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100 posts from April 2017

The significance of the anniversary of Kokoda

Bablis_GregGREGORY BABLIS | DevPolicy Blog

‘HISTORY’ and ‘commemoration’ are distinguishable terms. For instance, while Papua New Guinea and Australia share a history spurred from the events of the Kokoda Campaign, our analyses, understandings, perspectives and experiences of the war are subjective and thus different.

Commemoration is centred on the present and is concerned with the values that people in the present can derive from the events, good or bad, of the past.

Although both history and commemoration are related to the past, they serve different functions. For different countries, the reasons for commemorating certain events will be similar, but the histories surrounding the events must be different because they inform different national narratives.

Continue reading "The significance of the anniversary of Kokoda " »

‘Remarkable fall’ – PNG revenue down for second year in a row

Stephen HowesSTEPHEN HOWES* | DevPolicy Blog | Extract

ACCORDING to the just-released final budget figures for 2016, government revenue has declined in Papua New Guinea for the second year in a row. And this isn’t adjusting for inflation, or for population growth. This is just plain old nominal revenue.

In 2014, government revenue was K11.9 billion, in 2015 K11 billion, and in 2016 K10.5 billion. Those are declines of 8% and 5%. That is before inflation. After inflation the combined decline is 22%.

The decline from 2014 to 2015 is easy enough to understand. Commodity prices fell in 2015 and wiped out government revenue from the mining and petroleum sectors. Just as importantly, 2014 was the last year of LNG construction, so that stimulus was withdrawn in 2015, and tax revenue fell as a result.

Continue reading "‘Remarkable fall’ – PNG revenue down for second year in a row" »

Teach for Tomorrow program produces another 120 teachers


ON Friday, 120 new teachers graduated from Kokoda Track Foundation’s Teach for Tomorrow training program and became certified as fully-fledged elementary teachers.

Funded by our partners at the Flight Centre Foundation, Milne Bay Provincial Education and the Member for Esa’ala, Hon Steven Davis, and delivered in partnership with PNGEI, the training was undertaken over the past six weeks in remote Esa’ala district.

The newly trained teachers were given the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to deliver a high quality education to elementary aged children in remote schools across the maritime province.

Continue reading "Teach for Tomorrow program produces another 120 teachers" »

Ian Kemish takes over from Patrick Lindsay as Kokoda chair

Patrick Lindsay & farewell giftKOKODA TRACK FOUNDATION

THIS week, at the annual general meeting of the Kokoda Track Foundation, we bid a heartfelt farewell to our chair and co-founder, Patrick Lindsay AM.

Patrick stepped down after serving as chair for 11 years. Patrick was a founding director when the organisation was established in 2003 and took over as chair in 2006.

“It is an emotional and momentous day – the end of an era,” said KTF CEO, Dr Genevieve Nelson.

Continue reading "Ian Kemish takes over from Patrick Lindsay as Kokoda chair" »

Army exercises & civic action in the Ningerum area, 1967

Caribou at Aseki Airport  1967JOHN STRINGFELLOW

IN JUNE 1967, Delta Company of the 1st Battalion of the Pacific Islands Regiment, under the command of Major Colin Adamson, flew to Ningerum to conduct military training and to win the hearts and minds of the local people by carrying out civil aid.

Adamson was a graduate of the Officer Cadet School in Portsea and a professional soldier who was preparing himself for a tour of Vietnam and he trained 1PIR's Delta Company as if it was off to war.

Often we were sent into the hills near Taurama Beach to prepare defensive positions by digging rifle pits into the rocky ground, a difficult and worthless task. We did an 80 kilometre route march at night from Rigo back to the barracks at Taurama, ordered to carry only a tooth brush in our battle gear.

Continue reading "Army exercises & civic action in the Ningerum area, 1967" »

Shot up in the Buka Passage, Alf never thought he’d see 100


WHEN Japanese aircraft attacked his landing barge in Bougainville’s Buka Passage in 1944, Alf Carpenter dived into the sea to avoid enemy fire.

At that moment growing old did not seem to him to be a realistic proposition

Alf survived to become a leading figure in the ex-services movement in Sydney and the Hunter Valley and has just celebrated his 100th birthday.

He remembers kicking away from the bullet-ridden barge, his mind on what he’d do next if he happened to survive.

Finding himself in the water with a fellow soldier, he struck up a conversation.

