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73 posts from January 2018

I see; You see - The several sides of history

Dwyer  Leahy 1930.  Ewunga 4th from left in middle rowPHIL FITZPATRICK

“There is a crisis in the writing and teaching of Papua New Guinea history. It is created by the real gap between what is being made available through publication and the needs and demands for a truly autonomous and indigenous history.

“Put in the simplest terms, writers of history continue largely to publish histories dealing with foreigners, or at best, with relations between foreigners and Papua New Guineans or with actions and achievements of Papua New Guineans within a framework of foreign endeavours.

“But the educated and literate minority demands a history which makes known to them their own historical roots in the precolonial past, a history which is about their own people” - Rod Lacey 1981

Image: Dwyer & Leahy 1930. Ewunga is fourth from left in middle row

TUMBY BAY - In 1930 gold prospectors Mick Leahy and Michael Dwyer followed the Markam River and crossed the gap to the Ramu River valley. They then worked their way along several highland rivers, panning for gold, before descending the Purari River to the Papuan Gulf.

Ewunga Goiba, a Waria Valley man from the Morobe Province, accompanied them with a small band of warriors. The bosboi and his clansmen provided protection for the prospectors, organised carriers for them and acted as intermediaries with the new groups they met.

Continue reading "I see; You see - The several sides of history" »

Losing you never came with a manual


MADANG - It has been a while since I sent a piece to be published on PNG Attitude. I had a bit of a writer’s block as I lost my mum to cervical cancer a year ago. I wrote this piece for her - FCS

Losing you never came with a manual;
No manual on how to mend my broken heart

No instructions on how to get up and keep on moving forward;
No medicine to dull that ache, that has not gone away

No band-aid to mend that gaping hole you left in my heart and life;
No road leading up to you so I can see you whenever I want to

No way to share my joys and pains of being a wife and mother with you;
No one to comfort me and be strong for me when I am missing you

Continue reading "Losing you never came with a manual" »

Before mortgaging our inheritance, we should listen to elders

Sinaka Goava
Sinaka Goava


TUMBY BAY - In October 1973, Sinaka Goava and his eight commissioners submitted the final Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Land Matters to the Administrator of Papua New Guinea, Les Johnson.

It’s interesting to go back and review the many recommendations made in the report because it formed the basis of current land legislation in PNG, including the Land Group’s Incorporation Act, which APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko now seems intent on subverting.

Sinaka Goava, the commission’s chairman, was a respected magistrate with his own intriguing back story. Cletus Harepa was deputy and the commissioners were Edric Eupu, Pokwari Kale, Ignatius Kilage, Posa Kilori, Boana Rossi, Donigi Samuel and Philip To Bongolua. John Kup was also briefly a commissioner.

These were all community leaders with a vast knowledge of customary law and how it worked in relation to land.

Continue reading "Before mortgaging our inheritance, we should listen to elders" »

Economic crisis poses huge problems for higher education


Betty Gabriel Wakia
Betty Wakia

TIANJIN - Papua New Guinea’s economic problems hit pretty hard in 2017 and 2018 will be a tough year for families as prices have already increased on more than 900 household items already.

The rise in food prices has adversely affected the livelihood of socially vulnerable groups, especially for poorer people because their diets usually rely on items that are becoming more expensive such as rice, tinned fish, flour and cooking oil.

What also makes life worse for socially disadvantaged groups is the significant increase in fuel prices.

Every kina spent on increased prices for necessities is a kina that can’t be spent on educational and other services. So PNG is now confronted with an economic crisis which will have a dramatic effect on income, unemployment and lifestyle.

Continue reading "Economic crisis poses huge problems for higher education" »

With spinal surgery behind me (literally) there will still be some flutters & stutters with the blog as I move through rehab. But I'm now sitting up, walking a bit & anticipate being kicked out of hospital tomorrow - KJ

The great Ilimo farm mystery. Where are 746 cows & their grass?

Ilimo dairy farm
Ilimo Farm dairy (thanks to reader for helping out; we hope this is a more recent image!)


KUNDIAWA - The announcement by Innovation Agro Industries (IAI) at Ilimo Farm outside Port Moresby that its locally produced milk will find the shelves of PNG supermarkets next month has been received with mixed reactions.

IAI managing director Ian Weiss told PNG News that 746 cows were producing six tonnes of milk a day with production aimed to be ramped up to 12,000 tonnes a day by March.

“The quality is in the taste,” said Mr Weiss, “I’ve got years of diary experience and this is the best you can get globally.”

To many Papua New Guineans, the announcement is welcome news for the local economy especially at a time when imported milk product prices are high due to the falling value of the kina and government tariffs.

Once the IAI product hits the supermarkets, it will create competition against imports, giving consumers an economical choice.

Continue reading "The great Ilimo farm mystery. Where are 746 cows & their grass?" »

A sensible approach is needed to address the ‘betel nut problem’

Parkop & buai sign
Governor Powes Parkop addresses the media in front of a sign saying: 'Forbidden: You can't sell betel nut here"


PORT MORESBY - Social media in Papua New Guinea is again raging with debate around the buai (betel nut) ban.

This is because Powes Parkop, Governor of the National Capital District, announced a plan to reinstate the infamous buai ban.

While there is urgency to clean up Port Moresby in preparation for the APEC summit later this year, there is a lot to be desired about the national government's approach to the ‘buai problem’ and, more generally, the informal economy.

