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67 posts from August 2018

The prospect of Indonesia invading PNG: could it really happen?

Sota border
The border of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea at Sota, Merauke


KUNDIAWA – Will Indonesia ever invade Papua New Guinea? It’s an eyebrow raising question. To some people it may sound irresponsible, irrational or insensitive.

Of course there is always speculation and theorising about the why, when and how an invasion could occur and possibly the best people to render a credible verdict are those in diplomatic missions, foreign affairs departments and intelligence networks.

But individuals around the region - like Australia, New Zealand, PNG and Indonesia of course - are entitled to their own conjecture, and I have my opinion too.

Before moving to the substantive question, let me start from the periphery by asking could Indonesia invade PNG if it chose to do so?

Continue reading "The prospect of Indonesia invading PNG: could it really happen?" »

Home boy: Morrison's scant interest in foreign policy or the Pacific

Scott Morrison: slender foreign policy credentials; never shown much interest in foreign policy

SUSAN HARRIS RIMMER | The Conversation | Extracts

BRISBANE - With all the focus in Australia this past week on new prime minister Scott Morrison’s domestic challenges, less attention has been paid to the international impact of the leadership change and any new directions for Australian foreign policy.

Morrison’s foreign policy credentials are slim and his interest in foreign policy is low; not rating even a mention in his first speech to the nation as prime minister.

As immigration minister, Morrison presided over the “stop the boats” policy that was so unpopular with Australia’s Asia-Pacific neighbours and he negotiated the disastrous and expensive Cambodia asylum deal.

Continue reading "Home boy: Morrison's scant interest in foreign policy or the Pacific" »

Indigenous literature and academic elitism in PNG

Phil 2015
Phil Fitzpatrick


TUMBY BAY - In countries with a written literary tradition, especially in the western world, the publication of books has been largely accomplished outside government.

In those places, book publishing has and continues to be mainly a capitalist enterprise. Artistic and philosophical considerations aside, the chief driving force has been to make money. If not lots of it, at least enough to cover costs and maybe put some bread on the table.

Many writers will object to this mercenary view and argue that their main aim in writing is to engage in the transmission of creativity and ideas.

The truth is it is a discussion that contains elements of all these things.

In countries that do not have a written literary tradition the situation is different. Papua New Guinea is a case in point.

Continue reading "Indigenous literature and academic elitism in PNG" »

Another Canberra review; another call on your support


BRISBANE - The submission to the Australian government’s Asia Pacific Broadcasting Review prepared by supporters of Australian broadcasting in Papua New Guinea and the Pacific including PNG Attitude contributors and readers is now available for download here. 

Download Australia-Pacific Broadcasting Submission

As you will see, it became a substantial project with a well-researched pitch for up to $70 million and despite the political chaos in Canberra we are making some progress.

We are looking at where to go from here, including with the ‘Soft Power Review’, being conducted by the foreign affairs department. Public submissions for this will close on Friday 28 September.

Continue reading "Another Canberra review; another call on your support" »

In appreciation of my mother

Mama na pikinini
'Mama na Pikinini', PNG sand painting by Chris Kauage


Mother, I appreciate you,
For conceiving me,
And carrying me,
In your womb,
For nine months.

Mother, I appreciate you,
For giving me birth,
And receiving me,
Cuddling me,
And not aborting me.

Mother, I appreciate you,
For unconditional love,
For nurturing me,
Showing your affection,
And watching me grow.

Mother, I appreciate you,
For loving me daily,
For feeding me daily,
Clothing me daily,
Caring for me daily.

Continue reading "In appreciation of my mother" »

Massive land scandal has been delayed, shredded & buried

Despite inquiries, commitments, committees & threats, PNG's illegal forest destruction continues


PORT MORESBY - The Papua New Guinea government has tried to bury and forget the SABL land grab scandal in which more than five million hectares of land has been stolen from rural communities.

The government is using a well-tested formula that is employed almost every time a new corruption scandal is exposed.

First, there is a long-drawn out official inquiry that is then delayed by funding and other logistical problems.

There is subsequently a further deferral before the inquiry findings are tabled in parliament.

Continue reading "Massive land scandal has been delayed, shredded & buried" »

Cut, cut, cut - Bishop’s aid legacy lacked follow-through & rigour

Julie Bishop
Julie Bishop - former Australian foreign minister cut development aid five years in a row

STEPHEN HOWES | DevPolicy Blog

CANBERRA - True to form, assessments of Julie Bishop’s five-year stint as foreign minister, which ended at the weekend, have said little about her role at the head of Australia’s four billion dollar aid program.

Yet, for a small country like Australia, lacking in superpower status, the aid program is probably the main instrument by which a foreign minister can exercise influence.

To say that Bishop will not go down in history as good for aid is an understatement. She presided over the largest and the most number of aid cuts by any foreign minister.

As shadow foreign minister, she supported the bipartisan target of getting aid to 0.5% of national income. As foreign minister, having abandoned that commitment, she started with at least the promise of protecting the aid budget against inflation.

Continue reading "Cut, cut, cut - Bishop’s aid legacy lacked follow-through & rigour" »

Kenneth Sumbuk speaks for first time on exit of Prof Warren

Kenneth Sumbuk
Kenneth Sumbu -  Claimed John Warren was about to be sacked because he was incompetent


KOTOR, MONTENEGRO – Professor Kenneth Sumbuk, the chancellor of Papua New Guinea’s University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) in East New Britain has spoken for the first time about the resignation of the university’s vice-chancellor, Prof John Warren.

