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101 posts from January 2013

Tears of joy as Climate Challenger returns home

Manuai Matawai aboard Climate ChallengerMANUAI MATAWAI | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

AFTER A THREE MONTH epic canoe voyage, Climate Challenger has finally returned home.

It was around 8am, making a steady 10 knots with our sails well set, that we returned to Pere, our home, after a sometimes hazardous voyage that had taken us from Manus deep into the Solomon Islands and back to PNG again, hurrying north just ahead of the cyclone season.

On Pere I could see a crowd of waiting friends, families and loved ones who had flocked to the shore.

Echoes of the steady rhythm of the garamut filtered to my ears as we sailed in through the reef.

Nearby four canoes decorated with sago palms waited to escort us to the beach front. They were the proud seafaring canoes performing a guard of honour.

Climate Challenger under full sailWe, the crew of Climate Challenger, were also dressed in our traditional attire and danced to the beat of the garamut as we sailed in.

I kept my video camera rolling, filming every action. It will be a big celebration, I thought to myself. The garamut rocked Pere as traditional dancers danced in to meet us as the guard of honour escorted us ashore.

The flower girls put wreaths around our neck and we proceeded to meet the village chiefs, councillors and church elders who had lined up to receive us.

In every corner I could hear people shouting and cheering.  

Everyone was so proud and happy to see us back safe and sound.

The crew members were rounded up by their immediate families - shaking hands, chatting, crying. I could see tears of joy everywhere.

It was a proud moment of my life. 

The challenges, the sleepless night and stressful hour were over but the voyage is not over. There is far to go in making our Pacific an environmentally secure place.

It was indeed a relief to be on Pere.

We are finally back home and reunited with our families.

Elite hubris: Professor Ross Garnaut has lost the plot

SHARON ISAFE | Papua New Guinea Mine Watch

Ross GarnautPROFESSOR ROSS GARNAUT, perhaps Australia’s most infamous academic-entrepreneur, has lashed out at Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O’Neill over his expulsion from PNG.

He claims: “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”.

Without denying the ‘trauma’ Prof Garnaut must feel at his travel ban – though he seems to forget Australia regularly bans people from entry who fail a character test – I humbly suggest PNG may have had a few lower points than this.

Does Prof Garnaut remember 1989? Prime Minister Namaliu, now a Director at BCL, sent in the RPNGC and PNGDF to brutalise and murder landowners who opposed the Panguna mine owned by BCL – all with a helping hand from Australia.

Could this have been a lower point for democracy, diplomacy and development than Garnaut’s travel ban?

What about 1984, this was the year Ok Tedi began producing one of the worst environmental catastrophes in the world, that will be felt for hundreds of years to come by people along the Fly River.

Could this possibly be a lower point for democracy and development than Garnaut’s travel ban?

Or what about PNG LNG? By the government’s own account the agreement with Exxon was rushed through without proper consultation.

Now we are lumbered with a massive gas project, run by a company with alleged links to serious crimes against humanity in places like Indonesia, who are employing mobile squads to repress landowner dissent in the Highlands.

Could this be a lower point for democracy and development in PNG than Garnaut’s travel ban?

For a corporate high flyer like Prof Garnaut I suspect the answer to all three questions is no.

How could the flagrant violation of the right to life, environment and culture, for hundreds of thousands of Papua New Guineans ever compare in gravity with a modest violation of one corporate executive’s right to exploit.

Elite hubris at its very best!

Allegation of US market manipulation in BCL shares


Axel G Sturm, ESBC PresidentTHE PRESIDENT OF THE European Shareholders of Bougainville Copper (ESBC), Axel G Sturm (pictured), has accused two leading US companies and a Wall Street stockbroking firm of fraudulently manipulating the market for shares in Bougainville Copper (BCL).

And to back up his suspicions, Sturm has asked veteran corporate investigator and intelligence analyst, Christopher T Marquet, to add BCL shares trading to his sphere of interest.

“Currently [BCL] shares face major share price manipulation supposedly originating in the United States of America,” Sturm said, naming the US firms he believes are involved.

He said he believed the BCL share price could be as high as $3.20 if they were trading in a fair market. Yesterday the shares were trading at 60 cents.

“Although the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has repeatedly been alerted by the ESBC to stop fraudulent trading practices in BOC shares, they do not appear to be interested,” he said.

Sturm said that with only 27% of BCL shares in free-float (Rio Tinto have a 54% majority stake and the State of Papua New Guinea 19%), it is easier to influence the share price and makes the stock more vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation.

He said he believes these fraudulent practices involve traders in New York and Sydney.

“As the ESBC is only a small group of private investors (we own approximately 4%),” Sturm said, “we do not have a lot of means to fight against these fraudulent practices.

“Except one - we expose backdoor players and involved conmen on our homepage

“Our homepage is the most complete anthology on BCL worldwide. It is also supposed to be the biggest information data base on a single company provided by investors for investors.”

Slowdown in Australian resources unlikely to affect PNG

Nadkarni_DevDEV NADKARNI | Islands Business | Extracts

THE MIDDLE OF LAST YEAR saw murmurs about an impending slowdown in the Australian natural resources sector, which snowballed into fears of a possible downturn in the coming 18-24 months as the year wore on.

Papua New Guinea’s resources sector, which has been growing at a clipping pace especially since the turn of the century, is inextricably linked with Australia’s.

So any slowdown in Australia is bound to have an impact on PNG. And this may well become somewhat evident this year.

But the effect is unlikely to be a cause for any immediate worry. To begin with, no one is talking about a downturn in Australia, at least as yet.

What we see is a slowdown in the growth rate, which had been rather unusually high in the past decade or so on the back of the double digit growth rates in the fast growing emerging economies of China and India.

Growth rates the world over have been either negative, zero or in the case of the emerging economies, slowed down since the global financial crisis unfolded.

It’s this inevitable domino effect that we are now beginning to see in the Australian resources sector. By no means is it likely to be here to stay?

China, India and Brazil have a long way to go on their journey of development and their growth rates will begin to pick up sooner rather than later but that is unlikely to happen this year unless market sentiments around the world dramatically improve.

A couple of factors that this may depend on are the continued uptrend in European confidence and the avoidance of what has been the ‘financial cliff’ in the United States.

Given this backdrop, this temporary slowdown in the Australian resources sector is unlikely to affect PNG in any substantial way.

Also, other new mining investments in the pipeline will also likely soften the impact of any slowdown in the sector.

Given the boom of the past several years, investible funds available to PNG companies have been growing and many have forayed bravely into the region in an unprecedented manner.

We have seen PNG companies venture increasingly into Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands as well as Fiji and even far afield as Samoa with projects ranging from mining and the exploitation of resources to fisheries, banking and hospitality.

This trend will undoubtedly grow this year and more PNG businesses look towards setting up activities offshore and expanding its footprint.

Politically, this buoyant mood has confidence of the member countries of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) over the past few years and the grouping—comprising Fiji, PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu—has increasingly become a force to be reckoned with around the region, although resented by countries that are not members.

MSG will continue to grow and its gravitas in the region, fuelled by its members’ growth in the resources sector, will see the grouping’s importance rise—at least in business and trade, if not politically.

Readers assistance required in PNG alcohol research


Howley_Bro_PatPATRICK HOWLEY (pictured), a Marist Brother, has lived in Papua New Guinea since 1966, transitioning through a number of assignments from teaching at St Xavier’s on Kairiru Island to his present post in the Flexible Learning Faculty at Divine Word University in Madang.

He has authored a number of important books including Breaking Spears and Mending Hearts about restorative justice in Bougainville and Crossroads to Justice, a biography of Sinaka Goava and his father Guava Oa. Another book is on the way and will eb reviewed in PNG Attitude soon.

At present, Brother Pat is writing an article on alcohol abuse for publication in the DWU Journal.

He has some good ideas about how the problem can be addressed in PNG but is finding ti difficult to track down information on such matters as alcohol production and profitability in PNG. Even locating the SP Brewery annual report has proven to be elusive.

Brother Pat has also so far found it impossible to find statistics relating to road deaths, and their causes, in PNG.

So we’re putting out this call to those of our readers who may be able to assist Brother Pat with his research. You can contact him via the Comments link below.

Garnaut’s storm in teacup moment creates ripples


IN AN EXTRAORDINARY ESCALATION of his dispute with the Papua New Guinea government – a contretemps he says he wishes to “move on” from – businessman-academic Ross Garnaut has called on the Australian government to negotiate an agreement with PNG to “prevent the arbitrary use of its immigration powers to disrupt business between the two countries”.

Speaking to the ABC’s Jemima Garrett, Garnaut said the ban placed on his travel to PNG by the O’Neill government, which resulted in his resignation as chairman of the Ok Tedi mining company, “was a low point for Australian diplomacy generally, a low point for PNG development and a low point for Papua New Guinea democracy."

Reads like hyperbole to me.

Garnaut was supported in what could be considered an intemperate outburst by a colleague, Dr Stephen Howes from the Australian National University, who wrote in an opinion piece on the Development Policy Blog (article below) that the Australian government should have criticised the ban

"Australia should be supporting free speech in PNG and Australia should certainly be supporting the rights of its citizens to engage in lawful business activities in other countries." Howes said.

In response, PNG prime minister O’Neill has said Garnaut’s remarks were ill-informed and accused BHP Billiton of having a “colonial mentality”.

Yesterday BHP, which itself seems in need of a cold shower, amongst other things accused O’Neill of improper dealings in the granting of exploration licences.

O’Neill retaliated, saying that BHP failed to accept the enormous favour PNG did the company when it 'allowed it to relinquish its ownership of Ok Tedi without accepting financial or moral responsibility for the enormous environmental and social damage' that occurred in the Western Province.

O'Neill said BHP Billiton and Garnaut allege he wants to commandeer the funds of the PNG Sustainable Development Program which, O'Neill said, is both factually wrong and personally offensive.

PNGSDP is a $1.4 billion charitable trust set up by BHP when it handed over its shares in Ok Tedi to Papua New Guinea.

The Garnaut imbroglio poses something of a dilemma for the Australian government, which Howes believes should have issued a “public protest” when O'Neill put the travel ban in place.

There’s a plausible (and ethical) argument to be made that Australia's foreign policy approach to PNG should make it clear it does not condone bad policy, although the diplomatic nuances of such a posture are complex.

But, if Manus was the main consideration here, as Howes proposes, real politik within Australia would dictate that the government steer well clear of the tangled issue of Garnaut, PNGSDP and O’Neill’s sensitivity to what does appear to be an outbreak of neo-colonial expression.

In an election year, Julia Gillard and Bob Carr certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that might stimulate greater controversy than already exists around the Manus refugee camps (and O’Neill is already encountering resistance to the initiative from Belden Namah).

But most of all they wouldn’t want to jeopardise the newly strengthened and energised friendship with the PNG government, with O’Neill being central to this.

Papua New Guinea’s strategic importance in the China-Pacific era has dawned on our politicians and the need for a stable, friendly PNG has become a paramount goal.

Carr learned last year than intervening, even rhetorically, in PNG government affairs is a dangerous place to be.

One can perhaps criticise the PNG government over its heavy handed approach to the Garnaut issue, but it seems a pity that Garnaut - a man of great experience in such matters - didn’t handle the issue more sensitively and maturely himself.

Now he has resigned with all guns blazing – creating an impression that in transit he wishes to damage the Australia–PNG relationship. And he’s been joined in this little jaunt by BHP and an ANU academic.

Ross Garnaut and his supporters should undertake a short course on storms, teacups and the futility of immoderate behaviour.

Manus sensitivities lie behind Oz silence on Garnaut

Prof Stephen HowesSTEPHEN HOWES | ANU Development Policy Centre | Extract

2012 ENDED ON A NASTY NOTE with the banning in November of Ross Garnaut from entry to PNG for a critical remark he made to Rowan Callick of The Australian.

