China tests Pacific’s fragile democracies
On managing cross culturally

PNG writers must not give up

Justin Kundalin
Justin Kundalin


WABAG - The deafening silence from prime minister James Marape about the writers’ petition on the importance of Papua New Guinea literature is challenging but writers must not give up.

A country that neglects to promote the power of literature is destined to become pregnant with more illiterates.

I know the prime minister is a busy person and sometimes just can’t find the time to sit down and respond to such paperwork, but this is a priority he really must not overlook.

I’m worried about the long silence of the prime minister about the petition but my advice to fellow writers in PNG is that we must not underestimate the power of literature. In its own time it will do that which is desired.

As we traverse back in history, we see clearly that some of the major revolutions took place as a result of literature.

In Europe, Martin Luther upheld the Word of God and the world broke off from the Roman shackles of darkness. His push for the Word polarised the then known world into Catholicism and Protestantism. Literature is an instrument of revolution.

French writer Victor Hugo gives a vivid view of the French Revolution in his profound novel Les Misérables and a peak of French romantic literature, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl, a victim of the Holocaust during the reign of dictator Adolf Hitler. She penned her secret life as a hideaway in her personal journal that eventually became The Diary of a Young Girl, one of the best read books of the twentieth century.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet-Beecher Stowe, and the memoir, 12 Years a Slave, by Solomon Northup, spoke about the cruelties and the hardships of the African-American slaves in the southern states of America. These two books helped ignite the Civil War that paved the way for the abolition of slavery.

In the Philippines, the national hero, Jose Rizal, was both a revolutionist and a writer. He wrote outstanding and powerful novels that shook the Spanish Empire when the Philippines was still a colony. His best and outstanding works include, Noli Me Tangere, and its sequel, El Filibusterismo, which contributed to the country’s independence from Spain.

Literature is inseparable from humanity and explains core human values. The outstanding works of the most famous Greek philosophers, Plato, Socrates and Aristotle, contain virtues that promote perfection and harmony to a society if only human beings have the willingness to uphold and practice them.

Plato’s Allegory of the Cave speaks about the importance of human wisdom and the difficulties we face if we neglect matters that are fundamental to human life. These philosophers crafted beautiful words that lit up logic and new ideas. The men are long gone but their literature still benefits humanity.

On that level also is the power of the Christian Bible. The Holy Bible, one of the oldest written scriptures, is a compilation of tales, beliefs, and accounts that teach about Christianity and Judaism. Within a span of a thousand years from the Prophet Moses to the Apostle Paul, the Bible was written by numerous authors of different backgrounds who believed the Bible to be inspired by God’s divine wisdom.

Therein were explanations of the mysteries of the complexities of life as well as rules for personal faith and answers to three basic questions: where did I come from (origin), why am I here (purpose) and where am I going (destiny)?

The same goes for the Muslim Qu’ran, the Jewish Torah and the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, Ramayana and Veda.

This all testifies to the reality that literature is fundamental to human life.

Our PNG writers must never give up. They must continue to write until their tenacity and perseverance yield fruition.

PNG writers must write until they die because each generation will continue to push until our peoples realise the central importance of literature and its power to guide the welfare of the nation.


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Philip Kai Morre

Why should PM James Marape ignored the promotion of local books when the Education Department changes its outcome based education policy to student based education where books are needed most.

Reading and writing are essential components of learning. Knowledge and wisdom are gained from the written books, some of them dating backing hundreds of years.

Any books, whether fiction, creative writing or research - or any other books - are valued and increase intellectual ability.

Philip Fitzpatrick

Papua New Guinea has a myriad of problems. Most of them are self-inflicted, caused through either ignorance or greed.

Politicians have played a large part in creating this parlous state. So too have the so-called elite, especially those involved in business.

It may be convenient to blame outsiders, especially mining companies and loggers, but the fact that these companies have all been invited into the country and given free rein to exploit its resources cannot be avoided or brushed under the carpet.

All that can be done now is wonder what a different sort of country Papua New Guinea might have been if its leaders had acted responsibly and intelligently.

The task of repairing forty five years of neglect and mismanagement is enormous. Turning that legacy around is probably well beyond the capacity of the present and any future governments.

If the Marape government is genuine about its reform platform it will need outside help. That help will have to be genuine. Thinly disguised opportunism, whether from the corporate world, ideologically driven organisations or other nations, will not suffice.

That the attempt should be made, however, is beyond question.

The biggest losers in this sorry tale are the ordinary people. They are the people whose traditional lands have been usurped and despoiled. They are the people whose health and educational needs have been ignored. They are the people whose reifying cultures have been trashed.

Any move to repair Papua New Guinea will need to take these ordinary people along with it. For positive change to happen they will have to be convinced of the necessity and the means to be employed.

With such a dire situation at hand it is very tempting to ignore such apparently inconsequential elements as national literature.

Literature, like much of the arts, is something that usually goes into the ‘pending’ basket when a nation is faced with catastrophe and crisis.

This is what seems to be happening now in Papua New Guinea. Even the most enlightened politician is probably thinking that now is not the time to be worried about literature.

They will say that the writers and artists must wait until all of the economic, social and environmental woes are fixed before luxuries like literature and the arts can be addressed.

This is an understandable but misguided approach. If the politicians want to take the ordinary people along the road to recovery with them it has to be an all or nothing approach.

Nothing can be left behind to be fixed later, if and when that becomes possible.

A nation cannot regenerate itself while leaving its soul behind. It must recognise that its soul is bound up in its culture, its arts and its literature.

If it doesn’t recognise this then all its efforts at recovery will be in vain.

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