Warren, a 55-year-old British botanist, fled PNG this month because of concerns for his safety and worries he could be entangled in a lengthy court case and prevented from leaving the country.

It was the second case this year of an expatriate vice-chancellor in PNG fearing unwarranted legal bullying, Warren following the earlier harassment, arrest and eventual freeing on bail of Prof Albert Schram of the University of Technology.

Warren said his relationship with the university’s council and chancellor Sumbuk had deteriorated significantly before he resigned.

Breaking his silence, the Oxford-educated Sumbuk told The Australian newspaper that problems had arisen after Warren had lost confidence in the university administration.

Continue reading "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.

Continue reading "A tale of two Kandeps - a wonderful Kandep; a painful Kandep" »

PNG literature – starved of solid support; sustained by zeal

The PNG Attitude story by Phil Fitzpatrick  published in 2016
Phil Fitzpatrick's 2016 book told of the struggles, which still continue, to establish a viable PNG literature


BRISBANE - On a clear, mid-September afternoon in 2017, four women - heels clicking and voices chattering excitedly - hurry across an aerial walkway connecting two of the city’s cultural hubs.

They are behind schedule and the urgent hum of traffic serves to spur an even faster pace and longer strides. They hustle down a staircase and enter the cool of the performing arts centre courtyard beyond the unremitting glare of the Queensland sun.

There, in a far corner of this place, they spot familiar faces seated around two large alfresco dining tables that have been pushed together. A celebratory lunch is already underway and cheerful smiles and shouts greet the approaching quartet.

From the four women, whose pace has now slowed to a stagger, invisible jetstreams of exhaustion and exuberance sweep out, hover, then float into a seemingly limitless sky. They have just completed their task as panellists at the first ever session on PNG women's literature at the Brisbane Literary Festival. 

A panel not of academicians on PNG literature, but of representative of the 45 women who have created an important part of it. A collective act of creativity and truth-telling in book form that has never happened in this way before and, because it is the first, can never happen in this way again.

The group the women are now plunging into are mismatched: men, women, whatever, starched collars, tee-shirts,  A-line frocks, weekend slacks, shorts (in Keith's case daggy, he crops the photos to make them appear acceptable).

Continue reading "PNG literature – starved of solid support; sustained by zeal" »

Looking through my window is to know me & my life

Window to my HouseRAYMOND SIGIMET

A Window to My House – Collection of Poems by Raymond Muso Sigimet. JDT Publications, Port Moresby, 2018. 70 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1724-22-538-2. Amazon Books, paperback $5.50

DAGUA - In Papua New Guinea, a house symbolises a person’s life. A house shows status and defines a person’s standing in the community.

To be invited into a person’s house means that the person has accepted you into his or her life and you are now privy to some things about the person’s life.

This is a collection of short poems exposing my view of the world through a window of my house.

Through this window, the reader will catch a glimpse of some aspects of my life as a Papua New Guinean. This book of verse is a small window on the world I see and the world I live in.

Continue reading "Looking through my window is to know me & my life" »

Australia’s waning Asian voice: The fading broadcast signal

Graeme-DobellGRAEME DOBELL | Australian Strategic Policy Institute

CANBERRA - Australia’s international broadcasting effort in the Asia–Pacific is at its lowest-ever level.

These are the worst of times for Australian international TV, which is 25 years old this year. And these are the hardest of days for Radio Australia, which is set for its 80th birthday next year.

They’re not corpses, but they are on life support.

The cash is only just dripping and a lot of life has departed. The international TV and radio efforts are gasping, limping shadows of their former selves.

In 2010, the ABC spent $36 million on international services (about $42 million in today’s dollars). These days, a guesstimate of the international broadcasting spend is $11 million; the ABC isn’t too explicit about the budget. Such vagueness is symptomatic. Perhaps it’s the reticence born of embarrassment.

Continue reading "Australia’s waning Asian voice: The fading broadcast signal" »

So Commisioner Baki thinks he can bury the O’Neill case?

Peter O'Neill
Is Peter O'Neill in the clear? There are serious doubts that the people of PNG have seen justice in the long-running Paraka fraud case


KUNDIAWAPapua New Guinea police commissioner Gary Baki has claimed in a media statement that prime minister Peter O’Neill’s official corruption case is officially closed.

The long-running saga involves alleged fraudulent payments of K78.4 million of public funds to Paul Paraka Lawyers.

However, according to Bryan Kramer MP on Facebook, Baki may have both rekindled the fire of justice and possibly set a trap for the prime minister and the commissioner.

Baki stated his reason for closing the case was due to lack of evidence.

Whatever reason Baki may employ, though, many Papua New Guineans view the act as a conspiratorial servant-master scheme with no bearing at all on O’Neill’s innocence of the alleged crime.

Continue reading "So Commisioner Baki thinks he can bury the O’Neill case?" »

‘Mirror on the Wall’: Uncertainty & struggle find a good pathway

Mirror on the WallKEITH JACKSON

Mirror On The Wall: selected poems, short stories and expositions by Raymond Muso Sigimet. JDT Publications, Port Moresby, 2018. 92 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1724-22-495-8. Amazon Books, paperback $5.50

SORRENTO, ITALY - Raymond Sigimet writes about real life and his writing is driven by the strong feeling that he should, in his own words, “express myself on issues and topics of interest to me.”

Before the 2015 Rivers Award for writing on peace and harmony – for which he wrote the prize winning poem – he had never previously entered a writing contest.