Experience from last time the ban was imposed points to a critical need for a more sensible approach.

From the outset, some form of stock take needs to be done to determine the impact of the previous betel nut ban towards achieving its desired objective - which was to keep the city clean. This would provide a basis for the next steps in addressing the issue.

As taxpayers' money was used to impose the ban, the public deserve to know the full cost and benefits of its previous implementation. But to this day there has been no report provided for public perusal.

Continue reading "A sensible approach is needed to address the ‘betel nut problem’" »

When Rev Wilhelm Bergmann met Chief Bongere of Kamaneku

The heart of Kundiawa today
Bergmann's "pretty flat space" - the heart of Kundiawa town today showing the infamous 'aircraft carrier' airstrip


An edited extract from Chapter 3 of ‘A History of Simbu’, a work in progress

KUNDIAWA - “Then we were on a pretty flat space. From that moment we came across the mountains and surveyed the area, I always had this place in mind and also told the others that this could be the station ground.”

That is what the Lutheran missionary Rev Wilhelm wrote after he and his team had climbed the hill from Wara [river] Chimbu to today’s Kundiawa in May 1934 on a pioneering expedition to identify suitable locations for mission stations.

The large team of  men, including five other white missionaries, made camp near a big garden where today’s Kundiawa’s nationl works compound stands. This was the garden of chief Bongere of Kamaneku and his family. At the time, the corn was ready to be harvested and the patrol wanted some but could not find the owner.

The people of the area had run away in fear of these strange people or were hiding in the bushes. Bergmann and his team took some corn from the garden and at that exact location left an axe and some shells, covering these valuable items with corn leaves. The next day the expedition moved on west.

Continue reading "When Rev Wilhelm Bergmann met Chief Bongere of Kamaneku" »

Some thoughts on writing history the Melanesian way

British in Port Moresby  1885
British troops observed by Motuan people in Port Moresby, 1885


TUMBY BAY - Like a lot of expatriates in Papua New Guinea prior to independence, I commenced a university degree through the University of Queensland’s school of external studies.

I didn’t have a particular goal in mind. My motives were to add some direction to my voracious reading habit and give me something to do in the evenings on the remote patrol posts where I worked.

My vague study plan allowed me to range over many different subjects. The only constraints were the rules of the university. In this way I flitted from one course to another as they caught my interest.

The plan would certainly not provide any particular qualification when my degree was completed. Rather it offered a good general education in the nature of the old style Victorian scholastic era.

Continue reading "Some thoughts on writing history the Melanesian way" »

O’Neill govt plan trashes traditional & colonial land legacies

Rainforest cleared for oil palm
Rainforest cleared for oil palm in PNG


ADELAIDE - Recently, PNG Attitude has been publishing a discussion on some of the unhappy events that occurred as the colonial regime extended its control over the tribes of Papua New Guinea.

However, one marvellous and positive legacy Australia left to PNG was that it did not allow the alienation of more than a very small area of land.

Even then, the land remained the property of the government as distinct from private individuals, who could only lease it.

The first Administrator of the then Territory of Papua, Sir William McGregor, insisted that only the government could buy land and that the policy of the colonial regime should be to restrict this to very small parcels.

Continue reading "O’Neill govt plan trashes traditional & colonial land legacies" »

Notes on the reliability of hearsay & interpretation of evidence

PNG traditional villageROSS WILKINSON

MELBOURNE - The discussion on Chimbu pacification has reached an interesting stage through its various manifestations over recent years since Mathias Kin published his initial findings.

Mathias is to be encouraged to continue his research and, in doing so, heed the advice of Chris Overland with his professional knowledge and experience regarding the value of historical evidence.

For my part I can be best described as an enthusiastic amateur, mainly dabbling in Australian military history. And yes, for those who’ve seen my previous articles and commentaries on various topics, I’m a former kiap (1968-81) which included a temporary three-month posting to Chimbu in 1969 and various other work-related visits thereafter.

Continue reading "Notes on the reliability of hearsay & interpretation of evidence" »

Big Pat – relaxed & offering advice from boroma & fish country

Big Pat on the Miaru river
Big Pat Levo & wantok on the Miaru river in the Gulf


NOOSA - Patrick (Big Pat) Levo – erstwhile features editor and court jester of the PNG Post-Courier (and in retirement back home in Gulf Province a fish fancier as you can see) - has quite a way with words.

“Your most eminent loftiness, apologies,” he wrote to me recently, after a delay in correspondence of some years. “I was upriver where the mosquitoes ask you for your blood type.”

Some years six or seven years ago, with the Crocodile Prize national literary awards just getting off the ground, Big Pat proved to be Big Helper as he organised PNG’s first national newspaper to give Phil Fitzpatrick and me some greatly valued support.

After much emailing, we finally met up in Moresby towards the end of 2011. That’s when I discovered that Big Pat was not big in the porcine sense but in the manner of a palm tree (tho' the pic shows he's filled out a bit since).

Sometime after that I heard Big Pat had retired and – then a long silence, until…. a message from the swamps.

“Sincere most heartfelt apologies, my dear fellow ink wasters and failed tank drivers and amateur boroma [Motu = pig] farmers.

