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101 posts from January 2013

Citizens more scared of police than crims: what’s the answer?


RPNGC, Tufi, 1957POLICE CORRUPTION AND BRUTALITY has been a hot topic of discussion in Papua  New Guinea recently – and PNG Attitude readers have been in the forefront after a hard-hitting article by Ganjiki D Wayne attacked the 'low morality' of the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.

Eventually PNG police commissioner Tom Kulunga got in the act after a particularly vicious incident where a policeman crushed his wife's foot with an iron bar.

Ordering his commanders to bring their officers under control, Kulunga said he was “ashamed” of the force.

In his article, Wayne argued that “the blame should rest solely on the policeman who commits such offences. We all choose our actions in the end, and are ultimately personally responsible… These police officers have lost all moral ground.”

As Phil Fitzpatrick’s Days of the Kiap series has highlighted, the RPNGC and its predecessor constabularies have a great tradition of courage, loyalty, resourcefulness and service.

Fitzpatrick has since commented in PNG Attitude that the “old time police in the days before independence were certainly not angels but they had a deep pride and sense of brotherhood. If one of their own stepped out of line they were immediately jumped upon by their comrades and brought to heel.

“Those old policemen earned the rare honour of putting the word 'Royal' in front of their title. It is this title that is now being sullied.”

Fitzpatrick said “return the pride in the force and the rest will follow, but don't ask me how you do that.”

Reader David Kitchnoge agreed that “policing in PNG in all its aspects is at an all time low.

“Most people fear the police more than criminals,” he said. “Personally, my fear arises from not knowing what frame of mind the police would be in at a given time.

“It is this unpredictability that makes my hair stand when I cross paths with the police. At least I can predict the criminals’ behaviour with a certain degree of accuracy.”

Michael Dom observed that “the most important moral idea for police to know is that everyone should be treated equally under the law. We have no choice in that matter.

“If cops are being crooked then they have broken laws and, regardless of whether you have morals or not, when you break laws you get punished,” he said.

This was an action endorsed by Barbara Short who remarked that “the best solution is to take them to court, try them and, if found guilty, put them in prison with the criminals they have previously caught.”

Long-time PNG resident Tony Flynn argued that PNG has “the type of police leaders our rulers have wished upon us. Please do not blame the police at the sharp end.

“The blame should rest firmly on the people who are paid to be in control,” he said. “They are unable to control the rogue police who give a bad name to the rest.

“Good policemen, who would give top quality service, are left to stagnate under this bad leadership.”

This elemental point pinning the responsibility on better leadership was also made by respected ex-Kiap Bob Cleland, who began in the service of PNG in the 1950s: “A solution can't work from the bottom up. It can only work from the top down.”

It is very hard to disagree with that.

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill should be saying to his Police Minister and Police Commissioner: “Shape up or ship out.”

Concern over unsafe abortions in Papua New Guinea

IRIN News | Health & Medicine

HEALTH EXPERTS ARE CONCERNED about the number of unsafe abortions taking place in Papua New Guinea.

“Nobody knows the actual numbers, but it’s clear the number of school-age girls [having unsafe abortions] is unacceptably high,” said Lisa Vallely, head of the maternal and child health section of the PNG Institute of Medical Research.

“These are the figures at the hospital level only. We still don’t know what is happening outside in the community,” she said.

A six-month study headed by Ms Vallely looked at all abortions in the Goroka Hospital. Of 120 reported miscarriages admitted to the hospital over the period, 23% were induced abortions, with more than half taking place 12-26 weeks into pregnancy.

Most were young girls, attending school or higher education, and most of these induced abortions took place using prescription-only tablets purchased through healthcare workers or at a pharmacy.

Others reported using traditional herbs and physical means, including strenuous exercise, inserting a stick into the vagina and tying a rope around the abdomen.

Many women resorted to abortions for fear of shaming their family, so they can continue their education or because they are breastfeeding another child, the study found.

A recent study of the situation in Goroka highlighted sepsis due to unsafe abortion as a leading cause of maternal mortality.

Abortion is illegal in PNG unless two doctors agree a woman’s life may be at risk. However, the practice of induced abortions is widely practiced, health workers say.

Sherlock Holmes in New Guinea: The Preface


Watson and Holmes at home (Sidney Paget)IT BEGAN as a fairly ordinary day.

Holmes was dozing at the fire. Mrs Hudson was watering the flowers, having cleared the breakfast tray at the great detective’s feet, his Persian slipper of best Cuban tobacco falling from his hand as he fell into a slumber.

But the peace of an early spring morning was rudely interrupted.

Dr Watson burst in. "Holmes, Holmes, I have something extraordinary to relate!"

Holmes - "I get tired of these excited intrusions of yours Watson. Please be explicit, exact and to the point."

Watson - "I have a piece of paper here which I am sure will inflame your curiosity."

Holmes - "It is a mere nothing. One casual glance reveals that it is a quarto page, a poor copy of a Sibyllenbuch original, probably originating from the Limehouse copy factories. A false incunabula."

Watson - "Holmes, you amaze me! How can you gather that from one glance?"

Holmes - "The watermark. Look at it closely. See, it is a cheap fake."

Then Holmes paused and grabbed the page from Watson, peering at it intently.

"But what do we have here? There is something hidden which I believe deserves closer examination. Let's see what my new microscope has to say."

Holmes went to his early Köhler, an instrument which few people in Britain possessed.

Holmes - "Watson, I think I've found something of interest. This paper is from no land in the recognised British  Empire. Futhermore there are clear traces of banana fibre in the weave.

"If I am not mistaken, it is from New Guinea, that strange uncharted place in the south western Pacific, north of the Antipodes.

"There is more to this than meets the eye. Watson, did you note that small dark patch in the top left-hand corner?”

Watson - "No, can't say I did. But the suspicious looking fellow who gave this to me had a strange wild story to tell."

Holmes (ignoring Watson's last revelation) - "It is a microcode and can only be observed through powerful magnification."

Holmes pondered for a few minutes, and then jumped out of his seat as if electrocuted by one of Mr Tesla's new machines.

"There is no time to lose. Come Watson, we must proceed with haste."

And so began the great Sherlock Holmes New Guinea mystery.

Melanesian jurisprudence needed to clarify PNG’s laws


THERE IS A DESPERATE and overdue need to develop a Melanesian jurisprudence.

Our wise founding fathers saw the need for this, and made provision under sections 20, 21 and Schedule 2 of the Constitution to develop our own jurisprudence which they referred to as ‘underlying law’.

Melanesian jurisprudence would be a body of law using worthy Melanesian customs, the common law of England in force prior to independence and legal rules formulated using certain provisions of the Constitution.

It appears to me that the constitutional fathers felt the urge to make such provision in the Constitution because 99% of the legal principles governing our country have been borrowed from our colonial masters.

Most of these borrowed legal principles are ineffective in PNG as the majority of our problems are foreign to English law. Therefore there is a desperate need to develop a Melanesian jurisprudence to successfully address problems unique to PNG.

Our Constitution uses the term ‘indigenous jurisprudence’ to refer to the underlying law, but that term is very broad so I have decided to use ‘Melanesian jurisprudence’ as specifically referring to Melanesian law.

Underlying law is a Papua New Guinean version of English common law and is a body of law developed where no legal rules are available to deal with cases before the courts.

For instance, if there arises a legal issue for which there exists no Act of Parliament nor principles of common law, the PNG National and Supreme Courts would be empowered by the Underlying Law Act to develop legal rules using custom first and then the common law of England to deal with the case.

Any legal rule that the court develops then would form part of our underlying law, or Melanesian jurisprudence.

Therefore, underlying law would be ‘PNG made law’, developed by our own National and Supreme Courts and readily applicable to the prevailing circumstances.

PNG’s legal system at present is a photocopy of English legal system. This is good to some extent but most of these legal principles are not readily applicable across the country.

This does not that mean that our people live in a legal vacuum because they have at their disposal customary law to deal with issues.

Sometimes borrowed laws conflict with customary law and at other times they run parallel. In most cases, neither borrowed law nor customary law submit to one another.

This is obvious in PNG today and costs our government hundreds of millions of kina each year.

One example is landownership conflict issues which we read about every day in the media. They are bound to happen because there are two different regimes of laws governing land ownership.

On the one hand you have English property law and laws derived therefrom, and on the other hand you have customary law.

Borrowed law says the state owns all the mineral and petroleum resources found anywhere in PNG. But this idea is totally repulsive and unacceptable to our Melanesian culture.

It is a common custom in Melanesia that no man - even a king - has the right to do his business on somebody else’s land unless he is permitted to do so.

But the state, in the name of extraction of mineral and petroleum resources, allows exploitation of the land, as the Melanesian landowners watch and cry.

Continue reading "Melanesian jurisprudence needed to clarify PNG’s laws" »

Brian Holloway dies: Last expat PNG police commissioner


BRIAN HOLLOWAY CBE QPM died in Perth on 23 January after a long illness. He was 85.

Holloway joined the South Australia Police as a Cadet in 1943, at age 15, following the tradition set by his father Percy.

During his training in the mounted police, "tent pegging" (galloping on horseback and taking out the stakes holding tents so they collapsed) was part of the course, and he never understood why this was necessary in a modern police force.

At the police training depot, John Grimshaw (in 1947 to become the first commissioner of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and New Guinea Police Force) was a senior instructor. Inspired by Grimshaw, Holloway joined the RPC&NGPF as an assistant Sub Inspector in November 1948.

His first posting was to Wau, and shortly after to Bulolo, Over the next few years he served in Rabaul, Kavieng, Madang, Minj, Goroka and Kokopo.

At the time of the Rabaul Navuneram riots in 1958 he was nearly murdered, his life saved by a courageous Senior Constable.

July 1961 saw him in charge of police during the Rabaul town riots between Sepik and Tolai groups, during which three Tolais were shot dead by police.

In February 1962 Holloway was in charge of the police detachment at Hahalis in Buka, Bougainville during the insurrection of the "baby farm" anti-Council riots led by John Teosin and defrocked former Catholic priest Francis Hagai, who said they were breeding a "super race".

May 1965 saw him in charge of peacefully quelling the insurrection at Lavongai, New Ireland during the President Johnson cargo cult riots.

In October 1967 he was in charge of restoring major unrest involving hundreds of illegal squatters on disputed land in the Kokopo area.

Holloway was awarded the Queens Police Medal for meritorious and exemplary police service in 1969 and received an MBE in 1971.

In a sense, Brian Holloway was the "Sheriff" of Papua New Guinea. Whenever there was an insurrection, he was placed in charge, even being recalled from leave in Australia on occasions to handle explosive situations.

In the early 1960s he planned and established the Police College at Bomana from which the first 11 indigenous police graduated a Sub Inspectors on 26 August 1964 after a four year course.

In 1970 he was appointed Deputy Police Commissioner and, in 1974, during the transition to Independence, he spent one year as Commissioner until be handed over to Pius Kerepia in May 1975. He received as CBE after leaving Papua New Guinea.

For some time he had been writing his autobiography, Cadet to Commissioner, which was unfinished when he died.

Holloway was one of the three surviving police officers (the others being John Graham and James Dutton) of the late forties era of the Constabulary. He is survived by Fae, his wife of 64 years, and children Gary and Susan, mother of Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, Australia's most highly decorated soldier.

An exceptionally tall man, Brian was known by fellow police officers as "5 feet 17 inches". There will never be another Brian Holloway and he will be missed by all the people he touched in many ways.

The great Sherlock Holmes New Guinea mystery


Egad! It has been revealed that Sherlock Holmes had an adventure in Papua New Guinea. It has been penned by my redoubtable self after spending many months delving deep into the archives of the British Library and Das Bundesarchiv. (Obviously has too much time on his hands – Ed)

ADLER POINTED the dreaded Luger directly at Holmes head. "Give me the information from Howard now!"

Holmes calmly closed his copy of the South Pacific Post and looked with steely eyes at Adler.

"Have you heard some of the local stories collected by the Cochranes? Or the evidence collected by the remarkable Queen Emma?"

"Holmes you are merely attempting to confuse me. Now give me the information!"

"I think you will find that under international law Germany has no rights or privileges over this land"

"Holmes, you will now die!"

"As you wish Ms Adler, but there is a fiercesome warrioress from a famed Simbu clan behind you with a stone axe aimed at your skull. I believe her reflexes are quicker than yours."

To begin, and thereafter continue in serial parts, from the morrow...

Liz Holloway pays a loving tribute to the late Sir Barry


Barry HollowayIN AN EMOTIONAL NOTE to PNG Attitude, Elizabeth (Liz) Holloway, Sir Barry Holloway’s first wife, has paid a loving tribute to her late husband.

“As his first wife and mother of three children, I can attest to the energy and inventiveness, the adaptability and the inspiration of Sir Barry Holloway,” Liz Holloway wrote.

“I wish I had been strong enough and good enough to keep up with him,” she said.

Writing that “we remained strong friends till his death,” Liz Holloway said “I never stopped loving him.”