But he has made up for it since, with a rich output of wonderful essays and poems, some of which is represented in this collection. It is worth revisiting that prize-winning poem, because it tell so much about Raymond and the philosophy of life so authentically reflected in his writing.

Raymond is from East Sepik Province, married with two daughters and is a secondary school teacher living in the Wewak District. But it was a considerable journey that brought him to this point.

He grew up away from his province and village, with half his life spent in the New Guinea Islands. His father was a career officer in Papua New Guinea’s correctional service and the family moved to different parts of the country.

Continue reading "‘Mirror on the Wall’: Uncertainty & struggle find a good pathway" »

In Oz we can afford hypochondria; in PNG there are no bandages

Phil (crop)
Phil Fitzpatrick


TUMBY BAY - One of the dangers of reaching my seventies in relatively good health is falling into the hypochondria trap that seems to enliven the existence of many of my age-mates.

Apart from annoying but manageable chronic diabetes courtesy of some faulty genes, I’ve happily survived without the need to frequently consult members of the medical profession.

When I see another death notice on the ex-kiap website or read about people like Sean Dorney struck down with motor neurone disease, I count myself very lucky.

I feel sad to hear such news but the idea that I might be carrying around some devastating medical time bomb in my own body doesn’t often figure in my thoughts.

Continue reading "In Oz we can afford hypochondria; in PNG there are no bandages" »

The ugly anatomy of PNG’s university system, from one who knows

Albert Schram
Dr Albert Schram - 'PNG has good people to run its universities, but they are kept out by a political system which is corrupt and perceives them as threats'


VERONA - The latest episode in Papua New Guinea’s university crisis, where chancellors and council members colluded with lawyers and police to chase out two foreign vice-chancellors, is seen as bizarre from the outside but makes perfect sense from the inside.

For in PNG it is chancellors – ceremonial heads - who think they run the university and have no qualms in de-authorising and overruling vice chancellors, who are the actual appointed leaders.

Another characteristic in PNG universities is that conflict, strife, threat and violence are seen as a normal state of affairs. Dialogue and negotiation to durably solve problems is diligently avoided.

In 2012, for example, in my conflict with the then chancellor and his pro chancellor, the latter, Ralph Saulep, filed a criminal complaint to try to get me arrested. The police came to my hotel in Port Moresby but I was able to escape. (This same complaint was used again in 2018 to arrest me.) Much to his chagrin, I had successfully eliminated his creative use of university funds.

Dissatisfied with my chutzpah, in 2012 Saulep sent his private bodyguard to threaten me, which he did by waving a gun outside his car window. After a short car chase through the streets of Port Moresby, I was able to escape.

Continue reading "The ugly anatomy of PNG’s university system, from one who knows" »

I don’t go to church on Sundays - I go to media

Phil Fitzpatrick at mic
Phil Fitzpatrick - "many politicians who proclaim their faith are actually liars and hypocrites"


TUMBY BAY – I don’t go to church on Sundays. Instead, I religiously watch Insiders on ABC television.

The ABC tries very hard to give a sensible and balanced view on the subjects it presents. Insiders is a weekly summary of mainly political events affecting Australia.

It’s long-time convenor and host, Barrie Cassidy, is one of the straightest and most sensible journalists in the ABC stable.

If you want to cut through the spin and rhetoric surrounding Australian politics I recommend you watch Insiders. You won’t hear words like ‘amazing’ and ‘absolutely’ or phrases like ‘Oh, My God!’ on Insiders.

Barrie’s guest commentators are drawn from both the left and right and are the cream of the crop. They are experienced journalists at the top of their game.

On Sunday morning one of Barrie’s guests, Fairfax journalist Mark Kenny, observed that politicians in Australia, no matter their party allegiances, tend to be naturally conservative and “churchy” types.

Mark said this while trying to explain why our politicians always seem to trail way behind public sentiment on issues.

Continue reading "I don’t go to church on Sundays - I go to media" »

PNG politicians have differing views on benefits of APEC

Bryan Krame MP (Koroi Hawkins)
Bryan Kramer MP - after APEC life in PNG is not going to be any easier. Billions spent for what?

JOHNNY BLADES | Radio New Zealand

PORT MORESBY - Social breakdown could come to a head in Papua New Guinea after it hosts APEC, opposition MP Bryan Kramer has said.

PNG is preparing to host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in November.

The government said the summit would present a remarkable marketing opportunity for PNG as an investment destination and a trade partner.

But Madang Open MP Bryan Kramer accused the government of borrowing beyond its means to spend on infrastructure projects in Port Moresby while neglecting basic services around the country.

"The reality is hospitals are running out of medicines. We've now got a polio outbreak. So it seems we're not focussing on our priorities and that is the welfare of the people," Mr Kramer said.

Continue reading "PNG politicians have differing views on benefits of APEC" »

A faith healing and a farewell: a final return to PNG?

Sean Dorney (Craig Berkman)
Sean Dorney back in Manus - "I have motor neurone disease and may have only two years left to live"

SEAN DORNEY | Australian Broadcasting Corporation

MANUS - These committed Catholics in my wife's village are praying for me to be healed. But, my God, it is quite intimidating.

I witnessed a lot during my years as the ABC's foreign correspondent in Papua New Guinea, but this level of fervour still comes as quite a shock.

The chanting, the clenched rosary beads, the tears make a powerful impression.

Pauline sits beside me in front of a crucifix which they have carried through the village.

