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109 posts from February 2013

Online media important to PNG says corruption fighter


On AirTHE WINNER OF A MEDIA anti-corruption award says online media has the potential to inform and mobilise the people of Papua New Guinea.

Blogger Martyn Namorong won the overall prize at the 2012 Excellence in Anti-Corruption Reporting Media Awards in PNG.

Mr Namorong says that because social media in PNG is quite new, there's still a lack of understanding about how it could be influential.

"Those of us who are willing to speak out, particularly online... have the spotlight on them such that people react more quickly," he said.

He is in Australia on a two-week study tour to meet with investigative journalists and community groups involved in fighting corruption.

Continue reading "Online media important to PNG says corruption fighter" »

Bible fundamentalists & pubs engulf the suburbs

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

Sil BolkinONE WONDERS WHETHER they have inhaled heroin or cocaine to be so high with energy.  Your ears are assaulted on every street corner into which you turn in Port Moresby where a street preacher stands.

Most of them will be skinny with no muscles and their bones sticking out of their skin. Obvious signs of hunger and unemployment.  But that doesn’t hinder them from being charged with absolute energy.

Yet most of their theories about metaphysics will not stand up to scrutiny and one can clearly see that the poor preacher is half-baked, let alone a student of theology or philosophy.

A few of them are obese and you can tell that they have successfully manipulated their followers with skill and have taken advantage of them by milking every penny for their own hungry stomachs.

You will even see kids as young as five preaching on the street corners of Port Moresby.  Oh dear, what does this kid understand about the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament?

Continue reading "Bible fundamentalists & pubs engulf the suburbs" »

Literature: The loneliness of the long-distance writer


WHEN THE CROCODILE PRIZE kicked off in 2011 it was the intention of the organisers to involve as many Papua New Guinea businesses as possible in the process, including the printing and distribution of the anthology.

Following many problems with printing, it is likely that the 2013 anthology will be printed in Australia.  This is unfortunate but, under the circumstances, understandable.  Having the anthology ready on time and at a competitive price is only fair to the many contributors.

This development is one of the lessons that have been learned through experience, which is always a wonderful and pragmatic teacher.

Another lesson brought home firmly is that publishing in Papua New Guinea has no future in the short term.  Given the worldwide revolution occurring in publishing and the growth in popularity of the e-book the long term outlook is not very encouraging either.

Continue reading "Literature: The loneliness of the long-distance writer" »

Rio Tinto faces war crimes allegations over Bougainville

Lasslett_KrisKRISTIAN LASSLETT | Green Left Website

BRITISH-AUSTRALIAN MINING GIANT Rio Tinto is seriously contemplating reopening its Bougainville copper and gold mine, Reuters reported on 7 February.

The company's Bougainville operation was forcefully closed down in November 1988 by traditional landowners who objected to the mine’s environmental and social effects.

A bloody civil war ensued, which took up to 20,000 lives on an island of 175,000 people. The war crimes committed by government security forces in the conflict were horrific.

Bougainvillean nurse, Sister Ruby Mirinka, recalled, “One of the victims was a 24-year-old pregnant woman. Shot dead by the PNG soldiers, her abdomen was then cut open to remove the foetus. The dead foetus was then placed on the chest of the dead mother for all to see — as a warning.”

Rio Tinto stands accused of being complicit in these atrocities.

Continue reading "Rio Tinto faces war crimes allegations over Bougainville" »

Norm Liddle, engaging, likeable, occasionally stoned


Site of Norm Liddle's sawmill, Angoram (Photo - David Wall)IN THE COURSE OF OUR LIVES we meet people who are readily forgettable but a select few we never forget. In this category I put Norm Liddle.

Norm was that type of Australian, particularly Queenslander, now pretty thin on the ground – a man with a wide and varied experience of life who was readily adaptable to whatever circumstances he found himself in.

A friend of mine described Norm as "accomplished musician, skilled taxidermist, reptile hunter, ex-serviceman in both the army and the air force and pioneer forestry surveyor". That sort of man.

Whether in the Australian outback, cutting bush timber, fixing machinery, serving in RAAF and AIF or living on the Sepik River and in the Highlands, he took all in his stride.

I first met Norm in 1966 at Angoram. He was living in what was known as the Ex-Service Camp at the far extremities of the town boundaries on the banks of the river. It was there he had the beginnings of a sawmill.

Continue reading "Norm Liddle, engaging, likeable, occasionally stoned" »

PNG Muslims: a new frontier for Islam in Melanesia

The Vatican Today | Agenzia Fides

Hohola Mosque, Port MoresbyPAPUA NEW GUINEA is the new frontier for the expansion of Islam in Melanesia.

Islam arrived in Papua New Guinea about 35 years ago, when a mosque near Kimbe in West New Britain was opened.

As Fr Franco Zocca SVD, a missionary in Goroka and scholar of Islam explained, Muslims in the area take inspiration from an Islamic reform movement called Ahmadi, founded in India in the late nineteenth century.

Islam was officially registered in PNG in 1983, with the recognition of the Islamic Society of Papua New Guinea, and from that moment on, Muslims who came from outside started recruiting at a local level.

Growth has been exponential growth. In 1986, there were four Muslims in PNG, in 1990 this had grown to 440, and in 2000 they numbered 756, scattered in different provinces. Today, according to the Islamic Centre in Port Moresby, the Muslim population is about 4,000.

Continue reading "PNG Muslims: a new frontier for Islam in Melanesia" »

Hey Mr Somare, have we got a deal for you!


WHETHER PAPUA NEW GUINEA was ready to govern itself in 1975 is a moot point really.  It had been governing itself for thousands of years already.

The question was rather whether it was prepared to centralise its government in the same way as Australia and other western countries so that it could be dealt with on their terms rather than its own.

It needed some form of government to avoid being prey to the outside world, Indonesia in particular, but there were plenty of alternatives.

In that sense, the form of self-government and independence being foisted on it by Australia was a trap into which Michael Somare and the Pangu Pati willingly fell.

So why did the founding fathers fall into the pit so easily?  They were certainly well aware of alternatives and discussed them at great length.  Joe Nombri, whose brain was considered dangerous and who had been banished to the wilds of the Western District, often discussed alternatives when we shared a house in Kiunga.

Continue reading "Hey Mr Somare, have we got a deal for you!" »

In the Simbu, conquering the curse of osteomyelitis

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

Pauline Kuma (Photo - Francis Nii)A NEW LEASE OF HEALTHY and vibrant life after many years of living in pain and confinement is every patient’s dream.

Osteomyelitis, a painful bone-decaying condition that has afflicted many young children, sometimes even causing permanent disability, will soon be a scourge of the past.

The surgical doctors at Sir Joseph Nombri Memorial Hospital in Kundiawa, Simbu Province were baffled when, after many years of treating osteomyelitis patients with common drugs like amoxicillin, flucloxacilin and chloramphenical, there was very little or no improvement in the condition of the patients, most of whom were children under the age of 14.

This lack of success prompted the doctors to undertake research into bacteriology and the sensitivity of the antibiotics administered to find out why there was no effect.

The research jointly carried out by doctors led by senior surgeon Dr Damien Hasola in collaboration with the PNG Institute of Medical Research is sponsored by the Simbu Children Foundation. It started at the beginning of July 2012 and continues.

Continue reading "In the Simbu, conquering the curse of osteomyelitis" »

Why not a village-based timber export business


John Fowke with old friendsTHIS PIECE OUTLINES BRIEFLY a concept which I believe Papua New Guinea villagers would discuss avidly and which might produce a worthwhile process of evolution in the timber industry.

George Leahy who owns and controls the sawmill at Baimuru (it’s been there since 1924) buys logs from the local villagers who fell and float them on the tides by way of delivery.

An old mate of mine in the sixties, and a colleague of the late Bertie Counsel, had a small 40-tonne barge on which he installed a simple sawbench. Occasionally, he would tour up and down the Era and Pie rivers, buying and milling timber which villagers had harvested and made ready for him. Cash in hand, as it was at the Baimuru mill.

The photo is of me and the late Sir Sinake Giregire and his old friend Tom-the-Jockey.  Sinake was a great bloke; always short of smokes and beer, but likeable and highly intelligent with ideas and a presence which gave him authority.

Continue reading "Why not a village-based timber export business" »

Predatory elite the problem, Namorong tells Canberra

Martyn Namorong receives a gift from George Masri, Australia’s Acting Deputy OmbudsmanPAPUA NEW GUINEA’s failure to capitalise on its natural resource boom has been described by award winning blogger Martyn Namorong as the curse of the rent seekers.

Namorong highlighted this today when he presented a paper at the Australian National University in Canberra stressing that corrupt behaviour has resulted in many lost opportunities for PNG.

Namorong was critical of the way those entrusted with the nation’s wealth have not created opportunities for the participation of broader society in the resource boom.

“If you look at the system we have in place,” he said, “the wealth of a nation of six million is controlled by a few powerful individuals and entities.