“Another chap was with me and we started chatting,” Alf told the Newcastle Herald. “He said, ‘if we get out of this place alive, we’ll go into business together’.”

Continue reading "Shot up in the Buka Passage, Alf never thought he’d see 100" »

Task Force Sweep disbanded after long struggle to survive

No_more_task_force_sweepKEITH JACKSON

THEY fought hard, they fought long and they fought without pay, but finally Investigation Task Force Sweep has had to throw in the towel.

Yesterday a three-man Supreme Court bench in Papua New Guinea allowed the team to withdraw its appeal against a Cabinet decision of 2014 to disband the successful corruption-busting unit.

A judicial review had upheld the Cabinet decision on the grounds that the establishment of the task force was a matter of administrative policy which the court has no jurisdiction to review.

Task Force Sweep had received no funding since it was abolished on 18 June 2014 and director Sam Koim said, although they maintained the office, it was impossible for them to sustain operations.

Continue reading "Task Force Sweep disbanded after long struggle to survive" »

Independence days: How the American government came to PNG

Mary-olmstedMARY OLMSTED

In the decades following World War II, as colonies across the globe gained independence, the United States worked to establish embassies and consulates in these new nations, some in the remotest areas of the world. Papua New Guinea, which gained autonomy from Australia on 16 September 1975, was one such case. Mary Olmsted was assigned as the first US consul general to PNG in early 1975 and was later became the first US ambassador upon independence.

I HAD been in Washington for a long time and I was looking for an onward assignment and was getting nowhere with it when, one day, there crossed my desk a big fat memorandum asking for permission to open a new post in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

As I thumbed through the memo I thought to myself, “I wonder what poor devil we will send to the jungles of New Guinea?” But somehow it stuck in my mind.

I didn’t know anything about New Guinea — hardly anybody did. I looked it up out of curiosity in my encyclopaedia which gave me just very little information, and I stopped by the library and looked up a little bit more about it, and somehow it just stuck in my mind. I began to think, “Wouldn’t it be fun to open up a new post?”

Continue reading "Independence days: How the American government came to PNG" »

Major challenges but PNG makes big strides against malaria

Girl carries home a bednet received during a distribution in Oro Province (Rotarians Against Malaria)WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION

IT WOULD be tough to find a location more hospitable to the spread of malaria than Papua New Guinea.

“This country has very, very difficult geography, with little infrastructure,” said Tim Freeman, a logistician for Rotarians Against Malaria.

At 61, Freeman has spent more than half of his life fighting malaria. He is the kind of guy you want nearby if your car gets stuck in the mud, which he has seen happen a lot while overseeing the distribution of more than five million insecticide-treated mosquito nets in PNG.

Even now, many villages have no roads and the delivery of nets can require an airplane, helicopter, boat, truck and days of walking – often in the rain.

Continue reading "Major challenges but PNG makes big strides against malaria" »

Research for a new novel

I'm working on the research for a new novel, which concerns the Chief Mate (Walter Scott Quinn) aboard the M/V Libby Island, a USMMC seagoing tow tug (196' long) which took part in a secret convoy to Manus Island reaching there in late autumn, 1944. If any of your PNG historians or writers have any recollection  of this convey or the resulting construction projects on the island -- it comprised four large, connected tugs and several caissons and barges -- I would deeply appreciate hearing from them, or from you. Best wishes to you and yours as the world gets more dangerous by the minute.... Sincerely, Richard Sutton

If you can assist Richard with his research,  email him at [email protected]


Ronny Knight MP lives to fight another day (& fight he will)


IT’S been a turbulent couple of weeks for Manus MP Ronny Knight, a long standing opponent of his province being a dumping place for the refugees he strongly believes are Australia’s responsibility and who have brought his usually placid island home a whole heap of trouble.

Most recently, since a bunch of drunken PNG Defence Force sailors took umbrage over whose turn it was to play soccer on a local park and, in an alcohol-fuelled rage, fired indiscriminate shots and threatened violence at whoever was in their way, especially refugees, Ronny has been up to his ears in trouble.

Continue reading "Ronny Knight MP lives to fight another day (& fight he will)" »

Lepani Watson – a foundational figure in PNG’s national history

Lepani Watson & colleaguesANDREW CONNELLY & ARTHUR SMEDLEY | Australian Dictionary of Biography

“I have fond memories of Lepani Watson and recall some memorable nights with him leading a chorus of miscreants, singing until the early hours. It was both a privilege and an honour to be asked to work with Andrew Connelly in the writing of this biography” – Arthur Smedley

LEPANI Kaiuwekalu Watson (1926–93), politician, lay preacher, community leader and welfare officer, was born in 1926 at Vakuta village on the island of the same name in the Trobriand group, Territory of Papua.

