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104 posts from December 2012

Fifty shades of Kiap: of stayers, players & ne’er-do-wells

Bill Brown in 1951BILL BROWN | Ex Kiap Website

WERE THERE EVER fifty shades of kiap? Were they shades, or were they eras?

The fifties, the 1950s, were the black-and-white years; for photography - and for race relations.

Port Moresby was a white town: the hotels were white, the clubs were white, and the big stores – Burns Philp and Steamships – were white.

Even the town end of Ela Beach was reserved to whitey. The hahine and kekeni, hawking bananas and other goodies, swung their grass skirts and their bare boobs through the town during the day, and took them home before dusk - and the curfew.

And Moresby was a male town; married men compelled to leave their wives in Australia until houses were built. Single white women were rare; there were only three in the whole of our headquarters, and only a few more in Public Health.

After work they vanished, disappearing into their hostels, referred to, perhaps inappropriately, as “The Stables” and “The Virgins’ Retreat”.

Native females were off-limits. Assistant Director, Alan Roberts, spelt it out at our induction: liaisons with “native females” were forbidden, and any breach of that rule would result in a severe reprimand, or instant dismissal.

Was that policy the underlying reason for the resignations of Assistant Director John Black, District Officers Jim Taylor and Bill Adamson, and some lesser lights? (1)

The 1950s were also the simple years. The Department had an impressive name: “District Services and Native Affairs”, but it had a simple system. District Officers ran districts - there were 14 or 15, depending on the year (2) - and Assistant District Officers ran Sub-Districts.

The District Officers roles did not change when they were renamed District Commissioners in 1951, and ADOs did what they always had done. They were the magistrates, the coroners, the senior police officers (3) and the gaolers.

They put people in gaol, and looked after them while they were in there. They released them when their terms expired, and even repatriated them.

They issued licences and they held court, at the Sub-district Office, where you also did the banking, received and posted mail, sent telegrams, had radio conversations, and paid customs duty.

Patrol Officers patrolled, and they explored - some of them. They ran Patrol Posts - some of them - but they were not the all-powerful District Officers, or the almost as powerful ADOs.

Bill Brown, Goilala 1951In my first term, I stretched it out to 33 months, I served in one district, two sub-districts, and under the three DOs and seven ADOs.

The District Officers, Michael Healy, Barter Faithhorn and James O’Malley were the first major shade, the pre-war “Papuans”, and in Papua, District Officers, Assistant District Officers and lesser field staff, even CPOs, were addressed as “taubada”.The term “kiap” was not known or recognized.

The ADOs, except for one, were from another shade: the post-war intake of ex-serviceman toughened by war and overseas service. Some, like Ian Holmes, had gained their experience with ANGAU, and were Territory-wise.

Others, also ex-servicemen, like Lin Foster, had little or no Territory experience, but were learning quickly. (There were many others that I had yet to meet; like Royce Webb, Mentioned in Dispatches in the Middle East in 1942, Des Martin ex Sergeant in the 6th Australian Infantry Division during the 1944-45 Aitape-Wewak campaign, and the fighter pilots: Bob Bunting, Paul Sebire and Gordon Steege.)

The exception was acting ADO John Gibson. He was not a worldly-wise ex-serviceman, but was young, fresh-faced, and almost callow. There would be many more POs and CPOs like him.

Ex Coastwatcher, ADO Malcolm Wright DSC took over from Gibson at Kairuku. A pre-war New  Guinea officer, he railed against the parsimony, the lack of training, and the frustrations of the Papuan system.

Bill Adamson added another view. A pre-war ARM, District Officer in charge of Central District when he resigned in 1948; he disliked the term kiap, he disliked the “Department of District Services and Native Affairs” name that had been borrowed from pre-war New Guinea, and he was incensed that a/Director E (Ted) Taylor, a pre-war New Guinea kiap, had changed the Resident Magistrate designation to District Officer.

Continue reading "Fifty shades of Kiap: of stayers, players & ne’er-do-wells" »

Looking upon us with sad envy: reflections on the PNG Way


I LIKE VERY MUCH Jeffrey Febi’s statement that "many a brother or a sister from another country looks to us with sad envy; so many resource projects, yet we appear wretchedly poor."

I have seen this look of 'sad envy' too many times already, and I'm not even half way through my life!

There is a consensus on the relative truth of this statement among Papua New Guineans - even though we observe so many brand new Toyota Land Cruisers on the roads these days.

Certainly there is a more perceptible gap between the rich and the poor, which will eventually create far greater strains on our so called 'PNG Way'.

Our Melanesian society has always been egalitarian but now men of modern wealth are able buy their way into power and influence during special feasts or other customary occasions, oftentimes without having made contributions or taken active part in the day-to-day struggles of their people.

Some may do so through third parties representing them in the village and this seems to have been blindly accepted as being okay by most people.

But this is not the same 'Way' as before.

In traditional times the rise of a leader was observed by all within the community. All the leader’s actions (or inactions), triumphs and failures were witnessed by his people first-hand;  not through some proxy with vested interests.

There was a degree of transparency, albeit one that was guaranteed by the physical boundaries of the tribal zone.

It was preordained that, for future leaders’ stars to rise, they must align themselves with the elders of the clan and tribe whose character and leadership had been tested by time and who had brought the community to where it was at present.

There must be respect based on non-monetary indicators - values, speech and action.

Not so today, where the elders are almost totally ignored, especially by the younger male 'warriors', in favour of richer big men who are able to supply them with the pay that they desire; money, alcohol, women, vehicles, guns, a chance to travel and have access to other opportunities including education and employment.

By insidiously subverting 'our Way' the modern-day big men maintain their stranglehold on the wealth of this nation.

Their methods keep the rest of the population poor while seeming to dole out wealth to those who support them or, commonly, by providing some 'Christian or charitable' donation to other groups who then become their lackeys, since 'bekim dinau' [reciprocity] is also part of the PNG Way.

There's a lot more to say on this topic. Thanks again Jeffrey Febi.

New book: Jared Diamond’s PNG adventures

American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Jared Diamond and PNG friendPULITZER PRIZE-WINNING AUTHOR and anthropologist Jared Diamond has written a new book on his decades of field work in Papua   New Guinea.

The World Until Yesterday is Diamond’s most personal book to date, where he examines tribal societies’ approaches to universal human issues such as peace and war, child-rearing, treatment of the elderly, language, religion, and health.

Chronicling his 1964 visit to PNG when it was still under Australian administration, Diamond weighs in on the advantages of modern society (clocks, phones, credit cards, computers) and the disadvantages of tribal society (infanticide, periodic risk of starvation, infectious diseases, fear of attack).

He, however, also highlights the strengths of tribal society: should there be a global catastrophe someday it is the hunters and gatherers who will prevail.

In an excerpt of an interview published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Diamond speaks with his colleague and friend of more than 20 years, Claire Panosian Dunavan MD, a tropical medicine and global health expert.

DUNAVAN: Was this your most personal book?

DIAMOND: Not just my most personal… but most practical book which people can use to modify their lives [in terms of] danger, bringing up children, getting older.

DUNAVAN: I want to hear about your first contact with a traditional society. What was it like?

DIAMOND: Before John (Diamond’s classmate at Harvard) and I went out there [in 1964], I was really naive. I knew New Guineans were primitive people, meaning that they had primitive technology.

I thought there would be something distinctive about their personality and cognition and so on – I fantasized for example, that New Guineans could read minds and that, in a few weeks, I could learn how to read minds. That just shows you how naive I was.

My first night in New Guinea… a [local] physician in the kuru area was eager to get me and John out of his hands as quickly as possible. Instead of easing us in our first night by letting us stay in his house, he told us a bit and drove us to a native village and left us there!

So my first night was spent sleeping in a hut in a village with New Guineans who did not speak English. I did not speak Fore, I did not yet speak Pidgin English (neo-Melanesian). I was tired from the long plane flights from the U.S., so I slept late the next morning.

When I woke up there was the scene that I describe in the book about the little boys playing war. War had ended in this area in 1959. So they were not playing hopscotch, it was serious, it was very realistic.

They were using small bows and arrows, they were darting back and forth, they were doing what the adults do in war. It was clear that this was training. This was my first morning in the New Guinea highlands.

The second night I went down to the village stream to brush my teeth and a New Guinean was there. I had already on that first day started asking the names for things in Fore and I saw a frog and I pointed and the person said dakwo. So I got the word dakwo for frog.

 On the second night I heard a frog croaking, [saw the man at the stream], and thought: ‘Aha! Human bond! I’ve learned a word of his language!’

Dakwo!’ I cried. The man shook his head [vigorously] in response. ‘Ibisaraya!’ It was not a dakwo; it was a different frog, an ibisaraya. This was my first exposure to New Guinean knowledge of natural history.

DUNAVAN: Were you ever scared?

Continue reading "New book: Jared Diamond’s PNG adventures" »

In praise of our alma mater and our benefactors


QUEENSLAND UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY is truly a prestigious university with world class learning facilities and the best teaching staff who are leaders in their areas of expertise.

They have volumes of publications, research and corporate experiences that draw relationships to the real world and demonstrate how these theories and ideas contribute to shaping the society.

For me personally, as a postgraduate student this paradigm of learning and thinking is transforming because at the end of the day my success will be measured by my productivity and contribution to humanity.

I feel so privileged to attend QUT because I personally have had life transforming experiences with the opportunity to teach with the Drama Department at Kelvin Grove Campus and experience the teaching life whilst researching my PhD project and participating in an international collaborative research project under the leadership of my supervisors.

This is truly a remarkable experience because it prepares me to lead other young scholars and like mined people in my own country and the South Pacific Region when I return, I am so thankful for this opportunity.

I have also had the opportunity to meet other professional people in the corporate world through networks such as; the Lions Club through the Students Support Services and, Hear and Say Centre and Queensland Clinical Skills Development Learning Centre with Queensland Health, which has increased my capacity to network, share my research and cultural knowledge.

The contacts we have established as AusAID students with professional organizations and with other international students throughout our study life is a bank of wealth for life, we must utilize it to support each other to build a better and greater tomorrow.

Studying at a prestigious university like QUT could not have been possible without the kind generosity of the Australian people and Australian government in constant dialogue with the governments in our respective countries. 

Therefore, we thank the Australian people and the Australian government for establishing this developmental scholarship and also we thank the governments in our respective countries for embracing it. Now, what can you and I give back to our sponsors?

Remember, when we first received the AusAID scholarship back in our countries we were prepared to be great ambassadors of our country in Australia. We have fulfilled that throughout the duration of our study.

Likewise, QUT has given us the necessary tools to return to our country so let us be great ambassadors of QUT in translating QUT’s slogan, “University for the Real World”, in our profession by being practical people that lead others by example and build a better society for others and ourselves.

My friends, when you return your home countries there will so much expectation and challenges but do not give up hope.

Be persistent with humbleness and humility and gradually you will make an impact in your society.

We must be of service to the silent majorities, marginalized communities and unheard voices.

Jane Pumai Awi, a PhD Candidate in Creative Industry at the Queensland University of Technology, delivered this AusAID graduation speech on Wednesday 21 November

It's a funny thing being married to a white man


Following a recent discussion in PNG Attitude about difficulties in some cross-cultural marriages, Rose Kranz offers some advice….

IT'S A FUNNY AND STRANGE THING being married to a white man. He doesn't fully understand your traditions, family background and beliefs - but he expects you to understand all this about him.

Does he do the same in return?

To start with, he doesn't appreciate the importance of family in Melanesian culture.

Not just mums and dads, but cousin-sisters and brothers, uncles and nieces, once twice or thrice removed - and those extended family members who you have perhaps only seen twice in your life.

They are the cement which holds our great wall of identity together.

And he doesn't understand that we have come from a village culture where we had few trappings of western 'civilisation'.

Certainly no Coles or K-Marts, and where the richest family in the village were the ones who owned a TV. So maybe I don't know the correct wineglasses to us for Christmas dinner - but I bet he doesn't know how to prepare a coconut cooler.

And he expects me to fit into Australian culture with 50,000 years difference between us?

And yet we understand the same human drives and emotions. After all, people are people.

I just ask him to try and get out of his comfort zone and realise that we are different, although also the same in so many ways.

I love him, and I believe he loves me, but he must take the trouble of understanding where I come from, if he truly wants to know me.

PNG – no gun required in mission to thwart China

GARY TORRES | San   Juan Record

I WAS MORE THAN A LITTLE SURPRISED when I picked up the phone one morning and it was the United States State Department.

Just like in the 1994 movie True Lies with Swhwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis, my mission, if
accepted, was to go to a foreign country and wreak havoc, which I am usually pretty good at.

“Howdy folks. I am here to help, you can trust me, and I am from the government.”

Specifically, I was headed to Papua New Guinea to help them develop their natural resources using the American ideas of “productive harmony” and “multiple use and sustained yield”.

This might help America secure a positive presence before China comes in and buys everything up and “helps” them out of all their natural resources and leaves nothing but a big hole in the ground.

I asked if got to carry a gun; they didn’t think it was a good idea.

There are interesting things going on in PNG. From a natural resources point of view, they are sitting on a mountain of gold floating on an ocean of oil encased by a beautiful landscape that varies from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains.

They are diverse people, speaking more than 800 languages. Eighty percent live in remote areas in isolated villages and work the land for their basic subsistence.

Their land produces palm oil, coffee, and liquefied natural gas but doesn’t have the infrastructure in place, such as roads and pipelines. You can’t drive from one coast to the other as there are no roads.

So after a 25-hour flight, I am in PNG as part of the International Technology Assistance Program.

The first thing we do upon arriving is go through customs. The US Embassy provides us with driver, who doubles as our guard.  

We are picked up at the airport and transported to our hotel, which is also surrounded by an eight foot high security fence with guards at every entrance. They slide the gate open and allow us in.

The country is rich in natural resources, but the poverty is extreme and although PNG is not on the “do not visit” list from the State Department, our security briefing chief assures us that we can go nowhere without our guard.

He emphasizes that most people that do get assaulted are not robbed at gun point, but rather by a machete-yielding native.

Over the course of three days, I appear to be like any other mild mannered bureaucrat and will give six lectures; but at night I am out there fighting for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Somehow in my short stay, I was able to get my name in the national newspaper and was interviewed for the evening news.

And my too kind and loving wife thinks that I am just another slow moving federal paper pusher.

There will probably be a movie out soon, True Lies II. Brad Pitt or Antonio Banderas should play me, they seem like the closest resemblance; right?

Parallel histories – Steamships Trading Co and PNG


Steamships coverSteamships Trading Company 1918-2008: A History’ by James Sinclair, Alan Caudell and Associates, Palm Cove Qld., 2008, 468pp.  Around $300 or K450 if you can find a copy.  I understand Bill Mcgrath at Pacific Bookhouse has one for sale

THIS MASSIVE BOOK is not commercially available and it has taken me a while to lay my hands on a copy.