Days of the Kiap - Corporal Bosi & the mysterious Mokolkol


THE TOLAI ARE BELIEVED to have originally come from New Ireland.  When they settled in the Gazelle Peninsula they pushed out the Baining, who fled to the mountains.  Those Baining on the coast not killed or eaten by the Tolai were used as slaves.

The surviving Baining retreated to occupy the foothills of the Rawlei Range and the land south west of Ataliklikun  Bay.

Other Baining villages were located north and south of the Warangoi River and in the hinterland west of the Rawlei Range. 

They are thought to be the descendants of the first people to reach New Guinea and its islands. Sometimes referred to as Negrito and in contrast to the tall and virile Tolai, they are small, stocky people.

One of the Baining groups caught up in the Tolai invasion was the Mokolkol, who were located on the narrow isthmus between Wide and Open Bays.

For many years they remained beyond contact of the German and then Australian administrations. All that was known of them were their sudden raids on coastal villages.  They would attack and then disappear back into the jungle. 

They became legendary and were regarded by their victims as devils from another world.  It wouldn’t be until 1951 that a patrol succeeded in reaching one of their hamlets.

The only weapon the Mokolkol used was a long-handled obsidian axe.  The stories of the deadliness of these razor sharp blades and the silence in which the Mokolkol approached struck terror into the hearts of people for hundreds of kilometres along the coast.

The Mokolkols were a small group of less than a hundred people. No one knew where they originated. 

Some said they were the survivors of a tribe wiped out by the fleeing Baining as they searched for new homelands.  Others thought they were the Baining descendants of deserters from German plantations.

The story goes that a German kiap had called together the people living in the Tol area following a number of murders.

The Baining were fingered as the culprits and without warning the German police opened fire on them, killing many. A few got away into the bush and their descendants were said to be the dreaded Mokolkol.

The first Australian patrol to attempt contact with the Mokolkols went into the mountains in 1931. The kiap found one of their recently deserted settlements and set up camp to wait for them to come back.

The Mokolkols returned four days later under cover of drizzling, misty rain and, swinging their long axes, hit the patrol hard. They left two dead and four badly wounded and disappeared.

Continue reading "Days of the Kiap - Corporal Bosi & the mysterious Mokolkol" »

Wake up, PNG, and cast aside frustration & bitterness

GARY JUFFA MP | Facebook

Gary JuffaPAPUA NEW GUINEA, a land of hope and great potential, of vast resources and opportunities, of an ancient collection of elaborate cultures.

The land of a thousand tribes where once enthusiasm was the initial step, a step taken with confidence and determination.

Somewhere along the way our inability to discern the future and plan and determine risks and threats and act accordingly, our lack of consideration and our ignorance of the important aspects of progress have diverted our attention and focus.

As has our lack of hard work, strategic planning, decisiveness and careful engagement with regional and international forces to ensure protection of our interests and resources.

The today we live in is a dark uncertain place. Enthusiasm alone is insufficient for progress.

I believe we are an angry people, frustrated and bitter, and everywhere one looks there is no evidence of positivity - doom and gloom are the norm, crime and filth, loitering and littering, corruption so blatant, humility and respect are absent and the future is very bleak.

Many people are asking if this is the future we envisaged when we gained independence 37 years ago.

We have moved into an obscure and unchartered area in our journey since independence.

The tomorrow we leave our children will be determined by our actions today.

Neocolonialism & the forgotten struggle of West Papua


WHEN INDONESIA (under colonialism, Dutch East India) gained independence (declared August 1945, formally recognized December 1949 by the Dutch) under Ahmed Sukarno it tried to follow a path of independence in the bloc of free states.

But the military was very strong and deeply linked to the West, especially the US.

Sukarno, who had tried to balance the military and the strong communist party, failed in the end after a terrible conflict (500,000 people, many landless communist sympathisers, butchered).

General Suharto, the man of the US, seized power over the archipelago. He and his military clique turned the many islands into a plunder ground for Western and Japanese interests using Javanese dominance for their purposes, including the western part of New Guinea.

When the Spaniards and other Westerners came across the island of New Guinea, its dark skinned inhabitants with frizzy hair reminded them of Africa´s Guinea Coast (which was already the hunting ground for slavers) which inspired them to name the island New Guinea.

Going further east they met similar people up to the Fiji islands and in course of time named them Melanesians because of the dark pigmentation.

The Melanesians became object of rude anti-black racism and many times were subjected to slavery called forced labour.

Contrary to the hostile degradation of its inhabitants by white people, New Guinea is a remarkable place in cultural history.

For example, its agricultural history with intensive gardening techniques dates back 7-10,000 years, thus putting its inhabitants among the pioneers of mankind´s agricultural history.

Indonesia gained independence soon after World War II but western New Guinea remained under Dutch control to the distaste of the Indonesian ruling class.

The issue of independence raised some complicated questions. A basic contradiction lay in the colonial borders which separated same ethnicities and lumped others together. The aspirations of the Javanese-dominated Indonesian political class (under pressure of overpopulation) confronted a special situation.

Firstly West New Guinea had been longer under Dutch control and was de facto already not “part of Indonesia”; secondly, it was a very different world. It was not only inhabited by very different people but by people upon whom the Javanese looked down upon with racist arrogance.

Such considerations didn’t bother either the Indonesian government or the Dutch or the white dominated UN and by no means the US government.

Indonesia tried to solve their “problem” by military force and, under the strong influence of the US, the UN made Holland hand over administration to Indonesia (which they did in March 1963.

But the treaty also included a procedure by which Papua should decide whether it wanted to stay with Indonesia. The “Act of Free Choice” in 1969 was nothing but typical colonial theatre.

Continue reading "Neocolonialism & the forgotten struggle of West Papua" »

Kevin Murphy, rugby league administrator, dies at 63

MALUM NALU | Malum Nalu Blog

Kevin MurphyWELL-KNOWN PAPUA NEW GUINEA rugby league administrator, Kevin Murphy, died of a heart attack in Orange NSW last Friday aged 63.

Murphy, known the length and breadth of PNG for his passion for the “greatest game of all”, passed away in the home of elder brother, Brian, a Catholic priest.

Murphy, a Kiap in the late 1960s who later moved into education, commerce and became president of the PNG Rugby Football League, reluctantly moved to Australia in 2008 because of diabetes, having his right leg amputated.

His first emergence from hospital was to attend a barbecue for his beloved PNG Kumuls, who had travelled to play a Cairns team. Until the day he died  Murphy was passionate about rugby league in PNG.

“For the last four years, he has lived in Tamworth,” Murphy’s second son, Daniel, told The National.

“He was always torn between two cultures: the PNG culture and the Australian culture. He always carried a bilum everywhere.

“He passed away in Orange on Friday morning, at about 7am, at the place of his brother, Brian Murphy, who is a Catholic priest.

“His last job was at Niugini Oil in Mt Hagen, but due to his health, he could not work again.

“He did some voluntary work at a youth centre here in Tamworth.

“For the last four years, he has been recovering with his family in Australia, as well as being emotionally attached to rugby league back in PNG.”

Murphy, of Irish origin, came to PNG as an 18-year-old in 1967, and stayed for 42 years.

After his stint as a Kiap, Murphy was a primary school teacher in Henganofi and Kainantu, later serving with the Department of Provincial Affairs, National Sports Institute, Rothmans and Niugini Oil.

He is survived by his three sons Adrian (39), Daniel (36), and Anthony (33) and four brothers – Patrick, John, Brian and Bill.

His funeral services held at St Joseph’s Catholic, Orange NSW, at 2pm on Friday.

On police brutality & police theft in Papua New Guinea

GANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

MULTIPLE REPORTS surface every week of some rogue police activity in our country.

Drivers gets ‘accidentally’ shot in the foot. Arbitrary confiscation (and then consumption) of informal vendors’ property. Theft of wallets and personal property. ‘Fines’ for concocted traffic offences (such as driving too slowly in a car park).

Private armed escort for politicians, foreign businessmen and corrupt bureaucrats. And of course the regular brutal beatings (and sometimes slaying) of innocent citizens and surrendered crime suspects.

It seems endless what abuses our “law-enforcers-slash-disciplined-force” can cook up. More than half of all of the Solicitor General’s defence of claims against the State are police brutality claims.

These are men and women who seem to have lost all moral restraint. There's a vacuum in their mindset and conscience. They lack the ability to put themselves in the shoes of their prey.

They have no concern for their own and their victims’ dignity. Nor for the respectability and the integrity of the office and uniform they occupy. Nor loyalty to their Commissioner (who only last week spoke strongly against such rogue behaviour), the Constabulary, or the Nation.

They have no fear of God. No regard for their code of ethics. How they sleep at night I don’t know. I suspect they drink themselves to sleep; to shut out the voices of conviction that keep ringing in their heads.

They got into the uniform for all the wrong reasons (it’s just bread and butter). These are toddlers in adult bodies.

Worse, the State (we the people) clothed these toddlers with the vicarious authority to pull-up any vehicle or person simply by waving their colours and displaying their arms. And we the people agreed to subject ourselves to their authority. We got more than we bargained for.

Toddlers. Babies. Whose world revolve around "me", they cry for milk you must give. They hunger, you feed. They thirst, you give water. They hurt, you comfort. They freeze, you warm. They soil their diapers, you must clean them up. They cry, you soothe. They take, you give.

That is the nature of infants. Despite adult bodies we lack the emotional intelligence to subject ourselves to codes that should provide restraint. We are a nation of toddlers. And a lot of them wear blue and carry not-toy guns. (A hundred or so sit in parliament accusing each other of wetting their diapers.)

The problem isn’t the training (or lack of) that they get, or a lack of understanding of the law and human rights. That’s a scratch above the surface. The real lack is the loss of moral consciousness.

And so the real challenge is to refill those gaps. The crimes committed are completely identifiable as crimes (theft, assault, unlawful use of firearm, murder), and as blatant evil deeds.

Any sane person should be able to tell that the unlawful use of his authority to steal wallets and personal effects is an immoral deed; an attack on basic human decency; even an undermining of his own human dignity as the perpetrator. But it takes a person of moral strength to resist committing those crimes.

These are men and women who have lost that moral strength. And many involved in talking about social correction wouldn’t want the work that’s needed to restore such a loss. We'd rather not go that deep.

Continue reading "On police brutality & police theft in Papua New Guinea" »

Kasen no renga - memories of Mosbi


Awoken at night;
Stray winds bring dirty smells that
rain washes away.

Daylight is breaking
Over the Waigani Swamps;
Red hills and gum trees.

White curtains billow
Bang! Swoosh, bang!  Two doors slam shut;
Enter lahara!

Shaking tree branches;
Shaggy old dogs snap awake
Barking in the wind.

Air drowned in humming,
Petrol fumes and dying grass;
For twenty kina.

Red lines march then swarm
Each host six-hundreds of arms;
Mango season wars.

A desert road runs
Along borders of three worlds;
‘Savannah City’.

Hot vapours dancing
On baked red earth and burnt grass;
Gnarled old gum trees bloom.

Kunai grass waving
Across Hohola’s hillsides;
Smoke and dust rising

Kunai ashes lay
Sprinkled across Waigani;
Near Haus Tambaran.

A fat clown on strings
Waddles down office hallways;
In parliament.

POM Siti’s blood flows
Along a tarred artery
Called Waigani Drive.

Morata buses
Hissing air-breaks through the crowds;
Breakfast on the run.

Ancient sweat and grime
Soaked into the wooden seats
At Gordon’s bus stop.

Buses cram sidewalks
Spilling people like garbage
Onto filthy streets.

Forty-four gallon
Drums and overflowing sewage;
Clogging drains and roads.

Twenty-five seated,
Crew and me in the doorway;
Best view on the bus.

Laurabada waves,
Racing buses down Two Mile;
Koki is ablaze.

Crowne  Plaza towers
In a cirrus-striped blue sky;
Pine trees on the beach.

No one’s there at dawn:
Gasping in the chill sea breeze,
Whistling through pinecones.

Leave only foot prints;
Night camping at Ela  Beach
In warm, dry sand dunes.

Last week’s groceries,
Entangled in seaweed, strewn
Across marbled sands.

Betel stained pavements,
Walls, posts, grass, leaves, shirt-sleeves;
Like new-age street art.

Tanubada melts
Frostily down my parched throat;
One-way bus fare home.

Of Papua New Guinea:
My alma mater.

Where cool grey pillars
House young minds in a smelter –
Where leaders are forged

A grey cockatoo
Stands on a turn pike, waiting;
Enter or exit.

Serried marmar trees
Stand still, where men read law;
And there poets walk.

On a long green field
Where sweat and blood is mingled;
History rises.

A tiny kingdom
Nestled on Morata Hill;
Where Fourth Street ends.

Grey concrete brick walls,
Spiked rooftops of Fort Banner
Survey the campus.

Tin roofs clattering
With the sound of scrabbling feet;
Boys play at being king.

Colours, flags, war-cries –
Touch footy at Fuka  Park,
The Mumuts homeground.

Here parakeets race
Airways of marmar lined streets;
Wagtails dance on roofs.

Those streets were made for
Quiet strolls or morning runs
With a dog on heel.