Continue reading "Big Pat – relaxed & offering advice from boroma & fish country" »

Publish and, if you're from PNG, get ready to be damned

John Waiko and Bill Gammage  Canberra  2005 (Pacific Manuscripts Bureau)
John Waiko and Bill Gammage Canberra, 2005


TUMBY BAY - In September 2014, when I was in Port Moresby with Trevor Shearston for the Crocodile Prize awards, we went out to UPNG to have lunch with fellow authors Russell Soaba and Dr John Waiko.

Both were old friends of Trevor. I knew Russell from previous Crocodile Prize events but hadn’t met John.

Russell and John had been involved in the early literary scene in Papua New Guinea around the years of independence.

More recently, Russell had supplied me with photographs of himself to use in the artwork for the Inspector Metau novels. If you want to know what Inspector Metau looks like, think Russell Soaba.

John was not only a historian but a playwright; a veteran of one of Ulli Beier’s creative writing courses in the late 1960s.

Continue reading "Publish and, if you're from PNG, get ready to be damned" »

Unpaid bills threaten economy as PNG government owes billions

Mekere Morauta (2)
Sir Mekere Morauta

SIR MEKERE MORAUTA | Papua New Guinea Observer

PORT MORESBY - The State’s arrears - debts owed to suppliers of goods and services - are a noose around the nation’s financial neck. And the noose is tightening.

The national court’s decision to order the state to pay K110 million to Nambawan Super, so it can pay public servants who have retired but not received their superannuation entitlements, is timely. It is only fair that finally these retirees receive their entitlements.

It is a national shame that hard-working and loyal public servants who have served the government for decades are made to suffer in retirement by this heartless prime minister.

This same prime minister is happy to spend billions of kina on infrastructure and international meetings glorifying his name while ordinary people suffer.

There is lack of medicine, schools are not paid their grants in full and on time, teachers and other public servants are not paid leave fares, companies are going broke and people are losing their jobs because the government has not paid its bills.

Continue reading "Unpaid bills threaten economy as PNG government owes billions" »

Insights into dispossession and inequality in PNG

DispossessionCAMILLA BURKOT | Dev Policy Blog

Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea by Paige West, Columbia University Press, New York, 2016. Paperback, 216 pages, $US36.11. ISBN-10: 0231178794. Available from Amazon here

MELBOURNE - In a globalised world how are inequalities produced, experienced, and reinforced? It’s a big question for a small book, but one which Paige West admirably takes on in her 2016 essay collection, Dispossession and the Environment: Rhetoric and Inequality in Papua New Guinea.

In it, West, a professor of anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University in New York, draws on two decades of ethnographic fieldwork in PNG, primarily with Gimi-speaking peoples, as well as her involvement as a co-founder and board director of a national NGO there.

In short, as the title suggests, the book is concerned with the relationship between inequality and representation: the ways in which various forms of inequality presuppose and build upon specific representations of people and places. These representations are in turn premised on ideas about ‘nature’ and ‘culture’.

Continue reading "Insights into dispossession and inequality in PNG" »

The Kum River massacre - and truth & reconciliation

Kum River battleground not far from present day Mt Hagen
Kum River battleground not far from present day Mt Hagen


DUBLIN - After the end of apartheid  in South Africa a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to deal with much of the racial conflict in preceding years.

In this Commission, the emphasis was not on punishment of the guilty but on resolution of past hurts and grievances, even atrocities. Amnesty was granted to many participants. Most accounts say the Commission was successful.

Can there be ‘truth and reconciliation’ in the Papua New Guinean context? Perhaps we can we learn from traditional peace-making processes in the Highlands, such as that followed the Kum River massacre of 1942.

The massacre’ is described in Br Pat Howley’s book, 'The KomKui Who Made a Covenant with God', which was reviewed by Ben Jackson for PNG Attitude five years ago.

Continue reading "The Kum River massacre - and truth & reconciliation" »

APEC minister Tkatchenko is organising a huge new land grab


Justin Tkatchenko
Justin Tkatchenko

PORT MORESBY - APEC Minister Justin Tkatchenko’s plan to allow commercial banks to take customary land as security for loans is another huge land grab.

The government has yet to cancel all the illegal SABL leases, used to defraud communities of more than five million hectares of land. Instead, they are pushing ahead with plans for another land grab.

Last week Minister Tkatchenko met with the CEOs of Bank South Pacific, Westpac and ANZ and their lawyers to find a way to make customary land acceptable as security for cash loans. The minister claims this is necessary to “free-up idle” customary land for “investment”.

It is simply untrue for the minister to claim the 80% of land in PNG under customary control is idle and unused.

Continue reading "APEC minister Tkatchenko is organising a huge new land grab" »

Australia should not fear Chinese influence, says PNG government

Rimbink Pato
Rimbink Pato

ERIC TLOZEK | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

PORT MORESBY - The Australian Government is becoming increasingly alarmed about Chinese investment and aid — usually in the form of concessional loans — to developing countries on its doorstep.

But Papua New Guinea's foreign affairs minister, Rimbink Pato, has moved to reassure Australia that PNG can manage its relationship with both countries.

"Papua New Guinea remains a close, reliable and trusted friend of Australia; we'll work through all the issues of concern together," he said.

Australia's international development minister, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, questioned the benefits of some Chinese projects in the Pacific.

But Mr Pato said PNG would continue looking for aid and loans from nations like China, particularly to develop infrastructure.

Continue reading "Australia should not fear Chinese influence, says PNG government" »

PNG’s informal economy is dreading the Year of the APEC


PORT MORESBY - 2018 looks set to be a make or break year for Papua New Guinea as the country prepares to host the APEC summit in the midst of a looming economic crisis.