He was the elder son of Watisoni Upawapa, chief of the top-ranking Tabalu dala (matriline), and his wife Iribouma of the second-ranked Toliwaga dala.

In his early teens Lepani passed the examination to enter the Oyabia Methodist mission school at Losuia station, Kiriwina Island, where he worked between lessons as a gardener and fisherman to earn his keep.

Continue reading "Lepani Watson – a foundational figure in PNG’s national history" »

The PNG aid advisor dilemma: a sensible solution

Proposed model for engagement of aid-funded non-citizensJOACHIM LUMA, MICHAEL ANDERSON & CARMEN VOIGT-GRAF | Dev Policy Blog

THE 2016 Papua New Guinean regulation covering non-citizen technical advisers (discussed in our earlier post) seems to have primarily resulted from a desire within the PNG government to exert its national sovereignty.

Under that regulation, foreign government employees can only be engaged on a short-term basis under an institutional partnership arrangement.

PNG’s sovereignty has also been enhanced by the new requirement that the agency secretary give final approval for the engagement of a non-citizen technical adviser and sign a performance contract with that adviser.

The requirement that the Secretary of PNG’s Department of Personnel Management keep a register of all non-citizen technical advisers also reflects PNG’s desire to increase its control over the engagement of non-citizens in its public service.

Continue reading "The PNG aid advisor dilemma: a sensible solution" »

Cosgrove pays tribute to Australians & PNGns who fought in WW2

PNG veteran & Sir Peter Cosgrove - comrades in armsAAP

AUSTRALIANS will never forget the courage of those who fell in the jungles of Papua New Guinea nor the "national treasures" who survived the worst conditions of warfare.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove made that pledge as he delivered the Anzac dawn service address yesterday at the Bomana War Cemetery near Port Moresby.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the Kokoda campaign and the Battle of Milne Bay, which formed part of the New Guinea campaign in World War II.

Continue reading "Cosgrove pays tribute to Australians & PNGns who fought in WW2" »

An explanation, a mea culpa & a commitment to PNG


IT IS with sadness that I respond to the sentiments of Betha Somare who has written a strongly worded letter addressed to me regarding my leadership [of the Pangu Pati].

In doing so Betha Somare has also questioned Grand Chief Sir Michael Somare’s choice of personal links and political ties.

I want to point out the importance of this period in which we are contemplating new leadership and direction in Papua New Guinea.

Under the leadership of the current People's National Congress/National Alliance led government, PNG has suffered the greatest loss and damage in our short and politically unstable history.

Continue reading "An explanation, a mea culpa & a commitment to PNG" »

Pangu policies shape up to correct PNG’s creaky democracy


FOR most of the time since independence in 1975, Papua New Guinea enjoyed a vibrant democracy under the rule of law and with law-breakers dealt with as they should be.

But six years ago things begin to change as corruption moved to a new level, spreading into every government office.

At a time when the country was about to embrace the benefits of the largest liquefied natural gas project in the Pacific, the government was taken by force.

In a numbers game, the courts were effectively sidelined and Peter O’Neill stormed into the leadership.

Continue reading "Pangu policies shape up to correct PNG’s creaky democracy" »

Mateship & friendship stand side-by-side on the Kokoda Track

Peter O'BrienPETER O’BRIEN | The Interpretive Design Company

“Australian-funded projects have removed “mateship” from the lexicon used in Papua New Guinea to describe the heroism of Diggers fighting the Japanese on the ­Kokoda Track, in what a prominent critic [Charlie Lynn] describes as politically correct revisionism to “demilitarise” the battleground’s history in the lead up to its 75th anniversary” – Ean Higgins, The Australian, 20 March 2017

FROM November 2015 until May 2016 The Interpretive Design Company was contracted to provide a range of services for the Australian Government Kokoda Initiative Taskforce.

At the time we partnered with communication specialist, John Pastorelli of Ochre Learning.

Working with the Australian government and the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority (TPA) we consulted with key partners from both nations to develop an interpretive display that primarily presented the wartime experiences and cultural heritage of the Papuan and New Guinean people.

