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As women lead the protest, PNG men let them down....

19 May Protest, UPNG

THE active involvement and high profile stand by women in the recent student protests against Peter O’Neill and his corrupt government has largely gone unnoticed in the media.

A short article by writer Michael Dom about their courageous march during the week attracted little comment on PNG Attitude. I found this is decidedly worrying.

In the face of fierce opposition and overt threats by O’Neill’s cronies in the ministry and elsewhere, including the Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary and the University of Papua New Guinea’s administration, these brave women took the lead ahead of the men and stepped into the fray.

They were taking a huge gamble.

Their logic was that, if a male-led demonstration would result in the sort of inevitable violence that despots like O’Neill use to quell dissent, perhaps a female-led demonstration would have a more subdued response.

Luckily their gamble paid off. So far at least. It is unclear whether this was because they took the government and police by surprise or because O’Neill and his cops were loath to exert violence on Papua New Guinean women in such a public way.

Given that many Papua New Guinean men, like their counterparts in other countries, prefer to exercise violence against women in private, I suspect that the latter is the case.

I hope that these gutsy young women will not now be subject to intimidation at a personal level behind closed doors and in the shadows. No doubt many of them will be wary of the possibility of retribution.

Perhaps O’Neill’s in-house female attack squad will advise him to be cautious.

With regard to being taken by surprise, men like O’Neill must be well aware of the traditional ability of Papua New Guinean women to step into the breach of the chaos so often created by their men and to pick up the pieces.

In that sense, it is curious that Papua New Guinean men don’t take more notice of what their women say. Rather than listening, they take advantage of them. We will rape and pillage the country but it is okay because the women will fix it later.

There are, of course, Papua New Guinean women who seem to turn into men when they are elevated to public office.

And when that happens, they do tend to be more savage than men at oppressing their sisters. I can think of a couple of prime examples.

So-called ‘women’s issues’ seem to have become a mandatory but token consideration for many people, especially politicians. They make the right noises but don’t really believe in what they are saying.

I suppose, in some way, when women demonstrate high moral values, like marching against O’Neill, the men feel threatened. Rather than applauding the women who have the courage that they don’t, they stay silent.

I suspect that’s why the men who comment on PNG Attitude are silent about Michael’s article.

Of course, someone will come out soon and say, what’s wrong with you men, your women are showing you up. That would be the worst thing anyone could say in the present situation and it won’t do women any favours, especially those who are protesting.

The feminist Gloria Steinem is in Australia at the moment, 50 years an activist and still going strong. In an interview a few days ago she pointed out something very similar about Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s latest attempt to placate some of the women he’s insulted in the past.

He’s trying to counter these previous misjudgements but comes across as just another manipulative man engaging in tokenism.

Steinem claimed, incorrectly I think, that in primitive society men and women were different but equal. I think that is an ideal that she and many women and some men would like to see prevail now.

How you bring that about is difficult. About as difficult as taking up the cause of public protest that the brave UPNG women did.

One of the things I’ve always tried to do is have strong female characters in my fiction, Ruby in the Inspector Metau books for example. Some female readers pick up on this but the male critics never mention it.

That’s one of the few things, as writers and poets, that we men can do. We owe it to plucky women like those who put their health and future on the line in Port Moresby the other day.

But you have to be careful how it’s done. The nauseating poems and stories about mothers we seem to get every Mother’s Day are all pretty much hypocritical guilt trips and tokenism.

If you are man enough to support your women, it must be done in a respectful way. And it must be done frequently and with enough force to render lasting change.


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Michael Dom

Obama didn't have it any easier.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I guess it's hard to work out the reach of all the forms of media but it seems that a very large majority of voters are not engaged.

What they respond to at election time is their local candidates' pitches, usually in the form of gifts and promises of more to come. It is even questionable whether many of those candidates understand the issues.

That aside, what it really comes down to is whether people like O'Neill can round up enough supporters among the newly elected MPs to form government during the scramble for position that traditionally occurs after each election.

He only has to get 60 or so in his camp and then the others will step into line when they see where the goodies lie. That's what happened last time and why he had such a large majority. He must have forked out heaps in sweeteners.

So, in effect, the general election doesn't count for much unless something happens and people start electing honest and sensible members. How you get the message out to those voters who sit beyond the general reach of media seems to be the crux of what is wrong in PNG politics.

Marcus Mapen

I think Philip has a point here.

I keep saying that about 80% of the population of this country continue to live in ignorance (partial or full). Now, this is not a 'fact' but an ‘estimate’ based on my observations after being to 'all' parts of this country (rural & urban).