Pathways I have walked
Through childhood and adulthood;
Renew what I’ve known.

PNG LNG – tough grinding work with a very big outcome

JOE WASIA | Supported by the Bob Cleland Writing Fellowship

THE LIQUEFIED NATURAL GAS project in the Hela and Southern Highlands Provinces of Papua New Guinea is one the world class oil and gas projects developed by the giant Exxon Mobil Corporation.

The lifespan of this project is 30 years in its operational stage. It is expected that during this period the GDP of this struggling nation will be multiplied and LNG will be a pillar of its economy.

The initial cost estimate for the project stands at $US15.7 billion dollars. However the latest cost estimates indicate it may be more.

It has a four year construction phase with all works expected to be completed by 2014 according to the agreement made between the PNG government and Exxon Mobil Corp. 

Exxon Mobil, a US company, has a 33.3% share while Oil Search, an Australian company, owns 29%. The PNG government, respective provincial governments, local level governments and the resource landowners share a 22.5% stake.

The construction works on different sites are now winding down and only a few contractor companies remain. CCJV completed its civil works late last year. The offshore pipeline construction was completed by Saipen, an Italian company, last September.

The offshore pipeline is 407 kilometres long, starting from the Napa Napa oil refinery in Port Moresby and ending at Kikori in the Gulf  Province.

From there a 445 kilometre onshore pipeline goes to Hides in Hela Province. This pipeline construction has 70 kilometres to go to completion. Spiecapag Niugini Limited, a French company, aims to complete its works around September or October this year.

Onshore pipeline construction is not that easy. PNG has a lot of fast flowing rivers, rugged mountains, deep valleys, swamps and hard rock that this onshore pipeline has to overcome. The workers put in 12 hour days and work 7 days a week with no public holidays or whatever.

To make situation worse, the attitudes of the local people, especially those from the Hela region, towards the construction company are not good.

There are many demands, road blocks, thefts, hijacking of equipment, threats, sexual assaults and more. This will, I believe, delay the construction works from its predicted date.

After the construction work is completed, the PNG LNG project will have its first export in 2014. And that is when the country’s GDP will be doubled.

If the government and responsible agencies effectively manage the high revenues with transparency and good governance I believe the nation will feel the beneficial effects from this great resource.

The many splendid lives of the legendary Frank Alcorta


Frank Alcorta OAMYESTERDAY'S AUSTRALIA DAY AWARDS made amends for the long overdue recognition of a great Australian.

Francis Xavier (Frank) Alcorta has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to veterans and their families and to journalism.

I write this tribute to Frank in the hope that the Australian public may learn about this unique man, who I first came to know and respect when he was teaching at Aitape High School in the West Sepik in 1973-74.

It is very difficult to do justice to Frank’s life as it has been so diverse. In each facet he has reached seemingly impossible goals.

When I first met him, Frank had arrived in Australia without much English or money from the Basque region of Spain. He cut cane and worked in the outback, fought in Vietnam and then ended up in PNG.

His modesty meant that he never told me about his exploits in Vietnam; I only discovered years later when I found articles from his Battalion newsletter.

I was astounded when I read his war record and saw that his company commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Mollison, had recommended him for a Victoria Cross.

Lt Col Mollison wrote:

Frank on the way back from VietnamFrank Alcorta is the bravest man I have ever met. It was a privilege to have served with him and it is a monumental miscarriage of justice that he was not the recipient of several bravery awards. Cumulatively, his bravery deeds warranted a VC but all he got was an MID. Two things mitigated against Frank Alcorta being suitably recognised.

The first is that I was no longer commander of A Coy and the second was that, when we attempted to submit commendations towards the end of our tour, we were told not to bother as the whole ―quota for the Task Force had been awarded to soldiers in other units.

The same thing happened again after the Battle of Bribie in February 1967 and after a few other battles and contacts. He was awarded a Mention in Despatches during Operation Vaucluse in September 1966 while acting platoon commander 2 Platoon, 6th battalion RAR.

Frank first went to PNG as a patrol officer (Kiap) but he decided to take to teaching, becoming a high school teacher at Aitape.

In 1974 Frank made his unique, epic and unaided lone crossing of PNG. Much lesser stunts in PNG have captured the attention of the world, made people famous and led to books being written about them.

After returning to Australia, he obtained degrees and became a lecturer at Charles Darwin  University.

A Trip to the Stone AgeAfter his academic role, Frank carved out an outstanding new career as a journalist for Rupert Murdoch’s Northern Territory News and found the time to write some excellent books, He also became known as one of the Territory's great characters.

Frank’s books include Explore Australia’s Northern Territory (now in its sixth edition), The Darwin Rebellion (documenting the rise of labour movement in northern Australia), Australia's Frontline: the Northern Terrritory's War and A Trip To The Stone Age, the fascinating account of his arduous expedition across PNG in 1973-74.

He retains outstanding loyalty and love for his adopted country, Australia.

I was the mad, magical school teacher of Watabung


DURING MY TERM as a teacher in the Eastern Highlands I gained the reputation of being a little mad. I don’t think I deserved such a title, although maybe I was a little crazy, just because I did unusual things.

I gained a real interest in using the local culture in any way I could. For example I designed a school uniform based on the Scottish kilt but with a local grass skirt as a sporran.

Watabung School Toilet_FreestoneThe school buildings whenever possible would incorporate traditional designs.

Our school cultural days were always spectacular with the teachers and children enjoying traditional dress and dances.

I also gained a real interest in magic and, as well as shows at our school, we performed at Goroka Teacher’s College and Goroka High School; raising money for their student councils.

We also did a show in Goroka for the Red Cross to raise money for them. (I write we, for my students were also involved in presenting the shows.)

Then I learnt about pyrotechnics and conducted a display at Watabung for the official opening of our school library. Then I was asked to put on shows for national day celebrations at Goroka and finally for the Independence celebrations in 1975.

1970s Watabung library (1988 photo)I believed that school had to be an exciting place and that the students, besides working hard, had to be having fun.

I also believed that children needed to be able to assess everything told to them. By being involved in my magic they came to realise that not everything was true even when your eyes told you otherwise.

Thus I come to the point of my story. Magic.

We had lots of fun but it could prove dangerous especially when doing shows for the local people. I was threatened with a bush knife when I turned an old man’s pig into a chicken.

He was very angry until I changed the chicken back into the pig. He ran off and would never come near me again.

Another time, in conjunction with senior teacher Omahe, we designed a special box. One afternoon after lessons we set up the box and Omahe climbed in.

I performed a little traditional dance and, when I opened the box, Omahe had changed into a stone. His wife had been invited to watch and was crying her eyes out.

Continue reading "I was the mad, magical school teacher of Watabung" »

On a train heading towards Adelaide


Here's a sonnet in acrostic, iambic pentameter, on the run. I like that your cities have garbage bins around so that its easy to dispose of trash. A simple city service that does a heap of good. Dedicated to Powes Parkop and the NCDC.

Sonnet 7: Garbage bin poem

Michael Dom

Good people will place me where I serve best
And charge me with a most noble duty
Regardless of the weather I won't rest
Bearing the task of preserving beauty
And though some may sneer and say I'm smelly
Greater peace of mind breathes where I am seen
Everyone needs me to keep their home clean!
But if I should not be found standing there
In the place I was left, alone and bare
Not many would notice or even care
Public places are cleaner when I'm there
Offices, beaches, streets, shops and kitchens
Everywhere people live I should be found
My hope is that people want me around.

Political reminiscences: A night with Olowei and Ikini


Barry HollowayBARRY BLYTH HOLLOWAY (pictured right late in life) and wife Ikini were with an older, quieter crowd in one section of the Bird of Paradise Hotel, Goroka, but as the evening wore on they found the younger, whiter and rowdier bunch of drinkers next to them more to their liking.

It was May, maybe June, 1977.

When the night is still young and never one to refuse an offer of a night cap, “no” was far from the Holloway mind when the younger revellers, including me, suggested that we retreat to the Post-Courier pad at West Goroka for “one for the road” and “let’s have one more just like the other one”.

This ritual constituted more booze, and a healthy drag of Goroka Gold, maybe a Henganofi Hedge, preferably the Hagen variety, Kundiawa Kool or the latest Weed from Wabag. Barry Blyth, not to be outdone by his hosts, produced from his pocket his own Kainantu brand.

Whatever was available, there was enough grass smoke, alcohol fume and noise to bring in the fire tender from the next street, or the cops two blocks away to drag off the dimdims and the only two natives among them – myself and Ikini Holloway.

Ikini single-handedly almost did that – she did not take too kindly to the hubby chatting up a budding Aussie painter by the name of Glendys. To demonstrate her displeasure in true Morobe fashion Ikini wacked her husband across the ears with the pointed heel of one of her ankle-length shoes.

Holloway retaliated likewise, a flurry of uppercuts landing on Ikini; the fiery Finsch curled up and covering her small body with both hands absorbed the punches. All seemed well orchestrated, rehearsed moves, as if done many times before in the past for a live audience.

The warring parties were eventually separated but not without a few more scratches to the battered, bruised and boozed bodies and torn clothing.

As Holloway bled and all hell broke loose a passing police van dropped by to check the commotion yet commonsense prevailed and all was forgotten as the drinking and the grassing resumed, and that was not for too long; it had been a long day, an enjoyable night and tomorrow was another day.

Ikini returned to Port Moresby the next day to her work commitments with the national radio and Glendys got what she craved after that night – Barry Blyth Holloway on canvass, in oil. She spent many days at the Holloway residence in Kainantu, with and without the model, to produce the masterpiece.

Wow! It had been an honour sitting in the tiny flat which I, a second-year Post-Courier cadet journalist, shared with senior Melbourne colleague Tim Grimwade, drinking and smoking with a well-known and liked politician who had just been elected to represent the people of Eastern Highlands in first post-Independence general election.

This very human side of Holloway was a one-off encounter I never saw repeated but whenever our paths crossed, in Port Moresby, thereafter – I in the Press Gallery and Holloway on the floor of Parliament, moving his heavy frame about awkwardly, clumsily when making a point - I used to wonder with amusement whether he had just “let’s one more just like the other one” before entering the chamber!

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Days of the Kiap: Yauwiga, policeman & soldier


TUMBY BAY - Although they would be baffled by modern policing methods, it wouldn’t be exaggerating to say that, pound for pound, an old time policeman in Papua New Guinea probably had more balls than ten of his equivalents today. 

Nowhere was this made more apparent than during World War II.

Papua New Guinea was hopelessly unprepared for war. As part of the scramble to meet the Japanese threat, the Pacific Islands Regiment was born.

Some 3,800 Papua New Guineans fought as regular soldiers with the regiment. And many of the recruits came from the ranks of the Royal Papuan Constabulary and the New Guinea Police Force.

They fought with the Australian New Guinea Administrative Unit (ANGAU), some with the coastwatchers and others with the New Guinea Volunteer Rifles.

Others took part in fierce guerrilla actions with the Allied Intelligence Bureau or ‘M’ Special Unit.  Thousands more fought as ordinary policemen.

One such recruit was Sergeant Yauwiga (sometimes spelt ‘Yawige’) from the Sepik.

Yauwiga joined the New Guinea Police Force in 1930 and by October 1941, just before the Japanese invasion, attained the rank of sergeant. He was attached to the Allied Intelligence Bureau on Bougainville in February 1942.

He participated in the allied landings at Torokina in November 1943 and led guerrilla bands in northern Bougainville. He won the Distinguished Conduct Medal, the highest award possible for a non-commissioned officer, as well as the Loyal Service Medal.

He lost his left hand and the sight of one eye but survived the war.

He tells his own story in the book To Find a Path: The Life and Times of the Royal Pacific Islands Regiment, Volume 1 – Yesterday’s Heroes 1885-1950 by Jim Sinclair (Boolarong Publications, Brisbane, 1990, pp 285-9).

Here is Yauwiga speaking…. 

I stopped on Bougainville after all the Europeans had gone down to the Solomon Islands.  Only some policemen remained with the patrol officers. 

After about one week the Japanese bombed Kieta, so we collected all of the stores and all the material that we could from Kieta and took it and hid in various camps around in the bush. 

We had been in the bush for about one month when I heard that the Japanese had killed Sergeant Waramapi, who was working with Jack Read up in the northern section of the island, so I left Kieta with my line and went up into the area, and I found Waramapi’s wife and children and took them back down to the Numa Numa Plantation.

I then went up into the mountains near Buka Passage to a place called Aravia and there I found Jack Read with his camp, and I worked with him for nearly three years.  When we were first up at this camp the Japanese came looking for us. 

The Japanese had a line of about a hundred natives and about a hundred Japanese, split into two parties.  Some of the Japanese came up from the Numa Numa side, and the others came up from the Teop Plantation side.  They were trying to find where we were hiding up in the mountains.

We knew the Japanese were coming but Jack didn’t want to fight them and I became very cross and I said to him, “Why do we run away the same as women do?”  Jack told me that this wasn’t the job of the coastwatchers and since I was a coastwatcher scout it was not my job to fight because if I fought the Japanese how could I then watch and pass on the information about Japanese bombers and submarines and troop movements – that was my job. My job was not to fight.

