PORT MORESBY –If anybody close to the prime minister reads this, and if you think it’s as important as we do, please mention it to James Marape.
Please tell him that a letter on behalf of Papua New Guinea’s writers, editors and publishers sits waiting in his office.
The letter is from three writers who represent many hundreds of our authors, poets, essayists and other writers.
We are Caroline Evari, Betty Wakia and me, Daniel Kumbon.
We requested the prime minister to make time available to enable us to present a petition signed by some 300 Papua New Guinean writers, editors and publishers as well as people from around the world who support our home-grown literature.
We are seeking recognition and support from the government to sustain home-grown literature and to get it into schools, universities and libraries.
We are very disappointed that our work has never been recognised by the government and that is why this petition was prepared for our new prime minister.
I wrote the letter in late September and hand delivered it at the front desk of the Pineapple Building on Tuesday 1 October.
When I followed it up for the third time on Thursday 24 October, I was asked to wait for another three weeks because it was still pending.
Caroline, Betty and I will continue to wait patiently because we know the prime minister is very busy with more pressing issues.
We know many matters demand his immediate attention: the Gordons police shootings, the Rainbow estate police shooting, the Tari shooting of a police sergeant, the subsequent closure of the highlands highway by grieving relatives, the recent parliament sitting, the Paladin corruption saga, the Ramu nickel mine pollution – and we understand there is much more that requires his steady hand.
But, as Mr Marape has recently been able to find time to address journalists and attended the PNG Fashion Week grand finale, we remain optimistic he will be fair with us writers, editors and publishers.
I flew from Wabag to join my colleagues to see him. We waited patiently for three weeks as advised by the prime minister’s staff.
But we have decided to publish the letter hoping to attract Mr Marape’s attention, so maybe he will decide to see us for a few minutes.
We fear the letter might not be brought to his notice.
And, as you can read here, it is a very important letter for our people and their cultures.
28th September 2019
The Right Honourable James Marape
Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea
The National Parliament
National Capital District
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to you on behalf of myself and four colleague writers requesting to see you in your office.
We wish to present a petition to seek support from the government for a sustainable home grown literature in Papua New Guinea.
We, Papua New Guinean writers and authors believe 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.
We strongly believe that 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.
We will be happy to answer any of your questions if you can spare us a little time to present the petition to you.
I thank you for taking time to read our request.
We are dedicated writers and citizens of our country, and trust that you will give us the chance to present our case to you.
Extracts from the petition
We, 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 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.
We, the Petitioners, specifically ask that you, on behalf of the People of Papua New Guinea, will:
PROVIDE public recognition of the precious literary talent within Papua New Guinea
COMMIT your government to give powerful creative force expression through encouraging and developing home-grown literature
ESTABLISH an official committee of ministers, bureaucrats and writers to examine ways and means of ensuring the distribution of PNG-authored books to schools, universities and libraries
SUPPORT provincial and local writers associations
SPONSOR the annual Crocodile Prize national literary competition