“In theory these parties are supposed to distribute the wealth equitably but that has not been the case.”

Namorong said that what transpired was the creation of a predatory elite class who capitalise on the general population’s apathy and ignorance to squeeze out the nation’s resource rent.

“This predatory elite does not just exist in Waigani but also in the provinces where natural resources are being exploited,” he said.

Namorong suggested that the way out of the curse of the rent seekers was for broader economic development, particularly focussing on empowering the rural majority through smallholder agriculture.

His presentation was well received by the academic staff of ANU along with staff from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian Ombudsman Commission and the Australian Federal Police.

Namorong, who is currently on a two week anti-corruption study tour sponsored by the United Nations, later held private talks with George Masri of the Ombudsman Commission (photo).

Unitech bursar appears before court on fraud charge

Education News PNG

ANOTHER SUSPENDED STAFF member at the PNG University of Technology (Unitech) has appeared before the Lae committal court on allegation of misappropriation and conspiracy to defraud the state.

Suspended Unitech bursar Jimmy Imbok, who is a signatory to the university account, was arrested last Thursday and appeared before Magistrate Posain Polo yesterday.

It is alleged that Imbok and others defrauded the university and state of over K600,000 between 17 January 2012 and 4 January 2013.

Magistrate Polo will consider the evidence provided by the police to determine if there are sufficient grounds for referral to the National Court.

Meanwhile, Polo reduced Imbok’s bail which was set at K5,000 to K500. He said the defendant was a citizen and would not escape from the country.

Imbok is another in a line of former Unitech staff and academics who have been implicated with former head of the university’s engineering department, Professor Narayan Gehlot.

Meanwhile police are investigating the illegal sale of a vehicle belonging to the engineering department.

Read the Albert Schram story here. Incredibly, the Unitech vice-chancellor was deported by PNG authorities while trying to clean up this mess. There's a massive injustice being perpetrated - KJ

Rough bisnis: How the Americans came seeking gold

LeonardLEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

IT WAS IN 2008 that Edwin Moses from Sireronsi village on Bougainville and Amos Ove from Kongara got in contact with Americans Steve Strauss and Mike Holbrooke.

The Americans and their company, Tall J, said to be specialists in small scale mining, also had connections to the so-called Meekamui government of Panguna led by Philip Miriori (president) and Philip Takaung (vice president) – two people who, when talking about BCL to the media, had being so anti-mining.

In early 2009, Edwin Moses, Amos Ove and Philip Takaung formed their own company with the blessing of the Meekamui government. They called it O’orang with all the executives from their respective villages and Amos Ove as manager and Edwin Moses as director. Its first job was to start formal negotiations with the Americans.

After O’orang was established, Tall J money began entering Bougainville. O’orang was assigned to do the groundwork for possible mining operations in Panguna, especially in the Tumpusiong Valley where Amos Ove was married.

Back in the US there was excitement to have established a link with one of the Pacific’s richest islands and its landowners. Money flowed in and O’orang members drove around in new vehicles.

Continue reading "Rough bisnis: How the Americans came seeking gold" »

I apologise, and I want the 'asples' to be progressive


HAVING ALREADY APOLOGISED for the aspersions I recently cast upon Joe Wasia, and I applaud the sentiments expressed in his recent, eponymous opinion piece.

Joe wrote:

Successive governments have neglected this vast majority, their focus diverted to the main centres of the country. And that was really unfair for the people…. As a member of the educated elite in my society, I know I would not tolerate tribal fights or other social disorder in my society nor support perpetrators in any way.

Indeed, Joe. Oh yes. I have been writing off and on for several years urging people like you to form a progressive linkage or union across tribal and provincial boundaries and the nation.

Much of what I’ve written has been published in the various daily and weekly papers in PNG including in Wantok, and in Australia as well as PNG-related blogs when these arose not so long ago.

Just recently my hopes that I may have a small audience, or better, friends, in a combined enterprise, have risen.

Continue reading "I apologise, and I want the 'asples' to be progressive" »

Aid's not the answer; let's develop those resources

BRIAN WAWN | Project Monitor | My Resources

MICK LEAHY (1901-79) was an Australian explorer and prospector, who worked in the rugged mountainous country of Papua New Guinea in the 1930s.

He said to a colleague at the time: “Jim, good country, good climate, good kanakas (traditional people), too good to find gold in”.

But in time, the country Mick Leahy explored gave rise to two major mines operating today: Porgera and Ok Tedi.

Following growth in gold mining between the 1930s and 1950s, PNG had only one major operating mine at independence in 1975: the Panguna copper mine on Bougainville.

Operations at Panguna ended in tears in 1989; the development was closed in the face of fierce local opposition, accompanied by civil war on the island.

Continue reading "Aid's not the answer; let's develop those resources" »

Chinese fund armoured cars, troop carriers for PNG

Radio New Zealand International

Fabian PokPAPUA NEW GUINEA’s Defence Minister, Dr Fabian Pok, has said a $2 million military aid grant from China will be spent on armoured cars, troop carriers and uniforms.

The grant follows Dr Pok’s talks with his Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie, in Beijing last month and meetings there with military hardware suppliers.

The visit comes as PNG plans a fivefold increase in troops over the next decade.

Dr Pok said he will also ask China to help maintain swimming pools and gymnasiums at PNG’s military barracks.

“They want to be seen as not being too involved in our military issues here,” said Dr Pok.

“China is also trying to export things like uniforms and armoured cars and all these things.

“So it’s also in the business interests of not the Chinese military but people who are building these things to market their products to countries like Papua New Guinea.”

Corruption in PNG: curse of the rent seekers

Martyn Namarong in BrisbaneMARTYN NAMORONG | Supported by the Chalapi Pomat Writing Fellowship

IN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND the roots of corruption in PNG, I draw upon my lifelong interaction with the resources sector in my country.

I grew up in a logging camp in the Western Province, and I appreciate the services provided to the local community by the company.

It was there that I came across a Tok Pisin translation of extracts from the Barnett Inquiry.

The inquiry was an investigation of widespread corruption in the forestry sector. Its revelations led to changes to forestry laws and regulations and the introduction of log export monitoring.

I believe the unintended consequence of the tightening of forestry regulations has been the recent land grab known as Special Purpose Agriculture Business Leases (SPABLs or SABLs).

Tomorrow I will present a paper on Corruption in PNG at the Australian National University in Canberra. My trip to Canberra and later Sydney is part of an award for the work I did in reporting the findings of the Commission of Inquiry into Sepik SPABLs.

Continue reading "Corruption in PNG: curse of the rent seekers" »

Wouldn't PNG be a better place without mining?


I'M NOT SURE that Papua New Guinea really needs the LNG Project, or the Ramu nickel mine for that matter.

In fact, it probably could have done without Ok Tedi, Porgera and Hides (not to mention Panguna). I can understand the need for a large mineral resource base in Australia because nearly everyone works for wages and jobs are extremely important.

Papua New Guinea is not yet primarily a wage-based society.  Estimates vary but I believe something like 85% of the population are still reasonably happy subsistence farmers.

Australia has a vast land mass, much of it extremely arid.  This is used to run hard-hoofed stock like sheep and cattle, which create massive environmental damage.  Dropping the odd mine or two into this scenario hardly makes any difference.

Continue reading "Wouldn't PNG be a better place without mining?" »

Exxon Mobil in PNG: Shady stories at the Holiday Inn

Celine RouzetCELINE ROUZET | The Pulitzer Center | Huffington Post

“WE ARE A VERY FRIENDLY PEOPLE, but the government and Exxon Mobil better not forget what we are capable of when it comes to our land,” said Janett Koriama, president of a women’s association in the Hela region of Papua New Guinea.

She smiled, but a strange light of both pride and anger shone in her russet eyes. Koriama was there when an armed gang attacked the Mount Kare gold mine site in 1992.

“We forced the boss and some employees to pour kerosene onto the infrastructures and burn it. Then we left those white men naked, their hands on the fences, with a note to the CRA developer ordering them to go away.”

Continue reading "Exxon Mobil in PNG: Shady stories at the Holiday Inn" »

Fiji benefits from Australian 'appeasement lobby'

Victor LalVICTOR LAL | The Strategist | Australian Strategic Policy Institute

AUSTRALIAN POLICY ON FIJI is shifting to appeasement in ways that will gladden the military regime and sadden Fijians.

What might be called the Bainimarama appeasement lobby—broadly speaking a group of academics and journalists who have never lived under the Fiji dictatorship—make valid points about Australia’s interests.

But they are necessarily made from the viewpoint of a comfortable and calm Sydney, Melbourne, Honolulu or Auckland suburb without recourse to public opinion and conditions in Fiji.

Continue reading "Fiji benefits from Australian 'appeasement lobby'" »

Deported! The mysterious story of PNG & Dr Schram


ON 8 FEBRUARY THIS YEAR, I was deported from Papua New Guinea to Australia.

