PNG as a banana republic: Chinese Li Wu suborns officials
19 February 2014
KELA KAPKORA SIL BOLKIN
An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Essay & Journalism Award
A RECENT incident I witnessed at Taurama Shopping Centre in Port Moresby ended up posing some important questions for all Papua New Guineans.
An argument started between a Tari man in a Chinese kaibar and the Chinese man on the other side of the counter. Moments later, a towering Chinese man came out and punched the 1.5 metre Tari man into submission.
He was beaten and bruised to the point of exhaustion and, as you might expect, two of his Tari wantoks came to the rescue and nearly punched and kicked the tall Chinese man to death.
The public who witnessed the incident were divided in their support. The pro-Chinese mob said the Chinese had created employment and paid taxes through their businesses. They said Papua New Guineans do not create employment but sit and gamble (bom or 7-leaf) or talk politics and wait for free handouts.
They added that Papua New Guineans finding themselves with some money become one-day-millionaires and go on a drinking spree and sing until dawn. They concluded that PNG men and women have no business acumen and should not talk about Chinese business aggression.
On the dissenting side, the pro-Taris said most of the Chinese come into the country through back door deals with politicians and immigration officials and corrupt every system in place. They said being citizens of a superpower doesn’t give Chinese the right to break the laws of a small country and trample on its citizens.
As the arguments went on, they almost erupted into another melee but police officers speedily arrived on the scene .. and this was most interesting.
Two police cars arrived containing high ranking officers. The Chinese called these senior police officers by name and chatted with them. It was evident they were friends. The policemen ignored the bruised Tari man.
I started taking photographs but an obese policeman demanded that I delete them on the spot. I deleted the shots while he watched. One of the policemen said, ‘You journalists write bullshit.’ I told him I was not a journalist and didn’t even know how to write.
No one could find out the reason for the argument because the Tari man could not speak good Pisin and the Chinese culprit could only speak Mandarin. People tried to ask the young women in the kaibar to explain what went wrong but the Chinese told them not to talk.
Anyhow, no arrests were made. The Taris were told to go home and refrain from being such nuisances and one of the Chinese came out of the kaibar and gave the police servings of rice and stew in takeaway cartons and some Coca Cola.
One of the policemen took the plastic bag without saying thank you and looked in the direction of the crowd, swore and told us to disperse. Maybe swearing at the public was an indirect way of saying ‘thank you’ to his Chinese friend for the free lunch.
When the police left, a veteran public servant said the Chinese keep a black book that contains the names of the 80% of PNG politicians and bureaucrats who are given Li Wu.
Li Wu in Chinese Mandarin is gift or present and Her Li is a congratulatory gift. Most politicians when they are elected and ministers when they are appointed receive Her Li, the public servant said.
He added that around 80% of top police officers are on the payroll of Chinese businesses. Occasionally you hear people on the streets of Port Moresby say, ‘Em ol polis bilong LGNA’ or ‘Em ol polis bilong RH’. LGNA and RH are, of course, Asian companies. PNG should have the one and only Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary.
The incident at Taurama Shopping Centre seemed to confirm what the veteran civil servant had said about the black book and the various police officers in PNG in the pay of both government and Chinese and other Asians.
The Chinese are able to call top ranking police officers who within minutes will arrive to provide protection. The top officers release the Chinese and get junior police to assault Papua New Guineans.
Does the Li Wu to politicians and top bureaucrats make Chinese businessmen and women in PNG immune to the laws of the independent state of Papua New Guinea? What is PNG, anyway!
Gentlemen and the RPNGC's internal affairs?
Posted by: Bernard Yegiora | 22 February 2014 at 11:44 AM
Thats really fascinating, do the police really know the definition of Police!
Because everyone who are working in various sectors know the definition of their job.
Please people use some common sense. Do something that must leave a legacy.
Posted by: Irai Tonny | 21 February 2014 at 06:56 PM
Maureen, I heard a police constable is currently better paid than a high school teacher and Grade 12 officers in the public service.
There is no excuse for bending the laws to make huge gains when others live on a pittance.
I agree with Seth that a special unit must be created within the police force to curb these rogue and bent coppers in the police force.