The comment related to the Sustainable Development Program (SDP), of which till late last year Garnaut was the Chair.

SDP was created by BHP to manage its share of the Ok Tedi mine in 2001. PM O’Neill has made it clear that he thinks BHP should have no say in the running of SDP.

The offending Garnaut quote was: “it’s very tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development.” O’Neill justified the resulting ban by saying that “we will not tolerate people of such standing coming in and disrespecting leaders of this country.”

Ross Garnaut has played many roles in PNG since the 1960s, but his main one is now as Chairman of Ok Tedi. I’ve known him for many years, and worked for him twice, so I’m not going to pretend I’m a disinterested observer, but let me make three remarks which I think any disinterested observer would have to agree with, but which, strangely, no one seems to have made so far.

First, it is remarkable just how little attention this issue has received given the stakes involved. Not only is Ok Tedi by far PNG’s largest contributor to government revenue, and an environmental challenge which needs to be managed with care, but it is an operation in relation to which decisions have to be made about mine-life-extension in the next couple of years.

Second, and more importantly, there is an issue of freedom of speech here. People should be able to criticise freely whichever country they want. Individuals should be no more banned for critical comments from countries they don’t belong to than locked up for criticizing their country of citizenship.

Third, where is Australia in all this? The only public response of the Australian Government has been from Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, quoted as saying that “Papua New Guinea was within its rights to block entry to Professor Garnaut” and that “who PNG says is welcome or not in its own country is obviously a matter for PNG.”

Really? Observance of human rights is now entirely a domestic issue for PNG? We insist on democracy in Fiji but not free speech in PNG? Australia has no obligation to support its citizens to undertake lawful business opportunities internationally?

It is hard not to see Manus behind Australia’s lack of protest. The episode is a sad commentary on both governments. Lifting the Garnaut ban would be a good way to start 2013.

Note: At the weekend it was announced that Prof Garnaut had resigned as Ok Tedi chair because of the travel ban.

Stephen Howes is Director of the Development Policy Centre at the Australian National University. You can read his full article here

The sad story of Margaret – caught in the cultural bind


Margaret as a youngsterYOUNG MARGARET is part of our lives. She is my wife Rose's niece, Rose having looked after her for some years whilst Margaret was a baby.

When we were living in Moresby, Margaret’s parents came to see us and sincerely offered her to us for adoption. Not an easy thing to do, but they were close relatives and had seven other kids and wanted her to be with her aunt and maybe have a better life.

So young Margaret came to live with us for around nine months. We paid for her schooling, bought her clothes and toys, watch movies with her (her favourite was Barbie) and took her into our life.

She stole ice cream from the fridge, looked after Jill the dog and gave me Christmas presents.

We grew to love her. We had made her our daughter. I was "Daddy Peter".

Then the time came for us to leave PNG. We needed the right paperwork and permission to adopt a child. But her mother changed her mind.

"You can't take my daughter away! I will take you to court!" After much acrimonious haggling we realised there was nothing more to be done.

We heard later that the mother wanted 5,000 more kina from us.

Poor Margaret was the victim - promised a new life, having lived with us in something of a life of luxury for some months and then having this all snatched away.

(When she first came to stay she was covered in sores as her mother used to beat her with Bougainvillea sticks, had had no vaccinations and was malnourished.)

I am not proud of this episode, and feel guilty to this day, although we are still in touch with Margaret.

I understand she has dropped out of school and fallen into bad company.

So if you are considering adoption from another country, think carefully as it may well have unintended consequences.

My fondest love and heartfelt apologies to Margaret.

Daddy Peter

Martin Hadlow takes up top media job in Singapore


Martin Hadlow in SingaporeVETERAN ASIA-PACIFIC COMMUNICATOR and former PNG and Solomon Islands broadcast manager, Martin Hadlow, has taken up his new position as Director-General of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC) in Singapore.

Previously, Hadlow was an Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Queensland, where he was also Foundation Director of the School's Centre for Communication and Social Change.

He is also an associate of the recently-formed Jackson PR Associates company which covers an Asia-Pacific footprint in its communications and public relations activities.

Prior to joining Queensland University, Hadlow was a senior member of the UNESCO Secretariat in Paris, including a period as Director of UNESCO's Division of Freedom of Expression, Democracy and Peace, and acting Director of the Bureau of Public Information.

He also established UNESCO's first field offices in the independent Central Asian republics of the former Soviet Union and in Kabul, Afghanistan, also headed UNESCO's regional communication advisory offices in Malaysia and Jordan, and established temporary offices in Iraq and Sri Lanka.

AMIC's Board of Directors recently met in Singapore to discuss future directions for the organisation. A major topic of discussion was the 22nd annual international conference to be held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, from 4-7 July.

BHP slams PNG government over Garnaut ban

Business Spectator

MINING GIANT BHP BILLITON has hit out at the government of Papua New Guinea over an immigration ban which saw Prof Ross Garnaut resign from his position as director of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd, The Australian Financial Review reports.

According to the newspaper, BHP said in a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade document, that PNG's treatment of Prof Garnaut sent “a very bad message’’ to companies looking to do business in the country.

The miner also took aim at PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill, accusing the leader of improper dealings in the granting of exploration licences.

“He [O’Neill] subsequently blocked our lease applications and made it clear they would only be granted if we transferred our rights to the government," BHP said.

In November, the PNG foreign affairs department was instructed to prevent Prof Garnaut entering the country after the prime minister said the Australian was no longer welcome and accused him of insulting to the nation's leaders.

During a grievance debate in parliament a few days before the November decision, Mr O'Neill referred to a report in The Australian newspaper quoting Prof Garnaut as saying that with such an accumulation of wealth in PNG, it was "tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development".

Expats: Saving themselves more than serving us?

Ganjiki D WayneGANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

FIRST A CAVEAT: This is a very general statement. Not every expat is in this boat. And I mean no offence to any person.

It's possible that people from developed nations like Australia who work in developing countries like Papua New Guinea are here because it gives them some sense of meaning and significance. Especially those who serve in the public and charity/community service arena.

Their countries seem to have nothing left to offer them in terms of fulfilling, meaningful, make-a-difference jobs, perhaps because they've generally got it all already. And when you have it all it's easy to become disillusioned and bored with life.

Even if they make so much money, it cannot satisfy the need to be appreciated for really making the world a better place. The world in their nations is already as "better" as "better" can be.

You'll have a clue about the famine in gratified lives by seeing the massive charity-industry that goes on in developed nations. A television commercial break is dominated with ads by charity organisations trying to convince people to donate and make a difference.

It seems like they have to do some charity if they are to truly live fulfilled lives. And I have no problems with that.

Maybe calling their world "developed" is not such a good thing. Not mentioning their sets of problems, the term possibly gives them a sense of having "arrived". And there seems nothing left to do except maintain the status quo.

Who was it that said "The only other direction left to take once you've reached the top is down"? So you just have to maintain. And maintaining can get pretty boring.

Unlike us they don't have as many bridges to build or roads to construct. Nor aid posts and health centres. Nor airstrips. Nor water supply or electrify or sanitary needs.

Half the population probably doesn't care what happens in government because their lives are sufficient. They (though not all) only occasionally respond to highly controversial matters. Life is good it seems.

I heard an expatriate say it in front of me, "Being in PNG gives me a sense of significance." I thought, "How sad!" And he was a very successful partner in a business in his home country.

Before he came to PNG he spent some time in another foreign country where he felt a significant "loss of status" because no one knew him and no one seemed to appreciate him.

We all long for a meaningful life. And we pursue it in different ways. Many think to be professionally successful will satisfy them.

I heard of a wealthy man once saying, "If I knew that, even at this place, I'd be this empty, I wouldn't have walked this path."

And here we are trying to reach the rich-and-famous status when everywhere around there's evidence that it's really a very empty place. Perhaps at the top there's nothing there.

Maybe that vacuum in people's hearts is filled somewhat when they come and "serve" in our country. If so then maybe it is countries like PNG that actually save people from developed nations who are sliding into depression because what they do there doesn't really count anymore.

Maybe they carry themselves around with such importance here because back home they're not important. Someone has replaced them. Or they've out-jobbed themselves. Or the trees aren’t bearing fruit anymore. Their governments must send them to countries like ours otherwise they'll have depression at home.

Being in countries like ours is possibly a lifesaver. They might say they like being here because it's a great country. But maybe they're just here because it makes them feel great.

Of course, as I said, not all expatriates are here because of this reason. But those who are seem to fall into two categories.

First those who recognize that reality and will admit it (like my expatriate acquaintance). Secondly, those who don't recognize it and might deny it. They haven't really asked themselves yet why they're here.

Anyway, if that's the reason you're here in PNG, then on behalf of my forever-developing but very meaningful nation: "You're welcome!".

And for us at home. Let's be grateful that we do have a long way to go.

Culture clash – reconciling 50 shades of grey & brown

Paul-Oates2-smallPAUL OATES

THE TITLE OF A POPULAR BOOK proposes there are ‘fifty shades of grey’ in a presumed continuum between black and white. To add a little colour to the conjecture, let’s consider 50 shades between red and green.

What colours would they be? Well, when you add red to green or green to red you get a shade of brown. Let me amplify.

In a previous life, I ran a departmental corporate services unit that supplied the various areas of a large department with office requisites. After a while, I noticed regularly occurring supply fluctuations in the office stores area.

Writing pads, biros, pencils, erasers and rulers sometimes were in short supply. These shortages always seemed to coincide with the start of each school term.

Now if a ‘misplaced’ government pen or writing pad ended up being taken home, is this a crime? Where do you draw the line? What shade of grey or brown are you prepared to accept as being OK?

At some point, of course, you need to make sure that small things don’t start adding up into larger problems. If you don’t take a stand, how can you exercise some proper control?

If you go along with something that is clearly not right, what do you do when something bigger comes along?

When so-called ‘Western’ culture and thinking arrived in Papua New Guinea, those who arrived and those who were there already tried to find a way of effectively mixing the two perspectives.

Often the first attempts were unsuccessful. Confusion about the origin of material goods and the Christian religion produced what were referred to as ‘cargo cults’.

These ideas grew from an imperfect understanding of where material goods came from and how they were produced. The indigenous people tried to think through the logic but, with limited knowledge, this was not possible.

Can there be an effective mix of Melanesian and so-called ‘Western’ culture which might work well in practice?

An amalgam of silver and mercury takes the relative strengths of both metals and creates a useful product that can be used by dentists to fill a patient’s drilled-out cavities.

Perhaps a cultural amalgam will work only when the strengths of each culture overwhelm the weaknesses of the other.

Each PNG tribal culture – and there are hundreds - evolved over thousands of years to suit local conditions.

When a new problem presented itself, tried and tested methodology was employed to deal with it. As traditional village cultures transformed into the cash economy, the result was sometimes less than desirable. The values and objectives of one culture weren’t always the objectives of the other.

Continue reading "Culture clash – reconciling 50 shades of grey & brown" »

Taiwan-leaning Solomons welcomes mainland Chinese

Island Sun (Honiara)

THE BUSINESSMEN FROM MAINLAND CHINA had not expected to be officially welcomed so warmly on their recent visit to Honiara given that the Solomon Islands and the People’s Republic of China do not have diplomatic relations.

Indeed, the Solomon Islands has diplomatic relations with China’s arch rival Taiwan.

But to its surprise the three-man delegation was given VIP treatment when it arrived in Honiara last August, during an encounter that has just been revealed.

Doing the honours was none other than deputy prime minister Manasseh Maelanga along with other ministers and senior officials.

Mr Maelanga also hosted a dinner at which delegation leader Joe Wong was officially appointed Solomon Islands’ Commerce and Investment Commissioner for China, Hong Kong, Macau and Asia.

A huge red banner featuring the China’s national colours announced the appointment in both English and Chinese.