It weighs 2.8 kilograms and measures 346x250x37 mm.  It is a sort of personal indulgence on the part of past Steamies directors and board chairmen. 

Lugging it from Steamies head office on Champion Parade to the airport in my backpack worked up quite a sweat.

Having read it, I would urge Steamies to consider bringing out an abridged version in a cheaper paperback. 

It is a book well worth reading because the history of the company runs parallel to that of Papua New Guinea.  The numerous crossovers are both fascinating and enlightening.

A paperback would also mitigate the aching arms that you will inevitably experience reading the present version.

Jim Sinclair is no Shakespeare but he is a very deft master wordsmith.  He is also meticulous with a capital ‘M’. 

He has been producing these sorts of commissioned volumes for some time now and they are building up to be a unique reflection on Papua New Guinea’s past.  He is currently working on a commissioned history of Edie Creek.

He told me that when he was posted to Port Moresby just before independence as a district commissioner with a vague portfolio and not a little spare time on his hands, that he noticed the Australian administration diligently junking what they thought were irrelevant records. 

Jim managed to insert himself between the dumpers and the dump and this material now forms an important resource for his writing.

He got a scare in this year’s floods in Queensland but fortunately it all survived.  He plans to leave it all to a selected institution when he finally runs out of steam.

But back to Steamies. The company kicked off around 1918
but a serendipitous event in 1924 was the impetus for its remarkable rise.  The Steamies website tells the story.

“The company's history began in 1919. Retired sea captain Algernon Sydney Fitch was growing apples in Tasmania for a living when he read about a barge named the Southern Cross going aground in the Bass  Strait.

“He decided to salvage it and travelled to Melbourne to raise 5,000 Pounds sterling and find a suitable ship for the salvage operations. He discovered a 90 ton coal burner, built in 1855, called the SS Queenscliffe. A group of businessmen backed Fitch and together formed a company which they appropriately called Steamships Limited.

“Fitch's plan had no connection with Papua and New Guinea. But what happens next was not in the scheme of things. The Southern Cross sank beneath the waves.

“To make matters worse the syndicate ran out of money whilst making the veteran Queenscliffe seaworthy. Fitch proposed that he sail the ship to Port Moresby and earn some money by trading along the Papuan coast. In 1924 the Public Company was formed”.

Steamies had many competitors over the years, including the mighty Burns Philp, but it outlived them all and is still thriving.

There are some good reasons for this, not the least being its long held policy of training and employing Papua New Guinean staff wherever possible. 

Coupled with this were a commitment to Papua New Guinea in general and a refreshing aversion to the profit-at-all-cost mentality.  It supported many charitable and other causes in Papua New Guinea, mostly in the background and without undue fanfare.  It has been a strong supporter of the Crocodile Prize since its inception.

Throughout its history, Steamships scrupulously followed the letter of the law, albeit sometimes reluctantly when it perceived the law as inappropriate.

In other words, while it could be a ruthless and intimidating adversary it was and still is an honest and ethical company.   Its  environmental credentials are a credit to it.  And, no, I haven’t got shares.

When you mention Steamies in Port  Moresby, people in the know will tell you that it has been taken over by Swires, the big British trading company based in Hong  Kong, and is no longer the Steamies of old.

This is technically correct but, as Jim Sinclair explains, Swires has had a very long history in Papua New Guinea and beginning in 1952 has had many active partnerships with Steamies.  That it now holds a majority shareholding is more luck than anything else.

The diversification of Steamies from the original shipping company into a multitude of businesses and then its retreat to its current core businesses of shipping, transport, manufacturing and hotels is an intriguing and mind-boggling journey which must have come close to driving Jim Sinclair nuts when he was writing the book.

Through it all, however and as Chairman Bill Rothery said in 2008, Steamies has been “proudly Papuan New Guinean for 90 years”.  He adds, This is a testimony to the determination and strength of its owners and managers over these years and to the growth and resilience of the country and its people.”

Steamies founder, Captain Algernon Fitch, had an uneasy relationship with Sir Hubert Murray, the famous Papuan Lieutenant-Governor, but they eventually came round to appreciate each other’s point of view. 

Sinclair suggests that it was probably Hubert Murray’s enlightened views eventually rubbing off on Captain Fitch rather than the other way around.

In any event, the good captain steered Steamies out of the total devastation wreaked by World War II and set it on a healthy course of expansion.  He was gone by the time of the equally devastating reign of Prime Minister Bill Skate.

Skate managed to wreck the Papua New Guinean economy in a very short space of time and also came close to wrecking Steamies and many other companies like it. Despite the valiant efforts of his successor, Mekere Morauta, the Skate effects are still felt today. 

Unfortunately Michael Somare in his second incarnation as Prime Minister failed, or wasn’t interested, in keeping up the momentum that Sir Mekere had generated.

It is not until you read the history of Steamies that you realise how bad Skate was and how many of Papua New Guinea’s chronic problems started with him.  If Somare founded Papua New Guinea, Bill Skate came close to sinking it.

A lot of people worked for Steamies over the years.  A lot were dedicated but  unassuming.  Some, like the bean counters, were downright tedious but there were also some delightful mavericks, rogues and eccentrics who gave the company an exciting flavour.

Jim Sinclair had access to most of the surviving managing directors and a lot of the current and retired employees.  He sprinkles their histories and views liberally throughout the text.  Some of the most colourful were the sea captains that Steamies trained and employed and who lent their names to the company ships. 

Sinclair also consulted board minutes, including those from the very first formal meeting in 1924, which not only survived the war but two conflagrations of the company headquarters in the 1970s, annual reports, old newspapers and numerous other sources.  How he is still sane is nothing short of a miracle.

It is a history well worth sharing with a much wider audience.  How about it Steamies?

The political economy of a pig farmer’s life


Until you have seen your hands blistering
Until you have felt sweat break like fever
Before another new gardens planting

Until you have cleaned the piss and manure
Cut, carried and replaced sodden bedding
Until you have closed the sow with the boar

Until then you only have an inkling
Of what a pig farmer does every day
For the fat pig meat that you are eating

You will never know what it means to say
To us, “agriculture is our back bone”
Until you know the sweat and costs we pay

For a simple meal, in our simple home
Sweet potatoes baked around the fire place
Cups of tea with sugar, lucky for some

And every day we hear about your race
To bring development to your people
But we know that your heart has no more space

If you will not share the gris pik with all
One day your house built from our bones will fall.

A terza rima in iambic pentameter started on 7 June and finished on 24 December, 2012

A poet’s journey 8: Use your imagination....


IN MY CONTRIBUTION of short notes on writing poetry, I have left one primary ingredient till last. It is probably taken for granted but deserves to be mentioned, and I offer my own interpretation.

Imagination in writing poetry is the one ingredient that cannot be sourced from anywhere or anyone else; it is most likely the one skill that cannot be taught to you by another person.

It multiplies a strong intuition and meaningful inspirations, because both these elements of a poet’s ability are nourished by a fertile imagination.

So say two of the great poets:

“One power alone makes a poet: imagination.” William Blake

“Poetry is the lava of imagination whose eruption prevents the earthquake.” Lord Byron

Imagination is, in essence, the source where all the wonder and power of the written words of a poem originate.

Inspiration fans the flames of a poet’s imagination. Imagination must be twinned to a poet’s intuition in order to communicate heart-to-heart with the recipient audience.

Here’s a poem by Carl Sandburg that sounds quite plain until the last two lines which brings the entire poem into a new perspective by the imaginative observation he makes.

Look at six eggs

Look at six eggs
In a mockingbird’s nest.

Listen to six mockingbirds
Flinging follies of O-be-joyful
Over the marshes and uplands.

Look at songs
Hidden in eggs.

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

We all have a sense of imagination but poets like other artists use theirs much, much more. If you don’t use your imagination, don’t expect to create good poetry.

Of course you can nurture and encourage the development of your imaginative faculties, and that’s something for you to learn about in another avenue.

I’m not qualified to lecture on it and this piece is too short for me to pass on much wisdom about gaining an imaginative intellect.

It is worth mentioning that a good education curriculum will help pupils to develop their imaginative faculties as much as using logical, deductive/inductive and critical reasoning skills.

Rote learning may have its uses but for creative pursuits this is insufficient. Memory is for recording stuff but imagination is what allows us to ‘work things out in our heads’.

Imagination is the mind at play. Allowing a mind to play is just as important as making a mind work.

In today’s world science and technology is considered to be a major driving force behind the advancement of any nation. In PNG this has been recognized by the Office of Higher Education through its science and technology initiative and associated activities.

Where do technological inventions/innovations come from? Do they come from mathematics and science? Those are merely the language to interpret and the tools used to develop and construct what we have already thought up in our heads.

Invention and innovation spring from the same
inexhaustible well as poetry, imagination.

(This is also why basic education is so important, because we don’t want to create mindless drones.)

So, what I would like aspiring poets to think about is using their imagination fully when writing poetry.

When the first inspiration of a poem arrives, what do you do?

Write it down, then think forward to what the final outcome of the poem may be – where do you think it’s going (although that may change while writing), what emotion will your audience recall when they read it, how might the reader respond; how do you wish the poem to sound when it is  read?

Apply your intuition; question if what you’ve written is what you were thinking, is it different or somehow better? Is the gist of the final poem alright with your imagination, is the piece enhanced or reduced when re-read?

Then get more technical; consider the number of words in the line(s), are they all necessary, are they the right words or the best words, and how does each word and the thought that each line conveys affect the overall image of the poem that is forming; should it rhyme, does it need rhythm; what is its most appropriate length and does the poem need structure?

There are so many more questions to ask that if the task
of writing a poem was approached by logical means it would take forever and not
make much sense.

The resulting poem would be blank verse, devoid of any emotion. (It’s also true that deductive/inductive reasoning falls short when trying to ‘figure out’ poetry.)

Using imagination elevates your poetry writing to another level, where those many questions can be answered, some almost instantaneously, as the writing advances.

Often a poet may work with a memory or some related or personal experience as the inspiration for a poem.

But usually this writing will be laced with imagination and imbedded with the poet’s intuitive feeling of where the poem is going and what the poem is about.

While inspiration provides an impulse for writing poetry and intuition reveals a poets heart and soul, your imagination is needed to make a poem pulse with the blood of your words.

At morning on the beachfront of Malolo Plantation Lodge, Madang


Rolling surf thunders
In blazing orange sunlight;
Dawns mute explosion

Fat black waves foam white
in daybreaks brief afterglow;
wayward winds turn tail

Crashing on dark shores,
the ceaseless surge of the seas
crests and troughs are spent

Flotsam and jetsam,
cast ashore on sea-salt suds,
carried by the tide

A lone swimmer dives
into funnelling breakers,
laughing at his fate

Tossed by one long wave,
borne to shore on another,
with sand in his pants

Orange fades blue-grey
easing the roar of the sea
into background sounds

Seven pseudo-haiku started at Murukanam 24/05/2012, finished at Labu Station, 1:00pm 06/06/2012

PNG spending plans worry Asian Development Bank


THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK says Papua   New Guinea's big-spending budget holds risks that will need to be carefully managed.

PNG's 2013 budget calls for a 23% increase in spending.

The bank says the PNG economy remains strong but it warns that, with more challenging economic conditions expected, the government will need to manage its fiscal position carefully.

ADB economist Aaron Batten says the blow-out in costs of the PNG liquefied natural gas project could add pressure to the budget if the government is required to increase its equity contributions.

He said the risk that the government will need to go to expensive international markets to fund the deficit could place pressure on its debt strategy.

Christians say a law against polygamy is urgent

Agenzia Fides

POLYGAMY IS NOT JUST an anti-Christian practice and against the moral law, but it is also a social threat and this is why a law to prevent it is urgent, say Christian communities in Papua New  Guinea.

With these arguments, Christian leaders in PNG are leading a campaign to outlaw polygamy.

Legislative action to ban polygamy was recently proposed by Eastern Highlands governor Julie Soso.

Thirty years ago, another political leader, Peter Peipul, had demanded the banning of polygamy, calling it "disgusting" and "unconstitutional."

Although, in recent years, the reform of family law and the prohibition of polygamy was discussed, the practice remains legal in PNG.

"In areas where polygamy is still practiced, there are increasing cases of women accused of the murder of another of the wives of their husbands,” explains Paul Harricknen, a Catholic lawyer and consultant to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Papua.

“Women's rights will always be trampled until polygamy remains in force. Every human being, male or female, has equal rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."

Harricknen says the bishops want the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

"Usually polygamy is imposed on the first wives, who succumb due to their economic and social disadvantage, or simply choose to maintain their fidelity to marriage. It is a practice that causes chaos and abuse in society."

For this reason, Harricknen concludes, "polygamy is no longer suitable for Papua   New Guinea."

Life’s journey

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

I am still bed ridden. Fortunately my work station is custom-made with wheels so it is now beside my bed where I can do whatever I have to do. I sent my last article from my bed and so this poem. It looks very odd here in the ward but the nurses and doctors are very understanding, which gives me the flexibility and a bit of freedom do my writing and my Simbu Children Foundation work....

With dreams abound
Man embarks on life’s flight
He stumbles and scrambles
In this blind journey

Driven by ego or circumstances
For survival or fame
Man toils and fights
In this blind journey

As sun sets and rises
One dream fades, another rises
Keeping man chasing the wind
In this blind journey

As time’s wheel keeps spinning
Just dreams and more dreams
Despair and disillusions abound
Yet the blind journey continues

Till man’s strength grows grey
And his breath ceases,
Only then peace avail
Only then destiny at last

Brother's transplant saves Dr Kendaura’s life

ALISON BRANLEY | Newcastle Herald (NSW)

GAINING access to health care in Papua New   Guinea is difficult but becomes even more important when the doctor delivering the services gets sick too.

That is what happened at Goroka Hospital when acting medical services director Dr Kapiro Kendaura suffered kidney failure.

Despite receiving regular dialysis treatment, he was only months from death before the intervention of Hunter New England health infection prevention and control director John Ferguson.

Dr Ferguson travels to PNG each year to teach, and heard of his colleague’s plight.

Some months and a massive community and logistical effort later, Dr Kendaura was flown to John  Hunter Hospital to receive a kidney transplant from his brother Steven, a high school teacher.

Dr Kendaura was released from hospital a week after his surgery early this month and will soon return to Goroka where his 100-bed hospital serves some of the 300,000 people who live in the highlands.

‘‘I’m so lucky. I owe the hospital a lot. They spent a lot of time and resources helping me,’’ Dr Kendaura said. ‘‘I don’t know how to thank these people.’’

The surgery was made possible after the health care service offered its services pro bono and hospital staff raised $15,000 for travel, accommodation and medication costs.

The hospital has done work for PNG previously, but nothing as major as a transplant.

