Some strings attached - but they're not Melanesian
‘Damn fool’ Australians slow to understand Chinese incursion

PNG roll out red carpet for APEC but locals live in poverty

Rose Maino
Rose Maino's family home was demolished ahead of the APEC summit (Natalie Whiting, ABC)


Read Natalie Whiting’s full report and great photographs here

PORT MORESBY - Tears roll down Rose Maino's cheeks as she describes the past few weeks of her life.

The grandmother is among a group of families whose homes have recently been bulldozed. She sits behind a big patch of dirt where the houses used to be and cries.

"Everything from the house has been buried into the ground. I've made a tent and I live in it," she said.

"My grandchild also died, we buried my grandchild last week."

Another resident, Dickson Theophilus, says they were only given a day's notice.

"There used to be seven houses here, all these houses they are no longer here," he said.

"They demolished them with big machines.

"We have nowhere to go."

The houses were cleared to allow for the road they were built alongside to be expanded into four lanes.

Even the people who still have their homes are living in poverty.

It is a 10-minute drive from Sabama, where they are living in tents, to APEC Haus, the magnificent venue built off the coast of Port Moresby where the world's leaders will meet this week for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders' Summit.

The Governor of the National Capital District, Powes Parkop, told the ABC the road is expected to be extended to four lanes after the APEC summit, when funding is available.

He said he regrets families have been affected, but it's only those who have encroached on land reserved for the road.

The residents deny they were encroaching on the planned road and say they feel abandoned.

"The leaders are giving more attention on the APEC, and they've forgotten us," Mr Theophilus said.

"They demolished us, they just destroyed everything.

"More attention is given on APEC, we are suffering here."

There is a sense of excitement in Port Moresby as the country gets ready to host APEC; it's a significant moment for the developing nation.

But in a country where poverty is rife, medication shortages are biting and there's just been a polio outbreak, some people are struggling to square their day-to-day lives with the money being spent on the summit.


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Interesting paper from the Catholic bishops, Bill. Wonder if the other churches will back them up.

"The Catholic Church and APEC

​The primary task of the Catholic Church in PNG is to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of PNG. As such the church adopts no particular position on political or economic issues except to bring gospel values to this part of life.

​However, since the Catholic Church is known and expected to speak for those without a voice, and has a reputation for its concern for the rural poor of PNG, many have asked us for our position on APEC. We have addressed this issue many times in the past and more recently appealed for a return to the division of powers that could ensure that political power and eh equitable distribution of wealth are kept separate.

We share the concern of many about the huge amount of our limited resources being expended on this event which seems designed to entertain and impress the rich and powerful.

​Given its inevitability, we can only hope for its “success”, which can only mean that the welfare of the poorest people of PNG will somehow indirectly be improved. Although we all would like to make a good impression on our visitors, this cannot be at the expense of the truth.

So we must now look to “life after APEC”. This has to be a life where we will see a return to the principles and values of our national constitution and the national goals and directive principles on which our nation was built. In our 43 years we have seen a serious decline in implementing of the principle of equity and participation. There is simply not an equitable distribution of the national wealth to all. Despite all the rhetoric, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. APEC seems to be a manifestation of this gap as the whole of PNG watches billions being spent on appearances in Port Moresby while we experience teaches and health workers without pay and health centers without medicine, while all departments are to expect less than 60% of their official budgeted allocations. It is a fact that many people in the remote areas of Papua New Guinea, including those in the cites who are still economically “remote”, are suffering and dying on order to make APEC a “success”.

​As we present ourselves to the world as a nation capable of pulling of major international event, we must still ask ourselves to what extent we are truly sovereign and self-reliant. We are very much aware, and our informal off the record conversation with some of our national leaders confirms, that PNG I now longer in control of its own economic enterprise and production. Those of us in the forefront of Provinces with extensive logging and oil palm know exactly how much we have sold out to foreign interests.

​The big show of APEC is not the experience of the majority of Papua New Guineans. Though they may rightly hope to make a good impression on visitors, they also rightly hope for a return to true normality when it is all over and we are able to count the cost, start repaying our debts, and re-establish our priorities, that is to priories the rural poor and not the urban rich."

Bill Standish
Catholic Bishops Conference of PNGSI - 'The Catholic Church and APEC'.

You may want to make this available on PNG Attitude.

Thanks Bill. Good stuff. Will do - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

There is less focus of the predicament and plight of persons at prisons across PNG.

Less seen moreso will be impositions on prisoners and prevention service personnel during APEC if as report states..."a total of 365 prison officers have been released to help provide security duties along with police and soldiers during the APEC leaders’ summit."

Less known are persistent predicaments at prisons, such as mechanical failure of aged equipment. Where the PNG national government has not supplied replacement, the Southern Highlands government is likely to step in to supply water pumping equipment at Buiebi gaol to enable inmates to be returned from Baisu gaol in the Western Highlands.

The urge to stabling inmates nearer home and kin is likely more than mere humanitarianism, and yet another aspect of the depth of imperatives less seen.

Philip Fitzpatrick

'The Drum' in today's Post Courier reports:

"If true it is an unbelievable story of the ex policeman’s son making off with some of the cars for APEC. He was hired to look after them and decided to do a bit of side hiring for his own pocket.

"Hope the vehicle he has taken off with is not one of those new Maseratis- at a top speed of 240 kph the police will never catch him" .

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)