Mr Maelanga gave a speech in which he encouraged closer cooperation between Solomon Islands and China.

Island Sun believes it is important that the people of Solomon Islands know what is happening behind the scenes, particularly the decision by the government to openly host a delegation from China.

Garnaut goodbye: Is quitting better than saying sorry?


Professor Ross GarnautIN A SURPRISE DEVELOPMENT banned businessman Ross Garnaut has decided to spit the dummy and resign as chairman of Ok Tedi Mining Ltd instead of attempting to heal his rift with the Papua New Guinea government.

Last November, PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill issued an instruction preventing Professor Garnaut from entering the country.

O’Neill accused Garnaut of insulting the PNG leadership by saying that, given the accumulation of wealth in PNG, it was "tempting for political figures to think of better ways of using it right now rather than putting it into long-term development".

Earlier BHP Billiton, the original developer of Ok Tedi, had refused to comply with O'Neill's demand to renegotiate its agreement governing control of Ok Tedi's major shareholder, PNG Sustainable Development Ltd, a $1.4 billion trust set up for the benefit of Papua New Guineans.

Garnaut resigned as Ok Tedi chairman saying it was not possible for him to fulfil his responsibilities while the PNG government maintained its ban on his travel.

His resignation brings to an end to his last official role in PNG after an association of 47 years.

The downside for Peter O’Neill, and Australia, is that, at a time when the bilateral relationship has taken a turn for the better, as eminent a person as Ross Garnaut has virtually declared the current PNG government is not worth dealing with.

It is a sad, and unnecessary, outcome for all parties.

New Irelanders smile in the face of adversity

Leah BoonthanomLEAH BOONTHANOM | Australian Doctors International

OUR FINAL STOP IS Piliwa Health Centre on Djaul Island. Getting there involves a one-hour banana boat ride from Lamusmus across the brilliant blue ocean.

We chase a pod of playful dolphins and in turn are pursued by flying fish moving so fast I mistake them for tropical wasps.  We zoom past limestone cliffs and across shallow reefs, as the cool ocean spray splashes away the heat of the searing sun. 

Tuna for dinner (P3)Close to Piliwa, our cook Elizabeth casts over the side of the boat and reels in a giant tuna, which re-appears that night as dinner.

We are just three hours by sea from Kavieng, yet we may as well be back in Messi or Panaras.  Merrilee refers several patients for suspected TB, but it’s difficult to confirm and prescribe treatment because there aren’t any laboratory services.  She insists that the health centre help transfer these patients to Kavieng. 

The eye nurse Roland sees a nine-year-old schoolboy who’s suffered crossed eyes and refractive errors since birth, but his family has never been able to afford the journey to Kavieng for treatment.  A patrol member pays for some glasses. 

In a village at the other end of the island, water and sanitation inspector Eremiah deems the murky creek from which everyone collects water – a canoe ride and 30 minutes walk away – as unfit for drinking, but the village’s three small water tanks are inadequate for a population of 200 thirsty people, especially during the dry season.

However there is hope, as patients are diagnosed and treated and leave feeling that the provincial government and outsiders care.  There is promise, as health workers are trained on topics of their choice and their morale lifted by the patrol team’s presence. 

There is connectivity and closeness, as the HIV/AIDS educator Audrey and women’s health nurse Jennifer give a tok save on sexual health to women gathered on the grass; every opportunity is precious.

These integrated health patrols – a unique partnership between the New Ireland Provincial Government and Australian Doctors International – prove what can be achieved by working at the grassroots level with local communities: an integrated health service that is tailored to meet local needs, build capacity, disseminate information and ensure healthier communities.

Merrilee and Leah at Djaul Island (P3)We return to Kavieng after 11 long days on the road.  Our vehicles, once filled with medical equipment and drugs, are now laden with woven baskets of buai, coconuts, bananas, papaya, kaukau, yam and other foodstuffs received as gifts from the villages we have visited.

The local patrol team members are eager to return home and prepare a feast with their families, but I am still savouring my journey to quaint pockets of this evocative island province.

I am still remembering the jungle-backed beaches, warm village hospitality, and wide smiles in the face of adversity.  I am still delighting in New Ireland, a place that now feels like an old friend.

First published in Air Niugini’s ‘Paradise’ magazine, December 2012-January 2013

Fiji's Frank Bainimarama disappoints us again

JENNY HAYWARD-JONES | The Interpreter (Lowy Institute)

FIJI'S MILITARY LEADER, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has done it again.

He surprised everyone last year by opening up what appeared to be a genuine process of consultation on a new Fiji constitution and engaging Professor Yash Ghai, one of the world's foremost constitutional experts, to chair the Constitutional Commission and draft the constitution. Fiji seemed finally to be making progress on its path back to democracy.

Then, late last week, Bainimarama, aided by Fiji President Nailatikau, pronounced that the regime had serious concerns with the draft produced by the Commission and would be redrafting it before passing it to a Constituent Assembly (a body of distinguished Fiji citizens from representative civil society groups, to be chosen by the PM and chaired by the PM's appointee, which by decree will discuss, modify and adopt the draft constitution for presentation to the president) for consideration.

This announcement was the culmination of a campaign from the Fiji regime to distance itself from the Commission it had itself established, which begs the question of why the regime bothered with the expense and effort of engaging international expertise, attracting support from donors and seeking the views of the people if it intended not to respect the process.

Bainimarama could have made his concerns about the draft constitution known to his hand-picked Constituent Assembly and allowed its debate and advice to decide the amendments. But that strategy would have risked Bainimarama being seen to reject the advice of a group of eminent Fiji citizens which he had appointed to advise him.

Far easier to act now and reject emphatically the work of a foreigner, even if this puts Bainimarama offside again with countries like Australia and New Zealand.

This is a disappointing move, as the Constituent Assembly may well have made amendments that satisfied the Government; a final document would then have been seen to be the result of a democratic process of sorts, rather than the outcome of aggressive intervention by Bainimarama.

It is difficult now to see how the Constituent Assembly, even if it has a fair representation, will have a reasonable opportunity to provide independent advice on the new constitution. It seems likely it will be hounded into rubber stamping the regime's new draft, with only a month promised for consideration.

In his address, President Nailatikau said Fiji could not 'allow unelected people to make decisions for the rest of the general public in the new parliamentary system' and that Fiji could not 'allow elitism to take place'.

That he could say this while Fiji's unelected leader and the commander of the military, the country's most important elite, was standing beside him is extraordinary. This is unlikely to be lost on the Fiji people.

Continue reading "Fiji's Frank Bainimarama disappoints us again" »

Crossing the flooded rivers to reach Panaras

Leah BoonthanomLEAH BOONTHANOM | Australian Doctors International

AFTER MESSI WE HEAD FOR Panaras Health Centre, several bumpy hours and rising rivers away.  Where necessary, we jump out of the 4WDs and wade across rivers by foot, so the vehicles can better negotiate the rushing waters. 

During the rainy season this sole thoroughfare is completely cut off.  The locals can be isolated for weeks, save for taking to the ocean in canoes.

On the way from Messi to Panaras (P2)It’s no wonder they refer to their birthplace as the ‘Last Page’, a slice of New Ireland that feels all but forgotten.  Except for today.

Our arrival in Panaras coincides with preparations for the National Mask Festival in neighbouring New Britain Province.  For the first time ever a dance group from the West Coast has been selected to represent New Ireland – and that group just happens to be from Panaras.

We join the excited villagers for a final dress rehearsal, settling on the sandy beach beneath knotted pandanus palms.  Musicians beat kundu drums and a garamut that reverberates a beautiful wooden timbre. 

Panaras dance group (P2)The male dancers wear turmeric yellow grass skirts and headdresses embellished with drongo feathers and sing in the old language.  The first act is a ceremonial warrior dance, showcasing strength and ferocity as the men stomp on the earth and agitate coconut shell rattles.

The second depicts four mischievous forest dwarves comically darting about in masks with oversized ears and exaggerated expressions. 

The finale re-enacts the cremation of a dead man in traditional Kuot tribal custom and, instead of being a sad affair, the mourners’ theatrical wails of anguish are met with hilarity from the crowd. 

“It’s so wonderful to see our young men keeping alive the West Coast’s traditional culture,” an elderly onlooker says proudly, pointing out a muscular mute performer who hasn’t missed a beat. “We have to preserve our culture – it’s different, it’s unique and it’s our identity.”

Panaras Health Centre (P2)The following night I am awoken by water buckets clanging and minutes later, a newborn crying.  Four babies arrive by the light of a kerosene lamp during our three-day stay, all delivered safely by the health centre staff, with no need for the patrol team to intervene. 

This isn’t always the case.  PNG’s infant mortality rate is 47 deaths per 1,000 live births, comparable to Bangladesh. 

Its maternal mortality rate is 733 per 100,000 live births, the highest in the Pacific.  Key factors include peri-natal infections, post-partum haemorrhage and a lack of skilled birth attendants.

“The most difficult thing is delivering babies at night without proper lighting,” says Anasine, who is the only female amongst three community health workers stationed here.


Continue reading "Crossing the flooded rivers to reach Panaras" »

Louise is committed to improving healthcare in PNG

Nursing Careers Allied Health

Health Administrator Louise DevereuxPAEDIATRIC NURSE AND health administrator Louise Devereux RN (right) says that international volunteer work was always on her list of things to do.

A few years ago she spent six months volunteering in Papua New Guinea for Australian Doctors International. Next month she’s wrapping up her project at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to return for round two.

“My volunteer experience was about learning and beginning to understand another country and culture,” she says”, pointing out that PNG has appalling health statistics and is in great need of improved health services.

“I was able to utilise a range of skills, bringing them together in a practical way – ‘back to basics’ – without having to worry about all the peripheral stuff like here at home.”

Louise was based in the mountains of Western Province near the border of West Papua. She facilitated an inaugural in-service training program for 59 rural health workers and hospital staff, all of whom work without any doctor supervision.

She also worked hand-in-hand with the region’s local health service provider, Catholic Health Services, to strengthen their management skills; assisted the volunteer doctor and MCH staff on patrols to outlying health centres and aid posts; and even transported village patients by 4WD to the district hospital.

“My assignment offered great variety, interesting challenges, frustrating times and good fun,” says Louise.

“It was difficult seeing patients with very advanced disease and little to offer them, and there were daily frustrations with getting even the simplest things done. However, my good memories include the simple lifestyle, making new friends, being welcomed by villagers, and balmy evening walks where everyone says hello.”

An accomplished nurse who’s also worked with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and the Department of Human Services in Victoria, Louise is looking forward to returning to PNG.

This time she’s headed to the opposite side of the country to the isolated island region of New Ireland Province. Here, idyllic tropical beaches co-exist with tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy and yaws.

“There’s an enormous amount of work to be done in PNG,” says Louise. “Knowing what to expect will mean less cultural shock so I can jump straight into the work. I'm realistic about what can be achieved in a relatively short time [five months] and look forward to making small incremental changes that matter.”

Louise’s volunteer assignment runs from February to May this year. Australian Doctors International is currently recruiting a Project Health Manager to take over her role.

Sunshine Coast Council pitches in for PNG playground

View News (Sunshine Coast)

PNG kids enjoy the play equipmentQUEENSLAND KIDS AREN’T THE ONLY ONES lapping up outdoor fun at playgrounds provided by the Sunshine Coast Council.

Community programs portfolio councillor, Jenny McKay, said youngsters in Papua New Guinea are also climbing, swinging, spinning and sliding thanks to the council’s generosity.

“Over the last couple of years council has repaired and refurbished equipment that was replaced at local public playgrounds and sent it to our sister city of Alotau in PNG,” Cr McKay said.

“We recently received some photographs from Alotau and it really is heart-warming to see so many children having a wonderful time on this equipment.

Cr McKay said council had also provided installation instructions, some spare parts and a safety management system to help maintain the playgrounds.

