales, under fierce pressure after one its most senior investigators alleged obstruction and the destruction of evidence by the Catholic Church, announced its own inquiry this week….

The Victorian inquiry has already heard graphic accounts of abuse, much of it assembled by Broken Rites and involving the Order of St John of God, which operated in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.

The inquiry heard claims that more than 70% of the order's brothers were suspected child abusers and that in Victoria it harboured up to 15 paedophiles between 1952 and 1986….

McAlinden was 26 when he arrived in Australia in 1949. Within four years the church had received the first of many complaints of his sexual abuse of mainly young girls.

As complaints mounted he was sent to PNG for four years and later shuffled between Newcastle-Maitland, Hamilton and Geraldton and Bunbury in Western Australia.

His abuse was well known to the church hierarchy, which organised the transfers.

Is PNG’s growing population a threat to the region?

DAVENDRA SHARMA | Islands Business [extract]

Baptismal ceremony at Ela BeachWHILE CLIMATE CHANGE FEARS and migration are causing grave concerns about depopulation in parts of Polynesia and Micronesia, another part of the region is being cautioned about over-population.

An unprecedented growth of 1.8 million in Papua New Guinea’s population over the last decade is alarming regional environment analysts because of imminent dangers of over-exploitation of fisheries and forestry resources in the predominantly mountainous country.

PNG now boasts a population of 7,059,653, a jump of 36% from 10 years ago.

Australian scientific group, CSIRO, has said in a report that PNG’s growing population is “more of an immediate threat to the region’s sustainability than climate change”.

Incoming governments will be faced with extreme pressure on its basic infrastructure like water and electricity as well as social services like healthcare and police.

“But the problem is if you increase population pressure on top of natural disasters like tsunamis, cyclones, droughts and floods, it makes basic services like electricity and water and so-on, much harder to provide,” said James Butler, head of CSIRO’s environment and development team.

He said as PNG was hugely dependent on foreign aid from Australia, which is its largest donor with $500 million in handouts this year, the continuous population growth will increase demand on Canberra to increase its aid.

In his research report, Butler said PNG’s phenomenal population jump would need to be addressed and restricted over the next 10-20 years before the region’s most populous nation loses control of its economic growth.

This report follows another warning from another donor, the Asian Development Bank, which warned that PNG had one of the lowest per capita incomes in the island region” despite a large mining and resource sector.

The ADB report said PNG had a lower per capita income than that of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and that it needed to become more aggressive in its tax approach to balance economic growth with population.

Deep sea miners terminate controversial Solwara project

DANIEL CRESSEY | Nature News Blog

CONTROVERSIAL DEEP-SEA MINING company Nautilus Minerals is “terminating the construction” of its flagship project off the coast of Papua New Guinea and laying off staff.

The company has been embroiled in a dispute with the PNG government over the Solwara 1 Project, which aimed to extract copper, gold and silver from around 1,600 metres under the sea.

In a statement Nautilus said it was no longer willing to pay the full costs of developing this project while its dispute with the government continued.

As well as stopping construction of its ‘seafloor production system’, 60 jobs at the company will be lost and any future production at the site will experience “considerable delay” says the company.

Nautilus has been hugely controversial since it appeared on the scene as one of the leading companies in the emerging area of deep sea mining.

Nautilus CEO Mike Johnston insisted his company remains committed to “developing the world’s first commercial sea floor copper-gold project and launching the deep water sea floor resource production industry, whilst maintaining an environmentally and socially responsible approach”.

Chalapi Pomat comments:

Small coastal villages depend on the ocean for food and security - therefore clean oceans everywhere are important to them.

Yes, we can dream dreams and innovate - and I've spent my whole career doing just that one way or the other - but from where my roots belong - it is all about food security.

And for many people, food security comes from the very stretch of ocean which the PNG government looked like allowing foreign miners to destroy by digging up the sea bed at Solwara 1.

For me, putting food on the table comes first then we can have the time and energy to dream and go about ways to improve our life in pursuit of greater happiness.

PNG sexual violence ‘unique outside a war zone’

Agence France-Presse

Dr Unni KarunakaraTHE PRESIDENT OF Medecins Sans Frontieres has pressed Papua New Guinea's new government to address its epidemic levels of sexual and domestic violence, calling it a "humanitarian crisis".

Unni Karunakara (pictured) was in PNG to visit MSF projects targeting family and sexual violence and met with officials from prime minister Peter O'Neill's government to urge action on the pervasive issue.

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) estimates that 70% of women in PNG will be raped or physically assaulted in their lifetime and Dr Karunakara said the levels of violence were unique outside a war-zone or state of civil unrest.

"There is no open warfare in the country and the violence is (inherent) in how the society negotiates disputes, how they negotiate conflict between tribes, how they negotiate relationships within the family," said Dr Karunakara.

"We consider it to be an ongoing humanitarian crisis."

Between its two projects in Lae and Tari, Dr Karunakara said MSF would see 60 rape cases a month and some women would return time and again.

"The status of women in society is very low, women are often blamed -- if a woman is raped she is blamed for letting that happen to her," he said.