They are convinced there is a spiritual solution to this rotten condition that now ails me — despite intensive and costly research, it has so far defied a medical one.

I have motor neurone disease and may have only two years left to live.

We have come back to Tulu, Pauline's village on Manus Island, in what could be my final visit. This is a place I have come to love, where people live in harmony with nature.

Continue reading "A faith healing and a farewell: a final return to PNG?" »

Late night drama at Rumginae as a mother struggles for life

PNG's newest citizens
Dr Kevin Pondikou nurses two of Papua New Guinea’s newest citizens: the twins born at Rumginae on Friday 17 August


RUMGINAE - I was sleeping when the buzzer on the two-way radio from Mid-Ward jerked me awake. It was community health worker Lorna calling to say there was a mother in labour and she was carrying twins.

The mother had just walked in, so it was too late for the normal process of arranging a blood donor. All mums with twins need to have blood cross-matched as they have a higher incidence of post-partum haemorrhage (bleeding).

It's my policy to be present for the delivery of all women having twins so it was probably about 3am but I didn't look at the clock as I’m used to being woken at all manner of times.

Lorna sounded worried on the radio but I assured her that as long as the first twin was cephalic and the membranes were intact, this was not going to turn into a serious situation. It was safe to allow labour to continue.

Then I went back to sleep.

At nine in the morning, I was buzzed that the mum had been pushing for 20 minutes with no progress of the baby through the birth canal.

After a quick shower and having advised Sr Tina Swokin to rupture the membranes I made my way to the ward.

When I arrived the contractions were not strong and I allowed the woman to continue.

Continue reading "Late night drama at Rumginae as a mother struggles for life" »

How much longer can PNG let its universities decline?

Albert schram returns
After an earlier run-in with unscrupulous authorities, Albert Schram returned triumphantly to Lae. But it was too much for those he'd caught cheating the system. They successfully plotted his arrest on trumped up charges and he was forced to flee PNG


VERONA - It is clear that the university councils of the PNG University of Technology (UNITECH) and the University of Resources and Environment (UNRE) are unable to govern.

It is also clear that in both cases, the management and senior staff colluded with council to chase expatriate vice chancellors out of the country.

Meanwhile, at UNITECH, the University of PNG and the University of Goroka, the student representative councils remain suspended.

At UNITECH, the facts demonstrate that management is no longer complying with the law and is negligent in many ways.

For example, students were promised elections for their council (SRC) in February 2018 based on a modified constitution to be approved by university council. Silence.

UNITECH management has known for about a year that providing a 15% allowance instead of leave fares is illegal. This is no small amount. Senior staff and the whole management team receive in excess of K5,000 per year, some even K10,000. Non-academic staff receives a pittance.

Continue reading "How much longer can PNG let its universities decline?" »

Ecocide – the new rock album to help save the Pacific


AUCKLAND – "The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now".

I had this Chinese proverb very much in mind while I was writing the tracks for a new album - Ecocide - which you can get here and also on Spotify, iTunes and Amazon.

Link to the site – every song has a free short sampler that gives you a real good idea of the complete product. So no need to pay up front.

I produced the album because I am very worried about climate change – as I know many of us in the Pacific are - and I want to do whatever I can to raise awareness.

It is a kind of Paul Revere-like scream. ‘Climate Change is Coming!’ But not preachy or condescending. Hopefully the music of Ecocide works for you. If not, let me know.

I produced most of the songs myself to keep costs down. My daughter Madison joined me on 'Planet Plastic' and did a fantastic job and I got a pro singer for 'Dirty Green' because there was just no way I could sing that one.

Continue reading "Ecocide – the new rock album to help save the Pacific" »

More stories from the chronicles of the Devare students

Devare High School Students
Students of the Devare High School, Bougainville


TUMBY BAY - I’ve spent the last week or so helping Alphonse Huvi, a teacher at Devare Adventist High School in Bougainville, prepare an anthology of her student’s work for publication by Jordan Dean's Port Moresby publishing house.

The anthology runs to 200 pages and it is a tribute to Alphonse’s skill and dedication that it is now ready for publication. I have edited and prepared anthologies of the same size and know the tremendous amount of work it takes.

I found the student’s work in the anthology, particularly the stories, enthralling because they cast a different light on the island of Bougainville and its history.

The stories are also important because they portray the ‘ordinary’ lives of children on Bougainville.

Continue reading "More stories from the chronicles of the Devare students" »

Village on broken mountain - PNG quake plight continues

A landslide from the February earthquake
One of the countless large landslides from the February 2018 earthquake disaster in PNG's Highlands - the trauma continues (Koroi Hawkins)

JOHNNY BLADES | Radio  New Zealand

LAKE KUTUBU - "We have no home, our village is devastated, therefore I have to move my people to other location."

The words of the village leader from a remote earthquake-affected village in Papua New Guinea's Highlands region had an unmistakable desperation.

Richard Don's Yalanda village in Nipa-Kutubu district of Southern Highlands province was largely ruined in February's magnitude 7.5 quake in the region.

We met him at the Moro airfield near Lake Kutubu. My colleague Koroi Hawkins and I had cadged a couple of seats on a helicopter used by the team leading PNG's earthquake relief effort.

The chopper was flying around the quake-affected region, offering us startling views of collapsed mountainsides and deformed valleys. The quake and its significant aftershocks had caused many major landslides and landslips.

