Notes on the reliability of hearsay & interpretation of evidence
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.

My recollection is that he got this idea from his time in Fiji, where the policy had been put in place when Fiji first became a Crown Colony.

McGregor and his successors realised that, in a subsistence economy like that of Papua (and later New Guinea), land was a precious resource upon which people relied to live.

The administrators believed its alienation could lead to profound and very damaging socio-economic consequences as had been all too graphically demonstrated in Africa.

Anyone familiar with the history of, say, Kenya, South Africa or Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) will understand that the native peoples were ruthlessly dispossessed of their land and suffered greatly as a result.

Now, amazingly, the government of Peter O’Neill has developed a "cunning plan" articulated by minister Justin Tkatchenko.

This plan must, by its very nature, result in the loss of control over communally held land for those Papua New Guineans foolish enough to allow its use as collateral for a loan.

This is a scheme that I think would never have seen the light of day in the colonial era.

It would instantly have been recognised as what it is: a licence for banks and others to progressively expropriate traditional lands in the name of "development".

Wake up PNG. Dr Clement Malau is right. This is a monstrous con job dressed up in the language of development and investment.

Please do not effectively throw away your ancestral heritage for the sake of money.


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Barbara Short

I posted this on the East Sepik Development Forum this morning and had this response from a teacher at Passam National High School...

Comments by Ramsey Satbah

This is totally true in all aspects. Land Registration, ILGs, etc are all designed to take customary land away from the indigenous owners.

This type of trickery by selfish individuals in positions of power and authority will definitely result in very severe negative consequences.

Most of our uneducated, uninformed, ignorant and vulnerable people live in the rural areas, where land is their life.

Deprivation of land from the majority of our rural population can be seen as genocide in the long term.

Simple, if the government has miserably failed to manage the 10% of land acquired during colonial times, how then does it see fit to acquire and manage the other 90% of land currently communally owned and managed by the indigenous landowners???

A sad day for PNG. So folks, landowners, do not be misled by selfish foreigners and the 10% men like JT and his fellow parliamentarians.

Serina Heriso Kengemar

After 42 years of Independence, the stark reality is that a majority of our people, both educated and semi educated, have very little knowledge of the laws, processes and policies that govern our nation.

Things that we hold close to us, such as land, are not seen as an asset or as a property, but as our identity, our being. They define where we come from and who we are as a tribe, clan, family or individual. Land is something that can never ever be separated from a true blooded Papua New Guinean.

What Minister Justin Tkatchenko is starting here, whether intentionally with devious motives or innocently with lack of understanding, is poking a stick into a hornets' nest.

Many Papua New Guineans have read his statement on the media but have flicked it aside as just more mumbo jumbo from Port Moresby, without fully understanding the vast implications the statements will have on their lives.

Much of the policy, vision and mission statements from the government are never fully understood by almost all Papua New Guineans, simply for lack of comprehension.

Many of us come up with our own interpretations that make sense to us or our audiences at our level, that is, the village folks back home.

Having said all this, Dr Clement and people like him with a clear understanding and interpretation of such statements by the minister are the few who understand the disastrous implications for our people. The majority have no idea.

When it does become policy, is implemented and begins to be actioned, I tell you all hell will break loose with Papua New Guineans who only have only one thing that identifies them, land.

I am reminded of the public outcry when land was to be registered back in the 1990's? I will not be surprised when this stick the Minister is using causes the hornets' nest to explode.

This is another ploy to strip further this beautiful nation of its greatest!

Have we not had enough taken? We have yet to return what has been taken. We have yet to plant and keep seeds for our future children. Enough already.

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