I’d been to Singapore for a brief medical visit and, upon returning to Port Moresby, I was refused entry and put on a plane to Brisbane.

I was given no chance to say goodbye to my wife or speak to my lawyer and was given no valid reason for my deportation. I was threatened with force if I refused to leave.

Through official channels, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canberra (I am a Dutch national) has asked for an explanation, so far to no avail.

It was a bizarre series of events for me in my role of Vice-Chancellor of the PNG University of Technology (Unitech).

Here’s the story so far as I know it.

Last year Unitech’s former Pro-Chancellor, Ralph Saulep, alleged that, upon my appointment as Vice-Chancellor in January 2012, I had been ‘less than truthful’ about my academic qualifications.

At the time, I responded that this was a baseless allegation and demonstrably false.

Continue reading "Deported! The mysterious story of PNG & Dr Schram" »

Education in PNG: horror-child of Australian left ideology


AUSTRALIA'S CARDINAL MISTAKE in Papua New Guinea was to allow a Westminster-modelled, party-based system of political representation to arise in a profoundly tribal, profoundly egalitarian, landowning, subsistence society.

It proved to be a white elephant which would never pull a cart or lift a log.

This unguided policy-free stance, allowing party-based politics to rise, provided for the empowerment of today's selfish and cynical hegemonic elite in all its mishmash of conflict-beset coalitions.

This oversight was compounded by another factor. The great grey elephant was the lack of a well-educated, disciplined and idealistic elite of a size sufficient to have a deep impact upon the unworldly and unsophisticated emerging society.

Formal western schooling came late to PNG. As the government system of education grew from almost nothing in the late forties to the foundation of UPNG and Unitech less than two decades later, the Aussie political leadership quietly decided that "black mastas" should never arise, and so mediocrity and "lefty-luvvy-ideology" became the guiding theme in educational and social development.

To hell with an informed, ethical, history-and-economics-savvy leadership during the most important decades of PNG's hasty transformation from tribal horde to nation state. The principle of excellence was not permitted in a society traditionally free of the ills of a class-system just as the pursuit ofexcellence was anathema to all dinky-di Aussies.

As with most colonial powers, Australia exhibited a supine even welcoming attitude to the flood of lefty political correctness which swirled like an Alpine fog behind UN visiting missions in the sixties and thereafter.

Any pretence to excellence of outcome in education was sacrificed to the sibilant susurrations of fluttering left wings.

It is no accident that names like Kidu, Rarua, Taureka, Siaguru, Namaliu, Nombri, Ainui and others all bring memories of balanced, urbane, highly-educated, personable and effective professionals; people of dignity and purpose. People who served the nation with distinction and honesty.

But it was not even a generation. Because of Aussie policy it was just a flash in the pan. So what happened to replace this cadre of leaders?

The output of a largely undistinguished caste of ideology-driven foreign educationists foisted upon a naive PNG in the formative years of tertiary education was unable to provide a supply of focussed, disciplined, ethical leaders in the same model.

Within its enclosed, self-protective academic community, this pod of politically correct pedagogues live on today, largely invisible and perennially unable to put the stamp of quality upon its product.

In this way, by closing the gate to a purposely socially-engineered class of properly educated, open-minded and pragmatic non-tribal Melanesian leaders, Australia closed off the only avenue whereby young people might see and aim for ethical, socially-positive and creative careers in politics and administration.

Social engineering didn't go away. It was put into reverse. And look at the result.

Better education will tackle social issues in PNG

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

DO WE HAVE ANY COHERENT plans and strategies to combat tribal fights and other violent social unrest which are too common in Papua New Guinea?

I believe education would be a greatest tool to solve these issues in our country - and most of our people are really lacking an education.

The vast majority of Papua New Guineans, more than 70%, still live in rural areas where there is no proper education. As a result, we have an uneducated population with many social issues.

Tribal fights, as mentioned by Francis Nii in a recent article and similar social issues we discuss and read about at PNG Attitude and other media, are very common in much of PNG society where there is no proper education, health and other basic infrastructure.

Successive governments have neglected this vast majority, their focus diverted to the main centres of the country. And that was really unfair for the people.

Rural societies need support from the responsible authorities. The national, provincial and local level governments, NGOs, business houses, international agencies and organisations must support students and educated youths to conduct awareness in rural villages on pressing issues such as warfare, elections, HIV/AIDS, education, global warming, etc.

This will bring some change to community, provinces and country. The students and youths will be engaged so they can be advocates for social peace and order. As we know, young people have the potential to do harm or good and that is where a change for the better needs to start.

Government must invest more in human resource development. Establish schools, subsidise schooling, get more school age kids enrolled and provide more employment opportunities for the growing population.

I know education can play a greater role in maintaining peace and order in the societies throughout the country. Being educated doesn’t mean a bachelor’s degree; it means you do things well and think better than others. And that’s where change starts.

As a member of the educated elite in my society, I know I would not tolerate tribal fights or other social disorder in my society nor support perpetrators in any way.

I know that education has shaped the way I think and act. Education has changed me to be who I’m and given me a bright future. That's how it helps keep societies in order when change starts from an individual through education.

We can deploy armed security, police and even defence force to tribal areas to contain fights and social unrest but they will never solve the problem. Trouble will still erupt because people are uneducated.

As the great Nelson Mandela said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Yes, we can change Papua New Guinea through education.

The fight for land rages in Papua New Guinea

CHRISTINA HILL | Oxfam Mining Advocacy Coordinator

In the field of plenty (Tom Greenwood, OxfamNZ)I have just returned from Papua New Guinea where the struggle for control of the country’s natural resources is raging.

Communities are quite literally fighting for their lands, environment, livelihoods and culture – all of these are at risk from logging, palm oil and other so-called developments.

Land is life, as they say in PNG. Yet those who try to defend their land are often intimidated and harassed by the companies who want the land and the logs.

I spent a week working with Oxfam partners learning about community rights to decide what happens on their land, and about how Oxfam partners are supporting communities to understand and defend their rights.

We focused on the right to ‘free, prior and informed consent’ (FPIC). The right to FPIC is articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and in other human rights instruments.

FPIC represents the highest standard possible for the involvement of communities in decision-making about large scale projects including logging, palm oil and mining.

FPIC requires that communities must be adequately informed about large projects in a timely manner and given the opportunity to approve, or reject, projects before operations begin. This includes participation in setting the terms and conditions that address the economic, social and environmental impacts of the project.

What became clear during our conversations that week was how important human rights – and human rights language – is. The right to FPIC is not an abstract concept, it is being used by communities to prevent being exploited.

As one of our partners who lives in a community directly impacted by logging said to me, “I have the right to decide what happens to my land because the law tells me so.”

When communities understand their right to FPIC they stand together and demand their voices are heard. I learned that FPIC really does empower local communities to make decisions about the use of their land so that their interests and rights are protected.

FPIC ensures that customary land rights and traditions are respected by project developers  Communities are using FPIC to protect their livelihoods and local environment because for many Papua New Guineans a sustainable livelihood is only possible if natural resources are used sustainably.

FPIC is not just about stopping large projects. FPIC can also be used to ensure that women and men benefit from these projects. For example, we talked about how communities can benefit from project-related infrastructure and services, and small business opportunities, but only when communities are involved in decision making.

Our week together finished with a picnic lunch at the local beach. To get there we drove through mangrove forests – which are important fish breeding grounds – to arrive at beautiful Wom Beach.

This was a fitting reminder to us all of the importance of natural resources for the people of PNG.

Sunday morning in the Attitude....
ALBERT SCHRAM writes for us on ‘the true, bizarre & yet to conclude story of Unitech & me’.  JOHN FOWKE takes up the cudgels with his thoughts on PNG’s education system as the horror-child of Australian left-wing ideology. And JOE WASIA offers his views on how a better school establishment can tackle social issues in PNG.  Tomorrow it’s education. It ain’t pretty but it ain't boring….

Wot's wiv all de few changes den….
Rain’s perambulating down in Sydney today, wind blowing a funiculating gale. Very tiresome for Action Jackson. So, errr, let’s change the blog page. Errr, let’s get a pic that looks more like I really look at dis very moment. Errr, don’t worry, I’ll think of something else…. Ah, cricket starts in half an hour!

Australia’s failing engagement with PNG & Pacific


Jonathan SchultzA RESEARCHER AT the University of Melbourne (from which, by the way, my stepson, Evan, has just graduated with an MSc in marine biology), has said Australia's relationships with its Pacific island neighbours are characterised by short-term thinking, neglect and stagnation.

Jonathan Schultz (pictured) is condemnatory. He says Australia's engagement with the Pacific is volatile and reactive, fluctuating wildly based on events and lacking any real vision or long-term policy direction.

In his study, Overseeing and Overlooking (download below), Dr Schultz says “we keep making similar mistakes and having to relearn the same lessons''.