The summit will be by far the biggest global event that PNG has hosted. Media reports say preparations are on track and PNG is set to deliver.

Like a bride getting ready for wedding day, Port Moresby is buzzing with construction activities to uplift its image. A world class hotel, three cruise ships and a state of the art meeting venue to be converted into a museum after completion of the summit are part of a number of government initiatives designed to impress the world’s most powerful leaders and their entourages.

Continue reading "PNG’s informal economy is dreading the Year of the APEC" »

Australia frets over the South Pacific. It should play to its strengths

China-proposed-belt-road-initiativeGRAEME DOBELL | The Strategist | Edited extract

CANBERRA - In Australia, politicians are keeping up the grand tradition of worrying about foreign intruders, massaging the Oz strategic denial instinct and lamenting our policy drift in the South Pacific. Old songs, indeed.

International Development Minister Concetta Fierravanti-Wells frets about China’s arrival in the islands, while Labor’s shadow defence minister Richard Marles does the chorus about Australia’s policy myopia.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells says that, despite China’s ‘duchessing’ of politicians in the South Pacific, Beijing’s activities are being met with growing resentment in island communities.

Continue reading "Australia frets over the South Pacific. It should play to its strengths" »

Seeking the facts of Simbu’s ‘frontier wars’: The Symons Affair


TUMBY BAY - In early July 1947 the Assistant District Officer for Simbu, Jack Costelloe, received word from Geru, a Karap clan leader from the Kouno area, that Dika men had attacked and killed two Karap women in their gardens.

There had been a long standing feud between the Karap and Dika clans. In a previous altercation five men from each side had been killed. Attempts to settle the matter had come to nothing and now Geru sought the protection of the kiap.

Costelloe set out from Kundiawa for the area accompanied by Patrol Officer Craig Symons and 11 police, intending to arrange a peace settlement between the warring clans.

On the way, Costelloe received an urgent telegram and walked to Kerowagi to catch a plane to Port Moresby. He left Symons in charge and told him to proceed to Karap village but to go no further until he returned. Symons was warned about the extreme danger of disobeying this order.

Continue reading "Seeking the facts of Simbu’s ‘frontier wars’: The Symons Affair" »

Fear of change (& China) is driving Australia’s Pacific frenzy

Ed Brumby
Ed Brumby


MELBOURNE - The recent brouhaha amongst politicians and the commentariat about the escalation in China’s endeavours to wield influence in Papua New Guinea, the Pacific islands and Australia reflects the fear of China, long-held by many Australians, intensified more recently as it resumes status as a world power.

This fear is concocted from a fertile cocktail of three ingredients: ignorance and misunderstanding; a generic wariness of the unknown; and the enduring threat (originating in 19th century colonial Australia) posed by the so-called ‘yellow peril’.

This has been exacerbated by China’s rise as an economic and military power and concurrent questions about how the USA and China’s neighbours, including Australia and PNG, can best respond to the shifting power relationships in the Asia-Pacific region.

Whether, and to what extent, this fear is rational and warranted, remains to be seen.

But what is it, exactly, that we are afraid of?

Continue reading "Fear of change (& China) is driving Australia’s Pacific frenzy" »

Sorcery: Are education & demonstration parts of the answer?

Dr Betty Etami Koka
Dr Betty Etami Koka


"Educating people and dispelling the myths around sorcery could prevent further sorcery accusations and result in fewer attacks… I suggested it would be good to do an open post mortem” - Dr Betty Koka, Head of Rural Health, Divine Word University

MELBOURNE - In 1978, when I was District Officer at Saidor in Madang Province, the brother of a prominent Saidor personality died at Madang Hospital.

Immediately the news was received at Saidor his family began agitating that he had been killed by sorcery, saying they intended to seek revenge from the group that allegedly had practised the sorcery.

The situation became problematic, so I sought advice from the provincial medical officer in Madang to bring the groups together to resolve the accusations and potential violence.

I was advised that the man had died of a brain aneurysm and was given a quick medical lecture on the condition.

My next step was to arrange for a meeting between the family and those they accused of sorcery against the deceased.

Continue reading "Sorcery: Are education & demonstration parts of the answer?" »

Those PNG colonial conflicts: a short examination of killing

Rabaul press clipCHRIS OVERLAND

ADELAIDE - Mathias Kin has written about the killing of Simbu warriors by kiaps in the period from around 1935 to the mid-1950s. He has put forward the claims of various informants about the numbers who died in these clashes - and I have expressed reservations about the scale of the killing in a comment attached to the same article.

Perhaps the minds of some readers, this has left the impression that I am bent on preserving the reputations of the kiaps involved in the pacification of the Papua New Guinea highlands. This is not true, but I have to accept that it is what some people will think.

As it happens, I think the work that Mathias is doing in compiling his ‘History of Simbu’, is important. It will give a voice to those who were hitherto voiceless and, most importantly, it is history as understood by the powerless, not the powerful. So what he is doing is commendable.

That said, it is fair and reasonable to subject the claims he makes to close scrutiny. The powerless are no more or less capable of distorting history to meet their needs than the powerful, although the latter have most of the opportunities to do so.