Continue reading "Village on broken mountain - PNG quake plight continues" »

PNG media silent as another vice chancellor is lost

Prof John Warren
Prof John Warren - thwarted egos & political games are costing PNG talented university administrators (& a craven local media remains silent)


CANBERRA - Last month, University of Natural Resources and the Environment Vice Chancellor Professor John Warren quit his post and Papua New Guinea after receiving police threats.

Professor Warren, who only took up his position in 2016, was previously Professor of Botany at Aberystwyth University in Wales. PNG Attitude has released his letter giving his account. It seems that he fell out with the chancellor and then with the university council.

After receiving threats of being reported to the police, first from the Chancellor and then others, he resigned and left PNG as quickly as he could.

UNRE is clearly a troubled institution. The previous vice chancellor had his appointment terminated following allegations of mismanagement of funds, and was referred to the fraud squad following allegations made by Rabaul MP, Dr Allan Marat.

University students protested last year following the re-appointment of two senior staff. Student are once again protesting, this time at Prof Warren’s departure.

Continue reading "PNG media silent as another vice chancellor is lost" »

Second expat vice-chancellor goes as PNG universities turn nasty

Professor John Warren
Prof John Warren - forced to leave PNG as threats & lawlessness descend on universities targeting senior expatriate administrators


BARCELONA – A letter from the former vice-chancellor of Papua New Guinea's University of Natural Resources and Environment (UNRE) in Rabaul has said senior staff urged him to leave PNG for his own safety after a scurrilous attempt had been made to level trumped up criminal charges against him.

A member of UNRE staff has provided PNG Attitude with a letter to the university’s council which explains to its members exactly why Professor John Warren left hurriedly and without formal ceremony this month, the experience of former University of Technology vice-chancellor Dr Albert Schram fresh in his mind.

Earlier this year, there were attempts to detain Dr Schram in PNG as an act of vengeance following his identification of corrupt practices at Unitech. Dr Schram was later able to leave the country when he realised a conspiracy against him was beginning to take shape and was able to regain his passport and return to Italy.

Continue reading "Second expat vice-chancellor goes as PNG universities turn nasty" »

Dan McGarry: Fighting for media freedom & truth in the Pacific

Dan McGarry  Vanuatu Daily Post
Dan McGarry of the Vanuatu Daily Post - while News Corp cravenly backed down, McGarry stared Nauru's would-be dictators in the face. That's journalism

LEE DUFFIELD | Pacific Media Centre

When host country Nauru banned pool broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, from the Pacific Islands summit set for next month, the act was condemned widely as an attack on freedom of the media. Lee Duffield recently paid a visit to Dan McGarry, media director of the Vanuatu Daily Post, who took a lead in declaring his outlet would no longer attend.

AUCKLAND -The Vanuatu-based journalist who pulled the plug on the Nauru government for interfering with media freedom was having a typical full day at the office and elsewhere around Port Vila.

Time was being taken up by the major event for his newspaper’s market, of a Chinese goodwill ship in port giving out free health care to thousands of citizens and a revival of trouble over the earthquake on Ambae Island.

He had joined prime minister Charlot Salwai on board the hospital ship, Peace Ark, together with Chinese rear-admiral Guan Bailin, recognising the visit as both a community happening and another part of China’s highly active influence-building.

On Ambae, where thousands have had to be evacuated since the earthquake and volcanic eruption a year ago, talk of a need for fresh evacuations was being matched with criticism of government relief efforts by the Opposition.

Continue reading "Dan McGarry: Fighting for media freedom & truth in the Pacific" »

My long journey to the land of the sunrise

Alphonse Huvi
Alphonse Huvi


DEVARE - It was late one evening during the second week of March 2015. I was home at Bialla, West New Britain. The night was quiet except for the sound of laughter coming from family members who were cracking jokes.

The twenty toea full moon was providing a bright light, allowing me to fumble with my Nokia trying to play a snake game.

“Tring! Tring! Tring! Tring”

Hellow! Lalogo Penias. Mave?” I answered. (‘Good evening Mr Penias. How are you?’)

“Eme gougolu tai?” Penias asked. (‘Are you working?’)

Penington Penias, a colleague, and I were speaking in the Lakalai language of West New Britain.

Continue reading "My long journey to the land of the sunrise" »

Walk away from the problem: How to ruin not run a country

Beautiful Kela village on Salamaua Bay before the unnecessary troubles that saw it burned to the ground


LAE - This story about Kela village in the Salamaua area is shocking. Kela is a gorgeous and peaceful place. Or was. Now the whole village is homeless and the people have lost all their belongings.

Anyway, here’s a report from an academic friend of mine based in Lae about the violence that affected Kela village in the Salamaua area of the Huon Gulf.


The village that you took me to, Kela, had every house set on fire in a village fight recently - 52 homes, some burned to nothing but ashes.

Two people were wounded in gunfire and boats and outboards were damaged.

Continue reading "Walk away from the problem: How to ruin not run a country" »

Staggering decline in resource sector revenue hits development

Mine-papua-new-guineaGLENN BANKS & MARTYN NAMORONG | PNG Post-Courier | Asia Pacific Report

PORT MORESBY - Government revenues from Papua New Guinea’s mining, oil and gas sector have essentially dried up.

With the ongoing effects of the devastating earthquake in Hela Province, the eruption of election-related violence in the Southern Highlands, a significant budget shortfall, and a foreign exchange crisis driving business confidence down, the resources of the government are severely stretched,

And the massively expensive APEC meeting looms in November.

In this context, the drop in government revenue from the resource sector is staggering. And accounts in significant part for the growing fiscal stress.