He says the federal government should appoint a minister for Pacific island affairs to address this policy drift.

Clearly he doesn’t think much of the current set-up where Richard Marles as parliamentary secretary with responsibility for the Pacific hasn't achieved any cut-through.

Dr Schultz says the situation is exacerbated by the low level of importance placed on Pacific issues within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

At the same time Dr Schultz’s study was released, an AusAID consultant in Papua New Guinea made some observations to me about his long experience with DFAT and its aid arm.

“I am really battling with AusAID direction at the moment,” he wrote, “especially their law and justice engagement.

“It’s all about process, like reports and so on, and little time for actual implementation.

“I know PNG and the Australian public want results. AusAID just seem to employ so many academics that know all.”

And he added, “Don't please put me down saying these things. I need a job and I battle through it.”

When will the Australian government stump up and admit its Pacific policies are failing?

After a change in government this coming September, with any luck.

Download 'Overseeing and Overlooking' - Jonathan Schultz

NZ Speaker's Wenda ban puts focus on West Papua

Blades_JohnnyJOHNNY BLADES | Radio New Zealand International

BENNY WENDA HAS BEEN LIVING in the United Kingdom since escaping from Indonesia in 2003 after being arrested for promoting West Papuan independence.

In 2011, Interpol issued a red alert on him at the request of Indonesia but, following an investigation, it was removed last year.

Now free to travel again, Benny Wenda had been touring widely, sharing his people’s experiences of rape, torture and murder by security forces and the militarisation of his homeland.

Benny Wenda“I never go back to West Papua. If I go back (now) I’m a dead man so (I’ll wait) until my people are free and I’m free. I just want to go a free man and see my people.”

Touring with Benny Wenda is international human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson, known for her work representing Julian Assange.

Ms Robinson had been working in Papua a decade ago when she met Mr Wenda incarcerated in solitary conditions as a political prisoner.

Inspired by his and other West Papuans’ commitment to freedom in the face of ongoing violence in the Indonesian region, Ms Robinson helped establish the International Lawyers for West Papua movement.

She said calls for West Papuan self-determination have a sound legal basis and cannot be silenced.

“Of course Indonesia has avoided any sort of international adjudication on the issue because they know that they’re in the wrong,” Ms Robinson said.

“Legally speaking, West Papua is in the right, and has the right to self-determination that was denied to them in 1969. International law is on their side. The difficulty is getting it into an international forum where that matter can be decided.”

That difficulty was demonstrated in the New Zealand context when the country’s new Speaker of parliament refused to allow Mr Wenda access to parliament to speak about the plight of West Papuans.

David Carter’s refusal stemmed from advice he said he received from government officials deeming the Wenda visit inappropriate.

Subsequent fallout from the Speaker’s decision meant that the West Papua question has had unprecedented exposure in New Zealand mainstream media.

The Green MP, Catherine Delahunty, accused the Speaker of going against the spirit of parliament.

“It’s not good enough to just say well you can do this in your caucus room,” she said.

“I wanted to hold a forum which included other political parties where they have shown an interest in this issue. This is an issue which basically is the dirty secret of the Pacific that no one wants to talk about.

“The facility called parliament belongs to all parliamentarians and, without fear or favour, we should be able to hold events in this facility.”

Continue reading "NZ Speaker's Wenda ban puts focus on West Papua" »

Unitech vice-chancellor in dark about deportation


Dr Albert SchramIN AN EXTRAORDINARY incident, PNG University of Technology vice-chancellor, Dr Albert Schram, was detained and forcefully loaded aboard Air Niugini flight PX5 to Brisbane soon after arriving at Jackson’s Airport from Singapore earlier this month. 

Last year, Dr Schram had been suspended from his Unitech post, an act he says was unlawful.

“Contrary to what some have said, I have never been legally dismissed as vice-chancellor. So why was I deported? No answer“, Schram wrote on his Twitter account.

In January, prime minister Peter O’Neill said that both the university’s council under chancellor Philip Stagg and Schram and had been suspended by Cabinet for two months pending an investigation into Unitech’s administration.

Last year some of Schram’s opponents at the university had raised questions over his credentials.

“I've asked my embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Canberra to ask for a reason, because I am still in the dark," said Dr Schram, a Dutch national.

The PNG government denied that Dr Schram had been deported, preferring the explanation that he simply hadn’t been allowed into the country.

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 8


Escape by boatRELEASED FROM THE SPELL of Sukundumi, Salome held Moriarty in a vice-like grip. “Moriati – puripuri blon wantok winim yu, and they haven't yet called their Christ God to support them!”

Watson - “I say Holmes that coconut bomb came on a bit strong don't you think?”

“Needs must when the devil drives, Watson. Moriarty, you have no escape!”

“Think again Holmes!

Pekpek, mipela bagarup!” shouted Salome as Moriarty slipped from her distracted grasp, racing down a secret passage to the harbour foreshore where a boat awaited his escape.

Holmes - “Leave him, good Salome, we live to fight another day.”

Salome - “Na Holmes, Watson, wagai kaninga!”

“I have learned some important lessons today. Waitman not all good and some have power to treat us like slaves. But you two are strongpela fitmen tru! Olsem honorary New Guinea tambu bilon mi!”

“And Doctor John, what are you doing tonight?”

Watson retreated in fear.

“Holmes, protect me!” 

Nothing more obscene than a fat man on a bicycle


MY YOUTHFUL FORAY into academia resulted in a very humble Bachelor of Arts degree.

I hadn’t really expected to learn anything useful by doing it that I couldn’t otherwise have picked up by a bit of selective reading, but I did need it as a ticket to earn a half decent salary when I left Papua New Guinea.

My original analysis was reasonably accurate.  As I progressed the idea of pursuing academia seemed more and more like a hollow and futile path to wander down.

There was one thing that tweaked my curiosity during my aimless wandering through the halls of learning however and it is encapsulated in the only book that I kept from my youthful experimentation. 

The volume is entitled Bureaucracy and Democracy: A Political Dilemma by Eva Etzioni-Halevy.  She also wrote another interesting book called Political Manipulation and Administrative Power.

The television series Yes Minister? was playing at the time but I’m not sure what influence it had on Ms Erzioni-Halevy’s thinking; she certainly didn’t refer to it in her texts.  But avoiding the innate truths that sometimes lurk within popularism is an academic trait I think.

In any event her erudite arguments caused me to complete what was a sort of post-graduate major which the University Of Queensland called Government but which was really Politics.

I suppose Joh Bjelke Petersen would have banned it if they had used the latter name.  So, despite Joh, I actually ended up with one and a half degrees before I abandoned the idea forever.

The reason I mention this is that Paul Oates recently directed me to an interesting argument that he was conducting with someone we both hadn’t heard of on another Papua New Guinea orientated blog.

This guy was arguing that there is absolutely no relationship between culture and politics in PNG.  He also went to great pains to suggest that the relationship between corruption and the Melanesian Way, which Paul had raised, was nothing more than a fiction.

He also claimed that The Troubles in Northern Island had nothing to do with the differences between the Protestants and the Catholics!

For him the real bogey man is the political system and in particular unicameralism, that is a parliament with only one chamber. 

His suggestion is that an upper house or a house of review (or multimember electorates, which I admit I don’t quite understand but which he claims fixed the problems in Belfast), is all that is needed to cure corruption.

With an upper house he says even the most evil depredations of the politicians can be pursued and tackled and brought to account.

He cited some interesting historical precedents.  Queensland, for instance, according to him, is the most corrupt state in Australia and it doesn’t have an upper house (not sure where NSW under Labor fits in here).

Continue reading "Nothing more obscene than a fat man on a bicycle" »

PNG 'witch' murder a reminder of our gruesome past

Richard SuggRICHARD SUGG | The Guardian (UK)

EARLIER THIS WEEK, police charged two people from Mount Hagen, in the western highlands of Papua New Guinea, with the  murder of Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother.

Accused of bewitching a six-year old boy who had recently died in hospital, Leniata was stripped, tortured with a hot iron rod, doused in petrol, and burned on a pile of rubbish and car tyres.

Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of history will quickly think of the legalised witch killings of Europe and North America as comparisons. These offer a sobering broader perspective.

In Germany, Switzerland, Britain and New England, perhaps 50,000 alleged witches were tortured and killed by the most educated and powerful men in society. By definition, most of their supposed crimes were sheer impossibilities. But the forgotten history of witch attacks is perhaps more surprising still.

In England, the Witchcraft Act of 1736 outlawed any further prosecutions for witchcraft. Yet in the sleepy Hertfordshire village of Long Marston in 1751, the law did not protect 69-year-old Ruth Osborne.

Accused of bewitching cattle, she was watched by a large crowd at the village pond that April, where a man named Thomas Colley ducked and drowned her. Though Colley would hang, many stayed away from the execution in sympathy – but the witch attacks were far from over.

