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Dear James Marape, we writers await you

Betty Daniel and Caroline
Betty Wakia, Daniel Kumbon and Caroline Evari in Port Moresby writing the letter to prime minister James Marape


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.

Most respectfully,

Daniel Kumbon



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.

James Marape and Minister Dr Lino Tom with two of Daniel's books a few days before  he was elected PM. Looking on is Peter Mis
A few days before James Marape was elected prime minister, Daniel presented him with two of his books. Marape is seen here with Minister Dr Lino Tom. Looking on is Peter Mis

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  


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Tubolok Murox

A good call bro, as I've also discussed with the boys. We need a Public Relations Institute in Papua New Guinea. PR is a field of its own.

Michael Dom

"A new nation doesn’t project itself to the world by flaunting its characteristics. It projects itself as a creative personality, which finally comes down to a tone of voice” - Clive James, poet and author.

Daniel Kumbon

Noah Tolasa is one of over 70 people who shared this article. Over 100 people liked it. Four people made comments:

Gregory Ume - Very important as the generation now is influenced by the west. High time recognition by govt is given.

Lemech Kama - Very important call from a very important group of people. Writing as an art form is an important aspect of our national development.

This call should not be seen just as a call to hear the writers voices, but should be seen as a call to develop literature as an art form to increase intelligence, creativity and civil refinement of our people both writers and readers.

Literature is a living thing. The writers are the orators of that living force and the stories mirror our history and shape our future. I am not a writer but I admire good writers when I experience the stories they write.

We need to support this call.

I call on the musicians, local actors and artists to also make similar attempt to bring their causes to the attention of PM. They are important art form too for our intellectual development and civil refinement as a nation.

Otherwise we will forever remain as mere consumers of foreign arts and literature which is really what we as a nation has become. I pray PM sees the big picture and support your call.

Gibson Napisin Na'au - I heartily support this call. If government can commit to publishing would be very helpful.

Wambil Poreyalin - Without literature there won't be a prime minister, health professionals, engineers, lawyers, economists, accountants, pilots, journalists, chemists... etc. It's about time the Government should consider this important request.

Baka Bina

Billymore should be told to also read other sites like PNG Attitude. If he does he will know that any writing is not easy.

Writing non fiction (made up stories) is not easy. In stories a writer must try to capture the small moments where emotions speak.

You see a group of young boys making fun under a tree and roll around in the grass over their jokes. Any writer will really struggle to capture that moment in time - by trying to describe what they do, how they do it, what was the trigger word that sets of the laughing etc.

In writing you will not hear the laughter but writers try to do that with words and a simple task like that is not easy. The writer wants to transfer the atmosphere around it. He/she may do with a lead up. And that calls for a special talent - an oratorial penmanship and talent.

Writers who try to capture these emotions have talent a special skill. They are orators on paper and try to do their best to capture your imagination and hold it for a moment, helping your mind to do its own thinking.

Academic writers write fiction and that is easy because there is hardly any thought given to the emotions of the reader. It is factual knowledge that have to be correct. Any academic paper must stand up to the scrutiny that you suggest and the places where scrutiny is given are in place.

Most of our writings however will be to capture our legends and history. These are oral stories of our people and if a writer does not give emotions to them when capturing them in writing, very few people will read these bodies of work especially for those these writings are important, for example, to the village and language group that these oral stories belong to. They must be written in a way that they can be read and understood.

So Billymore, I write but have not been certified by anyone nor will my writings be certified in the future. Those who read my shorts are the people who certify my works. I write about a time in my life when I was a young boy with no TV, no mobile phones and spent my weekends traversing our traditional land and boundaries doing what small mischievous things young boys do.

I want to tell other people and children of today that they are missing out on life when they are watching movies all day on phones and laptops, playing with mobile phones etc and that is in the village when vast expanse of land remains yet to be explored.

I don't need certification to tell my readers that and my readers don't need to worry me about certification.

One thing is certain, Billymore, while you will dither about certification, all the old people who have the knowledge and traditions of your family, clan and tribe are fast dying and if you do not act soon to write them down - because you are so worried about certification, don't blame anyone because it is you who is procrastinating and the casualty of that procrastination will be the history and oral stories of your family, clan and tribe.

The three writers that you cast aspersion over their intent have not have their writings certified but, if you have the time, please do certify their writings.

Jordan Dean

Billymore, you don't need a degree and lots of research papers to be a good writer.

Some creativity, a good imagination and of course, read a lot of books.

Writing must not be confined to the academics at UPNG or UOG.

Daniel Defoe, author of Robinson Crusoe, Jules Gabriel Verne, author of Around the World in 80 Days, and so many writers whose books are loved the world over were not academics with research papers published in academic journals.

Porap Gai | Kandep, Enga

Thanks very much Daniel Kumbon, and two ladies for contributing great interest in secure the story of Papua New Guinea for present and future generations.

