THERE’S a box on a bookshelf just behind me bursting with Crocodile Prize trophies, dutifully assembled by Phil Fitzpatrick in Hervey Bay, Queensland.
On Saturday I am meant to travel to Brisbane to hand the box to Jimmy Drekore to take with him back to Simbu; the contents destined for the hands of the eight Papua New Guineans who won awards in this year’s Crocodile Prize.
But will PNG’s Digicel Man of Honour, poet and philanthropist Jimmy Drekore make it to the Brisbane Writers Festival and to his assignation with me?
Or will his travel to Australia be prevented by the notorious inefficiency and insensitivity of the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby?
One thing that riles me as much as deceit, hypocrisy and bigotry is the arrogant inefficiency with which many bureaucrats in foreign service ply their trade.
Last night I received a short, plaintive email from Jimmy Drekore, who is also president of the Crocodile Prize Organisation and that great indigenous PNG charity, the Simbu Children Foundation.
“I tried yesterday and today to get any response from Aussie High Com regarding my visa application but no one is answering me.
“Will try again tomorrow [Wednesday] but please see if you can communicate with someone at the High Com to advise on my visa application.”
The Australian High Commission and I have a straightforward relationship. When I contact them they don’t reply.
After the great Ian Kemish left Port Moresby as High Commissioner, his heirs and successors decided that the Crocodile Prize was concilium non grata – an organisation we don’t like.
Later, for reasons not given but related to a major stuff up over Bougainville, the High Commissioner was sent packing and has still not been replaced.
But some things never change. And the struggle that Papua New Guineans go through to get visas to enter Australia is one of them. A continuing disgrace.
More than a year ago Bob Cleland had the wonderful idea that it would be good for a senior PNG writer and literary administrator to attend the 2015 Brisbane Writers Festival.
The intent would be to build bridges between writers in PNG and Australia and, hopefully, to establish a strong link between the Festival and the Crocodile Prize.
Jimmy Drekore was the obvious person to achieve this and Bob and I tipped in a couple of thousand dollars to bring him to Australia.
He’s due to arrive tomorrow. If the Australian High Commission in Port Moresby can get its act together.
If they can’t, it will be a fiasco.
I’ve taken to Twitter to bring the matter to the attention of friends of PNG, foreign minister Julie Bishop and Australia’s foreign affairs bureaucrats that this is an urgent problem requiring an immediate solution.
We await an outcome. If you're a Twitter user, please join the outcry. Otherwise add your comment to this story.
I'm not necessarily hopeful about a good outcome because, as PNG Attitude contributor Peter Kranz, himself experiencing this chronic visa run-around, wrote: “We have been trying since July to get a visa for sister Elise to come and look after Rose, but no luck.
“Just obfuscations, delays and requests for more information from the Aus High Comm.”
That's their pace.