Continue reading "Mateship & friendship stand side-by-side on the Kokoda Track" »

Could China deploy troops to protect its interests in PNG?


THE flow of no-strings-attached foreign aid from countries such as China to Pacific island nations could destabilise Australia's neighbourhood.

That's the view of a new report from the Australian Strategic Policy Institute released on Monday.

Author Joanne Wallis argues the influx of aid and investment from non-traditional external powers such as China runs the risk of destabilising recipient states.

Australian aid is conditional on certain governance or development outcomes, but Chinese diplomats present their aid as coming without any political strings attached, and this may fuel corruption and violence.

Continue reading "Could China deploy troops to protect its interests in PNG?" »

Trading Treasure for Trifles

Wardley Barry at workWARDLEY D BARRY-IGIVISA

Give me lamb flaps and I will shake your hand;
chips and cola, and I will bless your head.
Then you can be chief many moons ahead,
and I'll be your wokboi in my own land.

Sprinkle a little salt on my kumus.
You can have trees as far as your eyes
can see. In my pot pour in grains of rice,
and take the sacred stones of my bubus.

Like our fathers, we keep the tradition,
when for an axe they peddled our birthrights.
Now to give an X, we forfeit our rights,
so we can have trifles in our saucepans.

Bigmanism made sure we bowed down
to white men then, and now to a black clown.

The decision of 1919 that has significant implications for today


THE battles along the Kokoda Track 75 years ago are regarded as some of the most important battles fought by Australians in World War II.

Few Australians realise, however, but for some boring treaty negotiations 23 years earlier, the Kokoda campaign and all of World War II could have played out very differently for Australia.

Following World War I, people expected Germany’s Pacific possessions to be allocated to a British ally - Japan.

As a loyal ally, Japan had declared war on Germany in 1914 and, as part of its alliance agreements, its responsibilities included pursuing and destroying the German East Asiatic Squadron and protection of the shipping lanes for Allied commerce in the Pacific.

Continue reading "The decision of 1919 that has significant implications for today" »

PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story

War wreckage at WagawagaERIC TLOZEK | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

A SMALL team of Papua New Guinean historians has visited one of the most crucial battle sites of World War II to record the stories of those who remember it.

The team, from the University of Papua New Guinea, spent three weeks in Milne Bay, the scene of a Japanese offensive in August of 1942.

The story of the brutal battle, in which Australian and United States troops inflicted the first decisive defeat of the Japanese on land of the war, is well documented by Australian historians.

Continue reading "PNG historians record the other side of the WWII story" »

First flight to Tadji - remembering the liberation of Aitape

Arch Simpson's Kittyhawk on a raid in PNG (artist Geoffrey Pentland)ROB PARER

LAST Saturday was the anniversary of the day in 1944 that General Macarthur's liberation force took Aitape and Hollandia, the largest amphibious operation of the South Pacific war.

Within 42 hours of the landing, No 62 Works Wing of the Royal Australian Air Force had Tadji airfield ready for the Australian Kittyhawks of 78 Fighter Wing to land. The airstrip was a soggy mess.

Australian RAAF Flight Sergeant Arch Simpson (below) tells the story…..

WE set off from Cape Gloster in West New Britain on the long hop to Tadji Airstrip knowing that there was, as yet, nowhere for us to land - no properly prepared strip, only an area that had previously been a small enemy airstrip.

Continue reading "First flight to Tadji - remembering the liberation of Aitape" »

Ian Townsend’s ‘Line of Fire’: The ‘spies’ who never came back

Detail from cover of Line of FireROSS FITZGERALD | The Australian

Line of Fire by Ian Townsend, Fourth Estate, 309pp, $29.99

IAN Townsend’s third book, Line of Fire, a work of nonfiction, is excellent. It follows two fine novels: Affection (2007), based on the 1900 plague outbreak in north Queensland, and The Devil’s Eye, centred on the worst cyclone in Australian history.

The Queensland radio journalist and author has a talent for discovering little-known events and fleshing them out to make history come alive. His new book is a gripping yarn of espionage and war.

Continue reading "Ian Townsend’s ‘Line of Fire’: The ‘spies’ who never came back" »

Mateship (Australia’s word of honour) and Kokoda

MateshipNIKKI GEMMELL | The Australian

IT’S A word that presses all our national buttons. One of those go-to terms for politicians seeking an easy emotional resonance.