The gravity of sexual violence is made worse by the country's HIV/AIDS problem -- almost one percent of its population of nearly seven million is estimated to be living with the disease.

More than 60% of the infected are women and girls.

Efforts to tackle the problem to date had largely focused on the law and order response -- training police and judges -- but Dr Karunakara said there needed to be a greater emphasis on medical and psychological support.

He said his meetings with government officials had been "extremely positive" and they had "at least expressed their support in trying to address this".

"I think now it's time to go beyond words and follow it up with some concrete action," he said.

John Fowke comments:

Vocal Attituders may like to turn their social consciences to this problem.

Because of hue-and-cry raised by international agencies over the state of the major Angau Hospital in Lae and the provincial hospital in Tari, MSF have been managing, staffing and in every respect supporting these two institutions for several years.

Angau is the second-biggest and thus second-most- visible hospital in the whole country, but does the government care enough to make the changes needed?

Or in the face of the huge fortune said to be about to tumble into the nations coffers, is it busy with other plans and projects? So far as I am aware nothing has been said about upgrading health services and the supply of medicines in recent times.

Whilst it is an ongoing concern that paedophiles are  so widely present in religious organisations, there are very many other equally horrific, violent happenings specific to PNG, going on every day in villages and settlements throughout the land.

David Leeming gives Jackson PR a Solomons base


David LeemingJACKSON PR ASSOCIATES, which finances the publication of PNG Attitude, has announced the appointment of David Leeming, 49, as its Associate in the Solomon Islands.

Dr Leeming is the fifteenth member of the company’s group of Associates, a team that spans from Singapore to the Pacific with particular emphasis on Papua New Guinea and Australia.

He has 16 years of international experience - including in six Pacific island states and Thailand - focusing on rural networking, community access, media and educational technology.

A native of the United Kingdom, David is married to a Solomon Islander and manages Solomon Islands Rural Link, his own consulting and technical business in the Solomons, where he has lived since 1996.

Originally educated as a research scientist, most of David’s recent work experience has focused on rural communities where he has used participatory and inclusive approaches to social development.

In Bougainville, for example, he worked with Radio New Dawn FM, in which fellow Associate Martin Hadlow and I had founding roles, looking at using mobile phones to support community learning.

Since 2008, David has also consulted to the PNG Sustainable Development Program in its One Laptop Per Child project covering 11 schools in Jiwaka, Sandaun and Western provinces.

He’s a hang gliding enthusiast of 25 years experience and is also interested in mountaineering, literature and peace, a strong interest he shares with another of our Associates, Andrew Greig, author of Taming War – Culture and Technology for Peace.

David is currently developing an e-learning resource to train Pacific investigative journalists for the Pasifika Media Association.

You can read more about Jackson PR Associates here.

PNG Attitude heroes enjoy encounters with fame


Leo Dion, Mike Quinn and Michael DomSEEING IS BELIEVING! Here is PNG Attitude's resident poet laureate, Michael Dom, meeting Papua New Guinea’s deputy prime minister, Leo Dion, at the recent Morobe Show

“Leo didn’t seem like a bad chap,” Michael observed, “although he seemed a bit subdued by the long show day schedule.”

My view is that the DPM was probably overawed and a little speechless at being introduced by Show official Mike Quinn to PNG’s Crocodile Prize-winning poet.

“Anyway,” Michael continued, “I was glad that he squeezed in a visit. I gave him good news about pigs and poultry!”

In honour of the occasion, I composed a brief ballad of veneration, which goes something like this:

Gat wanpela bigman nem Leo
Emi singaut olsem kam hi-o
Kam sekim han blon mi
Na baimbai mpla dring ti
Na go lukim ol pik blong yu...

To which Michael kindly commented: “That’s a start, Keith!”

In front of Parliament HouseThe other big news is that Crocodile prize winning essayist Martyn Namorong, seen here at Parliament House in Canberra earlier this year, has been revived by The National as someone who is allowed to be mentioned.

It all came about when he was declared the overall winner of the 2012 Excellence in Anti-Corruption Reporting Media Awards for “balanced reports and demonstrating excellent investigative journalism and research skills”.

A two-week tour to Australia early next year (Martyn’s visit this year was organised by PNG Attitude and paid for by readers) to meet leading investigative journalists is the big prize.

Martyn also won a new lap-top computer for his report on the special project agriculture business lease (SPABL) in East Sepik Province.

The awards are an initiative of UNDP, in partnership with British High Commission, Transparency International PNG, the Business against Corruption Alliance, and ABC-NBC.

Martyn Namorong is a member of Jackson PR Associates - regional public relations leaders

What a great idea! 10 new trees to promote new life

Catholic News Service

Bernard UnabaliWHEN BISHOP BERNARD UNABALI of Bougainville performs a baptism, confirmation or ordination, he asks churchgoers to plant 10 trees to promote new life.

Bishop Unabali considers the link between respecting the environment and the sacramental life of the church as inseparable.

Tree-planting is one way the bishop encourages people to respond to the rapid pace of climate change.

He was the keynote speaker at a three-day symposium on climate change held last week at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

In 2007, Bishop Unabali spent two weeks with the Halia people in the Carteret Islands and saw for himself evidence of the rising ocean.

