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67 posts from December 2017

So you think there were never elephants in Mt Hagen?

Elephant at Mt Hagen Show  1973GARRY ROCHE

DUBLIN – Mt Hagen was a long way from the African savannah in 1973, in fact it still is, but for a brief glorious moment it was able to boast that it had elephants. Or, to be precise, an elephant.

I happened to attend the Mt Hagen Show in that year, I had my camera on standby and I took the money shot (right).

This elephant was transported to the highlands especially for the show by South Pacific Brewery.

In the photo, the elephant is preceded by the band of the Pacific Islands Regiment and flanked by students from Fatima High School.

I can’t remember whether it was the PIR pipe band or brass band but, despite its big ears, the elephant didn’t seem to mind either way.

Continue reading "So you think there were never elephants in Mt Hagen?" »

The exigencies of Empire: Those were the days my friend


Burmese Days by George Orwell, Penguin Modern Classics, 2010, Paperback, 320 pages, $A15.76. Available from The Book Depository

TUMBY BAY - I can’t remember ever being without a book to read. Being caught bookless is one of my worst nightmares.

In the wilds of Western Province in the 1960s, two or three thick books in my patrol box were as essential as the tins of bully beef and bags of rice.

I don’t know how many books I’ve read over the years but it must be many thousands.

Following such a span of time, I’ve more recently discovered - and delighted in - re-reading some of those books.

I would recommend the practice. Many of the books I read in my teens and in my early 20s and 30s now offer a totally different reading experience.

Continue reading "The exigencies of Empire: Those were the days my friend" »

Papua New Guinea gets its largest-ever conservation area

Managalas-mapMORGAN ERICKSON-DAVIS | News Editor, Mongabay

SAINT PAUL, MINNESOTA - Papua New Guinea has established its largest-ever protected conservation area: the 3,600-sq km Managalas Conservation Area in the southeast of the country stretching from near the ocean into the mountains.

The move is being celebrated by conservation organisations and local communities that have been working for 32 years to establish more protections for the region.

The Managalas Conservation Area was officially declared at Itokama village on 29 November 29 by Environment and Climate Minister John Pundari and Oro Governor Gary Juffa.

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Notes on ending the violence echo chamber & asserting real action

Rashmii Bell
Rashmii Bell


BRISBANE – In that genre of storytelling in which animals are cast to convey human satires, Aesop’s fables are perhaps most likely to be recalled: ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, ‘The Gnat and the Bull’ and ‘The Lion and the Mouse’ come quickly to the mind.

In her ’A Biography of Story, A Brief History of Humanity’, author Trish Nicholson tells of this tradition of stories and proverbs surfacing in 3,000BC in the land of Gilgamesh (Mesopotamia) and existing through the centuries.

The tradition survived throughout lands distant and near, re-told, re-interpreted and translated to suit the society in which it emerged next.

Its intent was always the same: “providing common sense wisdom on how to live amongst others whilst remaining true to ourselves, and the consequences of failing to do so.”

The inclusion of ‘The History of Reynard the Fox’ in ’A Biography of Story’ seemed to me a well-thought gift which demanded my reckoning.

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Why do all the taxi drivers come from Hagen?


Port Moresby morning rush
Peak hour in Port Moresby

TUMBY BAY - Here’s an interesting question. Which is the biggest highlands town in Papua New Guinea?

Port Moresby of course! Followed by Lae and Madang.

Over the course of some 50 years going back and forth to Papua New Guinea, I’ve seen these sleepy little coastal towns slowly transform into burgeoning highlands metropolises.

Nowadays they all look like Mount Hagen with waves.

I’ve got lots of highland friends who happily stay where they were born but others, through sheer weight of numbers, come to dominate the places where they settle and their habits and customs eventually take precedence.

Continue reading "Why do all the taxi drivers come from Hagen?" »

Morauta says PNG budget not credible & economy in crisis

Sir Mekere Morauta (Post-Courier)
Sir Mekere Morauta


PORT MORESBY - A Papua New Guinean political veteran has said the O’Neill government is looking for an easy way out of an economic crisis it has created through waste, mismanagement and corruption.

Former prime minister Sir Mekere Morauta, who is now an opposition MP, said the 2018 budget, released last week was not credible and was laden with fabrications.

Sir Mekere, who is also a former central banker and economist, said the government was raiding and crippling state owned enterprises for quick cash.

State owned enterprises were sick, he said, due to rising debt, poor investment decisions and earlier dividend raids.