Continue reading "Staggering decline in resource sector revenue hits development" »

Can we comprehend how evils can now be put right?

J Hassen and his daughter protesting for Aboriginal rights at Parliament House in Canberra, 1958


ADELAIDE - We in what passes as the civilised world (an increasingly dubious descriptor) live in an era where the humble adjective has been entirely supplanted by the superlative. Almost numbingly mundane events are now described in the most florid and extravagant terms.

For example, someone winning one of the endless sporting contests that occur across the globe on a daily basis ends up being described in words that might once have been used only for events of the most profound importance.

So devalued have superlatives become that we now struggle to find words of sufficient power and force to describe events that really matter.

Also, we live at a time in which thoughtful discussion has been largely replaced by near hysterical denunciation of those you do not agree with and public discourse that is all too frequently just a shouting match.

Much of the media, presumably fairly reflecting the interests of its readership, displays an obsession with A to Z grade celebrities and shock and horror stories. In many instances, the connection between the objective truth and the story as published is tenuous indeed.

Donald Trump’s alternatively provocative, offensive, threatening and indignant tweets seem entirely consistent with the way public discourse on difficult or contentious topics is now conducted.

Bearing this background in mind, it is unsurprising to me that our political class has, as a general rule, shied away from openly discussing our collective history as it pertains to the Aboriginal people.

It is a very distressing history to contemplate, full of pain and heart ache. It is hard to reconcile justifiable pride in the undoubted achievement that is modern Australian democracy with the ugly truth about the harm done to Aboriginal people in the process of creating it.

Continue reading "Can we comprehend how evils can now be put right?" »

Writing for PNG Attitude – a cornucopia of ideas

The first archived issue of PNG Attitude in the National Library of Australia from mid-September 2009


TUMBY BAY - I like to write. I don’t really know why. Sometimes it’s easier to write than talk. Perhaps it’s because I find writing is a way of mustering and sorting my ideas. Maybe it’s just a way of blowing off steam. Who knows?

I’m nosey and I’ve got a wide range of interests and I write about most of them. I published my first piece in 1970 and haven’t stopped since.

What continues to surprise me is that, despite the demise of many traditional outlets like magazines and journals, I can still find people willing to publish what I write.

These days I like to write books. Writing books, both fiction and non-fiction, is an amazingly leisurely way to explore ideas.

Lately, the emergence of print-on-demand has meant that if I can’t find a publisher I can do it myself. That’s a wonderful freedom.

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A sense of loss: The disappearance of traditional bilas

The traditional bilas parade - could this be the last time this wonderful tradition is ever witnessed?


KUNDIAWA – I never realised how fast traditional bilas would disappear until recently it dawned on me at a local beauty contest.

On a Saturday night late in July, Miss SME Simbu was crowned at the Mt Wilhelm Tourist Hotel. The participants were mostly girls from the nearby Kundiawa Lutheran Day Secondary School.

I’m not a keen follower of beauty quests so when my daughter Natasha broke the news that she was listed to participate I was caught off-guard. But I eventually gave her my consent.

One of the events was a parade of contestants in full traditional bilas. It took place at Dickson’s field when 14 beautiful Simbu lasses paraded in full magnificent Simbu bilas. It was the highlight of the entire contest.

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A compelling story of the time when the kiap was king

Robert Forster at Bundi  1968
A young Robert Forster at Bundi in 1968 - milling timber before he became a kiap


WABAG – The just published memoir, ‘The Northumbrian Kiap’, is a skillfully written book about Papua New Guinea during the sixties, before the time when people knew what self-government and independence meant.

It clarifies many questions and doubts of the people who lived and grew up during that time – the present day sons and daughters of primitive tribesmen who had just witnessed with awe these men known as kiaps lead long lines of carriers with armed police escorts as they penetrated the hinterland and its traditional tribal lands.

These strangers established encampments, built patrol posts, constructed roads, hospitals and schools as they demonstrated there was another – perhaps a better - world far beyond the high mountain ranges and the raging rivers.

But life comes and goes. Just like ancient civilisations left behind monoliths, pyramids and relics, the kiaps left a legacy. They went and much of what they accomplished was abandoned and left to decay.

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Truth telling and cultural amnesia in Australia

The Slaughterhouse Creek massacre of 1838
The Slaughterhouse Creek massacre of 1838

JUDITH WHITE | Culture Heist

TWEED HEADS -  Truth telling was the theme of this year’s Garma festival, held in northeast Arnhemland on the first weekend of August. It’s also a crucial element in the Statement from the Heart made by the indigenous National Constitutional Convention at Uluru last year but rejected by the Turnbull government.

Telling the truth should be a simple matter, shouldn’t it? Yet when it comes to the nation’s history, for those in positions of power it seems to be the hardest ask. No government has yet given it a place among the much-vaunted but ill-defined “Australian values”. Kevin Rudd said sorry for the stolen generation, but didn’t go so far as to address the issue of the British invasion.

Politicians of both major parties are at fault. They hold that the Australian electorate will not support recognition of indigenous history. I believe they are wrong. A simple constitutional change, recognising the millennia of prior occupation of the land and Aboriginal culture, would have majority support in all states when put to the vote. The main proposal of the Statement from the Heart – for a Makarrata (“coming together”) Commission to bring about agreement – does not require a vote, just leadership.