Continue reading "Those PNG colonial conflicts: a short examination of killing" »

Duchesses & overlords: an outdated view of China & the Pacific

Samoa’s prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele (Mick Tsikas  AAP)
Samoa’s prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele

GRAEME SMITH | Inside Story

CANBERRA - Australia’s international development minister, Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, found herself in a fix recently after she claimed that China’s aid in the Pacific produced “useless buildings” and “roads to nowhere” while “duchessing” politicians.

Australia’s relations with China, already at their lowest ebb in years, took another blow, and Xinhua News’s Canberra correspondent bestowed on Australia the title of “arrogant overlord” of the Pacific.

In the region itself, Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele suggested that the minister’s remarks could “destroy” Australia’s relationship with island nations. He zeroed in on China’s willingness to provide aid to deal with the impact of climate change.

Continue reading "Duchesses & overlords: an outdated view of China & the Pacific" »

Security continues to impair Japanese tourism in PNG

Satoshi Nakajima
HE Satoshi Nakajima


PORT MORESBY - Japanese Ambassador Satoshi Nakajima says safety continues to be a major issue affecting the number of Japanese tourists arriving in Papua New Guinea.

Despite this, Mr Nakajima described the country’s tourism potential as huge and said Japan had 16.4 million outbound tourists in 2017.

In his first year in PNG, Mr Nakajima visited the four regions of the country and expressed how impressed he was with what the country has to offer Japanese tourists.

“Regrettably the number of Japanese tourists coming here is not so much,” he said.

“I travelled to Wewak, Kokopo, Kimbe, Mt Hagen, Lae and Pomio. When I travelled to Kokopo and the others I saw the huge potential in promoting tourism.

Continue reading "Security continues to impair Japanese tourism in PNG" »

Directive unheeded: How young kiaps brought ‘gavman’ to PNG

1960s newspaper advertisement for cadet patrol officers & other junior PNG government officials


“The greatest care is taken in selecting and building up patrols which are to penetrate an uncontrolled area and establish a new post. Only experienced officers are used in this work. New and inexperienced officers are not posted to a new area until my responsible officers are satisfied that it is under control, and only then in company with experienced officers” – PNG Administrator’s Press Release, 12 November 1953 (from A Kiap’s Chronicle by Bill Brown)

ADELAIDE - The nominal restrictions on what young, inexperienced Cadet Patrol Officers and Assistant Patrol Officers were allowed to do in terms of their field operations in colonial days are of interest to me.

My first two patrols as a brand new APO in 1969-70 were in the Kukukuku country north of Kerema. This area had been officially declared "controlled' a couple of years earlier, but that control was still tenuous at best.

On neither of those patrols was I accompanied by a senior officer, other than by Assistant District Officer John Mundell for the first week of a 32-day patrol surveying a road between Kaintiba Patrol Post and Murua Agricultural Station.

John was recalled for some reason and I was left to my own devices under the wise guidance of the redoubtable Father Alex Michelod, who was helping survey the road.

The second time, I was dropped off by helicopter at a remote mountain village in the same area to coordinate efforts to deal with the Hong Kong influenza epidemic of 1969-70. On that occasion I was accompanied by two capable medical assistants and two experienced RPNGC constables.

The patrol came under threat at one point, accused of working black magic and causing the epidemic. In a roundabout way, this was partially true. After all, if PNG had been left undisturbed, maybe the flu would never have got there.

Continue reading "Directive unheeded: How young kiaps brought ‘gavman’ to PNG" »

An experience on Bam Island - & some historical footnotes

Dejected Bam evacuees in 1954 (MA Reynolds)
Dejected evacuees leave Bam in November 1954


SYDNEY - Keith Jackson’s report on volcanic activity in the Schouten islands brought back quite a few memories of an earlier episode when Bam islanders were evacuated in the 1950s.

These were the vivid memories of me as a 21-year old kiap – memories of the return of villagers to Bam Island and my part in it and also of Tom Ellis, a mentor in my early days and a person I deeply respected and remember with affection.

I was posted to Bogia in February 1955 to take charge of the Bam Island Rehabilitation Project following the earlier (November 1954) evacuation to the mainland of the population of 500 people as a result of volcanic activity.

The rehabilitation project involved the preparation and maintenance of gardens, construction of housing and co-ordination of educational and health services.

Continue reading "An experience on Bam Island - & some historical footnotes" »

Madang mulls initiating auxiliary policing to combat crime

Bryan Kramer
Bryan Kramer MP


MADANG - Madang was once known as the most beautiful province in Papua New Guinea, with its iconic landmarks such as the Coastwatchers memorial lighthouse and white sandy beaches popular with surfers and divers.

Sadly, this is not the case today because of law and order issues and the drift or rural people to urban areas where they hope – and mostly fail – to find work.

However, the member for Madang, Bryan Kramer MP, has vowed that the town will regain its glory days.

He said that over recent years Madang’s reputation has spiralled downwards due the lack of proper approaches by the provincial government and the province’s leaders.

Continue reading "Madang mulls initiating auxiliary policing to combat crime" »

The truth about the highlands frontier – I want to tell it my way

Chimbu familyMATHIAS KIN

KUNDIAWA - I must commend Peter Krantz for his recent articleThe bloody early years of outside engagement with the Simbu’.

I believe the stories Peter related are an important part of Chimbu and New Guinea history that must be told to our younger generations in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Commenting on this article, Fr Garry Roche mentioned the Chimbu Valley shooting of Fr Karl Morschheuser SVD and Br Eugene Frank SVD but did not tell the Chimbu side of the story.