“Just like with our local playgrounds, safety was a top priority for council so it was important that we provided all the information to ensure equipment was installed correctly,” she said.

“We had reports of children walking considerable distances from nearby towns and villages to try out the new playground so it’s fantastic that they’re enjoying it.

“I really commend the staff in council’s Parks and Gardens department who went above and beyond to make this happen for local children in Alotau who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to playground equipment like this.

On health patrol in the New Ireland province

Leah BoonthanomLEAH BOONTHANOM | Australian Doctors International

MY PLANE DIPS INTO KAVIENG late at night, soaring through a sudden tropical downpour and landing in a laid-back island paradise.  

New Ireland is remote and its white coral beaches, exotic marine life, World War II dive wrecks and uncrowded surf breaks deserve to be better known.  But that is not why I’m here.

I have come to travel around the region with the not-for-profit medical relief agency Australian Doctors International (ADI), which sends volunteer doctors on health ‘patrols’ to assist remote and rural communities. 

Peter MacdonaldFounded by Australian GP and community leader Dr Peter Macdonald OAM (left), ADI’s program is based on 10 years of experience working in Western Province. 

In New Ireland, ADI has partnered with the provincial government, which contributes considerable funding and dedicated health staff for patrols. 

Last year, ADI’s volunteer doctors treated almost 3,000 patients and provided over 550 hours of on-the-job training for health workers.  It also distributed medical equipment worth over $145,000 donated by Australian and PNG organisations to needy rural health centres.

“When we go out as an integrated team with ADI, people get health services that the government otherwise can’t routinely provide,” says Dominic Sahamie, Director of Health for New Ireland Province.

Health is, according to some of the communities we visit, the only government service currently reaching rural areas. 

Most of the province’s 160,000 people are subsistence farmers who exist in simple villages without running water, electricity, phone coverage or proper roads.  

Even Namatanai Hospital – just 270 kilometres south of the provincial capital Kavieng – lacks running water and reliable power.

Merrilee and patient at Messi Health Centre (P1)I join an ADI health patrol headed by Dr Merrilee Frankish (pictured here with a patient), who gave up a successful rural GP practice outside Cairns to volunteer in PNG for six months. 

Merrilee speaks fluent Tok Pisin, learned as a medical student in PNG’s Madang and Lae Provinces 30 years ago, and has expertise in public health, tropical medicine, obstetrics and surgery.  She’s also worked with Aboriginal communities in Australia.

“PNG is Australia’s nearest and poorest neighbour,” she says.  “All my life's work seems directed towards this choice.”

The local patrol team members include eye nurse Roland, TB coordinator Wilson, HIV/AIDS educator Audrey, women’s health nurse Jennifer, water and sanitation inspector Eremiah, and dental therapists Simon and Matthew, who are all very committed.

“These integrated patrols are our only opportunity to reach the rural people in faraway places,” they explain.

Our destination is the isolated West Coast.  We set off in 4WD troop carriers down the Boluminski Highway on the East Coast, planning to circumnavigate the island. 

Flanked by palm trees, we pass picturesque villages with swept sand gardens and trade stores selling rice, bully beef and other basic supplies.  

Smoke from kitchen fires cooking kaukau (sweet potato), taro and yam billow through sago leaf roofs.   

Laughing kids kick balls across hot, dusty fields.  Plantation workers wield knives on impossibly long handles to fell coconuts and palm fruit, key sources of regional income.

Continue reading "On health patrol in the New Ireland province" »

Getting ready for Chinese money on the Okuk Highway


The Okuk Highlands Highway is a disaster. It features horrific road conditions and very unfriendly bystanders.

There has been a population explosion over the past 2-3 decades and, to many rural youths (and seniors, for that matter), the highway is their only chance of income, i.e., looting vehicles, pot-hole creation gangs and deliberate sabotage by redirecting streams to cause landslides and blockages.

Since the announcement by the national government of its intention to have a Chinese loan finance a K6 billion remake, there has been a mad rush to erect stalls, trade stores, fences, gardens etc in an effort to get paid compensation.

And, if it is anything like the Simbu buy-back, the people will get paid if they agree to share some of the proceeds with the government officers making the pay-out.

It is time the PNG government showed some backbone and regained ownership of the Okuk Highway. The entire road from Lae wharf to the LNG project area should be declared a disaster zone with special police powers given to mobile squads to bring it back under control.

A national advertising campaign should be launched to inform anyone who builds within the 40 metre corridor (i.e., 20 metres either side of the centre line) is trespassing on government property and will be charged.

The owners of illegal gardens and buildings should be given 30 days’ notice to be remove them or they will be destroyed without compensation.

It is rather ironic the national government can boast about its intention to vapourise K1 billion for the 2015 South Pacific Games where the only real winners from this will be the usual clique of Moresby insiders.

The sad state of the Okuk Highway and the added costs of looting and other crime is being paid for daily by the millions of highlanders who depend on the road as their only source of goods and access to market for their produce.

Yes, the highway needs an urgent makeover, however some thought should be given to the locals along its length to be included in the spin-offs.

This could be done by giving them minor maintenance contracts (wok-mak) and also security contracts.

The volume of traffic along the highway has probably increased by more than 100%, however the highlands mummas are still washing their kaukau, pikininis and second-hand clothes in the gutters as the million kina rigs roar past.

The highway is a problem far too great for an NGO or any other "do good" organisation. We need a SWAT Squad.

Monica helping to change people’s lives in PNG


Project manager trainer, Monika VnukVOLUNTEER AND PROJECT MANAGER TRAINER, Monika Vnuk, is changing the lives of Papua New Guineans through her work with the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program.

Working at the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research over the past nine months, Monika has created and led training courses for Papua New Guinean staff to help them implement projects to combat communicable diseases and improve maternal and child in PNG.

‘I developed and ran a two-day project management training course for staff, assisted with drafting their safety and security management plan, as well as their policies and procedures and procurement processes,’ Miss Vnuk said.

‘Next year, I plan to set up a seminar series to target project managers, including mentoring staff, resourcing projects, evaluations, project reporting and leadership skills.’

While in PNG, Monika spent time in several communities including Madang, Maprik, and the remote town of Goroka where she continued her work in running training courses to help give local Papua New Guineans the skills to set up a broad range of projects including health projects to combat sexually transmissible infections, HIV, and malaria, as well as improve maternal and child health.

‘The people really make PNG—they are lovely and welcoming, especially the women and the gorgeous children.’

‘Every placement has its ups and downs but on the whole it has been an amazing experience—I’ve learnt so much, not only about PNG, but about myself as well.’

The Australian Government has supported an estimated 15,000 Australians as volunteers in developing countries as part of its overseas aid program since the 1960s. In 2011–12, more than 1,500 Australians spent some or all of the year in a developing country to make a difference to the lives of people living in poverty, and to make the world a better place.

Ten years ago, there were around 715 volunteers deployed overseas in a single year. This year we have seen around 1,585 Australians in active volunteer engagement, from Tonga to Mongolia, Ghana to Vietnam, the Philippines to Lebanon, and beyond.

Around 1,000 Australian volunteers will take up new assignments this financial year in almost 40 countries as part of the Government’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program.

And when she speaks about her experience, Monika said, ‘I know I can make changes for individuals, and that is really satisfying.’

That .357 Magnum & a .22 Browning drove me South

Young Bob DavisBOB DAVIS | The ASOPA Files

AFTER MORE THAN 13 years in the Territory Situation, in 1976 I decided to head South.

Like many others, my first postings were in the bush after which I steadily worked my way into the larger towns.

While the towns had attractions lacking at patrol posts and stations, there was a price to pay.

The most obvious was the civil violence and breakdown in law and order.

In the bush, whether home or not, I was accustomed to leaving my door unlocked.

Once, zipping along a bush path on the station motorbike, I collided with a man (neither of us was badly hurt) to be surrounded by yelling villagers. But they were venting their ire at the victim who damaged motabaik bilong masta.

In Moresby I would have been beaten up.

In Lae and Moresby my humble dwellings had been broken into a dozen times. Twice when I was home in bed.

At first unnerved, I began to get blasé about all this - as if it were normal.

In a moment of clarity, I knew I could no longer accept as a solution the act of replacing record player and tape deck each time they were stolen – only to provide another tempting target for the thieves.

I concluded I needed to legally get my hands on a gun. So I joined the Moresby pistol club.

I learned to shoot and purchased a .357 Magnum for the right hand and a .22 Browning for the left.

But a new problem emerged, as I reasoned that a couple of hand guns plus ammo in a house would be an even better scoop for the lads of the night.

I went to great lengths to dismantle the guns: hiding a barrel here, a trigger mechanism there, ammo somewhere else.

The two weapons ended up as bits of metal scattered across the house.

As the dispersal of the parts was accompanied by knocking off a cold SP or two, I began to worry about remembering where the bits were.

To compound my paranoia, I realised if I ever had to use a gun, I might not have long to reassemble the scattered parts.

So I started to time myself locating and reassembling and kept practising until I broke the 60-second barrier.

One day, after some cogitation and rumination, I decided I didn't have to live like this and, after checking out the best time to go South, I did so.

The departure was accelerated by one of my last break-ins being investigated eventually by a nice but callow sub-inspector Meremo Goroba who had been a student of mine in Wau just a few years earlier.

So I took my guns South, joined a pistol club in Canberra and never fired a round from either. I sold them six months later.

For many years Bob 'Moose' Davis held the PNG and South Pacific Games hammer throw and shot put records. He has now retired after a distinguished post-PNG career as deputy head of Canberra Grammar junior school

A chief's discovery of the ‘Tribe of the French’

MARIE-FRANCE ETCHEGOIN | Nouvel Observateur/Worldcrunch

MundiyaFOR THE PAST TEN YEARS, Mundiya Kepanga, a chief of the Huli people, has been visiting France, finding things to bring home with him to his native Papua New Guinea. His last find – three showgirls from the Lido.

There are many things Mundiya Kepanga could export to France. He could start by introducing France to the way people settle conflicts in the land of the Hulis.

As he picks up his old Nokia cellphone to answer our call in his remote region of Papua New Guinea, he has just found an agreement after what seemed like endless negotiations. He is happy: "All the pigs have been handed over," he said.

This happy resolution comes after months of conflict – with bows and arrows, axes and machetes.

In the New Guinea Highlands, feuds with neighbours are frequent. Conflicts whose origins have been forgotten over time, honours to avenge, family feuds and tribal squabbles spanning generations – that are settled through the exchange of pigs, during "compensation ceremonies."

In the Huli tribe, a death is worth around 50 of the livestock. Isn’t this five times more than a spouse, we ask him? "You have plenty of good comments under your tongue," answers the man.

Mundiya (pronounced “Mudeejay”) has quite a sense of humour, although he cannot read or write. His diet consists of the sweet potatoes he grows around his hut. And when enemy tribes attack his village, he turns into a warrior. However, he is also undoubtedly the Papua New Guinean farmer who knows France best.

"Honestly, you guys are savages!" he says. One of his favourite jokes is to imitate the stressed out Parisians he has seen walking across the La Défense business district. His mimed imitation, which he calls "your powerful men stuck to their cellphones, are like the ones we have back home, they are chatterboxes," is hilarious.

Fun aside, there is no chance he will ever get rid of the cellphone he brought home from his last trip in Paris – even though he has to walk hours through the dense rainforest to reach the nearest mining company in order to charge his phone battery.

Mundiya is not trying to imitate Raoni, the wise and respected Amazonian chief who travels the world to promote indigenous culture. His aim is to try out and taste everything from this new world – regardless what people think. He is just a mischievous tourist – a Huli tribesman on the road.

Continue reading "A chief's discovery of the ‘Tribe of the French’" »

How the girls mainly didn't make it to the Chimbu Ball

Pat Dwyer at ASOPAPAT DWYER | The ASOPA Files

IN 1963, GOVERNMENT OFFICERS in Kundiawa spent a month erecting tents, painting the club and boasting about bringing girls and girlfriends from various nambis locations to the Chimbu Ball.

