TUMBY BAY - Perhaps the time has come for the writers of Papua New Guinea – authors, journalists, poets, commentators and others including publishers and illustrators - to look your government in the eye and make a statement.
Perhaps it is time to petition prime minister James Marape and other ministers and seek the government’s support for an authentic and home-grown Papua New Guinean literature - a literature that will help turbo-charge the serious nation-building task that lies ahead.
I propose here a draft form of words that can be sent to Mr Marape, together with the names of all the writers and readers who believe that PNG literature needs more than a thumbs up, it needs real practical support.
A Manifesto for Literature in Papua New Guinea
We, the writers of Papua New Guinea, believe that our nation’s literature is something that needs to be encouraged and supported by everyone, but especially by the government.
Without a home grown literature the story of our great nation cannot be told.
If our story is not told, future generations of Papua New Guineans will not be fully aware of where they come from, who they are and what made them.
A nation without a story is like a nation without a soul.
The writers of Papua New Guinea are currently struggling to tell our nation’s story.
There are no major publishers in Papua New Guinea interested in publishing our work. If we want to publish our books we have to pay for it ourselves.
Our books are not available in schools. The students of Papua New Guinea cannot read books written by their own countrymen and women.
Instead, they have to read books written by writers from other countries.
Papua New Guinea has a poorly resourced public library system. Few of our own books are available in these libraries. In most cases Papua New Guinean authors have to donate books free of charge to libraries so people can read them.
Our national literary award, the Crocodile Prize, is struggling to survive. It is supported by limited private funding. The Papua New Guinean government has never shown real interest in supporting it. Nor has the government shown an interest in supporting Papua New Guinean writers.
It is time this situation changed.
We, the undersigned writers of Papua New Guinea, together with our readers and supporters, are calling upon our new Prime Minister, James Marape, to commit his government and future governments to providing the support our writers, our literature and our nation deserve.
It is time to secure the story of Papua New Guinea for present and future generations.
To do less is unthinkable.