With a present-day population of around 800 and a late-Saxon church, Great Paxton in Huntingdonshire now looks charmingly picturesque. Its past is rather darker. One Sunday in April 1808 the church's minister, Isaac Nicholson, could be heard attempting to talk his parishioners out of their belief that Ann Izzard had bewitched several locals, including three girls who had fallen sick.

As Stephen A Mitchell notes, Nicholson was right to fear he had scarcely dented the prevailing superstitions. One night that May a mob dragged Ann, naked, from her bed into the yard outside her house. They scratched her arms with pins and beat her face, stomach and chest with a stick.

When Leniata was burned in Papua New Guinea, a surprising number of onlookers, including police, failed to save her. Though Izzard survived, her vicar had been powerless to help. That night, when she managed to dress and drag herself to the local constable, he too refused to protect her.

If this is a rather startling view of Jane Austen's England, matters were no better in Scotland. Near the church of Kirkpatrick Fleming in Dumfriesshire, a mill and a cottage faced one another beside Bettermont bridge, over the River Kirtle.

Continue reading "PNG 'witch' murder a reminder of our gruesome past" »

And then? And then?

GANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship

Ganjiki D WayneThey say they'd look into it
And so we waited...
And crossed our feet

That crook who was a politician
Those missing millions
Those laws broken
Those lives that sank
Those jaws broken
By cops who were smoking

That plane that came crashing
Those ladies who were raped
By what couldn't have been apes
Those ladies burnt
By villagers vigilante
Those aliens that take our bread
Those fugitives who bought citizenships
From crooked selfish Ministerships

They said they'd investigate
They set up an inquiry shop
Then they enquired
They tasked the force to sweep
Sweep ‘em clean
Block a sewer leak
They commissioned the Ombudsman
To go get em
Put ‘em in jail

So they went to get em
And we waited
For thieves to be caught
For money to be brought
Back from dirty hands
To restore cheaply sold lands
For that reckless shipman
To pay for dead family man
For those stoned murderers
Of suspected sorcerers

They said they'd catch them
That justice would be served
They'd put them in jail
But alas
The justice league it failed

Still we stand and watch
And cry time and again
To them we cry

"And then? And then?...."

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 7


Bomb_blastA BUG-EYED MORIARTY quaked as the cool blade of Salome’s bushknife caressed his throat.

Holmes - “First question, Moriarty, tell me your source for the famous black pearls?”

“I will never reveal that secret!”

Salome pressed the bushknife closer to the carotid artery and hissed “Answer, sangumaman!”

Swiftly drawing a pouch from his pocket, Moriarty blurted: “I have some sacred leaves here, warriorwoman, which I believe you will respect.

“This is the Namah plant with Somare extract to render you powerless.”

Salome fell back as if struck by a rock. “You have the secret of Sukundumi?”

“Did you think I was powerless against your primitive superstitions?” throwing the potion and some leaves to the cavern floor.

“There! See where your beliefs take you now!”

Holmes had other ideas. “Moriarty! Behold this more powerful magic!”

And he took from his rucksack the great tribal mask of Sukundumi and held it in the gaze of the terrified warriors.

They fled.

“Moriarty, I know you used ancient magic to enslave these good people to do your evil bidding. But it is at an end. Now you will see justice.”

At that moment Holmes struck the ground with one of Queen Emma's coconut bombs and blinded them all in a fiery display of noise, sparks and smoke.

A picturesque farewell present from a grateful nation


The farewell present

ON THE EVE of his departure as Australia's high commissioner in Papua New Guinea, Ian Kemish called on PNG prime minister Peter O'Neill this afternoon to be handed a rather large token of appreciation.

Mr Kemish is concluding was has been a tumultuous yet effective three-year stint in PNG.

His was an inspired appointment which has significantly consolidated Australia's relationship with our nearest neighbour.

It never ceases to surprise me just how much of the art of diplomacy is still personal, not national, in nature. And just how much of Australia's diplomacy falls down because it lacks the relational touch.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Pacific, where people understand the full value of relationships.

Go well, Ian Kemish, knowing that you have done well.

PNG military expansion is to guard foreign corporations


ANALYSIS AND COMMENTARY on the Papua New Guinea government’s plan for a five-fold increase in the size of its military force has painstakingly ignored the obvious.

The increase in military personnel from the current 2,000 to around 10,000 is not a move designed to increase security along PNG’s border with Indonesia, nor to deal with international people smuggling and drug trafficking.

The move to increase the size of the military has everything to do with guarding the huge operations of foreign corporations like Exxon-Mobil and MCC.

These companies operations are coming under increasing pressure from dissatisfied local communities as they realize the promised material benefits are not going to arrive and instead they must bear the social and environmental costs while vast profits are shipped overseas.

Already this week, the government had approved the call out of the PNG military for an initial 12 months deployment to protect the interests of US based Exxon-Mobil.

The troops will be deployed all the Highlands Highway, the only transport corridor leading to the LNG sites, to provide protection for Exxon’s truck convoys.

This is not the first time Exxon has called on the PNG government for military assistance. A number of paramilitary police mobile squads, notorious for their ill-discipline and brutal tactics, are on almost permanent deployment around the LNG sites providing protection alongside Exxon’s own private security contractors – mainly from G4S.

Meanwhile, MCC, the Chinese operator of the controversial Ramu nickel mine, is becoming increasingly nervous about community unrest as it moves into full production.

As well as anger at the dumping of toxic waste just 150m off-shore along the Madang coastline, inland communities are increasingly frustrated about the environmental impacts of the mining operation itself and the failure of MCC to properly relocate displaced families.

The new Yandera mine, also to be built by a Chinese company, China Non Ferrous Industries, and the Pacific Marine Industrial Zone are seen as other potential flash points for community anger directed at foreign corporations.

A poet’s journey 9: The pleasure of writing poetry


THIS IS WHAT WRITER’S always try to maintain; the pleasure in their craft. Because if that pleasure dies, fades away or goes into hiding, then, as a creative person, you’re quite done.

I’d like to say otherwise but that’s the way I see it. And it’s likely to be true for any kind of writing, whether academic, journalistic, storytelling, editorial or even historical - but especially poetic writing.

So, poet, how can you maintain the pleasure? Well, there’s no ultimate guide I’m afraid!

The best I can say is that you have to remain true to yourself, to your creative self that is; that other side of you which exists in another realm, where the mundane struggles of daily life are irrelevant reminders of your quest and all that matters is heart and soul. And that is not an easy task. It takes perseverance.

What is easier or more doable is to practice, practice, and practice. And pleasure grows with it.

In my poem All these are mine, dedicated to PNG Attitude in 2011, I open with the quatrain,

These Thoughts are mine
But for now the Words remain Unspoken
Is it not Good to feel the Pleasure and Pain
Of Love and Loss and Life?

The closing quatrain concludes,

For Silence too is mine
Even as the Ink Speaks from these pages
My Thoughts drive Unwilling Hands
How can they still be mine?   

This seems to capture the contradictions of a poet’s fate; to feel and experience as others do, to carry ‘unspoken words’ and yet to yield their ‘unwilling hands’ to relate truthfully the pleasure and pain of everything desired, imagined, learned about or experienced in life.

And we may often do this fighting ourselves all the way. But, if we should yield to our creative side and the urge to write poetry from our heart and soul, who can say what is impossible for us to create?

The other pleasure of writing is to have your work read and appreciated by someone else.

For 17 years I was happily writing poems for my own pleasure, and sharing them with another person only rarely, when I had worked up the courage. And most times the response was not very helpful!

If I had continued that way my work would likely have faded away like the whisper from the tail end of a ghost, and along with it my pleasure. But, as fate would have it, along came a Pukpuk!

The Crocodile Prize allows writers and poets to share their creative works. Baring your heart and soul in your writings is not something done very lightly, and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is the best way of improving your craft, broadening your scope as a creative writer and sharing insights and inspiration with colleagues. There is strength in unity, and this grows with the blessing of diversity (not vice versa as some may propagandise!).

For this sharing of creative work to happen there must be an atmosphere of openness in sharing where care and respect for the writer is balanced with a desire to explore and encourage a writer to search deep within themselves for the writing that will elevate us all to the heights of creative pleasure and allow others to enjoy the pleasure of our creations.

The Crocodile Prize, through PNG Attitude, gives us a special place, which is in the company of other writers and poets. This special place must be nurtured and protected. And with the launch of the Papua New Guinea Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers last year, and the election of office bearers, this project is now firmly placed in our hands.

Now it is our task to move on, both creatively, as writers, and constructively, as a society who may now begin to recognize the voice of its own conscience. We must let our people hear this voice. Let’s make the pleasure of writing, for us and for them, our business.

Continue reading "A poet’s journey 9: The pleasure of writing poetry" »

Asia, once you had doctrines so sound…

LEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

LeonardFour years ago I wrote this poem out of frustration and anger listening to Radio Australia news dominated by Asian asylum seekers and boat people always fighting their way into Australia.