The Washington meeting highlighted urgent calls from Pope Benedict XVI for Catholics to respond to this planetary crisis.

Huli book of secrets crept too cheaply into the world


Huli WigmanJUST LIKE OUR GAS AND OIL was sold cheaply to foreigners to exploit and drain, so was the identity and heritage of the Huli culture.

My grandfather and great-grandfather would turn in their graves if they know that I now know what they had done as Chief Priests in the gabe anda (places of worship).

Friday 9 November, 2012, marked a milestone for Hela literacy.

A renowned and well known Hela chief, soldier, theologian and politician, Damien Arabagali LM, launched the book Datagaliwabe was working in Huli.

The book in itself is a significant achievement as Mr Arabagali took the honour of being the first Hela author. In Hela less than 10% of the population is literate.

This quote from Papuan Wonderland by Jack Hides, cited in the foreword to Datagaliwabe was working in Huli, really shook me.

As I gazed on this fertile valley, this wonderland where practically any crop will grow, the question of the future of this people occurred strongly to me and I wondered whether the introduction to civilization would make them any happier then they appeared to be when we first came into contact with them.

Changes came and destroyed the Huli culture and heritage and now LNG is destroying our land, water, family ties, religion and brotherhood.

And so I will answer Jack Hides’ question on behalf of my ancestors. No sir, your introduction of civilization did not make us any happier, it broke our spirit and our land.

The content of Datagaliwabe was working in Huli gives away sacred traditional knowledge and custom, known only to a few chief priests and warriors.

The Hela ‘wigman’ is one of the most famous traditional costumes, and often used to sell PNG tourism. However, not much is known about the deep tradition and culture behind the colourful dress.

As Arabagli states, the knowledge was sacred and not shared, therefore, missionaries often referred to it as paganism and many Christian churches made it their aim to destroy it.

My mother came from the priestly Tagapua clan mentioned in the book and I often used to listen to how she – as a child - used to follow her father to the places of worship (gabe anda) for sacrifices to Datatagaliwabe (God, according to the book).

My mother was not allowed near the sites; therefore she would wait until her father finished the ceremony.

I also grew up with the tales mentioned in the book as bedtime stories, especially the Haroli legend, Ira hari, Bayabaya etc. However the true knowledge was forbidden to us.

Damien Arabagli, in his attempt to prove that God was working in Huli before missionaries came, sold this sacred knowledge to the world rather cheaply.

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After half a century, a Kalam language dictionary


Dictionary of KalamTHE CODIFICATION OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE is a very interesting process. But I was amazed to see how long it took Andrew Pawley, Ralph Bulmer, John Kias, Simon Peter Gi and Ian Saem Majnep to produce the Kalam language dictionary.

The dictionary has just been launched Divine Word University in Madang with Pawley saying he started the project 48 years ago, taking some 10, 000 hours to document the Kalam vocabulary.

The compilers had to first learn the language, understand the context in which it was used and spend a great amount of time with the Simbai people.

On top of that, Pawley had to proofread the final copy of the whole document six times before it was published in Thailand.

Andrew Pawley signs autographsPawley (pictured autographing books) is Emeritus Professor in Linguistics in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University. He studies Austronesian and Papuan languages and has worked on the Kalam language since 1963, a span of nearly 50 years.

The Kalam language is an Austronesian language spoken by the Simbai who dwell in the border area of the Jiwaka and Madang provinces. Madang Governor Jim Kas, who launched the book, mentioned that half the Kalam speaking people are part of the new Jiwaka province.

The Kalam language, according to Governor Kas, who is an eloquent speaker of the language, is the most commonly spoken in the Madang Province.

The province also has other languages including the Rai Coast, Bogia, Karkar and other groups.

The Kalam speakers who turned up for the book launch were very proud of this masterpiece, which now immortalises their culture.

According to Pawley, the dictionary is ‘a monument that honours their language’. Such words by one referred to as a father figure fascinated the crowd. Pawley’s ability to switch from Pidgin to Kalam to English was a highlight of the evening.

Pawley said the reason why they chose to study Kalam was because he and his colleague, the late professor Ralph Bulmer, found the “language and culture fascinating, extraordinary and beautiful”.

Pawley’s ability to communicate with a diverse range of people was also mirrored by the President of Divine Word University, Father Jan Czuba, whose speech in Pidgin and English made the occasion more entertaining.

Unfortunately, many of the people who contributed immeasurably towards the project have now passed away.

They include the late Ian Saem Majnep (1948-2007) who, as a youth, assisted Bulmer in his field research in the Kaironk Valley and later wrote two books and a number of articles with Bulmer on Kalam knowledge and birds, mammals and plants.

In 1989 Majnep was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Papua New Guinea for his contributions to ethno-biological research.

Pawley described him as someone who was popular around the world because he was featured in Time magazine. He spoke about Majnep’s interesting career from being a Grade 2 drop out to someone awarded an honorary doctorate.

Majnep was represented by his son, who expressed his gratitude to Pawley and others on behalf of his father, saying that today was one of the proudest moments of his life as a Kalam man.

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