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“Before we were ten men, now we are one hundred!”

The white man accused us of stealing.... (First Contact)GARRY ROCHE

“BEFORE we were ten men, now we are one hundred!” Thus spoke Titip the son of Kanapi in 1973.

Forty years before 1973, Titip was a young married man when the Taylor and Leahy expedition entered Western Highlands in 1933.

Titip, from the Mokei  Nampakaetribe, later featured in the documentary First Contact in which he relates how, back in 1933, he got shot in the elbow by the newcomers.

Titip spoke: “The whiteman accused us of stealing a laplap, so they came to fight us. Our people said ‘the spirits are coming’ but we men stood our ground. The rifle fired I saw nothing, - then the blood spurted out and I was really amazed. Two other men were shot dead” - First Contact

Then the blood spurted out.... (First Contact)I got to know Titip in 1973 several years before the making of First Contact when I was based at Rebiamul in Mt Hagen. He was in a group of newly baptised people.

I asked the group about the great changes that had taken place since 1933 when the first coastal people and white men reached the area. And I asked them what was the greatest change that had occurred in the past 40 years.

My expectation was that the introduction of technology would be given priority: aeroplanes, motor vehicles, radio communication, cinemas…. And new medicines and new crops had also been introduced.

Titip responded by saying simply, “Before we were ten men, now we are one hundred.”  In other words the biggest and most important change was a very large increase in population.

In 1973 Titip saw this change as positive. Now the increase in population has become even more obvious and perhaps, if he were still alive, Titip would say, “Before we were ten men, now we are a thousand.”

(The last census has not produced reliable figures. Some districts had population numbers inflated for political reasons, in other districts no counting was done and the figures were derived arbitrarily.)

Some recent articles in PNG Attitude have drawn attention to the negative aspects of life in PNG today, especially with regard to corruption and the failure of government services in education and health.  In my opinion, the huge increase in population is a factor that cannot be overlooked when discussing these matters.

This has made it more difficult to provide adequate health care and education for all.  It is perhaps ironic that effective health services have been in part responsible for  an increase in population which in turn has put more pressure on health services.

In its own way, population growth may also cause corruption. In a society where there is no official social welfare system there can be extreme pressure on those who have salaries to help their relatives both near and distant.

This pressure to sustain wantoks (relatives and clansmen) may well be one of the causes of corruption.

The “big-man” is under undue pressure to help many wantoks by contributing at funerals, weddings, compensation payments, school fees, hospital expenses and in other ways.

In one well known case, where a former Highlands politician was accused of financial corruption, his immediate excuse was, “But I did not spend that money on myself!”

Regardless of whether the increase in population in itself is good or bad, the question is whether we have failed to adjust our health and educations services to meet the huge increase.

In brief, our failure to respond adequately to the significant increase in population is causing problems.


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Paul Oates

The trouble with statistics and comparing apples with oranges or annanas with bananas is that you end up with a distorted view of the world's resources and the ability of each nation to support their own population.

Added into to that equation must be the variables of climate and available land to grow food and you get an entirely different picture emerging. Is Kiribati's problem rising sea levels or over population?

The vast majority of Australia is as dry as a chip or as some wag called it "Dry and a dead dingoes donger!"

Daniel's hard work in planting trees is to be applauded and if everyone started to do the same thing we might have a better world. But the trees must have water and soil and be looked after to prevent attacks by fire, insects and disease. Therein lies the problem. How to motivate those who don't or won't do the work?

Many of the world's deserts have been man made. It's far easier (and more pleasurable) to make more children than to work at providing a sustainable existence for future generations.

Arthur Williams | Cardiff & Lavongai

Phil expressed it correctly - population is an opportunity more than it is a problem.

PNG has mere 16 person a and is ranked a mere 210th in the world.

Compare similar sized geographically nations: Malaysia rank 116 - 94/sq km. Thailand rank 89 - 131/sq km. Japan rank 40 - 336/sq km. Vietnam rank 50 - 268/sq km.

Then in Europe almost half sized UK has 255/sq km. While huge next door neighbour Australia rank 236 has less than 4/ sq km.

Seems like PNG must grasp chance to provide higher learning skills for it young people to ensure they can take part in an expanding nation and at same time no more selling off of its assets cheaply and regain control of commercial life in the nation that is over 80% foreign dominated.

On a personal note my wife's family in just over 60 years has seen her two grandparents extended family reach 95 and counting.

Her island's development is minimal and with three SABLs clear felling out its forests for nothing you can imagine the pressures on all of its citizens.

No thanks to educated elites from the island and in the nation who have allowed the situation to reach such disgusting state.

Still I suppose they could rent an one bed flat in Badili for K6,000 a month.

Happy Christmas.

Clement Papa

S. Howes et al, “A Lost Decade? Service Delivery and Reforms in Papua New Guinea 2002-2012”, a recent study document, by the National Research Institute of PNG and Development Policy Centre, Australian National University, 2014 does point to identifying a considerable volume of expansions in service delivery in both Education and the Health sectors in the span of over ten years, but unfortunately the PNG Government lacks adequate resources and personnel to guarantee sustainability to a swelling national population.

PNG politicians and policy makers may have to deal with the challenges pose by a surging national population growth which has either dramatically doubled or triple over a short period of time

Phil Fitzpatrick

Over population, urban drift etc. all add to the causative mix Garry.

A smart government would realise that it's people are its biggest asset but not so in PNG.

They are they to be stolen from and abused.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

Yes, Fr Roche, the increase in population increase is a major threat. In the 70s I learnt in school that the population of PNG was only 2 million. Now, nearly 8 million and counting.

Its a frightening situation in my village to see Mt Kondo under which my village is situated on the foothills is riped apart by a growing population from our three clans of the major Aimbarep tribe who claim ownership to the mountain.

I planted over 1000 trees in the village beginning in the 90s after returning from a trip to England and told people to also plant but only the pine trees were spared by the recent frost and prolonged El Nino indusced drought. Some of my trees have been stolen by my own relatives to build houses.

Iam replanting now...

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