Not to be outdone, I flew my wife to be Margaret McKenna up from ASOPA in Mosman, Sydney.

Then the rain came, bridges fell down and planes bringing girls couldn’t land.

In fact, apart from three hardy souls who came from Gumine by tractor, Margaret was the only outsider there.

It was a total financial disaster but we managed to drink the spare kegs before they went off.

Assistant District Officer Geoff ‘Barefoot Boy’ Burfoot fancied Margaret, so two days before she was due to return to Australia, he sent me on a week’s patrol.

Not to be deterred, I put her on the pillion seat of the BSA Bantam and off we roared.

It was an enjoyable patrol but Margaret wasn’t too keen on the rats running over us in the haus kiap.

Nor the corpse that ‘talked’ when I cut her down from the tree and removed the rope from around her neck.

The District Medical Officer gave Margaret a pass for a week, with choice of diseases, so all was well back at ASOPA.

I was in the Kundiawa pub some months later when a bloke at the next bar stool gossiped about a student absconding with a kiap who was then pressured from above to send her back to ASOPA.

The bloke turned out to be an ASOPA lecturer, the student Margaret and the kiap myself.

I introduced myself and suggested he save his bullshit for ASOPA. Quite ruined his story.

Compensation at all costs - the new highwaymen


THE FOLLOWING LETTER WAS WRITTEN by Jeffery Kopeap of Pulim Village near Mendi in the Southern Highlands Province. 

His pet cat had been run over and killed by a truck belonging to Traisa Transport Limited, which has transported cargo to the highlands provinces for many years now.

Pulim Village
P.O. Box 749
Mendi SHP

30 December 2011


I, Jeffery Kopeap, owner of the Pusi Cat strongly disagree that my Pusi cat was obviously killed in the eyes of people early in the morning, 7:42 am 30th December 2011.

The cat was killed by long truck which is Trasia. The cat is male and it is too young, the life for human being and animals is not are different, that’s my property and it looked after my garden and house from protecting rat.

I carry out this matter across to the manager to compensate my Pusi cat, I am demanded this Pusi cat for K1200 because my Pusi cat should live about 15 years.

I want the action immediately within 3-4 days later.

I am waiting for your result as soon as possible. If nothing is done, there will be another story. The driver should minimize his speed and at the same time he see Pusi cat with his eyes and killed the cat.

Thanks for your understanding and consideration.

Jeffery Kopeap

Such demands and threats are a frequently received by trucking companies doing business between Lae and the highlands provinces.

The cutting open of containers and looting along the Okuk Highway is also a regular experience for trucking companies operating in this part of the country.

Will people up there begin demanding compensation from trucks running over rats, grasshoppers and even fire flies in a few months’ time?

There are also stories of mentally disabled people and drug addicts being lured onto the road at the sight of these big trucks so they are killed and the relatives or clans can make a fortune from compensation.

Men with small run-down vehicles will sometimes dice with death and deliberately drive close to these big trucks so that they dent or scratch parts of their vehicle and then demand compensation from the company.

Sections of the Okuk Highway are covered with craters, potholes and even landslides, which cause damage to the trucks and increases wears and tear on body and engine parts and inflates the cost of running the trucking businesses.

Landowners along the highway deliberately stop the maintenance of these deteriorating road conditions until they get paid compensation. 

The Mindima–Wandi section of the Okuk Highway is a typical example of this cycle of neglect and demand. 

Despite these problems, the major trucking companies consistently supply machinery, equipment parts, food and clothing to the mines and super markets up in the interior of the highlands provinces.

We salute them for the services rendered in these appalling conditions.

We hope there will not be any more letters like the one above demanding compensation for pussycats, grasshoppers or fireflies run over by trucks this year.

Information instead of arrows to liberate W Papua


Refugees from IndonesiaFOR DECADES, THE STRUGGLE for West Papuan independence has been fought from the vast rainforests along the border between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

But there has been little progress, and now second generation refugees from the Indonesia portion of the island of New Guinea — which they term West Papua — are discarding the guerilla tactics of their parents in favor of international networking and information efforts.

From Kiunga in PNG’s Western Province, Indonesia is just around the corner. The border itself is formed by the Fly River, named after the first European vessel to reach this gridlocked part of the world in 1842.

Today, the river transports gold and copper from the Ok Tedi mine, north of Kiunga. Along the road to Ok Tedi, paid for and constructed by the mining company, a pipeline transports minerals from the jungle to the wharf in Kiunga, from where it is shipped to satisfy the global market’s ever-increasing demand for gold and copper.

Kiunga’s 30,000 inhabitants are from all over PNG. Here everything is surprisingly expensive; most of the food, drinking water and electronics are imported by plane, forcing prices sky-high. This is evident at the local market; locals pay US$3 for a tin can of fish, a tiny fish from the Fly River is yours for $8. You can have a banana for $2.

Sustainable? Not really, if you ask the people living here.

Since the mid-1980s, around 15,000 refugees from Indonesian Papua have found themselves stranded in and around Kiunga — either in border camps or “settlements”.

They fled the low but intense war that followed after what was called West Papua was integrated with Indonesia in 1969.

That population was not allowed to participate in a UN-backed referendum regarding independence or integration; instead, a little more than a thousand male elders hand-picked by the Soeharto government got to decide the future for West Papua’s then half a million inhabitants.

Two years prior to those controversial elections, Jakarta had signed a contract with US mining giant Freeport, granting the company a 30-year-long concession in Papua.

People walk a road in KiungaLife in the border camps is one of hardship. In Dome, home to about 95 families and located 25 kilometers from the Indonesian border, the main source of protein has been lost since the pollution of the Fly River left the fish unfit to eat.

Citizens of PNG have received financial compensation for the environmental havoc caused by Ok Tedi, but due to their legal status the refugees are ineligible. “Many years ago, before the pollution destroyed the river, the water was clear,” explains a Papuan couple arranging motorboat transport across the Ok Tedi River.

The vast majority of land in Papua New Guinea is privately owned, and the refugees are left with little choice but to occupy. The situation does cause tension, and local landowners will sporadically voice their discontent through violence.

“Last year they burned our school to the ground,” says Johnny Mathias, a 30-year-old Dome resident and father of two. “We contacted the police but they don’t really do anything.”

Continue reading "Information instead of arrows to liberate W Papua" »

Australian firm wins Newcrest contract at Lihir

Business Spectator

AUSTRALIAN ENGINEERING and project management company Ausenco Ltd has secured a three-year contract to manage a portfolio of projects at Newcrest Mining Ltd’s Lihir gold operation in Papua New Guinea.

In a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange, Ausenco said that, under the deal, it will provide project delivery services to support capital projects, working closely with the Newcrest team.

Ausenco chief executive officer Zimi Meka said the contract involves Ausenco delivering services across a number of phases of the project.

Newcrest’s Lihir operation is located on Niolam Island in New Ireland Province and is one of the largest gold deposits in the world, having produced more than nine million ounces of gold since operations commenced in 1997.

PNG's social media getting bigger & more complex

MARTYN NAMORONG | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

In the Star MountainsIT IS GENERALLY OBSERVED that Papua New Guinea’s internet discussion forums - like Sharp Talk on Facebook - are becoming lost in the ‘noise’ generated by their members, such that the outcomes of each discussion thread are difficult to define.

Sharp Talk and similar forums appeal to a certain demographic group - people in their late 20s and a bit onwards.

But what of the younger generation of PNG’s Facebook addicts? Many have turned to the ‘Confessions’ pages of Facebook.

Indeed such pages are the rage at the moment; with so many popping up to easily gather audiences.

One of the most popular in PNG is the NCD School Love Confessions Page where one can get into the minds of Port Moresby’s students as they discuss online their secret lives as well as take their school fights.

The most popular remain the news pages with The PNG news page being perhaps the most popular. News page was the first PNG Facebook group dedicated to providing news and has become one of the most trusted news sources.

Various other media organisations have set up news pages (the newspapers are notably absent). It’s worth noting that within a nation where information travels relatively slowly, old news is still big news.

The mobile phone has changed the news dynamic in PNG. Towards the end of last year, the biggest controversy involving Ok Tedi mine was sparked by a Fly River woman with a mobile phone.

The irony was that mobile phone coverage in Western Province was made possible by Ok Tedi’s major shareholder, the PNG Sustainable Development Program.

This story is similar to the events that led to the downfall of the Somare regime which was also linked to improved communications. It was during the Somare years that Papua New Guineans benefited from cheaper telecommunications due to the entry of Digicel.

But improved telecommunications also meant that rumours and bad news about the regime would spread like wildfire, especially during Somare’s protracted hospitalisation in Singapore.

Blogs continue to play a significant role in PNG, being perhaps the most influential form of media. PNG Exposed, PNG Mine Watch and PNG Blogs have the greatest influence on the national discourse.

Looking into 2013, Papua New Guinea’s tech-savvy urban youth will continue to feel ripped off by Digicel.

Internet is still expensive and many users are starting the switch to Bmobile, which also provides 3G coverage in some urban centres.

However availability of compatible handsets and limited coverage by Bmobile will prevent some from making the switch from Digicel.

2013 may also be a year where PNG based business advertising increases as witnessed by the number of new ads popping up on Facebook.

As more voices are added to an accelerating social network, noise begins to increase. The outcome is likely to be an increase in closed discussion groups where membership is limited to like-minded people.

So 2013 may see a more mature Facebook crowd, with like-minded people creating spaces that may bring change for good or for worse.

Problems are emerging from the abuse of social media. The amount of Papua New Guinean pornographic material featuring online is likely to increase. This raises privacy issues for many naïve individuals getting linked to the web for the first time.

The PNG telecommunications body NICTA (National Information and Communications Technology Authority) has developed policies and legislation to address cyber-crime and the Minister for Internal Security has suggested having all mobile phones properly registered as problems linked to phone use arise.

How the government balances the need to address the social and criminal issues arising from use of information technology whilst maintaining freedom of speech online will be closely watched by all stakeholders.

There is also a need for Freedom of Information legislation and protection of whistle-blowers.

Whilst information can be anonymously leaked online, it would be better for proper channels of communication to be created so that Papua New Guineans can have mature discussions about the issues that face the nation, its people and the environment.

Let not PNG’s contemporary culture slip away from us

Williams_ArthurARTHUR WILLIAMS | The Ancient Silures Tribe of Cardiff

I HAVE ALWAYS ENJOYED finding out the local history of any place where I was temporarily living.

Alas, even here in the UK, history appears to be as poorly treated as in Papua New Guinea, possibly because it wouldn't be fair to the millions of immigrants. Kids think Magna Carta is a new computer game.

I believe one way to get at the missing dormant local history is that, in the long holiday at the end of every academic year, high school children should be set the holiday task of sitting down with their grandparents to ask about their village roots and turn this oral history into a written report to be submitted when they restart school in February.

These could become part of the year's teaching materials and safely filed, digitally where possible.

In 1999 I was pleasantly surprised by our local environmental NGO on Lavongai when members were asked to compile a list of as many cultural sites within their ward, hamlet or village.

One person did an excellent report with details not only of various sites but also of the background and traditional legendary story behind each site. Some amazing snippets of taim bipo. Like the footprint in the stone up the Teimot River, which I once saw.

Incidentally we tried to do this project in order to have a detailed cultural study mapped for  the remaining pristine forests of central and eastern Lavongai with which landowners could use as bargaining strength with miners or loggers when they eventually came to 'develop' the island.

As you are aware, Australian aboriginal sacred sites are allegedly well protected against depredations by industrial barons.

Unfortunately I have already seen the total disregard for cultural sites in west Lavongai.