In early 1935, the press in Australia mentioned only the killing of the two white men. The fate of the Chimbu people who died was not considered to be of interest. I guess nothing much has changed.

So here’s the other side of the story from the Chimbu Valley, where an estimated 100 or so men were killed in the days following the shooting of the two missionaries.

Continue reading "The truth about the highlands frontier – I want to tell it my way" »

A Kiap’s Chronicle: 16 - Telefomin


Map 1
Our flight from Wewak to Telefomin


THE CHRONICLE CONTINUES - Pamela and I had been married for a little over a month and were still in honeymoon mode when we returned to the Territory in July 1959.

The luxury of the newish, Qantas super constellation service (Sydney-Port Moresby–Lae) added to the bliss but reality soon re-asserted itself with our overnight stay at the Qantas transit lodge in Lae.

The next day we flew on to Wewak, again with Qantas but this time on the fortnightly Lae-Hollandia (now Jayapura) service, falsely glorified as an “international flight”.

Unlike the normal Dakota, the wartime version of the Douglas DC3 which had a bench of canvas bucket-seats running the full length of each side of the cabin with the fuselage providing the backrest, our aircraft had real seats with armrests and they faced forwards, with two seats on either side of a central aisle. We even had a female cabin attendant—albeit of mature years.

Continue reading "A Kiap’s Chronicle: 16 - Telefomin" »

O'Neill & Abel start 2018 with a profligate spending binge

The-state-is-out-of-controlPAUL FLANAGAN | PNG Economics

Read Paul Flanagan’s complete article here

CANBERRA – Papua New Guinea’s 2017 supplementary budget was a good start for the O’Neill-Abel government, but it then stumbled badly. Politics and presentational games overtook good economic policy.

The government has gone on an unsustainable spending binge in 2018 – expenditure is K2 billion (16%) higher than the International Monetary Fund was hoping.

The fiscal implications of this unsustainable spike in expenditure are hidden through misleading revenue games. The 2018 budget assumes revenues that are K1.5 billion higher than the IMF’s optimistic scenario. The IMF estimates PNG will break the 35% limit on its debt to GDP ratio.

Continue reading "O'Neill & Abel start 2018 with a profligate spending binge" »

Shush! If you keep talking I won’t be able to hear the TV

An American 'conversation pit'


TUMBY BAY - In the late 1960s while attending a course at the Administrative College in Waigani, I was invited to the home of a young American woman who was working at the University of Papua New Guinea.

I’d become fascinated by the burgeoning literary scene at the university and had met the woman through a mutual friend who taught there.

She must have had independent means because she had bought a house in Boroko and was busily renovating it. Among the modifications she commissioned was something called a ‘conversation pit’.

I first observed it while it was being built. A couple of bemused Papuan carpenters worked on it. They didn’t understand its function but nevertheless lent their considerable skills to the task.

Continue reading "Shush! If you keep talking I won’t be able to hear the TV" »

Those ‘bloody early years’ were really not so bloody

Highland war (Lorenzo Mattotti  New Yorker)
Depiction of a New Guinea highlands tribal war by Lorenzo Mattotti (The New Yorker)


ADELAIDE - What constituted the "bloody early years" in Papua New Guinea was, in an historic context, not very bloody at all.

I realise that this will come as no comfort whatsoever to those whose relatives were shot and killed or injured by the early kiaps, but it is really important to keep things in perspective.

Imperialism in whatever form it arises is invariably a story of conquest and suppression. This has been true since time immemorial. It is what we humans do to one another in the pursuit of power, wealth and glory.

So, in Africa and South America, large scale killing and enslavement was common. Entire colonial armies ranged across the African landscape whenever the imperial power concerned deemed this necessary.

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Memories of Togoba – natural beauty & wise leadership

Togoba – looking across the Nebilyer Valley to the limestone cliffs
Togoba – looking across the Nebilyer Valley to the limestone cliffs


DUBLIN - A recent article by Helen Davidson in Guardian Australia included a photograph of the beautiful landscape of the Togoba area in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

In the foreground one can see clearly the neat gardens with a variety of crops and kunai-roofed houses.

In the background are the grand limestone cliffs, and hidden in the middle distance is the Nebilyer River. In more recent times the area beyond the river is referred to simply as ‘Hapwara’.

If you stand at Togoba facing the limestone cliffs and shout loudly, you will hear an echo coming back strongly. The people of this area said this was a kur (spirit) answering back. In the local language it was known as ‘Kur Wenwen’.

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How the RPNGC's rivalry impinged on astute kiap policing

John Stuntz with Otibanda detachment  1950
Kiap John Stuntz with Otibanda police detachment 1950


EX-KIAP WEBSITE - Some might see it as ironic that the form of award adopted for recognition of kiaps’ Papua New Guinea service should take the form of a Police Service Medal.

In my experience the relationship between the regular RPNGC officialdom and our field staff took the form of a rather wary collaboration at best. In many instances, personal relationships were warm and both organisations benefited.

I also acknowledge that during the late 1970s when tribal fighting became widespread in the Highlands, the cooperative bond between kiaps and police was strong, forged under the stresses of dealing with a major crisis.

And of course, the role that the outstation police contingents played in supporting all field staff was beyond praise. There are more than a few of us who owe their careers and perhaps their lives to the unstinting assistance and support of the outstation constabulary with whom they worked.