I didn’t like this but it was the job they gave me.  I was told that if the Japanese came, if I could possibly escape, my job was to run away, so that I could live to spy another day.

One particular day when we were up in the bush near Ariva, we had our camp on the slopes of a small hill that was surrounded by big bush.  It was not the kind of place that you could run away from very easily and I was up on this ridge line above the main camp with an Australian signaller whose name was Allan Forbes and another policeman whose name was Wamulu, from Manus Island.

At a point down the trail that approached our camp I had bent a branch of a tree down and lightly fastened it onto the other side of the road and then later on while we were sitting up on the side of the hill I heard a noise as this branch of the tree was knocked out of position and swung back. We looked down the track and there were a lot of Japanese milling around us as the branch had knocked some of the Japanese over.

We yelled out to the others to get out of camp and the Japanese started to shoot at us with machine guns. The three of us quickly jumped behind a large tree and opened fire on the Japanese.

There was a mixture of Japanese and local natives in the group that was coming towards us.  In this engagement until we ran out of ammunition we killed twenty-five.

We then slipped away from the camp and made our way up the side of a mountain until we got to a ridge line.  The only way up was by waterfall and there we waited to see what the Japanese would do.

Continue reading "Days of the Kiap: Yauwiga, policeman & soldier" »

Unsuspecting Ipatas earns the title of Grand Chief


Peter IpatasGRAND CHIEF is a very honourable title. It awarded to anyone who has given all of himself to the course of the nation of Papua  New Guinea.

He has lived for nothing but Papua New Guinea. He has talked about nothing but Papua New   Guinea. He has dreamed about nothing but a better Papua New Guinea. He has sacrificed his and his family’s time for Papua New Guinea. He has carried Papua New Guinea in his heart like kangaroos’ carry their babies in their pouches.

His achievements are extraordinary. Without them PNG would never have arrived at this stage. All Papua New Guinea has no option but to see him as a leader of all other leaders.

Sir Michael Somare is indisputably qualified for the title. It was right and proper that it was bestowed. When it was awarded, the whole of PNG bowed in adoration and concurrence.

Nobody attains the title of Grand Chief overnight. It is not treated as awards from the Queen of England, which are at times handed out to political cronies without proper qualifications.

The title of Grand Chief lies at the heart and soul of PNG. It is indeed a grand title. Nobody wears it unnecessarily. Only those who deserve it receive it.

Now, Papua New Guinea, Enga’s governor Peter Ipatas is your youngest Grand Chief.

PNG has bestowed this most sacred title on one of its unsuspected sons and, in gaining it, Ipatas has bypassed several senior statesmen.

He has bypassed former prime ministers Sir Julius Chan, Sir Rabbie Namaliu and Paias Wingti to name just a few.

Ipatas has achieved so many things, but two normally come to attention: his wholehearted support for rugby league and education.

Some people may view these achievements as not significant enough to warrant the title of Grand Chief, but he has attained it anyway.

It remains for us to simply convey our congratulations to him for receiving the title unsuspectingly after it bypassed other senior and well qualified citizens of Papua New Guinea. 

Taim bilong masta i spak: 3 stories about drinking

Young Jackson_thumbKEITH JACKSON

THE EARLY 1960S WAS ANOTHER ERA, Papua New Guinea (‘the Territory’) another place and the Highlands still a frontier.

In the Chimbu (as we called it then) there were two single white women, both nurses, and 80 single white men. There existed a rough, drunken, brawling culture.

I was just 18 and, before I'd been in Kundiawa three months as a callow novice schoolteacher, I'd had three fights, lost each and decided there was no headway in this behaviour. Except in the sense that my head kept getting in the way.

I also discovered the therapeutic benefits of sharing a bottle of Old Kedge before breakfast. Briefly, here’s how I made the discovery.

My Hauspig (single men’s quarters) co-tenant, offended that I declined a generous offer to join him in a small social drink at half past six of a Sunday morning, threw me off the back verandah clad only in my underpants.

The local church-going public, wandering up the hill to lotu, were bemused by this vision unsplendid of a bawling, half naked white man.

I’ve never been known to knock back a drink since.


Kundiawa, 1964. I began publishing a stencilled newspaper (circulation 50), the Kundiawa News, which, in a roundabout way, was to later lead me to Port Moresby, Yokomo, the ABC and journalism.

The KN was what you'd call scurrilous. It published gossip, opinion and fact in a pretty undifferentiated way.

Each fortnight's issue was dumped on the respective bars of the Chimbu Club and Kundiawa Hotel and avidly fallen upon by the punters.

As they absorbed the scuttlebutt and malice, a little niggling would start, then a bit of verbal blueing and occasionally a fully-fledged brawl.

Attempting a hard-hitting style of prose, I inadvertently called the expat Public Works grader driver a “dissolute reprobate”.

Later, he caught up with me in the front (white only) bar of the pub and asked what ‘reprobate’ meant.

By the look on his face I could tell that he didn't imagine it was a compliment.

I volunteered its definition as a ‘mild term of reproach’, whereupon he grabbed my shoulders and began to shake me.

Given that there was a fair bit of him and not much of me in those days, it was like a Rottweiler wrestling a wet handkerchief.

At this point, my mate Bladwell entered the fray, accosting the man and saying mildly, “Hey, leave him alone”.

My assailant, wanting real sport, king hit Bladders, knocking him to the floor.

Now Bladders was a pretty popular guy around Chimbu back then, so a bunch of other fellas joined in.

Before you could say, “I'm outta here and off up the Club”, all 20 guys in the bar had decided this was the night to settle old and new scores and were hoeing into each other.

The barmaids screamed, the lights went out, tables rolled over, glasses broke.

Afterwards, the publican, Dick Kelaart, threatened to ban everyone for life except he would have gone broke.

I took Bladders to the haus sik and we watched the late Tim Murrell finish a Caesarean section in the pitpit operating room before he stitched up my hero.

It was a terrific brawl.

Those implicated boasted of their involvement for months afterwards and those who missed out were disappointed and felt cheated.

I was quietly pleased that something I'd written could have such a spectacular impact on the local community.


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Garnaut’s roar a meow; O’Neill unmoved on BHP


“THE ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS of the Australian-managed Ok Tedi mine in Papua New Guinea will be felt for hundreds of years”, wrote Greg Roberts back in 2006.

By comparison the recent public spat between Ok Tedi Mining chairman Ross Garnaut and PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill, rates low on the scale of social importance. Nevertheless, it has made the front pages in Australia for the best part of three months.

The political saga began last year when the PNG government attempted to end BHP’s enduring role in PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP), a charitable trust with a 63% interest in Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML).

Ross Garnaut took the occasion of his retirement as Chairman of PNGSDP in October 2012 to issue words of concern over local control, suggesting it risked the fund’s cooptation by PNG leaders. Presumably BHP is immune to self-interest in this respect.

An outraged prime minister O’Neill slapped a travel ban on the Australian economist.

Unable to enter PNG, Garnaut recently announced that his position at OTML is no longer tenable. Garnaut has not, however, gone quietly.

Carefully worded statements were made to hand-picked journalists. First, excerpts from his resignation letter appeared in The Australian, not surprisingly in a piece by Rowan Callick – the reporter of choice for mining companies with a grievance in PNG.

In a curious twist, the Australian Financial Review published a ‘leaked’ DFAT document on the same day, complete with sordid details on BHP’s political stoush with Prime Minister O’Neill. Ballets are less choreographed.

To finish it all off Garnaut was interviewed on ABC radio by Jemima Garrett – the second choice for mining companies with a grievance in PNG. Hyperbole ensued.

“My ban was a low point for Australian diplomacy generally, a low point for PNG development and a low point for Papua New Guinea democracy”, Garnaut argued.

This is quite a bold claim given that PNG has endured a bloody civil war (which Australia amplified), ecocide and a jarring land grab.

Nevertheless Garnaut continued, unchallenged by Garrett, “if it [the travel ban] became an accepted precedent the retention of the precedent would introduce a major new element of sovereign risk.”

Garnaut concluded the interview by controversially invoking Australia’s role as ‘regional sheriff’: “Australia is the regional power that is in the best position to lead the development of rules that could prevent the arbitrary use of incidental powers that could seriously disrupt international business and development”.

Declarations of war are more subtle.

However, this isn’t the first time that a chairman of a major mining company has publicly slammed a PNG prime minister. Rewind 25 years, and it was Bougainville Copper Limited’s (BCL) then chairman, Don Carruthers.

BCL had just had its mine knocked off line by a couple of sticks of dynamite, strategically placed by aggrieved landowners.

Carruthers was outraged and flew to Port Moresby. Once there he demanded that the government assert its authority.

Continue reading "Garnaut’s roar a meow; O’Neill unmoved on BHP" »

Australian mining giant ramps up pressure on PNG

MIKE HEAD | World Socialist Website

HAVING WALKED AWAY SCOT-FREE from Papua New Guinea a decade ago, after creating a health and environmental disaster, the world’s largest mining company, Australian-based BHP Billiton, is seeking to bully the PNG government into permitting it to recommence operations in the resource-rich country.

PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill last week accused the company of having a “colonial era mentality” after BHP Billiton reopened an acrimonious dispute over the proceeds from the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine, from which BHP formally exited in 2002.

Since 2011, BHP has unsuccessfully sought exploration licences in PNG for the first time since 2002. Last year, after negotiations broke down, BHP threatened to sue the PNG government, but ultimately withdrew its applications covering about 40,000 square kilometres of mountainous countryside.

In a bid to ramp up its pressure on the PNG government, a leaked BHP document was published on the front page of last Monday’s Australian Financial Review. Written to the Australian government, it alleged that O’Neill had “blocked” BHP’s lease applications, as a lever to demand that the company hand over control of a $US1.5 billion development fund derived from Ok Tedi profits.

BHP called on Canberra to intervene against a PNG visa ban imposed last November on prominent Australian academic Ross Garnaut, who subsequently quit as chairman of the development fund—the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP)—and Ok Tedi Mining, the company that has operated the mine since 2002.

“The Australian government should be concerned that an Australian businessman is being blocked from participating in legitimate business interests,” BHP stated.

In response, O’Neill described BHP’s allegations as “totally and utterly false,” saying he had personally invited the company to “consider investing in PNG.”

While criticising BHP’s colonial-style disregard for PNG’s independence, O’Neill also emphasised that his government was committed to giving investors “confidence and certainty”.

He delivered the same message last month while addressing 1,400 mining, oil and gas leaders, and financiers and analysts, in Sydney, at the annual PNG Mining and Petroleum Conference.

O’Neill alluded to the popular hostility that remains in PNG over BHP’s notorious departure from Ok Tedi in 2002.

He said the company had been done “an enormous favour by the then PNG government and allowed to exit ownership of the Ok Tedi mine without accepting any financial or moral responsibility for the enormous environmental and social damage … in the 20 years it operated the mine.”

Over two decades, BHP dumped more than half a billion tonnes of tailings (rock waste) containing copper, zinc, cadmium and lead into the Fly and Ok Tedi Rivers.

It ruined the lands of thousands of subsistence farmers, poisoned some 2,000 square kilometres of forest, polluted the Ok Tedi River and contaminated a section of the Fly River, PNG’s second biggest river system, severely depleting fishing stocks.

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PNG industry earmarked for major reforms in 2013

Oxford Business Group

AFTER 12 YEARS OF CONSECUTIVE GROWTH, Papua New Guinea started the new year by focusing its attention on facilitating a broader and more inclusive model for driving the economy forward.

While PNG’s recent fortunes have been fuelled by the $19bn Exxon Mobil-led liquefied national gas (LNG) project, completion of the construction phase is set to change the economic dynamic this year by halving annual growth to an anticipated 4%.

The government plans to use the slowdown as an opportunity to accelerate the rolling out of national development projects and wider economic reform initiatives, with the agricultural sector and small and medium-sized enterprises to be given priority.

PNG’s industry has enjoyed several years of meteoric growth, benefitting both directly and indirectly from the LNG project. However, the construction, transport, storage, manufacturing and communication, and wholesale and retail trade sectors all face a considerable downturn this year.

The about-turn may bring challenges but it should also help to cool overheated industry sectors and ease related pressures for the government, allowing central resources to be allocated in a more equitable manner.

The 2013 budget, which was announced in November last year, has a central role to play in steering PNG’s economy onto a different track. Valued at K13bn ($6.26bn), it is the country’s largest budget to date and represents a figure of around K1800 ($867) per person.

The overwhelming majority of funds will be directed towards developing core services, including health care, education and law and order, as well as infrastructure.

Channelling investment into essential services is regarded as key to fulfilling the ambitions laid out in the national vision, “Wawasan 2050”, and helping resource-rich PNG to avoid the pitfalls of “Dutch disease”.

The government will also be looking to generate greater private sector involvement, which it views as crucial for enabling longer-term, sustainable economic growth beyond LNG and mining.

