Trying to better understand corruption & violence in PNG politics
How are we going in educating our kids? Backwards

Not Africa. The sleeping giant of the Pacific awakes

Jordan Dean - selfie at KLCC Twin TowersJORDAN DEAN

PORT MORESBY - “Papua New Guinea, mmm, is that somewhere in Africa?” said my new friend from Gambia after I introduced myself over dinner.

At the same table were colleagues from Thailand, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria; all of us attending a three-week technical program on green energy and technology in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I wondered if my Gambian friend had difficulties with geography during his schooldays, since I was quite good with the atlas and could name the capital cities of a hundred countries before I finished primary school.

Anyway, he had a master’s degree in public policy and I didn’t, so he wasn’t academically deficient.

Perhaps his ignorance was because PNG isn’t a rich and powerful country and not big in the mass media.

There are perceptible differences between us and Africans. For example, I’m light brown and don’t have a soccer-ball shaped face. Better looking than an African, right?

But then, history tells us that the island of New Guinea was named after Guinea in Africa. So I don’t really blame him for the misunderstanding.

In fact, his was a common mistake. Several of the people I came across during my time in Malaysia thought Papua New Guinea was somewhere in Africa. But they knew where Australia, New Zealand and Fiji were located.

I explained what we all know - that PNG shares a land border with Indonesia and is just above Australia.

“Ah, rugby league,” my Gambian friend remarked after getting his head around it.

Yes, rugby league. The State of Origin game is broadcast in over 90 countries. Australia has also given us Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Crocodile Dundee and Waltzing Mathilda. It has television channels that are viewed in Asia and Africa. That’s how far propaganda can go. Don’t get me wrong. I love Australians, especially Jessica Mauboy.

It may interest you that Malaysia once faced a similar dilemma. Their prime minister at the time was annoyed that other world leaders had no idea about Malaysia but knew Singapore, a tiny island state off the southern tip of Malaysia.

So in the 1990’s the PM decided to build the tallest twin tower in the world. These days, Malaysia is a popular tourist destination and one of the top 30 richest countries. You should have ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ on your bucket list of places to visit someday if you haven’t been there already.

Back at the dinner table I told my friends that Port Moresby (where I live and work) has a population of almost a million, almost the size of Auckland and much bigger than Cairns. I also repeated Peter O’Neill’s words that we have “world class” stadiums, a “world class” games village and a “world class” aquatic centre.

When I said PNG has a population of almost eight million, my friend was like ‘wow, that’s a big country!’ Gambia has a population 1.8 million.

MoresbyMaybe it’s immature to criticise the government’s decision to invest in “world class” infrastructure like sporting facilities, convention centres and the new APEC building.

We’ve hosted several international sporting events and major conferences in the last two years and in November will co-host the rugby league world cup with the APEC meeting to follow next year.  We need that infrastructure that meets international standards.

Perhaps, we should build the tallest tower in the Pacific region and really show that the economic giant of the south-west Pacific has awoken from its slumber.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

We have Lindsay - and came up wanting.

Mathias Kin

Brother Baka Bina...way to go!

Lindsay F Bond

From Phil, hope that “a wise and visionary leader…might lift…spirits of younger and future generations of PNGers”.

Has PNG Attitude earlier traversed that terrain by contour or contortion? Thus to shape aspiration?

Baka Bina

Jordan - The Mt Hagen show ended with no violence a weekend after all the election related violence erupted on the scene. We are a country that likes to sing and dance so Mt Hagen ended on a high note. If we had singsings every weekend, there will be no violence hopefully.

We have 22 provinces and 12 calendar months, enough provinces to hosts 2 singsing shows each month. If the Tourism Authority and the government can look at what we have here that is a natural talent, we can get all the recognition that we want.

We don’t want twin towers. We want a singingfest and we do our traditional singsings and get the government to build the infrastructure around that.
Imagine a tourist driving up the highway from Lae into eight provinces, Lae, Goroka, Kundiawa, Minj, Mt Hagen, Mendi, Tari, Wabag, onto Madang and eight provincial shows in two months, he'll be here forever. The money for the twin towers can build 8 hundred bed and breakfast places for more than a thousand visitors.

We need the government to plan out all the shows and festivals so that it flows from one province to the next and it is mapped out so that tourist can maximise. We want tour ships to go from Port Moresby to Alotau to Popondetta to Lae to Rabaul to Buka and to Kavieng and on Manus and Wewak and Madang.