As a nation we’ve claimed it and desexualised it and morphed it into something deeply endearing; it’s held fiercely in our national psyche. It’s mateship. A term of colonial Australia used as vividly back then as it is now.

From the German for comrade, related to the concept of having a meal together, it was brought to these shores by the convicts. It evokes Depression drifters and diggers, six o-clock swills and smokos, tradies and truckies.

Continue reading "Mateship (Australia’s word of honour) and Kokoda" »

Out of corruption’s shadows, a winning election strategy?

O'Neill and ParakaPETER S KINJAP

YOU may remember. At around this same time five years ago, Peter O’Neill and his People’s National Congress team were promising campaign rallies that they would curb high level corruption in government.

They established Investigation Task Force Sweep (later disbanded) for this purpose, and it did an excellent job – too good it seems – in exposing and prosecuting corruption and malfeasance.

Along the way, when the equally effective police fraud squad got too nosy, police commissioner Garry Baki applied a special “vetting” to high profile cases under investigation.

Continue reading "Out of corruption’s shadows, a winning election strategy?" »

Momis seeks more action on Bougainville referendum planning


BOUGAINVILLE president John Momis says there is an immediate need for reform in the Joint Supervisory Body (JSB) responsible for implementing the complex arrangements related to autonomy in Bougainville

The JSB, operating under the Bougainville Peace Agreement, is an important mechanism through which the PNG and Bougainville governments manage peace agreement implementation as well as being a consultative forum and a dispute resolution mechanism.

Dr John Momis has expressed his concern to prime minister Peter O’Neill about the level of inaction on the part of officials establishing the Bougainville Referendum Commission.

Continue reading "Momis seeks more action on Bougainville referendum planning" »

Plenty more work needed to correct SABL injustices

Effrey DademoEFFREY DADEMO | Act Now

THE Papua New Guinea government still has plenty of work to do to redress the injustice of the SABL land grab and illegal logging.

Act Now is cautiously optimistic the government is moving in the right direction by cancelling the SABL leases, but this is only a first step.

We welcome statements from the Minister for Lands that the government has cancelled all SABL leases; if it is true, it is a significant move.

However, after nearly four years of delay, there are other vitally important steps that still have to be taken to ensure justice for rural communities.

Continue reading "Plenty more work needed to correct SABL injustices" »

Our failure to hold politicians to account is killing PNG


IT’S during election periods that we see democracy at play in Papua New Guinea as citizens of our beautiful country decide who will represent them on the floor of parliament.

It is at this time that we see candidates come down from their high offices to seek a renewed mandate from ordinary Papua New Guineans, whose lives and opinions often falls deaf on politicians’ ears for most of the five years.

Herein is the challenge to democracy for PNG. Why should people's power, the cornerstone of democracy, last for just few months from the issue to the return of writs?

Media, parliament, courts and other institutions of State are struggling to stem the tide of corruption orchestrated by the very people we elect to represent us in parliament.

Continue reading "Our failure to hold politicians to account is killing PNG" »

The Fitzpatrick School of Scatterbrained Writing


MY wife and I have moved from Queensland to a small coastal town on the far west coast of South Australia. We thought it was time for a change plus we’ve got a daughter and her family here.

It’s the sort of place where people don’t bother to lock their doors when they go out. Hopefully, when that ‘rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem’ arrives we’ll be far enough away to miss it all.

The nearest large town is Port Lincoln, a fishing and grain exporting hub.

Like a lot of isolated towns, this one has a lively arts scene. This month they’re holding the inaugural Eyre Peninsula Writers’ Week as part of their broader SALT Festival of Arts.

Continue reading "The Fitzpatrick School of Scatterbrained Writing" »

Australia’s relationship with PNG enters disaster territory


APRIL is proving to be the most disastrous month in the history of Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea, with yet another crisis in Malcolm Turnbull’s concentration camp on Manus Island, to the north of the PNG mainland.

At a time when the West is struggling to win the hearts and minds of Papua New Guinea in the face of a concerted Chinese diplomatic effort to do the same, Manus has once again blown up in Australia’s face.

Last week’s riot during which PNG Defence Force personnel fired approximately 100 rounds from military weapons into the refugee compound has created even more animosity towards Turnbull’s Australia.

