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Politicians need courage & wisdom to settle highlands grievances

Landowners set fire to buildings & machinery
Hela landowners set fire to buildings and machinery


KUNDIAWA - The call by Angore landowners in troubled Hela Province for a forum to discuss the problems surrounding the gas project could be the beginning of meaningful dialogue among landowners and other stakeholders leading to a peaceful solution to the royalties crisis disgruntled.

The issue has been exacerbated by lack of landowner and political leadership on the ground.

All members of parliament from Southern Highlands and Hela mostly operate out of Port Moresby. They have avoided face to face dialogue to address the grievances of the people.

Frustrated landowners resorted to violence to draw the attention of their political leaders, resource developers and the PNG government to their marginalisation.

The two-faced statement by finance minister James Marape from the comfort of his base in Port Moresby was a clear indication of a leader who has lost touch with his people.

Marape said his constituents should invite him to pursue their grievances with the government. This was a foolish call by a confused leader.

The people had already given him a mandate through the ballot paper to shoulder their interests. What else does he want? Was he really awaiting an invitation or did he just not want to front his own people?

Armed Hela landowners
Armed Hela landowners - ready to fight for their rights if they have to

Then, after appearing conciliatory, the threat by Marape to use the army and police to fight his own people was also an indication of a leader who had run out of ideas and lacked a clear strategy.

The people are fighting for what is rightfully theirs. Their land. They must be given what belongs to them, the royalties and other benefits legitimately and contractally agreed.

Ignoring Marape’s words, the vandalism of Exxon Mobil’s LNG assets continued last weekend.

Decisions to use the army and police against landowners without addressing the core issue will only add fuel to the fire. This what happened in Bougainville triggering a 10-year civil war. Leaders like James Marape should be mindful that missteps on their part could be responsible for another tragic outcome like this.

A possible breakthrough opportunity has been provided by the call by Angore landowners for stakeholders – including politicians and resource companies - to come together in a public forum to address grievances.

Instead of local politicians like James Marape making ridiculous statements from his comfortable enclave in Port Moresby and Michael Nali trying to flex his muscles on the floor of parliament, they must get back up into those mountains and wisely negotiate with their people.

This is the answer: dialogue to develop an amicable pathway to end the violence and pay landowners their promised benefits without further delay.


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Lindsay F Bond

Good one Francis, for detecting in the call, a glimmer of reflection, as to essence of need.
Good too Francis, for inviting characteristics well exhibited by leaders in earlier times.
Brandishing fences and weaponry weakens platforming, parading and pledging, if faithfulness fails.
Looking into eyes, hearing vocals, speaking truths, joining ideas and hands, founds trusts afresh.
Good vibe Francis.

Barbara Short

Phil, at the moment on a Sepik Forum that I belong to, we have the Governor of the province, Allan Bird, producing regular updates on what he is doing and many people are then responding and they are free to make comments and agree or disagree.

He also has a "secretary" who posts on what is going on, with plenty of photos. This happened during the time of the Kadovar eruptions and the movement of the people to Dandan. People have been able to pass their views on all that has happened.

Also the MP for Maprik is regular in telling people what he is up to in the Maprik electorate and people are free to comment.

During the volcanic eruption at Kadovar and again during the massive earthquakes and during the recent riots, Facebook had the news before the other media.

In fact I could see the other media, TV, Reuters, various newspapers,etc were all using Facebook to get up-to-date information.

I found the videos of the eruption and the first massive landslides up in Hela and had them on my Facebook site before they appeared on TV. I collected all the photos of the damage done in SHP and Hela and newspapers were asking if they could have copies.

We live in a different world today. So many of my friends no longer get newspapers. They work away at computers and can get regular updates from the media online or on TV. So I assume the newspapers and the commercial TV have to make their money out of ads.

I think at the moment PNG is "in love" with China. China has been wooing them for many years now e.g. training PNG military advisors, lavishing gifts on many PNG people who have been invited to attend meetings (often APEC) meetings in China and so on.

What China is doing for PNG is very tangible. They look forward to working with China in the future. Pity about the soft loans. But they probably believe that they will not be hard to repay.

Sorry, I got off the topic again, as usual. The important topic that Francis wrote about was the need to get "democracy" working in PNG. The newspapers were biased and the Opposition needs to be allowed to have their say. O'Neill just called Flanagan's article "Fake news".

Francis is right. O'Neill returned to Mendi after the riots for a brief moment and let a few people touch him through a huge fence! Marape has been sounding off from Moresby about what should be happening at the other side of the country.

Allan Bird is back in the East Sepik working with everyone at the grassroots level.

Philip Fitzpatrick

The Post Courier was founded in 1969 Barbara through an amalgamation of the the South Pacific Post, and: New Guinea Times Courier.

The South Pacific Post was a great newspaper and the New Guinea Times wasn't bad either.

Unfortunately the Post Courier is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited so you have to expect highly biased Daily Telegraph type reporting.

PNG couldn't support an independent newspaper like Australia's The Saturday Paper and social media, where spin is king, is at best an unreliable source of news.

Radio and TV in PNG is also highly biased, especially the regional stations.

ABC shortwave was wonderful but we've let the Chinese have that - how dumb was that?

Barbara Short

Excellent post Francis.

These forums have been an amazing way to get MPs and the voters to talk and listen to each other.

Sadly the PNG newspapers have not been doing their job.

We are discussing this on a Sepik Facebook Forum at the moment and a Sepik teacher in Morobe just made this comment which I thought was good...

The Post Courier has been around since Independence in 1975. Paias Wingti was Prime Minister several years after Independence when he teamed up with Rimbunan Hijau to start The National.

Both newspapers have nothing good in them anymore. They have, in the last decade become a propaganda vehicles for the government and the rich.

I have stopped buying both newspapers since March 2017. The idea to start a Newspaper Company of the people, by the people and for the people is truly a brilliant one.

Only with such a medium can we, I believe, be able to not only give more freedom of choice for our people, but simultaneously educate our ignorant and vulnerable population as well.

Presently, the government, it's cronies and the rich, control the print media industry and give us what they want us to read, see and believe.

Owing to mass bias reporting, people are led to believe and perceive the world they live in through someone else's point of view. We are not given the freedom that is due to each and every citizen of PNG, to perceive and view the world we live in with our own eyes.

In short, our right to freedom of choice, the fundamental pillar of a Just and Democratic world, has been denied us for a very long time already.

The entire world over is deprived of this Basic Right - the right to freedom of choice.

We are made to believe all the lies and deception from the rich and the powerful. So, bro, if this idea of a people's newspaper comes to fruition, it should give our people and ourselves that freedom to choose and perceive the world through our own eyes.

Facebook has provided the medium to allow dialogue to develop between all members of a province and their elected members. For those that do not have the ability to use Facebook then a People's paper is necessary.

Politicians need courage, wisdom, understanding and humility to settle all the grievances in their own electorate.

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