‘‘Chronic renal failure is a death sentence in Papua New Guinea,’’ Dr Ferguson said.

Containers of hope bring life-saving equipment


DESPERATELY NEEDED biomedical equipment including defibrillators, infant incubators and sonogram machines are en route to Papua New Guinea.

The humanitarian shipment of four “containers of hope” was made possible through grants from ExxonMobil and Maersk Line.

The containers are filled with more than $1 million worth of diagnostic and therapeutic medical equipment which will be invaluable in helping hospitals and clinics deliver reliable and safe healthcare to communities throughout PNG.

Equipment such as incubators and birthing beds will assist reduce infant mortality in a country where rates are high. Equipment taken for granted in western countries, such as defibrillators and ultrasound machines, will end unnecessary suffering and death.

The MediSend organisation is committed to the highest standards in the repair and distribution of medical equipment. All equipment is either new or has been completely refurbished.

MediSend employs a unique model of sustainability by combining medical distribution with training and technical support programs. It has trained 10 certified biomedical equipment technicians for hospitals in PNG, who will ensure that life-saving biomedical equipment can be used to save lives and prevent suffering.

The technicians are trained and equipped to properly install, repair, maintain and calibrate essential biomedical equipment and to instruct doctors, nurses and healthcare providers in its proper use.

In addition to biomedical equipment, 10 mobile biomedical equipment test and repair kits are included in the containers headed for PNG. Each kit has a value of $20,000 and all MediSend technicians' hospitals will receive a kit, essentially a modern biomedical repair laboratory.

The kits contain over 4,000 laboratory repair tools, supply items and state-of-the-art test and calibration equipment critical to the repair and maintenance of biomedical equipment.

Merry Christmas PNG, with love from Emma

EMMA WAKPI | Supported by the Rob & Meg Parer Writing Fellowship

MY DEAREST MOTHERLAND, I am writing this letter on the eve of Christmas to let you know how much I love and appreciate you. This time of the year reminds us of what we should be thankful for and of what love is really all about.

Often times we argue so much about what is wrong and right and how it’s supposed to be done nowadays but at the end of the day, you are family, you give me my identity and I find my comfort in your coarse gruffness which conceals a heart so fiercely loyal to me.

At times I pine for things other nations can offer their children and am ashamed to admit that in my youth I’ve oft rued the fact that destiny saw fit to make me a Papua New Guinean; but as I have grown and experienced what life has had to offer - as opportunities have allowed me to visit other countries and cultures; I have discovered that no one is perfect and even the most ideal of situations have their faults.

Looking back I realise the privilege of growing up as a Papua New Guinean and the unique traits that helped create my identity.

Nowhere else on earth can I find a family so diverse and realise the feat it takes to congregate hundreds of nations into the single entity known as PNG and to keep it functioning.

Individual identities are not smothered but like jigsaw puzzles are being pieced together to complete a picture. How this picture will turn out, only God knows.

I am an integral part of that overall puzzle - my piece of the picture you are designing. The way you are shaping me is altogether unique, the experiences and memories are what constitute my mind, body and soul.

I realise this now and do not want to take for granted the encounters which you have allowed to mould and shape me.

I therefore would like to reminisce and share with you the impact that you have had on me and how you’ve helped shape my life up to now…

I see myself blown up and shaped into a puzzle piece (for aesthetic purposes let it be the capital letter E). The top half of the letter is yellow with flecks of orange

These are the  times of my early childhood, the experiences of my village…

Adults sitting around the open fire in the evening as I lie at the back drifting hazily upon the quiet conversations about the garden and its yields.

That stubborn pig that’s always escaping from it’s fenced parameter.

The recounting of bygone days with revered ancestors admired for their feats of hunting, fighting, gardening.

Then rising at dawn to hear my grandfather sharpen his axe as he sings old chants; seeing his toothy, bearded grin as he stoops to enter the hut to prepare our smoky breakfast of sweet tea and roasted bananas – his specialty.

I hear my grandmother lovingly calling out to her pigs in the pig house as she ties ropes around the front ankles, leading them to good feeding grounds for the day.

My attention is caught and catapulted to the surrounding kunai hills as my uncle lustily exchanges the morning news with yodlling neighbours while my aunt and mother listen in and make ready their bilums with the supplies eeded for a day of gardening.

I see myself straddling my grandfather’s shoulders, clinging to his hair like a young kapul as he  ffortlessly carries me along, balancing his spade and other working tools on one shoulder while climbing the small hill to work the family garden.

And of him letting me sneak off to play with other children hunting cicadas, grasshoppers and any critters we can safely eat.

The bursts of emotional experience now sweep over me.

The sheer excitement as groups of children and older teenagers go mushroom hunting when the season has started and the cautionary voices of my grandparents telling us to bring everything home to identify before it can be consumed.

The feeling of complete contentment and fun as I see my mother and older cousins and aunts fill bilums full of bedding and clothes, talking and laughing as they take them to the nearby river to launder.

I find myself playing tag with other children, diving and splashing about in the cool shallow pools and drying ourselves, basking lazily like lizards on the big stones.

In the afternoon I follow my older cousins and their friends to the nearby hill which has been laboriously watered to make a slippery slope. Each child has brought along banana trunks with carved designs stylised from twigs and leaves.

The fun as teams are formed and pairs race each other to see who can reach the bottom first while successfully clinging to the banana trunk. The exhilaration of speeding down that hill and taking risk; whilst bathed a dusky red by the wet mud.

I see my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins clinging to me and crying as my father gently pries me away from them and carries me into an airplane. The people inside look fresh and crisp and I am in awe of the air stewardess.

The straight hair, red lips and pencilled eyebrows fascinate me but this is swooped aside and my heart soars as the plane takes off and a complete sense of surreal wonder overwhelms me as I watch everything fade and cars and houses become like the toys that Dad always brought home when he came on his breaks. 

He is taking my mother, sister and I to that place where he works. When we arrive, the place is green and dense, blanketing and swallowing up everything.

It is a colour I’ve never experienced - my own village canopy allowed sunlight to at least filter through and tinge everything a yellowish gold; it is not so here, and it is a bit frightening.

But slowly it grows on me and envelopes me in its mountainous embrace, solid and soothing. It is in this mass of green comfort that I learn to speak and read English, to bond with my nuclear family, to make friends in church and school and to become comfortable with neighbours from other countries.

There is a sense of wonder at the modern world I’ve stepped into. Walking into our kapa house for the first time, it seemed hollow and so full of air and light. Everything is new, white and exciting – the light and fan switches, faucets, shower basin, flushing toilet and we even have a washing machine.

Oh the wonder of turning things on and off at the switch of a button or a twist of a knob – no smoky lamp and fires to blow, no running down the slope to cart water from the watering hole, no more pit toilets in the middle of the night where my
imagination terrorises me with shadows cast from the kerosene lamp. 

And dad shows me the television for the first time. What words can describe that feeling? (I learn to speak and read English watching Sesame Street and Play School every morning and afternoon with mum.)

The sense of awe extends to the start of my education. As I walk into my prep class, Mrs Bignal intrigues me. The red hair, nails and lips contrast sharply with her pale countenance and she seems rather stern but I soon find out she is fun as she untangles me from behind my mothers’ skirt and tells me to go play.  

Mr Canham, my 2nd grade teacher (reading a portion of the Arabian Nights every afternoon), introduces me to the world of books and helps me discover the magic of the cool library with soft bean bags and captivating shelves holding imaginations of every kind.

Many a lunch and after school session finds me holed up devouring anything that grabs my interest.

The jungle green now transforms into a deep red hue with flickers of black. This is the dawning of my self-realisation - of trying to discover who I am and how I should live in this country called PNG.

My existence consists of several dimensions -my family, my culture, my peers, my faith; I attend high school and university and interact with various nationalities and cultures. How do I balance them all?

I find my friends “don’t get” my village life so that becomes my private world where I escape to every school holidays to fall into the loving arms of family and where modern amenities are exchanged for a more primitive setting in smoky huts as I snuggle close to my grandmother and listen to her singsong voice retelling tales of old.

Of squatting next to my grandfather as he operates on the slaughtered pig for our “family Christmas” feast.

Of wandering into the jungle with my aunt and uncle to see them clear land for new gardens, of following my cousins as they participate in the Christmas games of volleyball and basketball where the rules are made up and which I find a bit too rough for my now town bred self.

But I enjoy watching and cheering and every now and again brave the swinging arms and thrusting hips to play.

My culture has certain expectations of me as an educated man’s daughter. How I conduct myself in the village, how I dress, how I react to situations, knowing my place - there is a structure which places me on a certain level and this is in stark contrast to the independence I am so used to in school.

I huff and puff and grumble but know that I must comply or else bring shame to my family.

How do I do it so I don’t feel as if I’m being coerced into something? How do I do it so that I am not condescending but sincere? I realise love, respect and understanding of world views is crucial to achieving this balance.

Having been exposed to a broader view of the world and having decided toward the end of my high school days to accept Christ and follow his teaching, I realise that unconditional love and seeing things from another’s perspective brings understanding.

For this I am thankful for my parents counsel; they too have had to tread this path - my nuclear family helped me fit better into my extended family, culture and Papua New Guinea as a nation.

And now, as I accept myself and my place, I can with understanding address issues that to me are wrong - the flickers of black. Not all things are rosy recollections. There
are kinks in the cultures and ways of my people and I continue to struggle against them.

But for the most part I am at peace, I love and am loved fully in return and find
contentment in my identity – I have a place in this world where I can wholly belong - to know who I am even as I interact and am drawn in by an ever increasingly global world and its persuasions. 

My dear PNG, as I ponder all this, I realise the privilege and richness of my life.

I thank God for creating me and choosing me to be your citizen and placing me in your care to be shaped and fitted; to experience what I have experienced and to work toward an even better future.

I love you and honour you and this Christmas, as we reflect on the meaning of giving; of love unconditional bestowed with abandon to all mankind, I pray God grant me the
grace to live out a life of integrity and love so that I can make you proud.

Merry Christmas and forever yours, Emma :-)

The PNG way – paradox, rhetoric. almost a myth


THIS HAS BEEN OUR CUSTOM - the Papua New Guinea Way - the way we have been doing our business ever since our tumbunas understood the advantages of living together in groups - communities that developed ways of doing things that increases their chances of survival.

On many an occasion, I read and or hear rhetoric from delusional leaders, who occasionally emerge from a place where glimpses of almost-insanity tests my belief in our customs.

Other times I hear one who actually sound like insanity itself rumbling from its deep and dark enclosure. There are also times when I think I am insane not to have understood their logic, or lack of it.

How often does one hear or read of a PNG leader who does not call with a hint of ignorance to the masses to return to ‘our ways’ to sort things out - whether it is tribal fights, political fights, CEO’s fights, or any other fight that involve leaders and their equally ignorant die-hard supporters?

Somehow, weird though, when I hear a call to return to ‘our ways’ to settle disputes, a sense of assurance and of confidence in the workings of our ways automatically envelopes and calms me.

An inner call that tells me things will be all right when and if we return to our ways to find solutions. And I usually take for granted that our ways will certainly do us good.

Recently however, a call by a ward councillor from Enga Province for a certain sitting MP and his runner-up from the 2012 elections to return home to stop the fighting and killings that started after the elections the ‘Enga Way’, got me thinking.

These same two leaders’ supporters fought after the 2007 elections.

And they stopped it their way. But this didn’t stop them from fighting again this election, did it?

Having pondered a long while over this – the return to our ways to settle disputes – I began to realize that our ways never solve our problems once and for all.

The call to return to our ways to settle a tribal fight after many death and destruction of property usually ends up freeing, in addition to rapists and torturers, killers or sharp shooters who are likely to find employment as hired guns in other tribal fights.

And history records that, even after a settlement, apparent pay back killings occur away from home. So essentially, some tribal fights are not stopped; rather they evolve and take another form and may start again anytime.

So what constitutes the Enga Way of solving a tribal fight? And by extension, what constitutes our way of stopping tribal fights in other areas of PNG, where recurring tribal fights are prevalent?

How about this - a person suddenly dies from a mysterious illness. And doctors fail to diagnose a probable cause; and or relations of the deceased decide to ignore the results of an autopsy and return to their villages to find the cause of death ‘their traditional way’?

Next we read about an old woman clobbered to near death and dumped in a pit latrine, or burnt alive or of something grotesque. And ‘our way’ helped discover the cause of death.

Honestly, can anyone recall the number of calls by relevant government authorities and churches leaders for sorcery related killings to be stopped?

Further, after corporatization of PNG government’s business arms aimed at blocking political interferences and increasing efficiency and hence productivity; PNG continues to be burdened by corporate liabilities.

And there seem to be no end to government rescue announcements.

Who do you find working in those large corporations? Papua New Guineans! And more often than not, bulk of the workforce are wantoks of respective CEO’s - some of whom aren’t qualified to serve in positions they occupy. And they usually have things their way – the PNG Way.

The PNG Way – our way – is in the most part a curse unto itself. It may have served us well in the past but seem incompatible with contemporary PNG. There is an urgent need for change - a change that should happen immediately.

Not to do away with ‘our way’ but to modify it to work effectively with current trends. Perhaps, change in mentality - discarding of redundant aspects of ‘our way’ and fusing its good aspects with globally accepted ways of doing business to come up with something PNG flavoured.

Our way is seriously crippling the country’s lifeline – the heart, arteries and veins, and its blood are poisoned. How long does this country plan to use ‘our way’ to manage its affairs?

Recurring tribal fights are testament of the inability and of course uselessness of ‘our way’ to settle problems once and for all. So for instance, just what do our leaders mean by calling to their fellow tribesmen to ‘stop a tribal fight our way’?

Do such calls carry an inherent stop_fighting_for_now_until_next_election’ clause? Isn’t our way the way of not settling issues once and for all?

On a brighter note, we’re not lesser human beings – we’re equally endowed with mental powers
that enabled citizens of other countries to rise from the dusts of their mistakes to take their country to greater heights.

Many a brother or a sister from another country looks to us with sad envy. So many resource projects, yet we appear wretchedly poor.

If and only if we see where our way has taken us and break free from its stranglehold.

And no one will save us; it is us who will save ourselves, so let us make the changes our way – the PNG way.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2013.

Resolving hybrid conflicts: the Bougainville story

TIMOTHY G HAMMOND | Foreign Policy Journal

THE AUTONOMOUS REGION OF BOUGAINVILLE, which includes the islands of Bougainville, Buka, and an array of smaller atolls, is located in Oceania just east of mainland Papua New Guinea, from which it is not yet fully independent.

Geographically, Bougainville is a part of the Solomon Islands and Bougainvilleans share more cultural and linguistic traits with the Solomon Islanders than they do with the people of Papua New Guinea.

Despite these facts, through colonization Papua New Guinea and Bougainville were administered together under the same colonial territory. So when Papua New Guinea gained its independence in 1975, Bougainville continued to remain politically connected to the country.