Continue reading "Australia’s relationship with PNG enters disaster territory" »

Doubt on future of Pacific trade deal without PNG & Fiji

Sink Pacer PlusMICHAEL FIELD | Nikkei Asian Review | Edited extracts

FOURTEEN Pacific nations, some of the world's smallest and poorest, agreed Thursday to a trade and economic agreement with rich neighbours Australia and New Zealand after eight years of tortuous negotiations.

In the wake of the collapse of the much bigger trans-pacific partnership agreement, the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) was touted as a unique, unprecedented trade and development deal for the sustainable economic development of the region.

The deal was agreed at a meeting of trade ministers in Brisbane, Australia.

Continue reading "Doubt on future of Pacific trade deal without PNG & Fiji" »

Influenza pandemic: Is PNG ready for the ‘Big One’?

Flu inoculationPAUL OATES

HEIGHTENED awareness of the oncoming influenza season in Australia raises questions about whether Papua New Guinea is ready for a predicted severe flu epidemic.

This year a single injection offering some protection against four strains of flu is being offered to the Australian population based on flu varieties currently circulating in the Northern Hemisphere.

So what is the difference between the common cold and influenza? Most people when they catch a cold should rest and drink plenty of water.

There are 200 or more viruses that can cause a cold. These viruses infect a person’s upper respiratory tract and are often grouped under the acronym, URTI.

Continue reading "Influenza pandemic: Is PNG ready for the ‘Big One’?" »

Doubts over independence of PNG election management


DOUBTS have been expressed about the impartiality of an election steering committee which controls funds for managing Papua New Guinea's upcoming elections.

A US$120 million election budget is to be controlled by the committee whose chairman is the chief secretary to the PNG government, Isaac Lupari, rather than the electoral commissioner.

A number of intending candidates were concerned that this arrangement could enable interference in the Electoral Commission's role in managing the elections.

Intending Hela Province candidate Raymond Kuai said the constitution states the commission must operate independently from any other arm of government.

Continue reading "Doubts over independence of PNG election management" »

O’Neill supports Panguna reopening under BCL management


PAPUA New Guinea prime minister Peter O’Neill has indicated his support for Bougainville Copper Limited to resume operations on Bougainville.

Bougainville president John Momis said this will provide BCL with the level of assurance it needs to manage sovereign risk and take meaningful steps to start feasibility work. 

Dr Momis said the prime minister had also agreed to establish a steering committee will include representation from the PNG and Bougainville governments, landowners and BCL.

Continue reading "O’Neill supports Panguna reopening under BCL management" »

Could you become an Aussie? Take our test, oi, oi, oi….


AUSTRALIAN immigration minister Peter Dutton (pictured, bless him) has just announced tighter controls over people seeking Australian citizenship.

My wife Rose applied for citizenship three months ago (and hasn't heard anything yet thanks to the efficiency and alacrity of the Department of Foreign Affairs).

So I thought I’d try my hand at the citizenship test that all applicants have to answer. It's a bit like a cultural driving test.

Continue reading "Could you become an Aussie? Take our test, oi, oi, oi…." »

The Day I Saw My Name

The Day I Saw My NameJIMMY AWAGL

THE streets of Four Corner Town, Kundiawa, baked under the hot sun and I covered my blonde hair and fair skin beneath an old rainbow umbrella as I strode towards the post office.

I gave a glance back and saw one of the street vendors from Dom tribe staring at my bum. I continued my walk with a smile but I was already missing those cute eyes.

I put my hand into my bilum, pulled out the cell phone and rang my dad.

“Daddy, I’m on my way to the education office.”

“For what? Are you alone?” asked dad sharply.

“My classmates told me the selection list was on the notice board. I’m in a rush and didn’t arrange for someone to accompany me.”

Continue reading "The Day I Saw My Name" »

Law, custom & compensation in Melanesia: restoring the balance

Compensation & reconciliationGARRY ROCHE

THE word ‘compensation’ has at times taken on a negative connotation in Papua New Guinea.

This is due in part to the occasional behaviour of victims or relatives of victims demanding disproportionate compensation for injuries or deaths.

However, before rejecting claims of compensation or actions relating to compensation, it is useful to more carefully examine the concept and the legal processes underpinning it.

The word ‘compensation’ is derived from ‘com’ meaning together, and ‘pendere’ meaning to weigh.  So the original meaning of the word is to evaluate or to restore a balance. The Pidgin phrase ‘skelim na stretim’ provides a good parallel.