With 90% of PNG’s formal economy owned by international firms, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has moved to begin redressing the balance by placing local SMEs squarely at the forefront of his plans for national economic development.

The budget contains the first PGK80m ($38.2m) disbursement of an SME-specific $238.5m stimulus package that is expected to create 500,000 new businesses and 2m new jobs by 2050.

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Melanesian fruit pickers in Australia: the true grim story

PETER KRANZ | In Conjunction with Melanesian Fruit Pickers

Fruit pickerIT TOOK A LONG, LONG TIME to get off the ground and it was launched with many fine promises.

It is the Pacific seasonal worker scheme and it offers a special visa to come to Australia to work on a farm for a few months.

It all sounded great. It presented an opportunity to experience life in rural Australia. It provided the chance to save money for the family back home. One thousand dollars a week was promised.

It was suggested that living conditions would be fine and that Australia would be welcoming.

Indentured labourers in QueenslandWell, the reality has turned out to be quite different. Think early 20th century, Queensland canefields and indentured labour (pictured).

The fruit pickers who assisted with this article arrived 50 km from nowhere and discovered their accommodation to be a dilapidated caravan from the 1960's. They had to pay for this.

There was no air-con and no mobile phone reception, the only amenities being a two- ring gas cooker, a flea ridden bed and a shared toilet block.

So this is life for the fruit pickers enticed to back o’ beyond Australia on special visas.

And these visas are hard to secure. "We want your passport; your immigration permit; your birth certificate; your police clearance."

You quickly realise that where you’ve been assigned is not some Gold Coast paradise. You can't go anywhere as you are two hours drive from the nearest town.

There are less facilities than you'd expect in a PNG village; the heat is 45 degrees, and you have to work 10 hours a day, six days a week to earn even half of what you were promised.

And you’re surrounded by flat desert - the monotony broken only by the odd irrigation channel which at least carries the smell of water.

You work pretty much from sunrise to sunset. You are surprised to realise you are paid only by picking enough fruit to fill a bucket the size of a tea chest - which earns you about $10. It is piecework.

On a good day you may fill five of these - but it depends on the fruit and the conditions. The heat is tremendous - beating down on your head, if you break for water it will lose you money.

At around 8pm you get back to the caravan exhausted and too tired to prepare food - so you crunch on some Twisties, collapse to the smelly old mattress and fall into unconsciousness.

Next morning it's up at 6 to repeat the same process, until Sunday when you get the day off to attend church. But of course you don't earn any money on Sunday.

Maybe you can catch a bus to town and spend a few dollars on provisions and an ice cream. So how much does that leave left for your family? $200-300 for six days of backbreaking, heartbreaking, desolate, dry-as-hell, hot-as-Hades work for some Australian farmer.

This is the reality for seasonal fruit pickers in Australia in a scheme lauded by the Australian government as an innovative breakthrough program. Maybe colonialism was better.

'Gillileaks' & Australia's hypocrisy over Julian Assange


WHEN JULIAN ASSANGE and Wikileaks released a cache of US government cables in 2010, Australia's prime minister, Julia Gillard, denounced the leak in the strongest terms.

She opined, "I absolutely condemn the placement of this information on the WikiLeaks website. It's a grossly irresponsible thing to do and an illegal thing to do."

Fast forward three years, and it would appear the Australian government has had a road to Damascus experience.

Leaks it appears aren't all bad, especially when they damage foreign governments threatening Australian corporate interests. Indeed so profound is the conversion that the Gillard government is now in the Wikileaks game itself.

Let me provide the political context. In 2001 Australian mining giant BHP Billiton signed over its shares in the Papua New Guinea copper mine, Ok Tedi, to a charitable trust, PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP).

In return, the PNG government agreed to indemnify BHP over the environmental disaster its mine had caused.

Since 2001 BHP has retained control of PNGSDP's board, to the chagrin of PNG's current prime minister, Peter O'Neill.

Accordingly, last year O'Neill attempted to wrestle the reins from BHP. PNGSDP's outgoing chairman, the Australian economist, Ross Garnaut, publicly warned local control risked cooptation by PNG's leaders.

Outraged by the neo-colonial sentiment, prime minister O'Neill slapped a travel ban on Garnaut. As a result, he has been unable to fulfil his other major corporate duty in PNG, the chairmanship of Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

Garnaut recently resigned as a consequence. However, he has not gone quietly. Last week, a very public media assault was launched.

Excerpts from Garnaut's damning letter of resignation was published in The Australian, he also gave a cutting interview on ABC radio, rich in hyperbole.

"My ban was a low point for Australian diplomacy generally, a low point for PNG development and a low point for Papua New Guinea democracy", Garnaut claimed.

However, it was a front page article in The Australian Financial Review published on the same day as Garnaut's media assault that should interest Wikileaks supporters.

The report is based on a leaked document belonging to Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). It includes sordid details on BHP's dispute with O'Neill, as told from the company's perspective.

"He [O'Neill] subsequently blocked our [exploration] lease applications and made it clear they would only be granted if we transferred our rights [PNGSDP] to the government", BHP claimed in the leaked DFAT document.

In short, O'Neill is alleged to have blackmailed Australia's largest miner. This is a hugely damaging attack on the prime minister's reputation, and he has strongly denied the allegations.

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Fijians: Melanesians like PNGns but a class above


Kitchnoge_DavidThis is an article I wrote way back in 2006 at the waiting lounge at Nadi international airport when I visited Fiji for the first time on a business trip. I shared it with my circle of friends when I returned to PNG. I’ll be most interested to see any reaction from your readership….

FELLOW PAPUA NEW GUINEANS. I’ve just returned from a short trip to Fiji and what an eye-opener it was.

Fijians are Melanesians like us but they definitely are a class above. They are a nation of well groomed, calm and very organised individuals. I couldn’t help but envy the free night life of the Fijian capital of Suva where you can walk down the streets without the concern of being attacked or harassed by thugs.

There is a barbecue going on at major sections of the streets in Suva and both residents and visitors alike can go along and enjoy themselves with their families.

There are countless numbers of top-notch restaurants where you can go and be served really nice meals at an affordable price.

Ladies, and I mean females, girls, walk around the streets freely in the night and no one touches them. This would have to rank among the top five luxuries for our women in PNG but, that’s ‘life as usual’ for Fijians. And their streets are much cleaner and pleasant than ours.

Their population is almost evenly split between the indigenous Fijians and the Indo-Fijians but just about everyone is very friendly and easy to get along with. Everywhere you go, you are greeted with wide smiles accompanied by a bula (welcome/greeting). And every public announcement made over the inter-com ends with a vinaka (thank you) or the longer version vinaka vakalevu (thank you very much).

No one told me but it is probably an unwritten fact that the Fijians are acutely aware of the importance of tourism on their economy and ultimately their well-being, hence the appropriate behaviour.

Fiji doesn’t have the kind of mines (gold, copper, nickel etc) that we have plus our rich marine resources and forestry but they are richer than us in terms of GDP per capita and the real life on the ground.

All they have are sugar cane, fisheries, and mostly tourism unlike us who appear to be endowed with endless amounts of resources. This is truly one of the greatest paradoxes in our region.

So what does that tell us about the Fijians and us? I think one explanation for that would be in this word – efficiency.

Fijians are very efficient operators and gain the maximum benefit out of their scarce resources whilst we, on the other hand, are a very inefficient nation who wastes all our resources on non-productive and non-value adding activities. We are truly a nation that is so rich yet so poor.

Apart from that, I think one of the biggest differences between us and them as a people is that we have very different temperaments. They appeared to me to be a calm, peaceful, gentle, respectful and tolerant people while we are the exact opposite.

We are a country of bigheads, arrogant and violent people who will not hesitate to prey on someone’s misfortune. No wonder tourism will never be a sustainable industry in our beautiful country.

The reasons why we are worse off than them or they are better off than us (whichever way you see it) can be many and varied but one thing is for sure. The biggest gulf between our fellow Melanesian brothers and sisters and us is attitude.

We can match and even better them when and only when we change our bad attitudes. I pray that this happens in my lifetime. Amen.

Famous Kone Tigers oval is now a sex workers den


The badly deteriorated Kone Tigers OvalTHE KONE TIGERS CLUB and its oval was made famous by players like Clarrie Burke, John Kaputin, Bill O’Brien, Sean Dorney, Hugh Davis, Dadi Mahuru Toka and many other tough rugby league players.

John Kaputin played for the famous club in the days when rugby league was just starting to emerge as a national sport in Papua New Guinea and was still mostly played by white men.

Kaputin helped win the 1960’s grand final between the Kone Tigers and DCA played at the Papuan Rugby League ground near Boroko.

In the years that followed, the Kone Tigers Oval evolved into a modern rugby league ground with a club house, high wall fencing and polished green grass in the paddock.  It was on an equal footing with the Boroko ground.

The Kone Tigers club was the glamour team and proud owner of the oval. In later years international and semi-professional inter-city cup matches were played there.

Then, on the threshold of the 21st century, the famous oval started to fall into disrepair. Wreckers were appointed to run the club and its assets. Gradually all the corrugated iron fencing was ripped down, the club house fell apart and scrub crept into the paddock.

The kleptomaniacs who managed the club saw fit to sell the oval to some Asians.

The legality of the sale has been contested in court but no one has any idea about the outcome.

Right now the once famous Kone Tigers Oval is a sex workers’ and drug addicts’ den.

It is also a public toilet used by street vendors and others who do petty business at the Waigani market. Every Tom, Dick and Harry now goes to the paddock and squats anywhere in the scrub to answer the call of nature.

Public watch a couple have sexThe rain tree at the western end of the oval has been taken over by drug addicts. They congregate to smoke marijuana, drink ‘coffee punch’ (cheap liquor), watch pornography on mobile phones and intermittently walk to the eastern end of the oval to watch sex workers and their clients copulating (see photo).

Outside the western end of the oval is the large Waigani Market. The area between the oval and the market is used by 3,000 people every day for petty business.

While the market caters for people who sell garden produce the intervening area is used by the people who sell cordial, scones, hot dogs, Asian junk, betel nut and cigarettes.

There they do business under the scorching sun with the stench of the Waigani sewer in their nostrils.

When nature calls, they wander off to the Kone Tigers Oval. Likewise when lust calls they communicate through their mobile phones and meet up at the eastern end of the oval.

Continue reading "Famous Kone Tigers oval is now a sex workers den" »

World agrees first global treaty to curb mercury pollution

Russian Television | Additional commentary by Axel Sturm

Small scale mining in BougainvilleA CONVENTION SIGNED IN GENEVA has legally bound over 140 countries to new laws as part of an attempt to prevent the spread of deadly mercury pollution.

Environmental mercury levels have been rising, and anticipated further increases have motivated UN delegates in Geneva to reach a consensus on the solution.

 Mercury can cause a range of neurological and health problems and is potentially fatal in large doses.

The legally binding rules, known as the Minimata Convention, was established on Saturday morning. The UN approval of the treaty followed recently published data which demonstrated an alarming rise in levels of the highly toxic metal, especially in developing states.

‘Minimata’ is the Japanese name for a neurological disorder that arises from severe mercury poisoning, symptoms of which can include numbness in the extremities, ataxia, damage to speech, sound and sight, paralysis and death.

Once released into the environment, mercury can become more concentrated as it moves up the food chain. It can bio-accumulate in fish, which humans then consume.

The UN said a growth in small-scale mining and coal-burning were the primary reasons for the rise in mercury emissions.

Axel Sturm (President, European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper) comments:

Panning gold on a beach near Loloho, BougainvilleAlluvial gold is produced and sold in large quantities in Bougainville. As I am informed, most people who work with mercury don’t even know how dangerous it is.

Recently the Autonomous Bougainville Government discussed this problem and I strongly believe it is up to us to inform the people of Bougainville through our media platforms. We are obliged to do this.

Mercury is not a problem of Bougainville alone, of course, it’s also a problem for all Papua New Guinea.

BHP Billiton’s colonial mentality fuels PNG tensions

Editorial | The Guardian (Communist Party of Australia)

BHP BILLITON AND THE AUSTRALIAN federal government have come out swinging in response to suggestions that control of a fund – set up to save face over the Ok Tedi mine environmental disaster – should be put in the hands of the Papua New Guinea government.

The story hit the front pages when it was announced outgoing Ok Tedi chairman, the multi-functional Ross Garnaut, had been banned from entering PNG after comments he made in a newspaper interview cast doubt on the trustworthiness of PNG authorities to carry out such a function.

The name Ok Tedi would be familiar to many Australians. BHP took over control of the copper mine in PNG’s Western Province in the 1980s. Reports of major pollution from the mine had been hitting the media for some time before a report in 1999 finally spilled all the beans.

Chemicals from the tailings had contaminated fish and poisoned the water source for 50,000 Indigenous people living in the villages downstream from the mine. Food crops were also contaminated.

BHP wanted out. World copper prices were low and the Ok Tedi operation was a public relations disaster. The “Big Australian” (as BHP was known at the time) set up the PNG Sustainable Development Program (PNGSDP) in 2002 to collect income from the ongoing mining operation and hold it in trust for remediation and further investment in PNG.