Home to an estimated 200,000 inhabitants, the island’s population is far from being culturally homogenous. Similar to mainland Papua New Guinea, Bougainville is host to an impressive array of distinct languages (about 25, in fact), traditions, and cultural identities—all within the 9,438 square kilometers of the island.

Amidst such high levels of diversity, some common traits  among Bougainvilleans include their skin colour, which is darker than that of  most mainland Papua New Guineans, and a generally strong Christian faith, which was blended with indigenous spirituality as a result of interaction with Catholic missionaries.

The igniting point that led many Bougainvilleans to come together to fight for independence from Papua New Guinea came from collective dissatisfaction with the management of the Panguna mine on the island (at one point the world’s largest open-cut mine), which created many significant costs for Bougainvilleans while providing very few benefits. The Bougainville crisis began in 1988.

The Bougainville crisis was the most severe and chronic case of violence that had occurred in the Pacific since World War II. A decade of guerilla warfare, political struggles over identity, famine, and insecurity plagued the people of Bougainville from 1988 until 1997. Beyond the hundreds of soldiers who lost their lives, an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 civilians died either by direct fighting, disease, or deprivation of basic needs.

One false perception of the Bougainville crisis is that it was a case of warfare between the secessionists of Bougainville and the state of Papua New Guinea. This would lead observers to believe that the Bougainville crisis was a form of conventionally-understood civil war; however, the reality was that the violence was much more complex, as many intra-Bougainvillean conflicts commenced at the same time as the Bougainville-Papua New Guinea violence.

In terms of addressing violent conflict in the world today, the state and its formal judicial process (retributive forms of justice) is generally legitimized as the main provider of conflict prevention, management, and resolution (CPMR).

That is because violent conflict and warfare have traditionally been understood by policymakers and state-leaders as an activity that takes place between two or more state entities, pitting their militaries against each other in order to achieve some form of political gain and/or increased power.

Unlike the conventional model for understanding warfare, the actors involved in the Bougainville hybrid conflict were not limited to states’ militaries; non-state private military companies, indigenous groups, and multinational corporations were also involved. In these forms of warfare, the presence of violent non-state actors (VNSAs), including terrorist groups, traffickers, and warlords, complicates our understanding of conflict since they are borderless threats.

In Bougainville, familial ties rather than political ideologies united groups together to compete for  their own security. It is this form of violent conflict that is now considered to be the largest security concern in the agendas of the world’s leading countries.

Some would consider these “new wars” as a sort of reversion in conflict—where violence breaks out over historically consistent issues such as access to resources, recognition of identity, and the assurance of basic needs.

The reality is that violent conflict in the world today has taken a hybrid form: blending state and non-state issues and actors together and combining both old (the conventionally understood) and new characteristics of warfare.

Hybrid political orders are defined by Volker Boege of the
Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management as those states
(often labelled as “weak”) in which diverse institutions (including
non-governmental organizations, VNSAs, and multinational corporations) compete
with state institutions, forming a country with a governing structure that does
not match the conventional image of what a territorialized, Westphalian state
looks like.

Boege notes that today’s violent conflicts are often “hybrid socio-political exchanges in which modern state-centric as well as pre-modern traditional and post-modern factors mix and overlap. The state has lost its central position in violent conflicts of this kind….”

Further addressing the prevalence of hybridity, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that future threats were most likely to consist of a hybrid blend of conventional and irregular warfare, a term to describe the
current complexity of violent conflicts and the requirement for an “adaptable
and resilient response”.

What should this adaptable response entail? After nearly a decade of warfare, the Bougainville peace-building process was largely successful due to the fact that indigenous customs and norms were integrated with conventional state procedures—a hybrid conflict resolution approach that was well suited for the complex array of state and non-state issues present in the crisis.

The story of the Bougainville crisis provides many lessons for understanding other violent conflicts that occur in the world today, especially those involving the struggles of indigenous populations.

It’s a story that demonstrates the inherent  interconnection between three key forms of security: the security of the natural environment, the security of human beings, and the security of the structure of the state.

Unfortunately the security of the state too often takes utmost priority in a manner that makes the other two key forms of security vulnerable—a clearly unsustainable condition as people will eventually revolt against the structures that create inequality within their governments.

For sustainable peace and stability to be achieved, all three forms of security must be addressed. The Bougainville crisis was sparked because the needs of the indigenous Bougainvilleans, as well as those of the natural environment upon which they were dependent, were placed to the side in order for the government of Papua New Guinea to acquire highest profits from the Panguna mine in Bougainville.

An ensuing period of warfare passed with human rights abuses occurring on all sides, as well as recurring failures to resolve the conflicts. Despite such virulent violence, the Bougainville story is ever more important due to the successes in peace-building that eventually emerged.

These are successes that should shine as examples that demonstrate the potential for protracted conflicts to be resolved, as well as to demonstrate the potential for communities to become self-sufficient and cologically sustainable.

Maybe most importantly, the Bougainville story should be taken into consideration in order to pre-emptively avoid the outbreak of other violent conflicts, especially those involving minority populations, declining resources, and desires for autonomy.

Where the Bougainville crisis began due to an unstable focus on national gain over human rights and environmental sustainability, the situation today is one in which the political governance of Bougainville is better designed to address the needs of the community and their environment.

Continue reading "Resolving hybrid conflicts: the Bougainville story " »

Bougainville politics & the characteristics of its people

LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

HAVING LIVED ALL MY LIFE in Bougainville, and travelled extensively around the island, and growing up with the Bougainville secessionist conflict since 1988, there are certain things I have gleaned about my island.

Bougainville has 27 or more languages, which means there are 27 or more nations
each having its own culture and independent way of behaving and thinking.

But there are also certain shared cultural traditions that bind these peoples in the geographic unity of Bougainville, uka and the Solomon archipelago.

My view is that the bloodshed since 1988 was the result of the long denial by the state of Papua New Guinea of Bougainvilleans’ rights in their own geographical setting of the Solomon archipelago.

Colonialism - forced annexation by the Germans and British - had far reaching impacts in the Bougainville psyche. The acculturation since 1768, the year of the island’s discovery by Louis De Bougainville, embedded certain significant characteristics that affect the political processes today.

In a geo-political interpretation, I could claim that, in Bougainville, North Bougainville has a population of ‘feigning’ people, Central Bougainville has a population of ‘talkers’ and South  Bougainville has a populace of the ‘practical’.

Many people, looking at Bougainville’s problems, see the situation through Papua New Guinean lens, which to me is not the way to find an amicable solution. People must see the problems in a Bougainvillean way because we are struggling with Bougainville nationalism, not a Bougainville longing to be in PNG.

Bougainvillean resistance to foreign intruders was in evidence back in October 1768 when locals in north Bougainville  marked their dislike of the navigator Louis de Bougainville and his men by shooting an arrow at them from a retreating canoe after an onboard gesture discussion with the European sailors.

This resurfaced in our conflict against Bougainville Copper Limited and the PNG government after 1988.

The 1979 book, Bougainvillean Nationalism by Alexander Mamak and Richard Bedford, said that in the 1960s the Napidakoe Navitu independence movement of central Bougainville claimed to have run a referendum for Bougainville independence.

South Bougainville claimed that secession for Bougainville was too early and the north
Bougainvilleans sided with the south.

This contradicted the fact that it was the north that birthed the idea of Bougainville independence with movements such as John Teosin’s Hahalis Welfare Society. The north denied the fact that it was it who influenced the central Bougainville resistance.

Continue reading "Bougainville politics & the characteristics of its people" »

Chronic underfunding holds back PNG education

The ABC’s GERALDINE COUTTS interviews Dr Scott McWilliam from the State, Society & Governance in Melanesia program at the Australian National University

MACWILLIAM: The big problem in PNG is for about 20-odd years not enough resources have been put into education at any level at all. Even if you put more and more students into the schools and you have very limited resources, all that happens is that standards get lower and lower. So you could take the more students in, but they wouldn't necessarily get a better education.

One of the things that's happened internationally in recent years is that they've given up counting the number of years people are at school, and they've looked at outcomes when they finish schooling, for instance are they literate. So the government is in a bind really, they have to try to catch up 25 years of neglect of education, and it's very hard to do that when there are population increases coming through.

COUTTS: What are your thoughts then on the recent reports that six-thousand primary school children may be missing out on school in PNG? Why are so many missing out or why could so many be missing out?

MACWILLIAM: Well in some ways in PNG geography and so forth makes it very difficult to cover the education system. You've got lots of students have very difficult terrain and so forth to cover to get to school, so it's a whole of government question; roads, safety, a whole stack of things, but it's also the case that there simply has not been much attention paid to schooling.

So I'm not surprised at all that there is that number. In fact I would probably think that given the inability to get accurate statistics in PNG in many areas, it's probably even more than that.

COUTTS: Is part of it also, they talk about free education, but for families that struggle to educate their kids, there's still a lot of costs on top of the school fees. Is that also an issue?

MACWILLIAM: Certainly and lots of families go into debt, very substantial debt. I've done some work on indebtedness in urban areas, and the amount of money that people go into debt for to get their children to secondary and tertiary education is really striking. So indebtedness would be a major factor.

Continue reading "Chronic underfunding holds back PNG education" »

LNG project violence set to increase, says NGO

Radio New  Zealand International

THE CO-AUTHOR of a report on the $19 billion liquefied natural gas project in Papua New Guinea says foreign governments shouldn’t have signed off on the project.

NGO Jubilee Australia’s investigative report says the project agreement was rushed through without ensuring fair distribution of the benefits, and protection from the impacts, of the project within PNG.

Jubilee’s Luke Fletcher has warned that violence associated with the project could increase in coming years because of high expectations in local communities.

He says the US, Australian and Japanese governments all implicitly supported the project although it places a large share of the risk on the PNG state.

“And we feel that these governments had a responsibility to the people of PNG - the Australian government knows PNG the best - and they were the ones who should have said to ExxonMobil and to the other project partners, look we can’t support this until more thorough checks and due diligence have been done,” Mr Fletcher said.

Good news for PNG maritime safety & efficiency

Asian Development Bank

THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK (ADB) has approved a $41.5 million loan to improve navigational aids in Papua  New Guinea, allowing ships to more safely
travel through PNG’s largely unchartered and often unsafe waters.

“The Maritime and Waterways Safety Project will upgrade the existing navigational aids network, reducing risks which cause serious injury, loss of life, and environmental damage,” said Xianbin Yao, director general of ADB’s Pacific Department.

“The project will also establish a safe and efficient maritime transport environment for national, regional, and international traffic.”

Remote populations are expected to be the main beneficiaries of the project, which will make maritime safety information more readily available and help develop maritime safety communities of practice.

Regional and international maritime transport services will benefit as monitoring and surveillance systems are renovated and search and rescue capacity improved.

More effective beacons or lighthouses are also expected to boost local and international shipping and trade.

“This project will have significant benefits for the 65% of PNG’s people who live in coastal regions” said Chris Rupen, general manager of the National Maritime Safety Authority.

“It will also provide direct support to communities in cash and services.”.

Chinese soft loans: The six billion kina question

GRAEME SMITH | The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

WHEN I PENNED Are Chinese Soft Loans Always a Bad Thing? for The Interpreter in March there seemed little prospect that my query would have immediate relevance.

Papua New Guinea Treasury officials were adamant that there was a freeze on further loans.

Gripped by fiscal rectitude, they were set on paying back an interest-free loan made by the People's Bank of China in the 1990s, even though no one had asked for it back.

To Treasury's consternation, during the course of the PNG election campaign Peter O'Neill announced he was negotiating a soft loan with China Exim Bank.

It is worth in the region of K6 billion ($2.7 billion), with the potential for up to K10 billion to be drawn upon. It dwarfs the 2006 Soft Loan Facility of $375 million made to the Pacific as a whole.

Pro-opposition blogs have denounced the loan as 'sinister' and suggested that Treasury will be bypassed altogether. In the absence of any concrete details of the loan, which is currently being finalised, PNG's lively blogosphere has filled the vacuum.

A thoughtful anonymous post on Keith Jackson's blog rightly points to the effect the loan will have on the ever appreciating exchange rate, which is set to face enormous upward pressure when Exxon Mobil's LNG project comes online.

Perhaps the greatest concern is that the loan appears to be fragmenting (even before it is agreed) into a set of smaller projects around diverse actors and local political interests, as noted in The Garamut.

Initially, the loan was specifically for a much-needed upgrade to the Highlands Highway. Projects now mentioned in association with the loan include a hydropower scheme, the infrastructure needs of Port Moresby and Lae, and even the upgrading of PNG's state-owned enterprises. One minister's 'shopping list' is said to be more than double the value of the loan facility.

To an extent, such balkanisation is a result of the Alotau Accord, an agreement reached between political groupings in the provincial capital of Milne Bay province that led to the formation of the O'Neill-Dion Government. Ironically, Milne Bay appears to be one part of Papua New Guinea that will not benefit from expenditure on 'high priority infrastructure projects'.

It will be interesting to see which dance partners appear on the Chinese side of the ballroom. Chinese aid officials privately concede that Chinese construction companies largely drive China Exim's concessional loans, the majority of which go towards infrastructure development.

In a recent Wall St Journal article, which curiously described PNG as 'an impoverished southeast Asian nation', Peter O'Neill maintained that the Chinese partners for the new loan would be 'Fortune 500 companies'.

Success in accessing the 2006 Soft Loan facility came down to the political clout of Chinese contractors within China, and the political savvy of their PNG partners in lobbying the PNG legislature.

The outlier was the choice of contractor for the $235 million PMIZ project, which involves the construction of a free trade zone and up to ten tuna canneries in Madang. The project is currently stalled in the courts.

The Chinese contractor, Shenyang International Economic and Technical Cooperation Company, is a city-level state-owned enterprise (SOE) with no established presence in PNG. With less than 100 employees in China, it's unlikely to appear in the Fortune 500 anytime soon.

The choice of an inexperienced company for a complex project seems odd, but is in line with the practice of concessional loans being used to provide selected SOEs with overseas experience.

With the majority of the top 20 Chinese companies in PNG listing their business as 'construction' (linked article is in Chinese), it's to be hoped that China Exim Bank calls on companies with experience in PNG, or similar countries. Papua New Guinea is no place for training wheels.

Graeme Smith is a postdoctoral fellow at the China Studies Centre, University of Sydney and a visiting fellow with the State, Society and Governance Program in Melanesia Program at the Australian National University

Ambiguous Byron Chan makes mining industry nervous

PNG Industry News

Chan_ByronPNG PRIME MINISTER PETER O’NEILL has delivered a strong message on the importance of “investor confidence and certainty” but his Mining Minister, Byron Chan (pictured), is reading from a script that seemed destined to deliver the opposite.