Posted by: Kela Kapkora Sil Bolkin | 20 February 2014 at 08:22 PM
Police will need to create a special squad to deal with its own officers who abused their powers in carrying out constitutional duties. The squad will comprised high ranking officers of Chief Superintendent and above. Their specific task is to look into this corrupted networking between rouge police personals and deal with them sternly.
Posted by: Seth Daniels | 20 February 2014 at 09:10 AM
Sad to see the official first responders ignore the victim or the person who appears hurt in this situation, then tell bystanders to delete pictures taken (what do you have to hide if you're doing your work professionally in a public place?) and eventually accept food in plain view of all watching. Something is not quite right here.
To swear at the crowd who happen to be your countrymen? Generally one will try to help his/her own kind. If one is a law enforcement agent, at least try to be fair. Fair to the Tari bloke as a citizen and fair to the Chinese as a storekeeper in Taurama.
I can only conclude the law enforcers are caught in the middle of principle (their code of conduct) and corrupt practices (taking into account "gifts") that easily compromise work ethics.
Corrupt practices will eventually bring a person, a company or a country to ruin. It is a tough situation to be in especially when one is a law enforcer and is underpaid but that is no excuse for the actions of the police reported here.
I believe such a spotlight is when one shows his/ her true colours and is an opportunity to show the Chinese storekeeper, the Tari man, Taurama, Port Moresby and the world what a true policeman is made of.
Posted by: Maureen Wari | 20 February 2014 at 02:41 AM
That was a fascinating account of a disturbing incident and the situation re Chinese trade store owners..
When I returned to Popondetta in 2001, I couldn't get over the number of Chinese-owned stores and the owners who could hardly speak pidgin.
Friends and ex students said that a lot of the Chinese were illegal residents but I have no way to substantiate that view.
A Chinese trade store owner was hacked to death while we were there so there were obviously some issues...possibly cultural as Barbara Short suggests...but a little deeper than that.
My memories of Popondetta, New Ireland , Rabaul and Port Moresby in the 1970s and 80s are so different in regard to the Chinese and trade stores.
The Chinese are wonderful people and have an incredible history in PNG and I find this current situation quite disturbing.
Who has the answers? Corruption seems to be rearing its ugly head again.
Posted by: Peter Comerford | 19 February 2014 at 07:36 PM
Sil - you've probably seen Chinese-owned kai shops across PNG.
I worked in Honiara for a while and remember walking into a trade store to buy some food. I selected a few goods and offered the money to the shop assistant behind the counter.
She said "No you must go to him with money!" and pointed to the Chinese proprietor sitting on a tall stool next to the door. He controlled all the money and the people entering or exiting the store and she looked rather scared.
I duly paid and left. But asked some of my Solomon's friends afterwards what this was all about. They said (paraphrase) 'these new Chinese don't trust us. They control all the money, speak little tok pisin. We are not allowed to touch money.'
Sad but true.
Rose has had similar experiences in Port Moresby. She bought a sandwich once at such a store, and on opening it it found maggots. She took it back (as you would) and complained to the Chinese manager. He started berating her, saying - 'you bought it! No money back!'
It was only the intervention of a few good Simbu wantoks that persuaded him that discretion was the better part of valour, and she got a refund.
Seems they have employed a few stand-over men to help protect their business model.
The Solomon's people were adamant that this was the behaviour of the 'new Chinese', not the old ones who had lived there for many years and whom they trusted. Thus the corrupt few were the ones targeted in the uprising of 2006.
A few years ago you could see the burnt remains of the 'new Chinese' businesses. in Honiara The last straw was apparently the granting of permission for a casino-cum-brothel on the waterfront - permission granted by the relevant Minister with no planning permission but with lots of Li Wu, and it was the first building to be burnt.
Posted by: Peter Kranz | 19 February 2014 at 02:43 PM
How pathetic some Papua New Guineans are - cheepo whores and pushover arse-wipes in their own country. What a joke they are!
Posted by: Michael Dom | 19 February 2014 at 09:30 AM
Sil, thank you for this story. It explains a lot about the situation in PNG at the moment.
I'm sure it has happened in other countries, in other times and other places.
PNG has to work out its own ways to solve this sort of problem which appears to be due to a clash of cultures and the lack of a common language.
Posted by: Mrs Barbara Short | 19 February 2014 at 05:49 AM