I am very inspired with the idea expressed by Daniel and the team. Since I want to be the young writer for PNG and more specifically my culture.

This would make the culture, beliefs and practices alive and the younger generation of PNG could learn them from their writers rather than issuing books written by overseas authors. Other writers don't know about our culture in its context.

If it is the case, then how would young generations of PNG learn that stuff, especially the black history of PNG? Unless the stories are told by the citizens of PNG.

Thanks very much for formulating this idea and we pray that our MP will respond soon.

Kenny Pawa Ambaisi

Well done Daniel and team. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Philip G Kaupa

Daniel and team your effort on our behalf is patriotic and highly commendable. I know our good Prime Minister is aware of our concerns and will have time available for it

Philip Fitzpatrick

I'm curious about the "protocols to be recognised as writers".

Perhaps Billymore can elaborate.

Or maybe he/she has just got a case of bureaucratic constipation.

Other comments reserved... - KJ

Daniel Kumbon

The support from the people for government to recognize literature in the country is overwhelming.

Over 1,000 likes poured in when I posted this article yesterday morning on the PNG Team Bryan Kramer blog.

It was shared 60 times and drew lots of comments. Here are a few of the comments from around PNG.

Dianne Katap - "Great, do not give up... There is still hope. God bless you all in your talents and ability to make a difference in our beautiful country...."

Ted Kaleo - "Literature was a powerful political tool in the fight for the country's independence. Our early writers, in the likes of late Sir Albert Maori Kiki, Prof John Waiko, Nora Vagi Brash, etc, used literature to fight colonial oppression and unfair policies that later led our country to political independence.

"Hence, native literature is a significant tool in the development of our country that should be never be overlooked by the government."

Robin Vagi - "A good suggestion. Book is a powerful item. We need to have all our histories preserved."

Natasha Josh Somono - "Thank you Daniel Kumbon. I'm passionate about writing and I always wonder if it will ever be read by my countrymen. I believe Hon James Marape will definitely do something about it because things like this contribute to the development of our nation. Daniel tenkiu tru."

Paniszah Kera - "Noble request... Will add value to our nation."

Sarah M Garap - "Good on you! Be patient. PM will come. God bless your work."

Lawrence Titimur - "Caroline, Betty and Daniel please, please, please, write, write, write, write, write. PNG must build its writers guild. Writing is the best way for us to store the history of PNG. Congratulations and God bless."

Frank N Me'alin - "If there are equally literate staff in the PM'S Office who understands the importance of literature, they'll make it their business to bring this matter to the PM'S attention. Its important, critical and vital."

Kellyanne Andrea Sina - "I share your sentiments and support your petition. Can the government help fund the literature and writers."

Priscilla Sukupa - "I love reading and writing as well.... It's surely a noble request. I hope your letter gets the attention of the PM."

Chris Siriosi - "The pen is mightier than the sword."

Erick P Maino - "It's a catalyst of innovative thinking to take back PNG... Cool."

Billymore Rakatani - "The group's initiative is commended however it requires some questions to be asked. Is the group or the writers recognised by higher tertiary institutions like UOG, UPNG, linguistic institutions etc? Has their research work being recognised and acknowledged by NRI and appropriate institutions? How many research work have they undertaken, recognised and certified by appropriate institutions, authors and writers? Is/are the literature organizations aware of the existence of these writers? Have they followed all protocols to be recognised as writers? Is this letter a short cut to be recognised and rewarded? Other questions reserved...."

Daniel Kumbon responds - Not too sure what you mean to be recognized by UOG, UPNG etc and acknowledged by NRI. Sounds absurd when you ask questions like this one. 'Have they followed all protocols to be recognised as writers?

Billymore clearly knows nothing about the art of writing - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

You can't really read a Bentley Flying Spur.

Neither can you eat one, although I imagine that sooner or later someone will try to cook one of them.

All you can really do with one is hide in it when you are out in public or use it to show your friends how important you are.

I suppose you could also use it to run over a few writers if they get in the way too.

Michael Dom

If PM Marape sold one of those Bentley's, say his own designated Flying Spur, that money and placed in a trust fund could run the Crocodile Prize indefinitely.

Just saying.

Dickson Tawen

We won't have knowledge of our past with out us being told by someone. Historically, Writers are very important. They play a vital role linking the past to the present. If they cease to write due to some kind of funding issues, there will be a missing link between past and the present and the future generation will lay a blame on us, the government and the citizens of today and that's going to be a big shame on our grave yard. Future generation will have identity crisis.

There for as I personally know that books (our own grown literature) are very important to link the future for us to know and preserve our culture and our cultural identity, I support the petition of the heartfelt writers who have put up hands together to write something that may benefit the present and the future citizen of this beautiful nation PNG.
Well done Mr. Kumbon and the team. We support you.

Francis Nii

Well done, Daniel. I feel confident that this message will get to the PM.

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