In a wide-ranging speech to the 12th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference in Sydney earlier this month, O’Neill said: “The undertaking I give you today is this, there will be no drastic or radical change to the laws that exist today – and there will certainly be no immediate change.”

In sharp contrast, Chan promised significant legislative changes in the coming year, including changes to the Mining Act, the Mining (Safety) Act and Offshore Mining Policy.

Chan’s presentation, which set the program for the second day of the conference back by almost an hour, gave mining company representatives a bit of an adrenalin rush when he said there were proposals for a mine closure plan to be submitted when a company applied for an exploration tenement.

The actual text suggested, more plausibly, that a mine closure plan would be required when an application was made for a mining lease.

It was not the only occasion the Mining Minister went off script. On the first occasion he quickly corrected himself after his reference to the O’Neill-Namah Government resulted in uncomfortable laughter breaking out among the audience.

In his introduction the Minister said mining had been the largest contributor to the PNG economy “for well over ten years”.

Maybe it was too hard to reflect back to the early days of independence when the Bougainville copper mine was a potent force in the PNG economy as the only major resource venture at the time.

One of the oddest plans put forward by the Minister was a suggestion that the revised mining policy would limit to 10 the number of exploration licences “that any one person can hold at any one time”, while at the same time increasing the licence term from two to five years.

The maximum area for an exploration lease will also be reduced by half from the current allowance of 250 sq km or 750 sub-blocks. These are groundbreaking ideas that could only stifle the exploration sector.

Minister Chan appears inclined to take a prescriptive approach to future exploration activity. Socio-economic and environmental impact assessments would be made a requirement at the exploration phase, when explorers will have little awareness of the nature and scale of mineralisation they may discover.

The chronicle of my life so far


My name is Melody Neneth Gemelaia and I come from a mixed parentage of Central and Milne Bay.  I was born on 16 January 1994 at the Port Moresby General Hospital. I come from a single parent family and I am the only girl in the family along with my two handsome brothers that makes us three. I will tell you the story of how my life begins and where I am today.

Chapter 1 - My childhood

MY BIRTH WAS LIKE A NIGHTMARE to my grandmother, who later became my namesake.  Nightmare in a sense, as during that time, my parents were struggling. 

My jobless dad became very ill, whilst my typist mother worked very hard to make ends meet.  This surely made my grandmother all steamed up like a volcano waiting to erupt.

 She sure did put mummy through a hard time because mum was the only one working and being
pregnant all of a sudden made my grand-ma very disappointed, that she never got
well with this situation.

After all the hardship that my mum went through before my birth, she finally gave birth to me
after nine months of painful and sleepless nights. What a joy it was to my mother! She had to finally carry me in her loving arms as close as she could like every mother does to her newborn child.

Rushing through the door came grandma.  She was already informed that the baby she never wanted was a girl, which made her eager to name me as soon as possible. Mum was speechless in having such joy and relief of giving birth to a healthy baby.

 Granny stopped
getting upset with mum and helped mum by washing my nappies,  for the joy of finally naming me. I had a very long name at first, which was “Iraukaro”which referred to granny’s pride of having the most unique singing voice back in the village. This name meant “unique voice”.

 But mum thought it was a bit boastful so she decided to translate my name back in English which is “Melody”.

It was not just a coincidence on how my name came about.
Music was a part of my mum’s family, as they had very strong Christian
backgrounds,and knew how to name their children. The grace of God brought peace
and joy to our family on that very day. 
And because of how awesome He is, He solved the problem.

Despite what had happened, my early child hood was full of fun, but sometimes disturbed because most of the time my mum had to work and I was baby sited at home by my mother’s sisters. Mum had a very challenging career and she often times flew out of Port  Moresby on business trips, leaving myself and my big brother under the care of parents and sisters.

On some few occasions, she would go on longer trips, lasting aboutfew weeks.However, she alwaysbrought something back for us to make us feel happy, and we were always grateful. My mother was (and still is) a very intelligent woman. She never seemed to give up on our family.  She kept working to at least put us in school and buy what we wanted.  She was very strong in the upbringing of me and my big brother during her marriage to my father.

Continue reading "The chronicle of my life so far" »

Grass-fruits! Inspiring stories of community self-help

Wakpi_EmmaEMMA WAKPI | Supported by the Rob & Meg Parer Writing Fellowship

Joshua told the people, Make yourselves acceptable to worship the Lord, because He is going to do some amazing things for us (Joshua 3:5, CEV)

13/11/12 -14:14:37hrs - Emma I landed in pop now… 21:29:26hrs – Left pop 4pm and arrived 9pm now - drived on a roughy road n arrived now at Afore - overnight and get home tomorrow

14/11/12 - 14:40:08hrs – Leaving Afore on a hire car going to Itokama… 16:48:52hrs – ARIVED NOW ITOKAMA

SO WROTE JOHN KUMBO, a bible translator of the Barai tribe (population 5,000) and chairman of the Barai Non Formal Education Association (BNEA).

He had been in Goroka attending a consultation network comprising various government and non government organisations whose common bond is “holistic transformation” using CHE (Community Health Evangelism developed by Medical Ambassadors International) as the tool to facilitate community development.

And it was not only John who had travelled great distances. The United Church Health Services of Milne Bay had three representatives who braved rough seas to travel from Salamo, Ferguson Island.

Manus Provincial Health Department also sent representatives as did the newly formed Jiwaka Province.

Other people came from the settlements of Port Moresby, the mountains of Chimbu and Eastern Highlands.

Joseph Sukwianomb from the Prime Ministers Department (Director 20/50 Vision sector) chose the rather humble meeting over the National Health Conference that was being held in the same week.

The theme of the fifth annual conference held in Kefamo EHP from 4-7 November was “be prepared for the unexpected, be prepared for surprises” and the accompanying Bible text was taken from Joshua.

It was felt that too often we focus to on the accomplishment of our goals without taking into account the unexpected ripple effects that impact individuals and communities in various ways.

At the conclusion of the meeting, I came away in awe at the amazing work carried out by unlikely heroes in various areas of Papua New Guinea.

These people see development as their responsibility and have raised their hands to do something about it.

There really were surprising and unexpected stories told and, as we approach Christmas and remember that this season is about love and the pouring out of oneself for the betterment of mankind, these individuals epitomized that.

For them their work is more than a job or something to gain; for them it is about the love of their fellow man and the sharing of their knowledge and abilities so that “peace and goodwill to men” can be realised.

Here are some of my summaries of what for me were highlights of this year’s conference.

Barai Non Formal Education Association: 21 villages working for their own prosperity [John Kumbo]

Mr Kumbo told of how 10 years of constant community interaction using CHE materials (which he and his team translated into their language) had seen marked improvements in combating malnutrition, increased immunisation (almost 100%) and almost 100% literacy. The whole language group of 21 villages in Afore district of Oro Province has been affected. 

In addition to the CHE translated booklets, John and his team have also translated booklets teaching on cooking, agriculture and budgeting. As a result of this there has been reconciliation among groups of people with the 21 villages.

A ripple effect of this endeavour has been that they have now registered an association, Afore Hope for the Disabled and are teaching from the CHE lessons on disability looking at how they can better integrate the disabled into their communities, allowing them to actively participate in community life and decision making processes. 

Living Light Four Square in Port Moresby: Fearless mother combating TB in Moresby settlements [Egma Mua]

Egma is a mother of five children (aged 2 to 16) and is a volunteer from Four Square Living Light Church in Kaugere who has been working in settlements near the church, where CHE volunteers (settlement residents) are also trained in TB DOTS (Direct Observation of Treatment Shortcourse).

The CHE volunteers each find a TB patient in their own settlement, take them to the health centre, and each day observe their taking the TB medicine for six months. For this they receive a small monthly allowance of K70.

With this amazing program of 300 volunteers some communities are now clean of tuberculosis. Egma now gives a five-minute time slot each Sunday between worship and the sermon for a health talk which so far focuses on the major issue of TB.

Egma has been doing this work for nearly six years using her own time and resources. She travels around on PMVs and walks the notorious settlements of Port Moresby with her volunteers.

She related a story of when she was at Koki market and about to get on a PMV when she was dragged back by a youth. The young man gently held onto her and told her to wait.

As she waited, watching a couple of youths go around picking pockets, she asked the young man if they had ever met. He replied, “Yu no save long mi tasol mama mi save long yu na wok yu mekim” (‘You don’t know me, mama, but I know the work you do’).

He then helped her into the bus and went on his way.

Kundiawa Pastors’ Orphan Care initiative (Orkids) [Pastor Felix]

After our conference in 2011, Egma went to her village of Om Kolai in the Gumine district of Simbu Province. She felt that, while she was doing good things in Port Moresby, her own community could also benefit from this training. She met with pastors and leaders from 18 churches and conducted a three-day workshop.

In looking at issues in their community, praying and doing house-to-house surveys, the pastors realised that adopted children (orphans or single parent children) were neglected by the families caring for them, resulting in 200 malnourished and unschooled kids.

Girls barely reaching puberty were pregnant and drug and alcohol abuse was high. Pastor Felix, as chairman, drew up a schedule to share the load for a three times a week program of Bible teaching, feeding a healthy meal, teaching carers about hygiene and cleanliness, distributing used clothing, and taking turns to make sure the kids went to school. Some have been taken in by the pastors’ families.

In discussing whether a care centre might be a good idea, the group urged them not to warehouse kids, but to work with their families to help improve living conditions and to teach about cultivating crops so they don’t lose the land they have a right to own.

St Mary’s Catholic Parish, Goroka – A vibrant congregation impacting their neighbours [Joyce Kuias]

Joyce Kuias is a full time mum taking care of her paraplegic son and two primary school children, yet she still finds time to teach kindergarten classes, nutritional cooking lessons for mothers and to help train cell groups in CHE healthy home lessons.

Joyce, together with her priest Fr John Ryan, have so far established 146 healthy homes in the settlements. They have also encouraged their church members to know their HIV status. Joyce and her husband along with Fr Ryan were the first to get tested.

They are continuing to encourage young couples who want to marry to know their HIV status and to continue counselling once their status is known.

The CHE program has influenced the whole church around Goroka and has extended to more congregations as their small groups study the Bible together and encourage Bible reading in every home, reach out to the poor and establish healthy homes. Joyce is now also teaching sports teams and children’s groups in holistic development.

Severe and powerful influences against PNG culture


INDIGENOUS CULTURES that have inherited perhaps thousands of years of continuous development exist on our planet alongside relatively new groups and nations.

All are eager to retain what they believe are the valuable aspects of their established customs as there is understandably a movement for appropriate change and improvements.

We are living in times where materialistic societies are constantly pressuring for newer, faster and larger or more dramatic changes as they look to the future and rely upon immediate satisfaction in relation to their plans and desires.

There are few cultures and nations that have escaped this current driving force and the tendency to greed that is bound to follow.

There is need to establish a balance if we are to maintain cultural integrity and prevent total destruction by extreme technologies to the neglect of the fundamental principles that determine human progress and our very existence.

To focus upon Western culture reveals obvious social improvements and progress in welfare in our country. We possess a general affluence that allows material comfort and also contentment, if we should choose. But there is growing dissatisfaction at the extent we are rejecting values of supreme importance.

Papua New Guinea was once a nation with a healthy sense of pride in what it stood for and what our people had achieved. This has been tainted by an artificially grafted perception that ‘multiculturalism’ is better and we are in danger of becoming a mongrel mix of many foreign influences.

This is happening in other countries also. We could undertake to strengthen and cultivate our natural traits. In doing so, we would retain respect for our forebears to whom we owe our good fortune, our nobler characteristics and cultural heritage.

However, there are severe and powerful influences that allow us to be weakened as a nation. We are in danger of becoming a pawn in unknown and unrecognized outside plans and designs. In our country, governments sway under an adolescent tendency to ‘show off’ and allow politics to over-rule the wisdom of statesmanship.

The fearsome strength of trends and fashions in thinking causes certain attitudes to dominate in the community to serve as ‘thought police’ curbing free expression of what we really think as individuals.

This freedom of expression of thought is suffering alongside licensed behaviour and actions that should not be tolerated. There exists a reduced sense that what is natural is right and a greater acceptance of unnatural and violent, devious ideas and expressions.

We make basic mistakes in allowing immigrants to side-step the discipline of learning our English language upon entry to our country, leaving our social services to extend to a need for translators. We do not insist upon any oath of allegiance nor can we be relied upon to act to punish displays of sedition or anti-national loyalties whether from new or indigenous members of the community.

We freely give the privilege of the right to vote without requiring any commitment in return. We suffer from over-generosity that disadvantages our taxpayers and detracts from a general sense of security that the welfare of the population is being considered as a whole.

There is a gross error growing throughout the countries that have been over-considerate and protective to those of foreign culture and religion whilst allowing the detriment of their own traditional beliefs.

In Christian countries like ours, if you like it seems that nothing sacred is unaffected by deliberate or unconscious attempts to destroy the fabric of our democratic principles and Christian principles, moral codes, and even our beautiful Tok Pisin language through changes and distortions.

The dangers we face by our casual indifference to the need to correct the destructive trends are obvious in the unnatural sterile homosexual partnerships that are being considered lawful.

The consequences of this are numerous. Not only does it represent a flagrant undermining of the family unit born from healthy male/female loving union and demolish population but is an affront to Nature that will cause collapse of civilization as we know it.

If these and other numerous other negative issues proceed in PNG and other developing Melanesian countries, they could prove fatal to our culture.

Sioni Ruma is a Development Associate with the Provincial and Local-level Governments Program

Foreigners in another world: Jane finds the two PNGs

Jane SloaneJANE SLOANE | Jane in the World

ONE CASSOWARY, TWO SHEEP, 24 pigs, K1,600 worth of vegetables, K10,000 of gas and K10,000 in cash is the worth of a woman.

That’s the bride price my driver, Andrew, paid for his wife, Jennifer, when they met and married in Mount Hagen.

“As a couple, we received up to 50% of that payment back in some form,” Andrew explained. My parents-in-law gave us back three pigs, K800 of vegetables, especially bananas which we didn’t have, cooking utensils, bedding and K3,000 in cash.

“We needed this as we were very, very poor.  I had to worked for years in my garden to save for the bride price.”

This is the reality of a man marrying a woman in one of the rural areas of the Papua New Guinea. Old traditions remain strong.

Around 40% of PNG’s population lives on less than $1 per day, with PNG ranking 121 out of 135 countries on the United Nations Human Poverty Index, which measures a country’s standard of living.

On the UN Human Development Index, which measures literacy, life expectancy and standard of living, PNG ranks 148 out of 182 countries.

PNG has the poorest state of health in the Pacific region, especially in rural areas where health services are deteriorating and difficult to access at best, or at worst closed down.

“PNG has the second highest rate of maternal mortality in the world after Afghanistan,” Scholla Kakas, President of the National Council of Women, told me.