Continue reading "Law, custom & compensation in Melanesia: restoring the balance" »

Dealing with gender-based violence in our changing society


GENDER-based violence in Papua New Guinea has increased over the years with dire physical, psychological, social and economic consequences and serious human rights implications.

Research and findings by government and non-government organisations point to the fact that gender-based violence is an epidemic affecting thousands of people, especially women and children.

In the patriarchal structure of Melanesian society we view women as a passive and weaker class who must be submissive to husbands, brothers and fathers and who cannot operate or live independently.

Continue reading "Dealing with gender-based violence in our changing society" »

Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a partial solution

Model of Australian non-citizen technical advisers employed by aid contractorsCARMEN VOIGT-GRAF, JOACHIM LUMA & MICHAEL ANDERSON*| DevPolicy Blog | Edited

THE reliance on non-citizen technical advisers is a contentious part of Australia’s aid program in Papua New Guinea.

It has been criticised for the significant costs associated with non-citizen technical advisers, the perceived ‘boomerang’ effect of this aid model, and the lack of effectiveness of advisory support.

Critics often point out that there is little evidence advisers have made any real contribution to capacity building within PNG’s public sector.

On the other hand, it should be recognised that Australia generally only provides advisers to PNG because of a (perceived) lack of local skills and capacity and because many requests for advisers are made.

Continue reading "Aid advisers in Papua New Guinea: a partial solution" »

Momis on Somare: It all started with barbecue & beer in Wewak

The young John MomisThe young Michael Somare 2JOHN L MOMIS*

MY personal relationship with Sir Michael Somare dates back to our younger days. Fate brought us together over barbecue and beer in Wewak.

Little did we know that soon we would be partners in forging a path for Papua New Guinea. I was full of idealism and he was brimming with pragmatism.

The combination of two different yet attuned minds resulted in greater efforts to blaze that path; one which not many at that time dared to tread.

Our minds were shaped by the events of the tumultuous 1960s when young men in America were sent to wage war in Vietnam and personalities like Martin Luther King and the Kennedys were taking the world by storm with their ideals and advocacy.

Continue reading "Momis on Somare: It all started with barbecue & beer in Wewak" »

Oz missteps with Pacific media – more than just bad manners

Tess Newton CainTESS NEWTON CAIN* | Vanuatu Daily Post

SO THE prime minister of Australia visited Papua New Guinea. It was a very short visit (he was on his way to India).

The relationship between Australia and PNG is a complex and complicated one. Recently, it has not been an easy one, so this visit could and should have been a great opportunity.

It seems hard to believe that one very short visit could generate so much controversy. But it did.

Before prime minister Malcolm Turnbull arrived, there were concerns that the visit was too close to the forthcoming elections in PNG.

Continue reading "Oz missteps with Pacific media – more than just bad manners" »

PNG courts always took customary practice into account

Daru-Village-Court (World Bank)ROSS WILKINSON

ONE of the most important points missing in discussions on the operation of the law in colonial Papua New Guinea is the understanding that native customs existed and drove the way village people behaved and had to be considered at some point in the eventual legal determination.

Chris Overland has alluded to the knowledge and use of native custom by kiaps applying the law and Phil Fitzpatrick has stated how the formal court system and native custom application were entwined when determining cases involving Papua New Guineans.

There was legislation enacted and known as the Native Customs Recognition Ordinance that directed that this had to happen.

Continue reading "PNG courts always took customary practice into account" »

The novel that Francis Nii had to write


Tears: A Novel by Francis Nii, Simbu Writer’s Association, Kundiawa, 122 pages, ISBN: 978-1544965291, US$7.00 plus postage from Amazon Books.

BACK in the 1960s, during a census patrol in the highlands, I called out a man’s name and watched him pull himself across the muddy ground to the table where I sat.

He looked up at me and grinned before affirming the details I had about him, including the cryptic observation in the notes column that he was, indeed, a ‘cripple’.

It wasn’t so much the fact of the man’s obvious and severely misshapen spine and useless legs that stayed with me but the look of fierce determination I saw in his eyes.

I encountered something similar just recently when three of Papua New Guinea’s writers travelled to Australia for the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. Among them was Francis Nii, a paraplegic confined to a wheelchair after a vehicle accident.

Continue reading "The novel that Francis Nii had to write" »

Call for extra security in Hela before national elections

Hela villages are protected by trenches and gates (Johnny Blades)RADIO NEW ZEALAND INTERNATIONAL

THE spectre of tribal fighting is a constant in Papua New Guinea's Hela Province where villages are typically protected by trenches and tightly guarded gates.

