PNG literature – starved of solid support; sustained by zeal
Kenneth Sumbuk speaks for first time on exit of Prof Warren

A tale of two Kandeps - a wonderful Kandep; a painful Kandep

Kandep sunset
Kandep sunset - a town seemingly at peace with itself


The Kandep that continues to amaze

I was in beautiful Kandep a few days ago; lost in thought, unaware of what was happening in other parts of the district, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea or the world.

That night it seemed I was the only person in the small town as I walked around in the cool of the evening on paved roads. The town seemed deserted, it was quiet and at peace.

I liked being alone. I could hear the muffled voices of people preparing or sharing evening meals. I could see the flicker of torchlight through open doors and windows. A couple of stores had their own generators lighting the vicinity and the night.

The sun had just set in a wall of red and I thought for a moment that the mountains were alight.

Above me, a billion stars began to appear, twinkling in the silence. I was transfixed as I stood on Manget Kungu overlooking Kandep town, delighting in the peace and beauty of the night.

A full moon rose in its full glory over the horizon and floated past Lungu Kana, over the Patuli swamps and beyond towards Magarima and the incongruous technology of the PNG liquefied natural gas project.

I enjoy these nocturnal walks watching the moon move through its shapes as the month passes, transforming from full into a ‘menanenge’ (pig’s tusk) as we describe it in the Enga language, then to other shapes.

Soon the month of August will give way to September, forever special as our independence month.

The night sky has been like this for millennia. Our ancestors saw this beauty. Our very fathers looked upon it. And now we witness it. How many of us appreciate these natural wonders?

This beauty will continue to be displayed in the heavens as God intended it to be.

We mortals are not the sun, the moon or the stars – just the flowers, to bloom but once, to wither and return to the dust at our feet.

The Kandep that continues to shock

Kandep town
It was on the edges of Kandep town that much of the past and present violence has broken out

During the day that followed that night, there was an election-related court case on in Port Moresby between two political opponents from Kandep – Alfred Manase and Don Polye.

I hoped the final outcome would be peaceful and that supporters on both sides would accept the court’s decision and not resort to the violence of the last 15 years.

During this protracted war, more than 100 people were killed and property worth millions destroyed. I didn’t want this to happen again. I hoped the people who read my writing and talk about it to each other would realise that life is too precious,

We only live once and we have to enjoy it.

But there has been trouble in Kandep these last few days.

First two houses belonging to two supporters of Don Polye were burned down at Lungutenges village – on the very edge of Kandep town where the previous piece was written.

The two supporters had allegedly testified in court that the 2017 national election was not conducted properly.

Then on Sunday two brothers from nearby Patuli village were chopped to death. The village is also located on the edge of Kandep town.

They were killed by some men from the Kapus tribe on whose land Kandep High School is located at Kokas. It was alleged a woman married to a Kapus man was having an affair with a man from the Alitip Komai tribe.

This savage violence broke out before a village court sitting began to deliberate on the case.

Yesterday police and soldiers were deployed to Kandep to stop the fighting. Today the two brothers will be buried and I am in Wabag sending this.

The fighting erupted again and another young man has been killed.

There is a Kandep I love and a Kandep that daunts me. Sometimes I feel the same about my country.


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Rashmii Bell

Daniel, I absolutely loved your writing of ' The Kandep that continues to amaze'.

Daniel Kumbon

Phil, somebody in Enga once suggested tribal wars could actually be tourist attractions.

Even live broadcasts could be arranged so people can watch people rush to their deaths.

Imagine the foreign hard cash that would come in. This is something for the Minister for Tourism to chew on.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Mr Tammur should perhaps change tack with regards to tourism and cater to PNG's strengths.

How about a deal with the National Rifle Association in the USA to bring gun nuts to the highlands to spend an exhilarating week engaging in gunfights and tribal wars - a kind of PNG West World.

What about tours of devastated forests for anti-greenies? Get your picture taken beside giant tree stumps or in a palm oil plantation.

Tours of the Carterets for climate change deniers (Wellington boots supplied).

A week in Parliament House at Waigani for creative accountants.

The opportunities are all there. It just needs a bit of thinking outside the square.

Philip Fitzpatrick

In today's Post Courier:

Travel Ban For PNG Due to Robberies, Tribal Fighting

August 31, 2018


PAPUA New Guinea has reached the highest international security alert of Level 4 as one of the world’s “no-go-zone” countries.

PNG is now among North Korea, Yemen, Iran, Iraq and Syria that the United Kingdom and United States have placed a Level 4 alert on. Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Emil Tammur is now calling for urgent intervention by relevant government authorities, stakeholders and local communities to curb law and order issues which are seriously affecting the country’s tourism sector. Mr Tammur expressed grave concerns that criminal activities such as armed hold-ups on tourists and tribal fighting in tourism hot spots were already having a negative impact with increased holiday cancellations and on PNG generally as a desired tourism destination.

He condemned the armed robbery of 20 tourists at Tawali Dive Resort in Alotau recently, where criminals took wallets, mobile phones, cameras and other personal items from tourists who had come from as far away as Europe, Asia and North America.

This is the third time one of the top dive resorts in PNG has been attacked, Mr Tammur said.

He said the owners have faith in the tourism industry and have invested a substantial amount of money, and for such to happen is a massive blow to the passionate investors. He said local communities, police and leaders must address this forthwith in order to give some assurance to the travel agents and potential tourists.

