A life in disguise
Late Leeton footballer Elwyn Ravu was a ‘true gentleman’

Keeping the brains away: The curse of the non-resident PNGn


DURING the past week I took to my daily social media haunt to vent. Friends were treated to a rant. It was signed off with an emoticon of a rifle, encapsulating my mood. No translation needed.

Whilst some days I appreciate people’s ‘personal diary’ posts, I’m usually less entertained by those who insist on documenting every cup of caffeine-hit.

A newsfeed spammed by ‘earlybird’ filters of paint-white dairy foam speckled with chocolate dust swirled into symmetrical hearts really tests my tolerance level.

That said, anger-fuelled rants are my absolute favourites.

In my personal approach I apply two general rules. One; always write in suspense-fuelled third person speech heavy with passive-aggressive undertones. ‘Look, I’m not going to mention any names here but if you’re reading this, you damn well know I’m talking about you.’

Extend this to include ‘anyone I’ve spoken to in the last  twenty-four (24) hours, well yeah, you know  EXACTLY who I’m talking about and what they’ve done!’. In the world wide web, cryptic words maketh every one of us a giant.

My other rule is to, as much as possible, keep the virtual world out of sync with my real-time mood until I’ve given myself ample time to self-assess.

Mull over the issue. Sit on it. Chew my friend’s ear off. Draft the umpteenth version of a quasi-diplomatic, strongly-worded email to a fiend.

Well time’s up! The issue at hand is well-baked. The two rules still apply. But I’m away….

It’s uncanny how the aphorism ‘if the shoe was on the other foot’ has a way of making itself a reality. More often than I like, to be honest.

Growing up, I was frustrated by PNG families departing the motherland to emigrate to foreign parts, returning only for short holidays, haus krais or bride price ceremonies. Flocking home to take up work was a rarity.

Family friends who were pilots, doctors and academics assuming permanent residence or citizenship of their adopted country angered me no end. So clever, with so much to give back to PNG, but deciding not to. Shame on them!

Around that time I heard bubus, aunties and uncles amplify phrases like ‘wantok system’ and ‘it’s who you know, not what you know’ as justifications for not returning home to seek employment opportunities.

Me - an obnoxious, knot- haired, fully-fledged PNG patriot of 12 years of age - vowed I would never be one of these emigres. I saw their allegations of discrimination as sheer lack of patriotism and overfamiliarity with a cushylife overseas.

I mean, who wouldn’t appreciate the services of an overseas qualified Papua New Guinean citizen? Which Papua New Guinean wouldn’t prefer a non-resident Papua New Guinean over a similarly qualified foreigner?

I’ll tell you which one…. The nationally qualified resident Papua New Guinean. Not all of them, just an overflowing handful. The ones in positions of seniority.

When it comes to career, I don’t blow my own trumpet. I am my harshest critic. When referee checks are done, I pray my former employers will say I did much more than just show up.

I’m a qualified, moderately experienced professional who has been immersed in the glorious hiatus of full-time motherhood for the past six years. More recently, I’ve been feeling resurgent pangs of re-entering paid employment. Time to loosen the apron strings.

So you can imagine my delight at reading that the practice model of my profession has in recent times gained serious momentum in PNG. A working model is to be developed, introduced and for implemented for qualifiedPNG professionals to deliver to clients.

Now surely, getting a job will be a CV away. I’ll be going back to work soon to share my knowledge and skills with my countrymen. Yippee! Hooray! Wrong!

After two years (and counting) of entanglement in this Melanesian web of psychological dysfunction via overt displays of resentment, irrational decision-making and ignorant snipes, I’m convinced it deserves categorisation in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

From being told I’m not a ‘real’ Papua New Guinean to blatant questioning of my ‘real’ reasons for having taken up residence outside my homeland. My sanity begs me not to coax further lunacy. Investing another hour in trying to put my finger on this mind-boggling paradigm will be as useless as trying drink kulau with a straw.

Last time I checked, ‘develop a working model’ meant no one knew what they were doing and so the input of the qualified and experienced should be a highly sought commodity. And, after all, I had been making voluntary contributions to the organisation’s policy, procedure and operational document.

Of course, my overseas qualifications and experience were welcome. My professional input was persuasively documented. As long as I remained on an unpaid basis.

Talk from me about a salary reflecting my professional experience drew a reaction worse than raised eyebrows. A shut down of contact from the organisation. Cold hard detachment.

Forgive my arrogance, advocating for self is unnerving at the best of times. And I refuse to be paid peanuts. I certainly won’t hand you intellectual property on an A4 sheet unless you – Show. Me. The. Money!

Papua New Guineans deserve efficiency and effectiveness and they deserve them from people who know, know the best way to get things done, know how to consistently give the population what they are asking for. These people deserve to be appointed.

When a job is on offer, residents and non-resident PNG applicants should be considered on the same playing field. Employment should be based on merit not residency-status.

Stop sacrificing the credentials and employment of candidates on the altar of ingrained resentment based on where the applicant lived or trained!

So I come on bended knee before the leather-backed, ergonomic, swivelling executive chairs of Papua New Guineans vested with the mighty authority of hiring to make an impassioned plea: It’s time you cut overseas qualified and trained PNG non-residents some slack!

Today. Tomorrow. Before Generation Alpha meets Omega.

In the meantime, I’ll continue shovelling my words down my cursed mouth.

Rashmii Amoah Bell, 34, was born in Lae and is a married, stay-at-home mother of three children under seven. “I enjoy creating novelty-themed birthday cakes, playing chess and reading all genres but adore satire,” she says. Rashmii’s other interests are youth advocacy, mental health awareness, prisoner rehabilitation and fashion photography


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