“The churches are the ones that have focused on local training for village attendants but there’s still so few who have been trained.

“It would help if we had a training facility for midwives but, even then, there are issues of transport and access, especially in the remote locations. Meanwhile, the women are dying.”

Global Fund for Women’s Grantee partners have been responding with their own creative initiatives to some of these issues. For instance, in 2007 a group of single mothers formed the Waugla Single Mother’s Association (WSMA) in Simbu Province.

The group’s mission is to address the issues of a marginalized, but rapidly growing, community of single mothers from aged 17-40 and it conducts training on food preservation and security as well as birth control practices.

Members of the group have also collectively pooled their resources to help each member construct their own homes.

Another group, The Women’s Rural Advance Program (WRAP) is a women’s group located in the Highlands. Established in 1988 by women of the Ramui tribe, the membership of the organization includes 18 women’s groups over 900 women from different communities.

WRAP trains rural women to become leaders and to foster the future leadership of women and girls across PNG and to increase women’s economic autonomy and advocacy around health and HIV/AIDS.

As I was headed back to my accommodation today, I watched a gorgeous girl peep out the window of a bus, held tight by her Mum, who waved at me.

Across from my hotel, street artists lined up their brilliantly painted scenes of everyday life in PNG for the 99 percenters here. One painting was of people in a local bus looking up at westerners in a kind of Biggles plane contraption in the sky.

“We are singing in our bus”, the woman artist explained to me. “We’re poor but we have our families and our songs and our feet on the ground.

“We feel life. You foreigners are in another world with your heads in the clouds looking down on us all the time.”

She smiled and looked at me. “Two hundred kina, you buy?”

The story of Pastor Russell Kranz: evangelist & artist


The church - KranzTHIS IS A STORY FOR CHRISTMAS. It is about a good man, now in his fading years, who was a Church leader, a composer and choir master and a talented watercolourist. The paintings accompanying this article are his.

He is Pastor Russell Kranz, father of PNG Attitude contributor, Peter. Last Christmas Day Pastor Kranz suffered a stroke. He is now in a nursing home with not much time left. But, when his time comes, he will leave behind a legacy of love and achievement.

The New Zealand born Russell Kranz’s primary life’s work was as a Seventh Day Adventist pastor and evangelist. For some years, he was in charge of communications for the church in Australasia and the South Pacific.

When Lindy Chamberlain’s infant, Azaria, was taken by a dingo in the vicinity of Ayer’s Rock on 17 August 1980, Russell was responsible for dealing with a sceptical media.

He fronted the journalists many times to proclaim the Chamberlains’ innocence and to defend the respectability of the church in the face of a braying cynicism and nonsensical stories of blood sacrifices and the like.

Peter and Russell Kranz“It took its toll on him and the family,” Peter Kranz says today, although it was many years before Pastor Kranz revealed that, during that period, he had received a number of death threats.

Russell (seen here with Peter) is an artist of great talent. He has painted hundreds of watercolours, favouring boats, old buildings, landscapes and harbours. He has featured in Australian Artist and his works hang in many well-known places.

At 87, though, the paralysed Russell lies in a nursing home bed unable to paint. He cannot even raise an arm.

But he still has his memories, and his recollection is sharp.

Russell Kranz as a young man“He remembers London with bomb craters everywhere, and rationing,” says Peter. “He remembers visiting Iraq and Syria and Egypt in the 1960s, holidays with the family, silly jokes, trams in Newcastle, steam trains in Sydney, seeing the harbour bridge before the two bits joined together, taking me camping and introducing me to music.

“He remembers being arrested in Melbourne during the war for not being in uniform.”

Russell was a ministerial student in Melbourne at the time and exempt from military service. He was arrested for being of call-up age and not having the proper papers. His brother served in Papua New Guinea, at Buna.

He preached to many hundreds of people in Mt Hagen in the 1980s and, 20 years later in 2006, while in Kundiawa, Peter was mistaken for him by a man who remembered those sermons.

The old gatehousePeter recalls of his father:

He served for some years as an evangelist in London. We were on holiday in the south-west of England and, after we arrived at our hotel, sought out the self-serve buffet. We all helped ourselves and sat down to eat. Dad was the last and returned to the table with a huge plate filled to overflowing. He sat down and said, "My it's amazing what big serves they give you here!"

Russell may even have topped that with one of his favourite sayings: "Sorry, that's coarse for the Pa."

Country estate - KranzWith his second wife, Gloria (his first wife died in 1995), Russell now lives in the SDA nursing home at Cooranbong, NSW.

On behalf of all our readers, we thank him for his story and his work, and wish him and the entire Kranz family a joyous Christmas.

And we're esepcially grateful to Peter and the family for sharing these fine paintings with us.

None so deaf…. The recapture of Lae in World War II


PATROLLING HIGH IN the Saruwaged Mountains north of Lae, my little group of tough constables and I were most unreasonably fired on one day by a strong Japanese patrol traversing what we had hitherto regarded as “our patch”.

Pato and Watute, two barefoot black veterans, volunteered to investigate.

Minus their uniforms, suitably dirtied up, and clad in grubby, ragged loincloths, they vanished for a week to move about among the locals, chewing betel nut and smoking as they gossiped the nights away. (Pato understood the local language.)

They returned with an account (in Pidgin) of a detailed plan by the Japanese high command to evacuate their entire garrison. (Too hazardous to maintain it, with the Americans now in such control of air and sea.)

Here, surely, was golden intelligence for General Herring, GOC of New Guinea Force.

As soon as its rendition into passable English could be drafted, it was radioed to Port Moresby.

There followed a rather long silence.

His [Herring’s] eventual response was to disparage Watute and Pato’s masterly deductions as mere “native rumours”.

Herring’s reward came a couple of months later when, with sound and fury, strong Australian forces “burst” their way into Lae. There was nobody there.

Game, set and match to two elderly black detectives.

Extract from ‘The way it was in New Guinea’ by Peter Ryan, Quadrant, December 2012

Do NGOs make a difference, and how would you know?

Andrew RowellANDREW ROWELL | Development Policy Blog

EVERYONE IN DEVELOPMENT wants to know what difference their work is making. International NGOs such as CARE are asked the question in different ways.

Our supporters want to know their money is helping those who need it most. Our staff and partners want to know how we can do things better. Our institutional donors want assurance of effectiveness, impact and value for money. Our detractors wonder whether we really make any difference.

Against this background, CARE recently launched its Asia Impact Report

This provides analysis of CARE’s programs and projects undertaken with partners over five years across 16 countries of Asia and the Pacific, ranging from Afghanistan to Vanuatu.

Our intention was to be more accountable and transparent; to get a better understanding of the impact of CARE’s work in the region; to improve our evidence base for CARE programs and advocacy; and to inform improvements in program monitoring and knowledge management.

The report compiles project information, drawing primarily on project evaluations and completion reports. Data on project impact and outcomes from different countries was compiled against indicators aligned with particular Millennium Development Goals, so we could get a sense of how CARE’s work has contributed to progress against each goal.

Country level impact examples gave a good sense of how CARE works in a given sector, and what has been achieved. Where possible, impacts were also aggregated across two or more countries to get a bigger picture.

Independent technical review of CARE’s statistical analysis of aggregated impact data was undertaken by the firm TANGO International.

The impact analysis was supplemented by a survey of external stakeholders to obtain their views on the contribution and impact of CARE’s work; and a value for money analysis, using case studies to look at the investment and social return in four selected projects.

So what did we learn? From a comprehensive report, here are a few observations.

Continue reading "Do NGOs make a difference, and how would you know?" »

John Murray’s book on policing in the South Pacific, ‘The Minnows of Triton’, won an ACT Writing and Publishing Award and is revised annually, the latest edition coming out in September. The book is available at the Co-op Bookshop at Sydney University or you can order it directly from John for $22 including postage. Email him here

PNG Attitude will continue publication during the Christmas-New Year period, which the editor will be spending with family in New Zealand.  We wish our readers and contributors the best for the festive season and a fulfilling 2013....

A senior police officer's view of policing in PNG

JOHN MURRAY APM has spent many years scrutinising South Pacific police forces. Here he casts a detective’s eye over Papua New Guinea....

DEATHS FROM SORCERY, tribal battles and cannibalism continue in PNG but tend to be neglected by the chronically incompetent Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary on the basis that the people are acting according to their traditions.

The role and writ of law in PNG is often open to personal interpretation similar to investigating the euphemistically-called “honour killings” in other countries.

The examples set by politicians have been abysmal, with none other than founding and frequently resurrected prime minister Sir Michael Somare an all too imperfect specimen.

Like others, he had been forced out of office on serious suspicions of criminality and corruption, narrowly avoided prosecution and imprisonment, and was subjected to commissions of enquiry finding him culpable but avoiding other than wrist-slapping admonitions, always denying any guilt and blaming others including a tolerantly benevolent Australian government. 

In April 2011 after being found guilty of 13 counts of filing incomplete financial returns to the Ombudsman’s Office, and with one Tribunal member and the prosecution calling for his dismissal, he was merely suspended from office for 14 days before carrying on his lucrative career until derailed by chronic medical conditions.

PNG legislation of a self-protection variety allows politicians and administrators to retire with grandiose handouts even after having been deemed guilty of Leadership Code infringements but before they are prosecuted, thereby avoiding any court appearance or conviction and thus eligible for subsequent re-appointment.

Policing is among the many departments to have suffered since independence, with the few capable commissioners being limited in their attempts to enhance efficiency when ministers thwart their aims and drunken magistrates dismiss apparently watertight cases due to incompetence, political influence or tribal allegiances.

The service span of a police commissioner is commonly aligned to that of the government of the day. Also not only do the military see the police as almost an opposing tribe but there even exist splits in the Constabulary between the general duties police and the undisciplined “Rambo” cowboys of the para-military units.

Tribal wantokism, being a pervasive clan kinship, is far more rife in PNG than elsewhere in the Pacific and is not only tolerated but even encouraged leading to prisoners finding their cell doors unlocked, prosecution briefs misplaced and police failing to attend court.

This misplaced loyalty as well as self-preservation has also led to police refusing to stake out premises where they have been forewarned that a holdup will occur, particularly if hearing that the offenders will be armed.

Politicians will address crowds of their constituents preparing for a notionally illegal tribal war but will whip off their shirts and ties to join in any outbreak of hostilities, with sanctions against these “debt-settling” processes being seen as little more than paper restrictions enacted by a parliamentary enclave in Port Moresby following the incomprehensible laws of former colonial masters.

That PNG has advanced as little as it has – and it hasn’t progressed anywhere near as far as 35 years of independence should have allowed – is still due by and large to expatriate expertise and the proverbial “few good men” of indigenous stock, hindered, hampered and hamstrung by too many of their fellow countrymen putting profit before patrimony and often manipulated by foreign sponsors.

In the mid 1990s the British police officer heading the fraud and anti-corruption squad claimed that 70% of his tasks entailed deception within government instrumentalities and that he needed four times more than the 20 staff allocated if even the most major crimes were to be investigated.

And major crimes there were.  Hundreds of millions of dollars were being lost to public coffers from chicanery in the lucrative timber industry where, even now, authorities lack the expertise and will to ascertain if the foreign-owned logging companies remove two, three or even 10 times the amount of timber they have been licensed to fell.

Receipts for billions of dollars earned from mineral and petroleum exploration have been unaccountably “lost”; and in 2001, K250 million allocated to the Port Moresby General Hospital was misappropriated.

As of March last year there were 71 cases under investigation relating to the diversion of millions of dollars from Australian aid funding, and they were just cases of which they were aware.

When former police commissioner Ila Geno, in his comparatively outstanding role as Ombudsman, relentlessly drew attention to scandals that would have brought down governments in most democratically elected countries, instead of gaining parliamentary support he was constantly criticised for interference in policy matters and subject of numerous attempts to dismiss him.

Extracts from a presentation to University of Sydney’s Master of Laws students on 5 October 2012

John’s book on policing in the South Pacific, ‘The Minnows of Triton’, won an ACT Writing and Publishing Award and it is revised annually, the latest edition coming out in September. In Sydney it is available at the Co-op Book Shop at Sydney University or you can order it directly from John for $22 including postage. Email him here

West Papuan refugees struggle for PNG citizenship

Irin Global | UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

Donatus KaruriACCESS TO CITIZENSHIP could prove the best hope yet for thousands of West Papuan refugees living in Papua New Guinea.

“I want citizenship. I’ve been here 28 years and want to get on with my life,” said Donatus Karuri (right), a 57-year-old father of six, outside the shelter he shares with five other families at the Hohola refugee settlement, one of four settlements for West Papuan refugees in Port Moresby.

Like most West Papuan refugees, he is unable to work legally and has only limited access to public services.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, there are more than 9,000 West Papuan refugees in PNG today, many who have been there for over three decades.

They know no other home and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Dan Hanasbey“I was born here. This is the only country I know,” said Dan Hanasbey (left), 27, another refugee wanting citizenship.

Between 1984 and 1986, more than 11,000 West Papuans fled east into PNG from the western, Indonesian half of New Guinea Island to escape political turmoil and economic discontent.

The area’s longstanding secessionist sentiments towards Jakarta continue to simmer today.

At the time the refugees arrived, the PNG government was not yet a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention. It granted the West Papuans prima facie refugee status shortly after accession to the convention in 1986 - but with seven reservations, including naturalisation.

Of the close to 9,300 West Papuan refugees in PNG today, almost half live along the border area with Indonesia.

Another 2,435 live in urban areas, while 2,290 live in East Awin, the only officially sanctioned area for West Papuan refugees to settle.

There, regular assistance is available and access to 6,000 hectares of government land is provided - about 120km away from the Indonesian border.

The site was established in an effort to resettle the refugees away from the border areas to avoid possible political problems with the Indonesian government.

Those who resettle in the area for six months are provided permissive residency permits (PRPs), which allow them certain rights, including the right to work and travel internally (excluding border areas), and gives them access to health and education services.

Few refugees, however, wish to resettle in East Awin, preferring instead to stay close to the border area and their land and families on the other side. Others frown upon its remote jungle location and inaccessibility.

The government estimates 40% of West Papuan refugees hold PRPs. The others survive on subsistence farming - particularly in the border area. Those in urban settings live on private or government land, under constant risk of eviction, and often work illegally.

Despite these challenges, many West Papuans - who share a similar Melanesian ancestry to Papua New Guineans - have integrated well in this nation of 7.3 million and would like to stay.

“Local integration with the opportunity to be granted PNG citizenship is the best solution for many West Papuan refugees under the current circumstances,” Walpurga Englbrecht, UNHCR country representative for PNG, told IRIN.

“The problem, however, is the application fee is too high.”

Under PNG law, any foreigner - including refugees - wishing to apply to citizenship and who has fulfilled eight years of residency must pay a K10,000 application fee.