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The bloody early years of outside engagement with the Simbu

Gende-Jim Taylor arrives in the highlands
‘No 1 Kiap blong Australia Mr Jim Taylor i brukim bush long Highlands Papua Niugini’ (The first Australian kiap, Mr Jim Taylor, on an exploratory mission in the PNG highlands), Simon Gende, 1999


MORISSET - There remains a long-standing dispute about the number of local people slain in the first explorations into the highlands by white expeditions, but no account denies that some dozens were killed.

There are many accounts from the point of view of those early expatriate pioneers; but I have gathered from existing records some first-hand accounts by Simbu people.

“When the kiaps and policeman came they did shoot people and animals and I saw them,” said Mondo Ola of Ombondo in the Simbu Valley. “They shot one of our leaders by the name of Kapaki Degba Mondia and from my clan they shot a man named Waugla Sungwa” (interview by Paul San).

The first kiaps were so rough that the natives were very scared of them and they never came close to hear what they were saying,” recalled Mrs Nukama of Womai village. “The first kiaps did their best to tame them by showing them axes and salt.

“Some of the villagers tried to steal the things which the white men showed them so that's how the shooting starts. There were about five people killed at that time” (interview of women from eastern Simbu by Moro, 1985).

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Governor appeals for boats & fuel as second Sepik volcano fires up

Kadovar Island in eruption
Kadovar Island in eruption


NOOSA - The population of a second volcanic island in Papua New Guinea's Schouten Group is being evacuated as another volcano erupts.

But East Sepik Governor Allan Bird says his province is running out of fuel and does not have enough boats to manage the evacuation.

"At 1am I was informed that Biem island volcano, as we feared, is now also becoming active. Biem [also known as Bam] is now our priority because there are more than 3,000 people on that island,” he said.

Some 1,500 people on nearby Kadovar Island had been moved to nearby Ruprup Island but these people must be moved again as Ruprup is also at risk from the surrounding volcanic activity which is intensifying.

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Australia-China relations: Ongoing barbs put Oz reputation at risk

Michael Smith (AFR woodcut)
Michael Smith

MICHAEL SMITH | Australian Financial Review | Extracts

SYDNEY - On a Qantas flight from Sydney to Shanghai last week the Chinese passengers returning home from a sun-drenched break watching Sydney's New Year's Eve fireworks or eating oysters in Tasmania only had praise for their time in Australia.

But the perception of Australia in China's state-sanctioned media this week was a far cry from that of a friendly trading partner.

A Turnbull government minister's public criticism of China's aid funding in the South Pacific escalated on Friday when China's People's Daily ran a prominent editorial accusing Australia of adopting a "sour grapes psychology" because it had competition in a region where it has long been top dog.

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PNG health’s dark economy: The mosquito net scandal

Dr Nicholas Mann

Extract from a recent research into the ‘dark economy of public health’ in Papua New Guinea by STAFF REPORTERS of the investigative website PNGi, which has been examining the network of business affiliates of Sir Sang Chung Poh, owner of pharmaceutical provider, Borneo Pacific

You can read the complete article here

PORT MORESBY - In December 2012, the National Court ordered Dr Nicholas Mann [one of PNG’s most senior medical officers] and the State of PNG to each pay K15 million in damages to a company, Alpar Trading Limited, for the unlawful cancellation of a mosquito net supply contract.

The original court case appears to have gone unrecorded in the law reports. However, the facts and findings were later fully laid out in a Supreme Court decision that arose after Dr Mann’s attempted to overturn the original decision.

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Senator, Australia’s aid projects can be less than resplendent

Long & winding roadAustralian senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells caused a stir last week when she disparagingly referred to Chinese aid delivery in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific as “useless infrastructure”. But how does Australian aid delivery rate? In March last year DAN McGARRY of the Vanuatu Daily Post wrote of an Australian-funded road project that still has Port Vila residents irate. Here are some extracts.

You can read the complete and more detailed article here

PORT VILA - The Port Vila Urban Development Project—or the most publicly visible parts of it, at least—have been subjected to withering criticism of late.

Recently, the [Vanuatu] government has taken steps to bring the project’s many stakeholders into line, and to avoid letting the situation deteriorate any further.

Numerous sources with a clear insight into the project have expressed reservations concerning the contractor’s staffing, its technical skill and capacity, and the planning and coordination of the project.

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When PNG led the world in the delivery of air freight


Junkers aircraft serviced the Lae- Bulolo route
A photo of a German Junkers aircraft that serviced the Lae-Bulolo route in the 1930s

BRISBANE – Way back in 1931, Papua New Guinea set a world record in the amount of air cargo carried – 2,607 passengers and 3,947 tonnes of freight.

The discovery of gold in the Bulolo Valley of New Guinea saw a rush of aircraft and pilots to Lae to service the goldfields – equipment and supplies in, gold out and passengers both ways.

Supplies, which had previously been carried in by carriers at prohibitive cost, were now transported by aircraft.

In the first 12 months of operations they carried 250,000kg of cargo and hundreds of passengers, but this paled into insignificance when German Junkers transports were purchased by mining companies to transport dredges.

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Jim Ben’s motivation: Ancestors, family & his late fiancée

Jim Ben at his home in Mahuru Village  Port Moresby
Jim Ben at his home in Mahuru Village, Port Moresby


PORT MORESBY - Jim Ben is a youth from the Motu Koitabu village at Mahuru in Port Moresby’s south. He is an aspiring entrepreneur despite not completing his primary education, and he is adamant that he will persevere in realising his goal.