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The new world & the old – where modernity can be a kerosene lamp


TUMBY BAY - My children were born in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

By the time they reached the truly cognitive stage of their lives, we had already swapped a Commodore 64 computer for an Amstrad that ran on floppy disks - and when I say ‘floppy’ I mean things as big as saucers that actually flopped when you picked them up.

My son and daughter were part of the first generation of children born into the digital age and they haven’t looked back since.

I can remember going to the local chippy and buying fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper but they’ve had no experience of anything like that. Chicken and chips come in little cardboard boxes that nowadays you order online.

Sometimes I feel sorry for them but they just laugh in their ignorance and call me an old fogey.

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World leaders should ask O'Neill about corruption failure

Trump O'Neill
Hey Mr Donald, ask O'Neill what he's doing about our six-year wait for an ICAC


PORT MORESBY - It is now six years since prime minister Peter O’Neill promised Papua New Guinea an Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Yet that vision is no closer to being realised today than it was in 2012.

Peter O’Neill has totally failed to live up to his promises in both the 2012 and 2017 Alotau Accords that the government would establish an ICAC.

The impact of not having a dedicated anti-corruption agency that is politically independent, fully resourced and that has full powers of arrest and prosecution has been devastating for our economic well-being and the quality of life for ordinary people.

Delegates at last week’s APEC anti-corruption and transparency workshop repeatedly spoke about how corruption inhibits development and is a serious threat to economic growth yet PNG had almost nothing to show in terms of progress under the United Nations Convention on Corruption.

In PNG we repeatedly hear that a large-proportion of the national budget is lost every year to corruption, taking money directly from health and education services.

We also hear about the high costs that businesses have to endure as a result of corruption, which act to reduce profits, lower employment and limit investment. Yet the government has just dragged its feet for year after year over an ICAC.

Act Now! says that PNG, Australia and China are spending more than K1.1 billion on the whole APEC extravaganza, a tiny proportion of that money would have been sufficient to fund the operations of a robust, independent and well-staffed ICAC for more than a decade.

Ridding PNG of the scourge of corruption would do far more to assist development in PNG and ensure the well-being of our citizens than a huge party for the world’s leaders and their entourages.

We hope that in November, when the leaders from the world’s two biggest economies will be here in PNG, they will ask the prime minister why he has not established an ICAC and whose interests he is protecting.

The issue Canberra doesn’t want you to discuss: Nauru

Nauru's President Baron Waqa
Nauru's Baron Waqa - "Doesn't want journalists to investigate the living conditions of refugees"

SRI KRISHNAMURTHI | Pacific Media Centre

AUCKLAND - There has been much wringing of hands over Nauru’s ban on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for next month’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit.

But there are even more perplexing reports about Canberra’s relative silence on the issue.

The elephant in the room about the ABC ban that has people tip-toeing through the frangipani and whispering in hushed tones is Canberra’s asylum seeker detention centre in the small Pacific state of Nauru.

Nauru is the host of the Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit on September 3-6 and the ban on the ABC has been widely condemned by media freedom groups, including the Pacific Media Centre.

The Nauru detention centre has become a significant part of Nauru’s economy since 2001.

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The heroes of Manus & Nauru are just the people we need

Our torpedo-headed anti-hero minister, Peter 'Mutton' Dutton


TUMBY BAY – Australia’s torpedo-headed Minister for Xenophobia, Mutton Dutton, doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between a migrant and an asylum seeker.

He doesn’t understand that some people have the time and relative security to apply to migrate to Australia while others who are faced with an immediate threat to their health and well-being need to escape their countries quickly and in any way they can, including in leaky boats.

The walloper in Dutton believes that seeking asylum is tantamount to a criminal act and, as such, deserves punishment.

It is a familiar meme, particularly among conservative politicians who believe that people under stress, such as welfare recipients, are to blame for their circumstances and need to be dealt with harshly for their own good.

Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist from Iran who has been imprisoned on Manus Island for the last five years, makes the point in an article in ‘The Saturday Paper’ that there is a danger that the cruelty overseen by Dutton on Manus and Nauru is “in the process of replicating itself throughout Australian society”.

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A society that perpetuates women living a death-row sentence

Michael Dom and PNG
Michael Dom


LAE - Recently there was a difference of opinion over poems related to gender violence in Papua New Guinea and in my view the squabbling overshadowed more important issues which could have been discussed openly.

The feud was related to reactions of PNG Attitude readers to the poem I am a PNG man’, which was touted as a valid and parallel perspective to ‘We are dying one by one’ (which I reproduce at the end of this essay).

There is no further argument offered here. Instead this review explores the process of writing in which ‘We are dying one by one’ was developed. This article will elaborate on the ‘sound of sense’ which readers’ picked up on and was within the poet’s skill to engender in their minds.

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There’s APEC, but we still have a country to run & to build


Patrick Kaiku

PORT MORESBY - Later this year, Papua New Guinea will host the APEC leaders’ summit, a platform which government officials are will showcase PNG.

In recent times we have seen a flurry of events staged including sporting carnivals, multilateral summits and regional cultural festivals and are now accustomed to the argument that such occasions are necessary to display our country to the world.

But really how effective are they as methods of conducting diplomacy? What criteria are used to assess their outcomes? For instance, do they make more positive the attitudes and behaviour of foreigners towards PNG?

PNG bankrolls the staging of these events in the hope of demonstrating its offerings to the world. But another important avenue are public diplomacy initiatives.