“We can’t afford that. It’s impossible,” Freddy Warome, 58, a West Papuan community leader, complained.

UNHCR believes there should be a path to citizenship for those who desire it, while those West Papuans lacking PRPs who would like to remain in the country should be provided PRPs without having to relocate to East Awin, Englbrecht said.

Attitude's fellowship writers – creation & provocation

Yegiora_Bernard3BERNARD YEGIORA | Twitter

I’M IN KUNDIAWA, listening to a dog barking in the background while reading my favourite blog, Keith Jackson & Friends’ PNG Attitude.

The Writing Fellowship is a brilliant initiative by Keith Jackson and, as I read articles by those writers awarded fellowships, I am beginning to profile them.

Ganjiki Wayne is surely a very smart writer who is really philosophical (maybe not the right word). He is an asset to Papua New Guinea.

As a mature and experienced writer Francis Nii is very selective in the pieces he writes. He makes them edible.

Martyn Namorong has evolved as a writer. From day one I was able to connect with the original piece which made him a diva.

I remember the debate between Martyn and Francis Hualupmomi over the political economy piece.

Francis and I were both studying at Jilin University when we decide to comment on the piece when it was first published

Francis and I were trying to figure out who Martyn was and what he was doing? Was he really a dropout from the UPNG medical faculty?

Francis had a theory that Martyn was a public servant who was using an alias to spit out the rot that was happening.

My misperception of Martyn was erased when I invited him to share his knowledge of the Ramu Nico mine with my students at Divine Word University.

After the lecture we spent a good amount of time talking about different issues of concern while waiting for his ride.

Well my point is that Martyn Namorong's writing will literally change PNG in the years to come. I enjoy reading his work.

It is not because of the fact that I met him personally but because I have read most of his work.

I even gave Martyn's original masterpiece to my students to read and critique in my communication skills course.

Leonard Fong Roka is very provocative. He brings something different to PNG Attitude. His work sometimes reminds me of Machiavelli.

You have the Waynes and the Namorongs whose writings are centered on social justice. But Roka is a bit of a renegade.

His piece on New Guinea migration to Bougainville was, to be honest, a major put off.

I did not like the fact that the piece, just like the redskin one, had the potential to breed xenophobic tendencies.

At first I questioned in my mind why PNG Attitude published such controversial and provocative works by LFR.

The more I thought about it the more I came to accept Leonard's uniqueness as an individual.

His uniqueness is attractive. When I see the name Leonard Fong Roka, I am automatically interested in reading his work.

A blog has an audience, in that audience there are different individuals with different backgrounds and understandings.

Tweeting about other bloggers has helped me understanding the power of blogging in the 21st century.

Manuai Matawai brings in adventure and is very informative. I hope he will continue to write such well documented pieces.

Joe Wasia is a bit similar to Francis Nii, especially the type of articles that he writes. Joe is another rising star.

He picks issues and experiences which readers can connect with or find interesting. The tax article is a good example

PNG writers are developing their own personalities and their own distinct style of writing which is building them up.

Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin writes with passion. His articles, along with the others, makes reading PNG Attitude more fun

And Sil adds another dimension to PNG Attitude with his interviews. The one with Belden Namah was quite a story.

I believe Keith did a wonderful job picking these different writers. I hope they will continue to be more creative.

Australian doctor shocked by PNG health conditions

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners | Good Practice

DR CHRIS MATTHEWS expected third-world conditions when he organised his two-week trip to the jungles of Papua New Guinea, but what he saw at Kokoda Hospital was more primitive than anything he had anticipated.

“I was shocked,” the NSW doctor told Good Practice. “I was shocked by the state of the roads, I was shocked by the lack of bridges over rivers, I was shocked by the hospital not having a steriliser.”

Dr Matthews had worked in developing countries before; in 1995 he moved to Saudi Arabia for nine years to help improve the country's primary care network.

There were challenges, but they were nothing compared to what he saw in PNG.

With no doctors in the area, Kokoda Hospital is run only by a small group of nurses and village health volunteers, who have no medical training but help as best they can.

The hospital has a generator, but it can only produce a few hours of electricity each day. Many basic medicines are missing, the only ambulance has been out of order for nearly a year and it's difficult for workers to make the most of the limited resources they have.

“There was a haemoglobin measuring device in the hospital, which wasn't being used because they didn't have batteries for it,” Dr Matthews said. “I walked off to the local shop and bought some batteries for them so that they could run the thing.”

A number of factors make Australia's northern neighbour one of the world's most difficult places to implement a healthcare system.

Most of the country's seven million people live in remote or mountainous areas, often divided into tribes living subsistence-based lifestyles that have hardly changed in hundreds of years.

With more than 850 known languages spoken across the country – many of which are unrelated to each other – communication between tribes is difficult and tensions are common.

This has contributed to a fractious political environment, with unstable party allegiances, regular leadership disputes and a lack of consistency in terms of policy.

Add to that a dearth of infrastructure and a high rate of poverty and some of the causes of PNG's health problems become clear.

In September 2013, the RACGP Foundation will lead a group on a 10-day trek along the Kokoda Track

Ecoforestry - creating solutions for PNG’s forests


WITH LOGGING AND CLEARING for oil palm threatening many forests in Papua New Guinea, some communities are still standing strong and protecting their forests.

Last week I was out with a Greenpeace team filming and photographing ecoforestry as a solution for a community in East New Britain.

Tavolo and two neighbouring village communities are protecting 32,000 ha of forest in a wildlife management area together with 4000 ha for ecoforestry.

Ecoforestry protects the forest ecosystem while at the same time providing an income for the community from small-scale portable sawmilling.

I was amazed by how strong this community is in their stand against logging and conversion for oil palm.

The people of Tavolo have seen and experienced the impacts logging has had on other areas in East New Britain. They have depended on the forest for generations.

They maintain a strong connection to their forest as customary landowners and have strong vision with leaders who are showing the way for the younger generations.

I was really impressed by their careful way they look after their forest. Most of the people I came across told me a story of the forest and its importance to them.

A new threat to the forest of this peaceful community are the so-called Special Agriculture Business Leases. This land grabbing scheme is a real threat to lives of the Tavolo people and many other communities around PNG.

Greenpeace documented this threat in a recent report called Up For Grabs. The leaders of Tavolo have spoken up against this land grab through the government’s Commission of Inquiry.

I was even asked when the results of this enquiry will be presented to the government to stop this from happening.

So we hope to bring the story to PNG and the world of the threat of SABLs to PNG communities and how ecoforestry can be a solution.

Sam Moko is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Australia Pacific

Is it going to rain in Moresby today, Karl? Lisa? Anyone?

Richard Marles - Port Moresby should countRICHARD MARLES

I WAKE UP WITH Today. And I have since it was hosted by Steve Liebmann and Liz Hayes.

Don’t get me wrong. Sunrise is good. I have no complaint. It’s just that having let the Today crew into my house so many years ago, they are now part of the family. It is a simple question of tribal loyalty.

And so, having declared my interest, let me say that I now have a family tiff with Today which needs resolution. The Today Show is refusing to tell us the weather. And not just in relation to a smaller country town; but to a whole nation - a nation of seven million people.

One of the most loyal audiences for the Today Show is in Papua New Guinea. The show is broadcast into PNG not once, but twice: on the local TV station EMTV (which used to be owned by Channel 9) and on Imparja which airs in northern Australia.

For our PNG brothers and sisters, the Today Show helps set the scene of the Melbourne Cup, federal elections and the State of Origin. Indeed, it allows the Australian rhythm of life to pulsate in Port Moresby. For Australia, it is great public diplomacy.

But to what extent does the Today Show cater to PNG? Have you ever seen a piece on PNG?

PNG has just had the most extraordinary political year since Independence, culminating in an election which was a triumph for democracy, and the formation of the O’Neill Government. But did the Today Show once interview a PNG politician?

When Ryan Pini won a swimming gold medal at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games the streets were lined from Jackson airport back to Waigani. Did the Today Show tell that story?

And yet from Moresby to Lae, from Hagen to Goroka, the good citizens of PNG loyally begin their mornings by tuning into the Today Show.

It makes me wonder: has any program ever been so contemptuous of a section of its viewership?

So maybe the way to begin repairing this situation is for the Today Show to tell us what the weather is every morning in Port Moresby.

It shouldn’t be that hard. After all it’s pretty much the same every day: 31 degrees, steamy, with the possibility of storms.

If they told us about the weather in Port Moresby it might be possible one day to actually do the weather from Port Moresby, or even do an entire show from Port Moresby.

Continue reading "Is it going to rain in Moresby today, Karl? Lisa? Anyone?" »

Volte farce! Bob Carr is PNG’s newest, bestest friend


Bob Carr's Christmas presentIF YOU CAN SAY ONE THING about Australia’s foreign minister Bob Carr - apart from admiring his sonorous baritone speaking voice – it is that he doesn’t let the turf grow under his pinkies.

Just a few months ago you could have sworn the man couldn’t give two hoots about Papua New Guinea, and now our nearest neighbour is right at the top of his ‘look at my new friend’ list.

According to Joe Kelly in Saturday’s Australian newspaper, Senator Carr “is sending a new message about PNG as it braces for an unprecedented resources boom with the potential to reframe the relationship.”

Nothing like a wealthy neighbour with a new four burner barbecue to set the juices of self-interest running.

And now the good senator has heard the clarion call, he’s preaching with all the zeal of a new convert.

"We're entitled to say to other sections of our [Australian] society,” he sermonised, “you've got to take the relationship seriously as well.

"I really challenge Australian business to step up and start playing its role.

"Australian society has got to get in behind the government and the attention we're giving in relation to PNG, (it) deserves to be taken more seriously, more seriously than at any time since the mid-1970s."

Sheesh! And it seems like only yesterday Senator Carr, when he wasn’t otherwise steadfastly ignoring PNG, was offending its government by suggesting global sanctions might be in order to enable it to run its own internal affairs more satisfactorily.

Still, it would be churlish to hold this past hauteur against the foreign minister. “Let’s move on going forward,” as contemporary political jargon might have it.

And a final insight from the foreign minister: “Elections are very hard when you've got mountains like these and deep gullies and people who speak so many different languages."

Merry Christmas, Bob. We'll get off your back next year.

Footnote: Jackson PR Associates, funder of this website, is the only Australian public relations company to cater specifically for businesses that have an interest in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific

How I engaged Ms Mead in rich anthropological dialogue


BACK IN THE EARLY SIXTIES, a mate invited my wife Janelle and I to an evening meal with Margaret Mead – the great anthropologist of Melanesia - at Kokopo.

After Ruth Fink's Anthropology lectures at the Australian School of Pacific Administration, I was champing at the bit to share a bit of my experience in matters anthropological with the Great Lady.

Of course, training my Aussie Rules team at Ulapia had to take preference, so I arrived late, just in time to take a seat of clear advantage and influence at the table of 12 people.

Margaret Mead and V-StickMargaret Mead was staggering around with the assistance of a stick with a ‘V’ top that tucked under her shoulder.

“What's that?” I asked gauchely. The response, as she looked around for help, was a disdainful, “My thumb stick”.

Never the shrinking violet, I took her on.

“Pull the other one,” I riposted.

Madam Mead, not used to such effrontery in the land that made her famous, attempted a put down.

Not deterred by this show of imperiousness, I itched to expose her to my accumulated Ruthy Fink knowledge.

By now our host had me under close surveillance and attempted a distraction by lacing my meal with a couple of tablespoons of curry powder.

Despite gasping for relief and fearing a terrible death by curry, I persisted with the Great Lady, who had no difficulty deflecting the efforts of a sick man.

With the haughty disdain of the world star that she was, she ignored the intermittent falsetto shrieks squeezing through my fiery epiglottal cauldron.

Nor was I able to kick her thumb stick from under her.

Fortunately I was able squeeze out enough breath to brief her on the old cannibal who told me that “long pig was very yellow, very sweet”.

And now, 50 years later, I wonder at the confidence of youth that would believe Margaret Mead might have been even slightly interested in anything I had to say.

Published originally in ‘The ASOPA Files’ (Keith Jackson, ed), 2002

PNG film festival focused on violence against women

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Png_film_festival_intTHE FILMS ON GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE screened at Papua New Guinea’s 2012 Human Rights Film Festival gave voice to many victims who described beatings they had endured and their inability to escape ill-treatment because of poverty, unemployment and lack of institutional support.

The film festival screened a number of locally made documentaries and films including, Why Me - Survivors Stories from local producer Raka Gamini of Kundu 2TV. Her work brings some of society's most marginalised voices onto the national airwaves in PNG to tell their stories anonymously.

Another documentary on the Safe Cities Project was an initiative of UN Women in PNG. Port Moresby is one of five cities participating in the project, which aims to involve women and young people in local decision-making and to have women take active roles in community responses to sexual violence and crime.

The festival also included the official opening of the photo exhibition, Crying Meri, which exposes the issue of violence against women in PNG. Photographer Vlad Sokhi documents domestic violence, rape, and sorcery-related attacks against women and girls.

Now in its third year, the film festival aims to promote greater awareness and respect for human rights. Each session is backed by forums which debate the issues and aim to build an understanding that personal commitment can help end discrimination.

In addition to violence against women, this year’s film festival also focused on a number of other issues, including: torture; discrimination and sexual health; sorcery-related extra judicial killings; climate change; refugees and migration; housing rights and forced evictions; and business, environment and human rights.

United Nations resident coordinator in PNG, David McLachlan-Karr, said “The festival is an excellent vehicle for human rights education… it encourages people to engage and actively demand and defend human rights for all, especially the most marginalized and discriminated.”

The festival was staged this year in Port Moresby, Buka and Goroka and is now part of the Human Rights Film Network.

Journalism & the four progressive stages of corruption


THERE HAS BEEN A SOLID HISTORY of the media in Papua New Guinea reporting on corruption.

Certainly those who framed the PNG Constitution were acutely aware of what a problem corruption would become in this rapidly changing society.

Way back in 1984, a major study into PNG’s law and order problems, the Clifford Report, had this to say:

So much more is known about private lives here and so much more rumoured or suspected that the extent of corruption is difficult to hide….

If the official cases are no more than the crumbs from a table laden with corruption, the knowledge circulating amongst the public of the true size of this repast is exaggerated to lavish banquet proportions by their imagination.

Back in 1982 – 30 years ago – the then Chief Ombudsman did a major report into how the PNG government bought 15,000 so-called “Executive Diaries” from a Singaporean businessman even though the Supply and Tenders Board had rejected the purchase three times “on the grounds that procedures specifically designed to prevent corrupt practices and unbudgeted for expenditure had not been complied with.”

In that report, the Chief Ombudsman included a chapter analysing how corruption starts and spreads in developing countries. “Studies of corruption in other countries,” he said, “have shown that, much like a disease, it develops through four progressive stages.”