“These tourists had a great time visiting cultural shows in Enga and Mount Hagen capturing magical moments on their cameras and having great personal experiences of the beauty of PNG only to be robbed on the last leg of their journey,” Mr Tammur said.

“They have now all returned traumatised and with very bad memories of PNG. Is this the type of country we want to promote to the rest of the world?”

Mr Tammur said the iconic Ambua Lodge in Tari has also been temporarily closed because of continuous tribal fighting with United States and the United Kingdom now placing the highest travel alert of level 4 for its citizens not to travel to Hela Province.

Bob Bates and Trans Niugini Tours have for decades promoted this great country of ours to international visitors, but PNG is not taking ownership and promoting peace.

He said Ambua Lodge is undoubtedly the best known tourism facility for European and American tourists and this is also the peak of the tourism season in PNG because it is the summer holidays for the Northern Hemisphere and the cultural festivals season for PNG with the Enga, Mount Hagen and Goroka shows.

Mr Tammur said continuous tribal fighting has forced villagers away, such that there are no people in the villages that operator of Ambua Lodge, Trans Niugini Tours and others, normally use for cultural visits.

Air Niugini has also stopped flying into Tari making it difficult for PNG tourism operators to get tourists in and out of Tari.

“The United States and United Kingdom have placed a level 4 travel alert on the Hela Province. This is the highest level, and, it is the same travel alert for countries such as North Korea, Yeman, Iran, Iraq and Syria despite no single tourist or foreigner being hurt or killed in Hela,” Mr Tammur said.

He expressed grave concerns that for every step being taken by the Tourism Promotion Authority to promote and lift the image and profile of PNG, such law and order issues set us back another 10 steps. He said Alotau, and Milne Province in particular, was a concern now because the World Bank and PNG Government’s US$20 million tourism hub development program was to be rolled out next month.

He said bookings by tourists for Ambua Lodge and Tawali Dive Resort to coincide with the cultural festivals and the diving seasons were now being cancelled by tourists.

Mr Tammur said he would urgently be seeking audiences with his colleague Police Minister, national and provincial leaders from the respective provinces and other relevant stakeholders such as Air Niugini and PNG tourism operators to address these serious issues affecting tourism development in PNG.

Daniel Kumbon

I hear preventive orders were issued yesterday by authorities to stop the fight. And people had recommended for the 'two husbands' and the fornicating woman to be arrested and put behind bars.

This is after three deaths of whom one was killed on the battlefield but two chopped to pieces even before a village court sitting convened to settle the matter.

Cold-blooded murders, sorcery-related killings, deep rooted corruption, poor governance, natural disasters, denuding of forests - what evil times the people of PNG are experiencing.

Paul Waugla Wii

You are really alive and well in Kandep - a place you have just written about with sweet nostalgia - and that is the beauty of it all.

Daniel Kumbon

The following is another piece I wrote while in Kandep early this month........

Crossing a vine bridge and Sydney Harbor Bridge to meet the ‘boss’ of education in the 60s

I recently met a man who was Director of Education in the 60s. That was when I began my long road to education when PNG was known as the Territory of Papua and New Guinea – a Trust Territory of Australia at the time.

I still remember the names of both expatriate and local teachers from Kerema, Sepik, Popendetta, Bougainville, Central, Madang, Manus, Western Highlands etc at Kandep Primary ‘T’ School and Mariant Catholic Mission.

Glen Warwick was my Grade 6 teacher in 1971. Moira Warr had been my Grade 5 teacher. There were others down the line from America, France and local teachers like Ignas from the Sepik and Mark Remb from Sari in Wabag. My very first teacher was an Australian whose name sounded something like Mr. McRae.

I am glad, I met Professor Ken McKinnon in Sydney - the Director of Education at the time. Beside me to meet this great man was my wife Julie. She had attended Kandep Primary School much later but was unable to continue. This is all explained in my recent book ‘SURVIVOR – Alive in Mum’s Loving Arms’.

But here, we were meeting Prof Ken McKinnon in Sydney in 2016. Julie was amazed to meet this towering Octogenarian – 85 years of age and still strong. He showed us his private beach where he swims every morning in the sea.

Equally energetic was his wife Sue who prepared for us a most memorable evening meal in their home. Nearby was the residence of former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard in an affluent suburb of Sydney.

Professor McKinnon, Paga Hill Development Company and Keith Jackson, publisher of PNG Attitude had made our trip to Australia possible. We were with Fracis Nii of Simbu and Martyn Namorong – a mix Madang and Western parentage.

Last week, I went to Julie’s younger sister’s home which is on a hill over-looking Kandep Primary School. Nostalgia overtook me. There was my classroom, built in the 70s still there. I could see the pine trees Glen Warwick had asked us to plant in 1971 beginning to die. Some had been cut down to pave way for a new classroom built through Australian Aid.

Julie’s sister is teaching there now. Nearby playing in the dirt was her younger daughter. One of our own child, Caro is attending school there too. I asked her to transfer from Wabag to feel the same emotions when I, her dad had started my long journey from Kondo village.

I had crossed a rope bridge over the Lai River to end up crossing Sydney Harbor Bridge with Julie to meet the man who was ‘boss’ of my education and every other PNG child many years ago.

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