Tourist money is money that Papua New Guineans don’t have to sweat over like picking coffee or making a garden or digging up our minerals. We have to offer more than the greenery. We have beaches that are on par with Fiji and Bali.

At Sio village in the Morobe province, there is an alcove there that is picturesque; a nice harbour, good spot for yachts’ and a spell of beach that is more that 2 kilometre long. Or there is a fresh water spring that gushes out clear see through water that can rival Franklin bottled water. This is the repeat scenario for many PNG places and it will remain so because no one knows about it let alone know about PNG.

That is where our twin towers should be in. Let us all urge the government to control and host all the singsings and festivals. It can start with the Kenu Festival and end with the Enga Show but there should be a big singsing in PNG every weekend somewhere.

No twin towers; give us a singsingfest PNG.

Chips Mackellar

Jordan, re "Papua New Guinea being somewhere in Africa" a similar experience happened to me.

We were in Germany, sitting in a bar talking generally but about nothing in particular when an American tourist sitting on the other side of me interrupted our conversation by saying, "Say. Where are you guys from. I caint work out your accents."

I said, "We're from Australia." He thought for a while then said "What part of the States is that?"

Now I normally don't think quickly, but this time I did. I said, "It's in the South. You know, Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Australia."

The American then said, "Ah.Yes. I remember now. It's in the South."

So it can happen to anyone.

Daniel Kumbon

This is further to my earlier comment on this article.

I am not in favour of skyscrapers. Port Moresby planners are influenced by the north. I suspect corruption crept into the country from up north.

As a Christian country, everybody should know the story about the Tower of Babel. It was built by people in the bible with one accord to reach heaven. They all spoke one language.

But God didn’t want their motive so He scattered them to the ends of the earth.

No, the government cannot build sky scrapers and towers to catch world attention when its people are suffering on the periphery in dire need of basic services like health, education and infrastructure development.

What the O’Neill-Abel government needs is good advice.

Africans are our distant cousins. Our forbears came from the direction of Africa.

PNG can learn a lot from some African countries. Some people like Robert Mugabe will die a corrupt man.

Other African countries like Botswana have good leaders. The government there has done a lot for its people from the proceeds of its mineral wealth deposits like diamonds.

What is PNG doing with the proceeds from its gold, silver, copper, oil, gas and other God-given rich natural resources?

We have opened bank accounts in Asian countries to manage the proceeds from our LNG project.

We allow our forest resources to be exploited by companies from up north.

The government can’t contemplate on building super highways, high rise buildings and sports complexes in Port Moresby to impress the world when the rest of the country is suffering.

We must not hold hands with people who are here only to exploit us.

Philip Fitzpatrick

I just wandered past a television that was broadcasting some sort of quiz show on an Australian commercial station.

Did you know that the longest river in Papua New Guinea is the 'Seppik'?

Philip Fitzpatrick

A wise and visionary leader after the style of Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi might lift the spirits of 'younger and future generations of PNGers' Lindsay.

Lindsay F Bond

Equity of opportunity (and democracy too) is one area of consideration in appraising contribution from Chris, the calibration of successful being inequitably shaded on maps, Asia in point, breath-takingly.

Of measure from Phil, eye-catching is a widely-sought pleasure of habitat and workspace.

What vision is on offer lifting spirit of younger and future generations of PNGers, as of what Jordan writes?

Chris Overland

I write in support of Mathias Kin's comments. To my mind he is absolutely right. PNG's leadership need to focus on the basics, not upon building vast edifices.

The edifice complex is a well understood condition that appears to afflict otherwise perfectly rational people who enter politics.

Those afflicted seem to believe that the erection of huge stadia, monuments or sky scrapers is necessary to proclaim their and their nation's greatness.

Those who do this are almost always men, so it is safe to assume some type of phallic symbolism is involved.

Sadly, this condition has been around almost since humans could even build such edifices.

Thus, the bible records the construction of the Tower of Babel, while the Pharaoh's constructed huge pyramids to demonstrate that their power and divinity could even transcend death.

Later on, the Emperor Vespasian ordered the construction of the Colosseum as his gift to the Roman people. Vespasian was personally under no illusions about his basic humanity but understood the power of symbolism perfectly well.

Still later, the Kings of France undertook the construction of the Palace of Versailles, which was consciously intended to be the most glamorous and awe inspiring symbol of royal power anywhere in the world.

The thing is, all of the edifices that I have mentioned have either long since vanished or are museums and tourist attractions. We can still marvel at them, but any political power or symbolism associated with them is long since gone.

