PAPUA New Guineans need to be reading literature that was authored by Papua New Guineans.
But PNG authors have not been supported to create literature that encompasses our heritage, tells PNG stories in novels, expresses PNG perceptions through poetry or explains PNG thinking through essays.
The Crocodile Prize is a national literary competition established to provide incentive and support for writers, poets and essayists to do just that.
It started on a wing-and-a-prayer and is now supported by several companies and private individuals who believe that literature is an important tool for the development of a national identity.
There has also been support from individual government agencies, namely the Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, the Minister for Planning and the Office of the Governor of Oro Province.
The Minister for Education has been patently absent.
The revenue of this not-for-profit organisation is about K100,000 a year and goes towards prizes for the authors and purchase of books (as many as we can get!) for distribution through private networks.
There is a plan for a budget submission to be made to parliament seeking more support for the Crocodile Prize, particularly in its task of publishing Papua New Guinean authors for Papua New Guinean readers.
In the light of a recent purchase of a bible of religious and spiritual importance to many Papua New Guineans, it is clear that, with goodwill, funding can be made available for providing literature that enlightens our understanding of who we are and what we are doing here.
Culturally appropriate development is founded on the expressions of a people, and these expressions can be found in their literature.
The fact that PNG has never had a supported and self-sustaining literary should be of concern to all citizens in a truly vibrant democracy.
On the eve of the 40th anniversary of Papua New Guinea’s Independence, it is paramount that we make a decision to change this.
A group of people associated with the Crocodile Prize want the PNG government to fund an Independence gift to the children of Papua New Guinea in the form of making the annual Anthology available to all PNG schools.
Very importantly, we want support for a budget submission under the Ministry for Planning to effect the self-sustaining organisation of the Crocodile Prize and also support, through appropriate arrangements, for a guild of PNG writers, essayists and poets.
We’ll let you know when the petition is ready to sign.