This included the destruction of one of the oldest type of living fir tree up beyond Buteilung and the destruction of so called 'upside down tree' near the beach by RH's Dominance Timber Company (indirectly supported by ex Premier Anis who told the company to ignore the cultural gorgor warning landowners placed on ships hoping to access Noipuos harbour where bulldozers erased the site).

Phil Fitzpatrick and others have previously pointed to the sad demise of Goroka's radio station files, the damp in the National Library archives and now you pinpoint the risk to the Post Courier's records.

I hope something may be done.

Namah says Manus detention camp unconstitutional

Radio New Zealand International

PAPUA NEW GUINEA’s opposition leader, Belden Namah, says Australia’s Manus detention centre and asylum seekers scheme is unconstitutional.

Mr Namah told a news conference he is seeking a Supreme Court interpretation.

He said he wants clarification on the detainees’ visa, saying foreigners can only get visas for tourism, employment or business.

He also asked the government to explain how foreigners can be detained when they have not illegally entered PNG or committed any crime in PNG.

Namah questioned why an illegal processing centre was set up in PNG when Australia has a big land mass.

Prime minister Peter O’Neill dismissed the concerns, saying activities associated with the Manus asylum detention centre are within the laws of PNG.

If you don’t know where you’ve come from….


IF YOU DON’T KNOW where you’ve come from, how on earth can you expect to know where you are going?

Late last year I visited a village at the northern end of the Yuat Gorge. While the people are not in Enga Province, they are probably the most far flung Engan outliers in the highlands.

I asked them how they came to be so far away from Wabag and living in East Sepik Province.

None of them really knew. The village and surrounding hamlets had been in their present location for nearly 50 years and, apart from an old man, no one in the settlement was over 45 years old.

I knew how they came to be there because I had read Jon Bartlett’s patrol report. I explained their history to them.

When they lived further upriver in the mountains, their parents and grandparents had run afoul of a megalomaniacal luluai and tultul from a nearby clan group. Don’t know what a luluai or tultul is? Better ask your grandparents.

These venerable gentlemen, who had been appointed by the kiap at Kompiam, thought that their brass badges of office gave them open licence to lock people up for no reason whatsoever and then assault their wives and children.

The kiap at Kompiam was two days hard walking away, so the clan elders decided their best option was the age-old highland underdog strategy of looking for greener and safer pastures. Hence they came to their present location.

Jon Bartlett mentioned in his patrol report that, when he came across them in 1971, the clan elders had their Village Book with them. 

In the days of the kiaps every village or settlement had a special navy blue Village Book in which important information and events were recorded. 

When I asked them if they still had it they shrugged. The old man, who remembered fleeing downriver with his parents as a child, thought that someone had thrown it in the river after independence.

The reason I thought of this visit I made last year was the recent news that Jack Karukuru had passed away. Jack was one of the first Papua New Guinean kiaps and was a very famous man.

Yet very few people, apart from some other old kiaps, seem to know much about him.

I mentioned this to a friend who is also an ex-kiap and who spends a lot of time in Papua New Guinea. He nodded in agreement.

When he was a kiap he knew the local member of the House of Assembly, who is long deceased, very well. They were good friends. He was a man who never had much money but did much for his country.

When my friend recently went back to the village area where his friend lived and mentioned his name he was met with blank stares. “Wasn’t he once a big man or something?” someone asked. 

Continue reading "If you don’t know where you’ve come from…." »

PNG Attitude’s most commented upon articles in 2012


ONE OF PNG ATTITUDE’s most popular features happens to be the summary of the articles (as well as poems, stories and essays) most commented upon by readers in the preceding month.

Today we review these 150 or so most mentioned contributions in 2012 to determine which of them our readers thought were most commentworthy over the course of the year.

In seeking some themes that seem to particularly spark a response from readers, I can only observe that the dramatic, the bizarre, the challenging and, from my point of view, personal tests of health and grief, all motivated you to address the keyboard in 2012.

So, in the terms of reader reaction, these were the big ones of 2012….

34 commentsStan Jackson OAM dies after a long adventurous life (Keith Jackson). “My father, Stanley Jackson – teacher, author, environmentalist and marathon bike rider - died on Friday evening at the grand age of 98.” March

29 Thoughts on Martyn’s uncertain road to Melbourne (Paul Oates). Martyn Namorong’s agenda for his Take the Truth to Australia tour was parsed by Paul, enticing a lively debate amongst readers. February

26As Carr stumbles, Bishop announced 2nd visit to PNG (Julie Bishop). “Australia has a deep and enduring relationship with PNG, says shadow foreign minister Julie Bishop, and, while it has challenges, it also holds enormous potential.” March

26East Sepik declares ‘independence’ from PNG (Keith Jackson). Tim Koeser, former self-styled leader of the World Indigenous Council of Jesus Christ, re-emerged as the no less self-styled President of the East Sepik Interim Government. April

26 - Bob Carr finds political events in PNG 'confusing' (Keith Jackson). “The events [in Papua New Guinea last week] were most certainly confusing,” foreign minister Senator Bob Carr told reporters in Canberra early in the month. Whah? Australia’s work experience FM needs to learn the difference between what you say to your wife and what you say in public. June

23 - A long week's journey through nothing very much (Keith Jackson). Ten days in hospital for spinal surgery slowed down your editor a bit and this piece heralded a recovery of sorts, although an anaesthetised brain didn’t make for easy writing.. I remain deeply grateful for the many expressions of support I received at this time. August

21 - Live blog: Mutiny leader gives MPs 7 days to resolve 'crisis' (Keith Jackson). Colonel Sasa’s attempt to create conditions in which Sir Michael Somare could make a comeback went awry but caused high excitement around the world for 24 hours. January

21 - Loujaya Toni – a life of music, politics & poetry…. (Keith Jackson). When academic, journalist, singer and poet Loujaya Toni shocked a strong field of male contenders to become Papua New Guinea’s newest female parliamentarian, it proved to be an event that resonated within and outside PNG. July

20 - O'Neill-Namah tiff demonstrates political fragility (Keith Jackson). Apparently Belden Namah thought the prime minister had shown insufficient support for him in dealing with Indonesia over Falcongate. The difference of opinion was expressed in Belden’s normal understated manner. January

20 - A salute – and a caveat - to the activists of PNG (Martyn Namorong). “Activists, we salute you for your courage. You are doing a great thing by showing the government the people have a voice – that O’Neill and the whole parliament have forgotten that they are accountable to us.” It was a big month for PNG’s best known blogger. Just before he left on his Australian tour, Namorong was part of a collective that organised a 10,000 person protest against the PNG government’s threat to defer national elections and a protracted attack on the judiciary. May

20 - Road to hell is paved with religion & westernisation (Martyn Namorong). You can count on Martyn to take the pin out of the grenade, engender some danger and trigger a degree of excitement from readers. This was he case when PNG’s best known purveyor of buai turned his attention to westernisation and development – which he saw as a cover for “the greedy white ruling class deciding to loot the rest of the world's nations of their wealth they carried with them their laws, their customs, their government, their technology, their diseases and their religion.” July

New Wycliffe aircraft to support Bible translation

Christian Today

Kodiak aircraftWYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES is raising funds to purchase a fourth specially designed Kodiak aircraft to support its Bible translation efforts in Papua New Guinea.

Bible translation projects are underway for more than 190 of PNG’s 830 language groups but more than 300 do not yet have a single verse of Scripture.

Air travel is a vital part of Bible translation work in PNG because of the country's difficult terrain and 80% of Bible translators rely on air travel to get around the country.

Wycliffe reports that without an aircraft, reaching some language groups can take up to five days.

“The Kodiak is a critical tool to reach language groups who are crying out for God’s Word,” said president and CEO Bruce Smith, who is a former missionary pilot.

“Insurmountable mountain peaks, dense rainforests, and hard-to-reach islands in PNG make sharing the truth and hope of God’s Word time-consuming and extremely difficult.”

The Kodiak has been developed by the Quest Aircraft Company in Idaho with missionary work in mind.

The aircraft can take off in under 1,000 feet at full gross weight and climb at more than 1,300 feet a minute.

It carries more than three times the load than other planes previously used for mission work and uses jet fuel, which is less expensive and more readily available in PNG than avgas.

Sherlock Holmes in New Guinea: Parth the thixth


THE MOTUAN POLICEMAN, Inspector Vex, guided Holmes and Watson out of Moresby accompanied by some trusty native porters. They climbed and eventually gazed down at the distant lights of Port Moresby.

"Where are we Vex?"

"A place called Sogeri. The wildlife is unique and the climate somewhat more pleasant than the coast".

They travelled on a few more miles and stopped to make camp.

Watson - "Holmes, there is a strange foreboding feel to this place. What do you think?"

Holmes - "Watson I fear we may have stumbled across a place of great future importance, although my inner sense leads me to shudder when thinking about this track. There is pain and misery and desperation awaiting some poor souls."

Watson - "I should think so. Just look at the soles of my boots!"

Holmes - "Better turn in now, my old friend, we have some hard days slog ahead. Did you bring your trusty service revolver? I fear we may have need of it."

And so the small party trudged on, making their weary way to the small hamlet known as Kokoda.

Watson - "Holmes! I've been attacked by a giant slimy creature! Luckily my good friend Vex knew how to deal with it."

Holmes - "I see you have made acquaintance with the Kinabalu giant red leech, not normally found in these parts. That is interesting. Can you please preserve it in a jar of formaldehyde? I may have occasion to write a scientific paper about it."

Watson - "Holmes, it attacked me! Damned if I'm going to preserve it. It's repulsive!"

Vex - "Be quiet you two. There are tribes in this area known to cannibals! And we hear strange noises in the jungle ahead!"

Holmes - "But Vex it is merely the welcoming sound of kundu drums if I'm not mistaken. They are announcing we are welcome to the next village where they have slaughtered a pig and prepared a meal for us! Come, we have not a mumu to lose!"

Attitude’s most commented upon articles in December


ONE OF THE GREAT things about PNG Attitude is the way in which its readers also become its contributors through the Recent Comments feature, which provides one of the social media’s most civilised and scintillating forums for discussion and debate on Papua New Guinea affairs.

While the statistics we gather at Attitude show Comments to be as well read as the main page, we nevertheless reproduce as lead articles some of the more thoughtful and well argued commentaries (dutifully edited) where we believe they deserve wider attention.

In December it was pleasing to see that four of the most commented pieces were written by our writing fellowship holders. Not all the fellows have produced the goods (the fellowship grant was handed over up front in trust that the writing would follow) but there’s time yet for the laggards to show us their full range of wares.

The fellowships – entirely funded by PNG Attitude readers – were offered to encourage emerging writers to produce original articles and essays for original publication in these columns.

No restraint was placed on their further publication and many have found other homes, especially in the pages of the PNG Post-Courier’s weekend literary section, edited by the formidable Patrick (‘Big Pat’) Levo.

And so to the most commented upon articles in December 2012….

Continue reading "Attitude’s most commented upon articles in December" »

PNG confident after a year of strong performance

Oxford Business Group

AFTER ANOTHER YEAR of strong economic performance, Papua New Guinea is brimming with confidence.

The 2013 budget, announced in November and valued at K13 billion, is PNG’s largest-ever and one which the government is borrowing more than $1bn to fund.

Centred on the development of core services, such as education, health and infrastructure, PNG’s budget is paving a path toward sustainable and inclusive growth, largely due to substantial gains in 2012.

The 2013 budget is also cashing in on PNG’s improved political fortunes, following Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s election in August. This effectively closed the door on a period of intense political instability, as divided loyalties amongst the bureaucracy threatened to spill over into a military coup d’état.

It is worth noting, however, that the government has extended a ban on votes of no confidence from 18 to 30 months.

The O’Neill administration has laid the groundwork for an expansion of government-led national development in the years ahead, which will largely be bank-rolled by revenues from the $19bn, Exxon-Mobil-led liquefied natural gas project.

