Famous Kone Tigers oval is now a sex workers den
'Gillileaks' & Australia's hypocrisy over Julian Assange

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.


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Daniel Norman

Wow, some facts about our fellow Melanesian folks that need to bother us. There's something there we need to take in. Attitude is an element that needs to be cultivated right. Papua New Guineans must shift-from ethnic/tribe/clan allegiance oriented relationships to a more nationalistic one. I believe and foresee PNG as a great state on the horizon. Only the Lord almighty can remedy such a phenomena. I pray for the nation.

Thank you

Jude Roa

As patriotic citizen of Papua New Guinea, we cannot blame ourselves for who we are and our recent development.

According to Aristotle, human beings are economical and political complicated animals. Their behavior are influence by their culture and Geo-location.We can be better-off of than Fiji if we have one culture instead we are diverse as compare to Fiji which as monoculture(one). Thus, it is easy to control and rule.

We Papua New Guineans have two distinctive people consisting of islands and highlands. Those at the coast have mannerly behavior whereas those up in the highlands are very aggressive due to altitude.

Everything counts according to time. One fine day PNG will be a powerful country with one universal culture.

Roselyn Bue | Port Vila, Vanuatu

Hi David, I fully agree with your comments. I am a PNGian living in Port Vila, Vanuatu, and am enjoying that freedom from fear to walk around at all times.

However, even in Port Vila, attitude about respect is really going down, I always think that Vanuatu must really learn from PNG's problem.

The big difference in population diminishes its problem but otherwise in terms of political corruption and attitudes of particular ethic groups, there is not a very great difference so peoples' mindsets need to change to have a great social environment. I also admire Fijians, their attitude is worth learning from as Melanesians.

Some (not all) of our cultures contribute to how we are, if we are to move forward, the best way is God's way where we will have to discard the cultures that do not glorify and exalt God and Jesus Christ - that is the only true way of peace and harmony.

May we take hold of God's way more so that we can become examples to the western culture, most of whom have now discarded Godly values and their more modern behaviour are also creeping in to affect us in the beautiful pacific islands.

Let God's ways become all of our ways.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

Well said Pauline.

John Kaupa Kamasua

I agree with Pauline!

If we focus on the negative, and bring it closer to our eye levels, we will surely crowd out the positive and good things about ourselves and others...

Pauline Riman

Fiji is a beautiful place and so is Papua New Guinea. Sure we have our issues but we're not all sitting idly by and doing nothing about it.

Let's try not to pit Melanesian nations against each other - who's better and who's not.

Most of our so-called developed nations like Australia, NZ & Indonesia are doing a grand job at that and love watching us fight each other while they plaster up problems in their own indigenous communities that are somewhat tragically similar to what we go through.

PNG, Fiji, SI, Vanuatu, Nouvelle-Caledonie - we've all got a long way to go. These comparisons don't help anyone.
One Melanesia!

Stanis Konabe

This article is totally biased. I am a PNGean and I dislike the author's prejudiced, one-sided writing.

PNG is culturally diverse, therefore it will take time for PNGeans to realise unity and civilisation.

Pity that some other people, our very own who live overseas, do not appreciate the truth of us PNGeans. I am still proud to be called a bush kanaka.

We will change. If you compare PNG to Fiji, you are comparing Fiji with to an island province of PNG. Your comparison does not equate.

Please do not expect PNG to change overnight.

Simione Naerecoko

wow such a lovely passage...yeah im so proud to be a fijian...i acknowledge the author for his masterpiece and it has helped me alot in doing my research on the interactions between Melanesian parties..

Noel Berry

Yes it is true indeed, David. Civic duties or responsibilities to maintain a clean and safe urban environment lacks in our urban centres.

David Kitchnoge

Agreed Noel.

But before we learn to live with each other, we all should learn very basic civic values such as looking after our discards and not chucking them out of our car windows and expecting "someone" to clean up our mess.

Noel Berry

Yes, attitude may be the main reason why Fiji and and its people appear to become a better class than Papua New Guinea and its people.

However there other certain natural factors of cultural and geographical diversity, large land mass with rugged and remote geographical terrains that may cause us to be a class as such when compared to Fiji.

So many people from so many small different cultural groups from so many different places in one area is what we have in our major urban cities of Port Moresby and Lae is what we have today.

It will be sometime before we all can live together peacefully with a common understanding.

Mathias Kin

PNG has a long long way to go. The direction we are headed, and at this speed, we would be another (failed) West African state before we become Fiji.

In West Africa, all the resources on land, underneath it and under the sea have all been scavanged by European colonialists and American super companies. Now these Africans are the poorest people on their own land....

Ganjiki D Wayne

Well when I was in Fiji last I remember the Fiji Sun running a small pictorial. It showed a grafitti statement that said simply "No Elections! We are OK!" It seems at least some Fijians think that the military government is doing a better job than a civilian government.

And mostly its just the Australian press that makes Bainimarama out to be a tyrant. But tourism has not slowed down there.

The people? Yes. Beautiful people they are.

We could learn from them. And they could learn from us.

Colin Huggins

Nandi airport is spotless. Port Moresby airport, I have been told is filthy!
Resorts for tourists full. Tourist dollars! International flights coming in from various places.
How many International flights land at Jackson International???
Friendly people.
No street violence like places in PNG.
If PNG, could follow the tourist dollar like Fiji, Bali (sometimes called an outer suburb of Darwin and Perth), Phuket etc. just think how you could improve, you have the magnificence, use it.
A benevolent so-called military "dictatorship" seemingly to me, is far better than a self gaining for members "democracy".

