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PNG government found wanting in response to El Nino drought

No funds for drought affected SimbuMATHIAS KIN

OVER the last month there has been some rain in Simbu, one of the worst affected provinces by the El Nino driven drought in Papua New Guinea.

In the high altitude Simbu (1,500 to 2,500 metres above sea level), kaukau tubers take six to nine months to form.

While some newer varieties now can yield in three to four months, as was seen in the 1997 drought, tubers don't usually form early. So the shortage in food in Simbu will continue for a long while yet.

To make matters worse, the government has not carried out reliable assessments of the extent of the drought in the provinces, especially here in the central highlands.

The responsiveness, coordination and management by authorities in terms of provision of relief food to affected communities have been very disappointing. This has been evidenced time and again in Simbu.

Since the rain some vegetables in the gardens and around the houses are showing signs of rejuvenation. But no serious starch crops, like kaukau, have yet emerged.

We hope for some better coordination from now in the distribution of seeds, kaukau vines, tapioca sticks, corn seed and so on.

The basic logistics of recovery are required as the people struggle to get back to their normal subsistence lives.


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Mathias Kin

Paul, Ian and my friend Francis Nii. The drought is showcasing the amount of foulness, rot and dirt existing in the PNG government and in its bureaucracy at Waigani.

The O'Neil government is worried that outsiders may, in the process of assessing this disaster, surely pinpoint the many weaknesses, inefficiencies and the chronic corruption existing among the elected and the bureaucracy of PNG.

PNG is already ranked one of the most corrupt nations in the world.

In 1997, during the government of Chan then later Bill Skate, they allowed outsiders in Australia and experts from other countries to come in and carry out assessments of the extent of the affected communities.

As a result, appropriate relief supplies were sought through the many friendly countries including a heavy contribution from Australia.

Now, since the drought started in March 2015, not one reliable assessment had been carried out. So nobody knows exactly what the situation is in the villages.

In many parts of high altitude areas of Southern Highlands, Western Highlands, Enga and Simbu provinces, frost has completely destroyed huge areas of food gardens.

In southern Simbu, an area I visit frequently, and in many areas of the highlands also, around September and October during the worst times of the current drought, I physically saw people eating root of bananas and roots of china taro.

It really disturbed me that in these time and age when PNG was earning billions of Kina from its hydrocarbon and other natural resources, its citizens should still suffer from the effects droughts and frosts.

They can not give back to the owners of the land from which they made the billions only a few kinas for their very survival? How irresponsible and greed a government is that?

Maybe, and Ian Frazer said it well, it may take a crisis like current drought, to change the people's mind set. And you are right, mere crime & corruption has become tolerable.

Perhaps civil unrest may teach these people a few lessons but even then at the cost of what? O'Neill does not seem to care for the welfare of the people of this nation.

PNGians are a very resilient people, no ordinary drought will "kill" them off. In a "land as blessed and for a people as self-sufficient as PNG", the affected communities of PNG will be on its feet again, with or without government.

What needs to happen, as pointed out by you good people here and by many in this forum over the months, there needs to be dramatic change in the mind set of the voters - to vote away from lamp flaps, pigs and money in 2017.

However the government is now devising every tactic thinkable to counter any attempts by the opposition or anybody else in 2017 so that they can continue beyond 2017.

The government will fund heavily in the millions of kina those candidates they endorse. So the well intentioned young Morautas and Namalius of PNG do not have a chance against these very corrupt money riddled candidates.

What is more, the government has posted their own men in all the top posts of the bureaucracy so they will not stumble over anything.

The defence commander is O'Neill's own man from Ialibu, the police commander is O'Neill's own choice and so is the recent appointment of the electoral commissioner and it has been reported that the Electoral Commissioner's deputy is O'Neill's tribesman from Ialibu.

PNG, we may be headed for a bigger disaster than an El Nino induced drought and frost in this land of plenty. Maybe that is what we need?

God save PNG.

Paul Oates

Francis, getting rid of the dead wood is the easy part. Having something and someone worthwhile ready to take over is the hard part. It won't happen overnight. Planning must be done now to set up a disciplined and accountable team that can be relied upon to be honest and reputable when they hit the deck running.

I know it's easy for people like me to say and suggest and hard in fact to do. Been there and done that so I know and that was in our society with all our advantages. But if it doesn't start soon, there will be no hope in 2017.

Francis Nii

It was worse in some parts of Simbu. People were given rice without cooking oil, noodles or some form of protein to go with the starch. It wasn't that there was lack of money. There was money but it was plain stupidity, ill thought and misappropriation.

Yes, Paul. Most Simbu MPs are going to be kicked out in the coming election. Only two or three are likely to be returned.

Ian Fraser

Only, you don't plead with everyone -- you plead with people reading this blog, or something similar. I'm sure they agree already.

As do I: I concluded long ago that no reform that doesn't change how the masses of people see government & politics will amount to much. Ombudsman powers, voting systems, MP qualifications, regulating no-confidence votes...if it doesn't change how people vote, it changes nothing.

But how on earth can any movement change the people...?

A Taliban-style mobilization (only Christian, of course)? Or the abandonment of the radical experiment of mass franchise in an illiterate, isolated population, and a strongman taking over, as in Fiji?

It will take a crisis like, perhaps, the current drought. Mere crime & corruption is too tolerable, in a land as blessed and for a people as self-sufficient as PNG.

Paul Oates

So Mathias, the obvious answer is to throw out those inept or corrupt political leaders and sack those departmental people who are not able to manage what has to be done. Even in Australia we hear about how little of the supposedly allocated PNG drought relief funding actually gets to the people who matter. It all seems to be absorbed by the corrupt feeding chain before it actually gets to the starving people.

The same goes for Health, education and all other government services.

Time and again the real problem in PNG is overlooked and the people who do have the power (i.e. voters) don't do something positive about their situation. Lamb flaps and beer at election time will not fix the problems over the next five years. Tribal loyalties will not stop corruption at the highest level since tribal loyalty only lasts until the first offer of personal graft.

Start assessing all those wanabee leaders who have a proven record of integrity and achievement and get organised now for the 2017 general elections. Organize your local friends and family to start thinking about who is really to blame before it again becomes yourselves as it has been every five years. Start supporting reputable leaders now and put their record to the test over the next year. Investigate who is part of an ethical party who will keep their members honest and free of corruption.

There are those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happened.

I plead with everyone in PNG. Think about which group you belong to and start taking responsibility for the problem rather than blaming someone else.

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