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Mathias's legacy: A major history of the Simbu people emerges


Phil Fitzpatrick and I have long wrung our hands about losing the story of Papua New Guinea’s history - present and past; the loss of true stories not much recorded and not much cared about in this time of change. PNG’s government, caring about its own ego, being more concerned with building a flashy city than creating a grand nation. But now former public servant and latter day author, Mathias Kin –after many years of personal devotion, struggle and expense – is on the cusp of publishing a history of the Simbu people. His has been a monumental achievement and an act of loyalty and love of his own heritage and a recognition that to gift an understanding of this is a legacy to future generations which will inspire and empower them. I hope you will buy this book when it appears in the next few months. And I hope just as much, that many other Papua New Guineans will follow in the footsteps of Mathias and commit to the long and often thankless travail of writing the history of their own people – Keith Jackson

KUNDIAWA - My early childhood in South Chimbu was spent with my fathers, mothers and grandparents in the gardens, hunting for birds along the Wahgi River, fetching water from nearby streams and collecting dry twigs from the bush for the night fires.

In the evenings, lying on those hard wooden beds usually resting my head on my father’s arm in the warmth of the hausman fire, I listened to my fathers and grandfathers talk of their heroic deeds in their former lives.

One of the stories that touched me most was of the killing of many of our people - not many pig-killings back - by a kiap they referred to as Holteru and his policemen at Suanule (Sua Creek). I believe I know the identity of Holteru.

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ABC’s shortwave cutback ‘weakens thin link’ for Pacific

ABC-Pacific-BeatLEILANI SITAGATA | Pacific Media Watch

AUCKLAND - The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s cutback in services to the Asia-Pacific region has “weakened the thin link” that many parts of the region have with the “outside world”.

In a public submission to the government review of broadcasting to the region, the Pacific Media Centre said the situation had impelled Radio New Zealand to “stretch their resources to do more, to make up for what has been removed”.

The ABC switched off shortwave services to the region in 2017.

Calling for the ABC to restore services, the PMC said “Australian broadcasting from the South Pacific is a sorry loss to people and cultures – as we know them well from the accumulation of studies and from our own media production exercises at this centre”.

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A collection of writing from the Devare Adventist High School

Devare AnthologyALPHONSE M HUVI | Editor

INUS - Devare Adventist High School is located in the Taonita Constituency at Inus in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville. The school shares political boundaries with Tinputz and Wakunai District.

It is the only Adventist high school that caters for the 23 Adventist primary schools in Bougainville. Unfortunately, not all the students who attend these primary schools secure a place at Devare. But the fortunate students who do make it come from various church backgrounds.

Apart from classroom learning, students play sport, do work duties and attend morning devotion and evening worship.

The students are assembled into six cultural groups according to the schools they come from: Buin, Kieta, Nagovis/Siwai/Torokina/Kunua/Kereaka, Wakunai, Taonita Teop Tinputz and Buka/Atolls

The anthology is the first of its kind for Devare Adventist High School and, in this article, I offer a sampling of the students’ writing.

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APEC will ‘unlock our potential’ – PNG’s latest hope



PORT MORESBY – As Papua New Guinea prepares to host the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders’ summit in November there are high hopes that the event will ‘unlock the potential’ of the nation.

Leaders of the world’s biggest powers will converge on Port Moresby to discuss trade and investment.

It is billed by the PNG government as the ultimate chance to unlock the rich resources and the economic potential of the country.

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Let’s get serious: Saving our planet means more with less

Papua New Guinea as seen from space


TUMBY BAY - One of the surest long term ways of combatting human induced climate change is to reduce our footprint on the planet.

The best way to do this is to limit the growth of population. The logic is simple: the less of us there are, the less we will collectively need.

With a reduced population we won’t need as much energy, food or water. It is something our ancestors knew but which we seem to have forgotten.

By not digging up all our minerals, chopping down all our trees, using all our water and cultivating all our land we will give the planet and the climate a chance to recover.

As simple as the idea sounds the less likely it is to be invoked.

Why not? Well, all of us, but especially our politicians, are just not geared to long term planning.

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Tell Me Masta

Reassuring-white-people1WARDLEY BARRY

You saw me get another wife
and you said it is illegal.
But you said it is lawful when you
left your wife for another man.

You saw me with my two wives
and you said it is detestable.
But you said it is proper when your sister
licked her girlfriend’s doughnut.

You saw us celebrate our marriage
and you said it is wrong to buy women.
But you said it is acceptable when your daughter
sold her body for twenty dollars.

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It's 12.30am Saturday & Rumginae hospital is on full alert

Kevin Pondikou
Dr Kevin Pondikou - and the new born baby saved by both his medical and his organisational skills


RUMGINAE - Two weeks ago at around 7pm I received a call on the hospital’s 24-hour emergency phone from community health worker Puse at one of our remote aid posts situated along the Kiunga-Tabubil Highway.

Puse was calling to say a pregnant woman from the remote village of Kokonda had  travelled to Senamrae complaining of having painless vaginal bleeding during pregnancy.

I advised Puse to refer the patient here to Rumginae Rural Hospital where I’m the only doctor – although amongst my colleagues are community health workers, nursing officers, laboratory technicians, administrative personnel and a range of ancillary staff.

With these staff I am able to create an emergency response team when it comes to performing a Caesarean section, which, because of the bleeding, I suspected the woman may need.

Once I gave Puse the green light (meaning I accepted responsibility for the care of the woman and her unborn child), he went looking for someone to drive the ambulance and arrange for fuel.

Senamrae had recently received a brand new ambulance and I knew the woman, Jinna Gideon, could be immediately transported to Rumginae.

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