However, the project is not set to begin delivering gas until late 2014, nor profits until at least 2018, which is why the government has reiterated a commitment to establishing a sovereign wealth fund to address the risks associated with large-scale projects such as PNG LNG.

Once up and running, though, the PNG LNG project is expected to collect revenue in the form of tax and dividend payments, which are estimated to be between K2 and K13 billion a year in the 2014-42 period, according to Loi Martin Bakani, the governor of the Bank of Papua New Guinea, the country’s central bank.

Moreover, the economy is on a firm footing. According to BPNG, the economy is expected to grow 9.2% in 2012, up from the 7.8% predicted in 2011, but down from the 9.9% anticipated mid-year. This is still robust growth – PNG’s 12th consecutive year, in fact – and has been principally fuelled by activity in the non-mining sectors.

Construction, transport, storage, information and communications technology, wholesale and retail trade were all top performers this past year, while the mining, quarrying, petroleum and gas sectors all slowed in the second half of the year in response to local conditions and global market prices.

The most-dramatic changes in the year ahead, however, will likely be seen in those sectors that have benefitted most from the LNG project’s construction phase.

Continue reading "PNG confident after a year of strong performance" »

PNG failing to act on forced marriages, says rights group

Radio Australia

A NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION in Papua New Guinea says the PNG government has failed to act to protect young girls and teenagers from forced marriages.

There are reports that girls as young as five are being sold by their parents to older men, sometimes foreigners working in the forestry and mining sectors.

“We've got a wide range of reports that come in on young girls that are being forced into marriages or especially into sexual relationships with older men,” said Ume Wainetti of the PNG Consultative Implementation and Monitoring Council.

“There's a lot of mistreatment of these young girls because many of them are forced to marry men who are already married,” Wainetti said

“We’re talking about girls between the ages of 16 and 14. But other ones who are forced into sexual relationships are much, much younger.

“Our government has not responded to any of these things. Maybe, when some international agencies come and say it's happening, they'll take note. But when we say it they don't.

“They really should take note and, when major projects are being developed, this issue should be addressed…  I'm talking about international companies in the extractive industries.

“Most of the time it's through the workers in the company the girls are being sold or being encouraged to get into this type of relationship or men who've got money, especially in the forestry development areas, Wainetti said.

Women advocates confuse gender equality & feminism

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

Sil BolkinWE ARE CONVINCED that the ‘pedestal’ women leaders in Papua New Guinea, who espouse demagogical rhetoric and make discriminatory speeches about the opposite sex at forums and courses for women from the highest echelons of society, are a wedge towards gender equality.

However most of them confuse gender equality with feminism. Their actions and speeches are usually and indelibly feminist and not about gender equality at all.

In any gender equality program men must be part and parcel of the program for some very obvious reasons.

Statistics tell us that men are the worst culprits when it comes to gender-based violence. Not only that, but men are currently in most positions of power at almost every level in PNG.

It seems that the United Nations Women and all the other UN entities use feminism in their approach rather than advocating gender equality. 

For a start, if you visit any one of the UN offices in Port Moresby you will surely see more females employed than men.  Any men there are usually only employed as drivers for the UN vehicles.

If you go to a workshop on HIV/AIDS in Thailand or Cambodia, for instance, almost all the program officers attending from across the Indian Ocean, Asia and the Pacific area are women.

This situation could lead one to believe that these programs and the gender advocates who go to them are half-baked.

Gender simply means the roles, responsibilities and relationships between men and women. Therefore gender also includes men who have sex with men, trans-genders and lesbians.

In contrast, feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic and social rights for women.

This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.  A feminist is ‘an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women only’.

It was obvious that the UN Women’s advocacy for the 22 nominated seats in the PNG parliament last year was part of a feminist movement.

Other useful programs, like primary education for all girls, personal female viability and life skills and men and boys training on the right way to treat women are much more vital programs for the betterment of women than the 22 nominated seats, which will only really serve a few lucky women.

Don’t tell me that it worked in Rwanda. Rwanda has just come out of a terrible genocide. Women were totally marginalised, raped and massacred during the genocide.  Now there is currently a higher population of women than men. Their constitution allows for 24 reserved seats for women because of the ugly inhuman behaviour from their menfolk.

Malawi, Uganda, South Africa and Namibia all fund a plethora of large organisations that take the advocacy programs far and wide throughout the country, consistently changing people’s behaviour.

Continue reading "Women advocates confuse gender equality & feminism" »

A tale of two Fly Rivers; a tale of two journalists


Chandler_Jo (Penny Stephens)IN A RECENT ARTICLE published in the Global Mail, freelance journalist Jo Chandler (pictured) discovered the secret behind a spate of deaths along the Fly River.

It's no mystery she wrote, sadly the disturbing mortality rate is a product of an absence in basic health services, combined with severe social dislocation caused by the Ok Tedi mine.

Citing evidence from a World Health Organisation briefing Chandler wrote:

Their examinations identify sickness and disease emerging from years of accumulated neglect, compounded by dirty water, poor nutrition, crowded living conditions, too many babies, lack of roads and power, decaying or abandoned health facilities and hardscrabble lives made harder by shifting tides and islands of sediment, soil erosion and vegetation dieback, and the loss of fish catches and crops.

She continued several paragraphs later:

Ok Tedi’s operations over a generation have provided critical infrastructure, opportunity and services to some of the world’s most isolated and challenged communities, plus 2,000 direct jobs (95 per cent of them going to local people) and as many again spun off through local businesses and subcontractors.

But in the South Fly villages I visit the only evidence of substantial trickle down from its USD1.45 billion annual revenue is the sediment. It raises the riverbed and spills water onto the land, wiping out food gardens and spoiling drinking water, even exposing old graves. Such issues are serious enough to prompt the mining company to consider relocating severely impacted communities.

One senses something calamitous when one of the most profitable mines in the world is surrounded by some of the worst displays of ‘development’-based rural impoverishment.

Yet not all journalists see things this way. With their friends smarting inside the Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF)  - the ones charged with maladministering community compensation payments from Ok Tedi Mining Limited (OTML) –  some in the media fraternity have taken it upon themselves to find some good news stories, its Christmas after all.

Cue Malum Nalu.


Continue reading "A tale of two Fly Rivers; a tale of two journalists" »

Don’t say ethnic or tribal - the word is ‘customary’

ANNA SOMERS COCKS | The Art Newspaper

Simon Goiyap, b1973, Kwoma people, Mino village, East SepikIN LONDON LAST NOVEMBER, the director of the Tate Gallery, Nicholas Serota, said that it would be spending around £2m a year—40% of its acquisitions budget—on art from outside Europe and North America.

The Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art in New York have announced similar policies.

The question is, how to find out about art and artists in areas of the world that often do not have an evolved gallery system or, indeed, a defined history of contemporary art (what does “contemporary” mean, for example, in Papua New Guinea or, indeed, in China?).

There is one museum that has been working on this long before everyone else: the Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, which 20 years ago held the first Asia Pacific Triennial.

In 2006, the gallery opened the Gallery of Modern Art, forming Qagoma, whose acting director Suhanya Raffel says: “We now accept that contemporary art is syncretic and cross-cultural, that canonical assumptions about art history are routinely questioned.”

For this year’s star billing, Papua New Guinea, the Gallery of Modern Art has collaborated with the artists and the architect Martin Fowler, who grew up in PNG and has designed Papua New Guinea’s museum.

The first thing you see when you go into the Gallery of Modern Art is a huge painted gable of the kind found on ritual buildings in East Sepik.

Anyone can enjoy its splendid decorative qualities, but all kinds of ritual meanings are also bound up in it, and these have been respected by the gallery.

Members of the Kwoma Wangi clanWe are told that the senior artist of the team that came to Brisbane to paint it said the big spirit man, Puti, represented at the top of the gable, gave him permission to make this spirit house in Australia and to use synthetic polymer paints.

One may smile, but it is in earnest. There are also wonderfully decorative Papua New Guinean full-body masks.

The gallery has a good word for this art: “customary”, that is, the product of customs, which is much better than “ethnic” or, worse still, “tribal”, epithets that consign such work to the anthropological compound.

A stimulating essay in the catalogue is about how customary art is not static, as we tend to think, but evolves according to criteria of its own and in response to outside events. The message is: we have a lot to learn.

Instead of banning betel nut, let’s try other ideas

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

THERE ARE FAMILIES in Port Moresby city that survive on income from selling buai and the proposal by the National Capital District Council to impose a blanket ban on the nut in the nation’s capital is akin to passing a death sentence on these people.

Does Governor Powes Parkop have any plan for their survival?

We all want our cities, towns, villages, rivers and seas to be clean and free of pollution.

But in the process, no one in their right mind would compromise human lives for environmental beauty.

To sever the only lifeline of our very own people without providing them an alternative means of survival is akin to homicide.

Prostitution and criminal activity in the city will rise as these people struggle for survival. There will be more HIV victims and other social and health problems contrary to intended outcomes.

And then there are families in the rural areas where buai constitute the main source of income. The ban will have adverse financial implications on their livelihood as well.

So banning buai in Port Moresby will not only affect traders and users in the city but will have implications for many people including the little farmers in places like Morobe, Madang, Oro, Gulf, East and West New Britain, North Solomons and even the periphery of NCD.

Instead of a blanket ban, the NCDC must explore other means that are beneficial to all parties. If NCDC has run out of ideas then it should ask the public to contribute ideas and select the best one and pay for it.

Here is one suggestion.

The NCDC could issue buai trading licenses and identifications to traders. The license should have terms and conditions spelt out clearly in Pidgin and Hiri Motu.

It should state the location of the trade, which may be at the main market or in front of one’s residence or any other place mutually agreed to by the buai seller and the NCDC.

The NCDC must supply trash bins with the license number and location and small plastic bags to the license trader free or for a small fee.

When people buy a nuts, they must also be given a plastic bag for the buai skin and spittle and dump it in trash bin.  City trash collectors will empty the bin and leave it behind for reuse.

When the plastic bags run out, the trader can get the NCDC to replenish them.

Before closing up, each trader must clean up his or her designated spot.

The city rangers must do routine inspections.

Heavy penalties should be imposed on those who do not comply with the conditions of the license.

Spot fines should apply to misbehaving buai users.

In this way no one is a loser. Everyone is a winner.

And more importantly, the responsibility of taking care of the rubbish is given back to the perpetrators in a regulated way. This will cut down the clean-up cost as well.

There are buai traders in the city who are conscious of their rubbish.

Last September, I stayed in the city with a family at Gerehu Stage 3. The mistress of the house sold buai at the gate of her residence.

She put her buai stall close to the trash bin provided by NCDC. And she ensured that her customers left the skins and the spittle in the trash bin that had a plastic bag in it. You could hardly see buai skins and spittle at the spot. All went into the trash bin.

Why not try this suggestion and see if it can work? If it doesn’t work, then go for the total ban as mooted.

Death of pioneering PNG patrol officer Jack Karukuru


ONE OF THE FIRST Papua New Guinean patrol officers, Assistant District Commissioners then departmental head, Jack Karukuru, passed away on New Year’s eve at around 6.30-7.00pm.

I admired him for what he did for this country and, even after he finished from the government system and the private sector, he was still very much involved with the community in Port Moresby and at his Miaru village in the Gulf Province.

Jack Karukuru was a humble man who had a big heart for this nation.

He got along well with everyone, from the little children to adults.

Papua New Guinea has lost a great man.

Allan Tarua is the Fuel Systems Project Coordinator with InterOil Corporation’s downstream operations

Additional notes by Keith Jackson - Jack was aged about 72. In addition to the posts mentioned by Allan, he also served as Deputy Secretary of the Prime Minister's Department, as District Commissioner for the then Northern District and as Deputy District Commissioner in Bougainville where, during the crisis, he was responsible for monitoring the issue prior to the development of the Bougainville task force. Jack’s secondary school education was in Australia and in 1970 he received a Diploma in Public Administration from the Administrative College in PNG

Are we talking polygamy; or are we talking property?