The public conscience was massaged and it was off to more profitable ventures! BHP maintain a veto on decisions of the fund’s board and – until recently – the “right” to appoint three of the seven board members from the company’s HQ in Melbourne.

The mining transnational was supposedly sorry about its disastrous environmental legacy but not that sorry.

There is another twist to the story. Copper prices have surged in recent times and, rather than winding down, Ok Tedi might actually be expanding. The monies sitting in the PNGSDP are considerable and long term reserves are projected to hit $3.7 billion by 2022.

Not surprisingly, the PNG government would like to access some of those locked away funds for cash-starved development projects.

BHP enraged PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, by accusing him of blocking the granting of exploration licences to the mining mega-corporation until control of PNGSDP is ceded to his government.

O’Neill was quoted as saying that BHP must drop its “colonial era mentality” and talk about “ending a role there can be no justification for its continuing to play.” He vigorously denied any improper role in dealings with BHP or damaging the investment climate in PNG.

Continue reading "BHP Billiton’s colonial mentality fuels PNG tensions" »

Days of the Kiap: How Papua New Guinea was built


This essay was written by the late Sir Barry Holloway while he was a student at the University of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. The assignment task was for the, primarily new, UPNG students to write about a personal experience of bureaucracy for Prof John Ballard's Public Administration course on rural development and planning.

THE SETTING IS AN INLAND Patrol Post 'X' in Papua New Guinea and how in the mid-1950's the Patrol Officer of the Department of Native Affairs as it was then called, had to manipulate the law, public monies, government stores, specialist work forces, his authority and the truth to achieve development.

The successful 'operator' had to know how to work within and outside the formal structure of the bureaucratic organisation.

He depended very much on his personal relations among individuals for survival as many a Patrol Officer had gone to the courts, been dismissed, or sent away to more forbidding places for making errors in human relations.

The Officer of the Department of Native Affairs had to be a generalist and on this Patrol Post his duties included being in charge of police and prisons; he was also a magistrate and arbitrator and cared for the agencies of Treasury, Posts and Telegraphs, Public Works, Health, Education and Civil Aviation. One of the most important jobs was the opening of the hinterland and the consolidation of central government influence.

In this case study the P.O. wanted to get teachers and an education complex established on Patrol Post 'X'. Patrol Post 'X' rated very low for central government priorities; especially with regard to education as 'first contact' was still being made.

The P.O. wrote a letter to the District Officer explaining the need for a school at Patrol Post 'X'. The District Officer minuted it on to the District Commissioner and the District Commissioner wrote another letter to the District Education Officer. They also met each other at golf but there were many things to discuss other than a school at Patrol Post 'X'.

Eventually a letter came back from the D.E.O. through the D.C. and D.O., that no money was available to build a school and stating the few available new teachers were already posted for the following year. The D.E.O. indicated that three teachers might be available in 18 months.

The P.O. knew the D.E.O. personally and contacted him direct on the RTZ teleradio and informed him that the station staff and surrounding villagers were so anxious to have a school that hundreds of volunteer labour had come into the station and had already partly completed the school.

The D.E.O. had just come back from a short course at the London School of Economics and this sounded romantically similar to lectures, given by an Indian, he had attended and on a new method called 'Community Development'.

The D.E.O. was interested and promised a tour of inspection after the Christmas vacation and, if all was in order, could possibly direct three teachers to this project.

There was no school at Patrol Post 'X' nor had one been conceived of by the people, because they did not know what a school was. The P.O. sat down to plan the project and the first thing was to study the availability of money and manpower. His funds were as follows:

£1000 Minor New Works (Excavation airstrip)

£ 150 Minor New Works (establishment of latrines)

£ 800 Purchase fresh foods for prisoners

£ 400 Payment of carriers

£ 200 Incidentals

Out of these funds he very quickly calculated he could misappropriate £1,500 for the new school project.

Continue reading "Days of the Kiap: How Papua New Guinea was built" »

PM on drug suspects’ mystery assignation in Moresby

Radio New Zealand International

PAPUA NEW GUINEA’s prime minister Peter O’Neill says the private jet which transited through Port Moresby carrying two controversial Vanuatu diplomatic passport holders was checked thoroughly by officials.

The passengers were Charles Henry Saken and Pascal Anh Saken, the owner of the super yacht Phocea (pictured) which has been detained in Vanuatu since July when it was seized on suspicion of passport fraud and drug trading.

After arriving last Thursday, the jet’s passengers reportedly met with Vanuatu’s foreign minister Alfred Carlot who, according to Vanuatu’s government, was in Port Moresby on a private mission.

PNG officials briefly detained the passports of the passengers and Mr Carlot.

O’Neill said PNG had reason to believe some of the passengers on the plane had questionable backgrounds, requiring a background check.

He says the jet departed on Sunday night after an investigation by officials.

“They concluded that they have not breached any particular laws of our country other than not getting proper clearance for the plane to land,” O’Neill said.

“The host country [Vanuatu] that has given the diplomatic passports to these persons requested they be allowed to transfer through our country and of course we have no choice but to comply with that.”

Rev Threlfall’s Rabaul: The story of a beautiful town


Rabaul c1960sIN 1980, after 20 years working in Papua New Guinea, the Rev Neville Threlfall was asked to write a history of Rabaul.

Most of the written records of Rabaul were destroyed during the Pacific War in the early 1940s and by 1944 the town was obliterated by Allied bombing.

So Rev Threlfall faced the long job of researching colonial records, mission papers, old newspapers, private letters, papers and diaries, locating Rabaul identities and interviewing them, finding old photographs, and reading war histories and naval, military and air force files.

Thirty-two years later, after much research and the lengthy re-typing of the book in digital form by his daughter Beth, it has finally been published.

The book includes 533 A4 pages of text and includes a detailed and methodical account of the history of Rabaul, with 150 photographs, many from the 1920s and 1930s and numerous from wartime, portraits of noted leaders, official ceremonies and volcanic eruptions.

There are also six maps, a bibliography, an index and a foreword by Dr Allan Marat, MP for Rabaul.

The book tells of the geological reasons for the site’s instability; of the first human settlers; of European navigators, whalers, missionaries and traders; colonisation by Germany and development of a port and town with a cosmopolitan community, which came under Australian rule as a Mandated Territory after World War I.

There follows an often-stormy history up to and after PNG’s Independence, including three volcanic eruptions but with the town surviving in 2012, with its emblem the frangipani blossom still blooming.

The book is full of stories of colourful personalities, eye-witness accounts of the volcanic eruptions, the heartbreaking stories of Lark Force, the mystery of the Montevideo Maru, the recurrent question “Should the town be rebuilt?”, the Mataungan uprising, the long road that eventually led to Independence for PNG, and many more stories, all told in much detail and with great understanding.

Steven Gagau, Barbara Short, Dr Jennifer GagauThis book will be a wonderful asset for Papua New Guinean students of history and for the Tolai people in particular.

It is dedicated to the people of Rabaul, past and present, and to Roma, the Rev Threlfall’s late wife, who shared his years there and who helped him greatly during his work in the book’s production.

The book will be launched in PNG at a special event in Rabaul in the coming weeks.

Lower photo: Steven Gagau, Barbara Short and Dr Jennifer Gagau, the paediatric registrar at Maitland Hospital, (all of whom first met at Keravat National High School) at the launch of Rev Neville Threlfall's book on the history of Rabaul last Saturday at the Uniting Church at Croydon in Sydney. Jennifer is organising for a choir to sing at a special service for the Rev Threlfall when he returns to PNG for the launch of his book in Rabaul in the coming weeks.

Shortland islanders concerned over border activity

Radio New Zealand International

Shortland IslandsTHERE HAS BEEN A CALL by Solomon Islanders living along the sea border with Papua New Guinea to review security.

Leaders in the Shortland Islands want consultations with the Regional Assistance Mission (RAMSI), the Solomon Islands police and international police after reported transgressions.

Reports say a group, which is believed to have crossed from Bougainville, entered a logging camp in one of the islands and left with logging equipment.

The Shortland people were badly affected during the Bougainville crisis of the 1990s when members of the rebel Bougainville Revolutionary Army and soldiers of the PNG Defence Force fought battles on their islands.

An elder told the Radio New Zealand correspondent that the Shortland people still recollect the frightening experiences of those days.

Days of the Kiap: Story of brave Lance Corporal Anis


Kukukuku warriorFOR A LONG TIME the Kukukuku of the Eastern Highlands had the reputation as the most dangerous, aggressive and savage tribe in the whole of Papua New Guinea.

The stocky little fighters raided as far south as the Papuan Gulf and in early 1906 the outgoing Administrator of British New Guinea, Captain F R Barton established an administrative outpost on the coast at Kerema principally to curb their depredations.

When not raiding their neighbours the Kukukuku fought among themselves and when the first Europeans penetrated their boundaries they took them on too.

The famous ‘Outside Man’, Jack Hides, described the daring of the Kukukuku as ‘colossal’. District Commissioner Ian Downs whose adolescent interpreter had been presented to him one morning in 1937 disembowelled and impaled in sections on the defensive stakes of his camp boundary was less sanguine in his praise.

He later described the chill he felt when he momentarily mistook the shaven heads of Hare Krishna in the streets of Sydney for Kukukukus.

Downs reported that the Kukukuku had their own unique humour, ‘A theatrical pantomime of denials that they had ever attacked us followed by tearful demands for the return of their arrows’.

The term ‘Kukukuku’ was never used by the people it purported to describe.  The general consensus is that the word is derived from the Motuan kokokoko, which described the distinctive cassowary bone belts worn by Kukukuku men after the birth of their first child.

Other connotations are more derogatory.  Faced with this dilemma a number of researchers proposed the word Anga, which is almost universally used by the Kukukuku to describe the concept of ‘home’.

The word has caught on with some researchers but Ivan Mbaginta’o as curator of the J K McCarthy Museum in Goroka and himself a Kukukuku says that the term is not in common usage among his people.

Call them what you will, the man whose name is perpetuated in the Goroka Museum ran across the Kukukuku in 1932.

McCarthy, who later became the Director of the Department of Native Affairs, came away with several scars for his trouble. His brave colleague, Lance-Corporal Anis, from Madang, lost his life in the encounter.

There was a special relationship between the police and the kiaps. Together they were two parts of a unique team; one couldn’t have survived without the other. This relationship is epitomised in the writings of people like McCarthy.

There are several inconsistent accounts of McCarthy’s encounter and his 1933 patrol report differs here and there from the published accounts.

Despite these disparities there is no getting away from Lance-Corporal Anis’s extraordinary bravery. The following account is taken from McCarthy’s 1963 book Patrol into Yesterday (F W Cheshire, Sydney, pp 106-13)….

Continue reading "Days of the Kiap: Story of brave Lance Corporal Anis" »

Looking for relatives of the formidable Frank Boisen


I AM FORMERLY OF RABAUL and was the first Papua New Guinean student that the celebrated PNG colonial educator Frank Boisen took under his wing in the 1950s.

Through his efforts I became the first Papua New Guinean student to come to Australia to complete high school (1954-56) eventually gaining acceptance into the 1958-59 ASOPA teacher training program.

I am now in my 77th year and have almost completed my autobiography, essentially for my five grandchildren who are all Australian-born.

Former District Education Officer Frank Boisen was quite obviously a big part of my life and, although unfortunately my memory isn't as clear now as it was, I would like to acknowledge what he did for me.

As a young man, after Mrs Boisen died, I spent much of my time driving the Boisen's children (Arthur and Margaret) to school in his red car and helping his children's carer with whatever requirements there were.

I would be most grateful if any reader might be able to let me know the names of Frank Boisen’s last daughter and even recall the lady who was his children's carer.

My regret now is that I do not know the Boisen children's whereabouts.

Perhaps a reader could direct me in the right way to this information

Readers can reply through the Comments link below or email Harry Coehn here. We’d also like to hear some Frank Boisen stories….

British Aerospace trains PNGDF pilots in Australia

United Press International |

Flight training over TamworthBAE SYSTEMS HAS SIGNED a contract to provide advanced flight training to the Papua New Guinea Defence Force.

The contract builds on a 2011 agreement to provide Papua New Guinean student pilots with basic flying training at BAE's Australian facility at Tamworth City Airport in New South Wales.

Students soon will start an advanced 18-month training course to progress to the next stage of their flying careers.

“We are looking forward to extending and developing the relationship with PNG by providing its defence force with the highest standard of flying instruction," said BAE General Manager Aviation Solutions, John Quaife.

The air operations element of the PNGDF has a small number of light and rotary wing aircraft that support the army with logistics, resupply and medical evacuation as well helping with civilian disaster relief.

The air element also supports army patrols along the country's 700km border with the restive Indonesian province of Papua.

BAE's flight training facility at Tamworth is based around a six-year, $86 million deal signed in 2011 with the Royal Australian Air Force.

The PNG pilots’ courses began in January last year and the first students graduated in mid-2012.