The politicians and thinkers who have really made a useful difference have almost invariably left us a legacy of important ideas, not buildings.

Most especially important are those ideas that have led to increases in the freedom, wealth and well being of the following generations.

So, what really endures from the days of the Pharaohs are things like the concept of a written language, while the Romans bequeathed us both their language, engineering knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, the idea that a huge and diverse population could be governed under a consistent, systematic body of written laws.

Bearing this in mind, the finest legacy that PNG's leaders can hope to leave behind is a system of governance which is honest, competent and focussed on achieving the greatest good for the greatest number of the country's citizens.

Only by liberating PNG's peoples from the tyranny of poverty, ignorance and ill health can the country's true potential be realised.

This means focussing with laser like intensity on the basics like health, educations, transport and so forth, not building yet another sky scraper.

This is not glamorous work and sometimes even thankless, but it indisputably works.

Just like Britain, Europe and the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries, the truly successful countries in Asia like China, Singapore and Malaysia have done exactly this and the results are plain to see.

This is the great lesson of history, if only those in power can see it.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Agree Mathias - the last thing PNG needs is eye-catching buildings. There are lots of things that need addressing before you can think about flash buildings.

Putting up flash buildings is dictator thinking.

Previous colonial nations, especially in Africa, are full of decaying skyscrapers and jet planes from failed national airline companies rotting in fields.

The neo-liberals aim is for the whole world to look like California. The term California-ization was coined in the 1970s to cover this development.

Papua New Guinea needs to retain its natural assets to make its mark in the world.

Mathias Kin

Phil, we're just a dot in a vast expense of the Pacific, true! On the trend, this insinuation that we need eye catching buildings to get recognition is not the direction our our mostly rural based people need.

Let the world do it their way, we can achieve greatness from what's around us. Our diversities as a people and in our geography, our abundant natural resources, and who says we don't have enough trained people on this land?

Our people need well functioning education and health systems, money earned from oil gas gold spend on building rice plantation in the Markham, the Sepik plains, hydro electricity generated from the Wahgi, completion of a national highway from Vanimo all the way to Alotau.

But all these can not be realized with the current lot of self serving greedy pigs in the haus tambaran currently and over 40 years now.

This I believe is the biggest huddle this country must overcome to realise anything and reach any height.

Lindsay F Bond

From European cathedrals to Chicagoan class of edifices to Arabian towering sensations, size impresses.
Invention and adventure contributed but coin constituted centrally to construction, commerce impressed.


Viewed from slumber’s escape, some taller storeys are likely imprest.

Viewing Jordan’s pitch, will that be of Paga placement or of Poreporena podium?

Philip Fitzpatrick

According to our politicians in Australia our nearest neighbour is Indonesia.

For them Papua New Guinea doesn't even exist.

I'm not sure what they think is there just to our north, a vast expanse of ocean perhaps?

Paul Oates

Don't feel alone Jordan. In many places in Europe, people looked at my name tag which read Australian Farmers Travel (no pun intended), and started to speak to me in German.

'Nein, nein,' I would say. Aus--stra--lia' kangaroos, etc. and making hopping actions with my fingers.

In one instance one young man's face suddenly lit up and he said, 'Ah. Harry Kewell'.

There must have been some resonance over the years for there is now a franchise called 'No Kangaroos in Austria'. You can get 'T' shirts, cups, mugs, etc. with our kangaroos on it and the logo in English but whether that has any impact on German speakers is a moot point.

`Daniel Kumbon

I heard recently Cambodia's capital city Phnom Penh once used to have a low key skyline but it was transforming with high rise buildings and intense economic activity.

Soon a 555 metre colossus, the Diamond Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world, will dwarf every other building in the capital.

Cambodia is rising from the ashes from the time Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge communist regeme took over government in 1975, coincidently the year PNG became independent.

Somewhere on its journey, PNG picked up the Look North Policy. The country appears to be already influenced by the north. This Melanesian state looks Asian in every sense of the word.

And like you say Jordan, "Maybe it’s immature to criticise the government’s decision to invest in world class infrastructure like sporting facilities, convention centres and the new APEC building".

Definitely Port Moresby can have 'world class' infrastructure which can attract world attention and which people can look up to and be proud of.

But first we must find out the secret why Malaysia, Singapore, India, Dubai, Cambodia and other neighbouring countries are enjoying so much economic boom and able to build some of the tallest buildings in the world.

Forget Africa, it's so far away. We don't want to be like them, do we?

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