I WILL DONATE A PIECE of rotten kaukau as the annual Ostrich Prize for the PNG intellectual who buries his head the most deeply in the sand of self-deception, obfuscation and making a fool of the nation by his words.
Joe Wasia, you can pick up the 2013 prize from my agent in Goroka at the end of this year, as I doubt that your effort in comment on my own recent piece on the Hagen immolation-murder will be surpassed.
Joe wrote, inter alia: ‘Not all Papua New Guineans practice sanguma and black magic but many articles, especially by whites, paint all PNGians like that. And that is unfair. Only a few people practice sanguma and black magic….
‘If sorcery practices were common in PNG cultures there wouldn't be any counter-reaction like you see, hear and read. People are against the practice. It’s about time the PNG government reviewed the laws governing these practices.’
As you know by now there have been two more attempts to burn women to death reported from the City of Mount Hagen.
As a minor-courts magistrate in my youth in the Gulf, I gaoled many black-magic practitioners of various sorts including those known as meamea and vada. Vada is simply sanguma under another name, a belief that a sorcerer can implant death within a living victim and cause the victim to die at a time and at a place of the sorcerer's choosing.
It is difficult to go any distance with changing fear-based beliefs among unworldly and naive people, as the majority of Papua New Guineans are to this day, without ongoing efforts to raise the level of education and thus of worldliness and sophistication leading to dissipation of fear.
At a relatively young age, I had abandoned superstition, including the Anglican faith in which I was brought up and schooled, and was confident enough of my own faith that superstition is based upon the fear of the unknown and the misunderstood, to challenge the sorcerers of the Purari. I suggested they might put me to death with their powers.
This did not occur, although of course no sorcerer made it known that he would try.
Despite a couple of bad bouts of malaria, and the periodic ill-health suffered from the effect of heavy and lonely consumption of Negrita Rum as my only means of social outlet at the long-abandoned post of Beara, I did not succumb.
The laws against the practice of sorcery still exist, of course. It is not a valid comment to say that "the government must do something " as Joe opines.
It is up to those in control of a very sad and sick police-force, and a similarly ineffectual and corrupt lower-court magistracy, to use the powers they already have without fear or favour. And without a cash incentive.
This is what I meant when I wrote "for PNG to show itself to the rest of the world as a self-confident and fair and humane modern society is a far bigger job than most Australian commentators, or PNG intellectuals, or its political leaders, seem able to contemplate or articulate with any profundity."
The missing factors, olgeta lain ol PNG, are courageous, dedicated and active leadership, and lots of real reform and arse-kicking throughout the public service and the provinces.
Hard, honest, fearless men and women are needed. Leaders like the late Sir Anthony Siaguru and Jack Karukaru come to mind.
They are needed urgently. Before all the forests are levelled and all the minerals and petroleum resources are gone and receipts frittered away in unplanned and maladministered loan-funded projects.and subsequent repayments.
One has to ask the question - is PNG up to the task or is it doomed to become little more than an undercover colony for money-hungry foreign entrepreneurs?
The time of The Melanesian Way is long over, as we see every day in the poor and inappropriate performance and underachievement of its many adherents.
In one way or another, and sooner or later, PNG will modernise.
But my fear is that the Papua New Guineans, the majority of them, will become an underprivileged, impoverished underclass in their own country. The New Mastas are already in place.
Today, the Way is no more relevant than the land-tenure, class-systems and wealth-distribution existing in Scotland before the Highland Clearances and the creation of the industrial slums.
Modern-day Scotland has good government, moderate general prosperity, good health and education services.
On New Year's Day it celebrates "lon pesin blon ol tumbuna" and the wearing of colourful kilts and the music of the pipes and drums are known throughout the world.
Let’s do the same with PNG, but without the tragedy and impoverishment which was part of the process in Scotland. There is something to aim for, Joe and ol lain saveman.
What is necessary is idealism and strength in leadership. Surely this can be evoked?
You all have a debt to repay and an obligation to your lain. Wanlain PNG. It’s up to you. I may have about ten years left. Please let me die smiling.