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Organising the disorganised: The informal economy voice strategy

Busa Jeremiah Wenogo
Busa Wenogo


PORT MORESBY - Despite its contribution to the Papua New Guinean economy by way of providing employment and income to almost 85% of the population, especially women, very little has been done to promote the country’s informal economy.

Although the PNG government has made clear its intention to support the growth of the informal economy, participants are largely marginalised from government plans and priorities.

Participants in the country’s large but fragmented informal economy lack “voice” or the ability to collectively bargain with the government to ensure their issues are addressed.

There is no proper mechanism to allow for dialogue between the government and informal economy participants. As a result, the informal economy operates in anarchy with very little or no control from the government.

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PNG opposition blasts Peter O’Neill over ‘fake budget’

Fake budgetNEWS DESK | Pacific Media Centre

AUCKLAND - Papua New Guinea’s opposition has declared it will fight a good fight to expose and oppose what it describes the 2018 state money plan as a “fake budget”, reports the PNG Post-Courier.

However, rival daily newspaper, The National, quotes prime minister Peter O’Neill as describing the K14.7 billion budget as Papua New Guinea’s “best in 16 years”.

The opposition’s shadow minister for treasury and finance Ian Ling-Stuckey presented the “alternative government” 2018 Budget response titled “Fake Revenues, Fake Loans and a Fake Budget”, the Post-Courier reported.

He said the 2018 Budget was filled with misguided spending priorities, failed plans for financing and yet another huge deficit that would burden “our children” with too much expensive debt.

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Australian carpenters' horror work trip to Port Moresby

Security guard with shotgun outside Airways Hotel  Port Moresby (AAP)
Security guard with shotgun outside Airways Hotel, Port Moresby (AAP)

LAUREN McMAH | New Zealand Herald | Extract

PORT MORESBY - When Queensland carpenter Trent Jenkins agreed to go to Port Moresby for work, he knew he'd be helping to build a university.

What he didn't know was that a few weeks in, he'd find himself cowering in a room, metres from gunfire, with his temporary home under siege.

Jenkins, 32, has told of the horrifying experience he and his brother had in August while both were living and working in the Papua New Guinea capital, which has the dubious honour of being the most at-risk location for Australian business travellers.

The brothers, both carpenters, had been in Port Moresby for a month working with a large Australian construction company that operates in Papua New Guinea.

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Crackdown: PNG to review work permits of expatriates

Immigration at Jacksons Airport
Immigration at Jacksons Airport, Port Moresby

STAFF REPORTER | Radio New Zealand International

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea's Labour minister Mehrra Kipefa says the work permits of all expatriates in the country will be reviewed, and the rules for new permits will be tightened.

Mr Kipefa also said the rules for the issuing of new permits would be tightened.

He said the review would ensure expatriate workers are only working the one job for which their permit was issued.

He told the newspaper, The National, that some expats have been granted a permit to do a certain job, but then go on to do other things.

Mr Kipefa said those found to be in breach would have their permits cancelled and be deported.

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Australian lenders jostle for huge PNG financing deal

& JOYCE MOULLAKIS | Australian Financial Review

SYDNEY - Key project debt lenders have been giving their passports and travel insurers a workout as they troop up to Papua New Guinea to get to grips with what could be the region's biggest financing since the record $US20 billion deal for Ichthys LNG.

While the final configuration of the next stage of LNG expansion in PNG is yet to be settled, those behind the circa $US17 billion project - primarily ExxonMobil, Total and Oil Search - are already well advanced in considering funding.

A large project finance facility is understood to be the favoured option, building on the experience of the $US14 billion funding for the initial PNG LNG project.

Oil Search is understood to have hosted a number of local project finance bankers to PNG in recent weeks, with several testing the lay of the land again last week at a petroleum conference in Port Moresby, which also attracted a host of engineering contractors vying for a piece of the action.

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Historian Ken Inglis, onetime UPNG vice-chancellor, dies at 88


CANBERRA - Kenneth Stanley (Ken) Inglis AO died on Friday after a long and highly acclaimed career as historian and an academic career that traversed the corridors of Oxford University, his role as Vice-Chancellor in the early developmental days of the University of Papua New Guinea and for many years as Professor of History at the Australian National University.

Emeritus Professor Inglis was especially noted as the author of what has been termed “a magisterial two-volume chronicle of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (‘This is the ABC’ and ‘Whose ABC?’), his biography of war correspondent Charles Bean and Sacred Places, his study of war memorials.

Just back from Oxford in 1956, as a lecturer at the University of Adelaide, the then Dr Inglis wrote The Stuart Case, an examination of the conviction for murder and subsequent commutation of Aboriginal man Max Stuart.