In Stage One, corruption begins and is isolated at the top – the political leadership. In Stage Two, it filters down to the senior public servants where it is condoned and tolerated, of necessity, by the political leadership.

By Stage Three, corruption has become pandemic throughout all layers of the bureaucracy and it becomes the norm for the public to have to pay something on the side for even the most routine performance of a public servant’s duty (e.g. the renewal of a passport, granting of a licence, etc).

In such societies justice is bought and sold and public office becomes the gateway to personal fortune.

The then Chief Ombudsman said Stage Four of corruption in these developing countries was when the military stepped in and staged a coup.

Here in PNG we have not reached Stage Four yet despite what some of my rather ignorant colleagues in the Australian media have occasionally reported.

Journalists should not always expect credit for the job they do trying to report on corruption. One of the reasons I mentioned the diaries scandal is that I sent off report after report on it to the ABC.

My great friend, the late Robert Keith-Reid, who had started the regional monthly magazine, Islands Business, rang me from Suva saying how much he would like to get some coverage on it. He said he was looking for a Papua New Guinean stringer but in the meantime would I be able to write something for him.

So the night before I went off on leave I did a series of stories for Robert’s publication on the diaries scandal and also sent him an excellent Bob Brown cartoon on corruption that had appeared in an earlier Ombudsman’s Report.

I did a separate breakout story on those four stages of corruption and another one on the debate in Parliament – which, incidentally, was not so much about what a terrible thing corruption was but rather along the lines of, “Who does the Chief Ombudsman think he is investigating leaders?”

Robert gave my contributions a handsome spread. It became the cover story for Islands Business – his cover being the PNG flag with a big stamp across it “Corruption”.

Back in those days, the ABC did not approve of its foreign correspondents doing work for any other media organisation. So I told Robert that he could not use my name and I came up with the pseudonym – Gerard Doceray.

A few months later, Robert rang me up from Suva laughing. He said, “Sean, I’ve just had a call from the ABC in Australia. They’ve got hold of that Islands Business issue on corruption in PNG and they wanted a contact number for Gerard Doceray.” He burst out laughing again.

“What did you tell them,” I asked. “Well,” he said, “I told them it was a pseudonym but the guy was in a sensitive position and I could not disclose the real name. Then I said, ‘Why don’t you get in touch with your own correspondent, Sean Dorney?’”

Robert was really laughing now as he went on.

“And you know what they said? They said, ‘Oh, Sean’s all right for some things, but this Gerard Doceray seems to know what’s going on up there.’”

Sean Dorney made these remarks as part of a longer speech to the annual Excellence in Anti-Corruption Reporting Media Awards 2012 on Monday 10 December

Alexander Rheeney appointed editor of Post-Courier


Alexander RheeneyRESPECTED PAPUA NEW GUINEAN media personality Alexander Rheeney has returned to the PNG Post-Courier newspaper after a five-year absence – this time to occupy the editor’s chair.

Mr Rheeney was previously a journalist with the Post-Courier and a freelance correspondent for a number of international news organisations.

He also worked as political and communications advisor to the British Embassy in Port Moresby before heading to Australia to complete a Master of Arts degree at the University of Sydney.

After gaining his degree in 2011, Mr Rheeney served for a period as an intern with the Lowy Institute, all the while maintaining his well read PNG Perspectives blog, one of PNG’s leading websites.

Kemish scotches rumour about ‘return of the kiaps’


JUST BEFORE HEADING OFF on some well deserved leave yesterday, Australia’s high commissioner to Papua New Guinea Ian Kemish had one last piece of urgent business to attend to.

Frenzied mainstream and social media comment in PNG was suggesting that Australia and PNG had agreed to appoint Australian advisers to each of the country’s 89 districts.

It was reported that the plan was hatched at last week’s bilateral ministerial forum in Port Moresby.

And it even reached the point where these purported advisers were being referred to in terms of “the return of the kiaps”.

Yesterday Ian Kemish was forced to step in to say the stories were fictional.

He said there would be no blanket rollout of advisers.

But there had been a lot of colour and movement in the rumour, especially on Twitter, before it was finally despatched.

Beyond briefcase-carriers and venal mercenaries

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

Hon Kelly NaruIT TAKES COURAGE AND BOLDNESS for a politician to meet people face to face and answer their questions about the hottest issues.

In district development matters, such political gatherings may well address the spending of District Services Improvement Program funds. Tough stuff.

Last month, philanthropist-cum politician Hon Kelly Naru (pictured) made history by decreeing Wednesday as his people’s day.

He set aside Wednesday for the people of Morobe Province to have face to face dialogue with him on development issues affecting community and province.

This is the very thing almost every politician in Papua New Guinea is so fearful of – regular meetings with the people to account for performance.

So it was on Wednesday 7 November, Naru met with his voters for more than two hours at the provincial government headquarters in Lae.

At his invitation they attended and he listened and discussed their problems and issues.

Bow whether Naru will continue to honour this commitment is a different matter. The fact that he initiated the idea is history and transparency in the making.

Since self government not one politician had included a public forum with the people as a task in his weekly, monthly or even yearly program.

This was the first time a politician had included public dialogue. Naru should be applauded for the courageous and bold undertaking because he would not only face supporters but the deprecating rhetoric of rivals as well.

Public dissemination and consumption of information and decisions based on collective views are vital development tools in any democracy.

Information can empower the masses to become proactive and make meaningful contributions to the development of their community and province. It can also induce transparent, free and fearless environment for the leaders to operate. 

What the Governor for Morobe had done was what all the politicians were supposed to be doing.

However, the sad reality is that, when candidates are given the mandate by the people, instantly their worlds change.

They don’t walk the tracks that they used to walk before. They run behind dark glasses.

They don’t eat from the fires that they used to eat from before. They eat from fires with no flames and no smell of smoke.

They don’t live in the homes that they used to live in before. Nobody knows where they live except their briefcase-carriers, sidekicks and venal mercenaries.

With the exception of very few MPs, they operate in seclusion away from public participation and scrutiny.

They are scared of facing their people and giving reports of their conduct in their corrupt deals and misappropriations.

The only time a politician meets the people and eats with them from the same mumu pit is at the campaign party. This is where all the credulous and crafty rhetoric is preached.

The Morobe Governor has broken this culture and set a new precedent.  Only time will speak for success and sustainability. Good luck, Hon Kelly Naru.

Academic says education system needs changes

Radio New Zealand International

Dr Arnold KukariAN ACADEMIC AT Papua New Guinea’s National Research Institute says there is a need for changes to the education curriculum particularly at the elementary level, where many children fail to learn to read and write.

Dr Arnold Kukari (pictured) was commenting after acting Education Minister James Marape gave officials until early next year to develop a new framework for a curriculum that is relevant to Papua New Guineans.

Dr Kukari says the planned objectives based system would not produce different results from the current outcomes-based curriculum.

But he says faults are apparent at the elementary level and changes, including improved teacher training, are needed.

“We need to have a look at the way teachers are educated and trained to teach at the foundational level, which is the elementary level,” he said.

“[We need to] provide full time training for elementary teachers with appropriate teaching pedagogy and content knowledge, particularly now that the system is moving towards introducing phonics at the elementary level.”

A harsh, beautiful land gives Ray a real adventure

ARTHUR GORRIE | Gympie Times (Queensland)

A stunning view from the top of the worldKYBONG FARMER RAY GRESHAM may have walked away from dairying, but his trek across Papua New Guinea was a different kind of walking altogether.

Looking for a change of scenery, Ray says he felt like an adventure. And, as the promotional material promised, that is what he got. "Kokoda isn't all that tough," the pamphlet warned.

But the Black Cat/Bull Dog Track, north to south across Papua New Guinea - now there's a real walk, the tour organisers promised. "Truly wild country," the pamphlet reads, where "few trekkers venture".

It has in common with Kokoda a role in some of the most crucial moments of the World War II, including the Battle of Wau, where Allied forces fought the Japanese to a standstill.

But as he struggled across the huge mountain backbone of our nearest northern neighbour, Ray discovered adventure, scenery and culture shock on a scale reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.

Relics along the way included dumped mortars, heavy machine guns from both sides and the country's best preserved Second World War plane wreck - a shot up B17 Flying Fortress.

Kokoda is "still a fine walk," tour organiser James McCormac wrote in that pamphlet that caught Ray Gresham's eye. "But the Black Cat/Bull Dog track is "more challenging... a real adventure".

"More challenging" turned out to mean "dodgy river crossings, deep mud, leeches, torrential rain" and all participants "physically shattered" by the end.

Of all this, Ray had fair warning when he set out in October for 12 days of slipping, sliding, walking, hobbling and hanging on for dear life, as he retraced the steps of the soldiers who slowed the Japanese advance from the beautiful beachside village of Salamaua, on the northern coast near Lae, to the critically important mountain airstrip at Wau.

If the Japanese had got past there, they would have had a made road (now eroded and landslip damaged to the point of being a narrow foot track) to the south coast at Terapo.

More strategically important still was the airstrip, which would have provided a base for aerial bombardment of Port Moresby.

The airstrip is on a 10-degree slope, with mountains all round, one of PNG's infamous no-second-chance landing fields - made even more tricky by Japanese soldiers shooting from the end of the airstrip.

Planes bringing up to 50 soldiers would lose two or three as they attempted to get off.

Then the pilots would have to turn around and take off, carrying the wounded, right in the face of the enemy guns.

Continue reading "A harsh, beautiful land gives Ray a real adventure" »

Cultural values: A yam story gives me food for thought

MARTYN NAMORONG | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

AN UNDERSTANDING OF Papua New Guinean gift logic may help understand the basis of demands made across the nation.

Of course, Papua New Guinea is a modern interpretation of diverse and complex cultural groupings. However, there are some common recurring themes found in this diversity.

The absence of a capitalist money based economy in the past led to the development of a gift-logic and what some refer to as a “moral economy” similar to that of the Australian Aboriginal people.

Anthropologists have divided these diverse groups into two broad social categories: Big-Men and Great-Men.

I am currently researching for a book on the traditional food of the people of Western Province. In documenting this traditional knowledge, there is the underlying recognition in local communities that traditional food sources provide food security.

As I was reading material on my own people of the South Fly, I came across the significance of yam exchange for the Torassi people of the Morehead District.

The importance of yams as a source of prestige and social recognition is not unique to the Torassi but widespread throughout the Trans-Fly savannah region.

My own Bituri people previously practiced similar yam exchanges or competitive displays of yams in order to shame and coerce opponents in a leadership struggle.

These yam exchanges, and the sister exchanges, have defined the value systems of many communities in the South Fly.

These like-for-like exchanges define Great-Men societies as opposed to Big-Men societies where human life can be exchanged for goods as in bride price and compensation payments.

Some anthropologists believe that Big-Men societies would be more adaptable to the modern capitalist economy than Great-Men societies.

For me, this proposition presents an interesting model for understanding why most communities near the giant Ok Tedi mine haven’t capitalised on the economic benefits of mining compared to farmers in the Western Highlands.

Hundreds of millions of kina have been paid directly to mine-affected communities along the Ok Tedi and Fly Rivers with very little being done by the villagers to improve their own lives.

I heard hundreds of community leaders speak during the negotiations on Mine Life Extension.

A thought dawned on me that what happens in Waigani could be best explained if we observe what happens in the village.

In the end, whether we progress or not is dependent on how we are able to convert natural resource wealth into improvements in socio-economic outcomes.

Understanding cultural narratives and how they define exchange values may help us avoid the cultural baggage that impedes progress.

It is important to appreciate the significance of the exchange values of traditional societies and how the logic behind those values hinders (e.g., unreasonable demands for compensation) or facilitates positive development outcomes.

Understanding the cultural narratives and gift-logic of different societies may explain why some societies like the Western Highlanders, Tolais and Bougainvilleans seem to thrive in this modern economy compared to the rest of PNG.

Singing dog caught on camera for first time in 23 years

SARA TAN | Paw Nation

New Guinea Singing DogIN AUGUST, IN THE PNG HIGHLANDS, Tom Hewitt stumbled upon one of the rarest and most mysterious animals in the world - the New Guinea singing dog.

According to Scientific American, Hewitt was lucky enough to capture one of the only photographs of the shy canine creature.

At first, Hewitt had no idea what he had taken a photograph of. When he realised how special it was, he contacted Tom Wendt, founder of New Guinea Singing Dog International.

"The only place a pure New Guinea singing dog could possibly be found would be in the remote highlands where the natives rarely visit and, due to the lack of humans present, a domestic dog would not thrive," said Wendt.

“This is exactly where Tom and his team were when the dog was sighted and photographed.”

Papua New Guinea is the second largest island on Earth and contains approximately 8% of the world's terrestrial and aquatic species.

Still, its native dogs are hard to find. In the mid-1990s, a team spent almost an entire month searching for one to breed.

The island is divided into the independent Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian-controlled West Papua.

Hewitt states that the native dogs prefer to roam around West Papua, which is less populated and highly forested - perfect conditions for being kept alone.

The last time a photo was taken of the New Guinea Singing Dog was in 1989 by an Australian mammalogist and paleontologist.

It is because of these rare photos that scientists can conclude wild dog populations still exist.

Advice to a son about water, women and heaven


Listen son,
in the movie about Jerusalem
Sala’din said
that victory (in war)
also depends on (apart from other things)
the availability of water…

Then after that huge battle scene at the Western Wall
Sala’adin said

            that Jerusalem was

worth nothing –and everything.

Like money.

Water is essential for the recovery of battle strength
etcetera, etcetera,
and thereby the continuance of battles.                   

Are you listening, son?
Water like money is essential for survival, I tell you.
Essential for life – as we know it!

Every fool should know this, my son.
Coz how else would we men maintain –our strength?
And how else would women maintain –their beauty?

Sometimes money is a trophy

            or maybe women

                        but never water.


            when you are a man


if you would maintain a woman;
damnably decadently, decently desirably,
you would be wise to secure a source of fresh running water – and money –
before entering into battle.

                         The victorious warrior and all that;

 It’s costly.
 Enter battle and expect scars.
A man may fall in battle.

But son,


 that all men must die (or marry) on Earth 


 Here on Earth we men (and women) wage wars

            of one kind or another           

and send other men (or women) packing (on to another place).

And (hopefully) men secure enough water and/or money
to maintain their women – happily.

But, this is not so in the Kingdom of Heaven,
where everyone would happily go
and where, apparently, there is no need
for money or water (apart from the ascetic appeal).

But men are not allowed to love women in heaven.

So, my son, always remember these three things:
Water/money always changes state/hands;
Women can be as changeable or not as the weather may be, maybe;
But Heaven (thank God) never changes, even while you’re dying
to get there.

This poem was penned while I was sitting in a #17 PMV going from Three Mile to Islander Junction, around 11:25am to 12:00pm on 10 December 2012