Mrs Barbara Short

I heard that the Fiji government had stopped the local United Church from holding its annual meetings.
I don't know if this ban has been lifted. I can imagine how living under a dictatorship can be difficult.

Phil Fitzpatrick

Let's see if I've got this right.

What PNG needs is a military dictatorship. That way evetything can be cleaned up and the tourists and their money will flock in to the country. (I bet the Fijians haven't got a tourist attraction like the Waigani Market and the adjacent Kone Tigers Footy Park).

Alternatively, the Fijians need a cadre of corrupt politicians and public servants to run the country. That way they won't have to worry about sanctions and the embarassment of bully boy Barney Banana.

That aside, I think that David has made a very good point well worth meditating upon. If you go to Vanuatu, another Melanesian nation, you will experience the same thing. Port Vila and the other towns are reminiscent of PNG in the 1960s minus the overt presence of Europeans.

In PNG itself towns like Alotau, Kavieng, Kokopo, Wewak and Madang are relatively peaceful and tidy. Why should it be like that in those places and such a mess in other parts of the country?

I could hazard a guess but I think it would upset too many people.

Johnny Blades

Yes, you have a point, and none of us are totally free anyway of course.

I won't write about the Fiji dictatorship on this forum as it's primarily about PNG. But if anyone's interested, here's one of the various blogs which tries to cut through the Fiji regime's obfuscations:

David Kitchnoge


Perhaps you might like to write an article about the dictatorship in Fiji and how it affects everyday life there and publish it in PNG Attitude?

But if I have any comment on the type of government we have here in PNG, even democracy doesn't appear to be the best form of government for us.

One could equally argue that PNGans are not free from the oppression of neglect from a constantly changing central government that is supposed to be a democracy.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Jeremy.

I am aware that there are some spots in PNG like perhaps Rabaul and Alotau which are probably better organised than the rest of PNG.

But instead of name calling and finger pointing, let's just say it is our issue and let's deal with it.

We are stuck to each other as Papua New Guineans for better or for worse.

If Fijians like something about us, then I'm glad the admiration is mutual.

Johnny Blades

David, I'm aware that the military dictatorship in Fiji wasn't the main point of your article but comparing PNG life with Fiji life it seems remiss not to point out the key difference.

You're right that things on the surface keep on as "normal" in everyday life Fiji. But scratch a little beneath the surface and the horrors of living under a military dictatorship are everywhere.

The people in Fiji are not free.

R Jeremy

David - I agree with your comments regarding the need to change our bad attitudes. However, I do not agree with your premise that as Melanesians, Fijians are a class above PNG. This to me is an unfair generalisation of all Papua New Guineans.

The Fiji you described could easily be Rabaul before the 1994 eruptions and Kokopo thereafter. Unfortunately PNG has a lot of other small towns that are just as friendly and pleasant but these towns are a rarity in comparison to the vast majority of other centres.

Accordingly it can be argued that the few rotten apples (ie towns or specific regions) in PNG create the perception that we as Meleanesians are a class below Fiji.

I however dispute that notion and am proud to be a Melanesian from PNG. In fact, I am aware that many Fijians are quite envious of PNG and in fact have migrated over to PNG to work over the last few years.

David Kitchnoge

Gabriel - Fully agree with your point.

In fact, that is the whole point about what I wrote ans shared.

Not all of us can travel outside of our own country to gain exposure.

But those of us who are lucky enough to do it should come back and share with our people here some of the positives we learn about those other places and hopefully help to shape a better PNG.

Gabriel  Ramoi

David - In the Melanesian metropolis of Jayapura you will experience the same level of tolerence,calm and respect amoung its residents witnessed by you in Nadi.

As more and more of our people travel and see other cultures the more our attitudes will change.

As soon as the PNG government can get its population properly identified and registered it must negotiate with Indonesia and Australia to allow movement between our countries without visas to promote tolerance, peace and respect amoung our peoples.

PNG can gain a better understanding of itself by visiting its neighbours to see how they live.

David Kitchnoge

Thanks Johnny.

Sure their rulers may be a bit too “harsh” and non conforming to generally accepted "best practice" political norms, but that doesn't take anything away from the Fijians' gentle and respectful nature as a people.

I visited their country just after Bainimarama forced out their elected government and this event was the front page news in the region.

As usual, Australia and New Zealand flexed their muscles and kicked up a storm and made a big fuss about it.

So I naturally arrived there with a lot of apprehension only to realise that the taxi driver who took me from Nausori airport to my hotel in Suva couldn't care less about the hype. And it was business as usual at the clients I visited during that week.

The tourists came and went in huge numbers from around the globe and Nadi international airport was kept nice and busy.

The situation on the ground was more than normal and I thoroughly enjoyed my freedom on the streets of Suva. Something I can't have in my own capital city.

I don’t know how things are now. But one thing I’m sure about is that the Fijians are still the calm, peaceful, gentle, respectful and tolerant people that they have always been.

Johnny Blades

Fijians are great people.

It's a massive shame for them that the military regime ruling Fiji is exactly the opposite of that "calm, peaceful, gentle, respectful and tolerant" description used here.

At least PNG's military doesn't try to run the country.

Things are getting worse in Fiji. A comprehensive process to draft a new constitution went all over the country and gathered seven thousand submissions.

It was presented in the last month or so. Bainimarama and his goons swiftly dumped the draft and pushed on with more draconian decrees designed to wipe out any opposition and keep themselves in power.

Bad things happen when good men do nothing and that is the case in Fiji. Although admittedly it is not an easy ask when the oppressors have the guns.

PNG is one of the few countries which could leverage some positive change in Fiji's dire situation. Time for someone to lead.

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