The new breed of Chinese trading in PNG
Under That Cement Slab

PNG’s colonial construct is under threat

Papua New Guinea is entirely a colonial construct and, as recent elections demonstrated, tribalism still trumps democracy in many places and in many ways

Taking a break in a village
Taking a break in a village. Life under colonialism was predictable and progressive. And colonisers and colonised generally got on well. But the colonial governance construct is now showing its age


ADELAIDE - The desire of Bougainvilleans for independence is not going to dissipate based on some deal concocted by Port Moresby to give the island autonomous status within Papua New Guinea.

Surely this message has been delivered in clear and unequivocal terms?

I see a great opportunity for China to both further its own interests and cause a great deal of discomfort for the United States and its various Pacific allies.

China could, for example, agree to underwrite an independent Bougainville in return for, say, being able to build 'commercial' infrastructure like ports and airports or, maybe, getting first option rights on the re-opening of Panguna.

Micro-states are desperately vulnerable to such wheeling and dealing and a new born Republic of Bougainville will be no different.

All in all, the next few years should be a very testing time for both Bougainville and PNG more broadly.

PNG as a country is entirely a colonial construct and, as the recent elections have demonstrated, tribalism still trumps democracy in many places and in many ways.

The wantok system has retained much of its traditional potency, as has the tendency to defer to Big Men, especially those bearing gifts.

Thus the PNG parliament operates like more like a collection of loosely affiliated mafia mob bosses than a genuine democratic institution.

Not that we Australians have much to crow about given how our political parties operate, with branch stacking, threats, bribery and 'jobs for the boys' all being deployed to win and retain office.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

You would probably enjoy Nicholas Monsarrat's biography William.

It's called "Life is a Four Letter Word" and comes in two volumes, "Breaking In" and "Breaking Out".

They were published in 1966 and 1970 respectively.

There's an abridged version in one volume but it's poor reading.

The backstory to "The Tribe That Lost It's Head" and the sequel "Richer Than All His Tribe" is fascinating.

William Dunlop

I was already very familiar with Monsarrat, Having read his The Cruel Sea at about 12 years old, my first serious read.

This was followed by Three Corvettes, set in the Irish sea, the North Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean.

I was very familiar with this region in later years. Londonderry and Lough Foyle were major wartime naval bases for the North Atlantic and Limavady was the major coastal command base.

The names Farsnet, Malin Head and Stornaway conjure up for me memories of some of the fiercest storms to be encountered around the globe.

We call the damp, cold winter winds in January/February on the north coast of the Ireland the lazy winds; all the way from Iceland.

Aye indeed, they go through you.

William Dunlop

Thanks, Chris. It's over 50 years since the late Laurie Doolan when District Commissioner Chimbu suggested I read, Richer than all his Tribe by Nicholas Monsarrat. Time to dust it off again, methinks.

Lieutenant Commander Nicholas John Turney Monsarrat FRSL RNVR (1910-79) was a British novelist known for his sea stories, particularly 'The Cruel Sea' and 'Three Corvettes', but perhaps known best internationally for his novels, 'The Tribe That Lost Its Head' and its sequel, 'Richer Than All His Tribe' - Wikipedia

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