Corney was right: PNG drops outcome-based curriculum

Open Equal Free | Education Development Blog

Alone_Corney KIN RESPONSE TO LOW ACADEMIC RATES, the Papua New Guinea government has decided to scrap the outcome-based education (OBE) system and return to the more traditional objective-based curriculum.

[Anti-OBE campaigner, Corney K Alone (pictured), got it right four years ago: PNG did not have the educational resource base to support such a radical innovation.]

The OBE system is designed to facilitate self-learning approaches. Schools are responsible for setting relevant, criterion-based outcomes, where assessment focuses on individual skills and performance.

In the traditional system, learning is based relatively on educational ‘inputs’ (i.e. teaching styles, textbooks, number of hours in school), in which students are ranked in comparison to one another.

Although OBE sounds more appealing, it appears to be difficult to implement effectively. For instance, Western Australia abandoned its OBE curriculum in 2007 after being criticised for designing ‘vague’ objectives that were too difficult to measure.

South Africa similarly dropped its use of the OBE system back in mid-2010.

PNG educational experts believe the real problem arises from a lack of specialised resources, such as teacher-written workbooks and lesson plans that support the use of the OBE curriculum.

“A lot of teachers are teaching the curriculum as they would in the old system. We have to provide full in-service kits that can provide cost-effective teacher training or in-service packages for all teachers,” said educator Michael John Uglo.

Some argue that the OBE curriculum has simply taken too long to develop. Unfortunately, the process of switching curriculum strategies now may take another two to three years to complete

See also: ‘Education: Oppression before enslavement’, PNG Attitude, 9 August, 2010 and ‘Corney steps up pressure in schools debate’, PNG Attitude, 11 September 2010

New MP Pato brings Wapenamanda hope at last

Joe Wasia detailJOE WASIA | Supported by the Bob Cleland Writing Fellowship

THE 40,000 PLUS PEOPLE of the Wapenamanda district in Enga Province now see some light at the end of the tunnel.

New MP for Wapenamanda and Foreign Affairs Minister, Rimbink Pato, has a great vision for the long-suffering people of the district.

Rimbink PatoSince 2002, after former parliamentarian Masket Iangalio lost his seat to Miki Kaeyok, who was then succeeded by Pato (pictured left) at the last election, there has been gross neglect of this region.

Every basic infrastructure service in the district has collapsed. The place has been in total darkness for years.

There was no proper district administration; former MP Miki Kaeyok operated from his home at Birip Mission Station.

Law and order issues were on the rise because there being no police on the ground. The district police station was closed down for more than 10 years and the District Court transferred to Wabag for unknown reasons.

The Department of Primary Industry, once an active body supporting rural farmers, was closed due to lack of funding from the district administration. The schools and health facilities established by former MPs Pato Kakaraya and Masket Iangalio deteriorated.

But, above all, road condition in the district is the hot topic that everyone from the Lower Lai basin up to the Tsak Valley talk about constantly. They complain like roads are the food and drink they cannot live without.

But now Mr Pato has brought hope to his people by committing to upgrading the roads and run-down facilities during his five year term in parliament.

Better roads will improve the local economy. The people will sell their produce to nearby markets, raise chickens, start piggeries, open shops and grow cash crops and undertake many other activities that will raise their living standards.

The last ten years have been the darkest in the lives of the Wapenamanda people.

But these positive statements by the new MP are good news to the ears of the  people of the district.

Congratulations are due to our new MP for achieving his new political career (he has climbed to ministerial level even though he is a first timer in parliament). We salute you.

The losing candidates and the people of Wapenamanda must put aside their political differences and work side by side to realse the Pato vision and bring much needed services to the people.

UNHCR backs away from W Papua refugee support

FIRMIN NANOL | Radio Australia

THE UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES (UNHCR) has announced it will scale back its operations in Papua New Guinea, citing the growing expense of looking after refugees from the Indonesian province of Papua.

The UNHCR has been providing protection and support to refugees from the Indonesian province of Papua for the last 28 years, including access to jobs, education and integration into PNG communities.

The UNHCR has signed an agreement formalising its transition of powers and responsibilities to the PNG government.

UNHCR representative Walpurga Englbrecht says the organisation is scaling back its operations due to financial constraints and other evolving refugee and humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and Africa.

Ms Englbrecht says the UNHCR is happy the PNG government will continue to look after the refugees.

''It is a very positive step, the signing of the memorandum of agreement," Ms Englbrecht said.

"It just shows the willingness of the Papua New Guinea government to further locally integrate the West Papuan refugees."

An estimated 8000 refugees live in PNG's Western province, most of whom had fled neighbouring Indonesia in the mid-1980s.

The PNG government says it will support in processing their permissive residency certificates and repatriate them if they wish to return.

Days of the Kiap: Constable Okomba & the cannibals


Policeman in Kanai countryIN 1968, WHEN IT WAS APPARENT that self-government and independence for Papua New Guinea was imminent, the Australian government issued orders for all the so-called ‘uncontrolled’ areas to be brought to heel.

The Department of District Administration instituted a program of saturation patrolling in these areas to speed up the process. A sizeable chunk of uncontrolled area existed in the Nomad area of the Western District.

Assistant District Commissioner Rob Barclay was given the job of pacifying the infamous Biami (Bedamini) cannibals once and for all. In an article published in Quadrant magazine in September last year he described the process.

Of the Biami, Barclay wrote….

Shooting pigs to deter primitive peoples from attacking patrols was standard practice, but it didn’t work with them. They wanted us out, never to return. There was an uninhabited buffer zone around the Biami homelands which provided some protection for the surrounding tribes, who were all potential items on the Biami menu.

Primitive men were deathly afraid of the dark. It was the time when the evil spirits were abroad. No sensible person would leave his barricaded hut to see what might be happening beyond the light of the fire.

The Biami had no such qualms. They moved through the jungle by the fitful light of the moon and by the faint starlight, earning for themselves the title of “meat-eating flying foxes”. The flesh of their victims was an integral part of their diet, and their only really satisfying source of protein.

Most cannibalism around the world is ritual, the aim being to imbibe the powers of your victims, making you ever stronger and eventually invincible. But the Biami had no such tradition; they only wanted meat.

Their approach was highly organised. Raiding parties would steal silently through the night, and carefully deploy through the tangled gardens of the targeted long house, stationing themselves at the minor exits.

At the first glimmer of dawn, making the maximum uproar to disorient the sleepers, some would leap through the main entrance, howling like madmen, indiscriminately clubbing and axing the occupants.

The remaining house dwellers would pour out through the lesser exits, or simply barge straight through the walls in a mad panic to escape. The waiting warriors would axe them down as they bolted out of the house, and chase the more agile through the gardens, finishing them off there.

The corpses would then be dismembered, the manageable portions stuffed into string bags and borne off by the triumphant chanting warriors to be partially roasted on the long house fires.

Brains, eyeballs and testicles were particular delicacies. Much of the catch would be eaten practically raw. Eligible young women captured in raids would be forcefully married into the Biami to produce more warriors and women workers. Barren women were eaten or became slaves.

Continue reading "Days of the Kiap: Constable Okomba & the cannibals" »

Garnautgate: The independence struggle continues

SHARON ISAFE | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

IN 1975 PNG ACHIEVED political autonomy, but the struggle for independence continues. BHP is the first of many dragons the government must slay.

But first things first, the O’Neill government has been slammed in the Australian media for placing a travel ban on Prof Ross Garnaut, the outgoing Australian Chairman of Ok Tedi Mining Limited.

“A low point in Papua New Guinea’s democracy”, Garnaut called it. A “misuse of immigration powers”, he claims.

Let’s put aside for one minute the Australian government’s criminal asylum seeker policy  – which is described by Amnesty International as cruel and inhumane – Australia frequently denies entry to those people it judges to be of poor character.

It is ironic then that Prof Stephen Howes from ANU believes his government must come out publicly and condemn PNG for its action.

Can you can imagine the hysterical laughter from international audiences were Australia to sermonise over the proper use of “immigration powers”, after a decade of shamelessly using asylum seekers as a political football.

But hypocrisy aside, let’s move beyond the predictable international headlines, and get to the nub of the issue emerging from Garnautgate.

Sadly, it is long in origins. Let me be curt, historically PNG was at best a glorified colonial buffer for an Australian state in fear of invading European/Asian hordes.

And on that buffer the colonial administration set up a few plantations and a few mines, but not much else (sadly, many Papua New Guineans perished under the brutal labour regime imposed).

By the time they left, PNG had the vestiges of a state, but it lacked the fundamental instruments needed to exert independence internationally – i.e. nationally owned industries, a highly functional education system, skilled localised civil service, etc.

So, since 1975 our leaders have had to bow – often with excruciating servility – before the likes of successive Australian governments, foreign companies, the world-bank, in the hope a few scraps from the global economy will be thrown onto PNG’s table.

And on those occasions when a scrap is indeed thrown PNG’s way, those same leaders have contented themselves by tearing at these meagre morsels through scams, malfeasance and theft – to the detriment of the people.

The mining multinationals, and to an extent the Australian government, are happy with this arrangement, providing that the former get sweetheart deals – they have, mostly – and the latter does not face any unforeseen security dilemmas (if they can make a few bucks on top, so much the better).

Now let’s be very clear, prime minister O’Neill is no Hugo Chavez, he is not seeking to seize the country’s mineral wealth in order to enrich its people. But that said, he is a nationalist, and at the moment he is waging a nationalist struggle against foreign hyper-exploitation.

Indeed, it would seem prime minister O’Neill has had a light bulb moment of sorts – it’s been too long in coming – PNG’s elite do not have to feed off the scraps thrown to them by foreign financiers, whatever form they take. They can, in fact, seize the golden goose for themselves.

And if they succeed, will the golden goose be used to enrich the national elite? Almost certainly yes, this happens in all independent capitalist nations – but it is a far better arrangement than the enrichment of foreign multinationals and their governments.

I am no cheerleader of prime minister O’Neill – my memory is a long one – but if PNG is to enter the world stage with a shred of independence, it must take ownership of its assets, simple as that. This will be the first step towards a better PNG – but many struggles lie ahead!

In this respect, O’Neill’s duel with Prof Garnaut, and BHP, is the first shot over the bow. Whether the prime minister has the mettle to get off his knees and take a serious stand against foreign interests, remains to be seen.

Old International Training Institute now on Facebook


International Training InstitutePNG ATTITUDE PAYS TRIBUTE to the former Australian School of Pacific Administration (ASOPA) in various ways, including the retention of the name in our internet address.

A little remembered aspect of ASOPA, which ended its illustrious life in 1973, was that it morphed into another great learning institution, the International Training Institute (ITI).

But whereas ASOPA had trained and orientated young Australian professionals to work in the former Territory of Papua New Guinea, when it transitioned into ITI it made a 180 degree turn.

Instead of being a colonial training establishment, ITI brought together middle managers from countries in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to improve their management skills and give them a leg up.

It flourished for 15 years until 1987 until being cruelly put down by what is now AusAID for reasons that remain obscure.

ITI was a great idea that has never been adequately replaced in Australia.

IngridNow a Facebook page has been developed by Ingrid (Hallein) Jackson (pictured) who lectured in human resources management at ITI from 1981-86.

Ingrid would like to hear from any people who participated in the wonderful ITI project as staff or fellows (students). You can go to the Facebook page or email her here.

“ITI was primarily a centre for sharing knowledge and apply knowledge to real problems,” Ingrid said.

“It did not base its programs on the premise that its staff of specialists knew all the answers.

“Its development philosophy stemmed from the belief that if experienced and well-motivated people from a variety of backgrounds worked together in a systematic way then, collectively, they could develop successful approaches to even the most formidable problems.”


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

Kosua children in Seane Falls VillageI HAVE BEEN LOOKING AT some of my favourite passages from the Bible and seeing how I could grasp their meaning better if I paraphrased them in poems and songs.

Since Christmas a passage in 1 Corinthians 13 has had me contemplating the essence of love.

Nowadays our society is saturated with a selfish eros-infused love concerned only with what makes people feel good. It's all about me and what I want and how you have to fulfil me and if you don't then I'm going to ensure I get what I want elsewhere.

The essence of love is the conscious decision by individuals to commit to be unconditionally generous.

This sounds very simple I know, but imagine how this world would be if everyone of us chose to believe and practise this? I dream...


Is patient and is kind
In it envy you will never find
Does not boast, there’s no pride
It isn’t rude, selfish or easily riled

Evil thoughts aren’t entertained
Immoral ways are disdained
Truth and truth alone
Love’s pleasure obtains
Understands and forgives
Has faith to bear all ills

Its hope is for eternity
Therefore endures all calamities
Will Never Fail

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

New generation: Talking with PNG's Attorney-General

Alex OliverALEX OLIVER | The Interpreter | Lowy Institute

LATE LAST YEAR I travelled to Port Moresby to interview some of PNG's newly elected MPs for the Lowy Institute's Leadership Mapping Project.

One of the most interesting discussions I had during my week in Port Moresby was with the new Attorney-General, the Hon Kerenga Kua. He is new to both the portfolio and to parliament, although politics formed a definite part of his very clear career plan.