Marcus Mapen

Thanks for the stats. I think Mr Dom is just being a little sarcastic here in this case of ‘blind sheep and a reckless shepherd’.

Philip Fitzpatrick

So you have about 100,000 people reading the newspapers and watching TV and about 650,000 on the internet. That leaves about 6.8 million people who don't access media of any kind.

Presumably they are the silent majority who respond to lamb flap and beer politics at election time.

Let's review the maths. Internet access, c650,000. Radio receivers c400,000. Television sets, c40,000. Newspapers, c100,000. Word of mouth, ???. And there's a big multiplier in there, as Michael Dom suggests - KJ

Michael Dom

Thanks, Keith, for those telling statistics.

The nature of television viewing in PNG is communal so I am willing to concede that one tv set does goes a long way in a village setting, at the corner tuckerbox or a neighbours house.

The same probably applies to the newspapers, which get passed around and eventually get smoked or smeared.

Whereas, the internet and Facebook tends to be used by more progressive individuals and youth.

That's why people like Ms Merrell and Mr Yapis are so adamant that our voices are the 'noisy majority' who are 'fake' and 'not in tune'.

Their methods are shady but their strategy is now in plain daylight.

They are trying to dissuade us with guile and cunning.

They know we are addressing the right audiences.

Their Rock-leader, The Prophet and even the Almighty-Word-Speaker are so afraid of this fact that they are desperately trying to enact legislation to censor the social media.

As I and others have advocated the emphasis should be on tomorrows leaders, and drawing from a crowd of some one million progressives and youths, I'd say there's a good likelihood that we'll have some more advocates joining the cause very soon.

I believe Powes Parkop met a few of them at UPNG the other day, and the others sent him messages from UOT, UOG and UNRE.

In the past we might think that a social movement would take decades to build up momentum, but judging from recent trends around the world, I'd say that in less than ten years time, we can change the whole game.

Technology is the game changer.

Hey - pay attention anyone who wants to Like this - Share it.

It's the Truth, The Whole Truth And Nothing But The Truth.

And of course gleanings from the internet also are re-transmitted by that most potent of media in PNG - the human voice - KJ

Marcus Mapen

Mr Yapis, you need to understand the meaning of the word ‘fact’ before you use it. Can you validate your ‘facts’? If you can’t then that just shows.

Correct Marcus. See the statistics I provide at the end of Michael Dom's comment - KJ

Michael Dom

A valuable observation:

"Most people read the Post Courier and The National and watch EMTV. They do not believe all the fakes on social media."

Thank you for the strategic advice, Mike.

Mike's observation is not supported by the statistics. Social media has truly taken hold in PNG - KJ

Internet access, 650,000

Facebook users, 350,000

Television sets, 42,000

Post-Courier circulation, 33,500

The National circulation, 23,500

Wantok circulation, 15,000

Mike Yapis

Agree with Susan Merrell on silent majority rules. If an election was to be held now, Peter O'Neill will be returned with a majority as prime minister.

Social media fanatics are not in tune with the silent majority, That is fact. You may not like it but that is fact.

Most people read the Post Courier and The National and watch EMTV. They do not believe all the fakes on social media.

Rashmii Bell

Hi Susan - I'm keen to know whether you've actually experienced one day, one week, one year, one decade, one lifetime of the 'silent majority' on which your article is based? Have you?

Experience and observation aren't synonymous.

I think I'd be accurate in saying that a high percentage of the 'noisy minority' have actually lived or are living the life of the 'silent majority' and it is this life they wish to break free from.

With the exception of the first few words of 'Village Man''s response to your article, I'd suggest you take a closer look and try to understand what is being said there.

Lindsay F Bond

Scant merriment of merrel-meant
scant bye-election detection
scant a measure of displeasure
scant any scent what many meant
scant a trace if re-election
scans lambs but in flap of pleasure
scan of poll pace: face affection.

Philip Fitzpatrick

When Peter O'Neill originally and illegally installed himself as prime minister he was chanting the anti-corruption mantra. That struck a chord with the PNG people.

I would suggest, as has Michael, that this is what the demonstrations and protests are all about. O'Neill is just the figurehead who has come to represent what is bad in PNG governance.

Susan Merrell's assertion that the students and others want him gone so they can take his place at the trough is sadly misplaced. That's not what it is all about.

If O'Neill hangs on until the next election and is replaced by another carbon copy the protests will die down and flare up again when the incumbent shows their true colours.

Marcus Mapen

You need to take a look at yourself, Barbara.

Marcus Mapen

Amen to that, Michael.