And there remains an urgent need for bolstered security in Hela, according to its deputy governor.

Thomas Potobe's comment came after a military and police call-out last year to a province plagued by tribal conflict and a build-up of high-powered firearms.

In late December, 300 police and military personnel were deployed to the region which is central to the country's US$19 billion LNG gas project.

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Churches demand Manus Island asylum seekers be evacuated

Bullet holeTHE GUARDIAN | With Australian Associated Press

CHURCHES and refugee advocates are calling for asylum seekers on Manus Island to be evacuated to Australia after shots were fired when local men tried to storm the facility.

The Human Rights Law Centre, the Australian Churches Refugee Taskforce and Amnesty International have said the shooting incident on Friday shows the centre is not safe and the refugees and asylum seekers detained there must be removed to Australia while resettlement in the US progresses.

The Papua New Guinea Defence Force issued a statement on Saturday saying that the incident was triggered by a disagreement over the use of a football field on the naval base that surrounds the Australian-run camp.

“The asylum seeker residents are supposed to vacate the oval at 6pm daily, and it is alleged that when they were asked to do so to enable dependents of the base to play on the oval, some of them refused,” a statement from the military’s chief of staff says.

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PNG medical supplies contract comes under proper oversight

MedicineLAWRENCE STEPHENS | Transparency International PNG

TRANSPARENCY International PNG (TIPNG) has welcomed the announcement by the Central Supply and Tenders Board chairman, Dr Ken Ngangan, that the medical supplies contract will be subject to the results of a public tender.

“It is not easy for the public service to follow procedures established to protect the interests of the people and the rights of qualified suppliers to compete fairly to provide goods and services," said Mr Stephens.

Since 2013, TIPNG - through its Community Coalition Against Corruption - consistently asked for an investigation into the award of the contract to Borneo Pacific Pharmaceuticals after tendering rules were changed and the company was awarded a contract which cost the people of PNG nearly K100 million.

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Legal regimes collide – customary law & modern conflict law


CONTRARY to popular theory, Papua New Guinea was not in a legal vacuum when first colonised.

Papua New Guinean societies were well organised and effectively governed by Melanesian customary law.

During the time Melanesian customary law ruled, there were no formal police services, defence forces, courts of law and prisons but crime rates were low compared to the present time.

There was minimal rape, corruption, robbery and violence - except where disputes or isolated savage acts triggered tribal warfare.

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Siane Wena: the jungle girl who made her parents proud

UPNG graduation ceremonyJIMMY AWAGL

THE rays of the morning sun did not penetrate the canopy of Siane jungle at the foot of Mount Elimbari.

But the couple – half naked and wearing tree bark and leaves – who lived there with their pretty daughter enjoyed the tranquillity of the virgin forest.

They raised their daughter on the protein and fruit they hunted and gathered from the jungle. She grew up as a jungle queen.

Then her parents planned to change this life. They went hunting at night for bandicoot and possum and returned with a hefty catch.

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On Manus, how trivial dispute over sports field led to violence

Knight_Ron (Nathan Edwards)RON KNIGHT MP

Overnight, in a Twitter stream, the member of parliament for Manus Open, Ron Knight (pictured), told of how the recent violence developed drawing from reports he received from participants and observers. We have assembled the tweets into this story. The image below is the full text of a statement on the incident released last night by PNG Defence Force chief of staff, Colonel Raymond Numa....

THE children of soldiers attempted to play soccer on the base sports field while asylum seekers were also passing ball around. They were yelled at and chastised.

A duty officer in uniform stepped in and asked them to share the field. He was assaulted and chased off the field bleeding.

Duty personnel arrived and the base alarm sounded.

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Neither unique nor alone on a journey towards national disaster


KESSY Sawang has provided a clear and concise summary of the O'Neill government's appalling record of economic and fiscal incompetence.

The question is: does anyone in PNG know or care?

Have the national media published a summary of Ms Sawang's excellent paper? Has it caused a national uproar it deserves or simply been greeted with incomprehension or a shrug of resigned indifference?

Sadly, I suspect that the large majority of Papua New Guineans neither know nor care about the situation. Given that most continue to live traditional lives this makes some sense but their disengagement and ignorance will doom the country to further misrule.

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