After two glorious years, the Crocodile Prize literature contest in 2013 has hardly been a roaring success and its structure is currently under review. Nevertheless PHIL FITZPATRICK has managed to assemble a collection of fine Papua New Guinean writing for publication in the third annual Crocodile Prize anthology. This is Phil’s foreword to the book, which will soon be on sale…
AFTER THE TUMULTUOUS POLITICAL EVENTS of 2012 this year has been one of consolidation in Papua New Guinea.
The government has settled down to the job of governing and to addressing major issues, such as corruption, inefficiencies in the public service and the parlous condition of state infrastructure and the delivery of health and education services.
There is a reassuring mood of stability in the country and tentative signs of improvement and better times ahead. At the same time, no one imagines that the huge task of pulling the country up by its bootstraps will be easy.
Papua New Guinea is also venturing into the international arena and is reasserting its role, along with Australia and New Zealand, as a major political and economic power in the Asian Pacific region. This is a timely development and adds a much needed Melanesian perspective to how events will evolve in the region.
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of this development has been the issue of asylum seekers and Papua New Guinea’s role in processing them. This has generated widespread debate and has polarised communities in the region.
To its credit Papua New Guinea has staunchly stuck to the terms of the United Nations Convention on Refugees while cleverly extracting considerable financial benefits from Australia. Together with the government’s view on the control of the PNG Sustainable Development Program this approach has clearly signalled a desire by the government to be in charge of its own financial base.
One of the spinoffs of the asylum seeker deal with Australia has been the generation of publicity for Papua New Guinea and the lifting of its profile in the region. This initially began in a highly negative form spurred on by the largely uninformed tabloid press in Australia. Slowly and surely this has turned around and many Australians who knew little about the country beyond Kokoda are now following events in a more considered way.
Domestically the events which have generated public interest revolve around the old bugbear of corruption and the unsettling escalation of violence against women, particularly highlighted by the horrendous sorcery -related witch burnings in the highlands.
The draconian re-introduction of the death penalty for such crimes and other acts of violence has polarised the community. Much criticism has also been heaped on the dysfunctional and massively under-resourced Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary. How all this evolves will be closely watched by people both within Papua New Guinea and in the region in general.
All of these issues have flavoured the efforts of the writers in Papua New Guinea, whose reach is expanding exponentially with the ever-growing facility of social media.
During the year the Crocodile Prize for Literature entered its first year of administration by the newly formed PNG Society of Writers, Editors and Publishers.
Unfortunately things have not run as smoothly as expected and the number of entries has fallen considerably below those of previous years.
This cannot be put down just as teething problems but more so about unrealistic expectations and the involvement and commitment of the volunteers running the society.
Despite the stalwart efforts of a few resolute people the general feeling is that the model used to run the competition needs to be looked at anew.
Plans are in place for this to happen and it is expected that the competition will continue into 2014 and the years to come. In the meantime, a vote of thanks needs to go out to the organisers, writers and sponsors who have stuck with the Pukpuk throughout this time.