IS POLYGAMY TO BLAME for some of Papua New   Guinea’s social ills, or is it that some men treat women like property? And, if so, who are the guilty parties?

I recently visited some good friends - an Australian man and a PNG highlands wife - who have been happily married for around 30 years.

The wife had an interesting story to tell.

She was alone and friendless, having been rejected by her family, and was wandering the streets of Port   Moresby at risk of falling into a life of degradation when (being an attractive young girl) she was befriended by an expatriate Australian

He became infatuated and asked her to join him in Australia.  He left PNG and, after three abortive contacts by the girl, he eventually provided references for a visa and the wherewithal to come to Australia.

So she made the big step of travelling to Australia and met her husband to be.

But he had changed his mind –  perhaps because of racism or the embarrassment of having a black wife - and told her she should find another man to marry and he would happily “hand her over”.

She had the great fortune to meet a good man, and was duly 'handed over'.

This story has a good ending as the two married, have three lovely kids and are still living in a blessed relationship in Australia.

What irritates me, though, is that the expat she first met thought he could get rid of his obligations by palming her off to another man, like an unwanted second hand car.

There are many like stories of PNG women in Australia, some with much sadder endings. The stories should be told.

So who can criticise polygamy in PNG with good conscience when Australians have treated Papua New Guinean women like this?

The reason I relate that story about our friend is that is closely mirrors my wife, Rose’s, experience.

Some years before we met, Rose was befriended by an Australian expat, who took her in as a haus meri, 'gud taim girl' and babysitter. Rose looked after and loved his two kids for three years.

He regaled her with promises that he would take her to Australia to become his wife.  But then his contract expired and he left PNG with his kids.

That was the last she ever heard from him - except to find out later that he already had a wife and family in Brisbane.

She has had no contact or knowledge of the children she learned to love and helped bring up. But she still has their photos and remembers them fondly to this day.

I have heard many similar stories. Shameful.

Tracing relatives of the late cartoonist Bob Browne


I WAS WONDERING if PNG Attitude readers could help me out with a Papua New Guinea expatriate question.

I'm publishing a book on Porgera with Duke University Press and I'd like to reprint a cartoon by the late Bob Browne.

In order to do so, the press wants me to contact Browne's estate or next of kin to get permission to use the image.

Do you have any sense of who that would be or how I could get in touch with them?

Thanks for your help,

Alex Golub is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University  of Hawai’i.  You can
contact him at [email protected] or simply leave a comment below

Politics: A post mortem of the Sukundumi impasse

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

YESTERDAY I INADVERTENTLY came across the biography of Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare in Wikipedia.

As I browsed, the memory unfolded of the political impasse between the Grand Chief and the O’Neill-Namah regime that almost brought Australia’s closest neighbour and traditional friend, Papua New Guinea, into constitutional crisis and anarchy.

As reminiscence continued, I felt tranquility sweep through my being. The most turbulent period in the political history of PNG apart from the Bougainville crisis had come to an end with peace and stability.

As we celebrate the New Year, we are on course.

The impasse and its related events are now all water under the bridge - the enactment of the controversial judicial conduct laws, the ousting of the Grand Chief from Parliament and his East Sepik provincial seat (subsequently regained at the general election), the military fracas and the storming of the sanctuary of the National Court by Belden Namah in pursuit of the Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia.

Post election, the Grand Chief buried the hatchet in Alotau and aligned himself and his National Alliance MPs with the coalition parties and made his former rival Peter O’Neill the prime minister.

This humble act by the father of the nation prominently overshadowed all the outstanding constitutional references, court proceedings and other outstanding issues and paved the way for normalcy and stability.

As we know, PNG is the land of the unexpected and the most unfathomable and weirdest scenes can unfold in any circumstance whether cultural, commercial, ethical or political.

Moreover, in PNG society, personal virtues and morals at leadership level and among the citizenry are not really important compared with western and other societies.

Like most people, I first thought Somare’s u-turn decision was just one of those expect-the-unexpected PNG styles of response to circumstances and issues.

But as I continued to take knowledge of his entire biography, my conscience was troubled.

My mind was searching. How could the longest serving politician in the Commonwealth, the father of the nation, the warrior in his own right and the Sukundumi (the river god) of the Sepiks stoop that low and align himself with the rival under whose administration his personal reputation, clout and dominance were tarnished, humiliated, dragged and muddied?

How could he suddenly forgive him and  join him as a friend?

Maybe he didn’t have a third and better option.

However, in my pondering for a palatable rationale, another question popped up: Had the political marriage between Peter O’Neill’s People’s National Congress Party and Belden Namah’s PNG Party continued into the July general elections and the formation of the new government, would the Grand Chief bury the hatchet and reconcile with them?

Continue reading "Politics: A post mortem of the Sukundumi impasse" »

What is time?

GANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

What is time?
Mere measure of the length of each our stays
In our brackets in eternity

The length of each our songs
playing at different tempos
To different melodies
With different lyrics

The clock has fooled us
Time doesn't restart, won't refresh
It doesn't do laps, but marathons and sprints

These few minutes of my song,
In which I pen these words,
I'll never recover...ever

My song has no pause, no fast forward
Worse still, no rewind
It started, and soon it will end
Alas I shall find, there's no replay

I find us celebrating a mere progress of our song
If time was not made easier to tell
By clocks and calendars
Would we notice its progress?

Would we give reflection
And make resolutions?

What is time?
But mere reminder of our mortality
The tester of our values
Revealer of vulnerabilities
Screamer of our delays
Permitter of our growth and decay
The salt of our longings and nostalgias

We wade through our song
Oblivious to time's ultimate closure

What is time?
A seeker of the end

Its own end
Our song's end...

1 January 2013

Growth in PNG strong, but boom is coming to end

World Bank

AS A DECADE OF STRONG economic growth comes to an end, Papua New Guinea’s policy makers face new challenges to achieve lasting improvements in living standards.

The World Bank recommends continued efforts to reduce costs of regulation; to support a dynamic private sector, and to ensure government authorities translate public funds into effective goods and services.

Economists say that this will help PNG meet its long-term employment and service delivery priorities even in the face of returning economic pressures.

“Papua   New Guinea has enjoyed almost ten years’ strong, good quality economic growth but there are challenges on the horizon,” says Laura Bailey, World Bank Country Manager for PNG.

“Ensuring the public sector is at its most effective and accountable will be key to ensuring the government can continue to meet the needs of its people.”

In its latest Economic Update, the World Bank found that PNG’s economic growth in 2012 remained high at about 8%. However this was one percent slower than in 2011, attributed to the stronger kina and weakening international commodity prices, which led to lower-than-expected rural incomes and government revenue.

The report also predicts PNG’s growth will slow markedly in 2013 and 2014. It says that financing spending priorities in future years will become more difficult because of slower, more heavily resource-driven economic growth, weaker public revenues, and fewer new resources investments in the pipeline.

“The government is looking to broaden and extend the boom to meet a pressing human development agenda,” says Tim Bulman, World Bank Country Economist for PNG.

“Despite the projected slowdown, smart investments today will help build on PNG’s many successes in recent years - notably in achieving broadly-based growth that has benefitted more sectors of the economy.”

Bolga ingu – the pig kill as a victim of modernisation

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

At the pig killSIMBU’S MOST CELEBRATED, friendship fostering, peacemaking, wealth and leadership mentoring tradition, the bolga ingu [pig kill], has sadly waned into the history lane through the callous forces of modernisation.

And I’m glad that I had the privilege of dancing in what I have now realised is a now extinct historical ceremony.

It was 1974, the year I did my second grade at the village community school and before PNG gained independence in 1975, that I danced in the bolga ingu conducted by my Yobai people of the Karimui Nomane district in the Simbu Province.

My father, Tultul (the title given to him by the colonial administration as deputy headman) Nii Duma, dressed me in the finest Simbu regalia and, along with other youths, we danced to the beat of the kundu and songs of the forefathers in the week-long singsing.

Leading to the day of the pig slaughtering, we sang the traditional songs, beat the kundu and danced; not realising that this  would be the last time this exuberant, colourful, fascinating and merry tradition was conducted in that part of Simbu.

Just as Papua New Guinea is so rich in economic resources, it is also rich in culture and tradition. Some are unfathomable, esoteric and perplexing. For example, the shark calling of the Kontu people of New Ireland  Province, the fire dance of the Bainings of East New Britain and the haus tambaran of the Sepiks.

Others are simply fascinating, friendly and economically beneficial. For example, the moka of the Western Highlands, the yam feasts of Milne Bay Province and the bolga ingu of the Simbu people.

Bolga ingu was a pig slaughtering ceremony and the phrase literally means ‘the year of pig killing’ in the Kuman dialect of the Simbu Province in the central highlands of PNG.

Once every ten or so years, a certain rest house ( a phrase used by the PNG Electoral Commission to define a cluster of clans that share common boundaries, social and economic interests, culture and traditions) would slaughter thousands of pigs and distribute them to old and new friends from other rest houses.

Before the pig killing, men, women and children would attire themselves in the famous Simbu traditional bilas (regalia) of birds of paradise feathers, malo and purpur made out of grass and cuscus furs, and colourful face painting.

For several months they would dance from one village to another within the pig killing rest house. Clans of other rest houses that would benefit from the pork were invited to take part in the singsing.

They would go from village to village singing and dancing. It was a period of resting, feasting and merriment from the years of hard work of raising the pigs.

That was the time nubile girls and young boys from inter-marriage clans eloped and married.

The pig slaughtering took at least some days because every family killed several pigs. The chiefs and clan leaders killed more pigs than the rest to maintain their status. This was the main reason for the chiefs marrying more than one wife in those days; to raise more pigs for killing.

Other people, particularly the widowers and the unmarried young men, helped out in the preparation and slaughtering of the chiefs’ pigs.

The pinnacle of the pig slaughtering ceremony was the pork distribution which was the end of the ceremony. It was really the epitome of festivity, dancing and pork feasting.

The singsing groups would take turns to perform in their finest regalia for the last time from one pig killing village to the other, on the same day receiving pork from their friends.

If daylight ran out, the singsing would continue into the night lit by bonfires and lamps until all the singsing groups completed the journey.

The chiefs would ensure that every member of the singsing groups had something to take home. No one would depart empty handed.

Apart from the obvious display of wealth and fame, the untold underlying benefit of this tradition was establishing and fostering friendship, respect, peace and harmony.

Since the introduction of western culture and Christianity, many of the customs, traditions, rituals, magic, and taboos have died out.

Some have died out because of intentional shift to Christian principles and values.

Others have died out by default dictated by the callous forces of modernisation.

They were no longer as relevant and valuable as they used to be.

Sadly, the famous bolga ingu of the Simbu  Province has fallen victim to modernisation in the same way.

I don’t know whether it would be viable to revive it but I am glad I had the privilege of taking part in what happened to be a great tradition.

Sex enhancement products on Kundiawa’s streets


A STREET SELLER IN KUNDIAWA came up to me and offered me a packet of Viagra cream for K40.

He touted the cream for K40, then K20 and finally K10. I politely told him that I didn't have any money.

I was told he also sells Viagra pills. Scary stuff if you do not know the side effects. So Kundiawa town is changing.

How did this street seller end up selling Viagra on the streets of Kundiawa? Is Viagra legal or illegal in PNG?

I was told that his biggest customers are public servants. I presume this product has sparked a sexual revolution.

Word on the street is that the Viagra came via the Indonesia-PNG boarder, similar to the fireworks on the streets.

Not only male sex products but also female sex products are sold on the streets of Kundiawa. Very interesting changes.

Viagra with pornography is a lethal combination that could increase HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in PNG.

Bernard Yegiora, at present on leave at home in Kundiawa, is a lecturer at Divine Word University and an Associate of Jackson PR Associates