It is my personal view on Asian countries that cannot protect the rights of their citizens leading them to death on the high seas off the coast of Australia or letting them to sadly wander around the world as if they are some migratory animals.

I think
You were human
Down history's road.
Once colonised and enslaved.
Subjugated you were…
People of the great Asian land
Who bitterly blooded
For freedom.

But  why?
You had doctrines, so sound
Invented in the snowfields of Siberia;
Befriended one power in the cold war our then bipolar world
Then shut your door kingdom as
“Asia for Asians” and
Fought for freedom?

Hitherto you fought the imperialist man
Screaming wildly
In Israel,
In Afghanistan, and
In the tangle of Vietnam.
You fought and bled for Asian freedom
You said vividly.

But why,
Deserting your birth country,
“Asia for Asians”
Like an insane fellow
And risk your life
Floating across the oceans?
Why disturb me in my Oceania?
Boat fellow, you
Fear that long sounded
Asian freedom?

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 6

The evil Prof MoriartyPETER CONAN KRANZ

HOLMES, WATSON AND SALOME climbed steadily, but gasping for breath as the poisonous sulphur seeped into their lungs.

“Holmes. I can go no further!” Watson cried.

“Watson, Salome, grab your kerchiefs, soak them in water from your canteens and tie them to your faces. That will give us some more minutes.”

So painfully they made their way forward, until finding themselves at the entrance of a tunnel.

They groped their way inside and paused to take breath. Holmes produced a lantern.

Cautiously they made their down a precipitous slope and came across a huge cavern.

A shadowy figure emerged and a hundred frightening warriors jumped from the darkness, menacing Holmes and his little party with deadly spears.

“Holmes, how good of you to drop in,” said a voice marinated in viper venom.

"Moriarty! You have caught us at a disadvantage. What do you expect now?"

"Why Holmes," murmured Moriarty stroking a tame cuscus cradled in his arm, "I expect you to die!"

With the speed of a lightning bolt, Salome grabbed a hanging vine, swinging behind Moriarty while drawing from her belt a razor sharp bushknife.

Unga, ungera, wailo wei! Yu noken bagarapim wantok bilon me!" she shrieked with a voice full of menace.

Salome drew the knife across Moriarty’s throat. "Rausim ol dispela raskol kwiktaim!"

Moriarty shivered in fear.  Holmes, command that dreadful creature to unhand me!”

“Not so fast, Moriarty, first I have some questions. And be careful, your life may depend upon the answers.”

Those many good men & women of the PNG church


Lutheran church in PNGFATHER PHILIP GIBB’s article about Sunday Mass in Mount Hagen after the horrific events over the past few weeks reveals a good man unafraid to admit that he has no answer to a situation and who is not prepared to indulge in platitudes to cover his dilemma.

Fr Gibbs mentioned Bishop Douglas Young at Wabag, who is also dealing with a similar challenge. I’ve had some dealings with Doug and I know he is a good man too.  In fact, the churches in Papua New Guinea are full of good people and always have been.

I had some contact with Pastor Harold Freund, a pioneering missionary among the Kukukuku at Menyamya, who helped rescue the survivors from Rabaul during the Pacific War.  Harold and his wife, Dorothea, were both fine people and very devout.

Images of Harold with his bible under one arm and his Winchester 30/30 under the other always amused me.  I knew him when he was nursing his dying wife in Adelaide - a hard man who was also extraordinarily gentle.

Another missionary gunslinger was Father William Ross in Mount Hagen.  He’d be rolling in his grave and probably strapping on his old holster and .38 revolver right now.

And I remember the good sisters at Bolobip, a couple quite elderly, slogging in their habits and matching white Wellington boots up the muddy track to Golgubip taking rice to villagers whose kaukau and taro crops had failed in a drought.

And let’s not forget the dedicated Papua New Guinean missionaries who went into strange areas to do their good work with a good prospect of being killed and eaten.

When I was at Olsobip there was a catechist called Noah who used to come down from Bolobip.  He was a mountain of a man with a heart of gold and fought alongside the locals to prevent the rabid Baptist fundamentalists from destroying centuries old spirit houses.  Noah, I believe, still roams those high mountains.

These are the people who have the spirit of Saint Francis of Assisi flowing in their veins.  And who could be so mean as to deny them their faith.

They believe in a munificent and benign God and this gives them their reason for their good work and, most importantly, a personal rationale for why they do it.

They are good people in exactly the same way that many non-Christians, people of other faiths and people who believe in no god at all, like Leo Igwe, are good people.

Altogether they are a chosen bunch and I suspect that their gods are quite different from the gods of those conceited and arrogant church leaders like Sydney’s Archbishop Pell and that old man in the Vatican.

Human beings seem to have an innate ability, even need, to eventually subvert everything and religion is no exception.  At the root of this subversion are greed and the thirst for power. 

Like most human organisations the megalomaniacs that have risen to the top in the established churches feed off their humble, hard-working and dedicated fellows out there in the real world.

If Christ does come back to earth one day, and I can’t think why he should bother, those megalomaniacs will be the first ones he strikes down. 

After that I imagine he will gather to his fold all those humble people out there, be they believers or not, labouring under incredible odds to make the world, including Papua New Guinea, a better place

Simbu politicians refuse to act to extinguish tribal war

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

FrancisTHE EDUCATION AND FUTURE of the children in the Salt and Nomane area of the Karimui Nomane electorate of the Simbu Province are being overlooked and deprived.

Last week the provincial education authorities suspended classes for each school in the area due to continuing election-related tribal fighting.

The warfare is between the supporters of Mogerema Sigo Wei MP and runner-up in the 2012 general elections, businessman Michael Korry.

This ongoing conflict has caused much hardship and anguish for the people of Salt and Nomane. The fight started in August last year and now into its seventh month.

Three people had been killed. Others have sustained serious gunshot injuries inflicted by high powered weapons. Property worth thousands of kina has been destroyed.

The Kundiawa police have made several attempts to bring the warring groups together but have failed because the two warlords Korry and Wei have not consented.

The fighting has brought government services to a standstill. Worse, the provincial education authorities suspended classes for schools in the fighting zone and for more than 10 primary,15 elementary and one secondary school in the entire Salt and Nomane Local Level Government area for an indefinite period because teachers have refused to take up their postings in fear of their lives.

Parents are very concerned about the education and future of their children and are calling on the two leaders to end the fight immediately.

This is a deprivation of the children’s right to gain an education, especially at a time when the parents have just been relieved of the burden of tuition fee. It is totally wrong.

The parents, police, provincial authorities and general public of Salt and Nomane are calling on the two leaders to return to Simbu and end the war as soon as practical so schools can start classes and other government services can be restored.

The lives of the innocent majority and the education and future of the children cannot continue to be jeopardised by the political greed and craving of two individuals and their barbaric supporters.

As leaders they must consider the welfare of the innocent majority which includes pregnant mothers and sick people to have access to medical services.

It is hoped that the fight ends. The sooner the better for the people of Salt and Nomane and the entire district.

Poetry - we don’t sing anymore


Here! Comfort and solace we seek. Where we love and beloved.
Once a promise I smell; of together hearkening to sounds of poetry;
Of to the beat of alliterations together dancing;
Of together in fields of metaphor, cuddling and be cheery;
Of through the bars of many a rhyme kissing.

Of a romance ever growing between us – you and I – feeding on abstractions.
Words don’t mean what they seem and substance of verses reaches beyond yonder.
When ocean isn’t deep, deeper we went; almost into bliss and we did dance.
Pity! Our true love, how its symbols we do not have anymore I wonder.
Words mean what they seem and before yonder are our verses’ substance.

Dance I can’t no more when there is no beat! But you dance still,
Nor kiss you if there are no bars! But kiss oh kiss you will.
How I yearn you must know, for a return to the true ways,
Ever so close to the fields of metaphors – our true place.

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 5


HOLMES AND WATSON were relaxing back at the Hamamas hostelry, the detective, clay pipe in hand, perusing a tattered local map.

Watson was somewhat distracted as the beautiful ferocious Salome had sidled up next to him on the sofa.

Her traditional costume, perfectly suited to the tropical climate, might have been seen as somewhat louche in English eyes. The bilas was rather revealing.

"Doctor John - are you married?"

"Yes ma'am, I most assuredly am!" said Watson with alarm.

She gently placed her hand on Watson's leg and looked into his eyes lovingly.

"No matter, Doctor John. In my country we have a tradition that a great man may have many wives. Maybe I could be your second one?"

Watson jumped out of his seat.

"I say Holmes, please help me, please!"

Bent over his map, Holmes replied, "Watson, stop fondling that woman and come look at this."

Watson - "Ahem, I am trying to extricate myself, Holmes. Extricate! I was merely admiring the two magnificent, er .... axes!"

Holmes - "There’s a track marked here that winds up the volcano and disappears. What does that suggest, Watson?"

"The cartographer ran out of ink?"

