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Speaker Zurenuoc still defending heritage vandalism

Ready for destruction - a carved pole in parliamentKEITH JACKSON

ONE year after he ordered the destruction of a precious part of Papua New Guinea’s heritage, PNG parliamentary Speaker Theo Zurenouc has embarked on a public relations campaign designed to justify his actions, which were widely condemned at the time.

Last week Speaker Zurenouc entertained Fr Victor Roche, general secretary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, and six other PNG church leaders to a five-hour meeting which included lunch.

“He explained to us why the existing totem pole with the carvings was partly removed,” said Fr Roche.

“The totem is still standing there. Part of it was cut and removed. The reason was, according to him, that the carvings did not represent most of the cultures of PNG nor did it have any meaning.

“He explained to us of the new ‘national identity and unity pillar’, which will replace the old one, will be based on the Word of God, the Constitution, the National Pledge and the Covenant.”

Mr Zurenouc told the church leaders that the purpose was “to restore, reform and modernise parliament”.

The truth is that what the Speaker and his cronies accomplished was an act of wanton vandalism.

At the time, Dr Andrew Moutu, director of the National Museum and Art Gallery, called the actions ordered by the Speaker “heinous sacrilege.”

Dr Moutu said that, amongst other artefacts destroyed, were carved anthromorphic human faces that represented images from various parts of PNG and a grand totem within parliament.

Lintel before it was destroyed“Culture and history provide the soul and heart of any nation and to desecrate cultural symbols in this manner is to subject our national identity to an alien self-image,” Dr Moutu said.

Among many other voices to speak out against the destruction was senior Minister Puka Temu who said many MPs believed there was no alternative but for Mr Zurenuoc to stand down voluntarily or be sacked. Unfortunately this did not happen.

"It's nonsense,” Dr Temu said. “It's very disappointing and it undermines the culture and traditions of our country upon which many of us have existed for hundreds and thousands of years."

Dr Temu said he was disappointed Mr Zurenuoc did not ask for support of the parliament before destroying the carvings.

"I can vouch that all of us would have rejected the request from the Speaker," he said.

"This innocent things that our ancestors have developed over the years in PNG and for one leader, so called head of legislature to take such unilateral action, unbelievable."

He said Mr Zurenuoc's actions were "unforgivable" and reflected "polarised Christian views (which) do not represent the entire PNG society".

And now, with the vandalism done but the replacement ‘unity pillar’ still not in place, the Speaker is trying to schmooze his way out of his darkest hour.

He can be assured that many people have not forgotten his role in this attack on the revered culture of Papua New Guinean.

Let’s hope the church leaders weren’t convinced by the blatant attempt to justify an act of wanton destruction of PNG’s heritage.


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PNG Parliament is lucky to have a Speaker who is merely Girolamo Savonarola.

Here is Australia we have Mrs Hyacinth Bucket!



Bomai D Witne

Theo continues to get off track. He has to be reminded that the church leaders represent their church community and how they aspire to blend Christianity with our cultural inheritance or destroy them. The people are still bleeding from the injuries he's caused to them in destroying their cultural symbols in parliament.

Michael Dom

People who are embarrassed of PNG customs, history and living culture should not think of themselves as our leaders; ol bai holim opis spes na bik nem bilong opis sotpela taim tasol, na sindaun bilong ol long sia king bai nogat kaikai long graun.

Mathias Kin

I hear the good Speaker with others like the Lae MP were visited by a "Church of Israel" with specific orders to destroy these satanic faces and figures in our Haus Tambaran.

If that is so, how about the great haus itself? Is it not satanic also.

Should it not be destroyed and in its place built a "national identity and unity" haus?

Michael Dom

Hey, senior Paul Oates, I will copy you my new address which is better for now.

Paul Oates

Hey Michael, your email is full Bro.

Jack Klomes

Mr Speaker, this house belongs to the people of Papua New Guinea. It's not your church!

Michael Dom

Theo is a fool to believe his crime will ever be forgotten or forgiven.

His name will always be associated with the desecration of the Haus Tambaran.

This man with the name of 'god' will be a known in Commonwealth history as the Speaker who vandalised parliament house.

There goes your legacy Honourable Sir. Pleasant retirement.

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