From 1967 to 1975 Prof Inglis worked at UPNG, first as Professor of History then as Vice-Chancellor, a period captured in a recent article by Ian Maddox and Seumas Spark,Taim Bilong Uni – Ken Inglis at the University of PNG’.

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Murder, rape, high powered guns - & police to scared to act

Cathy Mek (Helen Davidson)
Cathy Mek - raped at knife-point during an attack by a neighbouring tribe (Helen Davidson)

HELEN DAVIDSON | The Guardian | Extract

You can read Helen’s complete article here

WAPENA - “It was in the night, we didn’t see them coming. There was a guy who came in the house, and everybody without disabilities they decided to run off, leaving the place, [but] I couldn’t run.”

Twenty-year-old Cathy Mek speaks in barely more than a whisper. She’s sitting on a thin bamboo bench in a quiet, private clearing above her village of Wapena, in the highlands of Papua New Guinea.

It’s a region known for inter-tribal violence as much as stunning scenery and Wapena – perched on a hill overlooking the tidy crops and lush valleys of Western province – is no exception for either.

But rape, indiscriminate destruction and automatic weapons are changing the face of traditional conflict, and PNG authorities and international non-governmental associations are struggling to get a handle on the deteriorating situation.

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Experts will come together to improve Pacific health

Med PacificHealthSTAFF REPORTER | University of Queensland

BRISBANE - New research partnerships to tackle health challenges in the Pacific, including violence against women and girls, are expected to result from an important gathering at the University of Queensland next year.

Hosted by UQ’s School of Public Health, the Pacific health governance workshop will be the first in a series of events to address some challenging aspects of health policy.

UQ researcher Dr Owain Williams said the workshop will be a catalyst for joint projects in research and innovation in health, governance and development.

“The workshop will cover issues such as gender-based violence, disease pandemics, sanitation, food security and non-communicable diseases,” said Dr Williams.

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West Papua: Raising the colours of a country that doesn't exist

Protesters in Vanuatu support West Papua’s fight for independence
Vanuatu protesters raise the flag of West Papua in a demonstration on Friday

CHANTAL DA SILVA | The Independent

Read the complete article here

LONDON - In West Papua, simply raising the Morning Star flag – a symbol of the island’s fight for independence from Indonesia – can result in 15 years of imprisonment.

But more than 12,000 kilometres away in the UK, the forbidden flag was raised this morning outside Oxford’s town hall for the tenth year in a row.

Oxford is one of more than 250 locations across 50 countries worldwide expected to raise the Morning Star flag today in a show of solidarity with tens of thousands of West Papuans calling for international intervention in the fight for independence from Indonesia.

“In West Papua, the whole essence of our humanity is being reduced to nothing. We are treated like animals and endure what some have described as an ‘apartheid-like’ military occupation,” exiled Free West Papua campaign leader Benny Wenda, who was granted political asylum in the UK in the early 2000s, and lives in Oxford, told The Independent.

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Aspirational Orchids seek to break cycle of domestic violence

Orchids (Courier-Mail)
Orchids national rugby league team - hurriedly assembled but came together brilliantly to inspire PNG

CAROLINE LAYT | Inside Sport

SYDNEY - The newly formed Papua New Guinea’s women’s rugby league team have created a much needed presence for sports women in their country following a spirited World Cup campaign.

With a United Nations report putting domestic violence levels committed against women in PNG at 67%, the Orchids have created a much needed pathway for women to aspire and escape the cycle of domestic violence.

Orchids captain Cathy Neap told Inside Sport how important the team’s presence was in giving squad members a profile at home.

Neap said her squad were now performing similar feats on the field as PNG men’s team making what she believes is a permanent change for the better.

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Messages by Manus Island refugee win major journalism award

LEE MANNION | Thomson Reuters Foundation

SMH cartoon by Kathy Wilcox
Sydney Morning Herald cartoon by Kathy Wilcox,
29 November 2017

LONDON - A podcast made from 5,000 WhatsApp messages sent on a smuggled smartphone by a refugee on the Australian-run Manus Island detention centre has won an award for excellence in journalism.

The Messenger’ podcast, which won best radio/audio feature at Australia’s Walkley Awards on Wednesday, was produced by a team led by freelance journalist Michael Green, who exchanged voice messages with Sudanese refugee Abdul Aziz Muhamat.

The podcast reveals, in intimate detail, Muhamat’s memories of fleeing tragedy and seeking asylum by boat as well as his recent forcible removal from the centre in Papua New Guinea.

“It has given me a chance to say something about my life, and also to report what has been happening for the last four and a half years in the detention centre,” Muhamat said in a statement.

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