"Watson, sometimes I wonder about your powers of deduction. Clearly, my friend, the track leads underground."

"Salome, gather your weapons. We have need of your skills."

And so the three heroes equipped themselves for a journey into the heart of darkness – the depths of Tavurvur the volcano!

Searching for a strategy to temper superstition


I SAID MASS at St Paul's church in Mt Hagen on Sunday realising that a number in the congregation would have been witnesses to when Kepari Leniata was burned to death last week.

I spoke with some people who said they actually tried to stop it but were unable. If, as an expat, you tell people they are longlong to believe such superstition, many will just close down.

I found it quite difficult to discern just what to say to the congregation. I spoke in my sermon about how many people have a sense of confusion with one leg in the Christian faith camp and the other in the tumbuna one, and many nodded in recognition. 

I spoke too about how just one person is powerless in such situations and how we need to support one another to counter this sort of thinking and inhuman behaviour as a group, and many, particularly the women showed signs that they agreed.

At a forthcoming conference on sorcery in Canberra, I hope to take a constructive approach developing what Bishop Anton Bal has been doing in Simbu.

Basically there are 5 points to it:

(1) Helping people broaden their understanding of the causes of illness and death

(2) Early intervention before or during a funeral,

(3) Promoting law and order in communities,

(4) Fostering faith to influence attitudes and emotions

(5) Immediate family members taking ownership of the death of a family member

I want to look at the effectiveness of this as a strategy and examine how it might be revised and promoted elsewhere.

It is good that we change or develop laws but that is not enough. We need an approach that will affect peoples attitudes and feelings and in fact their worldview - and this is not easy.

One thing that concerns me is that the Simbu form of witchcraft and sorcery seems to be spreading to other places like Enga and the Southern Highlands.

People used to look at it differently there - and would kill pigs not people, since the cause of death and misfortune was attributed to spirits of the dead. 

The change and spread of a more violent form is a great concern for me. It worries me also that some of the more fundamental, evangelical churches seem to reinforce traditional demonic beliefs. 

I would not argue for total secularism, but we need to promote more of a scientific viewpoint especially when it comes to misfortune and death.

Responses from Papua New Guineans will be much more convincing to the broader populace than that coming from outsiders.

It was good that Bishop Douglas Young along with the two national bishops, Arnold Orowae and Anton Bal from Enga and Simbu respectively, spoke on EMTV last week. Many people saw that. 

Maybe we need more forums on national TV with prominent and thoughtful Papua New Guineans.

Fr Gibbs was born in Lower Hutt, New Zealand in 1947. In 1966 hewent to Holy Name Seminary, Christchurch, and studied for a BA in Sociology at Canterbury University. In 1971 he went to Australia to join the Divine Word Missionaries and, after the novitiate year, studied post-graduate Anthropology at Sydney University. After a year and a half in Papua New Guinea he spent four years studying Theology at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago returning to New Zealand for ordination as a priest in 1978. Since then he has served in various capacities in PNG (parish priest, directing a pastoral centre, seminary lecturer, researcher) with time away to study for a Licentiate and then a Doctorate in Theology at the Gregorian University, Rome

Religion and sorcery are happy bedfellows


Phil (crop)AS A WRITER OF FICTION I am a great fan of religion, sorcery and superstition.

Together they constitute a fascinating mix of possibilities for exploring the human mind and the whys and wherefores of how people behave.

The new secularism that is gaining increasing momentum in the civilised world could be a distinct threat to this wonderful pit of aberrations. If the secularists succeed the world could become a very dull and grey place indeed.

The only encouraging aspect from the writer’s point of view is their move to add another ‘o’ to the concept of a god.

Instead of worshipping a ‘god’ the secularists seem to be working up to worshipping something called ‘good’. In fact, this seems to be where the debate between them and the religionists is currently centred.

Religion and superstition are happy bedfellows. They coexist in even the most sophisticated societies.

A priestly friend of mine always tosses a pinch of salt over his shoulder if he spills it on the table. He probably watches out for little people at the bottom of the garden too. His years of theological study have made him a natural friend of the leprechauns.

Religion and superstition seldom succeed in replacing each other. Why should they while they are so comfortable together? People in deeply superstitious societies like Papua New Guinea are particularly vulnerable to the entreaties of religion because they intuitively know how it works and they just make room for it among their other mystical pantheons.

If you believe that it’s possible to kill someone using magic it’s a small step to believing that someone is capable of having a virgin for a mother and rising from the dead.

Indigenous people all over the world do this; Australian Aboriginal Christians happily explain how God created the Dreaming. That logic is very comforting and allies itself well with explaining the unexplainable through the medium of the supernatural.

And who’s to say that God didn’t create the Rainbow Serpent or the great snake Puya that, together with the sacred cane Gewa, hold the cosmology of the Huli together.

Religion and superstition in their more bizarre forms sit happiest together.  That’s why the fundamentalist Christian concept of ‘Rapture’, being peddled by American missionaries finds a ready foothold in the remoter parts of Papua New Guinea where superstition and sorcery are rife.  Rapture is very big on the upper Sepik and in the May and Green River areas for instance.

For the writer one of the most fascinating aspects of religion and superstition is the evil that both generate. Wherever you have a gullible community you will have carpetbaggers intent upon using it to their advantage.

The biggest nest of religious carpetbaggers is probably that silly old fart in the Vatican who has just resigned and all his mates in their golden robes and other drag.

They are sitting on an enormous pillaged fortune which could be used to alleviate a tremendous amount of suffering in the world.  It is an idea that they shy away from at a great rate of knots.

Perhaps if the secularists and their new religion of Good eventually invade the Vatican that might happen; but don’t hold your breath.

At the other extreme are the carpetbaggers in Papua New Guinea who use people’s beliefs in superstition and sorcery to divert attention away from their heinous crimes. To cover up the rape and murder of an eight year old girl by stirring up people to burn two old ladies to death is deeply disturbing and beggars belief.

But then again is sitting on a great heap of gold while people starve to death in Africa not a crime too?

Religion and superstition have a long history of such atrocities. Billions of people have died on the rack of both and I don’t hold much faith in the new religion of Atheism.

But as fodder for the writer; well, that’s a different matter altogether.

ANZAC cooperation: put Bougainville up on the agenda

PETER JENNINGS |The Strategist | Australian Strategic Policy Institute | Extracts

DISMAY ABOUT THE recent lacklustre summit of Australian and New Zealand prime ministers is easily understandable. It produced so little of substance that one was left asking: why bother?

What we got was an agreement to house a largish boat-load of asylum seekers and to fund a war memorial for Wellington, ‘… made of rugged Australian red sandstone’.

On the Australian side of the Tasman, your average daily prime ministerial media event often delivers more than that. It’s thin pickings for a relationship that’s allegedly so close—prime minister Gillard has used the word ‘family’ to describe it no less than 13 times in the last two years….

That might well be an acceptable way to manage the relationship if it were the case that our strategic outlook was mostly positive. But there are sufficient challenges of a type that Australia and New Zealand should jointly think through.

High on my list of ANZAC challenges is the future stability of Bougainville. A conflict on the island in the late 1980s and 1990s lead to the deaths of, by some estimates, 15,000 people. (DFAT’s primer on the peace process acknowledges thousands of deaths without being more precise).

Australia and New Zealand were involved in a costly peace monitoring mission at the end of the 1990s until a largely New Zealand-brokered peace arrangement brought stability to the Province in return for greater political autonomy and the breathing space offered by delaying the final political settlement.

Bougainville now has the opportunity to vote in a referendum on self-determination at some point between 2015 and 2020.

The challenge for Australia and New Zealand is to make sure a move to a referendum happens as peacefully as possible after a process of disarming groups on the island, with all sides prepared to accept its results whatever they may be.

That said, there are those in Port Moresby and those on Bougainville who probably have significantly differing expectations about what the referendum might deliver.

The potential for Bougainville to slide back into instability or serious violence is quite high. Should that happen, only Australia and New Zealand have the interest and capability to respond.

If ever there was a case for a heavy joint pre-investment designed to prevent a conflict, this is it. As our work together on Bougainville in the late 1990s showed, both countries bring particular strengths to bear that the other can’t so easily provide.

Peter Jennings is executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 4


HOLMES AND WATSON walked up the magnificent steps to Queen Emma's sumptuous Kokopo residence dressed in the best evening attire that Mr Chin could provide at short notice.

A dreamlike apparition in a glorious white evening gown swept across the floor to greet them.

"Herrs Adelheid and Shwantz, how delighted to meet you!" So they encountered the amazing Queen Emma, necklace by Fabergé and enveloped in the intoxicating aroma of Amour Amour from M Jean Patou.

Holmes recognised the scent of 50 separate French perfumes from the merest whiff, one of his many skills.

"Delighted to meet you Ma'am," whispered Holmes hoarsely, his breath momentarily taken away. "Can we talk in private?"

