AUGUST WAS A VERY GOOD MONTH for readers’ comments and a very diverse month in terms of the writing commented upon. There was history, poetry, politics (natch) and religion.
One commenter wanted her observations removed because I had edited them (no offence intended, ma’am, that’s what an editor does) but most seemed happy to discuss and debate the issues of the day frankly, eloquently, robustly but not offensively. Thank you.
The controversy around the Australia-PNG Manus asylum seeker deal refused to go away and Sonja Barry Ramoi’s planned biography of Belden Namah caused a stir. It was a satisfying month’s commentary.
So here are the 10 or so top pieces of writing that our readers chose to comment on….
1st 31 comments - PNG part of Qld? Nearly happened; would've been ugly (Phil Fitzpatrick) Well, it was a historical feature rather than a current hot issue that most drove our readers to the keyboard in August. “The Australian state of Queensland has got an absolutely horrific history when it comes to the treatment of its indigenous people. When the pastoralists began moving north into what was to become Queensland, they pursued practises which were designed to exterminate the Aboriginal population. They continued to do this for over 50 years.”
2nd 24 comments - "We don't want to come here," say asylum-seekers (Bernama). For the second month in a row the Manus asylum seeker deal captivated reader attention – and, as the month went on, even the previously enthusiastic Manusians began to cool on the arrangement. For the most part, Attitude readers were opposed right from the beginning.
=3rd 22 comments - Belden Namah face to face. The man behind the enigma (Sonja Barry Ramoi). Sonja announced her intention to write the biography of the man who is probably PNG’s most controversial political figure and immediately readers plunged into a debate about the pros and cons of Belden, and of Sonja. One reader got right into the spirit and demanded asked that her comments on the issue be taken down from PNG Attitude because she didn‘t like being edited. I gladly complied. Everyone gets edited!
=3rd 22 comments - PNG needs a vibrant village based farm economy (Tony Flynn) Tony is a regular contributor on rural issues and this article really touched a nerve. “I believe that farming communities throughout PNG are not developing as they must. Our rural communities should offer an attractive lifestyle for most of our youth. The way to do this is to raise the level of their economic and social activities; but this will take massive improvement in infrastructure.”
5th 17 comments - Talk to me! (Steven Ilave Snr). On those rare occasions that poetry makes it to the ‘top 10 commented’, I always note what an honour it is. Steven’s poem not only drew some positive comment but also spurred something of a debate about what constitutes ‘good’ poetry….
Is the spark
That sets my world alight!
Is the flicker
That my fading hopes ignite!
Is the music of choice
I wanna hear each lonely night
6th 16 comments - New faith grows in a vehemently Christian nation (Jo Chandler, Global Mail). “Like so many mosques around the world, the one in Papua New Guinea’s capital Port Moresby became a lightning rod for explosive distress and anger against Islam in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, back in 2001. But there was no comfort for the city’s then-fledgling Muslim community in the proximity of a major police station just across the road. Indeed the spray of gunfire that peppered the dome of the mosque – the bullet holes still visible today – reportedly came from high-powered weapons fired by officers stationed there.” Is there a journalist who engages one more rapidly in a story than Jo Chandler?
7th 14 comments- Embarking on the Namah biography – & an invitation (Sonja Barry Ramoi). “‘You have my total blessing to be my biographer,’ Papua New Guinea Opposition Leader and Member for Vanimo-Green, Hon Belden Namah, told me.” Sonja invited readers to contribute information and views on Belden Namah that she may be able to incorporate in her book – and triggered the Namah debate all over.
8th 12 comments - PNG: The Australian media’s mad - I love the place (Phil Fitzpatrick). The Manus deal triggered some horrific Australian media comment about PNG and Phil took the opportunity to fire back. “Ever since the Australian media told us that Papua New Guinea is a terrible place, I’ve been pondering the paradox of why I keep going back. For some reason the old excuse of just liking it doesn’t seem adequate anymore.”
9th 11 comments - When the Trobriand isles met the swinging sixties (Phil Fitzpatrick). Phil introduced a short story - Make it tonight by Kaigabu Kamananya, who has since dropped out of sight – published in the December 1975 edition of Papua New Guinea Writing. “The theme is not unusual,” wrote Phil, “but the content, considering the time, is quite explicit.” Maybe that’s why it appealed to readers all over again.
=10th 10 comments - For a few silver coins, integrity has been sold (Gary Juffa). “I am shocked to see our so-called leaders come forward in the stampede to sell Papua New Guinea as a cheap regional, and indeed international, harlot,” wrote Gary. “They claim [Manus] is a good deal. By aiding and abetting Kevin Rudd circumvent an international agreement? How is this so?” Great polemic from the Oro Province Governor.
=10th 10 comments - The real (and sad) story of PNG's ‘shanty town’ (Kristian Lasslett). ATS, near Port Moresby airport, may be a shanty town to outsiders but it is home to 3,000 people who face eviction as the developers move in. It’s not a rare urban story, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept that the poorest and most powerless of people should be considered as marginal problem rather than the main issue.