By way of heritage, Jim is part Porebada and part Koitabu, the Koitabuans being the ancestral owners of the land that the Papua New Guinean capital is built on.

Numerous Koitabu landowning families have fallen into the practice of selling their land to anyone who is interested.

Many of these landowners are illiterate and are lured by the opportunity to make easy money.

The sad consequence is that families lose their traditional land and dispose of the inheritance of the next generations of Koitabuans.

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Heated polemics over aid heighten China - Australia tensions

Australia-China-MaoFRANK CHEN | Asia Times

HONG KONG - Australia has renewed its animosity toward China in the new year, Chinese newspapers say, citing criticism from Canberra’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells said this week that China-invested infrastructure projects in Pacific island countries were far less than effective, such as “roads that go nowhere,” and that Beijing had imposed “overbearing” clauses and “concessional loans” in its financial aid to these underdeveloped parts of the world.

Such remarks as “we just don’t want to build something for the heck of building it” were obviously aimed at China, adding more strain to the long-running tension between Beijing and Canberra concerning alleged espionage, political meddling and trade relations.

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We need a new, mature partnership with PNG & the Pacific

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells


NOOSA - When Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific Concetta Fierravanti-Wells this week said China was constructing "useless buildings" in the Pacific, she foolishly slapped both at China and our regional neighbours.

And when she added later that "we just don't want to build a road that doesn't go anywhere" to add to allegations of 'useless' Chinese infrastructure, she doubled down on the damage she'd caused.

The senator was parroting recent mouth-offs at Beijing by Australian political figures as senior as prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and foreign minister Julie Bishop, so presumably felt she was on firm ground.

China reacted of course, yesterday making a formal diplomatic complaint and saying Fierravanti-Wells had spoken “irresponsibly and falsely”.

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Why redevelop Panguna’s mine now? It can be banked


Paul Flanagan
Paul Flanagan

CANBERRA - Are we sure, as Axel Sturm asserts in PNG Attitude, that "one thing is for sure: Without revenues from the Panguna mine under the leadership of BCL that is owned by the Autonomous Bougainville Government, the independence of  the island will remain a sweet dream."

Separate to the BCL versus RTG issue there is a more fundamental assumption. Why is a mine essential for independence?

Bougainville's agricultural prospects are reasonably strong. It has some of the best agriculture land in Papua New Guinea.

Its cocoa and copra plantations were extremely productive prior to 'the troubles'. Tourist potential would appear significant if law and order issues are contained. Its waters would link into fishing revenues under the Nauru Agreement.

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Chief justice attack: sorcery perpetrators act with public support

Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia (Eoin Blackwell  AAP)
Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia

HELEN DAVIDSON | Guardian Australia | Extracts

Read the full story here

PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea’s chief justice has been ambushed and attacked in another incident related to Papua New Guinea’s escalating problem with sorcery-related violence.

The ambush followed the kidnapping and torture of two women from the judge’s tribe, who were accused of killing a man with sorcery.

Chief justice Sir Salamo Injia was traveling from his home in Enga province’s Wapenamanda district on Monday when he and his police escort were stopped at a makeshift roadblock.

Acting police commander, Epenes Nili, said both vehicles were attacked by a large group of men in what he believed was a planned ambush.

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Singautim ol narapela kain man na meri redi na kam


TUMBY BAY - The response to my article on kiaps being ‘narapela kain man’ - at last count more than 1,200 Likes - has been surprising.

It seems to me that that strong reaction packaged an important message that needs to be understood by leaders in Australia and Papua New Guinea.

Reader Anthony Sil cut to the core when he noted: “During the kiap days we were in harmony. We worked together”.

Anthony also said that the kiap ‘philosophy’ should be kept in mind by Australian politicians “before making decisions on PNG-Australia trade and development issues”.

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Foreign exchange PNG’s most urgent problem: World Bank

MARCEL SCHRÖDER | Development Policy Centre | Edited

Marcel Schroder
Marcel Schroder

Read the full version of the article here

CANBERRA - The World Bank recently released the first biannual report of its newly launched ‘Papua New Guinea Economic Update’ series.

The report is entitled ‘Reinforcing Resilience’ and it contains a number of interesting findings and information on the PNG economy. For instance, inflation is currently projected at around six percent, despite sluggish economic growth and now fixed exchange rate.

However, the report argues that if betel nut is excluded, inflation drops to around two percent, which is more consistent with the current economic climate.

There is also a neat and comprehensive explanation for the puzzling observation that government revenue from the LNG project vastly lags behind the projected K2 billion per year.

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Travelling home: A thicket of thugs, thieves & dopeheads


PMV pick up
The PMV pick up

PORT MORESBY – The Kundiawa airstrip has been out of action and Chimbus working elsewhere in Papua New Guinea and abroad travelling back to their tribal lands must first fly to Mt Hagen or Goroka.

Public motor vehicles, known as PMVs, then ferry these diaspora members to Kundiawa and beyond to even more remote locations.

Travelling home for the festive season, my wife, children and I departed from Port Moresby for Goroka, where we were greeted by the itch of the fresh, cool air of Apo land.

We picked up our luggage only to be mobbed by kids asking to carry it to the bus stop. In case one of them decided to wander off with it, we politely gave a no for an answer.

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