Kerenga KuaKua has had a distinguished career in law, having been a founding partner in a successful commercial law practice in Port Moresby for 19 years after a five-year stint in Sydney with the Australian firm Blake Dawson Waldron.

His goal, he told me in October, was to establish a sound financial footing for himself and his family so he would not be vulnerable to the notorious corruption which infects PNG politics.

The Attorney-General has featured in the Australian press over the last week because the 'colourful' Opposition Leader, Belden Namah, is suing the government in the Supreme Court in an attempt to close down the Manus Island processing centre.

While Namah says the court action is entirely motivated a desire to uphold PNG's constitution, his words suggest a slightly deeper agenda, telling ABC radio 'we can't go outside of our constitution, outside of our laws to try and please our friends.'

My conversation with the Attorney-General in October, however, suggested that 'pleasing our friends' might indeed be one of the PNG government's motives in hosting Australia's asylum-seekers. The Attorney-General has a great admiration for Australia as a country that 'gets things right', and told me:

The two countries are deeply bonded from the PNG perspective...knowing that we're stuck with each can only understand it in times of crisis.

There are very few things PNG can do for Australia...[with] Manus Island, I see that as one opportunity to help Australia — to thank it for everything it's done for reciprocate for all the help we have been getting in the past.

Kua explained that opposition in PNG to the Manus Island processing centre was presented in myriad ways; as a criminal issue, as an issue of international legal obligations, and now, Namah has painted it as a breach of the nation's constitution.

The Attorney-General is well-equipped to take on the Opposition in the Supreme Court, having been the lawyer for the Somare Government before the last election.

In our interview, the Attorney-General looks in some detail at the challenges for PNG's law and justice sector, the capacity and structure of the legal system, the make-up of the Supreme Court, the role of the Ombudsman and plans for an Independent Commission against Corruption.

See the interview with Kerenga Kua here

PNG curbs foreign travel for ministers, officials

BBC News Asia

BilasPRIME MINISTER PETER O'NEILL has banned ministers and other government officials from travelling overseas for work.

Mr O'Neill said the move was aimed at cutting costs but also ensuring officials stayed focused on their work.

Investigations had shown travel funds had been abused for trips which brought "very little or no benefit", he said. Any official travelling without his permission could face dismissal.

Mr O'Neill said the government expected to save about K40 million through the travel ban, which is already in effect.

He said the government had to "stay focused this year, keep our feet on the ground, cut down on unnecessary travels and meetings and conferences that yield little results.

"We have investigated and established that funds budgeted for essential goods and services have been abused to pay for overseas junkets, meetings and conferences that bring very little or no benefit to anyone," he said, adding that productivity was "seriously affected by unnecessary trips".

Officials and government bodies now have to seek the prime minister's personal approval for foreign travel, while permission must also be sought to hold international events within Papua New Guinea.

"Those who breach this decision and directive will face stiff penalties, including suspension or dismissal," the prime minister said.

Last year Transparency International ranked PNG as the 150th most corrupt country in the world out of 176 surveyed.

Barry Holloway, servant of PNG, dies in Brisbane at 78


Holloway_BarryI FIRST MET BARRY HOLLOWAY (1934-2013), then 28 but looking even more youthful, at a dinner party I attended with my mate Murray Bladwell in Goroka at the end of 1963.

We spent most of the evening discussing the forthcoming first Papua New Guinea general election for which Holloway (Olowei) was a candidate in an Eastern Highlands seat.

He immediately impressed me with his intellect, progressive attitudes and his commitment to the Papua New Guinean people and understanding of their society and needs in the face of rapid change.

Holloway also said that, if he won the seat, he would serve for one term before handing over to a Papua New Guinean candidate.

He did win, and four years later he honoured this pledge.

Holloway was an honourable man – and, as an expatriate and then a PNG citizen, he went on to a distinguished career in PNG politics.

Never eschewing controversy (it was not easy in those times for a white man to identify with the aspirations of Papua New Guineans) and demonstrating a continuing idealism, for six decades Holloway made a huge contribution to his adopted country.

The ABC’s Liam Fox wrote in 2009 of Holloway's early career….

Sir Barry Holloway was 18 years old when he arrived in Port Moresby in 1953, after responding to a newspaper ad seeking patrol officers in Papua New Guinea.

"We started a six-week orientation course. We were given basic multi-functional activities to do, such as learning how to map, how to handle government stores, and all sorts of clerical work which really dampened our spirits somewhat, because we were coming up for high adventure," he said.

After two years with a senior patrol officer on the island of Bougainville, he was sent off on his own to man a remote outpost in Madang province.

He was the police chief, magistrate, jailer and census taker.

Sir Barry recalls his first trip into an uncontrolled area to settle a violent dispute between two tribes.

"After three weeks, the whole crowd of about 600 to 700 would be massing around," he said.

"The other side would explain the past history of vendetta we disarmed them.

"We demonstrated the power of the .303 rifle by lining up about five shields, making a dum-dum out of a bullet, and showing how it would come out a great gap at the other side.

"Because to the people these [the rifles] were just sticks, and had no meaning until we demonstrated their power."

More than 1,000 Australian men worked as patrol officers between 1949 and 1974, paving the way for teachers, nurses and others to follow.

Remarkably, their duties were largely carried out through peaceful means.

Many kiaps, like Sir Barry, never left PNG.

The tribe that promised peace; & would kill to keep its word


The KomKui'The KomKui Who Made a Covenant with God' by Brother Pat Howley FMS, The DWU Press, [email protected], ISBN978-9980-9932-5-0

THE KOMKUI IS A RELATIVELY NEW TRIBE, formed in 1980 from the coming together of the of two Mokei tribes (the Komunka and the Kwipi) of the Mt Hagen region.

Both were descendants of the Melpa people who have lived in the Highlands for tens of thousands of years.

The amalgamation was a result of a push to end ancient grudges that existed amongst the Mokei causing continuing tribal tensions in the region.

While the original source of the angst had been long forgotten, the feeling and hatred passed down the generations resulted in sporadic incidents of fatal violence.

When the Covenant with God referred to in the title was agreed in 1980, the KomKui promised to never fight again.

The KomKui Who Made a Covenant with God was compiled to capture the history of the tribe and the Melpa language group from which they descend.

Through colonial diaries, anthropological evidence and cross-checked accounts, the book systematically examines the history of the tribe: ancient cultural practices, agricultural advancements and tribal splits; the arrival of the white man and the colonial era; Christianity; and tribal warfare.

Then there is the formation of the KomKui, the role religion played in this, some dubious business decisions, finally, the success of the tribe.

When author Brother Pat Howley began to write The KomKui, it soon became apparent that two of the figures central to the formation and continuity of the tribe were Pius Tikili and Andrew Dokta.

Tikili is a highly educated KomKui businessman who brought western capitalism to the tribe. While there were hiccups along the way but much of the stability of the KomKui today can be attributed to sound business investments.

Dokta is a charismatic musician, magistrate and Christian leader who drove the amalgamation of the tribes and the simultaneous commitment to peace.

Dokta can also be credited for addressing many social issues along the way, including sub-standard housing, raskol gangs, tribal grudges and community pride.

The two men present as similar characters in many ways - their incredible drive, self-confidence and belief that the ends justify the means.

But despite these similarities, their ideological differences created a long term rivalry between Tikili and Dokta.

Howley, in an attempt to free The KomKui of personal agendas, gives a balanced account of the achievements and shortcomings of both men.

When the book was made available to him in draft form, this approach satisfied Tikili.

However Dokta was unhappy about the inclusion of Tikili per se and demanded that The KomKui be rewritten entirely about himself.

In fact Dokta was so dissatisfied that he threatened the life of one of Howley’s associates when he was distributing free copies of the book.

This behaviour may seem surprising coming from a man who drove the KomKui to agreeing a Covenant with God to never fight again, however Dokta was no stranger to using his power to get his own way.

In the late 1970s Dokta had ordered his young followers to find older tribespeople still participating in traditional spiritual practices and order them to stop or be fined.

Dokta went further, using his power as a magistrate to threaten conviction to any member of the tribe who was not baptised and committed to a Christian god.

The paradox of the rivalry between Tikili and Dokta is that the KomKui needed the drive of both men to succeed in maintaining peace while the two men at the heart of this ultimately successful transformation couldn’t manage it themselves.

Pat Howley and his team of researchers have done a great service (albeit presently under-appreciated) with the publication of The KomKui by recording the tribe’s 25,000 year history. It was a story that was on the verge of being forgotten forever.

The KomKui has appeal on an historical level in its factual sections on both ancient practices and colonial times.

However readers will also derive a strong emotional draw from anecdotes of squabbles that escalated to tribal wars and the men who did so much to end them.

The paradoxes of Ross Garnaut and Peter O’Neill


ROSS GARNAUT IS WELL-RESPECTED in both Australia and Papua New Guinea. He should be thankful that PNG has helped him build his profile and put him where he is now – one of Australia’s most influential individuals.

However, among the many hats he's been wearing, Climate Change and Mining are two challenging and paradoxical items of headgear.

One could ask whether the good professor has become a sacrificial lamb for the gigantic multinational corporations or whether he has he misled himself in career path and academic discourse by mixing his values?

Of course, losing the Ok Tedi chairman’s job won’t make leave him to starve, since he is already rich after the prominence and wealth his many ‘top jobs’ have given him over the many decades of a prolific life.

His real loss now is the fallout of the saga created by the O’Neill-BHP Billiton connection – let alone the China connection.

PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill has definitely won the confidence of many citizens who want to end any neo-colonial connotations in today's Melanesian vocabulary.

However, sober people (PNG citizens like myself, Australians with PNG connections or Fly River landowners), would nod agreement with Garnaut for his critical comments about mining taxes being misused by PNG politicians and bureaucrats.

Since when has aid money or mining revenues and taxes been sustainably managed and used in PNG?

Speaking about sustainability, though, is Garnaut the person to head a mining company when he has written and advised at length about climate change issues?

On the other hand, is O’Neill the person to shut out technical people and advisors; in this case for a small and honest comment by Garnaut? Many people saw no major fault with it.

Is O’Neill trying to cover up or is he engaged in a political witch-hunt?

All we know, for sure, is that the PNG Sustainable Development Program has not delivered to expectations and Garnaut can take the blame for that.

On the other hand, we must also know that O’Neill, as a person, cannot decide on behalf of the thousands of Fly River people nor for Papua New Guineans.

His job as prime minister does not give him the right to proclaim decisions that go beyond mining and development in PNG.

However, that is the funny way politicians respond in PNG – scolding and rebuking critics while keep dipping their fingers in what they are seemingly there for. That is what defines their ego.

Hence, are we seeing two paradoxical figures in play: Garnaut whose values and qualifications imply anti-mining and promotion of environmental sustainability; and O’Neill who plans to make 2013 a year to fight corruption against a track record of governments that have done so little in this respect.

Garnaut’s comments have been perceived by many people as honest and as showing immense attachment to PNG if somewhat insensitive.

It would be humble for O’Neill, therefore, to swallow his government’s pride, accept the criticisms and bring back Professor Garnaut.

PNG should introduce tariffs to get agriculture moving


THERE IS A LOT OF LIP SERVICE given to developing the rural areas of Papua New Guinea. The truth is that the distribution systems are undeveloped for anything other than servicing expatriate dominated sectors.

This has led government advisers to promote SABLs (agricultural leases) and land alienation for major export crop production. Under this regime the developers do most of the work themselves, relieving the pressure on the government.

It does, however, result in the intensification of the plantation economy and mentality; and mean PNG continues to be an importer of goods that should be produced locally for internal consumption.

Because of continued lack of local development in the rural areas there is a constant supply of agricultural labour for major export crops. In effect the villages subsidise export crops.

The villages have become labour production units; where the price of labour does not reflect the actual cost of maintaining the labourers’ family. The family is maintained by subsistence gardening back at home.

I would like to refer to how the agriculture sector started in Australia. Early farmers in Australia had a hard life; they did, however, have the benefit of competing against imports that came a long way by inefficient sailing ships. They had no need of tariff assistance. The tyranny of distance effectively acted as a high tariff on imports. This produced viable farming communities.

When advisers talk of breadbaskets like the Markham and the Papuan coastal plains, they are thinking of food for people. That the market is undersupplied is due to distribution problems not due to lack of productive capacity.

The bulk of the produce imported into PNG are not tomatoes and potatoes but wheat, maize, soy beans and various animal feeds. PNG cannot compete with the now highly efficient Australian farmer on equal terms.

We need tariff assistance sufficiently high, in concert with a purchasing policy on import replacement that will enable our farmers to start developing their skills to an adequate level to compete with the world.

We have the land, we have the people, and we need the tariff assistance to enable us to compete with imports.

Of course prices of products using agricultural imports may rise. When government increased the price of labour, businesses had to accept this for the benefit of the nation.

The entry of the rural people into the produce market will have enormous benefits for PNG. There will be excess production that can be mopped up by an increase in livestock numbers. There will be more and cheaper food in the markets.

In time, there will be excess production that will service an Asia that, as this century goes on, will be increasingly interested in food security.