Barbara Short

Sori Michael but I read it differently ...

Sometimes things are never as simple as they seem. It would be great if a student uprising could lead to the end of corruption in PNG.

But I'm sorry to say that is probably not the case in this situation. We all want corruption and bribery to end but I don't think this student strike will bring it about.

Many of us want a change of heart in the way things are run in this country. We would like to see less money spent on big events in Port Moresby and more money spent of health and education in the villages.

Maybe the majority of students would agree with this concept.

I hate to say it but I do not think we will get this change of heart in the way things are run nor get the end of corruption by the present student strike. Perhaps too many people have been "brain-washed".

Marcus Mapen

There is one thing I just want to remind people who are continuing to support Peter O’Neill despite the things he does to stay in power.

The position of prime minister is not hereditary. There will come a time in his life when he will no longer be prime minister.

His advisers now should get him to start working on his migration plans to Switzerland because when that time comes; there will be people out there to get him. People you hurt never forget what you do.

Michael Dom

Thanks for the link to that article which provides a rare glimpse into the sick minds of people defending the corruption that is rife in PNG parliament, government offices, statutory body's and democratic processes, in particular the elections.

Here is the key sentence that uncovers their festering, pus puddle minds: "It’s clear that they want control of the purse strings – well, they haven’t yet earned that right."

The reasoning is that people who are elected have earned the right to do whatever they want with the 'purse strings' of the nation.

Peter O'Neill has done exactly that and he feels he has 'earned the right' to continue to do so.

Like little children being greedy over a bag of lollies O'Neill & Co. accuse anyone who goes against them of wanting to do exactly what they are doing - gobbling everything up.

They twist and thwart every law to their own ends in order to claim legitimacy.

They feed off the ignorance and helplessness of village people and call it a democratic process.

They have no conscience for their own actions, readily place the blame on those who were in power before them and claim innocence.

They truly believe that their deeds are righteous and just and good.

That is the extent of their corruption - it is evil.

When Theo the Speaker chainsawed down the carved heads on the lintel of our Haus Tambaran he destroyed the spirit of unity that they represented and replaced that with real demons.

Michael Dom

"Ministry of Poetry" - ha,ha,ha,ha, that's gold!

It's our peculiarities that afford us uniqueness.

More than anything else a poet is never quite like everyone else you'd meet in a group of people.

An aunt of mine used to say that I had a slightly twisted sense of humor. I was thrilled.

More power to LFB.


Everybody lay off Lindsay F !!

Despite its sometimes crypticity, LFB poetry adds to the colour of PNG Attitude, so keep them coming LFB. Dont let these pagan poets put you off !

But the Minister of Poetry, Michael DOM, still leads by 10 lengths in the Poetic Stakes.

Breaker MORANT, He of the Horse Breaking, and Poet of the Bush, said "we Poets crave immortality you know", before he was shot by his own British, sitting on a chair.

Remember the bit as MORANT was led out of his cell, and declined the padre, but asked for the Epithet Matthew 1-36 "and a man's foes shall be they of his own household".

I'm starting to think the "man's foes" is Peter O'Neill.

Francis Nii

Daniel, Peter Kranz has the answer to your first question and that is the marauders . They are taking advantage of O'Neill reaping him and O'Neill is ripping PNG to keep them marauders making noises.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I was in and out of UPNG in the early 1970s Robin and there were heaps of female students there. I'm pretty sure they were there right from the very beginning. There were also heaps of women at the Administrative College in those years.

Anyone got any idea what Lindsay is saying?

Lindsay's enigmatic comments are published on the off chance the rest of us have missed their profundity - KJ

Daniel Kumbon

Everybody talking on EMTV news on Thursday evening were from the Highlands region where PM O'Neill comes from including students from his own Ialibu district at Unitech.

His own people disown him. Former Police Commissioners, Chief Ombudsman, Chief Justice, Doctors Association, former prime ministers, Nurses Association, National Staff Association at UPNG are all behind our women and students - they all want Peter O'Neill out.What kind of people are advising him to stubbornly hold onto the seat.

Why can't Peter O'Neill step aside and give PNG back to the people?

Lindsay F Bond

Treatise supposes unto morality. More for some, threat's unto mortality.

Francis Nii

Simbu men and women are up in force demanding the resignation of O'Neill at a public forum held in Kundiawa on Thursday. The report is delayed due to photographs not being made available on time. Expect it this afternoon or tomorrow with or without photo.

Robin Lillicrapp

Phil, is there a link between women of today in PNG educated, enlightened and empowered versus yesteryear when likely very few females made it to university?

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