"Why Mr Holmes, that is rather forward, but in this climate extravagances sometimes have to be accommodated. Come with me".

Holmes - “Can you tell me about the illicit trade in black pearls?”

Queen Emma - "Yes, there is one Moriarty, whom I have been observing for some time. He occupies a secret lair at Tavurvur. Moriarty subverts the local people and is planning some evil scheme against the Papuan territory, and possibly Australia. His power comes from control of the black pearl trade. You have heard of this?"

Holmes - "Indeed Queen, that is why we are here. We need your help."

"What do you need?"

"Merely a few coconuts, brimstone, some saltpetre and coral, ma'am."

"You are planning a clandestine operation?"

"With great respect, ma'am I cannot divulge the details, but we would be eternally grateful for your help."

"So be it Mr Holmes."

Walking out rich from the Bougainville government

LeonardLEONARD FONG ROKA | Supported by the Jeff Febi Writing Fellowship

ALL BOUGAINVILLEANS of sound mind know that in the 1990s 20,000 people perished on our island as the result of a civil war in the name of freedom.

Our relatives’ lives were lost for our island to be free from the claws of Papua New Guinea and its exploitation and subjugation of our land and people.

When our young men took up arms and violence in 1988 against the PNG national government, Bougainville Copper Limited and the illegal Papua New Guinean squatter settlers, we the people stood up for them with our hearts.

The sacrifice is not much recognised by our present day leaders. Post-conflict Bougainville is a massive fireball of opportunists tearing apart the Bougainville our people died to save.

The Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) budget is fast going beyond K300 million whilst tax collected by the Bougainville’s Internal Revenue Commission is snailing behind. In 2013 it’s predicted to be around K12 million.

Despite our ambition for nationhood and despite this alarming financial gap, our people still run around desiring compensation for crisis-created losses.

The few businessmen we have are reluctant to pay tax, loudly calling for compensation for all they lost amidst the ten-year old conflict.

We all lost.

As ordinary Bougainvilleans around my area, the Tumpusiong Valley near Panguna, see it, our politicians ignore the fact they are public figures who should lead the Bougainville people by example to really respect the issues we fought and died for on our island.

To most of us, painfully observing the shit in Bougainville politics, many of our politicians and bureaucrats do not live by the values and directives of the offices they hold.

Many public officials are an eyesore and nuisance to the community. They do not uphold the principles our people died for, instead leading Bougainville into the realm of corruption and personal prestige and power.

In these desperate times, leadership is challenging since the people are also powerful, perhaps more powerful than the government itself.

The people in the Tumpusiong Valley vote people who are weak into power; or we get old timers who had not walked with us through the path of the crisis.

They easily put on PNG shoes to play the game since they do not share the vision of those of us who suffered.

Many ABG parliamentarians are noted by the ordinary people as looters of the public offices they hold.

For reasons well known to lawyers, I won’t name names.

Many Bougainvilleans dream to lead Bougainville; yet they lack the power to influence and educate. It is about time Bougainvilleans start practicing leadership on their own families.

When Deputy Administrator Andrew Pisi died in 2007, his extended family members of Moroni village in Panguna came and ransacked the Administration office in Arawa.

They walked away with office materials like computers, furniture and a vehicle - nearly a million kina’s worth of loot.

Continue reading "Walking out rich from the Bougainville government" »

Catch up with Gram Bomai – member of the first House


GrahamONE OF THE MANY pleasures I have in publishing this page each day (I’ll enumerate them all sometime when I have 30 seconds to spare) is the catch-up moment.

More often than not, the catch-up occurs by email when a figure from my past blasts through the ether to say g’day.

Most recent of these has been Graham Pople (pictured here as a young man) – ex-kiap, member of the first PNG House of Assembly (1964-68, campaigning as Gram Bomai, ‘Graham of the South’) and businessman - including a stint as mine host of that noted Port Moresby hostelry, the Weigh Inn (below).

Graham and I first ran into each other in the 1960s when he was an occasional contributor to a local newsletter published by Murray Bladwell and me, the Kundiawa News – its 50 issues now at repose in the National Library of Australia.

After something like 60 years, Graham ‘came South’ in 2012 requiring medical treatment for cancer and now – in recovery – he’s living with his wife on Brisbane’s Redcliffe Peninsula, three of his kids close by, another two in Cairns and one still in Papua New Guinea.

Weigh In Hotel PublicanGraham was awarded a most deserved MBE for the work he did with the rural communities in PNG, including the establishment of a number of local government councils.

He recalls that he assisted his great friend the late Barry Holloway to set up the Agarabi council, which was the first in PNG. “Barry was my senior officer and I was fortunate enough to work with him.”

Earlier in his career as a kiap, in 1956, Graham took part in a pioneering patrol with Gus Bottrill from Kiunga through to Telefolmin during which they first contacted the Bolivip people.

Later, he was posted to Laiagam, from where he patrolled the lands to the west, and observes today that the present claim of ownership by the Tari people of the richly-mineralled Mt Kare area could not have happened 50 years ago.

“When I patrolled through there on a medical patrol in 1959 we met up with only the Paiela people from Enga Province.

“They used to harvest the pandanus nuts in season and the owner of each palm was known and there were no Huli owners.

“But the Huli people are a forceful group who push their claims whichever way they can and the Paielans are easy going and do not challenge their more forceful neighbours.

“I only hope that this information does not die with me,” says Graham, “and the Paielans can get some benefit out of Mt Kare.”

Of such precious nuggets of information is history composed and, now Graham and I are back in touch, I hope he’ll be able to share a lot more with us.

Holmes in NG: The adventure of the black pearl 3


SalomeHOLMES TURNED TO INSPECTOR VEX, late of the Papuan Constabulary. “Who is that Simbu bodyguard you previously engaged for us?"

"She goes by the name of Salome. She’s from a clan in Goglme in Simbu highlands territory and is considered the best warrioress of the 1,000 New Guinea tribes.

"She will look after you if you don't cross her. Her skills are fierce and her heart is true."

Holmes - "I will be careful with my words, I vouch. Can you arrange for me to speak with her now?"

Vex, employing some Tolai contacts from his police days, soon brought the warrioress to the detective.

Holmes - "Salome, can you tell me more about this Moriati and what he is up to? And pray tell me the source of your information?"

Salome - "Mr Holmes, I am a secret friend of a powerful lady who lives not far from here at Kokopo. She is called a Queen, but comes from further east in the Pacific.

“The Queen supports our people and has been gathering information about the black pearl trade to thwart the scoundrels who are exploiting us. She has information which I believe you need."

Holmes - "Salome, could you inveigle an invitation for myself and my colleague Watson to meet this remarkable Queen?"

"I will try Mr Holmes. But beware, there are agents of the enemy watching our every move."

The evil Moriarty was indeed watching Holmes and Watson. His spies were in abundance.

A servant discreetly left the homestead and communicated to a second man who told a third: "Queen Emma! Conspiracy with British! Inform him!"

Holmes, Watson and Salome were in for a rough ride over those broken potholed tracks of New Britain.

They had not anticipated a journey that would have them meet a tropical Queen and then take them to the glowing red heart of an active volcano.

I unmask those who may be rorting BCL’s share price


HONOURABLE INVESTORS in stock markets buy equities at a low price and sell them at a higher price. The difference is their profit. Unfortunately not all investors are honourable.

Since October 2012, the Australian Securities Exchange has experienced rather unusual trades in Bougainville Copper securities.

It’s obvious to me that there are a few dubious market participants who are trying to destabilise the market by pulling the BCL share price down. As a result, investors who become insecure might sell their equities at a price much lower than the fair value.

Fraudulent market participants make use of two different tools to intimidate honourable investors by manipulating share price.

Either they sell off shares borrowed from a custody bank such as JP Morgan, Citicorp or HSBC.

Or they already own a huge amount of the shares in question, which are traded between multiple custody or brokers’ accounts.

The aim is to benefit from investors whose nerves are on edge and will sell their shares at an artificially-created low price. At that low price, the market manipulators collect the shares sold at a loss by other investors.

It’s come to my notice that there’s a particular group operating which has long experience in market manipulation

Such a scam works primarily in small stocks such as Bougainville Copper. BCL has only some 27% of its shares in free-float. About 17% of these are held by custodians who keep the true ownership secret.

Unfortunately, it seems to me, Bougainville Copper's major shareholder, Rio Tinto, is not convinced that there are fraudulent activities in its investments.

Ben Mathews, Rio Tinto company secretary, stated to ESBC recently that Rio Tinto has no reason to suspect that there is any market manipulation taking place in the publicly-traded shares of Bougainville Copper Limited”

Maybe the stunning ASX trades in BCL shares on Friday 8 February  (almost 2.5 million shares in a single day) will help Mr Mathews overcome this view.

I suspect that the people behind these trades are a father and son outfit operating out of Zug in Switzerland.

You can read the full story, together with supporting evidence, on the ESBC website here